What’s More, Part Four

Slide3The fourth and final message in our series, What’s More, explores the teaching of Jesus in “parable of the laborers” (Matthew 20:1-16). The previous messages in this particular series have been building up to our reading of this parable. Reading the parable within the context of the extended of Jesus to his encounter with the rich young man helps bring further clarity to the emphasis of the parable.

The series began with an introduction to the story of the rich young man, who wished to know what he must do to enter into life. The series engaged this inquiry, the response of teaching, and the curiosity of the disciples in preparation for our reading of the “parable of the laborers.” The primary teachings of the series has been as follows”

  1. One cannot earn eternal; rather, it is a free gift of God;
  2. While eternal life is freely given, reception of this gift comes with a cost; and,
  3. No one can offer anything (their cost) that is comparable to the abundant blessing offered in eternal life – here, understood to be everlasting existence in the presence of God the Almighty, which has been made possible through the reconciling act of atonement of Jesus Christ. 

A unspoken issue has been running through the course of these exchanges, which is finally brought to the surface in the “parable of the laborers” — the fairness of God.

  1. The rich young man grieves to learn he must release himself from his great wealth so that he is free to receive the invitation of Jesus to enter into a life of discipleship – Is is fair for him to pay such a great cost…
  2. The disciples are curious to know what they can anticipate to receive since they have already given everything and entered into a life of discipleship with Jesus — Is it fair for them to give everything and not receive more…

The fairness of God is running below the surface of this encounter between Jesus and the rich young man, his response to the young man’s rejection of his offer, and the disciples anticipation of their reward…

Jesus does not only speak to the fairness of God through the “parable of the laborers”, he declaratively puts the issue to rest!

You can read the full story of the parable here.

The basic synopsis is that a vineyard owner hired five groups of laborers to work in his vineyard on one particular day. Each group of workers were hired at different times of the day – from the earliest hour until the last hour. The vineyard owner called for his manager to gather all of these men at the end of the day and to pay them equally – the fair wage for a day’s work. The men who had worked from the earliest hour and during the hottest part of the day fully expected to receive more than those workers who had only been in the vineyard for an hour. They grumbled when they received the same wage as the others – the fair age for a day’s work.

The vineyard owner explains his rationale for paying all of the same men the same wage. And, he concludes his explanation with two rhetorical questions:

  1. Am I not able to do what I choose with what belongs to me?
  2. Are you envious of my generosity?

The parable is a beautiful expression of the paradoxical nature of the kingdom of heaven as well as the generosity of God.

A rich young man and a group of disciples struggle with the fairness of God, while they may not have realized it – is it fair to ask for full devotion; and, is it fair to receive the same as those who have given less?

The declarative point of Jesus…

God has the authority to choose to do what God wants to do with the things belonging to God; and, God chooses to be generous.

That’s all the disciples needed to understand and that is all that you and I need to know: God can do what God wants to do with what belongs to God; but, the good news is that our God is generous and, for that reason, everyone can expect to receive an abundance of blessing far greater than anything any one of us could possibly offer. There is no cost greater than the abundant blessing of everlasting life in the presence of the Almighty made possible in the reconciling grace of God expressed through life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. 

Click this link to listen to the full message.

Previous messages in the series:

  1. What’s More, Part One
  2. What’s More, Part Two 
  3. What’s More, Part Three

Red Oak Bowl

IMG_2388A couple of weeks ago, I cut a piece out of the trunk of a Red Oak that fell during Hurricane Matthew. I am in the process of cutting and rough turning the Red Oak. A nice size burl was on the side of the trunk. I cut it out the other day and started to rough it out. Once I cut into the wood, I discovered a rather large cavity inside of the burl. So, this afternoon I went ahead and finished it. I tried to get the walls as thin as possible to keep the bowl from cracking or warping too bad…time will tell.

Cedar of Lebanon & Ambrosia Maple

IMG_2369My wife is hosting a jewelry party for a friend tomorrow. They will be using a couple cutting boards, cheese plates, and bowls I’ve turned over the last couple of weeks for their displays.

I picked up two blanks from Case Woodworking Supply the other day when I was picking up some Maple for a communions set. I went ahead and turned the two blanks for them to use, as well.

I turned the first bowl from an 8″ x 3″ piece of Cedar of Lebanon. I’ve never worked with Cedar of Lebanon, but I really enjoyed how it turned.

