Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cowper's Grave

I was recently made aware of this poem and thought it a worthy share. Apart from the cross of Christ of Christ we would indeed be miserable!

Cowper's Grave

It is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart’s decaying,—

It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying:

Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence languish!

Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish.



O poets! from a maniac’s tongue was poured the deathless singing!

O Christians ! at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!

O men! this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,

Groanedoinly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling!



And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story.

How discord on the music fell, and darkness on the glory,

And how, when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed.

He wore no less a loving face because so brokenhearted.



He shall be strong to sanctify the poet’s high vocation,

And bow the meekest Christian down in meeker adoration;

Nor ever shall he be, in praise, by wise or good forsaken.

Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken.



With quiet sadness and no gloom I learn to think upon him.

With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose heaven hath won him,—

Who suffered once the madness-cloud to his own love to blind him.

But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him;



And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic senses

As hills have language for, and stars harmonious influences!

The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number.

And silent shadow from the trees refreshed him like a slumber.



Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,

Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses;

The very world, by God’s constraint, from falsehood’s ways removing,

Its women and its men became beside him true and loving.



But while in blindness he remained inconscious of the guiding,

And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing.

He testified this solemn truth though frenzy desolated,—

Nor man nor nature satisfy, whom only God created.



Like a sick child that knoweth not his mother whilst she blesses,

And drops upon his burning brow the coolness of her kisses;

That turns his fevered eyes around—”My mother! where’s my mother?”—

As if such tender words and looks could come from any other!—



The fever gone, with leaps of heart he sees her bending o’er him.

Her face all pale from watchful love, the unweary love she bore him!—

Thus woke the poet from the dream his life’s long fever gave him,

Beneath those deep pathetic eyes which closed in death to save him!



Thus? O, not thus! no type of earth could image that awaking,

Wherein he scarcely heard the chant of seraphs round him breaking,

Or felt the new immortal throb of soul from body parted,

But felt those eyes alone, and knew, “My Saviour! not deserted!”



Deserted! who hath dreamt that when the cross in darkness rested

Upon the Victim’s hidden face no love was manifested!

What frantic hands outstretched have e’er the atoning drops averted!

What tears have washed them from the soul, that one should be deserted?



Deserted! God could separate from his own essence rather,

And Adam’s sins have swept between the righteous Son and Father;

Yea, once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry his universe hath shaken,—

It went up single, echoless, “My God, I am forsaken!”



It went up from the Holy’s lips amid his lost creation.

That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation,

That earth’s worst frenzies, marring hope, should mar not hope’s fruition.

And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see his rapture in a vision!



Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Friday, July 29, 2011

Church Builders #4

Moderation

Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

What is the intended meaning of the biblical term moderation? This is a clear example of how the meanings of words can drastically change over the years. Therefore, we must carefully seek out the intended meaning and context of words used in scripture. Today's definition and the original meaning are drastically different.

The modern use of the word is generally defined as the process of eliminating or lessening extremes. In recent times the term 'moderate' has become a buzzword in political circles. It is used to describe an individual who holds an intermediate position between extreme political parties. In religious circles it can describe one who stands on middle ground between two perceived extremes in a particular religious order. But what does the above verse teach us about this term?

The Apostle Paul begins Philippians chapter 4 by encouraging the church to stand fast in the Lord. This exhortation in and of itself disqualifies the modern connotation of eliminating extremes. A public stand in the doctrines of the Lord automatically puts all believers in an extreme position against many institutions of the world. Christianity was not merely a compromise in behavior or affiliations, it was complete lifestyle change from being a servant to the world to a soldier in the Lord's army. He later encourages them to center their joy in the Lord. Not unlike today, the ancient Roman citizen was encouraged by the powers-that-be to seek pleasure in worldly entertainment. Bread and circuses were used to placate the people. But Paul encouraged the disciples of Christ to be glad and well-off in the Lord.

So, what is biblical moderation then? It conveys an attitude of patience or gentleness. It is not a call to compromise the radical teachings of scripture. However, it does instruct one to carry out God's commands with meekness and gentleness. When listing the qualifications of a minister, Paul emphasizes this behavior. Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; (1 Timothy 3:3). He later expands this trait to all believers in Titus 3. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men (v. 1-2). James later describes a peaceable attitude and gentleness as wisdom given from above (James 3:17). All of these passages are synonymous with Paul's use of the term moderation.

How are we to apply this to our present situation? First, we realize that scriptural moderation is not compromise. As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to stand fast in his truth. Paul emphatically encourages the Corinthian believers to be steadfast, unmovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). In other words, we are to settle for nothing less than the truth. This should be our goal, both doctrinally and practically.

However, we are to exercise godly patience and gentleness in every activity of life. An adherence to biblical truth will inevitably cause friction. Perhaps it may come in the form of government persecution, ostracism from so-called friends and family, or even attacks from within your own church body. When these difficulties arise we are to moderate our behavior with gentleness, meekness, and patience. Our natural tendency is to 'lash out' at others due to frustration or mistreatment. The proper God-honoring response it to be that of biblical moderation. Notice what Paul writes to the people of Thessalonian church:

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15).

Later, he exhorts Timothy in a similar manner:

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

These verses contain no compromise when it comes to the truth, but all confrontations were to be tempered with patience and goodness. Moderation was to prevail in all situations. Is this the case in your life? Our tendency is to be hotheads when we our our loved ones are mistreated. We can get in the flesh over the most insignificant slights that occur in everyday life. The Lord is neither pleased or glorified in such! There are times that we are called to graciously suffer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that we would examine every avenue of life and apply true, biblical moderation. What a great blessing it would be to us and a powerful testimony of the Lord who saved us if we heeded this biblical principle!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Church Builders #3

Walking in the Spirit

Living a Spirit-filled life might be the most often overlooked aspect of discipleship. We readily acknowledge that God is the creator and sustainer of our universe. We understand that salvation is by His grace and that Jesus died for the sins of His people! To become a Primitive Baptist you have you have to be able to quote Romans 8:29-33 and Ephesians 1:4. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not so much :-)

But how much attention do we give to the Holy Spirit? This third aspect of the Trinity is oftentimes ignored in our everyday lives, is it not? I have recently become convicted of this reality in my own personal walk. I will soon be secularly unemployed and have been seeking a new job. Needless to say, it is a tough climate to be doing such! Unfortunately, I have allowed this setback to be too much of a distraction. There have been nights that I have stayed awake worrying about things that have not yet happened. It has been a distraction in my studies and at times downright overwhelming. In other words, I have not been walking in the Spirit. If I were, this (and other) difficulties would not be so paralyzing.

