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Christmas Sounds of Silence

O little town of Bethlehem
where Jesus Christ was born
now celebrated Christmas morn
with pretty papers torn.
Gifts given and received,
some for you and for me
bring much delight to all tonight
around the Christmas lights.

Good friends and kin will gather
on Christmas day with others
sharing and making memories
to last throughout the years.
Let’s not forget the reason
we celebrate this season.
It’s more than in receiving
it’s found in believing.

God’s gift to us is Jesus
His promise when we trust
and believe in His sacrifice
upon the cruel cross.
He died for your sins and mine
once-for-all for all time
and now lives with God in heaven –
our new home when we’re born again.

Believe and receive God’s gift
then live a life of trust,
knowing that He remains faithful
whenever we might call.
It’s in prayer that God hears us
as we live in faith and trust
that God has a purpose and plan
for all men and women.

Let’s not forget the reason
we celebrate this season.
Christmas is God’s Son’s birthday,
a day when God made a way
to bring peace on earth and joy
to men, women, girls and boys
when we simply in Christ believe
and God’s beloved gift receive.

Economic Hard Times and Praying

I don’t have to tell you that prices are up and enthusiam is low. It seems in our world that things are a bit out of control. We pay more for less. I filled up my truck yesterday and spent over $80..liquid gold! It is during these tough times that people really question God. Does He know what is happening? Does He care? What is He going to do about it?

These are tough questions to handle. Whenever i face difficult days and periods in life, I always turn to God’s word…the Bible. Philippians 4:20 reminds us that, “My god will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) a few key words can encourage us:

Wow! Simple Living is now in print and will be arriving soon. Many have pre-ordered this book and will soon receive it on their front doorstep. I pray you enjoy the read and are challenged to live the Simple Life. Consider purchasing copies for your friends as they will be touched as well.

It is exciting to see what God is doing. Continue to pray for me as I am just about 100% recovered from back surgery. Pray that doors will open for interviews and book signings. Mostly, that this message will get out to those who need a relationship with Christ.

I have just finished the final documents releasing Simple Living for print! I know many of you have already placed orders and soon you will receive your books. Thank you so much for taking the time and investing in this project. I can’t wait for you to finally open the front cover and dive in to the simple world.

This being my first book, I didn’t know what to expect. I have been well pleased with all the fine people at WinePress and Pleasant Word. They are the absolute best to work with. I encourage you  to consider their services if you desire to be published.

Summer has brought its soaring temps and humidity to the south! I pray your days are going well. I wanted to give a brief update on a few items. My recovery is going well and I am back in the pulpit. I really hated missing two Sundays but God provided. Pre-orders are now being taken for Simple Living. I am so excited! I want to thank those who encouraged me to write and many who are supporting this adventure. I think this book can give guidance to many who do not know Christ and those whose faith may have grown weak. Consider buying some copies for friends who need a little laughter in their day and direction along the way.

I pray God’s richest blessings on you. Pray for me as I begin to wirte a second book. The working title is, Playing with God. It will be a very challenging book.

Summer has arrived and it is hot! I pray you are having a great and Simple summer. God has definitely slowed me down for a few weeks. On July 3 I had some back surgery and will be recuperating for a few weeks. Nothing major just more time to study and relax. I don’t like to slow down so “cabin fever” has set in!

I have learned that there are so many people ready to step up and helpduring times of need. I am reminded how important relationships really are and just how much patience I lack. Soon I will be back in full swing.

Keep Going – God Has a Plan

I have a lot to learn. The older I get I find out just how much I still have left to learn. Smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Blackberries (still think they grow on vines!), internet marketing, search engines, html, and all the other high tech things I can’t even pronounce really intimidate me. Do you feel the same way? Of course, there may be a generation gap in here somewhere if you said no! I thought I would know how to handle those things more confidently. Thank goodness, God doesn’t leave me that way!

I may not know if all, but I have learned it’s okay not to know it all. It’s okay for me to admit that “I don’t know”, or that I might have made a mistake. I don’t want to act like I have it altogether, because I certainly don’t. I’m learning on a daily basis.

No matter how old we are, we can still be growing, bettering ourselves, rethinking things, and changing our minds about what we like. It’s okay! I change my mind a lot. Each time, I get a little closer to what I want for my life.

