The Carpenter's Apprentice

Brother Jeff Phillips' Messages

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


  • The Carpenter's Apprentice

    August 14, 2022


    I love driving the school bus. Last night, I was preparing a route sheet for my bus route just in case I need a substitute. The sub driver will know exactly where to stop and go to get all “my” kids to school. As I drove the route in my mind, I thought about the little bit I know about each student and I couldn’t help but reflect on how blessed I am. I need you to know, my kids are good kids. The vast majority of the time they do exactly what I ask them to do. I also want you to know I also have some kids with very awesome situations where someone meets them at the bus every day. I have parents who come out to make sure their kids are living up to the high standards and expectations they have. That being said, I also stop at two different hotels to pick up kids. One of my riders witnessed his mother’s murder. A couple have fathers serving lengthy sentences in jail. Several have no adult to see them off in the morning or to welcome them home in the afternoon. Some have no mothers; others have no fathers.


    I know another kid who, week to week, is picked up in various places sometimes by a few different buses. For the most part, he is solid and causes no trouble He lives in Covington, but he “stays” in many different places. He has a specific and valid address; I also know he doesn’t stay there much. It appears he has no permanent dwelling place and sometimes I wonder if he even knows where he will be sleeping. Somehow, my thoughts ended up in Psalm 37 where the third verse reads, “Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (NASB). There is a footnote regarding the use of the translation, “cultivate faithfulness”. The footnote says, “Or feed securely or feed on His faithfulness.” The idea presented in the verse has to do with intentionality. Trust, do, live and grow in the Lord is the idea. We read about the parable of the Sower and apply it to evangelism and sharing the gospel, but it can apply to our own spiritual condition as well. Sometimes we need to focus on the seed with in us. We need to remove barriers to growth and keep the fields of our heart fertile so we do not lose sight of “home”; the truth. Do we live and dwell in the fertile, life giving pastures of God’s word or do we just stay somewhere generally close?


    -jeff    



    August 7, 2022


    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    

  • July 31, 2022


    Why? The question asked for many years by many people old and young, rich and poor. The answer is all too often . . . because. Why him and not me? Because. Why no and not yes, or yes and not no? Because. Why this and not that? Because. It is a very simple answer to a not so simple question. Because is the answer when we really don’t know, we don’t care, we really don’t want to get into the next question (Mommy why are you going to have me a baby sister?), we don’t have enough time, or maybe we feel the question doesn’t even need to be asked. “Because” is the easy answer. The answer that all two year olds should know is final and yet they still respond, “But why?!” Why? Because. Because, the word, implies further explanation. Why did he break his arm? Because he fell out of the wagon.


    “Because” is the beginning of a response. The refusal to finish the response must have a reason behind it. Either it is one of the reasons above or something else. Don’t get me wrong, “because” is one of my favorite answers. It usually comes right after “no.” While a simple “because” certainly has its place, some questions need more. Why do we go to church? Why are you called Christian? Why is baptism important? Why did He have to die on the cross? Why do you read that Bible all the time? Why don’t you read that Bible anytime? Why don’t you read me stories from that Bible? Why does it hurt? Why do you pray? Why do you believe in Him? Why doesn’t God hear me? If you don’t, why should I? Why do you still trust in Him? Wow, some of these questions are getting tough. So I finish with one that is a bit easier. Why do I love Him so? Because He loved me first, and borrowing a line form the Wizard of Oz, “Because, because, because, because, because—because of the wonderful things he does.” And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). He made it all for me and you. He made it perfect. Man chose wrong and often still chooses wrong but He still loves me. Why? I do not know but I know He does. For God so loved the world . . . (John 3:16).


    -Jeff    



    July 24, 2022


    Get a pencil and paper and answer this question, “What do you have?” If you go to the bank they are certainly going to ask this question when you apply for a loan. The government asks a similar question when they decide how much of it they want to take. After you make this list, rank each item on a scale of 1-10 based on how much time you spend keeping, maintaining, upgrading or getting more of the things on your list. Now make another list answering this question, “What do you have when all your things are taken away?” Impossible you say, why waste time thinking on something that will never happen. Bearing in mind 1929 and the Great Depression, make your list and honestly rank it too. With the two lists side by side, underline the things that are most important to you. It was interesting to see how many of the most important things in my life cannot be easily taken away yet get the least amount of my time. Could it be that we need to reallocate our efforts spending more time keeping, maintaining and upgrading things like faith, family and friends? As I further looked at my lists I noticed the only things that could never be taken away, exist only within me such as faith, hope, and love as well as various skills or talents I might have developed. Still, while these things cannot be taken away, they can be lost if not carefully cultivated and protected - or used. There is one thing we all have that is in danger of being taken away or lost. It is our voice. The prophet Isaiah foretold of a voice crying in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3); the voice of John the Baptist proclaiming the Savior’ coming. All flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6). He came in human form and lived among us for the sole purpose of dying for us; the ultimate expression of love and compassion. The time has come for us to again raise our voice to the multitudes sharing the message of God’s love, mercy and grace in the same manner demonstrated by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have been too silent or in speaking left out compassion and empathy. A message of love is now accused of being one of hate. We say, “Don’t shoot the messenger,” but what if the messenger is relaying the wrong message? We must let our voices be heard. We cannot ignore works of the flesh but neither can we negate the fruit of the Spirit.


    -jeff    



    July 17, 2022


    In Jeremiah 35 we read of the Rechabites. God uses the Rechabites to make a point to Jeremiah and thusly all of Israel. He commanded Jeremiah to bring the Rechabites into one of the chambers in the temple and place before them pots and cups full of wine then tell them they must drink. They refused. They explained the situation to Jeremiah; how Jonadab their forefather had commanded them, their wives and children to not drink wine. The Lord explained His little exercise to Jeremiah and told him to relay this message to the men of Judah, “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me. I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me” (Jeremiah 35:14-15). As I read this nineteen verse chapter, I thought of several ways Satan has fooled us and the rest of the world into ignoring or at the very least forgetting the words of God. Without diligence and commitment, it is easy to let other things come before God. On the one hand we quote Psalm 119:105, “Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” and on the other we do not spend time in His Word and often don’t even bring our “light” to church and Bible study. It might be different if we could quote more scripture, but if you take out John 3:16, 11:35, Philippians 4:13 and the first three verses of Psalm 23, how many scriptures do we actually know? Furthermore, for a people who died to self, buried with Christ and born again to walk in newness of life, how is it our commitment to a team or organization is more important or came before our commitment to God. How is it the commands of men supersede the commands of God? A parent points out, “My child is not a Christian yet.” Maybe not, but frankly, if we as parents don’t talk about, then demonstrate, the importance of putting God first - neither will our children. Because of their unwavering obedience to their father, God rewarded the Rechabites saying they would always have someone to stand before him (Jeremiah 35:19). Are we laying a foundation and teaching our children so we will always have someone standing up for God?


    -Jeff    



    July 10, 2022


    In 1966 Peter Scholte copyrighted the song We Are One in the Spirit. I remember singing the song as a youth and recently we began singing it again. The kids call it the Indian song because the tune conjures images of braves dancing around a campfire. While there are some repeating phrases the words are as follows:


    We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

    and we pray that our unity may one day be restored

    and they’ll know we are Christians by our love

    yes, they will know we are Christians by our love.


    We will work with each other, we will work side by side

    and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
    and they’ll know we are Christians by our love

    yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.


    We will walk with each other we will walk hand in hand

    and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land

    and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

    yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.


    I love the song and it has become a theme song of sorts for the youth group. Jesus says we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Additionally, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Paul encouraged the Ephesians to be unified saying there is one body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4). The song says we are one but it goes further to show that not only are we one, unified in the Spirit and in the Lord but we are praying that the world around us will join us in this unity and we are going together to tell the world about Jesus and His love. While some have problems with “protecting dignity and pride,” I see this verse as looking out for one another, lifting and building up. We know God loves and forgives; like the Good Samaritan, we will pick up, patch up, and protect a brother from the world until they can join us again in unity, walking down heaven’s road. Jesus said, “"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone . . .” (John 8:7). How will they know we love one another if we are constantly throwing rocks and tearing one another down?


    -jeff    



    July 3, 2022


    In Judges 15:9-17 we find Samson camped at the cleft of the rock in Etam. He’d gone there after dealing the Philistines a mighty blow; the result of his anger with them for what they’d done to his wife and father-in-law. After the Philistines made a retaliatory raid on Lehi, 3,000 men of Judah came to get Samson and turn him over bound to the Philistines. Clearly his feats were already legendary because 3,000 of his own people went down to get him, no doubt hoping for safety in numbers. We are given a clue to Samson’s heart, his thoughts and possibly fears because he agreed to go peaceably if the men of Judah promised not to attack him. Upon the group’s arrival at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting. The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon Samson; his bonds were melted. Nearby, Samson picked up the jawbone of a donkey and with it killed 1000 Philistines; so much for safety in numbers. Can you imagine Samson’s thoughts as these men approached and how they changed during the fight? I have the sneaking suspicion he was arrogant and cocky and defeat never crossed his mind but I feel certain a couple hundred Philistines into the battle, he’d found his stride and was supremely confident, not  just in his own abilities but that God was with him and he would win. Samson knew he had powers; whether he understood completely from whence they came is debatable for his selfish wants and feelings make up most of what is recorded about him but he was a judge over Israel for 20 years. Interestingly, Joshua alluded to the feat of one man defeating a thousand in Joshua 23:10, “One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.” This statement is only part of his encouragement to Israelite leaders to essentially ‘keep the faith’, trust in God. The next verse in Joshua 23 says, “Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.” Do you love Him? Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, 21) but do you keep them out of fear or do you step out boldly with love and meet the challenges of the day with boldness and confidence living the life you were called to live  Colossians 3:15), knowing God is with you and a place has been prepared for you? Surely this is why Paul wrote to Timothy about a spirit of power, love and self-control, not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:6). Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid (Joshua 1:9) for if God is with you who then can be against you (Romans 8:31)?


    -jeff    



  • June 26, 2022


    The change in the atmosphere was noticeable and tension suddenly mounted as the security guard looked at me, with his hand now on his weapon and asked, “Sir, is this your backpack?” It was, and now both of us were wondering exactly what was in it. Apparently, no one has ever seen a hand carved door pull sitting beside a Go Pro camera before. He asked what was in it and I told him my sword. He did not think that was as clever an answer as did I, but nodded and said, “I see the Bible, what is beside it?” I was impressed and confessed to being in possession of the door pull and camera. In retrospect, I admit when packed together and viewed with the baggage scanner at the airport, the two items bore a striking resemblance to a pipe bomb and timer. I must also confess, referring to my Bible as my sword was ill timed, but still momentarily funny.


    This was one of the memories I recalled as Austin read to us the first part of the Marine Corps’ Rifleman’s Creed with a few modifications. He replaced the word “rifle” with “Bible” and it read like this, “This is my Bible. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I  must master it as I must master my life. Without me my Bible is useless. Without my Bible, I am useless.” I do not suggest we adopt a creed or speak a mantra, for we know the Bible is all we need in order to find, know and please God (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:3). I am suggesting we take our Bible more seriously as well as the spiritual battles we fight.


    The rest of the creed can be modified as well but it takes a little more than just replacing one word, “This is my Bible. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without reading it, my Bible is useless. Without my Bible, I am useless. I must use my Bible accurately. I must know my Bible better than those who defy truth. I must be truthful. I will. My Bible and I know that what counts in spiritual war is not winning an argument or speaking eloquently, but in speaking truth in love. We know it is the truth that counts. We will be truthful.


    My Bible, “the word of God, is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). I will know my Bible intimately and keep it ready, even as I am ready. We will become part of each other.


    -jeff    



    June 19, 2022


    “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    


    June 12, 2022


    Well, summer is in full swing and VBS is just about over! Next comes the American Missions Campaign and I couldn’t be more excited.


    Memorial Day Weekend, the youth group had the opportunity to go to the Germantown church of Christ to participate in the Ultimate Youth Rally. The theme for this year’s rally was Upside Down Kingdom and the scripture reference was Acts 17:6. Paul and Silas, fresh out of prison after converting the Philippian jailer were in Thessalonica preaching and teaching when the Jews who opposed any teaching of Christ, became jealous and sought to bring about an end to the heresy they perceived. Inciting a mob with the recruitment of evil men, they stormed the house of Jason, where Paul and Silas were reported to be staying. Not finding them, the mob pulled out Jason and some of the brethren stating, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7). The preaching of the Gospel of Christ was changing the world!