I find the same to be true in our church bodies. We allow the inevitable challenges of life to elicit worldly responses instead of spiritual. We let worry and uncertainty to prevent us from doing what the body of Christ is called to do; act as the salt of the earth and shine light in this world of darkness (Matthew 6).

  • We fear the consequences of sharing the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace because it is diametrically opposed to what much of the rest of our society believes.
  • We despair because of our small numbers and think no one would want to be a part of our community of believers.
  • We allow anger and bitterness to take over when inevitable conflict occurs amongst those who make up our church body.
  • We constantly worry about when ‘the other shoe is going to drop’ when things are progressing well.
These attitudes all result from the church neglecting to walk by the Spirit. It is vital to understand what the Holy Spirit does for us. Notice what Jesus says to His disciples about the Holy Spirit:

John 14:16-18 - And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

First, we notice that the Holy Spirit is a comfort to the church. He is literally there for our aide. Strong’s defines the Comforter as the one who gives divine strength needed to enable us to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom. Do you see that we have divine empowerment as God’s people? The Spirit miraculously gives us (the church) strength that the world knows nothing about.

Second, the Holy Spirit testifies of the truth. As mentioned earlier, many have an intellectual knowledge of the truths contained in scripture. Hopefully, our churches testify of divine truth and experience the blessings of truth to some degree. But it is easy to forget them in the midst of trials. Thanks be to God that our Comforter can encourage us with the timeless truths of the Bible. In our verse above, Jesus would soon be crucified and ascend to Heaven. He would no longer walk in the midst of the disciples. But they would not be left to figure things out on their own. He would dwell in their hearts and encourage them in truth and righteousness through the Spirit.

Finally, we notice the permanence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to not leave us comfortless. You may ask why then do we worry, doubt, act in the flesh, etc? It is not that the Spirit has left us. The Bible teaches that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God is unchangeable. The difficulties arise when we forsake Him. The Apostle Paul warns us not to quench the Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. How does this happen? Based on the surrounding verses of this warning, it occurs when we are in the flesh. Forgetting to pray, being unthankful, ingratitude, flirting with evil, rendering evil for evil, and many more worldly attitudes cause us to extinguish the Spirit of God in our lives and in the life of our churches.

The good news is that the Spirit of God has not moved one inch. He is where he has always been. He dwells in the heart of every born-again elect child of God. Our responsibility is to continually recalibrate our lives to the standard of scripture. It is there that we find the divine comfort and encouragement of the Spirit of God. This is where we need to be as a church body. The alternative is unpleasant darkness. I encourage you to read about the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2. The Spirit can remove itself from a body of believers if they insist on repeatedly quenching the Spirit and leave their first love.

On a positive note, our churches will grow both in grace and knowledge of the truth when we walk in the Spirit. I have been studying the Book of Acts over the past several days. If correct, I have noted sixty mentions of the Spirit in this book. That is significant! We oftentimes refer to Acts as the place to go to discern the correct practical/doctrinal pattern of our churches. Lord help us to also remember that everything that we do as a church should revolve around the Holy Spirit as well.

We please God and are personally comforted when we are filled with the Spirit. Lord help us to apply this truth!

Ephesians 5:14 - Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lessons Learned From Old Testament Israel

We have been taking full advantage of the warm, sunny afternoon/evenings in Northern Indiana over the past couple of weeks. That, coupled with me searching for new secular employment, church meetings, and pastoral responsibilities has greatly limited my time to write. Stay tuned for more to come in the future. I have a lot of thoughts whirling around in this head of mine.



Here are a few thoughts for today....

Sometimes we question the importance of the Old Testament in our lives. Does any of it apply to me today? Yes it does! We must remember that all of scripture is written FOR our benefit. However, not all is written TO us. Obviously, we are no longer required to enact the sacrificial system of the Old Testament times. Jesus was the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. The Bible teaches us that he fulfilled the law to a jot and a tittle. But, we glean many doctrinal and practical truths from the OT and Israel.

Consider God's relationship with Israel. They were blessed of God when they obeyed the laws and commandments contained in the Mosaic Covenant:

Deuteronomy 28:1 - And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:

All manner of blessings are contained in the above chapter. It included fertility for the Israelites personally as well as for their herds and crops, and it included the ability to defeat their neighboring enemies and to enjoy peace and prosperity. It also included other material and social blessings, as well as the enjoyment of an close spiritual relationship with God. Likewise, he also assured Israel that judgement would be cursed if they were disobedient:

Deuteronomy 28:15 - But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

Moses goes on to list a plethora of disasters that would befall God's chosen nation if they hardened their hearts to the commandments of the Lord. God's 'curse,'  would be barrenness, defeat, oppression, unfruitfulness and many other undesirable conditions. His expectations are clearly outlined in the early books of the Bible and the blessings/consequences are plainly manifest in the above chapter.

This warning was written to Israel of old. But we can see how this promise of blessings or curses is FOR God's people today. He still hearkens unto those that seek to honor Him in obedience. Notice what Paul writes in Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:6 - But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.


 
God blesses those that obediently seek Him. When the regenerate elect turn to the Lord, He is pleased and bestows favor upon them. This characteristic of God permeates scripture. On the other hand, judgement comes when his people are disobedient. I encourage you to read through all of Deuteronomy 28, paying particular attention to the consequences of disobedience. Do we not see much of this in our own society? We were once a nation that feared God and enjoyed His favor. Today, not so much.
 
