Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Stacey and I brought in the New Year with my sister Rachel and brother in law Ricky at our house. We played a few games of "In a pickle" and "Things..." and had a great time. We drank hot tea and Ricky drank coffee from my new Keurig machine. It was much fun. We turned on the t.v. at 11:57 p.m. to watch the ball drop in N.Y. Then at midnight, I leaned over to my wife and gave her a kiss and wished her a happy new year.
Now its about 12:30 and Ricky and Rachel are gone, the dog is in the garage, and Stacey is asleep and I sit here and ponder on 2008.
Many great things happened this year: Early in 2008 we found out we were going to have our third child! That is rather life changing. Alex, our son, got saved this year! We had a great couple's retreat at church. Our Summer Explosion meetings were tremendous. Two of our young ladies at church got married to terrific young men..and they did it w/out playing the dating game. Can you believe they prayed and focused on becoming what God wanted them to become and God brought them a young man without them having to date 40 guys....amazing isn't it? We had one of our best Mission Conferences at our church. Hope was born in September! I wrote a Christmas play which our church performed this year and it actually turned out o.k. Had a great Christmas and now here I sit wondering what 2009 holds.
All I know is this...I am glad I know Who holds 2009. As I enter this new year I am thankful for the Lord and His leading and working in my life. We have established for our church a theme for 2009 "Victory Through Christ." I truly expect God to give many great victories this year for our church and families.
One great mystery I have never figured out is this...why wouldn't someone want to let God have His way in their life? My best conclusion is this...they are afraid of what He might ask of them, and we are very selfish people and love ourselves dearly.
A verse that has been on my heart this week is 2 Corinthians 14:14:

for I seek not yours but you:


God doesn't want what is mine, He desires me. Isn't that wonderful! The Lord loves me! That is one of the problems with society today. Wives don't want their husband's money, they need their husbands. Children don't want their parent's gifts, they need their parents. Sometimes we are afraid to listen to God because we are afraid of what He might ask of us...tithe, time, children, job, hobby, our sin.
God wants you...a total giving of self to Him. When we get there, the other things will not matter.
So this year I seek to take a fresh look at God's Word and my life. I seek not to do what every other pastor and christian does, but what the Bible says for me to do. I seek to have a closer relationship with the Lord than ever before-knowing that He seeks not what is mine, but me. That truly will make a Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What is Your Goal this Christmas?

"
"He is the Reason for the Season"
"It's CHRISTmas Not Xmas"
"We need to put CHRIST back in Christmas"


I agree...but then again, what do you expect from the world? If the world doesn't care about His death, why should they celebrate His birth? Then again, why are we celebrating His birth? There is no Scripture mandating us celebrating Christmas; but there is Scripture mandating we remember His resurrection...every Sunday on THE LORD's DAY.

STOPPPPPPP....


Some were getting all upset already ready to pounce on me some ripping comment about not celebrating Christmas...I'm not one of those...I celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas. I love remembering the fact that Christ came to this earth and according to Philippians 2, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

I praise God that His Son came and was born and died for me, but wouldn't it be great if every Christian were excited about every Lord's Day(which we are to celebrate) as they are about Christmas (which we aren't told to celebrate)?

So what is your goal this Christmas? To celebrate the Lord's coming? To make memories with family? To get lots of cool stuff? Most Christians are adamant for option "A", but let them compare how much time they shopped with how much time they prayed to thank Him for coming. Let them compare how much time they decorated with how much time they witnessed. Let them compare how many tracts they passed out with how many gifts they wrapped. What's our goal?

There is nothing wrong in taking Christmas time for option "B" either. Family time is precious, and unfortunately, not enough Christians are investing in it. We need to make memories with our children. We need to take the time to hang the ornaments, make the cut out cookies, go see the lights. We need to look forward to Christmas Eve at Papa and Mama's house. We need to wake up at 5 a.m. Christmas morning and wait for the first sounds to come out of our children's bedrooms in anticipation. What's wrong with those things? Christmas can be a great time to build memories and establish traditions. My favorite is remembering my father read the Christmas story every Christmas morning and eating a Christmas breakfast my mom would make. I miss those days; but look forward to next week, when on Thursday morning I will read Luke 2 to my family with the smell of a fresh breakfast filling the house that my wife has prepared for us. I will see wide open-anxious-tired eyes looking at me early that morning-just as I looked 25 years ago at my father. Christmas! I love it.

My goal? To rehearse the story of Christ's birth to my family and to our church; to take the opportunity to share why He came to the lost; to make memories and enjoy the traditions of my family; and maybe...just maybe get something really cool (like a TomTom GPS...in case Stacey reads this).

