Mama’s Wisdom

On December 17, 2001, I awoke to the sound of my mother’s voice as she made her seat on the edge of my bed. The morning light was mysteriously brighter. The air was fresher. Although, my surroundings were the same as the previous night, somehow I knew things were forever changed. They were new now.

With the new morning light thoughts of the church service from the night before flooded my mind. Joy began to bubble over in to my spirit. My mother softly interrupted the onslaught of my religious euphoria by saying, “Kevin, I need to tell you something. Something that is important.”

“What is it, Mama?”

She lovingly gazed at me and replied, “Kevin, I know you’re on cloud nine right now. You asked for the Lord’s forgiveness last night. Although, you feel “saved” this morning, there may come a day that feeling will wane. You must not go by your feelings. You must remember God’s promise to save all those who call on Him. Place your faith in His Word not your feelings.”

                I have come to find Mama’s words from that morning to be true. I have mentally revisited that night at the altar several times over the years. Like the ocean’s tides, the feelings have ebbed and flowed, but my faith has remained unshaken. I have rehearsed the wise words of my mother to most of the people who have come to faith under my ministry and will continue to do so. Put your faith in God’s Word and not how you feel.

Peace of the Rock

Image47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. ((Luke 6:47-49 KJV))

I have a confession to make. I occasionally suffer from astraphobia or for those who speak English that means fear of thunderstorms. This fear goes back to my early childhood. I know God does not desire this (2 Timothy 1:7), but in my humanity this is something with which I struggle. I must admit God has helped me tremendously with this phobia.

I remember the fear and dread that would swell in my young heart when I would see a storm gathering on the horizon; its angry clouds swirling with threatening streaks of lightning. As I write this, I can still recall the paralyzing fear that would grip me. The pounding of thunder and the howl of the wind would send shivers up my spine. I remember retreating into the safety of my mothers arms. I wanted to avoid the storms all together but I had to ride them out.

As I have matured, I have often thought of these perilous time I have faced and the Lord has seen me through every one. I do not get afraid as much about thunderstorms as I used too, but I still have to face storms of a different sort. We all face them. Pain, heartache, financial hardships, sickness, and death to name a few. I have seen people go through storms which I thought would destroy their faith but they remained after all had passed over. Then I have seen those that have an appearance of sturdiness topple because they neglected spiritual truths in God’s Word.

In today’s reading, we see a comparison of two types of people. We have a comparison of a person who hears and obeys Jesus teachings and one who hears and disobeys. Jesus likens them to two men building houses. I would like to point out there similarities first, both heard the word, both built houses, and both faced storms. (It doesn’t matter who you are the trials of life do not discriminate.)The two homes were probably built from the same types of material. They both probably looked very impressive to the average eye, but the ground work made the difference in the end. Only the house with foundations upon the rock stood tall after the storm winds had ceased.

Upon closer inspection the wise builder (the hearer and doer of the word) dug deep into the claims of Christ. He let the Word of God seep deep within the crevices of his heart. He hid God’s Word in his heart and it came out in his walk! In Psalm 119, David said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Our body makes no action that does not begin with a thought in our mind. This is why we are to renew our minds with the word of God (Romans 12:1,2). This builder talked the talk and walked the walk!

He not only “dug deep” but he also laid a foundation upon solid rock. Our foundation is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthian 3:11)! He knew that all that surrounded the home would possibly wash away, except the rock. When he faced a great storm it was the rock which kept the house from being shaken! Our relationship with Jesus does not make us exempt from the storms of life. We all have to run against the wind in life, but God’s Word will not ever fail us!

Jesus not only speaks peace but he is our peace(Ephesians 2:14)! He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). In John 16:33, He said “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus desires us to have peace amidst the tempests of trials. He has not given us the spirit of fear (2Timothy 1:7).

Sometimes Jesus takes us into storms of testing. The following is a story of where Jesus led his disciples into a storm:

And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

(Mark 4:35-41 KJV)

Jesus had told the disciples they would reach the other side before the journey had begun. Even though it may appear that Jesus does not care about your storm, he is still in the boat with you! The passage says he was in the “hinder part of the ship”, that is where the captain steers the vessel. You can rest assured in your storms the Captain is still steering your ship! It may not seem like it at the moment, but God is still in control! He lets us experience storms, often to show His mighty power! If it had not been for the Lord where would we be?

This same storm happened right before they reached the country of the Gadarenes. If you remember this is where “Legion” was cast out of a man into the swine. Could it be that the storm was trying to hinder this marvelous deliverance? I believe so. Many of the storms come right before a major victory, so don’t give up. Dig deep!

