Monday, August 21, 2006
Ecclesiastes, my previous post, "heaven," and other recent studying has encouraged this post. I feel uneasy about my previous post. I cannot fathom the unity we will experience in heaven among strangers much less spouses. Maybe our love for our spouse here on earth is just a small indicator of what unconditional love will be like in heaven. Since typing the "heaven" post I feel less confident in the accuracy of my ideaology, and more confident in the insignificance of the issue when compared to us finally being with our Jesus! I just desire to follow Jesus in such a raw, Jesus-like way that my loved ones and even strangers I come into contact with desire a relationship with the Jesus I serve.
Unfortunately I fall short of everything I desire to be. I wake up every morning with intentions of living in total obedience to God and I go to bed every night knowing I fell completely short of my aspirations. Thank God we serve a God of grace! He loves us so much that He created us. He loved us so much that He chose to come experience life in all its beauty and pain. He loves us so much that he chose to exchange His life for our freedom from the price of sin even though time after time we rebelled against Him, cheated on Him with other gods and sought blessings instead of the Blesser. And here is the thing that gets me; we still sin against Him every day even though we understand the price He paid. To make things worse, we pretend like we do not struggle with obedience. We put on a façade which the world sees straight through. With good reason, they view us as hypocrites who are just as bad as the rest of the world. The fact is we are just as bad as the rest of the world.
We deserve hell no less than they do. We Christians need to embrace God's mercy and forgiveness. We need to boast about our weaknesses so that the power of Christ will work through us. We need to stop acting like we have everything together, and just start loving people and admitting our dependance on God. God created us to need Him. Jesus offers reconciliation between God and sinners. He chooses to communicate this message through Christians. Jesus speaks through our love for others.
"7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." - 1 John 4:7-12
I believe this passage! I believe in the Gospel! I possess hope through Jesus' promises to us about Himself and His love! But how will the people around us (the nations) come to fear the Lord if they never hear the Gospel, and see it lived out in our lives. Join me in relying on God for the ability to truly love others with a raw and honest love like only Jesus showed. We need to live each day with the knowledge that our actions have eternal significance. I think this goes along with what the author of Ecclesiastes communicated: Without a healthy fear of God our time wastes away. With a healthy understanding and fear of God and His plans God can further His kingdom with every action we make.
I leave you with the lyrics to "Life and Love and Why" by Switchfoot:
Life and love and why
Child, adult, then die
All of your hoping
And all of your searching
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I'm willing to die for
Take away from me
'Cause my futile thinking's
Not gonna solve nothing tonight
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I'm willing to die for
Could it be this
Could it be bliss
Could it be all that
I ever had missed
Could it be true
Can life be new
And can I be used
Can I be used
Give me a reason
For life and for death
A reason for drowning
While I hold my breath
Something to laugh at
A reason to cry
With everyone hopeless
And hoping for something
To hope for
Yeah, with something to hope for
Could it be true
Can life be new
Could it be all that I am
Is in You
Could it be this
Could it be bliss
Can it be You
Can it be You
Friday, August 11, 2006
I chose this title for this post because I recently began reading a book that shared this title. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, wrote the book. I chose to write about this book for two specific reasons: 1) Desperately Searching + Searching For God Knows What = A Match Made In Heaven 2) Miller's ability to poetically put forth a collection of essays that tie together so seamlessly to form a book that captures my attention in a way that seems irresponsible not to shine a little more light on his literature!
I write this post assuming that 99% of you have read Blue Like Jazz. I assume this because I refuse to believe that most of you would allow a book that flows with such wisdom and wit to go unread. Therefore, since most of you read Blue Like Jazz, you know about the fluidity of Donald Miller's writing style. His style seems to seize control of my senses. Put simply, reading his works makes me happy! Not necessarily because of his topics of choice, but primarily because of his style and his wit. Do not misunderstand me; I enjoy his insight on the topics he covers. I guess my point shares similarities with looking at a piece of art.
