Put Off Bitterness

  • Posted on August 12, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Years ago, there was a lady who hated us. She lied about us, trying to get others to believe we were immoral, unethical people. She told some of these lies to business clients, hoping to deter them from working with us. We never heard anything good from her, only evil. Thankfully, God covered us, and this lady’s plans came to naught and eventually we stopped hearing from her–both directly and indirectly. Recently, I found out that her husband is dying and probably has been for a while. Whereas the world would say it serves her right, I pray for her frequently, that God will give her the strength she needs during this trying season.

I don’t share this story to pat myself on the back. Believe me, there are areas in which I struggle, but I am grateful when God gives me a heart of love for others instead of hatred, bitterness, or a desire for revenge. This is what separates Christians from the world.

Life is full of bitter, angry people, and unfortunately Christians are not exempt–both from receiving and exhibiting this behavior. Yet Scripture admonishes us to put away bitterness, anger, wrath, and slander (Ephesians 4:31). This doesn’t mean that you will never feel these emotions, but, if you are full of God’s Spirit, you will not let them overcome you.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:13-15). That would be a frightening prayer for some to pray.

I disagree with those who say that, if you have truly forgiven a person, you will restore the relationship. This is an area that you must be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (Matthew 10:16). If a person is unrepentant, you may need to keep your distance, but you can refuse to slander or wish evil on him or her. There are also times when you allow people into your life that God did not put there (maybe an unsaved boyfriend or girlfriend, someone on whom you were codependent, etc.). You are not obligated to continue these relationships just because they were in your life once upon a time. However, if the offender is a family member or a close friend who truly repents of the pain they have caused, you may need to be ready to restore that person and put the past behind you. Again, be in the Spirit on this since there are good fakers in the world, but err on the side of mercy instead of judgment. God will judge the situation in due time.

The problem with writing on a topic like this is that I’m bound to be tested, and forgiveness is not always easy. But it is important if we desire to have our own sins forgiven. If you are struggling with bitterness or hatred toward someone who has wronged you, pray daily for God to take those sinful feelings from you. Pray for the other person. You can even pray that God will move him or her toward repentance. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Then lie down and sleep in peace, knowing that the Lord will make you to rest in safety (Psalm 4:8).

Are You Consistent?

  • Posted on August 10, 2019 at 10:13 am

I’ve been thinking lately about things that Christians say but don’t really believe. For instance, any true Christian would probably admit that “God has been better to me than I deserve” but when tragedy strikes they don’t feel like they deserved it. Or they might confess that “No one knows whether they will still be here tomorrow” and yet they live as though they will still be here for years. Or maybe they sing “I Surrender All” while not realizing how much they have really not surrendered to the Lord. Many times, we know the right things to say, but how deep have these truths really gone?

I know I am guilty of this as well but I am daily reminded that life is short. I think of the recent shooting in El Paso or the people in our county who were just killed by a drunk driver. I’m guessing all of those people who are no longer with us thought they would go out to do some mundane tasks and be back in their own beds that evening. Instead, their lives were instantly snuffed out with no chance to repent for their sins, restore strained relationships, etc. I’m thankful that those who were killed in the accident knew the Lord but I don’t know about those killed in shootings. I can only hope that they were ready to meet their Maker.

The question has been raised, “Why would God protect some and not protect others?” For instance, someone could have been going through that stop sign at the moment the accident occurred but they couldn’t find their keys so they didn’t go out. I don’t understand the ways of God but I do trust Him … at least most of the time. Occasionally things come up that make me realize that I still need to grow in this area but I know that He is good and that He loves me, and I pray to be ready whenever He chooses to take me Home. I don’t want to let my guard down, thinking I have years before I have to deal with that. The truth is that I don’t know.

My exhortation today is to think about what you say. Are you just spouting Christianese, or do you really believe the words that come out of your mouth? Do those words line up with your actions? Do you have a head knowledge due to growing up in church, or has it penetrated your heart so that you can confidently declare, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him”? Are you consistent?

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash

Be Cleansed

  • Posted on July 29, 2019 at 11:45 pm

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  ~1 John 1:9

If you grew up in church, no doubt you have heard this verse ever since you were a child. Maybe from a Sunday school teacher who wanted you to confess your sins and know that God would always be there, ready to forgive every sin that you commit. I’m guessing, though, that some of you may not have thought about what it really means to be cleansed from unrighteousness.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  ~1 Corinthians 6:9-11

When Christ cleanses, it is once for all time. Sin will not define a true child of God. Yes, it’s true that, if we sin we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1) but it’s also true that Christ has provided a way of escape so that we can flee temptation instead of giving into it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

People rely so much on God’s forgiveness that they are not too inclined to refrain from sinning. Sure, God is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24) but if you are determined to commit a sinful act, more than likely He will let you, and you will have no one to blame but yourself. My admonition to each one of us is to “walk in the Spirit, and you (and I) will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).


More of God?

  • Posted on June 25, 2019 at 10:04 pm

I remember when people would cry out to God to send more of His Spirit and fill them with more of Himself. Recently, I was listening to the Dove Brothers sing, “It’s not that I need more of God but He needs more of me,” and that hit a chord with me (pardon the pun). God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but many times we do not cling to those things. Instead, we pursue our selfish pleasures and then wonder why we are not as close to the Lord as we’d like to be. I have been examining my heart in this as well.

