Thanks to Our Veterans!

Thanks to Our Veterans!

During the last month, our church veterans have been turning in their photographs. Most have given me pictures in their uniforms from their early days in service. Dennis Elrod actually took a current picture in his old Navy uniform. He said when his unit was discharged they were told to always have their bags packed and their uniforms ready in case they were ever needed again.  He said his bag was still packed, and his uniform was still ready! Many of the veterans in our church served before I was even born.  Some fought in wars I read about in history books. The pictures of these men and women are from every branch of service and from many different conflicts from Korea to Afghanistan. What’s striking to me is how young these men and women were when they committed themselves to service or were drafted into service. That’s the way it almost always. The military takes our boys when they are barely old enough to shave; our women when they’ve just attended their last senior prom. Within three months of training, they can be shipped out to a foreign land to protect our country and even die for a cause they may not completely understand. They must be willing to fulfill their duty to our country, to defend freedom and liberty. That much most seem to grasp. Because they do, our country remains free, and our freedom is something we must never take for granted. As parents who drove our 19-year-old son and dropped him off early one Sunday morning to be bussed off to Paris Island, my wife...
How Can You Hold Your Work in Proper Perspective?

How Can You Hold Your Work in Proper Perspective?

Most of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with work. We bemoan Mondays because we have to go to work, and we love Fridays because we get off of work. Yet, if we didn’t have a job, we’d be poor as dirt and depressed. It would be a major crisis for all of us. I have known people who have looked forward to the day they didn’t have to work only to discover they were miserable once they were not working and they soon found themselves another job. I have known people who were addicted to work, and I have known people who worked hard to keep from working. Work can be virtuous, but it can also lead to a life of dysfunction. What makes the difference? It’s important to keep work in proper perspective. One way to do that is by understanding what place God wants to play in our work. In Genesis 2:15, we discover work was ordained by God as a good thing. We can and should embrace work because God did and does. It’s safe to assume Adam and Eve sweated and were tired at the end of a day in the Garden of Eden and felt good about it. The garden was not going to just take care of itself. Part of the purpose God created humans for was to take care of creation. We were created to work, and work is part of what gave the first humans purpose and joy. If work was a part of Eden before the fall, we should expect work to be a meaningful part of our...
Every Flower Is Not Worthy of a Bouquet

Every Flower Is Not Worthy of a Bouquet

Every Flower Is Not Worthy of a Bouquet When I was a boy, on a hot summer day, I noticed some beautiful orange flowers growing along a fence near my home. I picked a lovely bouquet of them and presented them to my mother. While she was appreciative of the gesture, I was surprised that her response was not a pleasant one. What I was handing her were poisonous flowers from a trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) vine, more commonly known as a cow-itch vine. She gave me instructions to go and immediately discard them and then to come back inside and wash with soap and water. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer a reaction to the flowers potent toxins, which can cause a painful red rash to break out on your skin. I always remembered my mother’s strong warning never to pick them again. I saw a cow itch vine grow recently near the same place where I picked those blooms about 45 years ago. Since those days I’ve learned not to run after everything that looks pleasurable or pleasing to the eye. I’ve learned that not everything that looks pleasurable will give lasting pleasure. The Bible says that there is “pleasure in sin for a season,” but only a season. In fact, that’s how this entire sin thing got started—the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6). Eve was duped, and so was her husband. Our senses can mislead us. Every flower is not worthy of a bouquet. Every fruit is not worthy to be eaten. Everything that is pleasing...
Building Space Into Our Lives

Building Space Into Our Lives

The secret to building a good fire is to put some space between the logs so the fire can get some oxygen.   Without proper oxygen, the fire has trouble burning. We all need to build some space in our lives to keep the fire burning. Otherwise, all the demands and duties of life will eventually choke out our creativity and our joy. Jesus often pulled away from the crowds. He built space into his days to pray, to think, and to plan. He took the disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a place where the springs bubble up to from the Jordan River. They join with waters coming down from the snowmelts from Mount Herman. There Jesus and his disciples could have some space from all the people. There is where Peter made his great confession that Jesus is the Christ. When we build space into our lives, we can often see and hear Jesus in ways that help keep the fires of our faith burning.   This summer, I hope you find some extended time to pull away from the normal routines of life. But if not, each day, build some space into your life so you can breathe in the fresh word God has for you on that day. cover credit: fanpop.com...
What Grace is About

What Grace is About

What Grace Is About This year marks my thirtieth year of fulltime pastoral ministry. In 1988 I served my first year of fulltime ministry with Dr. Hugh Kirby as the Minister of Youth at First Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. However, my ministry started long before then.   I began preparing and preaching sermons at the age of 18. I came from a tradition where people believed that when God calls you to preach, you should be given a chance–the sooner the better.  Various churches started calling asking me to preach. I filled in for one church for a month until they found a new pastor. Then another small country church with about 40 people in attendance asked me to come preach at their church. Word about my “calling” had reached their church through a member that was a beautician in town.   Beauticians are not omniscient, but they know most things that happen in a small town. She happened to the matriarch of the church. Her son later called and asked me to come preach a sermon. After that, I kept going, morning and evening for two years until I left the area to attend college at Samford University at the beginning of my junior year. During this time, I was dating Tina, whom I eventually married. Most Sundays she attended church with me.   She supported my commitment to follow God’s calling on my life. This created a strong bond that allowed our relationship to grow. This gave me assurance that she was the person God meant for me to marry. Our marriage began with an unwavering commitment to serve...
The Lessons The Broccoli Tree Have for Easter

The Lessons The Broccoli Tree Have for Easter

Easter Sunrise Service One spring day a photographer living near the Southern shore of Lake Vattern, Sweden took a picture of a tree and posted it on Instagram because he thought it looked like a stalk of broccoli sticking up out of the ground.   Forty-three people hit “like” on the photographer’s Instagram post. Over the next several months, the photographer began uploading more pictures of the tree and life that took place around the tree in the park. Nearly a year after he took the first photo, the tree had its own Instagram and was being photographed through the seasons showing all kinds of life of the Swedish people.  The audience grew into the thousands. The photographer staged an exhibition of his photos of the Broccoli Tree at the Broccoli Tree. A Broccoli Tree calendar was published and was well received.  People all over the world began to purchase Broccoli Tree prints for their homes. Three years after the first Instagram post, a tree that most people just ignored was now famous.  People who went to Sweden went to this park just to photograph the Broccoli Tree. It could easily be found on Google maps.  Its Instagram followers grew to nearly 30,000. The Broccoli Tree became the Internet’s single most famous tree… until last September when someone or multiple people entered the park and sawed the tree down. The next Instagram post made by the photographer contained these sad but true words: “You cannot unsaw a tree.” https://www.wimp.com/the–broccoli–tree-a-parable/ Today we live in a world where we have become afraid to share what is good, beautiful, and pure for fear that some person with evil intentions...