More Than A Feeling

Feelings

I don’t know about you, but my feelings change like the weather. One minute I’m high and the next I’m low. One minute I have great peace the next moment I feel that uncomfortable sensation called anxiety. Some want you to think that if you have such feelings you aren’t really a Christian. But, my bible reveals that this means you’re human. This is why I must be stabilized by my faith in Jesus Christ alone and not my fragile feelings.

It’s been said “you’ve got to stand for something or you fall for anything.” The devil is hoping that you don’t stand on the solid truth found in God’s word. Why? Because if you don’t stand firmly on God’s truth you will fall prey to anything the devil throws your way.

You see, momentary feelings will lead you constantly astray. They can wreck relationships, ruin your integrity, and cause you to question everything that comes your way. However, trusting in what God’s words says instead of just how you feel is critical to a stabilized life. Too often, what people refer to as God is simply their gut. And, last time I checked you shouldn’t trust your gut more than your God.

So, as you go through this roller coaster called life. Make sure that you maintain a firm faith in God and His word. If not your ever changing feelings will lead you away from a never changing God. Your faith must be more than feelings. Your faith must be what you rely on when your feelings are misleading you by the moment.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”                             1 Corinthians 16:13

“…You must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

 

I Just Had To Try

Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial

After months of research and great anticipation the big day finally arrived. I got to try for 7 days a temporary spinal cord stimulator in hopes of finding significant pain relief. Wires were put into my back and connected to a battery back. Then, everything was taped so much to my back that even the strongest tornado couldn’t shake it loose. I couldn’t bend, lift, twist, or reach for the next week. I was not allowed to bath or shower the entire time. My 7 year old didn’t quite understand these instructions. He said, “Daddy, I know you can’t take a bath, but at least you can go swimming.” I told him to go and ask his mom how the two of those things were quite similar.

Anyway, along with this unit came a device used to control the level of pulses sent throughout my lower boy. With just a few clicks I could feel sensations from my lower back all the way through both feet. After I got past my initial discomfort, I was able to discover the potential of this device. I received nearly 100 percent relief while I was lying down. It gave me as much as 75% relief while on my feet. It took a lot of trial and error to discover whether I would want this stimulator to be surgically implanted in days to come. Praise God, I discovered this unit could definitely help my situation.

Now, do understand this is not a cure for anything, but advanced technology that helps you to not feel extreme nerve pain. You still have to recognize your limitations, but man it’s nice to not have to cry yourself to sleep. You will still have tough days, but man its nice to get out the house a few hours without feeling like you’ve been hit by a car. This unit basically gives you back some quality of life. Instead of spending the rest of your life with a miserable level of pain.

There was only one thing I had to do to experience this relief and that was try it. After all, how else would I know if it could help me? I knew worst case scenario I would have wasted 7 days of my life trying. But, I knew that was nothing compared to spending the rest of my life having never tried to find some relief.

You know sometimes God puts opportunity in front of us. Maybe it’s a certain job, relationship, or window that could lead to brighter days. Or maybe it’s a spinal cord stimulator that could change the course of your life. Whatever the opportunity you can’t know the possibilities unless you give it a shot. Personally, I would rather die trying than to have never tried at all. Thanks to my seven days of trying I now know that better days await me. However, I would have never known if I had never tried.

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:16-17)

Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

Young man experiencing road rage

Recently my oldest son Matthew graduated from Colleton County High School. There could not have been two prouder parents watching that day. We took every picture we could and enjoyed all that day had to offer. The only thing I didn’t like was what we encountered in our attempt to exit the school parking lot. 

Do realize there were hundreds of people filling Cougar stadium that day. So it was expected that it would not be an easy task to get anywhere quickly. My graduate son and I rode together on our way to his graduation party not even a mile away. Well a mile might as well have been one hundred miles. 

I’m not joking when I say it took over 30 minutes before we even moved out of our parking space. We watched as car after car passed by determined not to let anyone take the space in front of them. I had never seen anything like it. I’m talking about people that would look you dead in the face like they might kill you should you pull out in front of them.

I must admit that this preacher was doing all he could to let the spirit of God continue to lead him. At one point, I literally rolled down my window to speak out kindly to one lady the words “What are you teaching your children?”  My graduated son was like “Daddy you’re going to get us killed.” To which I replied, “Sadly, you’re probably right son. But, I just can’t believe someone would conduct themselves in certain ways while their kids are watching their total unselfishness.”

Now, I can’t speak for those folks, but my momma raised me differently. I was raised to consider others’ needs more than my own. I was raised to open doors and look for ways to show kindness. Honestly, I find the opportunity to do such things is  a joy, not a burden. It was obvious that many passing me by that day did not feel the same way. You could see it on their face and in their actions. 

For those who have had this kind of stuff happen to them before I don’t feel the need to explain. I do want to challenge all reading this right now to not be that person. Don’t be so rude, but look for ways to show kindness. Don’t be all about yourself, but consider others above yourself. Don’t rob yourself of the blessing that comes when you love your neighbor as yourself. 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)(NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

Young Parents Please Read

Aimee & Boys B&W

I’m writing this shortly after watching a slide show my wife made for my oldest son’s graduation party. The first time I watched it I’m sure I cried a bucket full of tears. The second time just a gallon of tear drops fell. But, by the fifth time I cried zero tears as there was nothing left within me to fall. My present feelings have compelled me to speak to every young parent that will listen. Here are a few things you must know before it’s too late.

First of all, before you know it your child will be graduating high school. For an entire week I’ve just kept saying “It was just yesterday that boy was born.” I’m sure many parents could tell you that it really does feel like yesterday. I remember finding out that we were expecting our first born. I remember how proud I was when he was born. In fact, I spent hours just staring through that nursery window at the hospital. Trust me, it’s going to feel like your child grows up overnight. So, you better make the most of your time together. 

Secondly, you will miss these days. God has blessed me with four healthy boys. But, I remember well when the three oldest were just ages 5, 3, & 1. I thought to myself back then, “If we can just get past this stage and these kids get older.” Man, was I totally wrong with my thinking. I would give anything for those days to return. Those were the best days of our lives. Listen, things may not feel easy at times in your life. But, trust me you’re going to miss those moments of easy hugs, kisses, cuddles, games, vacations, and laughter.

Finally, you must begin with the end in mind. By the grace of God my Matthew has grown into a wonderful young man. And, I give God and my wife much credit for her consistency over the years. But, I’m willing to admit that my firstborn taught me just as much as I taught him. I learned how important it is that I seize the moments in front of me. I now have weekly daddy days with my youngest son something I wish I had started years ago with him. I now know that once they are raised you have to release them. Remember that you are preparing your child to live without you, not just live with you. So, you have to do everything you possibly can to make sure they are prepared for whatever lies ahead in their life. They are worth your time and the extra effort you can give them. 

So, young parents simply know this for sure. This time will go by in a blink. Treasure every moment you have with those children. Seize every moment you can to love them like Jesus, point them to Jesus, and encourage them to live for Jesus. Then, what God has invested through you will touch many more lives through them.

(Psalm 127:3) “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.

(Proverbs 22:6) “Train up a child [a]in the way he should go,Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

 

Dear Son, I’ll Try Not To Cry

Matthew Baby & Grad

Anyone who has ever watched a child grow up right before their very eyes will totally get what I’m writing. Anyone who has ever heard someone say years ago “before you know it that child will be all grown up”, you now understand. Anyone that is about to watch their son or daughter walk across that graduation stage you will totally relate to the words you’re about to read.

Dear Son, I’m trying so hard not to cry. But, I’ve got a feeling that soon the tears are going to just start rolling. As your high school graduation gets closer I’m finding that you’re constantly on my mind. Maybe it was seeing those graduation invitations be mailed. Maybe it was looking through all those pictures of you as a baby that I’m convinced were taken yesterday. Maybe it’s simply the fact that I totally realize you’re about to spread your wings and leave home.

Ok, I totally lied. Forget trying not to cry because the tears are now rolling. Trust me these aren’t tears of disappointment. Daddy could not be any prouder of the young man you’ve become. Your character, heart, and achievements make daddy look like a much greater father than I really am. Yes, I’ve tried my very best to be the man you needed in your life. But, some things in life can only be credited to our Heavenly Father who is always good, great, and faithful.

You were my first of four boys. When you came along your mother and I were still figuring out adulthood ourselves. Your mom was only 22 and I was only 24. We had only been married two years when God blessed us with you. It did take us a little while to name you since two ultrasounds led our doctor to believe you were a girl. Then, you were born and surprised the whole world.

I literally had to take pictures out into in the crazy waiting room crowd to prove that you were a whopping 9lb 10oz boy. Just so you know, your original name was Ansley Breanna Crosby. We already had a cute little dress with that name embroidered on it. Then, you threw us a curve ball. We had to return nearly 75 girl gifts we had received from baby showers. Thank God back then Walmart took back just about anything!

After being totally surprised that day we knew we needed to call you something other than “Baby Boy.” God led us to call you “Matthew” which means “Gift From God.” Boy have you lived up to that name everyday of your life. You’ve brought us so much joy since the day you were born as that unexpected boy. But, now you’re about to graduate from high school, head to the University of South Carolina, and whether I like it not, leave home. Yes, I knew we were raising you to know how to live without us, but I never imagined it would be this hard on my heart. Here are a few things I pray you never forget:

One, God has amazing plans for your life. You weren’t born by accident, but God has laid out purpose for the rest of your earthly life. I pray you settle for nothing less than God’s best for your life. Wherever God leads I will always fully support. Whatever you do I will always believe in the God who I know lives within you. I’m so excited to see all God is going to do both in and through you as you seek His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Two, God is always with you. You might recall a framed letter daddy gave you a few years ago. It says, “Daddy will always love you. Daddy will always be proud of you. But, Daddy can’t always promise to be there for you.” As much as I will always strive to be super dad I can’t match your Super Heavenly Father. Only He can promise and prove to always be there for you and to never leave you. Even when all of life has changed and you’re not sure what to do next. Never doubt, that God is always there, still has a plan, and will never leave your side.

Three, God has everything worked out in detail. From the college you will attend, the roommate you will have, to the degrees you will receive. From the person you are meant to marry, the career you are meant to pursue, to the place you will start your young family. I have discovered over the years that all I’ve got to do is keep putting my little hand in His big hand and let Him lead the way. Never doubt that God has it all figured out. You don’t have to create your plans. You need to keep getting down on your knees and seeking wholeheartedly His plans.

Well, I’m sure I’ll cry some more in days to come. I’m sure my heart won’t easily let go. But, you can bet that every tear that falls is only because I love you more than you can ever dream or imagine. And, one day I hope you get the joy of writing a letter to your son because he has brought you such joy. I love you Matthew Aaron Crosby. Love, Daddy.

Uncomfortable In My Own Skin

Nobody Understands

Mother’s Day started out as a pretty good day. I woke up very grateful for the mother I’ve been blessed to have all my life. In fact, I preached about how grateful I was before many others at church. Everything was great until nerve pain began to surge throughout my body. I’m talking about the kind that makes my entire inside feel like I’m on fire, but nothing will put out the flame.

It’s in these moments that I find I’m desperate to find someone who truly understands my pain. It’s in these moments that I feel the most misunderstood. I find that my words can’t make someone else understand what they’ve never experienced. I find that their lack of understanding only makes me feel more misunderstood. In fact, it just simply makes me feel totally uncomfortable in my own skin.

Now, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no one to be upset with concerning this matter. I’ve also concluded that it’s during such critical moments that we each desperately need to be understood. We all long for someone to recognize our pain and encourage us through our pain. And, I believe this can only happen when the person in front of us can truly identify.

Ever since chronic nerve pain has interrupted my life I’ve found myself drawn to others who have similar pain. When I run into anyone who can really identify it settles my soul deeply. Why? Because we both speak similar language. We both know what it’s like to go day after day just wishing for that particular pain to go away. We both know what it’s like to pray every night that we aren’t up all night.

You see, we all need to feel that we can confess our struggles without being judged. We all need to bare our souls without being misunderstood. And, we all just need to get certain things off of our chest before we explode. I’ve concluded that this is done best when the person in front of you not only cares about your pain, but can identify with your pain. Whatever your pain the encouragement of others is critical. I encourage you to find your tribe and those people who can truly understand your struggle and encourage you through your present battle.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)(NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Miracle On Chestnut Street

Little John Miracle Baby

I received the following text message from a friend on Saturday night, April 22nd at approximately 11:26pm. “Sorry to bother you so late. Chris and Fannie’s baby John is being flown to MUSC. He has a fractured skull and is not responding. He walked behind a bat after it was swung and was hit in the head. Chris (his dad) is also in the emergency room as they thought he may have had a heart attack.”

 Honestly, I felt like I could have a heart attack just hearing what just happened to my friend’s 2 year old little boy. I would soon find out that both the baby and the family were presently still at Colleton Medical as they awaited the arrival of the helicopter that would fly Little John to MUSC Children’s Hospital.

 I arrived at Colleton Medical shortly before Little John and the family departed. The fear I saw in each parent’s eyes said it all. Both were literally scared to death as they just weren’t sure what the next moment might hold for their little boy. By the grace of God, John was still breathing and was now somewhat responsive. As I led the entire family in prayer that frantic night all I could do was beg God for a miracle if it were His will to save Little John.

 Now, anyone taking a full bat swing to the back of their head would be lucky survive. But, when you’re only a toddler the odds of your survival decrease significantly. The next day after Little John’s accident I get the following text message concerning his condition at MUSC. It read, “His Skull fracture is on major vessels. They did more scans and all the doctors are reviewing them. Then, they will decide what to do next.”

 Well, while the doctors continued pondering what they should do, God began revealing even more what He could do. They decided at that time that it was best they let some of the swelling go down before they did anything further. Messing with what they presently saw on those scans let them know they would need some divine intervention.

Little John After Surgery TUBES

GOD IS AT WORK!

Little John After Surgery STUFFED ANIMAL

Recovering So You Can See What God Can Do!

Literally, just two days later after this breathtaking accident, Little John was holding his daddy’s hand and smiling. In fact, he and his little brother were eating Krispy Kreme donuts in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit together. Now what once appeared life threatening doctors said simply appeared as bruising in the back of his head.

Little John Krispy Kreme

Who Can Resist Krispy Kreme?

 On April 24th, just 4 days after this accident John would have surgery on the back of his head. On April 26th, just 6 days after a blow to his head that should have easily taken his life, he was released to come home. On April 26th, just 8 days after that nightmare night Little John attended the afternoon wedding of his Aunt and Uncle.

Little John HEADING HOME

Daddy Let’s Go Home!

 When I saw this child myself in person I could not believe my eyes. There was no longer a cast or any protective covering on the back of his head. In fact, there was no sign of anything wrong with this 2 year old kid who just stared death in the face only 8 days before. All I could say is “How great is our God!” And, I can tell you that I saw firsthand a miracle that lives on Chestnut Street. I saw the face of God when I looked into the eyes of Little John that day. And, I told his parents, “that in over 23 years of ministry dealing with countless crisis I had never seen a miracle like what God did in the life of Little John. And, it’s something that will inspire my belief in miracles for the rest of my life.”

Little John Wedding

Little John on the right heading to a wedding!

 (Matthew 19:26)(NIV) Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Christopher “John” Hiers IV is the son of Christopher John Hiers Sr. & Fannie Hiers. Both of them and their family are so appreciative of all the prayers many in our community prayed on their behalf.

Thank God For The Pain

Unless I take knockout medication I’m usually not getting any sleep before 2am. Yet, even through the long nights and days I can hear God’s voice so clearly. As much as this journey has exhausted me I’m thankful for all the ways God has used the pain. I see life totally different than before.

I’m more grateful for the things I used to overlook. Before I never thought it was a big deal to be able to work, play, and run whenever you choose. Oh, what I would I give to be out on a boat fishing with my almost 16 year old. Oh, what I would give to take my wife out on a date and not feel like the pain was disrupting conversation. Oh, what I would give to take my 7 year old on a piggy back ride. In fact, I bet he would love it if daddy could just jump on the trampoline with him.

I’m certainly more aware of other’s pains. I’ve always loved people, but now I know how pain disrupts every aspect of life. I know what its like to feel powerless to change your circumstance. I know what it’s like to feel like your pain will never end and that you’re always a burden. I can easily recognize pain deep in other people’s eyes. And, I always take the time to bring what comfort I can because I know they need someone to care and seek to understand.

I’m by far more prayerful. Let’s just be honest, it often takes crisis to bring us to our knees. But, when the pain is never ending it keeps you on your knees. I’ve never prayed harder or longer about something in my life. Most of all, I’ve learned to pray sincerely “His will, not my will be done.”

I know my faith is stronger. God has been building my faith step by step through this journey. I’m learning how to endure, be patient, and trust even when I can’t clearly see where this will lead. For many months now I’ve known this was a purposeful journey that God has allowed in my life. It’s not my job to figure it all out, but to trust that God will work all things out.

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”                     (1 Peter 1:7)

Don’t Be Afraid To Wait

PATIENCE. I’m just not sure that any of us are born with this ability. Yet, it’s something we all must develop if we plan to accomplish anything great. Why? Because life is full of waiting seasons. However, waiting never seems to be easy for most of us.

Before we ever even breathe our first breath we find ourselves waiting. Typically for nearly nine months we remain in our mother’s womb as our parent’s anxiously await our earthly arrival. I’m sure most of us were kicking and screaming to be delivered earlier than expected. But, God knew what was best.

When you’re very young you can’t wait to grow up. You can’t wait stay up later. You can’t wait to get your driver’s license. You can’t wait to get out of school and control your own destiny. Most of us just had no idea that we were living the good life with no bills, no job, and no adult problems.

As we get older we discover that waiting is still a part of life. In fact, as we grow wiser we discover that waiting is a necessary part of life. For example, we learn that if we can’t afford something its best we wait until we can to purchase it. Before we jump into marriage we need to make sure that we’re ready to make that lifelong commitment. Before we just jump into any career we need take time to know we are pursuing something we enjoy.

Now, at this point in my life I thought most of my waiting would be over. But, here I sit constantly waiting for many things to happen in God’s perfect timing. While I’ve not reached any point where waiting was easy I have come to realize that waiting is absolutely necessary. You see, I would rather wait on God’s perfect plan than to run ahead with my own any day. I encourage you to not be afraid to wait. For I believe with all my heart that good things do come for those who wait on the Lord. Seek to do things His way and wait on His perfect timing.

(Isaiah 40:31) But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

*Craig Crosby is the Senior Pastor @ Refuge Church of Walterboro, SC. Find out more information and listen to past sermons by going to http://www.RefugeChurch.org. 

It’s Just Tough To Be Here

Walking Towards the Crsso

The days and nights are so long. I’m so far from feeling like myself. In fact, I’m simply somewhere in life I’ve never been before. I desperately wish things could just go back to normal. Yet, even after much prayer the pain is still real and the reality is constant. I can so relate to the many times others have said to me, “It’s just tough to be here.”

Maybe you’re somewhere in life you’ve never been before. You just wish you could go back to the good old days. When life was seemingly more predictable. When your aches and pains were far less. When your heart felt so much more settled. Yet, you realize just like me that going back in time is simply not an option.

I believe it’s so critical in these times that we realize our pain and suffering will not last forever. Yes, this life is full of ups, downs, wins, and losses. But, one day for every true believer in Jesus Christ this roller coaster ride will come to an end. And, therefore we can still look forward with great hope.

In this life, Jesus promises to give us peace even in the midst of the chaos. In the next life, God promises complete peace, no more pain and no more chaos. Yes, in Heaven everyday will be total paradise. Thankfully God’s word reveals promise for all who are in Christ both for now and later. So, in the midst of feeling hopeless we have to cling to this hope.

Revelation 21:4 says that one day in Heaven “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Get It Off Your Chest

As I write this I’m sitting in bed with a brace around my neck, ice on my shoulders, and a heating pad on my lower back. I would like to say this is an abnormal experience, but lately it’s become rather normal. For over 11 months since my major back surgery recovery has been a day and night, painful experience. But, I can promise you that I’m continuing to faith walk.

Now, I’m always aware that there are many that are tired of hearing about my struggles. They would rather me say I’m suddenly healed or just keep my mouth shut. After all, I am supposed to be a man of great faith. Well, let me make this very clear to anyone listening. We all struggle, we all fall short, and we all deal with things daily we just wish would go away.

If there is one thing I’ve discovered for sure during this seasonal journey it’s the fact that confession really is healing. First, there is nothing harder than living a lie. Secondly, just to get things off your chest makes things so much more bearable. Thirdly, allowing God to use your struggle gives you a clear view that your pain in not in vain.

Now, I don’t know what you have going on in your life at this time. But, I know these things for sure. Confession is healing. Confession of your struggle builds a bridge from your heart to the hearts of others who are struggling. And, confession is critical to God being able to use your weakness to reflect His greatness. It’s alright to cry. It’s alright to shout. And, it’s healing to let it all out.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

God Spoke Through Tiger Words

Tiger Woods

I just finished watching an interview of Tiger Wood’s on Sports Center. Tiger was asked, “Will you ever be able to return to playing championship level golf again?” I could totally relate to his every response!

Tiger said, “I can! Of course I’ve got to get a lot stronger, get back out there on the golf course, and feel like I can compete again. But, I’ve still got to get a lot better.”

He was told “You know there have been glimpses of us thinking you were becoming the old Tiger and then suddenly we hear issues about your back again. Is there some specific thing you can put your finger on that happened?”

Tiger responds, “Well, it’s the fact that I’ve had 3 back operations. My back will never be what it “used” to be. Unfortunately that’s the reality of it. I’m going to have good periods and I’m gonna have bad periods. For the rest of me life. I wish it was different. But, once you operate on it, it’s never gonna be the same.”

“Was it surprising when it acted up again?” Tiger says, “Well, yes it was surprising that it hurt that much. I’ve had moments where it’s hurt before. But, I’ve just got to accept that this is the way it’s gonna be with continued ups and downs.”

“I want be able to work like I used to. I want be able to train like I used to. But, I will have to alter and find other ways around it. And that’s just the reality of the situation.”

How much time have you thought about this life change? “A lot. Not being able to compete at a high level like I used to. And then not being able to participate in my kids lives. That has probably been the most difficult.”

“My kids are very active. They want to play different sports and they want daddy to play. And when I was struggling there laying on the ground, laying in the bed, not able to do those things. That really took a toll on me mentally. Because I wasn’t able to participate in my kids lives.”

“Have I looked at things differently going forward? Absolutely! But, my number one priority now is making sure I’m able to do the things with my kids like I would like. My priority to participate in golf at the same level is not the priority it used to be. That’s just the way it is.”

Wow! Do you see how four time Master’s Champion Tiger Wood’s perspective has changed through his pain and suffering. Before all he saw was golf, golf, golf. But, in his interview I could see a sincere heart change. And with heart change comes life change.

Maybe we need to let our pain redirect us towards things that matter most. I know just after one back surgery I can totally identify to the continued life struggle, but also much heart change. And, even in the pain I’m grateful for the renewed perspective!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”                   (James 1:2-4)

Dear Married Man

Almost everyday in the midst of many Christian songs, I intentionally listen to the song “Better Man” by the country group Little Big Town.

Why? Because I want to remind myself what I’ve seen over and over again in counsel situations. I’ve looked in the face of so many “used to be married” eyes where one’s spouse is just crying and praying that the love of their life would just seek to be a “Better Man.”

Listen, marriage can’t work unless you work at it. Men there comes a point you need to wake up, grow up, and step up. If you want to be respected then start living respectable. If you want that lady to stay by your side, then be her fearless and spiritual leader. Learn how to love her unconditionally and presently.

I’ve seen many married women that never gave up, but eventually did give out. If this message just saves one marriage it was worth every word. Trust me, I’ve run into way too many men that aren’t willing to listen until it’s too late.

Husbands love your wife as if it were the last day of your life. Don’t take them for granted and don’t ignore the signs that “YOU” need to change. And by the way, real change happens when you get over your pride, get down on your knees, and ask God to help you become the man you were created to be.

Oh, and know that your wife is not looking for you to fix her. She just needs to know she is loved and worth fighting for daily.”Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25)

Dear Sick & Healthy

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in this health battle journey is what many long term patients feel. Life changes for you. You have few moments you come up for air, but most of the time you feel under the weather (Just Not Yourself).

You never feel quite normal and you can never fully accept things have changed so much. Every good moment matters so much more than before. Things others take for granted you now see as a gift.

People’s encouragement and prayers are life giving. You remember every kind and inspirational word. You don’t ever want to feel like a burden, yet you’re totally aware of your desperate need for grace & support.

If this describes how you feel know that you’re not alone. And know that God will be with you every second of every day. His grace is sufficient and His strength is enough.

If you know someone going through a tough stretch of health hear me clearly. Don’t ever make them feel like a burden and don’t ever make them feel insignificant. Know that your kindness means a lot and prayers carry them far. And know it’s only by God’s grace you’re not in their shoes.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

 

A Fight Beyond The Flesh

Anytime you get closer to the goal line the defense rises to another level. I can feel the enemy’s attack even greater than before. There is no making sense of it except to call it spiritual warfare.

I know some of you think this is just preacher talk. But, trust me when Satan sees you making God-sized progress the greater tests will come. You suddenly experience things you never saw coming.

With no extra stress my heart has been racing. With no extra physical activity my body aches even more. And for no clear reason, I can feel a dark cloud seeking to hover over me.

To counter the lies I turn to God’s word. To bring peace to my soul I pray and give thanks to God. To not get caught up in my feelings I cling to my faith in Jesus day and night. To keep renewing my perspective I ponder all the times God has made the otherwise impossible, possible.

No, it’s not easy. But, I know my heart is pure before God. And I know God will watch over me and grant me favor.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

 

Dear Stuck

Sometimes you just find yourself in a tougher season where nothing feels easy and momentum just can’t be found. It doesn’t mean God is not at work, but you just feel stuck.

In these moments you must “Be still and know He is God.” In these moments you need not panic about anything, but you need to keep praying about everything so heavy on your heart and mind.

These times come to us all. They remind us that it’s not about our control, but knowing God is always in control. They grow our faith as we’re compelled to seek God more desperately than we usually do when things feel much easier.

So, if you feel stuck don’t underestimate what God is doing this very moment. Remember His faithfulness in days gone by. Be calmed by the assurance of His faithfulness in the present. I know that in God’s perfect timing your breakthrough will come if you keep the faith. So, stay the course, trust God with the process, and keep the faith!

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

*Join Pastor Craig Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ Refuge Church. They are located @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro. Come as you are, Never leave the same!

When You’re Going Through Hell

For those right now going through a battle way beyond your control. I know you are scared, hurting, and wondering when it will all come to an end. I’ve been in that kind of season for over 17 months now. Here are some things I’ve discovered will help you deal with things.

#1 Be honest with those who love you. Trying to look tough when you’re falling apart only increases the pain. Those who love you want to know how they can help and encourage you through this journey. Hiding pain from loved ones is never a good thing.

#2 Take One Day At A Time. I now know why this was one of my Granddad’s favorite songs. Sometimes life is way too overwhelming to look ahead or behind. Just focus on the next moment and seek to take the next right step.

#3. Pray, Pray, Pray. Some times it won’t matter how hard you try things won’t change by your efforts alone. Prayer is putting things into the hands of a God that can change anything. If you can walk, I strongly encourage you to prayer walk. It refreshes the soul and takes things off your chest that are way too big for you to handle.

#4 Open Your Bible. Every word in the Bible is God speaking to you. You must meditate on and digest God’s truth especially in the midst of your chaos. Your mind and heart can make you feel hopeless. But, God’s word will remind you that in Jesus Christ hope always remains.

#5 Find A Support System. I daily reach out to others who are battling with similar struggles. I often call or text someone that I know will pray for me in my most unbearable moments. I know that without the right support system you will fall apart. But, having others walking with you can make a great difference.

Whatever you do, don’t give up! God will take you through this valley and give you the strength and comfort so desperately needed at just the right time! I’m praying for you!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Looking for a church support system? Join Pastor Craig Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ Refuge Church of Walterboro. Come as you are, Never leave the same!

Let Go And Let God Work

I spend a lot of time daily with my heating pad, bible, and note pad. Sometimes late night and always early morning. I can thank my present trial for a lot of present gifts.

Now, I know I’m not the only one in pain. Every time I even head out my house I run into someone much worse than myself. I feel so drawn to come alongside others hurting and give them reason to hope.

Right now someone needs to hear these words. You are going to be alright. God is with you and God will never leave you.

Don’t let fear of the unknown shatter your faith. In fact, let it help you cling even tighter to your faith in Jesus Christ alone.

You see, before something life altering happens we think we’re in control. Then, unforeseen circumstance makes it clear we never were calling the shots.

God is not allowing this trial to destroy you. But, God plans for it to awaken you, develop you, and let you see where true hope comes from.

People and circumstances will change like the weather. Therefore, lasting peace can only be found in a never changing Heavenly Father.

So, in your time of seeming desperation don’t get bitter, but cry out to Jesus like never before. He will pick you up and carry you through the present valley.

In God’s hands there is no such thing as useless pain or hopeless situations. Every second of your struggle is divinely purposeful. So let go and let God work. You will discover God is faithful time and time again. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)                                                                                                                                      

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

What About The Caregiver?

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What I’m about to write comes from a lot of firsthand observation. Not just outside my home, but inside my house. When someone is sick and struggling the patient normally gets the bulk of the attention. The concern and prayers are often focused on an audience of one. But, what about the caregiver?

My own personal health has been like a never ending roller coaster ride. One moment I think I’m getting better and the next minute my nerve pain has me thinking I need a psychiatrist. Months before my back surgery and now nearly 9 months afterwards my wife Aimee is still helping me day and night.

Aimee knows what it’s like to help me out of bed day after day. She knows what it’s like to have to tie a grown man’s shoes. She knows what it’s like to feel like a full time nurse and waitress. Thank God, she also knows how to just take me by the hand while tears are rolling and just pray. She even listens to the same painful complaints day after day. She not only has to watch me suffer constantly, but inside she is suffering. Not to mention having to still carry on with so many other daily responsibilities as if she were a single mother. After all, we do have four boys that need attention.

While serving as a hospice chaplain I’ve spotted this issue quite often. First, I would recognize and get to know the actual patient that was obviously battling some life threatening illness. However, I knew it was impossible to ignore the other person who loved them dearly and was always by their side. We call that person the primary caregiver. Meaning that person was the main one who looked after the care of their loved one all the time.

I’ve learned over time the significance of pulling aside the primary caregiver for a private conversation. I wanted to look into their hurting eyes and recognize their heavy heart. I would tell them something I knew they desperately needed to hear. “Hey, I just want you to know I realize there is more than just one struggling patient in this house.” Often, the tears would roll down their cheeks. As for just a few moments they got to express their struggle, their pain, their heartbreak, and get the much needed attention they deserved.

So, when you see someone going through something big and life changing. Don’t just check on the patient, but recognize the caregiver. Take time to pray for and encourage that person who is fighting daily to encourage the patient they dearly love. Because I know personally that without a great caregiver it’s hard to make a great recovery. 

You see, even though I feel in the greatest physical fight of my life. I’m constantly realizing that without my wife being such a great caregiver I would never make it through. So, caregivers out there who don’t feel appreciated enough know that we realize your priceless importance. And that you not only hurt for the patient, but you are hurting yourself.

 “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”          (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

God Spoke Through A Legend

As I write this it’s just two days into the New Year. God has been getting me out of the bed a long time, but this season is so different. It’s taking everything I’ve got and so much more. But, Satan might want to watch out because God is carrying me forward.

Today marks 12 days of consistent day and night physical therapy. I’ve eliminated caffeine out of my life as I’ve learned to guzzle water daily. I know if I just stay in that bed and do nothing I will only become further depressed and Satan will have won.

No, the pain has never ended even 8 months after surgery, but my perseverance and faith sure keep growing. I sincerely thank God for every millisecond of this trial that only He knows the outcome.

You see, it’s not our job to paint the picture, but to let Him paint through us. Worrying changes nothing and pity parties only drown us in despair.

I just finished pressing through 10 sets of physical therapy exercises that might be easy for many others. But, for me it took Jesus Christ pumping through my veins and sometimes tears rolling.

At one time John Legend’s song, “Love Me Now” was blaring through my headphones as I begged God’s strength on that treadmill. You know what I heard?

I heard Jesus asking, “Are you gonna love me now? While the pain is still deep and the future feels so uncertain with your health. Will you love me now or will you just be like most professing Christians, just another fair weather fan!”

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 5:7)(NLT)

Join Pastor Craig throughout January as he shares X-Factors that could make 2017 your best year yet. Services @ Refuge Church are 9:15 & 11am. Wear what you have, Come as you are, Never leave the same! They are located @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro.

None Of Us Have It Figured Out

I’m as excited about the New Year as anyone. But, I’m starting 2017 with just as many unknowns as knowns.
I don’t know what trials will come my way, but God does!
I don’t know how I will handle many things, but God does!
I don’t know what the future will hold, but God does.
I’ve learned it’s ok to admit you’re far from figuring everything out, but you can trust a God who has it all laid out.
“Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight.” -Proverbs 3:5-6
Join Pastor Craig throughout January as he shares X-Factors that could make 2017 your best year yet. Services @ Refuge Church are 9:15 & 11am. Wear what you have, Come as you are, Never leave the same!

I’m So Tired Of Fighting

The hardest tests to deal with in life are the ones that last much longer than you would like. In fact, you wonder if they will ever end.

These tests change life as you once knew it. You are forced to make drastic adjustments and free fall in the arms of the Almighty.

For a season we all kick and scream over our lack of control. Humanly we feel certain tests are just stealing our quality of life. The future appears ruined!

Then, we finally learn to quit fighting with the process. Especially once we realize the battle is so beyond us.

If we take God’s word to heart we know it’s not a wasted season. God just has us in His workshop. Our faith is growing and our perseverance is being developed more than ever. We’re learning what it means to really trust God in everything.

At some point, we will see clearer the reason for the season. But until then we have to trust God has a purpose and plan for it all.

So, don’t let the valley steal your joy. Keep fighting the good fight, keep the faith, and expect God to use everything in ways you never dreamed.

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

I Met A Little Angel

 

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Recently, my 6 year old son and I ran into a lady who could barely walk to her car. The burden on her body and soul were so obvious on her face. The holy spirit within me said, “Stop what you’re doing and check on this lady.” Come to find out she and her daughter were homeless. We could not ignore the need this lady had for somebody to care.

From there we made sure they had some basic necessities for their present camping site. Mainly they needed things to keep warm, food to keep fed, and God’s love to lift their spirits. With each step down the Walmart aisles she was so overwhelmed with gratitude. She constantly said with tears flowing, “Y’all are my angels.”

After things were loaded in her car my 6 year old son prayed over her. With every word he spoke I could see her spirit coming to life like Frosty The Snowman. We left knowing this was a divine appointment.

My son got back in the car and just cried. I asked, “Why are you crying?” He replied, “I just want them to have a house and be warm.” I assured him that we had done our best to help them be both warm and fed for a few days.

Then I asked, “Why do you think that lady called us her angels?” He said, “Because we just did what Jesus does for us and just loved them.” My heart was so full. I’ve not been able to forget the simple, profound words God spoke through my 6yr old. God has called us all to be angels. 

Jesus said, “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’                                

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’                                                                                     “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

*Craig Crosby is the senior pastor of Refuge Church. At Refuge you will always be loved as you are, but never left the same. Experience the difference Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Drive, Walterboro, SC. 

Keep Faith Walking!

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It’s been exactly 7 months since my back surgery. I feel like I’m at the halfway point of a very big game. I’m exhausted, I’m sore, and I wish things were easier & faster. But, quit is not an option. So, I’ve got to keep taking the next right step forward. I can’t focus on my weaknesses or speculate about days ahead. It’s about doing what is best now for my recovery.

For sometime, God has been leading me away from just praying for my physical healing. Who am I to question what He is doing while I feel so very limited. Maybe it’s not about me and more about Him. Maybe it’s more about the journey than me just reaching my desired goal.

I will keep faith walking forward. I will keep trusting God with every step forward. I will continue to pray daily that my journey might encourage someone else’s journey. And if it does it’s worth every struggle.

There are many things I don’t know, but I know this to be true. Confession is healing, perspective is critical, and God has a purpose for every moment. 

(1 Peter 4:12-13)Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

(Romans 8:28) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

 

Are You Ready For The Big Game?

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Me & My Two Brothers A Few Yrs Ago

     

     This week many will get ready for the big game. Those who might not have watched a second of football all season will suddenly scream for either the Gamecocks or the Tigers. In fact, if you grew up in the state of South Carolina you completely understand this rivalry game that has become known as the “Palmetto Bowl.” This rivalry game dates all the way back to 1896. It’s the longest uninterrupted series in the South and the second longest uninterrupted NCAA DI-A/FBS series in the country.