    Many of you have wondered what American Missions Campaign is all about. Well, isn’t it about time for some change in our country? With all the bad news we see through social media and other outlets, isn’t it about time we all heard some GOOD NEWS? Next week we have the opportunity to beginning turning our city and county upside down. Sound scary? Sound impossible? I can’t change the fears we have fed and fostered into our psyche, but I can tell you “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). I can also tell you, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).


    We will be learning new strategies for “sowing the seeds” of the Gospel. We will be putting what we learned into practice. We will be  hearing stories of those who want to know more about this King Jesus and yes, hopefully, there will be a few who accuse us of being those who turned this city upside down!


    I hope you will join us. When it comes to gospel campaigns, there is no place like home!


    -jeff    



    June 5, 2022


    You have most likely heard at least a portion of the 2014 commencement address given by Admiral William H. McRaven at the University of Texas at Austin. The first point of his ten-point speech on how to change the world is to begin each day by making your bed. Sound familiar? It is a good speech with many biblical principles. His ninth point is my favorite. Admiral McRaven recounts his training class of Navy Seals, just days away from completing their course, being sent into the mud pits at dusk. Neck deep in the mud the class was told they could get out if five of them quit. It was cold. They were tired. A long night loomed before them. The Admiral remembered it was apparent there were several who were about to give in when from somewhere in the mud, a lone voice began to sing. He sang off key and off tune but with enthusiasm and soon the entire class was singing. In spite of being told they would have more time in the mud if they kept singing, the men sang on. No one would quit that night. The singing made the “mud a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.”

    As I listened to the speech, I could not help but think of Paul and Silas, beaten with rods, shackled and thrown into the innermost part of the prison, seemingly without hope. They sang first. I cannot help but wonder if that soldier who started singing drew his inspiration from the scriptures. Admiral McRaven talked about the power of hope, listing several historical individuals who through their actions provided hope. He encouraged graduates to sing when they found themselves neck deep in mud.

    As those who choose to be disciples of Christ, there is no more hopeful gathering in the world, for the light at the end of our tunnel is the Light of the world and anyone who follows Christ “will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).

    When asked where he’s come from, Satan replied to God, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1:7) and Peter warns us to be alert for Satan is still at it, seeking those he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Even though it is difficult to see the hopelessness on many, for many are blissfully ignorant, we know our world is full of “sheep without a shepherd” and those mired in sin. So we need to sing  because our hope is in the Lord. Our hope is not based on circumstances. Our hope is founded on a promise from one who has “laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, But unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). We need to sing because our singing encourages others.

    -jeff    


  • May 29, 2022


    Did you know there were approximately 8.7 million different species of animals on the earth? Furthermore, did you know scientists estimate over 90% of all known animals are now extinct! God surely made a lot of animals on day 6 of creation! The Bible tells us, “Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air” (Genesis 2:19). It is apparent from the text (Genesis 1:28-30) God created the world and all in it for the benefit of man and still among these millions of animals God brought forth, none was found suitable for Adam. Seeing it was not good for His prize creation to be alone, God caused a deep sleep to come upon Adam and from his rib, he formed something very special for Adam. It is notable God had, up to this point, brought forth his creation, including Adam from the ground (Genesis 2:7, 18), but Eve he would fashion from a part of Adam himself. Truly she was created to be something very special.


    My imagination takes over as I envision Adam waking up, stretching a little, maybe rubbing his eyes and yawning. Maybe he noticed the scar or the place where God had taken a rib or maybe he didn’t, but as he gets ready to get back to the task of naming all these creatures, but Verse 22 says the Lord brought her to the man and verse 23 tells us his reaction when the Lord presented Eve for the first time. Quickly read verses 22-23. How did you read them? Did you read with the same inflection both verses? Did you pause to catch your breath or speak with wonder and amazement as you read the words Adam spoke aloud? If you read Adam’s words with nonchalance, I think you missed something! The King James Version records it like this, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). This is my interpretation of the verse, “Hubba-Hubba! Now this is what I am talking about! Finally! After looking at all the rest, this is the best and it came from me! Oh wow! Thank you, Lord! I will call her woman because she was taken out of me!” Have you ever thought, I don’t really know what I am looking for, but I am sure I’ll know it when I see it? He saw it all right and he loved her instantly. She was so perfectly made, there was no need for anything or anyone else. God said for this reason, because she was made for him, “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).


    It’s clear to me, the relationship between two so perfectly matched was intended to be wonderful and awesome. Let us strive to live with  the joy, the fullest of God’s intentions and never take for granted any of His glorious gifts.


    -jeff    



    May 22, 2022


    There are some verses in the Bible we should put a mental asterisk by, especially when applying them to life situations of those outside of Christ and those who refuse to walk in the light. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” What an encouraging verse for one trying to be a disciple of God! Yet the way of escape is not always easy. It is not always marked with a neon sign or flashing arrows and it may not even be recognizable as a way out. I think of Peter prior to Judas’ betrayal professing his undying commitment and love for Jesus only to hear Jesus say, “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Three times that night, he was tempted to deny Christ. Three times he failed to see his way out. I think of Noah and Lot, the former having to build an ark and the latter told to, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away” (Genesis 19:17). Peter tells us if God can save Noah and Lot, then certainly he knows “how to rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Peter 2:9). This supports Paul’s words to the Corinthians about God making a way. The asterisk is needed because we often use this verse when we find ourselves or an acquaintance in the proverbial hole because they did NOT resist temptation in the first place. The context of the passage in 1 Corinthians 10 tells the church to quit making the same mistakes Israel made. This chapter directly references Numbers 25 where 23000 died because they refused to  follow God; apparently only realizing the cause of their affliction when Phinehas rose and killed an unrepentant, blatantly disrespectful Israelite who pranced his unrighteous relationship in front of the whole assembly. It took this most drastic measure for them to see the way out was to turn back to God. We pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We quote, “He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters ...” But we live like, “Hey God, I said, let’s go this way!”


    If we expect to find the ways to overcome temptation, we must first understand what temps us, recognize when temptations are coming and with eyes wide open, put on the whole armor of God, draw near to God and submit to His entire word. May we all say, “’Yea though I walk through the valley of death,’ but I walk with the King and I will not be afraid.”


    -jeff    



    May 15, 2022


    Who is my neighbor? The question was asked of Jesus by a ‘certain lawyer desiring to justify himself’ (Luke 10:25, 29). After asking Jesus what needed to be done in order to inherit eternal life, the lawyer apparently felt a need to make right within himself conflicting thoughts, knowing the law and abiding by it representing two different concepts. So, Jesus told a story the lawyer could relate to in order to illustrate completely who is my neighbor. Read Luke 10:25-37. In a certain community the flood waters came. While experts told them it was not a flood plain, what usually happens when there is 20 inches of rain? They should have known or at least had insurance. Like the man from Jerusalem traveling a dangerous road alone, surely, they must bear part of the responsibility for their misfortune. The news crews arrived, taking pictures and video invoking pity and sorrow from the rest of the community. Surely the priest and the Levite felt many of the same emotions as they gazed at the beaten body lying by the road to Samaria. Maybe a wave of relief passed over them thinking, “Whew, that could’ve been me ... but it wasn’t, and he should’ve taken the proper precautions.” Or maybe it was early in the day when they passed and they’d heard some others talking of heading to Samaria that day. Surely someone else would stop and help. Besides, look at him, he’s on his way to that God forsaken Samaria and I ... well he might have AIDS or Hepatitis or Strep throat and I have things to do. Time and risk, two things I can’t afford to take. Let someone else handle this. Along comes the Samaritan – the scourge of society. He doesn’t live right, act right or do right yet he is the one who has compassion. His compassion compelled him to lay aside his life, his concerns even his money for a stranger. Yeah, I know, he was a Samaritan, he didn’t have much of a life, no concerns and probably stole the money he used to pay the inn keeper. Anyways, what is the big deal, the injured man got taken care of. Yes, the situation was handled, but Jesus asked ‘who proved to be a neighbor?' When the lawyer answered correctly the Samaritan, Jesus told him to go and do.


    And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)


    -jeff     

        


    May 8, 2022


    One of the most poignant moments in sports history happened at the summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 1992. Derek Redmond, represented Great Britain and was favored to win the 400m sprint. A record holder in Great Britain, he was favored to win and in the best shape of his life. In the semifinal his dreams were shattered with a torn hamstring a little more than half way through the race. Four years earlier in Seoul, an injury had kept him from starting and it appeared injury would keep him from finishing. Determined to finish the race, even if in last place; Redmond rose and began a painful hop/hobble towards the finish line. Ignoring medical help and track officials who had come to his aid he pushed on. It was then a man forced his way through security and onto the track. Jim Redmond then helped his son to the finish line. Close to the end, Jim let go and let his son cross the line on his own to a standing ovation of 65,000 fans. I mentioned this story as part of the invitation last week because I believe there are great lessons for the church in this story. When we put on Christ in baptism, washing away our sin and beginning a new walk in life, we were also added to the winning team. We are favored even expected to win. Life happens and Satan is a fierce competitor (and destined to lose); he cheats, he lies and he sabotages. On occasion, we face injury and we need help. We need someone to push through the crowd and run to our side, holding and helping until we can finish the race before us. We need to hear the encouragement of those around us, urging us to finish strong. This is one facet of the body of Christ; coming to, even rushing to the aid of those parts of the body in need.


    Rubel Shelly, in his book Young People and Their Lord writes, “Not only does that church hold and support you within its fellowship, but it gives you an outlet for doing good and bringing glory to the one who has saved you” (p.12). He cites Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Derek Redmond didn’t ask for help – but he accepted it. Jim Redmond wasn’t asked to help but he came anyway.


    So what are you doing to the Lord and his Church? Do you need help? Will you accept it? Do you know someone who is limping? Can they hear and feel your support? Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).


    -jeff    



    May 1, 2022


    She was smiling as she ran awkwardly across the street to get on the bus. Her tiny little chicken legs under the fluffy coat wearing a back pack, along with arms sticking straight ahead, flopping with every step looked more cartoonish than real. Out of breath, she climbed up the bus steps and said, “Can ... I ... show ... you ... what’s ... in ... my ... lunch box?” I suspected it had something to do with the new space I noticed between two of her bottom teeth and sure enough, she handed me a note from the tooth fairy. As I read the words, “I love you! Congratulations on losing your first tooth! TF” She jumped up and down shouting, “I lost my first tooth!” We tucked the note back in her lunch box and I heard her triumphantly say, “I told you she was real! I got five dollars.” No matter what anyone said about the true identity and existence of the tooth fairy, she had two items as evidence of tooth fairy’s existence; a note and a $5 dollar bill, proof positive, no changing her mind, facts are facts. I smiled with a tinge of sadness as I listened to her defend her beliefs fervently, realizing some of her detractors were more jealous than unbelieving. If there was a tooth fairy and the tooth fairy was good, why didn’t I get anything when I lost my tooth? Surely you have heard someone defend their belief in God and found their faith to be based on something other than the truth; evidence about as sketchy as a note and $5 bill. Sadly, you’ve likely met someone whose life experiences cause them to doubt God’s existence all together. Interestingly, the truth is not changed one bit by circumstance, misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The truth is still the truth and God’s word is truth (John 17:17). God exists (Genesis 1:1, Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1). He is light (1 John 1:5) and love (1 John 4:8). He is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and patient (2 Peter 3:9). He is unchanging (James 1:17). He is “gracious, righteous; and full of compassion” (Psalm 116:5). Our God is great, mighty and awesome (Deuteronomy 10:17). He is perfect (Psalm 18:30). God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1) and “our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves” (Psalm 68:19-20). These are the real facts and in time, all will know them (Romans 14:11). Unfortunately, for most, the day of belief will come one day too late (2 Corinthians 5:10). Here is another sobering fact, “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).


