Thursday, December 04, 2008

Advent Devotional Website

In searching for a website for Advent devotionals recently, I found a website called Following the Star. The devotionals are written by Brian Prior a priest at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Spokane Valley, Washington. If you are looking for a daily devotional guide, I recommend visiting their site each day during Advent at

The site offers a daily time of silence and reflection, a Scripture reading, a short devotion, and a benediction. The site also features music created specifically for the site. If you visit the site, be sure to read "On Your First Visit" and "About The Experience" before you begin the devotional.

May the Lord draw you ever closer to Him during this blessed Season of Advent!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Focus In The Right Direction

Lately my focus has been (as I like to say) "out of whack." My focus has been rather negative...paying too much attention to negative words, to things that aren't going my way, and to circumstances that are not just as I would have them to be. I wouldn't say that I have had a pity-party for myself, but I have come awfully close.

So to "cure" my negative focus, I have tried to do several things. I have done the things that are within my human power to focus on the positive. I have spent time with my wife and enjoyed a special date with her. I have spent time with my children and enjoyed their laughter and innocence. I have spent time with my parents and in-laws and basked in the love that they have for me. Time with all of these wonderful people helped, but when I went back "to the grind," my mind was still focused on the negative.

Deep down I know what my problem really focus has been taken off of Christ. I have turned my inward attention from the Light to blindly stare too long in the darkness. Yes, I have prayed. I have studied the Bible. I have spent time with God. However, I spent more time looking in the wrong direction than I did in the right direction. To say it another way, I let other things crowd-out the joy of Christ. I let circumstances speak louder in my heart and mind than the eternal promises of God. I let negative words that are temporary have more weight in my life than the everlasting Word. I let the presence of negative things turn my attention away from the presence of Christ.

I came to this realization after reading these words from 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 (NIV) - "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." The part of that verse that spoke loudest to me are the words - "God did not appoint us to suffer wrath..." I had allowed my focus to be turned away from "living together with him (Christ)." I had focused my attention on wrathful things...negative things...forgetting that Christ lives with me NOW and that my life is defined by His promise/presence and not by the negative circumstances of earthly life.

Today and every day I am praying for the grace to focus in the right look to Christ. I pray that in some small way this bearing of my soul will help you focus in His direction too.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Finding Joy In Each Day's Journey

I woke up this past Tuesday not knowing how I would spend a day of prayer and recreation. My congregation has asked me to take such a day each month for spiritual renewal. As I filled up the gas tank of my truck and perused the map of Georgia, "Cloudland Canyon" came into view. I had visited this state park once as a child on a family picnic and again during my teenage years. "Ahh, the perfect place," I thought, to reconnect with God's creation and read some long neglected books.

When I arrived at the park office, I inquired about the hiking trails around the canyon. The ranger informed me of their prize trail called the West Rim Trail...a four-plus mile path she described as "moderately difficult to strenuous." "Perfect," I decided, despite the fact I had not prepared for a hike and was wearing sandals. So I purchased a bottle of water, emptied my back-pack of everything unnecessary, and set-off through the woods.

The morning was perfect. Cool breezes, warm sun, quiet solitude. I reached an area after a couple of miles where large rocks rested at the edge of the canyon. I sat down beneath a shade tree, pulled out a book on prayer, and listened as I read. A cardinal flew from tree to tree above me. A small bird of yellow hue called to a mate with loud squeaks. A hawk soared on the wind in the canyon beneath me. The views were breathtaking.

The afternoon was not so perfect. No more cool breezes, hot sun, steep trail, empty water bottle, soar feet. The last few miles were painful. Each step making me question my sanity for having ignored the fact that my hiking boots were in the closet at home. Upon reaching the parking area, my feet were so sore that I had to sit on a bench and rest before walking the final 50 yards to my truck.

Along the trail, a passage I had read from a book on prayer hovered in my mind: "When we pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' we are, in a measure, shutting tomorrow out of our prayer. We do not live for tomorrow, but for today. We do not look for tomorrow's grace or tomorrow's bread. Those who live in the present thrive best and get the most out of life. Those who pray best pray for today's not tomorrow's needs. Our prayer for tomorrow's needs may be unnecessary because they do not exist at all!"*

As I walked the trail, God was whispering to my heart that I need to find joy in the journey. I tend to focus too much on the destination and overlook the surprises and the grace that are along the trail of life. I worry about tomorrow when tomorrow isn't even a guarantee.

How about you? Do you find joy in each day's journey? Is your focus on God's goodness in the present or on the worries of tomorrow?

