Mothers Day…

She may be called mom or mama or mother or by a host of other names.
It is a name she was given, and one she has earned.
Through sleepless nights and seemingly endless days,
She poured out her love without reserve, even when her reserves ran low.

She may have given birth to her child, adopted him, or welcomed her through marriage,
Still she opened her heart and her arms and received them as hers,
And she followed them to school plays, ball games, dance recitals, and doctor’s visits.
She changed smelly diapers, wiped snotty noses, kissed skinned knees, and mended broken hearts.
She is under appreciated and wholly underrated, yet she is a gift from God to children.
She prayed and prayer, even when prayers seemed to be all she had left.

One day is set aside to give her honor, though one day is surely not enough.
She is not perfect in all her ways, and she feels the heavy weight of her failures,
Yet she rises again on each new day to give of herself, her heart, her life
To that little baby, that tottering toddler, that mischievous child, that moody teen, that adult
Who may or may not carry her genes but who carries a piece of her soul.

On this day, we celebrate the gift of mothers, 
And seek to encourage them in their vital calling.
Some children mourn the absence of mothers, 
And some mothers mourn the absence of children.
It is a day of mixed emotions, of tears and laughter and memories.
It is Mothers Day – a small way we say “Thank you,
Another chance to say, “I love you.”
One day out of 365 to praise the woman who is one in a million. 
Happy Mothers Day.

[Photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash]

Whoever Comes to Me I Will Never Cast Out…

The following is an excerpt from Dane Ortland’s book “Gentle and Lowly.” I don’t think I could say it better, so I’ll let the book speak for itself. Speaking as a struggling Christian, he writes –

Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in their capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast them out. We are factories of fresh resistances to Christ’s love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of us and hold us at arm’s length. Bunyan [referring to John Bunyan’s writing Come and Welcome to Jesus] understands us. He knows we tend to deflect Christ’s assurances.

“No, wait” – we say, cautiously approaching Jesus – “you don’t understand. I’ve really messed up, in all kinds of ways.”
I know, he responds.
“You know most of it, sure. Certainly more than what others see. But there’s perversity down inside me that is hidden from everyone.
I know it all.
“Well – the things is, it isn’t just my past. It’s my present too.”
I understand.
“But I don’t know if I can break free of this any time soon.”
That’s the only kind of person I’m here to help.
“The burden is heavy – and heavier all the time.”
Then let me carry it.
“It’s too much to bear.”
Not for me.
“You don’t get it. My offenses aren’t directed toward others. They’re against you.”
Then I am the one most suited to forgive them.
“But the more of the ugliness in me you discover, the sooner you’ll get fed up with me.”
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, 2020, pp 63-64.

He concludes chapter 6 in this way –

For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child, His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is.

Ibid, p 66.

If you struggle with sin and struggle with believing God could love you, then perhaps your faith is in yourself rather than a faithful God. Paul wrote to the young Timothy, “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

Your performance fluctuates. There are days when you walk more closely with the Lord and days you feel you are far, far from Him. The reality is, He has never moved. His love does not rise or fall with the tides of your obedience. He is the constant we need in our lives but are perhaps desperately afraid to truly desire. The is the rock upon which we can stand. He is the calm in the midst of our turbulent lives. Even if everyone else forsakes you, there is one who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37)

When we fail, when we fall, our tendency is to follow our ancient ancestors Adam and Eve into the bushes where we foolishly believe we can hide our sin and ourselves from God, when our response should be the exact opposite. We should RUN TO God bringing with us our sin and remorse. He was not shocked at your behavior. He was not stunned by the words that came from your mouth. He was not surprised at all by the thoughts running through your mind. He was grieved over the sin, but He has dealt with that on Calvary’s cross. What He wants is not to banish you but to embrace you, to correct you, to discipline you, to bring you back in line with His will for you, and to walk with you in this journey of life.

