Prayer

One of the funniest stories in our house over the past few years involved a fight. Yes, a scuffle among brothers.

 Hollianne and I were out for dinner. We received a frantic call from JT, who excitedly claimed that Britton had broken the bracket on one of his braces. A few questions from Hollianne revealed that the boys were having a boxing match with some oversized gloves. Britton had connected with a punch that- while not hurting his brother- did manage to break the appliance on JT’s tooth.

 Hollianne told the boys that we would deal with the situation once we got home. After getting off the phone we laughed about ‘boys being boys’ and recalled times from our own youth when similar accidents happened.

 We witnessed a humorous sight once we arrived home. JT rushed to the door to show us his broken braces and let us know that Britton was upstairs in his room- waiting on us.

 We climbed the stairs to talk with Britton. As we entered his room we saw our six year old kneeled down on the floor! He had his hands clasped and was praying the most fervent prayer I’ve ever seen him pray! Britton was scared of what might happen in terms of punishment.

 While we got quite a chuckle out of this situation, it was a good reminder of how I often approach my own prayer life.

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

 How often do we intentionally pray? I’m not talking about a quick prayer as we get out of bed in the morning. Nor am I referring to having a brief prayerful thought before we go to sleep at night. I mean a REAL prayer. A conversation with God.

 And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7

 Prayers should be thoughtful. Prayer gives us a direct line of communication with God. That’s humbling to think about, isn’t it? It’s our opportunity to thank God for our blessings and to tell Him our concerns and requests.

 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17

 I was given a tip several years ago by someone that I consider to be a prayer warrior. He carried around an index card in his wallet. When a thought crossed his mind about a blessing, concern or request during the day, he would simply jot these thoughts down on his index card and then meditate over these written ideas during his prayer time.

 Whatever your method of prayer, try to make it more intentional. We’ll all have times (like Britton’s desperate plea for mercy!) that prayer will be spontaneous. Let’s also encourage one another to make prayer a daily priority…one that we don’t take for granted.

 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:12

 Please pray for me. And let me know if I can pray for you.

 God bless.

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What’s your Goliath?

My youngest son, B, is a huge football fan.  B has always been fascinated by linemen.  He likes to watch the guards and tackles pull and block…opening up holes for the running backs or protecting the quarterback.  He likes to think about these massive men as protectors.  Men that provide obstacles to the defense and keep the offense clicking smoothly.

Unfortunately, we don’t always have guards and tackles in our daily lives- instead we feel like we are being blocked and pushed around.  We are all burdened by obstacles.  Whether it is a real, physical challenge or something that’s in our head…and only we know about it.  These challenges are real for all of us.

It was a scary situation.  A rough group of Philistines had settled in across from the Israelite camp for a battle.  A nine-foot mountain of a man, Goliath, had come out and challenged God’s people to a fight.  For forty days straight Goliath had taunted and insulted the Israelite army and nation- and every soldier was terrified to take Goliath on in combat.  It took a young shepherd boy…David…to answer the challenge.  David was insulted by Goliath’s taunts and threats.  He volunteered for the challenge wearing no armor, and protected by only his shepherd’s staff, a sling and some stones.

We know the outcome.  David, acting on faith, defeated Goliath with one accurate fling of a stone.  One swing of the arm felled an armored, angry giant.

It’s not that easy for us, is it?  Work, relationships at home, physical or financial stress and other daily concerns can create giant obstacles for all of us.  And the giants seem to move around.  Once one Goliath is addressed, another (perhaps bigger) giant appears in our path.

We have been given guidance on dealing with our giants.  Let’s consider Paul, our great missionary from the first century church:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  II Corinthians 12: 7-10

Paul had a physical obstacle that he fought every day.  Paul also had to live with a horrible past- a past that included the physical torment of Christians.  But Paul found power in his challenges.  Christ’s power was “made perfect through weakness” in Paul’s life.  Weakness became a source of strength.  We have that same promise today.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1: 2-4

Giants create incredible stress, but we have been called to look at trials as opportunities to refine our faith.  We can re-focus and call upon God for strength to handle the challenge, and try to look past the battle for the lesson it can teach us.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17: 20 

May we all seek the ultimate source of power when dealing with the giants in our lives.

God bless.

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Fishers of Men

The lake is one of my favorite places to visit.  We are blessed to live just a mile from Duncan’s Boat Dock on the Tennessee River, and within a few minutes our family can be fishing, kayaking, or enjoying a boat ride.  We do this often.

The water is a place where we can unplug and truly relax.  Fishing gives me time to think and reflect.

Do you ever think about the situation described in Matthew chapter 4?  Peter and Andrew were fisherman.  They made their living on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus approached them from the shore and invited them to follow Him.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.  They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.  Matthew 4: 18-20

Can you imagine the excitement Peter and Andrew must have felt?  Jesus was no stranger to these two brothers, as He had been preaching in the area and they knew of his life and message.  They immediately left their nets and boat and started their new work- fishing for souls.