God isn’t finished with me yet. He’s not finished with you either. There’s a lot in our lives to whittle away, mold, scrape off, throw out, and sift. Sometimes it is painful, but sometimes it is welcome. He’s not out to harm us. He doesn’t neglect us. He encourages, guides, and sometimes disciplines. He has in mind for us a fulfilling life. That’s what I want, don’t you? We need to gain wisdom, discernment from our past mistakes and failures. We must swallow our pride and be humble, as we follow His leading and direction.

Trust in Him, for He is not finished with you (or me) you!

Women Can Thrive

Just last week, our “Blog for working Moms” included part I of an interview with Dr. Yvonne Anderson, a Georgia educator who’s passionate about getting parents involved in their children’s education. In the future, you can expect video blog posts and other resources to help women thrive.

Lessons from the Littlest: A Devotional for Mothers of Young Children, the 31-day devotional book by Cherise Bopape, offers valuable insight for moms, showing them how to be cognizant of God at work in their lives as they interact with their young children.

“I tend to make things complicated,” Cherise Bopape says. “By mimicking the innocence and faith of a child, we please God. Through spilled milk, poop-filled diapers, and a slew of Little League games or cheerleading practices we can still praise God, be thankful, and give service with a smile. I had to learn this the hard way.” Many moms would nod in agreement. However, Cherise Bopape uses these everyday scenarios to inspire today’s busy mothers.

During a 3:00 p.m. book signing on May 1, 2010, at The Emerald Earth—a coffee shop nestled inside the Acworth Bookstore (4857 N. Main Street, Acworth, Georgia 30101)—parents will meet two authors, Cherise Bopape and Mayor Tommy Allegood. They will be reading excerpts from their respective works and conducting a question and answer session.

Moms will enjoy this opportunity to be inspired, gain parenting insight, and hear stories on child rearing. A door prize will be offered. Admission is free. However, donations ($5 to $10) are suggested. Coffee, tea, chai, and pastries will be available for purchase.

Cherise Bopape is an author, freelance writer, blogger, and speaker. She encourages single moms, inspires mothers with young children, offers tips for women who struggle with work-life balance, and provides hope for victims of domestic violence. She volunteers on the advisory board for Dream Again, Inc., a non-profit organization that serves single mothers. Having been a guest on various television and radio programs, Cherise Bopape has also written articles for The Lookout Magazine, MustardSeedMinistries.org, and various newsletters for non-profit organizations.

According to a survey conducted by this dot com, “only 44% of those surveyed would classify single moms as ‘respectable.’” Reading a bit further, my reactions went from gasps to disgust as I glimpsed at American’s poor perception of single mothers.

After seeing results like this, it’s important to show the “lemonade” that can come out of the “lemon-laden” life many single moms experience. Obviously, America needs to be reminded of successful people like movie industry mogul Robert Townsend; Olympic medalist Michael Phelps; actor and producer, Tom Cruise; award-winning neurosurgeon, Dr. Benjamin Carson; and even U. S. President Barack Obama—all who were raised in single parent homes.

During my interview with Robert Townsend last week, I was happy to find that he’s using the arts to educate the masses on single parenthood and offer solutions. He does this through a web-based series he produces and directs, Diary of a Single Mom. Townsend stated, “Being raised in the ghetto of Chicago … how my mother did it, I have no idea. We grew up in the roughest neighborhood. I think they praise NBA stars and athletes … and the unsung heroes are single moms.”

Despite appalling survey results and bashes from the public, continue to press on, ladies. God loves you, sees your struggle, and desires to empower you to an awesome finish. Letting Him guide your steps, build your faith, and provide all you need to excel, you’ll soon realize that you really can be someone’s hero.

Christ Still Loves Us

Luke 7:36-50 NLT “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The sinful woman with the alabaster box is a story Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each tell. In Matthew 26:6-13, Matthew being a former tax collector tells the woman’s story and focuses on the money spent in her use of the oil on Jesus’ feet. In Mark 14:3-9, Mark, being an apostle designed to build up the church’s faith, focused on the deeds the woman did in helping spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Luke, the physician, focused on the healing salvation and forgiveness the woman received. In John 12:1-8, John tells the same story as the others, yet he is the only one that refers to her as “Mary” instead of “the woman”. John the closest disciple of Jesus knew enough to call the attendees by name because he was familiar with Jesus’ inner circle. Although these disciples all had different angles, they all told the same story of a sinner saved by grace. They spread the story of a woman who was used and then refused by men, but who was totally embraced, accepted, and forgiven by God.

