Today, with joy and remembrance in my heart, I begin a series of little messages centering on the life of my mother, Jeanine Mabrey, representative to my hometown of Albertville, Alabama, also known by many as “Sand Mountain.” My prayer for each one, is that God will use it to encourage you of His unfailing presence during these days of uncertainty in which we find ourselves.
Jeanine Floyd Mabrey lived on Papa Floyd’s farm in the woods with her parents and her five siblings. Her daddy, Grover, died of a heart attack at thirty-six years of age. My mom was thirteen at the time.
Over the years, I have often spoke of my “Papaw Grover,” who died young of a heart defect that is easily treatable today in most cases. But, although not having known my grandfather, I feel I know him richly through the many stories my mom told me of him over the years.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has launched us into a season of great uncertainty reminding us once again of death, loss, and the feelings of great anxiety and hopelessness as the death toll has accounted for not only the elderly, but the young as well. But through it all, the Bible tells us the sovereign God who is in control during these unknown times can be known and embraced at all times with the assurance of His presence. Jesus said, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 2
My mother, Jeanine, had the measles when she was small. She called them the “BIG measles.” As she was growing up, she would also cry at night when the covers on her bed would become wrinkled. Later, her mother, my “Mamaw Iris,” took her to the family doctor who told my grandmother that apparently the measles had settled on my mom’s nerves causing her to be more anxious about things.
Do you currently have a good case of the “BIG measles?” What is troubling you so deeply that it is causing you toss and turn on your bed at nights? The COVID-19 pandemic is BIG, but so is a destructive or fatal dose of unforgiveness or fear. Jesus taught us to put the BIG problem that currently stands between ourselves and our sovereign God on the other side of God, so our BIG, BIG, BIG God now stands between us and the BIG Measles, wherever they have settled.
“But seek first His (God’s) kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things (What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?) shall be added to you. Therefore, do be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34
Jesus has overcome the world!
Sand Mountain Sermonette 3
God’s Grace and Recess
I remember vividly my P.E. breaks in the Sixth Grade. Our class usually played slow-pitch softball out in a big field adjacent the school I attended. There was a boy named Glen in my class who started to bully me especially out on the softball field. I had known Glen all through elementary school and there was never a problem between us, but that year, for some reason, he would do things like knock a fly ball I was trying to catch from my hands, or seek to intimidate me in other ways.
This went on for a while, so I went to my mom and told her all about Glen. I will never forget what she told me. “Louie, do not say unkind things or do unkind things when Glen does this to you, and one day he will admire you.” You know, not long afterwards, Glen walked up to me one day near the end of recess and put out his hand to shake mine and said, “Louie, I admire you.” He never did that again and we remained best of friends through our High School graduation.
Mother’s advice ran counter-cultural to a Sixth-Grade boy-to-boy encounter at recess. Likewise, salvation by God’s grace and His grace alone, runs counter-cultural to a world which believes salvation and eternal life is achieved by works and works (merit) alone. The Bible says Christ destroyed the great wall of hostility that divided sinful mankind from a loving and holy God.
The result being: one’s sin is forgiven, and that individual is restored to God via the cross. And then a most beautiful transformation takes place when, for example, we can pray for our enemies rather than retaliate against them. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 4
Proverbs 30:5; Deuteronomy 4:2
Sand Mountain Sermonettes 4
Robert Frost and Chevy
In the late 70’s I attended Jacksonville State University in Alabama where I was working my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education. One of my favorite classes was taken one summer under the tutelage of the classic English teacher as far as I was concerned. Those featuring hair worn in a bun and wearing horned rimmed glasses. The class was on the works of American poet, Robert Frost.
My teacher loved Robert Frost and his poetry. So, I wasn’t surprised when she assigned each of us a paper to do on one or more of his poems. Well, that year Chevrolet offered a summer advertising campaign slogan which read, “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.” With that in mind, and with the intention of honoring so famous an American poet, I had what I thought was the bright idea of ending my paper with, “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Robert Frost!” When I received my paper back after grading, there was a large red “X” marked over that comment.
“The Bible says you cannot add to or take away from what the Master has said. If you do, you will find yourself under the “Red X” of doubt, confusion, and a host of other things which keep you from the beautiful, grace-filled saving knowledge of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5
“You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, or take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2
Sand Mountain Sermonettes No. 5
Sand Mountain Sermonettes No. 5
A Grandfather’s Most Precious Gift
One of the most precious gifts my grandfather gave me as a young boy was a small wall plaque made from a plaster mold and hand-painted in accents of royal blue, red, green, and yellow depicting King David the Shepherd Boy. It shows a youthful David seated on a rock with harp in hand, flowers growing beside him and a sheep resting on the ground at his side. Also written on the plaque are the first five words of Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd.
If you walk in my office today you will see this plaque positioned on a wall next to my desk; as you would have in any office I have called my own during my past thirty-one years of ministry. The wonderful thing about this piece is in its revelation into the heart of my loving Christian grandfather and his love for me. I am sure he meant for its words to follow me throughout my life, wherever God would lead me.
The first five words of the Psalm virtually every educated mind in the English-speaking world has heard form the foundation for the rest of the Psalm. Let’s highlight the first four words centering around the word, “Lord.” “THE Lord is my shepherd.” There is no other Lord. He has no peer! “The Lord IS my shepherd.” David does not use the past or the future tense here, but the present. The Lord is with his children and his church this very moment to meet our present needs according to His divine plan. “The Lord is MY shepherd.” David was writing this psalm as an old man looking back on his youthful days as a shepherd on the hills outside Jerusalem. Throughout his life, the Lord had not been “a” shepherd, but David’s personal Shepherd. “The Lord is my SHEPHERD.” David knew the Lord lead His people as the good, caring, and protective shepherd leads his sheep. God calls you to follow Him.
Is the Lord YOUR shepherd? If not, He wants to be.