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Archive for December, 2010

Ramblings

I love my family! Any reader to this blog will be able to readily see that in a hurry. I thought I’d share some more ramblings of family life with you in this post.

Ok…I’m still a kid at heart! Want to see? Take a look…sledding down the hill behind our house with Clara and Andrew!! Here we are getting ready!

It's time to FLY down the sled run!

Now it’s time to go…Woohoo!!

Click here to see…

Here’s the “old-timey” sled we used! I used this one as a kid! Thanks mom and dad for finding this old sled in the basement years ago!

Old Sled, Snow Rabbits and Big Smiles!

We enjoyed making the “snow rabbits!” Andrew made one his size and Clara made one her size!

They also enjoy playing “old-timey” in the playhouse my Dad built years ago for Katy. Looks like “soup’s up” or “snow in the bowl” is ready!

Dinner is almost ready!

Oh…here’s another picture from our winter snow on Christmas. This is mom and dad’s Bradford pear tree covered in snow…

Bradford Pear Blanketed in Snow

Speaking of Christmas. I’m so thankful Katy and Kandace love music. Music will travel with them all of their lives. I wish I could play something! All I did growing up was play sports. Nothing wrong with sports, but what do I have now? Worn out knees, a 2″ vertical leap and “no skills!” Ha! Katy is sporting her new viola, which she will begin taking lessons in January and Kandace has a new mandolin.

Katy's viola

 

Kandace's mandolin

Will the circle be unbroken? Not if Katy and Kandace have anything to do with it. Here they are playing with their grandfather, George Sheets (who has instilled a love for music in them) on Christmas Eve.

Click here for short music clip…

George has helped in purchasing all the girls’ instruments. I’m grateful for a wonderful “PaPaw George” and so are the girls!

Katy, Kandace and George-Making Music!

I’m excited Katy loves to let the little guys help her when she is making candy. Yum…it’s good too! Peppermint Brittle!

Making Candy

 Can you tell I’ve been working on the new book? Finished the rough draft of Chapter 2 this week. The book title?

Rite of Passage–How Churches Can Help Families Raise Christ-Centered Young Adults

Book "Central"

 Hoping to have the contract on the book soon!

Last night my niece Leah bagged herself another deer! Her biggest one yet…a FIVE POINTER! Congratulations Leah! Andrew and Clara wanted to have their picture taken with the “deer-slayer!”

Leah and her "big kill"

Speaking of Leah…it makes me think of my wonderful sister, Kim.

My lovely sister!

She and her husband Craig, an evangelist, are in the process of adopting two little boys from Russia that are “Asian.” Of course this thrills me since we have to “Asian” children of our own. We are excited as they are in the beginning stages of this process. If you would like to learn more click here.

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A sign of the times…

I hesitate to dive into this, but I thought I’d mention some things that I’m seeing that are a “sign of the times” we live in today. I believe we are living in the “last days.” I’m convinced of this without question. I continue to see the decimation of the family and the utter demolition of decency and morality in our nation. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about the issue of homosexuality. Now, I want to say this: I’m not interested in going on any “witch hunts” here nor am I interested in “beating a drum” about this issue. I have talked about other immoral “issues” many times in my blog, from TV shows, movies, Miley Cyrus and her problems, to Buddha busts on Belk sale tables. But, I simply wanted to point something out to you in our culture that I’m sure you are seeing to in regards to the “homosexual agenda” in not only our nation, but the world.

Here goes…

We are living in a day and age that homosexuality WILL become totally accepted and even revered in the next 10-15 years. Why? Because it is “politically correct.” Let me give you some examples:

Biden Says Gay Marriage ‘Inevitable’

 Published December 24, 2010| Associated Press

Vice President Biden predicted Friday the evolution in thinking that will permit gays to soon serve openly in the military eventually will bring about a U.S. consensus for same-sex marriage. Changes in attitudes by military leaders, those in the service and the public allowed the repeal by Congress of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Biden noted in a nationally broadcast interview on Christmas eve.