     Fortunately, this year’s big game will be played two days after Thanksgiving. This way hopefully family members in South Carolina can enjoy some undivided time together before they go to war on the football field. Of course, I’m sure there will be some trash talk taking place while enjoying that homemade turkey and dressing.

      As many as 86,000 screaming fans will watch the big game live inside Clemson’s Death Valley. Well over 2 million will watch the game broadcasted live through ESPN during its 7:30pm prime time slot this Saturday. Countless dollars will be spent, many hours given, and much energy will be put forth to watch young men run back and forth on a football field.

      Now, anyone who really knows me knows that I can’t wait for kickoff. I don’t plan on missing one second of this big game. I have friends on both sides of this rivalry while I’m clearly pulling for my side. But, after years of living and watching football I’ve really learned to keep these games in perspective. In fact, I give myself a personal pep talk before any sporting event of this nature.

     You see, this is just a game. The final score will not determine my future. The final score will not fix any of my present life problems or struggles. The final score really won’t offer me any hope whatsoever in this life or the life to come. So, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t put my hope in such fleeting man-made stuff such as football.

     The only hope that is certain, secure, and won’t ever let me down is Jesus. Only in him can I find lasting peace, purpose, and eternal hope. And, whether my team wins or loses my hope in Jesus Christ will not change. So, before I say “Go Tigers” or “Go Gamecocks” I’m making sure that I’m putting my full hope in Jesus. Hope you all enjoy the game!

(Hebrews 6:9) We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

(Hebrews 13:8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

(John 3:16) For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

*Craig Crosby is Pastor of Refuge Church of Walterboro. Listen to his sermons online @ http://www.RefugeChurch.org. Visit him on Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr.

 

 

 

   

After You Vote….

 trump-hillary

     Saturday, I voted early for the next president of the United States. I approached this moment with a little anxiety, but after much prayer and processing. When it finally came time to vote I was actually way more nervous than I thought I would be. Suddenly, making such a big decision didn’t feel so easy. For the next few moments I just stared at the voting screen, but most of all begged God for divine intervention. I prayed, “Dear God, Help me make the most God honoring decision possible and trust you with the final results.”

     After casting my vote, I was very encouraged by one lady working the voting booth. She said, “Hey Pastor Craig, I really enjoy reading your weekly articles in the paper. And you and I know that no matter what happens with this election God is still on His throne.” Sometimes you just need to hear certain words more than ever. Even if you’re a preacher you still need to let the truth sink deep into your heart.

     As I left out to go home I felt relieved. Not because I had solved all the world’s problems or knew what the future would hold. But, I was greatly comforted by the fact that no matter what happens God will not be taken by surprise.

     You see, God has been large and in charge since the beginning of time. The same God that spoke this world into existence. The same God that breathed life into each of us. The same God who has always been there for us since forming us in our mother’s womb. That same God has not changed and will not change. He will not change this week, next week, or forever. 

     There is no denying that this presidential election has been packed full of drama. Mixed emotions and constant media commotion has divided a nation. Each side has done its share of screaming at the other. Many have admitted that they just don’t know who to believe anymore. And, bigger than all of this is everyone’s concern for where is America headed with either candidate.

     My friends, I have good news for us all. After you’ve made your prayerfully, processed vote. After the election results have been finalized. Trust that God is still God. Trust that God is still bigger than man’s greatest sins and mistakes. Trust that God has blessed America with eternal hope in Jesus Christ that can’t be taken away. Trust that even if everything changes around us, God’s goodness and faithfulness never will.

(Isaiah 41:10) “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

(Malachi 3:6) “For I the LORD do not change…”

(Proverbs 3:5-6) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE AM I ?

 where-am-i         

         Please allow me to say something before I start writing. This article requires me to take off my mask and may compel you to do the same. As I continue to go through one of the most challenging seasons in my life I’ve found myself often over analyzing where I really am right now. After much processing and prayer I’ve come to a very strong conclusion. I really have no clue.

          I’m convinced that most of us spend way too much time trying to make sense of everything. Our minds become consumed with what if this and what if that had not happened. In our fight for control we try to humanize things only God can see in full view. We worry way too much about what we can’t control instead of focusing on that which God is in control.

          I don’t know where I am, but I do know who I am trusting. I’ve decided that no matter what life throws my way I will put all my trust in the God who created me and carried me this far. I don’t have to understand anything to trust God with everything. While I don’t have a clue about this moment, I totally trust God with each moment. I place my confidence in a never changing God in the midst of my ever changing circumstances.

          I don’t know where I am, but I know who is leading my life. Most people are living clueless, reckless, aimless, and anxious lives. Most are living in a way that Jesus described as “harassed, helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” No doubt, when you don’t’ know who is leading your life it swells ups great anxiety within you. Nothing brings greater peace than giving God the full reigns of your life. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I was actually trying to call the shots in my own life. Instead, I’m allowing the only One who is all knowing and all-powerful to lead me down the path He has prepared for me well in advance.

          I don’t know where I am, but I know who is with me. I’ve felt a lot of emotions over the past year, but one thing I’ve not felt is alone. God’s reminds me over and over in His word that I will never walk alone. He says, “I will never leave, nor forsake you.” He says, “I am with you always even to the end of this age.” He said, “Even in the valley I am with you.” Yes, even when I take a wrong turn and don’t have a clue how to get back on track. God is there to hold me, comfort me, and carry me through the otherwise unbearable.

          Finally, I don’t know where I am, but I know where I’m headed. God’s got my back, my hand, and holds my future. I’ve been preaching a series of messages @ Refuge Church recently called “Made For Eternity.” It has settled my soul to find so much confirmation in God’s word. I love the fact that regardless of where this life finds me I can be certain of where I’m headed when this life is over. (1 John 5:13) “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God (Jesus) so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

      There is no questioning that this life is a roller coaster ride you wish you could shut down. But, it’s ok to not know where you are at the moment. Just make sure you know who you can trust, who is with you, who is leading you, and you who holds all of eternity in His hands. God bless you on your journey!

Looking for answers in your life? Join Pastor Craig Crosby Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ Refuge Church. They are located @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro. Come as you are, Don’t expect to leave the same!

         

Lessons From A Hurricane

haiti-hurricane-matthew

Death Toll Continues Rising In Haiti After Hurricane

God taught me this a long time ago. Things are always different when they are in your own backyard. Well South Carolina and beyond certainly got hit hard recently by Hurricane Matthew. Unfortunately, no matter how much you prepare there are always things such storms reveal.

One, we were never in charge from the beginning. We think we’re calling the shots until certain life event reveal otherwise. The hurricanes in life remind us that we are not in charge. There is a God, but we are not Him.

Two, we need to keep life in perspective. Things like football are a big deal to the average person in the south. However, when a big hurricane threatens your life suddenly the meaningless stuff doesn’t matter so much. You move from thinking about that big game to thinking about the value of life itself.

Three, we need to understand the difference between a need and a want. Over 800,000 residents in South Carolina lost power due to hurricane Matthew. It’s at that point we realize how dependent we’ve become to things like the internet, television, lights, running water and the perfect temperature. While uncomfortable for a little while we realize what we really can and cannot live without.

Four, we need to thank God constantly. Just being able to live in America is a blessing from God. God bless the people of Haiti who were hit by Hurricane Matthew with no warning. Hundreds of lives were taken in Haiti. Yet, so many here in South Carolina only suffered damage to their property. Storms remind us that we should be so thankful for the blue skies above, the roof over our heads, and the God who watches over us day and night.

Finally, we need to maintain a storm mentality. Many storms happen for a season, but every storm happens for a reason. God speaks the loudest to us when He has our full attention. In the storm, our faith takes center stage. In the storm, we become mindful of others in need. In the storm, we are forced to really consider every step in front of us. Honestly, we begin to live life as it was meant to be lived. As the old familiar gospel song says, “One day at a time sweet Jesus.”

(Psalm 107:28-31) “LORD, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

 

 

 

 

Ageless Truths

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No matter what you’re age it’s always important you keep life in right perspective. Here are some timeless truths all grounded in God’s word that can help us all continue to live wisely.

 #1 Live In The Now.

 Too often we’re caught looking back in our past or waiting for what we think lies ahead. “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised, and today is a gift that’s why they call it the present.” There is no more important moment than the one that sits in front of you. So, make the most of where God has placed you right now. Love while you can. Do what you can. Put your total faith in Jesus while you can

#2 Learn To Be Content.

We live in a society that always must have more and more. We’ve just got to have a better cell phone, a newer car, a bigger house, and of course way more money. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. But, until you learn to be content no matter your circumstances you will never find joy despite your circumstances.

#3 Quit Comparing Yourself To Others.

I love social networking as much as anyone. What I absolutely hate is how it makes many feel that life is always a competition. We compare our appearances, accomplishments, relationships, and even our children. Every person is different and no two situations are the same. Be the best you that God created you to be and don’t spend your time constantly comparing yourself with others. Let Jesus Christ be your example and God be your God.

#4 Live Like You Are Dying.

Based on pretty solid statistics 100 percent of us will die one day. Death has no respecter of age or position. Try swallowing this worldwide statistic my friend. An average of 151, 600 people die each day. Over 55 million people die each year. No matter what you do in life make sure you are living with eternity in mind. Why? Because that is your next destination and your appointment will be here way sooner than you think.

#5 Stay On Your Knees.

Anytime we think we’re large and in charge we’re bound for disappointment. Life is full of humbling moments. You will never be able to face life’s constant ups and downs alone. You’re not smart enough or strong enough. You can get through anything with the help of your Heavenly Father. Get on your knees and stay on your knees before God. Seek His will above else, let Him guide your your every step, and trust Him to strengthen you.

 (Ephesians 5:15-17) “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

Don’t Give Up

 

Recently I reached the four month mark since major back surgery. I would like to say I’ve been miraculously healed, but I’m still struggling. Over time my recovery process has worn me down physically, emotionally, and mentally. Satan has tempted me often over the past month to just give up and accept things will never get better.

Fortunately, I learned that the only way to overcome fear is with faith. I know that God will never up on me and I have no reason to give up on Him. Satan loves to pounce on us when we’re feeling down, discouraged, and depressed. Satan loves to make us believe that our situation is totally hopeless.

You see, Satan knows that if he can get into your mind he can get access to your heart. You might not be where you would like to be, but trust me with God’s help things can change. That change starts by putting your little hand in His big hand. Then, letting God carry you where you can’t carry yourself.

For me, I simply had to return back to the basics of my faith. I needed to believe that God is not done with me. I needed to believe that with God’s help I can do anything. I needed to keep faith walking day by day. This is simply doing everything I can, while trusting God to do everything I can’t.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now. But, I encourage you to never give up. Never give up on a God who will never give up on you. You might be weak, but He is strong. You might be tired, but He can renew your strength. Here is a passage of scripture that you should take to heart.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 41:28-31)

Daddy, Can We Play?

Boys & Aimee 2014I’m a Pastor to many and husband to one of the greatest women on the planet. But, I’m beyond blessed to have four boys that call me daddy. Very soon I will have a 17, 15, 13, and 6 year old. Of course the youngest is beyond spoiled by us all.

Recently I bought him a Super Hero matching game. My hope was this would provide us with some quality times together. After over a week of being purchased, we finally played this simple matching game. Most of all, we did something that he enjoyed and allowed us quality time together.

His memory actually proved to be better than his mom and dad’s. He won all three games and was beyond excited for winning. I’m sure he would have loved for us to have hosted a victory parade throughout the streets of Walterboro.

I love seeing any of my kids smiling and knowing that we love them. I’m convinced that nothing communicates that love more than quality time together. It’s something I don’t feel I’ve do enough in the past, but I’m trying to change that trend.

Maybe you’ve got young kids or grandkids that God has blessed you with. If you’re not setting aside intentional time to spend with them you’re all missing out. We all know kids grow up way too fast. And, while they are still young it means so much for us to go out of our way to make time with them.

I’ve said this many times in the past. If everybody says I’m great, but my kids don’t feel I love them I’ve failed. I believe that love is best spelled TIME. If I can’t make time for them then I shouldn’t be spending time with anyone else.

Maybe it’s time you leave work earlier, you quit making time for everybody else, and you make time for that young man or woman who would give anything for your attention. As they say, rarely has anyone got to the end of life and said I wished I would have worked longer hours and spent more time away from my family. I pray this gives us all something to think about.

(Psalm 127:3) Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.

WALK WITH ME

Walking Towards the CrssoRecently, God blessed me with a few days away from my normal outside distractions & demands.  My main goal was simply to allow God to refresh, refocus, and detox my soul.  I went into this time physically tired, emotionally overwhelmed, and quite honestly feeling spiritually stuck. I knew in my heart, God was calling me to get away and meet with Him. That He had something BIG He needed to share with me.

 Within just 24 hours into my spiritual getaway, God revealed to me the BIG news. As a man, husband, father, and minister I needed to hear this. God simply said, “WALK WITH ME.” I know I was looking for something a bit more profound myself. But, after further time processing this revelation I’m convinced this will have a profound impact on my life.

 You see, God created each of us in His image. Scripture says, God hand crafted each of us in our mother’s womb. None of us were made to walk without Him in this life. Walking with God is simply putting your little hand in His big Hand. Walking with God is letting God lead you instead of you running, gunning, and doing things your way in this life.

 Those who don’t choose to walk with God give up many things. Without walking with God you can’t reach your full potential. Without walking with God you can’t feel complete. And, without walking with God you can’t live empowered.

 Too many overlook the impact of their relationship with God. Many make time for everything else, but neglect the most important relationship on the planet. GOD IS SAYING TO EACH OF US…..WALK WITH ME. And, I’ll take you where you can’t take yourself and to places you can’t dream possible.

 (Micah 6:8)(NLT) “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

 

What Is Your Secret?

Plugging into Electrical Outlet

STAY CONNECTED (John 15:5)

The church I pastor has been growing rapidly over the past two months. In fact, all of June and July we’ve had way more in attendance than most churches will ever see on any Easter Sunday. I had a gentlemen recently ask, “What is your secret to success?”

From the look on his face I’m not sure I gave the answer he was expecting. I imagine he was waiting to hear me spit out some magic formula or profound insight never spoken. Honestly, I’ve never been someone who was sophisticated or eloquent with my words. But, here was my response.

I told him I’ve found that the key to doing God’s work is for it to come out of the overflow of your heart. You can’t take anyone where you aren’t headed. People need to see you living for Jesus, honest in all you do, and sincerely caring about what’s going on in their life.

I told him the biggest key to making a difference period is making sure you stay close to God’s heart. Reading His word, listening for His voice and obeying His every command. Scripture is clear without a close relationship with Jesus none of us can do anything. Disconnecting from Jesus is like unplugging an electrical appliance. You nor that appliance can do anything without staying connected to the right power source.

Every time we try to march to the beat of our own drum things fall apart. However, if we stay connected to Jesus he gives us strength, direction, and grants us success. Scripture is clear that apart from Jesus we can do nothing.

I’ve had this verse written in the front of my bible for years. But, it’s taken a lot of high mileage on many rough roads for me to fully know that it’s the key to any of us becoming all God created us to be.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5)

Praise Him In The Storm

Praise You In The Storm

Another late night just hoping for sleep. I can’t believe I still ache this much almost a year after back surgery. I keep hoping that I’m going to wake up and this storm will be over. However, I can’t deny how God continues to use this purposeful season in my life to draw me closer to Him. I’ve had to learn to give thanks daily even when the rain keeps pouring. 

Maybe what you’re going through is actually a blessing in disguise. Maybe what you’re struggling with today is making you stronger for tomorrow. Wherever you are, God has a plan. Simply let God work and thank Him for allowing you to continuing living.

I love the lyrics in Casting Crown’s popular christian song called “Praise You In The Storm”. The first verse and chorus are so powerful. I bet you can relate to these heartfelt words. 

“I was sure by now. God You would have reached down. And wiped our tears away.
Stepped in and saved the day. But once again, I say “Amen” and it’s still raining.       As the thunder rolls I barely hear Your whisper through the rain, “I’m with you.”And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.

And I’ll praise You in this storm and I will lift my hands. For You are who You are, no matter where I am. And every tear I’ve cried, You hold in Your hand. You never left my side and though my heart is torn. I will praise You in this storm.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:18) “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

(Psalm 46:10) “Be still, and know that I am God.”

WHAT NEXT ?

Boston Bombing

I don’t think I’m far off to assume that the average American is just thinking, What Next? Where will the next riot take place? Who will be the next crazy gunman who makes CNN headlines? When will the next terrorist attack happen?

Yes, these same thoughts periodically go through my mind. I don’t dwell on them, but every time I flip on the news I’m forced to ponder these realities. After all, things that used to be periodic tragedies all of sudden seem to be daily. I honestly believe we should all be asking ourselves, What Next?

Now, here is one option we need to just take out of consideration. While we should do all we can to stay safe in this crazy world, I’m afraid we can’t fix the crazy around us. In fact, there is no sense in pondering on things we can’t control, predict, or stop from happening. So, let’s move on to what we can do something about.

If you’re a believer in God’s word, you can’t help but believe that we are living in the last days. Scripture made it very clear many years ago that these types of things would happen. For instance, many can identify with the following prophetic words.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”(2 Timothy 3:1-5)(NIV)

So, what next? I think the first step for all of us is to WAKE UP. We can’t deny that every day is unpredictable. Therefore, instead of living in denial we need to live prepared. This always starts with making things right with the God who created us, knows us inside out, and will have the final say. I recently shared the following words on social media.

“I don’t watch the news as much as most. But, how can any of us see the chaos around us and not fall on our knees? Why aren’t churches full of all races coming together to seek God’s divine intervention? Protest, criticism, racism or arguments change nothing. No matter how much things change around us Jesus will always be our only constant hope!”

Yes, times have changed. Yes, we live in uncertain days. But, God’s word never changes on how we must deal with such times. Especially as chaos abounds beyond what we can fix, understand, or deal with alone.

 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)(NIV)

Guns can’t protect us from everything. The next president can’t fix the biggest problems we face. Only by fully surrendering everything to an Almighty, All Knowing, All Powerful God can peace or healing be found. Because our greatest battles in this life are not physical, but spiritual.

If you have a church home I encourage you to faithfully gather with those believers. If you don’t have a church home I personally invite you to Refuge Church of Walterboro (203 Eddie Chasteen Dr) where I promise you will always find hope. I pray nothing but God’s best for all of you!

 

60 Days And Counting

Road To Recovery

I have to admit, I never thought I would still be recovering 60 days later after major surgery. I simply blame my perspective on ignorance and I guess thinking I would just be the exception to the rule. But, here I am on a journey like many before me.

I still recall day 20 thinking that I was halfway to recovery. Then, by day 4o reality began to set into my heart. Suddenly, I realized that I was in for a much longer ride than anticipated.

Don’t get me wrong. Not one day regretted this surgery. I just know there are no quick fixes and you have to keep walking out this faith journey. A journey that is full of life lessons, gut checks, faith tests, and God moments.

I have no doubt that I’m improving. Yet, here are the things that are making the difference from my perspective.

#1 I keep walking through pain. Every day I get up, dress up, and show up. I don’t just lay in the bed and hope I get better. I walk when I don’t feel like it, I eat & drink what’s best for me, and I stay determined.

#2 I keep listening to what professionals with experience have told me. If they say I can do something, I do it. If they say I can’t, I don’t. The last thing I want to do is anything that could set me back in my recovery.

#3 I maintain a daily, consistent routine. I set anywhere from 4 – 6 alarms per day to remind me of things I should do. I take my meds on time. I walk when my body needs movement. And, I make sure I sleep when my body is totally exhausted.

#4. I keep reducing my meds on a weekly basis. I don’t just take pain meds just to take them. I only take pain meds when necessary at this point. I have a huge respect for any narcotics and any pain meds that could leave you a lifetime addict. In fact, I quit taking any narcotics weeks ago.

#5. I keep recognizing my limits. Not once have I lifted anything over 5 pounds. In fact, 60 days in I still get help putting on my socks and shoes. I’ve trained my mind to think before I do anything. You see, that one wrong move could quickly set you back.

#6. I’m honest with everyone around me. I don’t pretend like I’ve arrived. I let people know that I will do whatever I can, but I will keep taking care of myself. Pretending has no value, especially when it’s only going to sideline you longer.

#7. I threw my pride out the window. I don’t worry about what other people might think. Friends or family that love you will stick by you. They will give you the space and support you need to get better.

#8. I pray, pray, pray. I’m giving my recovery everything I’ve got. But, at the end of the day I’m relying on the GREAT physician more than I am my human physician. I give Him daily all I know I can’t control and no one else can do.

#9. I keep believing God for my healing. My faith only grows stronger by the moment. I fully believe God is taking me on a purposeful journey. It’s not a matter of if, but when that my full healing will take place. Faith carries me often when my flesh completely fails me.

#10. I daily let God use my journey. A huge part of healing is knowing that not one second of your struggle is a waste. God wants to use your struggle to help someone else going through a similar battle. It thrills my heart to know that my weakness is able to reveal God’s strength to others. I can identify so much more now with others who are struggling the same and much more than me.

These are just 10 things I’m doing at this time towards recovery. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s likely my top ten. I pray this helps someone else who has been knocked down in life.

Today, I’m so thankful for how far God has taken me. And, I’m super excited about how much further God is going to take me.

(Philippians 1:6)(ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Creating A House Of Love

Aimee & Kids

A huge goal of mine is that our family always be full of God’s love. I believe it’s the glue that keeps everyone together. I know it’s something that will carry on for generations to come.

In our house, loving everybody is not an option. It is not acceptable at any time to think you’re better than anyone else. It’s not acceptable to treat anyone any less than you would want to be treated. I think most of society refers to this as “The Golden Rule.” But, I’m afraid for many it’s just a slogan.

It’s important that we all remember that “Loving your neighbor as yourself” is not a man-made idea. In fact, it’s quite natural for us all to be selfish, self-centered, judgmental, and all about us. The only thing that changes any of us is God’s love in us. After all, how can you share something with others you don’t have flowing through your heart?

As parents, we have to be intentional about everything we do. “If you aim for nothing you’ll hit it every time.” My wife and I are clearly aiming to raise four boys full of faith and love. These are not things we think about some days, but every day.

First, please allow me to address the faith issue. Most homes today are living faithless. Just throwing the words around “we have faith” is not enough. Your kids have to see your faith in action. Then need to see you living like a man or woman of God, studying God’s word, praying, and making being a part of a local church a priority. By the way, over 30,000 folks throughout Colleton County alone don’t attend church. Most kids are being raised in homes that don’t even show a sign that faith is anywhere near a priority.

Now, faith was important to mention because it’s only by grace through faith that we are able to receive God’s love into our hearts. Once God’s love consumes our hearts it will spill into our home and family. However, your love must be intentional and you have to constantly teach your kids to do the same. Not just by your words alone, but your genuine actions.

We teach our kids to love the unlovable. We make it clear to our kids that God sees no color, stereotypes, past, but only souls. We make it clear to our kids that if you can help someone hurting or in need, do what you can. Anything less is not of God.

My heart smiles when one of my boys gives someone a hug that could be the only hug they receive. My heart smiles when one of my boys prays with someone struggling. My heart smiles when one of my boys tells me he stood up for someone who was being bullied at school. My heart smiles when there is no doubt my boys know we love them, Jesus loves them, and God has called  them on a mission to love others.

Don’t get me wrong. Our home is not perfect in anyway. But, I can promise you that we do everything we can to walk in God’s love and teach our four boys what it means to really live and love like Jesus. This can’t ever be taught by words alone, but parents we must live by example everyday.

(John 14:12)(NIV) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

(1 Corinthians 13:1, 4-8)(NIV) If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,   always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

Craig Crosby is pastor of Refuge Church of Walterboro a place you will always experience God’s love, grace, & truth. Sunday Services are 9:15 or 11am @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Rd. (Right across from Wells Fargo & McDonalds). For more info got to www.RefugeChurch.org

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons In The Storm

Man In StormI’ve not written an article in quite some time. Why? Because I’ve been consumed for almost 8 weeks with recovering from major back surgery. God has taught me so much during this storm. I would like to share with you just a few of those lessons learned.

#1 God doesn’t always calm the storm. However, He always calms His child. In the midst of a constant battle I’ve found such great peace. Peace that is not dependent upon my ever changing circumstance, but peace that can only be found in a never changing God.

#2 God always has a purpose for the storm. We may feel we’ve just run into some bad luck or experienced an accident. However, nothing happens in our lives apart from God’s knowledge or allowance. With God there are no such things as accidents, but only appointments. God always has a reason for the season you’re going through.

#3 God plans to use the rain. By rain, I’m referring to the trials in your life. God uses things we face to wake us up, grow us up, and lift Himself up. Without rain your faith would never develop. In the midst of uncertainty you learn to trust God more. In the storm, God is developing you into the person He created you to become.

#4 God is still at work even if you feel sidelined. Often, we look at storms in life as nothing but a hindrance. But, maybe God is giving you a pit stop. He is allowing you the opportunity to reflect, regroup, and hopefully return back to life refocused. God is no less at work in the midst of the storm than He was before the storm. He does His greatest work through the storm.

#5 A lot needed to change. While I’ve been out of work and life as I used to know it, God has really opened my eyes. He showed me I was living life way too fast. He showed me I was missing meaningful times with Him. He showed me how to get back to being God-driven instead of self-driven. I’ve decided that I never won’t to return to life as I used to know it. Instead, I want to keep faith walking until the day God calls me home.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4)(NLT)

 

 

 

Walking In The Rain

Walking In The Rain 

I don’t even know where to begin right now. One month into recovery from major back surgery God is teaching me so much. I can honestly say it’s been the most painful, purposeful journey I’ve ever been. In fact, I believe this “Faith Walk” journey has just begun. How was I to know that God would use such a dreaded time in my life to breathe life into my soul?

Earlier I walked out the door for my morning recovery walk. The rain that was pouring down made me walk right back inside. I kept waiting on the rain to die down, but it just would not. Finally, I decided that I needed to put on a red poncho and walk anyway. I’m pretty certain I looked like Little Red Riding Hooding walking through my neighborhood.

During that walk God flooded my heart with truth. He reminded me that there is always a purpose for the rain and pain. And as long as I allow Him to continue to lead me forward through the rain, there is nothing to fear. After all, the opposite of faith is fear.

Maybe you’re going through something right now that you just don’t understand. You feel like the rain just won’t stop and the pain is breath taking. Trust me, you just need to keep walking in the rain. Knowing that God is still God. God is still good. God is doing something greater than you can see or comprehend at this time.

(Proverbs 3:5-6) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

I just started a new message series that you can listen to by going to www.RefugeChurch.org. There you will hear how God birthed in my heart the understanding of this faith walking journey. Also, you can discover how learning to faith walk yourself can change everything about your life.

 

 

Seasons Of Perspective

Uphill Climb

Pretty much everything I every write comes from personal experiences or learning from other people’s experiences. Since May 4th my life has been consumed with focusing on recovery from a very painful back surgery. Along with strategically seeking to do my best to get back healthy, I’ve been keeping a daily journal of each day’s progress. According to social media my Day 18 update seemed to relate to most. Maybe it will encourage you.

Day 18 Surgery Recovery Update: Why am I awake at 2am? I just went to sleep around 11pm last night and was sound asleep. At this point that’s a pretty easy question. So far day or night my body screams for some kind of pain medication around every 3 hours. And until I get some kind of relief sleep is never an option.

Right now my active bag of medicines resemble something you would only find by a dying man’s bed side. The good news is I’m not dying even if sometimes I feel like it. Seriously, I can’t believe how far I’ve come and yet the pain still feels so bad many times a day. This is when it really helps to understand the process.

I recall often the words my doctor told me prior to surgery. He said, “This surgery is going to be very painful. You may hate me for at least 6 weeks. But, you might love me in 6 months based on the relief this surgery could provide.

My journey is very similar to what many of you are processing. Whether grieving the loss of someone you loved or healing from some painful accident or procedure.Healing always takes time when the pain is deep. You have moments you feel so much better. Then you have moments when the pain feels just as fresh as before.

I’m very hopeful because I know things will get better with time. I’m also very realistic knowing that moments of pain are normal for this process. Praise God with each day my pain becomes less. The medications I need continue to decrease. I’m able to do things today I could not even think about days before.

For example, 8 days after my surgery I was still spending over 23 hours per day in the bed. Now, I’m up able to sit up several hours a day and walking one to two miles every day with a walker.

You see, progress should never be measured by just feelings. It’s about recognizing how far God has taken you today and trusting God to take you even further tomorrow.Most people recovering from anything tough in life don’t just get back on their feet over night. They simply keep taking the next right step in front of them and God blesses our efforts.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Spice Up Your Marriage

Unity Candle

There aren’t many things I want to remember from my recent three night hospital stay due to major back surgery. However, one thing I will never forget is what ended up meaning the most during that time. I’ve been so blessed to have hundreds praying for me. All those prayers have and still do mean the world to me. But, one special prayer warrior surfaced during this time that I’m afraid before was extremely underrated.

Contrary to what many believe the average pastor and spouse don’t sit around always singing hymns of faith and praying together. However, I recently rediscovered there is nothing more powerful a married couple can do than hold hands and pray. You will find more lasting power in those divine encounters than any romantic moment.

I don’t recall every moment in the hospital between the pain and the much needed medications. But, I clearly recall every time my wife grabbed my hand and began praying for my relief. I may be the one referred to as the preacher. But there is nothing that touches my heart more than when my wife is my pastor. Her prayers comforted my soul and became one of her greatest expressions of love. 

One thing I know for sure after nearly nineteen years of a happy marriage. Your greatest need in marriage is not perfect communication or sparks to fly every time you kiss. Your greatest need in marriage is for both your hearts to be united through God’s spirit, truth, and love. For this reason, Satan does anything he can to keep us from joining hands, hearts, and praying together in Jesus name.

I’m certain many reading this were thinking much differently when I mentioned spicing up your marriage. But, trust me Jesus is the most critical spice for any relationship to thrive. Why? Because apart from Jesus Christ everything falls apart.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”(Matthew 18:20)

Caught In A Storm

Caught In A StormNot sure I can explain the long battle I’ve been in the past many months. Every step has been a struggle. Most nights have been filled with pain and often time restlessness. The battle is real, relentless, and more than disruptive to life as I once knew it. Even after making every adjustment possible, I continue to wake up to the reality of this storm.

Doctors say I have a very large annular tear that just won’t heal on its own. I’ve had numerous injections to ease the pain in my lower back. I’ve endured countless hours of physical therapy. I’ve given my body more than enough time to heal. Multiple experienced doctors have concluded surgery is my only option. Therefore, on May 4th I will undergo an (ALIF) Annular Lumbar Interbody Fusion. Hopefully this will finally relieve my discomfort, give my spine greater support, and take pressure off my nerves.

Now, I would have never signed up for this season of torment. I could write a book on all the things this experience has taught me and put me through. I seriously would not change anything. Because I know that God has grown me, used me, and opened my eyes to many things during this seasonal battle.

You know, anytime we are going through something it always feels like a total inconvenience. I admit that I felt that way for a long time. God finally changed my perspective. Instead of thinking I had an accident, I believe God has a purpose for my trial. I firmly believe that nothing happens apart from God allowing it to happen. And if God allowed it to happen then He has a purpose for the inconvenience.

Through this season I have clung to the following words of truth: “THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU. YOU ONLY NEED TO BE STILL.” (Exodus 14:14).  I switched from fighting with God to allowing God to fight for me. I discovered that kicking and screaming changes nothing. Trying to figure it all out fixes nothing. But, choosing to allow God to use the most difficult season in your life changes everything. God willing, this season of my life will soon come to an end.

This May Be Your Biggest Problem

Man On Dock Praying

What I’m about to write comes out of great conviction. All of us have our share of problems. Not every problem can be solved or easily diagnosed. But, I believe I’ve discovered one of my biggest problems. Sadly, it’s one I really hate to admit as a pastor. Here it goes….

I don’t pray enough. I talk about issues and I process things to death. I seek to allow my thought process to be guided by God’s word. But, I’m convinced that none of that can substitute for good old fashioned prayer. Now, I know faith without works is dead. However, prayer is likely the greatest act of faith we can demonstrate.

What is prayer? Prayer is wholeheartedly seeking the will of God. Prayer is putting on God’s shoulders what you just can’t handle on yours. Prayer is when you trust God with the overwhelming, frustrating, and impossible things in life. Prayer is connecting with a God who cares and who can do more than you could ever dream or imagine.

Ever wonder what message you just didn’t get because you didn’t seek God in prayer? Could there be miracles that have not occurred simply because you chose to do things in your own power? Could you just simply be surviving when earnest consistent prayer would take you to thriving?

It’s always stood out to me how much prayer was a part of Jesus’ life on this earth. (Luke 5:16) says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” We discover time and time again where Jesus just had to get away. It didn’t matter what was going on around him. Prayer was not an afterthought, but a true priority. Through prayer Jesus found peace, direction, and strength. It seemed he was plugging into the greatest power source. His time in prayer helped him deal with life’s struggles. His time in prayer tuned his heart into God’s heart. His time in prayer empowered him to take up his cross and overcome the grave.

I wonder what difference prayer could make in my life. I’m certain it made a huge difference in Jesus’ life. It could reduce our stress, change our hearts, and breathe hope into every situation. Personally, I’ve tried really hard for a long time to fix things around me. I’m thinking it might be time to consistently seek God’s help and divine intervention. This could be the root of many of our problems.

 

Why Go To Church This Easter?

Easter @ Refuge Road Sign

I won’t tell you that not going to Easter service will send you to Hell. I won’t tell you that not going to Easter service will change God’s love for you. And, I won’t tell you that not going to Easter service means you don’t believe in God or His one and only Son, Jesus. What I will tell you is that Easter is a big deal.

I’m convinced that too many believers belittle this historical and life changing event. We fill ball fields and stadiums cheering for our favorite team. We go out of our way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other signature events. Yet, will we have the same enthusiasm and devotion this Easter?

You see, there is a reason that even secular history books acknowledge the magnitude of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. (B.C.) Before Christ mankind didn’t have a chance, was hopeless, and was destined for Hell. (A.D.) After Christ, every man, woman, boy, & girl was given a chance. A chance to repent, to believe, and to receive eternal life through Jesus Christ our Savior & Lord.

This Easter you could choose to stay home. But, the moment you fully realize all that Christ has done for you, you should rethink your decision. You will realize as I do now that I can’t ever thank God enough for sending His son Jesus to die for my sins. Jesus changed my life forever and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your past, Jesus can change yours too.

I pray you make your way to an Easter Celebration. Not just to say you did and take a family photo. But, to celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To say, thank you Jesus for I am a life that was changed and eternally grateful.

Should you not have a church home, I want to personally invite you to Refuge Church. We have four identical worship opportunities this Easter. Saturday, March 26th 5pm & 7pm. Sunday, March 27th 9:15am & 11am. We’re located at 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro. Directly across the street from Wells Fargo Bank.

The dress is casual, the people are friendly and the service will have incredible impact on your life. I promise we’ll change the way you think about church. During every service we have light refreshments, activities for Birth-5th graders, and no offering plate will be passed around. Come as you are, Never leave the same!

Are You Leaking?

Leaking

Recently, my physical battle has been great as I battle with a lower back issue doctors say will likely only be fixed by surgery. Friday a week ago, I received my 3rd Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection in just 4 months. Everything felt like normal until everything didn’t.

As I attempted to get up off the table where I just received the shot I knew something was different. With no warning, pressure rushed to my head like never before. I thought I was having a stroke. As I was forced to lay back down I realized everything from my waist to both my knees were numb. This was beyond disturbing. The staff at this pain center kept me much longer than normal for further observation, but before I left my heart rate and blood pressure were fine and the extreme pain and numbness had subsided.

The next week following my shot would reveal there was still a problem. On top of battling major nerve pain I would begin experiencing headaches that would make any grown man beg for mercy. These terrible headaches would keep me up all night just praying for relief. I thought it might be a side effect from a nerve pain med I recently started but after checking into the hospital this past Friday morning the source of the problem was discovered. Apparently, my last steroid injection left me with a cerebral spinal fluid leak. That leak was the cause of the extreme pain in my head. I was overjoyed to discover the root of my misery and get relief from those atrocious headaches. Praise God, doctors were able to patch this leak with blood they transferred from my arm. I’m now able to just focus on healing.