As we celebrate the independence of our great nation, let us remember what made us great. A government founded upon the principles of God's word and His people demonstrating a commitment to live their lives as the salt of the earth and lights in this world of sin and sorrow. God is still on His throne. He still blesses those that seek Him. May we learn from the history of Israel of old and strive not to repeat the mistakes that brought judgement upon them.
 
2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Church Builders – 2


Keeping it Real

Another attribute of true church growth is genuine actions and godly sincerity. It seems as if much of modern day religion is more about a performance than pleasing God. Some institutions are actually utilizing the services of marketing experts to determine how they can appeal to the broadest variety of people in their community. My friends, this might be desirable if you are offering some type of worldly product or service. But that which is flesh pleasing and performance driven has no place in the New Testament church. Let us explore what scripture emphasizes:

2 Corinthians 1:12 - For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

The Apostle Paul makes no mention of appealing to man’s flesh or staging elaborate productions in preaching the gospel to the church of Corinth. Notice that he rejoiced that his ministry was tempered with simplicity and godly sincerity. His approach was free of any pretense or hypocrisy. He also preached the sincere truth. In other words, Paul was keeping it real.

Our little congregations have labored throughout history to preserve the simple pattern of the New Testament church and adhere to the doctrine of grace. However, we must vigilantly strive to not make our worship and interactions with others merely a performance. If we are not careful the old flesh will try to usurp the glory that belongs to God. This involves both our ministry and members. Do you view worship as an experience or as a show Consider the following:

  • Undue pressure and 'looks' are directed towards those that disrupt our notion of church worship. Perhaps it is a mother struggling with young children. My wife and I have dealt with well-meaning, but inconsiderate folks in church that have rebuked us because our children were making noise during worship. Such rebukes are also thrown at some who may look different or don't fit into our perception of a proper congregant. This ought not be!

  • Extra emphasis placed on 'special meetings' and traveling to hear 'big preachers'. I enjoy annual/fellowship/associational meetings as well as the next person. But aren't the regularly scheduled meetings equally as important? Perhaps more so. This is the time that the pastor usually digs deep into the word to specifically minister to his flock. Yet, there are some who act like it is torture to go to regular worship. Let a special meeting roll around and they are the most zealous person there. Some think nothing of even forsaking the local assembly to travel to the 'big meetings'. This appeals to our flesh, but it is our spirits that need fed! Our first priority is the local church.

  • The gospel minister must also remember these truths and take care to guard against the flesh. Our job is not that of a church police officer, politician, comedian or public relations guru, but a preacher of the gospel. One who labors in the word and doctrine is indeed worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). But the laborer should not be actively seeking the accolades and attention of men. This takes away from the glory that rightfully belongs to God. We should strive to study the word, preach the gospel clearly to the best of our ability, and do everything within our power to get self out of the way. I also adjure those in the ministry who have committed themselves to serve as a pastor. Do not allow the local flock to languish and suffer at the expense of your ambitions to travel. Perhaps you are well-intentioned in accepting preaching appointments and many around the country appreciate your gift. But do not drag down the folks back home with your constant absence. If you truly have the burden to travel, give up pastoral responsibilities. It is healthy for us ministers to constantly assess why we do what we do in the church. This too is part of keeping it real. I believe that this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote about simplicity and godly sincerity. I pray that our ministry will heed the instruction of Peter as the gospel is proclaimed.
1 Peter 5:2-4 - Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Those seeking the truth that visit amongst us can usually perceive whether or not we are sincere in our worship. By default we Primitive Baptists do not attract people that are looking for worldly entertainment. I believe that many are seeking to fellowship with those who sincerely worship the Lord in spirit and truth. May we search our hearts and constantly strive to 'keep it real' in the sense that we do not forget our purpose in gathering together as the Lord's people.
It ain't about the show! It is about humble obedience to the One who saved us!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Church Builders

Enough about the negative!

Once a problem has been identified the best course of action is to turn from an undesirable behavior/attitude to a more edifying one. This is also known as repentance. One of the glorious characteristics of our Lord is that he is forgiving. Don’t take my word for it! Read 2 Chronicles 7:14 and 1 John 1:9. I believe that both of these texts can be safely applied to the church body. In light of this truth, here are some attitudes and actions that lead to scripturally desirable church building.

Let’s just have church!

This is a simple yet profound statement when we consider it context of the gathering together of the Lord’s people. As Primitive Baptists we wave the banner of church simplicity, yet do we always practice what we preach? Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Outwardly, we might dot all of the i’s and cross all of the “t’s” of orthodoxy, but think about some of the inner workings that sometimes complicate things.

First, the glory of God should be the primary focus of corporate worship. Everything else should be checked at the door! I wonder how many times we have quenched the Spirit by dragging our ‘stuff’ into church. There is a time and a place for dealing with the drama that inevitably occurs when people are involved, but Sunday morning is not the place to hash it out. If the church is to be edified, Christ must be the central focus both outwardly and inwardly. Notice the following:

Colossians 1:16-18 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

This passage emphatically declares that Christ is the head of the church. It also states that he is to have the preeminence in all things. Therefore, he is to be the primary focus of our public assemblies. Anything else is merely a distraction from our goal. Have you ever engaged in or witnessed the following:

  • Been physically present at a worship service yet been mentally disengaged because of some outside unrelated issue (problems at home/work, activities after church, etc.).
  • Attend church and worry about what others think about your physical appearance, dress, and demeanor and get offended because some do not give you the proper amount of attention.
  • Spend the assembly time finding fault in the preacher, building, and others people around you.
These things (and many more) are the inward additions that distract from glorifying the Lord in our worship. Sadly, all of us have likely been guilty of these actions (and others). Ministers can contribute to the problem as well.

