I’m Right and You’re Wrong…..The Bible Tells Me So

ernest t

Honest question.  If you have to tell somebody you’re a Christian………should you even bother telling them you’re a Christian?

John 13 NIV -//

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Early followers of Christ were known for their love for one another.  What are Christians known for today, either fairly or unfairly?

We’re pretty judgmental.

no rock throwing 2

We cast a lot of stones.

We’re pretty good at digging up scripture that pertains to what someone else is doing wrong.

We get hung up on 4-letter words, beer-drinking, proper dress, and gay marriage.

We’re pretty good about downplaying the importance of the words of James 3 about taming the tongue.

Christians have a pretty massive presence on social media on the argument scene.  But some truths spoken in poor spirit in large doses to large audiences (and properly twisted by media) do much more harm than good.

We behave as if we are in charge of the deliverance of grace, and we’re stingy with it.

We’ve twisted the perception of what being a Christian is.

We spend too much energy trying to get people to agree with us while failing to devote ourselves to becoming like Christ.

Some battles are worth fighting and God’s truths can’t be compromised.

But Jesus commanded His disciples to be known by their love, not by their ability to quote scripture as a weapon to condemn others or win arguments.


If we have to tell somebody we’re a Christian, maybe we shouldn’t bother telling them.  Maybe we should seek to understand more, surrender more, love more.  Be transformed.  Then others will know we are Christians by our love, and they will want to follow who we follow.

Everyone that we encounter, every single day, its’ safe to assume…….”God wants me to love this person.”  It’s not always easy (obviously).  Sometimes we have to walk away and pray and try again another day…..day after day.

The Bible’s a pretty big book so I guess that gives us a lot of chances to make things a lot more complicated than they should be.  But I think Jesus is called Savior for a reason.  He changes lives and He saves people.  Followers of Jesus are supposed to lead the lost to Him.  We don’t have to change anybody or win an argument first (I’m sure somebody will argue me on this).  We have to lead a life that makes others want to follow who we follow.

I think that those who love most, just has Jesus commanded, stand the greatest chance of influencing those who need Jesus most.

Love is greater than knowledge.  So don’t get hung up on being “right” as an excuse for actions that aren’t Christ-like.

Freaky Friday

The only thing ordinary about this particular Friday was that I showed up to work with my phone at 4% charged.  Life with teenagers means that a charger is never in the same outlet twice.  Car charger mysteriously gone also??

Upon arriving at work, I did have enough charge left to receive one call.  A concerned Cintas sales rep who had recently fitted my work team with uniforms was the first to call with the bad news.  He asked if I was aware that one of my trucks was in an accident on I-64.

My father and I rushed to the scene to find this.

shuttle truck 1

Our driver, Jeff, had already been taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  Jeff is a dependable, honest, Christian brother who has given over 17 years of devoted service to my family’s business.  My first thoughts were simply of amazement and thanks to God that his injuries weren’t more severe.

It took only a couple of hours to clean up the scattered furniture and appliances that he was hauling, and load the pieces onto other trucks.  As the last of my workers drove away with their loads of mangled merchandise, I remained behind to gather my thoughts.

I knew a logistical nightmare awaited me.  People were waiting for me to give them some sort of plan of action to deal with a truckload of severely damaged furniture and a day’s worth of deliveries that needed to be re-scheduled.  Maybe I could have have clearer thoughts on the roadside with emergency workers, rather than buried in the chaos of a retail business.

But the thoughts of logistics quckly faded, replaced by waves of emotions.  A realization that a very good man that I had spent thousands of days working beside, had nearly lost his life.  I was suddenly grateful for a newfound appreciation and respect I’d found for Jeff in recent months.  And I eventually came around to my own failures in relationships with other co-workers as I wandered aimlessly around the accident site.

A few years back, Jeff had serious heart problems that required surgery.  Upon returning to work, his level of production diminished somewhat due to loss of strength and endurance, along with breathing problems.  But he continued to show up and do his job to the best of his ability.  I valued him…….or so I thought.

