Writing

My Help Comes from the LORD

smokey mountain

One of my favorite places to visit is the mountains of North Carolina. I think one of the reasons for that is because mountains make me feel very small. It’s hard to go to the mountains, see the majestic sky lines and the unbelievable views and not be in awe of God’s creation.

This year in particular, I felt very small. The house in which we were staying was surrounded by terrifying roads along with a terrifying driveway leading up to the house…and let me tell you, I probably prayed as hard and as fervently as we drove up and down these roads and that driveway as I’ve prayed in some time. There’s nothing like contemplating your impending doom, to get you praying…and praying hard!

I write all of this a bit tongue in cheek, but on a very serious note, I came back from vacation quite refreshed (even if it wasn’t that relaxing). I think one of the reasons I came back so refreshed was because I had time away from the everyday “hustle and bustle” of life to spend some time contemplating the things of God. And no matter where you find yourself, it is always a good thing, and a beneficial thing, and a soul refreshing thing to do…to contemplate the things of God.

For me personally, the mountains are a good place to do this. I’ve heard some say the beach helps them to connect with God in a way that they may not in their ordinary day to day lives.

With all of this being said, and aside from my terrifying drives that got me really close to God a few weeks ago, the fact is we as Christians here in America live in relative safety. We get to worship in relative safety. But this has not always been the case, and that is the backdrop for one of my favorite Psalms – Psalm 121.

The backdrop of Psalm 121 is that of a pilgrim traveler that was making his way up to Jerusalem to go up to the temple to worship. And this pilgrim who was making his way to and from the temple would encounter many trials and dangers along the way.

I suppose in light of the immediate context of this Psalm, some might wonder how this Psalm would apply to you and I. Well, let’s take a closer look.

While it is true that you and I dwell in relative physical safety in our day, that doesn’t change the reality that we are still pilgrims in the midst of a dangerous world. This being true, we can see very plainly in just the first few verses just how applicable this text is for us.

In verse 1, the Psalmist says, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”

Friends, even though we may not be facing perilous physical journeys right now in the way of dangerous mountain roads, the fact is that all of us deal with challenges in this world. Dangerous challenges that threaten to derail us on our journey WITH and TO God, and that threaten to derail us on our path to worship.

Our world and our lives are filled with things like sickness, the death of loved ones, difficult relationships, money issues, trouble at work, and we could go on and on. All of these things are in addition to the Spiritual and emotional challenges that we all face. (Of course the big one that sort of sums up all of these things up is SIN…We ALL deal with sin.)

Each of us could, I have no doubt name something that we are dealing with right now.

So…in this context, I love this question. Why? One, because it is an acknowledgement of and an awareness of the need for help. Secondly, because it implies that there is an answer, and there is help to be found.

The Psalmist asks, “Where does my help come from…?” As the Psalmist looks to the hills as a picture of the trials and dangers that await him, it reminds us that we are a people who do need help. Much like I said earlier about how the mountains help me to feel small and they humble me…so does our seeing and going through challenges and difficulties in our everyday lives. These things help us to remember that we are not self-sufficient. We are not strong. We are not the ones with all the answers. We are small…and we are in need of help along the journey of life.

But here is the reality. The truth is we are all tempted to look somewhere else, other than to God for our help. Unfortunately most of us, and maybe even all of us often look in places that offer no help at all or at least they don’t offer us the help that we truly need.

But, the Psalmist here in Psalm 121 gives us just the answer that we need, and tells us EXACTLY who we are to be looking to for our help. In the midst of whatever trial, and in the face of the mountains that lay before us.

Verse 2, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Folks, we can and we MUST be looking to the ALMIGHTY, ALL POWERFUL, SOVEREIGN God of the Universe. The God who is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Look around at the world, look all you want, and you won’t find anything that God didn’t create. If God created it, He is sovereign over it. I know sometimes it seems like the world is out of control. Sometimes it seems like your problems, your hurts, your pains are too much for anyone to bear…but if you have the ALMIGHTY God, the creator of the world…the one who is sovereign over ALL things…then what should you fear? Nothing!

Is anything too hard for the Lord? Absolutely not!

Look what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8.

Romans 8:31, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?“

Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?….” Verse 37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is a lot going on in these verses, but I think we can sum it all up quite simply…You are in good hands with God. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. There is nothing this world will throw at you that can destroy you if you are in the hands of God, and friends if you are in Christ, that is precisely where you are. Firmly in the hands of God.

