#MyFavoriteRedHead

Image-1.jpg Dear Harper,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are 1 year old today. It’s so hard to believe. 365 days ago, you made your grand entrance and our world has not been the same since!

You are no longer “the baby” of our family. Baby Ellie was born a little over 2 weeks ago and that makes you “the middle cousin.” I think you will do just fine in that role. You met Ellie over the weekend. Everybody got along just fine and I bet ya’ll are going to be best buddies.

The title of your letter is a little different. I’m not even sure what a “hashtag” is, but this one has become your signature line when I post pictures of you. I think people use “hashtags” to call attention to special things they want lots of people to see. When Al Gore invented the internet I don’t know if he knew all the trouble he would cause, but when I post pictures of you, Hudson and Ellie…it makes the world-wide web a much happier place…I guarantee! You are the prettiest redhead I know and you certainly are #MyFavoriteRedHead.

You are still my “Little Bit” but in recent days you have discovered just how much fun it is to EAT! I haven’t seen anything that you don’t like. That’s good. Don’t be a picky eater. Food is just too good to miss out on things by not trying it. I’m having to buy extra Little Debbie oatmeal cookies because you really like those. You need to understand that I don’t share my Little Debbie cookies with just anybody — but you are just too cute and too special for me not to share with you.

You are a jumping bean! That’s your favorite thing right now. You hold on to my hands and jump up and down and laugh. Nana calls you Tigger (from Winnie the Pooh) because you jump so much. You are a bundle of energy and you are curious about everything — especially Rosie. Rosie is a sweet girl and she just lets you pull on her ears and play with her paws. She loves it when you and Hudson come over to play.

There is one more thing I want to talk to you about today. It’s been weighing on my mind for a while, and I want to make sure you understand this from the very beginning.

We live in a crazy world right now. People are not always nice to each other the way they should be. That makes Poppo very sad. I was taught that it didn’t matter what color your skin was or where you came from, God loves all people and He wants us to treat each other the way we would want to be treated. Our family has always tried to live by that rule.

Most of the time when you and I are together, we like to sing. And one of our favorite songs says, “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white; they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

That is not just a song to me. That is the way I always want to see the world and it is the way your parents and your grandparents want you to see it as well. We don’t judge people based on the way they look or where they come from. We are supposed to love all people because God made them. It is wrong for us to treat others differently just because they look differently or talk differently or come from a different part of the world from us.

Remember the Bible verse that says, “For God so loved THE WORLD” — that means EVERYBODY in the world is loved by God —  “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That means that Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross so that all of us can have a personal relationship with God. NOBODY is left out. Anyone who admits their sin and believes in Jesus will be saved. As you grow older, we will talk much more about that.

Right now, I just want you to learn early to treat everybody the way you want to be treated. Everybody will not always do things that are lovable — but we love them anyway because God loves them. Don’t ever treat people differently just because they don’t look like you or dress like you or talk like you. I think this is one of the most important lessons you can learn in life.

I’m sorry to tell you that people will not always treat you nicely. Sometimes they will talk about you and they may hurt your feelings. That is NOT FUN. When it happens, always remember that Poppo loves you more than anything and I will do my very best to make sure you always know that you are loved and that you are special to God. There is nothing that you cannot do if you trust God and follow Him. As you learn that lesson, always remember how bad it feels when people don’t treat you nicely. That will help you understand what other people feel like when they are treated unfairly. I pray that you will always share that special smile with everybody you meet. It will sure brighten somebody’s day!

Well, here we go. Today begins your second trip around the sun. I’ve made almost 55 trips and you, Hudson and Ellie have made the most recent ones my favorites yet. I can’t wait to see what happens to us this year. Whatever comes our way, always remember that God loves you, Nana and Poppo love you and there is absolutely NOTHING you can ever do to change either one of those things.

I love you Little Bit. You truly are #MyFavoriteRedHead.

Love,

Poppo

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Pastor Keith, What Are You Reading?

We’ve made it to September! This year is flying by at breakneck speed. Occasionally, I try to post about some of the books I am currently reading or have recently read. I thought today might be good for that. I hope some of these will be an encouragement to you.

Faith Crisis by Ron Dunn (currently reading)
Ron Dunn was a major voice in SBC evangelism prior to his death in 2001. In this book, Dr. Dunn walks you through a fascinating study of the nature of faith. My takeaway so far in this book…Faith is about QUALITY not QUANTITY.

