Tag Archives: church
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”- Mark 16:15,
Yesterday was another day touring visitors at the Trail of Faith, and as almost always is the case, another day of receiving more blessings than those that could have possibly been given. Students from a summer camp program had come to tour the Trail. Their home church was in Puerto Rico, so they were bilingual, speaking Spanish primarily amongst themselves. They had been studying Waldensian history and using it as an inspiration to go forth into communities evangelizing the Word of God. This was the first group that I had ever known to have been actively recreating the actual acts of those ancient Waldensian peoples, so already, from the get-go, they had my attention and utmost respect.
As we made our way from one exhibit to the next, there grew a growing sense of camaraderie. From the beginning to the very end, I kept purposely reminding them that our goal for the day was not to lift up these ancient peoples, nor ancestry, nor any of this history, but that the primary and most important thing for them to take away was that God should be the center of their lives and that the Word of God was to be revered and protected with all our hearts. But, in a sense, I kept telling myself, you’re preaching to the choir. These kids, yes to me, they were still children being ages high school to college, were already walking the walk that sometimes takes many of us a lifetime to reach.
When we took time in the cave to sing, they chose, entirely on their own without an adult leader, to sing Amazing Grace in English. As they sang, their youthful spirit filled the darkest crevices of that earthen sanctuary. The echoes of distant voices reverberated through my being, and we could all feel the Holy Spirit indwell at that moment. One can never fully convey that feeling when it happens, but you can only be thankful for those brief moments of its presence.
As we entered into the Ciabas Church, we slowly entered after discussing the inscription above the front door and how well they had read it, unlike most classes of their age. Making our way up the gray, slate floor to the front, they began looking for the clue that I had asked them before entering to find what was missing. Their curious voices filled the air, as one by one, they asked a multitude of answers but had obviously noticed the solution. I confirmed that yes, they had answered correctly, that there was no cross. As they found their seats, one of the young men asked if he could play the piano. Another student piped in, “He’s very good.” Gladly, I shook my head, yes, and he sat down and began to play the piece that had been left on the stand before him. “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” The beautiful strains of the old piano, slightly out of tune, began to fill those empty passages of the recreated church. The sound echoed off the walls masterfully. Once more, feeling the Spirit, I found myself walking around to the back of the church and circling back up from behind as if I were in a distant dream, far away in another time. Again, I cannot convey to you how mesmerizing and inspiring this group made me feel. Blessings kept flowing like waters from the mountainside.
We continued on through history and the stories of unimaginable massacres, imprisonments, and forced marches into exile through the harshest, most deadly weather. As we made our way, their attention never wavered, their respect for the story never faltered. Having led many groups of students in the past, an adult was usually present, and by the later stages of the tour, were having to remind some of their students to pay attention. That was never the case with these young people. The more I shared, the more my heart went out to them and how respectful they were of what was being told.
Later on in the tour, while most of the group was inside one of the last exhibits looking around, a young man came up to me, and with tear-brimmed eyes, said, “You really have a heart for this, don’t you?” As he said this, he motioned to the Trail. I knew what he meant, as we both understood the connection to God through the story that had been shared that day. You see, when your life becomes a mirror to the history of a people that gave their lives to share God’s word in a place that was as formidable, harsh, and unforgiven to live as it was in their time and then to survived persecution from enemies against what you did, it was no matter that we had connected beyond the story.
As Jesus became one with his disciples, there should be the same sense with us today with our brethren in our own church communities. Our love of brother and sister should emanate like a beacon of light, as does God’s love for us. Giving our heart through the story of the gospels, no matter if it is being told through the history of the church or through the words in the Gospels, we must seek him with all our heart. It is then, and only then, when we know God and put Him first and foremost in our lives, that all else will fall into place.
Yes, it never fails that when we seek to share the Word of God with others, we often receive more of a blessing than we conceive of those to whom we share. “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”- Mt. 5:15-16
Seek Him first, share His Word, and plant the seeds of salvation for all to receive.
From seeing these young people, and knowing that their passion for evangelizing has already began at such a young age, one can’t help to be comforted by knowing that the future of God’s great commission is in good hands.
Thanks be to God.
Mt. 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
Acts 13:47, “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”
My journey to church this morning revealed the beauty of God’s creation in the flowers of spring. There is the reminder even in the third week of May that winter’s grasp is not gone. It is Blackberry Winter now in the mountains of North Carolina. Here and there, depending on your elevation, you can find pockets of white blanketing the landscape. Unlike the frozen precipitation, these are the tiny white flowers of the indigenous wild blackberries. They not only symbolize that in roughly two months, there will be the ripe, delectable berries for which they are named, but it also symbolizes that the last cold spell is upon us. To many folks, the temperatures drop far below what is considered normal during this time of year. While there have been many summer-like days with temperatures nearing the 80’s, during Blackberry Winter, there can even be a late frost with nighttime temperatures dropping near freezing or below.
