Friday, April 30, 2010

A WORD ON TITHING

I have written several hundred blogs without mentioning a preacher favorite--tithing.

What is a tithe? Glad you asked.

It is a tenth of the increase which God has given us which we "bring" to the house of the Lord. It is the portion that God says is His. We don't "give" it, we "bring" what is His to His House. It is the "first" of that which God has blessed us. It doesn't belong to us to give, but God has declared repeatedly in His Word that the tithe is His.

Why tithe?

1. God says to tithe.
2. It was practiced before the Law, in the Law, and under Grace.
3. Jesus said we should tithe.
4. To miss the curse that comes if we don't tithe.
5. To receive the blessing promised if we tithe with the right heart and motive.
6. God tithed. He gave the "first born" of heaven for us.
7. God has been too good to us for us to be cheap with Him.
8. Tithing requires faith. Faith pleases God.
9. It is the means God has ordained for the care of His servants and His house.
10. Souls are saved when we tithe.
11. It is a test of the heart. We need to pass this test.
12. It shows who and what we love. Look at your checkbook and you will find out what you truly love.
13. It is the one test we can give God. God said to try me, test me on this one issue.
14. There is joy found in tithing.
15. It is a proven promise. Tithers testify of blessings. Non-tithers testify they don't have enough to tithe. Seems like non-tithers should want to get on the blessing side of this equation.

Why don't people tithe?

1. Unbelief, fear, sin.
2. Lack of knowledge.
3. Blindness of the Devil.
4. They failed the test.
5. Disobedience.
6. Yielding to the sin of thievery.
7. They love mammon more than Jesus.
8. They don't have a love for the lost.
9. They're cheap and want someone else to pay for
the food at God's house.
10. Ungratefulness. If we are truly grateful that Christ died on the Cross for our sins and we have been saved, then bringing a tithe is a joy.

Don't worry. I am not going to take up an offering.

I just needed to preach a little. Can someone say a big "Amen!"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PRAY FOR STEVE


I have a friend that many of you know who has a serious brain surgery scheduled for today. His name is Steve Lambert, senior pastor of Clearwater First Assembly of God. I have known Steve since I was 6 or 7 years old and our friendship has continued through college and all of our adult ministry.

Last week he had some form of seizure or fainting spell and an MRI showed spots on his brain. The doctors are doing exploratory surgery to take biopsies and remove whatever is there. Of course he and his family are obviously concerned while yet holding to great faith in a faithful and loving God. Steve is a mighty man of God with a strong, life-long commitment to Christ.

We played together as boys, learned together in college, served together in a college internship and college choir, and ministered in each other's pulpits.

One Sunday afternoon when were little boys, he came home with me and spent the afternoon. We lived in the country in Montgomery, AL., and enjoyed playing in the woods together with some of the other kids. This particular afternoon we went out into the woods with a neighbor friend, Ned, and had a BB gun fight. Now don't go telling our mothers about this. They wouldn't be happy.

One interesting aspect of our friendship is that I don't know of anyone any more brutally honest with me than Steve. We have had tons of laughs with each other pointing out our flaws. I guess it is a guy thing.

Bad news can come our way even when we are the most faithful servants in the Kingdom. Life is tough but God is good. I don't have easy answers for tests like this, but I know God walks with us through it all.

Pray for Steve and his precious wife, Ruth. Steve needs a miracle.

God is a miracle working God.

Monday, April 26, 2010

ARE YOU MOVING?

Life is forward. It is moving, ever in transition, and is never the same. It has one constant-change.

If you're breathing then there is some movement.

Movement means life is happening.

I visited with Mom and Dad recently and took Mom to an early Mother's Day dinner. I have the best Mom and Dad in the world. While visiting I noticed this picture inserted into the frame of one of the pictures Mom has displayed in her living room with all the family pictures. It caught my eye and as I looked closer I realized that I was the little guy on the trike was me. I was making my first move with my little sister, Norma, in tow.

Don't have a clue where we were moving or what we had in mind, but we had all our possessions on the little red wagon. I have a vague, fuzzy recollection of this even though I was probably around four or so. I took a picture of the picture with my iPhone. That is why it looks a little faded and second generation.


