Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Day 5/365 – A Year of Encouragement

Friends, some of the people who need encouragement the most are those who stand before us every Sunday.  Encouragement strengthens and reinforces someone who is on the right course.  We often need encouragement, not because things are going wrong, but because we’re just tired of doing that which is right and good.  Even that which is honorable and good can, in time, become mundane and laborious.  Galatians 6:9 calls it becoming “weary in well doing.”  For instance, have you ever thought how difficult it must be for a pastor to prepare a new, fresh message each week?  Every Monday morning he starts his week with a blank sheet paper!  Even though he may enjoy research and sermon preparation, after years of preaching it can become wearisome.  How about those pastors in smaller churches who hold down a full-time job in addition to the stresses of shepherding a church?  Those guys need our encouragement.  How about those who lead us in worship? Every week, there is much time spent in thoughtful, prayerful work considering what elements of worship can encourage the church to enter into a moment of worship.   There is much time spent in rehearsals making sure that the music paves the way for powerful worship.  Friends, this week let’s encourage our pastors, worship leaders and our other ministers on our church staffs.  They need to hear from you!  Be enouraged today friends for the Lord is near!


Day 3/365 – A Year of Encouragement

Have you ever been at the point of giving up?  I have and I bet most of you have been there too.  What is it that gets us through those difficult times?  For me, it has been those dear saints who made it a point to be an encourager to me.  Many of them have moved away, and some have passed away.  This has caused me some sadness because I’m wondering, who will fill their shoes?  Then it hit me; maybe I’m the one who needs to be the encourager.  God puts us in situations where we need the greatest work.  If we need to learn patience, He puts us in situations where we tend to be impatient.  If we need to learn to love, He puts people in our lives that are hard to love.  Get the picture?  We all need to be encouraged, so maybe we should become the encourager.

Years ago, the great UCLA basketball coach, Pepper Rogers was having a bad season.  He was getting lots of criticism from the press, the alumni and even his wife, who was one of UCLA’s biggest fans!  Reflecting back on that time, Pepper said, “My dog was my only friend.  I told my wife that every man needs at least two friends in his life.  She bought me another dog!”  Coach Rogers needed a healthy dose of encouragement, not another dog!

Thirty-five times in the New Testament we see a recurring word pattern; an action verb followed by the phrase “one another.”  For instance, we are told to: prefer, accept, greet, encourage, forgive, comfort, wait for, and honor…one another.  Learn how to do these key verbs and you’ll learn how to relate to others in a loving, Christ-like way. 

The most frequently mentioned “one another” in the Bible is to “Encourage one another.”  Perhaps it is the most mentioned because it is the most needed!  Hebrews 3:13 says we are to “encourage one another DAILY!” 

The Power of Music and Kristi Billington

I was reminded again this morning how powerful music is in our lives.  6 years ago, Casting Crowns had a song on Christian radio called “Lifesong.”  It’s a terrific tune with a powerful message.  We had introduced the song in our worship service at FBCSalado and the folks loved it.  On February 24, 2006, our sweet friend Kristi Billington went to be with Jesus.  One of the songs we did at her memorial service was “Lifesong” because it fit her perfectly.  She really did live that song.  Here are the lyrics:

Empty hands held high, Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You
Let my lifesong sing to You
I wanna sign Your name
To the end of this day
Knowin’ that my heart was true
Let my lifesong sing to You

Lord I give my life
A living sacrifice
To reach a world in need
To be Your hands and feet

Hallelujah hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You
Hallelujah hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You
Hallelujah hallelujah
Let my lifesong sing to You
CCLI Song # 4578839

Mark Hall © 2005 My Refuge Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (Admin. by Sony/ATV Songs LLC)

This morning, while driving to work, I had my Sirius radio tuned to “The Message” and Lifesong come on.  I sang that song as loud as I could and my thoughts immediately went to that service for Kristi over 6 years ago now.  I remembered the emotions I had during that service; I remember what it sounded like in the beautiful building with 600 people singing it with us.  I remember the expression on the faces of Rick, Meschill and Mattie Billington as we sang.  We celebrated the life of Kristi Billington with Casting Crowns song, “Lifesong.”

In the years since, life has been a series of ups and downs.  The downs were because I was not walking with the Lord and did not let my lifesong sing for Jesus.  Fortunately, God is gracious and always lets his wayward sons come home.  This morning as I was singing “Lifesong,” my thoughts were of Kristi and her family, the church at Salado, the kids from Salado High School and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor that rallied around the Billington family and finally how Kristi ministered to me today. 

 Her life, even though only 19 years in length, continues to have a profound effect on me and on many others I know.  Thank you Jesus for allowing me to know Kristi Billington; Let my Lifesong sing toYou!

