One extra hour

We experienced a time change earlier this month. Most of us enjoyed the extra hour of sleep that following Sunday morning!

What did you do with that extra hour?

In Acts 8 we read about how God used Philip with an Ethiopian leader who was traveling from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah, and Philip- prompted to intercede by the Holy Spirit- asked if he understood what was written in the scripture. The Ethiopian leader asked for help, and Philip engaged him in study.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” Acts‬ ‭8:35-36, 38‬ ‭

It was a gentle nudge by the Holy Spirit that led Philip to engage someone…and the results brought another soul to Jesus.

It was unplanned and it didn’t take long.

I’m easily distracted during the holidays. There’s always something that’s keeping me from focusing on what’s truly important.

My prayer this week is to slow down and listen…listen to what the Spirit is whispering.

It may only take an hour.

Please let me know how I may pray for you. God bless and Happy Thanksgiving.

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You Get What You Don’t Pay For

Hollianne and I have a coffee problem.  It’s a bit of an addiction.  We love a good cup of coffee.  She and I sip on it all day long.

And I hate to admit it, but we’ve spent lots of money over the years on coffee makers for our home.  Machines that grind fresh coffee beans.  Coffee makers that allow you to make speciality drinks.  Machines that have more advanced settings than we’ll ever use.

And you know what? We’re always disappointed.  No matter how much we spend on coffee makers, eventually something goes bad. The heating element doesn’t work. The water reservoir doesn’t drain properly. The grounds drain into the coffee pot. 

A couple of months ago, Hollianne brought home a $19 coffee machine from Wal Mart. It was a basic Mr. Coffee brand- probably marketed toward college students. There are no special features…just a plain old coffee maker that you would expect to see in any number of hotel chains across the country.

And it’s perfect. The coffee is hot. Grounds don’t seep into the pot. It’s easy to use…and the flavor is incredible.

A wonderful product at a bargain price.

As believers, we have been given THE perfect gift…a gift that Jesus purchased for us.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23 

We cannot purchase the gift of eternal life. It was given to us by Jesus. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

A gift that we cannot buy…a beautiful promise of hope and peace. 

And unlike expensive coffee makers, Jesus will never let us down.

My prayer this week is that I’ll focus on the simplicity of the scriptures- and that I’ll reflect daily on the sacrifice of Jesus. 

And please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless you. 

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One less plate at the dinner table…

It’s a habit.

When Hollianne makes dinner at the Carver house, we set the table for five.

Carson’s departure for college this summer has changed that scenario. 

We were eating spaghetti before church on Wednesday night.  Without thinking- I set the table for our meal…and out of habit prepared five plates.

Only four of us were home. 

It was a sad reminder of our new reality. We miss Carson being there. 

We’ll see her this weekend. And for a few days our “home” will be complete- whole- again.

That joy reminds me of Luke 15.  This chapter has two parables of seeking something missing…and the thrill of finding it. My favorite is the story of the lost sheep.

‭So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:3-7

I can’t begin to fathom how much Jesus loves you and me.  He loves us unconditionally and wants us to draw near to him. Even when we are stuck in sin- Jesus still seeks us. 

We can’t run away from this love. He will always desire for us to come back. 

We’ll have five plates around our table this weekend at the Carver house. Our hearts will be full.

And I’m so grateful that Jesus will always have a place at his table for you and me.

Please let me know how I may pray for you this week.

God bless you. 

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Forgotten treasure 

Hollianne and I scored a “big pick” many years ago.  

We found an 80 year old piece of furniture buried deep in an old barn in Greenfield, Tennessee.  It had probably been placed there decades ago.  And forgotten.

It was covered in dust and straw, but we could see the potential in it. A quick wipe with a wet cloth showed the deep, rich wood.  It would be perfect for our dining room.
But life got in the way.  Our family was  growing and our jobs got busy. We never got around to restoring that old piece of furniture. 

It sat in a corner.  Over the years it picked up lots of nicks and scratches from pets, indoor basketball games and tricycle crashes.  It was in plain sight, but we had forgotten it too.

We recently moved and finally decided to have it restored. It was delivered to our home yesterday. 


We couldn’t believe our eyes. The old wood shines with a new mahogany hue. The brass pulls and handles glow like a new penny. 

It reminded me of my own life.  Times I’ve felt forgotten and neglected. And it was a painful reminder of the times that I’ve neglected someone….or forgotten about their value.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  Romans 4:6

We all have blemishes and imperfections.  We are forgotten…or we choose to neglect. 

But Jesus restores us and brings out the inner beauty.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
But God loves is anyway.  He loves us despite our faults and failings.  We are restored through his son Jesus. 

And those that we’ve neglected because they’ve hurt us? We need to remember that God loves them too.  

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:23-25 

My prayer this week is to work on the pain associated from being forgotten.  And to also work on my attitude toward those I’ve neglected.  