While this seemingly unseasonable weather is not uncommon, it is still a shock to our senses. We quickly grow accustomed to the more leisurely days of warmth and look forward to the summertime, where living out-of-doors is more pleasant.
Why is it we so promptly become complacent in our lives and take the path of least resistance?
One could surmise that is simply our nature. We perceive the world around us through our senses, our natural instincts. When we rely on these alone, we are nothing more than the beasts of the field. Yet, God made us distinctly different from the wild animals of the forests and the beasts of the field. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Although we are of the earth, we have been given the ability to choose to serve a higher power – Yahweh. But too often, we get caught up in the worries and struggles of living from day to day and forget, if we knew at all, what our purpose is in life. Some never realize this or awaken to know God but live from birth to death in a valley of life where a shadow of death overshadows all that they do. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
It was in this vein of thought this past week that the scene of Jesus walking on the sea stood out.
First, in the Gospel of John, “And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.”
From the Gospel of Matthew, “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.”
Now, there is much to unwrap in these few lines of scripture. But if we focus on the idea of how the natural man perceives the world around him, and from this, either believes or rejects the supernatural, then we can find a greater meaning in this miracle. We see not only that Jesus walked on water, but that he called one out of the boat to do likewise. Yet, immersed in the surrounding passages are concepts that apply to us today.
“The disciples went down to the sea and entered into the ship. It was dark and Jesus had not come with them.” The ship was their comfort zone. Several of his disciples had been fishermen. Their familiarity with the Sea of Galilee would have made this travel almost routine. Like so many things in our lives, we stick with what is familiar. Going outside of our box is uncomfortable, yet Jesus told his disciples at the end of the gospel of Matthew to, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..” He wanted them to leave everything behind, going to the ends of the earth if necessary. But before they were prepared to embark on such a journey, they had to be shown that they were capable. When we sit in our institutional churches and hear the weekly sermon, too often when we walk out the doors to go to lunch, we leave it behind. We put our faith right next to the Bible on the shelf, where it waits until the following Sunday – if at all.
Then there is the point that Jesus did not go with them, “It was dark, and Jesus had not come with them.” As with Philip, when he said that “This he said to prove him knowing himself what he would do,” it is probably safe to say that Jesus knew in advance that he would purposely surprise his disciples. Yet, he didn’t just show up walking on the sea in the dark. It was far worse than that, for, “The sea arose by reason of a great wind which blew.” In the last scene of episode 4 of Season 2 of the series “The Chosen,” Peter makes a comment regarding the healing of the man by the pool on the Sabbath when Jesus could have easily waited, and Jesus replies, “Sometimes you gotta stir up the water.”
The disciples knowingly went out on the Sea of Galilee at night. Was this by choice, or was this planned? The winds often pick up on large bodies of water during the day, so the night crossing would have been safer and easier under normal circumstances. But these were anything but normal circumstances. Remember their comfort zone – the boat? Knowing that these seasoned sailors would haven’t been bothered by the night crossing, I like to think that Jesus did a little stirring up of the water that night. When we are shoved out of our comfort zone, it is then we realize we need Him most. So it was, that dark stormy night, after they had rowed 25 or 30 furlongs, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto their boat, and they were afraid. Yes, grown men, hardened sailors were now scared, so much so that Christ had to call to them, “It is I, be not afraid.”
Now, the Gospel of Matthew next tells of how Peter, possibly not believing that it was really Jesus, calls out to the Spirit, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” We must wonder if it was Peter’s disbelief or was it the fact that he was emboldened by the miracle that he called out to Jesus. Nonetheless, Jesus answers and simply says, “Come.” Peter then, fully vested in his belief, gets out of the boat.
Friends, this is the moment that we should all gasp!
For this is the exact parallel to our lives today. We have been asked to go to all nations, making disciples for Christ, yet, we cannot leave the church walls before we are swept back into the boat. We fail to even dare step out of our comfort zone for fear of drowning. Yes, it is a leap of faith. Yes, it is daring and will require more of your dedication and commitment than ever before, but think for a moment of those first few steps that Peter took.
For a few brief seconds, a man was walking on the substance that sustains life. It was not frozen; it was swashing all around; the sea was boisterous, scary, and dark. Yet, Peter stood on the water as if it were solid ground, as did the Son of God! For those brief seconds, Peter was able to walk again where Yahweh stood. When we step out in faith, the impossible becomes possible. When we put God at the center of our lives, we are no longer a slave to the sins of this world. We are set free.
