Two for Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

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Today’s edition of Two for Thursday is a bit unique in that the content appears to be drastically different, however; each offers an opportunity to be thankful.  Read on and tell me what you think.

Like us, I’m sure many of you are pet owners.  In fact, like us, many of you probably consider your pets to be part of your family…we certainly do.  And for some reason, the pets that my wife and I have had during our 29 year marriage have all had long, healthy lives.  We consider ourselves blessed to have had them so long.  Our first two pets were dogs, and they lived 11 and 10 years – a mom and her pup.  We’ve also had a cat for 17 years, a mini dachshund for 16.5 years, and a black lab for 14 years.  Our current mini dachshund is 15 years old.  Yes, all of these were part of the family.

As it is with people, the death of our pets can cause us to grieve.  This year has been particularly tough for us in that we’ve had to bury our 16.5 year old mini dachshund and our 14 year old black lab.  The pain is very real, and we miss them both dearly.  Many of you know that feeling.  Some days are tougher than others, just as it is with a loss of a loved one of the human kind.  And like the loss of a loved one, many of us set up some type of memorial in honor of our lost pets.  For us, we have their certificates (paw prints) along with picture collages set up throughout our house to honor their memory.

With that loss of our beloved pet, many of us invest hope in the fact that we may get to see them again some day, and we want to believe that they really have crossed over a magical “Rainbow Bridge.”  And whether that bridge actually exists or not, the thought is indeed comforting.  We said of our black lab (Tyson) that we recently buried, now he’s able to go find Walker (our mini dachshund) and play with him again.

That leads me to the first of two resources today:  The Rainbow Bridge website.  It’s a beautiful idea, and if you’re looking for an alternate way to memorialize your pet, you should check it out.  The description from their site says:  Rainbow Bridge is a Grief Support Community for those who are hurting from the death of a beloved pet. They were not “just a pet”, they are our family. You are not alone, we are here for you. Whether furry, feathered or scaled, all are welcome. Create a Rainbow Bridge Memorial which you care for as the Guardian of your baby’s memory. Together we can begin the journey to healing a broken heart… until the day comes when you meet once again and cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

Our second resource for today is a video.  As you will see from the content of the video, it is about how we use our time, especially in regards to relationships.  I mentioned earlier that both of today’s resources offer us a reason to be thankful, so I’d like to offer up this video as a way of saying that for many of us there is still time to restore broken relationships.  Be spared of the regret that comes afterward when the time runs out – also alluded to in the song.  For many of us, it means that we have to swallow our pride and be the one to reach out, take the blame, or just agree to disagree.  What good is it to be right if it means being estranged from a loved one?  “It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye.” Watch this 80’s video from Mike and the Mechanics titled “The Living Years”

Every generation blames the one before
And all of their frustrations come beating on your door
I know that I’m a prisoner to all my father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could’ve told him in the living years

Oh, crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thoughts
Stilted conversations I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got
You say you just don’t see it he says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement in this present tense
We all talk a different language, talking in defense

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future it’s the bitterness that lasts
So don’t yield to the fortunes you sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective on a different day
And if you don’t give up and don’t give in, you may just be okay

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

Say it loud, say it clear
Say it loud, say it clear
Say it loud, say it clear
Say it loud

So there you have today’s special “Two for Thursday” edition.  I hope that you’ll take the time to comment and let me know what you think.  Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Sincerely,

Sonny Davis

 

“I AM FAMISHED”

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Beggar

The beggar, obviously disheveled and cold, sat there on his knees with the sign in his hands.  On the busy sidewalk outside of the Fox Theater in downtown Atlanta, the crowd filed hurriedly past him at the conclusion of the concert – each hoping to get to their vehicle and exit before the traffic conditions deteriorated.  The sign wasn’t typical.  It didn’t ask for anything or exclaim that he was a “homeless Vet needing…”  There wasn’t even the typical statement of “anything will help…God bless.”  No, there were only three words.  Three words that are now forever burning my soul – “I Am Famished”.