“I think the country’s evolving,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.:” And I think you’re going to see, you know, the next effort is probably going to be to deal with so-called DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). He said he agreed with President Barak Obama that his position in gay marriage is “evolving.” Gay marriage is legal in only a handful of states, mostly in the Northeast, and in Iowa. Obama recently said his feelings on the gay marriage issue were in a state of transition. But he also said he still believes in allowing strong civil unions that provide certain protections and legal rights that married couples have. Obama said he is still wrestling with whether gay couples should have the right to marry, now that the change in the law will allow them to serve openly in combat.

Dear friends, it’s only a matter of time, in my mind, before our current administration pushes the gay agenda to allow gay couples to have the “right to marry” as the law of the land. Biden has indicated as much. You may say, “Why does this matter?” Simple. It shows another step closer to the total degradation of the family and what the Bible teaches about marriage “between one man and one woman for life.” When the family breaks down in a society the culture (society itself) will eventually disintegrate. Of course, as Americans, we are so “illiterate” of history, we don’t even realize this is what happened to Rome. People…we are going the way of Rome! We are disintegrating from within. The homosexual agenda and movement in this nation is just one example of that fact. 

Do you think this issue is isolated to those that live in Hollywood, San Francisco, New York or California? Take a look:

NC Council of Churches to be led by open homosexual

Associated Press – 12/28/2010 7:10:00 AM

 Associated Press logo small 2RALEIGH, NC – The North Carolina Council of Churches has elected an openly homosexual man as its incoming president.

The council selected 55-year-old Stan Kimer, a lay leader in the Metropolitan Community Churches — a denomination that ministers to homosexual men and women. The council’s executive director, the Rev. George Reed, says this is the first time a southern state church council has been led by an openly homosexual person. The state branch of the Southern Baptist Convention does not belong to the North Carolina Council of churches, but North Carolina’s Roman Catholic dioceses are members. The council promotes left-leaning legislative goals on policies including immigration, guns, and the death penalty. Kimer, a retired IBM sales executive, says he wants young people more involved in inter-church activism.

It’s happening in the church! Our denominational brothers are dealing with this issue more and more each year. Think with me. God made Adam and Eve. He made Adam a man and Eve a woman (made distinctly different) so they could “multiply and fill the earth.” That was and IS God’s design. The Bible says:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:18-32.

Let me give you one last example:

Elton John becomes father of Christmas baby

Reuters

Singer Elton John and partner David Furnish arrive at the 18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Viewing Party in West Hollywood, CalifoReuters – Singer Elton John (L) and partner David Furnish arrive at the 18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation …
– Mon Dec 27, 10:51 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Elton John and his partner have become the proud parents of a son born to a surrogate in California on Christmas Day, US Weekly reported on Monday. The boy, named Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, is the first for the British rock star and Canadian filmmaker David Furnish, who have been together since the early 1990s.

“We are overwhelmed with happiness and joy at this very special moment,” US Weekly quoted the pair as saying. “Zachary is healthy and doing really well, and we are very proud and happy parents.” The magazine said the boy weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and it quoted a representative for the 63-year-old musician as saying that no further details about the surrogacy arrangement would be disclosed. John’s spokeswoman told Reuters the report was accurate. The pair, entered into a civil union in 2005. (Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Amazing! Can you imagine this happening 50 years ago? Are you kidding? So, let me ask you something. Add another 20 years to this world and let’s say it’s 2031. What will we look like then as a nation? Friends, we must “contend for the faith!” But I’m suggesting we do so by being kind and gracious and loving and give our answers with a gentle spirit and heart. We must get involved.

Get involved to do what? Well, this is where my thoughts have changed over the years. You see, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings and He taught love, meekness, walking the second mile, turning the other cheek and the like. Let me briefly explain by using this encounter in Matthew 22:36-39.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” So, should we march on Washington with signs and bullhorns? I believe we should lead people to Christ. We are told to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus said, we are to “teach them.” Friends, we’ve simply got to get back to giving people Jesus…not a petition to sign or a Senator to email or call. Yes, there may be a time and place for these things, but ultimately, I’m not called to do anything but to “go and make disciples.”