Leaving the confines of our comfort level will never be easy. We cannot expect to succeed at every step. In fact, we will be forced to rely on Yahweh all the more. The next few steps that Peter took revealed how quickly we lose focus. For in that brief instance of time, as he stood on water, Peter quickly realized the tumultuous seas around him and began to sink. As John the Baptist told his disciples, “He must increase that I may decrease.” And so it is with us. The more we give up, the more we rely on Him to provide for us.
Lastly, we see Peter returning to the ship with Jesus. As the Gospel of John tells it, “They willingly received him into the ship.” Soaking wet, having nearly drowned, Peter is now humiliated but relieved to be back into the confines of the vessel. However, he is not alone, for Jesus is with them all. As we picture that dark night on the sea of Galilee, those men once more were shown how the impossible becomes possible when we give it all to God.
But there is one last thought to this story, one final twist – Christ got into the boat.
“So, what is your point,” you ask?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Getting into the boat, Jesus entered into their world. He didn’t have to ride in a boat, yet, as God coming to earth in the form of a man, Christ got into the boat so that he could prove he too was the Son of Man.
When the weather turns cold after we’ve become accustomed to the warm, beautiful cloudless days of sunshine, let us not grow bitter, for the landscape becomes white of blooms of the Blackberry Winter. Let not your world be troubled by the change, but embrace it and seek to go beyond what is comfortable.
Take that step out in faith and watch what impossible becomes possible.
And remember, the first step might be the scariest, but it will always be remembered as the best.
Thanks be to God.
 John 3:6 KJV
 1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV
 John 6:16-21 KJV
 Matthew 14:22-29 KJV
 Matthew 28:19 KJV
 John 3:16-17 KJV
In the still of the night, the word “Serendipity” came to me. There was no reason for the thought. There had not been any text that I had recently read that included the term. My first inclination was to write it down lest I forget. Unfortunately, I had not placed my journal by the bedside before going to sleep. Assuring myself that it would not leave me, I turned over and went back to sleep.
Of course, when morning came, the expression was gone in the midst, like the vapor of a dream.
Silently, the car made its way up the mountain. The turns in the bends, the fog, and the words of scripture which passed through my lips brought comfort in this predawn hour. Forgetting the day, the course of life, only the moment therein was alive. Suddenly, like a flash of light from the distant horizon, the word returned, “Serendipity!” Putting it in my waking consciousness, I vowed to retain it long enough to get it down on paper – and more importantly, to see what it meant.
the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“a fortunate stroke of serendipity.”
After reading the meaning, the definition didn’t sit well with my soul. A word within its meaning caused me to wince – “chance.” When we walk in faith, when our journey is fully directed by God, there is no chance. It was here, again as a moment paused in time, that the walk to church last Sunday came to mind.
Rounding the bend in the road, there was the continued reminder of mortality. Someone at some point dumped off a deer carcass in the bushes. Time and weather had aged the remains into a stark, ivory remnant that stood out amongst the gray of winter’s last vestiges. It was not the first time I had seen it. Yet, it remained as a tale of life gone on before, the morbidity of the season – bone against a dreary backdrop of one’s demise.
The thoughts of the journey my life had become began to emanate from those bones, as a subtle suggestion of that likewise, time would end for us all – some sooner than later. Yet, there was the continued push to learn, absorb, and become more than I once was. The season of growth had not just begun but had continued since the long journey began, now six years long.
My eye caught the rushing waters of the river and how they pulsated against the rocks, flowing ever more furious downstream, never stopping, never yielding. As my way continued, my direction was upstream, against the river’s current along which I walked. “So much like the life I live,” were the thoughts that seemed to flow into my head. How much easier my life could be if it weren’t constantly going against the tide. Yet, to serve as I have been called to do, there is no time to waste. There is an impetus to strive for that next hill of knowledge, to seek the wisdom that cometh from God only.
These are the times in which my life’s journey has become.
Then there is the comparison of the natural world, the secularism of man, pursuing itself – washing the multitude of humanity with it downstream to the ocean. We who seek God go against this current. Some can barely stand firm without being washed away, like those rocks wherein the water below crashes violently against. As long as they remain, the water, the worldly current complains in the tempest of thrashing white water. Some give way and are tumbled along, not happy with their displacement, eventually finding footing once more to continue their stance, while others never find a way to resist and are washed away with the multitude.
As my path found its way to the porch of the Collettsville General Store, I discovered that my arrival was greeted by a lonely Blue-Tick Hound, likely a hunting dog that had been lost in the night. He welcomed me as if this was his home and treated me to a gratifying pat upon his neck. Soon, we found ourselves sitting side-by-side on that familiar spot. Once before, two dogs, Barney and Otis, had likewise provided companionship when there was none other. As we sat, watching that tide of humanity rush by, like those frantic waters of the John’s River flowing behind us, we sought the peace of God about us.
