The Carpenter's Apprentice

Brother Jeff Phillips' Messages

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

  • 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    

     



  • July 25, 2021


    “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Think about this passage for just a moment. Think about it in light of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 where Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). You may be thinking nothing on the aforementioned list applies to you but do not forget sin is sin. No matter if we erroneously consider our sin to be too big, too small or different; maybe not as bad as those things. The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23) and our sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1,2), but Paul gloriously points out those things are past! He, Jesus, Rescued us from a life of darkness. Like the sheep who’d gone astray, He pulled us from a place where survival was impossible and “transferred” us to a place where those sins are gone and are continually washed away as long as we “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). When I was young, we sang the song “I’m Happy Today” all the time. I’d forgotten the song; haven’t heard it in years. It also seems as though many never heard it or forgot about it too. “I’m happy today, oh yes I’m happy today! In Jesus Christ I’m happy today, because He’s taken all my sins away and that’s why I’m happy today!” There are four more verses, I’m singing today, I’m praying today and I’m sharing my faith. The final verse combines the other four. “I’m Happy today, oh yes I’m singing today in Jesus Christ I’m praying today, because He’s taken all my sins away and that’s why I’m sharing my faith!” In Jesus Christ we are saved! What great news - so why aren’t we happier? Why aren’t we known by our happiness? It used to be we were known by our knowledge of scripture. We were known as those who didn’t add to or take away from His Word. Somehow, we were derogatorily labelled for a time as those who think they are the only ones going to heaven. But we have never, to my knowledge, been known as a happy people. It seems we are often too busy pointing out all the flaws among our own and the rest of the world to be entangled in such a frivolous concept as happiness. After all, we must tell the truth and point out the error in the ways of others! Be happy. In Jesus Christ, be happy. Remember when you were lost, remember the promise and choose happy! Smile!


     -jeff     


     

    July 18, 2021


    She asked me if I had any experience with pitching machines. I looked over my sunglasses and squinted in other eyes. “Maybe,” I said, “what are you looking for?” She explained she was looking for something her 7 year old grandson could use, maybe in the backyard, where she and her daughter wouldn’t have to play ball so much.....no kidding –exact words. Think about that for a minute.


    I slid my glasses up to hide my eyes and my feelings. “I’ve seen ads for little machines like that. I know there was a time in my life when a machine that threw me consistent, unending pitches would have been a blessing. I even yearned for such an apparatus. I was not seven. I finished playing with a deep love for the game taking over 500 swings a day –many by myself. However, at the age of seven, the best pitching machine around is your arm. It comes with a heart of love. It has a voice of wisdom, affirmation, encouragement and support. The arm of a parent/grandparent comes with looks of awe and laughter. It is attached to something very much loved by the hitter. Who cares how far you hit that one if there is no one to see it? Who cares if your swing is beautiful if there is no one to admire it? Baseball is not a babysitter. There is no machine or toy that will love you enough to spend time throwing to you. No kid will remember the make and model of a pitching machine. No kid will forget the grandparent or parent who went out and threw him pitches until it was too dark to see.


    ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. These words shall be on your heart and you should teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house walk by the way, when you lie down and when you wake up.” Deuteronomy 6:4. A pitching machine or any other “toy” never talk about God and His love for us. Spend time with your kids, pitch to them, but most importantly, talk to them and teach them about God and His Word.


     -jeff     

     