Now, God has led me to say this to you. All of us have pain. It’s very important we recognize and deal with the root of that pain. Otherwise, if we don’t it will leak things into our minds and hearts that aren’t good. Unprocessed pain makes us someone we never wanted to be. And keeps us from becoming all God created us to be. We can’t try to ignore it, numb it, or or run from it. But, if you don’t deal with the pain in your life it will deal with you.

I encourage you to give your pain to a God who cares deeply about you (1 Peter 5:7). Share your pain with others as this kind of confession brings healing (James 5:16). Know that only Jesus can give you lasting peace (John 16:33). Only God can fully understand. And, God often takes the greatest struggles and creates the greatest stories.

(Romans 8:28)(NLT)And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Join Pastor Craig Crosby Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ Refuge Church. The church is located @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro. Come as you are. Don’t expect to the leave the same.

 

Hold My Hand

hands-reaching-out

I know many remember the song by Hootie And The Blowfish called “Hold My Hand.” Or what about the oldie, but goody that says “Lean on me. When you’re not strong. And, I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on. For, it won’t be long. Till I’m gonna need. Somebody to lean on.” I’m not sure any truer words have every been spoken.

We all have times in our lives that we just just need a hand to hold. We just need to know somebody cares and somebody is there. I know recently, it’s meant the world to me to feel the support of those who sincerely care. Not just by what they say, but what they choose to do.

A local nurse recentlly said something I still find very profound. She said, “I’m not sure there is anything more powerful than holding someone’s hand.” We discussed the fact that this is especially true when someone is really struggling and feeling alone. Even if a person can’t communicate to you it doesn’t mean they can’t be blessed by your presence.

I recall countless times throughout my ministry that I’ve realized there was nothing more I could do for the one struggling. Prayers had been spoken, but there was nothing left for man to fix. However, there was one thing I discovered I could do when possible. I could hold their hand.

I believe when a sincere Child of God grabs the hand of another something special happens. God’s love is transferred from one heart to to another. The person lying in that bed no longer feels alone as God uses us to be His angel.

So, the next time you feel you can’t do anything more to comfort that person you dearly love. And, you’re wondering what you can do. Just reach out, grab their hand, and let God’s love flow through you. You will be surprised just how much it means to know you’re not alone.

(Genesis 2:18) “The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

 

 

 

Dear Mom & Dad

Mom & Dad

I’m about to turn 41 years old. I’ve been happily married for 18 and 1/2 years. I’ve got four boys ages 16, 14, 12, and 6. I’ve been a minister for 21 years. I realize more everyday how blessed I am to have the parents that raised me. I would like to explain and express just what I mean. Not to compare them to others, but to encourage other moms and dads.

My dad Steve Crosby, a former Marine has been a local pastor practically my entire life. My mom, Helen Crosby was a school teacher for years and most of all a daily teacher inside our home. Neither of my parents are perfect, but I can confidently say they are way beyond average. Here are just a few things that set them apart from most.

  1. Thanks Mom & Dad For Loving Jesus. At our house, we didn’t just talk about faith. We were taught God’s word and that faith in Christ was all that mattered. We learned that in this life you will have trouble, but with God’s help you can make it through anything. Not going to church weekly together was not even an option. I’m grateful that I learned early in life to look to Jesus, not this world for my peace, purpose, and hope.
  2. Thanks Mom & Dad For Loving Each Other. I cringe to bring this up because I realize most marriages today end in divorce. Yet, something special happens when two people are led by faith and keep working at their love commitment. I don’t know what it’s like to be torn between two parents or homes. I don’t know what it’s like to worry about my family falling apart at any moment. Thanks mom and dad for continuing to work through your struggles with God’s help. I’m glad you’re still together.
  3. Thanks Mom & Dad For Unconditional Love. At our house there were expectations. There were non-negotiables. But there was never an absense of unconditional love. I’ve never doubted my parent’s love. I can remember being told we want you to do your best, but our love will never change. Thanks mom and dad for loving me no matter what I did or did not do.
  4. Thanks Mom & Dad For Always Praying. I’m learning myself as my kids get older that you can’t do everything for your children. You can always pray for them. I always knew my parents were praying for me and lifting up my struggles to God. I sincerely believe those prayers have carried me to anywhere I am today. Thanks mom and day for all the morning, daytime, and late night prayers!
  5. Thanks Mom & Dad For Leading By Example. I said earlier, my parents aren’t perfect. However, I’ve never doubted their integrity and efforts towards being all God has called them to be. I’m not sure there is anything a parent can say that is more important than what they do. None of us can be perfect parents, but our children need to see we’re at least trying to practice what we preach. Otherwise, most of what we say will fall on deaf ears. Thanks mom and dad for continuing to set a Godly example in life.

Mom and Dad I love you, appreciate you, and I will not forget these principles as I continue to raise my children. Thanks for being such a blessing!

(Ephesians 6:1-3) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

More Than A Test Drive

Test Drive

Recently I took my oldest son out for lunch. Afterwards, I told him he could drive us home. All it took was him backing the car up and putting it in drive. Next thing I knew my blood pressure was rising very similiar to the last time we tried that experiment.

In hopes of not spoiling our time together, I quickly took back the driver’s position. I could see the frustration on his face. I’m sure he figured he would never have more than his driver’s permit. It was at that moment I realized I drastically needed to change my approach.

I told him we weren’t headed home, but would be going somewhere with much less traffic. The first thing I did was start covering the basics of driving. I showed him how to be cautious, prepare to turn, make a turn, park, parallel park, and make a three point turn. Then, I allowed him to do all those things as I played coach. Most importantly, I approached him with a much greater patience and purpose.

Sadly, I had been expecting him to know things I never took time to teach him. With little experience, I expected him to pull out into a busy highway and make all the right decisions. No wonder he felt overwhelmed and seemed totally unprepared. I never covered the basics or gave him enough opportunity to gain experience.

When we got home from over an hour of driving basics my son hugged my neck. He said, “Thanks for taking me to practice driving. Most of all thank you for not blowing your top while I was driving.” Honestly, I believe I learned way more that day than him.

I was reminded that we can’t expect our children to know things we don’t teach them. We must take time to love them, show them, teach them and encourage them in the way they should go. And, our attitude will make all the difference.

In the past, my son had every right to feel frustrated while driving. Thank God his dad learned how to settle down and teach him on his level. I don’t think it will be long before he is ready for that license.

(Proverbs 22:6) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

(Ephesians 6:4) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

She Won The P.H.T. Award

Me & Aimee B&W

Let me begin by saying this is far from my wife’s idea. She has no clue I’m about to tell the world what makes her so awesome. Honestly, she would rather be punched in the face repeatedly than to be swarmed by recognition. That is just one more reason I love her.

What in the world is a P.H.T. Award? I actually never knew myself until around 2001. The seminary I received my Masters Degree from in Fort Worth, Texas sent this certificate to my wife Aimee. P.H.T. stands for Putting Him Through. I still find it very thoughtful that even others recognized the significance of my wife’s support.

Thinking about this award has prompted me the reasons she deserves this award. I could share a million ways she has touched my heart and gotten me through so much. But, here are five things that makes her an above average “First Lady.”

#1 She Never Leaves Me Lonely. No one gets married to be alone. You get married in hopes that you can share life together. My wife has never made me feel alone or left my side. In a day and age when people leave at the first sign of difficulty, I would say she is above average. I’ve said many times that since I got married years ago, I’ve never had even a feeling of loneliness.

#2 She Understands Real Love. She has actually taught me by her example what real love is. I’ve learned from her that talk is cheap, but love is an action verb. She realizes that love is more than just feelings or words. Her daily love demonstrates the following traits that God’s word says define real love.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

#3 She Meant Her Vows. You know that part of your wedding ceremony. We said, “For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse. To you I pledge my love.” She continues to love me at my worst, when my health is failing, when my attitude stinks, and when the bank account comes close to empty. None of these things has changed her commitment or the demonstration of her unconditional love.

#4 She Always Makes Time For Me. Of course, we both love our four boys dearly. And, yes they demand a lot of her time and energy. Yet, she doesn’t just live for the kids. She continues to be my help mate, my best friend, and the love of my life. We still date, have adult talk, and grow closer daily. She realizes that one day the kids will be grown and it will just be the two of us contuining to grow old together. Hopefully we’ll have matching rocking chairs!

#5 She Supports Me Unconditionally. Many underrate the power of support. I know firsthand what it means for someone to believe in you when you’ve lost belief in yourself. I know what it means for someone to support you from a dark place back to a happier place. You name it my wife has done it. And, it only makes me love her more.

Over the years, we’ve made a lot of big moves and sacrifices together. We’ve actually moved all of our belongings & family at least 14 different times as we’ve followed God’s dream for our lives. Many see things that I’ve accomplished and things I do. But, let me assure you that behind any good man is an even greater woman. Therefore, my wife Aimee Crosby is more than deserving of her P.H.T. award.

Some reading this don’t get the recognition you deserve. Don’t ever think your love, support, sacrifice and commitment are meaningless. God sees it all and others appreciate your efforts. Your role is just as important as what those you support are doing.

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.

Will You Rub My Feet?

 

Feet

Recently, I was visiting one of my favorite patients. He is literally in his last days. The least I can do is provide him some spiritual comfort. This man always tells me he loves me and never grows tired of me singing his favorite hymns. I mean never grows tired. I usually just have to let him know that I can’t stay with him all day.
As I got ready to leave his bedside, I made the mistake of asking him a question. I said, “Sir, is there anything I can do for you today?” He said, “Yes, will you rub my feet they hurt so bad?” For a moment, I did consider saying let me go get your nurse. Then, God grabbed my heart and assured me this mission was for me.
I admit to wondering just what this would like look to anyone who might suddenly enter the room. After all, I was just the chaplain and for some reason I was rubbing another man’s feet. But, God really spoke deeply to my heart during this experience.
Rubbing his feet for the next twenty minutes many things went through my mind. I was reminded we should never think we are above doing something. That we really should love our neighbor as ourselves. After all, what if that were me lying helpless in that bed. Yes, God was humbling me and showing me what it really means to be His servant.
As I looked up this man was smiling ear to ear. After a while he was just so relaxed and grateful. I could see God using something so simple to connect our hearts even deeper. That man knew I didn’t have to rub his feet. But, it meant the world to him that I was willing to bring him such comfort.
When I finished, he grabbed my hand and reminded me he loved me. I reminded him that God loved him and sent me there to express that love to him. And, in this case to show that love to him. You see, sometimes actions do speak louder than words.

(Matthew 25:45)(NLT) Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.”

The Brain Is Broke, The Spirit Is Alive

Dimentia Man

He was lying in bed seemingly asleep. I entered the room and our eyes met for the first time. Some would think he was totally confused. Many would not even attempt to have a conversation with someone doctors say has lost their mind. But, experience has taught me that as long as the soul is there, so is the person.

This hospice patient looked deeply into my eyes as God created a heart connection between us. I began to sing familiar hymns full of truth and he just listened. I read scripture from God’s word and assurred him of God’s continued presence. I reminded him that even when words don’t come, God still hears each prayer. I did wonder for a few minutes whether he was really understanding what I was saying.

But, then he grabbed my hand very firmly. He looked at me as if we had been part of the same family for years. I could tell quickly that the same spirit that lives in me, lives in him. From that moment on I knew our time together was more than words.

I observed what I’ve seen so many times with others who can’t speak, but still have faith in Christ. God’s spirit communicates things words can’t express. Somehow God speaks things from one heart to another. You can feel God’s presence strongly in the room. What might sound like a one sided conversation is actually a divine encounter. An encounter not established by man, but created by God.

Maybe you have a loved one that can’t think or communicate like they did in the past. Maybe they can’t even recall your name or verbally respond to your words. Realize that words aren’t always necessary to communicate love, faith, or hope. A simple prayer by their bedside can lift their faith. The reading of scripture can bring hope. A hymn of faith could remind them that God is still there. And, just God’s presence working through you can assure them they are still loved dearly.

(Romans 8:26)And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

 

Are You Color Blind?

AME Church Hug I’m about to ask you a question I believe matters deeply to the heart of God. It’s a question everyone needs to be asked. Or we can just ignore an issue that is very near and dear to the heart of God. That question my friend is “Are you color blind?”

Growing up in the south I’m well aware of the word “racism.” And, I realize that most people aren’t trying to be racist, but it’s just in their blood. They were raised in societies that naturally segregated themselves and were usually taught to hang out with their “own color.”

I can recall on more than a few occasions someone saying to me, “Preacher, I just believe God wants us to stick with our kind.” Their “our kind” was referring to our own race. I’ve thought long and hard about this statement. I’ve searched scripture to ponder this matter. Here is what I’ve concluded.

#1 GOD HAS NO FAVORITES

The popular childhood song got it right. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” God loves us all the same. In fact, the bible says “God so loved the World that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God created every color and loves us all the same.

#2 GOD SEES SOULS, NOT SKIN

I honestly believe God is color blind. He knows the outside is just skin making one man look different than the next. God wants the best for all of us. Regardless of our skin color, he loves us deeply and wants us all to know it. Sadly, even most of churches don’t reflect God’s point of view. Many focus on simply gathering those around them that appear “their kind.” Or let’s be honest their race.

#3 GOD HATES RACISM

God doesn’t approve of symbols that only escalate racial divide. God doesn’t approve of any organization that only promotes their race matters. God hates it when we look at each other through racist eyes. When we repeat racist jokes and behavior passed down by generations before us. Bottom line, God hates it when a man’s skin color changes the way we see the man. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God has really put it heavy on my heart this issue must be addressed. We must quit separating ourselves by the color of our skin. You see, we all bleed red. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. And, we all desperately need a Savior named Jesus who died because He loves us all. When going through life don’t just think about “your kind.” Realize there is only one kind. Men, women, boys, and girls who were handcrafted by God. Those who are all special in the eyes of God.

(Romans 10:11) “For God does not show favoritism.”

 Whatever your race, you are very special to God. If you don’t have a church home, I would love for you to visit me at Refuge Church. Services are Sundays 9:15 and 11am @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Drive, Walterboro. Come as you are, Never leave the same.

If I Only Had One Year Left

The dash

What if 2016 was the last year you had on planet earth? Suppose your doctor after studying test results looks at you and says, “I’m sorry, but based on what we’ve discovered you have only a year or less to live.” No doubt this revelation would change the way you approach this life. Trust me, as a hospice chaplain and minister for over 21 years this kind of news is always life changing. I’ve observed countless folks who just discovered this kind of news and it’s always life changing.

I love the song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. However, if I knew death was near I would not be making plans to go sky dying, rocky mountain climbing, nor would I care about riding some bull. Forgive me if any of those things are at the top of your bucket list. Here are some things that would probably top the list for each of us if we thought this year was our last.

#1  I would THANK GOD FOR EACH DAY

Usually when I ask a person who knows they are dying, “How are they doing?” There reply is, “I’m just thankful God woke me up!”  You see, they are truly thankful for each breath and another day on planet earth.

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

 #2  I would PREPARE TO TRANSITION

I still can’t believe the words of a 103 year old man who lives in an area Nursing Home. I asked him, “What do you think happens when you die? He replied, “Hadn’t even thought about it.”

I said, “Sir, I think once a person reaches a hundred it’s about time to start thinking about life after death…don’t you think?”

“I won’t care, I’ll be dead” he replied, to which I responded, “But, sir you will care…because we are each made to live eternally. The only question that remains is where we will live eternally. Heaven or Hell.”

 (Ecclesiastes 3:11) “…God has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

(Hebrews 9:27) people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

 #3  I would MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT

I’ll never forget one of my sickest hospice patients looking me square in the eyes and saying, “Pastor, I’m more blessed than you.” I replied, “How is that sir?” He said, “Because I know how to live like I’m dying. I seek to make the most of every moment.”

 (Ephesians 5:16-17) making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

 #4  I would VALUE RELATIONSHIPS.

Never heard any man or woman tell me this at the end of their life, “I spent way too much time with my friends and family.” Or,“I wish I would have spent less time with my family and friends.” It’s always “I wish I would have spent more time with those I love.”

(1 John 4:7-8) “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God…”

#5  I would SEEK GOD’S WILL WHOLEHEARTEDLY.

 Do you know what I think is one of the greatest problems with professing Christians and therefore the church today? Very few are living with a true sense of urgency….Very few are wholeheartedly seeking God’s will.

(James 4:13-17) 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

#6  I would LIVE WITH ETERNITY IN MIND.

If you’re like most, you got a lot of stuff this Christmas. Two days after Christmas, I visited with a man who only has weeks to live and I asked him if he had a good Christmas.He said, “Yes, I think so. I got a few things, but I haven’t gotten around to opening any of them.” Over on the bed next to him was a stack of “Things” wrapped in boxes and gift wrap. Those things really didn’t have a lot of value to this man at this time in his life.”

(Matthew 6:19-20) 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

 #7  I would WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

 I have a patient who just drew his last breath this past weekend. I find it amazing that every time he woke up the last week of his life he spoke one recurring theme. He says, “Pastor, I just want to touch one more life. I just want to make a difference in one more life.” 

(Matthew 5:16) “Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

My friends we only get one dash between when we are born and when we will die. Either we live in such a way that matters or our dash on this earth will be wasted. My prayer is that this article will inspire you to live this year as if it were your last. You don’t need a doctor or a preacher to tell you that you need to live each day as if you’re dying. Now, go make 2016 the best year of your life!

*If you don’t have a church home please join us @ Refuge Church. On January 3rd, we’ll be starting a message series entitled “2016 Difference Makers.” Worship with us Sundays 9:15 or 11 am. Located at 203 Eddie Chasteen Drive, Walterboro. Come as you are, Never leave the same.

Pain Speaks Loudly

Dear God Take This Pain

Pain comes in many forms. Physically, emotionally, or mentally we can all be knocked down quickly. Maybe you’re processing the sudden loss of someone you never imagined living without. Maybe you’ve experienced some tragedy that has changed every bit of life as you once knew it. It really doesn’t matter where the pain stems from it always speaks loudly. It’s very important we don’t miss what the pain is saying to us.

  1. PAIN REVEALS OUR HUMANITY. None of us are immune to hardship. None of us can escape physical or emotional pain. You could be healthy all your life and find out tomorrow you have cancer. You could have thought you could handle anything, but then find yourself in a battle way over your head. Pain reminds us we aren’t in control and we all have human limitations.
  2. PAIN REMINDS US WE NEED GOD’S HELP. As you fight to even get out of bed you suddenly realize you were never strong enough. Every day of your life is a God made day as He alone breathes life into us. It often takes uncontrollable pain and circumstance to help us realize our desperate need for a Savior named Jesus.
  3. PAIN MAKES US GRATEFUL. Not sure there is a truer statement than “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Pain teaches us that nothing should be assumed or taken for granted. You really don’t know what tomorrow will bring and every good gift comes from God. Every day we should thank God for our health, relationships, and circumstances. Because any of those things could be gone tomorrow.
  4. PAIN CHANGES OUR PERSPECTIVE. Not until we’re on our knees can we begin to see life through different eyes. Before that moment, we’re too busy feeling large and in charge. Suddenly we find ourselves flat on our back and realizing that life is a precious gift. God often uses our most painful experiences to develop within us a different attitude and perspective.
  5. PAIN FORCES US TO “WAIT ON GOD.” There are many pains that can’t be healed by a bottle or pill. There are many pains that just don’t go away overnight. You have to call on God, trust God, and wait on God for the healing. Healing is often a process, but rarely an event. Pain forces us to be patient and dependent on God.                                                                                                                                                              Let’s admit it. None of us enjoy pain or discomfort. Yet, there is no denying that God speaks loudly through every second of it. During my present pain a lady in my church sent me the following quote. It certainly spoke to my heart. 

    “Every person experiences pain, but only the child of God experiences purposeful pain.” – Skip Heitzig

     “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28 (NLT)

     

       

Find Your Shut-Off Valve

On off switchYou’ve got to hear what I’m about to say. Ignoring this message will affect your marriage, your family, your sanity, and many other things in between. Many reading this right now need to realize this message is not just for your neighbor, but it’s one we all need to take to heart.

     We live in a world that only knows one speed called “Wide Open.” We run here and we run there. Often we say, I just don’t know how I’m going to get everything done. I’ve got so much on my schedule and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Does this sound too familiar?

     I readily admit that for too many years I’ve run around like a chicken with my head cut off. Of course, my excuses were very convincing. I just HAD to go to that next meeting. This person over here needs me right now. And, if I don’t do this or that the world will certainly fall apart. I’m not just choosing to be busy, life is just busy. We all just need to put our big boy britches and accept it.

     Well, I’ve finally concluded that I can’t keep up with this world. In fact, I’ve quit trying to see how fast I can run. I’ve discovered that all it guarantees is that you will neglect your family, you will lose your joy, and burnout will come. Honestly, I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

     It wasn’t until my health slowed me down that I found my shut-off valve. I realized that I was so busy living life that I was missing key moments in my life. I had a vision to help everyone else, but no true plan in place to keep myself or family healthy. One of the first steps I had to take was learning how to say “No”. I realized that saying no often is not only an option, but necessary.

    You see, man brings guilt, but God brings conviction. God has clearly convicted me that I need to slow down. There has to be cut-off points in my life. There has to be times that I make my marriage and my family a top priority. I have to constantly make sure that I live with clear boundaries and most importantly healthy boundaries. Otherwise, I will live life too fast like everybody else. And, I will be miserable like everyone else.

     I presently do one third of what I used to do. I say no often to the wrong things, so I can say yes to the right things. I seek to remind myself daily how running too fast will cost me way too much. I can’t follow the patterns of this world and expect different results. I have to use my shut-off valve often and not get caught up in the rat race around me.

(Romans 12:2)(NLT)  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

 (1 Corinthians 10:23)(NLT) You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.

(Matthew 5:37)(NIV) Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one

    

   

 

 

My Family Almost Drowned

family-running-profile.jpg

     We had just gotten the news that a nearby dam broke. We knew the flood waters were headed our way. There was simply no way to escape this natural disaster. My heart was pounding as I frantically sought to prepare my wife and four boys for the unknown ahead.

    Through a house window we could see the water gushing our way from a distance. I became very emotional as I really didn’t know if I would ever see my family again here on earth. Everyone was holding on tightly to each other, just bracing for the worse. My five year old had his arms locked around my neck just hoping his daddy would take care of him.

    One of my sons asked, “Daddy, why are you crying so much?” I said, “Guys I just love you all so much. And, I don’t want anything to happen to any of you.” He says, “Daddy, it’s not like we’re going to die or something.” I quickly replied, “Son, I can’t promise you what’s going to happen next. Let’s just pray right now and put it all in God’s hands.”

     Praise God, right after that my cell phone rang. As I checked to see who was calling I realized I had just been dreaming. Never was I anymore thankful that this was just a dream. I immediately went into the kitchen, gave my wife a great big hug and told her I just had the worst dream ever.

     Ironically, I had gone to bed the night before preparing a sermon entitled “Guard Your Home.” This served as a reminder that none of us know what tomorrow or even the next moment will hold. We have to do everything we can to prepare ourselves and our family for the next unknown moment.

     Truth is we’re all going to die someday. There should never be a day we don’t live with eternity in mind. Daily we should express our love for one another. Never should we lose sight that in the end, only our hope in Jesus Christ will remain.

(Hebrews 13:8)(NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

(Romans 10:9)(NIV) If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

(Hebrews 6:19)(NIV) We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

When You’re Going Through Hell

Under Fire

I’ve been in one of the toughest, most intense battles of my life. I feel like flaming arrows are coming from every direction. Physically I’ve never felt worse. Emotionally, I’m one step away from the crazy house. Yet, spiritually I actually feel stronger than ever before. Put all that together and I’m a pretty hot mess. During this time, I’ve learned some very important lessons.

One, if you choose to surrender everything to God expect adversity. Satan doesn’t bother you near as much if you’re just coasting through life. He loves it when you just go with the flow of society. Yet, when you decide to let God make an above average difference through you, expect your enemy the devil to attack.

Two, in your toughest seasons you should never walk alone. The worst thing you can do during an already trying time is to play lone ranger. You desperately need others there for you, praying for you, and walking with you through this time.  Walking alone drastically decreases your odds of making it to the other side.

Thirdly, your faith will grow most during crisis. None of us enjoy trials, but there is no denying this is when God does His greatest work within us. We learn to hold on when otherwise we would fall apart. We learn to trust God even when things don’t appear promising. God uses the crisis to draw us closer than ever to Himself. God uses the crisis to make our faith stronger than ever before.

Finally, I’ve learned that God is faithful. God will carry you when you feel you can’t carry on. God will bring things together even when you’re far from having it all together. God honors those who seek to honor Him. He always provides, protects, and does immeasurably more than we could ever dream or take credit for ourselves.

My battles on this earth are far from over. There will always be another valley to go through or mountain to climb. This I know for sure. God is with me, God is for me, and God will help me handle whatever comes my way.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Join Pastor Craig Crosby Sundays 9:15 or 11am @ Refuge Church. Come As You Are, Never Leave The Same.

ATTENTION: Colleton County Unchurched

Come As You Are, Never Leave The Same

Come As You Are, Never Leave The Same

I’m sure this article will offend someone, but I can honestly say I have no selfish agenda as I write these words. If you already attend church this article isn’t for you. If you live in Colleton County and are one of the nearly 30,000 folks that don’t attend church, this message is for you.

Yes, I realize there are many reasons people don’t attend church. Some feel the church is full of hypocrites, boring, irrelevant, self-centered, after their money and just another social club. I’m not even going to attempt to argue with you about these accusations. In fact, I fully understand why many of you may feel the way you do. However, maybe you’ve just not had the best of experiences.

Before I go any further, please let me say that I know several great pastors and churches in the area. Believers that would give you the shirt off their back if they really knew you were in need. Folks that spend most of their days trying to leave this world a better place.

For the record, I don’t believe churches need to change the truth. I believe God meant every word He wrote in His best selling book called the Bible. I believe whether you’ve ever darkened the doors of a church or not, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. To know God’s truth and to not follow that truth is sin. And, sin will always separate us from a right relationship with God. Thank God for His amazing grace!

Now, God did put it heavy on my heart a few years ago to start a church here that approaches things differently than most. A place where people can truly “Come As They Are.” A place where people will never feel judged, but always loved. A place where the truth is always presented in a relevant way that changes people’s everyday lives. A place where people can wear what they have, give what they can, and never leave the same. A place that “Changes The Way You Think About Church.”

In March 2011, my wife and I started Refuge Church after a lot of prayer. It probably appeared foolish for a family of six to rent the Colleton Rec Center for weekly worship. All we knew was God had called us to this mission and that was all that mattered. You see, I learned a long time ago that God’s plans don’t have to make sense to any of us. If you do what’s right, you can’t go wrong.

After setting up for weekly Sunday worship the past 2 years and 8 months, God has more than proven His faithfulness. Word has traveled that Refuge Church is a place that is very serious about meeting people on their front porch. We understand you don’t care how much we know, until you know how much we care.

Hundreds of previously unchurched folks have walked through those Recreation doors. Many touched by the genuine love they’ve felt. Many shocked by the fact that we’ve never even passed around an offering plate. As one gentlemen said, “I just don’t think most people believe church could ever be like this.” I’ve often said that anytime you mix calling, compassion, competancy, and consistency you will discover something great.

Refuge has grown from a family of six to a house full of worshippers. We offer two identical Sunday morning worship experiences where lives are always changed. Most importantly, the majority of our members were once like some of you. They never attended church before, nor did they have any desire to do so. Now, we can’t keep them outside the doors.

This Sunday, November 8th Refuge Church will relocate into our own 24/7 Worship Facility. Many will feel right at home in our new building located right in the heart of Walterboro. If you are among the many unchurched please join us Sundays @ 9:15am or 11am. I guarantee we’ll change the way you think about church. Learn more about our vision and what to expect at www.RefugeChurch.org.

Our new location is 203 Eddie Chasteen Drive. Right across from Wells Fargo and beside Walterboro Eye Care Center.

(Hebrews 10:25) And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Lessons From The “Band Of Blue”

bandofblue  The band of blue is about to kickoff a new season. It’s my son Joel’s second year playing in the Colleton County High School Band of Blue. Tom Finigan and his staff do an amazing job of assembling together one of the best high school bands in the state. Anyone looking closely can see their effort and the results of their hard work. As lead pastor of Refuge Church, I know how much sweat and prayer goes into leading something that strives daily to be above average. I can promise you things don’t just happen by accident. Here are some things you’ll observe that are key to Big Blue’s success.

  1. VISION.

Before I ever moved to Walterboro, I heard of the Band of Blue. Not because I was a big band person, but because vision travels. It is clear the Band of Blue strives to be the best high school band possible year in and year out. Band members come and band members go. Yet, the vision is bigger than it’s members and outlives any single performance. Those who sign up for the Band of Blue understand that it is a movement greater than any one person. Everyone matters, but following the vision is what’s best for everyone to accomplish much.

  1. TEAMWORK.

When it comes to the Band of Blue, I’m very impressed with its team work. Parents, boosters, teenagers and the community all work together in making this band a success. The more unselfish people you have working together to accomplish a common goal, the greater chance you have of accomplishing that goal. What makes Big Blue great? The people who work together to make it great.

  1. ATTENTION TO DETAIL.

Accomplishing anything big always starts with doing a bunch of little things well. They are constantly practicing, tweaking, evaluating and striving to do a little better than before. They evaluate past performances, transitions, props, processes and anything that might help them perform at a greater level. They celebrate accomplishments, but then its back to discovering ways to improve.

  1. STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE.

They are proud, but not content. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your effort. But, where things begin to fall is when we think we’ve arrived. The Band of Blue understands they are always a work in progress. Each and every day they strive to improve towards their goal of excellence. Excellence is simply seeking to do the very best you can and leaving the results in God’s hands.

  1. FUELED BY PASSION & HEART.

I’ve seen firsthand Tom Finigan’s heart and passion for the Band of Blue. He is not just focused on process, but on developing people. He has already left my almost 15 year old better than he found him. Passion and heart are contagious. It’s not something you pretend, but will reveal itself over time. Today, many share Tom’s heart and passion to see young people perform and develop to the best of their ability.

My friends, these are principles that will make any organization, mission or church great. There are no short cuts to success. It’s always a daily grind of taking the next right step in front of you. The Colleton County Band of Blue seems to do that as well as anyone. I can promise you this, I will seek to lead my church in the same fashion. I encourage you if you can to go out and checkout the band of blue this season. Go Big Blue!

(Philippians 3:12-14)Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

A Big Lesson From The Head Ball Coach

The Head Ball Coach

The Head Ball Coach

The college football world has been dominated with the recent and sudden resignation of University of South Carolina Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier. For years, he has been a proven winner on the field. He certainly carried an average USC football program to greater heights than ever on the field. Yet, I feel one of his greatest accomplishments was likely when he chose to step off the field.

Anyone who has ever watched this man knows he is a true competitor, fighter and loves to win. As a college football player he walked away with their most coveted honor the heisman trophy. As a college football coach he has posted nothing but winning records everywhere he has gone. Suddenly at the age of 70 he found himself sputtering. In fact, he had to admit to himself he was no longer the effective leader he once was. This year’s team reflected his struggle and his ineffectiveness.

Absolutely no one expected Spurrier to resign midway through the college season. But, he shocked the world when he said, “I’m Done. My run here is over and it’s time for me to move on.” Some called him a quitter and others may have felt he left on a losing note since his team was sitting at 2-4. But, I say he left a winner as he showed great leadership character.

You see, too many leaders today let their pride stand in the way of making right decisions. Too many leaders today let the postion they hold define who they are as a person. Spurrier knew his coaching spoke for itself. He knew staying in his position would just hinder the progress of the mission he fought so hard to build over the last decade. In the end, he determined it was best he got out of the way and let new leadership take things further.

I really believe most leaders today aren’t man enough to make such prompt decisions. Life is full of seasons, assignments and times when change is absolutely necessary. We all have to recognize when it’s our season to step up and when its time to step down.

Trust me, I know what it’s like to immediately walk away from something you’ve poured your heart into and step down as a leader because you realize you’re no longer the best man for the job. No amount of money, recognition, or comfort should dictate us otherwise. I have found there is no greater fulfillment than to be who God made you to be and where God has called you to be. We need to listen to his voice and be willing to move promptly when he says move.

As I write this, I fully believe there is someone needing to hear this message. You know in your heart if you’re just drawing a pay check and holding onto a position you need to release. You know in your heart if it’s time for you to move on, but you’ve not admitted it to yourself or others.

My friends, it’s worth getting over your pride and moving on. You’re moving on will give you greater peace as you make yourself available to whatever God has for you next. It will also allow the next right someone to step into your present position and take things forward. Don’t be afraid to obey God’s voice and make the right decisions promptly. Here are a couple verses you might take to heart.

(1 Timothy 3:1)”Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”

(John 10:27)”My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

(2 Timothy 1:7) “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

God’s Not Done With Me Yet

Pre-Surgery Prayer

Pre-Surgery Prayer

As I write this, tears are rolling down my face. I’m exhausted from getting up at 4am to see a dear friend prior to his triple bypass surgery. I’m even more relieved that God is not done with my friend just yet. At just 38 years of age, none of us saw this day coming. However, last friday revealed Trey Asbelle was facing a true life or death situation.

I learned quite a bit of history on the day Trey’s three major heart blockages were revealed. Heart issues run strong in his family. Trey’s dad passed away suddenly at age 42 from a heart attack. His granddad passed away at age 40 from the same. I’m more than certain these past statitics were rolling through trey’s head as he waited three long days for mandatory surgery. Doctor’s say he could easily have passed away anytime over the past year.

God gave me a strong peace as I stood by Trey’s bedside. I’ve learned over time that with God statistics are thrown out the window. With God in the mix it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, but simply what is God’s will in the present. I actually began to get excited deep within as I believe this is just the beginning of Trey’s God’s story.

Trey and I became friends after I was the hospice chaplain for his “Pops” or granddad. We also got to know each other through our mutual love for Gamecock Football. Trey has allowed me the opportunity to minister to nearly 100,000 Gamecock Born & Bred fans through his Facebook page that continues to grow. It was his idea that I continue to share weekly scripture and inspirational thoughts. He would always say, “I want this to be bigger than me and actually make a difference in people’s lives.” He never backed down from this statement as we still work together to this day.

During out time together, I’ve seen Trey come to faith in Christ and continue to grow in his faith. I’ve never doubted that God had big plans for a man who once only knew how to celebrate a ball team. As I shared on facebook of recent. “Often it takes the fear of losing what matters to realize what matters most.” I have no doubt that Trey has learned that lesson well.

As we gathered early for pre-surgery prayer, I only asked Trey to do one thing. I said, “Please make sure you don’t waste this God story. Because God is about to do something really special through your life.” I honestly believe Trey’s best days are yet to come. His faith in Christ has taken him far. Once again God has proven his faithfulness. May we all now pray for his continued recovery as God continues to write the next chapters of his God story.

My friends it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve been through. God wants to use it all for you good and His glory! “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Join Pastor Craig and many others Sundays @ Refuge Church.  “Come You As You Are, Never Leave The Same.” Find out more info @ http://www.RefugeChurch.org

My 5 Year Old Missionary

Asher Mexican Restaurant     Recently, a dear friend and former next door neighbor become one of my hospice patients. We had not seen each other in a few years. The patient had not seen any of my growing boys in at least four years. I was grateful for the opportunity to see my friend even if it was just a day prior to his eternal transition.

I had a great first visit with my friend who was comfortable, but clearly in his last days on earth. Surprisingly, he could still recognize who I was and carry on clear conversation. Before I left his bedside, I asked. “Is there anything else I could do for you my friend?” He said, “Yes, bring me that boy.” I was like, “What boy?” He said, “Bring me that little boy.” I said, “Are you talking about my little baby Asher?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “He is not a little baby anymore. Last time you saw him he was not quite one years old, but he is now five. But, I’ll see what I can do.”

Honestly, I really just wanted to go crawl in my bed after a very long, hard day of seeing patients. But, I knew this man might not wake up the next day. So, I went home and asked my five year old son if he would go visit my friend. It was obvious he had no idea who I was even talking about since he was just born the last time we lived near each other. But, the promise of some Mexican Cheese Dip at least got him to jump in the car with me.

As we headed to the hospital he asked. “Is Mr Tommy a boy or girl.” I said, “A boy.” He asked, “Is Mr Tommy big like you or little like me? I said, “Big like me. Son, Mr Tommy is a Grandpa.” Finally, at least he had a mental picture of who he might be visiting. I told Asher that Mr Tommy just wanted to see him. That we needed to pray for Mr Tommy and let him know that Jesus loves him. He said, “Ok, daddy.”

We finally entered his hospital room and I really didn’t know what to expect. I wondered if Mr. Tommy really wanted to see my youngest son. Even more I wondered would my five year old be alright seeing a man struggling for his next breath. I decided I would leave that to God. I then observed a very moving scene.

