If you’re a real old timer from the south, you have probably heard somebody say something about having “grit in your craw.”

             If you happen not to be a real old timer from the south, let me tell you what “grit in your craw” means.

             There are a lot of birds that don’t have the same kind of stomachs we have.  Our stomachs contains all these strong acids that break down our food so we can digest it.  Birds and chickens have gizzards.  When they eat, the food goes through their gizzard that is filled with such things as little rocks and sand.  When the food passes through their gizzard, the little rocks and sand breaks up the food so they can digest it.

Hence, they have “grit in their craw.”

Through the years “grit in your craw” is a term that has been used to describe a person who has courage, fortitude, and determination in difficult situations.  Some of you might remember that John Wayne starred in a movie called “True Grit.”  And all of us know that “The Duke” was possessed with courage, fortitude, and determination!

How about you?

Can people truthfully describe you as a person who has “grit in your craw”—a person who shows courage, fortitude, and determination in difficult situations?

I’m afraid that we’ve become too soft.  We don’t like to be inconvenienced and we’re certainly not going to be “put out” or suffer in any way.

There is a park out in Wyoming that has a lot of hiking trails and people who hike those trails are asked to fill out a comment card telling about their hike and offer any suggestions that might improve the hiking experienced.  Here are some of the actual comments that have been received:

...In the future, please avoid building rails that go uphill.

...A small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles.  Is there a way I can get reimbursed?

...Escalators would help on steep uphill sections.

...Could you spray the wilderness to get rid of bugs, leeches, and spiders?

...A McDonalds would be nice at the trailhead.

These people making these comments had no “grit in their craw!”

A lot of people become Christians believing that they are signing up for a Sunday School Picnic.  They are willing to go to church and “live the Christian life” if it will not interfere with their lives!  So many church members look for the easy out.  They don’t like to be inconvenienced and they are certainly not going to suffer!  They don’t have any “grit in their craw.”

One time Jesus said: “No one can be My disciple unless he hates his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters!”

Can you imagine what those people thought when they first heard these words?  I can tell you—pretty much the same thing when you hear them!

You don’t like it!

Just exactly what did Jesus mean when He said, “No one can be My disciple unless he hates his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters!”

He was saying that if you’re going to be His disciple—if you’re going to be a Christian you have to put everybody and everything below Him!  He has to be first on the list!  He has to be Number One!  And, if you are not able to let Him have first place in your life; you cannot be His disciple.

That doesn’t mean that we love our family less.  I can tell you that if you will make Jesus Number One in your life; you will love your family more!  They are not going to suffer in any way by you putting Jesus first in you life.  They will benefit from it.  No family member has ever suffered when another family member puts Christ first in His life!  You can take that to the bank!

What does it cost to be His disciple?  What does it cost to be a Christian?  EVERYTHING!  Everything in your life (including you) has to be placed below Him.  That’s not something up for discussion or a vote.  It’s not optional.  That’s just the way it is!  Always has been.  Always will be.

It will cost you EVERYTHING you have and EVERYTHING you are.  Nothing less will do.

I hope you have enough “grit in your craw” to make you “man up” and pay the price!  You and everyone around will benefit!




             I guess most of you know that Monticello has made the national news in the past few weeks.  It seems that the nation is focused on our quiet little town because of certain incidents that have occurred lately.  I’ve received emails from several friends around the country that they were shocked to see reports on their local newscasts of those incidents.  Televised accounts have been seen in places like Cincinnati and Detroit just to name a few.

One of the incidents has to do with our local Wal-Mart store.  It was reported that a lady visited the women’s restroom and while attending to her business noticed that she was super-glued to the toilet seat!  Folks, I’m not making this up.  It’s been all over the news and in the newspapers!  Reporters and TV crews in their big mobile satellite trucks have been spotted in the store’s parking lot.  It’s not every day that a woman is super-glued to a toilet seat!  This is newsworthy stuff!

Now, I don’t begin to understand all the ramifications of the incident but I have been dragged into the fray.  There have been several people that have insinuated that I had something to do with the situation.  Some have gone beyond insinuation and have even inquired of my whereabouts when the incident took place. 

I have no idea why anyone would try to implicate me in this crime! 

But, they did!

And, I had no other option than to defend myself.

I posted on a well-known social network site the following defense:  “TO ALL MY FRIENDS WHO HAVE ACCUSED ME OF COMPLICITY IN THIS UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT THAT OCCURED RECENTLY IN MONTICELLO:  I wwwwwwwwant toooooooooo makkkkkke itttttt perrrfectttllly cleeeeeeeear thhhhhhat IIIIIIIIII diiiiiiddd nooooooot haaaaveee anyyyythhing tooooooo ddddddooo wiiiiiiiiith ttttttthhhis innnnnncidennnt.  Youuuuuuu wiiiilll haaavve toooooo parrrrrddon thhhhisss meeeesaggge; myyyyyyy finnnnnggerss arrrrrrrrre stttttttttickkkkinng toooooooooo thhhee keyyyyyyyss.  IIII dooooon'tttt haaaaaaaaaaave aaaaaaaaa clluuee whhhyyyy.”

I hope this help clear my good name and let me get on with my life. 

There is another story that has been circulating that I do admit I had something to do with. 

I was sitting in my porch swing the other evening minding my own business when one of my good Bambi Circle neighbors came over to tell me that there were about a dozen people (men and women) skinny dipping in the lake just below my house.

I know it’s been extremely hot the past few days but folks we just cannot tolerate skinny dipping at Bambi Circle or even in close proximity.  We are a fun-loving bunch of people out on the Circle but we draw the line at skinny dipping no matter how hot it gets.

Well, being the good civic minded person I am; I decided to take immediate action to put an end to such a thing.

When I say “immediate” you’ve got to understand that I do have certain physical limitations that hinder my mobility.  I do have a cripple leg that slows me down considerably and on the particular night I decided to take this matter into my own hands; I experienced a sudden onset of laryngitis.  Usually I can use my loud mouth to help correct certain situations.  On that particular evening I found myself at a disadvantage.  But, I was determined to get the job done.  Oh, I need to mention that I had to find my bird watching binoculars just in case I saw a Chinese Red-billed Rooster wren.  I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world!

Armed with my binoculars I proceeded to the lake and found the crime scene.  “Scene” is the right word to describe what I saw.  I put forth my best effort and after two hours and fifteen minutes I finally was able to communicate with the skinny dippers!  By the way, I never did see that Chinese Red-billed Rooster wren but I really tried.  I looked everywhere!

A few days later I learned that even this incident made the news in a local paper up close to Toledo, Ohio.  The following article appeared July 1st on the front page of a small newspaper and was written by reporter, Anita Lindsey:

“LOCAL GRANDFATHER GOES VIGILANTE:  A local Grandfather went on a vigilante spree last evening in attempts to curtail what he believed to be illegal skinny dipping in Lake Cumberland.  This vigilante grandfather was armed with what experts described as military style binoculars designed for long distances.  However, Grandpaw was caught peeping at innocent bathers from just a few yards away.  He was apprehended and booked.  Police say since being arrested his alibi has changed.  According to the suspect he was just out in search of a rare Chinese Red-billed Rooster wren.  Detectives report there is no such species.  Detectives also report Grandpaw may be the local Super Glue Toilet Seat Bandit.  His fingers were covered in what appeared to be dried super glue and he had several empty bottles in his pockets.”

I want to be perfectly clear and say that...I’m in a heap of trouble!  Anybody know a good lawyer that might take my case pro bono?




             “Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

             Ever heard that song before?

             Do you believe what the song says?

             Does Jesus love you?

             Does He love me?

             That simple truth and fact is one of the first things that you ever learned about Jesus.  Jesus loves me and you.

Do you believe Jesus loves everybody or just a few “good” people?

Of course, the Christian has an answer to questions like this.

Jesus loves everybody!  Right?

Well, let’s see...Now, we’ve got kinds of people in this world.  Does He really love all of them?

We’ve got liars who find it easy to tell a lie about almost everything.  Those who don’t lie probably have trouble with gossiping.  Then there are those people who use God’s name in vain almost every time they open their mouth.  And what about those who blaspheme and curse God?  Did you read about the little ol’ grandma who was a bus monitor and how she was subjected to the bullying from the students riding the bus?  They called her an old woman, a fat old woman, and anything else they could think of to ridicule and scorn her. 

Does God love people like that?

Of course He does!

“Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

For a moment just think about all those people who steal.  I’m talking about these people who break in the homes old men and women and pistol whip them just to get a dollar or two.  What about the fellow who puts on a ski mask and goes into a bank and robs it?  You do know that there are a lot of shoplifters around, don’t you?  Have you ever heard of automobile thieves?  I bet some of you, like me, have had people break into your house while you were gone on vacation and take precious family treasures that can never be replaced.  I talked to a woman the other day who told me that her house had been broken into twice since her husband died!

Does God love people like that?

Of course He does!

“Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

Last week we heard the horrific details of how a well-known university coach raped and engaged in almost every deviant sexual act with young boys.  In the same week we read the news that a priest had been convicted of much the same kinds of crimes.  There are prostitutes who walk the street every night practicing “the old profession” known to man.  Little boys and girls are being sold into slavery by those who are involved in the sex trade.  Wives cheat on their husbands.  Husbands cheat on their wives.  Premarital sex is rampant.  Infidelity has become the new norm.  The killing of little unborn babies now has become a civil right in stead of murder.  Fornicators, adulterers, and whoremongers, pedophiles,  rapists, pornographers are practicing their ungodly lifestyle all around us.

Does God love people like that?

Of course He does!

“Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

Think about all the hypocrites in the church.  There’s a lot of them.  What about these preachers who bilk old widow women out of their life’s sayings in the name of God and religion?  Some churches are built on a philosophy of hate and bigotry and their buildings are full of those who practice that philosophy and teaching.  Did you ever see those church members from out in Kansas holding their big bold signs covered with all kinds of outrageous messages as they disrupt funerals?  What about those preachers who run off with some woman in the church and abandon their families?

Does God love people like that?

Of course He does!

“Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

And, did you ever consider all the crooked politicians who hold public office and betray the trust of their constituency as they line their own pockets with taxpayers money?  Look at how many of them have been involved in sex scandals, lying, and corruption.

Does God love people like that?

Of course He does!

“Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so.”

Folk, do you see where I’m going with this?

Jesus loves us!

All of us!

I know that, because the Bible tells me He does.

Now, let me ask you a question.

Does the fact that Jesus loves all of us mean that He approves, accepts, and condones everything we do?

Not by a long shot!

Jesus loves us, all of us, but He certainly does not love everything we do.

There’s a difference.

Don’t forget that.

Don’t ever lead anybody to doubt the Lord’s love for them.

The best way they will ever know that Jesus loves them is for us to love them.

Hey, you don’t have to tell me that Jesus loves sinners.  I learned that a long time ago because I am one and He loves me!  The Bible tells me so.




             Last Sunday was Fathers Day and I celebrated by reading stories of one of my fathers.  I say “one of my fathers” because I’ve had several.

             In addition to my Dad, David Wesley Ogle, I’ve had a Grandfather named John Wesley Ogle.  I’ve also had a Great Grandfather, Iverson Ogle.  I could also mention my Great-Great Grandfather, Abner Ogle. 

It is true that all of us have had several fathers if we include the Grandfathers and the Great Grandfathers.

This Fathers Day 2012 I spent time thinking about my Sixth Great Grandfather, Edward Reavis, on my mother’s side of the family.  (Harlan Ogle, Novella Farris, Tim Frank Farris, Mary Mollie Reavis Farris, Johnson Reavis, Solomon Reavis, David Reavis, Jesse Reavis, Edward Reavis)

Going back that far to Edward takes us back to England.  The year is around 1680.  I don’t know much of what was going on in England but that’s about the year G-G-G-G-G-G Grandfather, Edward Reavis was born.

History indicates that Reavis was not his real name! 

He was most likely born as Edward Ashley.

