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


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

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!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review - When a Nation Forgets God

***DISCLAIMER - If I read/review a book, it does not necessarily mean that I endorse all actions and beliefs contained therein. I am a big fan of eating the chicken and throwing away the bones. If a particular book is far out in left field, I will note the issues accordingly (or you will likely not see it on this site). ;-)

It is no secret that we are living in a post-modern world has removed God and truth from almost every aspect of society. There are consequences to this decision! This book takes a historical look at Germany before/during WWII and draws some chilling parallels to the current state of our own country.

Here is a quick review of the book:

Bread Over Freedom?

Years ago, a cartoon appeared in a Russian newspaper picturing a fork in the road. One path was labeled freedom; the other path was labeled sausage. As we might guess, the path to freedom had few takers; the path to sausage was crowded with footprints. When given a choice people will choose bread and sausage above the free market and individual liberties. The promise of bread gets votes, even if the bread is at the expense of freedom.

The people of Nazi Germany weren’t any more barbaric, uncivilized, or depraved than any other Western nation of the early Twentieth Century, yet the Nazi regime will forever serve as an example of brutality and extreme racism run amok. What led so many people to such extreme ends?

According to Dr. Lutzer, the German people’s progression from civility to barbarity was not extraordinary, and more than a few benchmarks from their transition can be observed in present day American society (Do any of these sound familiar?):

- The Church is silenced
- The economy is king
- The lawmakers determine behaviors
- The media controls beliefs
- The Gospel and nationalism become inextricably tied to each other
- And yet, heroes still have power

This short, manageable book does not suggest the United States is definitely marching toward authoritarian oblivion, but that we — especially we believers — must be vigilant in our stand for truth, justice, and righteousness.

We must take note of these lessons from history. The parallels are real, but the conclusion is not a foregone one.

My .02:

I do not agree with much of the author's doctrine. He is Arminian in his belief system. Having said that, this book is not about his doctrine. It is a look at a some of the attitudes that permeated the churches of Germany at the time of the rise of Hitler and Nazism, and the lessons that we can learn from their mistakes.

What was particularly interesting to me was the manner in which Germany separated God from government. They did not make church illegal, but they worked intensively to marginalize God and the truth. This was a gradual, yet successful tactic that desensitized the vast majority of the German Christians to the horror of the holocaust and other barbaric practices of the Nazi party. It is shocking to see how quickly people were willing to put aside their previouslt held biblical convictions for national safety and security. Sadly, I believe that this is being replayed in our current society.

Another important parallel is drawn from the Nazi government's insistance that it was the state's resonsibility to train the youth, not the parents. Hitler passed a law that made public education compulasry and banned homeschooling. Darwinian evolution was heavily promoted in public education. Moral relativism was expounded and attitude was preferred over facts. Hitler knew that the key to power was capturing the hearts of the youth. Again, the author makes several chilling comparisons to our modern-day educational system in the US.

There is also a chapter about the use of propoganda. Lutzer also addresses the fact that God (not man) is the ultimate lawgiver. He emphasizes that we are to take a bold stand for the truth in the midst of modern-day misinformation. The warning is clear that if we do not stake a stand for that which is right, then we might find ourselves in the same predicament as Germany of old.

When a Nation Forgets God is not a feel-good read. But it tells a story that we need to hear. There are dire consequences when God's people cease to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. As Americans we are no less succeptable to compromise than the German people. We are not immune to complaceency. The author rightfully states that the preaching of Jesus Christ and firm obedience to the word of God is the answer to such wickedness.

The Bible clearly states that this world is not our home. However, we should be careful to stand upon the promises of God and fight for what is right in the midst of spritiual darkness. This book helped remind me of this important fact and examine several areas of my life that needs improvment in this realm. We might be discouraged about the current state of affairs in our nation, but we must remember that God will bless us when we repent, turn from wickness, and seek his face.  This book very nicely illustrates the truth of Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Accountability Important?

