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Archive for October, 2013

I know you’ve heard the following statement a jillion times. “People are the product of their environment.” Some folks wear that statement like a badge of honor, but that’s not necessarily true.

We all know people who came from wonderful homes and someway, somehow, they took a one-eighty and ended up destroying their lives. And then there are individuals from terrible circumstances who determine to endure and learn to live joy filled, successful lives.

In either situation, everything depends upon your heart, your choices, your character, and your God.

The year was 1921 on a snowy Christmas Sunday morning in Sebrell, Virginia, Christine Bell Davis arrived in this world. She was sixth in a line of thirteen children—seven survived.

If success depended on environment, my Mama would have been a failure before she began. Her mother was married five times and their home was a movie epic titled Dysfunction. Yet a determined will to prevail filled my mother’s young heart from the beginning.

In her later years Mama wrote a book for her children and grandchildren, a legacy to show how different life was in pre-World War II years and beyond.

The first two husbands provided for the family and life, while not affluent, was certainly average or above. But as the list of husbands grew life changed. Especially as their income slipped below the poverty line. And one of Mama’s old quotes certainly applies here: “When money problems come in the front door, love goes out the back.”

At age nine, Mama, her parents, and five children (at that time) walked from Augusta, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida, on the promise of a job for the current step-father. That was the summer of 1931. And, if you remember, the stock market had crashed in October of 1929. The depression was in full swing and the country was in chaos. People had lost their homes, their savings, and their jobs. There was no money for bus fare. No car to drive and even if they had a car, no money for gas. No. Money.

They ate when food was offered by kind farmers, slept on bare floors in empty houses along the way—no electricity or running water. But even then the hand of God was on my Mama. This rag-tag group made it safely to Jacksonville. Finally. Mama has no idea how long the journey took other than a long, very long time.

Old deserted St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville was used to give shelter to the needy. And they were needy. The family set up housekeeping and Mama was allowed to enroll in school again. But after so many moves and never finishing a grade, she was placed in the second grade. However, Mama was a good student; and, in spite of several more moves, she skipped portions of the third, fourth, and fifth grades and by early 1934 she was back with her proper age group in sixth grade.

The following year, without explanation, her mother sent her to a small town outside Jacksonville to live with an unknown family on a farm. She didn’t remember their names and never knew why she had been sent away.

When she returned home the following year the family was falling apart. Another husband was in the home and several children had run away. My mother’s mom took a job in a small community near Jacksonville and took their younger brother with her. But she left Mama and her eleven year sister in the care of their seventeen-year-old sister. Three girls alone, with no money. Not wanting to care for them, the elder sister put the younger girl on a bus and sent her to their mother. Then without telling my Mama, the older sister left.

Mama was thirteen, by herself and frightened. She found a distant cousin, with five children of her own, who made arrangements for Mama to attend a camp for underprivileged children for two weeks. But this lonely thirteen-year-old had to walk three miles to catch the bus for camp.

When she returned her mother placed she and the eleven year old sister in the Parental Home for Girls and their brother in the Boys Home. Mama admitted being angry, but also said it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Again, God was in charge of Mama’s life. Keeping her safe. Providing situations and people to nurture endurance and strength of character in her and teach her life skills.

The next few years were secure, happy years, and Mama excelled.
But the year Mama was to be a senior in high school her mother took her out of the Parental Home and was told she must work to help provide income for the family. There were no social services to intervene. You obeyed your parents.

A couple of years after that Mama met my Daddy and the rest is history. They married, had two children, three grandchildren, and lived together fifty-five years ‘til Mama’s death.

This godly woman taught her children the principles of God’s Word by the way she lived and treated others. Mama loved to sing and cook. Her favorite sayings: “Actions are caught—not taught.” And, “If you don’t want to get in trouble—don’t be where trouble can happen. . .” have stuck in my head through the years and I’ve passed them on to my children and grandchildren.

We weren’t a wealthy family by the world’s standards but she and Daddy provided a secure home for my brother and me. They cared for us and loved us and their grandchildren.

In the final months of her life Alzheimer’s had robbed Mama of almost everything. She was in the hospital when I called to check on her one evening. The nurse said Mama was groaning about something and they couldn’t find out what was bothering her.

I asked the young woman if she was familiar with church hymns. She said “yes,” so I asked her to go, lean down close to Mama and let me know what she was saying. It must have been four or five minutes before the nurse returned. I could tell she was weeping, when she gasped, “I can’t believe it. Your Mama isn’t groaning. She’s singing Amazing Grace.”

Mama knew God’s Word and held onto His Truths. She knew first hand: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NAS).

Could you have weathered a childhood of destitution? Dysfunction? Despair? How about your children? If all their toys and cushy way of life was suddenly snatched away who or what would they cling to?

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NAS).