So, what’s going on with the name change?

It seems that when Edward reached manhood he killed a man in a duel.  This was reason enough for Edward to find some place else to live.  Growing up in England, he had heard thousands of stories about a New World and the establishment of an English colony called Jamestown located in a place called Virginia.  When Jamestown was settled in 1606, no one could ever dream that by 1680 there would be over 70,000 colonists in Virginia!  It looked like a mass exodus from England to America was taking place.

So, if you had killed a man in a duel and had to go into hiding from the law and the dead man’s relatives; it looks like your best bet was to board a ship and head across the Atlantic!

That appears to be what Edward Ashley “Reavis” decided to do.

One would be assuming too much to characterize Edward as a “fugitive from justice.”  It has been observed that he “was not unlike thousands of other youths who immigrated to Virginia in this very turbulent period of history.”  Edward was “an English youth, still in his teens, blessed with health, ambition and education, a bit stubborn in character, and fired with a desire to attain independence, and...establish for himself a home and a family.”  “...he dared to face parental opposition, possibly, and also even dared to renounce his family name in order to accomplish this worthy purpose…” 

After a brief stop in Barbados, Edward arrived in America becoming the first known Reavis immigrant.  I say “Reavis” because it appears that he put aside the name “Ashley” and created a new name for himself—”Reavis.”  His descendants have used that name or some form of it to the present day.

The New World gave Edward the opportunity to develop a new life of hope and fortune.

Soon after arriving in America, Edward and Thomas Alley received a Royal land patent of 400 acres of land on the James River in recognition of their “importation of two persons to dwell within our colony of Virginia.”  In 1731, Edward purchase an additional 500 acres from Charles Christian.

The two families (Reavis and Alley) lived together on the land and developed a thriving plantation.  

It is believed that Thomas Alley had a sister, Hannah, who would become Edward’s first wife.  Edward and Hannah would have six children before she died circa 1735.

Between 1737 and 1744, Edward, now in his 50s, married a much younger Sarah Gilliam.  Edward and Sarah would have four children (Jesse, John, Mary, and Judith).  Jesse fought for American independence in the Revolutionary War and I am proud to say that he was my Fifth Great Grandfather.  But, that’s another story.

Around 1747, Edward left Virginia and moved to Granville County, North Carolina.  He later moved to Northampton County, North Carolina where he owned many parcels of land. 

It is no doubt that Edward Reavis was devoted to his family.  He seemed to have an intense desire to see them succeed and was involved with them in many land purchases and transfers.  When he moved to North Carolina, children from his first marriage to Hannah accompanied him, his new wife, and his children by Sarah.  “...records show that Reavis sons and grandsons, bought and sold frequently among themselves and it is evident from records that Edward’s first and second families were congenial and comfortable with each other which is an unusual situation.”

Edward left a rich and proud heritage to his descendants.  “Records indicate that he was a man of stubborn determination who could stick to a decision when once he made up his mind, come what may.  He loved the soil, settled on it and stayed there.  Over a period of 30 years, he lived in only two places, a plantation on the James River, and a plantation on the Roanoke.  Love of the land is a Reavis characteristic.”

Edward prepared his Last Will and Testament on February 21, 1750 and said: “Being Sick and Weak in Body but of Perfect Sound and Disposing mind and Memory…”  By February of 1752 when his will was probated, Edward has died having lived 71 years.

Sarah lived for more than 25 years after Edward died.  She continued to live in North Carolina probably surrounded by her loving family who provided for her needs.  There is every indication that Sarah was a woman of strong will and courage.  Records indicate that she bought and sold land in her own name.

I will share one incident that, to me, speaks volumes about the personal characteristics of my Sixth Great Grandmother, Sarah Gilliam Reavis—characteristics that were passed down from generation to generation and certainly passed to my own mother, Novella Farris Ogle.

Here’s the story:  It is almost certain that Sarah was a member of the Dutchmans Creek Baptist Church in her community.  In the church records of February 1778 it is suggested that “she was becoming old and feeble.”  (She could have been almost 80 years old.) 

At almost 80 years old “a charge against sister Sarah Reavis deferred because she was not able to attend—the brethren thought it proper to appoint a meeting near her habitation which was near Deep Creek Meeting House.”  Two men, James Doyle and Joseph Bradley “were appointed by the church to notify her to attend the 4th Saturday of this instant.”   Then on February 24, 1778 the brethren met as per appointment and sister Sarah was suspended for “some irregularities.”  One can only imagine what those “irregularities” could have been! 

One does not have to imagine how my Sixth Great Grandmother responded to the charges because on November 19, 1778 two members of the church were appointed to go and talk with her!  Way to go, Granny Sarah!

Sarah Reavis, devoted wife of Edward Reavis, loving mother, and woman of courage died in 1778 leaving a proud heritage for her family.  Sarah and Edward died before the American Revolution but freedom, liberty, and independence were in their hearts and a very real part of their lives before the struggle that gave all Americans those “unalienable rights.”

I hope you have enjoyed my journey into my family history. 

Happy Fathers Day, G-G-G-G-G-G Grandfather, Edward Revis.




             So, a fellow comes up to you and looks you right in the eye and says, “You make me sick at my stomach.” 

             If that happened to you, would you know what he meant?

             Would you take it as a compliment?

             That would be pretty hard to do in my book!

Acutally, what kind of person would ever say that to anybody?


That’s right!  Jesus.

The Bible says that one time He wrote a letter to a church in a big city by the name of Laodicea.

It was evidently a good church or at least that’s what the people in the church was saying about themselves.  They put it this way: “...I do not need a thing.”  That’s a pretty good thing for a church to be able to say about itself; don’t you think?

That’s what this church said about themselves.

Here’s what Jesus said about the church: “ are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

Talk about two different opinions about the same church!

Well, really one of them is not an opinion. 

The church was of the opinion that they were rich and didn’t need a thing.  They thought they were just fine.  They had plenty of money in the treasurer.  The attendance had picked up since they got a new preacher.  The youth program had attracted the whole football team and almost all the girl’s basketball was coming to Sunday night youth meetings.  Sunday School classrooms were filling up and a praise band to lead the worship services had just been formed.  They had changed the order of service so that everybody would be comfortable when they visited.

They didn’t need a thing!

That was their opinion!

What Jesus saw in the church was not an opinion!  His assessment of the church was the truth!  He knew how things really were in the church and He said “ are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”  That was the truth about the church.

You see, Jesus knew the church in Laodicea had become lukewarm.

Do you know what lukewarm is?  A good way to describe what lukewarm means is that the church had reached “room temperature.”  The church was neither “hot” or “cold.”   The members of the congregation were not passionate about the practice of their Christianity nor did they completely disregard their Christianity.  They were just “room temperature.”

They had become just like their surroundings and culture.  They were people who “fit in” in the community.  They had become like everyone else in the community.  You really couldn’t tell any difference in them and those who claimed no relationship to the Lord or His church at all.

They used the Lord’s name in vain just like everybody else did.  They lied and gossiped like everybody else did.  They were careful not to do anything that would call attention to their supposed Christianity.  After all they didn’t want to offend anybody!  They just wanted to “fit in.”

And, when Jesus had had enough of that kind of living on their part, He said, “I am about to spit you our of My mouth.”  That’s the way His words are translated in some versions of the Bible.  Others translate Him saying, “You make Me want to vomit!”

How about it folks?

Everything going fine with you and Jesus? 

Maybe you’ve adopted Tom T. Hall’s song “Me and Jesus” as you favorite song.  In the song Hall says, “Well, me and Jesus got our own things going; Me and Jesus got it all worked out.  Me and Jesus got our own things going; We don't need anybody to tell us what it's all about.”

When it comes to you and Jesus, you don’t need a thing!


You’re so comfortable in your religion that you don’t want anybody bothering you about anything.  You and Jesus got it all worked out.  You certainly don’t have to listen to anything any preacher has got to say.  You and Jesus got it all worked out!  You don’t need this “church stuff.”  You and Jesus got it all worked out!  Your mantra is, “Don’t try to lay on me any of this Ten Commandment or Sermon on the Mount stuff.”  You and Jesus got it all worked out.  “I know the Bible says this or that but that don’t mean I have to believe any of it.”  You and Jesus got it all worked out.

Maybe you’ve finally arrived at what so many church members seem to be looking for today in their Christianity—”Fitting in” and being “comfortable.”

Could be that you might be lukewarm.

Could be that you make Jesus want to vomit!

Just saying!




             Imagine with me just a minute that Jesus comes to visit you early one Sunday morning.  The question comes up as to where you are going to church.  Just where do you think Jesus would decide to go to church if He visited you.  What do you think would be His major considerations in deciding where to go to church?

Do you think He would insist on going to a Baptist Church, Methodist Church, Church of God, Christian Church, Nazarene Church,  Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church, or maybe a Mormon Church?

Do you think He would choose to go to a little country church, a large megachurch, or an elaborately decorated church?

Would He go to church with a good choir, and lively congregational singing?

Would He choose a church with air conditioning and padded pews?

Would He want to go where there was a good preacher who could hold the attention of the audience and who only read Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible?

Just where do you think Jesus would attend church?  What kind of church do you think He would prefer?

I’d suggest that you can read the chapters two and three of the book of Revelation and come up with a pretty good answer to the question.

That part of the New Testament consists of seven letters Jesus wrote to seven churches in Asia.  In those letters He explains a lot about the kind of church He prefers. 

The strange part of it all is that none of the things I mention above seem to be a major consideration in the kind of church Jesus prefers. 

All of those things have to do with outward things. 

They are the things that we consider the most when we think about the kind of church we attend.  We want to be sure that it has the “right” name, beautiful interiors, comfortable environment, and lively singing.  We prefer a church that has a good preacher and good Sunday School teachers. 

Those are the things that mean the most to us when we choose a church to attend.

I think most of them mean “diddly squat” to Jesus!

While we look at the outward frills and appearance; the Lord looks much deeper.

The letters He wrote to those churches in Asia seem to indicate that the Lord prefers a church that takes advantages of the “open doors” of service and opportunity He places before them.  He prefers a church that does not hide behind excuses about being “too small” or “too poor” do walk through those doors of opportunity to serve Him.

I get the distinct impression that Jesus prefers a church made up of people who are obedient to His word.  All of His word!  He would strongly disapprove of a church made up of people who accept only those parts of His word that are convenient for them to follow.  He would not tolerate a church made up of people who “pick and choose” those parts of His word that they consider to be “politically correct” to follow.

Jesus would look for a church made up of people who remain strong in the midst of persecution and ridicule heaped upon them by the world.  He likes a church that keeps on keeping on in a world that seems to be going mad.

I think too, that Jesus would like to be a part of a church where the congregation has people in it who are overcomers—people who face the ordinary challenges of life and refuse to let those challenges defeat them.  In too many instances we church members spend our time whining and complaining about the problems we have instead of facing them head on and overcoming them.  We all need to be reminded that us Christians can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

What about it—what kind of church do you think Jesus would attend if he came to Wayne County next Sunday?  Are you so arrogant and self-confident that you think the only choice would be where you go to church?  Really? 

Do you really think He would be impressed all that much with your pretty carpet, your modern lighting, your cheerful song service, your popular preacher, your big building, your country church, or your big financial supporters?

All these things might impress you and play a major part in the decision you make as to where you go to church.

I doubt that they really would matter to Him!




              I hope you had a meaningful Memorial Day.  Several people gathered in the National Guard Armory last week to pay honor to our veterans and remember those who gave their lives in service to their country.  It was my privilege to speak for the occasion and below are the remarks I shared with those present.

Ever so often I hear someone say, “I wish this war was over and that there would never be another war fought.”

As long as time will last on this earth, this will never be a reality.

In a very real way, war is never over!

Military missions will end, treaties will be signed, battlefields will be cleared of the dead and wounded, tender homecomings will continue, DAV members will play taps and fold flags at gravesites, and uniforms will be stored in cedar chests and closets.