Yes. Yes it is! This morning I read an article about actor/former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his recently discovered (ahem..) indiscretions. His behavior was indeed despicable, but it appears that he has acknowledged this fact and is seeking to make amends with his family. I guess time will tell as far as his sincerity.

This instance of infidelity is only one of many amongst those of wealth and influence. It seems as if there is a new scandal of this nature every week in Hollywood and sports circles. Remember the Tiger Woods fiasco? Why is this so? Perhaps it is because they do not have solid people in their lives to hold them accountable and keep their lives in proper balance. In other words, there is not one person in their inner circle that will/can tell them '"no" or "I don't think that is a very good idea." Is this a byproduct of wealth and fame or is it a willful move on the part of the individual? I am not sure.

Sadly, this pattern is not limited to the rich and famous. I have know of pastors, young people, politicians, etc. that have suffered through similar circumstances. Temptation knocks and we just open the door. Such circumstances play out in our lives every day.

I believe that we see such rampant patterns of such behavior in our society today because of a lack of solid accountability in our lives. Thankfully, many have recognized that we need other people actively involved in our everyday affairs. But many have not and have suffered the consequences of an isolated life. Consider the following:

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

We are not meant to live our lives separated from others. Some have willfully chosen the monastic life to escape sin and temptations. Others, through wealth and fame seem to think that they are above it all. Even we average Joes are susceptible to a fall when we do not allow others to help sharpen us, rebuke/correct us or help us bear the struggles of life. The reality of life is that we all struggle with sin. It ain't pretty. We hate for others to see our weaknesses. But we are ticking time bombs and it is likely a matter of time before we find ourselves in trouble if we do not surround ourselves with folks that are bold enough to be real with us. Even the terminator needed help along his journey :-)

Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Church Killers - Pt. 2

Psst, did your hear about ______________ and what they did with _________________? You will never believe what happened! Did you see what she was wearing? It must be true I heard it from ________________.

As we continue our look at actions that are detrimental to the life of a church, we cannot ignore the destructive power of the tongue. James paints a vivid picture in the following passage:

James 3:6-8 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
The tongue is likened to a wild animal that cannot be tamed. It is also compared to a raging fire that possesses enormous destructive powers. Many of us have been a victim of the deadly influences of this potentially damaging part of our body. Sadly, we have oftentimes been quick to engage our own tongues in negative communications as well.

Gossip has been a particular cancer upon the church for many generations. I have witnessed this baseless practice drive individuals, families and huge groups of people away from the church. So, what constitutes gossip? Simply stated it is any communication about another individual that: 1. you would not say to them directly 2. is not uplifting or edifying. We might not think that such communications are not harmful and even humorous, but the passage above proves otherwise. It is like a raging fire or a wild animal! A thoughtless comment to one person about another individual has the potential to spread/burn  like a wildfire. My experience is that the initial comments can become exaggerated and more slanderous as they pass 'through the grapevine' of gossip and harm many in its wake.
Here are some other scriptural references to consider:
2 Cor 12:20  For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:
Paul feared that the Corinthian church would revert back to worldly behaviors that included backbiting and whisperings, both synonymous with gossip. What was his desire for the church? He wanted them to be built up or edified, not torn down by gossip!
In another passage, Paul lists gossip as a behavior of the Gentiles of old who are in gross rebellion against God. It also significant to note the worthy punishment of those engaging in such behavior
Romans 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Gossip is no laughing matter, especially in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! We must always remember that we are dealing with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Malicious use of the tongue is the antithesis of righteousness and faithfulness. It is nothing more that the product of a corrupt mind that causes hurt, anger, stirs up trouble and fractures relationships among the Lord's people.
So, what is the solution? We would do well to remember granny's advice... If you have nothing nice to say, keep your mouth closed. We do less harm if we exercise extreme caution before we say anything about another individual.
James 1:19-20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
It is an excellent practice before we say anything about another individual to consider whether or not our words are meant to build up or tear down. We should also think about how our words will be perceived by another person. If there is a potential for hurt feelings, then we ought not speak the words to others. Perhaps more good would come from conversing with an individual directly rather than speaking to a third party. If the pattern of Matthew 18 were followed instead of gossip, how many misunderstandings and hurt feelings would be avoided?
Jesus stated that a house divided against itself shall not stand. This is especially true for the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to labor to communicate those things which lead to the building up and strengthening of our fellow saints. Sometimes confrontation is unavoidable. But it should always be done in accordance with scripture and with much love an charity. This will never occur though the malicious use of the tongue and gossip!  God strengthen us to cast away this destructive habit. The life of our local church depends on it!