What if we “engaged” someone in the homosexual lifestyle and talked to them about the love of Jesus instead of “marking them off” as an enemy and have nothing to do with them? What if we showed them love (which is incidentally what they are desiring in the first place)? Jesus said we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Who is our neighbor? All men and women…boys and girls…even those that label themselves “homosexual.”

Does it bother me greatly the direction our nation is taking from the White House to Elton John’s house to the church house? You bet ya it does! But, we have no one to blame but the Church. We have stopped being salt and light. We have become more “drum beaters” and “sign wavers” than we have “ambassadors for Christ.” My prayer is that I will and the Church will follow the words of Paul:

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

 

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Christmas Memories…

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. All too quickly! My grandparents often lamented “how quickly time flies by the older you get.” How true, how true! But, I must say this Christmas will go down in my mind and memory as one that was unmistakably remarkable. This year the snow the Lord blessed us with was the “icing on the cake” and the “bow on the package.” Snow…what a wonderful picture of what Jesus does for us…makes us clean…washes us and purifies us as “white as snow.” I thought of that Saturday as the snow trickled out of the sky around 9:30 am.

Christmas Snow...

Katy sung a song during the Christmas season at church that talked about how Jesus came as a “winter’s snow.” He came quietly and without fanfare, just like the snow Christmas morning. He slipped into the world in a manger and exited via a hillside in Jerusalem in Israel known as the “Mount of Olives.” But, He’s coming back. Any day now as far as I’m concerned. All prophecy has been fulfilled except for the completion of the “Bride of Christ,” the completion of the Church via the last person that will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. He will come again, in the sky and He will come “like a thief in the night” or as I thought about it Christmas morning…as a “winter’s snow.”

Snow brings a quiet peacefulness as it blankets the ground...

I tried to think back through my mind to all the Christmases I’ve experienced even as a child and I can think of no Christmas that means as much to me as this one. Why? Not because of any presents or food (as good as it all was)…it is simply that I’ve grown to understand more and more the price that the Father was willing to pay to ransom my soul. I can’t understand how God could give His only Son to die for me. I know that is a trite and well used comment…but, its honestly how I feel. How could He have done it? But, even beyond that, my mind this Christmas was drawn to the fact that Jesus was willing to come. Think of it! Jesus was willing to live “glory” to come to a manger for me! He came as the child of peasants, born in obscurity in a “nothing” little town with only bewildered shepherds to welcome His Majesty’s entrance into time on this earth. Amazing indeed!

I took a picture of the snow covering a red bow at my mom and dad’s house…

Pure white snow...covering a crimson bow...

…just as Jesus purity (sinlessness) covered my sins. The Son of God covered my sins…my sin! The Living God of the universe came in the form of a baby via Jesus Christ and died for me to cover my sins so that I might live…truly live, both now and forevermore. The knowledge of this thought is almost more than I can comprehend. Even now as I type the words I’m overwhelmed with emotion! Praise be to Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

I took some pictures of the children in the snow. May I bore you with some more?

Clara and Andrew enjoying the Christmas snow at mom and dad's...

The “older” children (forgive me for calling you “children” Katy, Kandace, Taylor and Leah) enjoyed the snow too!

Kandace and Leah in the snow...

Here’s a picture of the family…

The Family

I’m so blessed! It’s beyond my comprehension why the Lord has blessed me as He has? I’m unworthy of the blessings and I mean that! God’s mercy and grace has been lavished upon me beyond measure!

Here’s a good shot of Mom and Dad and Kim!

Oh…I’ve got to show you one more picture. Here’s a picture that Pam and Kim gave to mom as a Christmas present…

Whoopee!!

Isn’t that great! What a Christmas! What a Savior!

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A By-gone Day

Earlier today I read a story that was “set” in the late 1800’s.  I don’t normally spend much time reading emailed stories that are long in length. Why? Because I just don’t have time. But I read this one because a dear friend sent it to me and he said, “it left a lump in my throat.” This guy is a “man’s man,” so I thought, “Hmm…I’ll take a few minutes to read it.”  It left a lump in my throat too. Now I want to hasten to say, this story will take about 7-8 minutes to read, but if you are looking for something to put you in the “Christmas spirit,” this is it.

