Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Midnight Hour at The Hot Spot

A circumstance in the life of our family reminded me afresh this weekend to recognize God's hand in the little providences of life. 

In 1991, our high school youth choir at church sang a song by Michael W. Smith called "Hand of Providence."  I vividly recall the rehearsal in the sanctuary choir loft when our young inquiring minds wanted to know, "What does providence mean?"  We stopped H. S. Yarborough, our director, and he carefully and thoughtfully tried to give us an explanation that we could understand. 

Merriam-Webster defines providence as "divine guidance or care."

The evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem gives a lengthier one . . .
God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.  (Systematic Theology page 315)

When we find the front-row parking space at the movie theater, it is easy to recognize providence.  "Thank God!" we exclaim.  However, when a friend dies in a sudden car crash, it is much more difficult to recognize this theological reality.  Such is part of the push and pull of finding a relevant faith.

This past week, my family surprised me with tickets to the Clemson and UNC football game at Death Valley.  Though we are not huge football fans, we enjoy once every two or three years traveling to Tiger Town and experiencing the highs and lows of Death Valley.

We tailgated, visited Mr. Knickerbocker, paid $6.00 for a Sprite, experienced the 25 most exciting seconds of college football, cheered with the crowds, took pictures of the balloon launch, ran into old friends, and enjoyed the band at halftime.

Being a pastor-family, we knew that Sunday morning would come quickly, so we decided to leave early and beat the crowd.  After walking 1.3 miles to our car, we got out of Clemson at a good time.  After traveling on I-85, we took our shortcut exit through the country.  Traveling that dark road, I noticed several unfamiliar lights appear on my dashboard.  Being a man, of course, I ignored them and drove harder. 

Suddenly, weird things started happening.  The turn signals no longer worked.  The headlights went out.  Then, everything on the dash went to zero.  The RPM's, the speedometer, and everything else bottomed out.  Two days earlier I introduced our family to the 1980's classic tv show "The Greatest American Hero."  Ralph Hinkley's car begins doing weird things as he drives in the desert.  Suddenly, a UFO appears and gives him a super suit which gives him super-hero powers.

So, when the dash went berserk my daughter leaned over to her mother and said, "Maybe aliens are about to appear and give Daddy a super suit."

Finally, we pulled into the only gas station on that road - a nice big Hot Spot with lots of lights.  After getting the car jumped and checking things out, my father-in-law determined that the problem was the alternator.  So, there we were at the Hot Spot in the middle of no-man's land way out in the country at 10:45 at night.  I had my wife, three children, and my father and mother-in-law. 

To make a long story short, we called a member of our church who lives not terribly far from there.  He graciously came out about 11:30 at night and took my six travelers to our home.  He called later and offered to come get me, but by then I had secured a tow truck.  Thank you, Joe Pitts, for your Good Samaritan help.

My family arrived at our house at midnight.  I had the joy of spending two hours in the Hot Spot.  I looked at lots of packages of crackers, nuts, and candy bars. 

The wrecker arrived at 1:00am and took me home.  He wanted cash on the spot.  Now, it is a challenge to come up with $140.00 cash at the Hot Spot in the middle of deep and dark country at 1:00am Sunday morning.  So, I told him that if he drove me through the ATM at the bank in our town, he would get the cash.  So, we pulled into the bank together about 1:30am!  A first for me.

What a good feeling it was to arrive at our house at 1:45 and see the big blue van settle into our driveway.  I pulled into bed about 2:30.

Thinking over the experience the last several days, several obvious inconveniences come to mind.  What a mess to deal with that late on Saturday night when my in-laws are with us.  How not fun to fork out the money for a wrecker and then more money to fix an alternator.  How tiring to get up and teach Sunday School and preach after only four hours of sleep.

However, when I dig a little deeper, I find one of the providences of God in my life for which to celebrate.  We drove out of Clemson before the horrific after-the game traffic.  What if our van shut off in the middle of that mess?  We drove about 20 miles from the university to our short-cut exit off of 85, and then we made it about 20 miles on that dark and lonely road until arriving at the gas station.  That Hot Spot was the only station open on that road.  From the Hot Spot to Laurens, SC, there is virtually nothing on that road.  Most of it is a narrow, two-lane road through nothing but country. 

