Thoughts While Riding The Natchez Parkway

We just got back from vacation this past week. We had the pleasure of going to Tennessee where I rode parts of the Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville to Natchez, MS. I rode through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. When you’re on a bike ride by yourself for any length of time, you have plenty of time for random thoughts. Below are some(if I gave you every thought you’d be reading a never ending blog. My mind never stops. At all. I’m a watered down version of Monk. If you don’t know too what I’m referring to then you’re too young and I’ll pray for you.) of those thoughts:

  • I can’t tell you how many men I saw out working in their yards to make their yards look fantastic. Now there’s nothing wrong with a great looking yard. I know yard work along w sports are common topics of men. “Who did your lawn? What kind of weed killer do you use? Your yard looks fantastic! Etc.”
  • I couldn’t help but wonder why we as Christian men don’t do that? “Can’t help but notice the great relationship you have with your son. What’s your secret? How do you handle your spousal disagreements? What process do you have for daily devotions?” Etc.
  • Maybe we should spend more of our conversations around God and His Word and less about our lawns and sports.
  • I had this brilliant idea to ride 50-87 miles daily to ride the entire 440 mile length of the parkway. The problem was I haven’t ridden back to back days since last summer. I haven’t ridden that many miles per day since last summer. I did no training to speak of for preparation. Needless to say, I ended up doing only 175 miles of the parkway. No matter how strong my mind was my flesh was too weak.
  • We must have a consistent walk with God through prayer and time spent in His word. We must surround ourselves with Godly men and women at all times. We never know when a time of “faith testing” or “faith stretching” will happen. If we aren’t “training” for our Christian walk through life we will fall apart during those difficult times.
  • The other reason I didn’t ride as many daily miles is that it provided more time with my family. When your 4 yr old asks you why you’re going bike riding and not spending time with him and mommy, your heart wilts and you give in immediately. I’ll take time with him and mommy anytime over bike riding. Not even a discussion.
  • Why did it take a “life event” for me to realize how precious I should take time spent with my wife and my son? When I stand before God and give account of what I’ve done or haven’t done, what’s going to matter? That I rode 440 miles in 6 days? Or that I spent every minute I could with my family? We need to be intentional with family time. That should always be a priority before anything we “like to do”. The family God has given us should always be a priority.
  • The scenery along the way was beautiful and at times breathtaking. It was such a good reminder of the blessing of God’s creation that He’s allowing us to enjoy.
  • Each morning we wake up, we should look outside at the sunrise, listen to the birds, breathe in the air and thank God for the blessing of His creation that He’s given us.

Life update:

I had my first injection 3 weeks ago. There was a few side effects for the first couple of days but nothing real serious. They told me those side effects will go away as my body adjusts to having the injections. I’ll be taking the injections monthly. My next CT Scan is next month. I’ll have them every other month to monitor the growth of the tumor. In the last two months it’s grown 1 cm. Now that I’m taking the injections monthly the thought process is the growth will start slowing down. It continues to be in God’s hands. Please pray with us that His name will be glorified and His will accomplished as we continue to walk down the path He has for us.

Have a great rest of your week!

Brent

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Life Update – He Leadeth Me

With all that’s gone on this past year and a half and especially these last two months this site may become more of a life update. I’ll try to post here monthly to update my condition. Most importantly though, I still want this to be a blessing and a challenge to someone.

I don’t do “public” easy. I’m the introvert. My career requires me to speak to people all day long. However, once I’m “off the clock” I don’t speak to those around me much at all. That’s one of my many weaknesses. I come across as arrogant unintentionally. The fact of the matter is I don’t like to talk about myself. I’d much rather talk about you. However with any type of relationship, friendship, acquaintance, etc. there has to be two way communication. So, along with many other things I’m learning, being more public with what’s going on is one of the biggest.

Another big learning topic for me is control and trust. In my career, I’m responsible for everything that happens. I lead, control, make the final decision, help the people I work with grow and get promoted or reach their goals. Too often I want to bring that self management to my life. I want to control my life. I’m responsible for the choices I make, so I want God to bless the decisions I make. I want God to bless my plans. I want God to give me what I want, basically. When you get to the bottom of the matter, I’m telling God I know better so go ahead and give me control. I just want to make sure God blesses me along the way. I’ll be sure and give Him the glory. Because at the end of the day He is a much better decision maker … as long as those decisions meet my expectations.

Yes, I’ve got a long way to go to be the Christian God wants me to be. It’s an ongoing process and sometimes more of a struggle than a process. Just being honest.

So … here’s where I am:

Heart valve replacement surgery at age 48

Diaphragmatic hernia surgery at age 50

Diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Cancer at age 50

And there’s nothing about that I can control.

This last Sunday night our church met to hear our Pastors’ vision(given by God) for our church for 2019 and beyond. One of the songs sung by the choir was an arrangement of “He Leadeth Me”. I’d love to share the arrangement they sang but it was a choir arrangement and thus copyrighted. Our best bet is that someone will say something to Bro. Jim and he’ll have the choir sing it on a Sunday morning. Hint hint hint …

God used that song to speak to me in a powerful way.

Through tears during the song He reminded me of this:

He’s in control

I can trust in Him

He knows better

He has a plan

He’ll use me if I’ll let Him

I need to let Him lead

I need to follow Him as He leads

Here’s the update I promised at the beginning:

I had a CT scan today. This will be a regular occurrence every 3 months. These scans will monitor the growth to ensure the injections are working.

On Tuesday, April 16th I have my first injection. From there on it’s a monitoring phase.

How can you pray?

Pray that God’s will is done no matter what that will may be. I mean that completely.

Pray that if it’s God’s will that the injections will be effective at slowing down the growth of the cancer.

Pray that God will use my walk through this as a testimony and encouragement in some form or fashion.

Most importantly pray for Arlyn as she walks through this with me and Benjamin as he grows. At some point I’ll need to have “that conversation” with him. I’ll need God to show me when and how.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Get Me Out of Here!

You’ll learn the reason for the title later on in this blog.  My first thought was to use the word “cancer” but that was too much of a “shock” word and really isn’t the topic of this blog.  The topic of this blog is once again another example of God working in my life unbeknownst to me.  If you’re tired of those topics from me, you better skip this one as well.  As a matter of fact, if you haven’t noticed, my blogs all sound the same and all have the same theme.  I’m not much of a writer.  Just a guy who seems to go through the same challenges.  Probably for the same reason … that being that God knows I need help in the same area(s) of life.  That is always trusting Him.

On Friday, February 22, 2019 I started experiencing severe abdominal pain.  Like nothing I have ever felt before.  Arlyn was having a girls weekend trip to St. Louis(don’t I have great timing).  I tried eating, not eating, sleeping in every position available, not sleeping, sitting, whatever, to get the pain to stop.  Finally, about 11:10 p.m. I called my dad, asked him and mom to come out so mom could watch Benjamin and dad could take me to the ER.  Not ideal for many reasons, but this was unusual pain and I wanted it stopped.  After an entire night of tests and CT scans, it was determined I had a diaphragmatic hernia(the terms you learn in the hospital.  Even my phone has now memorized that phrase(among others)).  My colon had worked a big part of itself up into my chest cavity and was pressing itself against my diaphragm.  Needless to say Saturday morning, I had emergency surgery that lasted 3 hours.  While the two doctors that worked on me told me it was a very difficult surgery, it was successful.  They were able to put a piece of synthetic tissue back in my diaphragmatic wall so I will never have that problem again.  Oh … and by the way … one of the doctors on call that weekend who helped in the surgery just “happened” to be the same doctor who performed my heart valve surgery.  “Lucky”, huh??  I call it God.  I came home Thursday(more on that later) and hope to slowly get back to work tomorrow.

