My Love Just Grows Deeper…

“submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

Tomorrow (5/29) is the 32nd anniversary of the second greatest day of my life! The greatest day is when I got saved as an 8 year old boy at the Potecasi Baptist Church. The SECOND greatest day is when I married Edna Galloway at the Creeksville Baptist Church. Search this site for the post entitled “A Perfect Match” to read more about our relationship. My love for Edna grows deeper and greater every day and everything I wrote 2 years ago about her is even more true today. Now, we are just weeks away from Danielle’s wedding and I am reminded of the wonderful example Edna is not only to Danielle, but to all young women who desire to be a Godly woman and wife.

Something tragic is happening to marriage and family life in America today. Millions of marriages end in divorce. In my humble, but accurate opinion, this is a tragedy of indescribable proportions for everyone involved.

Who is responsible for this? I don’t believe we can hold the government or the school system responsible for the breakup of marriages and families. I think the blame for this rests at the door of the church and home. The church has neglected to teach the truths of God concerning this most important of human relationships. Parents have been neglectful in teaching our sons and daughters what is expected by God of a husband and wife. The husband and wife have a definite responsibility for the welfare of home life.

Ephesians 5 gives us some of the responsibilities of husbands and wife, but I deliberately chose verse 21 as the text for this post. It reminds me that BOTH the husband and wife are to be subject to the Lordship of Christ in order for them to fulfill their duties as a married couple. What follows in Ephesians 5 is impossible unless we are FIRST subjected to God individually.

Over the last 32 years, I have learned from Edna and with Edna that we are first responsible to God for the way we relate to each other and our children. The home is of divine origin. Genesis 1:27-28 reminds us that marriage is a provision of God for the well-being of the human race. Marriage is God’s remedy for human loneliness and incompleteness. God made us “male and female.” He made us for each other.

Ephesians 5 contains guidelines that point toward wholesome and creative family relationships. Edna and I have sought to follow these guidelines and we have tried to teach Dustin and Danielle the importance of these guidelines as well.

Let me share just a few principles Edna and I have used to build our marriage of 32 years.

1. We recognize that we live under the grace, guidance and judgment of our Lord. It is the divine plan of God for us that we adjust ourselves to each other as husband and wife. We understand that you cannot mistreat your spouse without having to deal with a just and righteous God. God, in all His grace has assisted us now 32 years as we seek to work together in love and faith and helpfulness.

2. For Edna, there are two specific guidelines in Ephesians 5. Taken out of context, you might think they are discriminatory against women. That is NOT God’s intention. In Christianity, we ALL stand as equals before God (Galatians 3:28). In Ephesians 5:22 and 5:33, the Bible says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body” (v. 22) — “the wife is to respect her husband” (v. 33).

If we don’t understand our roles within the context of our family, we create either a headless monster or a two-headed freak. Either one leads to confusion and disappointment. The Bible teaches that the subordination of the wife to the husband is to be voluntary and the reverence she gives to her husband is to be deserved by him. We are equal before God — we just have different roles within the relationship.

Here’s how I have viewed it — Edna is the best and most qualified person to be the wife and mother in our relationship. I am completely incapable of doing either of those two things — it’s impossible. And our family would be incomplete without Edna serving in these two roles.

3. For me (Keith), there are two guidelines as well. And guys, when you do this, I can absolutely guarantee you that your wife will gladly respect you! In verse 25, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her…” The word translated “love” does NOT refer to sexual love. This word instead refers to the sacrificial, self-giving love illustrated by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross for the church. Sacrificial love that gives of itself WITHOUT RESERVATION is absolutely essential for a successful marriage.

The second guideline for husbands is found in verses 28-30. Men, we are to love our wives as we love our own bodies. From the viewpoint of Scripture, marriage is a “one-flesh” relationship. Both the husband and wife are to be as concerned about the well-being of their spouse as they are their own “flesh and blood.”