Immediately, my heart was moved to compassion and I reached for my wallet.  I knew that I had some money that I could give this fellow, but at the same time I realized that I was being rushed by the throng of people behind me.  I couldn’t hold up traffic for this beggar, could I?  Besides, he was probably part of a scam and has strategically set himself there at the conclusion of all events hosted at the Fox.  My mind quickly weighed the options and I succumbed to the later.  Yes, it was likely just a scam.  He would just take the money and purchase drugs or something destructive.  I will not be an enabler.  I passed him by.

Now I sit here at my keyboard haunted by the person…haunted by those three words.  Try as I might, I just can’t get his image out of my mind.  I hurt and I am ashamed.  I, the one that claims to be a child of God, allowed a fellow human being to continue to suffer when I had the means to help.  Furthermore, I felt that my heart was genuinely moved to compassion to help, and that has always been my measure of using wisdom in these matters.  I felt…no…I KNOW that God moved me to give and I did not obey!  Thus I now find myself forever haunted by those three words “I AM FAMISHED.”

“Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”  Proverbs 28:27

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’  Matthew 25:35-40

Two for Thursday (New)

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Welcome to the new Two for Thursday inaugural edition post.  From this Thursday and every Thursday afterwards, I hope to bring you at least two sources of information found on the web that will encourage, amuse, and educate us all as we continue on our straight, narrow, and sometimes crooked, path of following Jesus.  These resources may be in the form of podcasts, websites, Facebook pages, YouTube, or other articles that fit the purpose of this segment.  I will do my best to vet them out, but please be advised that I do not necessarily agree with all content presented on those sites.

For today’s two resources, I’d like to present two podcasts that you may or may not be familiar with.  The first podcast is one that I just learned of during the past week: Redeeming Productivity.  The podcast also has a website of the same name, and the description of the content says the program/site is “A weekly podcast where we talk about technology, techniques, and theology in the light of Scripture, to help Christians get more done and get it done like Christians.”  I’ve actually listened to the last four episodes, and I particularly like Essential Ingredients of a Great Morning Routine.

My second podcast is more for entertainment value, and I’ll admit that the content may not always be void of crude references or language, but for the most part, many of us admire Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” and “The Deadliest Catch” (narrator) fame.  He holds to traditional values of hard work, commitment, and honesty, which I find refreshing in today’s culture.  His podcast is called The Way I Heard It.  The description of the podcast says “All good stories have a twist, and all great storytellers are just a little twisted. Join me for a different take on the people and events that you thought you knew, from pop culture to politics, Hollywood to history… The Way I Heard It is a series of short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span.”  There is also a disclaimer that states: “Each episode of The Way I Heard It is a true story about a real person, place, or thing. With respect to the facts, I try to be as accurate as possible. However, the Internet is full of conflicting accounts, and it’s entirely possible you might hear me say something about a person or an event that contradicts something you heard or read elsewhere. If so, feel free to bring any discrepancy to my attention. Just remember – I’m not wrong. It’s just the way I heard it…”

So there you have it.  Today’s post is short and sweet, but I hope that you’ll find value in it.  Also, if you have the time, please drop a comment to let me know what you think.

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Planning for 2020

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As I reflect on the year that has been, I approach 2020 with optimism that I’ll be able to more fully develop the Straight, Narrow, and Sometimes Crooked platform.  Part of this development will include more timely posts, guest contributors, and linking with other social media outlets.  Thus far, I have linked to a newly established Facebook page, and I have connected to my personal Twitter account, however; I may choose to change to dedicated Twitter feed in the future.

If you’ve found anything worthwhile in visiting the site or reading the posts, please consider sharing the site with others.  Additionally, if you have suggestions to improve the appearance or content, I would welcome that feedback, as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

Keeping the “Main Thing” the “Main Thing”

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Years ago, I heard a pastor preach a sermon that has resided in the annals of mind ever since.  And though I wish I could recall the points of every important sermon I’ve heard, the reality is that I feel as though I’m now at an age where I have to forget something to make room for anything new to be remembered.  Can you relate?

