The Carpenter's Apprentice

Jeff Phillips' Messages

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

  • April 14, 2024


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


    -jeff


    April 7, 2024


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

    --jeff

  • March 31, 2024


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

                                                                                                 -jeff


    March 24, 2024

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

    -Jeff


    March 17, 2024


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


    March 10, 2024


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

                                                                                                              --jeff


    March 3, 2024


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


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


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

                                                                                                                     -Jeff


  • February 25, 2024


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


    February 18, 2024


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


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


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


     -jeff

    February 11, 2024


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


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


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


                                                                                                                                                                                                        -Jeff



    February 4, 2024


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


                                                                                                              -jeff


  • January 28, 2024


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

                                                                                                                                                                              -jeff



    January 21, 2024


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

                                                                                            -jeff



    January 14, 2024


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


                                                                                                           -jeff





    January 7, 2024


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


                                                                                                                -jeff


  • December 31, 2023


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

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


    -jeff     



    December 24, 2023


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


    -jeff     



    December 17, 2023


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


                                                                                                     -jeff



    December 10, 2023


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

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


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

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


    -jeff     



    December 3, 2023


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


                                                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff

  • November 26, 2023


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


    -jeff     



    November 19, 2023


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


    -jeff     



    November 12, 2023


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


                                                                                                                                                                                                 -jeff



    November 5, 2023


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


                                                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff




  • October 29, 2023


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


                                                                                                  -jeff



    October 22, 2023


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


    -jeff     



    October 15, 2023


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


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


     -jeff     



    October 8, 2023


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

    -jeff     



    October 1, 2023


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


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


                                                                                                                   -jeff     




  • September 24, 2023


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


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


     -jeff     



    September 17, 2023


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


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


     -jeff     



    September 10, 2023


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


    jeff     



    September 3, 2023


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

     
                                                                                                                                                                                       jeff


  • August 27, 2023


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


                                        -jeff



    August 20, 2023


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


                                              -jeff



    August 13, 2023


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


                           -jeff



    August 5, 2023


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


                                                                                                                                                                                     -jeff




  • July 30, 2023


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


                                                                          -jeff



    July 23, 2023


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


     - jeff     



    July 16, 2023


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


    -jeff     



    July 9, 2023


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


     -jeff     



    July 2, 2023


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


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


    --jeff     


  • June 25, 2023


    A friend of mine is color blind. If you met him, you’d never know. Sometimes his clothes may not match perfectly but there are lots of folks who have trouble picking the right tie. He is one of the nearly 8% of men who are color blind to some degree. There are four major categories of colorblindness and within those categories there are great variances. You may think one who is colorblind sees no color at all, but that is not true. Many of them see some colors, but the inability to see red or green will affect how they see any color that contains red or green. The result is that many colors take on the exact same shade regardless of the actual color. Color is how our eyes process light. My friend doesn’t need to see red to know when to stop while driving, he can read and knows the shape of a stop sign and the position of the red light on a traffic light. He has been very successful in life. He’s somewhat of a computer guy and his forward thinking and abilities have allowed him to live a comfortable life. Married to his high school sweetheart, he is living the American dream and he is an all around great guy. Several years ago, his wife and kids got him some of those eyeglasses that allow the colorblind to see as the rest of us do. I don’t remember if it was Father’s Day or his birthday, but I remembered seeing a video of his reaction to seeing the world in full color for the very first time. 


    Jesus said, “You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14,16). There are a lot of people we know and come into contact with every day who, from what the world can see, seem to be doing very well, and yet they are experiencing life without seeing all that God has blessed us with. Their “normal” keeps them comfortably ignorant. When Jesus told those listening on the mountainside, “you are the light of the world,” He was telling them they were the glasses that would help all mankind to see more clearly the way, the truth and the life. As Christians, it is the love and the light we bring into EVERY situation to make it more vibrant, beautiful and hopeful. “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). And, “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). That little Christian light we sing about, really isn’t so little! Let it shine, let it shine, Let it shine! 


     -jeff



    June 18, 2023


    Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1 is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Some still struggle with the application of this definition to real life. Simply stated faith is this, you can’t see ‘it’ but you know ‘it’ is there. The key word here is ‘know’. If you don’t ‘know’ then you don’t have faith. Without knowing you are left with something you think might be true, therefore you go with it. You go along with it because going along is easier than not going along. Faith however demands more than going with the flow. In fact true faith means you will likely go against the flow. Jesus said, “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matthew 7:13). Faith not only determines the direction of our life it dictates our actions during our travels through life. True faith answers the “why” of life but also gives us the “how” of life dictating our response to life’s curves and Satan’s deceptions. Certainly the level of our faith can be seen in the fruit of our lives. Faith is not and can never be a game of chance. We aren’t hopeful of a winner, we are certain of a winner. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44). This man is certain, convicted and refuses to be denied. In this one line parable it is easy to overlook the giving up of everything for one thing. He sold all he had, all he’d acquired and worked for in life to gain one thing he knew without a doubt he could hang his hat on. Jesus said I go to prepare a place for you, in my father’s house are many mansions and when your room is ready I will come and get you (John 14:2-3). Do you believe that? Do you believe it enough to live it? I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Mark 9:7). I believe he left glory to come and walk as a man (Philippians 2:6-8). I believe He will come again and gather those whose lives demonstrated their faith (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12) in Him through their unselfish love (John 13:34) and obedience to His Word (John 14:15). I believe it is my duty as one who has faith in God and His promise to share the good news of Christ with all who will listen (Matthew 28:19). I believe Jesus came to save the world (John 3:17). I am sure there were more than a few mental “amens” and “me toos” so let me ask one question for your thought: Is the refusal to share God’s word and the love of Christ, for any reason, anything more than a demonstration of our true faith? 


    -jeff       



    June 11, 2023


    Visualization techniques have been used for years to project positive outcomes and train responses to various situations to increase the likelihood of success. In athletics, coaches and sports psychologists encourage athletes to envision themselves performing perfectly whether it’s swinging, throwing, catching, kicking, tackling, shooting, passing, lifting or whatever it is you do, see it in your mind perfectly then execute it. In some ways it works like a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we see ourselves being successful. It sounds ridiculous at first but compare the vision of perfection with everything working right and the attitude and confidence that comes from success to the vision of complete failure where nothing goes right and the attitude of defeat that comes with it. Believing you can be successful is a big part of being successful and as they say, seeing is believing; visualization certainly has its merits. 


    When the boys were little, there were times when I would rehearse in my mind how I would respond in different situations in order to keep them safe. All the while praying, I’d never have to do a swift water rescue on my family, fight a grizzly bear to save them or lead them from a burning house, I wanted to be prepared – just in case. The only way to rehearse these scenarios is through visualization. Since one can never really predict how they will respond in dire circumstances, it makes sense to me to prepare my mind for the ideal, perfect actions in hopes that when the time comes, I’ll respond accordingly. In a sense, I am training my “autopilot” response. 


    With that in mind, why would a Christian counsel other Christians with the advice, “Well, you should never say never because you just don’t know what the future holds.” Instead, shouldn’t we be helping create the perfect visualization to increase their chances of success? The newlyweds say, “We’ll never have an affair or get a divorce!” Instead of, “Never say never,” why can’t we say, “Awesome! What are you going to do to make that a reality? What does your vision look like?” Visualization is ultimately proactive thinking not reactive thinking. Visualization is intentionally planning for, executing and being successful. If it works in sports and business, it can work in relationships and Christianity. Do you visualize saying no when you need to say no and yes when you need to say yes? Can you see yourself waking up on time to get to class and worship with the church? Picture yourself loving and being loved when the church assembles. Do you see yourself serving? Visualize being who and what God wants you to be and be one step closer to making a vision reality. Picture this: You are standing in the presence of God listening expectantly … ENTER IN MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT, You can do it! 