But, the memories, the nightmares of battle, the agony of seeing a fellow soldier bleed to death, and the physical and mental pain of war will endure as long as breath remains in the bodies of millions of veterans who survive the war.

The death of American soldiers is not something that happened only during the Revolutionary War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, or the Viet Nam War.

In our own recent history, nearly 4,500 heroic American soldiers lost their lives during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.

We continue to lose American heroes every day in Afghanistan, in military training accidents and missions around the world.

The loss of all these soldiers to their families, friends, fellow service members and to our country is permanent.  Some were only teenagers and most of those killed were under age twenty-five.  In the eyes of their loved ones, they will remain forever young.

Remembering our fallen once a year is not enough.

You can be assured that the widows, widowers, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters remember EVERYDAY.

The empty seat at the dinner table, the smaller gathering on Thanksgiving Day, and the voice of a loved one heard only as a distant memory are constant reminders that they are gone.  The hearts of children whose parents have died in military service will feel the sharp sting of their loss, leaving them only with memories of their loving mom or dad.  Life as they have known it will be much harder for them from now on.

Today we need to be aware of the fact that we enjoy time with our families because of the sacrifices that others have made.

Scripture tells us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Let me tell you the story of a Wayne County soldier who loved so much that he laid down his life for his friends.

A young boy by the name of Phillip Bruce Thompson lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Thompson here in Monticello down on Frisby Street.

Phillip Bruce attended school in Monticello and graduated from the Monticello High School.  He was very much like any other teenager growing up in Monticello.  He was loved by his parents and his sisters.  He formed a close friendship with my friend David Smith who still remembers the good times they shared together.

Phillip Bruce was born into a world of intense political upheaval and sabre rattling.

He was aware of the dangers America faced in her defense of freedom and democracy.

Consequently, in 1968 when he was only 20 years old he entered the United States Marine Corps.

In a short nine months he was in the jungles of Viet Nam fighting an enemy that has been described as brutal and inhuman.

On an operation south of Khe Sanh on March 21, 1969, while serving as a rifleman with a weapons platoon, his unit came into contact with an enemy unit at about 3:30 p.m.  During the fierce firefight that ensued, Philip was struck by fragmentation from a rocket propelled grenade and was instantly killed.

Another Wayne County hero died in the cause of freedom while faithfully serving his country!


From the American Revolution to the present conflicts that are being waged around the world, one million American men and women like Private First Class Phillip Bruce Thompson have made the Supreme Sacrifice.  They died so that we could continue to cherish the things they loved—God, country, and family. 

              That is why we are gathered here on Memorial Day…to honor the memory of our fallen warriors who have given everything for their country.

We are also reminded on this day that in each generation, brave men and women will always step forward to take the oath of allegiance as members of America’s armed forces, willing to fight and if necessary die, for the sake of freedom.

Why do brave, young Americans answer their nation’s call—even to the point of sacrificing their lives?

They do it to provide a strong national defense—to keep America safe and secure against those enemies who would destroy our American way of life.

  They do it for their fellow comrades—for those fighting by their side against all odds.

They do it for American core values of God and country—family, patriotism, and our religious heritage.

They do it for their children and our children—so that they can grow up in an America that is strong and free.

There are many tangible things we can do to honor the service of our fallen heroes.

First and foremost, is to take care of their families.

In some cases, this means providing financial assistance to help their children obtain higher education.

We can also participate in any program or effort to send supplies to those still serving.

We can do it by fervently praying for them, for the safety, and for their families.

We can demand that our returning soldiers be given a very public and honorable welcome when they return home.

And, we do these things because we want to—not because we have to do it.

We do it because it is simply the right thing to do—and will not be intimidated by that which is considered “politically correct.”

  Memorial Day is not about picnics and parades—although, there is nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating our American way of life.

But Memorial Day is really about remembering those who made our way of life possible.

On this Memorial Day 2012, I close with a statement made by one of our living Wayne County veterans—“I am not a hero.  The heroes died on the battlefield.”

May God bless our deceased heroes, their families, and this nation they died for.

And, may God bless you for being here today.




             It does my heart good when I see a church that is made up of people who are known by others as good, helpful, and Godly people.  The church they attend has a talented choir, the best Sunday School teachers, capable leaders, an active youth group, a strong mission program, a bus ministry, a ministry to senior citizens, and exciting worship services.  The building where they meet is equipped with all the modern technological marvels—a big screen that displays the words of the songs and scripture passages, padded pews, plush carpet, and central air conditioning and heating.  The church is located in the best part of town and the potential for future growth seems to be assured.  Attendance for the Sunday morning worship service continues to increase almost every Sunday.  There has even been some talk about adding another Sunday service.  Everybody in town is talking about how good the preacher is and they certainly love the way his wife plays the piano.

While some churches are having hard times; this church is not suffering from any persecution at all from anybody!  It is certainly not in any danger of closing its doors.  There are no false doctrines being taught nor has there ever been any hint of sexual immorality on the part of its members.

Sounds like a great church to me.

Does the description fit your church in any way?

If so, I’m sure you’re proud to be a member.

Folks, I’ve pretty much described a church that is mentioned in the Bible.  The church was in a city called Sardis and is introduced to us in the book of Revelation.  (Revelation 3:1-6)  Jesus wrote a letter to the church and told the congregation that He knew everything that was going on in the Sardis church.  And, it appeared that “everything that was going on in the Sardis church” was just great!

At least that’s the way it appeared to most everybody in town.

Jesus saw the church in a much different way.

Oh, He agreed that the church had “a reputation of being alive!”  And, they did!

They looked good!  They thought they looked good!  The whole town thought they looked good!

You know what Jesus thought about this church that had “a reputation of being alive”?

He said, “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead!”


Folks, Jesus is talking about a church that is best described as “a church of the living dead!”

How can it be?  How can a church that seems to have everything and is doing everything be a church of the living dead?

And, just exactly what is a dead church?  According to Jesus a dead church can be a church that looks like it is alive!  Chew on that for a while!

In our understanding, a dead church is a church where the attendance has declined to the point that the doors have been closed and the windows shuttered.  Cobwebs are hanging from the ceiling and the lights and water have been disconnected.  A chain lock has been placed on the doors and the parking lot is empty on Sunday morning.  The light in the sign out in the front lawn has been turned off and nobody remembers the last time they had services in the place.

Now, that’s a dead church!

You’re probably right, but none of that was true in the church at Sardis.  They looked alive!  They had a  reputation in town of being a busy, active, growing church.

Jesus said “You are dead!”

Folks, it can happen!  It did happen!  It is happening!

You see, a church is dead or dying when the past becomes more important that the present.

A church is dead or dying when the congregation and leaders are more concerned with having a good reputation instead of having a bold witness for Jesus Christ.

A church is dead or dying when the worship “order of service” has become an “idol” for people to follow.

A church is dead or dying when the congregation is more concerned with their own personal comfort and convenience than they are interested in a “risky faith.”

I want to be a part of a living church.  I’m sure you have the same desire.  We must be careful however, that we don’t mistake a dead church for a living church.  We must be careful that we don’t think that just because our church has a good reputation that we are a living church!

Think about it!



             Today my heart is heavy and my thoughts are directed toward children and young people.  In light of events that have been reported in the news recently I am compelled to write the following letter to those children and young people.  In doing so, I realize that there are those who stand ready to condemn me for my beliefs and convictions.  I can no longer allow that to paralyze me to the point that I am too intimidated to speak from my heart.  You can feel free to judge me and label me as a bigot and hatemonger.  I assure that I am neither.  I am simply a human being that is trying as much as I can to understand the cultural and moral changes that are taking place in the world around me.  I do not claim to have all the answers to the questions that are being asked by so many.  I confess that I do not know the heart of others but I do know my own heart.  It is from my heart that I place these words in print.


My Dear Children:

I so much admire the maturity that many young people possess today.  I realize that most of you have much more than I ever had when I was growing up.  However, in my opinion you have missed so much that I enjoyed when I was growing up.  It seems to me that your innocence was taken from you at such an early age.  You have been faced with temptations in your young life that I could not ever imagine when I was a teenager!  You have seen images on television, in magazines, and in movies that are enough to shock and desensitize your young minds!  The horror, man’s inhumanity to man, and the bloodshed you have seen and read has been too intense and frightening for any young mind to process and explain!

The years have been good to me.  I have had the opportunity to receive a good education from teachers who viewed their “job” as a “calling.”  I don’t have a single memory of ever hearing of teachers forming illicit sexual relationships with their students.  None of my teachers ever tried to shame me for believing and practicing Christian principles.  Sixteen years of formal education, and I never heard one of my teachers use profanity.  I have no recollection of any preacher ever being accused of improper sexual advances toward young girls or young boys.

In my formative years our nation was led by men who said things like: “I do not believe there is a problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached by the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.”  (President Harry Truman)  President Eisenhower said: "There is no reason for Americans to raise their children in a community type school that denies the existence of a God."

Remembering people, places, and events of my past does not mean that I live in the past.  Believe me, I am very much aware of what is happening today!

It is some of those things that prompt me to write this letter.

Even though video games and personal electronic gadgets take much of your time and attention; I know that you watch the news and at times read the newspapers.  I know that you talk among yourselves and sometimes the subject of those conversations is what you observe happening in the world.

I can’t help believe that some of those things concern and trouble you.

You are the first American generation that can watch television or a movie and see what are called “alternative lifestyles.”  You know what those “alternative lifestyles” involve.  I don’t have to draw you a picture.

Just a few days ago you heard our Vice President of the United States declare: "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact [with] men marrying men, women marrying women…”  Our President followed just a few days later and said: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Of course, those statements created a lot of comment from those who agree or disagree with their beliefs.

It seems that one popular national news magazine has concluded that the statements deserve the agreement and adoration of the American people.  This week the cover for the magazine shows a photograph of our President with an angelic rainbow colored halo above his head and the headline: “Our First Gay President!”

I certainly believe that these men and other men and women have the right to have their own opinions and convictions concerning these issues.  While I disagree with them vehemently, I would never stifle their right to express themselves.

That’s not really why I’m writing this letter to you. 

I’m concerned about how you’re going to be able to process all these events and statements in your young and impressionable minds!

Many of you are from loving families.  You’ve grown up knowing what marriage is.  Most of the examples that you have seen of physical and sexual love have been between a man and a woman.  Now, you must be exposed to men kissing men on television and women marrying women in front of “clergy.” 

I’m not challenging their actions. 

I’m wondering how you are processing these events.

I know you hear the arguments pro and con about these issues.  Certainly you have arrived at the conclusion that people differ in their opinions and beliefs.  I would encourage you to respect those differences.  However, you are at the place in your life where you must choose some “guiding light” for you future that will determine your moral code, your practices, and your core beliefs. 

Our great nation was founded upon certain principles and those principles have guided our nation for over two hundred years.  Those principles have been tried and proven.  I highly recommend them as the light and the guide that we need to continue as a great nation.

Not only do I highly recommend them as national guidelines, but, I recommend them as your own personal guidelines.  We must have guiding principles for our nation and for our lives.  If every person is left to determine what is right and wrong in their own eyes without any guidance; we will have nothing but anarchy.  I do not apologize in recommending the basic and core principles of the Judeo/Christian religion or principles from any other source that uphold the dignity of mankind, the order of society, and common human respect.

I apologize if I have failed you in defending and displaying those principles so that you can follow them and use them for an example for your life.  I have renewed my commitment to those principles with the hope that you might be able to find answers to the issues that you are called upon to process in your precious hearts and minds.

God bless you.





             I was reading the Bible the other day and read a real interesting story.  It was somewhat of an X-rated story because it was about a woman who was described as a “Jezebel.”

             Now, those of you who read the Bible have heard about the original Jezebel.  Her story is in the Old Testament.  It appears that she was not a nice lady.  She was bad—bad to the bone.  She worshipped idols and done about everything else that would displease God.  She married a king by the name of Ahab and turned him against God and caused him to become one of the worst kings that ever lived.  She didn’t mind killing people to get her way and it appears that she was some kind of sex pervert!