I turned the second bowl from an 9″ x 4″ piece of Ambrosia Maple to go along with cutting boards I turned from the Ambrosia Maple cut offs. I’m starting to realize why Ambrosia Maple is popular with woodturners. It’s great to turn, plus there are some awesome patterns in it.

What’s More, Part Three


The series, What’s More, has focused upon the more still available to us in this life. The invitation to discipleship offered by Jesus extends the opportunity to follow the only one who leads to life – both a life in the future, but one lived before God in the present.

The third message in this series centers upon a question of Peter, “Look we have left everything and followed you. What will be have?”

“What about us?” is the basic question of Peter. He and his fellow disciples have left everything – family, friends, profession, and possessions – to follow Jesus and serve alongside of him.

The question is not unwarranted. Jesus has just described the challenge the rich (and, really, everyone) will encounter when they attempt to enter into eternal life (vv. 23-26). Salvation can not be earned. Salvation can only be received. Salvation, here, should be understood as life in the presence of God; or, life in community with God. 

Salvation must be received, though!

The paradox, however, is the reception of this free gift comes with a cost! One must detach themselves from the things of this world to which they are tethered so that they can be free to go with him who leads into life. 

Peter’s wishes to know what he and the others disciples should expect to get based off what they have given. While the message considers the response of Jesus to the question of Peter, an observation is also made within this message: “What about us?” reflects our attitude, at times. What can we expect to get!?

The basic teaching of the message being anyone who has made a personal sacrifice for the sake of Jesus’ name can expect an abundant blessing. No one will receive more than another, because the blessing of life is far greater than anything offered by any one of us. The life freely given is far greater than the cost anyone will incur. Therefore, there is no need to question what will be received (nor is there a justifiable reason to squabble over who will get what) because everyone will receive equally the abundant blessing of life.

Follow this link to hear the full message. 

Maple Communion Set

IMG_2352After working with some Maple this weekend, I felt comfortable moving forward with this Maple Communion set.

The chalice is about 9″ tall and 3.75″ in diameter. The paten (plate) is 9″ in diameter.

Turn really nicely and there were no difficulties with the sanding/finishing.

Here are a few more pictures of the chalice and paten:


Knotted – Faithfulness to One’s Wife

Slide2I was reading to our youth group the other evening from the Gospel of Matthew when Paul’s letter to the Ephesians fell out of my Bible onto the floor. A few moments later the 1 John through Revelations hit the ground.

The Bible I had been reading, highlighting, and marking for the past decade succumbed to the wear and tear. While I was a little sad, honestly, to “call it” for Bible, I was also a little excited about the prospect of getting a new unmarked Bible. I think I might be at a point in my spiritual life where I am hungry to read the scriptures with fresh eyes.

My new Bible arrived this past Friday and this morning I opened the still crisp pages to read the scriptures with a pencil (always a No. 2 Black Ticonderoga) in hand. Excited to discover the truth revealed in the pages of this magnificent and living book once more.

I began reading the first chapter of Genesis. After a few verses, I thought: “I always start at the beginning. Maybe I should read the two testaments in reverse…just to shake it up…”

I turned to the Book of Malachi and, once more, I began reading.

I was not looking for anything specific by turning to this Malachi. I was just looking for a good place to enter back into the story of God…

The book is short (there are only four chapters), but this brief oracle hits upon some seriously taboo topics. As specified by the prophet, “Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.” (3:7a) Malachi speaks to the waywardness of the people Israel with the hope of encouraging them to “return to [the Lord] and [the Lord] will return to you…” (3:7b)

Malachi identifies some of the ways in which the people of God had turned aside from the statutes of the Lord. He speaks to the faulty instruction of the Priests; adultery and divorce; improper tithing; “polluted” sacrificing; and, harsh speech against God among other things. At one point, Malachi speaks frankly about the failure of the people of God.

Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against sorcerers, against adultery, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, say the Lord of hosts. (3:5)

Yeah, there are certainly a few taboo subjects tucked securely into that one little verse: oppression of hired workers in their wages; thrusting aside the alien. But, I will refrain from adding my two cents on some of those issues.

Another section of the book caught my attention – The implied directive for husband to remain faithful to the wife of his youth.

Malachi begins his address of a husband’s faithlessness with a sobering image. He declares the faithlessness of these husbands have caused the altar of the Lord to be covered with tears.