This past summer, Jeff had his personal tools stolen from the back of a delivery truck in our parking lot overnight.  When he inquired about the possibility of having the business replace his tools, I told him that I couldn’t take responsibility for what was left on our trucks.  And I could tell that he wasn’t happy with my response.

But…….I did share the story with my older and wiser father, let him know that I’d probably hurt Jeff’s feelings.  My dad didn’t say much at the time.  But after giving it some thought, he left to find some new tools.  Before the end of the day, Jeff had a new tool box, filled with more tools and better tools than he had before.

At the end of the day, when I said, “Dad picked you up some new tools”, his simple, sincere answer said so much:

“Yeah, that really meant a lot to me.”

appreciation 2

I did value him (but only as far as my narrow heart and mind allowed), but it was worthless because I failed to show it.

I already said that Jeff showed up and gave his best every day.  Since that day, the amazing thing is that his “best” is now at a much higher level than it was before.  As my respect and admiration for him grows, I find myself searching harder for opportunities for him to use his many strengths, rather than being frustrated by a particular weakness.

appreciation 3

Jeff and I talk more than we used to.  Talk a lot about how everybody has strengths and weaknesses.  Those conversations usually provide a good chance to reinforce my appreciation for the things Jeff does well.  And perhaps more importantly, it gives me chance to work on my biggest weakness……finding ways to reveal to co-workers that they are valued as a person first….appreciated.

Because I always get it backwards.  “Do your job well (all the time)…..then I will respect you.  I won’t ride your tail when you screw up.  But I won’t be your cheerleader either.  I’m too busy making sure I’m outworking everybody else and holding things together.  Forgive me if I don’t have time for chit-chat or group hugs.  Just show up and do your damn job.” (I don’t really say this, but I’m guilty of living it).

appreciation 4

But good leaders do find time to be cheerleaders.  They need to lead with compassion.  Every person that you work for, work beside, or that works for you…….is a person.  Every person that works beside you has their own personal struggles that you may not be aware of or be able to understand.

Wandering on the side of the road that day, looking at the wreckage, I was reminded that our family business is made up of people that really are like family.  And I realized that I have treated some in that family differently based on performance.

Performance levels will always be different.  Love for family should not be.

I’m thankful today that Jeff is recovering.  I’m thankful for the guiding presence of my earthly father.

And I’m thankful for “quiet times” on the roadside where I can see the guilt of my selfishness and impatience with others, and the need to replace these things with the God-honoring qualities of love and compassion.

The Danger of Leading From the Rear


I’ve always been a “lead from the rear” kind of guy.

A firm believer in letting my kids, basketball players, or co-workers learn from their own missed steps off the beaten path.

I don’t have to choose every step for them.  I just have to watch from the rear and make sure they’re safe.

But there’s a big difference in the ones that are simply safe and the ones that are scared or hurting…..those needing guidance or encouragement.  I suppose I’ve missed a lot of those opportunities by watching over the whole flock without looking closely at individual faces.

Some lessons take a while to sink in.  I learned this one while helping with my church’s VBS this past summer.

I had the easiest volunteer job available (crew leader 4th & 5th graders).  This is the age where kids are on the borderline of being too old and cool to attend VBS.  My job was simply to follow them around to various craft, snack, story, and worship stations/activities and keep them safe (or just inside the church building)……a shepherd of sorts.

On the first night, my group went from opening worship time into the craft room with me “leading from the rear”, just counting heads.  I looked casually around the room during crafts to make sure nobody needed help.  It seemed that kids ranging from 2nd to 5th grade were placed together for this activity.  My own 2nd grade son was in the room, so I mostly walked around the room fist-bumping kids I knew, small-talking with other adults, and giving little notice to the kids I didn’t know.

Something was different on the 2nd night as we entered the craft room and the kids began working on a slightly more challenging project, a bead bracelet.