The sermon, as the title of this post implies, was about keeping our relationship to Jesus Christ the main thing.  Jesus is to be our central focus.  He should be the one that we are pointing others to, telling them about, and loving them as he would.  He, according to the Scriptures is the way, the truth, and life!  And furthermore, no one gets to the Father except through him.  It is after him that we should pattern our lives.  We should seek to follow him, imitate him, and know him more.  He is to be the MAIN THING in our lives, and we should cherish him more than silver or gold!

I share this post simply to ask if you are keeping the main thing the main thing in your life?  Is this a moment that will spur you to repent of falling away from a relationship with him?  Have you pursued other things that have led you into a life void of a meaningful relationship with him?  What have you let interfere with your relationship with Christ?  As long as you are breathing, it is never too late to repent and restore the Main Thing to it’s proper place!

 

A Decision That Changed My Life – My Testimony of How God Saved Me.

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“The walk to the altar during the invitation seemed agonizingly long. I sobbed uncontrollably, and I was faced with the realization that I was a dead man walking!”

     When considering my testimony, I really don’t have the magnificent story of a horrid past that others do. My rescue was not from a life dependent on drugs, alcohol, crime, or other such deviant behavior. Rather, my rescue was from a life lived without knowledge of my need for a Savior. Sure, alcohol was gaining control of me, and it really made me into something grotesque at times. Regardless of how good or bad I was in the sight of my peers, I needed to know that I was a sinner and in danger of being eternally separated from God.

 

The defining moment in my life came during a drunken rage one night. Newly married and madly in love with my wife, I started turning into someone that was deeply insecure and verbally abusive. There’s no doubt that alcohol was the catalyst, and I was definitely starting down a dark road in which culminated with my wife packing her bags and attempting to walk out. “I just can’t live with you like that!” is what I remember her telling me. These were words that would change me forever!

 
My wife worked for J.C Penney at the time and was in the process of completing her bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University. We had met about six months after I arrived in Valdosta, Georgia, courtesy of the United States Air Force, and after 10 short months, we were married. For me, it was love at first sight! It was during this time that one of her co-workers began regularly inviting us to church. There was no animosity in our life toward God, so we would visit when it was convenient. Unknown to me at the time, this godly co-worker of hers began diligently praying for us to come to realize our need for a Savior! And for that, I’m thankful!

 
Standing there in our doorway, I begged my wife to stay. I made a commitment to her that I would change, and perhaps I said many more things in that dreadful moment. I knew that I loved her more than anything, and whatever else was said, it was apparently convincing enough for her to stay. And though it was a tremendous relief, it was at this point I started to realize that I needed help. The type of help I thought I needed, would soon be replaced by the help that I really needed.

 
Those church members were friendly. A bit too friendly it seemed at times, but they always seemed genuinely happy to see us. I had my suspicions about them at first, but those started to diminish after a while. “No one could be this happy all the time” was an early thought of mine. “Surely, they were putting on an act.” Even so, if going to church would convince my wife that I was willing to change, I was all for it! So, we began going…and going…and going. All the while, my wife’s co-worker was praying…and praying…and praying!

 
As my wife and I were settling into our life together, we soon learned that I would have to deploy in support of Desert Storm. This came as a tremendous shock to me, even though I was in the military and knew the chance existed. I guess I always considered that the Army or Marines would take care of it. The Air Force and Navy seemed to be the safest bet for me, and since I get seasick, I had joined the Air Force. How little I knew. Yet, here I was in this moment, trying to be a good husband, starting to make new friends at church, and now facing a difficult moment that would bring separation from all of that in which I was finding comfort. If God was in control, why would he be doing this to me?

 
In spite of my upcoming deployment, we continued going to church. Those suspicious people started becoming friends, and those sermons started making sense. Week after week, I heard the message of how sin entered the world and that we were all born into it. I started to learn that all human life is infected by it, and that there was a penalty to be paid for it – death. That very sin that entered through the one man, Adam, had corrupted all of Creation, I would soon learn. God’s perfect creation had been marred by man’s attempt to usurp His control. How true this is, even today!