And this you do as well: You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offerings or accepts it with favor at your hand. (2:13)

The cause of the tears and weeping falls to the faithlessness of husbands who have not kept to the wives of their youth.

Because the Lord was a witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did God not make her? (2:14-15a)

Did God not make her?

Wow! That strikes at the heart.

Your bride. The woman you took as your wife from your youth. Did God not make her? What have you done to her? By failing to remain faithful to her, what have you done to this woman of God’s creation?

Here is the thing: Desire draws the eyes of man away from himself. This desire is the seed of his faithlessness. He looks outward to see the temptation before him. In another sense, however, looking outward is a redirection of his heart.

One might argue our passions are inward looking because they are self-serving. There is truth to that thought; but, let’s think along a different line.

A man and wife are knotted in marriage. Two become one through the unbreakable bond established within the covenant of marriage. Serving our passions is not merely self-serving; rather, it is something different. The self is no more through the covenant of marriage. The self becomes something new and different. And, ideally, through this knotting of two, the one becomes something stronger. To serve the good of self ought to mean to serve the good and the betterment the one formed from the knotting of two. 

When a husband is not faithful to his wife, he is equally unfaithful to himself. He is unfaithful to the beautiful thing to which he has been blessed to be bound.

Malachi chimes in with an instruction to the faithless husband. He declares,”So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth.” Look to your true self – the self God formed when you and your wife entered into the covenant of marriage.

You know the saying, “There is nothing wrong with looking!”

That’s just not true.

When you allow your passions to redirect your focus, your attention is no longer upon yourself. You are no longer looking to your true self. You are no longer focusing your attention of the self you became when you took to your wife in the covenant of marriage.

Did God not make her?

Look to yourself and see the wife to whom God formed.

Look to your self and live committed to the self God knotted between you and your wife.


Working with Maple

IMG_2300I’m in the process of rough-turning several blocks of wood I’ve been given by friends. I should be able to finish those pieces in the next few months once they dry. In the meantime, I’ve been exploring different species of wood since woodturning is still a new hobby.

Another pastor asked me to turn a communion set for him. Since most of the wood I’ve found or been given is still drying, I looked to buy some kiln-dried wood I could use for the project. Earlier this week, I made trip to Case Wood Supply to see if they had something appropriate for the set. I found some Maple that looked promising for a nice communion set.

I discovered a couple different types of Maple while I was at Case and my curiosity the better of me.  I was able to spend the morning on the lathe and turned some of the wood.

I’ve been wanting to work with Ambrosia Maple for a while now. It appears to be a pretty popular wood among woodturners. After purchasing the Maple for the communion set, I noticed a stack of boards off to the side. The owner told me they were a stack of cut offs from a larger order of Ambrosia Maple. I decided to get an 11″ x 28″ board just to see how it would turn. The first piece I turned was this 11″ Lazy Susan.

The same boards also produced this 11″ cutting board/cheese plate. I was surprised by the amount of character in this particular section of the board. I used a cutting board conditioner, which combines bees wax and mineral oils, on both of the pieces, but a bit more was revealed in this piece.

I, also, came across a blank marked as “Select Maple.” I had never heard of Select Maple. I wanted to see the difference between this “Select Maple” and the Ambrosia Maple, as well as the Maple I would be using in the communion set. I discovered a crack in the wood when I began turning the piece, so that was certainly disappointing. Also, I fought with a lot of tear out on this one. I had to drop down to 60 Grit sanding paper and I was still not able to get the surface I wanted on it. But, the coloring is pretty cool on it!

All in all, it was a fun morning in the wood shop!

BTW, the other night I turned an extra piece of the Maple I purchased for the communion set. I wanted to get a feel for the wood and what to expect before I started turning. I kept it simple and turn a basic cutting board. And, I am pretty impressed by the difference in the three types of Maples.

Juggling Life Like A.J. Green

Unknown.jpegDo you know what happens when the tires on your car are out-of-balance? First, the car will begin to vibrate when it is driven – literally, it makes for a bumpy ride! But, if the tires stay out of balance for too long the added heat wears on the tread causing the tires to burn down until the eventually burst.

Does this feel like anything you have experienced or are experiencing? Is your life a bumpy ride? Are you burning out? Are you living your life out-of-balance?

I’m speaking from experience when I say life can get out-of-balance. Ensuring an area of my life does not consume a greater amount of my time or energy than other areas is a constant struggle of mine. When one area of life requires greater attention, other areas will be neglected. This is a life out-of-balance…when you feel like you are jumping from one thing to the next!