*The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A New Link

Listed on my "links" on the right hand side of this blog site is a new site I recently added. The link title says, "The Jon Herrin Family - Missionaries to Mexico." Jon Herrin is a good friend I met during my seminary years in Atlanta. Jon is the genuine article, one of the most sincere people I know, and one of the most faithful Christians I have ever encountered.

A little over three years ago while very successfully pastoring a church in Blairsville, Georgia, Jon and his family answered the call to become missionaries to Latin America. For three years, Jon and his family served in Venezuela. During those three years, over twenty new churches were formed and the Methodist Church became an official church movement in Venezuela - much to the hard work of Jon and others like him.

Jon has answered a new missionary call now. He will be moving with his family this week to Monterrey, Mexico where he will serve as a teacher to pastors in the John Wesley Seminary. I invite you to click on his link and read more about my friend Jon and his ministry. You will be inspired by his excitement, courage, and faithfulness.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What The Church Needs

"The Church does not need the intellectually great. The times do not demand wealthy men. It is not people of great social influence that is required. Above everybody and everything else, the Church and the whole wide world of humanity need men of faith and mighty prayer."

E.M. Bounds

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Powerful Statement

"Faith which creates powerful praying is the faith which centers itself on a powerful Person. Faith in Christ's ability to do and to do greatly is the faith which prays greatly."

-E.M. Bounds in The Necessity of Prayer

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

God At Work

Human beings are ambitious creatures. We plan, we envision, we aspire, we strategize and we work to better ourselves. These are good things. But in the life of the Christian, becoming "better" or more like Jesus takes more than our effort. In fact, our effort can do very little to make us "Christ-like." In order to become like Christ, we don't need more human effort. Instead, we need God to transform us through divine power.

Sure, we can study our Bibles (and we should), we can serve as Christ serves (and we should), and we can pray "religiously" and faithfully (and we should). We can even give ourselves over to God in faith with blind trust. But unless God transforms us in response to faith and service (and God will), we are still only human beings working hard.

The Scriptures bear this out for us:

"Now it is GOD who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. GOD anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." - 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." - 2 Corinthians 3:18

"Being confident of this, that GOD who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6

"For it is GOD who works in you to will and to act according to GOD's good purpose." - Philippians 2:13

"If we are faithless, GOD will remain faithful, for He cannot disown himself." - 2 Timothy 2:13

Notice in these Scriptures who is the active "agent" in the Christian life. It isn't the Christian but God.

There are times in our journey with Christ when we can't clearly see that we are progressing in our faith. We wonder what we are doing wrong or wonder how we can work harder to be a "better Christian." During those times, let me urge you to push the "pause" button in your life instead of the "fast forward." Remember that it isn't you who will make you more Christ-like. Only God can do that type of work inside of you. Instead of working harder, slow down and draw near to God. Through God's mysterious grace and love, God will transform you in timing that is God's own.

Monday, April 28, 2008

John Adams and Sacrifice

Recently I have been reading through author David McCullough's biography of John Adams. My wife had read this book shortly after it was released a few years ago, and she could hardly set it down while reading it. I began reading John Adams both to discover what was so intriguing about this "Founding Father" and to see if I could actually finish every page of this 600 plus page monster.

After reading halfway through the book thus far, I am captured most of all by the sheer sacrifice of John Adams and his family. They risked everything they held dear (including their own lives) to struggle for the liberty of the infant United States of America. John Adams spent years away from his wife and children while serving as an Ambassador to France during and after the Revolutionary War to secure freedom and trade agreements for his country. All the while, he and his wife Abigail placed a higher value on the dreams and goals of their neighbors and country than on their own personal happiness.

Reading about the Adamses makes me think about my own life and my own willingness to make sacrifices for the ministry of the Kingdom of God. I often complain when I have several nights of meetings or when it seems my work at the church is piling up on me. Surely the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is equally if not more important as working for our country. Perhaps I take too much for granted. Maybe I am more self-centered than I think I am. Maybe I am a product of my time just as John Adams was a product of a different generation with different values and expectations. Still I ask myself what I would be willing to sacrifice to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me know what you think about making sacrifices. Should we make more sacrifices in order to serve Christ? Are Christians in the United States too comfortable to do the ministry that is required of us by God?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What "Burdens" You?

Early this week, a lay leader in our congregation made a presentation to our leadership group concerning the vision and mission of our church. He said, "before a church can have a vision for the future, it must have a burden." Those words have stayed with me throughout this week. I have been wondering about our local church and the church in the United States, "are we really burdened about anything?"

Are we burdened by the fact that the message of salvation and new life in Jesus Christ goes unheard by so many? Are we burdened by the fact that as our economy weakens there is a growing need to help the poor and the elderly in our community? Are we burdened by the injustices that exist right under our noses? Are we burdened by the cries of those who are hurting and suffering? Or are we comfortable being comfortable?