When looking at Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, the way he portrays the starry night captures us. We do not enjoy the painting just because it has stars in it. The beauty lies in the details: the colors, the darkness, the way that everything in the painting (rolling hills, the tree thingy and the church steeple) points your attention to the stars, etc. Anyone can paint stars; just like anyone can write a book. I just seem to get more pleasure out of reading Miller's artistically crafted communication on these topics more than I do other authors on the same topics.
Read this excerpt from Searching For God Knows What. I selected a few paragraphs from the first chapter that I thought summarized a large part of the book. Maybe you will enjoy this as much as I did.
There is no question I was the best student at this seminar. Women under one hundred pounds lose energy in the late afternoons because they do not eat enough and they miss their families. I returned home and began pouring over the Bible, looking for formulas I could use for my book of daily devotions. And I have to tell you this was much more difficult than you might think. The formulas, in fact, are hidden. It seems when God had the Bible put together, He hid a lot of the ancient wisdom so basically you have to read into things and even kind of make things up to get a formula out of it. And the formulas that are obvious are terrible.
For instance, a guy named Steven was miserable (or at least I assumed he was miserable) and then he became a Christian, and then he was stoned to death. This formula, of course, was not good enough to make the cut. And for that matter neither was the one about Paul, who was a murderer before he became a Christian and then was blinded while traveling, met Jesus in a burst of light, and then spent various painful years moving from city to city, prison to prison, routinely being beaten and bit by snakes. No formula there. I moved on to Peter, who was rescued from a successful fishing business only to be crucified, some historical accounts claim, along with his wife. And of course that wouldnÂt work. So I decided to ignore the actual characters of scripture and just go with the teachings of Jesus. And that is when things really became difficult. Apparently Jesus had not heard of the wonderful tool of acronym. He mostly told stories, some of which were outlandish. Step one: Eat my flesh. Step two: Drink my blood. Do you know what having to read something like that would do to a guy trying to process dairy products?
Of course I got frustrated. And it really got me thinking that, perhaps, formula books, by that I mean books that take you through a series of steps, may not be all that compatible with the Bible. I looked on my shelf at all the self-help books I happened to own, the ones about losing weight, the ones about making girls like you, the ones about getting rich, the ones about starting your own pirate radio station, and I realized none of them actually helped me all that much. I mean all the promises of fulfillment really didnÂt work. My life was fairly normal before I read them, meaning I had good days and bad days, and then my life was fairly normal after I read them too, meaning I still had good days and bad days. It made me wonder, honestly, if such a complex existence as the one you and I are living within can really be broken down into a few steps. I mean it seems like if there were a formula to fix life, Jesus would have told us what it was.
Read some of Miller's works. You will not regret it. Enjoy the way he paints Christianity and our relationships with Christ. Disagree with some of his thoughts and practices, but be challenged by his insight into culture. Immerse yourself in his writing style.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
The following blog goes on forever. I encourage you to read it if you can find the time. If you currently find yourself in the middle of a trial, then please print this off and read it later if you do not have time right now. For those of you who desire a shorter blog entry maybe I can whet your whistle before I leave town Monday, but for now this is what you have. Enjoy!
Our pastor went on vacation last week so the preaching responsibilities became my privilege. I prayed day after day about what topic to preach on or which passage. After much prayer, I became comfortable with a specific passage; 1 Peter 1:3-9. I prayed and prayed about how to communicate the truths of this passage to our congregation. The following post explains that message, but, more specifically, it details my personal response to the message God laid on my heart. (The following paragraphs turn into a personal testimony).
I began by giving testimony to some trials that Rose and I recently experienced. Not trials like those of our Christian brothers and sisters in some parts of the world, but trials to us nonetheless. I shared with them the waiting that Rose and I persevered through while looking for a steady job these past few months. I shared with them the frustrations of going to job interview after job interview and not getting the job or knowing that God was not calling you to that job. I also told them of the decision Rose and I made to not put in applications at churches (excluding one church that gave us a call back last August). We felt no peace about this from God so we refrained.