“Success in the Christian life is measured by faith. Always the word of Jesus is, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith’ (Matt.9:29). All our failures are failures in faith.” (Ron Dunn)

Son of a Gunn by Jim Henry (recently completed)
Dr. Jim Henry served for 29 years as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Orlando, Florida. After “retiring,” he became the preaching pastor at Downtown Baptist Church in Orlando. This book is the autobiography of Dr. Henry.

I love biographies/autobiographies and this one did not disappoint. Dr. Henry has 56 years of pastoral experience, he served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and he has served as a spiritual consultant to US presidents and national leaders. Those things…and many more…made this a very interesting book for my summer reading. You will especially enjoy it if you are a life-long Southern Baptist and remember the battle we fought for the inerrancy of Scripture 30+ years ago.

Firefall 2.0 by Malcolm McDow & Alvin Reid (currently reading)
John Avant, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Concord, TN said about this book: “Firefall 2.0 is one of the most important books you will ever read because it is about the most important thing we need — a fresh move of God among us! Learn from God’s work in the past to prepare for God’s work in the present!”

I firmly believe that the greatest need in the American church today is a true God-sent, Holy Ghost revival. Not just a series of meetings where an evangelist comes in and preaches 4 or 5 sermons about how we need a greater commitment to God. I’m talking about a true move of God. I’m talking about preachers and people who flood the altars of our churches repenting of our sins and pleading with God to do a special work among us in these last days.

This book provides a wonderful history of true revivals from the Old Testament to our modern era. Especially interesting is the section about revivals during the Reformation period. There is also a section about modern revival movements from the time of the Puritans to today.

Dr. McDow was an evangelism professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Reid is an evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Reid was a student of Dr. McDow!

I LOVE to read. I wish I had more time to read even more but here are three books that I believe will bless you and your walk with the Lord.

What are YOU reading? Share with me in the comment section.

Every Poppo Needs A…

Poppo:Ellie

Dear Ellie,
I don’t even know where to begin with your letter. For every grandchild, I write them a special letter from me on or around their birthday. I started it with your cousins Hudson and Harper. Now, it’s your turn.

I think I have been expecting you for a little more than 31 years. When your momma was born, I KNEW that one day she would have a little girl who would bring as much joy to her as she brought to me. Your momma is the definition of “Daddy’s Girl” — always has been, always will be. Based on my very early observations, I have a feeling you are going to be a Daddy’s Girl too. That’s a good thing. As you grow, I will teach you how to use that to your every advantage. I’m already watching you wrap your daddy around your finger and I’ve been standing back and smiling because I KNOW what’s going to happen.

There are a few things I would like to share with you as we start this journey of life together.

First, and you already know this. God loves you, your parents love you, and Nana and I love you. Those are three things you can ALWAYS count on. I don’t care what happens in your life or where you go in life, our love for you is unconditional. There is absolutely nothing you can ever do to make us stop loving you.

I think you already know how much God loves you. I think all babies know that because I believe that the last place you lived before you were in mommy’s tummy was in Heaven. You were quite stubborn and didn’t want to join us in the “real world” yesterday (8/21/17). I wasn’t there, but your daddy told me that he thought you had latched on to mommy’s insides with your toes and weren’t going to turn loose! That sounds about right. I know if I had to leave the warmth and comfort of Heaven and my mommy’s womb, I’d want to stay too. We will do our very best to make you feel safe and loved here too. Don’t worry.

The second thing I want to tell you is about your nickname. I actually titled your letter, “Every Poppo Needs A…” as a little tease for your nickname. Every time a grandchild is born, I get to know them a bit and then give them a name that is special for them and that I call them. I call Hudson, Scooter — you will understand that soon enough. I call Harper — Little Bit because she was so tiny. I decided on your nickname before you were born.

When your momma was born, she was the first grandchild for my parents, Granny and Popple. Popple is the one who started this nickname thing. Oh how I wish you could have known him. He lives in heaven now, but I feel like he is with me and I am trying to be as good a Poppo as my daddy was a Popple. The grandchildren called him Popple because of your momma. That’s the advantage of being the first grandchild. You get to pick the names of your grandparents and the rest of the grandchildren basically follow along. For some reason, your momma couldn’t quite say Pappa and it sounded like Popple. So that was it.