  • Using the pulpit to ‘grind an axe’ over a particular doctrine or practical issue. The old timer theologians referred to this as ‘hobby horse’ preaching.
  • Causing the congregation to be distracted by abnormal mannerisms or theatrics.
  • Forgetting to make Christ the center of the gospel message and too much time speaking about personal opinions/experiences.
Lord help us ALL to examine ourselves before we come to His house for worship. If a church is going to prosper, Christ has to be at the forefront of every endeavor. When this attitude prevails, God’s word is more likely to be lovingly upheld. Folks will also be more inclined to love as He loves, forgive and He has forgive us, and zealously share the good news of the full, complete and finished work of our Redeemer. This is how a church experiences true, biblical growth. Paul wrote:

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

This is not a limited subject for God’s people! It is an inexhaustible message of exhortation and encouragement. Let’s just have church the way it was intended. Preach the word, preach about Christ, and preach how we are to love as Christ in our relationships. When you come to church, be ready to listen, learn and apply the word of God to your life and grow from it! This is the foundation in which churches are built upon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life Turns on a Dime

This is the lesson that I have been learning over the past several weeks. It started with me being informed that the grant that has funded my position will be ending this summer. Time to polish up the ole resume :-) I have discovered that my experience (and the salary that schools are contractually obligated to provide a person of my experience) is working against me in these tough economic times. I can only imagine what my 40 and 50 something friends are going through as they seek employment to provide for their families. However, my struggles pale in comparison to other situations that some of my friends and acquaintances have been dealing with over the past couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks ago on of my co-workers started experiencing some unexplained headaches and had difficulty putting her words together. This was on a Monday. She worked Tuesday and went to her doctor Wednesday. To make a long story short, after several different tests it was determined that she has an inoperable brain tumor the size of a tennis ball and has been given 2-6 months to live. As far as we know, she did not have any prior symptoms. She is the age of my mother. Please pray for her and the family that will be operating as caregivers in the days to come.

I was also saddened to hear of the sudden passing of a fellow minister last week in an automobile accident. I did not know the brother personally, but have been inspired by the accounts given about others about this man’s ministry and love for the Lord’s people. I hope that I can leave such a legacy when my time on earth is done.

All of these events have served to remind me that life can change quickly. We do not know when we might breathe our last breath. One of the most eloquent statements to this effect can be found in the book of James:

Jam 4:13-15 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what [shall be] on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.


At best, our life is like a wisp of air. We have 90 to 100 years on this earth at most. Knowing this truth, how are we spending our time? Are we focusing on what is important? How many words have gone unsaid? How many grudges and ill feelings do we harbor? The honest truth is that we should be living every day like it is possibly the last. Our times are ultimately in the Lord’s hands are they not? James believed that!

Today’s lesson is this:

1. Frequently tell your loved ones and friends how much you love them. Better yet, show them by your deeds!

2. Do not harbor grudges! I have counseled several heartbroken folks that neglected to mend fences and later regretted this decision when the other person passed away suddenly. Today is a good day to practice Ephesians 4:32.

3. Constantly assess your priorities. God first, then family/loved ones, and everything else falls into place somewhere behind. When your life is drawing to an end, you won’t be regretting not spending enough time working or playing. You will wish that you had taken advantage of more opportunities to engage in spiritual endeavors or had spent more time with your wife, children, cherished friends and loved ones.

Life indeed turns on a dime. I pray that we will make the most of our time on this earth. We all are not likely to make it out alive unless the Lord returns soon. Whatever the case, may we remember what is important!

Time, what an empty vapor 'tis!
And days, how swift they are!
Swift as an Indian arrow flies,
Or like a shooting star.

The present moments just appear,
Then slide away in haste,
That we can never say, "They're here,"
But only say, "They're past."

Our life is ever on the wing,
And death is ever nigh;
The moment when our lives begin
We all begin to die.

Yet, mighty God! our fleeting days
Thy lasting favors share,
Yet with the bounties of thy grace
Thou load'st the rolling year.

'Tis sovereign mercy finds us food,
And we are clothed with love;
While grace stands pointing out the road
That leads our souls above.

His goodness runs an endless round;
All glory to the Lord!
His mercy never knows a bound,
And be his name adored!

Thus we begin the lasting song;
And when we close our eyes,
Let the next age thy praise prolong,
Till time and nature dies.

The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts, 1806

Have a great week!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Church Killers - 5

Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it meaning. -Anonymous

In this article we will take a look at another attitude that is extremely destructive to our churches - forgetting our first love. You say, I love everyone in my church. Perhaps you do in word, but when we look at how the Bible defines love we quickly find out that we oftentimes forget this part of our daily walk with the Lord. This is precisely what happened at the church of Ephesus during the time of the writing of the book of Revelation. Notice the text in Revelation chapter 2:

Revelation 2:2-4 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.

Here is a church that would be considered orthodox by Bible standards. They patiently worked and labored in the kingdom of God. They diligently stood for doctrinal truth and were good  judges of the true intentions of men. Yet Jesus had a problem with them because they had left their first love. This was a serious indictment pronounced by the Lord. How exactly did they leave their first love? The text does not specifically say. However, in light of other scriptures we can ascertain the general attitude which the Lord rebuked in this passage and apply it to our current situation.

1 John chapter 4 deals with us loving our brother. Is love merely a word that is arbitrarily used to describe our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? No indeed! This passage deals with us loving our brother as Christ loved us.

1 John 4:19-20 We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?  

Love in this passage is translated from the Greek word, agapao which is aptly defined as a noble affection or concern for others. This attitude was expressly communicated to us (God's children) through Jesus Christ's self-sacrificing actions on the cross for our eternal salvation. Do you see how love extends infinitely beyond mere words and placation?