Down through the years I’ve noticed that there have been some women I’ve known who were called “Jezebel” by others.  It didn’t take me long to learn that if you were called a “Jezebel” that you were not being complimented!

Let me get back to my X-rated story I was reading the other day.

In the book of Revelation you can read about a church in a city called Thyatira.  It was like a lot of ancient Roman cities.  There was a lot of business going on along with a lot of educational opportunities.  It was also a city that had a large pagan temple in it.  Along with the pagan temple there was a Christian church. 

You can imagine what was going on in the church but do you have any idea what was going on in that pagan temple?  Nothing good!  Those idol worshippers believed that their pagan god could be worshipped by participating in all kinds of sexual perversion.  To make that practice easy, they provided temple prostitutes—male and female!  You could go to the temple and do just about anything that struck your fancy.  It didn’t matter how strange or perverted it was! 

What does this have to do with the church in Thyatira? 

Here’s where the woman comes in.

There was this woman who was a member of the church and she’s called “Jezebel” in the book of Revelation.  And, the ol’ girl was trying to bring the perverted sexual practices of the pagan temples into the church.  And, she was successful in doing so.

Can you believe that?

The Lord said, “By her teaching she misleads My servants into sexual immorality…”

And, to make things worse—the people in the church tolerated it!  They put up with it.  The allowed the ol’ girl to do what she was doing!

Do you think that kind of thing could ever happen where you go to church.  Do you believe that in your church there could be somebody that would actually try to get people to believe that sexual immorality was O.K. to practice?

Watch it before you answer!

Just what exactly is sexual immorality?

What about having sex with a child?  Is that sexual immorality?  Sure, it is!

What about rape?  Is that sexual immorality?  Sure, it is!

What about sex with animals?  Is that sexual immorality?  Sure, it is!

What about prostitution and adultery?  Are they to be considered as sexual immorality?  Sure, they are!

And, then somebody says, “What about those “homos” and “lezzies” who are “coming out of the closet?”  Is that sexual immorality?  And the resounding answer rises, “Sure, it is!”

So, is that the extent of sexual immorality?

Let me mention just three or four more things.

What about casual sex?  Is that sexual immorality?

What about “sleeping around.”  Is that sexual immorality?

What about premarital sex.  Is that sexual immorality?

What about “hooking up?”  Is that sexual immorality?

What about “shacking up?”  Is that sexual immorality?

Folks, the truth is that the world is caught up in all kinds of sexual immorality.  It’s everywhere—including the church!

Maybe it’s time that we take a new look at the Lord’s church today and see to what degree we’re tolerating sexual immorality. 

While all or some of these things might be tolerated and accepted by many churches; the Lord is saying, “Repent or else I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”

Just saying!




              Got a question for you.

              Would you rather be an open-minded person or a narrow-minded person?

              Before you answer, let’s think about what an open-minded person and a narrow-minded person is.

              What about this?  If you are a open-minded person, you are accepting, tolerant, observant, unbiased, unprejudiced, and understanding.  But, if you are a narrow-minded person, you are bigoted, conservative, opinionated, reactionary, and intolerant.

So, let me ask the question again: Would you rather be, an open-minded person or a narrow-minded person?

On the surface the question seems ridiculous because the obvious answer is that we would rather be an open-minded person.


Would you want the people at the bank where you put your money to say that two plus two equals three?  What about when you go to have your prescriptions filled?  Would you like for the pharmacist to just throw together any drugs and pills that suits his fancy?

I don’t know about you but I want the bank tellers to know that two plus two equals four.  Every time!  And I don’t want to have a pharmacist put just any old pill in my prescription bottle.  I want what the doctor ordered!

You see, when it comes to being narrow-minded, we agree that it’s best in some cases to be that way!

But, when it comes to religion a lot of people seem to think it’s best to be open-minded instead of narrow-minded.  Today people want to be a member of the church “with open doors.”  Sounds good but some people mean that being a church “with open doors” that anything goes!  That includes blasphemy, sexual freedom, disregard for others, and a lack of acceptance of basic Biblical principles.  In a lot of cases the church has ended up with a mixture of truth and error, purity and impurity and has reached the conclusion that sin no longer seems very sinful.  In the name of open-mindedness and toleration we have compromised the truth that is in our God.

It’s time we realize that the church cannot help sinners by saying that sin is not sinful.  Christ came to save sinners, but if the church no longer believes in sin, we have nothing to offer to the world.

I’ve wrestled with this concept for years and I’ve arrived at the conclusion that when it comes to religion there are some areas where you can be both open-minded and narrow-minded. 

Let me try to explain.

When it comes to the acceptance of people, the church must be open-minded.  No person who seeks to know Christ is to be turned away, be he/she a murderer, child-molester, drug addict, prostitute, thief, or atheist!  All are to be accepted as human beings created in the image of God.  All are to be welcomed to come into the presence of our God.

What about the kind of life these people are living?  What about all the sin in their lives?  It doesn’t matter when it comes to accepting them as human beings loved so deeply by the Lord!  Jesus accepted all people who came to Him.  Their sins didn’t cause Him to turn His back on them!

The truth is that He could never do anything about the sin in their lives until He accepted and welcomed them into His presence and into His life.  Once there, He could teach and lead them.  Once there, He would deal with their sins.  Once there, He could forgive them and cleanse them of their sins.  But, He accepted and welcomed them into His presence and into His life FIRST!

We can do no less!

Once people know how much we care for them then they might care about how much we know!

While some might think we are narrow-minded when we say that there is salvation in none other than Jesus Christ, they will see the wisdom in believing such a thing.  They won’t see us as narrow-minded when we tell them that there is only one God.  They’ll embrace what we share with them.  They won’t see us as narrow minded when we tell them that no one comes to the Father except through His Son.  They’ll know it is the truth.

I pray that you will seek to be like the Savior—extend wide-opened arms in the acceptance of all people.  And, don’t be ashamed or apologize for the absolute truth that is to be found in the One who said, “I am THE way…”




             In my over fifty years of preaching I’ve heard a lot of questions.  Many of those questions have been asked multiple times.  One of the questions I’ve been asked over and over is “Is the Bible the inspired Word of God.”

             Some years ago two fellows, Jason and Ron Carlson wrote something about the question that is worth sharing with you dear readers who find the question interesting.  These words might help:

“During a question and answer session at a recent speaking engagement, a university student asked me, ‘Why do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?’ Now this is a very interesting question; and probably one of the most important questions any Christian could ask themselves.  What is so special, so unique about the Bible that Christians believe it is literally the inspired word of God?

“In answering this student’s question, I encouraged him to consider the following facts about the Bible:

First, the Bible is not just one single book.  This is a more common misconception than many people realize, especially with people who do not come from a Judeo-Christian background.  Rather than being a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, which is called the canon of scriptures.  These 66 books contain a variety of genres: history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature, letters, and apocalyptic just to name a few.

“Second, these 66 books were written by 40 different authors.  These authors came from a variety of backgrounds: shepherds, fishermen, doctors, kings, prophets, and others.  And most of these authors never knew one another personally.

“Third, these 66 books were written over a period of 1500 years.  Yet again, this is another reminder that many of these authors never knew or collaborated with one another in writing these books.

“Fourth, the 66 books of the Bible were written in 3 different languages.  In the Bible we have books that were written in the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic; a reflection of the historical and cultural circumstances in which each of these books were written.

“And finally, these 66 books were written on 3 different continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe.  Once again, this is a testament to the varied historical and cultural circumstances of God’s people.

“Think about the above realities: 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents.  What’s more, this collection of books shares a common storyline—the creation, fall, and redemption of God’s people; a common theme—God’s universal love for all of humanity; and a common message—salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and commit to following God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.  In addition to sharing these commonalities, these 66 books contain no historical errors or contradictions.  God’s word truly is an amazing collection of writings!

“After I had shared the above facts with this student, I offered him the following challenge: I said to him, ‘If you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if you do not believe that the Bible is of a supernatural origin, than I challenge you to a test.’  I said to the student, ‘I challenge you to go to any library in the world; you can choose any library you like, and find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible.  You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents.  However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions.’  I went on to say, ‘If you can produce such a collection of books, I will admit that the Bible is not the inspired word of God.’  The student’s reply was almost instantaneous, he emphatically stated, ‘But that’s impossible!’

“’But that’s impossible!’  It truly is impossible, for any collection of human writings.  However, the Bible passes this test.  The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions.  The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of Divine inspiration.”

Pretty good answer, don’t you think?

I know that all of us have our doubts at times about the Bible but if you will honestly and humbly look at the evidence; I think you will reach the conclusion that millions of people have reached.  That conclusion, based on the evidence is that God’s Word has survived the attacks of its enemies and continues today to be available to all those who desire to read and study it.

I encourage you to do more than just knowing about the Bible.  Open it up.  Read it.  Think about it.  Ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you understand it.  Depend upon God to give you the strength and determination to obey it.



             Did you go to church last Sunday?

             How many people were there?  How much was the offering?  Did the preacher preach a good sermon?  How was the singing?  Who was there?  Was the air conditioning working?  How about those padded pews?

It’s a good guess that nobody has asked you those questions about church last Sunday—but you can be sure that you probably thought about every one of them.

Those things are important to people who attend church, aren’t they?

Let’s go back to the question: Who was there?

I hope you got to see some of your family members.  I hope you enjoyed seeing some of your friends.  A lot of them were there, weren’t they?

Somebody else was there!

The Bible says that if two or three people gather together in the Lord’s name that He will be in their presence.


If Jesus was in church with you last Sunday I wonder what He saw and I wonder what He thought about being there. 

Do you think He was impressed with the attendance or the amount of the offering?  Do you think He noticed your padded pews or the carpet on the floor?  Did He go away thinking about how good the singing was and how the deacons were dressed in their white shirts and ties?  I wonder what He thought about those three young boys with their long hair and baggy pants. 

Things like that catch our eye when we go to church.  We tend to think a church is successful in being what the Lord wants it to be when there is a high attendance and big offering.  We judge a church by counting nickels and noses.

I really doubt that the Lord measures the success and faithfulness of a church by such nonsense!

The Lord wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus and told them that He walked among them when they met together. 

Because of that He told the church: “I know your deeds.” 

Maybe it’s time that we realize that when we go to church and Jesus is there that He knows what we’re doing (or not doing)!  He hears every word we say and even knows every thought that we think while we’re at church.  He’s there!   He knows!

He told the church people at Ephesus that He knew they were a busy and hard working church.  They were doing a lot of things.  They stood for the truth and endured a lot of hard times.

He also told them that He had something against them:  They had lost their first love.  I think that means that they didn’t love the Lord like they loved Him at one time.

When you go to church next Sunday and see John and Luther, Susie and Nancy, Johnny and Jim, grandma and grandpa, Aunt Jane and Uncle George; I hope you will remember that Jesus is there as well. 

I hope you will know that He knows all the good things you are doing as a church.  He sees how you help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and cheer the down trodden.  He knows you’re busy and hard working.

He also knows if you love Him like you used to love Him. 

Do you?  Do you love Him like you used to love Him?

If you don’t, He says think about how it used to be when you first became a Christian.  Remember how you read your Bible, prayed, talked to others about Him, and walked close to Him.  You can have that again.  Just decide you’re going to get out of the comfort zone you’re created for yourself and get back to loving and serving Him like you used to .




             Every once in a while I meet somebody that comes across like they have some kind of super intelligent knowledge.  And, sometimes they just might!  But, when it comes to having a super intelligent knowledge of God, I find myself questioning that person’s claim.

I’m not saying that we can’t know about God and have a knowledge of who He is.  It’s just saying that God is so big, so awesome, so majestic, so great, so powerful, so merciful, so loving, (Do you want me to go on?); It would take several lifetimes to even scratch the surface in understanding God.