Be encouraged today friends!  Randy

Psalm 23 – The Psalm of the Shepherd

In the original languages of the scriptures there are several names for God….Elohim, Adonai, Theos, Kurios, Despotes, Pater and Yahweh or Jehovah.  Jehovah meaning “I am the one who is……!” 

There are 9 words that describe Jehovah’s role in our lives:

In Genesis 22:14 He is Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Provides; In Exodus 17:1 He is Jehovah Nissi – The Lord is my Banner; In Judges 6:24 He is Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace; In 1 Samuel 1:3 He is Jehovah Sabbaoth – The Lord of Hosts; In Exodus 31:13 He is Jehovah Maccaddeschcem – The Lord your Sanctifier; In Jeremiah 23:6 He is Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord our Righteousness; In Exodus 48:3 He is Jehovah Shammah – The Lord is There; In Isaiah 17:6 He is Jehovah Elohim – The Lord God of Israel, and;

In Psalm 23:1 He is Jehovah Raah – The Lord my Shepherd

On Sunday, September 1, 1996 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Temple, Tx, Pastor Darryl Dunks preached a sermon on Psalm 23.  The following five-point outline is his with my own personal thoughts as to how God has used and is using this psalm in my life. 

 Psalm 23 teaches us that there are five things we can know and experience about, Jehovah Raah, the Lord is my Shepherd.

  1.  Psalm 23:1 tells us that we have a person to encounter…”the Lord is MY shepherd.”  We can know the Lord in a personal way.  As a young boy, I had an encounter with Jesus Christ and gave my heart and life to Him; I became a born again believer.  Throughout my life, I’ve tried to be testimony of the inner change that took place after I had a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  You too, can know Jesus as guide, protector and constant companion.
  2. Not only do we have a person to encounter, but we have a providence to expect.  Providence is defined as …”the foreseeing care and guidance of God.”  He knows what we need and when we need it.  Verse 2 says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters; He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness for His namesake.  I know, in a very personal way, the providence of God.  He has seen me through some very dark days and is my constant guide every day!
  3. Psalm 23:4 teaches us that we have a presence to experience.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear NO evil; for Thou art with me.  Thy rod and staff, they comfort me.”  The good shepherd protects His sheep.  With the rod, he protects his sheep by fighting off the wild beasts that would try to get at the sheep.  With the staff, He gently guides His sheep to food, water and protection.  Throughout my life and especially these past two years, I have known the protection and guidance of the Good Shepherd.
  4. We have a person to encounter, a providence to expect, a presence to experience and also a peace to enjoy.  Verse 5 says, “Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed by head with oil; My cup overflows.”  God as a gracious host provides all that we need.  I can testify of how God has always provided every need for Pam and me. 
  5. And finally we have a promise for this life and place to enter.  Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  There’s the promise for this life of goodness and lovingkindness, and we have the promise of the place to enter as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  The only way that you can have the promise of goodness and lovingkindness for this life and life eternal with God is if you give your life to Jesus Christ.                                                                                                 

Be encouraged today friends, 





Lessons from Mom

In 1956, Mother’s Day fell on May 13th. This was a special day for my mom, Beth Carder and her dad, Gerald Cook; and of course me! It was Gerald’s birthday and it was also the day I was born. Something about being born on a Sunday, on Mother’s Day and my grandfather’s birthday that has always had special meaning for me. My grandfather, we called him Pop, died when I was 12 years old. He was an entrepreneur, a man of faith and a really good husband to my grandmother. I have lots of great memories of him but mostly I remember him through my mother, Beth Carder. Here are a few lessons my mother learned from her mom and dad and in turn, I’ve learned from her.

I learned about unconditional love. My mother reminds me so much of her mother and dad. My Pop and Grandma Cook were both very strong in the Christian faith. They loved their kids with an unconditional love. My mother loved our family just as she was loved by her mother and daddy. I’ve always thought that more is caught that taught. Mom didn’t do so much talking to us but rather showed us that a parent always loves her children in spite of their messes. I’ve made a few messes in my life and Mom has always been there to support and love me. Of course there was always a price to pay for those messes, but her love never waivered!

I learned the value of an orderly home. I had the most idyllic childhood. Growing up in Dumas, Texas during the 60’s and 70’s, life was very good. One of these days, I’ll blog about those years. My mom always made sure we had everything we needed. Our home was always clean and neat; she made sure our clothes were clean and that we had plenty of good food. Getting our school lessons was critical, church attendance was mandatory and eating at least one meal a day around the table with plenty of conversation was the order of the day!