All You Need Is Love and Kindness

Luke 6:26 “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

Everyone wants to be liked. My goodness, Mark Zuckerberg has built a billion dollar business on “likes.” We feel wonderful when we’re liked, somewhat devastated when we’re not. There’s nothing wrong with desiring to be liked. Even in evangelistic terms, who listens to someone they don’t like? The problem comes when “like” takes precedent over love.

How do you react when you feel someone doesn’t like you?

One natural human tendency is to withdraw. This probably occurs if rejection has played a role in our past. The hidden danger lies in interpreting everything through the lens of negativity. Someone doesn’t wave back at church. Someone else doesn’t respond to an email or facebook post. Another disagrees with something we believe. They all become evidences that we’re not liked. Can you see where this leads? Straight to paranoia. And all paranoia—even in small doses—distorts the image of God we are meant to bear.

A second danger for like-addicts is that we’re not apt to confront someone with the truth for fear they won’t, well, like us anymore. We may even use love language to rationalize our reluctance. But no matter how much we try to justify it, there is nothing loving about letting people believe lies. That’s just using cheap grace to hide our selfishness. Love is not “live and let live.” It’s more along the lines of dying. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:3).

Another option takes the form of love. Rather than letting our minds mull over either real or misperceived rejection, we choose a higher road. We direct our thoughts to what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). When we soak our minds, our souls, with the good stuff, we don’t need to gobble up man’s affirmation like a starving waif. We’re full. So full, that even if our perceptions are true, and someone is rejecting us…what difference does it make? We respond out of the love God has given us, not out of a desperate need for man’s approval.

Blessed are those who seek to love more than be liked. The Beatles notwithstanding, it’s all we really need….

Weak Things

1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

He was far from the best speaker in my Public Speaking Class. Poor eye contact, monotone voice, nervous fidgeting. He worked hard, though, and by the end of the semester he had gained ground. The turning point came when he gave his persuasive speech, arguing against abortion. Although the class consisted of Bible college students, rather than using Scripture to support his points, he took a clear logical, fact-based approach. It turned out to be a solid speech.

I had actually forgotten about it. It had gotten lost in the mix of four other speech classes and well over a hundred speeches I had listened to in the last few weeks. That, however, was about to change….

The last day of class another student gave her final speech on what she had learned over the semester. She explained that she had always been personally opposed to abortion, but considered it to be a woman’s choice…until she heard her classmate’s speech. She said the most significant factor of the semester was the impact that one speech made on her. It had caused her to move from being “pro-choice” to “100% pro-life.” That doesn’t usually happen in speech classes. I was stunned.

I couldn’t help but be grateful my student didn’t let his marginal skills at public speaking deter him from addressing such a huge controversial issue. He somehow realized that the message was greater than the messenger. Because he went for it, despite his weakness, a life was changed. And who knows how many other lives?

How often do we sit on our gifts and abilities because they don’t measure up to those who are far more gifted? I often wish I could craft words like Max Lucado. I wish I could deliver truth with the dynamism of Beth Moore. I wish I could teach as skillfully as my friend Joanne Williams. Just because we feel we’re not as gifted as others, it doesn’t mean we have nothing to offer.

God made us all so differently. He positioned us uniquely. Yet he has given us the same call….to use all we have—little or much—for his glory.

Don’t fall into the comparison trap. Don’t be like the one who hid his talent because he lacked the ten or the five (Matthew 25:25). Don’t let anything keep you from being a “good and faithful servant” even if you are a weak thing.

The Last Man Kneeling

Hebrews 5:7 “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

Jesus was perfect in every way. But his prayers weren’t heard because he was perfect. If all his accomplishments were written down, John tells us that the whole world would not have room for the books written. But his prayers were not heard because of his works. Crowds followed him everywhere he went. But his prayers were not heard because of his popularity….

He was heard because of his reverent submission.

So even if we could achieve perfection in this life, even if we could fill a library with books of all we’ve accomplished, even if we could accrue a following of thousands….none of those factors would cause us to gain the ear of God.

If Jesus was heard because of his reverent submission, might not that also be true for us?