But, God has arranged a situation where we can know about Him and know Him.

It has to do with His Son, Jesus.

God knew we wanted to know more about Him.  He wanted us to know more about Him.  So, He came up with a plan so we can know.

That simple plan is to be found in the statement Jesus made to one of His disciples when Phillip asked Him: “Lord, show us the Father.”  Jesus then said something that is so powerful:  “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”


One of my favorite preachers has said this about our knowing God:

“What is God like?  Here’s the answer:  Jesus.  Do you remember the time when there was a crowd gathered to hear Jesus and they were a long way from home and hungry, and Jesus fed them?  That is what God is like.  Do you remember when He took those little children on His lap and blessed them and talked to them and talked to their parents?  That is what God is like.  Do you remember when the leper came up to Jesus and said, ‘Please help me,’ and he was made clean and healed?  That is what God is like.”

“I do not want you to think that to be a Christian you have to believe in God and then you add Jesus.  You do not add anything; it is Jesus Christ who tells us who God is.  This is the kind of God in whom we believe.  Do you remember that time when Jesus was with the disciples and they were arguing about who was the chairman and who was the greatest?  Jesus took a towel and a bowl of water, knelt down in front of them, and washed their feet.  Do you remember that?  That is what God is like.”

“Do you remember when He took that old cross on His shoulder and started up the hill to Golgotha?  That is what God is like.”

Like many of you, I have attended Sunday School and saw the pictures on the wall of what some artist thinks represents who God is.  I’ve been to the Sistine Chapel in Rome and looked up at the dome to see and marvel at the painting of Michelangelo depicting God creating the world.  I’ve heard a lot of sermons where preachers tell me that you can know who God is by paying attention to the beauty of nature (And, you can know some things about Him from His creation but the sun and moon, the plants and the animals, the rain and the thunder, can never give us a complete knowledge of God.)

If you want to know who God is, there’s no better way to know than seeing who Jesus is.

I would be the first to admit that I’m still learning a lot about who God is.  I claim no super intelligence when it comes to understand God.

But, I do know a lot about Him because I read the Word of God and see all the things Jesus did and said and realize that when I see Him, I’m seeing God!

A lot of people tell me that they’d like to know more about God.  Let me suggest that you get the Old Book out and start reading about Jesus.  And, when you do, realize that what that Book says about Jesus, it says the same thing about God.

Jesus said very clearly: “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”





             Did you go to church last Sunday?  If so, you were probably made aware that it was what church people call “Palm Sunday.”

             I really like Palm Sunday for a lot of reasons.  It’s one of my favorite Sundays.

My liking Palm Sunday has to do with the fact that what happened on that day was something special.  It’s all about a man who was the Best Man that ever lived.  It turned out that He was more than an ordinary man.  He was also a King.  In His thirty-three years on earth He was hardly ever treated like a King.  It seemed that the only clothes He had were those He had on His back.  He said one time that He didn’t even have a place to lay His head.  I guess that made Him a homeless person.

Doesn’t sound much like a King, does it?

But, He was.  And, on Palm Sunday He was treated like a King.

The Bible never says anything about Him riding on anything except a boat.  But, on Palm Sunday He rode on a young colt as He entered the city of Jerusalem.  People lined the road on both sides throwing their clothes on the ground for Him to ride over.  They were shouting and singing songs that expressed what a good man He was.  That was something that people usually did for kings.  And, He let them do it for Him because He was a King.

Some people might say it was not a good idea for Him to go to Jerusalem because there were people there who hated Him with a passion.  They were making plans to kill Him and He knew it.  Didn’t matter!  He was determined to go anyway.  Knowing He would be arrested, beaten, and hung on a cross; He went anyway.

Suddenly, something happened in this Palm Sunday Parade.  Things were going along well when the parade came to a screeching halt. 

Looking up ahead, people noticed that Jesus had stopped the colt as He was almost to the Jerusalem city gates.  What was happening?

Some probably thought that Jesus was laughing and cheering like all the rest of the people.  After all, this was a happy and joyful time.  It was a parade!

But, when they looked a little closer, they saw that Jesus was not laughing.

He was crying!

Looking over the city and seeing all the thousands of people gathered together; as He cried, He said: “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace.  But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.  Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side.  They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you.  Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”

His heart was broken because they had an opportunity to accept and follow Him and they didn’t.  Now it was too late!  And, He cried!

His heart was broken because He could look into the future and see the suffering they and their children would suffer!  And, He cried!

His heart was broken because they did not accept their opportunity for salvation!  And, He cried!

Have you ever wondered if you’ve ever broken His heart?

Have you ever wondered if you’ve ever made Him cry?

I certainly hope that the Lord looks at me and sees something in my life that is good.  But, I know He’s looked at what I’ve done and said and it broke His heart.

I’ve broken His heart when I’ve failed to see and take advantage of the opportunities He’s place before me.  I’ve broken His heart when I’ve heard but really didn’t hear and saw but really didn’t see.

Let’s make up our minds that we’re going to pay more attention to who He is—the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.  Let’s recommit ourselves to taking advantage of the opportunities for service and personal growth that He places before us.

Let’s not break His heart anymore.




             Some of you old timers will remember a time when parents taught their children manners.  When is the last time you heard a conversation about manners?  It looks like it won’t be long till words and phrases like “Thank you” and “Please” will be a thing of the past.  I’m not saying that parents don’t want their children to have good manners but have you noticed most attempts to get kids to be mannerly are forced attempts?  You give a kid something and Mama jumps right in and says something like, “Now, Johnny what do you say?”  I think it would be better if little Johnny would say “Thank you.” on his own without being coached by Mama.

Teaching manners was a lot more than saying “Thank you.” and “Please.”

I bet that most of you remember your Mom or Dad telling you that you needed to go and tell someone you were sorry for some stupid or wrong thing you did or said.  Now, just be honest with me and tell me the last time you heard someone say, “I’m sorry.”  And, if you can remember, was it a real and sincere apology? 

I’ve noticed that when people say “I’m sorry.” that they do it out of habit.  Haven’t you known someone who just apologizes for everything?  It’s a way of life for them.  They are always apologizing but just keep on doing and saying the things they apologize for.

I read a story recently of a fellow who realized that there were so many people in his life that he had wronged and people he had taken advantage of.  He wanted to change his life and decided that the best way he could do that was to apologize to those people he had wronged and hurt.

Every time he met one of these people he said, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I just want to say that I’m sorry.”  But, he noticed that his apologies didn’t seem to make things right and there was still a distance between them.

He couldn’t figure out what was wrong because he’d seen politicians and movie stars make apologies to the public for things they had done that were wrong.  They’d get on television and say, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I just want to say that I’m sorry.”  They thought that everything should be fine after their apology but saw that people didn’t seem that forgiving.  They ask, “How many times do I have to apologize by admitting that I’ve made a mistake?”

The problem is that a simple apology is enough for most people when you’ve made a mistake!

However, most of the wrongs we have committed toward others are not  mistakes!

The truth is that we made a choice!  There’s a difference in making a mistake that hurts someone and making a choice that hurts someone!

There’s a great deal of difference in making a mistake and making a choice.

Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say:  “If you are lost, wandering through a forest in the dark, unable to see, unaware that a cliff is nearby, and you stumble off the cliff and break your neck...that is a mistake!  But, let’s say its broad daylight.  You are meandering about in a forest you’ve been told never to enter.  There are No Trespassing signs everywhere, but you think you can slip in and slip out and not get caught.  Now, again let’s say you fall off a cliff and break your neck...that, my friend, was not a mistake.  It was a conscious choice.”

“When one simply makes a mistake, an apology—an ‘I’m sorry’—will usually handle the situation.  But when a choice has been identified, the only way to repair a relationship is by exhibiting true remorse and seeking forgiveness.”

That’s when we need to ask for forgiveness instead of just saying “I’m sorry.”

People we’ve hurt know the difference in a mistake you’ve made that hurts them and your making a choice to hurt them.

Sometimes an apology is not enough.  Sometimes we need to ask for forgiveness.




              One of the greatest declarations in the Declaration of Independence is that all people have certain rights given to them by “their Creator.”

              The document only has 1,321 words.  It takes just eight minutes to read. 

God is mentioned four times, twice at the beginning and twice at the end.

The purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to separate us officially from the repression and authority of England.

What could have possibly been going on in the minds of those men who placed their names on that document? 

They knew that to sign that document that they would be branded as traitors and would suffer sure and swift death if the British authorities were to find and arrest them.  Even that threat did not discourage them. 

They stated: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

What could have possibly been going on in the minds of those men who placed their names on that document?

You don’t have to be a mind reader to know the answer to that question.

Here’s what one of those signers, John Adams, said: “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity”

Thirteen years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and after a bloody Revolutionary War, George Washington was inaugurated as President of the new nation and in an address at the inaugural ceremony, over 1/3 of his remarks was dedicated to the direct supplication to God for guidance and strength for the new nation.

The first three universities established on American soil were Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.  All were church colleges and all for the intention of the training men for the ministry.

Some years ago a political science professor at the University of Houston did a research project to answer the question:  “Who did the founding fathers quote the most?”  They examined 3,154 documents.  Who did they quote the most in the early part of our country?  Three writers.  Those three writers were Blackstone, Montague, and John Locke.  But 16 times more than those writers, they quoted from the Bible.

Let’s leave the early history and jump ahead some two hundred years to the year 1962 and see how things are going in America.

In 1962 a simple prayer was the center of a great deal of turmoil. 

  Here is the text of that prayer:  “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”

Though it is a very simple prayer and God is only acknowledged once, and though the prayer does not even mention the name “Jesus”—the courts declared that the prayer was unconstitutional. 

Based on that decision, the courts removed prayer from our schools.

This was done in spite of the fact that historical government documents are filled with thousands of acknowledgements of God and the name “Jesus” is used freely in those same documents.

Now, do you know the reason or the argument put forth to justify such an action?

The court rendered its decision on the basis of “separation between church and state.”

You’ve heard that statement haven’t you?’

“Separation of church and state.”

Some say: “Why, that’s in the Declaration of Independence!”



              And, just where does it say that?

              Of course, we know that the statement is not in any government document               written by our founding fathers.

              Some then say: “You’re right, it’s not in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.  It’s in the Bill of Rights.”


Let’s read the part of the Bill of Rights you’re talking about.  It’s called The First Amendment and it says:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Now, just exactly where does it say anything about “separation of church and state?”

I don’t see the word “separation.” 

I don’t see the word “church.” 

I don’t see the word “state.”

“Of” is used twice.

“And” is used once.

Please tell me on what planet does “of”…”and” mean “separation of church and state?”

In 1853 there was a movement in which a small group petitioned Congress for the separation of Christian principles from government.  For nearly one year the Senate and House Judiciary committees reviewed and studied the petition to see if it would be possible to separate Christian principles from our civil government.

Both committees came back with their report and both said about the same thing.

Let me quote from the House Judiciary Committee in its report of March 27, 1854:   "Had the (founding fathers), during the revolution, a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle...At the time of the adoption of the constitution and its amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not any one sect (denomination)."  It also said, "In this age, there is no substitute for Christianity...That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants."

Two months later, the House Judiciary Committee added this declaration, "The great vital and conservative element in our system (the thing that holds our system together) is the belief of our people in the pure doctrine and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The committees explained that they could not separate these principles of Christianity from the government because it was these principles which made us so successful.

  But, “What about the first amendment?” someone might ask.

Good question.

The first amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The emphasis was never to separate Christianity from government, but to keep one single denomination within Christianity from controlling the government.

BUT, we’ve heard that phrase over and over—”separation of church and state.”

Where did it come from?

It came from none other than the honorable Thomas Jefferson.

Why did he use the statement?  When did he use the statement?  Where did he use the statement?


              The historical account answers that question for us.

              In 1801 the Danbury Baptist Association heard a rumor that the Congregationalist denomination was to become the official denomination of the United States.