This picture reminded my of life's moves. Life moves. It doesn't stay in the same spot with the same people, with the same experiences, and the same opportunities. Life moves.

My goal is to move in the flow of God's will. My commitment is to move into new understandings of His will and purpose. My passion is to move with greater intensity and focus toward the eternal destiny that He has for me. I want to move with God into all that He has for me. Moving with God is all that matters.

Where are you moving?

Friday, April 23, 2010

AMAZING HONESTY

Honesty is still the best policy, regardless of how the world is viewing it. Honesty pays.

Yahoo News shared this unique story of honesty displayed by a golfer named Brian Davis.

"Brian Davis isn't the best-known name in golf -- or even the hundredth-best-known -- but after Sunday, he ought to move up the list a few notches. Davis was facing Jim Furyk in a playoff at the Verizon Heritage, and was trying to notch his first-ever PGA Tour win.

Davis's approach shot on the first hole of the playoff bounced off the green and nestled in among some weeds. (You can see the gunk he was hitting out of in that shot above.) When Davis tried to punch the ball up onto the green, his club may have grazed a stray weed on his backswing.

So what's the big deal? This: hitting any material around your ball during your backswing constitutes a violation of the rule against moving loose impediments, and is an immediate two-stroke penalty. And in a playoff, that means, in effect, game over.

Okay, you can think that's a silly penalty or whatever, but that's not the point of this story. The point is that Davis actually called the violation on himself."

Brian lost over $600,000 by reporting his violation, but I believe he actually won far more. He will not have to live the rest of his life with making a mistake of dishonesty. Integrity is all that matters at the end of the day. If we cannot face ourselves and the facts that only we know then how can we face God? I have heard all of my life that no one is going to get by with anything. Be sure your sins will find you out. So the better part of wisdom is to own up to the facts rather than cover them or deny them or lie about them.

Brian may have less in his bank account today, but the respect others have for him could not be higher.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

RESTORE US

God's Word speaks to us personally and specifically at appointed times. His Word is truth, life, wisdom, and faith. It becomes alive in our hearts and speaks to our need. It correct and guides and is incredible encouragement.

Last week a specific verse jumped out from the Bible during my devotion time. It became alive and powerful. I felt I was to claim it for my life now. Certainly all of God's Word speaks daily and all of it is profitable at any time. However sometimes, certain verses have specific meaning now.

The verse that spoke so powerfully to me is Ps. 80:19. It reads:

19 Restore us, O LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved.

Restore us.

Make your face shine upon us.

Save us.

God's was saying I will restore you. I will give you favor. I will save you. Over and over these words sunk deep into my soul. I claimed them for me, my family, and for the church I pastor.

This past Monday as Wanda and I were ending our morning devotional reading, I told her about this verse and felt that God wanted us to claim it for our lives, family, and our church. I got the Bible and read it to her and shared from my heart. Then we prayed over our lives and our church.

I especially felt led to pray for God to make His face shine on Southside Assembly. I asked for God's favor and for special blessing on this church and His people.

Later that day I received a call from a paving contractor. We had allowed his crew to park their equipment in our parking lot while they were repaving Atlantic Blvd. Their heavy equipment did some minor damage on our old pavement which already was badly in need of repaving.

To make a long story short, the contractor said they were not going to just repair the parking lot, but that they wanted to repave with "a new topcoat". At no charge. Free! Wow! A couple weeks back the contractor had told me that they were make the minor repairs on what they had damaged, but God had smiled on Southside in a great way. It was cost prohibitive for us to repave right now. Their donation ran into the thousands and thousands of dollars.

Did you know that free is better than cheap?

Praise God! The parking lot looks like new!

Our sanctuary and buildings have been renovated, re-carpeted, and repainted and now we have a sharp looking parking lot. Hallelujah!

Now, I pray that God will smile on you. That He would pour out a blessing so big you cannot receive all of it. I pray that He will do exceeding, abundantly, above what you might ask or think.

Amen!

Monday, April 19, 2010

BUSY WEEKS

Every week is a week full of adventure for a pastor. Last week was no exception for me.

From prayer to planning to preaching to leading church services to counseling to mentoring to dealing with church properties to a quick trip to Atlanta to visit someone in the hospital in need to attending two evening banquets to a attending and helping with a funeral to encouraging the saints to caring for personal family matters and on the list goes, this has been a busy week.