I have jokingly told Edna that if she ever leaves me, her new husband had better like me a lot — cause I’m going with her! She is my number 1 priority after my relationship with God. Danielle and Dustin know that I love them with all my heart — and I am able to do that only because I love their mother even more.

The Biblical guidelines for marriage are ridiculed by the world today and many people think they know better than God. But God created marriage and He created it to be a picture of His relationship to the church.

I am thankful for the last 32 years with Edna. I couldn’t have made it without her. When God created my “helper,” He gave me exactly what I needed to be the person He wanted me to be. I pray I have also been that for Edna as well.

Here’s to 32 more years Edna. I fell in love with you the moment our eyes met and that love has only grown deeper every day. I love you today and always.

Have a great day.

Let Us Rejoice…

“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It gives me perspective — THIS is the day which the Lord has made. If I believe that God is sovereign over all things (and I do) then I know that whatever God is good and right. Therefore He made this day and whatever happens has passed through His hand.

Somebody has said that there are three days on everybody’s calendar: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The most important day on our calendar is today. Yesterday is gone and now resides in the tomb of time. To live in yesterday is to waste today. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us and if we live in tomorrow, we won’t come to grips with the present.

We need to recognize the importance of the present. Today is the only day of which we can be sure. We must beware lest we accept the philosophy, “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” On the other hand, we should celebrate the present and live responsibly because tomorrow may never come.

Today is not accidental or incidental. I believe that the Bible teaches me that God wants to be in the midst of this day with me. He wants to help me make it into a useful, productive day that will enable me to have pleasant memories of it when tomorrow comes.

I am grateful for today. In this day, I have the opportunity to worship, work and witness. THIS is the day the Lord has made!

This verse gives me perspective and causes only one acceptable response — I will rejoice and be glad in it. God desires me (and you) to be joyful. Just look at the emphasis on joy in the Scripture. There was joy at the announcement of the birth of Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 says, “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source of perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

In the parable of the talents, the servants who were rewarded were permitted to enter into the JOY of their Master (Matthew 25). In the parables found in Luke 15, Jesus repeated refers to the JOY that exists in the presence of angels when a sinner repents.

There is much to rejoice about today…

We are loved by God.
We have the privilege of being called sons and daughters of God.
We have the privilege of serving the Lord today.
We have the assurance of an eternal home in the future.

THIS is the day the Lord has made….

How will you respond?

A Raging Battle

“For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.’ But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.” (Mark 9:31-32)

In the early part of Mark 9, you find the story of the Transfiguration of Christ. I can’t begin to imagine what a glorious moment that must have been — when Peter, James and John saw Jesus flanked by Moses and Elijah. If there ever were any questions about whether Jesus was like other men — this should have cleared that up.

Some have actually referred to the Transfiguration as the “high noon” in the life of Jesus Christ.

In our verses today, the Transfiguration is behind Him and the cross is looming before Him. With every day that would pass, His humiliation drew nearer and our salvation drew closer.

Prior to the Transfiguration, Jesus had told His disciples what was going to happen to Him, but they didn’t want to hear it (Mark 8:31). Now, His suffering is so imminent that He can’t hep but make it a somewhat constant subject of conversation. If these disciples are going to be effective in any kind of ministry after Jesus goes away, they must be prepared before the crucifixion actually occurs. He warns them that his humiliation is going to be great, but they must not be surprised.

“The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him.” That’s a hard thing to hear. Nobody was more undeserving of betrayal and death than Jesus. For three years, His disciples had watched Him work so unselfishly — giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and strength to withered hands. They have barely descended the Mount of Transfiguration and Jesus throws a “wet blanket” on this incredible experience by talking about His death.

WHY? Why does He have to talk about THAT NOW?

Years later, the Apostle Paul would tell the Ephesian Christians — “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

I believe that is the lesson Jesus is trying to teach His disciples as well. There is a battle — a raging battle in this world between good and evil. And it seems that evil rages on unrestrained. The fact that evil rages on is the reason Jesus had to come to this earth. The moment when Eve took the fruit and ate it until the last time that you remember your latest sin — evil has raged in this world.