Here are a couple of scenarios for your consideration:

You are confronted with a new visitor to your church that does not fit the demographic (usually white, middle-aged, middle class) of the majority of others in the congregation. Perhaps they are black and you were raised to have a certain bias against people of color? Would you show them the same love and consideration as other congregants? Maybe some folks visit that are obviously destitute and you automatically assume that they must be lazy and are looking for a handout. Is this biblical love? These are important parts to ponder. Perhaps the church at Ephesus made distinctions between different races and socioeconomic groups, and this is why they were rebuked of the Lord.

Do you accept children as a part of your church? Throughout my time in the church I have been astonished at how some 'respected' members of the church treat children. Unfortunately, I have seen them marginalized and unfairly rebuked because they acted like kids. They should be loved and treated as respectfully as any other part of the congregation. Yes they can be loud. Yes they do make messes and can be rambunctious. So what! They are not only the future of the church, but the present as well. I love Jesus' teaching about children. It will do us well to constantly remember it when we find ourselves losing patience with the little ones around us.

Luke 18:16  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

My friends we must put aside our biases and annoyances for the sake of the church. ALL who make up our congregations come with baggage because ALL are sinners. If anyone had the authority and right to give up on others, it was the Lord. Yet he loved us. He still loves his church! Have you left off loving your brothers in sisters in Christ? If so, repent! If this attitude is allowed to continue, our churches will find themselves in the same situation as the church Ephesus of old.

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.


Lord help us to follow Christ's example of loving the church, differences and all!


Monday, June 06, 2011

Article Featured in "Faith" Section of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette

Yesterday the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette published an article that I wrote about our responsibility as fathers. In light of Father's Day I thought it served as a good reminder of what is important in life and am humbled that they decided to print the article.

http://www.jg.net/article/20110605/FEAT04/306059983/1125/FEAT04

The editor (not me) took the liberty to give me the title of reverend. IMO, this title belongs to the Lord alone!

Psalms 111:9 - He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

I am sure that she added the designation as a sign of respect, but it still makes me cringe :-)

Have a great day!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Don’t Worry, It's Only Grass!

Sometimes we worry and obsess about the craziest things. I admit that somewhere between our move to Northern Indiana and the present, I developed an obsession with our lawn. Perhaps it is because of my rapidly approaching entrance into middle aged adulthood. Maybe it is the sheer awesomeness of the lush Kentucky bluegrass that sucked me in. I don’t know!

I have invested a great deal of time and resources to cultivating the perfect patch of grass around our dwelling. The weeds were removed. Bald areas reseeded. Total warfare has been waged on the dandelions. But to what end? I found myself overly concerned about the kids injuring the grass by trampling on it like a herd of cattle. I was even fretting to Sarah about them sullying up the backyard; their play area!

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what the grass looks like. It is not that important in the big scheme of things. What are you obsessing about? An immaculate house? Business endeavors? Your appearance? There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these as long as they are placed in proper perspective.

It is far more important to make a few messes if it gives you an opportunity to build lasting memories with your children. Seeking the kingdom of God and edifying relationships with friends/loved ones should be top priority. How often to we get it all wrong. Notice the words of Jesus from Matthew 6:

Mat 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I remember a father who lost a young child relating his experiences in this realm. He used to constantly scold his son about leaving crayons on the carpet and possibly causing stains. Some time after this the boy tragically drowned in the family pool. The father recalled seeing one of his son’s crayons on the floor. He crushed it under foot and grounded it into the carpet. To this day the stain is still on the floor. The father looks at it as a reminder of what is really important.

Lord help us to constantly assess our own priorities and remember what is really important in life!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Muddying the Waters

Perhaps I am getting more crotchety as I grow older. Whatever the case, I find myself having less patience and time for those who refuse to communicate their thoughts clearly.

Sometimes people will make the comment along the line of, "insert name here is so deep/intellectual that I cannot understand half of what he is talking about." I beg to differ with this opinion! In many instances, the speaker is either not communicating his message in the best manner possible or worse, intentionally trying to confuse his audience for his own personal agenda/gain.

Effective communication is essential for a harmonious marriage, successful career and and is essential to a healthy church environment. How many disagreements, hurt feelings, or misunderstandings could have been avoided if the parties involved would have effectively stated their needs/purposes?

In the realm of communicating our beliefs to others, clear communication is essential and desirable. Those who preach the gospel should always strive to not leave any of his congregates confused about what he believes. Granted, we are not infallible as ministers of the gospel. However, it should be our desire to speak about the doctrine and practical teachings of the Bible with as much clarity as possible. The sheep should never be more confused about a particular topic after the sermon than they were before. This is muddying the waters!

Here are some thoughts for ALL to consider when attempting to communicate with others:
Are you using "insider language" that newcomer might not understand. All my life I have heard ministers refer to dead alien sinners. What image does this conjure in the minds of those new to the faith?

Does this come to mind?


What about the term, Arminian? Several years ago I recall one particular gentleman that was concerned about a Primitive Baptist minister picking on the poor folks living west of Turkey.

Notice the spelling difference :-)

Do you see how folks can be confused? If we are not clear with our definitions, how can we expect God's people to be converted and embrace the truth that we hold dear? Jesus taught the importance of clarity when addressing the confusing language of religious elite of his day.

Matthew 5:37 - But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

This was also the expectation during the Old Testiment times:

Nehemiah 8:8 - So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.



In other words, don't muddy the waters! If a preacher (or any other person) is so deep that you cannot understand the point that he is making, it is not a sign of intellect but poor communication skills. Great communicators do not use their forum to show off or share everything that they know to the point of confusing their audience. They take great pains to make sure that listeners of all ages and ability levels can clearly understand the topic.

We must constantly remind ourselves that we are called to feed the sheep in God's kingdom. If we aim for feeding spiritual giraffes, then we miss the mark. Lord help us to say what we mean and mean what we say.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Preaching Trip/Vacationette to East Tennessee and Northern Kentucky

The family and I were greatly blessed to make a trip down to East Tennessee for a preaching trip/mini vacation. We arrived to Lenoir City, TN late Friday afternoon and were in worship services Friday night, Saturday and Sunday with Grace PBC. This is a delightful group of saints who we have quickly grown to  love. 