A man who earlier stuggled to lift an eye lid was suddenly wide eyed. He lit up when my son entered the room as my five year old sought to let God use him. We bowed our heads together for prayer. My son, simply prayed, “Dear God, please help Mr Tommy feel better.” It was a short prayer and visit, but the divine connection was obvious.

After our visit, we headed to the Mexican Restaurant as promised. My five year old son said this on the way there. “That man was a Grandpa. I’m glad I could make that Grandpa happy.” He smiled and everything within me leaped. I knew he understood something that so many miss today. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. And, it doesn’t take much to encourage a soul and be someone’s answer to prayer.

The next afternoon, Mr Tommy drew his last breath this side of Heaven. He had faith in Jesus and he had made peace with the God who called him home. And, somehow in the last twenty four hours of his life God used a five year old boy to help with that process. My friends, it’s doesn’t matter where life finds you. Young or old, God can use you. The question is, “Are you willing to let him.” You don’t have to know all the answers to life’s situations. You simply need God’s love in your heart and a willing spirit to let that love flow through you. You make yourself totally available and I guarantee God will use you.

(1 John 4:7-8) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

They Say Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice…

Lightning Every generation has lessons and legends they pass on to the next. Like who ever discovered a rabbit’s foot brings good luck? Who ever decided it’s just not good luck to have a black cat cross your path? I hope it wasn’t the same people that said lightning doesn’t strike twice. Which is to say that the same bad thing won’t happen to the same person twice. Let me briefly put that last theory to rest for you.

Over the last five years alone, I’ve ministered to hundreds of hospice patients inside homes, hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities. For me, it’s never been a burden or just a job. I feel called by God to help people find God’s peace, comfort and hope even in the midst of great crisis. However, in just a brief moment my ability to do that drastically changed.

About two years ago, while trying to help a family process their grief a rather large lady passed out into my arms. I did the best I could to keep her from pounding the hard floor. Her body did the best it could to make it where I never walked again. I really thought I would just work through the pain. Six weeks later, I could barely take a few steps. MRI results showed that I had a muscle tear in my right side and a lower back bulge in my L3,L4, and L5 vertebrae.

It took quite a while to get back on my feet. After many months of physical therapy, pain shots, time and faith I finally got back to what I loved doing so much. I still had a little discomfort, but I had avoided surgery and was 85% stronger. You know, sometimes you have to know where you were to appreciate where you are.

Recently, I was out visiting several hospice patients inside a facility. I was feeling great and doing what I love so much. When all of sudden, my legs were literally knocked out from underneath me. Someone had spilled a trail of fluids that obviously I did not see before me. One young lady watched as this pastor flew about three feet in the air. I’m willing to bet I would have been a youtube sensation if there was video surveillance. I did everything I could to just keep from breaking my neck.

Praise God, I didn’t break my neck. However, it does appear that I struck more than one nerve in body. I was beyond sore the next day. As each day has passed the pressure in my legs has only gotten worse. Evidently, this time around I have done something that isn’t just going away tomorrow. It’s all I can do to stand on my legs while wearing knee pads and a back brace. And, honestly this time around I’m not feeling near as crazy inside.

First of all, let’s just say the heck with that lie that lightning doesn’t strike twice. The truth is, anything can happen on any given day. You and I have to find a way to work through and most importantly trust God to take us through whatever happens in life.

A few days after my injury, I was talking with a military veteran who had years of wear and tear on his body. From his wheelchair, he told me about all his falls. He told me how he fell out of a helicopter, broke his back and lived to tell about it. He said, “I’ve found in my years that time plus faith will always bring healing. You might not be as you once were, but you can always come out even stronger on the other side.”

Those words are healing to my heart and soul even now. Especially as I once again find myself on the trail of the unknown. I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow. I know from my first time of being knocked down that God is faithful and will take me through even these days.

I pray that whatever you might be facing you know that God is there, God is bigger and God is still in control. And that sometimes God calms the storm, but He can always calm His child.

(Luke 8:24)”The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.”

(James 1:2-4) “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

5 Things Your Pastor Needs You To Know

Me & Aimee B&W

1. He Has A Boss.
Yep, I have someone I report to daily. My boss sees everything I do and even knows my motives while doing it. Scripture tells me that I need to focus on pleasing God, not man. I have to let God lead me as I seek to lead others. A pastor is called, not hired. At the end of this life we will all give an account to God for what we’ve done and not done. I’m hoping to hear those words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”
2. He Has A Family.
Scripture tells pastors that we must manage our family before we seek to manage the family of God. It means so much when others recognize and value a pastor’s family. I have a wife that deserves more than left overs. I have four boys that need a dad who just happens to be a preacher. Try to love your pastor’s family as much as he loves yours. As one pastor friend once said to a church member. “You go to bed with just your family in mind. I go to bed with countless families on my mind.”
3. He Has Limits.
In 20 years of ministry my humanity has been revealed on more than a few occassions. I’ve concluded that pleasing everyone is not an option. Even on my best day I can’t be everywhere, I can’t do everything, and I can’t make everyone happy. Over time I’ve realized that prayer can take things much further than me. I have to maintain a balance of my time and keep myself healthy. If I don’t stay healthy, I won’t be helpful for long.
4. He Has Issues.
Maybe there is a pastor out that thinks he is perfect. Personally, I’m a hot mess covered by the grace of God. I lose my patience. I say things I wish I never did. I have bills I can’t pay. I run out of energy often and have to go to the doctor when I get sick. As one lady said to me, “I realize you put on your pants just like the rest of us.” Remember that the next time you expect your pastor to act like an Angel with wings.
5. His Job Is Much Bigger Than Him Alone.
Many in churches sit back and expect the pastor to do all the work. Any church totally dependent upon the pastor for everything is a church bound to fail. Every believer is a part of the body of Christ. We’ve all been called to minister, just in different ways. A pastor is only as strong as those who surround him. A healthy church is made up of a group of unselfish believers who take seriously God’s commands and mission in this life. Pastors should be held to a higher standard, but so should all who claim to be Christ followers.

*Join Pastor Craig @ Refuge Church where you can always come as you are, but never leave the same. Go to http://www.RefugeChurch.org for more information or to listen to messages that could help you in everyday life.

THANK YOU JESUS

Gas Price

Recently, I stopped to fill my car up with gas. I couldn’t believe the sign read $1.88. Inside my heart, I was doing the chicken dance. For whatever reason, this prompted me to consider many other blessings. In the gas station parking lot, I thanked God for giving me two jobs I love. I thanked God for a wife that has stood by my side for better or worse. I thanked God for not one, but four healthy boys I’m proud to call my sons. I thanked God for family, friends, and a world full of opportunity to carry out His will. I promise not to bore you with any further details.

I appreciate more than ever the words of an old hymn. “Count you blessings name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done.” From my viewpoint, God has done a whole lot. Often, we don’t take time to thank God for his endless grace, mercy, and undeserved blessings. My mind can easily drift to what is broken and needs to be fixed. Yet, if God never gave me one more thing in this life I would die rich!

Have you stopped to consider all God has done for you? Are you focused on your problems or your blessings? God wants us to give Him our problems and thank Him continually for the blessings. Prayer combined with thanksgiving will increase our joy and peace in life. Take out a piece of paper and list some of the ways God has blessed you. I guarantee most will run out of space to list them all.

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)”Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

My Love Story

Cruise Pic 1

Aimee and I just celebrated 18 years of marriage together. In celebration of that I would like to share our love story. Hope it encourages someone who is praying for that special someone.

We met in high school a few years after her family moved to Dorchester, South Carolina. We had just one class together and really only saw each other in passing. She was a cheer leader and I was on the football team.

After graduation, I came home the next fall to watch a high school football game. It was the begining of her junior year in High School and my first year in college. I still recall the day her beautiful smile totally captured my attention. It was as if God put a halo over her head and said, “Look here son.” One conversation led to another. Before I knew it we were talking for hours on the phone. I began looking for excuses for us to spend time together.

One of the biggest highlights of my life happened early in our relationship. After attending a youth bible study together we were hanging out together in my car. She said, “I think I’m ready to give my heart and life to Jesus Christ.” Right then and there, I led her through God’s plan of salvation. We bowed our heads together and she invited Jesus into her heart. She was already a wonderful person, but now she was totally changed forevermore. All because “God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”(John 3:16)

This marked the begining of us getting on the same page. You see, I knew I couldn’t just marry anybody. The person I married had to know and love the same God I loved. The God who called me into the ministry had to be calling her too. I knew growing up a Pastor’s son that being a pastor would not be easy. I knew the Pastor’s wife had to be someone extra special.

We dated the next 4 plus years. She followed me to Charleston Southern University where we both attended classes. Just like any young relationship we went through many ups and downs. I still recall the day God made it crystal clear that I was to marry Aimee Lynn Perrin. I realized she was not just someone I could live with, but someone I could not live without.

I began the process of buying a diamond ring. Thank God my mom fronted me the money before I could pay her back. The night of our engagement we got a window seat at California Dreaming in Charleston, SC. She had no idea what was ahead or that I was even pondering popping the question. After purposely making her think that diamond rings were way too expensive, I pulled the ring out of my jacket pocket. Her smile made it worth every dollar spent.

Less than six months later we got married on August 23rd, 1997. Praise God, she said YES. Outside of saying yes to Jesus she became the second best yes of my life. I have never had a lonely day since.

We started our marriage together at just 20 and 22 years old. We were simply kids who thought they knew what they were doing. Fortunately, this was all part of God’s divine plan. He grew us, watched over us, and kept our marriage from falling apart for 18 years.

I thought I loved my wife years ago. But, time has proven that I’m just learning how to love and appreciate her. I thank God for answered and unanswered prayers. For sending me someone that not only completes my sentences, but loves me unconditionally. Someone who makes me better just by her presence.

Many just see her as the preacher’s wife. I see her as the half that makes me whole. The one God uses daily to help me accomplish His mission in this life. I can promise you this for sure, my life would not be the same without her. Aimee Crosby thanks for giving me room to grow, supporting my dreams, and never leaving my side. I pray we share many more years together!

Back To School Prayer

Couple Praying

It’s that time of year again. When back packs, pencils, and notebooks are flying off the shelves. Kids and parents have to get used to being on school schedule after a possible lazy summer. This year we’ve got children headed to 11th grade, 9th grade, 6th grade, and Kindergarten. It will certainly take a tag team effort to get everyone to school on time. Oh, and my wife is telling me they even expect us to pick them back up.

Watching the way my wife prepares for these events is nothing short of amazing. Not to mention, her heart is aching watching her baby boy transition to all day school. I personally have very mixed feelings. Sure, I’m glad my boys are growing up and becoming all God created them to be. On the other hand, I feel like our time with them is slipping away so quickly. Maybe you have some of these feelings and more.

Earlier I found myself compelled to pray not only for my children, but all children. We all know the evil one is always looking to steal, kill, and destroy. We can’t be with them all the time. But, God can watch over them moment by moment. So, here is my school prayer.

Dear God, I come to you on behalf of our children. Please continue to grow them into the men and women you want them to become. Protect them from Satan’s attacks. Strengthen them where they feel weak. Assure them that no matter what you are with them. Guide their teachers and parents in the way they should go. May all work together as one. May no child be left behind. May every family have a blessed school year. May your will, not ours be done. In our homes, in our schools, and in this world. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!

“Do not be anxious about anything. But, in everything by prayer and petition present your requests to God with Thanksgiving. And, then the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“It’s Such A Cute Church”

Cute Church

Recently, I over heard two adults talking about how sad it was that so few attended their church. The lady said with all sincerity, “And, it’s such a cute little church.” I’m sorry but I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut about a matter that is so dear to my heart. They both looked so perplexed over this matter. They just couldn’t understand why people don’t go to church anymore.

I felt like a kid in the classroom with his hand raised. I was just waiting on someone to ask “Do you know the answer?” I looked at them both and asked, “Can I say something about this matter. “Gone are the days that people just run to the church, but it is time for the church to run to them.”

Over a decade ago it was predicted that within the next 20 years the average church would be closed. One, because most realize that if it wasn’t for the senior adult population the doors would have already been closed. But, just as big as that fact is knowing that if churches don’t change their approach nothing much will change.

Many know I started a new church called Refuge because I realized that over 30,000 folks throughout Colleton County alone don’t attend church reguraly. Crazy to me is all the folks that assume we’re just changing our music and not meeting in a traditional church building. Trust me, if that’s all any church changes that will not be enough. Here are some things I’ve learned are critical to seeing different results.

1. BE REAL.

Nothing turns off people more than preaching one thing and then doing another. People must know you are just real people, with real problems, looking to a real Jesus for answers. The average unchurched person is not looking for another church club, but a place they can have a real encounter with an Almighty, All Loving, & All Knowing God. We’ve got to get out of God’s way and let him lead our churches. Not just the pastor, but every believer who makes up the Body of Christ.

2. BE COMPASSIONATE.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Loving people on the outside of the church should be a greater concern than getting people on the inside of the church. Caring doesn’t have to cost a dime. It’s being there when life falls apart. It’s going the extra mile when you didn’t have to. It’s doing what you can, when you can to encourage another soul with God’s love. The church focused most on who they are keeping than who they are reaching is bound for decline. Jesus said,”I’ve not come for the well, but the sick.”

3. BE PATIENT.

Too many expect instant life change. Yet, that’s not how change takes place. It’s a process of understanding what it means to surrender all to Jesus. It’s a process of people loving you unconditionally and teaching you along the way. To help today’s culture you have to be willing to reach people on their front porch, get your hands dirty, and trust God with the life change. Our job as Christ followers is not to judge or produce results. We are called to be faithful, give God all the glory, and trust God with the growth.

“Some plant, some water, but God brings the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6)

I promise you this. You show me a church that sincerely cares about lost & broken people. You show me a church that is willing to do whatever it takes to reach those around them. You show me a church focused more on God’s agenda than their own. And, I will show you a church that will never stop growing!

*Local Pastor’s & Churches I sincerely pray for everyone of you. May we all keep our eyes on Jesus, do what Jesus did, and never grow weary in doing all we can to lead others to Jesus.

Carolina or Clemson, WHO CARES?

Spurrrier Hugging Swinney

Recently, Clemson Tigers Head Football Coach Dabo Swinney lost his dad after a long battle with an ugly disease called cancer. I really was not aware of this family’s loss until I read the following facebook post from another die hard Gamecock fan.

She said, “..”Some may consider this treason, but that’s their problem. Tonight, my prayers are with Dabo Swinney,who lost his father this weekend. I know what it means to lose a father – he is the compass and the light that guides you! When we meet on the field, it’s all business, but tonight, the Gamecock nation needs to say a prayer for the Swinney family – I know I will!”

This post from a friend not only moved my heart, but the hearts of several other Gamecock fans. Bigger than just some moving words it began to build a bridge. A bridge between two fan bases that love to watch football, but must understand deep down it’s just a game.

It’s amazing how it often takes crisis for us to put things in proper perspective. Consider all the good that has come from such a horrific act inside a Charleston AME Church. Many observed as that single event not only unified a city, state, and in many ways a nation.

Before we know it football will be back in full swing. I’m sure the Carolina vs Clemson rivalry will be as intense as ever. But, please don’t let your love of football get out of hand. Remember that people will always matter more than scoreboards. Even if somebody doesn’t play on your team they still matter deeply to God.

Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:11)

Dabo Swinney and family you’re all in our prayers at this time! Why? Because some things are just way more important than any football game!

 

Come Near And I Will Shoot Myself

depressed man sitting against the light reflected in the water

I’ll never forget a man who just found out his wife of several years was leaving him for another man. He was devastated to say the least. His emotions really got the best of him. He made threats he didn’t mean and did things he would never do in his right mind.

Things got so bad that cops were on the ground and helicopters were in the air searching for him. He was considered armed and dangerous. But, I knew deep down he just felt scared and hopeless.

During this all out man hunt, my phone rang. To my surprise it was this devastated man. He said, “Craig, I’m about to end it all. And, if anyone comes near I will shoot myself. I don’t have anything left to live for anyway!”

We exchanged many words. But, then God prompted me to ask the following. I said, “My friend what about those boys of yours? They would be heartbroken if you left them so early in their lives.” I said, “Do you have your wallet with you?” He said, “Yes, Why?” I said, “Open up your wallet and see if you have any pictures of your boys.”

Next thing I know I’m hearing nothing but a grown man weeping. You see, he was looking at a picture of his youngest son. He realized at that moment that he still had a purpose to exist. He was then driven to live another day and hold on for another moment.

He would soon agree to meet me and some officers for his arrest. Today, those boys still have their loving father as part of their life. All because a man realized a purpose to live in the midst of his darkest hour.

Purpose is a powerful thing. It gives us a reason to wake up each day. When it comes to our God-given purpose it’s not something we create, but we discover. God’s purpose and plans always trump our best ideas. We simply need to seek God’s will with all our heart and soul. God will reveal His plans for your life through His word, His spirit, other people, and even life circumstances. I pray you settle for nothing less than God’s best.

(Ephesians 2:10)(NIV)For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(Proverbs 19:21)(NIV)Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Join Pastor Craig any Sunday 9:15am or 11am @ the Colleton Rec Center. Find out more about his church and listen to his sermons by going to www.RefugeChurch.org.

I QUIT TRYING

White Flag

Ever just not know what to say? Ever reach your limit of heartache? Ever realize that you just can’t handle anything else? I personally have reached the end of myself. In fact, the only thing I’m certain of right now is there is a God and I’m not him.

I’m surrounded by things I can’t explain or understand. I’ve observed firsthand more crisis in the past month alone than most will observe in a lifetime. I have to admit that it has me wondering what will happen next. Sadly, I’m not even surprised anymore when my phone rings telling me another unthinkable thing has happened.

You see, for the past twenty years of ministry I’ve been one of those guys accustomed to playing rescue ranger. You know, I’ll show up at your house and just fix everything. Honestly, I finally met my match enough times that I’ve quit trying.

No, I’ve not given up on God’s goodness or greatness. No, I’ve not quit trying to do anything I can to help someone in need. But, I have quit trying to play God in anyone’s life. This has been liberting to say the least.

You see, we all have to know where we end and God begins. We all need to know our limits and how to turn things over to a God who has no limits. I’m learning that processing things to death only causes me more griefs. I got tired of pretending like I could fix things that were way beyond me. So, I just gave everything over to God.

Yes, I’m letting go and letting God. In the midst of a recent heart wrenching crisis, I just kept saying “You take it God, this is way too big for me. Accomplish what you want through this situation. I don’t understand it, but you do. I have no control over anything, but you have control over everything.”

I really do believe we have to reach the end of ourselves before we will truly surrender everything into God’s hands. Well, I’ve reached the end of me and I’ve decided I will no longer try to play God. What peace I’ve found in giving God everything and everyone that used to weigh so heavily on my heart.

(Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

*Join Pastor Craig Sundays 9:15am or 11am @ the Colleton Rec Center. At Refuge Church you can always “Come As You Are, But Never Expect To Leave The Same.”

Be All That YOU Can Be

Me & Sharon

I’ll never forget the words of a fellow pastor early in my ministry. He said, “Craig, you don’t have to be Billy Graham. Just be the best you that God created you to be.” It took a few years to really understand that statement, but no truer words have never been spoken.

Too often we try to be someone we were never meant to be. Policies and principles can be duplicated, but every person is uniquely hand crafted by God. It’s important to discover who you are and how God has wired you to function. Your strengths and weaknesses are things God plans to use for His glory.

Six months ago, I started working with a great company called Patriot Hospice. Because of my passion for hospice, I started out as their Community Liasion. My job was to help connect those who need hospice with a company they can trust to care for them and their loved ones. I still got to interact with families and patients, but most of my job was getting out in the community.

God used those six months to make me realize that I’m called to be by the bedside of patients, not just discover patients. You see, I’ve spent over six years as a hospice chaplain in the past. During that time I’ve helped hundreds make their eternal transition. I find great joy in helping the dying find God’s peace, comfort, and hope in their greatest valley.

I’ve now transitioned back to being the full time chaplain of Patriot Hospice. After just two weeks of being by many bedsides, I feel back where I belong. I’m not doing less work, but I’m doing the work God created me to do. Any time you’re doing something that is a God fit it really doesn’t feel like work. It may require work, but you know that God has called you to the mission at hand.

Maybe you’re struggling because you’re trying to be someone God has not called you to be. Take time to seek God’s face and God’s will. A big part of discovering God’s will for your life is eliminating what is not. Write out what you believe should be your life mission statement. Then make sure you take that life mission wherever you go in this life. Nothing you do should ever change who God made you to be. Instead, wherever you go, BE ALL THAT GOD CREATED YOU TO BE.

(Romans 12:6)”We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

(1 Peter 4:10) “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

(1 Corinthians 10:31) “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

(Jeremiah 29:11) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

*If you don’t have a church home you can join Pastor Craig @ Refuge Church of Walteboro. Sundays 9:15am or 11am @ the Colleton Rec Center you can discover God’s will for your life. Come as you are, but never plan to leave the same.

Flag Up, Flag Down: WHO CARES?

Confederate Flag

I typically stay away from hot topics, politics and cultural wars. But, I actually believe the lowering of a Confederate Flag has opened a huge window. A window to speak truth into the hearts of all who will listen. Here are some things I feel led to share to anyone who might listen.

1. IT’S JUST A FLAG.

Yes, that flag like many things in our society has become a very important tradition to many. I totally get why some people feel that part of their historical heritage has been removed. But, has it really? Lowering a flag doesn’t change history or heritage. That flag is just a symbol that no longer flies at our state capital.

2. PEOPLE MATTER MOST.

I believe most of us deep down agree with this one. At the end of the day people are more valuable than any old flag. I know, that flag represents people that you feel should be remembered for their sacrifice. But, for many others that flag has made them remember days they wish they could soon forget. If removing a flag can help in even a small way with our state’s racial divide, I say bring it down. People will always matter more to God than any old flag ever will.

3. IS IT REALLY THAT BIG OF DEAL?

At the end of a very emotional South Carolina day when that flag was lowered, I posted the following as my Facebook status. “Just a few reasons I’ve not had time to grieve over a flag. Today alone I’ve visited with 3 people battling cancer, one man completely paralyzed, one lady near death, and counseled a lady grieving the loss of her daughter. This floods my daily perspective.”

Too often, we are so focused on secondary things they we totally miss the primary things that matter most to God. Loving God, Loving people, and sharing Jesus with a lost world is what tops God’s list. There is no debating that we live in a very broken world and society. I sincerely pray we might all be more passionate about God’s will than we are any old flag or tradition.

5 Ingredients For A Great Family Vacation

Aimee & The Boys 7-9-15

Aimee & The Boys -Vacation 7-9-15

Just got back from a week long vacation with the family. This year we rented a lake house with a great view of Lake Murray. Vacation has always been a really big priority for my family and my sanity. We’ve been on a lot of trips over the years, but this year’s getaway was the best ever. Yes, even compared to Disney World. Here are a few things that we’ve found makes for a great vacation:

1. Consider A Place Everyone Enjoys.

There is no one size fits all, but it’s always good when you can consider the interests of everyone. My five year old lived in the pool. My 11 year old loved the video games. My 13 year old fished day and night. My 15 year old, enjoyed the hot tub and having his own room to unwind. My wife enjoyed time together and especially seeing smiles on every face. A place doesn’t have to be perfect to be a great vacation location.

2. Make Sure You Get AWAY.

I’m sure my phone rang over 25 times thoughout the week. However, I only returned two phone calls in response to true emergencies. If your trip doesn’t get you away from most daily stress and demand it will likely be a waste of money. Personally, I’m not a big fan of staying home for vacation since my profession is always in demand.

3. Create Quality Moments Together.

I purposely took time with each of my four boys during vacation. Sadly, they don’t always get my undivided attention back home, but they do on a bass boat. Play games and eat together. Look for moments to share deep thoughts, express your love, and listen to the heartbeat of each family member.

4. Relax And Take It Easy.

One of my favorite parts was knowing that I could just breathe in and out. I could sleep in late. I could stay up late. My greatest stress was deciding what I felt like eating for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I’ve concluded that it’s better to take a week away than just a few days when possible. For me, it takes a few days to even remember how to unplug and unwind.

5. Get Feedback From Everyone.

How can you continue to improve anything without feedback. Our last night together we all got in the outdoor hot tub. We went around the circle and gave each person the opportunity to tell us three things. One, what did you enjoy most? Two, what was your most memorable moment? Three, what was your favorite meal? These may sound like small questions, but they can lead to greater understanding of each other. You might be surprised what really stood out to someone.

(Mark 6:30-32)(NLT)30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. 31 Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. 32 So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.

*Craig Crosby is the Chaplain for Patriot Hospice. He is also the lead pastor of Refuge Church which holds weekly services Sundays 9:15am & 11am @ the Colleton Rec Center.

More Than A Catfish

My Big Catfish

This past Father’s Day was one of the best I can remember. After worship that Sunday, I took my two oldest boys fishing. God has blessed me with a house full of boys ages 15, 13, 11, and 5 years old. Of course, there are few dull moments at our house, but I wouldn’t trade one of them.

Honestly, most of our fishing trip didn’t bring much luck. Yet we joked, laughed and smiled the entire time we were together. Lately, I’ve been able to see that my boys just want me to be there for them. More importantly, to make time for them.

My boys have seen firsthand for years that someone is always begging for my attention. And just like their mom, they don’t mind sharing me with someone really in need. But at the end of the day they don’t just need a preacher. They need what every child needs, someone who really loves them.

As I watch them grow up way too fast, I’ve decided I won’t waste another moment. I will make time with each of them with no apologizes to others. My first ministry will always be my family. God gave them to me and I need to do my best to enjoy and lead them.

As I looked into their faces, I saw boys that were just happy to be with their dad. It didn’t even matter if we caught a fish. What did matter was that whatever we did, we did it together.

As dark drew near our fishing trip was about over. And, all we had to show for it were two little bream my oldest caught with some crickets. Suddenly, one of my catfish rods on the dock began to bend. I picked up my reel and thought I must have a huge turtle.

I fought for nearly 20 minutes to see what was on the other side of that line. Then, I realized I would never get this big fish to shore without some major intervention. Thank God a nearby man in a boat came to my rescue. He reached down into that water like the guys you see on television and grabbed that monster. This professional fishing guide said the catfish was easily 30-35 lbs.

Now, I must admit that catching that big fish was exciting, but nothing compared to the quality time and fellowship I had with my growing boys. I may never catch another fish that size, but I sure do look forward to my next adventure with those boys. As Trace Atkins says in his song, “…and they thought we were just fishing.”

(Ephesians 5:16)(NLT) “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

DEAR STRANGER, I’M SO SORRY

Charleston Shooting Hug

I was raised in the south where no one can argue that putting racism behind us has been quite a journey. Also, looking back in history no one can argue that progress has been made in this area. Maybe I’m just strange, but the recent shooting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC has compelled me to express my deepest apology to many total strangers. Please allow me to explain.

No doubt, many hearts are heavy after a mentally disturbed white male opened fire and killed 9 precious souls. Now, God saw no color as he looked down on this event. But let’s be honest, most Americans were not as color blind. Due to media venues stirring racial tension, this event has deceived many into thinking we are still a world divided by the color of our skin.

Yes, there is still much that can improve when it comes to human equality and race relations. But, I’m in no way convinced that what that sick young man did reflects the majority of white Americans. In the same way, I’m convinced that just because a small percentage of black Americans commit crimes doesn’t mean their actions reflect the majority.

For example, a great church could have a few members that don’t reflect Christ in their everyday lives. Some great businesses could have a few employees that don’t refect their overall integrity. And someone raised in the best of families could do something that makes everyone in that family look bad. Does it mean that entire church, business, or family is terrible?

Well, this is not a time for debate. It is a time to pray for and love one another even deeper. I found myself just 24 hours after this mass church shooting approaching random African Americans. Keep in mind, none of them had I even seen before. Many I hugged. I told them that I was so sorry for what occurred in that church. I so much wanted them to know that most white Americans don’t think this way.

One black man, shed tears after our elevator ride together. All I did was give him a big hug. Then, I told him and his two boys that I was deeply sorry for what this young, sick man had done. I wanted him to know He was my brother in Christ and constantly in my prayers. You see, this man knew personally many who were a part of this church fellowship and all I could say was “I’m so sorry”.

I hate what happened. But I’ve already seen so much good come out of such a terrible situation. How moving are the pictures and video of black and white worshipping hand in hand. I believe this is a reflection of Heaven to come. In Heaven, there will be no color, no church denominations, no fights and no more heartache. There will only be souls that all said yes to Jesus praising God together forever and ever.

Revelation 21: 3-4 says, “He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

4 Reasons To Quit Your Job

I quit

I believe our life decisions should always be under review. We need to often evaluate our priorities, movtives, and even progress. Otherwise, we’re likely headed down a dead end road if we simply go with the flow of society. Here are four reasons you might need to quit your job.

#1 IT’S KILLING YOU.

Health is one of the most underrated things in our society. Anything that kills you physically, emotionally, mentally, and for sure spiritually is not good. You should definitely consider a different approach and greater balance. Maybe you’re just over doing it and have to realize you aren’t as young as you used to be. Or, maybe the job you’re working just isn’t worth the toll it’s having on your health. Don’t tell me you’re killing yourself for your family. I’m pretty sure your family would rather have you around longer healthy and happy. The wrong job over time could lead to an earlier grave.

#2 YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL.

Sometimes you reach a point where something on your plate just has to go. Many pride themselves in working day and night. Listen, you can always make another dollar, but you can’t buy back another minute of life. You have to establish order in your life. A great place to start is making sure your faith and family are headed in the right direction. Everything else should flow out of the positioning of these things called priorities. Often, we have to say no to one thing in order to say a stronger yes to another. Too many people just fill up their calendars and then quickly find themselves burnout and bummed out. Sometimes a job works on paper, but it just doesn’t work in real life.

#3 YOUR HEART IS NOT IN IT.

Anyone in a care position such as nursing, teaching, or pastoring knows your heart matters. Any job that involves caring for others demands calling and heart. You have to feel compelled by God above all else to do certain things effectively. Your heart has to be in certain things to really do the job at hand. Sometimes we just need a break, but sometimes we need a career change because we know our heart is no longer in what we’re doing.

#4 IT’S NOT GOD’S WILL.

If everything within you says what you’re doing is not pleasing to God, there is nothing else to discuss. God certainly doesn’t want you to do anything illegal or that contradicts His Word (The Bible). No amount of money is worth doing something that you know is wrong. No amount of money can subsitute for a clear conscience before God. Knowingly staying on the wrong path will take you places you never wanted to go and cost you way more than you ever wanted to give up. After all, that is actually the definition of sin.

(James 4:17) If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

*Pastor Craig is the lead pastor at Refuge Church. Where you can always come as you are, but never leave the same. Services are Sundays 9:15am & 11am @ the Colleton Rec Center. Check it out http://www.RefugeChurch.org

What Cancer Couldn’t Take (A Tribute To Julie Smoak)

Smoak Family 1

Several months ago, I had a private conversation with Julie Smoak on one of her many stays at Trident Hospital. Julie was of very clear mind and heart at that time. She said, “Craig, if I had time, I would write a book about what God has shown me through this time.” I promised her that when I finally wrote a book that God has been birthing in me for some time called, “By The Bedside”, I would make sure she has her own chapter.

Occasionally, you run into someone ordinary, who chooses to allow God to do through them the extraordinary. Julie was one of those people. Someone you just felt blessed to know. Someone who left you knowing God is great, God is good and God is love.

I recall like yesterday Julie walking into my church office and telling me those words we all hate to hear, “Yes, I’ve got cancer.” Having lost in the past to cancer an Aunt that was just 30 and an Uncle that was just 44, I was very familiar with this battle. At the time of Julie’s diagnosis, she was just 36 years old. Her daughter Sarah was only 7. Her husband Charles was my associate pastor and still is a dear friend.

Keep in mind, Julie and Charles were not just two people I met later in life. We grew up in the same community and attended for a season the same church my dad used to pastor. One summer, Julie and I actually rode to and from summer school together. I think we both wished we had tried a little harder in Algebra that year.

Many observed Julie’s long, hard fought battle with cancer. No doubt, God was with her day and night. He carried her when otherwise she couldn’t carry on. Family and friends were by her side and never quit loving her. They continued praying God’s ultimate healing for her. Selfishly, we would all have loved for her healing to have taken place this side of Heaven. But God had different plans.

Over the past few years, God performed many miracles in Julie’s life. She defeated the odds so many times. When it looked like she would be leaving us, we all gathered to say goodbye. God showed up, and showed us His ability to overcome anything. Doctors and bystanders couldn’t help but say, “There goes that miracle girl again.” Julie just kept bouncing back even when there were no medical explanations.

Now, I would never say cancer took Julie from us. It did present challenges and viciously attacked her body. But the only reason Julie left us was that it was her time. Her mission on earth was complete after just 41 brief years. Death is always an appointment. In God’s eyes there are no accidents. Nothing takes Him by surprise, nor will it ever.

While she was sleeping peacefully beside her husband Charles, God said, “Julie my child, it’s time. Your work on earth is done, your mission is complete and your ultimate healing has come. You will now be in Heaven with me. Where cancer, tears, pain, or heartache will never threaten you again.” Julie taught us with God’s help we can weather any storm. She showed us what cancer can’t take away from the believer who trusts Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Here are three things Julie never lost during her battle with cancer and never will:

1. Cancer never stole her FAITH.

With a huge smile on her face, she knew more than ever that God was with her. She discovered that closeness with God that can only be found in the midst of a deep valley. Her faith grew, her peace increased and her light was brighter than ever for all to see. She did what many only dream of. “She fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished her race.” Her great faith was on clear display for all to see.

2. Cancer never stole her HOPE.

Cancer may have taken her strength, changed her plans, but it never stole her hope. Years before Julie had trusted Jesus as her Savior. But in the last years of her life, there was no doubt Jesus was her Lord. You see, our hope in Christ has nothing to do with our circumstances. Hope comes with our faith in Jesus colliding with God’s grace. Julie knew whose she was in Christ and where she was headed when this life came to end.

She knew as a believer that “To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.” Julie is now not only cancer free, but living in a place of eternal hope.

(1 John 5:13)I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Julie’s hope is no longer in the future, but she is experiencing it in the present.

3. Cancer never stole God’s LOVE.

Illness does not mean God has turned his back on us or doesn’t love us anymore. It’s through the illness we discover that God’s love is all that is guaranteed. Julie loved those around her deeply and unconditionally. For most of her cancer battle, Julie continued to work at Williams Memorial Elementary school. She poured her heart out for others even while taking treatments and enduring great hardships. What others call ministry, Julie simply called “love”.

Julie loved many and many loved Julie. She was full of God’s love and carried by God’s love to her eternal home. Fortunately, Julie left this earth holding onto things that matter most in this life and the life to come.

(1 Corinthians 13:13(NLT) Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

Yes, Julie Smoak battled plenty in her brief time on this earth. She had 4 different chemotherapy treatments weekly totaling over a years worth. She had 3 different radiation treatments daily that total over two months. Yet, through all the storms she learned that God is faithful. God is always with us. And God does some of His greatest work in the midst of crisis. Because when we are weak, He is strong. And now she knows it all happened for God’s glory.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring, but we do know who holds tomorrow. May we all hold on to the things that matter most just like Julie. Because in the end, only three things will remain. Faith, Hope, & Love.

Getting Up With The Sun

A Pic I Took That Morning

A Picture Took That Morning

As I write this, I’m literally sitting at a Myrtle Beach pier just an hour prior to daylight. All I hear are waves crashing. All I feel is a cool morning breeze that reminds me God is always is still awake.

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve actually watched the sunrise. I’m certainly not a morning person. Meaning, unless I set my alarm clock I will never naturally enjoy getting out of my warm, comfy bed before daylight. But, I know from past experience that waking early can be the biggest blessing.

(Luke 4:42) says, “At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place.”

(Luke 5:16) says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

I believe Jesus started each day on his knees. Before his busy day got underway. Before He faced the challenges before him. He humbled himself before his Heavenly Father. He prayed “Father not mine, but your will be done.”

Now, I’ve never read in scripture a command that says we have to rise early in the morning to pray. But, based on firsthand experience and research I would say it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Every believer should at consider starting each day on their knees.

Only once in my past did I seek to experience forty days of sunrise with God. It was tough and often inconvenient. Yet, I remember well how much closer I felt to God. Especially when my only motivation was hoping to hear God’s voice and encounter His presence.

(Jeremiah 29:13)”You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Maybe God is calling you to come closer. To set aside the first part of your day seeking His heart, will, strength, and peace. I know many who will rise early to go hunting, fishing, or to go on some other adventure. Why not rise early to draw closer to the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb.