              They were alarmed and sent a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

He responded with a letter of his own.

It was January 2, 1802, and in his letter he told them they didn’t have to worry about one denomination within Christianity taking over the government because, "the First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state."

There’s the origin of the statement!

Jefferson’s intention is crystal clear.

It has nothing to do with a separation of state and Christianity!

It does have a lot to do with the United States Congress making any kind of law establishing a government religion or favoring any one particular sect or denomination within Christianity.

His letter explained that they need not fear the establishment of an official denomination, and while the wall of separation protected the church from government control, there would always be complete freedom of worship for all orthodox religious practices, because true religious practice would never threaten the purpose of government.  The government would only interfere with religious activity when it was a direct menace to the government or to the overall peace and good order to society.

  Today all we hear of Jefferson’s letter is that one phrase "separation between church and state" and it is completely misquoted and misused.  Neither the context, the application, or the intent is ever considered.

For nearly a century and a half the clear understanding of the first amendment was the prohibited establishing of a single national denomination, it had nothing to do with a separation of Christianity from government.

As a matter of fact, in 1878 in a case called Reynolds vs. the United States, a group tried to take this statement by Jefferson to prove a separation of Christianity and government.

In it’s response, the court quoted a lengthy section of the Jefferson letter and used it as a basis to prove that it was permissible to retain Christian values, practices and principles as official policies of the government.

For the next fifteen years Jefferson’s letter that mentioned “separation of church and state” was used to PROVE the inclusion of Christian practice and religion in government.

When these debates had been settled the letter went basically unused for the next 75 years until 1947. In the case of Everson vs. the Board of Education the court, for the first time, did not sight Jefferson’s letter in its entirety but instead they selected eight words from the Jefferson letter, “a wall of separation between church and state” and used it, for the first time, against Christianity.

It started a precedent that would continue and gain momentum.

It would soon become common thought that "separation of Church and State" applied to any religious activity.

Why would so many people believe that?

Maybe that question can be answered with the words of Dr. William James the father of Modern Psychology, when he said:  “...there is nothing so absurd but that if you repeat it often enough people will believe it."

  This explains why, after 1947, the courts began to often use that phrase, “separation of church and state,” and applying it totally out of context.


              It got so bad that in 1958 in a case called Baer vs. Kolmorgen a dissenting judge warned that continuing to talk about the "Separation of church and state" would make people think it was part of the Constitution.
              Despite the warning, the courts continued to use the phrase until June 25, 1962 in the case, Engel vs. Vitale when based on the misrepresentation of that phrase, the court, for the first time, separated Christian principles from education when it struck down prayer in schools.

In that one case in 1962 the courts redefined the definition of that word “Church.”

For 170 year before that case, the word “church” as used in the phrase “separation of church and state” had been clearly defined by Jefferson and by all following courts to be a federally established denomination.

In this case in 1962 they redefine church to include any religious activity performed in public.

This was the turning point in the interpretation of the first amendment.

It was on that day that we as a nation, for the first time, officially told God, we do not want you in our schools, in our nation, in our government, or in our lives.

School prayer was the first casualty of this new definition and decision. 

Within twelve months, this same court removed Bible reading and any religious classes or instructions. 

The Ten Commandments and Beatitudes soon came down.

So what do we do?

We need to remember that the "separation of church and state" as we know it is not the teaching of our founding fathers.

It is not an historical teaching in our country.

It is not in the Constitution or Bill of Rights.

It is not a teaching of any law until recently.

We must also remember that whatever the government might do in the future that further erodes our Christian principles and practices that the church will continue to exist.

The church was born in the midst of government persecution and hatred. 

In that environment, it grew and serves as one of the best examples of the fact that is expressed in an old church hymn that we seldom sing anymore:

A mighty fortress is our God,

a bulwark never failing;

our helper He amid the flood

of mortal ills prevailing.


For still our ancient foe

doth seek to work us woe;

his craft and power are great,

and armed with cruel hate,

on earth is not his equal.


Did we in our own strength confide,

our striving would be losing,

were not the right man on our side,

the man of God's own choosing.


And though this world, with devils filled,

  should threaten to undo us,

we will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us. 


The Prince of Darkness grim,

we tremble not for him;

his rage we can endure,

for lo, his doom is sure;


Let goods and kindred go,

this mortal life also;

the body they may kill;

God's truth abideth still;

His kingdom is forever.






             Have you ever wondered if dead people know what’s going on with those of us who are still living?  I don’t want to get into a long theological argument with any of you but; what do you think?  Do dead people know what we’re saying, thinking, or doing? 

Sometimes I think they do!

Sometimes I want them to know.

Of course, there are times when I hope they don’t!

Let me give you an example—Every once in a while when the volunteers have left the museum, when the last visitor has completed the tour, and when it’s time to turn off the lights and head for Bambi Circle; I’ll go upstairs in the museum and check to make sure all the lights have been turned off and enjoy the quietness.  I’ll walk up and down the hallways and see the beautiful job that has been done to restore the old hotel that Mr. Breeding built over seventy years ago.  I know he put his life into the construction of that fine building and was not satisfied with anything but the best as it was being constructed. 

When I walk through the hallway, I often say to myself: “Old man Breeding would be proud!”  I mean no disrespect at all in saying that.  I just believe that if he knows what has been done; he’d be proud!  I hope he does know and, if he does, I hope he’s proud that we’ve brought the old building back to life.

A couple weeks ago most of you received in the mail or purchased a special edition of the Wayne County OUTLOOK.  It was special because it was about five times larger than the regular editions.  The folks at the OUTLOOK office call it the “Progress Edition.”  It was packed full of stories about our community and the progress we’re making here in Monticello and Wayne County.  Personally, I read every page in it.  How thrilled I was to read stories of our people who had gone to foreign countries on mission trips to help make a difference in underdeveloped countries.  Of course, I appreciated the articles about the history of Wayne County.  The reports of new businesses that had been started is such good news in these hard economic times. 

It was just a fabulous edition and I was so proud of the hard work of the OUTLOOK staff in putting it together.

Now, let me get back to my question—”Have you ever wondered if dead people know what’s going on with those of us who are still living?

I’ve had the opportunity to read through more than a hundred years of old OUTLOOK newspapers.  Actually, the old copies of the paper are one of the best historical records we have about Wayne County history.  It’s absolutely fascinating to read the news stories about things that happened around here more than a hundred years ago.

The story of the Wayne County OUTLOOK is impossible to tell without talking about one particular gentleman—Mr. James (Jim) Simpson.  I never knew Mr. Simpson personally but, believe me, I’ve become acquainted with him by reading those old copies of the OUTLOOK.  Mr. Simpson started the paper in 1904 and was assisted by his dear wife.  Along with other family members, he published the paper for many decades.  Boy, was he a fan of Wayne County!  And, you’d never believe what a sharp wit he had!  He might have been a little man in statue but, he was a giant to be reckoned  with when he expressed his opinion!  And, he expressed it on the pages of the OUTLOOK!

I would like to believe that a couple of weeks ago “old man Simpson” was looking down on what was happening down on Columbia Avenue in the same building he worked in so faithfully to publish his paper.  And, I like to think that he was proud of the heritage he left for the fine citizens of Wayne County.

I tip my hat to the good folks who work so faithfully to publish the OUTLOOK for us.

I’m not dead yet but I want to tell you; I’m proud of you!





             Some people seem to think that reading and studying the Bible has to be the most boring thing that a person could possibly do.

             I can see why some would think such a thing.

             Just think about it—what could be interesting in some book that is a few thousands of years old?  History has changed so drastically in the last two or three thousand years.  Surely there’s nothing that is the same as it was that long ago.  Why waste time reading about ancient history when there’s so many new things that surround us?

Well, I’ve got to tell you that I’ve spent considerable time reading that “old book” and I still marvel at what I read from its pages.

One of the things that is a constant marvel to me is reading about the way Jesus reacted to people!

I just find it fascinating.

Oh, I can understand how He reacted to people like Mary and Joseph.  They were good people.  When Nicodemus came to Him late in the night; Jesus treated Him with respect.  After all, ol’ Nicodemus was a good fellow.  Jesus was pleased with John the Baptizer and appreciated all the good things John did.  Jesus even bragged on John.  John was a good man.

The other day I was reading about an incident when Jesus was invited to a big banquet that was held at the house of a fellow by the name of Simon.  We know a little about Simon.  He was a religious leader and was concerned about having a good reputation and setting a good example for others to follow.  He liked other religious leaders.  He was a good fellow.  Some other religious leaders were also invited to the big banquet.    They were good people.

It appears that Jesus treated all these good people in an appropriate manner.  He reacted to those good people in the way you’d expect Him to react to good people.

But, when everybody was situated around the banquet table; something strange happened.

In walked a woman!  You can best bet that all the religious leaders gathered together that day were men!  Probably not a woman among them!

Except this one who “crashed” the party!

When she appeared at the door of the banquet hall; it was evident that she was not a “regular” woman.  The Bible seems to indicate that she was a prostitute.  It says she was a woman “who had lived a sinful life.”  She was a “street walker.”  She was a “lady of the evening.”  I’m sure you get where I’m going here.

It seems that when those men at the banquet saw her; they recognized her!  I’m not sure why a bunch of preachers would know things like that but, I’m sure they did!  Even Simon said, “...she is a sinner.”

To make things worse, the woman started doing something that a lot of women do well.  She started bawling all over the place.  I mean big crocodile tears flowing down her cheeks falling on the floor.  Some of them fell on Jesus’ feet!  And, then, she started wiping her tears from the feet of Jesus with her hair!  And, she had some perfume with her and she poured some of that on His feet.

Folks, can you picture what’s going on here?  I wish I had been there with those high class preachers on that day just to see the spectacle! 

Well, needless to say, Simon stepped in and tried to get the situation under control.  He started by saying that Jesus was partly to blame because he reasoned: “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and proceeded to teach him a lesson by pointing out that upon arrival at Simon’s house nobody was at the door to greet Him, or to wash His feet, or to put some oil on His head.  That’s what a good host would have done for his guests.  Simon didn’t even treat Jesus like a common house guest much less an honored guest!

But, look at what this prostitute did when she entered the room.  She washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, started kissing His feet, and poured perfume on His feet.

How did Jesus react to this “fallen” woman?

He forgave her of her sins!

I wish I had been there to see this prostitute upstage that bunch of preachers!  I wish I could have witnessed the amazing grace of God being extended to this sinner!

I hope I could have spoke up and said, “You go, girl!”

But I probably would not have done that.  I probably would have joined Simon and the other preachers and started looking for some way to get that woman out of there and back on the streets “where she belonged.”

I’ve got a lot to learn about how Jesus wants me to react to people.

I know how to react to “good people” but I hope I can learn to react to “sinners” like He did. 




             Some time ago somebody asked me, “What’s your sign?’

             I knew what they were asking.  It has something to do with the silliness that the moon, stars, and planets floating out in space have something to do with who I am and what my life is all about.  There are millions of people who believe in astrology.  Everyday they check the newspaper to read their horoscope to see what’s going to happen to them in their daily routine.

While I like to look into the skies and see the beauty of God’s creation, I don’t believe the moon, stars, and planets have diddly-squat to do with dictating what kind of day I’m going to have.

But, I do believe in signs.

In fact, I believe that we are signs.

That’s what the Bible says.  Well, it doesn’t say it in those exact words but I think that what Jesus meant when He said that Christians are like lamps set on a lampstand and like a city set on a hill.  We’re going to be seen by the people around us.

And, isn’t that what signs are for?  Billboards, road signs, and signs on business places are placed there for people to see. 

It would be crazy to buy a sign for your church and put it behind the building where no one could ever see it and read what it says. 

Signs are not only to be seen; they are to gain your attention with the messages that are on them.  Some churches are doing a great job with their church signs.  I saw two church signs the other day that I really did like.  One of the signs said: “A Bible in the hand is worth two on the bookshelf.”  The other one said: “A Bible that is coming to pieces usually belongs to a person who isn’t.”