    So, if we truly love those we know are lost in sin, wouldn’t we tell them? (Romans 10:17, 1 Peter 3:15, James 5:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:2)


    -jeff    

  • April 24, 2022


    Recent events in our county have revealed a great need for us to open our eyes, our hearts and our mouths. Suicide is difficult if not impossible to understand. When a suicide attempt is successful, the only one who could even remotely begin to answer why – cannot speak and yet there must be a reason the survival instinct was short circuited. In our struggle to comprehend, we tend to assign blame and make accusations in a rush to judgement while trying to make sense of the senseless. We can all agree, suicide is tragic but if our response is only to the initial, pain filled reactions, there is little chance we move effectively in the direction of prevention. Let me encourage you to do some research into what causes suicide and suicidal thoughts. I think you will be surprised at what you find. When it comes to suicide, we need to be proactive rather than reactive. While it’s fresh, and we are motivated, let’s get educated and be committed to watching out for one another and those around us. If you see something, say something. If you suspect something, do something. If you know something – get help.


    Mordecai said to Esther, “If you keep quiet at this time, someone else will help and save the Jewish people, but you and your father's family will all die. And who knows, you may have been chosen queen for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). I cannot begin to explain God’s providence in our lives except to say He is still active. One may ask why didn’t someone else rise in this occasion and I would have to admit, I do not know and not knowing all the details, maybe someone did. Furthermore, God’s ways and thoughts are different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), such that if He were to begin to explain them, we wouldn’t understand. What we know is this: God loves us enough to die for us (John 3:16). The invitation for eternal life with God extends to all men (1 Timothy 2:4) who would obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). We also know we are commanded to love one another (John 13:34-35) and this command extends beyond the family of God as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and Paul encourages the church at Galatia, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). Finally, Ezekiel 33:3-6 illustrates the “watchman principle,” speaking up, at the very least, removes personal doubts and guilt.


    Suicide (both physical and spiritual) begins long before the moment the “trigger is pulled.” Let us make it a point to be the light for all we meet along the way. Let’s be intentional about showing the hope within us. Let’s make a difference, after all maybe we are where we are for a time such as this.


    -jeff    



    April 17, 2022


    "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    



    April 10, 2022


    “When You don't move the mountains, I'm needing You to move. When You don't part the waters, I wish I could walk through. When You don't give the answers as I cry out to You, I will trust in you.” These are the lyrics to the chorus of a song recorded by Lauren Daigle, a contemporary Christian singer. Another group, Praise and Harmony, covers the song acapella and as I heard the words, I thought of a scene from the movie Facing the Giants. It is possibly my favorite scene in any movie ever. The scene depicts coach Grant Taylor in the middle of a pecan grove reading in his Bible from Psalm 18. He went to the grove to talk to God. It was a rough time of life. His house was falling apart, his team and fan base were falling apart too, he and his wife had lost several babies to miscarriage and pregnancy was proving to be difficult. Everything he wanted most in life seemed just out of his grasp. He read, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies” (Psalms 18:2-3). The scene closes as his wife joins him beneath the trees and he asks her, “If He doesn’t give us children, will you still love Him?” Is our love for God dependent on the circumstances of life? While life is good, God is good but the minute bad news hits there are many who suddenly blame God or become angry with him. Such was the case with Jonah as he sat east of Nineveh to see what would happen to the city. Overnight, the Lord caused a plant to grow and shade him from the heat of the sun and the Bible says Jonah was “extremely happy” (Jonah 4:6). The next morning a worm caused it to wither and Jonah, so distraught, prayed for death!


    So what about when your prayers aren’t answered in exactly the way you wanted, in the time frame you thought was appropriate? Do you still trust him? When the rains come, the flood waters rise and the wind slams against your life (Matthew 7:24) is our faith, our trust grounded in the rock of our salvation? Do we still trust that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)?


    Later in the movie, my second favorite scene; set in the parking lot outside the women’s clinic after getting yet another negative pregnancy test, she looks to heaven and says, “I will still love you.” We must remember Paul’s words to the church at Rome, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Sin and suffering are here because of man but grace and peace are here because of God.


    -jeff    



    April 3, 2022


    You haven’t really been scared until you have been “sore afraid”! Trust me when I say, that means you are really, really scared; so much so you “lose your wits”. In other words, you are so scared you lose your ability to reason and act (dictionary.com). You are not likely to hear or see the term outside the context of the King James Version of the Bible (or ASV). The KJV uses the term 14 times through out the Bible. 1 Samuel 31:4 and 1 Chronicles 10:4 are both about King Saul’s armor bearer and Matthew 17:6 and Mark 9:6 both use the term describing the disciples reaction to the voice of the Lord at the transfiguration of Jesus. The phrase is used in Luke 2:9 letting us know the initial reaction of the shepherds in the field when the angel of the Lord appeared to announce the birth of our Savior. It’s also used in Genesis 20:8 when Abimelech found out he’d unwittingly taken the wife of another man, Abraham. Fortunately, no adultery had taken place but his men were still terrified by the thought! Despite these and other occurrences, when I hear someone say, “sore  afraid”, my mind goes to the valley of Elah where Israel was set in battle array against the Philistines and their champion, Goliath of Gath! The Israelites were sore afraid when the nine-foot nine-inch Philistine taunted them from across the valley in 1 Samuel 17 – except for David who held to his faith in the power of Almighty God. He told king Saul about tending sheep for his father and the lion and bear coming to take lambs from the flock and how he pursued them. David said, “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them ...” (1 Samuel 17:36). What a faith! “He shall be as one of them” should be remembered along with statements like Mordecai’s when he reminded Esther she may have attained her position “for a time such as this” [emphasis added] (Esther 4:14) and Shadrach, Me- shach and Abednego’s response to Nebuchadnezzar saying our God can deliver us from you, “But if not [emphasis added], be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:18). Wade Webster, gospel preacher, stated at PTP in 2017, “God put giants in the Promised Land to keep the unbelievers out.” The entire army of the living God had been crippled by fear. What they saw and heard challenged their faith to its very core. This giant, Goliath, kept unbelievers stagnant and oppressed.


    I am thinking it’s time for another “Youth Group Rule”. Rule number 7: No Fear. This is not to say we act senselessly  throwing caution to the wind, but to acknowledge and accept there is nothing on this earth that will ever make us sore afraid, unable to reason and act in accordance with God’s word.


    -jeff

  • March 27, 2022


    Covington High School now has an archery team and I was fortunate enough to get to shoot with them in a couple practices this week reminding me of a fall retreat several years ago centered around archery. The theme of the retreat was, Make God Your Target. While there were several different lessons, the main idea was this; to hit the target, you must aim at it. The high school archery team shoots a bare bow; no sights, no counter weights, no shock absorbers or fancy releases. Standing on the line, I wondered if my intention of hitting the target would be enough on this first arrow! I hit the target, but not the bullseye.

    I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 7:21-23. It’s clear to me the religious group of people Jesus was talking about in this passage were believers. It even appears they were doing religious things - prophesying, casting out demons and wonderful works, and yet they missed the mark. The God I serve does not require perfection. The blood of “His only begotten son” covers our imperfections, so hitting the 10-ring every time is not a requirement. That kind of spiritual shooting would negate the necessity for grace. Still, this is clearly a group of people who thought they were hitting the target, i.e., pleasing God; yet Jesus said to them, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). What happened? Had they grown satisfied with just hitting the target and not losing arrows? “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them” (Proverbs 1:32 KJV). The NASB and ESV translate “prosperity” as complacency. Prosperity often gives us the illusion of security causing us to be satisfied with less than our best because after all, at least we showed up right? We cannot grow with the attitude of just getting close. It means we are no longer trying. Maybe it wasn’t that they were satisfied with just hitting the target, maybe they were actually hitting all bullseyes – on the wrong target. Paul may have been warning the church at Colossae against something similar when he told them, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8 KJV). It could be their target had become their works and the maintenance of traditions and they’d lost sight of their purpose. I believe we were created to shoot straight (Ephesians 2:10), and when we miss there is still hope (1 John 2:1). We don’t live in the misses (Romans 6:12-14) but daily pick up our bows and shoot (Luke 9:23) for the bullseye (1 John 1:7; Romans 6:4).

    --jeff    


    March 20, 2022


    I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three young men who put God first on the plain of Dura while those around them went along with the crowd. They were called because they had attained leadership positions in their society. They had been in personal service to the king (Daniel 1:19) and at the time of their momentary affliction, they were  administrators over the province of Babylon (Daniel 3:12). The scriptures do not tell us when during his reign  Nebuchadnezzar erected his idol but outside documentation suggests the statue was erected in the 18th year of his reign. It makes sense that some time has passed between chapters 2 and 3 of Daniel because chapter 2 comes to a close with the king bowing before Daniel to proclaim, "Truly I know your God is the greatest of all gods, the Lord of all the kings ...” (Daniel 2:47), followed by issuing a promotion to Daniel which resulted in Daniel working in the King’s court and the Shadrach Meshach and Abednego being administrators over Babylon. For chapter 3 to begin with “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold” and never once mention Daniel would indicate not only Daniel’s absence but a significant passage of time. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are no longer young men as they were in chapter 1 when Nebuchadnezzar first took over Jerusalem. They had been in leadership positions for a while, making it notable they had much to lose even if life was spared by the king. As leaders though, they were expected to obey the king. They were expected to set an example, after all, they’d accepted the job. They had made a commitment. Besides, everyone knows you can bow down and act like you are worshipping you don’t really have to do it. In fact, can you really even call it worship if you are going to be killed if you don’t bow down. Who’s gonna’ know, right? I guess that is the real question, “Who’s gonna’ know?” Who’s gonna know you are His disciple if you bow with everyone else? Whose gonna’ know who has control of your heart? Who’s gonna’ know if you don’t stand up and be different? Three grown men chose God over all else that day. In the face of certain death, they chose God. When called out, embarrassed and ridiculed by jealous enemies, they chose God. They stood together, all alone on the plain of Dura and said to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves to you. If you throw us into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from the furnace. He will save us from your power, O king. But even if God does not save us, we want you, O king, to know this: We will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18). God comes first No matter what happens next, will God come first in your life – even if ...?


    -jeff



    March 13, 2022


    Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Behind every great man, there is a great woman”. It was apparently first written in February of 1946 by the Port Arthur News in a newspaper story about Meryll Frost, voted the most courageous athlete of 1945, who gave the credit for his ‘come back’ to his wife. "As he received his trophy, the plucky quarterback unfolded the story of how he 'came back'. He said, “They say behind every great man there's a woman. While I'm not a great man, there's a great woman behind me.” The quote was used extensively in the 70s and 80s as part of the feminist movement, but I am pretty sure Frost’s intent was to say thank you and wanted his wife and the world to know what she had done for him. The quote is deemed a proverb and obviously goes back further than 1946. Like all proverbs, it is true the vast majority of the time helping husbands is one of the roles of wives. When God created Eve, He created her to complete Adam and be a “help meet” (Genesis 2:18). Never intending for women to be slaves or servants to men, Adam captures God’s intent with his response to the one thing God created expressly for him. Imagine for a moment Adam awakening from this “deep sleep”, sleep different from before and after hours of seeing and naming all that God had created, recognizing the whole time - not one of those things looked  even remotely like him. As he shakes the cobwebs of sedation, maybe he rubs his eyes as the Lord presents his latest creation. Adam doesn’t have to look down and see a scar or feel the pains of surgery and a missing rib, he knows. With a few notable differences, this creature is like him and he is grateful, no doubt relieved and in awe of what God has done for him. Maybe he walked in a circle around her as he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). I bet he was thinking what Solomon would later say of his bride, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you” (Song of Songs 4:7).

    • You may have heard, Tuesday March 8 was International Women’s Day – this article has nothing to do with IWD or gender equality, in fact quite the opposite. God created male and female, both with very special qualities. This article is about being as grateful as Adam as I consider my “helper” and all she has done and still does to make me better. Thank you, God.
    • PS. No, I am not “in the doghouse” nor am I trying to buy anything! I just hope to remind us we are different but loved by God equally. We are destined for success together not failure as the world says because we were created male and female, for each other. What God has joined together – never give up on.