How is it possible to juggle everything in our lives all at once?

A.J. Green is one of the most talented young men to ever come from my hometown. Without question, Green is the most talented football player to ever come from Summerville, which is saying a lot in the McKissick era!

Green’s stats reveal his efficiency as a wide receiver. He currently has the second most receiving yards in the 2017 season of the NFL at 504 yards through five games. Green has caught over 500 passes for more than 7,600 yards in his six and a half seasons. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first five season. He only had 964 receiving yards in sixth season due to an injury. Had he caught the addition 36 yards he would have been only the second person in the history of the NFL to have more 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons!

Green is super-talented; he is efficient; and, he has proven himself to be a successful receiver.

I do not know Green. He and I met once at a USC game, when he his high school teammate were visiting schools. While I do not know him personally, I have followed his career – from high school to his college career at UGA and now his stint with the Bengals. His talent, efficiency, and success could be chalked up as raw-talent, but his story suggest a much more complicated system of influencers with one unexpected definitive skill.

Green has spoken openly about his early encounter with tragedy. Green lost two primary figures in his life at equally formative times in his life. Green’s older brother and only sibling lost his life in a car accident when the younger Green was only four years old. I would not attempt to suggest the impact the loss of his brother played on his life, but I do recall an E:60 profile of A.J. Green in which he identifies the influence his brother’s death has played on his life.

In June of 2007, nine firefighters were killed while fighting a fire at the Sofa Supper Store on Highway 17-A. Louis Mulkey was among the nine men who lost their lives fighting that fire. Mulkey was a coach at Summerville High School. Mulkey had first coached Green’s JV basketball team, but he was also an assistant football coach and basketball coach. Mulkey was more than Green’s coach, he became a mentor to the younger athlete. The coach and mentor passed the summer before Green’s senior year.

Sidenote – The high school basketball team won the school’s first and only state championship that year with an incredible twist of an ending.

The E:60 profile of A.J. Green addresses these tragedies and the influence they played in his life. Tragedy grounded Green and forged a sense of humility that would define his personality and his play. 

While the instability of tragedy could have redirected the trajectory of Green’s life, a greater influencer brought solidification. Green’s family has a reputation of being well-knit, supportive, and encouraging. His parents and his extended family are known for the sincerity of their faith and their service within their community of faith. Green may have been grounded by tragedy, but his family, his faith community, and the greater community have always sought to lift him up.

Certainly the instability of tragedy contrasted by the sturdiness of faith, family, and friends has influenced Green to be humble, yet determined.

Green, however, attributes one other decision to his talent, efficiency, and success. He joined his elementary schools juggling team when he was in second grade. Juggling would help to develop his hand-eye coordination, which would certainly prove useful as a wide-receiver, but also, this skill would influence his mindset…his attitude.

Green is a juggler!


I do not know if Green’s life is “in balance,” nor would I take the liberty to infer his life is balanced. I’m certain he has his struggles. There are times when he drops the ball. 

Green’s story intrigues me, because I wonder to what degree juggling has shaped his mindset and his attitude and, therefore, his approach to life and adversity.

One advantage I would assume a juggler has over everyone else is the belief in the possibility for multiple entities to remain in play at any given point. A juggler trusts balance can be achieved.

If you feel like your life is out-of-balance, image what the skill of juggling could do for you. If nothing else, learning to juggle could shape your mindset, attitude, and approach! Juggling suggests maintaining a harmonious balance between multiple entities is a possibility.

Here is the good news. If you are experiencing a bumpy life it probably means you have a full life. When your full life gets a little bumpy it simply means its time for an adjustment; a realignment. Your need for a realignment does not make you unique. Everyone must regularly evaluate the quality of their ride through the complexities of life.

Approach life like a juggler. It is possible to maintain a harmonious balance between multiple entities at any one time.


Keep one thing in mind, there is a limit to how much you can juggle at any one time! There is a video of A.J. green juggling while he is being interviewed. The interviewer asks Green if he can still juggle four balls, and he hands Green an extra tennis ball. Green attempts to add a fourth ball into his rotation and twice he looses balance. He suggests he has forgotten how to juggle four balls and he removes the ball…

There is a limit to what any one person can juggle!