 
More Sundays passed, and the message became clearer. Even though one man’s disobedience brought a curse of death to all mankind, another man’s obedience would bring life! This is what I needed to hear! It was Jesus that brought life! I began to listen intently about how Jesus was born supernaturally. I learned about His perfect life that was lived without sin. I learned that He was also the Son of God, but was also God at the same time. This can still be confusing to some, but it is a truth that the Bible makes clear. I learned of the Old Testament prophecies that pointed to Jesus as being the Savior that would suffer and pay the penalty for our sin. Furthermore, I learned that He fulfilled those prophecies and was indeed put to death for our sin, raised back to life, and has now returned to Heaven. His life and death, according to the Bible, was considered a perfect sacrifice by God, thus paving the way for us to have forgiveness and be reunited with Him in the future. It was something that the Scriptures make clear that we could never do for ourselves! Having always believed I needed to be good enough, make myself better, and do stuff to gain approval, I welcomed this good news and sought to know more.

 
By God’s grace, I now realize that He was drawing me to Himself during this time. Each sermon was like a spoonful of truth that led me to want more. And though I still struggled with the fact that I could do nothing to gain God’s favor, I was slowly beginning to realize the significance of grace. It was His love for me that compelled Him to offer His only son as a sacrifice for my sins! The Gospel was becoming clearer to me Sunday by Sunday, until that one particular Sunday when it became perfectly clear!

 
In what felt to me like an empty auditorium, the pastor preached. He was speaking directly to me. There was no one else, not my wife, not my friends, no Deacons, Sunday School teachers, no one! The message was simple, yet profound. I had a decision to make, and I knew it. Would I receive this gift of salvation that God was offering based on the work of His son, Jesus, or would I continue on in my unbelief knowing that at a moment’s notice death could take me away to eternal separation from His goodness to a place that the Bible says will be eternal torment with weeping and gnashing of teeth? Perhaps it was the fact that I realized that I was not guaranteed one more second into the future that opened my eyes. Maybe it was a fear of eternal condemnation without relief. Or maybe, just maybe, it was an understanding that this Jesus loved me enough, in spite of who I was and what I’d done, that He’d lay down His life for me and pay the debt for my sin! All I had to do, according to the Scriptures, was to believe that Jesus had paid the price for my sins through His death on the cross, ask Him to forgive me of those sins, and then ask Him to lead me for the rest of my life and be my Lord! I would also come to know more fully that even though I’d be forgiven, I would continue to struggle with my sinful nature until I breathe my last breath and am ushered into Heaven. God does not leave us abandoned as orphans. He has promised to provide us His Holy Spirit to help guide us. Once again, this was welcome news. In fact, it was great news!

 
The walk to the altar during the invitation seemed agonizingly long. I sobbed uncontrollably, and I was faced with the realization that I was a dead man walking! I needed a Savior, and here I was now bowing my knee; my life; to Him there in that place. To say it more simply, I asked God to forgive me and save me. I told Him that I trust that Jesus is who the Bible says He is, and I believe with all of my heart that He was crucified for my sin and raised from the dead for my justification. I accepted the fact that I could not save myself, and I committed to follow and serve Him for the rest of my days!

 
Overwhelmed by His love and this gift, I could barely stand. Tears streamed down my face as I made my profession of faith public to those in attendance – those that moments ago I was totally unaware were present. Unaware of what the journey ahead would be like, I was certain of this – I was perfectly loved by a perfect Savior, and I was sure that I now belonged to Him!

 
Much more can be said of my life since Christ redeemed me, and I would happily devote pages to that. However, for the sake of this post, I will tell you that I am glad I came to the realization that I was not saved because I was a good person, or that my parents were Christians (in fact the only thing we inherit is sin). I was saved because I surrendered myself to the authority of Jesus and believed with my whole heart that it was HIS work that provided for my salvation! Nothing I could ever do would ever be good enough! And for that, I am eternally grateful! That, my friends, is GOOD NEWS!

 

If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine – wondering why you need to be saved, or thinking that you’re good enough to go to Heaven, please consider my testimony.  Don’t think that you have to be good enough, because you will never be.  There’s nothing you can ever do to earn salvation.  We have inherited a death penalty, but Jesus has come to give us life.

 

If you haven’t already done so, what is stopping you from calling on Him to save you today and trusting Him as Lord of your life?  You can do that today by admitting that you’ve sinned.  Believe that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and ask Him to forgive you, and then confess that He is your Lord and that you will trust Him for the rest of your life.