So, why the word “cancer” mentioned?  Glad you asked.  That CT scan they took early Saturday morning?  It also revealed that I have spots on my pancreas and my liver.  They did a biopsy the Monday after my surgery and determined it was cancer.  However; it is the slowest moving cancer type there is.  It is called Neuroendocrine Cancer(another new term my phone now knows).  As my two doctors mentioned along with the cancer dr I spoke with, “if there is a good cancer to have, this is it.”  It moves very slow and is very treatable.  As a matter of fact, a procedure was developed about 5 years ago specifically for this type of cancer.  So, what’s the next step?  Glad you asked.  I go to the doctor for a complete followup and more training as to this type of cancer.  Then about every 10-12 weeks, they will run a series of tests to monitor the growth.  The growth rate will dictate the treatment.  The most important question I wanted to know was life time frame.  With typical pancreatic or liver cancer it can be days/weeks/months.  With this type, we are talking in multiple decades.  A large percentage of patients with this type caught this early on live 15-20-30 years.

Don’t we serve an amazing God?  A year and a half ago, a bump on my head led to the discovery of a failing heart valve.  A year and a half later, a diaphragmatic hernia led to the discovery of cancer.  Without this CT scan, who knows when the cancer would have been found. It humbles me over and over how much He oversees every step of our lives.  How dare I(we) try to control our lives ourselves.

All I can say is I’m so blessed by God to have what I have; to have been where I have been; and to be saved by such a gentle, loving God.  I have no idea what God has in store for me over the rest of my life;  I really don’t.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’m going to just keep doing my best to serve Him, trust Him, speak His name and share God’s provision with those I have that chance.

Oh … and the title?  I was supposed to be released Wednesday night.  The doctor told me that.  Her nurse told me that.  I was unhooked by everything and ready to go.  But somehow the release orders fell out and they had to keep me there one more night.  I wasn’t happy.  Don’t tell me I can go, then come back and tell me there’s no paperwork reflecting that.  I ended up spending one more night(no use fighting the system).  The next morning I had doctors and nurses all apologizing to me for their error.  I left at 8:30 a.m.  I have no idea why I couldn’t go home.   God never revealed the reason to me.  However, He has dictated every step of my life.  Maybe He needed to teach me patience.  I wanted out of there.  But, if God has other plans, I need to be patient and wait on His timing.  I probably won’t ever know the reason.  God doesn’t ever promise us the reasons he enacts things in our lives.  He doesn’t have an obligation to us.  He loves us and has given us so much.  We just need to TRUST HIS WORD and TRUST HIS LEADING.

I don’t know what you’re going through.  I don’t have to know what you’re going through.  All I can tell you is He knows exactly what you’re going through, and He will take you through it.  All the Way.  Step by Step. His hand in Yours.  We have nothing to fear.  He is an amazing God.

Enjoy your week!

 

 

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One Year Anniversary

One year ago today I was wheeled into the operating room for heart valve replacement surgery. It was a occasion in my life that I wasn’t prepared to face and yet with God’s strength He pulled me through. It was a shock and definitely a time of turmoil. Especially for my wife and parents. As I looked out our window this morning at the rain I couldn’t help but compare it to a year ago. It was a downpour of events for which we were not prepared.

And yet, even during that time of turmoil I felt calm. I felt the Lord’s presence. I felt the prayers of my family and friends. I felt the love of God from those who visited.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will 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 anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/psa.23.1-6.esv

As a family we are currently memorizing Psalm 23. We quote it each night before we pray over dinner. As Benjamin learns the verses and we learn and say them with him, I’m reminded again that without Christ I am nothing. I cannot go through this life without Him. I cannot survive the storms of life without Him. He is my everything and I must live my life exemplifying that He is my everything. My family and those with whom I come into contact with must know that He’s my everything.

I woke up this morning with the intention of celebrating my anniversary by going on a long bike ride. Since it rained I couldn’t ride and had more time to reflect. Reflect on where God has brought me from. Reflect on where’s He’s leading me. Reflect on how my life should reflect His expectation of me.

I have no idea what you’re going through or what you have been through or what you will go through. But please don’t miss the powerful message in a very familiar passage that God Is For Us. All He asks is that we follow and trust Him.

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Back In The Saddle

A couple of years ago, I had the fun experience of a week long bike ride. You can read about it here.

I had plans to go back again last summer and had to cancel due to us moving unexpectedly.  That was part of God looking out for my health, which you can read about here and here.

I’ve signed up for another week long bike ride in June of this year. I’m really looking forward to spending a week on my bike visiting places I’ve never seen before and meeting other bikers that I have never met before.  Up until two weeks ago, I hadn’t been on a bike for more than 30 minutes since Thanksgiving(24 mile ride).  Two weeks ago, I rode my bike outdoors for two days in a row. On Monday, I rode 30 miles and on Tuesday, I rode 46 miles. It was the first time in over a year that I rode back to back days. The rest of the week I spent about two hours daily on the bike trainer.

It was a good week. It felt good to be back on my bike for that long of a time period.  Training has to be in full session now that I’m only about 6 weeks out from participating on that ride.

I also have started a new Bible Study.  Now, I already read 3 different “daily devotionals” each morning. But those are all very brief and a lot of times read over breakfast while Little Man is watching a little TV.  Not something that is continuously life changing.  At one time, I was always doing some sort of study, but I have gotten away from doing that.  I have missed spending that 30 minutes of Bible Study time either using a book or going through a passage of Scripture.

So … along with being back in the saddle concerning my bike; I’m also back in the saddle concerning having a personal time of Bible Study that is more than a 5 minute window each day.  I personally, need more than that to keep my walk with God where He wants it.

How about you?  Have you gotten lax on a time of Bible reading, study, prayer, etc?  Is there something you used to do in your service to God, that you have slowed down in doing?

If so … time to get back in the saddle …

Have a great week!

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Time for a New Valve

best-heart-valve-replacement-1

This is what I’ve learned as a 48-year-old man in the last 4-6 weeks:

  1. I have(had) a bad aortic valve
  2. I have a deviated left septum
  3. I have a hernia in my left diaphragm
  4. I have mild coronary heart disease

Here’s what I knew about myself up to 4-6 weeks ago:

  1. I’m in decent shape for my age
  2. I bike ride between 20-50 miles weekly
  3. I don’t smoke
  4. I don’t drink
  5. I don’t drink carbonated beverages, I love and drink a lot of water, 80 ounces daily
  6. I don’t get sick.
  7. I take a lot of vitamins daily … religiously
  8. I don’t take any medications
  9. I get colds 3 times yearly
  10. I don’t get the flu

The question, I keep asking myself is … “how could this happen to me?”  The question I kept getting asked by all of the nurses that assisted me this past week was … “why are you here?”.  I eat right, I exercise, I walk a lot, I drink a lot of water, etc, etc, etc.

So, what did happen? I don’t have an answer.  My doctors don’t have an answer. All they can tell me is over time my valve has gone bad and my arteries are slightly clogged.  I wasn’t born with a bad valve. Over time, one of my leaflets has simply gone bad. Since I’m in decent shape, the doctor told me I would have never had the normal “signs” consistent with a bad valve. I would simply be on my bike, or just walking, driving, etc and my valve would fail and I would immediately go into cardiac arrest. With no one around to assist me, it was a very real possibility that I would have died.  Those are not things I want to hear as a 48-year-old male. The fact that I would be just “rolling along” in my “regular life” and would drop down into immediate cardiac arrest is not something that I would ever want to happen.

