Devotion in Motion: There’s just no room

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 ~ (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

As you might imagine, I’ve heard a lot of sermons and taken a lot of Bible classes in my life. Pastors are taught the Scriptures when they’re preparing to enter the ministry, and they continue to learn as a part of their daily remix (4)lives. But something I’ve noticed is that some of my most enduring lessons weren’t taught to me in a church service or a seminary class. Instead, somebody told me something profound while we were going about our ordinary lives.

Let me tell you a story. When I was 18 years old, I was a Bible college student at a very small Christian college. All of my professors preached revivals in addition to their teaching duties. Because every traveling preacher needs a song leader, I sometimes accompanied various professors to lead singing at their meetings. Often when I rode with these men of God, I learned as much during the car ride as I did from the sermon.

At the beginning of one such trip, the evangelist I was traveling with read his mail before we set out on our journey. Reading a letter from a businessman in our brotherhood, he turned his head and shut his eyes with a pained look on his face. He looked as if something had pierced his heart.

no room for meannessHe read aloud part of the letter, revealing the writer’s threatening words of anger and hate. He then said, “I wish I had not read this letter before we left for the meeting. John, never forget: ‘There is no room for meanness in the Christian life.’”

I’ve never forgotten those words: “There is no room for meanness in the Christian life.” Even though I don’t always succeed, I try to live by them because they are the truth. I think we’re all tempted to do things that are petty and to repay insult with insult when we’re angry. It’s then that we have to remember that, as Christians, we are called by our Saviour to live lives of love. For anything else, there just isn’t room.

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the outdoor-cats are growing their winter coats for cooler weather.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

Devotion in Motion: Have you even asked?

11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! ~ Matthew 7:11 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

remix (4)The house that we live in really IS the “Little House in the Big Woods.” Our backyard is a small clearing in the midst of a huge, dense, Mississippi forest. As a result of that, we have all sorts of wildlife living nearby. Two nights this week we stepped out on our patio to see an opossum snacking on some leftover cat chow. To us, that’s just “business as usual.”

Well, one night at supper time (about six months ago) I heard something scratching on the back door. Upon opening it, I found a tiny yellow and white tom cat. He was crying and crying because he wanted something to eat. He was not a pet; he was a feral cat who had been born in the woods. We only had indoor cats back then, and there was no cat food outside. So I fixed him a bowl of “9 Lives” and set it on the back step for him. He was much obliged.

yellow cat 1As you might imagine, this became a process that we repeated every day. The feral cat who scratched on the door and cried became a pet. We named him “W.B.” which is short for “Whiny Boy.” W.B. got shortened to “Dub” and the name fits him very well. He’s a sweet and gentle cat. He plays with the children at the church and lets them pet him.

I wonder how Dub had enough sense to scratch at our door. Maybe he saw our indoor cats and reasoned that they were well fed. Maybe he just thought that the Cashes looked like a good class of people.

Whatever his motivation, Dub is a very smart cat. In fact, he’s smarter than most people because he knew to ask for what he needed. He realized that he had nothing to lose. The worst thing that could happen would be that he would be turned down. And it was a person (that the Bible describes as “evil”) who came through for him.

Why are we not smart enough to ask our Heavenly Father (who is loving and good) for the things that we need?

Is there something that you are lacking in your life? St. James writes in his epistle, “You have not because you ask not.” You would do well to put your faith in the living God, and ask Him to supply your needs.

After all, there’s no reason to be out-done by a cat. :-)

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Mr. Dub’s wife, the tabby-cat “Sheba,” is expecting again.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

Devotion in Motion: Children of the light

5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.

6 ¶ Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.

8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 (NKJV)

morning-795377_640By Bro. John L. Cash

remix (4)When you live out in the country like we do, you have to get up early in the morning. My day starts at 4:30 AM. I get up and put on a pot of coffee and then take a shower. Seth gets up at 5 AM and takes his shower because he has to be at work at 6 AM. Susan gets up and 5:15, and she and I drink coffee together and watch the news and try to get awake to start the day. We both drive to work 32 miles away, and we get there before 7:30.