    -jeff     



    June 4, 2023


    Every summer I was in college, my summer job was working for Schwartz Electric. One summer I was paired with a journeyman electrician named Mike. He’d been foreman on many of the Mapco gas stations recently built and was considered somewhat of an expert on gas pumps. So, when gas pumps needed to be changed out at a store in Cleveland, Mississippi, Mike and I got the call. What was supposed to be easy, turned out to be very difficult and we ended up working all night. We got back to the shop as everyone else was arriving for work the next day. Pulling up to the stop light at Covington Pike and Stage was the last thing I remembered until I woke to my mother tapping on the truck window asking if I was going to sleep in the truck all morning or come in and eat breakfast. I do not remember going through two traffic lights and making a right on Yale and a left into our driveway! I must have been in some sort of auto pilot mode. 

    The speaker this past weekend talked about being on auto pilot and its dangers, pointing out we often slip into this mode. For instance, think about the number of times you left the house for one destination and wound up somewhere else like the office, or church. In our distraction, we “automatically” went somewhere familiar. It could be as small as taking a right or a left when you should have gone straight simply because “that’s what you always do.” The danger in this phenomenon comes from lack of attention to what we are actually doing. Negatively, we may end up missing the needs of friends or neighbors. Possibly we could make a comment when we should have remained silent or the opposite, remained silent when we should have commented, simply because of slipping into “autopilot” mode. It worked well in his lesson, as he was encouraging us to be more intentional and conscious of our direction and destination. But it got me to thinking, what if my default, or auto pilot mode was righteousness? Sometimes, I wind up in the church parking lot when Jennifer sends me to the store or I am on my way to the bus, because that’s where I work. At some point, I go there every day I am in town, intentionally or not! My “autopilot” takes me there when I am not thinking. Peter encourages, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY”” (1 Peter 1:13-16). Wouldn’t it be awesome if in those moments where we slipped into “autopilot,” the default setting was holiness?

    -jeff    


  • May 28, 2023


    At graduation the other night, after it was over, I was standing in the grandstand, minding my own business and just people watching. The song Happy, by Pharrell Williams came on. I really know nothing about this artist’s life or music, but I know this, as I watched the crowd, I couldn’t help but notice the entire mood changed and nearly everyone felt the beat. Consciously or subconsciously, it seemed every individual, young, old, tall, short, skinny, fat, tattooed or not tattooed, the richer, the poorer, the suits and the t-shirts as well, could all be observed moving some part of their body to the rhythm of the up-tempo song. Additionally, many knew the words and mouthed or sang the words, “Because I’m happeeeeee,” as they moved to the beat – and, it seemed everyone was happy. The second verse of the song heralds the approach of bad news, while the singers issue a challenge to bring on whatever and issues a warning to the harbinger of bad news, I’ll be just fine, because I’m happeeee… When David returned to Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30 to find all the women and children had been taken by the Amalekites, he was just as distraught as his men. His men turned against him and there was talk of stoning. So while dealing with his own grief, he also had to deal with the threat of a mutiny of sorts as well as the burden of guilt. This is the point where many men would break. They say character is made in adversity, it is revealed and in verse 6, David reveals not only his character but his heart. The verse concludes, “but David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” I imagine David found refuge, comfort and peace in the eternal truth and promise that God takes care of his own. Somehow David knows there is a better place than here (2 Samuel 12:23) and finds his fortitude in the “long game” rather than focusing on the short term. He makes a decision to seek God and His counsel. He chooses to not wallow in self-pity and despair, rather he chooses to stand firm in his faith in God. This is a choice we can make too. By placing our focus on the eternity, remembering the whole duty of man is to love God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13), we too can find comfort and peace in our knowledge and faith in the promise of heaven, thereby attaining a “peace that passes all understanding” and the joyful countenance that goes with it. We too can be happy. In fact, how can we not be happy knowing Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us and is coming back to help us move in one day? 


     -jeff     



    May 21, 2023


    Maybe it was because I remembered picking up a neighbor’s dog after it got hit by a car on Yale Road where I grew up. Maybe it was their striking resemblance to Labrador retrievers. Or, maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever the reason, I plucked three of the little beggars from the median on Covington Pike between the interstate and the Wolf River in order to save them. Thinking the best of humanity, I was sure these puppies had wandered away from one of the homes less than a mile away and for the next few days I looked for “Lost Dog” posters. I don’t want to judge the reason, but before I quit looking for the posters, I’d already figured out – these dogs were dumped out and abandoned, not lost. After failing to find homes for all of them, I took two back to the pound in Memphis. After explaining to the person at the counter, they tagged and crated the now 6-month-old puppies and I began to leave. That is when I was accosted by a supposed animal lover who belittled and insulted me for “sentencing those adorable, innocent puppies to die.” So, I turned to the attendant and said, “Sir, hold on! This kind woman wants to adopt those puppies!” Appalled at my suggestion, she vehemently denied wanting the puppies. Immaturely not wanting to let it go, I then told her she was now the reason IF they were in fact euthanized as she had predicted. She argued loudly it was me that brought them in but I pointed out it was she who refused to save them now. I explained to her horrified and now guilt ridden self, she had no idea what the people who came to turn their dogs over to the pound had wrestled through before they finally settled on what they had determined to be their only recourse. She had no idea the agony this decision brought to those who had to make it. In truth, I was probably not the best representative of Christ that morning. While I didn’t curse or swear or even yell, my intention was hateful and my goal was to hurt her feelings the way she had hurt mine. She had judged me without knowing the facts. Had she known, she probably still wouldn’t have agreed and that is ok, but also, she may have understood and been more compassionate. Sometimes as Christians we may be similarly intolerant of sinners. We don’t see why they could be so senseless and ignorant in the commission of such obvious sin, but it turns out to be us who are ignorant of their upbringing; their knowledge of God; their circumstance. Maybe if we can change their circumstance or at least understand it, we can help them to deal with and remove the sin in their lives. We cannot make excuses for, or accept sin, but we can love sinners and tell them about the one who died to take away the sin of the world.


                           -jeff



    May 14, 2023


    When I first started dog training and still sometimes today, what appears to my eyes as one of the simplest retrieves, turns out to be very difficult for my dog. My confidence grows as I watch well trained dogs knock out the challenge with ease; verifying what my eyes are telling me. Then it’s my turn to run. We start out as we should, then halfway towards the goal, my dog veers off and appears to be totally lost. Many times, I have walked back to the truck thinking, WHAT JUST HAPPENED! HOW COULD SOMETHING SO SIMPLE, GO SO WRONG? The answer has a lot to do with perspective, because what I see is not what the dog sees, but also a matter of influence. Good trainers learn to see like a dog. They learn to recognize features in the test that cause a dog to get “off line.” Like humans, dogs will naturally take the path of least resistance, so when running across a hillside, the dog may fall off his line because running down, or even up, is easier than running across the hillside. Sometimes a tree or plants can be a wall of sorts, and the dog is convinced his quarry couldn’t be any further. It may be old scent or even another object the dog has to retrieve throwing him off his line. Whatever it is, good trainers try to replicate similar distractions in order to teach the dogs to run through them and not be affected, thereby accomplishing with ease what others fail to complete. It’s a matter of training. Every day, I am at Charger Academy opening doors for the kids in the car rider line, encouraging as many as I can to have a great day. Since Crestview Elementary has joined us now, I am noticing similar tendencies in people as they drop off their kids. When we need them to pull way down, so we can unload six or seven at a time rather than one or two, they will stop – short of a teacher – at the light pole, or the last wall of the porch. Sometimes they stop on the shadow just as it passes the driver’s window. If a favorite teacher is seen, the car stops there every time; short of where it is “supposed” to be. Really, it’s no big deal, but I do find it interesting. Seemingly unseen barriers affect people too. Most are getting better every day – because they are being trained! It’s made me think, our spiritual lives can be influenced too. Everything seems to be awesome and good from our perspective, but what influences are pulling me off my “line?” What about my kids? Have I trained them how to run straight in a world full of distractions from our purpose? We tell them, “Walk in the light as He is in the light,” but have we purposefully taught them how to keep walking within the light?