The unwise builder (hearer but not a doer) faced a storm of the same magnitude as the wise builder but his house collapsed. His life was built on the shifting sand of the world. He had not heeded Christ’s message, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” The ruin was a terrific loss of everything he held dear. I am sure he had little comfort or peace, while the other builder was not even shaken.

Do you have peace or remain unshaken when life throws you a curve? Or do you crumble? Could it be that you have refrained from “digging deep” into God’s promises? This is not to merely hearing a sermon a week or simply reading your Bible. This is, so to speak, walking the scriptures out in your daily life. Living what you believe. Being a doer and not just a hearer. What does the Bible say about this?

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

(James 1:22-25 KJV)

We must not think that the Christian life is all fun and games. We will face storms and trials. We must do as the wise builder and dig deep and lay a foundation. It is up to us to obey or disobey. Have you dug deep and laid claim to your piece of the rock? If so, then you will have the Peace of the Rock amidst life’s storms.

God in the Garden

IMGP0854 - vege garden
IMGP0854 – vege garden (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

A few years ago, I began an exciting new hobby. I had always wanted to grow a vegetable garden. I knew very little on the subject, but I was determined to produce a harvest of luscious veggies. I daydreamed about picking vine-ripened tomatoes, tasting delectable crooked neck squash, feeling the dirt between my fingers, as I dug up potatoes. I could see this crop, even before I had my garden ready to plant. In my mind’s eye I could see the outline of my mini-farm. I could see it by faith! In a thousand square feet, I would learn a lot about agriculture, yet I would also cultivate my Christianity too. I would learn valuable lessons about God in this sanctuary of tilled earth.

My endeavor began with a survey of my half acre lot for the most suitable location. I came to a tract of fallow ground adjacent the white fence, which separated my property from my Papa’s property. I paced this parcel for hours measuring how large to plant my garden, as the song birds were singing their melodies of spring glee. I remember feeling the sweat forming on my brow from the heat of the bright shining sun. My prospect was covered in weeds and unwanted vegetation, but somehow I viewed it like the promised land, a place which flowed with milk of potential and the honey of sweet success.

My hands ached from the vibration of the tiller, as I claimed my “promised land”, twenty four inches at a time with each pass. In my mind, this was going to be the greatest garden, since Eden. It would be a place of abundant blessings. I envisioned being able to give boxes full of fresh produce away in the community. The elderly, on fixed incomes would not have to worry about purchasing medications over food again! In the solitude, found behind my ever vibrating tiller, I prayed for a bumper crop.

First, I have come to know with every admirable goal, comes opposition. I encountered adversity, much like the children of Israel, I encountered an unrelenting foe. My nemesis, was not giants or walled cities, it was a tiny tenacious green plant; called nut grass. I really believe this plant was named, due to the fact it drove gardeners around the globe insane, rather than it’s nut-shaped root. I plowed, hoed, weeded, and reluctantly sprayed herbicide; nothing seemed to work! This pesky little plant would sprout back over night. It was like an opposing enemy force, which would infiltrate my territory overnight, and wave in defiance in the morning light. It was a never ending battle. At my wit’s end, I sought counsel from a wise farmer. “You want to know how to get nut grass out of your garden?” he paused smirking, “ I suggest you move your garden!” Eventually, I came to the conclusion I would have to allow the “wheat to grow with the tares” and separate them in the end! A man that has never planted a garden will never fully comprehend the severity of the curse upon the ground!

Secondly, as I plowed, plucked, and pulled those pesky weeds, scooting on my backside through the plowed rows; God began to speak to me. In the solitude of my work, God’s familiar voice said, “You know this garden is like the human heart. It must be guarded from pesky intruders. If left unchecked these small ‘weeds’ will overrun and choke out the fruit.” In my mind, images of the things I had left unchecked in my personal walk flooded my mind. I began to confess those things that were hindering a fruitful walk with Christ.

My third valuable lesson was on the power of a seed. I can still smell the freshly tilled South Georgian dirt. Each row had white placards designating what was planted. The garden rows held the promise of future bounty! In faith, I hand planted each seed. I did not have the luxury of a planter. So, using my index finger to gauge planting depth, I planted each seed with care. I began to think of the power within these tiny little seeds. Life producing power was in each of them. It was impossible to predict the return from this small, seemingly insignificant investment, my future harvest was in them! The Spirit impressed upon my freshly weeded heart, “My Word is a seed, as well. Though it seems so insignificant when planted in your heart, the return is far greater! All it takes is to be planted, watered, and nurtured and I give the increase.” Afterward, I began to meditate on the Word of God in my freshly plowed sanctuary.

