Today is a day that is called Maundy Thursday. This is a day set aside to remember the betrayal of Jesus and to remember the night when He gave us the gift of Holy Communion. It begins the darkness that is Good Friday.

Before the dawn and light of Easter Sunday, we must go through the darkness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

And, if you happen to be in the Petal, MS area tonight, and you’ve never experienced a Maundy Thursday service, I hope you’ll be able to come out and be with us tonight at Asbury.

Before Jesus is betrayed, He left this disciples, and us, with some words to remember. Before He was handed over, He wanted them, and us, to know what was most important.  Listen to what He tells them, and us, in John today:

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

They will know you are my disciples not by your theology.  Or by your denomination.  Or by your beliefs.  Or by what you wear.  Or by what you listen to.  Or any of these things.

We try to make Christianity about so many different things that is not about.

Before Jesus was handed over, He told us what was most important.  He told us what mattered the most.  He told us what we must do to prove to the world that we are His disciples.

They will know you are my disciples by your love.

Today, do “they” – your friends, your family, your co workers, your neighbors, the people in your life – do they know you are His disciple?

Are you living a life of love in front of them?

Before He was handed over, he told us what is most important.  He told us what matters most.  Love.

They will know you are my disciples by your love. Today, may all the world know that we are His disciples.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

One of things that happened as Asbury has grown, and as I have made new friends across the state, and strangely, across the nation, some of you know about my story, some don’t.  I usually write about it, every April 16.  I guess it’s become my way of paying honor to my mother.

993817_10153623109145043_1781008694_nAs you my know, my mother “Mama Sarah” was murdered on this day in 1978 by my biological father.  He struggled with addiction and in a rage, shot and killed her, as she was leaving the house with me in her arms. She was killed on April 16 and buried on April 18.

At that point, I was adopted and raised by my grandparents, Maxine and Connie Stoddard, who I call mama and daddy. So, my mama is actually my maternal grandmother, and my daddy is actually my maternal step-grandfather.  See you need a flow chart to understand my family!

The reason I share those dates with you is this.  April 16 is my Mama’s birthday.  April 18 is my birthday.

So, my Mama Sarah was murdered on her mother’s birthday and was buried on my birthday.

Needless to say, there’s a reason why we aren’t really big birthday people in our house.

On this day, I always take time to think about and reflect upon the sacrifice of my Mama Sarah, but in that, I think I have missed something very important.  I want to honor my mom and my dad.

Mama is from Pike County, MS, close to McComb, and when she was younger, as young ladies of the day were wont to do, she went to New Orleans to look for work. There she met a man, fell in love, married him, and moved to his home.

In Ecuador.

Yep, Ecuador.  There she had her two children, Sarah Louisa Leon, and Robert Edgar Leon.  But, the marriage fell on very rocky times, with adultery and addiction, and so there was a divorce, and she returned home to Pike County.  She still needed to work, though, so she left Sarah and Robert with her mother and father, returned to New Orleans, where she worked during the week, and then returned home during the weekend.

There, she met a handsome street car driver, Connie Stoddard, and they eventually married.

As her kids grew, Sarah become a Special Education teacher in McComb, and Robert entered the military.

Eventually Sarah married, had a child (me) and at first, things seemed just fine.

But, as addictions tend to, the addiction of my biological father pushed him over the edge, to the point where he shot and killed my mother.  At that point, mama and daddy moved back home from New Orleans, built a house, raised me, and remain there to this day.

Today is her birthday.  She is 84.  On this day she was born, and on this day she saw her first-born die.  She and daddy adopted me when she was in her late 40s, he in his late 30s.  They had raised their kids, and were in the time of their life when they could enjoy life.

And here I fall into their life.

Life ain’t always fair. That’s ok.  Life is good.  Think about all that my mama has been through.  Moved to a foreign country.  Divorced. 1461074_10153517375085043_1298232873_n With two kids that were half white/half hispanic.  In the 1950s.  Worked to support them.  Separated from them because of the need to support them.  Saw one of them killed.  Raised her son.

I think sometimes we have a false impression of what life should be.  That things should come easy, and disappointment should never occur.

And if something has gone wrong, then we should just pack up on go home.  It’s not worth it.

No.  That is not the case.  This is Holy Week.  This week was hard for our savior.  He sweat, He suffered, He died. For our sake. And for the sake of the world.  He did what was right.  The bible said He set his face like a flint towards Jerusalem.  He choose to do the right, hard thing.