                                                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff



    May 7, 2023


    Matthew concludes with what we often call “The Great Commission.” In this final directive Jesus tells His disciples to, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:19-20 is arguably one of the most quoted verses in the brotherhood. The command gives us purpose and direction. When yearly themes or slogans are thought up they focus on the “go” aspect of these verses. Great motivational sermons have been preached on our duty to go out and tell it. While the ‘commission’ clearly lays out the path we are to take as Christians, sometimes we take too much on ourselves. I am not talking about biting off more than we can chew ... with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). “Out of context!” some will scream - but wait just a minute. Consider for a moment the last project or program you attempted to implement in your life. Was it successful or did it flop? Did you pray about it? Was the Lord involved or did you do it on your own? No doubt some will take full credit and say, “I did that!” Congratulations, think how much better it could have been if the creator had been involved.


    The last part of Matthew 28:20 says, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” If you asked a hundred of your friends what Matthew 28:19-20 said, few will respond, “Well duh, that is the passage where Jesus told His disciples He would always be with them.” Those who study their Bible will most likely recall Matthew 28:19-20 as ‘The Great Commission’ but we cannot forget the promise Jesus makes to His disciples. He is with us. Elisha had the eyes of his attendant opened to reveal the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). Some days it would really be a comfort to have my eyes opened like Elisha’s attendant. Some days it is easy to forget Him. The Apostle Paul asked, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). No, the only thing capable of separating me from Christ is me.


                                                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff



  • April 30, 2023


    Peter admonished Christians, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). The first time I heard this verse discussed in depth was in Physical Science 410, a class open only to seniors. The coursework was designed to prepare science majors for entry into a world full of Darwinian thought and opposition to God. Since then I have heard it used in evangelism classes and sermons designed to encourage us to be prepared to tell others about Jesus; “always being prepared to make a defense.” Additionally, the verse tells us to, in effect, watch how we teach the Gospel. We are to explain our beliefs with gentleness and respect. The King James version says “meekness and fear.” Many times, I have referred to the last part when talking with others about sharing the Bible and certainly have been mindful while discussing Biblical topics with those who have questions. I have always looked at the part about “being prepared” as a directive to study both God’s word, as Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”, but also the world around us. Paul also wrote to the church at Rome, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20). Today I noticed something seemingly overlooked in my previous studies that included this verse. Peter says, “But in your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as Holy.” The KJV says, “Sanctify in your hearts.” The word sanctify means to set apart as or declare holy. I remember Jesus’ words about the things that defile the body coming from the heart (Mark 7:20-23), but I also think of Paul’s words to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 where he essentially says you can be the most gifted, most talented and faithful person to ever walk the face of the earth, but if you don’t have love – you are nothing. It dawns on me, in all our study and preparation to present a defense of “the hope within us”, if we have not set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and honor Him as holy, all of our preparation is for naught. Simply put, if the picture of our life is not a reflection of Christ and a picture of obedience to His will, it is extremely likely He has not been “sanctified in our hearts”. How effective is a defense we haven’t fully adopted?


                                                                                                                                                                    -jeff





    April 23, 2023


    In Acts 10 we are introduced to Cornelius a centurion who prayed continually, gave generously to all people and feared God with his entire household. He was a devout man (Acts 10:1-2) and yet he was lost. The world view asks, “How could that be? How could such a good man be lost?” Many Christians struggle with these same questions because the world is creeping ever more into our lives. We have trouble understanding how God could not love such a one. We forget that God’s ways are not man’s ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). We completely lose sight of the fact that God does love these “good” people furthermore He loves those who we consider “bad” people; “For yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is plain God loves good people but clearly many, like Cornelius are lost and without God. While Jeremiah was talking of Israel when he prophesied, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13), his prophecy comes to mind when reading about Cornelius. While many focus on verse 43, “through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins,” Peter concludes the story by “ordering” Cornelius and his household baptized in the name of the Lord. The story of Cornelius demonstrates not only the “who” but the “how” of salvation.


    In reading this story, Cornelius’ excitement and anticipation is palpable as we see he anxiously awaited Peter’s arrival having gathered his kinsmen and his household to hear the message. He must have known he was not among the chosen for he was not a Jew. This was his chance. When Peter came to the door, Cornelius, a centurion, a leader of many, hit the floor bowing in front of Peter. Peter quickly corrected Cornelius but I can’t help but notice Cornelius’ awe, his eagerness for the gospel. I wonder how my gratitude and reverence compares to that of Cornelius. When I come before my Lord do I hit the ground in grateful submission having gathered my kinsmen and household awaiting further instruction or ...


                                                                                 -jeff



    April 16, 2023


    In Matthew 15 Jesus talks about what defiles the body. Defilement is really a nasty word. Some of its synonyms are: degrade, desecrate, destroy, dishonor, abuse, contaminate, dirty, disgrace, hurt, mar, poison, ruin, shame, smear, soil,  stain, taint, tar, tarnish, trash and mess up. The chapter begins with the Pharisees and scribes challenging Jesus about his disciples not washing their hands before eating. After some discussion with them Jesus called the crowds to him and made this announcement in verse 11, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” His statement offended the Pharisees and confused his disciples prompting Peter to ask for an  explanation. Jesus responded to Peter, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is  expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come  evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” Previously  Jesus had said, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12: 34). That which comes from our  mouths indicates much about who we are. . . . A problem with the tongue, the words you say, the jokes you tell, the gossip  you spread –are but symptoms of a much greater problem –heart disease. Not the physical form of heart disease we all  know is the #1 cause of death in the US and has been for years, but spiritual heart disease. So many people go to the  doctor and get the wakeup call; he says something like, “You can’t keep living like this. It’s time to eat right and exercise. If  you keep on this path you will not see your children graduate high school. You will never meet your grandchildren. You  will die young!” As a result, we’ve witnessed amazing transformations of the body both inside and out as cholesterol is  lowered and pounds are shed. Suddenly physical fitness is in. Health must be restored. Life must be extended. Spiritual  heart disease has eternal consequences. When Jesus sent the apostles out in Matthew 10, he warned them in verse 28  “And 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.” Sometimes I think we worry more about our earthly bodies than we do our souls. Physically we have surgeries, take  pills, subscribe to fad diets and anything else we can do to lose the weight and prolong life. What are you doing to reserve  an eternal home in heaven?


                                                                                                                                                                                                 -jeff



    April 9, 2023


    After a long hard day Jesus sent His disciples across the sea. He’d catch up but now he needed time to pray. After feeding the multitudes the disciples no doubt had questions but the questions could wait. The plan was to meet across the sea, apparently no one wondered how Jesus was to get there. The winds picked up and made life difficult, discouraging and uncertain for the men in the boat. They had been rowing all night. It was in the fourth watch when things changed. This is the last watch of the night so the dawn was approaching but when your waiting on the light of dawn, it seems to never come. Through the strong wind and building waves the He came. The Gospel of Mark tells us He was intending to pass them by (6:48). Imagine the looks, rowing all night, against the wind, making no headway and then He comes and not in a boat! They thought He was a ghost and were afraid (imagine that). He then spoke to them calmly, assuring them that He was real. Peter then spoke up verbalizing the doubts of many, “IF it be though, bid me come to thee upon the waters” (Matthew14:28). Of course it was Jesus, who else could accomplish such a feat with apparent nonchalance so He simply said, “Come.” To Peter’s credit he got out of the boat and amazingly it worked – for a moment. It was not the power of Christ that failed and cause him to sink but an inability to remain focused on the master.