I love Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Broken Ornament


It's hard to believe Christmas is almost here. I know that for many it is a time of struggling and hard feelings; just keep in mind Who it is all about. Jesus came that we might have joy. I, for one, love this time of the year. I love the fact that I recognize a few songs playing at the store. I love the lights on people's houses. I love the nativity scenes everywhere. I love A Christmas Carol. I love going to our families different homes and mostly always staying home on Christmas Day. I love the "how many more sleeps till Christmas?" question that Grace asks every day. I love putting up the tree. I love wrapping gifts (and I stink at it). I love handing out the presents..."Toooooo mommyyyy from Daddy" I could go on and on. I love the traditions of Christmas.
One tradition we have is buying the kids an ornament each year that represents an event or fascination the child had that year. One day, when our children get married, we will give them their ornaments to put on their tree, as a reminder of their child hood. Above is a picture of Alex this year with his ornaments thus far. What you can't really see is that the second ornament is broken. It is a white ceramic teddy bear, or at least it was. Last December, as we were putting Christmas decorations away, the box with the ornaments fell to the ground. Most damage was minor and affected only the "throw away" ornaments; except Alex's second year ornament-the bear's lower half was shattered...paralyzed for life.
I tried super glue, but it didn't work (on the bear, my fingers-yes). Stacey was a litle upset, but time heals-that is, until you pull out the bear this year. It was a nasty reminder of last year's blunder. The irony is-that is the only ornament we didn't buy. That was a rough financial year and we couldn't afford one. Someone gave Alex that one because they knew he loved teddy bears. Get it? We were "Broke" that year...anyways.
We still put it up on the tree, and we will always do so. It's not hung on the back side of the tree or behind a big branch. It hangs there with all the others in all its glory. Just because it is not what it used to be, doesn't mean it can't still be a testimony and continue to represent what it was designed for. We love the broke ornament...somewhat even more.
In churches like ours-that preach the truth, standards, holiness, sin hatred; at times some people feel "intimidated." They feel they can't possibly be that way and the Devil discourages them or makes them quit. Others, there was in their past a mistake, or an accident, or a sin tragedy that left them broken-not what they used to be. The Devil again lies to them and convinces them that they are not as good as the others and will never fit in-that they should just quit or go to a church that doesn't preach the whole Truth so they will feel more comfortable. Don't listen to the Devil. He is a liar and the father of all lies!
Fact is, if you look at every one of Alex's ornaments close enough...they all have flaws..except the brand new one-but it won't be long for that one either. The ninja turtle's sword broke off and had to be glued. Scooby has no right hand. The tonka truck's ladder is broke and lying on the table. They all have flaws. Thus they all hang on the front of the tree and we love everyone of them.
We love them not because of their perfection, but for who they represent. None of us are perfect, we should strive to be the best we can-but the best of men are still men at best. God loves us, and our church should love us not for our perfection, but for Who it is that we represent. We belong to Christ. You may have a "right hand missing" or have "dropped your Sword." You may have been broken to where you can't do what you once did. You may even have had a tragedy like ornament #2. Don't quit!! Forget not Who you represent and continue to adorn Christ with your life.
1 Peter 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday


The following takes place between 7 and 11 p.m. (28 hours):

My cell phone takes 2 hours to charge completely from a dead battery. When you plug it in, a small little pin sized light will show red until fully charged, when it will then turn green.

7:00 p.m. (Thurs): I arrive at Meijer in Milford, Ohio and await for my sister, Chrystal, to arrive. I take one last glance over adds from the paper. Finally, at 7:15 she arrives. We then sat and talked about where we should go to get in line for some serious shopping. After a small discussion, we left for Toys R Us at Eastgate.

7:30 p.m. (Thurs): We drive through White Castle and get a large pop (we would pay for that later) and 2 white castles each (other in line would pay for that later).

7:33 p.m. (Thurs): We are both very happy.

7:45 p.m. (Thurs): We arrive at Toys R Us expecting to mingle in to a crowd and take our place. Just one thing...there was nobody there! (see above photo)


Amazed that there was no line, we then made our way to an area Best Buy to see if there was a line there. There was! Nearly 50 people were already in line, most of which were in tents. Some said they had been there since 8:00 a.m. that morning...can you imagine getting in line that early? What were they thinking?

8:00 p.m. (Thurs): We arrive back at Toys R Us...still noone is there. We decide to go over adds and make a list while sitting in my van of everything we needed to purchase in the morning. We get started when we are visited by Rick and Rachel. They hop in the van and aid in our planning. Finally, after writing out and counting objectives, it was agreed that our Friday shopping would begin at Toys R Us. After taking a trip to UDF gas station (see large white castle drink reference), Rick and Rachel leave and still no one is at Toys R Us.

8:45 p.m. (Thurs): Not much going on so we decided to follow a car that drove past Toys R Us. After stalking them for a while around the mall, we decided to go back before looking suspicious. Surely someone was there by now.

9:00 p.m. (Thurs): Nope, no one there. We sit in the van and decide to play a game of Phase 10. After totally humiliating Chrystal in phase 10, we decide again to drive around the mall a few times to see if there was any life. There was none, we seemingly were the only people in Ohio foolish enough to be out at the mall area at that time (except Best Buy).

10:00 p.m. (Thurs): There is movement! Finally there is a car that pulls up with 2 teen boys in it. But they stay in their car. We were ready to hop out at any moment and run to our well deserved first place in line, but for now, they stayed in their car. 2 minutes later another car with two more teen boys in it. Then a minute later and man drops off a teen boy who walks up to other teens in their car....what is going on? Chrystal and I are watching, scrutinizing every move. Drug deal maybe? Or were they all after the same thing and were ready to steal our spot in front of the line. From our van we watched until finally they headed towards the door. Our hands trembling with excitement, we were ready to pounce out of the van and run to our claimed place in the line. They stopped and talked again. Chrystal grabs the Toys R Us ad and looks through it. "What would teen boys be after at Toys R Us?" We guessed possible XBox? Or Guitar Hero? PS3? It was then a man in a red shirt with a giraffe comes out and says "Time for work boys!" Ah, they were employees. We settled back in our van seats exhausted from the hustle and bustle and mental activity. What else would this night bring us? We had no idea.

10:30 p.m. (Thurs): Ricky calls and informs us that KB Toys in the mall behind us opened at midnight. We immediately drive to the mall only to find no one in line. We then decided we would come back at midnight and see what KB TOys had and then get in line for Toys R Us. We parked back at Toys R Us and settled in to a game of electronic Scrabble, and again, I destroyed Chrystal at that too.

