Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 273- A Thank You Prayer First

I spent most of the morning in my office. Then, I had lunch with a friend and put the car in the shop in the afternoon. There were not a lot of opportunities for a "first" in this scenario.  I walked around the yard for a bit before my Bible study that I teach on Tuesday nights looking for a "first" but not really seeing a good one.

Not a good "first"

 I went to turn on the AC at the church because a we have people coming to the church in the evenings to prayerwalk in preparation for our revival starting this coming Sunday.  I really appreciate people taking time to come to the church and walk in the various rooms praying for God to move in revival.  So, I found a piece of poster board and wrote a big thank you to the people coming to prayerwalk the church for my "first."

I know the people are not coming to prayerwalk for me. They do this because they love God.  It is encouraging to me that people would take time out of their busy schedules to come and pray at the church for revival.  God sees and knows those people and they are praying because they love Him.  Hopefully, it was encouraging for them to see a piece of poster board saying thank you. It sure does not hurt to encourage people who love God.  They encourage me and I wanted to encourage them.

I don't know why this is sideways; it looks right on my computer

Always return supplies where they belong

Shameless plug

Prayer room

As I thought about this "first," I was reminded of how God has used so many people to bless, encourage, and love me.  While I thank them for doing those very kind things, I should also thank God. He is the One that put it in their hearts to do these things.  The list of people that have loved me and encouraged me is so long. Hardly a Sunday goes by that I don't hear someone pray for me and my family at church. That is so meaningful and encouraging to me. They don't have to do that.  They are so gracious to do that every Sunday.  I thank God for the Sunday School (Bible) teachers that taught me when I was growing up.  I had some really great people to care about me and teach me God's word.  I think of people like Mr. Bullock, Coach Thomas, Mr. Wargo, and others.  I thank God for people who love and care for my children.  Monday night there were several men who took special care to encourage Joel after his ball game. They were very kind to do that and I thank God for them. I thank God for the people in my Tuesday night Bible study. They are eager to study God's word, willing to share, and just fun to be with. I thank God for people who seek to know God better and help others to know Him better. Their heart for God encourages me.  I thank God for giving me a wife who is very encouraging, inspiring, eager to follow God on an adventure, easy to get along with, beautiful inside and out, and I could go on.  She might ask me to if she reads this.  Of course, I could list many more people as you could.

These people are all gifts from God. Thank you, Lord, for the special people you put in my life. Perhaps you would like to take a minute or two or 30 to thank God for some people He has placed in your life.

Thankful for the people God puts in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. He is rich in kindness
2. Men who encouraged Joel after his ball game last night
3. Mechanics who can fix cars

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 272- A Smallest First

Today I was in Dothan visiting a friend who had a heart cath (it went well).  While in Dothan, I checked the Internet for tourist attractions in Dothan. One of the results that came up was that Dothan had the world's smallest city block. I went to the world's (supposedly) smallest city block for my "first."

Someone on the Internet said that the Guinness Book of Records has placed this as the smallest block in the world.  This small piece of land is a triangle that features a stop sign, yield sign and street signs.  It is so small that Siri had a hard time locating it.  Siri said I was there but I walked around for 10 minutes and could not locate it.  So, I looked up the address and found out I was about 3 blocks away. I got back in my car and was able to locate the smallest city block in the world.  I took pictures to prove that I was actually there.

As far as tourist attractions go, this one is pretty lame. It is like a small median in an intersection.    A stop sign, yield sign, and a street sign make up a block? Really??  Then again, it supposedly made the Guinness Book of World Records and I haven't, so far be it from me to belittle it (pun intended).

I thought about how this city block (and world record holder supposedly) really does not have a lot to offer.  It would be hard to spend a day there. It is not much of a picnic area.  As followers of Jesus, we have a lot to offer. I thought about how sometimes a pastor will ask a church congregation for a testimony of something God has done in their life lately or something they want to praise God for.  I'm grateful that I can do that at Hopewell and know there will be people who will have something to share and not be timid about sharing it because Jesus is real and wonderful. I have been in church meetings where a leader has asked for someone to share a testimony or something they want to praise God for and was met with silence.  Have you ever wondered what that sounds like to an unbeliever that might be in the audience? They could come to the wrong conclusion that because of the silence God is not up to much of anything.  I know that people are sometimes shy and timid about speaking up about what God is doing in their life or what they have to praise God for, but to remain silent in that situation is to give a terrible witness.  For me, it usually means selfishness; that self is in control rather than Christ.

Instead, let's be people who are looking for a reason to brag on Jesus. There is so much to brag on Jesus about and people need to know we think He's wonderful.  He has too much to offer for us to be silent.