I recounted in my last blog how God orchestrated everything so there was never a doubt as to Him being in control and how thankful I am that He is God and that He Controls my life. So, I’m just going to go right to my application

We can be great Christians in our own eyes. We can attend church, sing in the choir, lead a life group, be an usher, be a greeter, be a deacon, be on staff, etc and our heart can be just as far away from God as the guy who is saved, but is running from God and doesn’t spend 5 seconds in a church.

It’s time for me to quit considering myself a “good Christian” and just start serving God. It’s time for me to quit comparing myself to others; time for me to quit being content with my Christian walk; time for me to draw myself closer DAILY to God.  Time for me to quit going through life thinking everything is “okay” and start determining DAILY what God wants from me.  Time for me to quit thinking how others should think of me, and start thinking more of others, regardless how they think of me.  It’s time I recognized that I am a sinner just like everyone else around me. The only difference is that I have God’s Grace in my life. I should be sharing that Grace DAILY for God.

If I don’t do the above, and just a live a life of “christian assumption” then at some point in my life, Satan will bring temptation along the way and I will fall hook, line and sinker into “Spiritual Cardiac Arrest.”  As Christians, we will be used by God or used by Satan. We always have a testimony. We are always a witness. It is up to us what that witness looks like to those around us.

I had no idea how many physical problems I have and it could have taken my life. I took it all for granted. I won’t make that mistake again. Any day that God gives me is precious to me.

I do know the spiritual challenges I have and it can take my life and the lives of those I love. It’s time for me to replace/repair the valve of my heart spiritually and live a life for God and God alone.

How’s your valve?

How’s your heart?

Matthew 6:21(NIV)

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Proverbs 3:5(NIV)

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

Proverbs 4:23(NIV)

23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.

Psalm 73:26(NIV)

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

 

 

 

 

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Thank God for Warts

Yes, that’s the title of this blog. I apologize upfront for the title, but I think after you’ve read through this particular blog, you’ll understand the reason behind the title. Let’s start off with some verses:

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isaiah 46:9-11).

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11).

“This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:26-27).

I’ve told you many times before throughout these blogs that I prefer to be in control. I want God’s blessing on my life, but I want Him to follow my plan and bless my plan. Every now and then, He has to remind me through different avenues that He is ALWAYS in control and I must TRUST HIM.

One of those cases is my current life … let me explain …

3 Months ago, our landlord sells our home and we have to move.  Because of that, I have to cancel my week long bike ride.  Obviously I was disappointed. At the same time, Arlyn came to me and felt God wanted her to go back Full Time. We prayed about it; agreed; and she started FT at Mercy.  With Mercy, the insurance options were much better than most, so we switched to her insurance.

2 Months ago, I got this “wart” on the top of my head. Concerned it might be Skin Cancer, I went to the doctor to get a dermatologist referral. When the nurse took my vitals she asked me if anyone had ever told me I have a “heart murmur.”  Of course, I consider myself in decent shape and never go to the doctor. So, the quick answer was … “no”.  She referred me to a Cardiologist who ran a series of tests on me over these last several weeks.

After all of the tests, the cardiologist, the surgeon, and my primary doctor all agree my valve is not in good condition at all and needs to be replaced.  REALLY? AT MY AGE? Where did that come from?  Apparently, I’ve had it over a long period of time. However, because I’m in good shape, it’s never manifested itself the way most defective valves would manifest themselves.

Consequently, on Wednesday, August 9th, I’m having Valve Replacement Surgery. Crazy huh???

If I look back over the last 3-4 months, I can see God’s Hand at work through every single circumstance.  He orchestrated the cancelling of the bike ride(Would my heart have failed if I went?); He orchestrated impressing upon Arlyn the desire to go back FT so we got better insurance coverage; He orchestrated the “wart” so the nurse heard my heart murmur; He ensured the nurse actually checked my vitals and didn’t disregard the heart murmur.

If I would have been in complete control, I would have never known about any of this. Needless to say, God proved to me ONCE AGAIN that HE is ALWAYS in control and HE ALWAYS has a PLAN. I just need to TRUST HIM.

The only advice I can give … is ALWAYS TRUST GOD … NO MATTER WHAT!

Oh … and the “wart” that might be skin cancer??? Turns out it was an “inflamed wart” and not skin cancer and was easily removed …

Isn’t Our God an Amazing God?

Have a great weekend and remember to TRUST HIM!

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Lack of Trust and Thanks

It’s been almost 10 months since I’ve blogged … so let’s just jump right out of the gate with this:

“I don’t trust easily” … as a matter of fact, “I trust barely at all.” Now, that may seem rude, rough, and completely stupid to you. And you would be right; however, if I’m honest with you and honest with me, the statement, “I don’t trust easily” applies 100% to me. Why not trust do you ask? Pride; desire to be in control; feeling that I don’t need anyone else; been lied to by people in the past and yes, I’ve lied to people as well. For all of those reasons and more, I just don’t trust easily.

God knows that I don’t trust easily; so recently He ran me through a series of tests to see how much I would rely on Him. Well, to be honest; I failed. 6 Weeks ago, my wife felt led of God to go back to a FT position. We prayed about it and felt that was what God wanted us to do. Unbeknownst to us, our Landlord was in the process of selling our house at that same time. 4 weeks ago, he came to me and said he had sold the house and we had 30 days to move. Within a week, we had found a house, signed the lease and started the process of moving.

Clearly to anyone, God was in complete control the entire time and all I had to do was trust Him and follow His direction. However, because I don’t trust; and even though I could see God’s hand at work the entire time, I found the time to complain to God; get frustrated with God; get frustrated with the process; etc. Thankfully, God didn’t punish me for my lack of trust. He provided in spite of my lack of trust.

In the middle of all of this, He provided even more blessings than a house so quickly. 

He provided a brother-in-law, sister-in-law and mother-in-law to come down here and help us move. He provided my parents to help us move. He provided 6 more men to help load and unload the truck the day we moved. I must also mention it was Memorial Day Weekend. 

So, these families took time off of their holiday with their families to help us move. He also provided 3 women to help unpack and set up our kitchen and living room. Finally, He provided a family that came in, unpacked and set up our Guest Room and Benjamin’s Room. Then yesterday, He wasn’t through and provided a meal for us from a family in our Encounter Class.

What an amazing God we serve that He would reach down and bless us where we were completely moved out and almost completely moved in our new house within 2 weeks of finding out we had to move.

Like all of my blogs, this one is for me. I needed to write these things out as a reminder to trust God in ALL circumstances. To Let Him LEAD me throughout HIS plan for my life. Along the way, I need to ensure that I live a life of Thanksgiving; verbal Thanksgiving and active Thanksgiving.

I’m going to end this particular blog with two things:

#1 – I can’t thank enough the following people for being such a blessing to us:

Robert & Alice Fleshman

Janet Howard

Russell & Dana Howard

David & Jesse Barrett

Jim & Jacob Daniel

Jesse Berry

Edgar & Stephanie Cabrera

Luke & Erin Bowers

Jenifer & Dwight Siemens

I can’t thank them enough for reminding me what the love of Christ constrains us to do; for reminding me what a blessing our Church continues to be to us; for reminding me how I am to follow through in the same manner helping my fellow christian brothers and sisters. Thank you for the Christ-like example you are to me.

#2 – Lyrics from one of my favorite hymns:

1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.

o Refrain:

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away; Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear, Can abide while we trust and obey.

3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, But our toil He doth richly repay; Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, But is blessed if we trust and obey.

4. But we never can prove the delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey.

5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, Or we’ll walk by His side in the way; What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey.