Variety is the key word for describing the life and ministry of a pastor. It is never boring but filled with unusual and amazing surprises. Busy, busy, busy. So much to do and some times there is more to do than what seems possible. It always helps when people realize that pastors are human. Kind words help too.

This past Sunday morning as I entered church, I was met by a precious member who proclaimed me the best pastor in the world. Now that makes you want to go preach your heart out and give your best effort for another week.

At the church altar after my message, a single mother came up and shared a testimony of how God had helped her son as he has enrolled into college. She thanked me for helping write a reference letter and for my prayers. God had worked miraculously for them and she gave thanks to God and to me for helping.

After church, one of our young boys asked to have his picture made with me. He had a project that required several pictures of community leaders and he wanted me included. I was proud to stand by him at the front church door to have my picture taken. He was proud of his pastor and I was honored to stand with him.

This coming week will hold new and wonderful opportunities, surprises, hold your breathe moments, and excitement. Serving as a pastor is the highest calling. I am humbled and grateful for the privilege of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thank you Lord for calling me into the work of the ministry. Being busy for Jesus is a joyous privilege.

Friday, April 16, 2010

DEAD MAN WINS

How ticked off are American voters?

An election in Tennessee on Tuesday may give a clue. A dead man won over the incumbent.

On Thursday the AP reported:

"A dead man has been elected mayor of Tracy City, Tenn.

Carl Robin Geary died suddenly a few weeks ago. But he received 268 votes anyway in Tuesday's nonpartisan election, beating out incumbent Barbara Brock with 85 votes in the two-candidate race.

An election administrator, Donna Basham, said Wednesday she wouldn't speculate on why Geary won posthumously but noted his death had been widely reported at the time in this corner of southeastern Tennessee.

She says the city council will now have to appoint a mayor to the four-year term.

Brock had been appointed mayor 16 months ago when the previous mayor died. She says she thought she had done a good job but added voters wanted a return to the past."

***

If a dead man can win an election, then maybe there is some hope that in the upcoming elections that there will be a return to sanity by voting for candidates who love God, America, and our children.

How mad do you have to be to vote for a dead man? It is galling and unbelievable that our politicians have sold our countries future to liberalism and socialism. Both Democrats and Republicans are at fault and sadly there is little to trust on either side of the isles of Congress.

I am praying daily for God's mercy on America. Could we have a few more dead men win elections in the future? Who knows? But dead men beat the live ones overwhelmingly. How so very sad.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

IRKED WITH ERRORS

Mistakes, errors, misspellings, and faux pas can be daunting. Diligence helps prevent many missteps, but even with diligence unforced errors occur.

I have published many different short bulletins, magazines, and written untold letters, blogs, and done all shorts of writing. It irks me when I have mistakes in them, but I refuse to let that stop me from writing and attempting to communicate things that God has put into my heart.

Once I received a major, heavy duty mail-out from the leading national expert on leadership in America. He was promoting a conference on "Excellence in Leadership." It was a full color multi-fold costing thousands to produce promoting top speakers who were all focused on developing excellence in leadership. Amazingly, I counted five or six misspellings and errors in the first two paragraphs on the mail-out.

I laughed out loud when I read it noticing all of the mistakes. I had my secretary file it for future reference. It was a hoot. I thought, "Well now, if this is excellence then I can only wait to attend the conference." It made me feel that there was hope for me and maybe a little grace could be given when I made errors in publications.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't like errors, and I should and will work harder to catch them before printing. Misspellings can be glaring and certainly don't make for good reading. Blogs are somewhat less formal writing, but that is not a good excuse for allowing printing misspellings or incorrect word use or bad grammar.

I know. Still not good, and I will try harder, but I will not quit writing just because of a few errors here and there. No one has gotten on my case about this, but sometimes I catch them late after posting this blog. It irks me, but I will not be irked out of writing.

I just pull that "Excellance in Ledership" brochure out and chuckle as I type.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A LOOK AT GREEN

Green is a Spring color.

Look at the grass and trees and budding flowers. Green is everywhere. Yes, the purples, reds, whites, Burgundies, blues, and even some pinks color yards and gardens, but green is the subtle background.