It didn’t take him long to give your momma a nickname. She was his Punkin Doodle. I have absolutely no idea what a Punkin Doodle is but that’s what he called her. Popple had a very special relationship with my sister (your Aunt B) and your momma. I always wanted that kind of relationship with my daughter too. And I have it with your momma. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about your momma as you get older. She thinks she rules the roost, but I’ve just let her believe that for almost 32 years. There are some good stories I will tell you. Stick with me Ellie and you will be running this house in no time flat!

Back to my story. After Popple went to heaven, there was nobody who called your momma Punkin Doodle any more. Popple called your Knuckle Dustin, PeeWee and I always have called him PeeWee and now YOU can call him Knuckle PeeWee! But when Popple died, the name Punkin Doodle faded away.

The more I have thought about it, the more I have realized that Every Poppo Needs a PUNKIN DOODLE….so there you go. That’s your name. You are my Punkin Doodle. After having met you, it fits. I still don’t know what it means, but when I saw you, I knew I had made the right choice. My daddy would be proud of me and he would so love you.

The third thing I want to tell you is that this family is CRAZY! The more I hang around them, the more I realize that the only sane ones left are Scooter, Little Bit and Poppo! You have joined a very exclusive club. You will meet them all — Nana, Knuckle PeeWee, Aunty Em (I just decided that’s what you would call her), Granny (don’t even get me started) and ALL the rest. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but again…stick with me. I will guide you through the maze of craziness and you will come to love all of them. They really are cool people!

Finally, I want to tell you about your momma and daddy. They have their quirks but I can already tell that they love you more than anything. They have that look in their eyes when they look at you. Your parents are going to teach you so many things as you grow that will help you later on in life. I have watched them mature and grow since they got married and I’m convinced they are ready for the challenge. You won’t always agree with them and there will be times when you don’t like them very much. That’s ok. Just remember they are doing the most important job that God every gave to people — raising children. They are going to tell you about Jesus and they are going to show you what it means to love Jesus and follow Him. Watch them, listen to them, cut them a lot of slack — they really are doing the best they can.

You are a blessing and miracle from God for us. I look forward to watching you grow and I can’t wait until you are big enough to play with us. It’s going to be a blast! I’ve gotten quite good at this whole Poppo thing, if I do say so myself.

Punkin Doodle, always remember that God has a special plan for you and there is absolutely NOTHING you cannot do when you follow Him and trust Him. Nana and I love you and I promise you can always count on us.

Welcome to our world! Let’s go have some fun.

Dear Hudson…#3

IMG_9617.JPGDear Hudson,

Three years ago today, I met you for the first time. I held you close to me and I whispered in your ear — “Hudson, God loves you and I love you. Both of us always will.”

From that day forward, your parents and grandparents have done our very best to make sure you realize that — God loves you and we love you…and we always will.

The “terrible 2’s” turned out to be just that…according to some. You are becoming more independent every day (if that is possible). You have spent this past year telling us that you can do it by yourself and your favorite phrase right now is — “Poppo, I told you…” Your momma and daddy are doing a great job teaching you right from wrong and how to behave, but you are waging a pretty strong resistance as well. When James Dobson wrote the book, “Strong-Willed Child,” I think he should have included your picture.

My theory is that your strong personality is going to serve you well as you grow older. You will be a leader. I’m guessing now that you will be a politician or a preacher. You sure know how to “work the crowd” and you are able to charm everyone you meet.

As usual, this has been a pretty eventful year for you. Your baby sister made her appearance in September, 2016. Harper is your opposite. She is stoic and quiet (for now) and the two of you compliment each other very well. You have been a great big brother. You help take care of Harper and you make sure that I give her to somebody else when you want me to chase you — which is most of the time.

I’ve never seen anybody who loves to run like you do. “Poppo, I bet you can’t chase me.” I do my very best, but you are a fast little rascal and we run through the house and in the yard and anywhere else you can find to just take off and go. Even Rosie has gotten in the game and you chase her and then she chases you. Rosie and I seem to get tired a lot quicker than you do.

As usual, there are some big changes coming to the family. In August of this year, we get a new member of our club. Aunt Deeves and Knuckle Nate are having a baby! Ellie Jean will be your cousin and we can’t wait to meet her. You are going to be outnumbered by the girls, but I’m pretty sure you will handle it just fine.