    July 11, 2021


    I stood off to the side watching the biscuit just to see what would happen. It sat on the ground right in front of the drink machine. The campers picked up plates of food and proceeded in the line on a collision course straight for the fallen biscuit. We could get bogged down here speculating what kind of parent didn’t train their kid to pick up something they clearly dropped but we shan’t because this is middle school week and preteens often forget their upbringing. I didn’t see it fall but the whiteness of the whole entire biscuit on the gray floor stood out like a black hockey puck on white ice and I couldn’t help but notice. Truthfully, I was going to pick it up before I began my observations because I didn’t want it squished, but seeing kids step over and around it to fill their cups with the liquid refreshments compelled me to just watch. A few never saw it. Others stretched or tiptoed around it so as not to make a bigger mess, but none stopped to picked it up. What a great analogy since Bible class this week was about love. Specifically, we started with John 13:34–35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This verse was followed by John 15:12,13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” After about five minutes of observation, no one “laid down” their plate or cup to move the biscuit. Clearly, the biscuit was just not loved. Yeah right, Jeff. Your being dramatic. Ok, well what if the biscuit had been a hundred-dollar bill? Sure, the ones that didn’t see it still wouldn’t have seen it, but the ones that did would have quickly “laid down” their meal to pick it up. You see sometimes we treat people the same way. We either don’t see them or we see them and avoid or ignore them. If we are to be known by our love, what do these actions of selfishness illustrate. Oh, come on, Jeff! Selfish is way too strong a word here. Is it? How do you define someone so wrapped up in their world and their agenda to notice the needs of those around them? How would you describe someone who refuses to be inconvenienced for just one moment to stop and do what is right? I guess haughty might work too, but that is not very flattering either! It's a biscuit! You’re still stuck at biscuit? Well, the right thing to do is pick up the biscuit, but the point is no person deserves to be treated like a biscuit in front of the drink machine, especially by a group of people who call themselves Christians. Lord, help us to see people. Help us to have the courage to help those who need it.


    -jeff     

     


    July 4, 2021


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


    -jeff     

     

  • June 27, 2021


    It was good to see you yesterday, but I couldn’t help but wonder when did you quit? I mean at what point did it no longer matter? Why isn’t it important to be or do your best for him? I’m not talking about keeping up appearances for the sake of keeping up appearances, but I am talking about appearance. I wonder when it became a chore to come and worship God Almighty. While part of it is clothes, the bigger part is body language. Your choice of clothing only accentuated your disdain for worship. I watched as people smiled and greeted others, but you never smiled. You only grudgingly said hello. I am sorry you were mad. I am sorry you had a bad day, especially on Sunday. The Lord’s Day. Then I realized, you had a bad day last Sunday too. You didn’t seem to care then either. I realize I am on the outside, looking at the fruit and not intending to judge but I can’t help but wonder, when did you give up on God? When was your best no longer necessary for Him? I wonder if others see what I am seeing. I wonder if they know how really important God is to you. I know there are days when I feel broken, like a failure, when I’d rather commiserate than worship, when I just don’t feel well but He is still God. I worried about you and what could trouble you so much that you didn’t even care. I wondered why worship has become a burden to you.


    I don’t want you to think I am coming down hard on you, I am just concerned, but I also wanted to thank you. Seeing you made me take a look at myself and ask myself some important questions. Do I want to be here? Do I look like I want to be here? Would a visitor perceive me as happy to be here? Would someone want to come back because of me or would they judge God wrongly because of how they perceive me? Is He worthy of my best and did I bring it today? Did I show him honor? Do I magnify His name? Thank you for helping me to think a little more about how I come to worship. Thank you for challenging me to “Be still and know” why it is I love God and the church. Thank you for making me want to be better for my God and King. I hope you will want to be better too. I hope you will let me know if I can help you. I hope you have a better Sunday next week. I really do.


    -jeff    



    June 20, 2021


    “Pistol” Pete Maravich played basketball for the LSU Tigers in 1967-1970.Interestingly, He wore the number 23 in college. Pistol Pete was the hero of thousands of young boys in Louisiana and still holds the record for the most points ever scored by a collegiate basketball player. He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA and wore the number 44 –which might be significant because he remembered Pete’s number was the same as hers. He smiled reminiscently as he asked me if I knew who Pistol Pete Maravich was.


    Judd left home at 18 and drove across the state line into Mississippi to meet up with an uncle who’d gotten him a job on an oil rig. The night before he left for the rig, they went to a high school basketball game. As he watched the girl who wore his favorite player’s number, he told his uncle, “I’m gonna marry that gal.” He followed her to the parking lot after the game to get her number and explained he was going out on the rig and would be back in two weeks. Upon his return he called her. The date was set and they borrowed a cousin’s brand new 1967 Pontic LeMans. At the end of the evening, he popped the question! She said I have to ask my parents and he again told her he’d be back in two weeks and would like her answer then. Two weeks later, she said yes. It was November. In December of 1967 they were married –almost 54 years ago!