The Christmas Rifle

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or for those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors.

It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving. It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted so badly that year for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

So after supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace, waiting for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, but, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this.

But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up, put my boots back on, and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short or quick or little job, I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load. Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him.

The cold was already biting at me, and I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood – the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain and all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something.

“Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?”

“You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what? “Yeah,” I said, “Why?” “I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.” That was all he said.

He then turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading and went to the smokehouse where he took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. “Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.

“We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy? Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern.

We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house, unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and took the meat and flour and shoes around to the front door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?” “Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?” Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all.

Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. “We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it. She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children – sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks.

She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out. “We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and, as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes, too. In my mind, I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak.

My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people. I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy, and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time.

She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.” In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it, I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth.

I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it. Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn’t want us to go.

I could see that they missed their pa, and I was glad that I still had mine. At the door, Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you”. Out on the sled, I felt warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold.

When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough. Then yesterday, a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent your rifle money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.” I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it.

Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children. For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

It used to be that folks took care of each other. Neighbors took care of neighbors and families took care of families. Now the government does that. So, the church and families just “buy their rifles.” Some would say, “Hey, just take the wood, flour and ham and be done with it!” I mean, don’t go crazy! Right? Go ahead and buy the boy the rifle. You can do both…help folks and take care of the kid…right? Well, in 1881 there wasn’t Social Security, Food Stamps or Welfare. There were just families, neighbors and churches helping people. Have we abdicated this to the government? By and large, I believe we have. It’s a shame. What can we do to help others this Christmas? Maybe the Lord has put someone or somebody on your mind right now. You and I might have to give up the “rifle,” but the smile…oh the smile on the face of the person or persons that didn’t expect it…now that’s priceless and that’s truly what Christmas is all about…

For God so loved the world He gave…  He gave…

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I had a fantastic lunch today with 8 young men and one older man (sorry Ken) ha! It was a blessing to me. These young men are college students or have a job. These young men ranged in age from 18-23. Here’s some terribly blurry pictures…but, they came from my phone (I didn’t want to miss the moment).

Pictured here are Ken (the old guy) and Phil Brame. Phil is a student at Wake Forest University…

Ken and Phil (Ken's the old guy!!)

Here’s the blurry picture (sorry guys).  In the foreground is Scott Gambill. He’s a student/athlete at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, NC. Beside of him is Jacob Shepherd. He’s a student at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro and he is working TWO jobs! He’s a worker indeed! Beside of Jacob is Justin Gourley (sorry Justin…I didn’t realize I didn’t have you in the picture).  Justin, however, is an EMS worker. He’s a real student of the Bible.  Josh Isaacs is in the middle.  He is a former seminary student and is pursuing a career in the military. Trey Bryan is beside of Josh and he’s a student at Appalachian State University.  He’s the son of Ken Bryan (who is the…yes…I know you know by now…”the old guy!”). 

Scott, Jacob, Justin (not pictured), Josh and Trey

Finally, here’s a picture of Trey again (this is a better picture) and Jordan Privette, who is a student and works at a local grocery store (he also plays guitar in our Church Praise Team), and Caleb Triplett, who is a student at Appalachian State University and is a leader in a Bible Study group on campus.

Trey, Jordan and Caleb

What a joy it was to “break bread” with these young men. Do you want to know why? Well, I’m glad you asked. Because, these young men cared enough to have lunch with their pastor on their Christmas break. How many college students would want to do that? Not only that, these young men are part of the 8% that have not abandoned their faith by their 20th birthday (according to some statistical studies 92% of Christian teens will walk away or abandon their faith by their 20th birthday).

I asked them about the circumstances that led up to their deciding to “step up” in their lives and sincerely seek the Lord. I got many stories…as varied as they were.  Makes sense to me, because we are all unique. Bottom line…the Lord used various circumstances to bring these young men to their decisions. What I’m excited about is the fact that they are not walking away. I told them they are “statistical anomalies!” And you know what else? I had the privilege of teaching these young men at church through their teen years. But, greater than that is the fact that even though they grew up in varied home environments from strongly Christian to non-Christians…they all have chosen to seek the Lord.