(James 4:8) “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Are You Pastor At That New Church?

Changing The Way You Think

I’ve had this asked more than a few times. “So, you’re pastor of that new church?” My response, “No, we’re actually pretty old school. We just looked back at the Book of Acts and copied the early church. They worked together, operated unselfishly, and did everything they could to reach as many souls as possible.”

Over two years ago, my wife and I prayerfully started a new church in Colleton County called Refuge. This church is not designed to compete with other churches. Instead, it was started to reach the countless number of unchurched and lost throughout our county. Research revealed to me that nearly 75% of Colleton County alone was unchurched. That’s nearly 30,000 folks that are not connected to any local church.

Too many folks living in the southeast assume that most people around them go to church. When in reality, church attendance has been on the decline for quite some time. God put it on my heart to do everything possible to change that. So, we started a church that exists to change the way people think about church. We do this by removing many of the barriers that keep many unchurched.

One, we don’t expect the unchurched to run to us, so we run to them. We look for windows to show God’s love. Why? Because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. We aim to love people with no strings attached on the outside and then invite them to join us on the inside.

Two, we create genuine environments where everyone feels loved. There is nothing worse than showing up at God’s house and feeling like you’re on the outside looking in. God never called us to start country clubs. He has called every church and believer to love their neighbor as themselves. Love is more than words, but its doing everything you can to make someone feel important. Trust me, people know when they don’t matter.

Three, we simply do church differently in hopes of reaching as many souls as possible. It takes nearly 20 volunteers a month just to provide ministry to our birth to fifth graders during our two Sunday worship services. We can’t expect young families to come if all we do is cater to old folks. We make sure hot coffee, water, and refreshments are waiting for all who attend. Who knows, not being able to get breakfast beforehand may just keep someone from seeing us. We’ve actually never passed around an offering plate. Why? Because we don’t want anyone letting a dollar bill keep them from walking into God’s house. Our dress is casual, our music is contemporary and our messages connect with people’s everyday lives. We’re not inviting people to just come to church, we’re inviting them to a worship experience that we believe will be life changing.

Finally, we are a church family. Growing up a preacher’s son I’ve learned that it’s critical we maintain unity, operate with a clear vision and bring people together for a greater mission. All of our people are challenged weekly to “Love, Lift, & Lead” people to Jesus. I tell them there should not be a day that goes by they don’t tells others what God is doing in their life and in their church.

Now, I’m not saying that dealing with people is easy, but reaching out to people is a pretty simple process. You simply love them as they are, lift Jesus in all you do, and leave the results to God. This past Sunday we baptized 24 folks who were previously unchurched. As I pondered their journey I was reminded that people reach people. Many who were getting baptized led others to Jesus that were getting baptized that same day as a result.

My friends, I believe ministry is easier than it’s ever been. The needs are great, people are hurting and God is still in the business of changing lives. Let’s make sure we’re all doing our part to love, lift, and lead others to Jesus. Because when we’re not, somebody is going unreached. It could be your neighbors, friends, or family.

COLLETON COUNTY: A Great Place To Love

Colleton County

Unlike some of you, I’ve not lived here all my life. I did however grow up in a small town called St. George, where everyone literally does know your name. Before God moved my family to Walterboro, I really wasn’t sure what it would be like to live in Colleton County. Yet, as each day passes my love only grows for the people in this area.

I’m sure being a pastor and hospice chaplain to so many has only accelerated my getting to know this community. Not to mention my four boys have attended 4 of the 5 public schools in Walterboro. I can’t say enough about the experiences my family has had over the past four years. I love the schools, teachers, community events, recreation activities, coaches, parks and a place that just feels like home. Most of all, I’ve really fallen in love with the people that make up this county.

I know there are many that still live wrecklessly and carelessly. But, overall, I’ve been impressed by the heartbeat of this county. Many people here really do care and love each other. When someone local is going through a tough time, many will do whatever they can to lend a helping hand.

This past week, tragedy hit several local families. Seemed like every other day someone was being air lifted to MUSC in Charleston. On one of my visits there, I was surprised to hear what one man said at the MUSC information counter. He said, “Most of the visitors we’ve seen lately have all come from the Walterboro area.” I couldn’t help but smile because I knew that reflected many of the hearts I know in Colleton County.

Yes, I know there is much work to be done in this community and there are many areas that need improvement. But I’m proud to live here. A place where people really do care about each other. A place where we understand it’s not about how much money you have in your pocket, but the amount of love in your heart.

So, let’s all continue to do our part in carrying out one of the greatest commandments given to us by Jesus. Because as I tell the folks at Refuge Church often, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Dear Child: Have Your Forgotten?

Footprints in sand at sunset, shoreline water B1452

What a journey it has been since “I knit you together in your mother’s womb.” I’ve watched you grow each day. Sure there were times you wondered how things would work out. Yet, how could you ever deny or forget my faithfulness.

Never once have you had to worry about where you would live, what you would eat, or how your bills would be paid. Even when you thought things were about to fall apart, I always saved the day. I’m the one that holds you together, your marriage, and your family. I’ve always taken care of every detail of your life.

I bet many of your adult mentors wondered how you would become much of anything. After all, you could never sit still and never appeared to be taking anything seriously. Yet, I was using everyone and every circumstance in your life to shape and mold you into the person I created you to be.

Even now, I supply your strength, wisdom, and passion. I’ve done amazing things despite you, around you, and through you. Knowing that I’ve never failed you should compel you to keep trusting my divine plan. Just keep going where I tell you to go and doing what I tell you to do.

Your entire life you’ve tried to figure everything out. Haven’t you realized that my ways are higher and my shoulders are broader. Jump on my back, take up your cross, and continue to follow me. You think you’ve seen it all, but I’ve got even greater things in store for you.

Promise me this my child. That no matter where I lead you’ll never forget. I will always take care of you, always be with you, and never forsake you in your many times of need. Remember to give me all the glory for all the great things I’ve done, I’m doing, and will do.

Love,

Your Heavenly Father Who Loves You More Than Words

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)(NIV)

Sky Diving Should Not Top Your Bucket List

Skydive

Many know the lyrics by heart of Tim McGraw’s famous song “Live Like You’re Dying.” You know where he says “I went sky diving, rocky mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu. I’m sorry, but if I just found out that I had only months left to live none of those things would top my bucket list.

In defense of a great song, I do think the rest of the lyrics are well worth topping anyone’s bucket list. McGraw says, “And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying, And he said someday I hope you get the chance, To live like you were dying.”

“He said I was finally the husband, That most the time I wasn’t. And I became a friend a friend would like to have. And all the sudden going fishing, Wasn’t such an imposition. And I went three times that year I lost my dad.Well I finally read the good book, And I took a good long hard look at what I’d do If I could do it all again. And then.”

I’ve been by the bedside of hundreds of dying men and women. I’ve been there when they first discoverd the news. I’ve watched how knowing they were dying radically changed the way they viewed and lived life. In fact, being around those folks has dramitically changed my own life perspective and approach.

Honestly, we’re all just one step closer to the grave. Our days on earth are numbered, short, and uncertain. “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised, and today is a gift. That’s why they call it he present.” I have no idea how you might be living your life. But, I hope you’re living like you’re dying. This is done best by focusing on things that don’t just matter in this life, but in the life to come. Focusing not on the temporary, but the eternal. Seeking not our will, but God’s will.

” Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13-17)(NIV)

More Than A Pack Of Cigarettes

Sharon & Cigarettes

Countless folks have already been touched by her story. I’m praying that you might become another soul on that list. I am hoping to pay tribute to the life of Sharon Horne. A lady who fought a long, courageous battle with cancer. She requested I preach her funeral back in September 2014 at St. George Indian Field United Methodist Camp Meeting. I told her the only thing that could stop me was God calling me eternally home first.

Years ago, my dad was her Pastor. She literally watched me grow up as a child. Later I would become her pastor as she made her way to the first church I started in St. George. Then in February 2015, we would once again unite as I found my way by her dying bedside. 

I assured Sharon we would walk together through this valley called death. She assured me that she had made peace with God and was not afraid to face death head on. She struggled way more with giving up her independence and leaving behind so many she loved.

Her journey before cancer was not easy. She was no stranger to heartache, struggles, pain and many days of depression. Yet the word quit was never in her vocabulary, even up to her dying day. She certainly looked forward to transitioning to a place where “there will be no more pain, sorrow or heartache. For the old order of things will have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Sharon was a courageous person and a “tell you as she saw it” soul. Her heart was full of God’s grace of which she gratefully embraced herself. She knew apart from God’s grace and her faith in Jesus Christ alone she had no hope, but with Him a brighter tomorrow did await.

Very shortly after the doctor said, “Sharon you have cancer”, God’s peace swept over her and she learned to cling to her faith like never before. I said, “Sharon, when it’s all you have left it means more than ever, doesn’t it?” She said, “You better believe it.”

Cancer began to speak loudly through her increased pains and limitations that she was dying. Sharon had an increased desire to allow God to use her story to touch others. One Easter Sunday at Refuge Church in front of many she shared her heartfelt testimony. After just a few days of her message being posted online, Sharon’s testimony was listened to by a few thousand.

When I told Sharon we even created a video clip of her speaking she was all smiles. She said, “I’m famous. I’m famous.” She was tickled to death that God was using the toughest, most challenging time of her life to draw people unto Himself.

She and I had a very special relationship. We always knew God had connected our paths for reasons even beyond our comprehension. Sharon was the only person ever that compelled this Pastor to buy a pack of cigarettes.

A few months before her eternal transition, I was about to leave her house. I asked, “Sharon, is there anything else I could possibly do for you my friend before I leave?” She laughed and said, “Yes, go buy me a pack of cigarettes.” I said, “Yeah, right.” And I made my way back towards Walterboro.

But before I even got out of St. George, I stopped at the nearest gas station. At 40 years of age, I bought my first ever pack of cigarrettes. I was praying hard my mom wasn’t shopping that day. As I came back to her house to give her the cigarettes, I’ll never forget her response.

Sharon looked at me with tears rolling down her face. Hugged my neck tighter than ever and said. “Preacher, these cigarettes mean as much as any prayer you’ve ever uttered for me.” I ask, “Why?” She said, “Because now I know that your love for me has no bounds.” Those words have stuck with me ever since.

I told her, “God doesn’t look at the cigarette in your hand. He looks much deeper than that. He looks straight to your heart.” I know many might not agree with what I did, but I felt God’s approval and that was all that mattered.

Sharon Horne taught us all so much even through great suffering and adversity. She taught us how to love unconditionally. She taught us how to fight even when you don’t feel like it. She taught us how to stare death in the face with great hope knowing that in the end Jesus will save the day.

Sharon will be deeply missed. But there is no doubt in my mind where she now resides. Where she is now, there is no longer need for anti-anxiety pills, pain meds, or even a cigarette. She is now reunited with other believers who’ve gone on before her. Sharon is now smiling ear to ear, walking around with no limiations and praising God for His amazing grace that saved a wretch like her. For once she was lost and suffering. Now she is safe, sound and healthy forevermore.

Just Hours From Eternity

dying a good death.

I’ve had it happen on more than a few occasions. Someone will call me and just simply ask, “Can you help me find peace with God?” But, this time was more than urgent as the other person on the phone knew she only had hours left this side of eternity.

The nurse had just informed this young lady that based on clear signs this just recently admitted hospice patient would not make it through the night. It was well after midnight and I was driving as quickly as I could in route to her house. Yet, there was no promise that she would still be breathing when I got there.

Still able to hear and talk clearly this lady requested to talk with me by phone. She said, “I know I’m about to die, but I have no idea where I’ll spend eternity.” I let her know that even though I could not stop the dying process, I could share with her the keys to eternity in Heaven. I could tell she was literally hanging on every word I could share.

I let her know we’re all sinners (Romans 3:23). And, that our sin is what separates us from a Holy God and eternity in Heaven (Romans 6:23). She asked, “What can I do about this?” I said, You can’t do anything for yourself, but you can accept what Jesus has already done on your behalf.

You see, God sent Jesus to die on a cross for your sins. Through Christ alone you can be forgiven, you can find peace, and you can be confident that you will spend eternity in Heaven.

“For God so love the world that He gave His only son Jesus that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

She’s like, “It’s that easy. I just believe and receive.” I’m like, yes mam we can’t buy it, we can’t earn it, and we won’t ever be good enough to deserve it. (Ephesians 2:8-9)”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

I then led her in a prayer like this. Dear God, Please Forgive me for my many sins. Thank you Jesus for dying on that cross for me. I believe in your death, burial, and resurrection. Please come into my heart, save my soul, and be Lord of my life from this day forward.

You could hear the peace in her voice. No longer did she have to wonder where she would spend eternity when her appointed time of death came. Just hours later, with family surrounding her this once spiritually lost lady breathed her last. But, not without first finding a forever hope through Jesus Christ that can’t ever be taken away.

(1 John 5:13) says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God. So that you might know that you have eternal life.”

(Romans 10:9) “If you confess Jesus as Lord you will be saved.”

Maybe someone reading this doesn’t know where they would spend eternity. Just know Jesus is the way and eternal hope is only a prayer away. I hope you find that peace and make things right before you breathe your last. Because none of us are guaranteed the next breath.

(Acts 4:12)Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

(John 14:1-6) Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

 

God Used The Rice Festival

Refuge River Baptism

Refuge River Baptism

Over two years ago, my wife and I setup a booth at the Rice Festival to let our community know about the start of Refuge Church. It was to be a place where we will always meet people on their front porch with God’s love. Long before we would ever hold a Sunday morning worship gathering, God planted some seeds. One of those would be in the heart of a 16 year old girl named Emma.

At our booth that year we provided free stroller rentals and a baby changing station for those visiting the festival. Thanks to my wife’s brilliant idea we served many families in just two days. One afternoon we were loading things up to go home. One of my boys was attempting to carry way too many strollers to the car. Emma and her mom stopped to lend a hand. It was at that time we gave them information about the new church God led us to start in the community.

We never saw Emma or her Mom for months after that day until they popped in one evening to visit our church which at that time was so small that we knew each other’s middle names. Emma informed me later that she told her mom that she was going to visit Refuge Church one way or another. I remember how thrilled we were to see them join us for worship.

Nearly 1 1/2 years after our Rice Festival encounter, Emma would continue to attend Refuge Church. She invited several others along the way. On September 6, 2014 Emma (then a senior in high school) her sister, and her sister’s boyfriend would all confess their faith in Christ and follow through with Believer’s Baptism. Many cheered from the river bank at the Colleton State Park as we celebrated the salvation of several souls that day. You can check out the video on Youtube by searching Refuge Church Walterboro River Baptism (https://youtu.be/BIRvGBFYSKc) .

My heart is still moved by what God has done since we simply sought to follow Him. Two years ago, we were just setting up a booth at the Rice Festival hoping to connect with our community. Just a handful gathered for worship every other Sunday night at the Colleton Rec Center. To be honest, I even wondered at times if this ministry would ever take flight. In January 2014, we launched Sunday morning worship and watched as God began to fill each seat.

We’ve seen hundreds walk through those doors since. Today we now have two morning worship services, many volunteers and newcomers every week. I say all this to say, “How great is our God!” To the faithful you show yourself faithful. You oh God have done great things and there is still so much ahead. But, I want us to acknowledge that it is God who builds His church. He just chooses to use men and women to be His hands and feet as we all seek to reach out to the next Emma.

To find out more go to www.RefugeChurch.org. We hold services every Sunday 9:15am & 11am @ the Colleton Rec Center (Ace Basin Complex).

Colleton County Got Talent

Chorus

I feel many folks may feel like Colleton County is just a struggling bunch of folks. Full of rednecks, thugs, and poor educational systems. If that’s how you feel, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there are many who struggle paycheck to paycheck and live life recklessly. But, those kind of folks live in every city and county throughout the world. The more I discover about this place called Colleton County, the more I can’t help but be proud to reside here.

With four boys, we’ve been able to see the functioning of almost every public school here. The constant observation has been the same. Teachers that really care about students excelling, schools that really value community and togetherness, and I can’t say enough about the excellence that so many faculty members display.

Outside of academics, you can’t help but be impressed by the Performing Art Programs. I’ve seen band performances that leave you speechless. I’ve seen choral productions that leave you in tears. And, I’ve seen local dramas at the Hampton Street Auditorium that were second to none.

This opinion does not come from someone home grown. I grew up in St. George, lived in Texas, lived in Georgia, and God brought me back to South Carolina. As a full time youth pastor for nearly 11 years, I spent large amounts of time inside some of the best schools around. None of them would I place above those I’ve discovered in Colleton County.

For those in this area that have embraced God’s call to teach our young people, thank you. Your efforts seen and unseen are making a BIG difference. You are shaping the next generation. You are helping those who might be struggling at home find something to smile about. With every display and performance it’s obivious that Colleton County is full of talent. And I believe the future is bright if we all continue to play our God called part.

*Craig Crosby is the Lead Pastor of http://www.RefugeChurch.org. He is also the local Community Liaison for Patriot Hospice. He and his wife Aimee have four boys ages 15, 13, 11, & 5. All are involved in Colleton County Public Schools.

Does Anybody Care About Me?

woman-in-hospital-bed

I tossed and turned in my bed prior to writing this article. No matter what I seemed to do I just couldn’t get comfortable or fall asleep. While struggling in a way I’m not accustomed to I could not help but think of the many whose tossing and turning have become a way of life.

Every day I come alongside those who are battling great illness, discomfort, distress, depression and what I’m sure is a daily battlefield of the mind. They can’t help but reflect on past glory days gone by and all that has changed. They wonder if they will ever walk again. Will they every see better days this side of Heaven? Even bigger, most of them wonder does anybody even care.

Many of these folks are residing in homes, hospitals, skill nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities all over the world. Have you even noticed them yourself? These folks could be your grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, or next door neighbor. These folks used to live life at a different pace just like us. Now, they find themselves battling what my granddad has ingrained in my head, “High mileage on rough roads.”

What am I trying to say? I’m sure you’re wondering. I’m saying that in a world that runs quickly it’s real easy to forget those who ran before us. I truly believe that anytime we’re too busy for people, we’re too busy. After all, what greater commandment did Jesus ever give us than to “Love one another.”

So, take the time for those struggling around you. Those that can’t get up and around like they used to. Those who can’t even get to church like they did before. It’s time for the church to come to them. Be Jesus with skin.

I still recall a lady who had devoted her life to her community and church. Yet, she ask me time after time, “Does anybody care about me?” Why? Because nobody took the time to come see her and show her they cared when she needed it most. When she could no longer get out and give to others, no one was there by her bedside. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Show somebody you care today and every day!

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

The Preacher’s Life

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It’s been considered one of the top five hardest jobs in America. Every month at least 1700 ministers leave the ministry for reasons other than retirement. 50% of ministers won’t make it more than 5 years before calling it quits. One of those reasons is the unrealistic demands many have embraced. Allow me to shed just a little light into “The Preacher’s Life.”

You see, I grew up a pastor’s kid all my life. I’ve been a pastor for over 20 years myself. Can I say that some things don’t really change?Sure, culture is always changing, but here are some challenges that remain the same for the average pastor.

1. Most Live In A Fish Bowl. Like or not, everyone keeps up with what you’ve done and especially what you’ve not done. Rightfully so. We’re held to a much higher standard than many. Yet, to fail to see a pastor’s human side is very unfair. Many are just waiting to cast a stone that says, “I knew it… you’re human.” Sure, we know that, but you would think at times others forget that. The average pastor lives under the perception that they have to be perfect, which will never be possible.

2. Most Have Few “Real” Friends. This might be one of the most overlooked things about pastors. Sure, we’re around folks day and night, involved in many people’s lives and conversations. But there are few people the pastor and especially the pastor’s wife feel they can really be themselves around. It’s hard for a pastor sometimes to transition from being a pastor to just being a person. Those who allow the pastor to just be honest, not feel condemned and are fully supportive no matter what are priceless.

3. Most Struggle To Minister To Their Family. My kids don’t call me pastor, but Daddy. My four boys want what every child desires: love, attention and devotion. If a pastor does not constantly guard his time he will lose his family while building his ministry. I tell my church often and I will remind you. A pastor’s primary ministry will always be his family. Yes, there are times that your family suffers because of your call and demand. But if I have to choose between my family and the church it won’t even be a close race. I’m going home and taking care of the family God has given me.

4. Most Don’t Know A Weekend. The average pastor will tell you that Sundays come very quick. We’re not done with one service before we’re already prayerfully planning for the next. Considering most of society is built around a normal work week, Pastor’s never feel they have a weekend. In my house, we spend all day Saturday making final preparations for Sunday.

5. Most Feel On Call 24/7 . Like a firefighter waiting with his gear beside him, so is the pastor knowing crisis can hit at anytime. There is no such thing as part-time ministry or even shift work. A pastor lives knowing his number can be called anytime, especially in today’s society where families falls apart every second. Being a pastor feels sorta like being Santa Claus. You know that many men, women, boys and girls depend on your faithfulness. And deep inside you don’t want to let anyone of them down. You often feel like you just need to get away. And, you always end your day knowing there is so much more to be done.

If you’re a pastor reading this right now I pray God’s blessing on your family and ministry. I understand firsthand the many sacrifices you make and the heavy burden it can be. Remember God has called you to be faithful, not fix the world. And, know that if God is pleased with your efforts that is all that matters.

To others reading this know that being a pastor is a calling, not a job. Your pastor needs your support and your prayers. He needs for you to want for him, the same as He wants for you and that is God’s best.

Dear Self: 3 THINGS YOU MUST DO

I wrote the following inspired words down for myself. Maybe someone else can relate and needs the reminders. May God use these words in your life as He continues to do so in mine.

DEAR SELF,

1. SLOW DOWN. Life is not a race. The one who runs the fastest does not get extra points or necessarily accomplishes more. However, it is very likely that if you continue to speed through life you’ll miss a whole lot more. Take care of yourself, spend time with your loved ones, be still and know that I’m God.

2. SETTLE DOWN. I see you down there stressing all the time. As if this world can’t go on without you. My friend, you worrying yourself into a frenzy changes nothing. But, it does lead to greater stress, higher blood pressure, and a person that is never at peace.

3. STAY THE COURSE. Remember, you don’t make up your own agenda. I put together specific plans for you when I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Listen to my voice, do what I say, and leave the results to me. I will take you further than you could ever dream or take yourself. Just let me lead the way and you stay focused on the cross.

As I’ve told you before my child, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Never doubt I love you. I am always with you. And, I will continue to carry you through the ups and downs of this life. Slow down, settle down, and stay the course I’ve marked out for you.

Love, The God Who Knows You Inside & Out

Refuge New Worship Times

Dear Colleton Medical Center

Colleton Medical Center

I’ve spent most of my life in ministry. I understand what it takes out of you to come alongside people in need. You give at times when you feel you have nothing left to give. You care at times when you really need someone to care about you.

I know how rewarding it is to feel you are God’s vessel, to feel God has handpicked you for a particular task that has greater impact than you may see at the time. There is no doubt that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I also know what it feels like for people to jump to conclusions about you. To think they know your heart. To think things are as simple as they appear. When in reality, they have no idea just how big of shoes you are wearing.

I’ve heard a lot of folks over the past years talk negatively about Colleton Medical Center. For many reasons I feel led to share some positive light on this institution. I guess I’ve learned that hospitals and churches have one thing in common for sure: they both can be quickly judged for an isolated incident and even things beyond their control. I’m in and out of this hospital daily. I know many of the employees firsthand. I’ve seen their efforts from the first floor to the top. The more I’ve seen, the more I believe a new story needs to surface. Here is what I know for sure:

First of all, there is no doubt that many depend on this local hospital. Especially when you’re fighting for your life and you don’t have time to ride thirty extra miles down the road. You need folks ready and willing to take care of you right in your backyard. Day and night, Colleton Medical is there to provide just what you need in possibly your greatest time of need. Thank God!

Secondly, there is no doubt that Colleton Medical is full of compassionate and competent team members. I’ve seen the hearts and efforts of so many locals who work at Colleton. Many of them could work at any hospital, but they’ve chosen to keep their heart and talents in Walterboro. I’ve always said, that no one cares for their own like their own. In that hospital are some of the finest people I know. People that I would be honored to have by my hospital bedside.

Thirdly, the truth is working in the medical field is just not easy. Only God has the power to bring ultimate healing, but many expect these folks to be miracle workers. Yes, God does use them, but they too are totally dependent on a higher power. Often what man calls an accident, God calls an appointment. It’s important we don’t get those two things confused.

Now, I could share many more things and stories. But, I just want all those who work so hard at Colleton Medical Center to know you are making a difference. This community or this County would not be the same without you. I have personally grown to appreciate each of you. And, I thank God for sending you to Colleton County.

(Philippians 1:3) Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

Dear Worthless

Loser    Someone reading this feels worthless, unworthy, and like you are the root of everyone’s problems. You wonder why you were even born and how you alone could have made such a mess. You just wish you could numb the pain and fix all the issues. At this point, you wonder why am I even still living. Doesn’t God know I’m just taking up space.

Lately, I’ve been running into more and more people who find themselves feeling this way. Maybe you’ve suffered a painful event. Maybe, you’ve done something you feel even God can’t forgive. Maybe you just can’t shake the feelings that everything is your fault. Here are three things God wants you to know.

#1 YOU ARE NOT AN ACCIDENT. Whether planned or not planned by man, you are not an accident. God knit you together in your mother’s womb, scheduled your day of birth, and created you for a purpose. Nothing you have ever done or will do can change that reality.

#2 YOU ARE PRICELESS. God didn’t just create you, but He sent His only son Jesus to die for you. Even knowing that we’re all sinners and fall short each day. Jesus stepped down from Heaven and went to that cross because He believes you’re worth it. God does not love us based on performance, but He always sees us as His prize creation. Never doubt God’s love and the fact He is absolutely crazy about you.

#3 YOU ARE GONNA BE ALRIGHT. When you find yourself in a dark place it can be extremely difficult to see the light. Life is full of seasons, some of which we wish would never come. But, through every valley and mountain top experience God promises to always be there. When your strength is gone, He will carry you. When you’ve created a train wreck, He will use it all for His good and glory. And, even when you feel things are so out of control, God is still in control.

Truth is, all of us have our moments. All of us make our share of mistakes. But, God’s grace is sufficient. God’s love is constant. And, God specializes in taking hopeless causes like me places otherwise impossible. So, don’t forget you are not an accident, you are priceless, and you are gonna be alright.

(Ephesians 3:18)(NLT) And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

*Join Pastor Craig Crosby @ Refuge Church every Sunday 10:30am @ the Colleton Rec Center. Come as you are, but expect to leave encouraged.

Why I Fight For Hospice

Recently, someone told me that I really needed to separate my real ministry from hospice care. I quickly told that person, “that’s impossible because hospice is ministry at it’s highest level.” If you want to start a fight you’ll never win, just tell me that hospice is just a business. I will fly out my seat and tell you countless stories of how hospice has changed many lives.

Please, let me just say this out of the gate. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under Heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2) None of us choose these times, but these times have already been appointed by an Almighty God. Here is why you need hospice when it’s your time:

1. Dying is never easy.

Most don’t even like to talk about it, but the reality is we’re all going to die one day. Statistics say that most of us will not die from some sudden tragedy, but most will die of a terminal illness discoverd by doctors. When that time comes, you need all the support you can get from family, friends and those who specialize in helping folks make the most of their last days. With hospice you are provided spiritual, physical, mental, emotional and even financial support. For those of us who really feel called by God to your bedside we can help make the otherwise unbearable, the best possible. Patients and families especially need all the support they can get during these difficult days.

2. No One Should Suffer.

I’ve been by the bedside of hundreds of dying men and women. There are peaceful deaths and then there are those who suffer greatly all the way to the end. Yes, I’m passionate about the fact that no one should suffer unnecessarily. Hospice was designed to bring patients as much comfort as possible. Hospitals aren’t designed for this, nursing homes aren’t designed for this and your primary physican doesn’t have time for this. Hospice done right will ensure that any patient is kept comfortable twenty-four seven. Once you’ve seen someone suffer it’s not a sight you care to see again. Hospice works very hard to ensure that your loved one has the maximum comfort possible. This is why hospice services are available to be provided in homes, hospitals and inside any skilled nursing facility such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

3. You Only Die Once.

You may brush this one off, but I take dying very seriously. Those last days with your loved ones are very precious. Who wouldn’t want to make the most of what time they have left? Hospice focuses on quality because none of us can control the quantity of our days. Called hospice workers can help make those last days be some of the best days. Death is one of the most life impacting things we deal with in this life. Peace awaits those who feel their last days with their loved one went well. Years of regret await those who feel death snuck up on them and the moments they had left were not seized.

I could give you countless more reasons of why you need to be pro-hospice. I had a lady one time say, “Pastor, I just don’t like that word hospice because it means I’m going to die.” I told her, “Mam, with or without hospice you are going to die one day. We’re just here to make that process a lot easier.” And, if I had my way we would change the name to “Help Us”. Why? Because that is why hospice exists. To help patients and families get the best end of life care possible.

So, when man has done all he can and death comes knocking at your door, call hospice. We not only feel called to be by your bedside, but we can help make that bedside experience a peaceful experience for everyone involved. May God bless you and your family.

*Pastor Craig Crosby works with Patriot Hospice located in downtown Walterboro, SC. They serve patients and families throughout South Carolina. Call him @ 843-542-5572 or email him any questions you might have about hospice @ ccrosby@patriotcares.com. If he can’t help you he will certainly put you in touch with someone who can.

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My Next 40 Years

I'm Not 40Forty, its just a number. But, in my heart its a turning point. A time to reflect on the past. And even more a time for me to seize the present and future.

In just a flash, I’ve reached what is considered by many to be the halfway point of life. I was born on March 4th, 1975 in an Oklahoma City hospital. Some might say the best days are behind me. But, I say the best days are still to come. In fact, I’m claiming and believing God to do in my life what He did for a man named Job.

(Job 42:12a)The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

Like many my age and older, I know enough to be dangerous. But, if I waste my knowledge and experiences it will all be meaningless. As a dear friend used to say often,”it took all I’ve been through to get me where I am today.”

Over the past forty years, I’ve had some high and low moments. I’ve felt on top of the world only for life to humble me very quickly. By God’s grace I’ve tasted many successes, but I’ve also experienced the pains of defeat. Through it all, God has sustained me and carried me to this point in time.

As each day passes, I’m reminded just how short life is here on earth. One day we’re born and before we blink our days are over. For this reason, I plan to make the most of what time I might have left. Here are my top three goals moving forward:

1. I Plan To WALK WITH GOD. I’m not just talking about going to church, saying some prayers, and spitting out bible verses all day long. I’m talking about taking time each day to seek God’s face and listen to His voice. I want to know God’s love, see God’s power, and follow God’s will. With whatever time I have left I don’t want to waste another minute doing things my way, but God’s way.

2. I Plan To BE A GAME CHANGER. I don’t want to be just another person simply existing. I want God to use my life in such a radical way that everyone I encounter is encouraged and inspired to change. When I’m dead and gone, I want my funeral full of folks that were touched by God through my life. When I get to Heaven I hope to find countless folks that I had the joy of introducing to Jesus. I don’t want to just be different, but be a difference maker.

3. I WANT TO FINISH WELL I truly believe it’s not how you started, but how you finish that matters most. I know many trials still await. I know that I will grow weary, be discouraged, and life will continue to throw curve balls my way. But, no matter what come my way, I pray I stay the course God has mapped out for me. Until, I breath my last I will aim to remain faithful to the God who created me and called me to Himself.

(James 4:13-17)(NLT)Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

*Join Pastor Craig any Sunday 10:30am @ RefugeChurch. Come as you are, but don’t expect to the leave the same!

Cold Outside, Warm In My Heart

Before I write one word I’m praying this is much more than a cute story, but something that touches the deepest part of you. What I’m about to share has shaken, moved and broken the deepest part of me. Hopefully, I can share this with justice.

Recently, at Refuge Church we collected and purchased some heaters to help those struggling to keep warm during this cold time of year. After running out of our stored inventory, I set out to several local businesses in hopes of purchasing more. I discovered that due to extremely low temperatures the local demand was so great that electric heaters were no where to be found in most of the Low Country.

After locating several more heaters through donations and from my own home, I posted on the internet their free availability. In no time at all, my phone was ringing off the hook with local needs. On one of the coldest nights in Colleton County I found myself a distributor of some much needed heat. And as much as I feel those who received them were grateful, I was touched much deeper.

As I travelled to several cold homes throughout our County I met a wide variety of folks. I met widows fighting daily just to survive. I met families who just hoped to keep their lights on one more day. I saw a dad’s eyes filled with tears as He longed to keep his children safe and warm. I saw a single mother who was doing all she could day and night, yet still lived in a place most would call an absolute shack. But, what I really felt I saw was the heart of Colleton County.

Attention! News flash my friends. Colleton County is a struggling county. Physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually. Sure, I love living here and I love the people. But, please understand that most of the residents here are struggling just to survive. Maybe someone reading this is one of them. I want you to know that because of you I can’t just go to sleep at night without thinking about you or your family. I can’t just kick back in my warm house, knowing that someone else is freezing at their house.

Too often those of us who have been so richly blessed waste the platforms God has given us. We all need to step out of our house and check on our neighbors more often. Especially as believers and followers of Christ we need to quit just talking about what we should do and actually get out in the community and do something that touches a life.

God never called any of us to just go to church, but to be the church. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Secondly, Jesus says we’ve been commanded to love our neighbor as ourself.

When you love your neighbor as yourself, you are reflecting God’s love at its greatest. There is not a person around of any race, background or status that God does not dearly love. God sent His only son Jesus to die for all the world, not just a chosen few. If Jesus was willing to do anything to show His incredible love for us, we need to be willing to go the extra mile to show His love to our neighbors.

I pray this for us all. That as Christ representatives we won’t just pass peoply by and do nothing. That we will always care for those who are cold, hungry, lonely, less fortunate and just in desperate need of encountering some Jesus with skin. For I know, its when we most embody a Christ-like nature that we ourselves will feel the closest to God’s heart.

*Looking for a place where you will always feels loved, Christ will always be lifted and you will always leave encouraged? Join Pastor Craig Sundays 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center.

Be The Church

Think I’ll Get Drunk

Six Pack

“Honey I’m home and I had a hard day. Pour me a cold one and oh by the way.” I believe Shania Twain might have been on to something in her hit song. For certain, I believe most of the world can relate. Life is hard, some days are longer than others, and we’re all just looking for an escape from reality.

I’m about to address a topic that is far overdue. You will be hard pressed to find one person that has not been touched by someone’s out of hand drinking. You know, someone who said I’ll just have a few drinks and next thing you know they are intoxicated. While drunk who knows what one might say or do to harm themselves or those they love. I’ve seen firsthand that anything is possible.  I guess that’s why they call it under the influence. Because at that point you aren’t you, but you are a million miles from reality.

Now, I understand there are many issues that could be addressed, but I feel led to touch on this one. One, because I know this issue affects the majority of the population. I bet you or someone you know is struggling with a drinking problem right now. Two, I actually understand why so many have turned to the bottle. So, please allow me to share what I’ve discovered.

First of all, I don’t think less of anyone who likes to have a drink. I do have a healthy fear of what alcohol can become in a person’s life and the havoc it can create in many lives. But, I have this same healthy fear about many other things such as the misuse of prescription drugs or the internet. Satan will use anything he can to ruin lives. So, this article has no intentions of bashing those who drink casually or consistently.

What I would like to point out is why so many just can’t drink enough. Outside of socially wanting to be with their friends or drink a cold one, I believe that anyone practically drinking themselves to death is crying out for help. They are doing all they can to drown out what they’ve done, where they’ve been and what they’ve been through. Internally their hearts are bleeding and for whatever reason they have not discovered how to stop it. Most of them would give anything to turn things around and get a handle on life. Yet, within they honestly feel hopeless and powerless concerning their life situations.

Honestly, I believe far too many professing Christians are more concerned about the bottle than the person. When God sees these people he doesn’t see what they are drinking, he sees straight to their heart. He sees their longing for peace, forgiveness, and a second chance in this life. God understands that their deepest thirst is not for some man-made drink. But, their deepest thirst and longing is for a right relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.

You see, we’re all looking for relief. Until we invite Jesus Christ in our life our heart will remain unsettled. This unsettledness leads us down a lot of dead end paths. Those paths often disappoint and devastate those we love. I can promise you this: There is not a rehab facility on the planet that can take credit for delivering you from alcohol or any drug. God may have used those people and process, but only Jesus can stop internal chaos and bring lasting healing.