Once more, the word pursed its impression upon this reflected scene – “Serendipity.”
May you find the peace of the Lord today, no matter how small the token. Embrace what God hath provided and pause for a moment, giving thanks. As my late father would say of moments like these, “The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the grass is green. What else could be better?”
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…” – John 14:27
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1 Thess. 5:18
There was a whisper in my ear this morning as I headed out for my weekly walk to church. “Pay attention to all that surrounds you,” said the still small voice. Fresh from pouring over the lesson plan for our Men’s Bible Study group at church, thankfulness was heavy upon my mind. Just days following Thanksgiving, the reminder of being so blessed with all that we have still rang true in my head.
The night’s crisp, chill was still blanketing the lower reaches of the hollers through which my path did trod. Crossing over the footbridge, the water beneath steamed when compared to the air above, making a mist rise before the trail. There was a surreal, gentleness beckoning. My eye was captured by the brightness of the carpet moss which blanketed the forest floor. Pausing to inhale the breathtaking beauty before me, the suns rays slid across the upper reaches of the mountain, finding their golden fingertips caressing the world in which I stood. Transfixed, my eyes followed the moss-laden tree nearby. My thoughts returned to being thankful for all that was and was to be.
From where I stood, the dark, foreboding tree glowed with an awakening of the dawn. The mist from the stream behind it rose meeting the sun’s rays, like a majestic dragon exhaling gusts of breath. Beyond, like soldiers standing arrayed in solitary posts, the remaining forest hid in the soft, gray air. Each one, coming to view as thine eye hath sought them, like the thanks that we often have to struggle to recall. The first is easy; the most recent, the greatest need met. Yet, then there are those that weren’t as significant; yet, they were obtainable. When we continue to look, more stoic images appear those nearly forgotten blessings; more answers to prayer, more promises that God had provided. In our simple minds, we are unable to keep pace with the graces we are so often provided. When we go to Him in prayer and give thanks, we may start easily, but when we really focus, like those hidden trees in the distance, they soon come into focus.
We’ve all heard the old cliché, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”
When we go to the Lord in prayer and give thanks, it’s often like that; standing in a forest. We start with those memories that are immediately before us; the imposing trunks that stand out. If we continue, we can remember another event or blessing to which we were awarded. Someone once said that if we truly knelt in prayer to give thanks, we might not rise again from our knees for days. It is with a devotion so tempered in gratitude to which we must seek each day.
Charles Spurgeon, the great evangelist, once said, “Thankfulness makes much of little.” When we stop to take note of our lives, like pausing deep in the woods in the early morn, we can begin to appreciate all that has been awarded us in our lives; even the most insignificant can be a hidden blessing to which we must give thanks. The depths of our graciousness should be no less than the path of righteousness upon which we trod. Through that dark wooded abode we travel, some only seeking the path before them, while others look beyond that which is before to that which is to come.
The prophet Nathan had a vision given to him by God, which he revealed to King David, “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.”
We should be reminded by Nathan’s revelation to David, that we must also give thanks to those things we are to come, not to just those that have already happened. When we go to Him in prayer, like the winding pathway of life, we cannot see all that is before. The twist and turns obscure the distance. When we fully trust in our Savior, we are promised that He will answer our prayers in time; not always our own, but always in His time. As such, as Nathan spoke to David, he was not only conveying to him the things that would be done by his son Solomon, but he was foretelling the prophecy of Jesus Christ. In essence, Nathan was assuring his King, that his prayers for a temple would be granted, but not in his time. As we learn later, the true temple, the one that which Christ indwelleth today, is no longer a building as David had wanted. The last physical Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. Yet, the temple is still alive and well today, as we, those who have accepted Christ into their lives are now the new temple; if only you would accept Him into your life and believe, confessing to Him your sins, so that they may be forgiven.
Yes, it is only as simple as pausing within the morning mist of the sun-kissed mountains to hear and see all that we should give thanks to God.
If only we might listen, lest we forget; giving thanks to all that was and was to be.
Thanks be to God.
We’ve often heard or used the phrase, “Dead-end job.” Whereby, we are referring to an occupation that has no future; no room for growth or lateral movement. Stairs that lead to nowhere are a lot like that. A normal flight of stairs are meant to take us from one level of a building to the next. This past weekend, after cutting and placing stringers for the Spiritual Retreat in place, and then setting the treads down, I sat at the top of the newly erected staircase and looked out at the vast, empty space that awaited on the second floor. My thoughts reflected back to when I had harvested the trees on this very spot a year ago. The stringers from which the stairs are made came from one of those tall pines, some of which still stand tall nearby. That was just one step of many to get to this point. There have been buckets of sweat, copious amounts of blood, and many a restless night’s sleep due to pain between then and now. For the moment, there is no money for flooring for either the lower or upper levels. The wood that had been cut has mostly been used or will be used on other framing aspects. It does not bother me for I know that in time, He will provide. Therefore, my perch only afforded me a vantage point of “What Could Be.”