Green is also a Master's color. The fairways at Augusta are incredibly green. The putting surfaces are magnificent, and the winner's jacket is green too.


File-IMG_1655.JPG.jpg


I'm not a golfer. I don't have enough religion to play except on rare occasion. I never cuss when I hit a bad shot, but where I spit the grass dies. It actually has been years since I last played a round of golf. It was to expensive, took too long to play, and just wasn't enough fun to me. I came to the conclusion that anything so upsetting, difficult to play, and costly really shouldn't be very high on my list of priorities.

I watched parts of the Master's Golf Tournament on Saturday and Sunday. My HD TV really made the bright colors of azaleas and dogwoods stand out. The green also looked awesome. And watching Phil Michelson win was something to behold. He almost made three eagles in a row on Saturday. There was a touching moment between he and his wife after he won. She is struggling with cancer and had not been able to attend any of his tournaments until the last part of this Master's win. Their embrace after he finished his last hole made you realize what really matters in life.

Besides winning a new green jacket, the winner also collects $1.3 million from a total purse of $7.5 m. Now that is some green happening there! Second place winning was $810,000.

Earlier on the 2nd hole a leaf blew onto the putting green just after Phil putted. The leaf landed right into the path of the rolling ball and knocked it off course. It cost a stroke that could just as easily cost the tournament. It didn't

You can see the leaf appear in the sequencial pictures below. Life can throw some curves and block the green. We have to yet press forward to the better. Don't let a leaf end your dream. Phil didn't.


ept_sports_golf_experts-938073807-1271014054.jpg


Sometimes life gets into the way of green.

Green. Is it a color of envy?

Green. Is it the color of money?

Green. Is it the color of environmental correctness?

Green. Is it the color of life and growth?

Green? Is it the ewe of an ill and sick stomach reflected in the face?

Green?

I love a green, smart looking yard and lawn appointed with beautiful, bright plants. Green is not a primary color, but is the mixture of yellow and blue or yellow and cyan. It sits in the background yet offering is needed color.

Don't know why I focused on green today. It is a color which God gave us. Green adds the look of flourishing life.

Wouldn't it be nice if God will add a little green in your life. Not the green envy, but some money, or growth, or a better view. I pray green will bless your day, today!

Friday, April 9, 2010

SHINING STARS

Teachers are impact makers. They transform lives. They are difference makers.

I am a preacher/teacher, but I have been the recipient of the efforts of great teachers all my life. My Sunday School teachers as well regular school teachers helped make me the person I am today. Obviously, I am still growing and learning, but today I reflect on those who put huge effort and sacrifice to train and develop me.

Coach Bryan, Inez English, Mrs. Simmons, Mrs. McFillin, and a slew of college and graduate professors have all spoken into my life.

There is a verse of Scripture in Daniel that God made very real to me this week. It speaks to me especially from the standpoint of religious teachers who invest in the lives of boys and girls and men and women.

The verse is Daniel 12:3. It reads: "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."

Wise teachers who lead in righteousness are like the stars which will shine forever. This is an unusual promise of blessing to those who invest in others. One of the best ways to lead is to teach and instruct. Teachers are one of God's best ways to point people to the knowledge of God.

Thank you to all the teachers who have impacted my life. May you shine like the brightness of the heavens as stars forever and forever.

Three of my children are teachers. Julie teaches elementary school. Jennifer teaches English to hispanics in Puerto Rico. My step-son Mark, is a high school dean. They are shining stars. My step-daughter, Jennifer, is a shining star too even though she is not a teacher. I am proud and thankful for all of them.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

JUST A DELIVERY BOY

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. That is such a true and powerful statement.

Early Monday Wanda and I were on walk and she mentioned a comment someone made to her about my Easter sermon this past Sunday. Wanda said that someone had told her that my sermon was the best one they had heard in over a year.

Well, my first thought was this comment from a regular church attender or a guest? I chuckled and asked Wanda. She said it was a new person who shared with her. We both laughed.

Whew, that was close. If that had been a regular attender, then I guess my sermons had not been making much of an impact. Then I remembered a couple of comments on a sermon I preached some 30 plus years ago.

A guest told me as she headed out the door of the church that my message that morning was the best sermon she had ever heard. Now that fed the starving ego of a young, green preacher. I needed that compliment. Her kind words helped fuel my preaching for years.