Let me be the reminder for you … 

God wants us to simply put our trust in Him and show thanksgiving to those around us. God uses others to be a blessing. We must be willing to be that blessing to others just as others have blessed us.

Have a great weekend!

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The Touch of the Master’s Hand

As you already know, I am an 80’s child. Yes, I love 80’s music. Chicago, Genesis, Huey Lewis & the News, REO Speedwagon, etc. Pretty much I enjoyed it all. Honestly, the 80’s in general(not just the music) was the best decade by far(in my opinion)(yes, I’m biased). So, it stands to reason that I enjoy Contemporary Christian from the 80’s as well.

One song that has been in my mind for quite some time is “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. Now, before you yell at me that I’m wrong(yes, the song was released by Wayne Watson in 1992), however, since I was still in college, I count the early 90’s as the 80’s. Hey … this is my blog … I’ll write it how I want to write it …

Anyway … that’s not the point … the point is that song has been on my mind for a solid month now. I hope by now you’ve listened to it all the way through. Or, you’ve heard it before and now it’s stuck in your head also. If that’s the case … mission accomplished.

I was someone who ran from God as much as I could, for as long as I could. I did whatever I could to make myself be someone that God didn’t want …. that God couldn’t save … that God would decide to give up on. However, God had a plan and continued to pursue me. I’m so grateful that He never gave up. I’m so grateful that He did want … He did save … He didn’t give up on and He does have a plan. I’m so grateful to be a part of that plan.

It gets overwhelming at times when it hits me again how much He loves me and that He never gave up on me and that He saved me. I still don’t understand why. I still know I don’t deserve it. However, one thing I do know …

Because He did save me, I’m a member of God’s family.  I have an eternal home. I can have confidence in Him. I can rest in Him. I can trust Him. I get the opportunity to live for Him. I get the chance to show my thanks by living for Him. Do I make mistakes? ALL DAY LONG … I could start telling you my mistakes now and NEVER finish covering all I do wrong. However, I know that I can live a life of gratefulness because He gave His life for me. I am someone because of the “Touch of the Master’s Hand.”

Feeling down? Feeling depressed? Feeling un-loved? Feeling un-used? Feeling God doesn’t care?

He does care … He does love … He does want to encourage you … He does want to uplift you … He does want to love you … He does want to use you … He does care …

Just be willing for Him to come into your life … save you … and “touch you”

Short blog tonight …

Have a great week knowing God loves you!

 

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My #KTRide Experience

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About a year ago, Jerry and I begun to train for the Katy Trail Ride across the state of Missouri. Neither of us had ever performed a long ride before. This was hopefully the first of many that we would do starting with this year and continuing every year hereafter. Below is a synopsis of each days’ ride. Of course, if you know me, I always think of an application. Every day this past week translated to an application for me and my Christian walk. So; along with the synopsis, I will give you how God used it to speak to me.

Monday(St. Charles to Hermann):

The high was 98 with a heat index of 105 or more. We rode 64 miles that day. I had not eaten enough carbs the night before nor had I eaten enough carbs for breakfast that next morning. Plus, we didn’t really find a place to eat until around 1 p.m. that afternoon. Needless to say, I was tired and weak as the day progressed.  I ate a couple of bananas between our ride that started at 6 a.m. but that was all until we ate lunch at 1 p.m. It was a hot ride. Our bikes had an extreme amount of dust on them. There was no amount of training that could have prepared us for the dust and the heat that day. However, we finished. With the intent of this week being the last week-long ride we did on the Katy Trail.

Application for me:

Too many times, when the Christian walk gets difficult, it’s easy to want to quit serving God. It’s easy to question why God is allowing some things to happen. The Christian walk isn’t promised by God to be an easy one. It can be a hot, dry, lonely and difficult walk at times. The only way to make it through is to ensure that we are properly grounded in God’s Word; to ensure that we have a daily walk with Him. If we are not grounded in scripture, if we don’t have a close walk with God continuously, then we won’t make it through those difficult times in life.

Tuesday(Hermann to Jefferson City):

Tuesday it rained on us all day long. It wasn’t a downpour, but a steady rain nonetheless. About the time it would lighten up a little and the skies looked as if they were opening up, the rain would start back up again. We only rode 50 miles that day so that helped the day go by quicker. With the rain it was also a little cooler, so that was a blessing. However, the rain made it a muddy muddy trip. By the end of the day we were covered in mud and so were our bikes. However, Big O Tires in Jefferson City provided us a free lunch so that was a blessing. Plus by the time we made it to camp, the rain had subsided and we had clear skies the rest of the day.

Application for me:

Just when you think it can’t get worse, it starts to rain. You think you can’t take anymore and you’re hoping God will start changing your circumstances and it doesn’t happen. However, even in the middle of that rain storm, God provides some extra “shelter” or extra “blessings” to help you make it through this difficult time in your life. He gives us those to help us remember that He still cares and He’s still in control and we CAN trust Him. Then, at the end of that time period in your life, you can see the skies starting to open up.

Wednesday(Jefferson City to Booneville, MO):

This was by far the best day of the week. The rain cooled some things down a little(a little). I had learned my lesson and ate better portions of carbs and protein to keep me energized for a good ride. The rain had also settled the dust on the trail so we didn’t have that to contend with. We saw beautiful bluffs along the way and rode right next to the Missouri River. We were even able to get off; walk right up to the edge of the river and take some pictures. We rode that day for 53 miles. It was a great day and a great ride.

Application for me:

What a blessing for me that after those difficult times in my life, God always gives me those days/weeks/etc. that it is clear that He is in control; that He has already provided; and that my trust in Him is the correct thing needed. God DOES give us those “rose gardens” at times to relax and rest in Him. When those times happen, enjoy them, thank God for them, continue to praise Him, and continue to serve Him.

Thursday(Boonville to Sedalia, MO):

With the first 3 longest days of the trip complete, the worse was over. This trip was only a 37 mile ride. However, it was a constant incline 80% of the time. Not a huge incline(4%), but still a gradual incline out in the open sunny area. This made the ride a little warmer. Much like the day we had Monday. We still finished in good time, and we still felt good after the ride. However, it was definitely a hot, dusty day.

Application for me:

The “rose garden” won’t be around continuously. There will be times again where we struggle with some of the same things we struggled with before. There will once again be times of “dusty, dry, and thirsty” Christian living where we find ourselves fighting to win the same fights we’ve fought before.

Friday(Sedalia to Clinton, MO):

This was the last day of the week. It was a 39 mile ride. Little more dry and a little more dusty. But it was only 39 miles and it was the last day. We were full of adrenaline and averaged the fastest we had averaged all week. We felt like we had accomplished a great goal. We set out a year ago to do a bike ride such as this and we had completed it without anything major happening. Although we had questioned whether or not we wanted to do it again, by the end of the week, we decided there wasn’t any doubt; we did want to do this ride or something like it next year. Let the training for next year begin …

Application for me:

Once we’ve gone through those difficult times multiple times; Once, we’ve seen how God works in our lives; once He’s brought us through those times; it’s always a blessing to see how God takes care of us. Where at the beginning, we wanted to quit God, by the end we see how much He cares and how much He provides and we agree that our life is better with Him in control. So, when those times come again, it’s seems easier. Why? Because God has taken care of us before; He’s provided for us before; and now we can just go along serving Him and He provides. It’s almost routine for us. We just come to the point where we trust Him completely. Now, I’m not there yet. But, I hope one day to have enough faith and trust to completely let go and completely let God control my life. That is hard for me. But, it’s what God requires.

Where do you stand in your walk with Him?