What did I learn from the lunch with these young men? There is no cookie cutter answer as to why these young men from varied backgrounds and circumstances have chosen to follow Christ. But, they have. 

Guys, thanks for a wonderful time today and please know I meant every word I said when I told you that I’m here for you as your pastor and as a friend. You are appreciated and just because you are in college and can’t be home all the time…doesn’t mean that you aren’t missed.  You mean a lot to me and the church and we love you!

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Jesus’ Birthday Party

We had a birthday party for Jesus tonight at my sister’s house. Kim, the food was fantastic as usual. A spiral ham, baked beans, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, baked rolls, sweet tea and dessert!  The dessert! Yum! Taylor, (my niece), baked a wonderful chocolate pound cake. We even blew out the candles…

Blow 'em out!!

After the meal we gave presents to Jesus. How did we do that? Well, we dedicated the presents or “monetary gifts” to causes we felt compelled to help/support.

Clara-What a darling!

Clara gave her money she had been saving to help via Samaritan’s Purse to feed a baby for a week.  Andrew gave his money to help Hope Ministries.  He said “I want to help wittle boys and gurls dat don’t have no toys.” (We’re still working on his grammar. Wink)

Andrew and Hope Ministries

Katy and Kandace wanted to help the Mexican couple, (pastor and wife), we support as a church in Progreso, Mexico.  Oscar and Miriam are very dear to our heart.

Katy

Kandace with picture of Oscar and Miriam

Taylor and Leah and my sister and brother-in-law are going through the process of adopting two oriental boys from Russia. Taylor and Leah are shown here giving their money to help in that adoption process.

Taylor and Leah

Taylor and Clara were enjoying some special time together working on some new sign language.

Taylor and Clara

Andrew had a “big time” with his Aunt “Kimmie.”

Andrew loves his Aunt Kimmie

I thought about it as we were gathering the children around my mom and dad…”This is such a blessing.”  We are not promised a “tomorrow.”  We may not all be together like this next year, so enjoy each day as if it were your last.  I am a blessed man.  I have my wife and my children and my parents and my sister and her family…all together…same town…living on the same hillside.  What an honor.  Thank you Lord!

Mom and Dad and all the grandchildren

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You know I am glad that many businesses and even people have decided to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”  I’m glad people are slowly understanding that there would be no holiday season at all if it were not for the birth of Jesus.  But, I’ve been struck by the ardent effort that many have undertaken to write letters and boycott businesses, write editorials, put signs in yards, etc. pushing for folks to say the words “Merry Christmas.”  I admire their effort.  But, I was thinking.  What if as Christians, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ…just what if we put that kind of effort into loving people into the kingdom?

Earlier this week I was talking to a young man who had strayed away from the Lord in his early 20’s, yet now he is back…sincerely following Jesus’ teachings.  I asked him, “What happened?  What brought you back?”  This is what he told me.  “The love of people who stepped out of their comfort zone to show me love.”  He told me the time a man stopped him in WalMart and said, “I want to pray for you” and then he did!  Now I want to ask you…which do you think is better…that the man in WalMart had on a button that said “Jesus Loves You” or to actually “show” Jesus’ love?  Which is more challenging…putting a sign in our yard or putting a fish on the back of our car…or…to actually invite someone into our homes or to get “involved” in the messy business of “someone else’s life”? 

Much to consider huh?  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying people shouldn’t have bumper stickers, wear buttons, put signs in their yards or write emails to businesses that say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  But, what I am saying…is what if we used the same amount of fervent effort, energy and zeal to be involved in other people’s lives?  What if we took the Great Commission to “go and make disciples…teaching them…” as seriously as we did these things I’ve mentioned?  Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  We are to make disciples of Jesus…not to our political agendas or our “way of thinking.”  We are to make disciples of Jesus. 