My fellow believers, let us leave the bushes. Even more, let us abandon the notion that our God is ready to push us away like some fickle friend. He is the father who waits longingly for the prodigal to return, his eyes fixed on the very same roadway that child took when he left home with pockets full of money and a heart full of pride and self-sufficiency. Though we have hidden ourselves behind a thick, steel door, Jesus stands at that door and knocks. Is not today the day we should move from the darkness of our guilt and self-pity and open ourselves up to the embrace of Him who died for those very sins?

[Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash]

Thomas Jefferson and the K&W Cafeteria…

In college, one of my jobs was working at the K&W Cafeteria in Chapel Hill. The procedure at the K&W and other similar restaurants is pretty much the same as the school lunchroom many of you remember. You get your tray, then you go down the line getting whatever food was on the menu. Unlike the school lunchroom, at a cafeteria-style restaurant you get to pick and choose what you want, meaning you don’t have to get a spoonful of diced carrots and peas!

For many in the church, Christianity has morphed into something resembling the cafeteria line. We want to fill our theological tray with things that appeal to us. The harder teachings of Scripture, we pass by with a nod much as we do to the mystery meat in a pool of coagulated gravy. We load up on God’s love, pile on the mercy, and top it off with a generous helping of everybody getting angel wings… and everyone lived happily ever after.

One of our Founding Fathers was Thomas Jefferson. He is remembered for many things, but perhaps he is most well-known as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a learned man, and we can find much about his life that is worthy of celebration.

In 1820, Jefferson published a book entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. This was not an original work on his part. He pieced it together by cutting out the teachings of Jesus from the gospels and glueing them onto pages which were bound in his little book. All the miracles were removed, including the resurrection. The teachings that remained were true, but it was missing anything that was supernatural. Jesus is presented as a wise teacher, but His divinity was removed.

Most of us would not be so bold as to physically edit our Bibles with scissors and glue, but we may be guilty of trimming the Bible’s teachings in how we receive its truth and apply it to our lives. Often we are performing our edits when we read and passage and respond, “Well, what this passage means to me is…”

This cafeteria approach feels good in the moment – we take what we want from God’s Word and leave the rest – but it comes at a cost. For Jefferson, he removed the divinity of Jesus seemingly preferring to rely only on his moral teachings. He both robbed Jesus of His majesty and robbed Himself of the wonder that God would physically come to us, die for us, and rise again in victory! We’d do well to put away our X-acto knives and Elmer’s glue and allow God to speak for Himself about Himself to us.

One thing about the cafeteria – Once you loaded up your tray and pushed it to the end of the line, there was someone waiting there at a cash register. That’s right; it was time to pay up. There is a price to pay for selectively taking of God what we want and leaving the rest behind. That price can be awfully high. It can cost you joy, peace, and hope. Even more, it can cost you an eternity in heaven.

Perhaps an even higher cost is that it can keep your children and grandchildren from knowing God and His truth. If you can pick and choose, why should they not do the same?

Think deeply. Pray fervently. Choose wisely.

Where Is Your Treasure?

In Mark 10, a rich young ruler came up to Jesus wanting to know how to have eternal life. Jesus knew what was most precious to the man, so He told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. Here it’s that young man’s reaction –
“Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark‬ ‭10:22‬)

He chose his wealth and lifestyle over eternal life. He chose temporary comfort and abundance over eternal peace and joy. We may marvel at his foolish choice, but how often do we make foolish choices – choosing what feels good now over what lasts forever?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ )‬‬

Choose wisely today…


“Behold” is not one of those words we use everyday. The only person who might use that word regularly would be someone like a magician dramatically declaring, “Behold!” after some card trick.

We do find “behold” on the pages of our Bibles, depending upon translations, of course. One of the first to come to mind is the declaration of John the Baptist about Jesus – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Up to that point, all eyes were on John as he preached in his camel’s hair clothing accessorized with a leather belt. He must have been a sight to behold both in his looks and because of his powerful message.

When we say, “behold,” we are diverting people’s attention to something or someone else. It is very similar to calling out, “Look!” and pointing a finger at something in the distance. We are saying with one simple word, “Stop what you are doing. Shift you focus over there.”