Are you in the dry, dusty times? Stay faithful … He will bring you through.

Are you in the downpour of difficult times? Walk close to God … He will provide.

Are you experiencing the blessings God has for you? Be grateful and thankful to Him … He is your all in all.

Wherever you may be in your walk; stay close to Him and let go and let God. That is what He requires.

If you’re curious about more details of our ride, go to my twitter page and search #ktride. Plenty of pics and videos.

In the meantime … have  a great week!

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Happy Mother’s Day Mom

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We have some friends from church whose young son recently broke his arm. This morning he sat with his parents. He sat on his mother’s lap. You could tell he was totally content and totally at peace.

That’s the way I am around my mom. I am very blessed to have  an amazing mom. She raised me in a Godly house; with Godly principles; and Godly attributes.  She is what many call “A Prayer Warrior.”  From the moment I can remember anything as a child, I remember always seeing my mom pray. Whether it is daily devotions and prayer each morning(which she still does to this day), or a constant state of prayer throughout the day, or a time for prayer set aside throughout the day to pray for a need(or someone’s need), my mom consistently prays.

I tried my hardest to make my mom’s life miserable. I lied to her; I ran from God; I disobeyed her; I argued with her; I disrespected her; I made fun of her; etc. You name it and I did it, either as a child, teenager, college student, or an adult.  If it would upset my mother, mark it down … I did it.

However, that never took away the fact that she still loved me and still does love me. It never took away the fact that she always went above and beyond in meeting any need I might have. I still remember as a child that she cooked every meal; always served me and dad before herself; always cleaned up the kitchen; always did the laundry; always kept the house clean; etc. She worked tirelessly to make sure her house was always kept in order.

Yes, I’m an only child … yes, I’m spoiled … yes, I’m a mama’s boy … but I’m loved and that is ultimately all that matters. All that matters in life is that a son is loved by his mom; prayed for by his mom; given an example by his mom; and directed to God by his mom. We may not always follow that direction, but it is important that our moms lead us towards God.

As this Mother’s Day winds down, I just wanted one more time to wish my mom a VERY HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY. I also wanted to thank for never-ceasing to pray for me(please don’t stop). I wanted to thank her for being such a Godly example to me.  I wanted to thank her for her wisdom, guidance, love and care.

You may argue with me, but it is my firm belief(and I am right), that I have the best mom in the world. Hands down. Not even a contest.

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

10 [a] An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself[b] with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.[c]
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom …

I LOVE YOU …

Your Son,
Brent

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I Want to Be a Big Baby

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Did the title catch your eye?  It was intended too …

Have you ever held a baby in your arms or watched someone hold a baby in their arms? When you do, have you ever watched their reaction?  If they’re upset, they usually calm down. Why is that?  Because you give them comfort.  Here is what some of the “experts” say:

If you think your crying baby calms down when you pick him or her up is because of the warm embrace of your loving arms, think again: there is a more scientific reason.

In fact, what happens is that their heart rate slows and they ‘automatically and deeply’ relax.

Japanese scientists say their study is the first to demonstrate that a baby’s response to being carried is a coordinated set of nervous, motor and cardiac regulations.

The researchers, from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, say that picking up and carrying might be an evolutionarily(right … we know it’s a God Given Gift), and essential, component of mother-baby interaction.

In experiments involving ECG machines, which measure electrical activity of the heart, they found that babies’ heart rates slow down greatly as soon as they are picked up and carried.

Now, it doesn’t take an “expert” or a “study” for us to know that is exactly the truth. God created us as children to calm down in the arms of our parents.

So … next question … why do babies always feel secure when their parents are around? Again … let’s check in with the “experts”:

The attachment bond is the unique emotional relationship between your baby and you as his or her primary caretaker. This wordless interactive emotional exchange draws the two of you together, ensuring that your infant will feel safe and be calm enough to experience optimal development of their nervous system. The attachment bond is a key factor in the way your infant’s brain organizes itself and influences your child’s social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development.

The quality of the attachment bond varies. A secure bond provides your baby with an optimal foundation for life: eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust, and consideration for others. An insecure attachment bond, one that fails to meet your infant’s need for safety and understanding, can lead to confusion about his or her own identity and difficulties in learning and relating to others in later life.

Now … I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know.  I’m sure by now IF you’re still reading, you’re asking yourself, “What is the purpose of all this Brent?”  I’m glad you asked.

What happens?  Why does that behavior change as we grow older?  Now, I’ve jumped perspective on you. I’ve gone straight to a spiritual perspective.  When we first accepted Christ we wanted to be around Him all the time.  We wanted to learn about Him all the time.  We wanted to be in His Word; in His Church; worshiping Him; etc.  We spent time in prayer.  When things happened, we went to His Word for answers, or we asked other Christians for advice.

But as we grew “older” in the faith, we stopped doing that.  It’s like we decided we don’t need God anymore. We can handle everything that comes our way.  If that’s our perspective we will not have a fruitful Christian life.  We will not have a content Christian life.  We will struggle with anger, depression, frustration, lack of faith, etc.

Casting Crowns has a song out called “Just Be Held“.  That’s what God wants from us in our relationship with Him.  We feel the most secure when we have that close walk with Him. We make it through difficult times; unhappy times; maddening times; depressing times; frustrating times; etc. when(and only when) we have that close walk with Him.  We need to be close to Him to feel that security we feel when He “holds” us.

Psalm 122:7ESV

Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”

Jeremiah 33:6ESV

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.

Psalm 16:8ESV 

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Psalm 40:2ESV

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, …

1 John 4:18ESV

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Job 11:18ESV

And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.

Psalm 46:1ESV

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Psalm 9:10ESV

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Now, those are just a few of MANY verses in the Bible about God providing Security for us. What are you currently facing that makes you feel insecure?

Who the next president might be?

What our religious freedoms might look like in the upcoming months/years?

What type of society our children might grow up in?

How we will meet all of our bills each month?

How we will face upcoming medical costs?

Can we salvage this relationship?

While I don’t know the answers to the questions above I do know this: God IS IN CONTROL. He WILL take care of those He calls HIS OWN.  I just need to ensure two simple things:

  1. Do I have a close walk with Him?
  2. Do I strive daily to live for Him and serve Him?

Not rocket science. Not deep theology(if you know me by now, you know you’ll never find “deep theology” in my blogs).

Just a simple ….

Are you living for Him?

Is your walk Close with Him?

Be a Big Baby for Christ and “Just Be Held”.

 

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Lessons From Bike Riding Part II

As previously mentioned in almost every Blog I write, I get my “inspiration”(if that’s what you call it), from my day-to-day activities.  I’ve continued the bike riding I started more than 2 years ago. I only ride about once a week, but I have worked up to 50+ miles a day most of the time when I go.  If you’re looking for a fun way to keep in shape let me suggest bike riding.  Reward for effort; less strenuous on your body and just plain fun most of the time.  But that’s not the reason for this blog.

Today I had the privilege to bike with Jim Daniel, our music director from First Baptist Church Centerton. It was the first time we had ridden together. He mostly does mountain biking(Which automatically means he is a better man than I am. I wimp out when it comes to mountain biking). Since he hadn’t been on the trail as much, I felt obligated to keep him informed as to the bike trails’ difficulty as it occurred. However, feeling obligated and actually doing something about it are two different things as you well know.

Consequently, I found myself letting him know extremely too late … as in once we started up the hill … once we went around the corner and there it was … once we went through the tight curve. Thankfully, he is an experienced mountain biker(did I mention a better man than I am) and didn’t have any issues in spite of my “best intentions.”