 

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

(All Scripture reference taken from the NIV)

 

Thinking Out Loud…

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Why is hate always linked with intolerance?

Why is the word “love” used so flippantly?

If Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, why don’t many others seek to know him and make him known?

Why do so many view God as wanting to “bless them” and to “make them prosper” in this life?

Why do so many people wish to live a life without suffering or trials, when the Bible clearly states that enduring such makes us stronger and comes with rewards?

Why do so many people reject that God created the world and has a plan for their lives?

Why are we so quick to cry out “Why me, Lord?” and rarely consider “Why not me, Lord?”

Why is so hard for us to consider ourselves to be sinful, when the Bible clearly states that “all have sinned.”

Do people really deny the existence of God simply because they think if they acknowledge his existence that they will be held accountable to him?

If life so often ends tragically, then why should we assume that we’ll have time to turn to God later in life?

The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave up His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  If this is so, then why don’t people believe?

If the Bible is true (I believe it is), and “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”, then why don’t people believe and confess?

The Bible proclaims that over 500 people saw Jesus alive after he was crucified and confirmed dead.  If so, then why can’t we believe that he was indeed raised from the dead?

Since the Bible says that “if we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, then why wouldn’t one want to do that right away?

**All of these questions are meant for your consideration.  I, myself, am a believer in Jesus Christ, and based on what I’ve read and experienced, I’m as convinced that he is true as much as I believe I’m alive today.  I accept the fact that it is by the grace of God that I am saved, and that it is nothing that I ever deserved or could earn (Ephesians 2:8-9).  I believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and life” and that “no one comes to the Father but through Me (Jesus).” (John 14:6)  Furthermore, I believe that “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  Based on these things, I cried out to God to forgive me and cleanse me of my sins.  I confessed that Jesus is Lord, and I believe wholeheartedly that God has raised him from the dead and I was saved!  He is both Lord and Savior of my life, and I am convinced without a shadow of doubt that I will be saved from the eternal separation from God when my days are finished, for as the scripture states “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

 

 

 

A Few Thoughts…

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My writing time has been few and far between as of late.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have things to write about, rather, I think it has more to do with what I’m doing with my time, other than writing.

As recent transplants to North Georgia, my wife and I both have full time jobs.  When we aren’t working, we’re taking time out to visit various locations throughout this area that we dearly love.  It’s beautiful and breathtaking.  From the rolling hills filled with wildlife and waterfalls to the rivers, streams, and Lake Lanier, we simply feel that God has given us one of the desires of our heart to move here.  And simply put, we’re taking advantage of every moment.

One of our greatest achievements thus far has been to get involved with a local church.  Not only is it a church that we feel wholeheartedly that God led us to, but it is a dynamic church that is “on fire” for the Lord, especially when it comes to making disciples.  In fact, our church’s mission statement is to “make disciples everywhere.”  This is not something that is tossed about flippantly, either, but it is something that is taught from the pulpit, community groups, and regularly communicated by its members.  There is even a small booklet that we use called “No Sweat Discipleship” that not only helps you be a disciple, but it can be used to teach others how to be a disciple and to disciple others.  For more information, click here:  No Sweat Discipleship

Additionally, we have joined a community group within our church, and it has allowed us to make new friends and be involved in the “making disciples” process.  This is similar to a Sunday School class, but we also meet regularly outside of the church.  The women of the group meet together, as do the men.  Both groups are currently using the No Sweat Discipleship model to learn and grow in the things of the Lord.

As I previously stated, though my time hasn’t been spent as much writing here at the Straight, Narrow, and Sometimes Crooked, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t have as much to say, I guess I’ve started directing those efforts to other places.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t intend to continue posting here, because I do.  It just means that I feel that the Lord is leading me to expand my boundaries.  One way is through encouragement texts to the men in my community groups.  And if not for the encouragement of my wife, I probably wouldn’t be sharing one of those texts here, but hoping that you may find encouragement too, here it is:

“Men, last week I sent our a reminder for us to pay attention to what we let our mind dwell on so that we may glorify God even with our thoughts and not be compelled to sin.  This week’s thought centers around us keeping a proper perspective that we are “not home yet.”  Philippians 3:20 reminds us that “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enable him even to subject all things to himself.”  Furthermore, the Psalmist cries out “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me.”  Psalm 119:19

It is imperative that we not lose sight of the big picture, as we live, love, and share.  Just as Abraham lived in the “land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob” and “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God”, we too should be encouraged to know that all of those difficult trials and persecutions will culminate in a glorious homecoming in a place that our Savior has prepared for us!  Keep the faith!”