With our alternator out, which means there could be no hazard lights to warn other vehicles of our predicament and our cell phones having sketchy reception, that could have been a disaster.  I cannot imagine my six passengers walking on that road at almost midnight in such dangerous conditions.

So, I have been thanking God instead of complaining.  Alternators go out.  That happens to most vehicles after so many years.  We stopped at the single-best spot for us to stop between Clemson and Laurens.  My father-in-law's presence helped me determine the problem.  My friend Joe lived close enough to offer assistance.  And, I got to experience the Hot Spot at the midnight hour.

The French Door Connection

I want you to read the following article, written by my friend Carol Roper of Fountain Inn.  Carol's article A Marriage that Started with Spaghetti, appears in the October edition of Guideposts magazine.  However, the following article is one she wrote about a time in her life when God met her and her husband in a very providential way.  The first time I read it, I was amazed by the sovereignty of God in this particular circumstance in her life.  I think it will bless you too . . .

I sat in the middle of the den floor crying. I’d had enough of our little mobile home in the country.

“Can we please move into town?” I begged my husband, John. “It’s lonely and scary out here. I can’t take it anymore.”

After some discussion, he looked at me doubtfully, “Okay, if you can find a house in town for under $45,000, we’ll look at it.”

Read the entire article by Carol Roper here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Godly Friendships

1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:1-42

Life-Lesson:   Jonathan teaches us how to submit to God and how to submit to friends.

Jonathan was one of the best gifts God ever gave to David.  – Keith Kaynor

Prov. 17:17; 18:24

Eccl. 4:9-12

Literature offers us great stories of good friendships: Orry Main and George Hazard (North and South); Anne Shirley and Diana Barry – her “bosom friend” (Anne of Green Gables)

God knew that David needed an intimate friend to walk with him through the valley that was ahead of him.  Intimate friends are rare in life.  There’s something about an intimate friend that causes your souls to be knit together.  It’s what we call a kindred spirit.  – Charles Swindoll

Jonathan’s friendship was one of the few positive things David had to fortify himself for the decade of fugitive living that lay just ahead.  He would need to draw strength from this in the years to come.

A surprising fact:      David was about 19, Jonathan approximately 50, and Saul near 70.

4 Characteristics of a Close Friendship

1.         A close friend is willing to sacrifice.

Ø  He wanted to give something that belonged to him and was meaningful.

Ø  They are not stingy with their possessions.

Ø  You can hardly impose on this kind of friend.

Ø  He doesn’t keep score.

Ø  He is there to assist in whatever way needed.

Ø  Unselfishness prevails.

2.         A close friend is a loyal defense before others.

Ø  Not a fair-weather friend.

Ø  Won’t speak against you when you’re not around.

Ø  He not only defended his friend but rebuked his father for his attitude.

Ø  No pettiness, no envy, no jealousy.

3.         Close friends give each other complete freedom to be themselves.

Ø  When your heart is broken, you can bleed all over a friend like this and he will show understanding.

Ø  He will show compassion.

Ø  He won’t confront you in your misery.

 When a good friend is hurting, let him hurt.  If a good friend feels like weeping,   let him             weep.  If a good friend needs to complain, listen.  An intimate friend doesn’t bale.  You  can be yourself, no matter what that self looks like.

4.         A close friend is a constant source of encouragement.  

Ø  Someone has said, “Loneliness is the most desperate of all English words.”

Ø  Jesus surrounded himself with friends.

Ø  Jonathan sought out his friend.

Ø  He sees David at the lowest moments, frightened and bewildered, and he brings him encouragement. 

Ø  “I understand how that feels.  You have every right to have those feelings.  There’ll be a brighter day some day, but right now I’m here with you, no matter what.”

The friendship of David and Jonathan was a true friendship that transcended the circumstances in which both men found themselves.  It was a wholesome, God-honoring relationship that God used in the lives of both men – and even in the future lives of their families.  – Swindoll

Friendship Matters


1.         Biblical heroes modeled that it is healthy to have a few close friendships that you know     on a deeper level than everyone else.

2.         Some friendship are seasonal – they serve a specific purpose in a specific season – but they are not intended to be for every season.