11:15 p.m. (Thurs): Our game was coming to a close, the van had been turned off for nearly 30 minutes, but then the unthinkable happened. The van, starting behind the steering wheel made an odd sound. The sound traveled from behind the steering wheel to behind the glove compartment. Those 5 seconds we both sat silent watching the sound with our eyes travel from one side of the van to the other. It ended. We looked at each other. "What was that?" I ask. Chrystal pondered and said, "I really don't know...I think the van has gas." To this day, we don't know what the sound was.

11:30 p.m. (Thurs): Our game ends with a Travis victory and we decide to go check out KB toys. We arrive and find 400 people in line outside the mall. We pull up and Chrystal hops out and asks a lady in line: "What all are you in line for?" She replied, "Most of us KB Toys." Now I don't know what the others could have possibly been in line for, but the rest were going to KB. We began to look for a parking place to get in line when Chrystal said, "Wait, when these people get done, where do you think they will go next?" TOYS R US...oh no they don't. We dropped the idea of a KB visit and headed back to our empty Toys R Us parking lot. But first, a visit to White Castle (for bathroom visit only-see above reference large soda).

Midnight (Fri): We arrive at Toys R Us and there is another car there. So far, they stayed in their car, but we were taking no chances, we drove up to the curb and placed our camping chairs in the front of the line to reserve our deserved spot. We then stayed in the van and watched as a second then third then fourth car arrived. We all knew what we were there for, and we all watched one another, but in an unspoken treaty, we stayed in our cars. In what seemed to be a "Cold War esque" hour, we all waited in our warm cars watching and waiting for someone to make the first move.

1 a.m. (Fri): A suzuki pulls in with a lady with a determined look on her face. She parks right next to me and I knew from the look in her eye, she was getting out! "Go Chrystal, Go!" I shouted. Off Chrystal went running (well moving quicker than usual) to our chairs. She sat and we were officially first in line. The other lady did take the number 3 slot and soon cars emptied and by 1:10 a line was formed. I was still in the warm van preparing my coat and hat and things, but I soon arrived and we bundled up and covered up and took our place FIRST IN LINE!!!

1:30 a.m. (Fri): Soon our line was nearly up to 50 and we were freezing. It was then Chrystal made a sound: "Wheeoow" What was it? It was another girl in a skirt. Our immediate thought is always, we must know them; and this time we were right. It was Jordan and Jaelyn Wilson from church. And what was that in their hands? HOT CHOCOLATE! What a blessing the two Wilsons were to our cold innerts, and soon we were all four fellowshipping with hot cocoa. Jordan made fun of us for being out there and said he would soon be home in his nice warm bed. For now, I would take the ridicule, for he was a blessing, he and his cocoa.

1:45 a.m. (Fri): Chrystal leaves and takes another rest room break (see above White castle reference). Jordan agrees to hold her spot in line for her. She soon returned, but Jordan and Jaelyn stay...could it be they are having fun? Could it be it was enjoyable to be out like this? Could it be they were going to stay? Could it be somehow they line jumped in front of 100 people and got away with it? OHHH YEAAH!!

2:30 a.m. (Fri): A lady pulls up in an SUV. Chrystal is standing allowing Jaelyn (who stole her seat...and jacket...and blanket...and my gloves) to sit awhile. The lady jumps out of the SUV to tell her daughter, who is in line behind us, something. Chrystal leans up against the grill of her SUV searching for heat. The owner laughed and said "I don't blame you, I'd probably jump in the car." She did! Well, she did after I told her I would give her $5 to jump in, shut the door and crank the heat up. I am $5 poorer. After her quick warm up, she exits to a thunder of laughter from the people behind us. Was she that desparate for warmth or were our brains numb with coldness? Yes to both.

3:30 a.m. (Fri): David Kohl from the associate press comes up and interviews us and asks if he can take our picture. We agreed. He told us not to look at him, but to sit there and look cold and act like we are tired but having a good time. That wasn't hard to do. After taking 50, yes 50, pictures, he got our name and thanked us. Well, we are in the weekend edition of USA TODAY! Here is the pic he took that is in the paper:

Was that to be our moment of fame for the night? Ohhh no, it had just begun, but it was a good start.
4:30 a.m. (Fri): It was nearing time! We all soon arose from our wintery slumber and obtained a shopping cart. It was then channel 12 news arrived. They were going live and decided to interview us in the front of the line. After answering a few questions off air, they went live and we waved and smiled from the front of the line. It was then my sister said, "Chrystal Snell!" Why? We are not sure, she just wanted everyone on the news to hear her name. Soon the camera was back on and so was my sister's mouth "Chrystal Snell...Chrystal Snell." Soon people in line began chanting, "Chrystal Snell, Chrystal Snell" It was quite the scene. She then began a rumor and passed it down the line, that there was a special gift to all who entered saying the name "Chrystal Snell."
5:00 a.m. (Fri): The doors are about to open. The reporter lady asks us, "What is it you are all after." To which we replied, "A bathroom." The doors flew open and in we went, most behind us saying "Chrystal Snell" to the employee as they entered. he was very confused. The wave of people made browsing impossible, we were pushed through the store grabbing what we needed...but we were first!! Finally I was in the check out line awaiting to check out. The lady from channel 12 then asked if she could interview me live on the news. "Absolutely." (like I would pass that up). She told me not to look at her, but to look ahead and look "busy and dissheveled." (again, no problem). She asked if it was true I was first in line and what was it that I was after. I told her I was first in line with my sister and that I was there for one main reason...to watch all the crazy people. She laughed and finished the interview and again we would be in the world's spotlight (so we assumed).
5:23 a.m. (fri): We are out of Toys R Us and off to location number 2....Walmart! The lines at Toys R Us were bad, but we escaped the damage by being in front of the line. Walmart was a different story. Crowds pushed and pulled us in directions we didn't want to go. Soon I found myself in the greeting card section, stuck, needing not one greeting card. After escaping Walmart (only 1 arrested for taking a lady's camera) we headed off to Kohls.
6:30 a.m.: At Kohls we immediatly engaged in operation Shop. Chrystal got in the check out line while I shopped. I found my things and then got in line where she was while she shopped. (very affective means to save time). Chrystal got a few things, but was not able to get her portable DVD player she was after. Walmart was out of them and Kohls were a little bit more expensive. Finally she returned and we estimated we had about 5 minutes before checking out. I told her I would look for the portable DVD player that maybe someone decided not to get and leave at an odd place in the store. This too happens much and is profitable most times. I soon saw a DVD player sitting on the floor next to two sweaters and a lady's purse. There were three ladies within a clothes rack of the purse and DVD player...that is all I can share of that story.
7:45 a.m.: We find ourselves in Sears where I am after a TomTom GPS for Stacey to buy me for Chritmas. They are out of stock there and I am disappointed. I also am after a vacuum for Stacey for Christmas (She asked for it). I am thankful for the kindness and help of the Trevor Burkle that helped me (ironic isn't it?) but they too were out of the vacuums.
8:15 a.m.: We get my TomTom at HHGregg. I am happy again.
8:45 a.m: We arrive at Target and are able to get a few items. The crowds are lessining and so is our strength.
9:30: Breakfast at CrackerBarrell. Now we are very tired!
11:00 a.m.: I drop off Chrystal back at Meijer to get her car. We load up her stuff and head to our homes. We would meet again at 4 at her house for our Thanksgiving celebration.
Noon (Fri): I arrive at home and check the internet for the 12 news story and the AP picture. I am very excited to see both and call family to share the good news.
12:30 p.m.: I play with the new TomTom a while and then plug in my nearly dead cell phone and lie down. I remember a red pin sized light shining as I went to sleep.
2:00 p.m.: I awaken and still see a red light shining. With a phone not fully recharged and a body the same, I head back out towards Chrystal's house. On the way I pick up some Chinese food (our Thansgiving tradition) and get to her house about 4. We then played a board game and took some pictures of the kids.
7:00 p.m.: I received a phone call that one of our ladies at church had been taken to the hospital. So, in a T-shirt and flight pants I headed toward the hospital. After convincing the nurse that I was a pastor (usually I would change, but my home in an hour away and the hospital is 5 min from Chrystal's house) I finally got to see her and another man in our church.
9:00 p.m. I return to Chrystal's and pick up my family and head towards home. The roads are blurry and for some reason the yellow lines are curvy tonight.
10:00 p.m.: Finally I am home. I get the children in bed and put up some things and sit and think about the day. What a wonderful day it had been.
While I didn't buy alot, the day was a total success. Again, for the third year in a row, I got to see people get in fights, people get arrested, people shoved to the ground. But more importantly I got to make memories for another year. I got to spend time with my sisters and laugh and cut up. We had those around us laughing nearly to tears. In the words of Jordan (who stayed with us until after walmart)"That was the funnest time ever." I promise there are more stories that I will let Chrystal share if she chooses.
So I lay my head on my pillow with a smile on my face. I sure am thankful. Not for stuff or discounts or door buster deals; but for family, and laughs, and the love we can share, and the joy we can share with others. Another great thanksgiving....the little red light blurrs off into the night. Hopefully it and me will be ready and recharged for tomorrow!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Too Accessible?

Titus chapter 1 and First Timothy chapter 3 give the qualifications for a pastor. I believe we have many examples in Scripture of how a pastor should/should not act. Being a pastor now for 4 1/2 years has taught me so much. One thing I keep realizing about myself is how much I do not know. Having said that:

I grew up in a Christian home. My father and mother have always served in full time ministry since the day I took my first breath. My mother has taught school and my father has served as a dean of students for a Baptist college, an assistant pastor, a youth pastor, a principal, a music pastor, and of course pastoring a church. My grandfather has pastored for over 50 years, and my uncle has pastored most of my life time. I have had the privilege of learning much about pastoring before ever walking in those actual shoes.

One thing I couldn't learn then and am working on now is how accessible a pastor should be. While I know a pastor is to love and be given to hospitality (generous to guests), I struggle in finding a balance of how accessible to be.

Neither my grandfather, uncle (at the time of my rearing), nor father while serving as pastors had cell phones, email, facebook, texting and office hours like we have today. I still remember being told "not to answer the phone" at my grandfather's house as he listened to see who was calling by their message on the answering machine. I remember Tuesdays being my grandfather's day off and with the exceptions of funerals, it truly was his day off...no going to church that day, no answering the phone, if cell phones would have been around-it would have been turned off that day. He was, for that 24 hours "inaccessible." Criticize we may, but he has pastored the same church for over 50 years...not many can say that.

Point is, are we too accessible today as pastors? With the exception of sleeping hours (and there are many times that too is broken up), I can estimate that there is probably not 2 hours that ever goes by that a phone call (church, home, cell), text, email, or IM is not coming my way. Are we too accessible?

Now one would argue: what wonderful ways technology has provided that we can build stronger relationships with our flocks. I will not argue and have used such avenues to do just that. I do praise God for technology. I am glad I can call my missionaries, email my missionaries, or text them at any given moment. I get multiple emails each week by my cherished folks at our church, and I love giving counsel, praying with them in their requests, and laughing at their jokes. I think it is wonderful that our young people can send an email to their pastor and know they will get a response. But are we too accessible?