And He promises, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 NAS).

Through all the trials and heartaches Mama’s heart was fixed on Jesus. And she served her Lord by helping others. She refused to allow her environment to define who she was. She chose to trust God in the terrible circumstances and endure the trials He allowed in her life. And today her heart is at peace with her Lord. Her King. Forever. Just like Jesus promised.

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Every day, flush after flush, Americans attempt to rid their lives of three troublesome Christian character attributes like they were dung. The chain is pulled, over and over, sending these necessary principles swirling down the drain as if they were contaminated sewage. Sound ugly? Offend your senses? Sorry. It’s truth. And it’s DSCF2349happening throughout American and within the church. Day after day after day.

We don’t fear God.

We haven’t taught our children to fear God. We’ve danced a little two-step, ever widening the theology around this instruction for years. And now our children fear nothing. Respect nothing. And believe nothing.

We have rebelled against God.

“Fear God? He’s a God of love isn’t He? Why should I fear Him? I just need to show Him a little respect—right?”

No. That’s not what scripture says. The Hebrew word “yare” means fear, terrible thing, stand in awe, reverence. This verb connotes the psychological reaction of fear. To tremble. Be afraid of Him. Be afraid to disobey Him. Be afraid of the certainty of consequences if you do.

Satan whispers deceptive lies in our ears, just like he did to Eve. He twists and turns truth, misrepresenting who God is and what He has said. And, just like Eve, we choose to believe the devil’s lies.

Proverbs says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7 NAS).

We don’t love truth, because truth is hard. And we don’t like hard stuff. We don’t like change. And we don’t want God to change us. Oh, maybe a tiny bit, but not a radical change. That’s too much.

The truth is, if He doesn’t change us, we don’t belong to Him. God is perfect love, perfect truth, and perfect righteousness. We cannot come into His presence without being cleansing by the blood and the righteous covering of Jesus Christ.

When you walked the aisle and were dunked in the baptismal waters, if there was no change in your heart, your attitude, and your lifestyle, there’s a problem. If you sleep through life, sermons, and grief, never experiencing the transforming power of God’s love in your life, there’s a problem.

At the time of salvation the Comforter, the Helper, the Spirit of God comes to live in our hearts. From that moment we are given all of the Spirit we will ever have. But does the Spirit have all of us? Scripture instructs “do not grieve the Spirit of God.”

How many reading this blog today have children and grandchildren who ignore you? Want no relationship with you? Disobey your rules? Refuse to show their love, respect, and gratitude for your provision and position in their lives? Their actions hurt and grieve your heart, don’t they?

How much more the Holy Spirit is grieved if we have no desire to allow Him to transform our minds, hearts, and souls. When we refuse to study the truths of His Word, choosing to cling to the things we watch on TV, see in the movies and read in many books, things we know offend our righteous God and offend His Spirit—what does this say about our fear of Him and love for Him?

Earth is a training ground. Training for eternal life with God, under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, in a place of perfect righteousness. If we’re not happy to be with Him now, why do you think we’d be happy with Him, in His kingdom? What have you learned during your journey on earth that will equip you for eternity? What are your life patterns training you for? Do you love Jesus more with each passing day?

Revelation 21: 8 tells us “cowards, unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. These will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

God is not our fairy-godfather, who waves His hand to make our lives perfect. No. He tells us our hearts are wicked and deceitful. But Jesus will transform us to be like “trees planted by the river of waters” that will bring forth spiritual fruit. That’s not for some time bye-and-bye in the sky. It’s right now.

We are to wake up each morning asking for courage to put to death the deeds of our flesh. We are to walk in obedience to God’s principles and precepts, in spite of the trends of our times. Our lives are to bring honor and glory to Him. We are to show others what Jesus looks like.

I have a terrible temper. I’d love to tell you the Holy Spirit waves His cosmic hand and that nasty nonsense disappears out of my heart and mind. No, I have to make the choice, each day, to put this ugliness out of my life every time it flutters and builds walls in my heart.

When I obey, the Spirit helps me. He bolsters my courage to stand against the deception that lurks in the dark corners of my heart and mind. But I have to pick up the spike and hammer it into this evil character trait, as well as all the other behaviors and attitudes I know do not honor God.

Transformation takes a lifetime, but there must be forward progress. And we can’t muscle our way to change. There must be an individual relationship with Jesus. A longing to spend time with Him. An urgency to know His word. And time learning to trust Him.

The end of this age is drawing near. God’s people are to be watchmen on America’s wall. We are to sound the alarm. And who isn’t alarmed by the swift decent of this nation into calling good—evil and evil—good? We are to battle with one hand on the Word of God and the other hand on the pulse of discipleship. Teaching, comforting, and caring for those God places in our circle of friendship. So when the attacks come the Word of God will slice between truth and lies. Are you blowing a wake-up call to all who will listen?
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The battle will be fierce in the days to come. In order to stand firm our hearts must be trained, full of courage, and being renewed and refilled with the truth of His Word, the knowledge of His love, and the power of His Spirit.