3.         Friendships will change, and some friends will walk away from you. 

4.         Every friendship experiences disappointment.  To disappoint and be disappointed is to       be human.

5.         Friendship should not be limited by age.  A more important factor is an equal          commitment to God.

6.         Remember the long-range view of friendship.  Situations and abilities change over time.  Jonathan could bless David at first.  Years later, David could help Jonathan’s   family.

7.         Strive to be true friends with your spouse.

8.         Only Jesus will be your most intimate and trusted companion – forever.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Man of God

They left him in the lion's den alone to surely die
Daniel had prayed to his God, day and night to Him he cried
In that deep dark pit his eyes were not on the roaming beasts
For He knew his God and was stayed on Him, the One who brought release


Be faithful man of God
This is not the end
God is searching all the earth
To strengthen  his servants and his friends
Keep interceding for the lost
Keep lifting high the blessed cross
He will reward you, faithful man of God

Exiled on the isle of Patmos John seemed very much alone
He’d been boiled in oil and persecuted, this earth was not his home
But in the middle of that trial, he received the Revelation
And as he saw and wrote of His Lord above, he entered jubilation

One pastor on his knees alone praying for his church
The devil tries to discourage him, and stop him from his work
But God hears that man and honors him, and will stand right by his side
Keep loving, sharing, and preach the Word, for you will receive your prize


Rhett H. Wilson

Copyright 2000

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In Times of Despair

The following is a fantastic article reminding us of how to trust God during times of despair . . .

"There are devastating times in our lives that stretch everything we know and believe. We are in pain—at times physically, at other times emotionally, and sometimes both. Some of these seasons last much longer than a few days, and the physical strain can take a terrible toll on our emotions. Conversely—when we are continuously despondent and disheartened, our bodies can suffer as well. Frustrations and setbacks bombard us at an alarming rate, undermining our every confidence. Just when we think we will get better, more bad news hits us.

We wonder why God would allow all the agony we are experiencing. We ask, “Why me, Lord? Why now?”At the same time, the enemy is doing his best to make us question whether the Father really loves us—bringing up old sins, faults, and mistakes that have already been forgiven, and insinuating they disqualify us from the Lord’s blessings. What makes it even worse is that joy is just outside our reach—and we have no hope of taking hold of it. The sense of loss, helplessness, futility, and dissatisfaction with ourselves can be absolutely overwhelming.

Have you ever experienced this? Have you faced the dark depths of despair—wondering if you’ll ever climb out? Have you wondered, Why isn’t the Father helping me? I am trying to serve Him. Why has this situation only gotten worse instead of better? Why doesn’t He heal me? You cry out to Him and He comforts you, but the trial does not end and you cannot understand what He is doing. So you question, Has the Lord failed? Am I so far gone and so intensely damaged that He cannot help me?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Six Traits Every Writer Must Develop

Writing is one of those rare things that is both an art and a craft. Art is applied creativity usually meant to share with others. Craft is the skill used to create the art. A painter must be able to do more than envision the finished work, she must also have developed the necessary technique to move a mental picture to the canvas, or sculpt a three dimensional image. Some are gifted with the ability to conjure up great ideas but lack the craft, the skill necessary to bring the idea to life. Writers must be able to do both.

Here are five traits, five qualities, every writer should possess:

1. Fearless imagination. This is the ability to conceive a plot, recognize an important subject for an article, or discern a much needed topic for a devotion. Fearless imagination means:

a. A willingness to ask "what if" questions and then spend sometime thinking about the answer.
b. An ability to shut out the negative voices in our head or in our social and family circles.
c. A willingness to have more ideas than can be produced by a single author.

Read the entire article by Alton Gansky here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Feeling the Squeeze, part three

Currently I am preaching on the life of David from the book of 1 Samuel.  Chapters eighteen and nineteen show us three sets of trials God allowed David to experience.  In each set, David learned different lessons.  First, he learned how to deliver himself.  Then, he learned to allow other people to deliver him.  And finally, at the end of chapter nineteen, God put him in a situation where David could only depend upon God. 

David was feeling the squeeze and learning to trust God . . .