Out in the country, even little children have to get up early in the morning. When my boys were in grade school, they got up at 6 AM so they could make it to school. A lot of country kids get on the school bus before 7 in the morning. It’s amazing they’re awake enough to learn their lessons.

alarm-clock-147779_640This morning as the sun was coming up, I went into an old-timey grocery store to buy my breakfast. It made me happy to see all the good people there. There were teachers, nurses, truck drivers, factory workers, people who work construction, and every other sort of job. They were getting take-out plates of grits and eggs, crisp bacon, sausage biscuits and drinking big cups of black coffee. It makes perfect sense. You’ve got to be alert and well-nourished to do all the good (hard) work that has to be done in this world.

When my sons were teenagers, they both had jobs where they worked early in the morning. Seth got up at 3:30 AM and made biscuits at Hardee’s. (I think he made 650 homemade biscuits every day.) Spencer worked at a grocery store and left for work at the crack of dawn. Back then, Spencer said something that has always stuck with me. He said, “Dad, when you go out early in the morning, everybody is doing something good. You don’t see crackheads, murderers, and bad guys. All those people are at home in bed. At 6 A.M, nobody is up to any violence or crime or mischief. Everybody who gets up early wants to do some kind of productive work in the world. You’re surrounded by a good class of people.”

I told this to a friend in my congregation who works in law enforcement. He said, “Spencer’s right, Brother John. Good people come out in the morning light. But it’s entirely the opposite at night. People do all sorts of evil things in the darkness. And you would be surprised at the kind of people who are doing it.”

Today’s Scripture lesson (at the top) has a lot to say about this very subject. St. Paul says there’s a big difference between the “people of the day” and the “people of the night.” We’re called by God to be the former. So live for Jesus this week, and let His light shine through you. We can all live as “children of the light”—even if we like to sleep late sometimes. :-)

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Bo Clark cooked 300 slider-hamburgers when our missionaries, the Tranthams, came for a visit this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

Devotion in Motion: For the sake of Christ

“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.

Psalm 51:13 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

remix (4)I love Church history.I guess at first glance it sounds boring, but in reality, it is full of all sorts of little stories that are both fascinating and instructive for Christian living. One of my favorite tidbits of history is the tale of a man named Telemachus.

The story of his life teaches us to never underestimate the power of one individual—especially if he is not afraid to publicly declare his convictions with quietness and authority.

Most of us are familiar with the historical accounts of the gladiators. These were the swordsmen who fought to the death in the Roman arena, all for the entertainment of the common people who came to spectate.I think we tend to gloss over the sickening nature of this barbaric entertainment.

St. Telemachus Peace MakerThe people of that time in history had become so calloused that the regular pastimes of life had become boring to them. Did you know that the Latin word “arena” means “sand”?The floor of the coliseum had a thick layer sand, because this made it easier to cover the blood that flowed from the dying men and animals. It is pretty sickening when you think about it.

But sometime in the 5th century, there was a monk named Telemachus. He lived in a monastery, where he spent his days in prayer, far from the cares and the concerns of the outside world. For some reason unbeknownst to him, Telemachus felt compelled to leave the safety of the cloister and to travel to Roman. As he entered the city, he fell in step with a throng of people who were hurrying to see the gladiatorial games in the arena. His life of solitude and prayer had not prepared him for the viciousness he was about to behold.

As Brother Telemachus witnessed the swordsmen engaged in a struggle to the death, he stood up and made a quiet proclamation:

“For the sake of Christ, somebody put a stop to this.”

As he continued to repeat his sentiment, more and more of the crowd became quiet as they considered what the old man was saying.In anger, one of the gladiators rushed on the old man and ran him through with a sword, as Telemachus cried out his dying words:

“For the sake of Christ, somebody put a stop to this.”