Grateful that Jesus offers so much in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. People who encourage my children
2. Kind nurses
3. Wise doctors

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day 271- A Church Prayer First

Today, I turned the Sunday evening worship service into a prayer meeting for my "first."

I did not do this to have a "first."  We have revival meetings scheduled to start Sunday (October 5th-8th).  The key to revival is prayer, I believe.  As I prayed about what I would preach tonight, I felt led to turn our Sunday night worship service into a prayer meeting.  It was challenging to think about how to include the congregation into a time of prayer for revival. The idea was for us to truly pray for revival and not just me preach about praying for revival. I was helped by reading about a church that did this led by Pastor Ronnie Floyd.  Reading what they did was helpful for me in planning our prayer meeting for revival. We have had many prayer times for revival before, but I never tried to use a Sunday service as a prayer meeting for revival. 

So, I chose to speak about 5-7 minutes on several different topics related to revival and then ask the church to pray about that specific topic. For some topics, I asked individuals to come to the microphone and lead in prayer.  At other times, I would ask people to come to the altar and pray or pray in their pews.  For one prayer time, I read a list of sins that a person might need to confess and asked them to pray that through as I read the sins.  We sang songs between the prayer times.

So, the order of worship looked something like this:
Barry explains what the service will be like.
Song- Sweet Hour of Prayer-429

1.   What Revival Could Look Like- Psalm 85:6

Prayer time led by an individual followed by congregational song-Shine on Us

2.   Sin- The Revival Blocker-Isaiah 59:2

Prayer time at the altar while a song is played over the sound system. Barry closes the prayer time and then we sing- Take My Life

3.   Cleansing and Renewal-1 John 1:9

Prayer time led by Barry suggesting sins that we might need to confess from the pulpit followed by song-Jesus Paid it All-249

4.   Fully Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit-Luke 9:23 and Ephesians 5:18

Prayer time led by an individual and followed by song- You are My King- 305

5. The Glory of God and the Fulfillment of the Great Commandment and Great Commission- 1 Corinthians 10:31. Then, the congregational sings Lord, Be Glorified.

Prayer Warrior???

Praying for the whole family to experience revival

So, that's what we did.  The idea was to look at what the Bible says about revival and to encourage all of us to pray for specific things.  If I'm not careful, I can get real general and careless in prayer.  What that usually means for me is that I am not praying anywhere near the effective and fervent prayer that God is looking for.  I'll tend to say God bless people, help us to have revival, bless the people that are coming to sing and preach, etc.  For me to experience revival, it is much more helpful to ask God to give me a vision of what real revival would look like for me.  It is very helpful to ask God to search my heart for any sin that is blocking me from experiencing God's presence in a real and genuine way.  Then, as I confess my sins and surrender to the Lordship of Christ in a fresh and deep way, I am much more likely to experience a fresh move of God in my life.

Feel free to pray for our upcoming revival. Feel free to pray for a fresh move of God in your own life, family, and church.  We need it and God wants us to have a real and genuine relationship with Him.

Praying for revival in the abundant life

3 things I thank God for today
1. A Church family that is willing to try something different to see God at work
2. That we can rejoice in God
3. Jesus loves me

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day 270- A Hardball First

Joel and I went and played baseball together today.  We borrowed a bucket of baseballs from a friend and went to the old ball park.  We warmed up and then I hit Joel some infield.  Then, Joel practiced pitching.  After that, I pitched to him and let him have some batting practice. It's the first time in a long time I pitched off a pitcher's mound.  That was a bit surprising on the first pitch.  I almost twisted my ankle while pitching off a pitcher's mound for my "first."  I'm used to pitching to him in our yard.

After a while, we decided we were done.  I asked Joel to let me bat one time and run the bases. He pitched to me.  He worked the count to a 2-2 count before I connected with a fair ball and ran the bases for my "first."  If there had been fielders in the field, it would have cut down significantly on the distance I ran.  I probably would have been thrown out at first.

Perhaps what I did today would more accurately be called jogging the bases or trotting around the bases.  Running around the bases sounds like someone who is going all out around the bases trying to score.  That is really not an accurate assessment of what I did today.  I did hit the inside corner of the bases and did not run far out of the baseline.  That would have required more distance and that's not what I was looking for today.  I chose not to slide when I came home.

This is where Joel quit taking pictures and started chasing me

I loved running the bases when I played baseball.  I loved to steal.  Sliding was a lot of fun.  Here's what is important to remember as you run the bases.  You have to touch each base.  You can't skip one and be OK.  If you miss a base, you are out.  It is important to touch each one as you run.  Each base is significant.