"Those sustained periods of preparation fueled the future effectiveness of each choice servant.  They learned the value of growing deep, of spurning life’s shallow life so they could minister out of the overflow of the inner life.  That is precisely why superficiality is the curse of our age.  Our shallow lives offer no promise for lasting impact.

The exceptional work for David was that he would lead the nation of Israel for forty years – in fact, for forty of their greatest years.  He received that remarkable appointment by divine decree.  However, we forget he waited thirteen years before he actually became king, living as a fugitive, hunted and haunted by Saul.

Why didn’t David assume the throne of Israel at age seventeen?  Wasn’t he more qualified than bumbling, self-willed Saul?  Actually, he wasn’t.  The Lord knew that only a man seasoned by years of life’s lessons and protracted times of solitude and obscurity was fit to be the next king."

-       Charles Swindoll, Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit

It is what V. Raymond Edman called “the discipline of delay.”

The delay that instructs and prepares saves time, never loses it.  From it one can walk with a step of assurance and a heart of flame.  - Edman

When it comes to walking with God, there is no thing as instant maturity.  God doesn’t mass produce His saints.  He hand tools each one, and it always takes longer than we expected.  - Swindoll

3 Different Responses to Trials and Wilderness Times

First,    I don’t need it!           This is the response of pride.

Second, I’m tired of it!           This is the response of shortsightedness.

Third, I accept it.                   This is the response of maturity.

"Then something painful happened to Mr. Murray.  Miss Carmichael records that this is how he met it.  He was quite for a while with his Lord, then he wrote these words for himself:  'First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place:  in that fact I will rest.  Next He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.  Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.  Last, in His good time He can bring me out again - how and when He knows.  Let me say I am here, (1) By God's appointment, (2) In His keeping, (3) Under His training, (4) For His time.'"               - V. Raymond Edman on the life of Andrew Murray

David is Delivered by God (19:18-24)

Saul and his men go after David, but God delivers him (19:18-24).

Gradually, David was losing all his support, everything he might have leaned on: his position in the king’s court and in the army, his wife, and now Samuel.  David’s emotional stability is slowly eroding.  The once calm, confident young warrior is feeling the squeeze.  – Charles Swindoll

3 lessons learned by depending on God alone

1. We learn His sufficiency and grace (2 Cor. 9:8; 12:8-9).

2. We learn His omnipresence and omniscience (Ro. 11:33-36; He. 13:5,8).

3. We learn to depend on Him alone (Prov. 3:5-6; 2 Cor. 1:9).


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Truett Cathy's Faith Favored Chick-fil-A

Great commentary by Todd Starnes . . .

The vandals caused thirty thousand dollars in damage to Truett Cathy's home.

But it was the words they left behind that bothered him the most. Filthy language - scribbled on the walls -- by a pair of pre-teen girls.

But Mr. Cathy asked police not to prosecute the young vandals. He feared a criminal record might tarnish their lives. So instead of jail - Mr. Cathy worked out a deal with their parents.

Read the entire commentary by Todd Starnes here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

God Works Out of Sight

Elmer Towns shares a great testimony in his book Fasting with the Lord's Prayer.  Twenty-one years after becoming a Christian, Towns fasted for the first time under the leadership of Jerry Falwell.
Towns and his wife had two house payments, one in Lynchburg, VA, where they had moved, and one in Chicago, their previous home.  They decided to fast for the house to sell.  For six months, they fasted on the 15th of each month, asking God to sell the house in Chicago.
When it sold, they talked with the buyer at the closing.  He told them that the first time he looked at the house was six months earlier on the 16th - the day after the first time the Towns' fasted.  Then the buyer said that for some reason he returned to look at the house every month around the 15th. 
Towns asked himself, What if we had not continued to fast on the fifteenth of every month?
Sometimes when we seek God, we don't see immediate results.  If we do not give up, this develops our faith and gives God room to work.  I love what Towns writes that he learned, Once you start fasting, don't quit.  God may have begun to answer your prayers out of sight.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Unprepared President

Michael Goodwin hits the nail on the head in his summation of the Obama Presidency.  We have a man who was unprepared to be the president and now is unprepared to handle matters of danger and terror on an international level . . .