You love popsicles, hot dogs, The Dollywood (that’s what you call it), the Aquarium and Toy Story 3. To tell you the truth, after watching that movie what seems like 100 times, I’m ready to move on to something else! You aren’t too fond of naps, but if we can convince you that after nap time we can do something fun, you are usually cooperative.

My favorite time of the week is Sunday afternoon. You and your parents come to our house where Nana fixes us a delicious lunch. After lunch, you and I go lay down on my bed where we watch a movie and then take a nap. I know that one day before long, you won’t want to do that, but for now, I promise you it is the highlight of my week.

I thank God every day for trusting your parents so much that He sent you to them. Your parents are amazing and Nana and I are so proud of the way they are raising you. I will tell you this…when they discipline you, Poppo has to go outside. It’s one of those things that I know has to be done, but I don’t like it one little bit.

So we now begin this new trip around the sun and who knows what the new year will bring. I do know this…God still loves you — He always has and He always will. Momma, Daddy, Nana, Poppo, Nonnie and Poppy all love you — and we always will. It’s a troublesome world we live in and it’s nice to know that there are people in this world who will always love you and have your back. I promise you this…your backfield is FULL of people who will do whatever it takes to make sure you grow up into the man God created you to be.

I can tell you this…grandchildren make life funner and funner every day! Poppo loves you and there is absolutely nothing you could ever do to make me stop loving you. I can’t wait to see how we handle being 3 years old. Happy birthday Scooter.

 

BEING with Jesus

“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:14-15)

As I read these verses this morning, I was convicted by the phrase “that they might be with Him.” Stop and think about that for just a minute. What does it mean to “be with Him?”

In 1978, I took notice of a young girl in my 10th grade geometry class. I probably should have been paying more attention to geometry, but I was a 10th grade boy. I assure you I was much more interested in girls than math! But there was something special about this particular girl. When I was around her, my heart fluttered and my palms got sweaty and I just couldn’t stay away from her. Her name was EDNA.

Maybe my approach was different from the one you would take, but when I took notice of EDNA I did not visit the library to see what I could learn about her. I didn’t search the internet — I didn’t even know what an internet was. Al Gore had not invented it yet. But that’s another story.

My point? I didn’t want to know a few facts about EDNA. I wanted to know EDNA! I wanted to be with her…ALL THE TIME. And the more I was around her, the more I wanted to be around her. This desire to “be with” EDNA has led me to being around her now for almost 40 years! And my heart still flutters and my palms still get sweaty and I still want to be with her…ALL THE TIME!

In one little phrase, Mark records the focus of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples. And Jesus’ approach was quite different than the modern church. We seem to be caught up in highly programmed ministries and leadership seminars and church grow ideas to reach Baby Boomers, Millennials and now Generation Z. On the surface there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things. I’ve read books about all of that and have greatly benefited from them.

But Jesus didn’t disciple the twelve by meeting with them once a week on Tuesday night and reading a few books. Read the verse again…“He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him” (emphasis added).

The thing that makes my marriage to the beautiful Miss Edna wonderful is that I love BEING WITH HER. The thing that makes our relationship with Jesus so wonderful is when we discover that we don’t need more facts ABOUT Jesus. We need more time WITH Jesus. Read the New Testament and do a study of the number of times Jesus told His followers to “abide in Him.”

Discipleship is about being with Jesus and allowing Him to speak through His Word and to guide us in our lives. Don’t get caught up in the culture of growing churches man’s way. Let’s stick with Jesus’ way…make up your mind that more than anything else, you want the presence of Jesus in your life…all day…every day.

 

Happy New Year

“In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)

On December 11, 2016 I preached a sermon entitled “Before the Baby Came.” It was the first in my Christmas series for 2016. If you are interested, you can subscribe to my podcast through iTunes. It’s called 3 5 6 Podcast  (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/3-5-6-podcast/id894406067?mt=2)356 Podcastand the messages I preach each week at Valley Grove are there.

At the beginning of that message, I told the following story.

There is an amazing piece of art drawn by a Korean artist and given to the late missionary E. Stanley Jones. It is called “The New Testament Jesus.” It took the artist 2 years to complete the drawing. He meticulously drew the picture by hand with a very fine tipped pen. It’s not a painting, but a picture created by writing thousands of words with shaded letters.