We planned on me continuing to work odd jobs until Rose graduated and then we could go to seminary or
Then one day Brandon Massey called and basically said the following (quotations from my memory), “Phillip, this is
The next day, Bro. Joe Cole called and introduced himself. He told me that he lived in
One day in particular, Rose and I had prayed for a couple of hours desperately searching (that happens to be the name of my blog) for direction. We were not asking for end results just direction. If we heard nothing, then we would assume that God desired us to be obedient to the last thing we heard, “Continue waiting.” After many tears and prayers Rose decided to go to Matt and Suzanne’s house just for some of that Parker encouragement. Five minutes after she left I received a call from Jimmy Stoudemire (CBC member). He just wanted to check in and let us know that they were still praying about us. We talked for about fifteen minutes and he greatly encouraged me.
Next thing I know, the pastor and the search team (that’s right Joey Moseley we have teams not committees so get over it) drive to meet us in
Eventually we go to CBC in view of a call. We go with questions such as:
“Does the church seem to follow Bro. Joe’s leadership?
Does the church desire for us to join them in building God’s kingdom?
Did the last youth minister leave on good terms, or are we entering a rocky situation?
Do we know God is calling us here?”
“Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.”
And now we are here.
Sunday morning, I gave CBC the five minute version of that story with this purpose: God tested us during those months, but why?
Before I read 1 Peter 1:3-9, I gave the context in which Peter wrote this letter and to what audience. He wrote it to the Christians who had been dispersed throughout the surrounding areas due to persecution. He wrote it to encourage them during their trials.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I gave everyone three reasons why we can rejoice during fiery trials.
- We rejoice because of our worth in God’s eyes!
The definition of worth: “the equivalent of a specified amount or figure.”
I Googled “worth of household items” and found these figures as of March of ’06 (average cost of items in
- A gallon of 1% milk is worth $1.99
- A gallon of gas is worth $2.60
- 1 month electric bill is worth $81.42
- 1 oz. of Gold (as of last Friday) is worth $636.30
- 1 lb. = 16 oz.
- I weigh 2800 oz. x $636.30
- My weight in gold equals $1,781,640.00
We are worth even more than that in God’s eyes!
Now, Dictionary.com defines worth as “a quantity of something that may be purchased for a specified sum or by a specified means.”
Guys and Gals, What were we purchased for?
Nothing less than God’s very own Son (John )!
What does that make us worth in God’s eyes?
- He loves us enough to see us through trials (Reread 1 Peter 1:6-7)!
One Sunday, a Sunday School class read Malachi 3:3 (He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord). One Lady offered to go to a silversmith and ask him to explain to her the process of refining silver. The class agreed to the excursion. When she arrived she chose not to reveal the purpose of her trip to the silversmith, but he agreed to show her the process. He put the silver over a fire and sat and watched it.
She asked, “Do you have to watch it every second?”
“Oh, yes,” he replied, “If you leave it on too long it will injure the silver, but if you take it off too soon, it will not be purified.”
The woman could not help but to draw the parallel between the silversmith and God. God leaves us in the middle of trials for as long as he needs to leave us, and it is for our own good; to purify us.
The woman watched as the dross (impurities) would rise to the top of the silver, and the silversmith would just dump it off.
Finally, the silversmith removed the silver from the fire. The woman thanked him and began to walk away.
The silversmith called to her and asked, “Don’t you want to know how I know when the process is finished?”
“Yes,” she proclaimed.
“I know it is finished when I see my reflection in it!”
– Author Unknown (I just remember this story from my teenage years).
***At this point in my message I said, “God loves us enough to see us through these things. We should praise God for trials that come our way.” Now, I have heard this and I have said this before, but maybe at that moment I understood and meant that phrase with all my heart! God loves us enough to exchange His son’s life for a relationship with us, and He loves us enough to allow us to go through difficult times so that He can cleanse us and transform us into His image. Don’t you see how much He loves us? It’s a beautiful grace that my mind cannot comprehend. Why God? Why would you love us so much? Even though we hated You! Even though we rejected Your Son! Praise You Jesus for your sacrifice! Praise You Father for giving us Your Son! Thank you for allowing us to go through trials so that the dross (sin) in our lives oozes to the surface and you can get rid of it!***
- We can look forward to heaven (1 Peter 1:8-9)!
A time when all will be made new. No more tears. No more trials. No more sickness. No more sin.