In a Bible Study group I meet with on Wednesday evenings we have been studying the Book of Acts which teaches about the early followers of Christ. Two of those followers were named Peter and John. These men definitely had a burden. They shared their belongings with other Christians, with widows, and with the poor. They preached the Good News of Jesus Christ everywhere they went. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they healed people and delivered them from suffering. All of this they accomplished even after being beaten and jailed for their faith. Only in the Spirit's power and with a burden for others did they fulfill their ministry.

I ask you today, do the spiritual and physical needs of other human beings burden you? Until we pray to love those who are hurting, until we open our eyes to recognize the needs around us, and until we tear down the walls that isolate us from other human beings, we will remain comfortable and allow the ministries of Christ to go unfulfilled.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two Year Olds Are Always Right

I have a two-year old son named Miles. His pictures grace this blog site from time to time. Miles is our second child, so my wife and I have lived through the "terrible twos" before. However, it is amazing how space and time enables parents to forget how crazy, weird, and terrible the "twos" really can be. A child who is sweet and affectionate in one moment can become a yelling, screaming "pirate" in the next moment. We had forgotten this phenomenon once our daughter matured past this stage and were almost shocked and surprised when Miles started showing signs of the "terribles" which came seemingly out of thin air one day a few months ago.

Most interesting to me about the "terrible twos" is that two-year olds are always right in their own minds despite the parental logic and explanations that would otherwise defy their reasoning. A shirt that is appropriate for the weather isn't acceptable to the two-year old when he wants to wear his pajamas all day. Standing on the arm of the couch or on the kitchen table is a two-year old's idea of absolute fun, and she cannot understand why her parent would tell her to get down even after previous falls and knots on her head would seem to caution her from performing such acrobatics. A two-year old doesn't care to understand that meals take time to be cooked for when he sees mom in the kitchen it is time to eat regardless of the fact that the chicken in the sink is still half-frozen. The two-year old cares not that everyone in the household has grown utterly sick of watching Barney and Friends because he wants to control his environment and have Barney dancing on the television even if he isn't going to be in the room to watch. Of course, my list of examples could go on and on.

The nugget of truth that living through the "terrible twos" once more has taught me is that in some aspect or another we never fully grow out of them. We all have our moments of fussiness and throw temper-tantrums. There are certain things that we choose not to understand even when we understand them deep-down inside. We demand to control our environment without regard to how it effects others. And yes, we all do things that defy not only human logic but divine wisdom. I am reminded of the words of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah: God says, "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord."

Like two-year olds, we have all heard God say "don't" and we have chosen to stand on the table and fall on our heads anyway. Likewise, we have all heard God say "do" and we have demanded to wear our pajamas and neglect to put on a change of clothing. And we have told God in prayer the things that we demand in order to be comfortable in our environment instead of listening to God's directives and wisdom.

The lesson we learn and relearn throughout life is that the world does not revolve around ourselves. We hate that lesson because we enjoy having things our way. But the beauty we discover through this lesson is that in hearing the logic, wisdom, and desires of God and our neighbors, we are able to help create what God has intended all along - COMMUNITY. In community, we find the true joys of life...those that cannot be experienced when we have everything our way.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Put on your thinking cap for just a moment as I tell you a little story:

On the northern tip of South America is a country called Venezuela. You may be familiar with Venezuela due to the rhetoric of their President, Hugo Chavez. You may also know Venezuela for their oil industry. The gasoline at your local Citgo gas station comes from Venezuelan oil.

Beyond these little known facts are some more important facts about Venezuela. It is a beautiful country filled with some of the kindest and most generous people on the face of the earth. In November 2006, a small team from our church went to minister to some of the people in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. While we were there our hearts were touched by the joy and love and grace of the wonderful people of Venezuela.

But that isn't all you need to know. The people of this country constitute the most secular country in South America with over 40 percent of the people having no church affiliation. Furthermore, before 1996, there was no United Methodist presence in Venezuela.

But things are changing! Through the prayers and ministry of United Methodists in North Georgia and beyond, there is now a growing United Methodist presence in Venezuela. As of last August (2007), there are over 26 United Methodist congregations in Venezuela. In that same month, they also held their first Annual Conference and elected their first Bishop (Perez). The church is rapidly growing among the faithful Christians of Venezuela.

The things we have and take for granted as Christians in the United States are things the Christians of Venezuela desperately need. Take for instance a seminary where pastors can be trained. Here in Georgia, I can drive to a number of seminaries in less than an hour. In Venezuela, United Methodist pastors ride a bus for 24 hours to attend the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela. A seminary that started with only a vision from United Methodist leaders in North Georgia now has over 100 students enrolled. These Venezuelan pastors who work a "secular" job along with shepherding their congregations give up five weeks each year to come to Barquisimeto to the seminary where they hungrily receive training for ministry.