I learned how to grow old with grace and humor. My mom has always had a wonderful sense of humor. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and is a source of great joy and laughter to us. Whenever we are together, she keeps us laughing with the stories she tells. Just now I got off the phone with her and was laughing so hard I couldn’t talk!

So, yes I’m the product of absolutely the very best mother and father! We are blessed with excellent generational parenting in our family. I look and see how my brother and sister are awesome parents and am amazed at how the blessings from our Heavenly Father are being carried forward to the next generation. On this Mother’s Day, 2010, I say thanks to the most awesome mother. Love you Mom!

Fast forward to October 25, 2015. We prayed mom into heaven at midnight. We read scripture, prayed, laughed, reminisced, and most of all loved her right up to her last breath on this earth. She was not conscious but I know her spirit heard everything we said to her over these past couple of days. As she took her last breath, I know she began breathing heavenly air and is in the presence of our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus, and the many friends and family who have gone before.

Be encouraged friends, for the Lord is near!


Lessons from the Valley

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…..

 The Psalmist had been there; he had walked in that valley.  Have you been there too?  If so, you know the pain, the hurt, the fear of walking in that valley.  There are other valleys….the valley of the shadow of depression; been there have you?  Here’s one many of you have walked; the valley of the shadow of cancer; scary isn’t it?  Here’s one I walked last year; the valley of the shadow of despair, embarrassment, and unemployment. Have you walked that valley as have I?  March 3, 2009 is a day I’ll never forget.  After 9 years in a job that I loved, I had to walk away.  I walked away from the security of regular paycheck, the status of being very successful at my craft, loads of friends, colleagues and a place where I got my “need to be needed” fix met every day.  The job I left and the reasons for walking away are not as important as what I’ve learned in the past 365 days. 

I learned that you need others to walk with you through the valley.  I’m not sure if I would have made it this past year without some significant people walking with me.  My family, close friends, my restoration team and my counselor walked with me every step of the way.  There are just a very few people who know the whole story of how and why I had to leave my job last year.  I chose these people to walk the valley with me and they were glad to be my companions.

I learned that there is grace, peace and security in the valley. In my journey this past year, I experienced so much grace.  Through a time where justice should have prevailed, I received grace.  Grace is unmerited favor; getting something you don’t deserve.  Whatever definition you want to use, I got grace in big doses.  I found peace in the valley.  The events of 3/3/09 were the culmination of living under three years of extreme stress.  During that time, I kept up my “Superman” image.  I really thought I could handle all the stress and not be affected.  What I know now is that I was out of balance.  My spiritual life wavered, I wasn’t physically fit, and I was an emotional wreck.  On 3/3/09 I crashed.  My journey through this valley started that day and yes, I found peace.  I found security in the valley.  This valley was a place where I could rest, recuperate and be renewed.  It was only in the security of the valley that I was restored physically, spiritually and emotionally.

So friend, don’t be afraid of the valley.  The valley can be a good place but you need others to walk with you.  Don’t try to go it alone!  At the same time, try to see the purpose of why God has you walking through your valley.   

Be encouraged friends!


The Necklace

   The first three books of the New Testament are full of earthly stories Jesus told that had a heavenly meaning; we call them parables. According the the Bible scholar, Charles Ryrie, there are 29 parables.  Jesus, the master teacher, understood that people would understand His heavenly meaning if He talked to them in stories out of their own experience.  One of parables is found in Matthew 13:45-46; “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls and upon finding one pearl of great value, sold all that he had and bought it.”  Ryrie says that the parable of the pearl indicates the incomprable value of the kingdom which will cause a man to do everything possible to possess it.  My words:  Man is always searching for meaning and purpose in life.  We hold on to things which we think have great value and will give us happiness, when all the time God has the greatest gift for us.  All we have to do is to give up that which we think is so valuable.  Following Christ always will cost us; the value of following Christ far outweighs the cost; so few are willing to pay the price.   

In what are you putting your trust and to what do you give great value?  Is is possible that we are holding on to things that are temporal and of lesser value when God wants to give us things that are permanent and of the greatest value?  Here’s a modern day parable for you.  I’m not sure who wrote it, but the heavenly meaning is clear.  Read on friend and be encouraged! 

The cheerful little girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them, a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

   “Oh mommy please, Mommy.  Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?” 

   Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face. 

   “Jenny, it costs one dollar and ninety-five cents.  That’s almost $2.00. If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma.” 

   As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.  Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere, Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath.  Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.  Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night as he finished the story, he asked Jenny,

   “Do you love me?” 

   “Oh yes, daddy. You know that I love you.” 

   “Then give me your pearls.”  

   “Oh, daddy, I can’t give you my pearls. But you can have Princess, the white horse from my collection, the one with the pink tail. Remember, daddy? The one you gave me. She’s my very favorite.”

