Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Story and A Journey

Note: Every testimony is unique. Some are dramatic and some are the sweet blossom of good seed and soil. Some come to faith in a moment and some are led on a path of years. 

This is my story.

Do you remember having your eyes opened to the gospel- the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ?
My parents were good to get me in church a lot growing up. Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Bible sword drills all began the process.
I remember, Jack Rutledge, father of Alabama QB Jeff, putting his arm around me and quietly asking me to give my heart to Jesus. I tensed up and was unwilling… little did I know that those faithful seeds were going to root in time…. ( I was excited to tell him years later of my conversion).
My first 'experience' with God was at the age of 8 when I was baptized at Ruhama Baptist Church in Birmingham. It was during a revival and I felt like I was ‘supposed’ to go down the aisle. I remember a Pastor meeting with my mother and me. During this meeting, he showed me a Good News Bible and pointed to a picture of a shepherd and sheep. I just shook my head “yes”. I really did not know what I was doing.. no understanding at all!
The baptismal ceremony was performed in freezing cold water because the water heater was broken. It took my breath away as I went under. In later years I laughed that this was a little humor from the Lord about my “cold” baptism.
I tried to be a good boy for about 2 weeks but eventually regressed to being the same ole me.
All of these were important experiences with God… but it wasn’t the ‘eye opening’ experience that precedes conversion. I do, however, vividly remember that initial time of understanding….
It was in 8th grade, I remember a Sunday School teacher explaining the gospel in a way that I actually understood it. My sin was real and Jesus’ sacrifice made complete sense in bridging the separation I had with God.
Even though the good news had been presented maybe hundreds of times before that.. I did not understand.. it did not ‘click’. But that day.. it made so much sense..I was in sin… Jesus was the substitute for sin… but it created a PROBLEM!
I vividly remember thinking I’ve already been baptized, so I can’t tell anyone that I’m not a real Christian And I lived in conflict off and on for a long time. I knew I wasn’t living for God and I believed that I was going to hell. It disturbed me whenever I thought about it.
I was playing a video game in the mall and a little girl came up with a gospel tract. I treated her very rudely, but inside I still felt condemned.
Another time a girl I knew well told me that I couldn’t be a Christian because of my behavior. I told her that I had been baptized. She said that baptized or not, I lived like I was going to hell. Deep in my heart, I knew she was right.
Getting to high school actually provided escape from these thoughts and found that I was hardening to the idea that I was not a believer. Sports were a great diversion and offered some reward as an idol. I received recognition and relationships and I experienced a lot of success.
My realization about eternity abruptly came back up in the summer before my junior year. An acquaintance of mine was tragically killed while robbing a convenience store. He was with a group who was doing it just for the thrill. I was heartbroken and our school was in despair!
I remember receiving this news from my mom as I was coming home from Sunday School. I don’t know why I went to church that day and remember nothing from the visit.
All of the students were grief stricken and I was confronted once again with the idea of death.
We had a student gathering at a home and I was very impressed by the message. It was my first experience with Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. A minister, Tom Caradine, gave a clear gospel presentation along with Biblical answers for grief and loss. I was stirred immensely.
After the meeting, a college student who had been an athletic role model for me, Benny Parks, found me and shared a gospel tract with me. The tract had a drawing of two lives (see below) and I knew that my life was not being directed by Christ.
self directed
The above image was me… and I wasn’t happy with my life at al!

Christ Directed
This is what I desired… and it led me to a desire to get it right with God!

I went home and re-read the tract and knew it was time to make a choice. I got on my knees and prayed that God would forgive me and take me back. At the time, I thought I was re-dedicating my life to Christ. I now know from thinking through Scripture that this was my actual conversion.
Right after that prayer, I got up and went to smoke or fireworks. But when I woke up the next morning..I remembered and I knew something was different.
Some immediate changes took place. I told my mom and a few friends that I had re-dedicated my life with Christ. This was a big step for me. I also began to read the Bible with great interest. I read the whole New Testament in about 2 days and the words seemed to burn in my soul. I have not had that sensation since, but it was a really cool moment.
I had a friend of mine make a poster for me to put in my football locker. I wanted coaches and teammates to know that I had made a change.
I also had a real sensation of peace with God. My anxiety about eternal destruction was completely gone. I have had this peace for so long now, that I have almost forgotten what the stress of condemnation was like.

All of this took place 36 years ago! 

Looking back in the light of Scripture like Romans and others, I now see that prayer night of my Junior year as being my conversion. And though there were times I did not live like a believer after that, I know that that was the moment of repentance and faith. I have failed Him many times... but He has never failed me!

In all of those years since, I have had the joy and agony of what it means to walk with God. I have had times of power and purity and I have had seasons of sin and sorrow.

In a long trail behind me are people who I shined a beautiful and loving light for Christ and there are others who might be convinced I am the devil.

I will say this.... it is one decision I have never regretted... and having Jesus in charge is a blessings. His plan for my life is much better that I could have ever done alone.

When I post these all-too-human  motive is always in question.

But my heart aches in these moments with a prayer.....

What is keeping you from Jesus?

Some men think they are too good for Jesus. "I have everything I need... I don't really need Him... I'm not a bad person... I haven't robbed a bank or killed someone."

Most men think they are too bad for Jesus. "If you only knew what I have done!"

Are you afraid of what people may think?

Are you too stubborn to let the air out of your pride?

Drop all of your pretense and bow your head... right now...

And simply ask .....

My greatest prayer I have ever prayed is "God, please help me!"

And Your loving Heavenly Father RUNS to those kind of heart prayers.

And for a few days... just spend some time with Him.

Read the Bible.... I recommend Philippians and I John for those who feel new or weak in the faith.