So where is all of this going? Well, I'm glad you asked. Allow me to ask you to do a few things that will help this seminary and the growing United Methodist Church in Venezuela.

1. Read more about this ministry by logging on to
2. Pray for the young church in Venezuela.
3. Consider helping the Seminario Wesleyano de Venezuela purchase a permanent site.

Presently, 60 students cramp themselves inside a small room to take classes...many of them sharing seats. The seminary has found a perfect site to house and feed students with more than adequate classrooms. This site will also be used to house missionaries and mission teams from the United States. They can purchase this site for $150,000. I know that sounds like a great deal of money, and it is! But maybe you know someone who can provide it. If so, send them to the website I listed for you above. There are instructions there on how they can give. Thanks for reading, praying, and giving!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Learning From A Dog

Our "best friend" at the Clark household is a three year old miniature Schnauzer named Chester. While being quite high-strung and rambunctious, he is also a very gentle and loving dog. He loves to play with our two children, and our children love to play fetch and chase with him.

Like most dogs, Chester sits attentively near the table when we eat our meals. While we don't normally feed him scraps from the table, my son likes to sneak him a bite occasionally when mom and dad aren't looking. I have never made any spiritual connections with Chester's attentive waiting at the table, but the other day I ran across a poem in Christian Century magazine by Rodney Clapp. The title is "Lessons in prayer, from a dog." Read this poem and see what you think.

He assumes his still posture
two feet from the table.
He is not grabby,
his tongue is not hanging out,
he is quiet.

He wants to leap,
he wants to snap up
meat and blood.
You can tell.
But what he does is sit
as the gods
his masters and mistresses
fork steak and potatoes
into their mouths.

He is expectant
but not presumptuous.
He can wait.
He can live with disappointment.
He can abide frustration
and suffer suspense.

He watches
for signals,
he listens for calls
of his name from above.

At hints that
he may be gifted
with a morsel,
he intensifies his
already rapt concentration,
he looks his god
in the eye,
but humbly,
sure of his innocence
in his need,
if his need only.

On the (0ften rare) occasions
when gifts are laid on his tongue,
he takes them whole,
then instantly resumes
the posture of attention,
beseeching, listening, alert,
the posture of hard-won faith
that will take no for an answer,
yet ever and again hopefully
return to the questioning.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Little Sayings

The little boy in the picture that you see on this blog is my two year old son, Miles. In the past few months, Miles has become quite verbose. He picks up words and phrases left and right often not knowing how to use them correctly. I was commenting to my wife that some of his "little sayings" would make great slogans on a t-shirt. For your reading pleasure, here are a few of Miles' most frequent "little sayings."

"DON'T BE UGLY!" (My personal favorite)







What are the "little sayings" that people remember most about you? Our words and our use of language defines us in many ways. The writer of Proverbs says, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." (16:24)

Take some time to consider your words. Are they pleasant? Do they encourage, uplift, and inspire others? Are they sweet to the soul of the listener?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Matters?

If you should stumble upon this humble blog, I have a request of you. Send me an e-mail. Through the genius of cyberspace, let me know you've read this blog or seen this blog. "Why take the time?", you might ask. If for no other reason, teach this preacher a lesson about relevance.

Well over a year ago, I started writing this blog. It was the "hip" thing to do...a way to communicate with people who I might never be able to communicate with otherwise. I wrote and I wrote, much the same as I write and write for sermons, weekly church newsletters, classes, etc. But like my old-school, snail-mail newsletter, I felt that my blog was going in the trash before it ever touched the conscious mind of any reader. Thus, the last time I posted anything on this blog was back in September of last year.

You may be a church member from Calhoun, Georgia who clicked on this blog wondering if I had actually updated it. You may be reading this from somewhere across the country or across the world. Whoever you are and for whatever reason you are reading, I dare you, send me an e-mail and teach me a lesson about relevance.

Is the internet a means for me to communicate what I believe so strongly to be relevant and life-changing? Is it in-fact a way to communicate with people I might otherwise never meet or see? I am convinced that preachers like me need to communicate an already relevant message in more relevant ways, and I am just wondering if this is relevant.

One of my favorite verses of Scripture is Psalm 4:6. The writer says, "There are many who say, 'O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!'" I want to show the world "some good" and point to where I believe "good" resides. To me, that is what matters. Is this blog a way to share some good? Does this blog matter? Go ahead, I dare you, send me an e-mail or at the very least, write a comment.