And I think the Psalmist in Psalm 121 would agree. So,  no matter what challenge or what mountain you see before you on this day…be looking to the LORD, the only one that can truly give you the help that you need.

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Exciting News

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Exciting News!
One of the dreams of any writer is to complete a book, and then to see that book published. It’s hard to explain the feeling of seeing a book with your name on the cover. Another dream, is to have someone actually buy your book. For someone to actually want to buy a book you have written, and to actually give you money for your words…that too is an amazing feeling.

Perhaps one of the greatest feelings a writer can experience is to see your book in a real brick and mortar bookstore. Today, that dream became a reality for me. Two of my books are now available locally in a real honest-to-goodness brick and mortar bookstore. Seeing a dream become a reality, even on a small scare is pretty amazing. I’m very thankful.

Just thought I’d share.

Click here to learn more about “Ruminations.

Click here to learn more about “Gazing At Grace.”

I need your help

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Most of you know I recently published and released a new book, “Gazing At Grace.” The book is a collection of six sermons that were written in order to give folks, both Christian and Non-Christian a clearer picture of who Jesus is. So far the book has done “ok” on Amazon, but my real desire is to get this book in the hands of as many people as possible…This is where you guys come in.

First, I feel like I need to say this. This isn’t about money…I make very little from the sales of my books. In fact I think I’m yet to actually turn any profit at all…That’s okay, I don’t write for money. Also, this isn’t about getting famous. I have no illusions that I will ever be a famous writer.

What this IS about is telling as many people as possible about who Jesus is, and to bring him glory. Can my writing do this better than someone else’s? I won’t say that, but I do believe I bring a bit of a different perspective to things that others might not have. Unlike many people, I did not grow up in church. I became a Christian much later in life. I’ve experienced the world, and all of it’s attempts to draw us away from God. I lived my life chasing after sin and the pleasures of this world for many years. I stand before you all as one amazed by God and his amazing grace, and his willingness to save a sinner as wretched as myself. This awe is renewed daily, as I continue to see the areas in which I still fall short.

So you may ask, “Where do we come in?”

Well, obviously the first thing you can do is buy the book. Starting tomorrow I will be making the kindle version of the book just $1 for the next two weeks. Yep, just $1. If you have had any thoughts at all about buying the book, I ask you to do it in the next few days. Having several people purchase the book in a shorter period of time will help the sales rankings on Amazon, which will in turn get the book seen by more people. This exposure for a self published author is priceless. You spending $1 to help get the book seen will help more than you know. If you choose, you can also purchase the book on Amazon in paperback for $6.95. If you don’t have Amazon or Kindle, contact me and I’ll make sure you can get a copy.

Secondly, share links to the book. Even if you haven’t read it yet, you can still share the link. Simply informing folks the book is out and peaking their curiosity is huge. Those who have read this blog or read my status updates or followed me on social media have a good idea of what the book is about. I’ve even posted several excerpts from the book already. Also, if you’ve purchased the paperback version of the book, or received one as a gift, post your pictures on social media. This too helps to create buzz.

Thirdly, if you have read the book. Please, write a short review on Amazon. If you have a blog, please write a review on your blog. (This goes for any of my titles) There are few better ways to get the word out about your book than honest reviews. If you do have a blog and would like to write a review, let me know and I’ll get you a PDF copy of the book for free.

Lastly, if you have a local independent bookstore or Christian bookstore in your area, ask for the book. (Again this is true for all of my titles) This is true especially locally here in Wilmington, NC where I know most of my readers are. Bookstores are also more apt to stock books and host book signings by local authors.

So, I ask you all, if you’re able please go out and buy the book. Take a few moments and help me get the word out. As a self published author I don’t have a large entity with lots of funds to support me and to publicize my work. I have myself, and my readers. Apart from friends and family and those of you who read my work on a regular basis, I have no other means of advertising.

I thank you all for your encouragement, prayers, and whatever assistance you can lend in this endeavor. May you all be richly blessed.

To order, or to learn more about the book, click here.

Words Fail Me

Since “In the beginning…” and “Let there be…”
Man has been grasping for, and trying to wrap his mind around eternity.
Since His life filled our lungs we’ve been searching our minds
Reaching for words, to try and define
The beauty we see, the love that we need.