Tradition tells us that the stunned crowd turned and left the coliseum in silence. Not long after that, the Christian Emperor Honorius (who had been impressed by the faith of Telemachus) declared an edict that banned the gladiatorial games forever.

Make the world a little bit better place this week. Believe in what is good, and stand up for what is right.Speak your truth with authority and quietness.And do it for the sake of Christ.

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 28 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, and until recently taught Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the first day of Spring was a perfect Spring day.) Their kids include Spencer (age 22), his wife Madeline (age 22), and Seth (age 19).

Devotion in Motion: What’s up with the Old Testament?

2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! ~ Psalm 119:2 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

It’s fun to be a country preacher, for a lot of reasons. One of the things I enjoy most is that people are always asking me interesting questions about the Bible. People ask great questions—and I find myself thinking about ideas and situations and things I’ve never thought about before. Because I’ve been studying a long time, sometimes I can answer a question off the top of my head. But most of the time I have to say, “Let me read a little bit, and I’ll get back with you later.”

old testamentOne of the most common questions is this: “Why is the Old Testament so different than the New Testament?” And I immediately understand where the “asker” is coming from. The New Testament reveals to us the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the knowledge that God is Love, and God is Light, and God is Life. But the Old Testament often relates stories full of darkness and anger and pain; some stories could even be called gruesome. Why is there such a contrast?

I think I can say that I understand this much better than I used to. And I’ll be writing about this for the next several weeks because it’s a big subject. You see, my whole view of what the Bible is changed because I read one little devotion written by the late Michael Spencer. (He wrote a wonderful blog called “Internet Monk” and passed away when he was only 54 years old. But that’s another story for a different day.) Bro. Michael said his understanding of the Old Testament became clear to him when a little old lady described the book to him: “Michael, the whole Bible is a story about Jesus. And the Old Testament is made up of the stories God tells around His kitchen table.”

Every family has stories that they tell (over and over again) whenever they get together. We have hundreds of them in our family. There are heartwarming stories like, “The Record Player that Daddy Brought Home When He Saw Santa at the Hardware Store.” There are funny stories like, “Gravy on the Ceiling: When Mama’s Pressure Cooker Exploded.” There are gory tales like, “When Bobby Mann poked John in the Head with a Pencil in Second Grade.” There are sad stories, and stories of tragedies, and stories of regular days when things happened that are only important to us. I’m only scratching the surface here, but our family has stories. We can sit around the kitchen table and go on and on for days.

Some of our family stories teach some sort of moral lesson. But most of them don’t. They aren’t supposed to teach any lesson. They are just a recounting of all the things that happened—good, bad, and indifferent.

word swagAnd from my point of view, these stories are MY story. They’re the story of the little boy who was the youngest of seven first-cousins and the adventures of how he grew up and lived and loved and eventually became a pastor, a husband and a dad. Even the things that happened before I was born are part of the story of ME because that’s where I came from.

So let’s think about the Bible as a book about Jesus. And the Old Testament is the book of the stories that God tells around His kitchen table. There are heart-warming stories, like “How Jesus’ (Many ‘Greats’) Grandmother Ruth Dearly Loved Her Mother-in-law Naomi.”

There are funny stories like, “The Time the Jackass Spoke to Balaam.” There are gruesome-stories-that-really-happened-but-teach-no-moral-lesson-and-belong-on-“The Forensic Files” like, “Judges Chapter 9: Angry Man Slices the Body of His Murdered Maidservant into 12 Parts (and Mails the Pieces).”

A lot of years passed between the stories of “The Garden of Eden” and “The Babe in the Manger,” and all those forefathers of Jesus were busy doing all sorts of things over the centuries. That’s where the Old Testament came from.

Clearly, our Heavenly Father is a God who loves to tell stories. The Bible says we’re made in His image; that’s probably why we love to tell (and hear) stories, too. There are so many amazing and interesting stories in the Holy Scriptures. But without a doubt, one we love the most is the Story of Jesus.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher will be writing more about the Old Testament next week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).