    -jeff    



    March 6, 2022


    “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” These were the words the angel of the Lord spoke to Gideon in Judges 6 after the Israelites had been oppressed by Midian for seven years. Gideon’s response was very similar to the modern-day response of “Yeah right!” Make no mistake, Israel found themselves in this persecuted position because of their refusal to obey God (Judges 6:10), but now they wanted out. They wanted change. No doubt they had heard the stories of the greatness of God and the countless times he’d delivered His people, but Gideon asked the question, “If the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened?” (Judges 6:13). The Bible doesn’t tell us the name of the prophet sent in response to Israel’s cries but Isaiah has an answer for Gideon’s question in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” The change they sought would only come when change occurred in their hearts, and they turned back to a reliance on the one true and living God. These events  occurred in a time when God spoke to the fathers in many different ways, now he speaks to us through His Son (Hebrews1:1 see also John  1:1, 14). Now that we have the complete, perfect word of God (1 Corinthians 13:10), handed down once for all time (Jude 3) in the form of  the Bible, God no longer speaks directly to us or sends prophets. It is no longer necessary to send an enemy to “show us the error of our ways”. The Bible tells us all we need to know and gives us examples of what happens (Romans15:4) when we choose something other than God’s way. While He may not send an enemy, there are consequences for sin that complicate life. It is in these times we can still turn  to God. While His communication with us has changed, the message has not. He is still with us (Matthew 28:20), listens to us (James 5:16) and has prepared a place for us (2 Timothy 4:8) who remain “valiant warriors” in the kingdom. Our fight is no longer against nations but against sin and Satan (Ephesians 6:10-18). We must continue the fight with truth and love (Matthew 28:19, 1 Peter 3:15 and John 17:17).


    Certainly, there are times when we feel much like Gideon and feel as though God has abandoned us, but He has not and He will not and the Bible demonstrates this time and time again. We must “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). “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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).


    -jeff    

      

  • February 27, 2022


    How important are qualifications and what makes you qualified? If you haven’t heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” then you probably have not been listening, nor have you been paying attention. It may seem as if this phrase eliminates the need for any qualifications but I don’t think that was the original intent. Connections are a reality. How well connected a person is can often be the difference in getting a position or being overlooked. “Who you know” can get a man hired before he meets the qualifications or at least get the qualifications changed so they fit the individual being hired. It sounds unfair, particularly from the point of view of someone who is over qualified and overlooked, but from another perspective, there is security in picking someone you know. I have heard horror stories about what the Human Resources people have to weed through to find someone telling the whole truth. Hiring a known entity is more comfortable than hiring an unknown. Truthfully, though, maybe we should change the phrase a little to, “It’s not what you know but who knows you.” If you’re a scoundrel, you’d have a better chance if no one knew you! The principle definitely has Biblical connections;  certainly, on judgement day your “qualifications” will be of no consequence. Your eternal position will be all about who knows you  (Matthew 7:23) and only one connection will matter. Still, the passage in Matthew talks about believers and despite “never knowing enough” or not being able to “earn a spot” in Glory with God for eternity, there are some qualifications and the first of those is to believe. Without a doubt, beliefs dictate actions and reactions. Paul tells of how belief affects actions (Romans 10:14) as does James who concludes chapter 2 with, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Still, you can do all the right “things” and not be a believer, but it is
    impossible to be a believer and not at least try to follow and obey His Word. It is here we tend to offer the excuse, “but I am not qualified.” We just talked about connections. Doesn’t that depend on your connection and who knows you? I think of Peter and Andrew; two fishermen tending nets, going about their day. What qualified them? Was it Jesus’ call of “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”? I think what qualified them was that they went. They left their nets and followed. They were qualified because they took the job. Jesus  promised he would give them the rest of what they needed. They weren’t perfect; they were willing. Are you willing? We have already established qualification by who we know. Do you know him? More importantly, does He know you?


    -jeff    



    February 20, 2022


    She’s in preschool this year and sits very close to the front mostly because middle schoolers already know what is expected when they ride the bus. The young ones are in a large vehicle more than arms reach from the one adult in this vast new mobile playground where their voices echo and there are no seat belts; ultimate freedom for a 4- or 5- year-old. Yes, they can ride the bus that young and no, they apparently don’t have to be completely potty trained, but that is a different set of stories. Occupying a position near the aisle where she could be a better back seat driver, my new short rider saw the kitten sitting beside the garbage cans moments after I, a trained professional bus driver, had already spotted the potential road hazard and was prepared for whatever the feline might do. She said, “Aww, look bus driver! It’s a puppy cat!” The smile coming to my face froze abruptly as the voice telling me how to drive went from precious and toddlery to demonic and threatening as I heard her add, “YOU BETTER NOT HIT IT,” in accompaniment to a tiny slap on my shoulder. A quick glance into the mirror, and I saw I was staring over the extended index finger of a very serious, large-eyed little girl who loved puppy cats more than me. As our eyes met, her gaze went dreamy as she morphed back and said, “Wasn’t that puppy cat cute, bus driver?” As far as puppy cats go, that was probably a cute one but isn’t it interesting how kids can put experiences together and come up with their own ideas and descriptions. Young dogs are puppy dogs, so young cats must be puppy cats.


    I can easily follow her thinking, but what must she and others be thinking when they hear people talk about and claim to know God and follow the Bible; profess to be a Christians and in the church but see no difference in the people talking and the rest of the world? What confusions might they draw about God, his word and his followers? There are plenty of scriptures encouraging Christians to be different, starting with Romans 12 where we are instructed to be transformed from rather than conformed to the world. The rest of the chapter goes on to give us a good picture of how to be different, concluding with “do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). As we are sent “into the world” (John 17:18), presumably following in His footsteps, “seeking to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), our actions must coincide with our words. If we preach love and grace, we must be loving and forgiving. If we preach walking in the light, we must walk in the light. The old adage is, “Practice what you preach.” We want to leave no room for the redefinition of terms or misunderstanding of the truth.


    -jeff



    February 13, 2022


    Riding my bike up, I had no idea as to the elevation of the switchback trail but I found out it was tall, steep and seemed to  go on forever. My legs burned and my lungs were screaming for more oxygen. I was all in; done; I could go no further. I signaled the break rather than attempt to speak it. I needed all my breath and didn’t want to waste any of it on a word. Catching my breath, I sipped water and ate an orange and finally asked the dreaded question, “How much further?” “Maybe 100 yards,” was the reply. Pointing, he said “You can’t see it from where you are but the top is just right there.  When you get here, you can see the flat. I’m sorry, I thought you knew it was close. You’d already stopped before I could  tell you.” Seriously! Instead of being relieved or excited I was rather put out and angry with myself for quitting so close to the top. It really was right there. As I crested the hill, I confessed. “I quit. I didn’t think I could go on, but the truth is I  could have. Please don’t let me ever quit again – no matter what.” Being beaten is different than quitting. I’d rather be  beaten. Spiritually speaking, that goes double. In the introduction to 1 Peter, my Olive Tree Bible App says, “Peter’s  primary message is to trust the Lord, live obediently no matter what your circumstances, and keep your hope fixed on  God’s ultimate promise of deliverance. Suffering is to be expected, but it is temporary and yields great blessings for those  who remain steadfast.” In other words, 1 Peter is telling us God promises will not fail, but we can’t quit. Peter reminds us,  like a spiritual workout partner, we are “... born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the  dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven ...” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Peter concludes  the book saying, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking  someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your  brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his  eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:8-10). DON’T QUIT! You are almost there.
    Wouldn’t it be sad on judgement day, to look into the sad eyes of Christ and hear Him say, “You would have made it. You  were so close – if you just hadn’t quit.”


    I sure hope I see you Sunday!


    - Jeff



    February 6, 2022


    Miriam Webster says the essential definition of anticipation is, “1: a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen 2: the act of preparing for something.” In the case of the predicted winter weather we are having, the feeling of excitement may not exactly be accurate for those above school age, but certainly the preparation part is applicable. The stores are crowded as people stock up on essentials from propane and non-electric heaters to staple food items. The highways are being salted and sanded while churches, businesses and schools try to decide if the weatherman is going to be right or not. It seems every conversation mentions snow or ice. Are you ready? Certainly, the media plays its part in making sure everyone has plenty of advance notice, giving just enough information at once to keep you tuned in to find out  the rest. While on some level, they want us to be prepared for the worst, they also want to keep us watching their channel and their advertisements! Physical safety is paramount as cancellations are contemplated. In truth, liability issues  are paramount as cancellations are contemplated. I understand both the safety and the liability but as we contemplate the possibility of coming winter storm, let us also contemplate the absolute certainty of the second coming of Christ.


    Matthew 10:28 tells us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We spend an immense amount of time and effort in preparation for events in our lives but how much time do we spend on the eternal part. Are you ready to stand before God in judgment? You have your milk and bread for  the winter storm but do you have the bread of life as talked about in John 6? Do you drink from the “spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14)? Are we as good about telling the lost about judgement day as the news is about getting us  the weather forecast? What would be different if Christ impacted our lives each day the way the weather does?


    The body is God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19) and we should be good stewards of it as we use it to carry out the great commission of spreading the Gospel to all. Thank goodness no one forces us to run to stay in shape! As we anticipate; we  need to consider whether we have spent far too much time worrying about what could happen and maybe not enough time considering what will happen. Are you filled with excitement about what will happen when the Lord comes again? Are you prepared?


    -jeff

  • January 30, 2022


    Light pollution is not really a new concept and has to do with the brightening of the night sky as caused by street lights and other manmade sources. It is most notable in cities and interferes with night time star gazing. You may have noticed the absence of all but the brightest of stars when you look up while visiting in the big city. There is probably a great biblical lesson to be derived from living in so much light, but for today, we realize two things: first, the light we are talking about is fake or artificial and second, we are talking of light POLLUTION which at its core is negative. Most of the time we are   oblivious to what is not obvious and so conditioned to bright light we only notice it in its absence. The Bible warns of  things done in darkness saying all things will be brought to light (1 Corinthians 4:5) and tells us the way of the wicked is found in darkness (Proverbs 4:19). It is clear darkness hides things and has a bad reputation. People say, “I am afraid of the dark,” but what they mean is, “I am afraid of what is IN the dark.” Darkness is simply the absence of light. I’d thought about sending him a text but realized it was almost 2:00 AM where he was. Interestingly, within a few minutes, I got this text: “We are just now laying down for the night. I wish you could see the stars out here.” I could see a few bright ones through the lights in the parking lot and I was struck with two thoughts, I bet he can see a bazillion and then, we could be looking at the same star. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Our God is an awesome God who can use the darkness, which the unrighteous use to hide their nefarious ways, to reveal his  majesty and power in the most beautiful and hopeful of ways; alone in the dark, we look up and see – Him. The darker it
    is the brighter and more plenteous His stars shine. “And God said, let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light  to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the
    firmament of the  heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:14-18).

                                                                                                                                                                          -jeff



    January 23, 2022


    Things got interesting when he asked who wanted to win $100. Naturally, at a youth rally hundreds of hands shot into the air, waving and gesticulating in time with their owners’ urgent pleas to “PICK ME!” The speaker was TJ Kirk, a middle school principal in Chester County. Then he broke the bad news. In order to win the $100, you had to have a cell phone. Clearly not a problem in today’s world and a few more hands went up, now more interested in the upcoming challenge -but there was more. Not only did you have to have a cell phone, you had to have contacts on your cell phone of people who had not yet obeyed the Gospel. He asked, “Is there anyone in the room who has a cell phone with people on their contact list who are not yet Christians and would like to win $100?” I dare say, everyone in the gym had a cell phone with contacts of unsaved people on it and most of them were now waving their phones in the air as proof hoping to be called for a chance to win the $100 bill. Brother Kirk then said, “The first person who can set up a Bible study with one of those unsaved contacts in their phone will get this $100 bill. ON YOUR MARK, GET SET… GO!” The noise level dropped a bit as the focus was turned from being  chosen to arranging the study. Frantic fingers, sped through contacts on hundreds of phones and within a minute the first hands went up. The first guy called misunderstood and was disqualified, having only presented a name – not a scheduled study. The second young lady, actually had her contact on the phone. As the hundred-dollar bill was handed over, TJ told the girl she now qualified to win even more. He told her he would get with her youth minister and every time she conducted a Bible study, he would send her another $100 AND – if one of those studies resulted in a baptism, he would send her $1000! There was a disappointed groan from the crowd as they realized just what they’d missed. TJ then held up his hand and said, “Guess what … I have another $100!” as he pulled another crisp bill from his pocket. Hands shot into the air and one young man began running to the stage. That’s when it happened. The speaker held up his hands, and said, “Wait, I have just one question – Why weren’t you this excited about telling your friends about Jesus yesterday?” It got real quiet, real  quick and the words of an old song popped into my head; “If the name of the Savior is precious to you, If His care has been constant and tender and true, If the light of His presence has brightened you way, O will you not tell of your gladness today?” What will it take to get YOU to share the gospel?