A few weeks ago Rob Jackson, a youth / associate pastor from
“Heaven never gets boring! The first day of heaven we will experience more joy than ever before. We will shout praises to God and whatever else our joy causes us to do. The next day will be even better than the day before, and the next day will be even better than that. And so on, and so on . . .”
Conclusion (finally, right?):
We need to focus on three things during trials:
- We rejoice because of our worth in God’s eyes!
- We rejoice because He loves us enough to see us through trials and to cleanse us!
- We rejoice because we can look forward to heaven!
I asked the congregation to ask themselves these questions before they left:
- Do you have a relationship with God? Have you accepted His grace and mercy and been born again (1 Peter 1:3)?
- What is the dross in your life? Pride, selfishness, anger, lust, jealousy, unforgiveness? Turn to God and ask Him to forgive you.
- Where do you find your worth? Is it in what God paid for you, or is it in your work, money, or something else?
If you need prayer about anything, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Rose, Brad, and Those Crazy InternsRose, Brad, Matt, Joanna, and I decided to read a book together this summer and meet to discuss our reactions to the book once a week. Before I get to the book some introductions need to be made:
If you know me, then you know my amazing wife Rose.
Brad Philpot attends
Matt Stewart attends the
Joanna Simms attends
Now that the introductions have come to a close we can get to the book. I first learned of this book while visiting Brandon and Kristi Massey earlier this year. Max Lucado authored the book which he titled Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot. The book primarily tackles the subject of choosing a career. Lucado takes the stand that God has pre-packed us with certain dispositions that prepare each us for certain tasks. He argues that this explains why some things come easier for some than they do others. He also takes the stance that these qualities were also given to us so that we could better worship and serve God. This explains why:
Brad performs math in his head better than some can using a calcultator.
Children seem to automatically attach themselves to Matt whenever he is around.
People seem to talk to or share their problems with Joanna when they need to talk to someone.Mark Wegley reads more books in a summer than most people do in a lifetime.
Taylor James edits a photo better than I can edit a paragraph.
Brandon Massey, Joe Cole, Mike Bell, and Rob Jackson preach with passion that penetrates straight to the heart.
Matt Parker cures depressions with the with that falls from his tongue.
Words roll off the tip of Lindy Word's pen and find the perfect place in just the right sentence.
Jeff Noble communicates truths from God's Word that the rest of us do not grasp without a teacher.
Joey Moseley and Michael Holiman never let you down when you need a friend to be there for you.
Rose brought home a copy of a post that Brittany Martin wrote that spoke to the very trial that Rose and I were facing (I'll add Shaun's name if he starts blogging).
Tammie and Kevin Stokes and Wade and Samantha Berry love their children a way others should learn.
Kim Slaughter (my mom - pic above) cares for the sick and others who cannot care for themselves in a way that only Jesus and few others can understand the depths of that charity.
Chris Slaughter (my brother, his wife Jackie, and their beautiful daughters Janessa and Naomi -pic left) serves his country in a way that the U.S. Army cannot resist promoting him every chance they get.
Jeremy Slaughter (my brother who happens to still be single for any of you ladies willing to go through an interview process by me and Rose - pic right) possesses a work ethic to thrive at whatever task he chooses to conquer.
Tommy Ford leads with authority at work.
Suzanne Ford achieves at work and as a wife and mother.
Josh Ford (the small one on the left) is so darn cute.
David Carter knows a little about everything (he challenges David Dowty for being the person who knows more random things than anyone else I know).
Patti Carter nurtures everyone she comes into contact with (I have never met a mom that is more of a mom). Odds are if you have known her more than a day, then she has offered you a vitamin.
Rose Anne Slaughter encourages her husband in a way that makes him know that no matter what obstacles life throws at him he will succeed with her and God! God also pre-packed her in a way that entices other women to confide in her. Her intelligence enables her to accomplish whatever goals God places in her life. And her hospitality always makes guests feel welcome no matter how well they know her.