There are a few spiritual habits that are really important that we do if we are to grow as a Christian.  They are more than habits; sometimes they are called spiritual disciplines.  There are a few things we need to do regularly if we are to grow in Christ.

4 of these spiritual habits would be Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism. The first two orient us to God and help us to worship God.  The second two insure that we are connected to other believers and are reaching out to share Christ with others.  Regularly practicing these spiritual disciplines will help us to stay balanced and healthy in our relationship with the Lord.

There are other spiritual habits that are very helpful as well such as:
  • Scripture memory
  • Giving
  • Fasting
  • Meditation
  • Service
  • Worship
  • Solitude
Of course, that is not an exhaustive list, but gives one an idea of what spiritual disciplines are about.

Simply doing these things will not cause you to grow.  You have to do them with love in your heart for God.  You heart needs to be that you want to get to know God better.  If I go out on a date with my wife, it may cause us to grow closer together.  It's not simply the activity.  We could have an argument and grow further apart.  It is not just the activity, but the heart the activity is done with.  As you read your Bible, pray, worship, meet with other believers, and share your faith to do those things with the heart of wanting to know God better. Don't forget, He wants you to know Him.

Seeking the abundant life habitually

3 things I thank God for today
1. Playing ball with Joel
2. Crackers and cheese
3. Books on the spiritual disciplines

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day 269- A Family Pigskin First

Today, I took the family to a Pleasant Home football game for my "first."

Pleasant Home is the name of the school my children attend.  Laura and I have attended football games there before. Laura and Hannah Grace have been to one.  All 4 of us have never been to one.  This was Joel's first PHS game to attend.  It was time for the family to go to a football game together and we had a lot of fun.

We saw a lot of our friends at the game.  There was a lot of cheering, laughter, and great conversation.  We were proud of our young men who played hard.  The weather was great.  So, it made for a really nice Friday evening.

On the way home, I asked everybody what they enjoyed the most.  Hannah Grace said seeing her friends.  Joel said attending his first football game. We've watched games together on TV before, but this was Joel's first game to attend.  Laura liked visiting with friends and sharing the excitement of the game with them.  Laura was probably the best cheer person of our family.  Hannah Grace caught one of the small plastic footballs the cheerleaders threw into the stands. There was something for everyone.

MVP Cheerleader of the Wilkinsons
Sweaty boy


Joel watched for a while and then saw some of his friends playing in the grass near the south end of the bleachers.  He decided to play with his friends (and some people he did not know). I asked him what game they were playing because they had a football and yet there were no teams. He said it was kill the man with the football; tackle version.  He said if there had been smaller kids they would have played two hand touch.  I guess that would be maim the man with the football or something like that.

Here's what I thought about as we were driving home from the game. Joel was the only one of us that got really sweaty at the game. He was the only one that sustained injuries at the game. Had I played with him and his friends, I'm sure I would have sustained injuries that lasted longer than his will. He got a scrape on his knee, scrape on his elbow, took an elbow to the stomach, hurt his wrist, and said his finger got crushed. It does not look crushed. The reason he was so sweaty and sustained injuries is because he was actually in a game. The rest of us were spectators.

I'm afraid that many "Christians" see Christianity as a spectator sport.  They come to church and watch and decide if they liked it or not. The problem with that is that every follower of Jesus is in the game.  Some may see themselves as spectators and evaluate if they like the church service.  In reality, God is the audience and He evaluates each person's worship. 

If you are in a game of football, you are likely to sustain an injury or two.  As followers of Jesus, we are likely to get hurt.  After all, Jesus was ridiculed, rejected, beaten, and killed. If we are following Him, we should not expect a pain-free life.  Jesus said in John 15:20, "Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."

A lot of Christians shrink back from being bold about their faith because they are afraid they might be rejected, made fun, or embarrassed.  Maybe followers of Jesus should expect this instead of fearing it.  If we really want to be like Jesus, we have to be persecuted in some form. He was.  That truth just sort of settled on me as I was writing this.  The very things that some of  us run away from is a part of being like Jesus.  It would be very hard to read the Bible and not understand that Jesus was not treated kindly all the time. Not everyone loved Jesus.

So, let's get in the game. We might get hurt some and we will probably get sweaty, but there is not the thrill of the game if you are not in it.  We have too many "spectator Christians" and need more in the game.

Glad the abundant life is not a spectator sport

3 things I thank God for today
1. The fun of attending a football game together
2. The joy of working with some Christian brothers
3. Jesus was courageous and not afraid of persecution

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Day 268- A Comical First

Today, I celebrated National Comic Book Day for my "first."