Sitting at a desk behind stacks of papers to grade or bent over working on the engine of a car as sweat pours into our eyes stinging our vision, we often find ourselves asking the question, “Is this all there is in life?” Or perhaps another, “Where can we go from here?” Likewise, our spiritual life can come to a similar crossroads. All our lives we have spent laboring to build a comfortable world around us; acquiring material wealth, pleasant homes, fancy cars, all to find in the end, we often need very little of all that we have spent a lifetime to amass. In time of solitude, we are often left in moments of recollection, finding that memories are probably the most cherished possession we own. When we look back, we cannot see where we are going. In reflection, we find ourselves sorrowed in that moment. To look back is to see only where we’ve been, not where we are headed, there is a sense of loss; a passing of time that we cannot recover.
Time; once it is gone, it is gone forever.
However, living in the past can only bring sorrow and regret. To turn around and face the future brings new life, a chance to start over for some. Yes, there is a place for which we all should strive to reach, an obtainable goal that was made possible to each of by the most precious sacrifice ever known to mankind: Jesus Christ. We cannot know the Father until we come to know the Son, Jesus. “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.,” Jesus told his disciples (John 14:6). To gain the glories of heaven, we must first accept Christ into our lives; there is no other way.
Too often, we imagine that we have properly prepared for what is to come. You know the person I’m speaking of, the one who can tell you that they have spent their entire life going to church, they believe they have achieved salvation simply by being in the building, by going through all the rituals necessary; following the letter of the law. When asked further how they know they are going to heaven, you find the wheels begin to fall off their spiritual wagon. Just because you park your vehicle in the garage doesn’t mean it’s a car. Doing deeds or works to obtain heaven is not how we receive His amazing Grace. No, my friend, that is not salvation, that is religion. Religion cannot get you into Heaven, only by the Grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ can you be saved and obtain salvation from your sins. By the water and the Spirit, we are saved, and those who receive Him shall have eternal life.
In Genesis 11, mankind built a city and a tower known as Babel. The people were extremely proud of their accomplishment, so much so, that God came down to observe their amazing feat. What he found was that man had believed himself to become an equal with God. They had literally built what they believed was a stairway to heaven. God immediately realize the error of their ways, “and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” Not only was this a false foundation of achievement, but it was also a structure dedicated to idolatrous worship. The offspring of Noah had once again, as the wicked before the flood, fallen away, taking up the worship of idols, even to the point of dedicating the massive building to a multitude of gods. The peak of the monument was capped with an altar dedicated to the god Bel-Merodach, along with all the signs of the Zodiac.
Many Man-Caves are places men often build in their homes or in outbuildings where they can escape from the world, or as some say, “Get away,” from the rest of the family. Here, they decorate the walls and surroundings with all manner of icons that make them feel happy or comfortable; neon beer signs, sports team logos, and many more images that portray that to which they have become a fan. To become a fan, one must follow a team or sports figure to the point you become “fanatical” about them, hence the term fan. If we look at it from the perspective of the tower of Babel, they have essentially erected their own altar to Bel-Merodach. In essence, their decorations become their worship to other gods as did those in Babel.
Thankfully, the focus of my building, even though someone recently asked if it were to become my Man-Cave, is not of things of this world; rather, it is “What is to come.” As I sat atop the stairs to nowhere, it was apparent that they were only the precursor to, “What will be.” From this point forward, one cannot say what is next other than I know in my heart that from here, my purpose is to serve Him in all that I do. Even in the construction, this mindset has enveloped my every action. Someone asked, “Did you build it all by yourself.” Other than my son and Leroy stopping by occasionally to give me a hand, for the most part, literally the answer would be yes. But in truth, all along, He has been here with me. Even now, as I sit in the twilight hours of day typing by the temporary lights hanging on nails, His Spirit is with me. So, no, truly I’ve never been alone.
The dead-end job for me ended five years ago when I chose to leave everything behind and step into the journey of serving the Lord. That was the first step on the stairway. Since then I have lifted many an often-weary foot upon the next tread. Each time, my view came from a high plane than before.
You must be careful when ascending the flight of stairs. One wrong step can send you tumbling to the bottom or worse, end up in serious harm. Just as physical injury can result from a fall; likewise, if our footsteps in faith are not grounded in the Word of God, we can find ourselves falling away, succumbing to the secular desires of the flesh. It is only with only one sure step at a time that we can advance safely. As my friend Jimmy Clark said today, “God will only give us so much insight, knowledge into the future at a time.” Those footsteps upon the stairwell are very much one in the same.