Thanks for stopping by the site, and if you’d like, please feel free to drop a comment!

Enjoying God in the Outdoors

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As frequent visitors to the North Georgia mountains, my wife developed a love for the outdoors.  Though we are particularly fond of the North Georgia area, we were living in South Georgia, about as far away from those mountains that we loved without leaving the state.  Even so, South Georgia has a beauty of its own with its flatlands, farms, cotton fields, rivers, creeks, etc.  And while we feel our love for the outdoors began in North Georgia, it certainly compelled us to get out and explore more of South Georgia, too.  As our passion for the outdoors grew, so too did our love for God’s magnificent creation!

That God is the Creator of the world may be disputed by some, we are not in that camp.  In fact, we believe God’s Word with all of our heart and I hold to the belief that he created it in six literal days, while resting on the seventh.  With that being said, my post today isn’t an explanation as to why I believe that, rather, it is about how God has used nature (and His Word) to bring revival to my heart in times when I need it most.  My friends have likely heard me utter the phrase that our trips out into nature brings me back to the center.  Of course, that means refocusing my life on the One that is in the center, and around which everything else revolves.  Simply put, God seems to use nature to bring me back to a proper perspective.  Furthermore, I have identified at least two ways that He does this: quiet time and Scripture.

When we venture outside, whether it be on one of our many camping trips, hiking adventures, kayaking or canoeing, I find myself away from the noise of every day life.  The beauty of what we are doing quickly causes life’s concerns to fade off into the distance.  Thus, it is here that I begin to regain a little bit of focus.  That’s not to say that I totally lose perspective of that which I’m trying to get away from, but I mean that it helps me fill the need to rest.  And if rest wasn’t important for us, then God wouldn’t have stressed it throughout his Word.  When I think of this, I find myself taken back to one of our earliest of camping trips at Vogel State Park in Blairsville, Georgia.  In what could probably be described as a watershed moment in my life, the light seemed to come on while I sat in my camp chair early one morning around daybreak.  As a deer made its way through my campsite, totally aware of my presence and without fear, I admired its beauty.  It was graceful, beautiful, and appeared to be at peace.  I was amazed and quiet.  Amazed that I was that close to such a lovely creature, and quiet so as to not startle her.  And when I was quiet, I started to hear a still, small voice whispering deep within my soul.  Drifting off into reflection, my attention was soon diverted to the morning songs of the birds in the trees, a beautiful symphony of sounds.  In fact, it was in that moment that I was led to write the following:

This morning I heard birds singing…
This is what I heard:
Their chirps were of melodious spirit, uplifting and exuberant;
Songs filled with gratitude and joy!
Grateful were the birds, for a brand new day!

Noticeably absent from their tunes were cries of despair;
No mourning or weeping.
Happy! Yes, happy were the birds!
Gleeful, giddy, and wonderful – those birds!

“Welcome!” “Rise and shine!” “Rejoice!”…
Their lyrics rang.
“Blessed!” “Loved!” Provided for are we!”…
Continually they sang!

The song of those birds made me pause;
I gave thought to what played.
And with a voice not so beautiful I too cried out, “Rejoice!”
“Indeed, this is a day that the Lord has made!”

At another time away from the mountains of North Georgia, I penned the following:

I wish I could be north of here
In a land where the hills rise
Where the Nottely and the Wolf appear
And Blood Mountain dominates the sky.

Near a trail made famous by those who hike
And a center built to honor Reece
In a park nearby, I surely like
Where happiness appears to never cease.

For now, however, I’ll keep dreaming
Of that place in the hills
Until once again I see the beauty beaming
From that wonderful town of Blairsville!