When you push that limit, harmony will be lost and balance will be compromised. “Dropping the ball” does not make you deficient. Nor does it mean you are inadequate or a failure. It means you are human! It means, like everyone else, you have your limits.

Juggling does not simply allow you to approach life with a belief in the possibility of balance. Juggling also teaches you when a ball needs to be removed to maintain harmony.

If life is a little bumpy for you, then seek realignment. Trust it is to maintain a harmonious balance. But also, realize the adjustment necessary to achieve harmony may require you to let go of something so that you can focus your time and energy where it is most necessary.

Sometimes, letting go frees you to move forward.

As I posted earlier this week, there is still more available in this life. Because what is impossible for us is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). Letting go of our obstructions enables us to move forward…to go with the one leading to true life.

Balance is not easily kept. Juggling everything seems impossible. Take comfort in the truth that what is impossible for us is possible with God. A real and balanced life is available to all of us, but it may require letting go of the things proving to be obstructions.

So, juggle in confidence that which matters, but let go of what is obstructive…and, then, go with the one who leads to a real and authentic life.


What’s More, Part Two

Slide3What is the more for you?

The first message in the series, What’s More, looked to the story of the rich young man to introduce the difference between doing and receiving. The young man’s desire to know what good thing he must do and, then, to know what he was still lacking, provides Jesus with the opportunity to distinguish between the observance of the ethical principles of religion and the reception of the grace God extends through a life of discipleship with Jesus. The former enable an individual to do good, while the later blesses an individual to enter into life with God the Father through the Son.

The second message in the series furthers the emphasis upon the more available to us – true life with God the Father in the present through a life of discipleship with the Son for Jesus alone leads into life. The life received in Jesus will be fully realized in the future, but the disciple of Jesus can begin to experience the presence of God through the love of God made known by Jesus.

The Scripture lesson for this message follows upon the story of the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus in disappointment. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach his disciples about the challenge every human being will encounter: the impossibility of earning life. He specifies the primary obstacle for this rich young man – his wealth. Jesus declares it will be hard for the rich to enter into life; but, then, he moves from the difficultly to the impossibility. He declares, “It would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle.”

Assuming Jesus is condemning the wealthy would be an easy interpretation of this text; after all, Jesus comes down pretty hard on the rich. The challenge confronting this young man, and others of comparable wealth, emphasize the difficulty everyone will encounter. The rich were believed to be favored by God. Their great wealth was interpreted to be an expression of the abundant favor God had shown to them. If these individuals, who were believed to be favored by God, could not earn through their deeds entrance into life, then who could?

The disciples’ response echoes this point, “Who then can be saved?” — salvation should be understood to mean entrance into the eternal presence of the Lord Almighty. 

If the people believed to be favored by God (the rich) could not earn their salvation, then what hope is there for anyone else to enter into life?

Once more a distinction between doing and receiving is brought forth. Jesus declares that while the achievement of salvation may be impossible for man, all things are possible for God.

Once more, entrance into life is not only a future reality, it is a present opportunity! No one can earn this gift. Life with God is made possible for all, because God makes it possible.

How, then, do we discover what’s more for us? Jesus extends the same offer to each of us that he extended to the rich young man: loose the grip upon the things of this world obstructing your relationship with God and, then, go with him…Follow him who leads into life. 

Finally, the challenge is revealed – the difficulty the rich young man encounters, which exemplifies the difficulty to be encountered by anyone who possesses an abundance and, to a delicate degree, the difficulty everyone will experience when they choose to follow Jesus. There is a cost. God freely offers the blessing of eternal life through Jesus Christ, but the reception of this gift requires you to release a grip on the things tethering you to this world. Walking towards Jesus requires you to walk away from something else…

Click this link to hear the message in full.

Two Bowls

Spent a little time in the shop this morning while the twins were taking their morning nap. I worked with two Alexis of wood which I’ve never before turned. Both of these trunks were cut from trees that fell during Matthew on a parishioners property.


The above shows the piece of Swamp Chestnut Oak when I first placed it on the lathe. It looked fairly white, so I was surprised by the diversity in grain pattern after turning.


Black Cherry is pretty common around here, but I have not had a chance to turn any until today. The above is the piece of Black Cherry prior to turning…

Both of these logs were extremely green! I knew I should have rough turned them and let them dry out before finishing them. I have a good bit of both tree and I was a little to excited to see how they would look after finishing. These will probably get some cracks or warp, but that’ll be okay. Now I know what to expect with the wood.