The days of sitting, rocking, and talking on the front porch with a neighbor, friend, or even total stranger may be gone. However the need for visiting folks is just as important as it ever was. 

"Well, we don't have a visitation program in our church," someone says. Who says you need a program to do what should really just be part of your Christianity. "Easy for you to say, preacher. You're paid to visit." 

If I know my heart, I would be engaged in regular visitation even if I wasn't a preacher--in part because of my upbringing. I can't remember a time that my family and I didn't make regular visits to homes, hospitals, nursing homes, door knocking to set up Bible studies, and so on. 

It started with my childhood, and I've carried it through to the present, a heart for ministry--visiting.  There has rarely been a month (for the last many years, a week) go by where visitation and personal Bible studies have not been part and parcel to my life. I reckon that if I could have it both ways, I'd spend 100% percent of my work day studying, and the other 100% of it visiting and conducting Bible studies. :-) Most preachers would I suppose. Now one of my great joys is instilling this discipline in the hearts of my children.

There is a wonderful illustration of the need for visiting in Luke 10:25-37. It tells of a man who was overtaken by thieves. His clothes were stolen, his body beaten, and he was left for dead in the street. The first two who came upon the tattered and tired man were religious individuals--a priest and a Levite. The priest didn't stop. He never made eye contact. He may have even crossed the street to walk on the other side. The Levite, who also should have known better, stopped and stared, but then behaved like the priest and walked on the other side.

It wasn't until a Samaritan saw him and had compassion on him that the abused was "visited"--looked upon, inspected, and then taken care of. Notice the order of this "visit." The Samaritan (1) approached the man, (2) served the man, (3) cared for the man, and (4) cared for the man some more.

While that's fascinating, what comes next should really stir us. Jesus says, "...Go, and do thou likewise" (v. 36). 

Jesus wants us to visit. I can think of no greater gift you can give yourself, your family, a friend or neighbor this year than to share your love by making a visit. Think about it.

I hope you have a great day!

Did you know that your Bible keeps a diary? It does. 

Let me share with you some of the entries from one person's Bible.

Jan. 15 -- Been resting for a week. The first few nights after the first of the year, my owner read me regularly, but has forgotten me I guess.

Feb. 2 --Clean up. I was dusted, with other things and put back in my place.

Feb. 12 -- Owner used me for a short time after dinner, looked up a few verses. Went to Sunday school.

March 7 -- Clean up. Dusted and in my old place again.

April 2 -- Busy day. Owner led a devotional meeting and had to look up references. He had an awful time finding me.

May 5 -- In Grandma's lap all afternoon. She is here on a visit. She let a tear fall on Colossians 2:5-7.

May 6 -- In Grandma's lap again this afternoon. It's a comfortable spot. Sometimes she reads me and sometimes she talks to me.

May 10 -- Grandma's gone...

July 1 -- Packed in a trunk with clothes. Off on a vacation.

July 10 -- Still in the trunk; everything else has been out.

July 15 -- Home again, and in my old place. Quite a journey, though I do not see why I went.

October 10 -- Was carried to church today and held up to be counted. 

December 31 -- Tomorrow I expect to have a knife run into me by each member of the family, blindfolded in turn and then a finger placed upon a verse to find their good luck verse. (Suppose the finger rests on John 5:39?)

Since every Bible is keeping a journal, what do you suppose your Bible's journal says about your reading and study habits? Would it have a special entry for each and every day? Would it say, about you, that you are a regular Bible student? 

In just a few days, we'll kick off 2015. What if you made the decision now to start with a daily Bible reading plan. Don't wait until January 1st. Start the habit now. If you do, it's far less likely that you'll give it up just a few days into the new year. 

See that your Bible's diary has great entries all through the year.

Have a great day!

P.S. The Piedmont Road church of Christ has a Bible reading plan each year that can be found on the church's website (click here). Beginning January 1, 2015, we will have two plans. One plan is to read the Bible through in a year. The other plan is a monthly read through the New Testament. If you'd like one of these reading schedules, you'll be able to find it on the church website beginning in January. Or, if you're a member of the Piedmont Road church of Christ, you can pick the schedule up at the welcome table in the foyer.

Sain, Harold. Scrapbook No. 2: Sermon Supplements, Sermons in Rhyme, Sentence Sermons, Paragraph Sermons. 1st Edition. p. 5.

In a book I'm reading it shared the story about a family that was faced with some rather challenging news. It was discovered that the wife and mother of this family of four had a malignant tumor. The good news was that the doctors were convinced they could remove it and all would be well. However, it would be a long recovery.