Words are so insufficient for a God beyond our comprehension
Praise and glory to a God that condescended.
He was revealed to us as the Word, in shadows and pictures
Still we were blinded by sin and misguided wishes.
But the beauty of the story is that He knew our condition.

Word became flesh and dwelt among men.
He lived to die and he lived to live.
He lived in righteousness, he died for sin.
To the right hand of the Father, it was for him to ascend.
So that we might join him, a beautiful bride he’s been given.
Who has the words for a God with such wisdom?

Why I’m Blogging Less

Some of you have probably noticed that outside of a few posts promoting books I’ve not been blogging very often. It’s not that I’ve gotten writer’s block, nor is it that I’ve lost the desire to write. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I am still writing, though not all of it makes it to the blog. So, you might ask, “What’s going on?”

Well, first of all, I’m extremely busy. My wife and I are expecting our 6th child in the next few weeks. We are tremendously excited. But, with the new little one on the way there has been lots of prep. We’ve prepared freezer meals for after the little guy gets here and there is little time for her to cook. We’ve also been switching around and painting rooms for the kids, and making the house ready for the new baby. Along with this, I’m also working. My day job is working with beach tourists, so as you can imagine…summer gets pretty hectic. I’ve also began taking seminary classes…so all in all, life is pretty crazy right now.

But, the biggest reason I’m blogging less is the fact that my desktop computer, that I prefer to write on has ceased to be for the moment. It’s as old as my oldest child, so,I guess it’s about time. I have a laptop, but I’m afraid it’s on it’s last legs also…I do sometimes use it to write, but the easiest of online tasks that should only take a few minutes, end up taking 10 times as long. This is bad news for my writing, and even worse for my classes. I’m just praying I can nurse it through until I’m done with this first phase of of my studies.

So, when I do write for the blog, it has to be either on that old laptop, or my tablet (where I’m writing now). Unfortunately typing on the tablet is a bit tedious, and importing graphics is also more of a project, which makes the blogs less appealing, in my opinion. Which discourages me a bit.

So, this is where I’m at. I want to try to pick up blogging more often again. Perhaps I’ll just have to trudge through it on the tablet…even if it’s shorter posts. Just bear with me, and thanks for sticking with me through all of these seasons of life. It does my heart well, and blesses me beyond belief to know that there are folks who benefit from my words.

Keep reading and be blessed! Until next time…

On Writing

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I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I love it because I love words. I love searching for just the right word at just the right time, and being able to construct a beautiful sentence. I’m not always great at doing this, and I fail more times than not, but I enjoy trying. On that rare occasion that I get it right, it’s pure magic. I love being able to impact people with the words that I write. It is an amazing thing to be able to help people discover, or perhaps just think about things in a new way. Writing is one of my passions.

I hate writing because writing is hard work. I hate the way in which it can consume your mind, even when you aren’t writing. Sitting down to write takes effort. Finding a block of time is not always easy, especially when you have a real job and a large family. Writing is terrifying. You are often bearing your soul to the world. Writers by nature are often very sensitive, and I am no different. When someone hates what I write, it often crushes me. Recently I had someone refund one of my books, for reasons I’m not sure of… But, for over an hour it was all I could think about. (I feel ridiculous for admitting this)

Because I hate writing, I will often go through seasons in which I hardly write at all. Because I love writing, I always come back to it. Recently I’ve decided to become more serious about my writing. So, the question is…Why?

Do I think I’m a great writer? No. I think I’m a decent writer, but by no means am I a great writer. Do I think what I have to say is more important than what other people have to say? Absolutely not, but I do think I have important things to say, and I’m willing to say them. In a world in which many people are afraid to voice their opinions about anything of substance, this is not a small thing. Not only this, God has given me a love for writing, and at least in some measure a gift for it. This being true, I should use whatever gift God has given me in order to serve him and his church. As I view my writing in this way, my writing becomes a form of worship. This is a beautiful thought to me.

So here is my exhortation to all of us. If you have a passion for something, do it. Don’t be afraid to take that step. If God has given you a gift, don’t keep it to yourself. You don’t have to be great at it, you simply need to be willing to share. You don’t have to be a best selling author, or a gifted orator in order to be used of God. You simply need to offer whatever talents you have as a sacrifice to the Lord, and trust him to bless it. Use your gifts, whatever they may be to bless the church.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31