We Christians need to face the fact that we are human signs.  People are supposed to see us.  We’re like a city set on a hill!  And, being a sign, we are to have a message that people can read.

OK, so you see that Christians are a sign.  What is the message that people are reading when they see your sign? 

That’s a question that the Lord answers very clearly.  He said that when people see us they are to see our good works!  Now, I know that there are those timid souls who don’t want anybody to see the good works they might do.  They don’t want to be in the spotlight at all.  They would rather do what they do for others in an anonymous way.  That might be the appropriate approach in some instances but Jesus told Christians to live their lives in such a way that others will see their good works!

Now, that’s not so people will brag about us.  It’s not so that people will look at us and think what good people we are.

Look at the rest of the statement of Jesus.  He says that people are to see our good works and glorify our Father who is in Heaven!  What people see in us and the message that we’re trying to get across by being a sign is that our Heavenly Father is to be glorified and honored.

All of us are going to be wandering around in a lot of places this week and a lot of people are going to see us.  When they see us coming, they’re really seeing a billboard approaching them.  By being who we are and doing what we do, we’re giving them a message.  They are going to see what we say and do.  We’ll be giving them a message of some kind.

Our Lord wants them to see us in a kind of way that will cause them to glorify Him.

Check the message on your sign.  Is it saying what you want it to say?  You can’t keep people from seeing the sign.  It’s going to say something.

Like almost any kind of sign you can change the message if it’s not what you want it to say. 

What’s your sign?






             I read the other day: “You were put on earth to make a contribution.  God designed you to make a difference with your life.”

             How about it?

             Do you believe that you are alive for a reason and that you can make a difference with your life?

If so, what is the reason and how do you make a difference?

Let’s talk about it.

I realize that the majority of people seem to be more concerned about what somebody can do for them instead of what they can do for somebody.

Bookstores are full of self-help books.  People seem to want to know how they can get more out of life.  A lot of these books teach people how to stick their hands out and get something from somebody else.  After all, isn’t our goal to get as much as we can?  Make all the money we can.  Buy all the “toys” we can.  Feel as good as we can.  Gimmi, gimmi, gimmi!

We live in a “Me, My, Mine” world.  “It’s all about me!”  “I’m gonna get what I deserve.” 

And, that attitude must be working for a lot of people.  We are fast becoming a nation of “fat cats.”  Even the poorest among us “deserve” a cell phone, a flat screen television, a DVD player, internet access, a better-than-average automobile, air conditioning, central heat, and an unlimited text message contract!  The lawyers who advertise on television tell us they can get us what we “deserve.”  The other day I noticed that our Medicaid dollars can get us, not one but, two glucose meters!  And, if you have two out of five health-related conditions, you can get a new Hoveround “for little or no cost.”

Now, don’t run to your computer and send me a threatening or nasty email accusing me of being insensitive and hard-hearted.  I’m not talking about people who really need any of these things.  I’m talking about the people who have the government to pay for four cell phones so they can sell three of them on ebay.  I’m talking about people who don’t like to be deprived of things because “other people have them and I deserve to have them for myself.” 

Have you ever thought that the reason some people have what they do because they’ve worked hard and long to have them?  If you’re poor because you are too lazy to work, that’s your choice!  Try putting forth as much effort to find a job and go to work as you do to get a “crazy check” or other government assistance! 

I’m thinking that we need a real dose of reality and understand that “IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME!”

That’s not your reason to be alive!  That’s not the way God designed that you live your life.  You’re not going to make much of a difference if that’s the way you’re going to live!

Some people are content being sponges!

You know what sponges do, don’t you?  Put a sponge in a bucket of water and it just sits there and soaks up all the water it can.  Everything going in but nothing going out! 

Folks, God has given all of us something—some talent, some ability, financial resources, good health, etc.  And, there are some things that God has not given us.  But, I can guarantee you that God is only going to hold you responsible for what He has given you—not for what He has not given you. 

We are not responsible for what God has not given us!  But, we are responsible for what He has given us!

You can’t do everything but, you can do something!  Most of the time doing something is better than doing nothing!  Personally, I’d rather fail trying to do what God wants me to do than to sit around doing nothing! 

What is your reason being alive and what can you do to make a difference with your life?

Use what God has given you to serve those who need what you can do. 

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…”




             I learned a lesson last week that I’ve got to share with you.

             As you know there is a great deal of difference in men and women!  (That’s an understatement if there ever was one!)

             Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining about those differences.  In fact I’ve been known to be a fellow who has a deep appreciation of those differences.

I think that men are generally happier than women.  Here are some of the reasons I believe that:  Men can play with toys all their life.  Men can wear shorts no matter what their legs look like.  Men have one wallet and one pair of shoes which are good for every season.  Men can choose whether or not to grow a mustache.

Men can "do" their fingernails with a pocket knife.  Men's bellies usually hide their large hips.  Chocolate is just another snack.  The whole garage belongs to them.  Weddings take care of themselves.  Men's last name never changes.  Everything on a man's face stays its original color.  Men only have to shave their faces and necks.  Men can keep the same hairstyle for years, even decades.  Men can do their Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on Christmas Eve in 25 minutes.  For men, wrinkles add character.  Men can go on a week's vacation and pack only one suitcase.  Men's new shoes don't cause blisters, or cut or mangle their feet.  Men don't have to stop and think which way to turn a screw.  Men have one mood all the time.  Men can open all their own jars.

The lesson I learned last week has to do with what I’ve observed in the mornings when Gale and I go to the bathroom and stand in front of the double sinks and began to get ready for what we’re going to be doing for the day.

Standing in front of the mirror I realized that it’s a scientific fact that most men have five items in his bathroom: a toothbrush, razor, shaving cream, a bar of soap, and a towel from the Motel 6.  The average number of items in a woman's bathroom is 328 and the average man is not able to identify most of them.

When I get up in the mornings and look at myself in the mirror I see a complete mess.  My hair is standing straight up on the top of my head.  I’ve got bags under my eyes and the beginnings of a multicolored beard.

In glancing over at Gale I see that she looks pretty much the same as I do.  (Of course, without the beginnings of a multicolored beard!)

I proceed to get ready by washing my face, combing my hair, and scrapping the hair off my face with a sharp knife.  It only  takes about five minutes to get all that done and I’m ready to face the world.  The reason it takes me such a short time to get ready is because I realize that I can’t do very much about the way I look.  I learned a long time ago that ugly is permanent!

But, Gale doesn’t give up as easy as I do.

I look like a mess and accept it.  Gale looks like a mess and says, “I can fix that!”

Looking over where she is I notice that she has lined up little containers of all kinds of paint samples.   She calls it makeup.  There’s a color for everything.  And, she has little paint brushes that go with each container.  She also has some paint brushes with little sponges on little sticks.  It looks like a miniature paint department in a Home Depot store.   Over on the side she’s got some kind of electrical instrument that’s heating up and getting ready to do something to her hair.  Just to the side is a device that looks like a pair of scissors with a funny looking tip.  She lifts it to her eye lashes and squeezes the handles together creating a gentle curl on the lashes.  In all my seventy years of life I’ve never understood why women do that!

The lesson I learned for observing all this activity in the bathroom in the early morning hours is that I need to be more like Gale when I look in the mirror and see a mess.

She’s taught me that when I look in the mirror and see ugly that I need to believe that “I can fix that!”  Now all I have to do is find someplace where I can buy me some of those paint samples and a good supply of those little paint brushes!

When I shared my plans with Gale, all she said was:  “Harlan, women may be crazy, but men are stupid.  The main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.




             I had a party last week and wish everyone of you could have been there.

             Actually, there weren’t that many people there anyway.

             It was a Fifth Anniversary Party.

             You see, five years ago I was at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, flat on my back inside a sterile operating room surrounded by this bunch of people with masks on their faces.  There were strange machines all over the place with weird sounds coming from them.  I don’t remember very much about the situation because some nice lady had placed a plastic mask over my mouth and nose and I don’t remember hardly anything about that bunch of people or the strange machines.

I wound up in Nashville because my good friend and beloved physician,  Dr. Khdair, had found something in my right leg that wasn’t supposed to be there!  That seemed to excite everybody because they started doing X-rays and MRIs and a lot of other things that are only known by other letters of the alphabet.

Whatever they found was determined not to be in my best interests so several doctors at Markey Cancer Center and at Vanderbilt decided to slit my leg open and get that “something” out of my body.  They didn’t tell me that they were going to cut out enough meat to equal five or ten pounds of prime chuck roast.

After a few weeks in the hospital I finally got back to Bambi Circle and started my recovery and a new appreciation of life!

Life’s been good for the past five years.  It seems that all those little cancer critters that might have been left behind in my body have not caused any additional trouble and have behaved themselves. 

Those of you who know anything about the “Big C” know that surviving for five years is an accomplishment to be proud of.

I am.

That’s why I had a party last week.  I celebrated five years of survival! 

Way to go, Lord!

People ask me every once in a while how things are going for me.  Inquiring minds want to know things like that.

I’m always happy to share the good news about how my family, my friends, and my God have been a part of the five-year-long journey.

That brings me to give you the latest report.

Last week I went to Vanderbilt to see the surgeon who led in the battle to remove that strange growth from my leg.  You’ve probably never met him and I hope you never will have to meet him under the circumstance he and I got acquainted.  His name is Dr. Herbert S. Schwartz.  Dr. Schwartz has been at Vanderbilt since 1987 and is the most senior and experienced full-time academic orthopaedic oncologist in the mid-southern United States.  He is only approximately 50 such specialists in the county. 

This fellow knows his stuff!

Just after my surgery, I went to see Dr. Schwartz every six months so he could poke and prod, feel and squeeze, observe and examine his handiwork on my leg.

Dr. Schwartz is definitely not one of these doctors that speaks what seems like some kind of foreign language when he explains your medical condition.  I’m sure he knows words like molecular genetics, musculoskeletal oncology, leiomyosarcoma , bone metastasis, and limb salvage.  But he hardly ever uses them when he talks to me.

He uses language that I can understand.

He proved that last week when I saw him in his sarcoma clinic at Vanderbilt.  As always he came bouncing into the room with a grin on his face and an extended hand.  He had seen the results of several tests that had been done previous to my seeing him in his office.

When he came into the examination room where Gale and I were sitting, we shook hands but I was anxious to ask him the question that concerned me the most—“Dr. Schwartz, how am I doing?’

With no hesitation at all and with a strong and clear voice, he said: “Damn good!”

I knew exactly what he meant and it was exactly what I wanted so desperately to hear.

So, if you want to know how ye ol’ muser is doing, “Damn good!” says it all!




             I was driving out the road the other day and noticed that they were having a wedding at one of the country churches that dot the Wayne County landscape.  I could tell because there were a lot of cars in the church parking lot, white ribbons were tied to the stair rails that led to the front door of the church, and there were signs along the road with directions to the church where the wedding was going to take place.

I have to say that weddings don’t turn me on all that much anymore.  After performing marriage ceremonies for several hundred couples, the thrill has kinda’ dimmed.

But, I did hear about a wedding that was announced on the national news that I wanted so much to attend!

It was to take place last Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Seattle, Washington.  The bride-to-be was a nice looking lady, though not my cup of tea.  She had beautiful dark hair which looked stunning on her fair complexion.   I did see a photograph of her in her wedding dress and it looked like she had spent a few dollars on the dress.  The news articles I read about the wedding didn’t say anything about her parents though I suspect that they weren’t very happy about the upcoming nuptials.  Parents are like that sometimes.

The lady had a strange name—Babylonia Aivaz.  I’m not sure of her ethnicity but that’s not really that important.  She must have believed that a lot of people would like to attend her wedding because he invited the entire Seattle public to attend.

Her political position might be suspect because she said she fell in love with her “intended” during one of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been taking place around the country.