And you may ask, “Where would that insight, that knowledge come from?”
There is mainly one place that I can direct anyone to answer that question, and that is, “The Bible.” Yes, He may speak to us at times or give us visions, but most assuredly, the most definite place to find guidance from the Father is in the Word of God.
One word at a time.
One step at a time.
Let not your stairway lead to nowhere my friend.
All you have to do is repent of your sins, confess with your mouth, and believe with your heart, and then simply ask, and ye shall receive.
Tomorrow is too late.
All I can do is share with you how. The rest is up to you and Jesus.
My prayer is that everyone who reads this will find Jesus if you have not already done so, and in the end, receive their salvation.
I love you, as the Father hath loved me.
Thanks be to God.
“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” – John 4:35-38
It had been a long day at school, so it was not by choice that I sat waiting for the salesperson to work on our order at the wireless store. I tried to remain positive and tell myself that God had put me there for a purpose. At that present time, it wasn’t obvious; at least not yet.
We had put off switching to a new wireless carrier for some time, but it had finally gotten to the point if we wanted to communicate as needed, we were going to have to use the service that provided the best coverage for the area in which we lived and worked. The young man that waited on me was very kind and extremely courteous. As he began the process of transferring data from one device to the other, we started talking about where I worked and found that we had mutual connections. It wasn’t long before it became apparent, he was a believer too. In fact, after we shared some personal testimony, he told me that he had given his two weeks’ notice just moments before I stepped foot in the door to answer his calling to become a youth pastor at a nearby church.
It was then I began to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit ripple across my forearms.
Suddenly, his phone rang, and he had to excuse himself from our conversation.
About that time message appeared on my old phone which we had not yet ported over to the new service. The news was from a distant relative, one that I’ve never met in person. A few years back, I had shared with him part of our Waldensian ancestry and how we came to be. He seemed interested, but not beyond just wanting to hear about those ancient names. The story beyond, from whence we came didn’t seem to intrigue him; at least not from my vantage point. Once I provided him the information, we only remained in contact through shared “likes” on social media. However, from what I saw from his posts, his life once was devoured by pleasures of the flesh. He found his comfort at the end of a bottle, so the pictures said. But the message at that moment that came to me as I sat in the cell phone store in Boone was that God had found a way to reach him.
As I read with eyes of joy, he told a friend who had inquired about his post, “I haven’t touched a drop in over a year.” He then went on to say how he was regularly attending a church in his community. My heart leaped for joy, and I stood up, rejoicing out loud. The questions raced through my mind, “Had I somehow planted a seed?” “Did God use that seemingly insignificant contact years ago to begin working on my distant cousin?” Those and many more rushed through my mind as my new friend got off the phone smiling at my exuberant demeanor.
“I guess that was good news,” he said pointing at my phone.
“Oh, yes, more than I can explain,” pausing to gain understanding of what had all just transpired.
Then the words of Jesus came rushing in, “And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.”
In all things, no matter how small, nor how insignificant, God has a purpose. As I stood there in that small store, I had found another soul that had recently taken another leap of faith. As we talked the thought of another time and place when my just being somewhere was God using me, and again, it felt the same. Yet, now as I stood there, another soul had found something greater than that which is in the world.
With each tiny seed we plant, we may not reap the harvest, but it is God that will bring the crop to fruition. It is not us that will change that being. It is not our doing that will cause another to turn to Christ; it is God, and God alone.
Last Saturday, as we sat watching the Western Piedmont Community College graduates ascend the short stairway to the stage, the feeling of a proud parent swelled our chests. In what seemed like yesterday, I was holding him in my arms for the first time, watching the helpless lifeform, totally dependent upon his mother and father to survive. Our son now stood in his graduation regalia receiving his diploma, then leaving the stage, returned to his seat. His independence is a culmination of 18 years of love, care, and patience. What God hath given life unto us, we have taken that responsibility and nurtured him into adulthood. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” reads Luke 12:48 And so with eyes brimming with moisture, we know that soon he will leave us. It is only natural.
We had planted the seed. It is up to him to continue to allow it to grow. But the seed had begun to ripen much earlier.
For those many years of his life, we have taught him how to live in faith. At the tender age of 10 years, he found Christ. His salvation came in a little model Church at the Denton Bluegrass Festival. Every year, Doyle Lawson would offer those who wanted to attend, a church service at the close of his festival. One of his good friends, brother Dale Tilley, would most often be the preacher. And so it was this Mother’s Day weekend when we sat in the row just behind Doyle’s band, that we heard brother Tilley bring another spirit-filled sermon to a weary group of bluegrass campers. After brother Dale Tilley had nearly finished his altar call, my weekend was just about to get even better. Without any idea what was about to happen, my boy leaned over to me and whispered the words into my ear that I will never forget, “I want to be saved.”