Familiarity brings with it a lack of respect and reverence. People are much more bolder with typed words than spoken. I have received emails with language and criticism contained in them that I know would have not been orally spoken to me much less my father or grandfather. Ladies and girls, who we would never meet alone in our offices are sending texts, emails, or instant messages to our pastors everyday. Slang words, boldness in rebellion, and open criticisms flood the forums, blogs, and community sites on the internet. What happened to respect for God's Word? God's House? and God's Man?

I am careful to post these thoughts for several reasons:
1. I am seeking the proper balance
2. I want to have an open door to all who feel I can be of any Biblical assistance
3. I enjoy hospitality and do not want to cause others to feel they cannot or are not welcome to come to me.
4. I do NOT want to seem like some arrogant man who cannot be touched with the problems of others as this is direct contrast to our Lord's example.

It just seems to me, that in today's world there is a lack of reverence and respect for the pastor. He has become just 'one of the guys.' While it is certain, that even the best of men is still man at best, there is to be an honor and reverence to the position ordained of God. The pastor is to be spending more time praying and ministering of the word than emailing and chatting and IMing and texting and answering his cell phone every 30 minutes. At least my grandfather had the 30 minutes silent while driving to and from church and visits.

What is the answer? Not real sure. And pastors surely can turn off their phones, turn off the computer, and not respond to emails and texts...but then what does the sender think? There are way too many intimate opportunites provided by technology that pastors should beware of. My greatest concern is the lack of respect and honor and open criticism especially from youth that is welcomed via these technologies.

I remember my first day working on staff at Cozaddale Baptist Temple in 1994. I was given a pager (cell phones were not the thing yet), and people could page me with a call back number and I would get off the road and find a pay phone and return their call (sorry about the run-on sentence mom). I felt like I hit the big time...well...did I?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

His Reward

videoSo I do not want to hear about my "girly" voice or any way I am speaking. Those who have children already understand. You talk that way so that you get a response from the baby. It is scientifically proven that babies react to high pitched noises...so keep those comments to yourself.... Anyways, I thought my mom and family and a few others would enjoy getting to see Hope and how she has grown. It really is quite amazing how quickly they grow. Hope is now 6 weeks old and doing well; although she has had a bad cold for the last week (compliments of me...who got it from Ricky Sallee). You will notice in the videos how she waves "Hi" when told to...really she did. (I don't think she knows what she is doing though.) She is trying her best to talk, but the "coo's" are all she is getting out. The funniest part is when I am trying to get her to say "I love you" when I know she can't, but Alex in the back ground is overwhelmed and starts to mutter the words himself...very funny. Grace almost makes it through 2 videos without being seen or heard, but she finally gives in. How I thank God for our children. Stacey grew up as a only child and when she was pregnant with Grace she once asked me "How can you love another child the same?" I couldn't explain it, but we both enjoy it. Now we have three blessings. Bible says in Psalm 127:3 "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward" No, we are not the perfect family. No, we are not the perfect parents. No, our children don't always act perfect; but I wouldn't change a thing. I love practicing Alex's multiplication tables and sitting at Grace's tea party. I love beating Alex at a game and letting Grace win Go Fish. I love watching Alex ride the riding mower and Grace give Snickers a treat. I love how Alex thinks there is a dessert with every meal and how "full" he is before he asks for that dessert. I love how Grace is already counting the sleeps until Christmas and tells her neighbors why Bratz are evil. I love hearing both of them say "Afraid of Obama, don't trust McCain, Chuck Baldwin for President." And I look forward to sharing and making more memories with Hope as well.
videoI still get sick when I hear young people speak of how they "don't want any kids." I believe that is what is meant in Romans 1:31, "Without Natural affection." I couldn't imagine life without our children. We live in a world today and unfortunately our churches the same, where parents are trying to always dump off their kids. They enroll them in every activity under the sun, they ask before church activities "do we have to bring the kids?" While I understand and enjoy a "time away" occassionaly myself, we ought to have a desire to keep our children close, to spend time with them, to get their hearts. Have you ever noticed the silence when the kids are away? For a few minutes its awesome...then...loneliness. My past few trips out of town and out of country both brought a great hurt in my soul being away from the children. How you miss them so badly and a conversation on a phone just makes it a little worse. Recently Grace learned my cell phone number. While Stacey tries to monitor this, occassionaly durring the day Grace finds a way to call daddy...wouldn't trade it for the world.

If God has blessed you with a child or children, spend some time this weekend with them. Listen to them, talk to them, play with them. Children are a reward from the Lord, and I am so thankful for my His rewards to me!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Churchopia

In 1516, Sir Thomas More wrote a fictional book about an island in the Atlantic Ocean that was home to a perfect society. The book was entitled Utopia.

Today, the term Utopia is used as a metaphor for a perfect place or situation. This week, I sit back and imagine a Churchopia...a church where everything is done exactly how the Bible says it should be done. Here are a few random thoughts to think about and I welcome other ideas for a New Testament Churchopia (remembering our new rules...this is not a place for brawling or fighting, just Truth. If you want to differ and argue, make your own blog and go at it). Anyways...a New Testament Churchopia....