Before I ever started surveying the room for kids that might be having difficulty with their project, the voice of a single child caught my attention.

My eyes followed the sound of a voice that seemed a bit deep for a 4th or 5th grader.  I spotted a boy whose body matched his voice.  He was just a bit larger in size than the other kids in his age group and he was seated at a table next to my 2nd grade son Kal.

His loud conversations with Kal told me that he was probably more comfortable talking to Kal than with the kids his age.

I continued to watch and listen as they began their bracelet project.  There was something heartwarming and special in the way this boy interacted with my much younger son…..a kindness and innocence that usually disappears by the time boys reach the age of entering middle school.

I could see that he was having trouble threading his beads onto the string bracelet.

So I just pulled up a chair.

The boy’s name was Gabe.  I helped him string his beads and finish his bracelet.  And we talked.  Gabe was starting middle school in a few weeks.  He seemed very nervous about it.  I assured him that I had three kids who had recently finished at the school he was starting and that they all loved it there.  I told him I had coached basketball there and I knew the teachers there were great.  But I doubted that I eased his fears.

As my group of kids (14 of them) filed up the church stairs for our closing worship session in the auditorium, I trailed behind them once again.  The first kids through the door sparked and enthusiastic question (a joke of a question because of my reserved personality with kids) from my pastor’s wife,

“Who thinks they have the greatest crew leader here tonight?”

Silence……except for Gabe.  He shyly raised his hand.  And quietly said, “I do.”

I understand now that my actions that night had little impact on his life.

But this special young man found a place in my heart and perhaps served a great purpose in my life.

To follow Jesus means that we are willing to make changes to our sinful, selfish self in order to be more like our Savior.

Jesus was a shepherd.  But I’m pretty certain now, because of Gabe, that Jesus was most definitely a “pull up a chair” kind of guy.

Jesus found the person in the crowd that needed Him most, and met them where they were.

If you’re only looking at the crowd as a whole, you’ll never notice that person that needs you most.  The one that may truly need your love, kindness, encouragement, gratitude, or prayers.

Leading from the rear has its value.  But just being safe isn’t enough.

You can’t tell who needs you if you aren’t willing to look at the faces you’re leading.

I pray that middle school is kind to Gabe.  I’m certain that there are people there who will “pull up a chair” if he needs it.

And I’m certain that I’m thankful for lessons learned in my short time with this special young man.



The Empty Life of Knowing It All

maddie auction

Five short years ago I had the honor of baptizing my daughter Maddie.

I remember standing at the front of our church asking our congregation to pray for Maddie and her peers,

“These kids aren’t going to hide in the corners.  They’re gonna make an impact in their schools and their community.”

I really had no idea what that meant at the time, but I’m learning.

Maybe Maddie’s biggest impact has been on her dad, and she’s already making a difference that reaches far beyond her school and community.

While attending Maddie’s recent high school soccer game, I noticed our goalkeeper leaving the field after a flurry of activity near the goal (I assumed she took a ball to the face and had to exit the game because of the presence of blood).

I looked up to see one of Maddie’s good friends putting on the keeper jersey and gloves, and sprint enthusiastically onto the field.

If you happened to be the opponent or simply didn’t know better, you’d think this was her normal position.(it isn’t)

She took to the goal like she owned it.

A smile spread across my face because this was one of “my own kids”, one that I’d coached for three years of middle school basketball and been around the sidelines for many of her youth travel soccer games.

I turned to another parent who also knew her spirit well,

“That’s what I love about Mandy.  She has absolutely no idea what she CAN’T do.”

As adults, we have full awareness of what we can’t do.  We revolve our days and our lives around what we can’t do or what we think can’t happen.

I have faith….or claim to.

I believe in the truths of the Bible.  I believe in God’s promises for this life and for eternity.  I believe in the resurrection of Jesus with all my heart and mind…..but still.

I think I know everything.  I live by sight.  I analyze everything and put too much trust in the mind that I was given.