It was NOT global warming that brought about the great flood in Genesis 6 — it was SIN — evil unrestrained. It was NOT a momentary lapse in judgment that caused David who had been “the man after God’s own heart” to commit adultery and then try to cover it up with murder. It was SIN — evil unrestrained.  It was NOT the blameless horrors of war that exterminated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. It was SIN — evil unrestrained.

Unrestrained evil — SIN is what nailed my Lord and Savior to the cross!

And the battle rages on today. SIN has wrecked the lives of countless millions of people. SIN continues to bring more sorrow and unhappiness than any other one thing. Because of SIN, marriages have ended in divorce and children have run away from home. Because of SIN, men and women find themselves at odds with one another.

BUT I HAVE GOOD NEWS FOR YOU!

God will triumph ultimately. Were it not for that hope, I would close up shop and just go home. Jesus’ words did not end until He had completed the sentence. He said, “And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” They would kill Him — but He wouldn’t stay dead. Evil and sin would put Him to death, but it was unable to keep Him in the tomb.

Remember this sentence — even though the grammar is not perfect —

He didn’t stay dead and He won’t stay gone!

Jesus is coming again — and I believe soon. Until He comes, you and I are involved in a WAR. This is not a picnic. Evil continues unrestrained in our world. But we have been called to be agents of mercy and grace so that people can know there is GOOD NEWS. Evil won’t win. God will ultimately triumph.

So…today, get out there on the battlefield. Put on the whole armor of God and be ready as the devil slings his evil your way. Don’t give up. Keep praying for wayward children. Keep working for peace and justice. Keep spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I guarantee you this — IN THE END — WE WIN!

Have great day.

The Blessing of Confident Access

“In Him we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” (Ephesians 3:12)

Prayer has both objective and subjective value. Objectively, prayer changes THINGS. Subjectively, prayer changes ME! Just think about that for a minute. I’m afraid we spend way too much time praying objectively rather than subjectively. We are much more interested in changing THINGS than we are in changing OURSELVES.

One of the most comforting aspects of prayer to me is when I find myself the beneficiary of the prayers of someone else. There is great comfort and value knowing a strong, committed believer is praying for me. I appreciate that and I never take that for granted.

Have you ever stopped to think about what it would have felt like to have been prayed for by Jesus Himself? Do you not imagine that His prayers were answered in a way that we will never understand? He was an only Son praying to His Father. Can you just imagine how Simon Peter felt when Jesus said, “Satan has asked to sift you all as wheat, but I have prayed for you…” (Luke 22:31)?

The Good News is that Jesus continues to pray for us — interceding on our behalf before the Father every day. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.” Doesn’t that bring you great comfort? I know it does to me.

The Apostle Paul also believed in the power of prayer. He never used prayer as a substitute for his own efforts, though. He realized that when he got saved — it was not so that he could just coast through life and in heaven. Paul spent his life, working ceaselessly and tirelessly for the Kingdom of God. He prayed for the congregations he helped to start.

In Ephesians 3, Paul reminds us that he is praying for them. But he gets pretty specific. He actually tells them what he is praying for (Ephesians 3:14-21). In that prayer, Paul mentions “the riches of His glory“the length, width, height and depth of God’s love”, and “the fullness of God.” All these things Paul prays to God on behalf of the congregation at Ephesus.

Paul is able to pray this way because he says “in Christ we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” Do you know what that means? It means that you and I can pray JUST LIKE PAUL! We have CONFIDENT ACCESS to God because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Praying for others is a blessing! It is a joy and honor to approach the throne of God and pray on behalf of others. The Holy Spirit lives within us and we have the love of Christ in our lives and we have boldness and confidence to go before God with not only our own requests, but we can pray on behalf of one another. All this is available to you and me because of our personal relationship with God through His Son.

So…

HOW CAN I PRAY FOR YOU?