John understood his mission. He had drawn great crowds filled with people from every walk of Jewish society. Even the religious leaders found their way into the wilderness to catch sight of this unusual man and hear his provocative message that had made so many people leave their daily routine to go and hear him.

The apostle John records the instance when Jesus was nearby and John the Baptist catches sight of Him. You can almost visualize John preaching his heart out, then suddenly stopping and staring above the heads of the crowds, perhaps shielding his eyes from the sun to make sure he saw who it was clearly. And once he was certain, a childlike excitement comes to his face and he shouts with a strange combination of enthusiasm and desperation – “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Everything that John had said and done was leading to this point in time. A radical shift would take place as people began to look less to John and more to Jesus. John’s crowds became smaller. More and more people were drawn to Jesus. And when John’s disciples saw the change, they were concerned. John’s answer shows he was at peace with God’s plan – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

There are two lessons we might learn from John the Baptist:
(1) Its not about us.
The world wants us to believe otherwise. Here in the United States we have been indoctrinated to have a consumer mentality. We are constantly reminded to follow our hearts. Parents tells their children, “I just want you to be happy.” This kind of mindset stands in stark contrast to the attitude of John and the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus. Jesus made it clear – “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:42-44)

(2) We are to point people to Jesus.
It’s not enough to be humble in our attitude. Our humility might inspire someone, but it will never save anyone. John made it clear both who Jesus was and why Jesus came. He is the Lamb of God, and what that means is that Jesus is the Savior of the world. He shed His blood on the cross for our guilt, not for His. Just as the Passover lamb was to be without spot or blemish, Jesus was clean, pure, sinless, perfect. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves. When we place our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, He has taken our sin and given us His righteousness enabling us to be accepted in the presence of the Father.

We are now the ones who say to the people around us, “Behold! The Lamb of God.” We don’t have to wear camel’s hair clothing or eat locusts for breakfast to do this. Jesus called us (you and me) to be witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8) and to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

$3 Worth of God…

A number of years ago, I stumbled upon a poem. Whether this the original version or not, I’m not sure, but it’s close. It is found in a book by Wilbur Rees entitled “Three Dollars Worth of God.”

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

When I think about some of my brothers and sisters living in endless poverty or facing merciless persecution, this poem hits hard. Having grown up where and when I have, my life has been relatively easy. I’ve never had to wonder if I could eat tomorrow or had a place to sleep. I have been allowed to go to church whenever and wherever I want to with little concern that I would be harassed or be in danger. This reality can create a false sense of self-sufficiency.

Think about it – when we are in crisis, it is at those times that we draw closest to God. We cry out to Him in our desperation and helplessness. When we have no where else to turn, we know that we can turn to God. He is both faithful and He is present.

The Beatitudes recorded in Luke’s gospel declare:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

(Luke 6:20-23)

Most of us who live in first world countries can have a hard time with passages like this. They make us squirm a bit in our seats. How can the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the reviled and persecuted be considered blessed? Don’t I consider myself to be blessed when these things aren’t part of my life?

Perhaps the answer is not found in the physical state of a person but in their spiritual state. In fact, Matthew shares that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). In other words, a person may have possessions and yet be impoverished in spirit. They see themselves not as owners of abundance, but as people who have been entrusted by God with wealth for a time AND who know God can call for that wealth at any time. The poor in spirit do not gain their sense of worth by their net worth. They are dependent upon God not on a regular paycheck or long-term investments.

Thinking back to the Rees’ poem and the reason it is so impactful, I am struck by the truth that sometimes all we feel we really need is about $3 worth of God – or perhaps a bit more due to inflation. We seem to be well enough on our own. God is a kind of add-on to life rather than being central to it. A couple of verses read in the morning and a quick prayer before we are out the door, and we’ve pretty much got what we want from God.