But that is not the end of that story. The very next day, a deacon told me that he had overheard someone at his work mention that my sermon the day before was the worst sermon they had ever heard.

To one, my sermon was the best. To another, the same sermon was the worse sermon he had ever heard.

Go figure.

Here is the bottom line.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so are church sermons. The soil of the heart and the eagerness to hear the Word have much to do with how a sermon is received. Oh I know that sometimes preachers bomb. I have, but I have also tried my best to preach His Word, glorify our Lord, minister to the saints, and reach the lost.

After I have done my best, then I leave the results in His hands. Only His Spirit can make it alive anyway. I am only the delivery boy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW



Our first year marriage anniversary came quickly. Zoom..... a year has passed and here we are.

It has been an amazingly, incredible year as we joined our hearts in love and faith. God brought us together. It is an arranged marriage in heaven. I knew God's will for us even before I knew I loved Wanda or whether she would love me, but the love happened suddenly and sweetly.

She helped me through grief and I have helped her through many new changes in life. Now we are stronger, wiser, and well. Love moves with a kind heart to help through the difficult places. The measure of love goes far deeper than emotions, feelings, and mood. It is wider than smiles, good times, and public show. It is higher than immediate chance, choice, or change. It is measured by the extension of self that cares more for the other than yourself. This is our love, a new love, a God sent love.
So what did we do to celebrate?


Rode "Big Red" to Jekyll Island, Ga.

Toured Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island.

Visited Brunswick, Ga. (Look close at the picture of the bridge. You can see Wanda through the left, front mirror of "Big Red" taking the picture as we approached crossing the Sidney Lanier Bridge going into Brunswick, Ga.)




Exchanged cards, gifts, and sweet words.

Watched two gorgeous sunrises, bicycled, and ate at nice restaurants.

I gave Wanda a Pandora Easter Charm and a diamond necklace.


She gave me wind chimes, chocolate, and a beautiful plant. Wanda also gave me this note when she gave me the plant. It reads:

Milton,

As we celebrate our first anniversary I want you to know what a wonderful husband you are. You have blessed me so many ways during this past year and you have put joy back into my heart and showed me how to love again.

This plant is called "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow". As you plant it, and each time you look at it, I want you to remember:

Yesterday - It seems like it was yesterday that you called me and our love began to grow for each other. God had already begun to work in you and then it was confirmed to me through God. Yesterday is gone, but my love for you continues to grow stronger day by day.


Today - Today we celebrate our First Anniversary as husband and wife. it has been an amazing year as we have helped each other through some difficult times. I knew God confirmed in my heart that I would be there to help you, but in return He blessed me through you. My love for you continues to grow day by day.

Tomorrow - Tomorrow is a new day as we begin our second year as husband and wife. I look forward to our love becoming even stronger during the next year. We have made memories of our own and I look forward as we grow more memories together day by day.

You are an incredible husband. I want you to know that I love you very much and I thank God for giving me such a wonderful gift when He gave me you. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you.

***

I am a blessed man. God blessed me with Wanda.

Here is a brief video of parts of out trip riding
on "Big Red" with Wanda recording while we
ride as well as a video of bicycling and also
watching the sunrise.

video

Friday, April 2, 2010

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Wanda and I will have been married a total of 70 years on Saturday, April 3.

Actually, we will be married just one year to each other. God brought us together in the most unusual manner. It is still an incredible story for me to realize how God brought us together. Quickly, suddenly the Lord spoke to me that Wanda would bless me and my children and that I would bless her and her children. God spoke that into my heart before we fell in love with each other.

All of this took both of us by surprise as God unfolded a new future us. In time God confirmed to Wanda His plans for us and there were a myriad of confirmations God used to further affirm His will for our lives through others.

Now our first year of marriage has passed as we have fallen more in love. God brought Wanda into my life as an amazing gift and blessing to me. Over and over, we have seen God's hand in our lives.

We have a common goal to glorify God with our gifts and talents. Our vision is increasing and becoming clearer. But most of all, God's love that He put within our hearts for each other is growing. Our marriage is not about the story as incredible as it is, but it is about His love for us and our love for each other.

To share love is a wonderful gift.

He has done new and exciting things in our lives. We are glad.