The story took a strange turn for me when I learned that the lady was going to marry someone who was 107 years old!  Who would want to marry somebody that old?

Well, really she wasn’t going to marry “someone.”   She was going to marry “someTHING.”

She was going to marry a 107 year old abandoned warehouse that was in the process of being demolished!

Folks, I ain’t making this up!  It was reported on the local ABC affiliate, KOMO, in Seattle!

She was going to marry a building!

You think that’s strange.  You ain’t heard nothing yet!

She said it was going to be a “gay wedding.”

Just as soon as I think I’ve got a handle on this same sex marriage thing, here comes somebody along and tells me that buildings qualify in some way for a “gay wedding.”  I’m confused!

Worse still, the dear lady said an ordained minister would perform the ceremony!  Where did she find an ordained minister that would consent to being a part of such a thing?  I’m confused!  Where did he go to seminary and what strange church would authorize his performing a “gay wedding” for a young lady and a 107 year old building?

She said her reason for wanting to marry the old building was: “I’m doing this to show the building how much I love it…”  Evidently she had a wedding rehearsal because early last week she went to the building site and changed into her wedding dress and climbed on the heavy equipment to draw attention to her plans.

Ya’ll still think I’m making this thing up, don’t you?

I’m not.  It’s the truth!

Now, this kind of thing creates all kinds of problems for us preachers.

What am I going to say to a young lady who comes up to me next month and tell me she wants to marry a can of green beans?  I like green beans.  If I refuse, will I be called a bigot?  Will my refusal to marry a woman and a can of green beans mean that I’m prejudice and showing gross discrimination?

Where does a bride and her can of green bean husband go on their honeymoon?

Hey, wait a minute!  I’ve got it all figured out.  If a woman comes to me and wants me to marry her and a can of green beans, I’m going to call the Jolly Green Giant and ask him to do the ceremony and I’m going to  suggest that they spend their vacation in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.  Who knows, in nine months they may become the parents of twin Ford Hook Lima Beans! 




              We live in strange times!

              You’ve heard that before, I’m sure.

              But, it is true, we do live in a time where we see all kinds of strange things.

              For example:  There are almost seven billion people living on earth as of today.  Here’s something strange about that: Millions of those people admit that they do not have anyone in their life that they consider their “best friend.”  Millions more confess that their “best friend” is somebody they associate with on internet sites like Facebook or Twitter.  They’re called “cyber friends” in the “cyber community” and their “cyber relationship” is maintained in chat rooms.

If you think that’s sad, consider the fact that there are millions of people in this world of seven billion people who don’t even know their neighbors!  Lots of people live for years in a neighborhood without ever knowing the name of their next-door neighbor.  And, they like it that way!

There’s a problem with this attitude and practice that we need to consider.

Folks, God did not create us to be hermits, recluses, or isolationists.  God made us for relationships!  God made us to need other people in our lives.  He made us to have real flesh-and-blood relationships!  We need to have face-to-face, up close, and personal relationships.  People who pull away from other people and refuse to develop personal relationships never know what a hug or a pat on the back feels like.  They never know what it is to see somebody shed a tear on their behalf or say a prayer for them when they go through rough times.  They never hear a good joke or share a belly-laugh.

I need and you need more than somebody texting you or posting on an internet site the letters “lol”—(internet jargon for “laughing out loud.”)  I want to see you laugh.  I want to hear you laugh!

At least one of the reasons the Lord established the church was to give us Christians an opportunity to share our lives with each other face-to-face and up close.  You can read your Bible forwards, backwards, and even sideways but you’ll never find any “cyber church” in there!  In the church we can share our lives together.  In fact, if we don’t share our lives with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not being the church!

The Bible says that we need to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “weep with those who weep.”  How can I do that if I don’t know why you’re rejoicing?  How can I weep with you if you don’t share with me what makes you weep?

Not only does God want us to be close to others; He wants us to be close to Him.

The Bible clearly declares: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart…” 

Think about that for just a minute.

Haven’t you ever been around somebody you’d rather not be around?  All of us have.  But, you’ve also been around with some people that you love being with.

God says to everyone of us, “Come on over to My house and let’s hang out with each other.”  He says, “I want to be with you and I want you to be with Me.”  “Let’s visit for a while.” 

If some mighty important person would send us an invitation to come and be with him/her for a while; we’d break our necks to be there!  We’d take a bath, put on our best smelling deodorant, and wear our Sunday clothes!

We’d get ready for the appointment.

The Bible says, “...draw near to God with a sincere heart…”  When we are going to draw near to Him, we need to get ready to do so.  Getting ready means that we meet Him with a sincere heart.  While we are invited to come into God’s presence and boldly approach His throne of Grace; we are not to take that lightly.

Where God is, that’s holy ground!  We meet Him with reverence and respect.  We meet Him with a sincere heart.

Folks, we’re created to have close relationships—with others and with God!




             Got a question for you—maybe two questions.

             Why were you born?  Why did God create human beings and put them on earth?

             If you’re expecting me to answer those questions, you’re going to be disappointed because I don’t know!

How’s that for honesty?

But, don’t be discouraged and don’t start calling me some kind of idiot.

While I might not have all the answers to all questions; I do know some things.

Even though I might not know why you were born or why God created us; I do know how He wants us to treat Him and treat others while we’re here.

Those answers are to be found in two statements of Jesus when He said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Being as how we were born and being as how we are on this ol’ ball of dirt; how does God want us to treat Him?  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 

Being as how we were born and being as how we are on this ol’ ball dirt; how does God want us to treat others?  “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Pretty simple, don’t you think?

Now, if we’re going to love God and love others, we need to know what love is.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that everybody knows what love is.  They don’t!

Some believe in some kind of oooey-gooey, goose bumps, butterflies in the stomach, kissie face feeling that causes your face to flush and an electric spark to run up and down your backbone.

If that’s what the Lord is expecting of me, I’m in a heap of trouble!

Dear folks there are some people that will never give me goose bumps or cause an electric spark to run up and down my backbone or any other part of my anatomy!  I sure am not going to rush up to them and kiss them!

That’s not what the Lord is talking about.  He’s talking about our being concerned with the welfare of others to the point that, when we have opportunity, we will do whatever we can for their benefit.

Now, I can love like that!  I can love my enemies like that!  I can love everybody like that!

I don’t need their permission to love them.  I don’t even have to like them to love them!  You see, the choice to love them is mine—not their decision!

That’s how God wants us to love Him.  He wants us to be concerned with Him and do whatever we can do to advance His will and purpose on this earth.  That’s the way others want us to love them.  They want us to be concerned with their welfare and do whatever we can for their benefit.  That’s how we want to be loved!

Also, please notice that you will never have a handle on love until you understand that love is not just some kind of feeling you have.  It’s something you do!  Love is active.  Love demands action.

Have you ever heard the story about the little boy whose Dad was sitting in his recliner, kicked back and reading the paper after a long, tiring day at work.  His little boy inched up beside Dad and said, “Daddy, I love you.”  The Dad replied, “I love you, too, son,” and continued reading the paper.

The little boy went to the other side of the chair and started rubbing his Daddy’s arm.  “Daddy, I love you,” he said again.  And with just a little impatience in his voice, Dad again said, “I love you, too, son.”

Suddenly the boy came crashing through the newspaper onto his Dad’s chest.  H wrapped his little arms as far around his Dad as he could and said with a loud voice, “Daddy, I love you and I’ve just got to do something about it!”

Love, real love, demands action!

So, here we are on God’s good earth.

Why are we here?  I don’t know.

I do know what we’re supposed to be doing while we’re here—Loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind and loving others like we love ourselves.

That’s what it all about!




             One hundred and fifty years ago the people of Wayne County were in a terrible state of excitement and turmoil as thousands of strangers made their way through the little county seat town of Monticello.  In a way it was only the beginning of years of heartbreak and misery that would touch every home.  

The people had heard of a war that had been raging in places that seemed a world away.  They knew that their country had been divided over political issues that seemed to have no real answers.  Their political leaders decided that the only way to address those issues was to start a war.  That war began on April 12, 1861 when shots were fired on Fort Sumpter in the southern state of South Carolina.

Eleven states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate states of America with Jefferson Davis being elected president and Richmond, Virginia chosen for its first capitol.

The ordinary citizens on both sides believed that the war would be short-lived and peace would return.  It was not to be.  In the beginning a few major battles resulted only in hundreds of young men being killed while the political leaders exchanged insults back and forth with each other.

It didn’t take very long for the war to come home to Wayne County.  In December of 1961 (less than a year after the war started) the citizens of Wayne County found themselves in the direct path of the war.  Confederate soldiers marched from Tennessee into Kentucky under the command of General Felix Kirk Zollicoffer.  That march led them right through Monticello.  They were on their way to the Mill Springs area of the county on the banks of Cumberland River where they planned to camp for the winter.  The Union army was known to be gathering in Pulaski County around the Fishing Creek area and the Confederate generals wanted be ready for battle against them.

General Zollicoffer would only camp out at Mill Springs on the Wayne County side of the Cumberland for a short while.  The time he spent at Mill Springs found him occupying what we know today as the West/Metcalfe house and the Brown/Lanier house as his headquarters.  In December of 1861 he decided to move his army of about 4,000 men across the river and make his winter quarters at Beech Grove.

On the cold and damp Sunday morning of January 19, 1862 the people of Monticello and Wayne County were awakened just at dawn with the sound of cannons in the distance.  The Battle of Mill Springs had begun.

Approximately 8,000 Union and Confederate soldiers attacked each other about eight miles from Beech Grove.  As the battle raged for four hours or more, many of those brave men were killed or wounded.  The Confederate army was demoralized upon hearing of the death of General Zollicoffer.   Soon after they would suffer a sound defeat and make a hasty retreat back across the Cumberland River to Mill Springs and then on through Monticello back into Tennessee.

The Confederate dead were buried in a common grave on the battlefield.  The wounded who made it across the river were treated at the Brown/Lanier house and the West/Metcalfe house after both places were turned into field hospitals.  Many of the Confederate wounded died and were buried in the yard of the West/Metcalfe house and in the West family cemetery.  Others would die on the retreat route and be buried in many unmarked graves along the roadway.

The Union soldiers who died were buried in individual and marked graves near the little hamlet of Nancy in a spot that is now a national cemetery.

The Battle of Mill Springs was by no means the largest or the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.  More carnage would follow.  Thousands of other brave men and women on both sides of the conflict would be sacrificed on the altar of war.

The people of Monticello and Wayne County would bear the wounds of the Battle of Mill Springs for many years to come.  Brothers would fight against brothers.  Families would be divided.  Loyalties would be questioned.  Most every family in Wayne County would be adversely affected by the war.

No one in their right mind would every do anything to glorify war and the killing and misery it causes.  However, we must all remember the results and consequences of war.  That’s one of the reasons we have slogans like “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Pearl Harbor.”  If we don’t learn from our history we will find ourselves repeating the mistakes of history.

In just a few days (January 21st and 22nd) the Mill Springs Battlefield Association will sponsor an event that will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mill Springs.  On Saturday, January 21, reenactors from all over the country will reenact the Battle of Mill Springs in two separate recreated attacks.  The first battle will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a second attack recreated at 1:00 p.m. 

On Sunday, January 22, another attack will be reenacted at 1:00 p.m.

I strongly encourage each of you to consider attending this 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mill Springs.  It will be held on the 600 acre battlefield just nine mile west of Somerset near Nancy, Kentucky.  This would be a great event for young people as they will have the opportunity to be “involved” in the battle and experience one of the greatest history lessons of their lives!

You can get more information about the event by going to the website of the Mill Springs Battlefield Association— or by calling 606-636-4045 or 606-636-4050.

You can also contact The Wayne County Museum:  606-340-2300 and we will try and give you the information we have about the event.




  Here we are, well into the New Year of 2012!  Hope all is going well for you and will continue throughout the new year.

  Have you made any new year resolutions yet?  Seems that a lot of people do.