God has really put a huge burden on my heart for those struggling in this area. And, if you’re one of those people I want you to know I’m praying earnestly for you. I pray that you will discover that it’s impossible to drown your hurt and heartache and I hope you discover that God cares even more. He loves you unconditionally, offers full forgiveness and knows how to put a heart back together. Just run into His arms!

(John 4:13-14)(NIV) Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”…

Are you looking for place where you can always come as you are, but will never leave the same? Then, join me any Sunday 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. www.RefugeChurch.org.

 

 

No Such Thing As An Offseason

Patriot Hospice Logo   This past year was one of the most challenging times of my life. After injuring my lower back I missed over 5 ½ months of work. Somehow, God kept giving me strength to get up each day and provided for my every need. As some know, I ultimately loss my job with hospice. For me it was more than a job; it was a passion.

    You see, I feel called to come alongside folks in their darkest hours. To help people regardless of their life circumstances find hope. Hospice allows me the opportunity to meet people wherever they are with God’s love, peace, and comfort.

    During what felt like an offseason, I often felt out of control. Yet, God proved over and over that He is still in control. What appeared to be an offseason was just a time of personal reflection, refocus, restoration and replacement. It certainly made me grateful for even the little things in life.

    I’m excited and thankful to announce that God has placed me back in hospice. I’ll once again be serving Colleton County and its nearby surroundings. Starting this coming week, I’ll be a proud part of Patriot Hospice. We specialize in taking care of Veterans and all those battling a terminal illness. We provide palliative care and full hospice services. We travel to homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities to come alongside patients and their families. Please contact me for more info and to see how we can serve your loved one @ scraigcrosby@gmail.com. You can also check out their website www.PatriotCares.com.

    Maybe you feel like you’re in an offseason. But God never takes off. He is always at work both in you, for you and around you. His timing is perfect and He knows better than anyone what He has purposed for you. Keep your head up, seek God’s will daily, and expect God to work all things out for your good and His glory!

(Romans 8:28)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1) There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

 

 

A Leap Of Faith

 Leap Of Faith   I’ll never forget the summer of 1999. Why? Because it was my first BIG leap of faith. Just two years after graduating from Charleston Southern University, I was back living in my hometown of St. George, SC. I was serving full time as a youth/children’s pastor at a local church.

    My wife and I had a nice house, great support and few challenges. We were living just minutes from family and friends and for sure enjoying life in our comfort zone. Then God asked us to take a huge leap of faith.

     Aimee and I had been visiting a few different schools seeking to determine what school God would have me attend to get my Masters in Christian Education. We visited a seminary in North Carolina, Kentucky, and then drove 18 hours away to Fort Worth, Texas. After our visits, we felt certain that God was leading us to move to the Lone Star state.

     So, when we got back home from our visit we began preparing for our move. We sat down with our families and informed them we would be moving away for a few years to Texas. Then God willing we would move back close to home.

     Two weeks went by after feeling so certain and excited about this decision. Then, Aimee and I found out that we were expecting our first child. Suddenly this decision did not feel so easy, nor did it excite us anymore. How could we move 18 hours away from home with our first child?

We were scared, unsettled, and doing everything we could to tell God why we should stay in South Carolina. I even took out a sheet of paper and created two columns for my argument. Column A read: “REASONS TO STAY”. Column B read: “REASONS TO GO”. Under “Reasons to stay” I had an endless argument of why we should stay in SC. Under “Reasons to go” I could only write down three words.           GOD SAID SO.

     Night after night, I tossed and turned over this decision. I cried, I prayed and I finally quit fighting with God. I finally, said YES GOD, wherever you lead, I will go. Whatever you want I will trust is best for me and my family.

     So, we loaded up a 25 foot long Moving Truck, packed in all our belongings, and made this God move. (THIS HUGE FAITH MOVE) to Fort Worth, Texas. (Just me, Aimee, and now a 5 month old) Honestly, we had no idea how we would make it. But, from that point forward we just followed God’s leading every step of the way. God provided, guided and rewarded this huge faith step in our lives.

     Since that day, we’ve learned to follow God promptly. No matter what and no matter where He leads. He has proven His faithfulness to us time and time again. I sincerely believe that had I not taken that faith step then I would have missed many faith steps thereafter.

    Someone reading this right now is at a crossroads. You hear God calling you to take a BIG leap of faith, but you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone. My friends, the only way to reach your God-given potential is to “walk by faith, not by sight.” Once you cross that bridge to God’s will you’ll discover a life otherwise impossible. God will take you places you never dreamed or imagine.

 (Hebrews 11:6)(NIV) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

*Join Pastor Craig any Sunday, 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. Come as you are to Refuge Church and learn how to walk by faith, not by sight.

 

 

COMPLICATED PEOPLE

Wrote this a few years ago, but complicated people really haven’t changed. Here are some things to consider when dealing with them.

Pastor Craig Crosby

They are family, friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, acquaintances and even church members. You stumble into them and know that a war awaits. They raise your blood pressure and always seem ready to fight. They are “Complicated People.”

Usually we do our best to avoid them. If we see them coming our way we seek to run or hide. If we recognize their name on the caller ID we don’t answer. Should we have to encounter them we pray God gives us patience and deliverance. Sometimes complicated people are avoidable, but sometimes they aren’t. Complicated people force us to put together a different game plan when it comes to dealing with their unpredictable behavior. Here are some things we should do….

1. DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONAL

Complicated people aren’t trying to be complicated, they just are complicated. There is no rhyme or reason as to what they say or do. They…

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Don’t Trust Your Feelings

Your Gut

I find there are always seasons that I’m just lucky to survive. You know, get up and show up. My heart feels torn in a million directions. Even the strongest and most spiritual person faces these reality checks. Here are some things I’ve found are critical to helping keep me grounded and not misled by my up and down feelings.

#1 My Feelings Can’t Be My Guide. 

Too often we allow what we feel or don’t feel to dictate what we do or don’t do. If you go by feelings alone you might never go to work, be responsible, or even get up in the mornings. Because feelings come and go, they are never a trustworthy guide for our lives.

#2 My Feelings Can’t Be My God.

How often do things happen we can’t understand? Life is full of moments that leave you shaking your head for answers. This is why we can’t rely on our own understanding or how we feel about the matter. Only God knows all and sees all. Trying to humanize things will only lead you in circles. My feelings can’t be my God because my gut is often mislead.

#3. My Feelings Can’t Be My Truth.

Your heart can so easily by deceived. Your emotions can lead you to believe things that just aren’t true. For this reason alone we have to stay grounded in God’s truth. God’s word never changes even in an ever changing world. Too many allow their feelings and perceptions to determine the truth they believe. We live in a world that continues to fall because they are living by their feelings, not walking by faith. 

(Proverbs 3:5-6)(The Message)Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

WARNING: Don’t Visit Refuge Church

Pastor Craig Crosby

Do Not Enter

This past Sunday, Refuge Church celebrated its 1st year anniversary. Since kicking off morning worship @ the Colleton Recreation Center, Refuge has seen hundreds come through those doors. This church is designed for the multitude of unchurched living both in and around Colleton County. Now, before you or someone you love comes to visit, I thought I might warn you about a few things. HERE ARE FIVE REASONS YOU SHOULD NOT VISIT REFUGE CHURCH.

#1: YOU LIKE NORMAL CHURCH. Refuge is not your average church. These people will do anything short of sin to reach someone for Christ. They set up and hold worship in a gym, no body dresses up, and everyone is accepted. The messages are so understandable and relevant to your everyday life. The music is always great and the presence of God is so strong. I couldn’t believe these guys don’t even pass around an offering…

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I LOST MORE THAN A JOB

    You Are Fired In the past four years alone I’ve been a hospice chaplain to hundreds. Being by the bedside of those making an eternal transition from this life to the next has never been a job to me, but always a calling. For this reason alone, I was heart broken when I discovered I would no longer have this opportunity with hospice.

     Yes, a few months ago I had that conversation that anyone who loves their job dreads. I was suddenly informed that I would be let go because the company could not afford to keep me and the other chaplain. It was Halloween Day and I felt like I was getting a trick without a treat. I felt like someone took from me something I knew God gave me in the first place.

     Now, let me say this very quickly. I’m fine, my family is blessed, and God will take care of us. I hold no ill feelings towards anyone involved in this matter. Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean tough things won’t happen to me. I’m confident that many reading this article can identify with my disappointment, my struggle, and even my feelings of what next. I’ve had some time to ponder this matter and here are some things I’ve learned.

     One, who I am is not dictated by what I do. I’m still a child of God’s and able to be used by God daily. Yes, I wish things didn’t have to change, but its not the end of the world. I can still come alongside the dying, reach out to those in need, and live out my God given purpose. A job does not define you, but is simply a window God has given you for a certain season.

     Two, God is my provider. Let’s face it, in today’s world a good job is hard to find. Yet, even the best job holds no guarantees for tomorrow. If we put our stock in this world we will be disappointed every time. Over the past few months I have seen God show up and show out in my life. He pays my bills, He makes a way, and He is my soul provider. Any job I have or ever will have is simply a venue through which God provides.

     Thirdly, God is still in control. Sudden changes for any of us can rock us all to the core. In fact, if we dwell on the seeming uncertainty too long panic will set in. Job or no job, sunshine or rain, mountain or valley, God is still God. I can trust that no matter what my circumstance looks or feels like, God is still in control.

     Now, I don’t know what might be going on in your life. Maybe you’re flying high or maybe you’re going through a very tough valley. Just know that God will take care of you, He will never leave or forsake you, and He will carry you through even the most difficult times.

3 Things I Pray My Kids Never Say

    Aimee & Kids Outside of your personal relationship with God there is nothing more important than your relationship with your family. Speaking of family, here are three things I pray my kids never say, especially after they leave my home.

#1 Daddy Never Had Time For Me. I know firsthand how easy it is to get consumed with things around you while missing what is right in front of you. We all know kids grow up way too fast. I still recall my dad saying to me once, “Son, make sure you spend more time with my grandkids than I spent with you.” I knew that was a man speaking from experience saying, don’t let these moments pass you by. I’m determined to be an involved and engaged parent. For this to happen, I have to make time for my kids!

#2 Daddy Never Loved Me. I was raised in a home where I love you was common language. I tell my kids I love you about every other breath. I feel it’s really important that no matter what comes between us, they know that love is constant. They need to hear me communicate my love for them. And, my actions need to speak loudly that those aren’t just empty, careless words.

#3 Daddy Never Led Our Family. Call me old fashioned, sexist, and whatever else comes to mind. But, I still believe God has called dads to lead their families. I believe the only reason many ladies are playing this role is due to dads who have never stepped up. Being a dad is more than just having a child, drinking a beer, sitting in a chair, and going to work. Being a dad is accepting your God-given responsibility of loving and leading your family towards God’s best for them. It starts by being an example of how God would have us all to live. Then doing all you can to lead your family to do the same.

     Dads and Moms, maybe in the past you’ve not done a great job in one are all of these areas. There is no time like the present to turn things around. Admit your shortcomings to God and your family. Put yesterday behind you and don’t miss another key moment with those you love so dearly.

     Would love to have you join me @ Refuge Church Sundays 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. This could be a new year and a new you!

A Life Defining Question Heading Into 2015

   New Year New You Web Pic

      Was the night before Christmas and all through my house. Not a creature was stirring except for this preacher’s wife’s spouse. He was working late into the night as he often does. Preparing messages and making plans for future ministry. When all of sudden he noticed his wife asleep on the couch. She was exhausted from caring for him and their kids all week. He then realized he could learn a lot from her going forward into 2015.

     What I’m about to share with you is not a laughing matter, but likely one of the most life defining questions. What are your priorities? A priority is “something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first.” So many things flood through my mind as I read this definition from Webster’s dictionary. In fact, the main thing is how much my actions contradict my intentions. You know, we all like to spit out of our mouths that God, family, and others come first in our lives. But, do they really?

     I have to say that even though it took years to admit it, my wife is usually right about a lot of stuff. One of those things is what it means to be in a state of being with your family, not just doing for your family. For example, while I’ve been headed in a million other directions thinking about my family, she has been busy loving and nurturing our family. This is something I’ve seen firsthand in her and her mom. Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

     You know and I know that talk is cheap. You can say all day long what you plan to do and how you really feel. But, your actions will always speak louder than your words. For example, if my family is a greater priority than my work I will make time for them. They won’t consistently get leftovers and second hand time. I won’t be so wrapped up doing for others that I fail to do for my own family.

     In 2015, one of my greatest resolutions is to establish clear and worthwhile priorities. I don’t want to be full of just empty words and good intentions. I want to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things that can wait. I want to live with Godly conviction, which I know will bring with it God’s peace and success.

     So, what are your priorities going into 2015? Jesus already made it clear what should come first in our lives. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33)(NLT)

Starting Sunday, January 4th 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center, Refuge Church will kick off a very practical and powerful message series called a “New Year, New You.” Would love to have you join us @ Refuge if you don’t already have a church home. I’m certain these messages will help you get the new year started off right! Happy New Year!

Make The Most Of This Christmas

Merry Christmas Merry Christmas

I don’t mind admitting that I’m still much like a child when it comes to Christmas. You can feel the magic and anticipation in the air. However, to make the most of any Christmas we all need the right focus and perspective. Here are five things I believe will help us make the most of this wonderful season called Christmas.

#1 Enjoy Time With FAMILY & FRIENDS. We live in a world that is seeking to part ways with everything God values most. One of those things is family. In the process, the American family continues to fall apart. We pride ourselves in staying busy, living independent, and doing things our way. God designed us all to do life together. God made us to live in close fellowship with himself and others. Who knows what will happen between now and the next time you gather. Forget about football, deadlines, and anything else that can wait. Enjoy the time you have with your loved ones and don’t assume those times will come again.

#2 Remember The LESS FORTUNATE. Nothing is more Christ-like than being mindful of the needs of others. Not everyone will have plenty to eat and family gathered around them. Jesus went above and beyond to show His love for us and others. He gave up His life in hopes of having a personal relationship with each of us. We too should go above and beyond to show others that same kind of love. Invite the lonely to join you. Do what you can for those who are struggling and need their spirits lifted. Anything less is simply ungodly and unacceptable if we call ourselves Christ followers.

#3 Count Your BLESSINGS. I still recall the hymn we used to sing often at church. “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done.” Often we focus on what we don’t have instead of realizing all that surrounds us. Yes, pull out a piece of paper and list all the blessings in your life. I guarantee your list of blessings will be much longer than your list of wants and complaints. Remember every good gift comes down from God above.

#4 Look For GOD MOMENTS. There is something about the holidays that opens hearts. Hearts that might otherwise be cold. Look for moments to share God’s love. Look for moments to testify of God’s faithfulness in your life. Look for God-given windows that provide opportunity to share God’s love and hope with others. The shepherds who encountered baby Jesus for themselves didn’t just keep the good news to themselves, but they couldn’t wait to share the hope of Christ with others.

#5 Focus On The REASON FOR THE SEASON. We say Christmas is all about Jesus and then we make it all about us and buying gifts. We talk a lot about a reindeer named Rudolph and a jolly man named Saint Nick. Yet, outside of our little manger scene figurines, Jesus is hardly discussed even for his birthday. We must put forth an intentional effort to make the main thing, the main thing. Otherwise, Christmas becomes just another man-made holiday instead of the God made celebration it should be. Ever Christmas Eve our family gathers and sings together Happy Birthday to Jesus. Why not? He is the reason for the season.

(Isaiah 9:6)(NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU & YOUR FAMILY!

 

When God Does More Than You Think

Only reblogging this because the previous post had complications, but also because I hope you take the time to read. I believe there is a message for each of us. God bless all of you this Christmas.

Pastor Craig Crosby

God's Angels God’s Angels

     Last year this time a local young mother was struggling with her health and to keep her lights on. She certainly didn’t have any extra funds to buy Christmas presents for her three small children. After being made aware of the need, some folks with big hearts at Refuge Church made sure those little ones had some special gifts come Christmas morning.

     Recently, this same mother contacted me. Except this time, she wasn’t asking for anything for her or her family. Instead she wrote the following words. “Mr Craig you and your members made Christmas for me and my children last year. My children wouldn’t have gotten anything had it not been for y’all. I would like to pay that blessing to someone else if you know of a small family please call me. This has been weighing heavily on my heart so I’m guessing God…

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When God Does More Than You Think

God's Angels

God’s Angels

     Last year this time a local young mother was struggling with her health and to keep her lights on. She certainly didn’t have any extra funds to buy Christmas presents for her three small children. After being made aware of the need, some folks with big hearts at Refuge Church made sure those little ones had some special gifts come Christmas morning.

     Recently, this same mother contacted me. Except this time, she wasn’t asking for anything for her or her family. Instead she wrote the following words. “Mr Craig you and your members made Christmas for me and my children last year. My children wouldn’t have gotten anything had it not been for y’all. I would like to pay that blessing to someone else if you know of a small family please call me. This has been weighing heavily on my heart so I’m guessing God is either leading me to help your family or someone you know.”

Here is what I wrote her in response. “My friend, it’s great to hear from you. We were glad to help your family last year through what I know was a difficult time. I will let you know of any family I know in need. But, your offer to help someone else has already blessed my heart. It means God used last Christmas not only to bless your family, but to turn you into a blessing to others in need. You’ve learned something very few others ever do. That Christmas is not about what you can get, but what you can give to touch other lives. I pray you and your family have a wonderful Christmas season. God bless!”

    This mother went on to say, “Maybe this will help someone else who is in the same shoes. There is hope. And though I could have missed the pain, I’m grateful that God loved me enough, loved my children enough to help us. I honestly pray that I always remember how amazing it felt and how it truly was a miracle for me. I can only imagine that Heaven must be that same amazing, heart wrenching feeling. I now pray everyday that God uses me throughout the entire year to help others in need. I’ve already helped four other families recently.”

As I read her words and listened to her God story I could not help but smile and be moved. We thought we were just helping someone at Christmas? We thought we were just doing something that would touch a life that moment? Instead, it has become the gift that is still giving. God bless this mother, her family, and all those who might find themselves in a very difficult place this time of year. I pray God supplies all your needs and uses others to be an angel in your life.

(Acts 20:35)(NIV) “…We must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

 

LISTEN TO YOUR SPOUSE

listen-with-your-heart

Or don’t and wish you did. I can’t speak for every man, but I still have a lot to learn even after all these years of marriage. My wife speaks one word to my every one thousand. But, when she speaks there is usually much to be heard. Words that don’t need to be ignored, misunderstood, or taken lightly.

If it makes you feel better I still put my foot in my mouth quite frequently. I can easily get wrapped up in my own wants and needs. Fortunately, I have a wife who I love dearly who knows how to help me see reality.

I’ve said many times the only thing that has spared my marriage from divorce has been the grace and undeserved love of my wife. But, there comes a point when you have to wake up, step up, and be the man God has called you to be.

Several years ago, while reading a book called “The Ten Commandments of Marriage” God hit me upside the head. I was actually preparing a message series on marriage to preach to others. Well, God had a message for me. I was only in the first chapter of the book when conviction came all over me. The author said, “Thou shall not have Pigitis”. He went on to explain how we can’t be all about us, but we have to seek to understand our spouse.

I remember that day like yesterday because it actually broke my heart. How many times did I miss what was going in the heart of my spouse? How many times was I so focused on my thoughts that I failed to even consider hers? What had I missed for nearly ten years of marriage that could have enriched our relationship? I can answer that quickly, I missed a lot!

If we want our marriage to not only survive, but thrive we have to listen. Don’t be so focused on being understood, but seek to understand your spouse. You can’t love well anyone you don’t really know. You have to get to know their struggles, fears, disappointment, hopes and dreams. Anything less just leads to two strangers at odds, laying in bed next to each other.

Communication will always be a work in progress. But, active listening will always be critical to healthy communication. Ladies and gentlemen, make sure you listen to your spouse. I’ve seen too many brokenhearted men and woman that later wish they had done something before their marriage fell completely apart.

(James 1:19)(NIV)”My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Confessions Of A Pastor

Craig Profile

Not quite sure why I’m sharing all this with you. I do know confession brings healing. And, if God can use this to encourage even one struggling preacher or brother in Christ, it was worth every confession. I can’t speak for every pastor, but I’m pretty sure these things apply to most. We spend a lot of time seeking to understand those God has called us to serve, but maybe there are some things you need to know about us.

#1. I’M HUMAN. Not that I’m telling you something you didn’t already know. But, I’m afraid sometimes people forget that the pastor is human too. I sin, I fail, I fall short, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’m just a man who has been called by God to minister to others who just like me are desperately in need of God’s grace, love, truth, and forgiveness.

#2. I HAVE FAMILY. My children just call me dad and need me as much as yours need you. My wife needs me to love her, lead her, and be there for her for better or worse. I have vowed and determined that I won’t ever be one of those guys out trying to save the world, yet failing to be what God has first called me to be at home. Every pastor needs those around him to love His family as much as he seeks to love their family.

#3. I AM OFTEN OVERWHELMED. After over 20 years of ministry experience I’ve only become more aware of my desperate need for divine intervention. A pastor often goes to bed knowing that the greatest things before him are way beyond his control. He can pray, prepare, and put together man’s best laid plans. Yet, He knows that without God’s help, he and the church are bound to fall short. By the way, there is nothing wrong with admitting that you can’t even walk without God holding your hand.

#4. I AM STILL LEARNING MYSELF. I’ve spent nearly half my life in school only to conclude that I still have so much to learn. No pastor has all the answers or always knows what to do. There is a God and we are not Him. We preach God’s word passionately because we know that within its’ pages we can discover all we really need to know to accomplish God’s will. I will always be a student myself even as I seek to lead countless others.

#5. I NEED YOUR PRAYERS. The average pastor hears and receives prayer requests around the clock. Personally, I don’t care where or when you might run into me I’ll always care about what is going on in your life. And, I’m certain that God cares even more my friend. There are no greater words a pastor can hear than, “I’m praying for you.” I would say, thanks because I sure do need it. So, as you ask your pastor to pray for you assure him that you are praying for him. God will in turn pick him and you up in the process.

Dear Grandma & Granddaddy

Grandma & Seth

I think I’ve discovered something that can go a long way in helping you process the loss of a loved one. At least I can say it helped me a whole lot to write this letter. 

Dear Grandma & Granddaddy,

Hard to believe it’s been a few years since your eternal transition. Granddad, you always said, “I’ve got high mileage on rough roads.” Well how is that new body treating you? Grandma, I honestly thought you might out live me considering you worked circles around all of us. That stupid cancer took you away from us way too soon.

How am I doing? Just living like you taught me to do. Trying to make the most of this life and make preparations for the next. Things haven’t really changed much since you both left us. Many people are still taking life for granted, acting crazy, and putting all their stock in a life that is sure to disappoint.

I’m so glad I know where both of you are living today. I can’t imagine the sights, sounds, and peace there on those streets of gold. No, neither of you were perfect, but thank God you trusted Jesus as your savior. Yes, I’m still preaching, singing, and doing all I can to tell as many people as possible that “Jesus Saves.”

Grandma, I found that picture of you and Seth. Why didn’t you tell me that as young as 3 years old you were filling him up with coffee. No wonder, he never wanted to take a nap during the day. He still tells me that you told him not to tell. Well, the truth is out now and I’m just glad he got to share a few cups with you.

Why am I writing all of this? I just find it helpful to think about all the smiles and special moments we shared together. No, Grandma I’ve not had a pimento cheese or chicken salad sandwich like yours since you left. Granddaddy, eating peanuts just isn’t the same without you sitting there telling me that we should chew every bite thirty times. By the way, Granddaddy, all those jokes I told you were lame, I find myself repeating them daily. And, if no one else laughs, I just laugh at myself.

Well, you two enjoy that place of paradise where there is no more worry, hurt, pain, or disappointment. I know sooner that we think our appointed time will come and we will see each other again thanks to Jesus. I know I have no way of getting this letter to you in Heaven. So, I’ll just wait until we meet again to catch up and enjoy eternity together. Thanks for all you did and taught me to do.

 Love, Your Favorite Grandson (Oh yes, that was our secret)

                                                                       

God Used The Worst Meal Ever

Pig Slopp

Recently, I was out of town on a spiritual getaway. I had not eaten much of anything all day, so I was very eager to find some good eating. I stopped at the first steak and seafood restaurant I saw and was shown to my seat. The waitress highly recommended the evening special which was a small steak and shrimp smothered in some kind of house sauce. The sides were mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. I thought to myself this is going to be great, how can you go wrong with that order?

That is until my food was brought to my table. My steak appeared to be still alive when I knew I ordered it Well, Well done. The shrimp and steak appeared to be covered in a dish that I may not serve my dog. The taste of both of these items made me feel like I now knew what “Gravy Train” mixed with leftovers might taste like. The vegetables tasted like cold grass. The mashed potatoes tasted like someone forgot to mash or warm them. Finally, I asked for some bread. No joke, if my eyes were closed I would be certain that someone brought me some “Deer Jerky”.

All this to say, I told the waitress as nicely as I could that nothing on my plate tasted great, but it was not her fault. She actually looked like she could tear up any moment as she so wanted me to be a satisfied customer. I assured her that I would be fine and asked her to please bring me my bill. She brought it out with a smile and I noticed that she had given me a discount. As I signed the credit card receipt, I also took time to write these words which I inserted with my bill.

“Dear Waitress, Just want you to know that your service was great. Even though the food wasn’t. I totally appreciate you giving me a discount and your compassion towards me being satisfied. I’m so glad that even though life isn’t perfect, God still has perfect plan for each of us. In fact, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you says, the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God bless you and your future.” Sincerely, Pastor Craig Crosby.

The restaurant had many outside windows. I actually could see straight to the back. There was my waitress, showing this letter to one of the restaurant host, while smiling ear to ear. I realized that night that even though I didn’t like my meal, it was not a wasted night. God used my dissatisfaction to hopefully help that waitress discover an even greater satisfaction. I personally chalked it up as another divine moment that I could have easily missed if my only concern was my meal.

(John 10:10) Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But, I have come so that you might have life to its fullest.” My friends, please don’t ever settle for less!

DIVORCE PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE

Your Marriage Is ALWAYS under attack!

Pastor Craig Crosby

One of my highest goals in this life is to stay happily married to the same woman for a lifetime. I honestly believe many couples want to grow old together, but based on statistics the majority won’t make it to the finish line. Every day thousands of marriages that started out with such high hopes end in an ugly divorce. If you care deeply about your marriage lasting the tests of time I hope you will take these keys to making your marriage last to heart.

#1: Take Your Wedding Vows To Heart

Plenty of married folks said I Do with their mouth, but never meant it in their heart. Listen, when I said I do, I meant it for better or worse, richer or poorer, through the good and bad, in sickness and in health, and as long as we both shall live. People who really mean it when…

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Put Down Your Guitar

     Garth Sign

     By now millions have heard the news about a recent Garth Brooks Concert. While in the midst of playing music, Garth noticed a lady that was battling cancer in the audience. She was holding up a sign that read “Chemo this morning, Garth tonight, Enjoying the dance.”

     It really touched my heart how Garth Brooks stopped his concert midstream to recognize this lady battling cancer. In fact, he not only noticed her, he serenaded her, held up her sign for all to see, and then gave her the very guitar he was playing. This lady was not only battling cancer, but two weeks prior her dad unexpectedly passed away.

    While holding the sign up on stage for all to see, Garth Brooks then said some very profound words. “I’m one of those guys who says, “If God would just get a big old hand that comes down from the sky and write, I EXIST. Well tonight God wrote this sign.”

     My friends, too often we’re so caught up in our “Own Song and Dance” to notice what the person next to us might be going through. God wants us all to put down our guitar and notice the needs around us. Take the time to notice someone else’s battle, struggle, and be God’s vessel that speaks loudly “I Care About You.”

    Just like Garth Brooks we need to use the stage God has given us to touch somebody’s life. A self-centered life will never bring you happiness or peace. You were created in God’s image and God is anything but selfish. God is love and as believers in Jesus Christ we’ve all been called to share that love with those around us.

(1 John 4:8)(NIV) Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Who Should You Marry?

Couple On Tracks

Aimee and I dated 4 ½ years before we tied the knot. We have been married for over 17 years. Like any marriage our relationship has never been perfect. Always a work in progress made possible by the grace of God. I have no doubt  that we are a match made in Heaven. Unfortunately, I have observed many marriages that were far from Heavenly . Marriage is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in this life. Here are some key qualities you  should look for before you say, “I Do.” 

#1 MARRY SOMEONE YOU REALLY KNOW. Puppy love often looks through rose colored glasses. Many so want the relationship to work, they totally disregard reality. Many today marry someone they’ve only known through the internet or have only known for a short while. I’m a firm believer that some things can’t be rushed, but can be revealed. True character reveals itself over time. Part of the dating process is not just pondering who you could live with, but who you can’t live without. Make sure you know the person in front of you before you say “I Do”. Otherwise, you’re likely to wake up to a total stranger.

#2 MARRY SOMEONE WITH INTEGRITY. Don’t marry someone you already know you can’t trust out the gate. If a person can’t be honest with themselves, they can’t be honest with you. I know you plan to fix them after you get married. It’s more likely their dishonesty and lack of integrity drags you down a dead end road. Integrity matters more than words can say. Make sure your future soul mate has this quality.

#3 MARRY SOMEONE WHO VALUES COMMITMENT. Does your future spouse understand that marriage is a commitment? Have they demonstrated someone who is responsible, loyal, and able to stand by a lifetime promise? If not, your marriage will start out on shaky ground. And, when the going gets tough, that person will likely move on to the next relationship. Commitment is not just an act, but can be seen in every area of a person’s life. You should never marry someone who just wants to see if this works out. You need someone who hell or high water wants to make this relationship work.

#4 MARRY SOMEONE WHO LOVES YOU DESPITE YOU. This is something only time will reveal. We all go through seasons, ups and downs. True love will be there when all others fail. True love cares despite what is in it for them. True love sees beyond your shortcomings and loves you despite of you. This kind of love can only come from God. This kind of love is what sets apart the person God has for you from any other date.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

#5 MARRY SOMEONE WHO KNOWS JESUS. I could write page after page on this one topic. Countless men and women marry someone who they know is Hell on wheels. Things might be fun now, but they will end in disaster later. I’m not saying they have to be pastor, the pope, or sing in the choir. What I am saying is that without a relationship with Jesus Christ that person is living as their own authority. The non-believer makes up life as they see fit, which keeps anything in life from thriving. The true believer seeks to do what God would have them to no matter what life brings their way. A right relationship with Jesus will keep any man or woman stable, committed, living with integrity, and loving you until they draw their last breath.

Life Lessons From Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

Sunday night, millions watched quarterback Peyton Manning break Brett Favre’s record for most touchdown passes all time in NFL history. I know some of you reading this could care less about football, but let me share some things we can all learn from a man named Peyton Manning.

1.  HEALTH MATTERS.  Peyton Manning would have never accomplished much if he did not stay healthy. Many athletes go down early in their careers and never play again. It doesn’t matter how much talent or potential you have in this life. If you don’t stay healthy you can’t accomplish much. Peyton has managed to stay healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually, therefore he has continued to thrive. Don’t ever forget the value of being and staying healthy. If you aren’t healthy you can’t be very helpful.

2. WORK SMARTER.   I feel like I have been watching Peyton Manning play football my entire life. Yet, when I realized he was only 38 I knew that I was actually born first. How has this man continued to excel at a point that the average 38 year old would have struggled to even be the team’s water boy? Manning has continued to be a student of the game and life. Wisdom teaches us we must work smarter, not just harder. Prepare and plan before you move forward. Learn how to operate with a sound mind as you know the body will decline in its abilities over the years.

3. LIVE WITH PASSION.  Peyton Manning looks to be having more fun than ever playing quarterback for the Denver Broncos. I believe it’s because he plays with passion. He is driven to play His best and get the ball in the end zone. Remember, anything worth doing is worth giving your all. When you operate with passion you rise above the average and reach otherwise impossible goals. Whatever you do in this life do it all for God’s glory and give it all you have got.

4. ATTITUDE MATTERS. Many people have an attitude, but unfortunately most have the wrong kind. It’s been said that our attitude determines our altitude. You will have a very hard time finding anyone that does not like Peyton Manning. Why? Because he remains humble before God, respectful to others, and always seems to keep a level head. Many great athletes have a shaky career because their attitude stinks. Peyton’s attitude makes him a fan favorite and a person anyone can truly look up to. His attitude is just as much known as his ability to throw the football.

5. FAMILY MATTERS. Many have observed Peyton Manning’s dad and brother. Can’t you see the resemblance? They’re all winners, passionate competitors and humble men. This had to be taught and passed down from somewhere. Too often parents underestimate the importance of the home. Many people beaming with potential never get to see it due to a dysfunctional home. A person’s family can be their greatest cheerleader or their greatest hindrance towards accomplishing greatness.

Congratulations Peyton Manning on the man you have become. Both on and off the football field you have excelled. Thanks for teaching us so many priceless lessons that can be applied to our everyday life. I can promise you this. People will remember Manning’s accomplishments for years to come, but they will also never forget the rareness of his character exemplified before an out of control world.

(Philippians 3:13-14) Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

5 Things The Church Must Hear

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I still believe God has great plans for His church. We just have to make sure that as humans we don’t mess up those plans. I often remind myself and others. The greatest thing we can do as believers is to stay out of God’s way and let Him have his way both in us and around us. Here are five things the church must hear.

1. NO ONE IS COMING.

Statistics prove what has actually been known for years. Church attendance continues to decline. In fact, 75% of Americans don’t attend church anywhere regularly. Gone are the days that people just show up at church, so don’t hold your breath expecting them to walk in. You can change your music, your sign, and your pastor. But, if you don’t get outside the church walls your church will not grow or exist very long.

2. QUIT TALKING ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE.

We don’t need to rip apart the White House, but instead address the chaos that is going on in our house and “God’s house.” We need to be of one accord, full of God’s love, focused on His mission, and consistently seeking to make this world a better place. If we’re focused on doing what God has called us to do lives will be changed one soul at a time. Just talking about our country’s shortcomings fixes nothing and only feeds an already negative culture. Too often our churches are known more for what they are against than what they are for.

3. WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER.

Don’t just pray for your church, but gospel centered churches everywhere. We need to quit throwing bombs at one another and link arms together. I do appreciate what organizations like United Colleton are doing in an attempt to get churches all throughout Colleton County on the same page. I guarantee you in Heaven God will not care about the color of your skin or whether you were Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, or whatever you see as the best denomination. In the end, all that will matter is did you know Jesus and did you seek to follow His ways. We all need to learn how to not just celebrate what God is doing in our ministry, but in the ministry of others. Anything less is not of God.

4. WHERE ARE YOU?

According to scripture, every believer makes up the body of Christ. Every believer has an important part to play. When you’re not where God has called you to be, the church can’t be all God has called it to be. My friend, you will never find a perfect church. They’re all full of imperfect people, who by God’s grace through faith have been saved by a perfect Savior. If you call yourself a believer in Jesus Christ you should be involved in a local church. Not because going makes you a Christian, but because Christ established the church to be a place believers gather together.

5. SUPPORT YOUR PASTOR.

Trust me when I tell you the following. If you have never been a pastor, you have no idea the challenges of one. Being a pastor has been labeled by some as one of the top five hardest jobs in the world. One pastor will never be able do it all, make everyone happy, or fix all the issues that pop up daily. When it comes to your pastor you’re either with him or against him. You need to pray for your pastor, his family, and his leadership. Choose to be encouraging not a modern day Judas.

(Hebrews 10:25)(NLT) And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

What Every Sport Fan Needs To Hear

Crazy Sport Fan

Anyone who really knows me has seen my passion for college football. I can rattle off statistics that most don’t care about. I can’t wait for Saturdays. I love to watch every minute of the game. Like most real sports fans during that time I’m in the zone. For those hours anything that can wait, can wait. In fact, after I watch it the first time I’m bound to flip back through it again later, just ask my wife.

Over the last couple of years, both Carolina and Clemson have had great seasons of football. However, this year particular was expected to be rebuilding years for both. Especially since both squads loss some really key players and are playing a lot of young, experienced guys. Sadly, both schools are followed by some fans that never expect to lose a game. Many fans will literally go into a state of depression for days if their team falls short. Many resemble a two year old as they kick, scream, and demand everything to go their way.

Football, just like life has a way of keeping us humble. There are days nothing seems to go right. Times that we just feel like we’ve made every mistake in the book. Of course there is always someone we like to blame for our downfall. The refs are never right unless the other team is being penalized. And, no matter what we just want to win. Nothing less is acceptable.