    -jeff



    January 16, 2022


    There are two sides to every story and perspectives always play a part in their retelling. When I read about
    Joseph and his relationship with his brothers (Exodus 37), it is not hard for me to see from their point of view,
    he might have “egged on” some of their dislike. It is interesting though, Moses inspired by the Holy Spirit,

    leaves that up to us to surmise. There is no doubt a reason for this and it is likely because it is not important.

    That’s right, all the reasons why his brothers hated him are not important – even if it may have been partly his

    own fault. The most important fact is, they hated him enough to plot against him. If we belabor the point of

    Joseph’s personal contribution to this hatred, We must then also accept responsibility for the hatred perpetrated

    against us; no more “they singled me out” or “they are just picking on me”. While those may be true statements,

    It’s highly likely they are not the only true statements. The other note of importance, especially if Joseph is at least

    a partial contributor to fueling the hatred, is that Joseph, even in his imperfection, continues to stay focused on

    God and doing what is right and God continues to take care of Joseph and not just Joseph, all his people. In other

    words, we might find ourselves in a tight situation. It could be partially, mostly or even totally our fault but God can

    still use us and our situation to not only accomplish his goals but will better us in the process. The key is, we must

    “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).


    • Esther found herself in a predicament, too, when Mordecai explained to her, if you don’t step up, deliverance is

    going to come for God’s people from somewhere and you will be lost (Esther 4:14). I think sometimes we forget

    Jesus told Peter when the church is established, “The gates of Hades will not stand against it” (Matthew 16:18).

    In the end, God wins. Period.


    We can allow circumstance and situations to control our beliefs and actions or we can double down on our faith

    in hard times and rise to be what God wants us to be. Tight spots, persecutions, betrayals and heartache will come,

    sometimes we “ask for it”, sometimes we don’t. Every time, God is there.


                                                                                                                                                                                        -Jeff



    January 9, 2022


    In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul explains to the church, he has learned to be content in any situation; whether he had a lot or just a little. Contentment, according to Google, is described as “a state of satisfaction” or “a state of peaceful happiness”. To the church at Corinth, Paul explained how he had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7ff) to keep him humble and remind him of his humanity. He told them how the Lord explained, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). His next word to the church talked of his “gladness” or pleasure in his weakness. No one likes to admit a weakness and Paul says he finds joy in his weakness or maybe better stated, in something that is not quite right in his life. Part of the lesson he is trying to teach is that circumstances in life do not affect the promise we have in Christ. At some point Paul came to understand it wasn’t because he was so good Christ came to the cross, but because of his love for mankind. Realizing the second chance he’d been given, Paul then chose to live for God, walking in the light and boldly pro-claiming the Gospel every where he went to everyone who would listen. He also chose to be happy. He did not claim perfection, or to have grasped the secrets of life, but he understood the promise and what is coming. Choosing to focus on a future with God, he didn’t allow the past or present to affect his attitude (Philippians 3:12-14). The Bible really has a lot to say about being content. We should never confuse contentment with complacency, which carries with it an air of lazy smugness and arrogance but at the same time we must realize too, we cannot live contented Christian lives with a focus on eternity when our lives are filled with “complaintency”. Yes, I made that word up. Think about it seriously though, how much of our time is spent complaining. Many Christians, also known as “heirs to the throne”, “ambassadors for Christ”, “saints”, “the saved” and “the faithful”, never have any-thing positive to say about anything. In order for them to be happy, all has to be well in their life and the lives of those around them. The old ones can attest, life is never perfect when circumstances are the focus. Too many put their faith in change. If I just had a boyfriend/girlfriend turns to if I just had a spouse, then if we just had children and soon if those children were just older. The truth is, until we can be happy/content as we are, we will never find happiness/contentment anywhere else because there will always be something else. Paul says, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a); every-thing and all situations. Let’s choose to be happy and live for our future with Him.


    -jeff    


    January 2, 2022    


    My dad had a small wood shop in the back of the house when I was growing up. While I was not allowed to use the power tools, I could use all his hand tools. I enjoy spending time in a wood shop and have, over the years, acquired tools of my own. One of my favorites is a planer I acquired from a neighbor who was moving and just didn’t have room to take. It’s quite an ordeal to get it out and is pretty heavy; it has bars that slide out so it can be picked up with a fork lift. Fortunately, it is on wheels and all I have to do is roll it. On my planer, there are three very sharp knives spinning at a high rate of speed to take a small amount of wood off the surface of boards as they pass through the planer. Each pass changes the thickness of the board cutting away the face of the board. After boards are cut from a tree they are “stickered” and stacked to dry before they can be used to build something. Many times during the drying process, the outside of the wood takes on a  leathered look and the beauty of the grains and colors within are hidden. To most, the drying stack looks like a pile of ugly gray boards. However, beneath the weathered exterior, in the heart of the wood, the grains are rich in magnificent colors. Many times, the most beautiful parts are those where the tree was damaged or stressed during its growing years. The planer removes the rough exterior, revealing beauty on the inside. Those first few passes on each board are always exciting to me as the “ugly” is stripped away to reveal what God created. When God told Samuel to anoint a new king in Saul’s place, He sent him to Jesse’s house to pick one of his sons. As they passed before him, God cautioned him to not focus on the outside but what was on the inside, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Samuel was looking for a new king that had the stature and appearance like Saul who was “a choice and handsome man” (1 Samuel 9:2). It’s easy to reject people because of what we see on the  outside, forgetting how exposure to the elements of life can change us. On the inside though, we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) for good (Ephesians 2:10). Furthermore, Christ died for all - while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). As we commit to evangelizing the world, let’s work hard to see people for whose they are rather than how they appear.


    -jeff     

  • December 26, 2021


    I recently ran across an interesting interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12:9. This is the passage where Paul admits to having
    a “thorn in the flesh.” He tells us He “implored the Lord three times that it might leave him” (v. 8). The Lord said,
    “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. ” The Lord’s words were then interpreted thusly,
    “Worship Me, if bad things still happen then tough, go deal with that on your own. If things get better, you can give Me
    credit for that.” Pause a moment to let that sink in. While you mull it over, I want you to know the rest of this article
    is written with patience, empathy, love and compassion. Clearly the wise interpreter can identify with Paul’s thorn in
    the flesh - as many can. Yet allowing the pain of his personal situation to override the context of this passage and
    what the rest of the Bible says results in an erroneous and dangerous belief. Oh but that coming to Christ would relieve

    all earthly pain and suffering from the believer. Would that really make our relationship with God better? When
    Peter said, “God is not slack in His promise” (2 Peter 3:9) he was not talking of a promise for a pain free life. On the contrary, Jesus himself told His disciples they would be persecuted (Matthew 10:16). When I think of the many ways
    I have been blessed, I realize I can accomplish anything. As accomplishments mount, it’s easy to get the big head and
    forget where the “powers” come from. “I’m this and I’m that, I, I, I.” Great, you’re all that with butter and jelly, but
    what good is it to inherit the whole earth and yet lose our soul all because you failed to see that only by God’s grace
    are you anything at all? God reduced Gideon’s army to 300 in order to leave no doubt that it was He who defeated the
    Midianites not Israel. Paul’s pain was his strength because it kept him focused on God. It was his reminder of the brevity

    of this life and the hope - the assurance of an eternity with God. So is pain necessary? Obviously, for Paul it was.
    “It will feel better when it stops hurting” is not very comforting but the knowledge that it will stop and be no more
    when we are finally with Him is PEACE. He is the Light at the end of the tunnel. Satan will use anything to keep us
    from seeing it, focusing on it and living in it. God said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Are we ready to reciprocate?

    - jeff


    December 19, 2021


    From 1970 until 1977 Ford manufactured the Maverick. MotorBiscuit describes the vehicle like this, “a two-door coupe (that would eventually evolve into a four-door sedan in 1971). Falling somewhere between Mustang and the Pinto, the Maverick was Ford’s attempt at a budget car with flare.” Mine was two door, lemon yellow and “character” was a better defining word than “flare”, especially after an  unfortunate series of events left me with a green and Bondo colored right front fender. It had a very strong motor, a straight 6 and I believe might have been a 302. It was a three speed – “three on the tree” as it was called. My dad bought it from my baseball coach and I put a lot of miles on it. My senior year, I put a for sale sign in the window hoping to get $600. Coming home from ball practice at USA Stadium, I was cruising down the deserted, six lane Singleton Parkway with my radio turned up too loud when a blue Ford pick-up with three large men pulled up beside me and motioned for me to pull over. “Umm, no, I don’t think so,” was my thought as I mashed the accelerator to the floor, shattering previous personal speed records. The three men crammed in their pickup could not keep up and as I passed Methodist North and rounded the curve, I hung a quick left on Banbury ditching my pursuers. Stealthily, I took the back way home through the neighborhood, parked and went in to fix a snack. Driving like Mario Andretti makes a man hungry. Some thirty minutes later as I was finishing my snack, there came a knock at the door. Not thinking, I pulled open the carport door and found myself face to face with two very large and very serious men. Behind them, in the driveway was the blue truck and the third guy looking at my Maverick saying, “Yeah, this is it”; as if there were many yellow Mavericks with a green fender and a for sale sign in the back window. Wishing I had a baseball bat, I nervously asked, “Can I help you fellas?” The biggest one said, “How much you want for the car?” The shock and relief must have been evident as I said, “I guess I could let it go for a thousand.” After all, they’d just seen what the car could do in the hands of a capable driver (who was driving for his life).

    The truth is, sometimes we see things and people differently than they really are. Paul explained to the Romans, “there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). While this story has nothing to do with evangelism, it does illustrate how fear and prejudice can cause us to make faulty assumptions. I know, I know – deserted road, outnumbered and outsized, wisdom says do what I did; but you get the point. We need to get to the point where we plant the Gospel seed instead of picking who gets the Gospel seed.


    -jeff    



    December 12, 2021


    I think it was Perry Mason who cautioned Paul Drake to never ask a question in open court you didn’t already know the answer to. Pretty good advice for a lawyer, I suppose, and maybe for a preacher doing a lesson based on people’s response. I really didn’t know what their  answers would be when I asked the Senior Saints to write down their greatest regret in life – but I had an idea as to what they might say. Turns out, I was pretty close to right. To be sure the task was difficult for some, not so much because they had no regrets, but because choices we made that didn’t turn out so well in life do not define who we are unless we let them. As Christians, we do not live in the past. The blood of Christ erases mistakes as we walk in the light, living for the promise. A regret is not necessarily a mistake, but it can be, I  guess. Only God really knows how things may have been different if we’d done things differently. But with age comes wisdom and hindsight is 20/20. Most of the regrets centered on relationships and how time was spent with people we love. We talked about regrets because  young people don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” if we can glean from what predecessors have already learned and last night, much was  harvested.


    We didn’t focus on regrets for long though as I also asked our Senior Saints to write down their fondest memory in life. The second one I  read to the group left me speechless and tearful. In 60 plus years of life to choose from, this senior’s fondest memory had nothing to do with money. It had nothing to do with degrees or diplomas or any other of life’s proclaimed “successes”. It simply said, “Riding to the dump with my daddy in his truck (no words spoken!).” In well over a half a million hours of living, the best memory ever was a few miles of silence in the truck with dad. All the “fondest memories” were similar, having nothing to do with accomplishments, but times spent with loved ones. I don’t know about you, but for me, there is a huge lesson in priorities here. We push our kids to be the best in school, hobbies and other extra curriculars, and I do think if we are going to do it we need to do our best, but it seems the best thing in life, the things that produce the fondest memories, are the people we love and those who love us. So in comparison to the things that ultimately don’t matter much, how much time do we spend teaching our kids what really matters? How much time do we spend being entertained with and by our loved ones as opposed to just entertaining the ones we are supposed to love?


