Preachers | 30 Days of Thanksgiving #19

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Preacher. I used to be one. Whether when living at home or when at college or when married, for most of my life, preaching has put food on my table. As I transition out of full-time preaching, I’m facing one of the most painful times in my life; you see, I love preaching and I sorely miss the opportunity to open up Scripture to those who hear me. God loves preaching, too – in fact, His own Son was a preacher and began proclaiming the gospel of God after John’s arrest (Mk 1:14-15).

As I give thanks to God for the bountiful blessings in my life, I would be most foolish to ignore the influence preachers have had in my life.

Several preachers have influence me as I have sought to grow in the grace and knowledge of God:

  • My father, Randy Imel

    Dad taught me prayer: I can’t tell you how many times I saw him in prayer, and I learned that prayer comes before preaching. I learned faith: Dad left a good job to preach because he trusted God and knew God needed him in the pulpit. I learned a love of the Word: Dad didn’t spend time preaching pop psychology or other junk, but he preached the Word of God.

  • Dr. Bill Bagents

    Bill is one of the most humble and servant-minded men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing: He serves without any desire to be noticed, and he’s willing to do whatever he can to help whomever he can.

  • Joseph Pauley

    Joe taught me a new way of preaching: he taught me to teach people, not the Bible. Oh, I don’t at all mean that preaching centers on people, not on the Word of God: anything like that does not deserve to be called preaching. But, Joe taught me to take the text and help people understand how the Word impacted their lives on Monday morning. My emphasis moved away from great oratory about some nuance in Greek syntax (no kidding – my wife said that I was far too scholarly and preached over people’s heads before I started listening to Joe) and moved to how that nuance in Greek syntax helped the people of God walk in the light. That’s important, and I’ll always be grateful to Joe for that lesson.

  • Cory Collins

    Cory taught me a love of people. Cory encourages people: that’s the gift God gave him in abundance. Cory taught me to look for the good in people, to highlight that good, and to encourage people to make their good even more good.

I’ve mentioned preachers who have greatly influenced my outlook on life, but there are many others who have played their own role. I have been privileged to hear some of the greatest preachers in the brotherhood: Phil Sanders, Dale Jenkins, Glenn Colley, Tom Holland, Basil Overton, David Underwood, Jerry Davidson, and Charles Coil.

Facebook is a great tool for being encouraged. There are brothers whom I have never heard in person (some of whom I have never met in the flesh) who encourage me by the great work they are doing in the kingdom: Scott Elliott, Steven Hunter, Michael Whitworth, James Farris, Adam Faughn, and Wes McAdams, for example.

God chose the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe (1 Cor 1:21). May God continue to bless the preaching of His Word!

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Saturdays | 30 Days of Thanksgiving #18

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Saturday Logo

Today has been a nice day. It’s Saturday. Saturdays are nice. I’m thankful for Saturdays because:

  • My family is home.

    I love my family, and it’s hard spending days by myself – in fact, I’ve started spending my days at Starbucks just so I’m not by myself. There’s no need for Starbucks on Saturday; I have my family.

  • I get to sleep in.

    This morning I slept until almost 10:00. I can’t do that through the week because I have so much to do, but it’s nice to spend some extra time in bed on Saturdays.

  • I get to watch football.

    I enjoy football, and being an SEC boy I get to see the best football in the country. There’s nothing like a Saturday in the South.

  • I get to spend extra time at the gym.

    There’s little need to hurry up and get a swim in. I can swim as long as my fat body can swim.

  • Tammy goes to the grocery store.

    No, I’m not glad to spend some time away from her, but I love it when she comes home: she brings all sorts of goodies for me to eat. I like that (maybe a little too much!).

Today has been a nice day filled with family. I pray you’ve had a good day, too.

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Prayer | 30 Days of Thanksgiving #17

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I'm thankful for prayer

Tammy was cooking supper, the boys were doing homework at the kitchen table, and I was in the living room. My phone vibrated; Mom had texted, and her message was simple: “Pray hard.” I called, and, through the tears and anguish, Mom told me that Dad was being rushed into surgery and things did not look all that promising. I was devastated – I called Tammy into the living room, told her what was going on and that I couldn’t eat (I cannot eat when I’m upset), and I went to our bedroom – and, through the tears and the screams – I asked God to spare Dad’s life. I emailed my coworkers at Heritage Christian University and asked them to pray. Dad came through surgery, and, while he has had a long and difficult recovery, continues to preach the Word on God’s behalf.