Now, I want to make this very clear. There is a message in this for all of us. However, I feel especially inspired to share this with those who unfortunately have made any sport their God. Those who actually allow their everyday life to be dictated by a missed field goal, fumble, or lost ballgame. This simply indicates that you are so pre-occupied with what doesn’t matter that you actually think the score matters that much.

At much as I love sports, I have always sought to keep a healthy perspective. First, I tell myself that only one team can win. Secondly, I remind myself that it’s just a game. Thirdly, I seek to make sure it’s always just something I enjoy, not something I worship. Because anything or anyone you worship outside of God, will send your world tumbling.

Now, if this article gets you mad in any way, shape or form it’s clear you have a problem. This indicates that you’ve likely put way too much time, energy, money and hope in a game that will always disappoint eventually. This indicates that you really need Jesus to come into your heart and reveal to you what really matters most. Because with all the other things to worry about in life, Lord help us if football even makes our top 100 list.

I Just Want To Be Happy

Happiness Next Exit

I hear so many people tell me this from time to time. “I just want to be happy.” Unfortunately, it usually accompanies them wanting to use this statement to justify their actions. The problem is that nowhere in scripture does God’s word tell us to seek happiness. In fact, one could strongly argue that true happiness is not about who you feel, but who you know.

God’s word tell us that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Second to this we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus makes it clear that there are no commandments greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31)

Jesus said, “Seek first God’s kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Often we chase what we want because we think it will make us happy. Often we seek our will, but hope for peace, joy, and happiness that can only be found by seeking God’s will above all else.

Let me wrap this up by simply saying the following. Happiness cannot be found in this world or any set of circumstances. Nothing and no one in this world can give you lasting peace and feelings of fulfillment. Only Jesus offers the road to happiness and lasting hope. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Please don’t listen to Sheryl Crow when she sings, “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad.” Our hearts often mislead us down dead end roads. Therefore do as scripture tells us. Guard your heart and let Jesus lead your life.

5 Ways Your Marriage Could Fail

Symbols Of Commitment

Symbols Of Commitment

God intends for your marriage to last a lifetime. Many things will come our way that could stop that from happening. I would like to share five reasons your marriage might fail before it’s too late. Hope you will take each of these to heart.

 #1 YOU DON’T THINK IT CAN.  Satan loves it when anybody thinks they’ve got it all together. That makes you easy prey as pride goes before your fall. Listen, you have to stay on your knees, recognize the enemy will attack, and without God’s help your marriage will never survive. I often tell myself, “But, by the grace of God go I.”

#2 ALL YOU SAID WAS, “I DO”.  Many get all dressed up for their wedding day and can’t wait to get married. Then they forget everything they promised and don’t keep investing in the relationship. This always proves fatal. I knew a man who had been married for years, but still kept a copy of his wedding vows in his wallet. He would actually pull them out at lunch from time to time just to remember what he promised.

#3 YOU SIMPLY DRIFTED APART.  Careers, kids, and so many things can place a dangerous gap between you and your spouse over time. If you don’t notice the signs early enough you could wake up someday to a total stranger. It’s so important we always look for ways to draw close and stay close. Otherwise, the distance between you could lead to the death of your relationship.

#4 YOU WAITED TOO LATE TO CHANGE. We all have the potential to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. A wise man or woman listens deeply to the thoughts, feelings, and frustrations of their spouse. None of us are perfect, but effort is expected. Don’t wait for divorce papers before you decide to become the man or woman you should be. Make changes now!

#5 JESUS DIDN’T HAVE THE WHEEL.  Please don’t tune me out at this point. I know what you’re thinking. What does Jesus have to do with my marriage? My response is EVERYTHING. Without Jesus you can’t be the man or woman God created you to be. Without Jesus you can’t stay united in a world full of things that will always seek to tear you apart. If you don’t allow faith to build your relationship you can bet your flesh will do all it can to destroy your relationships .

These are just a few ways Satan seeks to destroy what God made to last. My friends don’t give Him these or any other windows of opportunity.  I pray your marriage last a lifetime.

What Keeps Me Up At Night

We Are The Body

We all have occasional nights we just can’t sleep. But, what I’m about to share with you has kept me up late night after night. That is until I know I’ve done everything in my heart to do something about it. Let me explain.

I’ll never forget the words of an evangelist friend who prayed, “Dear God help me never get used to men, women, boys, and girls dying and going to Hell.” Over 20 years later, I still have these words written down in the front of my bible and tattooed in my heart. I’m pray God continues to burn within me a passion to reach out to the countless who need me to never forget it.

Do you know many believe 7 out 10 in this world don’t know Jesus? Which if true means 70% of the world’s population is destined to bust Hell wide open unless they find Jesus. Do you know how these people can find Jesus? By people like you and me doing all we can, while we can to share the hope that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sadly, many profession Christians will read this and go on about their business as usual. But, I’ve not been able to go back to business as usual ever since I realized this truth. You see, I actually believe God’s word when it says that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  I believe that “God so loved the world that He sent His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. And that whoever does not believe stands condemned already.” (John 3:16-17)

I also believe that as long as someone is still breathing there is hope. Just like the thief on the cross beside Jesus was forgiven in his last hours. He was guaranteed a place in Heaven. You and I are never too far gone and out of God’s reach. For this reason, I know that hope abounds as long as opportunity exists to share that hope.

Sadly, most Christians have only become known as another club of self-centered and self-righteous folks. Most don’t attend a church which is a place God designed to encourage us and remind us of our God given mission. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Fellow believers know that once this no longer keeps you up at night your heart has drifted. You’ve obviously forgotten what it feels to be lost. And, I have to wonder if you really believe that with Jesus we can have hope and apart from Jesus we have nothing that will last.

There should never be a day that you aren’t looking for ways to be God’s light in the darkness and witness to the lost. God is not asking you to take a mission trip clear across the world, but rather begin living on mission wherever life may carry you. “Dear God, Help us never get used to men, women, boys and girls dying and going to Hell.”

 “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”            (Romans 10:14-15)

 To find Jesus or join a passionate gathering of believers who will do anything short of sin to love, lift, and lead people to Jesus come visit Refuge Church. Come as you are, Never leave the same.

    

Something Worth Fighting For

Rainbow

Many fight over the meaningless, while failing to fight for the meaningful. Let me share with you something worth fighting for. Something you need to discover and then hold on to with everything you got. That something is God’s vision for your life.

Most people, families, businesses, and even churches are living with no clear vision. For this reason they struggle with identity, progression, and staying on track with what matters most. Here are a few things you need to know about vision.

#1 VISION REALLY MATTERS. (Proverbs 29:18) “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” A wise man once said, “If you aim for nothing you’ll hit it every time.” Many are aiming for nothing, but hoping for greatness. Vision is having a clear sense of what God wants you to do with your life. To carry out God’s vision you must allow what he has commanded you to dictate your everyday life. Otherwise you’ll just survive, but never thrive.

 #2 GOD HAS A VISION FOR YOU. (Jeremiah 29:11) says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Yes, God gives us all free choice. But, our plans will never compare to His plans. God sees beyond where we are to where only He can take us. We can’t see into the future or make sense of the past. God can do it all and has plans to work it all out for our good and His glory. Settling for anything less than God’s vision for your life is settling for far too less.

#3 YOU DON’T CREATE YOUR OWN VISION, YOU DISCOVER IT.     Most make up their own plans and then ask God to bless it. Contrary to popular opinion that is not how it works. You need to seek God’s vision with all your heart and you will be blessed. Quit trying to write the daily script of your life. Quit thinking you have to create a life, but seek to discover the life God already has created for you. (Jeremiah 29:13) says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Oh how we rob ourselves of greater days when we make up our own plans. When we don’t stay on our knees before an all knowing, all powerful, and all loving God seeking His vision for our lives. Why? Because in the end it’s only thing that will matter.

When You Just Don’t Know ?

Questions and Answers signpost

I have missed over 3 ½ months of work since early March. After trying to catch a lady who passed out grieving her brother, I’ve really never been the same. Doctors say I have a muscle tear and a bulge in my lower back. I’ve been through weeks of physical therapy and have already gotten three steroid shots in the past few months alone. Praise God, I have been released to return back to work at Amedisys Hospice this week.

For sure it’s been an unpredictable journey. We all would like to feel in control. To be confident of what lies ahead. The truth is we never know what tomorrow could bring. We never know what might happen with our job, our family, our health, and in this crazy world. For this reason, we all need to put together a plan and approach that works even when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Here is my three fold plan moving forward.

1. TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME. Looking too far ahead can get you into a world of trouble. It’s like when a football team doesn’t take seriously the opponent in front of them. While they are looking ahead to another opponent they might lose the one they are playing that day. Things can change so much. Jesus tells us each day has enough trouble of it’s on. So, I plan to take one day at a time and seek to follow God’s leading moment by moment.

2. CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN. How often do we worry about things we can’t control. Doing this not only stresses us, but it accomplishes nothing. All I can do is what I can do. With the strength I have, the knowledge I’ve gained, and the opportunities God puts in front of me. I will do my best and trust God with the rest.

3. TRUST GOD WITH IT ALL. There is no sense in fooling ourselves. Apart from God’s help and divine intervention we can do nothing. Ultimately, I have to free fall into the arms of an all knowing, all powerful, and always there God. A God who is bigger than anything I will ever face. A God who can see clearly what is behind and ahead of me. I have to make the slogan that sits on every piece of U.S. currency more than just words. I have to determine in my heart, “In God I Will Trust.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)(NIV)

                                                                             

When Pictures Move You

Botany BayI’m not one of those guys that just sits around looking at old pictures. But, every time I do my mind drifts and my heart is moved. Recently, my two oldest sons turned ages 15 and 13. Not only did I realize we now officially have two teenagers, but the pictures my wife showed me forced the realization of so much more.

I still remember that day coming home scared to death with our firstborn. As you know, it’s not like they come with instructions. Yet, I was personally so excited that I bought every picture the hospital took of our first bundle of joy. I will admit that I sent all those expensive pictures back after realizing that rarely does a newborn look adorable if those pictures were taken shortly after birth. Come on, who would look their best after all that trauma.

Anyway, as I gazed at pictures taken just in the last decade alone my heart raced. I’m like, I looked so much younger, they looked so much younger, and those were the days. The same days that I recalled wondering if I could survive. You see, there was a time that our oldest boys were ages 4, 2, and just born. During that season you just aim for survival and hope everyone makes it through the day alive. Funny how those days you see in your rear view mirror become the most treasured moments of your life.

Thank God for pictures that help us celebrate and remember how much God has blessed us through the years. Thank God for pictures that slow us down as we realize there are still so many moments to be captured. Time goes by faster than we think and each day brings opportunity that can easily be missed. Pictures make us more determined than ever to seize the moment and treasure time with loved ones.

Yes pictures can make you laugh, cry, smile, and miss those days of old. But, I believe looking at them periodically is necessary for us to embrace certain truths. Truth one, it does matter how we live each day. Truth two, every moment matters. Truth three, life goes by much faster that we think. Therefore, we all must make the most of the season we’re in, the relationships we have, and the moment God has put in front of us. Hopefully later those pictures bring a smile to God’s face and joy to our hearts.

(Ephesians 5:15-17)(NLT) So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

Adjustments Every Parent Must Make

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that  I’ve said the following for years. No one loves a child more than a parent. The question that remains is does that parent know how to show that love to their child? I believe any parent in their right mind wants to do their best, but that requires continued adjustments to our approach. Here are five adjustments God is teaching me that every parent must consider if they are going to be great parents.

#1. Be The Parent. God has not called you to be their best friend. Save that role for later after you’ve actually raised them and prepared them for life. Too often you can’t tell the parent from the child. Kids will be kids, but adults need to act like adults. How can you lead someone who doesn’t respect you? How can you lead someone when you’re acting just like them? Never forget you are the parent. They need you to lead by example and do your best to guide them down the right path.

#2. Settle Down. If you have multiple children there will always be at least one that really tests your patience. I admit that I’ve had times in the past where I really loss my composure. I looked more like a professional wrestler than a parent as I flew off the top rope to set them straight. God has shown me over time that two hot heads accomplish nothing. In fact, it only leads to greater conflict. Every kid will test their boundaries, but it doesn’t mean you need to lose your temper. I’ve found that me learning to settle down makes for a greater opportunity to teach them how to settle down. Two wrongs, don’t make a right.

#3. Meet Them On Their Level. This one is huge. I have four boys and each of them could not be any different. I’ve had to learn their personality, their fears, and their heartbeat over time. I try my best to spend as much one on time as I can with each of them. My goal is to meet them on their level and look for ways to guide them to better choices in life. Any effective communication requires listening and understanding, not just barking orders.

#4. Realize Your Limits. Do all that you can do and never quit trying to do better. But, remember you’re their parent, not their God. Our job is to prepare them to live without us and then leave the rest in God’s hands. You can’t control everything they do or every decision they will make. They will make mistakes just like us. Focus on what you can control and give God daily what you can’t.

#5. Put Aside Your Agenda. I’m convinced that too many parents are trying to live out their unfinished dreams through their children. We see this in sports, pageants, and as many parents push their children towards the front of the line. Parents, our job is not to dictate our children’s future, but to prepare them for whatever God has in store. Our best laid plans will never even come close to the plans God has prepared in advance for them. Trying to push your child a certain direction will only lead to resentment, heartache, and disappointment when those dreams shatter.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.”

Well, please know that these thoughts simply come from a parent who is constantly growing and learning. I pray every day that God convicts me where I’m wrong and leads me where I should go. God bless you and your family.

 

17 Lessons Learned Since We Said, “I Do”

My Better Half

17 years ago, we exchanged sacred vows with each other. It’s never been perfect, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We dated 4 1/2 years before we walked the aisle and said, “I Do.” Of course, dating and being married are two totally different things. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that are critical to any marriage thriving. 

1. Commitment Matters. Too many get married with the option of divorce in mind. We’ve never made it an option. We both meant what we said then and mean it even more now.

2. God’s Grace Is Required. Tests will come your way as early as the honeymoon. Without divine intervention and Christ leading both of you, your marriage will not last and for sure never thrive.

3. Love is an action verb. Please read (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). My wife taught me this one. It wasn’t until about 8-10 years into our marriage that I started realizing my actions will always speak louder than my words.

4. Satan will attack. You have an enemy that does not want your marriage to succeed. Stay on your knees, keep your guard up, and keep fighting with God on your side. Satan will constantly look for ways to not only just disrupt, but his goal is to destroy your marriage.

5. Keep Investing. We often reap what we sow in any relationship. Marriage is no different. The grass is only greener where you water it. Keep dating and keep looking for ways to position your relationship to be healthy.

6. Study Your Spouse. You will never get your masters degree, but you have to keep learning your spouse’s love language. Listen with your heart and ears. Discover what makes them hurt, what makes them smile, and how you can better communicate your love to them.

7. Learn How To fight. You’re going to disagree and you’re gonna have bad days. You have to learn how to control yourself, talk through your differences, and get outside help when necessary.

8. You Don’t Have To Be Right. Too often we just want the other person to hear our side and think like us. Seek more to understand than to be understood.

9. Communication Is Critical. In the beginning all you see is rainbows and butterflies. But, if you live with anyone long enough you’ll reach a breaking point. We have to keep learning how to communicate and live with each other in an understanding way.

10. F.I.D.O. (Forget It & Drive On)  Don’t harbor bitterness inside. Don’t hold yesterday against each other. Forgive, let the past be the past, and love as God loves you.

11. Don’t Follow The Crowd. The average marriage is a total wreck. Not just because it’s two imperfect people, but so many don’t approach marriage with the right perspective. Many have unhealthy boundaries, a fairy tale mindset, and ingredients that will lead to divorce. Don’t follow the crowd, follow God’s word.

12. You Need Cheerleaders. You always need people in your life that love you, know you, and care enough about you to speak into your life. Too many try to be lone rangers. Due to pride, most don’t hear about their marital struggles until things completely fall apart. Surround yourself with the right people and seek wise counsel.

13. Make Time For Each Other. There will always be things and other people fighting for your attention. You have to make your marriage a top priority in your life. Seriously, above the kids, your career, and any hobby you may enjoy. If you don’t make time for them, someone will. No one gets married to spend life alone.

14. Marriage is work. Marriage will always be a work in progress. Keep listening, keep learning, and keep asking God to show you ways things can improve.

15. Only Christ Unites. Often opposites attract. The uniting factor is not what movies or music you like. Both of you need to be seeking God’s will and looking to God’s word for direction. He will not only lead you together, but make your relationship stronger.

16. Prayer Works. Keep your knees dirty and keep praying for your marriage. It doesn’t take long for things to quickly spiral out of control. But, with God’s strength and help you can make it through anything.

17. It Gets Better With Time. Marriage done God’s way will only improve over time. I can honestly tell you that I love my wife more now than before. Our marriage is way stronger today than years ago. When you choose to grow together, learn from your past, and continue to walk in God’s love your relationship just gets sweeter with time. You learn over time that love is much more than a feeling, but  a continuous daily choice to love each other for better or worse.

I pray this encourages some married couple whether you just recently got married or been married for years. If you don’t have a church home, come join me Sundays 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. Not only will Refuge change the way you think about church. The hour you spend with us will encourage marriage.

BACK TO SCHOOL

back2schoolNo one is more aware that school is resuming than our family. This year our boys will be in grades 10th, 8th, 5th and our youngest will take part in a half-day 4K program. As we dive into another school year, God is opening my eyes to many things.

1. TIME FLIES. I feel like I just graduated from high school myself. Like all parents, I see that time is passing by quickly. Personally, I don’t plan on being one of those parents that looks back with nothing but regret. They are only this age once and I know I will miss them when they’re gone.

2. TEACHERS MATTER. More important that having prayer in schools is the need for truly God called teachers. Teachers that pray, really care, meet students where they are and do all they can to point every child towards God’s best for their life. We need to pray for the teachers and students.

3. OUR KIDS ARE MISSIONARIES. When it comes to where your child attends school I respect whatever your conviction. We all want our kids to be safe and get a quality education. My wife and I have always been of the same mindset that wherever our kids attend we hope they make a difference. We pray they reach out to the lonely, respect their teachers and peers and I’ve seen firsthand that God can use them regardless of their age. Time has proven that friends reach friends. I pray my kids are used by God every day.

4. LIFE IS FULL OF NOT FAIR MOMENTS. Kids will be kids. Prior to the first day of school I have one son who is still begging me to let him switch to another class. Most of his friends from last year are in a different class and he says they will only see each other during recess. Sorry, but I’ve not shed the first tear. I’ve met his teacher and I know she will treat him right. My response, “Son, life is full of not fair moments. This is not the end of the world.”

5. WHAT REALLY MATTERS? Earlier my wife informed me that according to normal standards our boys were not ready for school. Two of them don’t even have book bags. None of them will be wearing even one new piece of clothing and there are still many school supplies to be purchased. We both looked at each other in that moment and agreed. If that is the greatest concerns we have about our children going into this new school year, we are more than blessed. Our kids are healthy, happy and have all the things that money can’t buy. May God bless every school, teacher, student and home this new school year.

DEER HUNTERS & FOOTBALL FANS

Deer Man

     Someone reading this will thank me later. Sadly, we are coming up on that time of the year where passions run high, but many things that matter are neglected. Yes, I’m talking about deer hunting and football season. These two hobbies have proven deadly in many relationships overtime. Please allow me to explain why we must keep these things in perspective.

     One, anything you worship will take you off track. Too much of anything other than Jesus is rarely a good thing. It’s one thing to enjoy something, it’s another thing for your life to revolve around it. Make sure your wife doesn’t feel like she is single, your kids don’t feel you don’t care, and that you don’t make football or deer hunting your God. Neither of these things are worth losing your marriage or missing precious moments with your kids.

     Two, following the crowd will get you into trouble. Too often, men we are being led by others instead of leading. Spending too much time around others who have priority issues will always rub off on you. Without meaning to it’s very easy to get swept away by the strong current around you. Football fans remember it’s just a game. Hunters remember that a deer head hanging on the wall means nothing if you lose the love and respect of your family in the process.

     Finally, make sure you consistently aim for balance. I still remember my wife asking me, “Do you have to watch every game of every team?” This was back when under no circumstance did I want to leave the house if any college football game was on television. I have since learned that all my wife was asking was for me to find a balance. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can enjoy doing something and yet still keep life in perspective.

     Please know these words come from someone who has personally struggled in these areas. I’ve watched way too many guys throw out corn to catch a deer, while at home they are losing their wife. I’ve seen just as many football fans get obsessed with a sport that will always have a winner and loser. Don’t let the things you love, lead you to lose the people you love even more!

I’ve Got To Run Away

boys jump (2)This week has been long awaited by my entire family. I’m one of those guys who often has just a little too much going on. I can’t even remember what it’s like to not have someone calling my name. I’m a local pastor, hospice chaplain, writer, husband, father and person who never feels there is enough time in the day. I do know this, getting away on vacation is really not an option. Here is why:

#1 We all need time to unwind. For me that only happens when I get away from the normal grind, demand, and temptation of helping just one more person. We all need to set aside time to chill, relax, and learn to breath again. I’ve often said, I can only be as helpful as I am healthy. The person who never slows down is headed for burnout. 

#2: We all need time to refocus. Every time I get away from life’s daily demands, I discover things I’ve really been missing. I realize how much my kids need my undivided attention. I realize that the moments in front of me will never come again. I realize that some things can wait and other’s can’t. I generally come back more focused on things that matter most and not so stressed about the things that don’t.

#3: We all need time to have fun. I’ve always enjoyed a good laugh and having a blast. Sadly, too much of my life in the past has revovled around playing rescue ranger. When we take things too seriously our lives become just one big ball of stress. There are times as a pastor I tell myself I don’t have time to have fun like everyone else. There are too many lost souls and people who need me to be available in there time of need. I still believe in what God has called me to do, but I’m convinced I must live more balanced. You should take life seriously, but you also need moments of absolute fun. Oh, the things we laugh about when me, my wife, and four boys get together. 

#4: We all need time to hear from God. Headed to the beach again this year, I always try to take a few prayer walks by the waves. I find that I hear God’s voice even clearer as I’m not thinking about the next appointment or deadline. We all need times daily and often that we get away and just seek to hear from God. He always speaks to our heart when we wholeheartedly seek his heart. 

#5: We all need to make memories. Memories are made as we make the most of the times we have with each other. None of us are promised tomorrow. Nothing brings a brighter smile than pondering the good old days. Being able to look back and say, I’m glad we did that. Things may change, but memories last a lifetime. One of my goals with every vacation is to make memories that last. 

Well, this article is one of the few things left on my to do list before vacation. By the time some of you read this, I’ll be floating down a lazy river, riding waves, walking down the beach, relaxing, and hopefully making memories that will out live me. 

*You’re always welcomed to join me Sundays 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. Refuge Church will meet you where you are, encourage your soul, and never leave you the same!

TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL: Remembering Allie Murdaugh

Gone, But Never Forgotten

Gone, But Never Forgotten

     How do you forget someone who forever changes you? How do you put out of your mind an experience you will never forget? I recall like yesterday that night at MUSC hospital watching a 19 year old Round O angel transition to Heaven. I’ve been by the bedside of many souls as they made their eternal transition, but this one was different. I sat up in my bed many a night afterwards, searching for answers. As I’ve often said, things are always different when they happen in your backyard. What if it happened to you? What if it happened to your loved one? I’m still not sure how a young girl I barely knew had such a profound effect on my life and ministry. In fact, it was her passing that inspired me to write my first ever blog called “What If.” She is the reason I’ve now written 330 articles that have been read in over 129 countries. She is the reason I’ve been a faith writer for “The Colletonian” our local newspaper for nearly 4 years. Don’t tell me that someone can’t leave a big legacy in such a short time. I’m still moved to this day by her home going.

     God has again inspired me to write some things concerning this sweet girl many still dearly miss. Hard to believe its been 5 years since we said our temporary goodbyes to this angel. I realize her family and friends still feel like they just had a bad dream. I rarely go a day without remembering you all in my prayers. I would like to rewind back to that night to share some things God has shown me over time.

Shortly after breathing in the shock of her death, I had a brief conversation with Allie’s mom Alesa. I said, “Alesa, you’ve got to allow me to help with her funeral. I know God has a purpose for all of this and I know you don’t want to waste that purpose.” I knew so many of her young friends would struggle to embrace this reality. I also knew God doesn’t take anyone by accident, only by appointment.

Out of the few hundred funerals I’ve preached, I’ve never felt more called by God to be a part of someone’s service. Of course, at those moments there are no magic words. However, God’s word always sheds light and hope on even the darkest of moments. I recall looking into many tearful eyes and wondering myself why things had to be this way. While still feeling certain that God had greater plans.

     As I’ve shared before, I experienced something prior to Allie’s going home service that I never had before. One of the funeral home staff came running to me. He said, “Come here and look at this.” He had just finished setting up a huge oil painting of Allie near the back of the chapel for all to see as they came in. He looked like he had just seen a ghost as he described what he saw. He said, “You won’t believe this. While I was setting up her picture, the sunlight from the window lit just her face up like an angel as if God was giving us a sign.” Honestly, this angel’s smile and legacy continue to touch many.

     Allie personally inspired me in every area of my life and ministry. I gained hundreds of new friends after this event. Friends that I don’t think were meant to ever be the same after this angel left us all too early. I actually believe that God wants to use Allie’s life and home going to change our lives for the better.

     My friends, if you’re still living your life the same since her passing you missed something. You missed the fact that tomorrow is not promised. You missed the fact that we all need to make sure we’re not putting our stock in this world, but in the world to come. You missed the fact that we should all live with a great sense of urgency knowing that today could be our appointed time.

     I honestly feel like I’m writing these words on behalf of Allie Murdaugh. She would want you to know that life is too short to waste even a moment. She would want you to know Heaven is too great a place to not make sure you’ve made a reservation. And, that everything in life happens for a reason. Even if we don’t understand it, even if we wish things were different, even if we can’t see God’s greater plans at this very moment.

     I honestly don’t think Allie’s home going was the greatest tragedy. The greatest tragedy, I believe are those who experience something like this, yet continue to live life the same. I don’t believe there is a pain or loss we will ever endure that God doesn’t have a greater purpose. It could be to wake us up, shake us up, and for sure give us an entirely different perspective of life.

     I continue to pray for each of you that God might give you healing and direction. Many of you reading this still have much of life ahead. Actually, your days are numbered and no one knows when their number will be called. Make sure you make the moments count. If you’re not involved in a church I want to personally invite you to come as you are to www.RefugeChurch.org.  Sunday worship takes places 9:15 and 11am @ 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro. If for some reason when you visit I don’t recognize you, just tell me that Allie Murdaugh sent you. I’ll totally understand what you mean!

*On my blog you will find other related articles under the category CELEBRATING ALLIE MURDAUGH. Articles like “What If” and “Compicated Grief”. You’ll even see the exact manuscript I used at her going home service.

My Son Almost Drowned

Asher PoolRecently, I was swimming with my two youngest boys at a local pool. Earlier, I told my 10 year old that under no circumstance was his 4 year old brother to take off his life jacket. Side tracked by conversation with someone outside the pool, I turned around to see my 4 year old gasping for air, while bobbing up and down under water. Of course, his life jacket was off and he thought he could swim without the safety device. I dove over to save him and by God’s grace this struggle had just begun. Of course, like any parent my heart was pounding, it was a major wakeup call and it scared me half to death. Thank God this event had a happy ending.

This experience prompted something I must share. How many people do you pass by daily that are drowning? They are bobbing up and down, gasping for peace and hope. They hold on to things in life that can’t save them. They quietly cry out for someone like you and me to reach out and offer them hope. Yet, when they cry out, they find us pre-occupied in our own interests.

Do you not have time to listen to their story? Do you not care enough to say let me pray with you? Is it too much trouble for you to put down what you’re doing and help someone who is drowning? Yes, we all have stress, but we’ve not all found hope. Only those in Christ have the true anchor of hope, his name is Jesus.

(Hebrews 6:19) says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

Listen, if you call yourself a believer in Jesus Christ you have something to share. You’ve been called by a God who loves them just as much as he loves you. Our job is to share the hope that we’ve found with those who have not. This hope is found in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This hope is the only thing that will keep someone from drowning and going to Hell.

Thank God someone reached out to you and me. Thank God someone took time out of their busy schedule to say, Jesus loves you, Jesus died for you and Jesus can give you hope. Each of us should see ourselves as life guards. Looking for anyone who might not be able to see beyond where they are. Looking for anyone young or old that is drowning in this life. Looking for anyone searching for eternal hope that by grace, through faith we are blessed to have found.

(Romans 10:14-15)(NLT) “How can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

This my friends is why Refuge Church exists. To love, lift, and lead people to Jesus. It’s a place you can find hope and its place you can be a part of sharing hope. Come As You Are Sundays 10:30a.m. at the Colleton Rec Center.

Where Hope Rises

Man PrayingEverywhere you turn, someone is going through something. You don’t have to flip on the TV or your computer. Just walk across the street and talk to your neighbor. I can see that huge smile on Satan’s face as he’s convinced many that the best is behind them. Many Christians spend too much time talking about how America is falling apart and how things can never get better. I’m glad you’re not God.

 ATTENTION BELIEVERS. This world has fallen short dating back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. People have struggled, sin has abounded, and many have chosen to go their own way. Nowhere in scripture does God say our hope is dependent upon our circumstances or what CNN has to say about America. I know we’re living in the end times, but that doesn’t change the hope that is in front of us. Allow me to share some brief truths from my recent message at Refuge Church.

1. MOST LOOK FOR HOPE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES. Hope can’t be found in a bottle, a pill, a psychic reading, a lottery ticket, wishful thinking or anything else created by fallen man. Most wake up hoping in things that will continue to disappoint and leave them empty.

(Proverbs 16:25) “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

2. HOPE IS ONLY FOUND IN JESUS CHRIST. Only Jesus gives us hope that is good both in this life and the life to come. When things fall apart you need an anchor. You need someone who will never leave, nor forsake you. You need someone who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Jesus provides us with an anchor of hope that will always hold us together.

(Hebrews 6:19) “We have THIS HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

3. SATAN WANTS YOU TO THINK YOU HAVE OTHER OPTIONS. Satan’s goal is to distract, depress, and destroy you. He does this best by making you believe that you have other options. He leads you to dead end roads that only lead to heartache and further disappointment. Satan wants you to live in chaos. Jesus wants to give you peace, hope, and life everlasting. Every other option is disaster waiting. Satan loves to tempt us with things that seem promising at the moment, but tomorrow will devastate your life. It may seem narrow minded, but there is only one way to finding hope. And that way is Jesus.

(1 Peter 5:8) “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

(John 10:10) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

4. HOPE NEVER DEPENDS ON YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE.

Here is the greatest news you will hear today. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve been through, or where life finds you now. In Christ, the future is always looking bright. Hope is always at your fingertips.

(Jeremiah 29:11)For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

5. HOPE IS ONLY A PRAYER AWAY. The moment you quit trying to do things your way and choose God’s way, hope rises. The moment you turn everything that is weighing on your heart over to God, hope rises. The moment our country repents, seeks God’s face, and humbles itself before God, hope rises. Hope always begins on our knees. Not in attaining more knowledge, not in trying harder, but in turning things over to a God who can do things that defy logic and transcend the normally possible.

(2 Chronicles 7:14-15) Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.

Join me this Sunday, 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. I’ll be sharing a message called “Overcoming Your Past.” Come as you are, Never Leave The Same.

Learning To Slow Down

Rat RaceMaybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my body speaking, or maybe I’m just learning that moving at the speed of light is rarely a good thing. I know what it feels like to run every time someone calls your name. To go through life like you’ve got something to prove and always have somewhere you have to be. I’ve concluded that not only do I not like living that way, but it’s not good for me or anyone around me.

Oh you’ve not hit that brick wall. You’re still living on the bandwagon that says busier is better, faster is cooler, and you don’t really have a choice living in this day and age. You know, we live in a world that never sleeps. Businesses continue to expand their hours to keep up. Places like Certain stores and restaurants never close as they feed a culture that prides itself in never sleeping.

I understand we no longer travel by horse and buggy. I realize because of technology advances we can send messages to each other in seconds. That everyone on the planet owns a cell phone and half the world a smart phone. I know we have to keep up with the times, but that doesn’t mean we have to live at a frantic pace. Here are some reasons we all need to learn to slow down.

#1 YOU NEED THE REST. I discovered a long time ago that my body has limits. When I run around like a chicken with my head cut off, it takes a huge toll on my health. Running too fast, for too long always has consequences. It can break you down emotionally, mentally, and physical. God never intended for us to go until we collapse or wind up in the hospital due taking on way more than God ever attended. I can promise you that someone reading this right now is headed for a rude awakening. If you don’t slow down, find a balance, and get proper rest. Your body alone will reveal to you that you weren’t meant to always live on the go and copy everything you see others doing in a very unhealthy American culture.

#2 YOU MISS A LOT. Many while chasing the so called American Dream later wake up to the American nightmare. You wake up and realize you missed your children growing up. You wake and realize you should have spent a lot less time running and a whole lot more before God asking Him to lead you step by step. While you’re chasing the next big thing you could very easily miss all that really matters before you. Don’t live life so fast that you neglect those you love most and miss what matters most. Too many run through life chasing an imaginary prize, while never enjoying the gifts God has already given them.

#3: YOU’RE NOT IN A COMPETITION. Best words every spoken is that life is not a forty yard dash, but a marathon. We’re all on a journey that calls for us to seize the moments God puts in front of us. The best way to live out those moments is one day at a time. You don’t get extra points from God for running faster than everyone else. Life is not meant to be a competition between each other, but instead is about bringing glory to God in all we do and say. This is often impossible to do if we’re running so fast through life we can’t hear God’s voice and can’t enjoy a second.

Please know that I’m not sharing this to preach at you. I’ve just concluded that life is not meant to be some rat race. God doesn’t put on us more than we can handle, but we often do. We have to learn how to say no, slow down, and smell the roses daily. Otherwise we will get burnout, miss a whole lot, and discover that much of our running was totally unnecessary.

(Psalm 46:10) He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Many have recently visited Refuge Church. If you don’t have a church home and would like to learn how to let God lead your everyday life, come as you are this Sunday 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. I promise we’ll change the way you think about church.

5 Ways God Speaks

meetingpeopleonthefrontporchThere is no question that the same God who knit you together in your mother’s womb wants a close relationship with you. The question is never does God speak, but are you listening? Here are five ways God speaks to each of us daily and often.

1. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CREATION. I can’t look up or around at all God has created and not see His greatness, feel his presence, and be amazed at the work of His hands. The sun, moon, stars and wonders of God’s creation scream out, “What a God.” (Romans 1:20) For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

2. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH CIRCUMSTANCES. I believe everything happens for a reason. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand those reasons, but God always has a purpose for the circumstances He allows. There is nothing that you have ever gone through or will go through that God’s voice can’t be heard loud and clear if you’re listening. Jesus may be trying to teach you to trust him no matter what, come to him no matter when, and acknowledge him no matter where. Jesus on several occasions when explaining the reason for certain events said,(John 11:4) “..It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

3. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH PEOPLE. Not everyone you meet speaks truth. However, throughout history God has used men, women, boys and girls to communicate His truth and carry out His mission. Just as God uses you to speak to others, God uses others to speak to you. (2 Corinthians 5:20) “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

4. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS SPIRIT. For all who choose to believe and receive Jesus into their hearts, the spirit indwells them. That spirit is with every believer at all times. Convicting us when we’re living outside God’s will, directing us when we can’t see where to go next, and comforting us as we go through valleys in this life. (John 15:26) “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

5. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD. The primary way God speaks is through the dustiest book on most people’s shelf. God’s word holds the final say on everything. Every time you open the pages of the Bible you are hearing the voice of God. You don’t need something written in the sky, an angel to appear, or to pray day and night in order to hear God’s voice. God has already spoken clearly on how he wants you to live, love, and carry out your everyday life. He even tells us how to prepare for the life to come. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

This is not some exhaustive list of all the ways God speaks. God will do anything and everything to get your attention. Here are five ways I know God speaks to each of us. Understand, learning to recognize and hear God’s voice is a process. The closer you become to Him, the clearer His voice will become to you.

To hear God’s voice weekly and be encouraged in your faith journey join me Sundays 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. Refuge Church will change the way you think about church. Come as you are!

How To Hear God’s Voice

     Cross With Blue Background Would you like to hear God’s voice? What if I told you God speaks to us all? That the only thing you need to learn is how to hear what God is saying? I sincerely believe that God speaks to us all, but we have to know how to position ourselves to hear His voice. There are three things critical to hearing God’s voice.