    Our life is also filled with challenges, difficulties and times when we are discouraged because it appears we are making no headway. One step forward two steps back. In these times we can identify with the struggles of the disciples in the boat. Maybe there was grumbling and even a few prayers, sound familiar? Even when He came, they couldn’t believe what they saw - a Savior on  so many levels. As witnesses to His awesome power and glory, they still could not believe. Believe. Look for Him. He is coming. In the midst of troublesome and frustrating times He is near, calming the sea and making possible what seems  impossible. When the wind blows and the waves rise, more than ever we need to focus on God. He is our rock, our anchor, our strength. May your week be filled with much joy and happiness because of Him, even if the seas of life are stormy around you.


                                                                                                                        -jeff



    April 2, 2023


    Timing is everything. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  “Everything”  would include our words.    Monday night, for our devo, Austin read Proverbs 27. There are several verses in  Proverbs  27  that not only bring a smile to my face but verse 14 makes me laugh out loud and brings to mind several people whose voices have no volume knob.  Seconds after they board the bus,   I know why their  parent was not smiling when they walked them to the door but skipped all the way back inside! Within minutes I hear the words, “Ouwaaa! Bus Driver, Mario hit me!” “Ellen, I have one question” I respond. “Did he say, ‘please be quiet’ at any time before he hit you?” She says, “Well - he didn’t say please.” The Proverb says, “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him” (Proverbs 27:14). At six thirty in the morning, no one wants to hear a loud voice and clearly – that’s biblical. At this point, I feel compelled to say, sorry Jen-Jen. I’ll try to talk quieter. The “Amens” keep coming, though probably from a different crowd in verse fifteen which reads, “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike” (Proverbs 27:15). Some versions say a “quarrelsome wife”. While I wouldn’t know anything about the latter, I do recall reading about a form of torture, where the subject is restrained and a slow, steady drip taps on his forehead. After a couple days, if he hasn’t talked, he’s left essentially insane. Again, while I personally cannot identify with the sentiments of this verse, I have heard about others whose lives were pained with quarrelsome or contentious women – but none from around here! Things get more serious though in verse seventeen, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Mike has been talking about encouragement lately as he preaches from Hebrews. Encouragement is a way of keeping each other sharp. However, we also need to be mindful of the sharpening process. Early on, metal is being removed and/or reshaped as the edge is honed (reproving and  rebuking). Later in the process, the polishing comes (encouragement and exhortation). While the axe head or blade feels nothing during this process, mankind is a bit softer and the removal of excesses that make us dull, while necessary, can be painful. Love demands we sharpen one another. Prudence suggests there is a right time – maybe not first thing in the morning with a loud voice or the continual drip of nagging. However, sometimes one must “put his nose to the grindstone” and get the job done. Lord, give us courage to do and say, wisdom to do and say with love and kindness and strength to accept our own sharpening.


                                                                                                                                                                                  -jeff

       

  • March 26, 2023


    There are a lot of things we take for granted. After experiencing something so many times, taking something for granted may be in our nature. Can you imagine witnessing Jesus perform a miracle and not marveling at it? Jesus’ ministry lasted about three years and the Bible records 37 instances where he performed miracles. The gospel of John tells us, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Try to imagine what it would be like to walk with Jesus and witness, daily, how he calmed storms, healed sick and cast out demons. Then try to imagine the seeing the impossible so often, you begin to not really notice the awesomeness; you begin to take Jesus’ identity and ability for granted. John 11 tells the story of Lazarus’ death. Lazarus is from Bethany and he and his sisters, Mary and Martha are deeply loved by Jesus. In verse 3, we read the sisters sent word Lazarus was sick. Lazarus must have been very sick for them to call on Jesus, but Jesus seems to ignore their plea, saying, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4), then he stayed two days longer – until Lazarus died. Think about it, in Matthew 5:8-13, we read of a Centurion who told Jesus there was really no need to come to the house to heal his servant, all Jesus had to do was speak it and it would be done, and it was. So why now, when someone he really loved, someone who really believed in Him, asked for help, he didn’t give it? Even though the answer has already been given in verse 4, “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it,” there is another clue. Jesus said to his disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15). I can just see their surprise when Jesus made this statement. What!? We’ve known for two days he was sick! Now he’s dead and you did nothing! When I read this story, I get the feeling his disciples had begun to take for granted the power of the Son of God. Lazarus was four days dead when they arrived and Jesus spoke into the tomb, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). What a reminder of His awesomeness and power. Miracles were performed so people would know and believe in Jesus. Today we have the Bible and the church; not a religious institution, but the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23). What is the difference in finding Jesus’ miracles common place and not reading His word or assembling with His saints? Could it be we too, take Him for granted?


                                                                                                                                                                     -jeff



    March 19, 2023


    I read an article the other day from a Facebook page called Archery Mental Mastery. No author was given, but within the article I found a quote, “There is no courage in showing defeat after a setback.” The context of the quote had to do with physical posture after a mistake; head down, shoulders slumped. Neither of these positions are conducive to good shooting. He pointed out, by showing defeat in this way, we actually set ourselves up for repeated failure that spirals downward as each successive failure drives us deeper and deeper into ourselves and further from success. Shooters who understand the importance of form and consistency immediately realize the truth of this revelation but there is a greater spiritual application even for those who don’t shoot. If we are truly trying to walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), then how we respond to darkness creeping into our lives could ultimately determine how long we stay in darkness. Instead of excusing or even glorifying our shortcomings, as is often done on social media, acknowledging our mistakes, owning them and working towards correction, will give us a better chance of not repeating failure. Paul, talks of the struggle in Romans 7:20, “But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.” So how do we stop. The simple answer is – just stop it. Don’t do it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but the point is, sometimes our reaction to failure and disappointment can pave the way for a turnaround or continued distress. Head up, shoulders back, walk confidently in and towards the light. 


    David illustrates best how to pick ourselves up and move forward in 2 Samuel 12:15-23. After a particularly egregious run in some rather heinous sins including adultery and murder, David finds himself praying for a dying son. The answer from God was, “No.” Furthermore, all the blame lay squarely on David’s guilty shoulders. Still, David demonstrates how to move on from past mistakes and sin by cancelling the pity party, cleaning up and vowing to move forward living in such a way as to see his son in heaven with God. David essentially tells his people, there is no use crying over spilled milk. It seems even then there seemed to be some kind of social expectation of sorrow and/or guilt, but what is the expectation from God? Isn’t it repentance (2 Peter 3:9)? Running with endurance the race set before us can only happen if we put ourselves in position to run. There is no courage in showing defeat, so let us lift our eyes towards heaven, hold our heads high and walk confidently (not haughtily) through this life until He comes to take us home. 