And so must we.  Life is going to be hard.  I know it.  It is.  Bad stuff is going to happen for no good reason. I know.  It is.

But if my life should tell you anything, anything at all, it’s this.  God has a plan.

Though Him, you can do it.  You can.  Keep going.  Keep fighting, don’t give up.  God has more power available to you, then you’ll ever know. And God is at work in ways you’d never even see.

And my mama, though she lost a daughter named Sarah, has gained a granddaughter (great-granddaughter, technically) named Sarah.

God restored.  God redeems.  God is at work.  He is, trust me.  He is.

You can do it.  You can.  No matter how hard the task may be, you can do it.  You can. It says in Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

God is at work in your life, even when you don’t feel it, or believe it.  He is.  Trust.  Do the right thing. Remember.  Pray.  Trust. God is at work.

I asked Mama one day if she hated my biological father, the man who killed her daughter.  She paused and said, “No.  If I hate him, he wins.”

That’s not easy, that’s not fair.  But it is ok.  Through God’s strength, you can do what is right.  You can, and you must.

For the sake of the Gospel.

Life ain’t always fair.  And that’s ok.  Because God is always good, no matter what.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Holy Week is the week that stretches from Palm Sunday to Easter. There are several “highlights” if that’s the right word to use. Maundy Thursday is the time when we stop, and remember the betrayal of Christ, and remember His giving to us the great gift of Holy Communion.  On Good Friday, we take time to remember the cross, and the penalty that Jesus Christ paid for our sins.

And while are the really significant times of this week, there are other moments that are important. And through this week, we will take time to look at what happens each day of Holy Week, and see what we can learn, as we move towards the cross and the empty grave.

Today we read from John 12:1-8:

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.  Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.  For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

6a00d8345254ac69e20133ec49dbda970bThere’s a lot that we can unpack in this passage, but I want to focus on Mary’s devotion to Jesus.  He has raised her brother Lazarus from the dead, and now He has come to their home.  And what is Mary’s response?  Pure thankfulness.

She takes this perfume and anoints Jesus, then she wipes His feet with her hair.  It is an act of pure, humble, devotion and love.  You could argue it’s nearly humiliating to do this.  But she doesn’t care.  She is so thankful to Jesus for what He has done for her, for your family.  Her heart overflows with thanksgiving for the work of Jesus in her life.

And contrast that with the grumbling of the disciples.  Judas speaks here, but the other gospels allude that he is merely speaking up for everyone.  (Though John does give us a little insight in Judas’ character.  His motives weren’t pure.  Neither are ours, all the time.)  They all thought that this was a waste of resources. They could have done something with it.

And Jesus says this – you won’t always have me with you.  Be thankful.  Be thankful.  That’s our first job today.  To be thankful.

Your first job today is to be thankful. Before you go. Before you serve. Your first just to merely be thankful for what God has done for you.

Then, with thankful hearts, go and serve.  But, first, we must give thanks.  We must.  For true service comes from there.  From a thankful heart.

Today, are we thankful?  That’s our first job.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

The Glory of God

One of the things that Paul talks about a good bit in his writings is that whatever is behind us is not as great as what is to come.  All the stuff of the past, it doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff that is to come.  And we often think of that as negative.  The past is done. The future is great.  God will take away the past mistakes, the past failings, the past stuff, and give us amazing, full, life.

That’s how I think about it, a lot. But listen to something that Paul writes today in 2 Corinthians 3:9-10:

For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.

glory-sunshine-from-the-edge_1152x864_71915He’s talking about the old law, how the people used to have live, what they ate, how they washed, all the stuff that they had to do under the old covenant. And Paul says what had glory before, now has no glory. Because of this glory that surpasses it all.

What is this glory that surpasses it all?

Grace.  The love of God that sweeps us off our feet, the love of God that restores us.  The love of God that forgives us.  The love of God that makes us new.

Yeah, the past as good as it may have been, it really doesn’t compare to the future.  Even the best of the best, the things that were the greatest, the things with the most glory and most purpose, they are not what really matters or counts.

What does?  The glory of God that comes through grace.  The glory of God that comes through relationship.  The glory of God that comes through His life.  The glory of God.

Today, no matter how great the past was, the glory of God is better.  No matter how dark the past was, the glory of God redeems.  No matter how unworthy you may feel, the glory of God restores.  Today, may matter how drift less you may feel, the glory of God gives purpose.