Elder Bill Taylor serves as their pastor and is assisted by Elder Dennis Holt. Both of these men are humble servants who are lovingly laboring to lead this flock in accordance with God's word. Every service seemed to be spirit filled. I also enjoyed meeting Elder Ellis Lynn from Knoxville and sharing part of the preaching time with him.

Grace Church is located in Louden, TN at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. While we were there, we also visited Cades Cove. If you go to the Smokey Mountains, this is a must see! There is an old settlement in the cove that has been preserved by the National Park. The family and I toured a few of the old homesteads and visited the Cade's Cove Primitive Baptist Church. Elder Taylor brought some of the history of the church to life for us. His grandmother was born in Cades Cove and his great-grandfather served as pastor of the church for over 40 years. It amazes me to think of those old saints who believed/preached the same truths that we hold dear today. God is good! I wanted to preach a little bit there, but Sarah would not let me ;-)




Sunday evening we were able to meet with Lexington PBC in Lexington, KY. We always enjoy visiting with Elder and Sister Gowens and the folks in Lexington. We enjoyed the services and had a great evening of fellowship with the Gowens family and other members of Lexington PBC. I appreciate Elder Gowens' zeal for the truth and his willingness to share it with others. He has helped this young preacher out on many occasions.



The family and I made it safely back home late Monday afternoon. All was well back home and we are thankful that the Lord blessed us with traveling mercies throughout the trip. I am glad to be home and missed our church family in Fort Wayne. A special thanks to Elder Troy Thomas for supplying at FWPBC while I was away. I have been trying to catch up yesterday and this morning. I enjoy being with and preaching to God's people. May God continue to bless our churches to grow and prosper!

Church Killers - 4

Indifference

Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand.
-B. Thoene

Last week we examined the lack of balanced, biblical teaching as a factor in church decline. This week we will take a look at the detrimental results of an indifferent attitude towards the word of God. This is a subject that all of us should frequently consider because of our propensity to gravitate towards stagnancy. This was the concern of the Lord in Revelation chapter 3.

Revelation 3:14-16 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

They were neither cold nor hot. Have you ever found yourself at this point in your life? From time to time we all will shift into mental cruise control. There is nothing wrong with taking short breaks from the stresses and worries of life. However, problems quickly arise when these respites become prolonged, especially in the church. Let’s look closer at the church mentioned above.

Laodicea was a Roman province in Asia (modern-day Turkey) that was home to a church established early in Christian history. The province enjoyed great material prosperity because of its importance as a Roman trade route. Expensive black wool which was utilized for ornate garments was one particular product that was traded in this region during ancient times. One result of the wealth enjoyed by the citizens of Laodicea was the import of Greek art, science and literature. This led to the founding of a great medical school in the area which led to an improved quality of life. The Laodiceans enjoyed the good life. Wealth, great material possessions, and good health were commonplace in this region during the time of the Apostle John’s writing.

Apparently, these material blessings led to an indifferent attitude towards the things of God. The Bible uses the term ‘lukewarm’ to describe this church’s feelings towards the Lord and His word. Their apathy resulted in an unthankful and forgetful spirit towards the true giver of blessings, both material and spiritual.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

They enjoyed material wealth, but were spiritually poor. They possessed excellent health care, but their stagnancy led to wretchedness, blindness and misery. The Laodiceans enjoyed clothing of fine wool, but they were naked before the Lord. Are you beginning to get the picture of the devastating results of indifference?

How does this attitude manifest itself in the modern church? Consider the following attitudes:

  • An individual begins to miss worship services because of work and other ‘important’ activities on Sunday morning. If the time is taken to meet with the saints, then they exit quickly after the final amen (sometimes before).
  • The pursuit of entertainment dominates takes the place of regular prayer and Bible study in ones life.
  • Weekly worship becomes merely a spot on the calendar rather than the center of all other activities.
  • Godly thoughts and meditations are replaced with ideas to build more security and material wealth. Worry replaces the peace that passes all understanding.
Such attitudes are born out of an indifference to the things of God. First, we must realize that this is displeasing to the Lord. This conduct makes Him sick! The Laodicean’s apathy towards the truth of God’s word also invited severe rebuke and chastening from the Lord. We should expect nothing less for the church today. We must realize the deception of trusting in our own riches and works, or prepare to suffer the same fate. Paul warns us of the consequences of such attitudes.

1 Timothy 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

Sadly, the Laodiceans were in the middle of this downward spiral and did not even realize it. Can the same be said about us today? God strengthen us to remember to source of our blessings and heed the advice of the Lord to His church throughout the ages.

Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

True peace, satisfaction, joy, healing and contentment can only be found in the Lord and His service. May we be ever diligent in our service to him and guard against spiritual cruise control.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ask! Seek! Knock!

Here are some excellent observations from one of my fathers in the ministry, good friend, and golf buddy... Enjoy! 
 
 
 