Scripture tells us that the Lord’s eyes go to and fro throughout the earth searching for hearts that are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16:9). God loves it when we earnestly seek him in prayer. He loves the blistered-knees-wear-the-carpet-out kind of prayer. He also loves what one of my friends calls popcorn prayers—those we pop right then, right now, whenever and wherever a problem arises. It’s not the length of the prayer that counts, but the depth.

Nor does God care what we look like when we pray. We can sit, stand, fall on our face or bend our knees. Reverent submission is about inward kneeling. Yet the parallels between outward, physical kneeling and inner posturing are striking. External kneeling is less strenuous because of its proximity to the ground (as when gardening); it makes us less visible (as when taking cover in combat); it provides stability (due to the center of gravity). Interestingly, inward kneeling accomplishes all three of these. It releases our stress as it humbles us; it provides cover in spiritual warfare; it causes us to be more stable because it draws us nearer to our Center.

So I’m praying that as you read this both you and I would be people devoted to prayer offered in reverent submission. May we follow the example of the author and finisher of our faith…

the last man kneeling.

Mind The Gap!

Psalm 8:4 “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

Mind the gap, please! We heard that warning every time we prepared to disembark the London Underground on our recent trip to England. The words echoing from the public address system cautioned passengers to be aware of the opening between the subway door and the station platform. The unique British term captured my attention….

Gaps. Splits. Divisions. We experience a lot of them in life, don’t we? But no gap bears greater significance than the one between God and man.

When the Jewish Tabernacle was constructed, God gave very specific instructions as to how it was to be built (Exodus 26). Curtains of heavy tightly woven linen separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelt. That linen curtain might as well have been an iron curtain. The separation between a holy God and sin-filled man stood impenetrable.

God, however, minded the gap. He sent One who would bridge the great divide. The only One who could… His One and only….(John 3:16).

When Jesus died, that tightly woven curtain of separation was literally torn in two. His sacrifice atoned for every sin ever committed and provided a way for us—through him—to step safely onto the platform. No longer do we have to fear slipping into the crevice and being crushed by a subway loaded with our sin and shame. His grace carries us into the very presence of God that heretofore had been inaccessible.

God wants us to heed the warning. It’s easy for us to become so engrossed in the hustle and bustle of life, that we ignore his call. Yet he speaks to us as regularly as that heard on the London subway. Mind the gap… Mind the gap…Sometimes he whispers it in moments of aching beauty or undefined instances of joy. At other times, as C.S. Lewis notes, he shouts it in our pain.

Have you heard his voice? Are you mindful of any gaps between you and God today? Don’t take them lightly. Jesus paid a tremendous price to bridge the gap and bring us back to our Father…a Father so filled with love for his children that he…

Minds the gap.

Anything Goes iPhones Madness

Matthew 7:14 “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Have you caught the new Sprint iPhone ad? The tagline proudly declares what is becoming a predominant cry in our culture: I have a right to be unlimited….Wow! Stop a moment and think about where that kind of thinking takes us. Do we really have a right to live without limits? Although the creators of the ad may not have had broader implications in mind, they probably knew they were tapping into a perspective that sells.

Although most people agree that in order for society to function, we need certain restrictions, human nature is quick to dismiss the idea of limits when it comes to morality. (We are told what size sodas we can drink and how many hydrocarbons we may extract for fuel, but woe to those who call any kind of sexual license sin). Limits define right and wrong. You may go so far, but not over that line. So a world without limitations is a world where anything goes. And when anything goes, eventually everything goes. Absent are apps for self-control, restraint, or denial of any pleasure. Limitlessness offers a cheap and unsustainable imitation of freedom.

We don’t have to guess where lifestyles of unlimited freedom take us. The 60’s gospel of “if it feels good, do it,” brought the world unprecedented increases in drug addiction, sexual disease, and family breakdown. The consequences of believing we have the right to anything we want wreaks insatiable appetites…the more we get, the more we want.

We ought to know better.

C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.” He calls this the “Law of Right and Wrong.” He explains that although standards of morality might differ from culture to culture, every single person has been created with an innate sense of boundaries. Ironically, it’s within those boundaries that people find true freedom.

So no matter how appealing those iPhone advertisements may be….buy the product if you want, but don’t buy the message behind it. The Creator God, in his mercy, has given us limits. Limits that save us from inevitable chaos. Limits that enable us to live in real liberty.