Like many homes, the mother was the heart and soul of the family and was quite the homemaker. Due to her condition she was not going to be able to complete her normal duties, and her children were too small to pick up the slack. Her husband did all he could, but he also had to keep up with his responsibilities at work. Both his and her parents lived many miles away, so they were not able to help with the day to day chores. 

Thankfully, this good family were members of a great church that really cared for one another, just like family should. So, during the illness and recovery from surgery there was constant foot traffic around the house. Church members cooked meals, did laundry, took care of the yard, ran errands, and helped care for the kids. What a blessing!

When the woman healed from her surgery, one of the neighbors went over to visit with her and to ask about all the visitors she had during her time of difficulty. The woman explained what these folks were doing each day and told her neighbor that these people were part of her extended family--her church family. To which the neighbor replied, "I want to know more about this church. I want a family like that."

After months of study and visiting with the local church of Christ, the neighbor was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins and she thereby became a member of this extended family too.

Amazing what letting our light shine before others can do for our neighborhood, community, and the world a large. Come to think of it, that's precisely what Jesus taught us to do and the result will be to God's glory.

The Bible says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 5:16). Is your light shining?

Have a great day!

Some folks just can't keep secrets. I'm not talking about betraying a confidence. I'm referring to something like wanting to give someone a gift, or do something special, and then just can't wait until "the appointed time." Something within you says, "I just can't hold out any longer. I have to give this gift". 

I have a tendency to be like that! Ask Emily. The anticipation and the excitement just kills me and I can't hold out any longer. I justify why it would be best to go ahead and "just do it." Are you ever like that? Or, is it just me?

This time of year is the worst. I wonder, have you already bought someone a gift, and instead of waiting until Christmas you just had to give it to them early?

In the New Testament we find Jesus saying "my time is not yet come." You know why? He and His Father were working together on a precious gift. They didn't want to give it early, they had to wait until just the right moment.

After the personal prayer service of Jesus in a lonely garden, interrupted by a so-called friend and a multitude carrying swords, it was time to give the gift. 

After the Lord's disciples forsook Him, the Bible says, "And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away . . ." (Mt. 26:57). The special "package" was then delivered.

Oh, this gift was anticipated from the beginning. But it wasn't the anticipation that killed the Giver. It was the death itself. That was the anticipated gift. 

Thanks be to God that He waited to give the perfect gift at just the right time. 

Today, if you have not accepted that gift, I hope you'll think about doing so. I'd love to share with you what the Bible says you must do to accept that gracious gift by faith. 

Have a great day! 

In Joe Wells' book, Game Plan, he writes about "raising the bar". He says, "God truly does expect his people to be different. He expects His children to stand up and to rise to the challenges placed before us, to be more than what this world expects."

Game Plan challenges both adults and teens to be the men and women that God wants them to be. In the chapter that deals with "raising the bar", Wells challenges the reader to do three things--the game plan, if you will.

First, to raise the bar, he suggests that we make the decision now to set a good example for others. Perhaps it's the language we use, our work ethic, or just our attitude in general. As a family we should discuss that Christians are different than the rest of the world. While there will be lots of folks setting bad examples, it's our responsibility not to join in, but to give something good and wholesome to follow. We should be able to tell others, "follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).

Second, to raise the bar, the author suggests that as a family, take on a task in the local congregation and let your kids lead that job. If your congregation is like ours, there are many times when someone is in need of a meal. What if, mama, you sit down with your daughter and describe to her the need and then ask her to come up with a menu for dinner one night this week. Together, you go to the grocery store and then cook the meal. Load the entire family into the car and then off you go to the person's house that you've made the meal for. Teach your family how to serve, and then the importance of making a short visit.

Third, to raise the bar, Wells' says that children should have chores. Now I know kids need to play, socialize, and study for school, but they also need a job. They need to be taught the value of work. We tell our kids that they are part of the family and as such they are required to do some chores around the house--without the expectation of financial gain. Their reward for these jobs is knowing that they've completed their task well and have contributed to the work of the house. Teaching children a work ethic is part of what we must do in training up our children in the way of the Lord (Pro. 22:6).

Let's raise the bar in our homes. Or better yet, let's recognize the bar that God has already set for our families.

I hope you have a great day!

Wells, Joe. Game Plan: Develop a Spiritually Winning Strategy for Adults and Teens in Today's Culture. Brentwood, TN: Focus Press, 2011.

Did you hear the story about the woman who went to the police station looking for her husband? Here's how it went:

My husband is "twenty-nine years old, six-foot-three, athletic, and handsome." The sergeant shook his head. "Wait a minute, lady. I know your husband. He's fifty, short, and overweight." The woman said, "Sure he is, but who wants him back?"

Sometimes a husband or wife will become dissatisfied with one or the other and that dissatisfaction turns to disgust, and then divorce. The next step is to look for greener pasture. The reality is, the pasture is just fine where you are, you simply need to open your eyes to what you've been missing.