    -jeff    



    December 5, 2021


    I was sitting at the red light when the blue heron sailed over the highway in front of me. The “dinosaur bird” as some call it because of its similarities to the pterodactyls we see in books, the Great Blue Heron is the largest of the heron species in North America. Standing a little over 4 feet tall with a wingspan of 6 feet or more, this predator cuts an imposing figure as it slices through the air. Before the light turned green, I watched it sail towards a shallow marsh area where he would stand as still as a statue waiting for some-thing from its vast and complex diet to venture into the lightning-fast stabbing range of his long bill. A honk got me moving again and I wondered how many of the commuters around me saw this majestic bird and if they were as captivated by its presence in our busy lives as I.


    I see birds. Growing up we used to count the Red-tailed hawks on fence posts and telephone poles on Interstate 55 between West Memphis and Blytheville on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Maybe I have been conditioned to see what others miss; but then maybe we all see what we look for. Beau spots a cool truck a hundred yards off the road behind a shed and Austin sees a deer on the edge of a field a half mile away while driving 55 mph - and can tell you if it was a buck or doe! Maybe we see the cool things we want to see and filter the rest.


    What did Jesus see? In Luke 5:37 he saw Matthew, a tax collector, unnoticed by others and likely avoided by many. Jesus called him. In John 5, Jesus saw a man lying by a pool who’d been sick for 38 years. Jesus healed him. He noticed a man blind from birth in John 9 and healed him too. I know Jesus had abilities we don’t have but he has blessed us and entrusted us with His word and the spreading of it. He has equipped us with the power to affect change in the lives of those around us – if we notice them. Jesus saw people in need because He came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Further, he came not to condemn but to save (John 3:17) indicating not just what he chose to see, but how he chose to see it. He was not hardened by the choices and circumstances of men, but looked beyond - to what could be if the lost would accept His of-fer. Matthew had to get up and follow. The lame man had to try to stand and the blind man had to find his way to the pool of Siloam.


    Maybe I need to spend more time looking for those in need than “the birds of the air” who neither sow nor reap and yet God feeds them. Aren’t human souls way more important?


    -jeff    

  • November 28, 2021


    Years ago, a friend of mine decided he wanted to be a long-range shooter and invested in a set of instructional CDs de-signed to teach him to build and shoot a long-range weapon. I remember one video in particular taught shooters how to practice. Before practice could begin though, the practice gun had to be sighted in in a vise to guarantee accuracy. The instructor was adamant about this; the shooter had to know the gun was perfectly zeroed. The only variable then, was the shooter. He looked into the camera and spoke directly to would be shooters, “You will never be a long-range shooter until you can admit the reason you miss is your fault and not the gun’s.” I have no idea what Rob paid for the set of videos, but that one statement was worth the price. The gun instructor’s words came back to me as I read Numbers 16:41, “But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’s people.”” The day before, the Lord had opened the ground and Korah, his family and all his possessions disappeared. Then fire came forth and consumed the 250 men who had followed him in challenging Moses’ right to lead. It wasn’t Moses who caused Korah and his men to die. It was jealousy and an absence of short-term memory!


    If I were making a list of words all children needed to learn soon in their lives, “consequences” would be in my top ten. It may not be as easy to say as “Ma-ma” or Da-da”, but pronouncing the word is not nearly as important as understanding the concept. What Israel failed to understand, or maybe refused to accept, was that their sin was their fault. We may not be a whole lot better. How often do we blame our poor decisions on others; or point out their bad decision happened first. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13). Consequences are there to teach us. We will never prosper if the consequences are taken away or if we never grasp the idea that we are in control of our choices. Israel wanted someone to blame for their sorrow, but the only ones to blame were themselves. Like Israel and long-range shooters, we will never reach our maximum potential until we learn to accept full responsibility for our errant shots. We may never be perfect, but we can always be better. Besides, if we mess up, we have an advocate with the father (1 John 2:1). You can’t hit what you’re not aiming at. If you mess up, own up and hit the target next time. Be strong and courageous – and shoot straight.



    -jeff    


    November 21, 2021


    I recently acquired a new print by Scot Storm, Ducks Unlimited’s artist of the year for 2005, entitled “Right Place, Wrong Time”. Depicted are two men in a boat putting out decoys in the marsh while overhead Mallards and Pintails (two species of puddle ducks) are trying to land in the very spot they are preparing to hunt. The scene depicts much of my duck hunting career except usually both my time and place are wrong! Still, I love the picture because it reminds me not only of the bad timing I’ve experienced, but the good timing too; those days when I was in the right place, at the right time and the skies looked just like the artist’s painting. The picture also reminds me, the success or failure of so many adventures in life can be tied directly to timing. Sometimes, timing is just off. Seemingly random encounters happen all the time and surely go unnoticed by the players, but those really don’t count. I plan to go hunting, not coincidentally bump into a sky full of ducks trying to land right where I am while my unloaded shotgun sits in its case and out of reach. So, while the timing is of paramount importance - so is preparation and planning. Scouting ahead helps me be prepared, so do not hitting the snooze on the alarm clock and going to bed at a decent hour so I won’t be so tired when the alarm clock goes off! Paul tells Timothy 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.” Later in the same letter, he tells Timothy to “be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). In other words, “Be pre-pared!” God gave us His word the Bible to read and follow (Psalm 119:105), and all scripture is good for us to know and use (2 Timothy 3:16). Consider this for a moment; what if we scouted (prepared for) meeting lost souls the same way we scout for ducks? Knowing most of you don’t hunt you will need to insert your hobby in place of duck hunting. How about money spent? Do we spend as much money on lost souls as we do ducks? And calling ducks; how many miles have I driven learning to blow a duck call and speak their language? How many miles have I driven mastering the word of God? Sometimes, I just get lucky, and I stumble into “the right place at the right time”, but I do not believe in luck. Seemingly lucky people make their luck. Here is another example, if you don’t see garbage in the church parking lot or are not willing to pick it up when you do, you can’t call the guy lucky who picks up trash in the lot and it turns out to be a winning lottery ticket. God’s providence still requires action from us and we need to be prepared and look for \opportunities so we won’t find ourselves - “in the right place at the wrong time”.


    -jeff    



    November 14, 2021


    It was all very new and very different. Miles from home and on his own, there may have been much he didn’t know, but he knew the boots he’d been handed were too small. “Ma’am, my boots are too small, I’d like to get the next size up please.” “They are supposed to be snug son. That is your size. You need to move on” she retorted without meeting his eyes. “Yes Ma’am, snug would be ok, but these are too short” he pleaded. Now she looked up and sharply said, “Get your boots off my table and move on. You’re holding up the line.” He would embark on the next eight weeks with not one but two pairs of boots too small for his feet. As one might expect, they had a negative impact on most everything he would experience. When your foundation suffers, so will the rest of your building. I thought of this story as I watched my kids get off the bus this morning at school.


    I have a lot of younger elementary kids on my bus in the morning and they are slow getting off. No matter how far back the other busses are when I start letting my kids off, there is always a line behind me when my last rider finally gets off the bus. Some days I can sense the impatience and I feel a little guilty, wanting to rush my kids off the bus and into the school so no one will have to wait or be inconvenienced by our inability to unload quickly. Most drivers have learned not to pull up too close to Bus 35 so they can pull around if I take too long! This morning my “bus checker,” a little girl we’ll call Jamie, who runs to the back to make sure I don’t have a sleeper before I leave, was walking – slow. “Jamie! Girl you need to hurry! Look at the busses piling up behind us! You got to go to school!” I attempted to encourage. It was then she grabbed her forehead and the crocodile tears began to flow. I turned on my flashers, closed the doors and pulled to the far end of the bus lane, out of the loading zone. I realized her “boots” were too small this morning and I couldn’t be mad at the lady who’d given my son too small boots unless I acted differently than she. So I let Jamie cry for a minute, wiped her tears and adjusted the foundation of her day – I hope.


    Paul told the church at Ephesus we are saved by grace through faith, not of our works so that none of us could brag. In the same breath however, he said, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). I am certain, I miss the opportunity to make a difference more often than not, so this morning I pray, “Open the eyes of my heart Lord and make me a servant. Help me to see those in need. Help me to serve.”


    -jeff    


    November 7, 2021


    Most do not know this but many years ago, I was a pilot. Surprised? So was the pilot who haughtily looked down his nose at me when I emerged from the airport bathroom we were remodeling, wearing my tools, all covered in dust and dirt. Seeing his disapproving look, I said, “I can see what you’re thinking, but you should know I was a pilot once too, but I gave it up.” Immediately I had his attention and a little respect too. He asked why I quit and I told him because I moved up in the world. Confused, he asked who I flew for. To which I responded, “Who said anything about flying? My Daddy would cut the wood and I’d pile it. We aren’t that much different!” He smiled and chuckled but then I got the disapproving look again; but I kept smiling. Yesterday, I found myself smiling as my chainsaw ripped through the fallen sweet gum. In a couple days, I’ll be a “pile it” again! We burned a lot of firewood when I was a kid (at least it seemed like a lot to a young “pile it”). On one occasion we were cutting up a tree behind the church office. Taking a break from “flying,” I was using a maul, a sledge hammer and a wedge to split some of the larger logs. Dad could do it with a maul or an axe, but at the time I was not strong enough, so I used what I could to get the job done. I’ll never forget, brother Jimmy Moffett came out of the office and asked if he could take a few swings. I have no idea what I was thinking at the time but every time I find myself cutting wood, I remember the time the preacher put down his “sword” and picked up an axe. He talked to me about technique as he split several logs for me, giving me a much-needed break. He smiled the whole time, clearly enjoying the work that seemed to bring back memories of his own. His obituary talked of his educational accomplishments, the number of weddings and funerals he conducted and the thousands of sermons he preached; many of which I heard. I really only remember one. I saw it outside the preacher’s office, sitting on a log and likely sipping on a grape Shasta. It was a quiet sermon, short on words but full of example and application. Later in life, he would develop this saying, “For the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake; Do all the good you can; To all the people you can; In all the ways you can; As long as ever you can.”


    “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest”” (Matthew 9:36-38).


    Sometimes we need to put down the “Sword” and pick up the “axe”.


    -jeff    

  • October 31, 2021


    She was known as “the Lady with the Lamp” because of her tireless efforts ministering to the wounded at Scutari, a British  base  hospital in  Constantinople  during  the Crimean War which began in 1853 between the British and Russian Empires. Soldiers  gave her the nickname as she ministered to their needs long after dark, exhibiting a “seemingly endless supply of  compassion”. There is a museum, a nursing school and countless groups and programs named after Florence Nightingale, a humble, tireless and selfless woman who transformed the nursing of her time and paved the way for modern nursing. One of those groups, The Nightingales, was made up of nurses at the  Baptist  School  of  Nursing in Memphis, TN in the 1960s. Every year at Christmas, their album could be heard playing in our home along with many others (including Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass). On the back of the blue album cover was a group picture of the nurses’ choir. My mom was in that picture. It’s a little early for Thanksgiving, but not for being thankful and as I sat in church Sunday night beside my mother, I listened to her sing. While we sang praises to God together, I remembered countless times in my childhood where I heard my mother singing and I am grateful I was brought up in a home where there was singing. Research shows there are an abundance of benefits to singing, including the release of the “feel good” endorphins our bodies can produce. Maybe that is why Paul encouraged the churches of Colossae and Ephesus to sing, encourage and uplift one another, as well as express their love to God (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19). The Bible is full of examples of singing from Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16:25) and even Jesus and His disciples after the last supper (Matthew 26:30). Of course, David sang too, a man after God’s own heart and a very manly man too. I only point that out because sometimes men don’t sing, and the Bible teaches us some of its most manly men sang regularly - including the son of God. Here are some other great verses on singing: “Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Your godly ones sing for joy” (Psalms 132:8-9). In recognizing the glory and power of God, the Psalmist says, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psalms 104:33). He continues to encourage us to sing in Psalm 105:1-2 saying, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders.” I have listed three reasons to sing. First, God commands us to, whether we “can sing” or not. Secondly, it’s physically and emotionally good for us and finally, we men need to remember, it’s a pretty manly thing to do! So, in the words of Mark Twain, “Sing like no one is listening!” And thank you Mom - and Dad - for singing to me.