1. In the Church Everyone Loves God.
Of course because of that love, everyone keeps His commandments (John 14:15), everyone lives HOly, everyone tithes, everyone gives an offering (there would never be a need), everyone is surrendered to do what He wants them to do, everyone keeps themselves from sin (2 Cor. 5:14). We love God, so we give, we serve, we love others (Jn. 13:35). Wouldn't it be wonderful?
2. Churches sent out their own missionaries.
There would be no need of para church mission boards or clearing houses. And the missionaries would be sent out and fully supported by their church. No deputation, no time lost on the field due to traveling all across the country. While it is Scriptural for churches to send gifts to other missionaries, I see from Scripture that it was the church that sent the missionary out under their authority.
3. Children would be in the services not constantly pulled away from parents.
We complain that our families are falling apart and our churches need to share some blame in it. We come to church as a family and dad goes to his class, mom to hers, the children to theirs for Sunday School (is Sunday School a mandate in Scripture?). Then Dad and Mom go to the service while kid 1 and kid 2 go to their jr. church. Then we have Master Club/Awana/Patch for them to go to at our midweek. Then of course there is Teen class and teen church for the teens. Then there is a youth activity the first Friday, a kids activity the next Friday, a young adult activity the next Friday, and don't forget about school. Our Christian school keeps our kids 7 hours a day per week from parents, then 8 hours a week for sports practice, and 5 hours a week for games, and choir practice and visitations and bus and nursing home. STOP!!! Now none of those things are in themselves wrong, but in Churchopia, our families are not constantly being torn apart from each other. In the words of Dr. Bob Jones Sr, "Duties Never Conflict." When Paul wrote his epistles to the churches, he expected the children to be in those services, he addressed them even: "Children, Obey your parents in the Lord." (Eph. 6:1) (Col. 3:20).
4. Every church practiced Church Discipline.
It is Scriptural (Gal. 6:1; 1 TIm. 5:20; Titus 3:10; Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5). Can you imagine the changes it would make in our lives?
5. Everyone at Churchopia would be actively involved in the ministry.
God set the members in the church and uses the body as an illustration. Every part of the body (church) has a purpose and needs to be working or the body suffers. At Churchopia the body would be in perfect working health.
6. At Churchopia the color of the carpet wouldn't matter.
Wouldn't it be great? Carpet, paint, order of service, furniture, flowers, they really don't matter, because that is not what it is all about!
7. At Churchopia everybody looks forward to the preaching.
Its the highlight and purpose we are gathered. Everyone has their Bibles, they are actually open to the reference, a pen and notebook are taking notes, the topic is studied and proved over the week, and no one is sleeping or looking out the windows. And the sermon is always too short!!!
8. At Churchopia everyone agrees on the music.
It is to be holy, sacred, and uplifting to Christ. It consists of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and there is no one with 18 piercings and nose rings leading it and the songs don't cause a sudden urge to thrust a hip. Its wonderful!
9. At Churchopia there is no need for campaigns and incentives.
Everyone had someone with them at church because we were constantly working at it throughout every week!
10. At Churchopia the pastor loves his people and serves them.
The thought of being a dictator and master over people is far from Churchopia. The pastor is there to serve, and the people respond with a love and respect to that leadership and provide for that pastor.

Churchopia. I've said many times if I could find a perfect church I wouldn't join it because I would mess it up. Churches are made up of imperfect people like me and you, but that does not release us from striving to be the most Scripturally sound church we can possibly be. I write this some in jest, but at the same time what a difference our world would see if I, every pastor, every church member strove just to do what Scriptures say we should do. A pastor friend of mine said recently: "There are many areas we could debate as being right and wrong; but if we all just did what we know clearly to be right, we wouldn't have time to worry about the 'gray' areas." Yeah, Verily!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Being Judgmental

I truly have been re evaluating the whole "blog" thing. Reason being I have watched as some blog sites have become a place of gossip. Some have become a preachers excuse to vent. Some have become a way to become a brawler and a striker without the repercussions. I even made the comment to another preacher that I liked it because it got people fired up. I was wrong in saying that. So I wrote a little light heartedly the last few weeks as I evaluated my purpose.

I have thus decided that the purpose for my blog is to keep others up to date on family events and to teach Truth because I am a preacher and have an obligation to do so. Thus our topic this week is Judging. I write this because a few people have asked me what is "being judgmental." I write this to answer their question...not to get people upset...not to pick a fight with anyone...not to get 20 comments on why I am wrong. I am right on this because it is based on Scripture. Thus we begin...

"Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged"
"God says to Forgive everyone whether they ask for it or not"
"It's Not our PLace to Judge"
"You are Judgmental!"
"Why can you pick and Choose which sins to jugde"

And the list goes on and on and on and on. Many excuses are shared, but none are legit. The cry is "We shouldn't judge." Well then, don't vote this election because you have judged. Don't pick a magazine over another. Don't tell that child not to put the fork in the light socket. Don't you stop that guy in black and a mask from entering your back door at 3 a.m. You don't know his heart. He may be coming to pray for your household or did you judge him by his clothes? Point is we all judge...everyday...and well we should.

Scripture tells us the following....
Luke 7:43 "Thou hast rightly judged"
Luke 12:57 "Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?"
John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
1 Cor. 10:15 "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say"
1 Cor. 2:15 "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man."
Romans 16:17 "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets" Hard to do without judging them.
"From such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5). "Withdraw yourselves." (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." (Ephesians 5:11)
"ABHOR THAT WHICH IS EVIL; CLEAVE TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD." (Romans 12:9)
"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try (test, judge) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). "

It is most difficult to obey these Biblical mandates without 'judging.' You see it is our Biblical responsibility to judge. Not with the attitude of being critical of those who do not share your opinions, but rather to encouragin their spiritual upbringing. We are to judge on matters of Biblical doctrine and morals.