     -jeff     



    March 12, 2023


    It started when she opened the refrigerator door. The egg, one of three left over from the previous dozen, had been stacked precariously atop the new dozen nestled in the slot perfectly made for one dozen eggs manufacturers had molded into the door. In slow motion, it fell from it’s perch in free fall until the tip of her fingers altered its trajectory, but not its future. As time resumed to normal she began to sob as she recalled the lines of the nursery rhyme, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall …” It was the straw that broke the camels back. There on the floor lay the perfect picture and representation of her new life. Tears mingled with the broken yolk as it spread yellow through the gooey egg white and shattered shell. There was no solution. There was no way back. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men.” While I completely fabricated the events above, it very easily could have been true and most likely stirs memories from our lives or the lives of someone we know. Life is cruising along. All is well. In fact, life is better than ever. But sometimes - life just happens. In the blink of an eye, the plan crumbles before us and our whole life takes a punch right in the teeth. It’s possible we, or someone we love, are to blame. It’s also possible life turns upside down for no apparent reason. It happened to Job. In the span of seven verses (Job 1:13-19), Job was left with only his wife and four haggard messengers. He lost it all. How will your plan survive a punch in the face? I hope you never have to find out. We’ve been thinking about things we underestimate. When our plan takes a hit, let’s make sure we never underestimate the love of God. He has repeatedly said and demonstrated He will not leave us (Hebrews 13:5). He has said nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). As proof we have John 3:16, “For God so loved the world he sent his only son to die …” and Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Furthermore, Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again …” (John 14:2-3). “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Never underestimate His love and “let us run with endurance the race before us” (Hebrews 12:1), never giving up, knowing “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). 


     -jeff     



    March 5, 2023


    Last week we looked at a quote by heavy weight boxer Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Ultimately, the quote is about underestimating our opponent and we began looking at things we underestimate, last week we looked at sin. This week we look at Satan. Initially, it is difficult to believe anyone would underestimate the Father of Lies (John 8:44) and yet it is one of Jesus’ closest friends who fell victim. In Luke 22:31, Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” Peter’s response was, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” In other words, Peter says, I can handle it! Truth be told, maybe at that moment when he said it, Peter could have taken the onslaught of sifting. He stood there amongst the disciples and in the presence of Jesus. In that moment, Satan wouldn’t have stood a chance; precisely why he didn’t come. Peter says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Lions do not attack when their foe is prepared and ready. In fact, a lion has to be in pretty dire straits to attack when his prey is fit and alert. His prowling is done in the shadows on the fringes. Ever watchful, he is looking for the old, the very young, the tired, the weak, the impaired, the unprotected, the careless, the distracted, one so caught up in his surroundings or what he’s doing, he’s forgotten the dangers. Possibly, he’s keeping his eye out for the one who’s overconfidence in himself leads him too close to the edge; the one who can handle it. But Satan waits. He patiently watches until we are alone “in the courtyard” surrounded by haters, outnumbered by accusers – then he comes. Resisting Satan might be less problematic if he were easy to spot; long tail, red suit, horns and the trademark pitchfork. But no, Paul cautions, “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He comes for us when we are weak and unrecognizable as himself. He comes with a plan, always scheming (Ephesians 6:10) and crafty in his approach (2 Corinthians 11:3), he comes with thousands of years of experience (Genesis 3:1-7). Given his track record, deceitfulness and disguise, how can we ever stand against him? Well, 2 Corinthians 11:3 also references the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Let us then draw nearer to God and he will draw near to us (James 4:8), where He can save us and make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Let us put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) and be alert, standing firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13) with perseverance (Hebrews 10:36), but never, ever assume we can handle Satan alone. Never the less, Be strong and courageous and do not be afraid. 


    -jeff      



  • February 26, 2023


    I would have never guessed I would be quoting Mike Tyson in a bulletin article, but I came across this, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I am not sure where I heard it or read it, but I wrote it down as one of my “nuggets” at some point. One of the hardest punchers of all time, “Iron” Mike was a dominant force in the ring until life outside the ring and bad decisions began to affect his fighting inside the ring. Ironically, this statement, deriding Evander Holyfield in the days before the fight, is exactly what cost him his career. The statement is similar to the old saying, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy” and carries with it a great lesson about our lives as Christians. Admittedly, the statement is quite literally “in your face”, brutal and conjures up cringeworthy images some might consider too violent to be associated biblically to anything – as if Satan prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour is less disturbing. Ultimately, we are talking about underestimating the enemy. Tyson’s punch was never measured but has been estimated at over 1,178 foot-pounds of force. That is like getting hit with a 220- pound anvil dropped from 5 feet! All the fighters think they can handle it – until the anvil drops. There are several things we often  underestimate. This week we will take a look at underestimating sin. As Christians we often think we can handle just a little sin, after all we are not doing it, we are just around it. Or maybe we are doing it, but not as much as others and besides, we can handle it. Doesn’t the Bible say, everything in moderation and all things are lawful? Well, to be more accurate, Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men, the Lord is at hand” in the King James Version, which is nowhere near what we mean when we talking about moderation in all things, and both 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 say, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable” (ESV) Both passages conclude with the idea of doing all for the glory of God. Sin in moderation does not bring glory to God in any way, form or fashion. Holding hands with, flirting with or being in close proximity to sin doesn’t seem to fit the connotations of either of these passages nor does it coincide with “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:5-6). Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), even in moderation. Christians who dabble in sin all think they can handle it, until they don’t. Finally, consider this, “if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).


                                                                                                                                                                           -jeff


    February 19, 2023


    Last week I picked up the phone and called a friend of mine to whom I have not talked with, apparently, in well over a year. After catching up on life’s events, he said, “Ok, serious question, what are you doing to maintain and grow your  spiritual life and focus?” After stumbling through some answers, it dawned on me, I didn’t really have a functional, viable plan. At the end of April, I intend to complete a Tough Mudder with a few of my friends. If you are not familiar with a  Tough Mudder, it is an obstacle course race design to challenge both your mental and physical strength. The course  consists of 25 obstacles spread out over 9+ miles of typically uneven and often muddy terrain. It sounds worse than it really is but we are pretty much guaranteed a little blood, a lot of sweat, maybe a few tears, a ton of laughs and stories of inspiration and herculean efforts we will talk about around dinner tables and campfires for years to come. I think it is safe to say we are all preparing for that day at the end of April. All of our training is not the same and some of it will be more effective than others, but we are growing towards completion of the race – with a plan. Schedules are adjusted and extra time is carved out of the day to strengthen cardio and do simple exercises to build the muscles we will use on this race. We get up early and stay up late to be more prepared for April 29. It's not always easy, but we are committed – “to run with endurance the race set before us.” If it is important to sacrifice and have a plan for something as frivolous as a race, a sport, education, a job or retirement, all of which will pass away, how is it we often fail to have a plan for our spiritual growth or find that plan relegated to the proverbial back burner? How is it we often find ourselves spending the least amount of time on the most important things and the most amount of time on the least important things? Could this be what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6:24? What truly controls our lives? Who do we really serve? A preacher once said, “Real faith always leaves real evidence.” What is the evidence of your faith? We look in the mirror or step on the scales to measure progress and growth, but how do we measure our spiritual growth? Do you know and understand more scripture today than this time last month? Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets ... you will know them by their fruits”
    (Matthew 7:15-16). I think sometimes we assume the false prophets’ fruit to be rotten and clearly disgusting. Maybe though, it’s just not the right kind or maybe it’s the right kind but just not healthy. I guess the real question is, are we intentionally growing the “fruit of the Spirit?” What is your plan?


                                                                                                                                                                                                -jeff



    February 12, 2023


    His form was great but his arrow groups were large. He’s as good as some, better than most and for a guy who only shoots twice a week, he actually shot well – for someone who didn’t really aim but just generally shot towards the target. When asked what he was aiming at, his response was, “The target.” Pushed on the specifics, he admitted he wasn’t really aiming, he just let go of the string when things felt right. While he almost never missed the target completely, he seldom hit the bull’s eye and since he couldn’t hit the bull’s eye twice in a row, hitting the ten ring could easily be considered an accident on the rare occasions when his arrow found center. Understand, his desire to put all his arrows in the center of the target and turn in a great score is unquestionable. In fact, frustration and defeat were creeping in to his psyche and thoughts of quitting were not far off because he couldn’t. Being a successful multi-sport athlete, he no doubt wondered why with all his talent and great form, he could not shoot as well as others on the team. Maybe archery was just not for him. 