My heart leaped for joy.
Upon his request to wait until everyone had left, I motioned to brother Tilley that we needed to talk, and as everyone ushered themselves out, the door closed and we were alone. Brother Tilley directed us through the process as we knelt in prayer and supplication. There on that ancient wooden floor of the little white clapboard country church, my son spoke the words and prayed the prayer to ask Christ to come into his life. With tears in my eyes, we stood up to leave. It was just brother Tilley, my son and I. As we reached the back doors of the church, we opened them to find that we were not alone. There under a clear, blue Carolina sky stood Doyle Lawson and his entire band. The entire entourage was still standing in a row on the steps of the church, they had paused from their busy schedule, waiting to celebrate my son’s decision.
The tears ran down my cheeks as I watched entertainers turned Christians welcome another one into their fold.
It is a day I will never forget.
The seed had been planted, but another reaped the harvest, but we rejoiced together.
God has a purpose in everything we do. What will become of the young man at the cell phone store? I may never know, but it really doesn’t matter; God knows.
One day, when we reach that far distant shore, there will be a welcoming into the fold. We’ll find the angels of the Lord standing in a row, pausing for each of us, ushering us into those heavenly gates. On that day, the answers to the questions we never knew will become obvious.
What a day it will be.
Thanks be to God.
The gentle rain begins to fall around where I sit, perched high above the forest floor below in our screened in porch. In the distance, Grandfather Mountain sleeps under a blanket of clouds. Today, there is a certain “farmer” comfort to my being. When the soil has been properly prepared and the seed planted in its bed, it is then the farmer works hand-in-hand with his Creator, knowing the rains will come; all in God’s time. Once the skies open, it is like a sigh of relief for the earth below and the soul within; and so it is this evening.
In reflection of this past week, there is indeed a particular comfort to many more things than just the soft shower from above. Our Spring Break has been a much-needed regeneration of mind and body.
As I walk along the river on my trail that leads to Church, I oft wonder how many others would also love this route I take. Indeed, I could just as easily jump in the car and be at the doors of our sanctuary within five minutes, but there is something more spiritual about that thirty-minute journey that makes me want to walk instead. There is something healing in that journey. The majority of my pathway winds alongside the John’s River. There, the waters speak to me in various tones. In those voices, I find comfort and thoughts of distance times. From the seclusion of the forest to the dwellings of those in the tiny hamlet of Collettsville, there is a reminder that not all that goes on in this fast-paced world is good. There is a need in each of us for something slower, something to which the inner being can grasp onto and embrace. In the whirlwind of life, we often feel as if we are being swept off our feet. When we feel like there is no control, we must find a place to where we can be grounded, a place where the scriptures come alive and their meaning take root in the world before us, not in a distant place that is seemingly imaginary. As I walk along, the sounds, the images, the taste, and the smells of life abundant explode into my thoughts as one vision after another dance in and out of what I attempt in vain to attend. There is almost an inner tumult that cannot be explained, only embraced. For the quiet about, turns what cannot be controlled into calm, and the inner self that had been abandoned is allowed to awaken, one taking the place of another until there is hope once again of hearing what He has to say; that still small voice can once more be heard.
Each trip enraptures another nuance that heretofore, had been forgotten.
The root-laden path through the forest, like Jesus, walk into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, is alive with the multitude of nature’s chorus singing praises, lifting the spirit. The palm branches replaced by leaves and twigs, like a carpet of love from above. The spring that flows alongside which will eventually become one with the river takes its time, pausing here and there to take wonder before slipping silently into the waterway below. Around the next curve, tiny waterfalls play the melody to the tune of those beyond the greenery in the canopy above. Before I ere reach that blissful sound, my soul is already on fire.
A short jaunt through the vineyard and the miracle of Jesus at the wedding floods my consciousness. Their leaves just now budding, soon will become the fruit for which they were intended to bear. Like so many Christians I know, who have just stepped into their faith, but take time to grow and flourish so that they too might know Him in His fullness. Newness is the foundation of opportunity, and a faithful spirit is indeed a blessing to behold.
Before I can recollect my intellect, the rapids rush into my earshot. Purposefully, I switch my Bible from one hand to the next, its minimal weight barely being felt, but more so, the feeling of protection from the violent water below causes the motion. A multitude of echoes within the rocks and eddies, as often described when hearing the voice of God, like a thousand waterfalls; these white-water wonders below thrash about. Even so, there is a calming effect they have, through their anger, through their violent nature, there is something that says all is right within.