If logic says it can’t be done, then I most likely won’t take the first step toward doing it.

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
It pains me to admit that Maddie is no longer a little child, but she possesses a trust in God that adults find difficult to find because our brains are crowded with life experiences and our own “answers” to what comes next.

Maddie returned from a Christ In Youth conference this summer with a determination to become involved with a Christian missionary organization called 1Mission.

1Mission assists severely impoverished families in Latin American countries in building safe homes, and in return, asks that those receiving new homes do service projects in their own communities.

$4000 to put a family in safe housing.  Maddie set up her own campaign on their website and was assigned a family.

An ambitious amount for a 15 year-old girl without income.  (Gee Maddie, that’s a lot of money…..I thought it but didn’t say it out loud).

But she was determined to make a change.  And she had faith.

Her main fundraising idea was an arts and crafts auction.

She announced at our church and on social media her desire to collect at least 100 pieces of donated art for a silent auction at our church’s life center building.  (Gee Maddie, 100 donated pieces, that’s a lot, I don’t see you getting that many…….again, I was silent).

As the auction date approached, donations trickled in, one by one at our home, our church, and at my family business.  But still, she seemed to have no more than fifty pieces.

The final day leading up to the auction saw a wave of last minute donations.

The scope of her dream was beginning to take shape Friday night as we set up the gym for Saturday’s activities.  Volunteers showed up to help Maddie decorate and set up tables to display the donated items.

Not only was it clear that she had well over 100 items, it was clear that there were pieces donated that were of great sentimental value to those who gave.  There was something special in the air for sure.

Moments before the scheduled start time, I surveyed the gym with a sense of joy at Maddie’s faith and the display of God’s love by His people.

what if nobody comes

But my own doubts crept in again.

After all her hard work, her great faith and desire to make a difference:

What if nobody shows up?


The events of the night went well.  Maddie was within $1000 of her $4000 goal at the close of the night.

I awoke early this morning, rested and with a bit more clarity in my mind.

And I had an unwelcomed visitor……a burden, that feeling of a need to speak during church…..about raising a generation of true followers of Christ who live by faith…..and adults living with doubts, living by sight.

I cried like a baby on my way to church by myself for a prayer meeting.

I’d been through a 70+ hour work week and battled severe exhaustion along with that poisonous mentality of “nobody better ask me to help with their stuff because I surely can’t even take care of my own.”

And during that drive there was this sudden sense of “when you’re at the end of your rope, God shows up in amazing ways.”

I realized that God’s way of lifting me back up was simply in the pleasure of witnessing Maddie’s faith and the chain reaction of love and kindness that it sparked (and it hit me sorta hard).

When you absolutely can’t take any more…….drop what you’re doing and do something for somebody else.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Our preacher’s sermon today was on David and Goliath.

From beginning to end of Maddie’s vision to build a home for a family, she only saw God.

Each time I doubted ($4,000 is too much, 100 is too many, “what if nobody comes”) I saw Goliath.

She knows how big her God is.

She had faith and her faith grew.

Because of her faith, my faith grew.

She gave me the boldness to speak up in church this morning, and perhaps God helped me find the words.

After church dismissed, our amazing church family picked up the remaining items and the final $1,000 was raised.

God is good.

One more family will have safe housing conditions.  We know that for sure.

And faith grew.  What will happen from this??

I don’t know……as much as I thought I did.

But I know now that if I stop looking at Goliath, I will be reminded that the only thing that matters is how big God is.

1mission house







How You Gonna React?

96 flashback

Even boring, mild-mannered people have sudden bursts of emotion, excitement, and outward joy at times.  A celebration of a championship for their favorite sports team or a last second victory (in a single meaningless game?).  Tears of joy for the birth of a child or a baptism.  When something great happens, why hold back?  Enjoy the moment.

But what about when little things go wrong?

How do we react?