Find a Bible believing friend and ask them to meet with you once a week.

Find a Bible believing church and start attending on Sunday mornings.

All of those recommendations are not to get you religious... they are places to get to know Jesus.

The One who died... so you may live.

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:11-15 ESV)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Ricky Bobby Lied" and other Rio Reactions

Every four years we get a nice break from the dripping and grinding issues of life to find a convenient distraction of interest, emotions, and nationalistic zeal.

I have always enjoyed the Olympics and always tear up at the underdog win and celebrate the excitement of elite competition.

Sure... a cynic can pick on it... politics, agendas, doping, ratings..... but why waste this only once every 4 years treat?

So, whether this post will have any readers or not... this is meant for me to remember....

RICKY BOBBY LIED.... The Olympics gives us a great reminder that to compete and win a medal is special. Most of the time a silver or bronze medal is received with JOY and it should be. All of the athletes go for the gold.... Sorry, Ricky Bobby....being second or third is not last. It is a special accomplishment.


Cristo Redentor, Christ the Redeemer, could not be ignored as NBC displayed captivating cut ins and aerial shots throughout the Olympics.  I couldn't help but think of the powerful image and message and tweeted about it on the last day

My final Rio thoughts-as the world strained for gold- as we rejoiced and cried- Jesus's arms remained open through it all. Who will believe?


Wow- what a display of champions... each with a wonderful story. The human drama of trial and achievement.

Human frailty and the razor-thin winning edge makes each competition full of meaning and suspense!

I could go on and on about the amazing victories.

I mean, the medal count itself shows how an entire novel of pain and ecstasy.




BOLT- The Greatest Athlete Ever?

I mean, what can you say.... 3 straight Olympics and 9 Gold Medals! Truly the longest dominant streak by any power athlete in history.


 I don't know if you noticed or not..but almost every great runner of every country were all wearing the same shoe.

I did see a few others.... on the ones coming up the rear......


So I hate to end this blog of Olympic memories with the biggest head scratcher of all.

A man won the women's 800. He/She dominated.

What in the world are we doing? How is this fair to the women in the race?

Russia ought to take note for the 2020 games in Tokyo... no need to do performance enhancing drugs... just make all of your men to become women.. and you will own the medal count without worrying about the IOC pee cup.

If this truly makes sense... why have women's events at all? Let's just have the gender neutral games and see what Pat can do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Have Fruit? 'Abiding' in the Vine

The theme verse for BCS this year is ''Walking the Spirit'. Here are some thoughts on living a more 'fruitful' life:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:1-8
Have you ever hit that point where your sense of God’s presence seems stale or distant? Does the weariness of the world and the contrary winds of culture make you want to chunk it all away?
Are you finding that you aren’t praying or sharing Jesus with others?
We always want to be very careful…. I have always found 2 Timothy 3:1-7 to be scary
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
And if we are honest… any anecdotal survey of CHURCH culture has numerous examples of this.
What Jesus describes in John 15 is an analogy of WHERE the source of power flows from and what our daily purpose should be.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
The source of power is the Triune God- the Creator of the Universe- the Almighty. And there is a purpose for His kingdom…’bear more fruit”.
What fruit are we talking about? There is both internal and external fruit that should, over time, flow out of the life of a Christian.
Internal Fruit:
We mentioned yesterday the internal fruit of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
(Galatians 5:22-25 ESV)
External Fruit:
I believe an excellent argument could be shown that Scripture expects fruitful produce in life among His people based on God given talent and opportunity. These follow in the form of children, good works, multiplying disciples, adding to the church, service, and a productive life of excellence which glorifies God.


Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
What does it mean to abide in Jesus? Abiding is found in time, place, frequency, intensity, and duration.
TIME: This is a relationship that grows roots and shoots over a long period of time. ‘Hours for the world and mere minutes for Christ” is not a way to develop this abiding principle.
PLACE: God is everywhere and dwells within every believer- but I also believe ‘abiding’ incorporates a place where you get away and spend focused time with God. The gospels frequently mention about Jesus withdrawing to a desolate place, usually on a mountain and spending time in prayer. The best times of abiding in my life have been times where I had a designated time and place to get away from all distractions and contemplating deep thoughts and prayers to God.
FREQUENCY: “Abiding” also grows as we have these experiences with regular repetition.
INTENSITY: Abiding with Christ is not a 5 minute ‘Jesus Calling’ quick scan. It is not a checklist duty of the day. We need to bring our ‘A’ game to the meeting.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?  (Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)
DURATION: Is there a set time? Absolutely not! And if I am honest, I will have periods of ‘routine’.. it is better to do it that no do it… but I encourage you to consider every now and then spending bigger segments of time abiding in the Lord, meditating on His Word, on your knees, praising Him with zeal!
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
YIKES…These images! But have you ever noticed what happens when you remove a stick from a fire? It burns out. So do we, when we cease to abide, we burn out in a sad pile of human inability.
And we all experience this….
Look at the earlier statement:
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
When you get to those dark times or dry times- you are experiencing one of 2 things:
Either you are a true believer and you are being pruned for more effective gospel impact
You were never a part of Jesus in the first place.
Part of the answer is- are you miserable apart from Jesus or is it no big deal? Do you miss Him?
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
When you spend time with Jesus and learn to rest in Him, be with Him, abide in Him- you find your heart being tuned to His desires and will. And you begin to pray according to His heart and will, and He responds with beautiful expressions of love and grace.
And is there ANYTHING more attractive than a man or women so in love with the Lord that their lives spread sweetness and encouragement, peace and strength, service and contentment to many around them?
I am convinced if we took the time and effort to abide in the true vine… we would see global expansion of the gospel like no other time in history.

Do you believe this?