As I drove home I couldn’t help but once again(as you should be used to by now) compare that experience with real life. How many times do we do that with each other?  How many times are we that friend who actually warns someone of impending dangers; impending sin; impending temptation; etc?

But, Brent, I don’t want to:

Rock the boat

Lose the friendship

Look like an idiot

Sound like a prude

Sound like I’m no fun

Be the only one

Mention something that blows up out of proportion

Mention something that I misunderstood

I can understand and have felt all of those emotions when someone I knew was walking down the wrong path and/or potentially making a wrong decision. But, here’s what we are faced with … what does the Bible say about friendships/counselors and how to handle them?

Proverbs 18:24
 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 13:20
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 27:5-6
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-0
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

John 15:12-15
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 12:26
A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Job 16:20-21
My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.

Proverbs 11:14

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 15:22

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Proverbs 12:15

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Now, that’s just a few of the MANY verses in scripture about how we are to befriend one another and be counselors for one another. So … besides those takeaways what else is there?

  1. Men, find a man(or men) for you to be accountable too … who you can “do life with”.  Each of us need that … whether we admit it or not.

  2. Women, find a woman(or women) for you to be accountable too … who you can “do life with”. Each of us need that … whether we admit it or not.

  3. Be intentional about finding someone. Don’t wait for “God to bring someone.” Put yourself “out there” and God will show you who that is. You’ll probably be surprised over time that it becomes more than one. 

  4. Be willing to challenge one another when we are involved in bad habits; bad decision-making; etc. God placed us in that person’s life to help them walk through life. Be willing to speak up. That’s what being a true friend is all about. It’s telling them what God wants us to say … not necessarily what they want to hear. 

  5. Be open to criticism. If someone God placed in our life challenges us on our bad habits; bad decision-making; etc. then be open to the fact they may be right. God might be using them to speak to us.  Don’t attack them … accept what they are saying with an open mind and seek God’s face to see how He might be using them to help us “wake up” and stop the negative direction we are headed.

  6. Be thankful to that person for being in your life … tell them … often

  7. Be thankful to God for bringing that person in your life.

  8. Stay in consistent communication with that person throughout your life … you never know when God will use them to be a blessing; challenge; etc. in His timing.

That being said … I can’t finish this without thanking my good friends(just to name two)

Paul Hayden(also Paul Hayden Photography)

and

Chad Coker

God placed these two men in my life at different times for different reasons. To this day we are great friends. We text occasionally or often(depending on the need). They challenge me to stay in the Word; to be the Godly man I need to be; to be the Godly father/husband God requires. They pray for me. They give me Godly advice. I wouldn’t be able to walk through this life without their friendships.

If you don’t have someone like a Paul or a Chad … find someone … be intentional about it and God will bring that man or woman into your life and will bless you for it.

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I Am A Sinner … And I’m Loved By God

I came down to Dallas this weekend with Chad to attend a Dallas Cowboy game.  Now before you start bashing my Cowboys, keep in mind you cut me I bleed blue and silver.  I love my Cowboys and I love my Sooners. Both of whom lost this weekend, so I’m experiencing “football depression.”  I’m not sure that’s an illness or if there is medication for it.  But, if it is an illness, and there is medication, I might take advantage of it.  Just being honest.

There was, however, a highlight of the trip. Chad suggested we attend @mattchandler74 church called @thevillagechurchtx in Flower Mound, Tx.  It seemed like a good idea, so we went to his church this morning.  They had a service called a “Celebration Service.”  Matt didn’t preach a message per se. There was a time of prayer/dedication of several new babies in the church. Followed by a good time of worship. Then there was 4 people who were baptized. That was followed by a video of several families/singles from The Village Church that had been led by God to serve overseas. The video gave us an update of how they were doing and how we could pray for them.  After the service was over, there was a number of families/singles out in the lobby talking about what area(s) God was leading them to serve as missionaries.

As the service progressed, the same theme seemed to be repeated in my mind. I’ll start with what struck me during the baptisms:

There was 4 different people baptized. Matt had each of them share their story of salvation with the church.  4 different ages. 4 different upbringings.  4 different life experiences. 4 different cultures. 4 different times of salvation. Out of these 4 different people, not a single one was perfect.  Not a single one had earned their salvation.  Not a single one was honored for what they had done, but rather for what God had done and still was doing in their life.

What struck me with the missionary videos was related to the baptisms. As each person(s) told us via video how God was working in their lives and their ministry, I realized that they too came from different cultures, different upbringings, different parents, etc.  Not a single one mentioned how great they were at being missionaries.  Not a single one mentioned what they could offer God.  They all humbly mentioned how they were thrilled to be able to serve God in this manner.

So … what was my takeaway from all of that?  I’m glad you asked!

First of all, I’m so glad that God NEVER gave up on me. Yesterday it has been 5 years since I accepted Christ as my Saviour.  It still overwhelms me that God kept giving me chance after chance after chance.  I still don’t understand why He never gave up on me, but I’m so thankful He didn’t.  Second of all, there is no certain “type” that God uses. There is not a certain “type” that God saves.  He speaks to all the same message of truth and salvation. Think of those he used in the Bible:

~ Noah was a drunk

~ Abraham was too old

~ Isaac was a daydreamer

~ Jacob was a liar

~ Joseph was abused

~ Moses had a stuttering problem and was a murderer

~ Gideon was afraid

~ Samson had long hair and was a womanizer

~ Rahab was a prostitute

~ Jeremiah and Timothy were too young

~ David was an adulterer and a murderer

~ Elijah was suicidal

~ Jonah ran from God

~ Naomi was a widow

~ Job went bankrupt

~ John the Baptist ate bugs

~ Peter denied Christ

~ The disciples fell asleep while praying

~ Martha worried about everything

~ The Samaritan woman was divorced (more than once)

~ Zacchaeus was too small

~ Paul was too religious

~ Lazarus was dead!

If you’re waiting until you’re “perfect” to accept Christ as your saviour, you’ll never make it. God accepts you JUST AS YOU ARE … God accepts you WHERE YOU ARE … God saves you AS YOU ARE … changes come AFTER salvation as God begins to mold you into His image.

If you’re waiting until you’ve achieved a certain “level of Christianity” to serve God as a missionary; church worker; Overseas Lay Worker; work witness; etc. you will never serve God … period.  He wants us to serve Him Today … Now … when He directs us.  Our growth comes as we serve Him. We grow because we serve.

Yes … I am a sinner … AND God loves me … no “buts” here … Before time began, God loved me so much that He developed a plan for His son Jesus Christ.  That plan involved unmerited love for me that overwhelms me and makes me thankful.

God did the same for you … If you have never accepted Him as your Saviour, He loves you and will save you AS YOU ARE and WHERE YOU ARE …

If you are wanting to serve God in some capacity, know He loves you and wants to USE YOU NOW and will draw you closer to Him as you serve Him.

The last thing that struck me is God used today’s service to speak to me and who knows how many of the 1,000+ that attended the service.  Matt didn’t even preach a single message.  But the message from the time of prayer, worship, testimonies, etc. was very CLEAR … God wants to save the unsaved AND God wants to use us if we’re willing.

Turn to Him today for salvation and/or to serve Him in some capacity…

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My Real Name Is Martha

 Now don’t get too worried.  Hopefully you’ll read past the heading.  It got your attention didn’t it?  That’s all I wanted.  

Here’s the story of Martha:

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.  And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving.  And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:38-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/luk.10.38-42.esv

In the biblical account above?  I’m Martha.  My “spiritual gift” is serving.  I’m the doer not the talker.  I’m the guy who moves chairs; sweeps floors; cleans the kitchen; throws away the trash; etc. 