   “That’s okay, Honey, daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.  About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again,

   “Do you love me?” 

   “Daddy, you know I love you.” 

   “Then give me your pearls.” 

   “Oh Daddy, I can’t give you my pearls. But you can have my baby doll.  The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is beautiful, and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper.”

   “That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one.  Daddy loves you.”

   And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.  A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian style.  As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. 

   “What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?” 

   Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said,

   “Here, daddy; this is for you.” 

   With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny.  He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her the genuine treasure. 

   So it is, with our Heavenly Father. He is waiting for us to give up the cheap things in our lives so that he can give us beautiful treasures.  Isn’t God good? Are you holding onto things that God wants you to let go of? Are you holding on to harmful or unnecessary partners, relationships, habits and activities that you have come so attached to that it seems impossible to let go?  Sometimes it is so hard to see what is in the other hand but believe this one thing; God will never take away something without giving you something better in its place.  The greatest gifts happen when you share love and touch others.

Be encouraged today friends!


People Who Make a Difference

photo (2)    Today is Veteran’s Day.  In 1918 in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed to end what we call World War One;  a deadly war where 53,402 Americans died and many thousands more survived the difficult conflict.  Today, I’m thinking of my dad, a Korean War veteran, and the other men and women who served their country with valor.   

   The son of Laura and Roy Carder from Altus Oklahoma, my dad was a handsome, tall, strong man who loved his family and his country.  He is not only my hero but he is an American hero.   In a small, simple house in Dumas, Texas hidden in the attic among Christmas decorations and all things usually stored away from view, was a small, tan colored suitcase.  Probably not opened in years, it held all the mementos of the short military career of my dad, Bob Carder.  The suitcase, covered in dust and the musty smell of being stored away for years was waiting to be discovered by a small, curious boy who loved finding hidden treasure.  Never in my wildest dreams would this young boy have know what treasure was waiting to be discovered.  You see, my dad never talked about his war experience.  I know now why so many combat veterans don’t want to talk about their experiences; many too gruesome to recall.  

   Opening the suitcase was like finding a pirates treasure.  Photos, items from Korea, and a small, black, rectangular leather box rimmed in gold leaf.  The black box didn’t seem too interesting so it was set aside while the photos and other items were looked over.  What a treasure!  My dad had been in Korea during the war.  He was a boss….a tank commander with men who looked up to him for courage to do battle.  I never knew…….then I picked up the box.  So simple yet it felt so good in my hands.  The clean, smooth leather cover smelled so good.  I knew this was something special yet it was supposed to remain hidden but I couldn’t put it down.  Slowly, I opened the black box.  Inside was a simple medal.  A bronze-colored 5-point star hanging from a red, white and blue ribbon.  The medal, about 15 years hidden from view, looked brand new.  Edges of ribbon were clean and perfect.  The 5-point star free from blemish… was perfect. 

   The Bronze Star Medal is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service. When awarded for bravery, it is the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces and the ninth highest military award (including both combat and non-combat awards) in the order of precedence of U.S. military decorations.  My dad, an American hero, had been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery in combat during a battle in the Korean War. 

   My dad, a farm boy from Oklahoma, is an American hero.  You see, just like my dad, there have been thousands of American heros you’ll never hear about but they have made a difference.  Here’s a test for you:  Name the five wealthiest people in the world; name the five last Heisman Trophy winners; name the five last Noble Peace Prize winners; name the last five best actor Academy Award winners; name the last five Super Bowl or World Series winners. 

   How did you do on the test?  Here’s the point, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.  They are not second-rate achievers!  They are the best in their chosen profession, but eventually the applause dies and the fans go away; awards tarnish and glory fades.  Achievements are fogotten, accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.  What counts is the difference you make in the lives of those around you. 

   My dad made a difference that day when he saved the lives of those in his command.  Because of my dad, those guys were able to come home, get married, have kids and make a difference of their own.  Somewhere in this country there are people living good lives because my dad made a difference during the battle.  He continues to this day making a difference.  A long teaching career well over, yet there are men and women living good lives because he made a difference.  A church and community doing well because he made a difference.  A family doing well because he made a difference.  As you battle today, are you making a difference?   

   Here’s another test for you:  Name five teachers who helped in your journey through school; name three friends who helped you through a life storm; name five people who have taught you something worthwhile; list those people who have made you feel appreciated and special; name five people you call when trouble comes. 

    Here’s the lesson:  The people who make a difference in your life are NOT the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards.  They are the ones who care.  So, to my dad, Bob Carder, an American Hero, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a man who has made a difference!

Be encouraged my friends,