I would count it an honor and privilege to take your requests before the Father today. Email me your prayer requests (keith@valleygrove.org) and I will pray with you and for you. I’m confident I can do that — not because I’m a great pray-er — but because I pray to a GREAT GOD!

Have a great day.

A Ministry By Example

“They were extremely astonished and said, ‘He has done everything well! He even makes deaf people hear, and people unable to speak, talk!'” (Mark 7:37)

One of the many things that gives the Scripture its timeless application, is the fact that it concentrates on real events and the real lives of men and women. Given the fact that the human condition does not change…the Bible is as true today as it was when it was written.

It is true we travel more by airplane than by donkey and we eat more “fast food” than we do figs and dates — but the basic nature of man has not changed since the time of Adam and Eve.

Some time today, read the story of James’ and John’s mother in Matthew 20. You remember that just prior to Jesus’ last entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the mother of those two boys approached Jesus with a very delicate request — “Promise,” she said to Him, “that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:21)

You can just imagine the reaction of the other disciples. They were NOT HAPPY to say the least! They were jealous that they had not made the request earlier themselves. But it is Jesus’ answer to them that we must remember. He outlined His philosophy of life. He said, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

There you go! MINISTRY was the focus of Jesus’ life. While other people try and seek an advantage for themselves over someone else — the desire of a true believer in Christ is always to minister in the name of Jesus. In the verse today (Mark 7:37), the people are amazed at the example Jesus provided by healing the deaf man.

In the famous poem, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, the poet said, “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” Sailors were surrounded by the vastness of the ocean and yet, because of the salt content of the water, not a drop is digestible. Even though salt water has the element of wetness — if you drink it, you can experience a very agonizing death.

In ministry, there are needs all around us and until those needy people are brought into the presence of Jesus — their need is unsatisfied and their circumstance unchanged. This deaf man in Mark 7 was a drop of water in an ocean of need. Fortunately, someone brought him to the one who could truly make a difference in his life.

If we aren’t careful, we will read this story and think it is just another account of Jesus’ capacity to heal, and a deaf man’s anxiousness to receive. But it so much more than that! In this story, I see the guidelines for ministering to a world that desperately needs a touch from Christ.

And this lesson is NOT just for preachers! Every one of us who have received the mercy and grace of God in our lives are now His ministers! We have the example of Jesus to follow — the sympathy and compassion He felt for others — we should feel. We minister to others IN THE NAME OF CHRIST — a source greater than ourselves. He alone meets the needs of the lost and the hurting. Without His presence in our lives — and I’ve said this many times — we are doing nothing but making earth a better place to go to hell from. Because we minister according to the example given us by Christ, we provide not only the physical needs but we introduce people to the only One who can meet EVERY need they have — including the spiritual.

Remember this. There was never any hesitation in Jesus. He saw what needed to be done and HE DID IT! There is our example — just go do it!

Have a great day.

Long time…

Hello friends…

This is just a quick announcement that the daily devotions will return TOMORROW (May 12)! Watch this site and your inboxes.

I returned to Knoxville, TN in May 2014 to become Senior Pastor at Valley Grove Baptist Church. In the time since, God has richly blessed us and we have seen wonderful things happening in the church. When I arrived, I was the ONLY full-time staff member. Today, our church is having around 500 people in attendance each Sunday with new people joining us each week. We now have 2 full-time staff members and 1 part-time staffer. In the very near future, I hope to add another full-time member to our staff and that will enable us to be much more effective in our ministry to our church and community.

For the time being, I’m going to write on a “modified” schedule. You can expect to see the daily devotional material at least two days per week and hopefully three (depending on the other responsibilities I have during that week).

Thank you for your patience, your support and your prayers. God is GREAT and I am having a blast! Valley Grove is taking the Great Commission seriously and we are…

WINNING THE WORLD TO CHRIST FROM SEYMOUR, TENNESSEE!

Pray for us — join us in the mission — and when you are in East Tennessee, stop by for a visit.

God bless,

Pastor Keith