#1 BELIEVE. By faith in Jesus Christ your eyes are opened and God’s spirit comes to live inside of you. Only a believer can understand the things of God. Scripture tells us that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who have not believed. Believing is our first step towards a God who loves us, calls us by name, and knows the plans He has for us. By faith, we become His sheep and He becomes our shepherd.

(John 10:27) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

#2 BE STILL. Often we’re too busy doing our own thing to hear anything God has to say. We have to make time to be still and know that He is God. We have to get away from the crowds, the noise, and the affairs of this world.It was in the quiet moments before Jesus ever started his day that he listened for the voice of God. He always prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done.” As chose to be still, God the father spoke to his heart.

(Luke 5:16) says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  

#3 BE SINCERE.” Many only come to God with their wish list and on their own terms. Most only come to God when facing a huge crisis as they beg God to bail them out of the mess they’ve created. We all have to reach that point where we quit playing religious games, stay on our knees, and sincerely seek to do God’s will. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

     In my next article, I will share with you some ways God still speaks to us all today. In the meantime, I pray you choose to believe, learn to be still, and will seek God’s will wholeheartedly. If you’re searching for answers, come see us @ Refuge Church, Sundays 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Rec Center. There you will be loved, never judged, and God will speak to your heart.

“I Was Struck By Lightning”

 

    Lightning Bolt Back on May 2013, while waiting on his wife to get home from work my friend got struck by lightning. Without warning, while cooking sausage and drinking a cold beer in his own kitchen, lightning struck him down. He said, “I didn’t know if this was the end or not. I told my son, no matter what happened, I loved him.”

   His teenage son rode with him as he was transported to MUSC Hospital by ambulance. I can only imagine what was going through his mind at this time. I know I would be shocked, scared, and worried to death that I might be on the way out. After all, sudden events often catch us by surprise and give us little time to catch our breath.

   Around midnight, hours after this event occurred I went to visit my friend in the hospital. To my surprise, he was still conscious and smiling. He knew he was beyond lucky to have survived a lightning bolt. I could see on his face the look of relief and shock. I was convinced that his life would never be the same. A year after this event, here are some questions I asked him about this event.

Why do you think this happened? “I don’t know to be honest. Some say because of all the bad things I’ve done. Some say, I’m special. Others say God has big plans for my life. I guess only God knows for sure.”

How has this changed your life? “It has definitely been a life changing event. I’ve learned to not take a single moment for granted. That God is rich in mercy and grace because I could have definitely left this world. To my surprise, I was not scared that night. I prayed the entire way to the hospital that if I passed away, God would know my name. His peace was within me and I could feel his presence.           

Any final words? This experience has gotten me and my family back in church. Not only do I attend Refuge Church faithfully, but I help setup for worship weekly at the Colleton Recreation Center.”“Life is short. Make sure you tell your loved ones you love them while you can. Live your life to love God and love people. Take one day at a time.”

Are You A REAL DAD?

 

     Boys And Me ParkIt’s been said that anyone can be a father, but not every father chooses to be a dad. I’ve been a dad for almost 15 years. I’ve been blessed to have a dad all my life. I’m not sure this qualifies me to write the following words. However, with Father’s Day right around the corner I feel inspired to share some things I’ve learned from my dad and being a dad myself.

#1 A Real Dad takes his role seriously. There is so much talk about dads missing in action. But, let’s thank God for all the dads who do their best to protect, provide, and guide their children day by day. Dads can’t replace moms, but moms can’t replace dads either. Time has proven that dads really matter and play a critical role in shaping the next generation for good or bad. Real dads seek to do their part.

#2: A Real Dad makes time for his kids. If you’re too busy to spend time with your family, then you’re too busy. Real dads understand that time spells love. Real dads show their kids they care, tell them they are proud, and are right by their side every step of the way. Real dads understand their presence in a child’s life is critical to their parenting.

#3: A Real Dad practices what he preaches. Nothing kills a parent’s credibility more than when he or she communicates hypocritically to their children. A real dad understands that integrity is everything. Your kids may doubt what you say, but they will always believe what you do. Real dads teach by example, not by barking orders.

#4: A Real Dad is never off duty. A real dad is much like a real mom. He never quits loving, never quits teaching, and never quits seeking to do his God-given best. His son or daughter can call him anytime. He may not have all the answers, but his arms are always open. A real dad never makes excuses, but seizes the opportunities before him. Real dads go the extra mile and are there when they are needed most.

#5: A Real Dad Stays On His Knees. There is no such thing as a self-made man. The only thing that holds us together, keeps us going, or makes us competent is help from above. A real dad turns things over daily to his Heavenly Father. He prays God’s will be done in his life and his family’s life. A real dad knows that apart from Jesus Christ he can do nothing. He can’t provide, he can’t protect, and he can’t make his children do anything. A real dad’s knees stay dirty and his faith must remain strong if He is to stay the course.

Is Your Marriage Normal?

10th Anniversary Cruise 2007

10th Anniversary Cruise 2007

I counsel with married couples often. Between their marriages and my own, here are some things I’ve discovered about normal marriages. Maybe you should check this to make sure your marriage is not abnormal. I pray it encourages your marriage in some way, shape, or form.

Your marriage is normal if you DISAGREE OFTEN.    Anytime you bring two people together who before lived separate lives expect disagreement to follow. Of course, prior to marriage you only see stars, look for the best, and often overlook things that may not be your cup of tea. Marriage is a journey of learning how to love beyond your differences. Only Christ can bring true unity.

Your marriage is normal if you SOMETIMES DON’T FEEL IN LOVE.      How many times do we hear someone say, “I just don’t feel in love anymore?” If every marriage partner lived by this motto, no one would stay married. Love is choice and in the context of marriage a commitment for better or worse.

Your marriage is normal if you THINK ABOUT DIVORCE.      I still remember my Grandma telling me that she never considered divorce, but she did consider murder. All kidding aside, thinking about divorce is pretty normal. Especially, when we base our viewpoint on momentary feelings.

Your marriage is normal if you OCCASSIONALLY GO ON STRIKE.      It often amazes me how quickly a relationship can come unglued. All it takes is two imperfect people who are determined to have their own way. Expect strike out moments, but learn how to work through tough seasons.

Your marriage is normal if you FACE ENDLESS CHALLENGES.      No marriage is exempt from temptation, stress, grief, and endless challenges. For this reason, you both need to be growing in your faith so that your marriage can survive the storms life will bring. I encourage you to attend a bible believing church, read your bible, and surround yourself with other couples who are seeking to work through things in a way that is pleasing to God. Then when the wind and waves come your way, your marriage will pass the test of time.

Your marriage is normal if you QUESTION YOUR COMPABILITY.     There is no denying that opposites often attract each other. When in God’s hands your differences can make a match made in Heaven. When in your hands your differences can make you feel a million miles apart. A happy marriage is not near as much about compatibility as it is learning how to love each other in an understanding way. Trust me, my wife and I are completely different in many ways. What we most share in a common is our commitment to marriage, each other, and especially God.

Your marriage is normal if you FEEL YOUR MARRIAGE IS ABNORMAL.      Maybe the only reason you took time to read this article was you wondered if your marriage is abnormal. If you can relate to anything I share above, welcome to this club called marriage. Marriage is a roller coaster journey that is worth every bit of your sweat, effort, and prayer. With God’s help your marriage can be healthy, happy, and last a lifetime.

 

5 Things You Must Know About Money

Don't You Wish?

Don’t You Wish?

     Recently, I was out with my 14 year old, on our weekly daddy day. During our times together we usually discuss many topics, but this time money matters topped the list. That night, I took the time to write down some things I believe God would have me model and teach my kids about money.

#1 It Doesn’t Grow On Trees. I don’t believe in handing my kids dollars every time they want something. In fact, I’ve found they don’t spend money near as fast when it belongs to them. Kids need to know that every dollar used is a dollar earned. If we give them the impression that money comes easy they will be in for a rude awakening when they become adults.

#2 Spend It Wisely. The majority of Americans don’t understand even the meaning of the word “Budget.” It’s the process of telling your money where to go versus letting it pour out like water. Unless you have an unlimited income, you can’t have unlimited expenses. Our kids have to learn the difference between a need and a want. They have to see us spend money wisely and with a bigger picture in mind.

#3 Save, Save, Save. I quickly admit that I’m just learning the significance of this one. You and I know that unexpected expenses and emergencies will always come our way. If we don’t save what we can, while we can debt will come our way. Our world must learn that you can’t live forever on plastic cards and unexpected rainy days will come. I don’t want my boys making the same mistakes I’ve made in the past.

#4 It Can’t Buy Happiness. The parent who only encourages their child to get a great education and the highest paying job is totally missing the mark. Money can’t buy anyone happiness. I want my boys to know that apart from a right relationship with God happiness can’t be found. Yes, we all need money to pay the bills, but money should never be our God. Money should be something we utilize, not idolize.

#5 Every Dollar Comes From God. Last, but certainly not least I want my kids to know that every dollar is a gift from God. We should consult Him before we spend a dollar. We should seek to honor Him with every dollar. We live in world that will pay anything to see a ball game, but gives nothing to their local church. I want my boys to know that God can take my job or my income away at any time. Why? Because He is God and it was never about me in the first place. I pray my boys learn how to manage their lives and money in a way that brings glory to the one who gives us not only every dollar, but eternal hope, peace, and love.

 Please understand we’re all works in progress. Our view of money and use of money need to be constantly evaluated. We certainly need to realize as parents that those looking up to us, will often follow in our footsteps. God willing those footsteps will lead them to God’s best for their life.

 

Things Every Caregiver Should Know

     hands-reaching-outThis article was written for anyone who feels called to care for another human being. Being a caregiver is so much more than a profession. It’s a God given opportunity that should never be taken lightly. Here are five things every caregiver should know in order to reach their full potential.

#1 YOU ARE CALLED. I’m convinced this is the most critical key to someone being an effective caregiver. There are certain jobs that you just can’t do effectively if your heart is not on board. A calling goes way beyond a paycheck or human recognition. A calling compels you to action and reminds you that you were hand-picked by God for the task at hand. If you don’t feel called to do what you’re doing, then you should be looking for another job.

#2 WHAT YOU DO MATTERS. God doesn’t call us to do things that don’t make a difference. Don’t under estimate how God is using you to encourage, love, and lift those around you. Every time you say yes to your God given assignment someone is receiving a blessing. Your efforts are never a waste, your sacrifice is always appreciated and every act of love matters.

#3 EXPECT HARDSHIP. Whether you’re a pastor, teacher, nurse, mom, or dad you’re going to face hardships. No matter what comes your way, stay focused on the mission before you. God will give you what you need, help you through the valley, and use all your efforts for His glory.

#4 PLAY YOUR PART. Don’t focus on what you can’t do, but do what God has called you to do. Each of us, are gifted in certain ways and have particular assignments. Do your part to the best of your ability and trust God to accomplish the rest. Seek to be where you need to be, do what you need to do, and know that you are just one of God’s angels.

#5: FEED YOUR SOUL. Some of the greatest people I know are the emptiest. Remember, you can’t give what you don’t have. In fact, you won’t be around to give anything to others if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure you get proper rest, surround yourself with necessary support, and allow God to fill your soul. Caring for others comes best out of the overflow of what God has done and is doing in your heart.

 

Graduate Address: 7 Keys To Success

DA Graduates Recently, I had the honor of speaking to a great group of 2014 high school graduates. After much life reflection, processing and prayer God led me to share the following keys to success.

#1 SEIZE THE MOMENT.

There is no moment more important than the one in front of you. The decisions and choices you make between the ages of 18 and 25 are often life defining.Many of you will choose a college major, start a career, and before you know you’ll be starting a family of your own.Before this moment passes you by, before you look ahead, seize the moment God has put in front of you.

(Ephesians 5:15-17)Therefore be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

#2: LEARN FROM OTHERS. There are folks everywhere who have gone before you, been where you are, and have learned lessons along the way. Knowledge can be attained by anyone, but wisdom is gained through life experience. Just because someone doesn’t own a smart phone, doesn’t mean they aren’t smart.Listen to your parents. Seek the advice of your teachers. Learn from your friends, family, and others who have gone before you.

(Proverbs 15:22) “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

#3: WALK WITH INTEGRITY.

It doesn’t matter what school you graduate from, what family you come from, or how likely you are to succeed. Integrity will always be the most important thing on your resume.

Integrity is choosing do the right thing in the sight of God and man, no matter what. If I was hiring someone for a job, the first thing I would want to know about them is their character. Can you be trusted? Are you dependable? Will you do the right thing no matter who is looking? Lack of integrity will affect every area of your life. Don’t compromise your integrity for anything or anyone…

(Proverbs 10:9) “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”

(Proverbs 28:6)Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

#4 EXPECT ADVERSITY.

Every time I attend a graduation ceremony, I find myself wanting to rush the stage. Many graduates say, “things will be much easier now that I’m out of school and out on my own.” Trust me, the hardships of life have only begun. Soon, you will know what it’s like to pay your own bills. You will actually recognize the price of gas. And, you will realize these were some of the best days of your life.  

Those who don’t expect adversity are in for a rude awakening. Not matter where you live or what you do you will face adversity. We all have an enemy named Satan who is constantly looking for ways to distract us, depress us, and destroy us. We also have a God, who wants to grow us, develop us, and help us overcome whatever life throws our way.

(Job 14:1) “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.

#5 SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT COMPANY.

(1 Corinthians 15:33) Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” I could spend hours on this matter. But, I just want to say these things clearly. One, choose your closest friends WISELY. Two, understand your need for good, Christian support.

Keep in touch with those who love you and can encourage you to stay the course God has laid out for you. Make sure no matter where you live, that you find a church that can remind you of God’s truth and encourage you should you fall off track.

Scripture warns us to never walk alone. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

#6 SEEK GOD’S PLANS.

In case, you’ve never been told. God created you with a purpose. He gave you certain gifts to be used for His glory. He has already laid out specific plans for your life. You don’t have to create plans for your life. God already has amazing plans for you.

(Jeremiah 29:11)For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

(Proverbs 19:21) “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.”

I used to think I had to figure out everything God wanted me to do today. I’ve discovered over time that my job is not to figure it all out, but to wake up and trust a God who has already figured it all out.

#7 NO MATTER WHAT CLING TO YOUR FAITH.

Things will change. People will disappoint. Many things won’t work out the way you envisioned. No matter what, CLING TO YOUR FAITH.

If you cling to your faith, God will take you through valleys, otherwise unbearable. God will hold you together, when otherwise you would fall apart. Your faith is the most critical part of your life. The greatest battle you will ever face in this life is spiritual. Stay on your knees in prayer. Meditate on God’s word. And run the race marked out for you.

I pray that at the end of your life, you can say the following, (2 Timothy 4:7) “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

God bless all those who are graduating this year and may God grant you all success as you follow His plans.

10 Ways To Find Out If You’re Normal

Are You Normal?I run into many people, who feel they are the only ones who feel certain ways. They feel abnormal because they wonder if they are the only ones struggling with certain things. Here are 10 things that might indicate whether you’re normal or not.

#1 You feel like you’re on a non-stop Roller Coaster. Your life feels like a reality show full of unexpected events. One minute things are great and the next it feels like all Hell has broken loose. We’re all on this roller coaster called life that is full of seasons of ups and downs, celebrations, grief, good and bad days.

#2 You worry about things you can’t control. You ponder how you can fix things that you know deep down are far from your control. You wish you could control every moment of everyday, but you’re learning that only God has that power.

#3 You wish you had a money tree. If you’re like the average person, your expenses seem to always outweigh your income. You wonder how you’ll pay that next bill, yet God always provides. Just like He takes care of the birds of the air, he continues to take care of you.

#4 You do care what others think about you. It is perfectly normal to want others to only see the best in you, be proud of you, and applaud your efforts. The reality is we can’t please everyone and in the end only God’s opinion will matter.

#5 You struggle to find balance. Most of us choose to fill every hour of everyday with events. We all fight for balance. Between work, family, and other activities there just never seems to be enough hours in the day. Maintaining balance is something we have to constantly monitor and keep in perspective.

#6 Your marriage feels like work. The only married couples I know that never have problems are either still on their honeymoon or they never see each other. Marriage is always a work in progress. It requires constant prayer, faith, and sweat.

#7 Your kids drive you crazy. If your kids are real little you’re just trying to get some sleep. If you have teenagers, you’re trust trying to survive as their hormones rage. And if you’re kids are grown, you just pray every night they make the right decisions. I’m so glad God loves my children more than me and I can always trust Him to watch over them day and night.

#8 You worry about where this world is headed. The more you watch CNN and Fox News, the more you struggle to sleep at night. Listen, this world has been spiraling out of control and full of sin. God is still God, God is still with us, and God can still change anyone and anything.

#9 You can’t make sense of much. I feel I know enough to be dangerous. I’m certain after reading God’s word what God would have me do in this life. Yet, I still have many questions regarding what I see taking place around me. All I know is God’s ways are higher and I have to trust him with even the things that don’t make sense to me.

#10 You long for total peace. We all want a peace and fulfillment that just can’t be found in this life. Our circumstances will change, people will let us down, and this world will never be perfect. Only Jesus can give us a peace that goes beyond all understanding and will last for all of eternity.

If you read this and can’t identify with any of it, you are abnormal. You evidently aren’t human, have wings on your back, or your first name is Jesus. For those who can relate, may this encourage you in some way.

Lessons From Great Moms

    

A Long Time Ago

A Long Time Ago

I’m not sure there is a more deserved holiday than Mother’s Day. They’re not perfect, but most I know are a huge blessing to their family. Moms teach us so much by the lives they live, the sacrifices they make, and the love they lavish upon us. I would like to share three things we can all learn from great moms.

#1: Family Matters. The greatest moms I know keep their family together. They do more than just cook and clean. Moms understand their first priority is their family. Events are planned for fellowship. Moments are created for unity. Moms are known for doing a better job than most in keeping in touch with their loved ones. For them, family is not just a part of life, but it’s what makes life worth living.

#2: Faith Is Critical. Most moms feel like lone rangers as they seek to raise their children. Unfortunately, many dads are missing in action, even if they do live in the home. Moms teach us that faith is critical. It’s what keeps you going when you feel like falling apart. It’s what helps you see beyond where things are to where only God can take you. It must be the centerpiece for anyone who plans to succeed in this life.

#3: Love Is More Than A Feeling. Thank God most moms don’t operate based on how they feel. If so, they would have quit a long time ago. A great mom knows that true love is never conditional. That love can’t be based on feelings alone, but must be fueled by a sincere, unwavering commitment. Moms show us how to love when things don’t make sense, don’t feel great, and even when love is not deserved. For this reason, a mother’s love is unforgettable because it reflects the love God has for each of us.

I could share so many things that great moms teach us. These three things just top the list in my heart. If your mom taught you these valuable life lessons and more make sure you thank her and God. I bet your life would not be the same without her love, faith, and commitment.

Pre-Plan Your Funeral

    Prepare To Be Amazed A few years ago, I attempted to pre-plan my own funeral service. I considered who I would have speak, the music that would be played and where I might be buried. I know firsthand those things have importance. However, I concluded I was totally missing one very important truth.  

     If you’ve ever seen a tombstone you’ve seen engraved a birthdate, a dash, and a date of death. Out of these three things, the only one I have control over is my dash. After preaching countless funerals, I’ve concluded that the following things will be evaluated after I draw my last earthly breath.

#1: What Was Your Passion? Did I live for things that really matter or did I spend my time doing things that won’t matter a hill of beans years from now.

#2: What Were Your Priorities? Many might say their faith, their family, and their friends. But, your true priorities will be determined by those around you who see your passions lived out.

#3: What Did You Accomplish? Each of us, are given talents, opportunities, and resources. It is not about comparing ourselves to each other. Did you do all you could, while you could, with what you had?

#4: How Deep Was Your Love? Many details in life will be forgotten. Exact dates and times will not always be remembered. But, a person’s love transcends time and leaves a forever impact. Nothing you will ever share or buy for someone will go further than the gift of your love. Love displays itself through relentless sacrifice, above and beyond effort, and a grace that knows no bounds.

#5: How Did You Finish?  Many feel they have wasted their life. But, as long as God grants you another day there is opportunity to finish strong. Forgive who you need to forgive, let go of what you need to let go, and do what God has called you to do. “Fight the good fight, keep the faith, and finish your race.”

#6: How Many Lives Were Touched? You don’t have to be someone in the spotlight to be someone special. We all have the chance to touch every life we encounter in some way. Who did you make smile? Who did you help out when no one else would? Who found their way to Heaven because you lived out your faith and shared your faith on a daily basis?

#7: Where Are You Now? It’s what goes through everyone’s mind when their love one leaves their sight. Where are there now and how are they doing? Scripture is very clear about how this is determined. Those who choose to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin and the promise of eternal life in Heaven will be saved. But, those who don’t choose to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will bust Hell wide open. God sent Jesus in hopes that you might find salvation.

(John 3:16-18)(ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

     At the end of my life, the only thing that will take place is someone will facilitate my burial, but I will have preached my own funeral.One day, I will make an eternal transition. Life as I know it will be no more. Folks will gather to celebrate and reflect upon my life. All that will matter is what I did with my dash.

If I Was 18 Again

High School Graduate  Oh, to be 18 years of age again. Many graduate and think they have arrived. As I watch young people everywhere make careless decisions, I just had to shed some light on this matter. Maybe a young man or woman will benefit from reading this insight. Here are five things I wish I would have realized when I was just 18.

#1: My Parents Aren’t Stupid. Every parent was once a young man or woman. Times may have been a little different when they were your age, but most things are still the same. Your parents have learned things along life’s way that could spare you unnecessary heartache. Listen to their advice and try to learn from their experiences both good and bad.

#2: My Choices Impact Everything. Too many live with a “I can do what I want” mentality. Most young people are just looking for the next thrill or attraction. I can make you this promise. If you follow the majority you will be disappointed. You will find yourself in relationships that lead to heartache. You will make decisions that could haunt you the rest of your life. Your choices today will highly impact your tomorrow.

#3: Friendships Matter. You may have heard of this thing called “peer pressure.” We’re all influenced by what others think, say, and do. One of the most underrated things in life is friendships. We all need them and in some form or fashion we will all have them. Choose your friends wisely, because you will often become like the company you keep. This doesn’t mean you should act like you’re better than everyone else and stick to yourself. But, be careful who you spend most of your time with because it’s a proven fact that “bad company corrupts good character.”

#4: Now Is The Age Of Opportunity. There is a lot of truth in someone saying, “you only live once.” The truth is you are only young once. Those who are between the ages of 18 to 25 have much in front of them. Now is the time to get your education. Now is the time to pray about who God would have you marry. Now is the time to begin with the end of life in mind. Now, are moments that just won’t come again. Enjoy your youth, seize the moments and understand every decision matters.

#5: My Faith Can’t Wait. There is a belief when you’re young that most things can wait. One thing that can’t wait is your faith development. You can make all the plans you would like. You can marry whoever you please. And you can try to play your own God. But, realize that if God is not the foundation for all you pursue disappointment is right around the corner. Regardless of your age, you need a close relationship with God. You need God’s word to shape your thinking and shed light on your way. I encourage you to read your Bible more than your text and Facebook messages. Get involved in a Christ centered church and surround yourself with those seeking God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

(1 Timothy 4:12) Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Young or old, you’re always welcomed at Refuge Church. I guarantee you we will change the way you think about church. www.RefugeChurch.org

Uncharted Territory

Bungee JumpingI’m convinced that God is calling each of us to uncharted territory. To places we’ve never been, to do things we’ve never done and to trust him in ways we never have. Do you feel God tugging at your heart? Do you feel compelled to move out of your comfort zone, take up your cross and follow Jesus? I’m afraid, many hear God’s voice, but continue to ignore the call.

This article is for that person who genuinely wants to make the most of this life. That person, who understands that at the end of this life all that will matter is God’s will. That person, who doesn’t want to live a life full of regret, but is ready to take a true leap of faith. If that person represents you, please continue to read what could propel your life to new heights.

Over twenty years ago, a minister friend of mine looked at me and said these powerful words. “Son, God is going to do through you things you could never dream or imagine.” This was said, shortly after I surrendered to God’s call to the ministry. This was said before I ever taught a bible study, before I ever preached a sermon, and before I could even understand what this man of God was even saying. Here is what I’ve learned is critical to unleashing your God-given potential.

 #1: Quit Playing Religious Games. Thinking you can play hide and seek with God is laughable. Trust me, God can see right through you. He knows what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, and what you’re going to do. Discovering your God-given potential starts with you falling on your knees, surrendering your whole heart and totally giving God full reign of your life. Until you reach this point of surrender, you can’t even start your journey.

#2: Take One Faith Step Daily. I’ve had many tell me, “I think I might become a preacher.” I tell them, its’ much easier to preach than practice. God doesn’t call each of us to stand on a stage, to teach a class or to become the next Mother Theresa. God does call each of us to follow him. Most Christians want to instantly arrive at their desired destination, when God is calling us all to take one faith step at a time. God needs to be able to trust you with the little things before He can trust you with bigger things.

#3: Walk By Faith, Not By Sight. Many so called Christians ask for their “Get Out Of Hell Free Card” and then just wait to go to Heaven. They never allow Jesus to become their Savior and Lord. They never allow God to rearrange their thinking and call the shots in their life. We have to learn how to trust God no matter the situation. We have to reach that point where we are willing to follow God anywhere and anyime. No matter where He leads or how we feel about the odds stacked against us.

Listen, God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. You do not have to be the smartest, the best looking, the most likely to succeed, or have a perfect track record to be used mightily for God. You do have to be willing to do what the earliest disciples did not hesitate to do. You have to be willing to leave everything, trust God in all things, and allow God to lead you every step of the way. I pray you don’t spend your entire life on the water’s edge when God is wanting to take you places you can only dream or imagine.

 

Join Pastor Craig Sundays 9:15am or 11am @ Refuge Church located at 203 Eddie Chasteen Dr, Walterboro. Refuge will change the way ou think about church. Come as you are, never leave the same.

    

 

 

Don’t Miss This Party

     Let's PartyMany throughout the world are looking for a party. That place where they can feel like somebody, celebrate with their friends and later say I was there. There is a party coming up that you don’t want to miss. It’s an annual party that many still don’t understand its’ significance, otherwise they would not miss this event. Let me explain for those not aware of what I’m talking about it.

     Over 2000 years ago a man named Jesus was sent down from Heaven. Born in a lowly manger he would later die just 33 years later on an old rugged cross. On that cross, he proved God’s love for every man, woman, boy, and girl. Because of man’s sin a sacrifice had to be made. Jesus, God’s son became that sacrifice so that you, me, and anyone who chooses to believe in him can be forgiven and have eternal life.

   This Easter many will be visited by the Easter Bunny. Many will gather for food and fellowship with their family. Yet, many will absolutely miss the party. You see, we celebrate because God sent us a Savior. We celebrate because not only did Jesus die for us, but he arose from the grave. In Christ, we find everything we’ve always been looking for in life. By grace, through faith our lives are resurrected, our fears removed and eternal hope found.

     Jesus invites us all this Easter to celebrate hope together. A hope that is not dependent upon our circumstance, our past or present, or who considers us worthy. Romans 5:8 says, “Even while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Meaning at this party all are welcome, all are invited, and all can find eternal hope.

   I pray you each have a great spring break. I also pray that this Easter Sunday, April 20th you might join the party. Find a Christ centered church near you and join them for worship. Don’t go thinking you have to, but thank God you get to. Consider all that Christ has done for you. Celebrate his death, burial and resurrection. And, never forget that this party not only impacts this life, but the life to come. Happy Easter!

   If you don’t have a church home Pastor Craig Crosby invites you to join him Sunday 10:30a.m. @ the Colleton Recreation Center. Come as you are, wear what you have, and never expect to leave the same.

For those on facebook, click on the following link for details concerning our upcoming Easter experience @ Refuge Church.  https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/1407966016140166/

Tim McGraw Is Now A Preacher?

   

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw

   “I drank a lot from my point of view and I needed to stop,” McGraw said. “I felt quitting was something I needed to do. I didn’t feel I had any moral high ground with my kids in the long run.” I believe he has been sober since 2008. You know he is married to a lady named Faith and he did tell us to “Live Like You Were Dying.” I actually think many are getting that memo, but many need to still hear the following truth shared in one of his most powerful songs. No truer words could describe the rural southeast than Tim McGraw’s popular song “Drugs Or Jesus.”

     “In my home town for anyone who sticks around. You’re either lost or you’re found. There’s not much in between. In my home town, everything’s still black and whiteIt’s a long, long way from wrong to right, from Sunday morning to Saturday night. Everybody just wants to get high. Sit and watch a perfect world go by. We’re all looking for love and meaning in our lives. We follow the roads that lead us. To drugs or Jesus”

     I just met a guy in the ICU, shortly after his wife found him nearly dead from a drug overdose. His wife cried uncontrollably as she couldn’t get the recent event out of her mind. She explained how she fought to keep her husband alive prior to emergency personal arriving on the scene. I’m afraid this scene and many others are far too common. I’m convinced that most of us are still living in denial. This isn’t the world your Grandma grew up in and its time everyone wakes up.

    I can just hear this all too common responses of many. “These people got what they deserved and they are nothing but trash. We all reap what we sow and I don’t feel sorry for them at all.” If this is what you were thinking and would have said, then you’ve got greater problems than they do. You’ve obviously never left your house, don’t understand the power of addiction, and don’t have a bit of Christ-like compassion living within you.

    Over the past many years I have seen plenty of things that would make Jerry Springer blush. In the past few years alone living in Colleton County, I’ve seen enough to conclude that these unfortunate situations happen all the time. Good luck in finding ANY family who has not seen one if not several in their family battle with alcoholism, addiction, and the chaos associated with it all. It’s not the minority, but the majority around us that are literally battling for their life on a daily basis.

    I believe suicide rarely happens by someone in their right mind. Often, you discover someone who felt bound by an addiction or disorder, loaded with some substance, mixed with a feeling of no one really cares that leads to one taking their life. Although in many cases someone does care, very few have learned how to really show it. Later this leads to not only a loss of a troubled loved one, but those who are left behind to live with regrets for years to come. Please allow me to briefly share some truths that could help.

#1: Christians Must Wake Up. If you claim to be a Jesus follower, you need to wake up. For years the church has put together no real effort towards understanding and ministering to these folks. Most churches are designed for people who like things easy, quiet, polished, and the preacher to make sure his sermon is done by lunch time. This is not our God called mission. God has called us to “GO” to the hurting, take the gospel to the “SICK” and allow Christ’s compassion to lead us in every way. To fail to do nothing is a total disregard of what Jesus died for, Sinners like you and me.

#2: People Start Showing You Care.  Some of the most powerful words ever spoken were, “People Don’t Care How Much You Know, Until They Know How Much You Care.” Listen, you can say all the right things, pray all the right prayers, and diagnose the problem all day. But, if you don’t prove to that person that you truly care and “LOVE” them, you are wasting your time. Most people struggling already feel judged, misunderstood, and terrible about the roads they have taken. They don’t need your self-righteous evaluation or gossip, they need your unconditional love. Until you learn how to meet people where they are with God’s love, they will continue to feel like a project.

#3: They Need Jesus. Parents, you’re right there is nothing more you can do to fix that troubled child. Friends, you’re right that you can’t fix that person who has been bound for years by the power of alcohol, drugs, and addiction. In fact, to the person reading this who is bound by such addiction you can’t fix this either. Statistics have proven that apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s son who died to set us free on that cross, we’re all hopeless. Yes, a person does have to want help. Yes, a person does need support from friends and family. And, yes intervention programs and process serve a part in recovery. But, nothing apart from God’s power to save, heal, and deliver us can any man or woman find freedom.

    For the many who battle powerful addictions, I believe they make up the majority. We need to pray for them, not throw rocks at them. We need to love them and quit just trying to lecture them. And, we need to understand that behind every drive to some drug, is someone trying to numb the pain within them. They are likely still struggling to forget things they’ve experience, forgive those who have abused them and are still longing to find just someone who cares more than condemns.

www.RefugeChurch.org “Well Change The Way You Think About Church, Join us Sundays 10:30a.m @ the Colleton Recreation Center, 280 Recreation Lane, Walterboro, SC 29488.

*Check it this song & video if you’ve never heard have…It’s called “Cry Out To Jesus” By Third Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmVxRl5bc4Y

Dads Please Read This

     Me And The BoysI don’t need to read any more books, check any more stats, or live one day longer to know that dads matter. You show me a child with a missing in action dad and I’ll show you someone who will struggle. No, this doesn’t mean every child without a dad is hopeless. What it does mean is every child with a dad involved, engaged, and concerned about their life is blessed.

    Over the past twenty years of ministry I have watched many single and married moms face the challenge of parenting alone. Shame on us dads for not stepping up and accepting our God given roles. God has called each of us to be role models, mentors, teachers, lovers, and forever coaches of our children. To reject this call upon our life is not only letting our children down, but letting God down. If you’re reading this right now, it’s never too late to step up your game.

    Presently, I am on the never ending journey of raising four boys ages 14, 12, 10, & 4. I will never claim to be a perfect parent, but I ask God to shape me into what I need to be each day. Over time I have learned how significant my role is as a father. My boys need me present in the home. My boys need me active in their day to day life. Not just on the sidelines cheering them one, but up close and personal when opportunity presents itself.

    Recently, I was eating Subway with my 12 year old at the end of a long day. We were sharing what I call a “Daddy Day” together. These are times where I take any one of my boys out to share one on one time together. These times are not about quantity time, but quality time. This particular day God really touched my heart as we sat across from one another.

    As I looked into my son’s eyes I saw a boy who is just a few years away from becoming a man. I could see his need for my love, the assurance that he mattered, and the importance of me saying, “Daddy is Proud Of You.” I’m discovering more and more that it is more important that I seek to understand him than to force him to understand me. The better I understand him the better I can communicate to him in an understanding way.

    You see, our kids are in a dog fight every day. They have feelings, fears, and hopefully a future. In order for that future to be brighter they need a foundation of a dad pouring blood, sweat, prayers and tears into them. I’m convinced this doesn’t happen simply by barking orders, but proving day after day that you care. Dads, you have to do whatever it takes to make sure your heart is connected to their heart. If you don’t connect with them now, you probably won’t be connected later. The younger the child, the greater the age of opportunity.

    As I wrap up this plea to dads to step it up, I am painfully aware that most dads are nowhere to be found. Many still need to grow up themselves. Many still use the excuse that their dad was never there for them. This is all the more reason to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself. Society is full of struggles that can be related to dads that weren’t there when needed. Please don’t be one of those dads.

     Here is the good news Dads. Today is a new day. Forget the past and strain towards what is ahead. Choose to take a very active role in your child’s life. Leave no doubt that you love them. Let them know you’re proud. Lead them by example as to what a real man of God is all about. This starts with you getting your life on track and letting God lead you. God has called you to it and He will lead you through it.

Me&BoysLights

Why Most Don’t Go To Church

     hands-reaching-outThis is not what you think. It has nothing to do with the fact that churches are full of hypocrites. It has nothing to do with churches being stuck in their ways. It has nothing to do with churches being old fashioned or not caring about people. It has nothing to do with churches being more concerned with someone’s outward appearance than compassionate about their present circumstance. Yes, these factors can play a part in people not coming back to a church, but I really think we have the entire process backwards.

     There used to be a time when the early Disciples of Christ knew that most around them were not believers. Jesus taught them how to go and meet people where they lived with a life changing gospel. They didn’t just put up a sign that said, “Church Service This Way.” Instead, they took the church to the streets, the villages, and to the people. They accepted their God called mission to live out their faith and share it with everyone possible.

    Somebody, please tell every believer that we are living in similiar times. Somebody, please tell our churches that we have to get out of our seats and into the streets. Look for people to love despite what they may look like on the outside. Somebody please tell every believer that instead of criticizing our culture, we need to stand out like shooting stars. Let your light shine in such a way that others can’t help but see Jesus pouring through your veins. Somebody please tell our churches that lost people don’t care what time we hold services, how nice our buildings look, or what stain glass windows we purchase. They may appreciate these things, but what they really need to know is how much do we actually care about them.

    Jesus lived in such a way that he touched every life he encountered. Jesus loved people in such a way that he left them speechless. Jesus lived with such a genuine compassion for people that they never doubted he cared. They knew he had no hidden agenda. Jesus showed us how to live, love, and lift those around us to new heights. Our greatest calling is to be imitators of Christ, not keepers of the church.

    I’m convinced that the reason most don’t go to church is because they are waiting for the church to come to them. They are waiting to see the same faith talked about on the inside of the church to be lived out on the outside. All of us have to make sure we don’t get so caught up in playing church that we forget our greatest mission is to be the church. God has called us to this and many lost souls are depending on our obedience.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Refuge Come As You Are