There are many other poems I’ve written during my quiet times outdoors, but the point  I’m trying to make is that in those quiet times outdoors, I almost always seem to be given a deeper perspective on the beauty of creation.  From the quietness, I’m inspired.

Additionally, my wife and I have been to places that stir our soul in a different way.  Looking out upon valleys of rolling mountains, lush greenery, and cascading waterfalls, scripture often comes to mind.  This is something I now look forward to – the ability to find passages in the Word that adequately describe what I’m feeling…what I’m seeing.  For example, in Psalm 104, we read:

[1] Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
[2] covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
[3] He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
[4] he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.

[5] He set the earth on its foundations,
so that it should never be moved.
[6] You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
[7] At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
[8] The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
to the place that you appointed for them.
[9] You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again cover the earth. 

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills;
11 they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. (ESV.org)

Can you see the picture that I described above?  Do you not see the Creator in nature?

There are other ways that I tie scripture into our outdoor adventures.  I also like to take pictures and caption them with particular passages.  Similar to what you can find from a google search of a particular passage by selecting “images”, I, too, enjoy adding scripture passages to my pictures.  It is just another way that the Word of God speaks to me in the Great Outdoors.

What about you?  Do you enjoy spending time in the outdoors?  Are your experiences similar to mine?

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A King Rescued Me…And You.

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Every year at Christmas time, there are just some things that never change.  There always seems to be the latest and greatest toy or gadget that everyone seems to want.  There is the inevitable stress associated with family travel plans.  Christmas shows fill the airwaves, and decorations light up the neighborhoods.  And within the church, there’s the long-awaited candle-light Christmas Service, which is usually preceded a week or so by the Christmas Musical (Cantata).

Specific to Christianity, Christmas always brings sermons, or Bible readings following the traditional verses of Scripture that point to the prophesy and birth of our Savior.  We often point to verses such as Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Additionally, we also read about the shepherds receiving the announcement from the Angels in Luke 2:8-11“8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  This is indeed a time to consider these things.  The birth of Christ is paramount in the life of a believer.  He was (and is) the long-expected Messiah!

While reading Gospel Centered Discipleship (Dodson) recently, I came across an interesting passage that sets a scene that I will not soon forget.  Though the context of the passage wasn’t necessarily meant for a Christmas story type of application, I find it to be extremely relevant, with a different perspective.  Referring to “Jesus’ messianic identity as the anointed servant of the Lord, prophesied by Isaiah, as the one who would rescue and redeem God’s people” the author expounds on Hebrews 13:12 “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify a people through his own blood”  He sums it up this way:  “Jesus rescues and forgives disloyal, undeserving disciples from their sin over and over again through his once-for-all death on the cross.  The King becomes Servant for all who hope in him, when Jesus lays down to atone for our every failure to obey and honor him as Lord.  The King descends from his throne, moves out beyond the courtyard to a place outside the city, where his body is engulfed in sin to sanctify a people for himself.

Based on the author’s description, I’ll tell you that my mind envisioned a King that had dominion over all territories.  Even so, there were many outside the gate that despised his rule and dominion over them.  In an effort to save them all, even those that rejected him, the King leaves all of his security details behind and ventures outside of the city into the very midst of those who seek to do him harm.  Picture our President venturing out without the Secret Service, or the Queen of England without her security details.  In our world’s current political climate you can understand the dangers associated with such a venture.  Yet here was Jesus, the KING of kings and Lord of lords, leaving all of his glory to venture into such a place.  Motivated by love, he willingly left a security detail of more than 12 Legions of Angels (Matt. 26:53) to move out beyond the gates of Heaven into a people who would reject him.  Jesus came to be born of the virgin, he lived a perfect, sinless life, and was put to death by the very ones he came to save.  Yet in the same power in which he came, he was raised to life again defeating death, hell and the grave!

As previously mentioned, I know that this isn’t your traditional Christmas story.  Moreover, my post is likely to be disheveled and prepared in haste.  Even so, I pray that whichever Christmas story, or Scriptures that you read…I pray that Christ will be magnified in your life in such a way that others will want to know more!

Merry Christmas!