We are called to be committed soldiers of the King. Soldiers who have a healthy fear of The Sovereign God of all creation. A good God who takes care of His own people. But a righteous God who will, on a day certain, judge His enemies. Forever.

Today there’s still time to repent. Time for the Spirit to transform your life. Time to learn to fear God, love HisDSCF0983 truth, and stand with courage.

But God’s clock is ticking. The hour is late. And time is short.

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Three words, my Father’s hands, stir memories in my mind and in my heart. Loving memories. Bringing tears.DSCF3557

In his early years my father’s hands were full of good times and fun. Memories of summers at the beach and the lake. Memories of Daddy pulling on a slalom, poking a cigar tight into the folds of his mouth, slapping that ski onto a mirrored lake behind a speed boat. His antics always delighting those watching, ‘til he sprayed a rooster-tail over those silly enough to be standing at the end of the dock as he flew by.
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With style and flare, he glided onto the white sand and hopped out of the ski boot. Cigar dry, still tucked in the safety of his lips curved in a smirk. But trials, life experiences, and illness wore much of his humor very thin.

However, his hands—aged, calloused, worn—taught me many lessons for which I’m grateful. Even though some of those lessons were what not to do. No, Daddy wasn’t perfect, but Sunday morning was certain. We went to Sunday School and Church. If I was too sick to go to church that morning, you were in bed for the day. And there was no TV in my room. Nor any phones or games—just Daddy’s discipline.
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Daddy’s hands delivered loving hugs and atta-girl praises and they also delivered discipline. Not often, but when the need arose, discipline was swift and sure.

What kind of hands does your father have? Rough and calloused work hands? Gentle and loving kind hands? Or impatient, harsh hands? Whatever hands your father displayed have shaped the memories and images you have retained through your life.

What memories will your child treasure about your hands? What memories will bring sadness to their hearts? What memories will they despise? Now is the time to build joy-filled memories.DSCF3205

We have a Father in heaven whose hands are always outstretched and full of mercy, love, and grace to all who seek a relationship with Him. A Father whose constant desire is to build in us memories of trust in His truth and faithfulness. A Father who never changes. Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But a Father’s whose greatest desire is to transform, shape, and mold us into the image of His Son.

And sometimes that transformation requires discipline.

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11 NAS).

Does that mean He abuses us to get His way. Oh my no, but if you’re His child, He will not let you continually walk in disobedience and rebellion. Throughout the Bible He urges us to “Return to Me… so that I may return to you” (Zechariah 1: 3 NAS).
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Then why have so many within the church turned their back on God, living lives contrary to His Word? And, at least for the moment, they believe there are no consequences.

Have we become so accustomed to life in the chaos of compromise we no longer desire the pure standard of God’s righteousness? Have we tolerated the constant dripping of unrighteousness into every portion of life so we now deem godly righteousness unpleasant and distasteful? Have we considered when Jesus rules and reigns there will be perfect righteousness? His righteousness.

When a church member continues living life on their terms, rather than God’s standard, it may be they have no relationship with Jesus. They may not be a child of the Holy God. Scripture warns, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me…and they did not know My ways; as I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest” (Hebrews 3:7-8,10-11 NAS).

God’s ways are not our ways. We have the patience of gnats. But His patience, love, and longsuffering endure…scripture says “Forever”. And as long as there’s life and breath, there’s hope for change. God is willing to forgive even the most despicable acts of sin, iniquity, and unrighteousness because of the payment Jesus made for all who trust and obey Him.
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But in that day, just like our earthly fathers, God’s final judgment for sin will come. Swift and sure. And in that final day, when the Church Age is over and Christ comes to claim His own, those left behind will suffer the severe judgment of the Lord God because they chose not to accept Jesus death, not to accept that cross covered with His blood, as full payment for every sin ever committed by men and women against a righteous and holy God.

That period of time is called the Tribulation. It will last seven years. And it will be brutal beyond our ability to comprehend. Many will be saved during those days and many will be killed for their decision to follow Christ. Many will harden their hearts, just like they’ve done all their lives, and these will be separated from God forever. Confined to abide with Satan and his demons in a place where “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48 NAS).

God never does anything unless He first tells His prophets. And He has, folks. The facts are all there. Given and protected by God’s hands, in the pages of His Word. Are you teaching these ancient words to your children and grandchildren? Do you know enough of the Word to teach these truths to the little ones in your care?2009 07 24 079_edited-1

Time is growing short. God has placed precious treasures in your hands, to model His hands of love and discipline. What are your hands teaching your children?

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