We are not to judge preferences (Romans chapter 14; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33; and Colossians 2:16-17.) We are not to judge motives (1 Cor. 4:1-5). We are not to judge whether a soul is saved (2 Tim. 2:19). But Scripture teaches us that there are things we are to judge.

We are to judge false propthets by the standard of the WOrd of God. We are to judge those causing divisions and offenses in the church. We are to judge immoral living (1 Cor. 5) We are to judge disputes between Christians concerning things that pertain to this life (1 Cor. 6:3). We are to judge to keep the purity of the church. The churches that will constitue the Bride of Christ will be presented one day before God as without blemish spotfree and wrinklefree. We are to judge to keep the spots and blemmishes out. Such things are found in 2 Peter 2:13-22: Rioting, adultery, those that cannot cease from sin; those who beguile unstable souls, covetous practices, cursed children, the way of Balaam. These things must be judged Scripturally.

Then comes the argument "well no one is perfect so you need to judge everybody else." True. The only ones who get upset are those who will not cease from sinning which is who Peter is talking about. Those who are told they are wrong, but they will not change.

Then comes the favorite argument: "Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Sounds convicting doesn't it? If we take a verse or part of a verse out of its context, we can make the Word of God pretty much teach whatever we want. Let's look at the verse in context. "Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold,a beam is in thine own eye? Thou HYPOCRITE, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

You see, Matt. 7:1-5 is addressed to a hypocrite, not to a person who truly wishes to discern between right and wrong in accordance to God's Word. This is a warning against hypocritical judgment. Matter of the fact, this Scripture again endorses Scriptural judging in that "then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother's eye."

Fact is we all ought to judge ourselves (1 Cor. 13:5). What a change would take place if we would judge our own faults as much as we did the faults of others, but the fact is we should judge people after ourselves.

"PASTOR BURKE, YOU ARE JUDGMENTAL." YUP.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nice Shirt!


Recently on another website my picture was posted holding our baby wearing this Orange-pumpkin-rust colored shirt. The shirt brought many comments and discussions which were quite humorous and fun to participate in…but that got me thinking. There is much to be learned about a person just by their shirt.


There are groups that only wear white shirts…
There are groups that only wear white or just slightly blue/gray shirts…
There are groups that wear white, light, or black shirts…
There are groups that wear white, light, black, or blue shirts…
There are groups that wear white, light, black, blue, or manly colored shirts…
There are groups that wear white, light, black, blue, manly colored, or purple shirts…
There are groups that wear white, light, black, blue, manly colored, purple, or pink or lavender shirts….
There are groups that don’t wear shirts….
There are groups that wear muscle shirts…
There are groups that wear ripped shirts…
There are groups that wear three shirts at a time all with different sleeve length…
There are groups that wear un-tucked shirts….
There are groups that wear skin tight shirts….
There are groups that wear cartoon shirts…
There are groups that wear ‘skater shirts’….
There are groups that wear, well, you get the idea.

Each group says something. Here play the game….Match the shirt to the dude:
“I go to Mid-western Baptist College”
“I am going to lead my praise and worship team.”
“I go to Tennessee Temple”
“I go to West Cincinnati Community church”
“I go Where I please when I want!”
“I don’t want to go anywhere, because Pokemon is coming on.”
“I am leaving, but I’ll be baaack.”
“Whut? whatever, I don’t feel like going.”
“Dude, I’m going somewhere awesome, you wanna hang with me?”
“I go to Cozaddale Baptist Temple”
“I’m not sure where I am going, let me ask Rick Warren”
“Let’s roll and leave this joint.”
“I am going somewhere looking good!”
“I am to be at the office at 4 sharp!”
“I’m Out!”

Have fun!

Point is, like it or not. Your clothes say it all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Papa Hudson


What a very busy week this last week has been with the adjusting still to a newborn in the home, missions conference going on at church, teaching in the academy and college, and the “care of the church” that is daily. I finally sat down today to begin writing a post for the blog. It was then I received a phone call.

Apparently my grandfather, Travis Hudson, is not doing well. His health is failing him. I had my “idea” for my blog for this week, but I will save it for another time as I wish to just write a little about my grandfather.

Proverbs 13:20-22 reads, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repayed. A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”

These verses, I believe, epitomize my grandfather….

Born to family in the hollars of Hazard, Kentucky, my grandfather was raised to be a country boy. I have sat and enjoyed hours of stories of how my grandfather grew up with frogs, sling shots, snakes, swinging bridges, craw dads and creeks. After getting saved, my grandfather realized the call of God upon His life to preach. He then, with a purpose to please the Lord with His life, sought the Lord’s direction for Him.

In 1949, a small mission work, the West Moraine Baptist Mission, called as its pastor Travis Hudson. Many souls saved later, many stories of the power of God later, many miracles and testimonies of God’s grace later…my grandfather continues to this day to be co-pastor of the Moraine Heights Baptist Church. 59 years preaching and pastoring at the same church…what an example.

My grandfather has given to me so many ensamples from which to pattern my life. Nearly every Tuesday, while growing up, I went fishing with my grandfather. He not only taught me how to fish, but he showed me how to live. Honestly, friendly, with conviction he walked his life. I have never met a greater soul winner than my grandfather. Nearly everyone we ever came in contact with, he always brought the conversation to the Lord and faith in Him.

Now I know that everyone is a sinner, and this includes my grandfather; but I have never seen or known of my grandfather ever sinning. I know he has, but with all honesty I never have seen it. He practices what he preaches. I grew up a member of his church, and any good traits I may have as a pastor I learned from him who also taught my father.