    I know there are similar stories all over.  know of several very short courtships from that era lasting 50 and 60 years. So what is different? Are we teaching our children marriage is forever? Do we talk about the scripture, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder” (Mark 10:9)?Do we explain love is a decision not a feeling? Are talking about what to look for in a husband or wife? I don’t think Judd married the first woman he saw with the number 44 on her jersey, but I do think he saw more than a number and a pretty face. I think he pretty well knew what he was getting before he asked. Are we preparing our children to marry and be “marryable”?


    This cannot be left to television or the movies and certainly a government and society that can’t tell the difference in males and females is not to be trusted to help. We need to talk openly and honestly about what the Bible says about love and marriage.


    God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and divorce is heart wrenching and difficult. Before our kids “fall” in love, let’s work to see if we can help them confidently “step” into love for a lifetime.


    -jeff     

     


    June 13, 2021


    “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!” (Unless you happen to be driving right now, then just say amen). The truth is, Christians should be clapping, stomping and amening all the time. We should be the happiest people on earth. Two weeks ago, Addison came up to me and said she was so excited about VBS. She didn’t have to tell me she was excited, that was obvious, only about what specific anticipation caused her excitement. Pure joy encompassed her. Actually, others’ ability to observe how we feel is not that uncommon. Think about how many times you have been asked, “So why are you so happy today?” Has it been a while? Has it ever happened? Maybe you don’t believe it can happen. It’s possible I chose a bad example. Have you heard someone say, “Hey, are you ok?” “Someone steal your cat?” “Why the long face?” I’m not referring the common greeting of, ‘Hey, how are you’, either. My aim is to challenge our thinking about how we, the most hopeful (as opposed to hopeless), blessed, forgiven, loved and promised people, can walk around and be perceived as sad, broken, pessimistic, grumpy, mean, angry, scared, friendless or a host of other adjectives that do not describe someone due to inherit eternal life in the presence of God. I hope you understand I am not talking about single instances; I understand God gave us emotions and sometimes life hits us unexpectedly causing some of the aforementioned adjectives to apply. But day in, day out, people should perceive Christians as a joyful, confident and fearless people not burdened by life. Paul said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:12). Jesus said, “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3). We sing, “My hope is built on nothing less” and “I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop”; so why aren’t people flocking to us? It’s easy to come up with a thousand reasons and excuses but folks like to be happy and hang out with happy people. It’s not draining but energizing. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). (The New Century Versions says, “a broken spirit drains your strength.”) “Smile, God loves you” shouldn’t be a bumper sticker, it should be the way of life for a Christian. Let’s be intentional about our “aura”. Choose confidence. Choose happy. Be contagious. If you’re happy and you know it Smile out loud! “Happy are the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalms 144:15).


    -jeff    

     


    June 6, 2021


    In our family devotional the other night I talked about connections. When I was in college, I coached a team of 13-and 14-year-olds for the Raleigh Baseball Association. We played in a tournament in Blytheville, Arkansas one weekend and Saturday morning found the fields flooded from all night rains. Coaches and umpires met underneath the stadium to determine the best course of action. As we met, one of the more popular umpires showed up about 15 minutes late with his 3-year-old son in tow. Apologizing for his lateness, he explained how his son had learned a new and very important word, then asked the young boy to share with everyone the new words. With a determined look of concentration, the toddler managed to say, “Connections” in a way we could all understand and he smiled broadly at his accomplishments. His father hugged him and in a strange and childish voice said, “That’s right, sometimes who you know is more important than what you know, so you should be nice to everybody!” I have heard something similar all my life and these were not new words of wisdom, but for some reason, this is the scene I remember every time I hear someone speak of ‘who you know.” I proudly declare there is not a greater group of people to be connected with than the Lord’s church.


    Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Tuesday evening was a great example of love as the church gathered to help Michael and Suzie Wyatt move into their new home. Truly, many different parts of the body were there, from the heavy movers, to packers and cleaners, to small object movers. There were smiles and laughter and love. It’s great to be connected!


    I love Paul’s words to the churches of Galatia when he encouraged them saying, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10). So many in the church are willing to help, we just have to know there is a need. Physically and spiritually, we are here to serve –not to be served. The next opportunity will yield a different set of servants too because no one individual can answer every call; but one body can! The body of the Lord’s church is ready and willing. I love the Lord. I love His church. I love being connected.


    -jeff