Ask!   Seek!   Knock!      
“My Two Cents Worth”   5-25-11
We are living in a world today where many, seeking to be righteous, go by the phrase “just name it and claim it.”  Their point of theology is one of receiving everything you ask for, usually in a health or financial sense, or both; by putting God under obligation to provide it for them due to their “exercise” of faith.  They misuse and abuse a well known scripture found in Matthew chapter 7, verses  7-8.  
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
Just what is this scripture pertaining to when it states we are to ask, seek, and knock?   It is either relating to things earthly (material) or things spiritual; one or the other.  We would be breaking one of the commandments if this were relating to things of an earthly or material nature.  One of the ten commandments states we are not to covet.  Therefore, asking for material things as a priority in our lives would be against the intended meaning of this scripture.  In addition, we are told to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33.  
The things which we are to ask, seek, and knock after is relating to those things which are spiritual; mainly asking, seeking, and knocking on the door of understanding of God’s will for us in our lives.  We are to continuously ask for spiritual guidance.  Peter related to this when he said we “have not, because ye ask not.”  Prayer is the path we are to use in asking God for guidance and instruction.  Reading God’s written word and praying for understanding goes a long way in achieving spiritual guidance and direction for our lives..  
The second thing we are to do is to seek.  One of the best ways to seek is to not only read God’s written word and listen to good, sound, preaching;  but also to study God’s word.  To study His word is to seek to know what His will is for us in giving Him praise, honor, and glory.  Acts 17:11 teaches us what to do when it said that those in Thessalonica “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” We cannot find that which we need if we are not seeking, or looking, for it.  Remember, it is not about us; it is all about HIm. 
What then, is the knocking all about?  This is NOT a knocking in an attempt to get Jesus to open up the door of salvation to us as is taught oftentimes in the world today.  But rather, it is a knocking on the door of understanding.  It is not us who opens the door of understanding.  Jesus is the only one that can open this door for us.  We are to “knock” as a show of our faith.  
Look again at the passage found in Matthew 7:7-8.   If we ask in prayer for guidance and direction, the Lord has promised to give it to us.  If we seek to know His will, he has promised that we shall find His will for us.  And, if we knock, God has promised to open a door of understanding unto us which will result in manifold blessings and benefits in the kingdom of God.  
To ask, to seek, and to knock takes work on our part.  Listen to what James says in James 2:26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Let us today be up and about our Master’s business of giving Him that praise, honor, and glory by knowing more about His will for us.  But then, that is just “my two cents worth.”  
 
Elder Bobby Willis
ShareTheWord

In God We Trust

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review - The Farmer

What can I say? I love a good children's book. This is one of my favorites, by far:

Here are a few reviews:

From Publishers Weekly

A jolly farmer faces both the bounty and wrath of nature and prays to God in good times and bad in this picture book about faith and perseverance. A rotund farmer with a fluffy white beard works hard tending his animals and crops, only to have his endeavors wiped out first by a tornado, then by a devastating fire set by neighbor boys. He patiently rebuilds each time, appreciating even the smallest signs of growth and recovery. And even in his hardship, the farmer does not forget the ill-behaved neighbors in their time of need. Ludy embodies his farmer with the traits of such biblical figures as Job and Noah while emphasizing prayer as a constant in the farmer's life. A few passages of text directed at the reader prove jarring ("Have you noticed Squeakers [the pig]?"), but in all, the tale unfolds smoothly. The illustrations are busy but focused, with most of the characters rendered in a mannered cartoon style (although some of the animals look out of place, a little Disney-ish). The settings combine detailed foregrounds with abstract (perhaps computer-generated?) backgrounds. Samples are posted on the publisher's Web site, at www. greenpastures.com. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Farmer is a gentle, hard-working man who loves his animals and tends his fields with strong, caring hands. When a tornado destroys his crops, he is forced to sell some of his cherished animals to recoup losses and survive until the next planting. Mark Ludys unique, extraordinary picturebook. The Farmer is a thought-provoking and splendidly delightful story of patience, perseverance and faith. The Farmer offers the young reader an engaging message focused on the qualities and values that build character. The illustrations are richly detailed and fill the pages of this outstanding picturebook.

The surprise ending is both heartwarming and memorable. -- The Midwest Book Review - Childrens Bookwatch August 1999, page 3.

Mark Ludys illustrations make this book a visual masterpiece, blending photographic detail with exaggerated colors and expressions that exist only in a talented imagination. The cast of characters, balanced equally between humans and animals endure seasons of hardship before a bountiful harvest and a lesson in generosity come to joyful fruition. Leaning heavily on humility and spiritual perseverance, the books plot remains less embellished than its pictures. And some of the text is swallowed by a tight center margin detracting from an otherwise impressive layout. Still, young readers (and parents flipping the pages) will be spellbound by images more original than a blushing cow. -- The Bloomsbury Review November/December 1999; page 27, by Cyns Nelson

My .02:

This is an amazing book, both artistically and story-wise. I picked it up for my children a couple of years ago and it quickly became one of their favorites. I was pleasantly surprised by the examples of prayer, perseverance, and loving your neighbors. If you want a heartwarming, engaging read for the family, this one fits the bill.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Church Killers - 3

Today I want to address another destroyer of our churches: a lack of complete biblical teaching. Sure, most of us can quote Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:4. But there is much more to the word of God than these few verses. ALL scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable...

Sometimes the problem stems from the church leadership. If the pastor/preacher is not applying himself to studying the Bible, then the sheep under his charge will suffer. Sheep need sheep food. This can only come from the word of God. If a man is called to preach the gospel, then there is no excuse for neglecting the word of God. I am reminded of the following proverb:

Proverbs 29:18 -Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

During the Old Testament times, God spoke to this people through the mouths of prophets. When they were silent, the Israelites would lack direction as a people. They depended on this particular blessing from God for comfort and direction. In the New Testament times, God speaks to us through his word, and the preacher is his mouthpiece. Do you see the importance of a ministry that is committed to studying scripture? It is the spiritual food that sustains us in the wicked world!

Not only is the gospel minister to have an understanding of biblical doctrine and principles. He is to faithfully teach the whole counsel of God. If a preacher solely focuses on doctrinal points without practical teaching, then his listeners will struggle when confronted with daily trials. On the other hand, if duty is exclusively preached without a balance of grace, then the congregation will be very discouraged because of their shortcomings. The key to effective teaching is a mixture of 'DO' doctrine and 'DONE' doctrine. The Lord has done many amazing things for us. We were chosen in Christ before the world was created. Christ died for His people on the cross. Mercy and grace are extended to us daily. This is all DONE doctrine. In light of these truths we are to save ourselves from this untoward generation, make our calling and election sure, and walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. This is what we are commanded to DO! Both are equally important and must be presented in a balanced manner.

