Conditional Love?

A reoccurring thought keeps coming to my consciousness, do we love people the way Christ taught? Do we love people like God does? I fear we don’t.

If we look objectively at our local church out reach and our global mission out reach I believe we will find the following to be true.

We tend to love only those we think we can add to our particular brand of Christianity, and get credit for doing so.

Quite an indictment huh? Is it fair? I believe so. Please notice I said “we”, I must include myself to my shame.

What do we do as a Christian community to feed the hungry, with no strings attached? In the context of the churches of Christ, why is it true that our benevolence is mostly received by other church of Christ people? (The same is true of other church groups)

Even some of our evangelistic efforts are done under the guise of wanting to “help” the people. The truth is we wouldn’t give them a second look if we knew we had no chance of eventually baptising them.

I think what Jesus had in mind, even the radical idea of loving our enemies, was to put our love in shoe leather with no hidden agenda. 

I recently got an object lesson in how to love from a group of Catholic high school boys from Manhattan, NY. The Xavier school, of Jesuit Catholics, were on their third trip to Bayou La Batre to help a small group of church of Christ people reach out to their community. There were about twenty boys with three teachers and an administrator. Each had raised his own support for the trip and they each paid $30 per day to the Hemley Rd church for food and lodging, such as it is. (No heat or air conditioning). And, they provided the money for building materials and brought a contractor with them on loan from Habitat for Humanity. They worked very hard for a week repairing homes.

Some of these boys have been back on their own, at their own expense three or four times. Their only motive is to help the hurting, to love people like Jesus taught.

While I don’t agree with their theology, I fully agree with the way they love in Jesus stead as they understand his teachings.

There have been several other groups who are not church of Christ people, who have come and given themselves to the people of the Bayou in remarkable ways whose only apparent motive was to serve others.

Let’s see….when was the last time I volunteered my time to help a Catholic relief effort or even less threatening, when did I volunteer at a local soup kitchen or work on a house with Habitat for Humanity?

Perhaps I still have some “Crazy Love” paragraphs bouncing around in my brain after reading Francis Chan’s challenging book. Whatever the reason I am not too happy with the way I love others or the way my people do.

Conditional love? I don’t think so…


Christmas eve thoughts

Today, Christmas eve 2008, has been a wonderful day. I arose at 5:30 a.m. and drove across town for a weekly Bible study. Several men and I meet at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday to fellowship, pray, and be challenged from the Word of God. Every week I am blessed by being with those good men whose lives encourage me to be all I can be for God.

I came back home and had a very long nap in my king size Lazy Boy recliner. (How appropriate is the name “Lazy Boy” for my chair?) In the afternoon Carol and I did some last minute Christmas shopping and then went across the river to a Christmas eve service at First Baptist West Monroe. It was a candle light service and we worshiped in song and taking the Lord’s Supper together. It was a warm, inspiring worship experience.

The pastor, John Avant, told us briefly about his visit with Dr. Billy Graham yesterday the 23rd. He traveled to Billy Graham’s home in NorthCarolina, (just a few miles from my family home) with the president of Chic Fillet. He spoke with passion and joy about singing carols for the beloved evangelist who is confined to his bed. Dr. Graham is 90 years old and still an encouragement to all who come into his path. He will soon be gone and there will not be another who will preach the gospel of Christ to so many millions as he.

Last night, my daughter Kelly and her family joined us for food, fun, and exchanging gifts. The boys were excited about bedroom shoes, bath robes, and lazer tag. They played ping pong on their new table, a gift from their grandparents. They are such a joy. Kelly is a gifted, beautiful, funny wife, mom, teacher and mentor to her students. Our son in law Jorgen (pronounced “yawn”) owns and operates an Ace hardware store, a Maggy Moo’s Ice Cream store in the mall, and is also very active in a marketing company. Nine year old twins, Corbin and Kevin, and their older brother Jorgen III who is 12, keep mom, dad, and us grandparents very busy indeed.

We just watched a Christmas special on Fox News channel from Saddleback church and Rick Warren and then the Fox and friends crew had a nice Christmas program too. In today’s politically correct world, what a refreshing thing for the number one news network to actually read scripture and talk about Christ coming to save sinners from their sins! I applaud them for doing so.

Tomorrow we will drive to Keller, Texas to my son’s house where we will celebrate Christmas with him, his wife and daughters. My son Jason recruits doctors for temporary assignments and his wife Trina is a speech pathologist for the Keller school system. They have three daughters, Kelsie 16, Adysen8, and Allie who is 7. Each is unique and precious and we love them very, very much and look forward to spending time with them.

Both of our kids and their spouses are devout followers of the Christ and are active in their churches and leading their children to be people of God. I have much to be thankful for this Christmas season.