    Improvement didn’t seem likely as his coach explained how to use the bow and the arrow to aim at a specific point. It didn’t make sense or even seem possible as they talked. To make matters worse, in his first attempt to “aim” specifically, his arrow missed the target all together. Missing the target hadn’t happened in a long time. He persevered. His continued efforts and his practice were awarded when finally, for the first time ever, he shot all five arrows in the yellow center of the target. 


    Sometimes we treat Christianity and being a disciple of Christ in the same way. In general, we live for Jesus. We are good people and no one is really surprised when we tell them we go to church and believe in God and His son Jesus. There are some things those who profess to be Christians don’t do and we are pretty good at not doing them. When it comes to religion, we are hitting the target somewhere, even if not the bull’s eye. It’s no surprise then, there might also be some of the same feelings of inadequacy and frustration with church and this so-called Christianity. Maybe the real problem is, we are just not living (aiming) specifically. Maybe we have convinced ourselves that just getting close is good enough. The Psalmist says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is death” (Proverbs 16:25). Paul told the Colossians, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). If we use this verse to justify extensive training and private lessons to become better in our sports, classes or jobs, it seems we could use the same verse to explain why we work so hard to focus our efforts on glorifying God and growing in Christ. 


    -Jeff     



    February 5, 2023


    Years ago, a friend of mine decided he wanted to be a long-range shooter and invested in a set of instructional CDs designed 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     

  • January 29, 2023


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


    -jeff     



    January 22, 2023


    Did you know some scholars believe there are more than 300 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus (jesusfilm.org)? Three hundred! The mathematical probabilities of even a few of these prophecies are staggering, much less all three hundred, and yet they were all fulfilled. The Jews of Jesus day would have certainly heard the prophecies and all been looking to some degree for the Messiah. When John the Baptist came along to prepare the way for Jesus (Mark 1:1-8), a prophecy in itself (Isaiah 40:3), there were some who took more notice than others. When John, while teaching, saw Jesus and pointed saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35), there were two who followed Jesus to confirm John’s claim. Imagine their excitement when they took the good news to their likeminded friends. Andrew went to his brother Peter first then Philip and Nathanael got the news. Nathanael, needing a little more proof, went to see Jesus who, upon seeing Nathanael approaching said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael then asked how Jesus knew him and Jesus proved to Nathanael, without a doubt, exactly who He was by describing the place under the fig tree, where he was when Philip brought him the good news, “We have found the Messiah”” (John 1:47- 49). Imagine just for a moment. Put yourself in Nathanael’s shoes. You are the one walking up to see Jesus; the man of whom the prophecies spoke. What would he say about you? I have no doubt, Nathanael was known among the people as one in whom there was no deceit, but Jesus, never having met or even seen him before, wouldn’t have known this. The statement was not a guess or the revealing of a secret. It was a well-known fact. While Jesus certainly has the ability to see into our heart, read our intentions and our very thoughts, both good and bad, I am not asking you to think of what Jesus would reveal about you that maybe you don’t want revealed. I am asking what is your reputation among the circles in which you run. I know what we all claim to be. We claim to be Christians; ambassadors of Christ; disciples of the Good Book not adding to or taking away from the Word of God. What is it people think of when they see us coming? Not being perfect, I am sure they remember of us “that time in the parking lot” or maybe even “those times,” but what do they see from us today? God “is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). What people remember is not nearly as important as what people see. In fact, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light,” maybe those who remember, will like God, forget, and be able to say, “’Behold, now there is a Christian who walks the walk.” 


    -jeff     



    January 15, 2023


    The phrase “me time” began to be a thing in the early 2000s. Health care officials even encouraged a national day. Used largely in the reference to women, the terminology was used to stress the importance of taking time out to recharge. As women increasingly work outside the home, the norm now, juggling the responsibilities of being wife, mother and employed outside the home can be taxing physically and emotionally. While men have been working outside the home forever, this is traditionally included in the expectations of their “responsibilities” as husband and father and somehow less stressful. Additionally, God created man and woman differently (Genesis 2:18- 25; 3:16-19) so it’s no surprise their needs would also be different. However, as more and more men act like women, the term “me time” and its expectations have begun to cross gender lines. Believe it or not, “me time” is Biblical, but not in the way it is normally defined today. Jesus took “me time” regularly and it is through His example we discover we all need this special time and how to spend it. In Matthew 14, Jesus has learned of the death of His cousin, John the Baptist and He is looking for a secluded place (Matthew 14:13) but it is not until sometime later we learn why. While searching for the place to get some “me time,” Jesus noticed the crowd following Him and seeing their need, put his desire on hold and began to heal the sick in the crowd. It was a large crowd, the Bible tells us 5000 men not including women and children (Matthew 14:21), so the healing went long and late and His disciples encouraged him to send the people home so they would still have time to get something to eat. Jesus would end up feeding the entire crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish before He’d get His “me-time.” When He was finally alone, He talked to God (Matthew 14:23). Later, on the night of His betrayal, we learn Jesus was no stranger to “me time.” Luke tells us He went to the Garden of Gethsemane “as was His custom” (Luke 22:39). Jesus routinely sought out “me time,” but it was not a time to get together with the boys and ignore the world, or sit in a bubble bath with the phone turned off, get a massage or immerse in a hobby. While there is absolutely nothing  wrong with some of those things, they are not the “me time” Jesus demonstrated. If we are looking for the peace of mind Paul writes about in Philippians 4:7 as well as emotional stability and strength, “me time” is no longer a luxury but a necessity. We must spend Alone time with the Lord in prayer, in meditation and in the Word of God.


                                                    -jeff



    January 8, 2023


    He went for the chicken, knowing the gathering would digress over time and he would have to leave. He had no idea how quickly things would fall apart – and left before the chicken was served, but for the moment he held the fresh rag over the bleeding nose of the party’s host. It was not the first rag and would not be the last. The amount of blood was staggering and the nose bleed was the result of too much Trenbolone, an anabolic steroid and too much alcohol, both known for raising blood pressure. Add in a hefty dose of rage brought on by a combination of steroid use and little man’s syndrome and boom, you have copious amount of red liquid streaming undaunted from the nose! Accepting the rag, the soldier applied pressure and with chemically impaired, hate filled eyes stared up and mumbled through the pinched nose and blood-soaked rag, “You judging me Phillips?” As he continued recounting the story, I thought to myself, how many times have I heard that question? Are you judging me? It always comes in the “hour of need” so to speak; sometimes in the heat of the moment and sometimes after, as things begin to calm down. The question is almost always rhetorical, the answer already presumed affirmative. I believe it comes from a guilty conscience and a broken heart, although neither would be acknowledged or accepted by the speaker and even if I were judging, my judgement would be far less than the judgement already self-imposed. My thought is always the same, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12) who am I to judge my neighbor? I wonder if those who Jesus helped thought the same. I think of the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:10. The shepherd notices one sheep missing, leaves the herd and goes to find the wanderer. Finding the sheep, he rejoices and brings the lost home. We are not told where the sheep was found, the condition it was in when found or what it took to complete the rescue. We are only told of the rejoicing and the return. Similarly, in Luke 15, we are not privy to the actual conversation between the father and the son, but it’s clear from the conclusion, there was no judgement from the father. The facts in both cases are this, what once was lost, now is found. We know “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). We are sent to seek and save the lost, not by our skills and talents, but with the Gospel. Despite the ridiculousness, irrelevance and awkwardness of the question, hearing it means we are in position to make a difference. Be prepared (1 Peter 3:15) and be patient always looking for the right moment to share the story of God’s saving grace.