It is actually the entire New Testament written out by hand. There are approximately 185,000 words on the picture with an average of 1,000 words per line. The letters are drawn; some thick and some thin so that they bring out this picture of Jesus. There are 27 angels surrounding Christ and looking at Him, representing the 27 books of the New Testament.

The original work was 6 feet long by 4 feet wide. The figure of Jesus isn’t imposed onto the words…instead the words reveal the picture of Jesus.

As I described that drawing, I told the congregation I had wanted to show them a picture of it on the screen, but the only one I could find online was from the E.Stanley Jones foundation web page. It was a picture of Dr. Jones holding the original drawing and was not clear enough for me to use on that Sunday morning.

I’ve been intrigued by this picture ever since I read about it. Just before Christmas, a man who faithfully attends our church (Mr. Rick Bowling) came by the office. He carried in his hand a framed copy of this picture to give to me. After I told the story, he went online to the foundation and bought a copy and had it framed for me for Christmas.

new-testament-jesus

If you notice, there are some imperfections in the copy. That’s because it is a copy of the original which Dr. Jones folded up and carried with him everywhere he went. If you look on the left side, you will see what probably is a coffee stain from the days of Dr. Jones. I can’t tell you how excited I am to receive this picture.

In John 1, Jesus is described as “The Word.” The Greek word is Logos. Jesus Christ is the WORD of God. As I look at this picture I am reminded that every word of the New Testament is used to reveal this wonderful picture of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was the Logos before He came to earth, He is still the Logos today, and He will always be the Logos of God. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I pray that in 2017, the WORD of God becomes even more real in our lives as we seek to share with others the Good News of the Gospel.

God Writes Straight With Crooked Lives

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:” (Matthew 1:1)

I don’t remember the first time I heard someone say, “God writes straight with crooked lives,” but over the years I’ve come to learn the truth of that statement. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the first chapter of Matthew as he shows us how the Promise was handed down and made its way through some rough people.

As you study the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, you find that God’s Son came to us in all-too-human hands. Those hands were not immune to the terror and trauma of everyday life. As you read the names, you see people who are sinful and unworthy of grace…just like you and me.

What a gang of folks is this list of those who bear the message of Christmas to fulfillment. From reading Jesus’ family tree, I learn that no matter what kind of background we come from, no mater how insignificant we feel, no matter how inadequate we, God can, and God wants to use us to hand His promise of salvation to the next generation. God wants you and me to carry the promise of Christmas to somebody else. If people like those in Matthew can make it on the list…I think God can certainly use you and me to pass the faith on from one generation to the next.

Let me mention the last group in Matthew’s crowd that I find truly incredible. It’s Abi’ud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Mattan, and Jacob, the father of Mary’s husband Joseph. Do you know why I think that’s such an incredible list? Pick up a Bible concordance and you’ll find out why. Every other name Matthew gives us in the genealogy can be found somewhere else in the Old Testament, somewhere else in Israel’s history. But the names in the last group don’t appear anywhere. They are anonymous. They are nobodies. They simply make a cameo appearance in Matthew 1, and then they are gone.

Dalphon Thompson, Cornelia Sumner, Mildred Jenkins, John Galloway. Have you ever heard their names? Probably not. Why? They were my pastor when I got saved, my preschool Sunday school teacher, my high school Sunday school teacher, and the man who taught me how to whistle. They are anonymous bearers of the Christmas message. And you have a list of names like this too. You have an Abi’ud, an Eliakim, an Azor, a Zadok and an Eleazar. The ones who told you the Christmas story — the ones who bore the promise.

Anonymous…yet remembered. Insignificant, yet instrumental. Each one of us heard the Gospel from someone who got it from someone who experienced it through someone long gone. But they are there.

As you celebrate Christmas this week, I simply ask you this. Where does this wonderful Gospel story go from here? You’ve heard the Gospel, you have been embraced by the grace of God…and now…who will you share the Promise with? Are you ready? Carry this wonderful Christmas Gospel to the world!

Edna and I are thankful for all of you who faithfully read this little blog. I’m humbled that anybody would care a bit about the things I have to say, so your friendship through this medium is very special to me. May God richly bless you and your family this Christmas season.