If I’m not careful that consumes me.  I come home and I’m only focused on tasks.  What needs to be done.  What isn’t done because I’m behind.  What am I doing tomorrow.  What am I doing the rest of the week, etc. 

What’s wrong with that?  It becomes how I value who I am.  Instead of walking with Christ I’m working for Christ.  It can become more about legalism and less about relationship.  My family can be neglected.  My walk with God can be neglected.  My relationship with other Christians can be neglected.  Because I’m focused on the next thing I have to do. 

What’s the remedy?  Proper balance.  The work is necessary.  The serving is necessary.  But there must be worship.  There must be prayer time.  There must be a time of Bible Study.   

Where do you stand?  Do you focus primarily on tasks in the Christian life?  Do you believe that shows how “strong of a Christian” you are?  

Do you focus primarily on worship?  Do you believe that shows how “strong of a Christian” you are?  I’m in the first category, but neither one is true. The Bible clearly says “by your fruits you shall know them.” 

“Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.7.20.esv

I don’t know about you.  I can only speak for myself but I have a LONG way to go in that category.  I’m not the servant I should be and I’m not the worshipper I should be. As the children’s church song goes; “He’s Still Working On Me.”


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Lessons from Bike Riding

It’s that time of year again. As the weather warms, I love the fact I get to pull out my bike and enjoy the beautiful afternoons. To me there’s not much more exhilarating than going down a hill on your bike with the wind at your face. I like being able to coast if I want … go slower if I want … go faster if I want …

Every time before on my long rides, I have always gone by myself. Yesterday, a friend of mine(shout out to Jerry) came with me.  The longest he had gone was 11 miles. I told him I normally try to do close to 20. He said he was game and would hang with me the entire time. You know how us guys are … we’re competitive about everything with every one and don’t like to lose.

Several things happened yesterday on our bike ride:

  1.  We rode for 20 miles

  2.  We went a direction I had never gone before

  3.  I almost lost control going down a hill too fast

  4. I got sunburned. Yes, I didn’t put on sunscreen. Yes, I’m not smart

  5.  We pushed each other(passing each other) on the tough hills

  6.  We talked and communicated along the ride

    1. We talked about the different equipment on our bike
    2. We talked about plans for the summer
    3. We talked about our families
  7. We went through construction areas

  8. We went by fields, rivers, ponds, streams, across bridges and along streets

Now you know what’s coming next. It’s time for an application for me. It doesn’t matter what I do in life, I always think of how it applies to my spiritual walk. My problem is that I can develop illustrations for living for God, but it’s always harder to do the actual living. “God, help me to live a life that is pleasing to you … every single day.”

So, how does bike riding apply to our Christian walk?

  1. Life is a journey. It’s not a sprint; it’s not even a marathon; it’s not a 20 mile bike ride. It’s eternal life. The question we must face is what will we do with Jesus in that journey? Will we accept Him as Savior and live for Him daily? Or will we reject Him and spend eternity separated from Him and the blessing of Heaven.

  2. In life there will be times that we walk down paths we’ve never been before. Those paths may be unsure; those paths may be scary; those paths may be uneven; those paths may be dark; no one but us may even go down those paths. However, God promises to always walk beside us down that path. It doesn’t matter how dark, unsure, scary or traveled those paths are. God will always walk with us in our journey.

  3. Sometimes in life, we get so confident we don’t think we need God. We start flying through life with no controls at all. We lose control of our thoughts, emotions, etc. When we take control away from God we have no way to slow down the consequences of sin. It doesn’t matter how good things are currently in our life. We must always follow His guidance; in His timing.

  4. We need to be in God’s Word daily. If we aren’t familiar with His Word, we won’t be protected from the schemes of Satan. We will fall victim to temptation. Don’t ever underestimate the power of knowing scripture and having a consistent prayer life.

  5. We need each other to walk this journey. We(I) can’t walk this Christian life alone. We need other Christians to push us up those tough hills. We need other Christians to pray for us as we go through Valleys. We need other Christians to challenge us to live lives pleasing to God. God instructs us throughout His Word that we need each other to live for Him.

  6. We also need each other for fellowship. God created us to be relational. As Christians we need to be relational to each other. We shouldn’t bicker, fight, argue, etc. We are all walking the same Christian walk for Christ. The more we communicate with each other, the easier that Christian life will be.

  7. There will be times in our life that God uses circumstances to shape us; mold us; and grow us. Peter spoke of us being tried and coming forth as gold. We must be willing to be molded through different avenues in order for us to draw closer to God and live a better life for Him.

  8. When we live for Him, there will be beautiful stages in our life. We will go through struggles, but along the way He gives us moments to rejoice; moments to be thankful; moments to remember and moments to cherish for a lifetime.

It’s in those moments that I remember how thankful I am that God never gave up on me; that He convicted me of my sin and lack of salvation; that He saved me almost 5 years ago. My life is like a bike ride. Up and down …. up and down …. up and down … but, even still, God walks beside me convicting, encouraging, loving, etc.

I’m thankful for Him …

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Easter Reflections

John 20:1,11-18

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her,“Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

In this mornings Easter Service, our Pastor, Bro. Stuart started out by reading the above passage from the Bible. As he read, two things struck me that I hadn’t thought of before:

#1. She didn’t remember what Jesus had promised them. She was shocked to find the tomb empty. She thought someone had done something to His body. She never gave thought to the fact that Jesus had told them exactly what would happen and that he would rise again. All she could see is the circumstances in front of her. All she knew is there was an empty tomb, the body of Jesus was gone, she couldn’t anoint His body, she couldn’t follow through on her plan, and now she had no idea what to do next.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Jesus promises us throughout His Word that:

He will never leave us nor forsake us

He will comfort us

He will provide for us

He will protect us

He will strengthen us

He will give us victory over death

His Grace is sufficient

The list of promises continues throughout scripture. Yet, in spite of those promises, we still struggle believing when we are in the middle of something we don’t understand or can’t comprehend. We automatically look for every answer but God. We look at each angle except one that involves putting our trust in Him. We do just like Mary. We agonize over what we’ve lost; where we are; what’s going to happen; etc. All we see is our circumstances. We don’t see God at work.

#2. At that exact moment of hopelessness; helplessness; confusion; sorrow and tears flowing; Jesus showed up. Jesus could have been out having a celebration proving his resurrection; He could have been leading a parade to show God’s power; He could have been going from house to house saying “I told you so”; etc. However, He recognized that in that moment, Mary needed His presence; she needed His reassurance that His Word was true; and that He had not left her. He was right behind her and she didn’t even know it.

I’m so thankful that in those times of despair, frustration, anger, sorrow, etc. that God chooses THOSE times to show up in our lives. A friend of mine from Little Rock(Jason H.), always says, “God we need you to show up big in this situation.” or “God showed up in a big way in that occurrence.” That’s exactly what God does. In spite of our unbelief; in spite of our refusal to trust; in spite of our pride in trying to “fix” things ourselves; in spite of our thinking God has failed us; God shows up EXACTLY when we need Him too and He always knows exactly what to say to calm our fears and reassure us that He’s still in control. When we least expect it, God will be right beside us; behind us; lifting us up; holding our hand; sharing our burdens, sorrows, etc.

This Easter Sunday, I’m so thankful that the tomb is empty! That we serve a RISEN Savior! That He saved me in spite of my running from Him over many years. That He provides for me grace, hope, encouragement, protection and yes, even chastisement when needed. He is truly sufficient for EACH and EVERY part of our lives.