This year has been wonderful. Carol and I have had lots of opportunities for ministry through her work with WFRRelief and our Grief Share ministry. Carol, my beautiful and amazing wife, has spoken to women’s groups, leads a Heart to Home group, teaches the Bible, does the public praying for her chorus group and sings with the chorus and her quartet Sweet Harmony. On one Saturday recently they sang at 6 different places. What a delight to have such a talented and gracious wife.

I have had the wonderful blessing of joining God in His redemptive work. God has honored His word and I was blessed to have a part in reaping the harvest. For this and every opportunity to lead others to Him, or to help them more fully trust Him, I am humbled and grateful. It is far, far more than I deserve.

Christ is indeed the gift that keeps on giving. If I have another day, another week, month, or many more years to live on this earth I pray that I will continue, as weak and frail as I am, to follow Him where ever He leads.

I expect 2009 to be a great year. It, like all the years of my almost 63, will be full of problems, difficulties, hardships, and disappointments, but through it all, whether alive or dead, I will be a victor in Jesus.

I am humbled by what God can do with an average country boy with lots of warts and bumps spiritually, but who though oft times stumbling, and sometimes falling, continues to follow, and has for over 45 years.

In the last few days I have had visitors to Grace Digest from several countries around the world and from many states. I am amazed. Soon Carol and I will begin our 5th year of facilitating Grief Share groups for those who have lost loved ones. And, there are many who need to be loved, encouraged, prayed for, and many, many folks must hear about this Christ child who has provided eternal life for everyone who will trust Him.

May God bless you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

His peace,

God’s Soldiers United – Bro’ Mark Robbins

Since hurricanes katrina and Rita I have met scores of great folks who have given of themselves tirelessly to serve others who are less fortunate, hurting, and often homeless. I am amazed at the lengths people will go to help people who are devastated by natural disasters. One of these amazing people is Mark Robbins of Sebring, Florida.

Carol and I met Mark in Bayou La Batre, Alabama not long after Katrina left her ugly mark on the small fishing community. After loosing his girl friend in a motorcycle accident Mark was moved by the Lord to go help the helpless rather than spend his time feeling sorry for himself. The mayor of Bayou La Batre introduced Mark to Daphne German and the Bayou Recovery Project. He went right to work that day and for about 9 months Mark was an invaluable servant in the releif effort in BLB. There is nothing Mark cannot do or will not do short of brain surgery. He laid tile in the Hemley Road church building, cooked the best BBQ bacon wrapped shrimp on the planet, cleaned and repaired houses, delivered food, furniture, and clothing and did anything else that was asked of him.

Mark’s most recent work was in the Iowa floods. He worked out of the Burlington church of Christ and was a wonderful blessing to the folks there where again he demonstrated what a servant looks like. You can visit his website ( ) to learn more. Mark Robbins is worthy of your support. He is now raising funds and working at anything he can find so he will have money to go to the next catastrophe ready to help. He has no formal support, only the gifts of people like me and you allow people like Mark and others to serve those in need.

Thanks for your prayers on his behalf.

His peace,

When will you be here?

A full three hours before time for church Billy Spaulding’s phone rings and when he answers a teen’s voice asks expectantly “When will you be here to get me?”  This story is repeated each Sunday morning and night as children in Bayou La Batre anticipate going to the Hemley Road church of Christ where waiting for them is warm embraces, smiles, food, and unconditional love. Billy recently told me they could have 200 perhaps each time the doors are open if they had the means to round them all up and then to care for them when they arrived.

Recently when well over a dozen of the children who are regular attenders at HR were to graduate from the eighth grade, again the phones rang and rang, and Billy Spaulding and Daphne German assured each excited caller, “Yes, of course we will be there to see you graduate”. Unfortunately, most of the parents of these kids couldn’t, (or wouldn’t) make it to the school.

On Sunday morning the first two pews are packed with bright, eager faces of teens and pre-teens, anxious to sing loudly the praise songs they have been taught, and to praise the God they are getting to know. Just a few adults and one young summer intern are there to help these kids find their way in the world, and hopefully in God’s kingdom. With very, very limited resources, the folks at Hemley Road church in Bayou La Batre have accomplised the impossible again and again but are stretched to the limit. They need other adults to come along side them, they need money for food, (the kids are seriously hungry when they come), and they need  emotional/moral support. “When will you be there?”

In a communtiy where poverty is the norm, where adult illiteracy is very high, where substance abuse is also normitave, a small group of believers are loving the people, repairing homes, feeding the hungry, and making a quiet impact on their communtiy for time and eternity. Against impossible odds they have acheived so very much, but the work ahead is enormous. “When will you be there”?

If you personally, or your church or civic group, want to reach out in a meaningful way to the poor, the broken, the truely needy, please consider a generous gift, or even better perhaps, go there and see for yourself how you can make a difference.

“When will you be here?” What will you answer?

His peace,