    -jeff

        

    October 24, 2021


    He skidded to a stop at the edge of the precipice his buddy had just ridden over and cautiously pondered the descent and its perils. Almost straight down for the first 3 feet, then the big root stuck out and threatened to send a rider end over end, followed by another 10 feet or so of sheerness, the drop would certainly be manageable given enough space to slow down at the bottom. However, there was little space to be had between the bottom of the cliff and the next drop off into the creek – another 8 or nine feet down to the sandy bed. Other riders have done it, in fact one just minutes ago. “What’s the worst that can happen?” he spoke out loud. In retrospect, maybe the best course of action would have been to turn around and find 20/20. Maybe it was fortunate the creek bed was not really as dry as it appeared to be!      Possibly, today’s climate of being controlled by fear affected his decision and judgement. Maybe a touch of pride or his competitive spirit pushed him literally “over the edge”. Whatever, he learned there is a difference in being crippled by fear and using good judgement. The hill was the same for both riders, though their skills and equipment were clearly different. The results of their rides were somewhat predictable but not assured because one learns to do by doing. At some point, in order to get to the next level, fear of falling, fear of failing and fear of pain (emotional, physical or social) must be conquered. Bethel Music released a song in 2015, No Longer Slaves. The chorus rings out, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” Sitting on your bike at the top of the highest, most complicated drop you’ve ever attempted is not the issue but an illustration to help us understand we stand, every day, at the precipice of a life of service to our God and King and conformity to the world; letting our light shine or hiding it under a bush; speaking the truth in love or remaining silent to “keep the peace”; slaves to fear or children of God. What’s the worst that could happen? Will you take the plunge and tell the world around you about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice with not only your voice but your actions? Crippling and controlling fear becomes an issue of faith. James says your life reflects your faith (James 2:14-26). A life of “I can’t” is like the life of the one talent man in Matthew 25. He was “afraid” (Matthew 25:25). On the other hand, by faith Abraham obeyed, Moses led, Rahab defied and the Judges conquered (Hebrews 11). Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside our fears fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1,2 emphasis mine).


    -jeff


    October 17, 2021


    In Acts 18:24 we are introduced to a man named Apollos. Luke, the author of Acts, tells us Apollos was a Jew. He was well versed in the scriptures. He was eloquent. He fervently and accurately taught Jesus however, as to salvation, he was slightly misguided. The Bible says  he was “only acquainted with the baptism of John”. Just so you know, this is the same Apollos mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:5 as well as Titus 3:13. In those passages we can surmise Apollos would become a great worker for the Lord and His church. It was Priscilla and Aquila who would hear him in Ephesus and pull him aside to teach him “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:24-26). There can be no doubt Apollos was a good man and he would have been considered as such by all who knew him. He was devout and sincere – but he was ignorant of a few important details. In the religious world today, we seem to have come to a point where we are ok with “close”. We celebrate the fact that people mention God and Jesus at all in spite of the rest of their lives. Often times “good people” are good enough and we should just be happy someone is attending. In short, many are beginning to ignore the standard of the cross. When we expect less of others and they will invariably live up to it. Aquila and Priscilla teach us an important lesson in this passage. It is important we understand, A & P were just regular members. Maybe not regular members by today’s standards of “God should just be happy I am here”, but they were not preachers. They were tent makers. We are not told they received visions like Paul and Peter or that they walked with Jesus. We are just told they were Jewish and believers in Christ. A & P pulled Apollos aside to teach him. They didn’t call him out publicly, try to make a fool out of him, shame him or talk about him behind his back. They didn’t call for Paul or one of the Apostles to do the teaching. They simply pulled him aside and taught him the truth. He sounded good. He spoke a lot of truth, but he was off just a bit. Church, we need to be prepared to tell the truth – in love; to everyone, even those just a little off; just like Aquila and Priscilla did. Peter says this in 1 Peter 3:15. Jesus himself tells us “He came not to condemn but to save” (John 3:17). Our job is to love God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Our whole duty is to fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13) and Jesus reminds us love is shown by obedience (John 14:15). His standards are not really high, but they are standards. Maybe low standards are the reason why the road is narrow that leads to life and wide that leads to destruction. What a blessing someone shared the truth with Apollos. Who will you bless this week?


    -jeff    


    October 10, 2021


    “Bus Driver! My eyes is watering!” “Ok, Sweetie, here is what you need to do. Sit back in your seat, close your eyes and think about puppy dogs and rainbows. In three or four minutes, your eyes will be all better.” I was hoping she’d fall asleep. “Bus Driver? What if that doesn’t work?” “Then you need to think about unicorns too!” A few minutes later I heard, “Carl! You need to shut up! You not lettin’ me thank of nuthin’!” It’s too bad life isn’t all gumdrops and lollipops where just thinking of something happy and beautiful would fix the problem. And, it’s too bad Satan just won’t leave us alone, give us a break and let us work things out without constantly distracting us.


    Ephesians 4:27 says in the NIV, “do not give the devil a foothold.” Other versions say, “do not give the devil an opportunity” or “place”. The context of this verse is anger, coming from the previous verse. It’s true, it is easy to sin when we are angry. It is easy to drop our guard and lose perspective when our emotions run high. Getting caught up in the moment could cause us to forget who we are and whose we are. We are then in danger of approaching life without our “armor” (Ephesians 6:10-18). Maybe because we forgot where victory lies or maybe because we begin to doubt the power. Either way, we expose ourselves and we give Satan a way to get to us; we give him a place, an opportunity. Given an opportunity, he worms his way in, distorting our thoughts, often not causing immediate pain but slowly stripping away our resolve to walk in the light and ultimately our faith. Life is going to have its rough patches; it is then we need to be most vigilant. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). It is during the storms of life we need to hold on to our faith. The Hebrew writer tells us to “hold fast” to our confidence (Hebrews 3:6), our assurance (Hebrews 3:14), our confession (Hebrews 4:14) and our hope (Hebrews 10:23).


    The tough times are also the times we need each other the most. In His infinite wisdom, God established His church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). “But God has so composed the body, ... so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).


    Puppies, rainbows and unicorns make us smile, but God give us a promise, hope and peace – that passes all understanding.



    -jeff    


    October 3, 2021


    Conversation was light and easy as they drove down the road. Everyone was in a great mood. Approaching the crossroads, the passenger recognized the young couple walking their dog, well at least he recognized the young man. At the stop sign, the passenger rolled down the window and said hello. It had been a long time and he was excited to see his friend. His friend was not as excited, in fact it was clear the time apart had not been long enough. Absence had not made the heart grow fonder, and the man on the street did not want any part of the conversation despite his walking companion’s urging to be nice and sociable. As he drove away, the driver asked, “Who was that?” somewhat incredulously. “Just a friend” came the quiet reply. “Your friend wasn’t very friendly” the driver chuckled. “No,” the passenger replied, “but I was - and today, maybe that’s all that mattered.”


    Paul told the Christians in Rome, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). The Psalmist wrote, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:1 & 4). Jesus said, “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). We cannot control the actions of others; only our own. Sometimes the inability for others to see our love, our motives and just how much we care, can be difficult to accept and deal with. We have a tendency to be harsh back, forgetting temporarily we are supposed to “treat everyone the same way we want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12) instead we treat them the way they treat us. The vicious circle of ‘what comes around goes around’ begins its downward spiral ultimately destroying any hope of reconciliation. We must remember, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). We must wait for a “prodigal friend” the same way the father waited on the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-24), and we must love the lost; endlessly, fervently. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).


    -jeff    


  • September 26, 2021


    I’m not sure I ever got a brand-new bike growing up. I know one of us did. It was red with a banana seat that had the ace of clubs on it. That bike would fly. I don’t mean it was fast, I mean we flew it. I remember riding it off what can best be described as a cliff on some trails near our house. I’d like to go back now and see just how tall it really was but it was quite a bit taller than I was then. We never rode up it, only the motorcycles could do that and then only by the best riders on the biggest bikes. Riding off that hill it seemed like we sailed  forever! While rarely having a “new” bike, I always had a bike, even if it looked like Dr. Frankenstein made it. My best friend Fred and I rode everywhere and had “homemade” bikes for any situation. It didn’t matter whether we were riding the motorcycle trails in the fields between our houses or 16 miles up the two-lane Highway 14 to the Tipton County line, we never wore helmets. We got in trouble for the ride to T-County but not for being without helmets, we just didn’t wear them. Nobody wore them. We had wrecks too. I remember running into a brick mailbox while trying to ride with no hands. It had a sticker plant beside it to compound the pain. I’ll never forget my worst wreck involving a bike with no seat. That was an extremely painful lesson, but still, helmets were for motorcycles. Not anymore! I wear a helmet when I ride my bike now. It seems both the dirt and the concrete have gotten harder as they aged.

    The other day I took a spill and landed first on my head. I was not surprised to hear of an earthquake this week, just that the epicenter was north of here! I am grateful I had on a helmet for protection. It brought a whole new meaning to the helmet of salvation mentioned in Ephesians 6:17! You know, Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God is no different from a parent's charge to put on a helmet while riding a bike. Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) so why not be prepared for it? You can choose not to ride a bike and never need a helmet, but Satan is real and like a lion looks for the easiest prey. Maybe when he sees us fully dressed and prepared to resist, he will move on to a less challenging foe. Let’s put on the whole armor of God and stand firmly on His word.


    -jeff    



    September 19, 2021


    I’m not sure I ever got a brand-new bike growing up. I know one of us did. It was red with a banana seat that had the ace of clubs on it. That bike would fly. I don’t mean it was fast, I mean we flew it. I remember riding it off what can best be described as a cliff on some trails near our house. I’d like to go back now and see just how tall it really was but it was quite a bit taller than I was then. We never rode up it, only the motorcycles could do that and then only by the best riders on the biggest bikes. Riding off that hill it seemed like we sailed  forever! While rarely having a “new” bike, I always had a bike, even if it looked like Dr. Frankenstein made it. My best friend Fred and I rode everywhere and had “homemade” bikes for any situation. It didn’t matter whether we were riding the motorcycle trails in the fields between our houses or 16 miles up the two-lane Highway 14 to the Tipton County line, we never wore helmets. We got in trouble for the ride to T-County but not for being without helmets, we just didn’t wear them. Nobody wore them. We had wrecks too. I remember running into a brick mailbox while trying to ride with no hands. It had a sticker plant beside it to compound the pain. I’ll never forget my worst wreck involving a bike with no seat. That was an extremely painful lesson, but still, helmets were for motorcycles. Not anymore! I wear a helmet when I ride my bike now. It seems both the dirt and the concrete have gotten harder as they aged.

    The other day I took a spill and landed first on my head. I was not surprised to hear of an earthquake this week, just that the epicenter was north of here! I am grateful I had on a helmet for protection. It brought a whole new meaning to the helmet of salvation mentioned in Ephesians 6:17! You know, Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God is no different from a parent's charge to put on a helmet while riding a bike. Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8) so why not be prepared for it? You can choose not to ride a bike and never need a helmet, but Satan is real and like a lion looks for the easiest prey. Maybe when he sees us fully dressed and prepared to resist, he will move on to a less challenging foe. Let’s put on the whole armor of God and stand firmly on His word.


    -jeff    



    September 12, 2021


    Despite the forecast, she brought her raincoat today – just in case. Last week the weatherman said cloudy but no rain and we all got soaked! So, even though there was not a cloud to be seen, she was prepared. It’s the motto of the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared”. We joke all the time about how if we’d just been prepared for something, like rain, it wouldn’t have rained. The idea that we control the weather by remembering or forgetting rain gear is obviously ludicrous but we still insist on being prepared. Similarly, how often do you need jumper cables? Yet many of us carry them and the battery stays charged. Take them out to make room for something; then you’ll forget to turn off the lights and need them! The best solution to any scenario is to always be ready. Sometimes we are prepared for the most unlikely of events while we ignore the most likely. In fact, very often we cite the worst-case scenarios and focus on the statistically remote, choosing to live in an almost fearful state rather than just taking proper precautions.