Studying/preaching the gospel is very similar to eating properly. If our diet consisted exclusively of desserts, then we would quickly become lethargic and unhealthy. Conversely, if we only consumed carbs or proteins, we would suffer as well. The key is balance. If you have been called to preach the word, faithfully study and teach ALL aspects of God's word. Don't sacrifice the balanced meal of truth for the 'smooth things' of the world. Study the word! Preach the word! Apply the word!

Sadly, there are many sick and anemic sheep wondering aimlessly about our churches. If they are not soon fed and strengthened, they will leave in search for greener pastures. Or worse, they will be devoured by wolves. A body of believers will not survive long without sound, biblical balanced teaching. Lord, strengthen us for the task!

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Give Up!


If you're going through hell, keep going. -Winston Churchill

Any normal person has likely made this declaration numerous times throughout life. A difficulty arises in your marriage. There are seemingly endless conflicts in your family. Problems at church deflate you. Problems pile up at work. These and many other bumps in the road oftentimes will drive us to the breaking point (or so we think).

I have found myself at this point on more than one occasion. Such is life. Someone once asked me if I ever consider quitting the ministry. They were surprised when I responded at least a couple of times per month. You have likely entertained such thought when going through a rough patch in your marriage. Or perhaps while dealing with a child that questions every boundary that you try to set for her well-being. We won’t even delve into the ‘stuff’ that can arise with church problems.

As some of you might be aware, I have been going through a particularly difficult time with my secular job. Namely, that it will end in a couple of months due to funding issues. Anyone who has been through similar circumstances can attest to the roller coaster of emotions that comes with this news. There have been points along this particular journey that I have wanted to throw in the towel.

The Lord reminded me of a simple, yet profound truth this weekend that provided some much needed encouragement.

The good things in life are usually hard.

The important things in life are hard, but they are good. Marriage is difficult, is it not? But it is good. Dealing with personalities and problems in the house of the Lord is hard, but the blessings are great. The trials of raising kids are at times almost unbearable, but watching them learn and grow as individuals is awesome. See what I mean? Life is hard, but it is good….

Remember Job? Life was extremely hard for him. Yet, in the midst of his incredible trials he proclaimed this truth.

Job 23:10 - But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

The Apostle Paul suffered many disappointments in his ministry and readily acknowledged such. But he was also inspired to write of the good that awaited him at the end of life’s trials.

2Ti 4:18 - And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Life is hard, but it is good. Remember that when you encounter the difficulties of life that will inevitably occur this week. We all have them! If you find yourself in this position remember that you are in good company and that God’s grace is sufficient for every trial of life.

I was thankful for this reminder. I hope that you are too!

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Apple Chapel?

I confess that I am an Apple nerd. I do not venture very far from home without this....

I also invested in one of these guys several months ago...

I have found the iPad to be the most innovative and useful piece of technology to enter my life since my dad purchased our first PC around 1996. It has quickly become my primary computer. I use it for study, reading, Internet surfing, music, videos, etc. I have even started using it as a.... bible in the pulpit ***insert collective gasp here***. Don't sharpen your pitchforks or light your torches just yet. I am firmly committed to using a KJV bible reader. It is exactly like my regular bible, only electronic.

As much as I like these products and appreciate the convenience that they offer, this reaction might be a tad overboard....


Apple triggers 'religious' reaction in fans' brains, report says By Mark Milian, CNN


May 19, 2011 6:33 p.m. EDT
Filed under: Gaming & Gadgets



At product launches, Apple store employees cheer for the first customers to buy the company's latest gadgets.
 
(CNN) -- Next time Grandma asks why you're going to the mall on Sunday morning instead of church, tell her you're going to Apple Chapel.

For Apple fans, the brand triggers a reaction in the brain that's not unlike that of religious devotees, according to a BBC documentary series that cites neurological research.

The neuroscientists ran a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test on an Apple fanatic and discovered that images of the technology company's gadgets lit up the same parts of the brain as images of a deity do for religious people, the report says.

The first episode of the documentary shows Apple employees "whipped up into some sort of crazy, evangelical frenzy" at the recent opening of an Apple store in London.

Observers and Apple critics have long accused fans of the tech company of taking their infatuation to an extreme.

People have gone to great lengths to prove their love of Apple with tattoos, bumper stickers and home shrines to outmoded Mac computers. Apple's cult-like following was highlighted in a 2009 documentary called "Macheads."

A blog, aptly titled Cult of Mac, wrote on Thursday about Oakland, California, resident Gary Allen's cross-country pilgrimage to Apple's first store in Virginia to celebrate the retail chain's 10th anniversary this week.

In speeches, Pope Benedict XVI has said technology consumption poses a threat to religion and the Roman Catholic church. The holy leader told a Palm Sunday crowd last month that technology cannot replace God.

However, apparently it may inspire god-like devotion.
The full article can be found at: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/gaming.gadgets/05/19/apple.religion/index.html?iref=obnetwork

I could not help but chuckle out loud when I read this article. If you get whipped into an emotional frenzy about any piece of technology, then you might need to reassess your life priorities. It goes to show you that anything can become an idol!

Some questions do come to mind. Is Steve Jobs the Mac cult's messiah or chief priest? Does one have to wear a black long sleeve shirt and blue jeans sans belt to religious gatherings?


Are faithful followers reincarnated into Apple Store, Fifth Avenue Employees?


These are questions that demand an answer! Or perhaps our time is better spent pondering the following:

Mat 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I enjoy the conveniences and information availability that comes with technology. But it is just STUFF. My iPad will likely be rendered obsolete in the next few years. Something bigger and better will come along. The toys that the Apple fanatics go berserk over today will be landfill fodder before the next President is elected. They, and all other earthly treasures will soon pass away.

Perhaps our time/excitement/energy is better spent in treasuring heavenly things... Laboring in the kingdom of God. Helping those in need. Prayer. Studying and meditating on the word of God. Call me a fanatic if you must, but these activities will reap longer term benefits than even this:


Lord help us to keep our priorities straight!

Have a great weekend!