I sometimes wonder what purpose God has for me.  We live in a busy, noisy society.  It’s often hard to focus on discovering God’s specific purpose for our life.  I struggle to focus on what God is asking me to do while here on this earth.  Discovering God’s purpose for my life is within my grasp, I just fail to truly seek the instruction.

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  Psalm 46: 10

Be still.

He has a plan for us.  We have been given gifts and we are called to use our gifts for the benefit of glorifying His holy name.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  Psalm 62: 5

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8: 28.

This week I will try to earnestly seek God’s specific purpose for my life.  I will be still, ask and then listen for instruction.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit- fruit that will last.  John 15: 6

May we all clearly hear our call to be fishers of men…and have the courage to accept it.

God bless.

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Fresh start

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the new academic year for Knoxville public schools. It’s a new feeling for Hollianne and me, as we now have a a child in high school, a middle schooler and our youngest in elementary school. School supplies are purchased and organized, new clothes have been bought and the backpacks are prepped. It’s off to school in the morning.

Our three are eager to get going.  The new year represents a fresh start.  New classes, new teachers and the opportunity to meet new friends.  Last year is a distant memory- any disappointments have been put away in anticipation of this new adventure.

All of us have this opportunity for renewal.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Fresh starts are made possible for those who believe in and walk with Jesus Christ.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… 1 Peter 1:3

Fresh starts.  And the confidence in knowing that the One who created the heavens and the earth is also concerned about us.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Tomorrow represents a big day for children and educators everywhere.  Hug your kids.  Pray for all teachers.

And be thankful for God Almighty.  Renewal is available for all.

God bless you.

 

 

 

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Election Day

“If I were President of the United States I would:  make some new laws, no drugs and no smoking, give soldiers medals, and make the world a better place.” Britton Carver- kindergarten (2011)

I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a democratic society.  It’s a blessing to be able to vote and participate in the election process.  Hollianne and I don’t take this for granted- and we stress the importance of voting to our kids.

As much as I enjoy the political process, I am happy that this election day has come and gone.  It was a particularly ugly campaign season in East Tennessee.  Negative ads littered our mailboxes, radio speakers and televisions.  Many candidates not only wanted to tell prospective voters about their credentials and accomplishments. but also went on the attack.  Anything to earn a vote, it seems.

Unlike this somewhat tough political realm, we are blessed to have already been elected.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  John 15:16

Jesus elected to be persecuted and die on the cross to take away our sins.  His decision afforded us with the opportunity for the ultimate freedom.  Freedom to live with our Lord and Savior.

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  2 Thessalonians 2:13

We have been elected.  It is our choice whether to accept this appointment or not.  Will we accept or reject this generous gift?

Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  Revelation 3:20

We have already been given the benefit of a win in the world’s greatest election event.  Jesus paid the ultimate price on that cross to give us victory.

Thank God.

 

 

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wedding gifts

California 2014It’s been 19 years since Hollianne and I exchanged our vows at the First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Tennessee. I had just graduated from the University of Tennessee and was working at a small college in Ohio. Hollianne was still in school and planning to begin her student teaching that next month in our new hometown of Marietta. It was exciting to see many of our friends and family gathered in one spot to celebrate our special day with us.

I can also recall all the wedding gifts that were given to us that day. They were piled up on tables in the reception hall of the church. We were so grateful for those gifts- as well as the ones received at various wedding showers earlier in the summer. We were poor as church mice, and these items were a great help in getting our home put together.

Since that time I’ve come to appreciate the other gifts that have accompanied our union on August 5, 1995.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they will become one flesh.  Genesis 2:24

I truly had no idea what kind of special friendship would develop with Hollianne.  I’ve been blessed with great friends since childhood and through my adult years, but Hollianne has become my best friend.  She has provided us with three beautiful children and a house full of laughter.  She picks me up when I need encouragement.  She makes me feel special and loved.  I love waking up and coming home to her each day.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  1 John 4:7

Another great gift has been an extended family.  While my immediate family is very small, through this marriage I’ve gained six brothers and sisters-in-law, two wonderful “parents” and seven nieces and nephews.  I’ve also gained close friendships and many great memories with Hollianne’s family. Best of all?  They’ve embraced me as one of their own.  I love them.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.  Proverbs 18:22

Hollianne makes me a better person.  She’s a great example of a Godly woman and she provides me with the best example of how I want to live.  She loves my mother and father and is an incredible mother to our children.  Hollianne wants me to get to heaven- and that’s the greatest act of love and support that I can have on this earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27

Weddings are special occasions, but the gifts over the years are what make marriages so special.

Celebrate your wedding gifts each day.

God bless.

 

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