Meditate on the following verses as you consider the previous questions:
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." - Psalm 139:13-16
Thursday, July 06, 2006
My first blog arrives earlier than I anticipated for a reason. I started making the rounds to friends' blogs tonight, and I realized that some of you guys already have my link on your blog. This probably pertains to the telephone call I received from my beautiful wife today. My phone rings, and it went something like this:
"You didn't tell me you started a blog (In that excited voice that Rose gets when she is surprised. This has to be one of the cutest things about her)!"
"Well, I actually just started it so I could respond to other peoples' blogs."
"Oh, ok (By the way, Brad Philpot says that "ok" is ok to use in Scrabble, but don't worry I protested it)."
Then I saw the links, and I cannot have people logging onto my blog with nothing to read. What kind of "blogger" would I be. Where does this word come from anyway? I know "web log," but just say it with me a few times. "Blog . . . . . Blog . . . . Blog?" The way it rolls off the tongue reminds me of a word that dictionary.com defines as "n. Worthless nonsense; drivel." or "adj. Dull and uninteresting." That is right, "Blah . . . . . Blah . . . . Blah." Which is probably what I sound like right now.
Seriously, I enjoy writing; therefore, I should enjoy blogging. I probably will not create much excitement on the World Wide Web for the rest of this month though due to busyness. Let me preface the following by setting the tone. I thank God for the past few months of our life, and I seriously do not ever remember loving life like I have for the past month. Looking back on recent times of hardships, I thank God for them. I thank Him for drawing me closer to Him and helping me to know and love Him more. Also, I thank God for my wife and our relationship. She makes every day fresh, and she surprises me frequently. God truly makes each of us unique with special giftings in order to glorify Him, worship Him, and to build His Kingdom. I believe that Rose and I are currently experiencing something that few people ever realize. We wake up each day and experience His presence, and we have learned to rejoice and be satisfied no matter what.
Rose and I have basically been out of town for seven months, but especially since the end of April. We traveled from Arkansas to Alabama and back three different times in the month of May. We also traveled to Tennessee in May. Oh yeah, and we moved to a new state in May. This is after I made some trips to the coast a few times between January and April to volunteer with hurricane stuff. I also drove a hour and a half each way to work during that time.
Now for June! We moved in Memorial day weekend and left the next day with the youth for Atlanta and spent the rest of the week in North Alabama. The next week we help lead VBS at Camden Baptist Church (our new home). 175 children attended, and I got to lead games and rec. Wow, I have never met so many children so quickly in my life. It was like visiting the Parkers (Please try to control your laughter)!!! VBS was amazing. The next week we led Fusion (a sports camp and bible study for children led by youth). There were 150 youth and children in attendance. I put the numbers to show how busy we have been not because they are important. A group of 8 where God moves is no less important than a group of 800 where God moves. Then, we traveled back to Arkansas to visit my grandfather for Father's Day (He has been sick). Back to Alabama the next day, and off to North Carolina to go camping and whitewater rafting. You think whitewater rafting is fun? Try going down a fall out of the raft! Somehow our raft overturned before we even entered the largest fall on our trip. During this week, Rose took a trip to Destin, FL with the youth girls. They enjoyed their trip also.
Those events occurred consecutively. Now I look back thinking May should remain where July currently sits on my calendar. Life moves swiftly. God says go, and the next thing you know we find ourselves in a rollercoaster of risks and rewards, hurts and joys, sufferings and rejoicing. God amazes me. By the way, our traveling does not end here. As I type this, my wife currently sits in a movie theatre in Conway, AR. When she returns we will leave in a couple of weeks to take the children to Crosspoint. We return Thursday night and exit AL once again for a week in Ohio!
Before I go, I want to encourage everyone to keep up the good work on your blogs. You people have definitely not created "blahgs." I just hope I can follow in the footsteps of the talented Jeff Noble and all the rest of you trailblazers. Another thing, Taylor your blog rocks!!!!! It is almost as good as my wife's!
Last thing I promise: I want to tell everyone about a beautiful man, Danny, who attends Auburn University. He and my youth intern are engaged to be married (congrats again guys), but that is not why he is beautiful. He is giving Rose and I the best anniversary gift on the weekend of our one year anniversary. That is right: TICKETS TO THE AUBURN / ARKANSAS GAME IN AUBURN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God bless that man!