"Gossip: Something that goes in one ear, out the other and back over the fence." -anonymous

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recovering Sunday

Over the past few Sundays I have been speaking on the importance of being a part of a local body of believers. The significance of being actively involved with the church has been greatly diminished over the past few generations. Much of our culture is so focused on ‘self’ that it no longer views the church as needful. Such comments as, “I can worship God at home just as well” or “organized religion is a relic of the past” are often bandied about. But if we are going to obey God’s word, we cannot deny the requirement to assemble ourselves together with other people of like precious faith.

In light of this truth, we should consider the following verse:

Eph 5:25 - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

This is a marriage verse, right? Sure it is! But don’t miss the second portion of this passage. Namely, that Christ loves the church.

There are a plethora of excuses offered up for quitting church. Some are more valid reasons than others. We are busy. We are tired. We grow complacent. We get offended. Others say/do things that hurt us to our core. So we quit!

I encourage you to put yourself in Jesus’ shoes for a moment. How was/is he treated by his bride he church. Oftentimes we are disobedient, hurtful, adulterous, and inconsiderate to our Heavenly Redeemer. In the eternal sense, it was our sins for which he suffered, bled and died. If anyone ever had a reason to turn his back on the church, it is Jesus. Yet, he loves the church and sacrifices for her. I recently read the following quote that drives this point home:

'On earth she is often in rags and tatters, stained and ugly, despised and persecuted. But one day she will be seen for what she is, nothing less than the bride of Christ, 'free from spots, wrinkles or any other disfigurement,' holy and without blemish, beautiful and glorious. It is to this constructive end that Christ has been working and is continuing to work. The bride does not make herself presentable; it is the bridegroom who labours to beautify her in order to present her to himself.'
Pretty cool huh? We should strive to love the church as Christ does, warts and all. Find a church that adheres to the simple biblical pattern of the NT church. Surround yourself with fellow believers that will love you unconditionally and hold you to the standard of God’s word. Such is needful in the perilous times in which we live. If you have been mistreated by others, give the church another chance. Lord knows, we have been forgiven numerous times. If you are not able to 'bloom where you are planted' do whatever it takes to put yourself in a position to be an active part of the Lord's church. Love it as HE loves it!

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Plastic People

Do you remember G.I. Joe? What red-blooded American male doesn't? I was a child of the 8o's so I am well familiar with the plastic version of this toy icon. My friends and I would spend countless hours waging war on Cobra Commander and his henchmen. Those were good times!

At a young age I also recall being in awe of these muscular little men. They had the coolest gadgets and rode around in awesome vehicles. This was further reinforced by the cartoon that depicted the plastic men in action. They never lost a battle and always made the right call when confronted with difficulty. Who wouldn't want to be like G.I. Joe?

The only problem with these and other plastic men is that they are not real. Countless girls can relate their experiences with plastic women. Many young girls played with Barbie and dreamed of looking and living like her. This cultural icon probably did more damage to a woman's view of a healthy body type than any other instrument in our culture.

The illusion does not end with these childhood toys. We are inundated with unrealistic depictions of physical appearance, body types, lifestyles, family structures through the myriad of media influences of modern day life. In other words, our lives are flooded with plastic people; people that only exist in the fantasy world imaginative play and Madison Avenue.