My pastor and friend delivered some solid life advice in sermon that has really stuck with me for these situations.  I believe the sermon subject was relationships.  He simply said this:


I don’t recall the biblical context or application that was applied, so I’m forced to provide my own from Colossians 3.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Since that day, I’ve paid careful attention to what triggers so many conflicts (my own and others).

In almost every situation where senseless or unnecessary conflict arises, there is a common denominator:

One of the involved parties overreacts to the actions of another.

Thirteen hours in a car with mom, dad, and four kids on a family trip……..what causes every conflict?  An overreaction!  Sure little brother shouldn’t have farted for the 28th time.  Conflict arose when big sister acted like her eyes were bleeding and threatened to kill him.

You get the picture.  Person A does something they shouldn’t.  Person B reacts as if this justifies whatever bad reaction they unleash.

I understand that conflict isn’t always bad and sometimes becomes necessary.

But I think it’s important to think before we speak or act.

Plan ahead.  Know what’s important.  Know what’s worth fighting for.

When anger rises, ask the right questions, “is this worth getting mad over, worth fighting about?”  “Am I about to do something that I’m gonna feel terrible about and have to apologize for later?”  “What does my reaction teach my kids or anyone else that’s around?”

James 13 “Bear with each other….”

Be reminded of what’s really important.  In the grand scheme of things (especially for Christians honestly seeking biblical and eternal perspectives), most things we get worked up about simply aren’t worth getting worked up about.

I wish:

I’d spoken a little more harshly.

I’d been a little less patient.

I’d never put myself in the other person’s shoes.

I’d make more exceptions when it comes to following God’s commands.  But…….

I’d gotten angrier.  Reacted like it was a bigger deal than it really was.

No, of course we don’t say these things.

So why do we continue to get fired up and overreact to things that don’t really amount to a hill of beans?

James 1:19-20

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Kevin Ward, Jr., a 20 year-old race car driver died in a tragic accident last night after he was struck by Tony Stewart’s car.  I’m not a racing expert or even a fan, and I’m not going to speculate on who was at fault.  But I am certain of this.  Two men found themselves in a situation where their anger rose.  Neither man “under-reacted”.  If only one had done so, a tragic death could have been prevented.

When something great happens…….don’t be afraid to act like something great happened. Share the moment with others.
When the anger, impatience, and irritation begin to stir……..walk away, count to 10 (or to 1000), pray. THINK.


I Forgot How Bad Walmart Sucks

walmart cart

I’m not just a “glass half-full” guy.  I’m a glass 3/4 full guy.

I tune out the chatter of all the ills and downfalls of my small town, my state, and the USA.  Look for the good and you will find it.  If you can’t find it, look harder.  Or better yet, just set out to make some small part of your world a little better each day.  Find the bright side.  Yeah, that sounds good.

And then I wake up in a strange town in desperate need of donuts, night crawlers, and chicken livers.  Without knowing where to turn for these three key items, I have a lapse in judgement and ask Siri those words that don’t seem natural to me, “driving directions to Walmart”.  I don’t do Walmart when I’m at home, but that’s another story for another day.

This is an early morning trip, designed to miss the first of the month mayhem.  I arrived in a good mood, happy to be away from a stressful job, free to spend a relaxing day of fishing with my family.  I drove away minutes later, convinced that our country is in complete and hopeless decay.

I suppose our view of the world depends on which part of the world we’re looking at, who we spend our time with, and what types of media we allow to invade our brain.  For those who work at Walmart, you have my sympathy.  Unconsciously, I have sheltered myself daily from a large segment of people.

As a teen, during the “rock music will send you to hell” era, I used to tell people that people didn’t turn to the ways of evil because they listened to heavy metal, but for those that were heavy into evil……heavy metal would obviously be the music of choice.  So I’m not saying that everybody that shops at Walmart is lazy.  But if you are lazy, then you wouldn’t dream of shopping anywhere else.

It’s an absolute haven for people who come from the school of thought that preaches doing as little as humanly possible and the greatest theme for life in general,

“Somebody else will get it.”