    One of the certainties in life is that we all die. It’s been happening now several thousand years, yet for many, it seems to be more and more of a surprise. The Bible tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this comes the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). While we know not the day nor the hour, we should know it is coming. That being said, are we as ready to stand before God as we are for rain, a dead battery or maybe retirement?

    Forget death and judgment for a minute, Peter says we are to “always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15); just in case someone asks. For some who claim the title of Christians, the chance of being struck by lightening is more likely than being asked to explain their faith. There are many reasons for this but the biggest reason is that no one knows they are Christians by anything other than their claim. Living as Christians will set us apart and sometime subject us to questions and/or persecutions. Are you ready for those questions?

    Paul also told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A number of us are armed to protect our lives and the lives of loved ones; prepared to defend our homes from unlawful invasion. We collect, practice with and carry firearms. How sharp though is our spiritual sword? Concealed carrying of the Bible has been around too long. Do more people know we carry a gun than people who know we carry the words of God in our heart. Could it be that despite all our preparations, we are unprepared for death; the most inevitable event of our lives?


    -jeff    


    September 5, 2021


    It just like riding a bike!” This phrase is often used to build confidence among those where there is hesitancy. Based on the premise that we all learned how to ride a bike, it turns out the analogy seems to be pretty accurate. A long time ago, I learned to ride a bike, but other than a test drive for the boys after fixing something, I have not ridden in a very long time, but given the opportunity recently, it really does all come back quickly. It’s really amazing how something learned so long ago innately comes back. I’m not saying some of the things that came back quickly were not punctuated by somewhat negative consequences. For instance, paying attention to and remembering which is the front brake and which is the back is a good idea when going downhill – especially if the front brakes are very good. Sometimes I wish there was a video and other times I am grateful there is not. I am fairly certain I didn’t scream like a girl. Take it from me - go easy on the front brake in fact, I pretty much don’t even want to use it. Now that you know, if you decide to start riding a bike again, you do not have to repeat my mistake. You can learn from my experience - or should I say inexperience? I believe our decision to become, remain or return to living life as a Christian closely parallels riding a bike. Difficult at first and maybe even requiring the use of training wheels, riding gets easier the more you do it. It is the same with being a Christian. The more you “do it”, the easier it gets. Repentance demands change and some of those are very drastic and difficult, but with experience comes ease. We were created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) for good works (Ephesians 2:10). We just have to make the decision to follow Christ. Just as our skills grow riding a bike, so will our “skills” at being a Christian. We also learn more from “riding” with others. Some are more experienced and show us the way, even demonstrating what it takes for a successful “ride”. Others, through their mistakes, show us what not to do, where not to go and maybe even who not to “ride” with. The Old Testament, written for our instruction and learning (Romans 15:4), gives us many examples of what God wants and doesn’t want. We can observe the consequences of both obedience and disobedience. The Bible also serves as our map or guide to successful rides. Careful study and observance of the map and its cautions result in the best and most efficient life experiences. Sometimes we make honest mistakes, like squeezing too hard on the front brake. Other times we choose the wrong paths to ride on. Either way, the best thing to do after a crash is first stop the bleeding and then get back on the bike and ride again. Let’s ride together some time! 


    -- Jeff Phillips
    Associate Minister
    Covington church of Christ
    (901)476-8278 (office)

  • August 29, 2021


    Most people know HVAC has something to do with the air conditioner, even if they don’t know exactly what HVAC stands for. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning is something we often take for granted unless it is absent or the temperature is set to something other than our preference. Mostly we just bask in the comfort, making adjustments as needed for our own satisfaction. While we may not notice when we have it, we all notice when we don’t. As with all mechanical units, air conditioners sometimes break down. Their efficiency and longevity are greatly increased with proper maintenance. Changing filters and keeping the coils clean are necessary if we expect maximum benefits.


    Imagine for a minute what it would look like if we treated our relationship with God the same way we treat our relationship with the A/C. When it gets too hot, we dial up a little more God with the push of a button. Too much God is easy to fix too we just go back to the thermostat and dial it back a bit. When we go to certain friends’ houses, we’d understand the climate and dress accordingly – or maybe we wouldn’t go at all because their level of God is too uncomfortable. If we treated our relationship with God the same way we treated the HVAC system, we’d only notice him when we thought he was gone. Then we might brush off the Bible and the prayer stool and call all our friends to get advice. Some might complain about the service. The technician took too long to get there, then it cost too much. Worse – he couldn’t even fix it that day. How might we react if he told us the break down was totally preventable with proper maintenance? What if he said we’d need a whole new system? If we became as dependent on God as we are on air conditioning, what would you give up to keep it?


    Are we continually grateful for His presence and love or do we take Him for granted? When we see someone out in the cold or heat, are we willing to invite them in and share with them the benefits of our “climate control”?  Do we maintain our “system” through constant study and prayer? 


    As the summer winds down and we toil through the last hot days, when you come in from the heat and feel the coolness on your sweaty skin, remember what a blessing it is to live in Christ and be grateful for the opportunity we have to spend an eternity – with air conditioning.


    -jeff    
         

    August 22, 2021


    There are no ugly babies, right? Well according to scripture, maybe that is not so. In Exodus 2:2, we read about the birth of a child who would become Moses. His mother, a Hebrew, and all of Egypt was supposed to throw him into the Nile simply because he was a male and the pharaoh of the time was growing concerned over the number and strength of the Israelite nation. Reading the text, the NASB and the NKJV say, “So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.” Other versions use “fine”, “goodly” or wonderful in place of “beautiful”, but one cannot help but think, “What if Moses had been an ugly baby!?” It just makes me smile when a myriad of funny comments she made come to my mind. Of course, all babies are beautiful as is the process by which they are grown in the womb of their mother. I seriously doubt Moses’ looks had anything to do with how his mother treated him. In fact, I would not be surprised if there were many Hebrew baby boys kept in hiding. What I love about the story of Moses and how he was strategically placed in the Nile and watched over by his sister until the princess found him, is that God was watching over him too. God was in control. Moses was even raised by his own mother “for” the princess. Since we know the Old Testament was written and preserved for our learning (Romans 15:4), we learn and remember God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 and we see in Moses (and many others) how God always fulfills His promises. As we continue to read through the Bible, we clearly see just what prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 55:8-9, God’s thoughts and ways are not like ours. They are much higher than we can imagine. We need to take council from Job as he answered God, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2), while remember the promise made to us through the words of Jesus, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). He is coming back and those who are His are destined for salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10). Even when it seems we have been left floating in the Nile in a tiny little basket offering little protection from the hungry crocodiles, God is with us. He has a plan for us. He is watching over us. Therefore, take courage! Stay the course! Share the Word!


    I hope to see you Sunday

    -jeff    



    August 15, 2021


    If you do not remember last week’s bulletin article or never saw it, you can pull it up here to read it because this article picks up where last week’s left off. At a loss for words, the preacher listened as the young man confessed his life and the closer they came to the town, the more nervous he got too. Silence reigned through the last few miles when the young man finally blurted out with tears streaming down his face, “Preacher, I cannot bear to look. Will you look for me?” The only answer was yes and the preacher stared anxiously out the window as the train entered the great curve. A couple houses appeared, a barn and a few trees as the train decreased its speed approaching the station. Then a small house with a great big oak came into view and now it was the preacher’s turn to shed tears. Seeing his expression, the young man, begged what is it Preacher tell me what you see.” “Come look for yourself son, everything is going to be alright,” he replied. As the young man looked out the window he saw the old oak had not one white sheet hanging in it, it was covered in white sheets. In fact, there were sheets on the fence, on the house, covering every shrub and of course covering the clothesline. In the middle of it all stood and elderly man and woman holding a big sheet between them with the words, “WELCOME HOME SON” painted across it. The pair excitedly waved at every car in the train as it passed not knowing which one held their son. Whether or not this story is true is irrelevant. It is a great picture of love and forgiveness. Lest we forget, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We easily remember, “For God so loved the world ...” John 3:16), but sometimes Christians act as if we have never read verse 17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Clearly we are not to accept or tolerate sin, but the “sinner” is not sin. To the guilty woman brought before Him in John 8, a woman condemned to death by stoning according to the law, Jesus asked about her accusers and then said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). We cannot ignore the “go and sin no more” but we must also come to grips with His love, mercy, grace and forgiveness and find a way to accept sinners while hating sin. His church should be obviously welcoming to all those who want to come “home”, a refuge for sinners trying to leave sin; a beacon of hope for those lost in life.


    -jeff    

     


    August 8, 2021

     

    I recently heard a story and at its conclusion, I thought I’d use it one day in a sermon. The more I think about it, the more I realize I’d better just share it in a bulletin article because it might take me a while to get through it. Maybe you have heard it and maybe you haven’t but you need to hear it, there is a lot we can learn from it. I do not know if it is true or not but I can imagine it is pretty close to truth. Some of the details may have changed in its retelling but the main point is there and so easy to identify with. The story is about an old preacher who boarded a train going to a small town to conduct a Gospel meeting when train travel was economical and most efficient. The preacher is not the main character in the story, but a man he met on the train. When he got to his train car, the preacher took his seat beside a young man who’d already been on the train for some time and while trying to make small talk, the preacher learned the young man was going home and learned they were traveling to the same place. As they rolled along, the preacher couldn’t help but notice the young man seemed to be growing increasingly fidgety and nervous. The preacher mistook his actions for the excitement of returning home. Deducing the young men had been gone for some time the preacher commented on the young man’s excitement. The nervous man replied, “I have been gone a long time and I am excited to go home but more than that I am scared. You see Preacher, many years ago I left home angry. I said some unforgivable and hateful things to my parents and my family. I left and have lived a hard and stupid life full of what you’d call sin. I recently came to my senses, realizing what my choices have done to me and my life. I want to start over. I called home but when I heard my mother’s voice, I just hung up afraid to speak and overcome with emotion at the memories her voice brought back. So, I wrote them a letter asking if I could come home. I did not put a return address on the envelope because I was embarrassed about where I’ve been. I told them in the letter I was sorry and didn’t want to cause them any more trouble or pain. They live not far outside of town just beside a big bend in the tracks. There is an old oak tree in the front yard and we will pass them just before we get to the station. I asked them to hang a white sheet from one of the branches on the tree if it was ok to come home. If it wasn’t ok, do nothing and I’d just keep riding the train and they wouldn’t have to worry about telling me face to face. You see, Preacher we are about an hour out from passing my folks place and I am more scared than I have ever been.”

    (To be continued)


    -jeff    

     

    August 1, 2021


    We live in treasonous times; a time when we have lost focus on exactly who we are. Finger pointing is rampant and no one accepts responsibility. Everyone sees a problem but few offer any real solution. Proposals are cosmetic at best, only addressing symptoms, never moving us closer to reclaiming our identity but give us talking points and “valid” reasons to be dissatisfied or even disgruntled. We easily pick out the negative but rarely report on or celebrate the positive. Our decline is well documented but the causes are heavily disputed. The fact of the matter is this, if something doesn’t change we are doomed. I am certain most people think I am referring to the current state of our country and while I must admit there are similarities, I am actually referring to the state of the church.


    As citizens of God’s Kingdom we mustn’t forget who we are nor our purpose. The Preacher said our whole duty was to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments (John 14:15) and His last command was “Go therefore and teach all nations  ...”  (Matthew 28:19). The refusal to obey orders is insubordination. Insubordination is rebellion. Rebellion is mutiny. Mutiny is betrayal and betrayal is treason. Of course, we are talking about “lawful” orders and the order to “go teach” is most certainly lawful. The “buts” are building in the minds of many as they refer back to the elders, the preacher, the deacons or anyone but themselves in order to escape the harsh truth that it has been a very long time since they have opened the Bible to share the story of Jesus with anyone. “But I’m a different part of the body,” one cries! It makes no difference if that body is not teaching the Gospel and bringing souls to Jesus. Let’s go to Esther 4:14 where we usually hear a reference to “a time such as this” and how the providence of God has brought us to a certain place to give us the chance to fulfill His will, but let’s look closer at the words Mordecai spoke to Esther just prior to this revelation of providence. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will rise from another place.” In other words, the Lord’s church is not doomed, for Jesus is the head and it will stand. It is we, those who failed to go, teach and love who are doomed. Calling all patriots in the Kingdom of God, these are treasonous times and it is time we stand and tell the story.


    -jeff