This glory, it is the anchor for our life.  You were made for it.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.



Freedom is an interesting thing.  In Jesus, today, we are free.  We are free from the past, we are free from our sins, and we are free from having to earn our salvation.  Through grace, through the love of Jesus Christ, we are free.

Free to live, free to serve, free to worship, free to just live.

Through Jesus, you have been set free.  You have.  You are free.  Don’t live under the yoke of slavery.  Don’t feel like you’ve got to earn anything, just life.  Live free.  Live forgiven.  Live with grace.

Ok.  So, we are free. What are we to do.  What next, then is next.  What happens with this freedom.  Well, listen to what Paul says in  Galatians 5:13-14:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Freedom-9-11So today, you are free.  You are a new creation in Jesus today.  You are forgiven.  You can breathe.  You can live.  You can laugh.  You are free.

Don’t miss use that freedom.

We have been given grace, to give grace to others.  We have been forgiven, so that we are can forgive others.  We are loved, so that we can love.  We have this freedom, this grace, this mercy, so that we can fully live free.  We are free today.  Yes we are.  We are freedom.

Don’t exchange you freedom for slavery.  Don’t give up the freedom of grace for the slavery of sin.  Don’t give up the freedom of mercy for the slavery of judgement.  Don’t give up the freedom of love for the slavery of hate.

You are free today.  Live free.  Let go of the past, no matter what it is.

But, live in that freedom, so you can love others in that freedom.  Love, serve, give.  Live.

In this, we are truly free.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

When you Doubt

Just because you have faith, it doesn’t mean that you’ve always got it figured out, or that it always makes sense.  Just because you believe, it doesn’t mean that all of life will always make sense, and that everything will always be easy.

Sometimes, you will believe.  Sometimes, you will know that things are right, or that things are going to be ok in the end, or that God is going to work everything out.  You know it.  Really, you do.  You believe.

But, you still have doubts.  You still worry.  You still are afraid.  You believe. But, it’s hard.  Today, in Mark 9: 23 – 25, we see one of my favorite passages that deals with this.  Listen to what it says today:

And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

help-my-unbelief_t3-doubtThis dad came to Jesus and said, please help my son.  Jesus said, if you believe, all things are possible. And dad says, I do, I believe.  But, help my unbelief!  What can we learn from this passage about the times when we believe, but struggle.

First, do what’s right.  This dad was struggling but unbelief, but He went to Jesus anyway.  He knew that Jesus was truth and was help. He didn’t really understand it, or have it figured out, or really know what to do.  But he knew that Jesus was life.  He did the right thing.

So should we.  If you struggle, keep reading.  Keep praying.  Keep worshiping.  Keep doing the things that draw you close to Jesus.  The dad struggled, but he was faithful.  And good things happened.

Second, ask for help.  Ask Jesus to help you.  Ask for strength.  Ask for belief.  Ask for that hope. When the dad, when he knew that belief was needed, he said – help me!   Help my unbelief. Help my doubts.

When you doubt, don’t turn away from Jesus, turn to Jesus.  Don’t run from Him, run to Him.  And when you do that, you will find that He will actually give you the strength and the faith that you need.

Today, we may doubt.  God is there to help us, in these doubts.  He won’t leave us there.  Today, even when we doubt, may we turn to Him!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

We ARE One

We ARE one today.  As Christians, as churches, we ARE one.  We are part of the same body. We are brothers and sisters. We are family.  We are.  We aren’t given another choice or option today.   We are one.

Even if we don’t like each other.  Even if we don’t agree with each other.  Even if we have different worship styles.  Or views of communion or baptism or church structure or any of these things.  We are one.

Listen to what it says today in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

2013-01-27-one-bodyPaul writes – “and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”  So is it with Christ.  We are one.

Now, it’s ok to have different views.  To say we are one isn’t to say that we always agree with each other.  Or like the same thing.  Or view it the same way.  But it means this. We are family.  We are on the same side.  We are on the same team.  We have the same goal.  We have the same purpose.

We have the same Lord, and are made to drink of the same spirit.

As John Wesley said “If your heart beats with my heart in love and loyalty to Christ, give me your hand.”

We are family.  So, let’s stop fussing with each other.  Let’s support each other as churches and as individuals.  Let’s show the world the love of Christ, by first loving each other.

We are one.  Really.  Lets love in that way.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.


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