The store wasn’t very full at this particular time of morning.  I was amazed at the number of motorized shopping carts in use, not because they were needed by most……..just because they were so convenient and so dang available at this early hour.

Impaired lady in checkout line ramming her cart against the counter, causing the cashier a momentary panic……check.

Lady with a half-dressed infant slung uncomfortably in the bread basket of the shopping cart……check.

And the greatest scene of all came in the parking lot.  47 shopping carts.  Seven in cart corrals.  Forty running wild.  Forty people put their purchases in their car and listened to that voice in their head,

“Somebody else will get it.”

Too lazy to walk 15 feet to do the right thing.  Fifteen feet away from freeing up parking spaces and reducing the grave danger of runaway shopping carts.  But it’s too much to take on.  I’ll just get in my car and leave it there for someone else to deal with.

So I get judgy.  I go ahead and assume, that of those 40 cart leavers, zero have had a job and done it well.  If they do have a job, I bet they live in total fear of doing too much or doing more than their share (I’m sure they have nothing to fear).  I bet they talk quite a bit about what’s fair.  I bet they talk a lot about what they think the government should be doing for them.  I bet some have never worked, never tried, and never intend to.  I bet they’re too lazy to raise their kids right.

A real Sherlock Holmes.  Amazing what a guy can deduct from a few scattered carts on a Walmart parking lot.

But what if every cart was left by a 90 year-old WWII vet or a single mother with four kids under the age of 5? What if they were struggling and I didn’t even notice? Didn’t offer to lend a hand.

Maybe the guy with the 3/4 full cup needs to look past the empty buggies and silly judgemental assumptions.

Find a greater, God honoring purpose.  Count blessings.  If my cup is overflowing, I need to ignore the objects and distractions and open my eyes to the people around me.  Fill someone else’s cup.  Make some part of the world better even if that part happens to be a Walmart parking lot.  It’s not about the place.  It’s about the people.

But Walmart still sucks.



Just Living…..Or Fully Alive?

dr maddie 6

I hear it often:  someone is greeted with a “how are you doing?”

The response:  “Well, I’m above ground and that’s a good thing.”

Is it?

Is it enough to just be living and breathing?  To just exist, floating from one moment to the next with no clear intention.

God calls us to be ALIVE in Him, to serve His greater purpose.

Collosians 3 tells us that we, as Christians, are made alive in Christ.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Guys like me, we stumble along, trying to live out our lives as Christians………..in our mind and on a keyboard.  Spending too much time reading and sorting out thoughts.

Seemingly having a relationship with God, but leaving out a large part of that relationship……loving His people.  Love doesn’t happen in books, thoughts, theories, or in one’s mind.

Love happens in deed.  For all those things (opportunities) that I may claim to “not have time for” because of work and family time obligations, etc, it’s not TIME that I am lacking.  It is COMPASSION that I am lacking.

Compassion, being a Christian, is First Baptist Church in Grayson, KY pulling together people and resources to package over 120,000 meals to send to Haiti……… in one day.

meals for haiti

A church this size, in a community the size of ours, has no business pulling off something so monumental.

But when compassion and love become action, all things are possible with God.

A mission team from First Church of Christ in Grayson is currently serving in the Dominican Republic, sharing God’s love and the hope of the story of Jesus.   Daily, the pictures are shared on Facebook of our youth and adults conducting a VBS at an orphanage, singing praises to God, preaching, and simply loving His people there.

Compassion.  Love.  Faith.  Action. 

These are the things that change lives, give hope.

I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced a true life-changing moment because of things I’ve read or words that have been spoken to me.

Life change happens when people are loved and when they witness the love of Jesus being poured out around them.  It’s a blessing right now to see God’s people in Grayson, KY pouring it out so faithfully.

Lives are touched.  Lives are changed.  God’s people are ALIVE here.  Bless these fine people and pray that because of their efforts and faithfulness, countless others will become alive in Christ.

dr vbs