                                                                                    -jeff



    January 1, 2023


    The first duck fell dead in the decoys and the second sailed, falling just as dead but just outside the decoys to the edge of the eddy we were hunting and was soon carried down river by the currents before the dog could swim to it. When his name was called, Duke headed for the long bird and last one to fall, without hesitation. His job was simple, go get the duck and bring it back. Marking the duck’s white belly moving away, he swam heartily, and no doubt would have eventually caught up with it. In fact, given enough time, I am certain he would have completed the retrieve, swimming back upstream – or died trying. There in lay the issue and the reason Austin blew the whistle to  stop him. One blast from the whistle and Duke obediently turned around for instruction. Austin gave him a big left cast signaling him to leave the long duck and get the one in the decoys. After a look over his shoulder, Duke took the cast and picked up the close bird while I went and got the boat to retrieve the other. In response to a question about retriever training, a man said, “Going to a downed bird is  desire, bringing the bird back to hand is obedience.” Walking to the boat, these words came back to me as I replayed in my mind with pride the way Duke handled himself in the last retrieve. His desire is unquestioned and his obedience, once again, proven trustworthy. I thought  of what it took to get him to the point where his desire (to go to the bird) was overcome by his love for and loyalty to his handler (trust and obey). Trust me when I say he was not born this way! Yes, he was born with the tools, webbed feet, heavy fur coat, thick tail for steering and even an instinct to retrieve, he still had to be taught how to use the tools he was born with. He had to be taught to trust his master and to believe his best interest was considered in every command. His job has become obedience and you know what? He LOVES his job. Put on camo and open the door, he will head straight out to the truck – ready to go. There is much we can learn here, we too were created with a purpose and given all the tools we need for success. Created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16) it was for freedom He set us free (Galatians 5:1) but we are not to use this freedom for our own desires but to serve one another (Galatians 5:13) tail for steering and even an instinct to retrieve, he still had to be and to obey the Master (John 14:15). It is our desire that gets us into trouble (James 1:14-15). We lack the perspective, the knowledge and wisdom of God (Isaiah 55:8-9), and simply need to work on our trust and obedience. Come when  the Master says come, and go when and where the Master says go.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                        -jeff



  • December 25, 2022


    In Mark 3, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, angering the Pharisees who then began conspiring to figure out how to destroy him. Going down to the sea, a great multitude followed, so much so, he told his disciples to have a boat ready if needed, but in verse 13, he made his way to a mountain, calling to himself those whom “He Himself wanted” (Mark 3:13). While it is somewhat unclear if the twelve appointed were the only ones present or they were his choice out of a larger gathering, it is clear these twelve were specially chosen by Jesus to do more than the average disciple. These twelve would be known as the Apostles. While we are told how Peter, Andrew, James and John, fishermen, were called first out of a boat and Matthew was a tax collector, nothing is said about the other Apostles,  except Simon was a Zealot (possibly a politician or revolutionary), and Judas - was a thief (John 12:6). Later in John 13:18 after washing his disciples’ feet, he quotes from Psalm 41:9. The actual Psalm reads, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has  lifted his heel against me.” Isn’t it interesting a thief and ultimately a traitor was chosen to be a part of the Twelve? It’s easy to say Judas was chosen to fulfill the prophecy, but I don’t think Jesus chose from among those who wished to follow Him, eleven good guys and one bad one. The scriptures tell us a number of people who “wanted” to follow Jesus were turned away or at the very least could not afford the costs of following Christ (Luke9:57-62), and yet Judas made the cut, was in Jesus’ inner circle and considered a close friend. He was not  the only candidate for betrayal either. Matthew, the tax collector, was already considered a turncoat by his people possibly could have fulfilled the prophecy and certainly the Zealot, known and named for their desire to overthrow the powers that be could have been the  traitor. In fact, such were the pressures Satan put on these righteous men, even Peter would deny knowing Christ three times in the  courtyard after Jesus’ arrest. Having left everything to follow Jesus, struggling to change at times (John 12:6b), Judas’ remorse and regret was evident. Out of his mind with grief and guilt, he saw only one recourse. Asking for and accepting forgiveness never entered his mind; he’d betrayed his friend. Among the lessons we can learn from Judas, two things stand out. First, God is not slack in His promise as some count slackness, but He is faithful, not wanting any to perish, but wanting all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Second, we must be  alert, standing firm in our faith (1Corinthians 16:13) for if someone who walked with, talked with, ate with and knew all about Jesus,  witnessing firsthand the great things He’d done, could fall away – what makes us so certain we won’t – or haven’t?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                             -jeff      



    December 18, 2022


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

                                                                                                                                                                                                        -jeff


    December 11, 2022


    This morning as the sun rose, the water was on the rise too as several heavy showers turned the curbsides into little raging rivers. With temperatures in the upper sixties, I really felt like getting some shorts and wading in! When I was a boy, rain like this would have pushed me into my father’s shop and the scrap pile to begin making boats to float in the run off from the rain. There is no telling how many little wooden sailboats I lost down the gutter on the street beside our home. Once the water quit flowing, there was always enough left over in a big puddle on the sidewalk. The depression for the puddle was created when a section of the sidewalk kind of sank to one side and it was perfect for riding bikes through as fast as we could. After watching Evel Knievel jump buses on his motorcycle, we went back to the scrap pile to build a ramp to jump the puddle. Soaring inches in the air, missing and making a big splash was more fun than making the jump. Forty-five years later, I still feel the pull of a good rain puddle and far be it from me to complain about rain in December; everybody knows ducks like the water! While too much rain certainly has its drawbacks and any rain can be an inconvenience, the biggest issue with rain, maybe the only issue, is the clouds. The clouds hide the sun. Did you know there are studies out there demonstrating how sunlight improves your sleep, reduces stress, maintains strong bones, helps keep the weight off, strengthens your immune system, fights off depression and can give you a longer life? Not to mention, sunlight is a good source of vitamin D. I guess it is no wonder some folks really don’t like rainy days. This morning amidst the rush and inconvenience of a raining day, parents jockeying for position, honking and practicing sign language in the car line, I opened the door for one of my favorite students. As she looked up, the hood on her jacket hid the top three quarters of her face but left her sweet smile for me to see as she said cheerily, “Good morning Mr. Jeff! It’s raining!” I responded, Hello Sunshine! Yes, it is.” I thought, Jeffrey, what if you are the only sunshine anyone sees today ...“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).


    -jeff    



    December 4, 2022


    A friend recently asked a small group if anyone had noticed in Genesis 3:11 when Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt,” God’s reply was simply, “I will be with you.” If you are not familiar with the story of “Moses and the Burning Bush,” you should go back and re-read Genesis 3. Moses goes on to offer up to the Almighty a host of excuses as to why he is really insufficient for the job. As a reader and observer of the story, I just want to shout to the pages, “Really Moses! You’re standing barefoot in front of a bush that is on fire but not being consumed by the flames and on top of it all, there is a voice coming from the bush talking to you! How do you not see and understand!? God chose you! The creator of all the earth chose you to lead His people. You should be honored. You should be humbled. You should be grateful. You should GO!” It is easy to question and pass judgement on Moses’ reluctance to accept the task given him by God. Solomon rightly said in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “There is nothing new under the sun”; and sure enough, we often look at our metaphorical “burning bush” and offer up the exact same sentiment, “But, but, but God! Who am I? Can’t someone else do this?”