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Running away from your Bible

I’m a runner.

Well, ok…I like to think I’m a runner.  I’ve completed four marathons and a dozen or so half marathons.  But- my pace is slow, I’ve never won a race and my running form looks painful to the casual observer.

But still…I’m a runner.

I like the peace that comes from a clear head while running.  I love being outdoors and taking in nature.  I love the quietness of the minutes before daybreak.  I just love running.

There are many parallels between running and reading the Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

  1.  You don’t have to be very good at it to benefit from it.  Running is simple.  You just put one foot out in front of the other.  Walking becomes jogging- which becomes running.  After several months of training, the act of running becomes effortless.  The same is true with your Bible.  It’s God’s inspired word. You don’t need training to get started.  You just need to commit to reading, studying and praying over it.  A little bit of study leads you to want more.
  2. You don’t need a special place to do it.  In the past seven days alone, I’ve completed a three-mile run in a hotel parking lot, a four miler on a mountain trail and another run on an indoor treadmill.  Running is portable…you can do it anywhere.  It’s the same with Bible study.  You can study in the quiet of the morning or late at night.  You can listen to the Bible in your car between meetings.  You can download it on your phone and read it on your lunch hour.  It’s completely portable.
  3. The equipment is minimal.  In running, you just need a good pair of shoes to get started.  It’s the same with Bible study.  You don’t need anything but God’s word and a good notebook for observations and questions.  Just get going.
  4. It’s always better when you are training for something.  It’s true in running…if I have a race or an outdoor event to train for- I’m more motivated.  I have a goal.  The same holds true with Bible study.  If I’m teaching a class or participating in a study where I’m expected to be prepared- I work harder.  It’s good to have goals for your personal Bible study.
  5. You can enjoy it alone or with a group.  I love to run alone to clear my head, think about solutions to problems or to get in an uninterrupted prayer.  I also enjoy running with my family.  I’m blessed that we all get to race together- and enjoy training together.  When studying God’s word, it’s good to be alone sometimes to go at your own pace or study what’s truly interesting to you.  It’s also nice to have a group to discuss topics from the Bible…and to hold you accountable for study.

 

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Running legend Steve Prefontaine once said, “a race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding.”

It’s the same as studying the Bible.  It’s a work of art.  If  you commit to it, God’s word will pour into you and make you a new creature…transformed. It will affect and change every aspect of your life.

My prayer this week is to be even more diligent in my study of God’s word.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Homesick (or Home sick)

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I got sick on a business trip this week.

Simply put, I was hit by a nasty virus late Monday night and spent the bulk of the next twelve hours in a fetal position on a hotel bathroom.  Fever and chills soon followed.  I could only think about getting home.

The normal six hour drive took me over nine hours to complete.  It was a miserable way to tour the state- a stop at approximately every fifty miles.

My temporary contition was minor considering what others are currently experiencing.  I have friends who have serious conditions and are struggling daily to live.  But my illness was a great reminder to all of us who suffer.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

We all struggle at some point. Maybe it’s stress.  Sickness.  Depression.  Work struggles.  Family strife.

These conditions are a reminder of two things.

First, we have a God of comfort and peace.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

And that while our lives on earth seem important, there’s a better place that’s prepared for us.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.   Revelation 21:4

Our suffering on this earth is temporary.  There’s a place of peace, joy and comfort in Heaven.  It’ll be the ultimate homecoming.

Please pray for me to fully heal from this stomach bug.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Standing in Nothing But Your Underwear

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I interviewed for a job last week.

The most daunting task on the entire schedule?  The candidates were assigned a topic for a 30 minute presentation.  All members of the university family were invited…students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.   The auditorium would be filled with people.

The presentation would be fun.  What followed was the interesting part.  There would be an additional 90 minutes of a question and answer period.  Any audience member could come forward and ask questions of the candidates.  The comments did not have to relate directly to the presentation- but could focus on any aspect of the candidate’s career, background or thoughts on issues of the day.

I asked a few trusted mentors how to approach this portion of the interview.  They provided some advice, but basically told me that there was no real way to get ready.

One even remarked, “there will be a time during this process that you’ll feel so vulnerable and exposed…sort of like standing in public with nothing on but your underwear.”

He meant that when we subject ourselves to public scrutiny- there’s risk involved.  You might get asked a question or to comment on something that you normally wouldn’t discuss.  It’s the ultimate in transparency.

It wasn’t all that bad, as it turns out.

What if we approached our relationship with Jesus with the same view?

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  Psalm 139:1-4

Think about it.

Jesus knows everything about us. Every thought, every word, every action.

I rarely think about that.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Even though He knows all our flaws- He loves us anyway.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

We have unconditional love and support from our Savior.  We need to let go of our fears and relentlessly pursue a relationship with Him.

He’ll never leave us feeling bare or exposed.

Please pray for me to seek the relationship with Jesus that He desires and deserves.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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