How does that look?  Well…how did it look in Jesus’ life?  He didn’t start a campaign to “Reduce Roman Taxes” and have a table set up to sign a petition.  He met people where they were “at” in their lives.  He met a tax collector in a tree and then went to his house.  He met the woman at the well in the heat of the day (a Samaritan woman at that) and gave her “living water.”  He healed, He loved, He taught, He encouraged, He ultimately died for the people He cared for.  Am I dying for people or my “cause?”  Do I desire to get involved into someone’s life to help and encourage them…or is it easier to type an email, buy a sign or put my signature on a petition?  Again…I’m “all for” making sure that we stand up for our “rights” as Americans…but, if we were to put even half of that effort into “making disciples” and mentoring folks, showing hospitality in our homes…and getting out of our comfort zones…wow…what a difference we could make!!

Here’s a video that I thought was one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen.  

click here

It’s of a child singing with his mom and dad in church.  I love it!  You know…as I look through Scripture, I never see a Children’s Church.  I never see a single time when the children were NOT in the meeting with the rest of the believers.  Jesus didn’t say to the Apostles…”Ok guys…I’m going to take the adults to the top of the hill and teach them the Beatitudes and because it will be ‘over the heads’ of the kids…Peter…you and John take the kids to the bottom of the hill and play with them till I get done.”  Doesn’t that sound silly? 

In fact…if you read the New Testament and you look for a single time when the children were not involved or a part of the service, you’ll look in vain.  Paul taught in the “vocative voice” when he penned the words, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this right.” (Ephesians 6:1).  Do you know what that means?  When writing in the vocative voice, it was understood when the letter was read to the church at Ephesus that the people whom Paul addressed would be in the meeting.  Therefore, when he addressed the “children” in Ephesians 6:1, it was understood that they would be in the meeting (in the hearing of the letter). 

We don’t have a nursery at the church I help Elder.  Why?  Because we sincerely want our children to be with us.  We want the children to experience everything in the worship service that they just can’t get in a room watching a video eating Cheetos.  My children get to participate in seeing people lifting hands in praise to the Lord as they lift their voices in song.  They get to hear testimonies of those that have come to Christ.  They see people weeping under the conviction of the Holy Spirit at the altar.  They see Dads praying over their families.  They hear the Word of God brought by the man of God that has been called to pastor the church.  They sit under that shepherd’s teaching.  (After all, if that shepherd has been called to “shepherd” the flock…shouldn’t he shepherd the entire flock?  Why should this be handed off to anyone else?) 

But, I know…I know…this is messy!  They talk out loud…they cry…they…well…you name it.  And yes…this is true…but, they ultimately learn to listen.  And oh do they listen!  They are sponges.  It’s amazing.  When we first got 3 1/2 year old, Andrew home from China (got him home on a Thursday…and had him in church on that Sunday), he couldn’t speak a word of English. 

Pam and Andrew in China-2 weeks later-he's in church

In fact, he could barely speak any Chinese.  He had never been out of the orphanage in China until two weeks prior to that.  He had never been in a car, a bus and certainly not a plane.  He was taken out of everything he knew and thrust into a new world.  He had club feet and a testicular hernia and he couldn’t see well (he now has glasses).  Yet…we had him in church on Sunday…front row at that and he WAS TERRIBLE!!  He was awful!  He talked out loud!  (Chinese!!)  He crawled on the floor, under the chairs, on us, you name it…he did it.  Was it embarrassing?  Yes.  And the same was true when we got Clara from China and brought her home….

Clara at her Dedication Service at Church

But, the church knows and has given a “license” to each family to say to them, “It’s ok…we know what you are doing…you are training him/her.” 

Let me tell you what happened the next week.  He was BAD!  But…not as bad as the week before.  And to make a long story short…a month later…you couldn’t even tell he was there.  That’s right.  6 weeks in and you couldn’t even tell he was there.  What happened?  He had been trained to know what to do in church.  You know a child will learn anything in life…when we make up our mind and DECIDE to teach them and train them.  It doesn’t matter if they are 3 1/2 and from a foreign country or they are 1 or 4 (when they are told they can’t be in the nursery anymore).  At some point we teach them don’t we?  “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  I’m grateful for a church that sees small children not as a nuisance but as children…whom Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of God.”  Thank you MPBC for being willing to “suffer’ for the children.  What a joyful and fertile training ground!

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