The fourth lesson I learned was on patience. In the days that followed, I paced anxiously awaiting a sign of growth. Yet, I found none. Maybe I had planted too deep or too shallow? Maybe the seeds were duds? Maybe I watered them too much or too little? I would sit in my wooden swing and watch the sprinkler go around and around, waiting. It takes a great deal of faith and patience to be a gardener! I have faith, but at that point God used this time to strengthen my patience. I began to visualize what was going on under the surface of those planted rows. I could see the plants growing by faith. Much like our walk with God, we cannot always see Him working, but He is! Eventually, the plants broke the surface and this thrilled me!

Finally, after several weeks of tending, watering, and fertilizing it was harvest time! All the hard work was not over, but rather just beginning. Everything had been preparation for this glorious time! The sun blazed hot overhead as we picked everlasting rows of peas, cucumbers, and squash. I was drenched in perspiration as I cut the itchy okra from the stalk. The smell of freshly sliced watermelon filled the air. Family members smiled as they tasted the sweetness of the vine. I was witnessing the fulfillment of my heart’s desire to plant a garden. I learned a great deal about gardening and God in that twenty by fifty feet patch of ground.

The Rock and Hammer

The sky was clear, not a cloud in the majestic expanse of blue. As we drove down the entrance, the leaves of the ancient pecan trees, which line the road, sparkled like yellowish green emeralds in the spring breeze. When the car pulled in the parking area, I remember seeing a skydiver floating free in this clear spring sky. As I watched, this figure slowly drift downward, the peaceful view of freedom was interrupted by the chain-link fence, guard towers, and razor wire. It was time to visit Dad again.

I did not know as I entered in to that cage of steel and cement, that a piece of me would never leave those cold walls. The thud of the metal doors behind my siblings and I, sent shivers down my young spine. The guards checked us for contraband waving an odd sounding metal detecting wand over our bodies, as if we were the criminals. I felt out of place. I was a fish out of water.

The oddest thing was the correctional officer’s command to us, “Follow me, please take a seat and remember NO PHYSICAL CONTACT!” How could they ask this of me? I just wanted to hug my Dad. This made the already awkward lump in my throat double.

As we sat there, around an unusually short table, just three feet away from my hero; my emotions as a young boy began to overwhelm me. Hot tears flowed down my checks. I was not prepared for the hardness I encounter in this world lost inside a world. Then the words, which have haunted me, “Son, don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve! Toughen up!” I couldn’t believe what I had heard my father say. The words were like liquid nitrogen, burning as they flowed through a young boy’s wounded soul, freezing and hardening everything in their path. This was when the rock began to form.

I do not know if my father knew the impact of his words on me that day. I felt as though crying for a man was a sign of weakness and that I had let him down in some way. I could not let my emotions run free ever again. A real man doesn’t cry! A piece of me, had been stolen from me that day. A piece that in the years following, I longed to have back.

As the years went by people were amazed at how cold and emotionless I could be at times. Yet, none were as surprised as myself. What happened to that little boy I used to be? The rock seemed to get harder as the days passed. Each offense added another layer of callousness. I am not saying I never cried after that day, but for me this was failing to be a real man. I longed for my childhood tenderness, but it was gone. All there was now was bottled pain and hurt.

For years, I wore a mask of not caring, only to be dying on the inside. Those around me never knew the battle that raged inside me. This masquerade was slowly killing me. I began to self medicate with alcohol and marijuana. These only numbed the pain for a season. I longed for a cure for my situation.

It was on a cold night in December, when the rock met its match. I had decided to attend church with my mother. There the preacher wielded a hammer that landed blow after blow on my stony heart. I thought coming to church was the worst thing I could have done. I left immediately after the altar call.

I drove only the distance of a few light poles along the country road. When my mother said, “ I don’t know about you, but I sure am hungry.” I was so hungry, but not for food. I began to sob violently. I remember my mother whispering under her breath , “Thank you Jesus… Thank you… Thank you Jesus!” I turned the car around and headed back to that little country church. I parked behind the church sign, trying to hide my shame. I still did not want anyone to see me cry. Punks cried.

I sat in the car weeping. I was convicted of the cold callous sinner I had become. The hammer pounded the rock. I opened the door of the car and made my way into the little white church. As the hammer pounded, I could feel the pieces of the rock’s weight begin to fall. At the end of the aisle stood the hammer wielding preacher. The rock was no match for the hammer of God’s Word. My sinfulness was no match for God’s amazing grace.

As I knelt, layer after layer of hardness was chiseled away by an unseen master sculptor. The Sculptor’s hands held me, as I lamented over my depravity. He took the stony heart away and gave me a new heart of flesh. I felt like a child again; all things were new. The innocence I had lost; I found again.