May the Lord make us wholly discontent with the things of this world. May He birth within us an unquenchable thirst to know Him more. May we open ourselves up to knowing God’s richest blessing by becoming poor in spirit, hungry for Him, grieved over sin and rebellion in our own lives, and willing to pay whatever price there may be to remain faithful to our calling. May we declare with the psalmist –
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1)

Hard-Headed & Hard-Hearted…

This morning in my devotional reading in Ezekiel, I came across God’s declaration about people of Israel. In Ezekiel 3:7, God says of them that they have “a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” In short, they were hard-headed and hard-hearted. When Ezekiel went to them with God’s Word, he should be surprised if they don’t listen and don’t obey; in fact, he should expect them to do that very thing.

As I reflected on God’s description of His own people, it led me to a thought and a question:
(1) What a terrible way to live your life – hard-headed and hard-hearted. It seems that it would simply make for a miserable existence, a life of trouble, and a lifestyle that would create chaos in a person’s relationships.
(2) Does that description of the people of Israel ever fit me? If I’m honest, I’ve got to admit that sometimes it does. And when it does, it should lead to confession and repentance before God, and it can often lead to apologizing to someone I’ve hurt and seeking to make things right.

It can be way too easy to simply read over the words on the pages of the Bible in the rush of the day, but it does us good to slow down and read thoughtfully and prayerfully. God’s Word can be a mirror for us, and when He show us our sin and exposes the rebellion in our own lives, it is His invitation to confession, repentance, and renewed fellowship with Him and others.

How have you been hard-headed and hard-hearted recently?
If so, how will you respond that that realization?

A Disciple Named Ananias…

This past Sunday, we continued our journey through the book of Acts. Our focus was on Acts 9:10-19, where a man named Ananias received a vision from God to go to a man named Saul, lay hands on him, pray for him, and be God’s agent through with this Saul would be made able to see and receive the Holy Spirit. Here is the text –

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. (Acts 9:10-19, ESV)

Here are the takeaways provided on Sunday –

➤ We may not all be able to be a Paul, but we can be an Ananias.
Ananias is described as a “disciple at Damascus.” There is no title nor is there anything identifier except “disciple.” We may not believe we have that much to offer, especially when we compare ourselves to those giants of the faith, but we can all express the same characteristics that we see in Ananias – faith, availability, and faithfulness.

➤ God is looking for willing servants who are willing to say, “Here I am.” 
It has been said that our best ability is our availability. When Jesus called Ananias, he volunteered, “Here I am.” What he was asked to do was difficult. He had concerns. He had questions. But he gave his “yes” before he knew what Jesus was asking of him. May we show the same willingness to serve when we are called.

➤ When God calls us to do something difficult, trust that He is already aware of the difficulty and is preparing us to face it.
What Jesus asked Ananias to do sound a bit risky considering that Saul was out to get those who trusted in Jesus. Sometimes we may wonder if God knows what He’s getting us into, but, of course, He does. Not only does He know, He has prepared us for the moment and goes with us into it. If it is God’s will, then He can make a way for us.

➤ We dare not assume that anyone is out of the reach of God’s grace.
There is no sin so great that God cannot forgive it and no sinner so stained that God cannot cleanse them. Saul was likely the last person anyone expected to put his faith in Jesus, but that was precisely what happened. That person who seems so far from God is not beyond His reach.

➤ Not everyone’s salvation experience will be as dramatic as Saul’s, but we were all just as lost and blind as he was.
Saul’s conversion to Christ began as He encountered the risen Jesus in all His glory. This encounter left him confused over everything he had learned and been taught, and it left him physically blind. It was only when Ananias obeyed God and went to visit Saul and pray for him that Saul received his sight and the Holy Spirit. Your conversion may not be so dramatic, but that doesn’t mean it is any less real!

Anyone who is a child of God was once an enemy of God. Anyone who has new life in Jesus was once dead in their sins and trespasses. The angels’ rejoicing is no less over an 8 year old who comes to Jesus through the ministry of his godly family and church than over the 80 year old abusive drunk who surrenders to Jesus on a hospital bed.