    I do not believe in signs, nor predestination but I believe we were created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). I believe the Gospel is for all (Luke 5:32, 2 Peter 3:9) and as such I believe the Word of God calls us all into His service. I believe we are all chosen. I believe we were  chosen when God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). I know there are those who ignore the call all together refusing to acknowledge Him as Creator and never approach the “bush” to marvel at it or listen to it much less obey it. I also know there are those who come to the “bush” often. They “take off their shoes” and stand before Him every week and then after the appropriate time before Him is logged, they turn around, put their shoes on and walk away. I understand there are many reasons and excuses for our behavior and you can be sure the Creator who can count the hairs of your head (Luke 12:7) knows them too. Someone else once asked, “How big is your “but” (one “t,” not two)?” As with Moses, God doesn’t ask for our excuses, He simply says, “I will be with you.”


    -jeff    

  • November 27, 2022


    I went to meet God this morning. To be honest it was not exactly what I had expected but I am pretty sure it was me, not Him. He didn’t say anything, although several times I recalled scriptures like Isaiah 55:8-9, 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways  higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” I’d asked Him for clarity on a couple things I just didn’t  understand, things we’ve talked about before and I thought I had been clear on what I wanted, well, I mean, my requests. I also remembered His words to the apostles, in Matthew 28:20, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I told Him sometimes when His answer was “no” it left me feeling like He wasn’t there after all. I thought of the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I talked about spiritual warfare, like that mentioned in Ephesians 6 and some, well, many of the things in this world that try to draw my attention away from Him. I was always grateful in my tone and tried desperately to remember all the ways He has blessed my life, but I am sure I left some things out. I talked about my family, my friends, and His church. When I got ready to go, I did. I just kind of said goodbye, or rather amen, and I left. I felt good, well, at least better as I began the things I “had” to do. A little while later, as I listened to graduation speakers, one of them said, “I remember when you first came to the Academy and today, I am standing here looking at, literally, a new version of you.” The realization hit pretty hard as I recalled my earlier meeting with the Creator of the universe, and I wondered if I’d come out of the meeting a new version of me or just the same old guy. It got me thinking, how can I come into the  presence of the Almighty and leave without being a new version of me? 1 John 1:7 says, “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The only way to leave a meeting with the Father and not walk away a new version of ourselves, one that is cleansed and forgiven, is to hold too tightly to the identity of self; to walk in the shadows or even darkness and refuse to change. “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” (Hebrews 12:1), always endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1), always adjusting our course to make sure we run in the light of the cross.


    -jeff    



    November 20, 2022


    While not miraculous, the things Jesus did at the Passover between what are considered to be His first two miracles (John 2:11; 4:54), were none the less impressive because so many who observed them believed in His name (John 2:23). Turning water to wine and overturning the tables of the money changers were likely not enough to cause Nicodemus to come to Him under the cover of darkness to discuss His identity. The two events may have been enough to spark a conversation during “regular business hours,” but the secret meeting indicates Nicodemus clearly saw there was something more. Enquiring minds naturally ask if not miraculous, what kind of signs could Jesus have been doing to cause Nicodemus and others to take notice and believe. The Bible does not leave us in the dark here to speculate and assume. John 2:24 tells us Jesus “knew all men” and “what was in a man.” This is demonstrated in John 4 when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus told her to go get her husband and she said correctly told Him she didn’t have one (leaving out some of the details). He proceeded to tell her about the five previous husbands and, not surprisingly, she was duly amazed. When she went back to the city, she couldn’t keep silent and told others about Him asking them, “Could this be the Christ” (John 4:29)? I think sometimes we forget; Samaritans were initially the northern kingdom of Jews. Making no light of their decision to establish their own places of worship in Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:25ff), which was ultimately “adding to or taking from” what God had commanded; a clear violation of God’s law (Deuteronomy 4:2), or excusing their marriages to Assyrians in violation of God’s commands in Deuteronomy 7:3-5, it is interesting, this “sinner” and her Samaritan friends, outcasts from the Jewish community because of the sinful nature of their origin and worship beliefs, understood the prophecies of the coming Messiah, arguably better than the correct, accepted and self-ordained religious establishment of the day. It was on her word they made the journey outside the city to go and meet this Jesus (John 4:39, 40). John tells us many believed because of her testimony who later confessed it was no longer because of what she said, but because of what HE said that cemented their belief in Him saying, “we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Obviously, the days of miracles are over and we can’t do the signs and wonders Jesus did either, but the unconditional love we have for one another is certainly a signal to all we are followers of Christ (John 13:35) and it will also cause them to wonder why we are so different. Maybe when they see us we can point them to the Word and they too will believe. Be the tree. Lift others to see Jesus.


    -jeff    



    November 13, 2022


    James warns us about favoritism and prejudice in James 2:1-12 and Paul minces no words saying, “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). The current climate of our country has us all hyper alert to racism and we are no strangers to the concept of prejudice and drawing conclusions on the basis of skin color. This week I was reminded of a young bus rider some years ago who informed me he hated white people. After a brief discussion, I told him I was very sad because I thought we were friends and good buddies. He was shocked by my implication that we weren’t. I reminded him he’d just said he hated white people and he was quickly relieved at my mistake and said, “Bus Driver, you ain’t white.” Many things rushed through my mind in that moment. Shame in the realization kids are still being taught skin color matters, clashed with the realization this one child saw me for who I was instead of what I was. More recently, it was not the color of my skin in question. A second grader was explaining to me that another kindergartener on the bus was actually her mother’s brother. Read that again if you need to, but I responded simply, “I know.” They were both surprised. The kindergartener asked how I knew and I told him I was smart. There was a moment of silence from the pair and maybe some whispered discussion; I don’t know it was otherwise loud on the bus. Then Kindergartener asked confusedly, “So, Bus Driver, you smart?” “I like to think so,” was my reply to the latest query. After being met with more silence, he said, “If you so smart, why you drive a bus?” I guess you had to be there, but his implication was not that I have to put up with a lot of loud, sloppy, sometimes disrespectful, rarely grateful, always emotional and usually entitled kids on a mostly overcrowded bus. His intonation was that he didn’t think bus drivers had to be smart. This little kindergartener, judged me based on my job! Again, my mind goes a lot of places, from laughing at his truthful statement, to wondering who planted the seed in his mind drivers were inferior to the rest of humanity.
    Please trust me when I say I have spent more time laughing than being offended by this but also, I again had to ask myself, “Am I guilty of showing favoritism or passing judgement based on what I see, for example, the color of skin or the job someone holds or do I see souls for what they are; creations of God who he loved so much he sent his only son to die for?” Our charge is to go into all the world making disciples and baptizing, not picking and choosing what we believe to be the best candidates for the Lord’s church. Am I, are we, sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom, His love and His forgiveness?


                                                                                                                                                                                                          -jeff



    November 6, 2022


    A couple years ago I was fortunate to sit in on a zoom call with Matt Holiday, seven time all-star and member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, one of the coaches in the meeting asked him how he dealt with a slump. The 14-year Major League Baseball veteran and winner of the 2007 National League batting title never hesitated when he answered, “Find somebody to help.” He went on to explain, focusing on someone else is the fastest and best way to get out of a slump. If you keep focusing on self, overthinking and self-doubt keep you struggling to hit the ball. Today, I witnessed how this concept works outside of baseball and hitting. I heard Kinder A before I saw him and asked the closest teacher if that was Kinder A already screaming. She affirmed my suspicions and told me he’d stolen crackers from one of the teachers. Consequently, he lost his afternoon snack. He arrived at the bus door still crying loudly, claiming fierce hunger and injustice while holding one shoe in his hand. I told Kinder A to hush up and get on the bus, sat him down on the engine cowling and began putting his shoe back on. As he began to whine, I cut him off and told him he shouldn’t steal crackers and then he would get a good snack. Meanwhile, Kinder B spotted the lunch box he’d left on the bus and decided now was a good time to retrieve it from behind my seat. While I tied Kinder A’s shoes, I informed