Sadly, many try to live as plastic people. They go to great lengths to give others the image that they live the life of Barbie and her counterparts.  They devote an inordinate amount of energy to developing a certain body type to live up to the 'worlds' ideal of physical beauty. Much emotional energy is expended in building a certain persona to impress others. We even have children in their early teens electing to undergo plastic surgery to look more like Barbie and her counterparts. Individuals spend money that they don't have in an attempt to achieve the unattainable life of plastic people.

The bottom line is that there are no perfect people, physically or otherwise. Many of our ideas of what is physically attractive or what constitutes success is merely a manufactured ideal of our perverted culture.  As Christians it is imperative that we consult scripture when confronted with such issues.

First, we must understand that there are no perfect people. We are all products of fallen humanity. The first man, Adam was created in the image of God. The bible states that he was created 'very good' as God concluded his work on the sixth day (Genesis 1:31). This was as close to perfection as man could have been. Interestingly enough, we really have no clue about his specific physical appearance.

Unfortunately, Adam would soon disobey the one commandment given to him by God and sin and death would enter into the world. This would drastically affect all aspects of mankind from that point forward (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12). Sin has marred all aspects of mankind. There are no perfect people physically, relationally, socially or otherwise.

Secondly, we should reject the unrealistic, unattainable ideal of plastic people because the world's standard of beauty and success are generally at odds with what is pleasing to God. In fact, Solomon describes such things as vanity. Notice the following scripture:

Ecclesiastes 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

In this book of the Bible, Solomon repeats this sentiment repeatedly. All of the things of this world are ultimately useless (vain) and full of frustration (vexation of spirit). These characteristics are far from the peace of God which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), are they not?

What a relief to know that God is not concerned with one's physical appearance. The Lord's words to Samuel are as relevant to us today as it was thousands of years ago.

1 Samuel 16:7b for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Obedience, not appearance is what is pleasing to the Lord. The thing about plastic people is that they have nothing on the inside. Thus it is with the aforementioned characteristics of the world in the realm of pleasing the Lord. Lets be real and use our unique abilities to the glory of God and for the edification of one another.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review - The Walk

***DISCLAIMER - If I read/review a book, it does not necessarily mean that I endorse all actions and beliefs contained therein. I am a big fan of eating the chicken and throwing away the bones. If a particular book is far out in left field, I will note the issues accordingly (or you will likely not see it on this site). ;-)

Much of my reading time is taken up with materials that pertain to preparing to preach and/or pastoring a church. I try to have a history/historical biography within arms length at all times. I also enjoy how-to/self-help books on occasion. Periodically, I like to pick up something for purely recreational reading. I read this book during spring break and found it to be an extremely engaging read.


"The assumption of time is one of humanity's greatest follies. We tell ourselves that there's always tomorrow, when we can no more predict tomorrow than we can the weather. Procrastination is the thief of dreams."  — Richard Paul Evans (The Walk)

Here is a summary from the book:
This is the first book in The Walk series, a story about the physical and spiritual journey of Alan Christoffersen.

What would you do if you lost everything—your job, your home, and the love of your life—all at the same time? When it happens to Seattle ad executive Alan Christoffersen, he’s tempted by his darkest thoughts. A bottle of pills in his hand and nothing left to live for, he plans to end his misery. Instead, he decides to take a walk. But not any ordinary walk. Taking with him only the barest of essentials, Al leaves behind all that he’s known and heads for the farthest point on his map: Key West, Florida. The people he encounters along the way, and the lessons they share with him, will save his life—and inspire yours.
My .02:

The Walk is written in journal form and follows the physical (and spiritual) journey of a man that is seeking the true meaning of life. This is the first in a series of novels that chronicle Alan's walk across the US after the loss of everything that he loves. I was drawn into the story by the realistic portrayal of the main character. Life can sometimes be nasty and the loss that Alan suffers is indeed tremendous. He is angry with God and even questions his existance. However, God begins to work in Alan's life and the physical journey that he undertakes becomes a symbol of his spiritual walk. I do not want to reveal too many details, but Alan will endure hardships and meet people on his journey that teach him what is truly important in life.