I’m thankful to God that He, on that occasion, spared Dad’s life. You and I both know, however, that God is not at all bound to answer my prayers the way I wish. He is sovereign. He is God. He does what pleases Him to further His will (think Jesus praying in the Garden in deeply tormenting anguish). Yet, prayer can change God’s mind (think Hezekiah’s extra 15 years), and we pray. We pour our hearts out to God in expectation of an answer. Yet, we pray, as did our Lord Jesus in the Garden, for God’s will, not our own to be done.

As I give thanks for God’s bountiful blessings this month, I cannot forget prayer. I’ve prayed long and hard, and God has never failed to answer. He hasn’t always answered me as my whims and fleeting thoughts wished, but He has answered as fits His purpose and His will. I’ve been driven to my knees over my dystonia, and God hasn’t taken it away. Yet, I’ve learned trust and prayer and courage and humility in ways that would never have been possible otherwise. Oh, yes, God has answered my prayers, but He has answered them in a way that continues to mold me into the vessel He needs me to be, and I’m thankful. He has shown over and over and over that He knows far better than I – He leads, I follow; He blesses, I receive; He answers, I pray.

Today, I want to provide reasons I’m thankful for prayer.

  • I can pray for wisdom.

    I tend to be stupid; I make foolish decisions; I desperately need wisdom. God answers when I pray for wisdom (Js 1:5).

  • I can pray for workers in the kingdom.

    I have been saved from my sins through the redeeming blood of Jesus. Why would I ever wish to keep that gift for myself? In prayer, I am able to pray for workers to be sent into the vineyard (Matt 9:37-38).

  • I can pray for the church.

    The church is the precious bride of Christ. Why not pray that she be kept free from error, that she stands under the test of persecution, and that she enlarges her boundaries? Read the epistles of Paul and see how often he prayed for the local church.

  • I can pray for those who preach the Gospel.

    Preaching the Gospel is the most glorious work in all the world – I would much rather my sons be Gospel preachers than President of the United States. Yet, as I know full well, the work of preaching the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ takes its toll and prayers are both sorely needed and appreciated. Throughout Paul’s epistles he often asked churches to pray for him.

  • I can pray for the world’s leaders.

    Syrian refugees. Attacks in Paris. Threats around the world. At this moment in history (as with every other moment), our leaders need prayer, and God, through Paul’s inspired pen, instructs us to pray for world leaders (1 Tim 2:1-4). Why not get on your knees now and ask for God’s richest blessings on the leaders of the world?

  • I can pray for the sick.

    Because we live in a fallen world of sickness and death, every church in the world has a prayer list a mile long. Why not take the prayer list from where you worship and implore the Father for His will to be accomplished in the lives of the suffering? After all, we’re to pray for the sick (Js 5:15-16). While the context of James 5 is unmistakably spiritual, not physical illness (at least in my opinion), the principle of praying for the sick remains.

  • I can pray about ALL of my burdens.

    No matter what is bothering me – from a sick pet to the bills in the mailbox – I can pray for God’s richest blessings. We may cast “all your anxieties on him, because he cares for” us (1 Pet 5:7). Oh, what a blessing to take everything to God in prayer!

I’m thankful – oh, so very thankful – that the Creator of all will bend His ear to listen to me and take all my burdens away. Why not thank God for prayer today? Why not take your burdens to Him in prayer? Oh, by the way, don’t forget to ask Him to walk with you – I know He’ll walk with you as He has walked with me.

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Wednesday Evening Bible Study | 30 Days of Thanksgiving #16

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Wednesday evening Bible study

Today is Wednesday, and that means my family and I will drive to the Star City church of Christ for Bible study. Mom and Dad dragged me to Wednesday night at church as far back as I can remember. Homework? Didn’t matter. Something good on TV? Didn’t matter. Really just didn’t want to go? Didn’t matter. We were going to Bible study on Wednesday night and we weren’t going to discuss the issue.

Tammy and I have raised our boys the same way. We’ve taken them off the baseball field because it was Wednesday night. We’ve pulled them out of martial arts classes because it was getting too close to church time on Wednesday. Stephen King, my absolute favorite author, was doing a reading at a theater not far from us, and Tammy was going to get me tickets for Christmas – until we realized it was a Wednesday night, and we didn’t discuss the matter any further.