I too would like to be closer to the Lord than I am but it is easy to let the cares and hecticness of life crowd out the time that I need to be spending in His presence and studying His Word. This is something I want to remedy. Doing a Bible study at night when I’m able is helpful for me but sometimes it can be a while before I get a quiet night where I’m not too tired to do this. Therefore, I must be proactive to find other ways to spend quality time with Him.

Years ago, the question was asked, “If you don’t feel close to God, who moved?” Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that “God will never leave you nor forsake you” so if you aren’t close to the Lord, I can answer the question and say that it’s not Him who has distanced.

Psalm 42:1 says, “As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God.” When I go too long without eating, I begin to get shaky and I feel sick. This is how desperate we should be for the Father. We tend to treat Him like someone who will be there when we want to spend time with Him but, when we’re too busy, He’ll understand. I want to say that He doesn’t understand. He desires close fellowship with you but He will not force you to take that time. He wants you to come to Him because you love Him and you want to spend every moment of every day with Him.

Keith Green sang, “How can they live without Jesus? How can they live without God’s love?” I want to ask, How can you live without Jesus? How can I live without Jesus? I’m so thankful that we don’t have to live without Him. He means everything to me, and I pray that I live a life that reflects that in everything I do and say, beginning with spending time with Him, worshiping Him, studying His Word, and letting Him know how much I love Him.

In closing, let me say again, It’s not that we need more of God but He needs more of us!


Photo by John Royle on Unsplash

Dwelling in the House of the Lord

  • Posted on June 14, 2019 at 8:13 pm

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

Have you ever wondered what it means to “dwell in the house of the Lord”? In the above verse, the psalmist is not only wanting to experience it but he wants to dwell there all the days of my life.” Today, we would probably think of the house of the Lord as being a church building; however, the average person does not live there. It is just a place that we visit a few times a week at most. I believe the answer comes in Jesus’ words in Luke 17:21 where He says, “Neither shall they say, See here! or, see there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” I desire to dwell in God’s presence–His Kingdom–24/7 all the days of my life … and beyond!

If you want to be nitpicky, you may remind me that we are always in God’s presence, and I do not argue that point. However, there is a difference between God watching everything we do and actually walking beside us, having fellowship with us, and directing us. I want to be aware of God’s presence–not just mentally but tangibly.

When you dwell in God’s presence, there is also a peace and a joy that cannot be explained. It is not only something you feel and experience but it is something that radiates to those around you. Just as bad attitudes are catchy, joy can also be catchy. It’s hard to be in too foul a mood when those around you are rejoicing.

It is easy to become focused on self and circumstances. I understand that. But I don’t want to stay there. One of my favorite hymns says:

Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plane than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground

Do I hear an Amen?!

In the Valley … He Restoreth My Soul

  • Posted on June 6, 2019 at 8:40 pm

For a while now, I have been singing this song that Dottie Rambo wrote but, at the time, I wasn’t going through a valley. It is just the song that God kept bringing to my mind. Today, I find myself going through a minor trial, and I am once again focusing on the words of this song and thanking God that He is near.

I would like to be able to tell you that I am continuously rejoicing and fully resting in God’s will for my life but I confess this is still a process. I do believe that I have made progress in the last 20 years or so but the work is not completed, and I expect that this is one reason that I keep going through these things.

They say that trials can make you bitter or better. I understand this as, with each trial that comes my way, I have a choice: Do I let God handle it and trust Him to work it out, or do I lean on my own understanding and fight my way out, convinced that I could do a better job than He seems able to do? Giving up control can be difficult and yet God has shown me time and time again how much He loves me. If this is true, why would I not surrender every part of my life to Him? After all, as Dottie also said, “He ain’t never done me nothin’ but good.”

I don’t know what you’re going through right now but I encourage you to give it to Jesus. Maybe you’re being slandered, or you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, or you’re going through a debilitating illness … you are not alone. God is waiting for you to turn to Him. He may not change your situation but He will carry you through it. I would much rather walk with God through the valleys than walk on the mountaintop alone. How about you?


Photo by Kevin on Unsplash

Just Do It

  • Posted on May 4, 2019 at 9:15 pm

Back in January, I was visiting my aunt, and we were talking about how easy it is to not reach out to others because you don’t know what to say and you don’t want to look stupid. I find that it doesn’t take much to paralyze me in regards to helping others if I think too much about it. I worry that I’ll do something wrong or they won’t appreciate my attempt. My aunt encouraged me to not be afraid to do even little things since they may mean more than I realize. I expect this will continue to be a process but there is wisdom in her words, and I want to pass that on to you.

Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men.” I think this is what we lose sight of. This actually hit me years ago when I was thinking way too much about my actions that I let opportunities pass me by. I finally realized that, if my focus is on God and my desire is to please Him, I don’t need to worry so much about what others think.