Did you know, that it's usually the case that you hold the key to a successful and happy marriage in your own hand? It's true. "Happiness depends on learning to want what we have more than on having what we want."

The Bible says, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Phil. 4:11). Would this principle not also apply in marriage? 

Think about it. 

I hope you have a great day!

This morning, I'm on my way to attend the funeral of my maternal grandmother. It's another reminder of the certainty of both life and death. 

Joseph Jefferson cleverly stated, "We are but tenants, and . . . shortly the great Landlord will give us notice that our lease has expired." I've never heard it stated quite that way, but it's true. 

The Bible says, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27, ESV). Each of us will die, but not one of us really believe it will happen today. However, it just might!

Are you ready?

The sobering statistic regarding death is 1 out of 1. 

In a few hours, I'll stand over the casket of Grandmother and will reflect upon my memories of her these past 37 years. There will be some who shed tears and are rather vocal, and others who will merely smile, and say nary a word. We all mourn differently. Our memories vary. Some will dwell on the negatives, and others the positives. But we will remember her.

Perhaps today will be your day--the day you crossover to the timeless side of life. It's not up to us to decide when we're going to leave this world. However we will decide how we're going to live in it. 

Make decisions now to live well so that when we stand over your casket, we will be able to do so with great joy for the future that awaits you.

Have a blessed day.

Two boys were put in I.S.S. (in school suspension). The one boy asked, "Whatcha in for?" "I got caught talking to Bill. You?" "I got caught talking to God."

Strange how talking to God can get one into trouble, especially when you consider all the benefits it affords. Martin Luther once said, "The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes."

Once again, prayer has made it's way into the spotlight this week--and I don't mean in a good way. Seems like when people invoke God in a public way they're often chastised and demeaned. It won't be a surprise to many of us if one day we're put in jail for praying at the dinner table of our favorite restaurant. 

I hope that we never stop talking to God, even if threatened with prison time. Because, ". . . this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hearth us" (1 Jn. 5:14).

I hope you have a great day!

Do you know what you want to do with your life? Perhaps you're already doing it--"living the dream", as one of our deacons likes to say. 

At the age of 12, a scrawny pre-teen asked Bill Hewlett, founder of Hewlett-Packard, if he could have some computer parts. He was trying to build a computer. Steve Jobs would later build the Apple empire and develop an almost cult like following. He knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, even at age 12. 

To make your dreams a reality it takes a couple of things--vision and goals, and old fashion hard work. Any successful organization I've ever read about had these qualities. 

As Christians, we would do well to have vision, and goals for our future--and then have a plan of action to pursue them. It's not just the long term goals that we should think about, but the short term ones as well. For example:

I want to read my New Testament through monthly. I will therefore read nine chapters each day.

I want to make one visit each week. I will contact the church office on Monday morning and ask for the name of one family that I might go see this week.

I want to study the Bible with somebody, anybody. I will write down the names of 10 people I want to study with. Then, I'll ask them for the study. If I'm turned down 10 times, I'll repeat the process.

I want to teach a Bible class. I will find a good teacher to mentor me, and will sit in his/her class to learn techniques that will make me affective in the classroom.

Think of some area of service that you would really like to participate in--have a goal. Then, formulate a plan to be successful.

Above all, let's be sure that our goals and plans are rooted in a desire to do the will of the Lord (Jn. 6:40).

Have a great day!   

Christianity is more than religion it's a lifestyle. Religion is a set of beliefs, but Christianity is where we take correct, biblical beliefs and allow them to radiate from within. Christianity is who we are, how we think, what we say and do. Religion is easy; Christianity, well that's an entirely different matter. 

Anybody can put on a suit or dress and go to church on Sunday. We all can read our Bible. We can participate in the occasional church activity, or even give someone in need a meal or a few bucks for gas. 

If I'm religious, I just see Jesus on occasion. If I'm a Christian, Jesus lives in me and others will see Him everyday. The religious person is often focussed on what others are doing, whereas the Christian pays attention to what he's doing for Jesus. The religious person is interested in the status quo, but the Christian lives above the level of mediocrity and goes the second, third, and fourth miles. The religious person considers the church to be just another organization or business, where the Christian recognizes that his business is to live for Jesus. 

My Lord said, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 5:14-16). 

If we're truly disciples, more than just religiously right, then we'll make a difference in our own little world. A world which consists of our family, neighbors, co-workers, waiters, home repair folks, and so on. 

Mark Twain said, "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." 

Let's not be religious only, but let's only be Christians. You see, "Religion can offer a man a burial service, but Christ offers every man new, abundant, and everlasting life" (Wilma Reed).

Have a great day!