"The rising clamor over the beheading of two Americans, and rapidly sinking polls, forced President Obama to reassure the nation last week he had a plan to deal with the Islamic State. He did some of what he had to do, but only some, and so most military analysts believe the expanded airstrikes will not be a sufficient match for the size and weaponry of the terrorist army.

They miss the point. The disjointed speech wasn’t really about terrorism and launching a new war. It was about saving Obama’s presidency.

He is sinking fast and could soon pass the point of no return. In fact, it may already be too late to save the SS Obama."

Read the entire article, "Obama's Ship is Sinking," here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Back from the Beach

Our family always enjoys participating in the Springmaid Senior Fall Festival held annually at Springmaid Beach Resort, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  We look forward to catching up with some friends we have made through the years.  And we love Springmaid!

Here are pictures of Clyde Porter and me speaking to the crowd of almost 700 seniors.  They know how to have a good time!

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Mars Hills

Your life and your teaching - the two things Paul exhorts a young pastor Timothy to watch closely.

In today's world, Christians easily became enamored with how cool or trendy a pastor, leader, or movement appear.  In recent days two pastors, both known for breaking rules and setting trends, received criticism over their life and doctrine.

Eric Geiger offers a strong reminder that steady faithfulness over the long haul always scores higher on God's charts than trends and the wow-factor.  We need believers who simply stay the course, watching their life and doctrine closely . . .

"When I was in my late twenties, serving as an executive pastor, two young pastors suddenly seemed to burst on the evangelical scene. Their churches, both named Mars Hill, were growing rapidly, and a broader Christian audience was taking notice. The two Mars Hills—Rob Bell’s in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area and Mark Driscoll’s in Seattle—were never associated with one another and were very different in doctrine and approach. The only relationship between the two Mars Hills is that they both became broadly well known around the same time. It seemed that suddenly I began to receive emails from pastors and Christians asking if I had heard of Rob Bell or Mark Driscoll and what I thought of their ministries.

Bell was recognized as a creative, story-telling preacher who launched his Mars Hill by preaching through the Book of Leviticus. After he preached a sermon at a Willow Creek preaching conference with a goat next to him the entire time, multiple preachers attempted the same feat. His Nooma videos became Wednesday night youth ministry lessons in churches across the country.

Driscoll was recognized for his strong leadership and straightforward, biblical sermons. He had a brash edge to him, an edge that appealed to young men in the ministry with whom I served. His church was growing in Seattle, of all places, a place recognized as being one of the most unchurched cities in the entire nation."

Read the entire commentary by Eric Geiger here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Climb that Hill - Remembering Why We Came

Jim Stobaugh gives a tremendous word to homeschooling parents: "I would have climbed more hills with my children."  His article made me slow down and well up on the inside.

Here is the beginning of his article on the HEDUA website . . .

In Eudora Welty’s short story “Worn Path,” the elderly African-American grandmother protagonist, Phoenix, has come to the doctor to obtain medicine for her grandson. But, because of senility, she cannot remember why she came!

The nurse tries to tease out of Phoenix her reason for coming.
‘You mustn’t take up our time this way, Aunt Phoenix,’ the nurse said. ‘Tell us quickly about your grandson, and get it over. He isn’t dead, is he?’
At last there came a flicker and then a flame of comprehension across her face, and she spoke.
‘My grandson. It was my memory had left me. There I sat and forgot why I made my long trip.’
‘Forgot?’ The nurse frowned. ‘After you came so far?’
Do you know why you are starting? Are we at the place where we can get the solution to our problems, but have we forgotten why we came?

Read the entire article, "Remembering Why We Came," here. 

Joel Osteen and The Gospel of Christ

The following article by R. Albert Mohler is the best commentary I have read on the ministry and theology of Joel Osteen . . .

The evangelical world, joined by no shortage of secular observers, has been abuzz about the latest soundbite of note from the Pastors Osteen — this time offered by Victoria Osteen as her husband Joel beamed in the background. It is a hard video to watch.

In her message, Victoria Osteen tells their massive congregation to realize that their devotion to God is not really about God, but about themselves. “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God–I mean, that’s one way to look at it–we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we are happy. . . . That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. . . .”

She continued: “So, I want you to know this morning — Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. . . . When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”

Read the entire insightful article, "The Osteen Predicament — Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel," by Dr. Mohler here.