If you haven’t stopped to thank Him for all He’s done … do it today …

If you haven’t accepted Him as your Lord and Savior … do it today …

Happy Easter Everyone!

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Prayer Does Work

The hard truth to the matter is I’m not much of a prayer warrior. I grew up around a mom who prayed every single morning and throughout the day. However, I never picked up that habit and quality trait unfortunately. Prayer to me has the tendency to be a second choice. I try to manipulate things myself. Then if that doesn’t work … after I have exhausted all means … then I choose prayer. Why is that? Why don’t I go to God first in prayer and follow His lead? If I were to be honest, I would say it’s a pride thing. If you’ve read any of my blogs previous to this one, you know pride is something I have mentioned before. It is a continual weakness that I have yet to overcome.

Now, I didn’t say I didn’t pray and haven’t prayed. I just don’t do it as consistently as I should. Thankfully(as with many things), God hasn’t held that against me.

For the past 14 years, I have had a singular prayer request. Those of you who know me well know the request and have been praying with me. You can never underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer of yourself to God and prayer of others to God on behalf of you.

A few weeks ago, God partially answered this prayer. It overwhelmed me that He gave me an opportunity that I have been praying for for a long time. It was such a joy to see Him at work! My regret is I tried too many times to manipulate that answer myself and didn’t just let Him lead the situation.

Now I said He “partially answered this prayer.” That means I continue to pray for Him to open doors. But, I had to take the time to thank Him for bringing me this far and answering my prayer in a way I had hoped He would.

Of course, you’ve heard the old adage(which I believe) before that God ALWAYS answers prayer.

Sometimes the answer is YES

Sometimes the answer is NO

Sometimes the answer is WAIT

It’s the waiting part I don’t particularly like. That’s where I like to “help God out” and move things along.

However, that’s not my place in my Christian life. My place is to:

1. Do my best to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

2. Spend time in prayer for those around me that need Him in their lives

3. Be a witness to those around me that need Him in their lives

4. Request for God’s will to be accomplished in the areas of my life I need His power and involvement

5. Accept either YES, NO, or WAIT as His Will and continue to serve Him.

How’s your prayer life?

daniel-was-a-man-of-prayer-with-an-excellent-spirit PowerOfPrayer

I KNOW God always answers prayer

I KNOW God wants us to be content and happy in Him

I KNOW God wants us to serve Him

I KNOW I must accept His will no matter what that may entail

Need God to work in a miraculous way in your life? I know He will answer your prayer. As a matter of fact, He already has … it could be the answer to WAIT and see what He will do.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

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Are You A Samaritan or a Pharisee?

Simple question with a complicated answer. Who really wants to admit they’re a Pharisee? I know with my pride I have no desire to admit that I am a Pharisee. Of course, just saying that I am prideful puts me in the company of the Pharisees. Let’s look at the two separate people from Scripture:

Samaritans

Luke 10:33

“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”

Here you have a Jewish guy(most likely) that has been attacked and left for dead. You have a Priest and a Levite who ignore this man; going to the point of crossing the other side of the street. But, a man who is a Samaritan stops, washes his wounds, and pays out of his own pocket for the man to rest in an inn until he recovers from his wounds.  A man who according to tradition should have nothing to do with a Jew is the ONLY one who stops and cares for him.

Luke 17:15-16

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.”

Here you have a group of ten lepers that Jesus miraculously healed. ONLY one returned to give thanks. The Word mentions that this one thankful man was a Samaritan. The fact that Luke felt it necessary for us to know he was a Samaritan leads me to believe that some of the other lepers were Jews. So, once again, a Samaritan is the ONLY one to offer thanksgiving for what Jesus did in his life.

John 4:39

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”

Read the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4. She was shocked that Jesus would even talk to her. Jews weren’t supposed to talk to Samaritans. Not only did Jesus change this woman’s life but the minute she accepted Him as her Savior, she went and told others about Him. Because of her testimony and because Jesus was willing to speak to them, “many” were saved. Based on the humility of ONE Samaritan women.

Those are just a few of the passages that mention Samaritans. Notice that in each instance you see humility, thanksgiving, love, willingness to listen, forgiveness, no prejudice, etc. In each case they exhibit the traits God wants us to exhibit.

044-044-TheGoodSamaritan-fullPharisees

John 15:2

“And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

They were angry … angry that Jesus spent time with the needy; the down trodden; the brokenhearted; etc. Their ONLY focus was how dare He spend time with those who can’t repay Him back or make him(or them) look better in everyone’s eyes.

Luke 16:14

“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.”

Jesus had just finished teaching that money can’t take the place of God. The Pharisees immediately mocked Him. Why? Because they desired fame and fortune more than anything. Their only focus was “filling their pockets” and getting recognition from those around them.

Luke 18:11-12

“The Pharisee,standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

This is one of the more popular passages about the Pharisees. Here you see a man who cares ONLY about himself and how much he follows all that he’s supposed to follow and do all that he’s supposed to do. Doesn’t care about others … ONLY cares about his image and his popularity.

Harold_Copping_The_Pharisee_and_the_Publican_300

Those are just a few of the passages that mention Pharisees. Notice that in each instance you see pride, hatred, boasting, mocking, prejudice, etc.  In each case they exhibit the traits God wants us to avoid.

In conclusion, I ask the title question again … Are You A Samaritan or a Pharisee?

I’ll tell you my answer. I want to be the Samaritan 24/7 … but that doesn’t always happen. There are times that I am Pharisaical. There are times that I am prideful, hateful, boastful, etc. There are times I think I’m better than those around me. In those times, God once again convicts me of my sin and sets me right again.

My prayer is that I am always the Samaritan when dealing with those God brings into my life. It’s an overused saying but still holds true … “I may be the ONLY Jesus some may ever meet”. I want them to have a hunger for knowing Christ after they have met me … I’m not there yet … but I’m trying … so please be patient because God’s still working on me …

How about you … Pharisee or Samaritan?

Choose wisely … 

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Yes … I’m Unstable … I Admit it

James 1:8

“A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways.”

images (1)

I have recently been listening to podcasts of James MacDonald. One of the verses he used in the most recent message I listened to was James 1:8. It convicted me immediately.

I admit fully that based on this verse, I am at times unstable. God is a jealous God. He wants our full attention. He deserves our full attention and more. However, when things in my life become more important than God, then my mind dwells more on those things and less on God. When God becomes less in my mind, that is the definition of a “double minded man”. i.e. a man who focuses on more than just God. That man becomes unstable. Why? because he is focusing on more than he can handle.

Just being transparent, here are things that can overcome God in my mind:

Work
Sports
Family
Self
Television

I have found that the more I bury myself in these categories, the less I spend time with God. When I spend less time with God, my walk with Him suffers.

Sounds so easy, right? Stay focused on God … He takes care of everything in your life … and you’re not unstable anymore.

How’s your walk with God? How stable are you? How balanced are you? What’s coming in between you and Christ? Whatever it may be for you will cause you to struggle in your walk? You will become “unstable.” You will find yourself farther and farther from God.

What’s the solution? For me it’s several things:

Daily time with God and His Word
Weekly devotional time with my wife
Nightly prayer time with my wife
My wife and I holding each other accountable in our walk with Christ
Being a part of a men’s group that meets weekly and holds each other accountable
Being a part of a good, gospel preaching church

It’s not rocket science … It’s not some magic formula … It’s just simply following these steps. When I do these things regularly, my walk with God is better.

I don’t know what hinders you from serving God the way you should. But, whatever it is, get it out of your life. I don’t think any of us want to be classified as “unstable.” The only way to keep that from happening is to stay focused on Christ and His Word.

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