My family attends Wednesday evening Bible study for many reasons: Tammy and I were raised to attend, we believe every word of Scripture, and we believe our boys need to be taught the Word of God in a corporate setting as well as at home. And, I’m thankful for Wednesday night Bible study. I’m thankful for Wednesday night Bible study for a number of reasons:

  • I get my batteries recharged.

    Satan torments me every day, and it’s nice to get a shot in the arm on Wednesday evening.

  • I get to see my friends.

    God created man as a social creature (Adam realized he was alone and God made him a helper, remember?). Since I’ve stopped working and started spending the day by myself, I’ve found myself going somewhere to be around people – Starbucks is my favorite, but I’m writing this at McDonald’s with a cup of coffee beside me. On Wednesday evening, I get to see my brothers and sisters and encourage them as they encourage me.

  • I get to study the Bible.

    The Bible will judge me at the last and great day (Jn 12:48; cf. Rev 20:12); therefore, I can think of nothing more important to study. I get to study the Bible on Wednesday evening.

  • I get to learn.

    I love studying the Bible for myself, and, yes, I learn in my private study. But, there’s something about studying the Bible with others who have different viewpoints and different ideas and different experiences. It’s not at all unusual for me to have a “eureka” moment and to see something in Scripture I’ve never seen before.

  • I get to learn of prayer needs.

    The prayer list can change rapidly. On Wednesday evening, I learn what other needs I should add to my prayer list.

  • I get to examine my own life.

    It’s not fun, but sometimes I need to take a step back and look at my life. During the invitation and the Bible class, my life and my obedience, or lack thereof, to Scripture come into clearer focus.

I’m thankful it’s Wednesday. I can’t wait to gather with my brothers and sisters for Bible study tonight. See ya there!

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The Fire | 30 Days of Thanksgiving #15

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I had a meeting across town last night, and as I’m about to go in my meeting, Tammy texts and says, “Kitchen fire.” I didn’t worry that much – we know supper’s ready when the smoke detector goes off (that’s the running joke in our house, anyway). RJ sent me pictures, and I was a little concerned. No, not just a kitchen fire – it was a fire. It appears there was a short in the switch for the garbage disposal – the fire started on the other side from the stove. Tammy took the spray hose from the sink and put the fire out. The landlord is coming by tomorrow to see what he needs to do.

The fire was almost nothing – we just need to find out what happened and what needs to be done to prevent something worse from happening. I’m thankful the fire was not any more severe. But, at times like that you start thinking and you become grateful for far more:

  • I’m thankful my home is more than a house.

    We’ve lived in four different states, and we’ve left houses we loved and houses we hated. We even spent some time when, for census purposes, we were homeless. But, the four of us are a home no matter what house we live in.

  • I’m thankful life is more than things.

    We get so caught up in what we have in life and we forget who we have in life. We become like that rich young ruler or the foolish farmer who place emphasis on material things. Family matters far more than any “thing.”

  • I’m thankful that memories are more than mementoes.

    I have several material possessions which mean a great deal, not because they are necessarily valuable, but because they are heirlooms from a previous generation. I have a bookshelf made by my great-grandfather, I have china that belonged to my grandmother, and I have my grandfather’s coin collection. Yes, they are just things, but they mean a lot for the memories they hold. But, memories are far deeper and richer than those things.

  • I’m thankful for quick thinking.

    Because Tammy and the boys were able to think quickly and keep the house from burning down.

  • I’m thankful for modern communication.

    RJ was able to send me pictures via text to tell me that everything was okay. I attended my meeting with very little worry because modern communication allowed me to know that everything was fine.

  • I’m thankful for a good landlord.

    Tammy asked me to call Mark today, but I opted to go by his shop. Mark had just left when I got there, but his son was working. I showed the son my pictures, and he called Mark and told him to make a u-turn and come back to the garage ASAP. Mark saw the pictures and is going to make sure everything is just right.

  • I’m thankful for a God who reigns.

    “God is good.” You betcha; He’s good every moment of every day. But, too often we talk about God’s goodness when things go right in our lives. God is good regardless of what’s going on – regardless of the diagnosis, regardless of the balance in the bank account, regardless of the state of the marriage. But, therein lies our hope – God reigns, and, maybe not in this life, God will make all things right.

Never forget to thank God in all our circumstances. Paul learned to thank God when chained in a Roman prison. May we, like he, develop an attitude of gratitude. God bless you as you walk with Him. Allow Him to walk with you as He has walked with me.

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