I am a wanna be hiker and the idea of dropping everything and trekking across the US does appeal to my flesh. This particular concept initially piqued my interest in this book. In reality, we cannot run away from our problems. The truth is that God's grace is sufficent to overcome the darkest trials of life, whatever our situation. Alan seems to be learning this lesson as his grief and anger remains a not-too-distant companion throughout his journey.

I do not expect a lot depth in the religious message of this series. There are not any specific Bible references. But it is refreshing to see positive values and spirituality heralded in a popular fictional work. Each of Alan's encounters are entwined with both. I am sure that subsequent novels in the series will continue to elaborate on both. It will be interesting to see how the author further develops this theme.

"As a boy I heard this story in church. A man was patching a pitched roof of a tall building when he began sliding off. As he neared the edge of the roof he prayed, "Save me, Lord, and I'll go to church every Sunday, I'll give up drinking, I'll be the best man this city has ever known." As he finished his prayer, a nail snagged onto his overalls and saved him. The man looked up to the sky and shouted, "Never mind, God. I took care of it myself." How true of us." — Richard Paul Evans (The Walk)

If you are looking for an uplifting and entertaining read, then you might want to give this book a look. If you want any additional info, let me know.

Have a Great Day!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Counting My Blessings!

Couldn't get the pic to rotate :-)

Psa 127:3-5 KJV - Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

After yesterday's heavy post, I think I will use today's entry to count my blessings. The picture above was drawn by my oldest daughter Maggie. First, words cannot express how thankful I am that God has blessed me with such a wonderful wife and five amazing children. None of us are perfect and we all have faults aplenty, but most of our days are spent in love, peace and joy with one another. It also makes my heart happy to know that my daughter (and other children) are happy as well. The LORD is good!

We have heard almost every comment that you can imagine about our larger than normal family. No, we are nor Mormons or Catholic. Yes, we do know what causes that! Yes it is challenging, but I would not trade the life that I have given for anything in the world! Etc., etc., etc. We truly believe that all of our children are special gifts from God!

It is my prayer that families will remember this truth. It is our God-given privilege to have children (whether natural or adopted) and be able to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There will be hard times. All parties involved will have to battle with sin. But remember the words of the Psalmist, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them."

Here are some points to ponder:

Have you thanked God for your family today?
Do you see the challenges of parenthood as a blessing or burden?
Does your view of family/children resemble Scriptural teachings or the world?

Have a wonderful day!!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Church Killers

We are living in a period of general church decline. Many factors can be attributed to dwindling congregations and once flourishing houses of worship closing their doors. Some are out of our hands. However, there are other things that are well within our control. With this in mind I hope to explore attitudes that lend themselves to dividing and possibly causing the death of our beloved churches.

In no particular order, I ask you to consider the first of many attitudes that will kill a church:

1. Forgetting who is in charge

Most of us readily acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the head of the church. Granted, this is easy to say and believe. But experience proves that it is much more difficult to put into practice.

In our family Bible reading we have been reading about the life of King Saul. Here is the story in a nutshell:

Israel wants a king.

God says a king will put you under heavy personal and financial burdens.

Israel rejected the counsel of God. They insist that they want a king like the other nations.

God gives them a King (Saul).

When we first meet Saul, he is the picture of humility. He was everything that Israel wants in a king. He was a dynamic leader who commands respect from those around him. Early in his reign as king of Israel the Lord blessed him mightily. However, as God blessed him he began to think more highly of himself than he should and began to usurp the authority that belonged to God. It started with him impatiently overstepping God's command and offering a burnt offering (1 Sam 13:9). Later, he blatantly disobeys the commandment of God in not utterly destroying everything of the Amalekites. God rejects Saul as king of Israel as a result (1 Sam 15:9-25). Thus begins the downward spiral and ultimate demise of Saul. I believe that the following verse sums up his actions:

1 Sam 15:17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?

Saul was most effective when he acted in humility. Unfortunately, he forgot who was really in charge! This same attitude that Saul exhibited has been replayed numerous times throughout the history of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider the following scenarios:

  • A minister confuses and scatters God's flock because he allows his ego and personal agenda to take precedent over God's word.