➤ Being faithful to the Lord may come at a very high price.
Ananias took a risk going to Saul. It might have crossed my mind to put my hands around Saul’s neck than to lay hands on him and pray for him. Saul, who would later become Paul, certainly knew there was danger in following Jesus. And we have countless brothers and sisters in the faith who face daily hardship and persecution simply because they are faithful in following Jesus. Faithfulness may come at a very high price, but consider what they price may be for unfaithfulness.

Our adventure in Acts continues. If you are in Greensboro, Georgia and are looking for a church home, we’d love to have you visit us at Grace Fellowship. You can also find our services online at and on our Facebook page.

… because it was bitter

As we read through God’s Word, we sometimes come to stories that seem a bit odd, and here is one of them from Exodus 15 –

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:22-26)

Though I believe absolutely that this is a true story, I must admit it’s rather unusual. Three days after God delivered the children of Israel from the Egyptian army by allowing them to pass safely through the Red Sea, this mass of people found themselves thirsty as they traveled through the wilderness. They came to a spring in the wilderness of Shur, but the water was bitter. They couldn’t drink it. What look liked it held great promise turned out to be a huge disappointment.

They were thirsty. There was water. But the water at Marah (meaning “bitter”) was unable to quench their thirst. So they turned their complaints to the guy who (in their opinion) had gotten them into this mess. They grumbled against Moses. “This man is obviously in over his head. Sure he got us through the Red Sea, but his leadership skills are woefully lacking. He leads us to a spring, but it’s worthless! You got us into this mess, Moses. You get us out!”

They were correct to assume that Moses didn’t have an answer to their problem. God hadn’t given him a map showing the location of the nearest fresh water supply. So, he did the only thing he could do. He turned his eyes and heart heavenward and asked the Lord to intervene. It was an impossible situation, so Moses turned to the Lord who had already shown He could make the impossible possible.

The Lord directs Moses to a piece of wood. (The word could also be interpreted as”tree” or “log.”) The Lord instructs Moses to throw the piece of wood into the bitter spring. Having done so, the water became drinkable, and the people quenched their thirst and were refreshed.

There are lots of lessons we can gain from this odd story. We could learn that no problem is too hard for God. We could learn that when we have no answers, we can go to God who has all the answers. We could learn those who lead on behalf of God will often face complaints. All that is true, but in light of our current national situation, perhaps there is another lesson for us.

Moses listened to God’s instructions and acted. He may have wondered why God would ask him to do such a strange thing. Who ever heard of a piece of wood turning bitter water sweet?! But Moses did what God told him to do, and God met the need of that grumbling group. So, what might that mean for us?

We live in a time of deep bitterness. The hurt and anger and violence we see in the streets of our major cities is just a symptom of a deeper problem. This world is broken. People are broken. It began with the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden. It’s still alive in the world today. It may hide in the shadows for a while, but it reemerges with a vengeance at every opportune moment.

Moses was instructed to do something that seemed ridiculous, but it turned bitterness into sweetness. You and I, fellow believers, are called to do something that may also seem ridiculous. We are called to love everybody. We are called to serve everybody. We are called to be set apart from the ways of the world and to live a different lifestyle. We are called to be salt and light, to make a difference wherever we are. Jesus said, “They’ll know you belong to me because of how you love one another.”

In the face of the violence and hatred and division we are witnessing daily, intentionally expressing love to others may seem like such a small thing. What good is this little stick tossed into the bitter spring? But never underestimate the power of God’s calling on your life to change hearts and minds and circumstances. When we do what the Lord calls us to do, it unleashes a power beyond our imagining. And there is no power greater than letting God’s love flow through us.


Governor Brian Kemp has called Georgians to have a day of prayer for our state. As we take the first steps moving out of our homes and back into some kind of normalcy, we need wisdom, courage, and humility.

In an effort to encourage prayer, Grace Fellowship is providing different areas needing prayer. These will be shared on our Grace Fellowship Facebook page each hour, and we invite you to pray each of twelve hours beginning at 7:00 a.m. A complete list of prayer needs for the day is below.