I expect this is going to be a long process of learning this lesson but it is one I pray to achieve, and I would like to encourage you to as well. Don’t let insecurity keep you from being a blessing to others. Pray for a sensitivity to the Spirit, a heart of humility, and a willingness to serve. I anticipate that God will answer those prayers, and people will be drawn closer to the Lord through our obedience.

A Tribute to Grandma

  • Posted on April 22, 2019 at 8:25 pm

My grandma isn’t well known. In fact you may be wondering why I would write a tribute to her when I typically feature Southern Gospel artists. Well, as with parents, grandparents can help to contribute to how a person turns out. They can pass along their interests and other genes which help to form our young and, ultimately, old lives.

I didn’t know my grandparents before they came to know the Lord but I heard that the difference was night and day. Whereas they would play and sing in night clubs before, they chose to only sing in churches after they were saved. They would sell their records for $5 or “whatever you can afford.”

Grandma was young when I was born so she would play ball with my brother and me, take us for ice cream, do typical grandma things, but she would also encourage me to obey my mom, honor the Lord, etc. She wanted to be a positive influence in my life.

For the first 17 years of my life, we didn’t live close but, when we would visit, I spent every moment I could with Grandma. I would go with her to “help” make the church breakfast, fold bulletins, run errands … whatever Grandma was doing, there was I in the midst of it. Whenever she sat down, I was on her lap before she could get comfortable.

When we moved closer to my grandparents, Grandma would drive a couple hours to help us with a collating project. She was a quick collater too.

A number of years ago, we began to suspect that Grandma had dementia. It began to get worse and worse until we could no longer ignore the fact. We also knew that it was becoming more than Grandpa could handle on his own. So in 2017, we made the difficult decision to move our grandparents to Arizona where their daughter and grandson could care for them. We no longer saw them on a weekly basis but we were able to visit them twice, the most recent visit being in January. I will always be thankful for our time together as Grandma joined me in singing for the last time. We spent a lot of time together and, in spite of her not feeling well, she hadn’t lost her sense of humor.

We buried Grandma on Good Friday. I dreaded that day for so long but God’s grace truly was amazing. I have no doubt that my grandma is in Heaven. My aunt asked if I would sing at her funeral, and God gave me strength to do so with my brother accompanying me on guitar and vocals. I’m thankful for the promise that, if I remain faithful to the Lord, I will see her again. I greatly look forward to that reunion!

The Best Gift

  • Posted on March 26, 2019 at 5:48 pm

I am not a Barbara Streisand fan, but I grew up listening to her Christmas album. On that record, she included a song titled “The Best Gift” in which she goes on to describe the best gift that she ever got. At the end, she reveals that this gift was “a tiny newborn child.” (If you need me to explain what a record is, let me know.) 😉

Although I have received a lot of nice gifts in my 45 3/4 years of life, the best gift I ever received was the gift of salvation, made possible by Jesus Christ coming to earth and being willing to die a horrendous death on a cross. If you have never studied crucifixion and why it was the Roman’s choice of death, I encourage you to do so. It isn’t a pleasant study but it makes Jesus’ death even more meaningful. It wasn’t like a lethal injection where you die in a matter of minutes. Rather, it was a form of torture in which criminals died a slow, painful, suffocating death.

I realize that it’s not even Palm Sunday yet but I think it’s a good time to begin to think of Christ’s sacrifice, to thank Him for choosing us to be His children, and to ask Him how we can serve Him better.

I started this back in December around Christmastime but I think it’s perfect timing to finish it now. If you take communion in the next few weeks, don’t do it out of routine. Really think about the event that you are commemorating. Picture Jesus on the cross, beaten beyond recognition, blood streaming down His body, looking at you. Then think of the things you allow in your life that is the equivalent of spitting in His face. God’s grace is not cheap. It cost Christ a lot. How can we be so selfish as to not give Him every part of our lives?

For the Broken

  • Posted on March 11, 2019 at 8:38 pm

Last year, my most-read post was one I wrote in 2014 titled “I’ve Been Broken (but I’ve Been Blessed).” Broken people are not just out in the world somewhere; they are also in the Church. The fact that a post from 4 1/2 years ago is still my post popular proves that fact.

I think of the old song that said:

He never said you’d only see sunshine
He never said there’d be no rain
He only promised a heart full of singing
And at the very things that once brought pain

(from the song Give Them All to Jesus written by Phillip Johnson & Bob Benson, Sr.)

I don’t actually remember a verse where God promised that, but I do know from experience that He often grants that. It’s when we trust Him in the bad times that we realize as Henry and Hazel Slaughter sang that we “don’t need to understand; we just need to hold His hand.” That is where true joy comes from, along with the peace that passes all understanding.

I wasn’t thinking of this when I started this post but, in closing, I would like to ask prayer for fellow blogger David Bruce Murray whose father passed away on Saturday. The funeral is tomorrow (Tuesday). I’m thankful that I have not yet experienced the loss of a parent but I can imagine how heartbreaking that must be. And yet, what a blessing to know that we will be reunited one day with those who love Jesus. David is the founder of Music Scribe, where I write a Sunday devotional when I’m able. He’s been supportive of my writing and some of my other business ventures, and my heart goes out to him and his family during this difficult time.