  • An individual believes that his longevity at particular place of worship allows him to treat people in any manner that he sees fit.

  • Cliques or large families exert undue influence or leave others out of church activities.

  • Biblical doctrine or practice is compromised for the comfort of the congregants.

  • Disgruntled sheep pointedly and purposely drive off pastors/preachers who preach doctrinal and practical truths.

In all of these situations, you likely have folks that started out with solid intentions. However, they begin to believe their own 'press releases' and think too much of themselves. Sinful pride starts to creep into their lives. No matter how noble their efforts, they quickly forget that the LORD is in charge of his church!

The Lord commands his church to always act in humility. Notice the following passages:

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. -James 4:10

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. -1 Peter 5:5

We have all been in Saul's shoes and have acted in pride. It is my prayer that we will learn from past mistakes and clothe ourselves in humility. The Lord is not pleased with competition for his glory. The growth and existence of our local church could very well depend us considering our attitude!

A Mother in Israel

On Facebook I recently commented that I am thankful for both my natural mother and other mothers in Israel who have been a blessing to me along life's journey. The term 'mother in Israel' is rarely used in our modern vernacular. So what does this phrase mean?

The term is taken directly from the Bible. Specifically, it is a term that the judge of Israel, Deborah used to describe herself (Judges 5:7). What does this title entail and how was she qualified to take this title? While not comprehensive, I offer a few reasons:

First, she was a woman who was willing to actively uphold and defend the cause of the LORD in a time of great apostasy. Apparently, the nation of Israel was in such a state of spiritual decline that there were no men with the fortitude to stand for the righteousness of God. But this woman was unwavering in her defense of the truth. When the enemy threatened hearth and home, she zealously met him in battle.

Second, Deborah was quick to acknowledge that the sovereign God of Heaven was her (and Israel's) deliverer. She understood the timeless truth that the Lord was the source of her strength. Although she occupied a position of great authority, her perspective was never skewed. Judges chapter five is the song that she wrote to chronicle this truth.

Lastly, she inspired others to abandon their lackadaisical attitudes and fight for the cause of the Lord. The other elders and warriors of Israel were seemingly resigned to defeat because of the military superiority of Sisera and his army. This did not deter Deborah. She mustered the warriors of Israel and a great victory was given by the hand of the Lord.

The time that Deborah lived is not unlike our current situation in America. Many of God's people are at best lukewarm in their dedication to the Lord. At worst, they have altogether abandoned the doctrinal truths and moral compass of scripture. We need modern-day mothers in Israel to exhibit a willingness to stand in the gaps and model the characteristics of Deborah of old!

I am thankful for a handful of godly women that were willing to challenge and encourage me to seek the Lords will early in my journey as a disciple of Christ. Their patience and example are still a blessing to me today! I also appreciate those that continue to faithfully encourage and expound unto me the way of God more perfectly.

Sisters, you have an amazing privilege/responsibility/opportunity to serve as a modern-day mother in Israel. Whether in the local church, home, or community you can serve as a godly motivator to many in this day of spiritual decline. Perhaps you might be used of the Lord to encourage a revival in one or more of the previously mentioned areas. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments are replete with ordinary women manifesting extraodinary influence by God's grace. Never sell yourself short as far as your usefulness in the Kingdom of God. Our society needs you to stand up for the truth, acknoweldge God's sovereignty, and motivate others to fight the good fight of faith!

To those that are standing in the gaps and fufilling this role, thank you. The Lord's church will be better off because of your efforts!

I encourage you to re-read Judges 4 & 5 for more information on this incredible woman.