I sigh, and again I think of how many of my friends would love to journey this same path with me. How I could wish so many could take every trip to Church like this. How much more rewarding would those words spoken by the Pastor be received once the soul has been properly prepared by God’s handiwork? Like the soil of the seedbed, all is ready, now let us receive His Holy Spirit.
Thunder rolls through the valley just now. Its magnitude reaches up through my feet as mountains are one with the sky. Another thunder clap reminds me that I’m nearly in the elements, so care must still be taken even if I’m caught up in the moment in the story.
Yet, one cannot be without the other.
As my footsteps carry me eventually along the river into the little town of Collettsville, I find houses next to the river, well within its floodplain, apparently , victims of previous floods. The smell of ancient Earth reminds me of another place much like this, back where I grew up in New Harmony, along the banks of the Wabash River. There too, were places that all knew well which were potential casualties for when the water would rise. The earth smelled the same, a dark, damp musty-ness of antiquity. The houses were similar as well, modest dwellings with sparse décor. Humbleness overflowed onto the porches, where comfort overrode fashion. A place where the set of my favorite TV Show, “Andy Griffith,” might have been filmed. The little homes, each peculiar within themselves, had their own story to tell. The waning light of day made the soft incandescence of the lamplights within mirror the heartbeat of their inhabitants, warm and glowing. Slowly, one-by-one, I’m learning their names, but that will be for another story, another time.
Interspersed between homes, little kitchen gardens, as grandma called them, displayed a variety of early crops; cabbage, taters, onions, and broccoli. Here and there a brave soul had put out a few tomato vines obviously wanting to get the jump on their neighbors. The aroma of newly turned soil and fresh cut lawns wafted through the air. A sweetness that seemed almost enchanting.
Time being the present, there was no fear of what the world might bring, there was a silence only broken by the sound of the river running past.
Somewhere on the mountain beyond the river, in the darkness of the forest, a night bird called.
Somewhere near me, the thunder rolled once more.
To each there is a moment in time when we realize all that we do, we must do for a purpose in this life. Eternity, that time for which awaits, for which we must knowingly prepare, must not escape who we are now. All around us we are given the opportunity to awe in His wonder. Is it any wonder then how much more beautiful that which is to come shall be? There is only one thing that separates us from that, and that is simply that we accept what God has provided and allow Him to enter into our lives.
The thunder echoes through the valley, and I’m thankful for all that is.
Thanks be to God.
You can learn more about God’s plan for my journey at Mission to Ride.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,…”-Romans 1:20
“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted..” -Isaiah 53:4
The shadows had long since cast their demeanor upon the ground. The remnants of twilight barely lit the sky above. Before me, the water swirled in eddies as it flowed past where I stood on the bank of the small river. Upstream from where I watched, voices of the rocks speaking through the rippling currents rose into the air, joining the chorus of peepers that spoke of the coming spring. The woods stood silent, their grasp upon the mountain beyond the distant shore stood high above, towering over me like a skyscraper, but not of a man’s hand, but of God’s.
Moments before, the long line of cars had throttled past the church behind where I now stood. They were members of the entourage who had attended the funeral of the two firemen, father and son, Chris and Cody Gragg, who perished in the fiery crash just days before; lives gone in the blink of an eye.
I paused from the day’s events to focus on that moment in time and all that we had to reflect upon in our lives. The very breath we breathe to the loved ones who surround us, we seldom stop and listen to the sounds of life around us. The motorcade’s rumble lasted for more than the time it took to carry three miles of vehicles around the curvy roadway of the mountain trail. The echoes of those cars following the valley beyond slowly fade. The memories of the father and son may fade with time, but their time on earth was as real as the moments they shared with those around them. Those memories become one with their keepers, intertwining into their own lives, becoming one in the same. To their loved ones, theirs will be an emptiness that can never be replaced.
Our faith keeps us going when the darkness seems to creep too close.
The blessings surround us everywhere we look if we only take the time to notice.
The flags hung in sorrow at half-mast in the tiny town of Collettsville, heavy with grief of loss. One can only hope that their servitude to the community was just a reflection of the men within, for if that were so, a far greater glory awaits them on the other side. I did not know them, but even so, when pillars of a tiny village like ours leave this world, the vacuum that is left is felt by all; and so it is.
Like those disciples, after Christ had been buried in the tomb, in the hours of darkness before the Resurrection, their greatest fears seemed to have been fulfilled. Yet, it was not to be the end of the story. Christ would be the victor over death. He had borne all their griefs and sorrows to the grave, but the grave would not hold Him. It was not the end of the story.
This is certainly not the end of this one either.
God has a purpose in all that we do, and all that we see through Him, and so it is.
The river gently weeps in sorrow as the night birds join the somber chorus. God’s creation singing praises to His name.
Time marches on, and life continues as darkness unfolds.
Tomorrow is another day.
Thanks be to God.