I did not know there was a National Comic Book Day but when I heard of it I decided that would be a great "first" for me because I love comic books. When I was young, I read lots of comic books like Charlie Brown, Dennis the Menace, Captain America, and Beetle Bailey to name just a few.  I have always loved to laugh and comic books were one of the first humor books I read. Laura had to go to the drug store today and I asked her to pick me up a comic book or two. She said they didn't have any. That is pretty sad to me.

Tonight, I found some old comic books and read for a spell.  Joel saw me reading and came to join me. Hannah Grace joined me for a while, but she had a 4-H project that took her away and occupied most of her time.  Joel also had a ball game tonight so ours was a short evening.

Joel and I read Charlie Brown the most. This was a lot of fun because I could tell Joel really enjoyed Charlie Brown.  He was laughing out loud and it was very obvious that he was enjoying this as much as I was. We especially enjoyed the comics about Charlie Brown's baseball team and the Snoopy ones. When I mentioned it was comic book day, he went to his room because he said he had a comic book. He brought back an Action Bible which he enjoys reading. I was glad to see that.  He sat and read it for a bit while I was getting their snacks and medicine for the night.  For someone who is new to Christianity, a comic book Bible is a good way to learn the Bible stories.

As I thought about the fun that Joel and I had reading Charlie Brown, I thought of a Bible verse.  It was Psalm 145:4 which says (NLT), "Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power."  It was fun to see Joel enjoying the comics I enjoyed as a child.  It is even more important that I share with him the stories God has written into my life.  We need to tell our stories of faith to our children and grandchildren. If you are a follower of Jesus, you need to tell your salvation story to your children.  As a pastor, I've preached many funerals. Sadly, I've had people come to me and ask about a parent's salvation and what I knew of their parent's relationship with the Lord.  It's been much more joyful when I've done a funeral and the children have told me of their parent's conversion.  The children should be telling that story to the pastor and not the other way around. It's way more convincing for both parties.

There are other stories.  Perhaps you have an answered prayer story, mission trip story, witnessing story, revival story of how God has worked in your life. Make sure you tell that to your family members. that is so much better than the comic books, TV shows, or music that you enjoyed in years gone by.  Tell the God stories. Your children (and parents for that matter) need to hear them and you need to tell them.  You might be surprised how interested they are in how God has worked in your life.

Grateful for the abundant life stories

3 things I thank God for today
1. God stories
2. Comic books
3. Shared laughs with children

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day 267-A Somersault First

Today, I did a somersault for my "first."

Hannah Grace informed me that tumbling people call this a front roll.  I did plenty of these as a kid, but it's been at least 15-20 years since I've done one. It has probably been longer than that.  The necessity of doing a somersault just does not come up for someone my age.  The desire to do a somersault just does not come up much (OK, not at all for me) for someone my age; at least from my perspective.

Joel did one first to sort of remind me how to do this.  He is really good at it.  It looked pretty simple.  I squatted down and it did not seem so simple then. How does one start this in a painless way? Hannah Grace did one and I watched where her head hit. This seemed to be important to me when I squatted down to get ready. She said it kind of hurt her head.  Laura also squatted down to help me get the right form. However, she did not actually perform a somersault; she just offered advice.  I think I would have done better at offering advice than actually doing a somersault.

So, I just had to go for it.  I squatted back down and tucked my chin (Laura's advice) and just rolled over.  It made me dizzy. Something about that going over messed with my equilibrium. Hannah Grace was right.  It did hurt my head more than I thought.  Here's a truth for you; doing a somersault at 10 is far different from doing a somersault 40+ years later.

Here's the verse that came to my mind when I thought about the somersault.  Acts 17:6 says, "But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." Actually, the men who were following and teaching about Jesus were turning the world right side up. It's just if you are used to upside down then right side up seems upside down.  Jesus operates differently than what the world is used to. The world is used to people clamoring for power, money, sex, pleasure, and self.  Jesus said we are to deny self and follow Him.  Jesus said we are to put others before ourselves. Jesus said we are to give and lay up treasure in heaven.  Jesus said we are not to seek revenge, but to love and pray for our enemies.  Most of all, Jesus said the work of God is to believe in Him (John 6:29). 

Much of life is a trust issue.  Will we trust Jesus whose ways are not our ways or will we trust in what seems right and what our culture says is right?  It might be helpful to simply look around and see where the world's way brings us and where Jesus' way brings us.  When I reflect on my life, I'm always sad about living my way (choosing not to believe and obey God) and I'm always glad for the times I believed and obeyed God.

Glad Jesus' way leads to right side up abundant living

3 things I thank God for today
1. The small group Bible study I'm leading
2. People who pray on Wednesday nights
3. A good discussion tonight at church on what it means to have a heart for God