As a pastor, he loved people. Nearly every pastor says the same (as do I), but in him something is different. He loves and they love him. That to me is a sign of genuine love, for concerning Christ “We love him because He first loved us.” My grandfather did things the old fashion way. He loved people, he spent time with people, he prayed for his people countless hours, he wept with and for people, he sacrificed for people, he preached standards and holiness in dress and music and life, he spent and continues to spend hours knocking doors inviting folks to church and more importantly to Christ.

Recently I went up to see my grandfather and he wanted to show me something at his church. When we got in the car, there were VBS flyers in the seat. He had been out passing them out inviting children to ride the bus to VBS….he is 80, can not read what is printed on those papers, and doesn’t have the strength he once had...but he doesn’t quit.

My grandfather was always thinking…thinking of ways to get people revived and excited about the Lord. Some ideas were gems, some we will leave at ideas…but he believed in them all and never quit.

He has been stubborn in his thinking. If he is right, he is right. When it is based on the Book, you stand for it. I have never been to his house that he has not shared with me what he has been studying the Bible. I went yesterday to his house so he could see Hope and Alex and Grace could see Papa and Mama Hudson. He shared with me yesterday how he had been studying that before most great men in the Bible died, they gathered their children and grandchildren around them and prayed for God’s blessing, prospering, protection, guidance, and deliverance. He told me and my sister that he desired for us to come back soon and allow him to have that prayer with us. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

He has been my counselor since becoming a pastor. There have been many times I have gone to him and ask him how to handle a matter when Scripture was somewhat silent on it. His counsel has been “You never help people do wrong, but you always help people do right.” This counsel has been precious to me and perfect for so many situations.

I cannot begin to write about the times of prayer we have shared. Be them in his living room, in his office at work, or around a table before a meal; I never have prayed with a man withs such compassion and broken heart. Those are powerful prayers. I have never heard anyone pray for the salvation of souls like my grandfather. Tears running down a wrinkled face is only the beginning. His prayers come from a broken and humble heart...how I desire that heart.

He has been wise with his finances and able to help others and family when in need. The Lord has unusually blessed him in this wisdom. Why? Our text reveals that answer: Proverbs 13:20-22 reads, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repayed. A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”

With always a joke, with always a word of counsel, with always a smile on his worn and tired face…there is a man I call Papa. A man I love and thank God for. A man I owe my ministry to. A man of God, the old fashion type… the real ones.

“The person who did the finding did the rejoicing.” –Travis Hudson

No wonder he has such joy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Be Ye Holy

Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
1 Peter 1:16


This week while sitting and watching and loving our brand new little Hope, I have been thinking. I have had lots of time to think while sitting up in the night. What have I been thinking about? Glad you ask! Holiness.

Our Lord desires for us to be holy. The word holy is translated from the same Hebrew and Greek words that we also read in our Bibles as sanctify and saint. These terms mean to be set apart for special service or to be set apart for God. Upon salvation, we are eternally sanctified in our position before God. We are declared justified...Holy! How is this? It is because the saved are placed in Christ and we are seen by a holy God as one of His children...Holy! We are in this state not because we have been good or good enough, but because of the finished work of Jesus Christ and our faith in Him.

Then, there is a practical holiness that we are to show in our daily living, of which I am focussing on in this reading. Once we are saved, we should be living a holy life.
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Cor. 7:1


This text teaches us that one can NOT live holy until he is first declared holy eternally through salvation and their trusting in Christ. But, having received that promise, we then should strive to live a holy life. The text reads, "perfecting holiness." That word perfecting means to complete, accomplish, to take upon oneself, maturing. Thus, every saved person should strive to live a Holy life! So what is holy living?

Being raised in a Baptist church, I have heard all my life that we need to live Holy! So what is Holy living? It has been preached from the beginning. It is taught throughout God's Word. It is thundered from our independent fundamental Baptist pulpits...so what is Holy living?

I set out to ask some Baptist preachers, teachers, and students. My question was, "We are to be holy, so what is holiness?" Their responses were...

Perfect like God.

Sinless or a sacredness in a Heavenly sense

Striving toward behaving according to God's plan for us to live

Spot Free

The Absence of Ungodliness

Adopting the characteristics and attitudes of God


There were many other answers, but this gives one the idea. With only one exception, every person asked started their answer with these words, "That is a good question, I'm not sure." If we are to be living holy, if it has been taught since Eden, preached throughout God's Word, and thundered from pulpits today, shouldn't we understand what holiness is? I believe the true answer is, most do not trully understand holiness!

In no way am I going to claim to have figured out holiness, but I will say that I have been thinking about it.
We Know Holiness is not participating in homosexuality; but "christians" laugh at jokes about it.
We know holiness is not drinking liquor; but "christians" see it passed down the aisle at a baseball game.
We know holiness is not listening to AC/DC; but we pay money to sit in a basketball arena to have our ears pounded with the same songs.
We know holiness is dressing to cover our nakedness; but we go to the football game where the cheer leaders dance and get us to cheer on our team.
We know holiness is not using the Lord's name in vain; but we pay money each month to have cable television brought into our homes using those same words.
We know holiness is not going to the movie house; but can't wait to purchase the DVD as soon as it comes out.
We know holiness is not to murder; but we love CSI.
We know holiness is "Psalms and Hymns and SPiritual Songs;" but we sure like our country love song.
Get the idea? No wonder our children are confused!

My thoughts....
1. Holiness is a perfecting or maturing. We SHOULD, MUST, and EXPECT to be more holy every day. There are so many areas in my life where God is working on me. So many things I used to do that I would not do now and think is wrong now. There are things I do now, that probably will not be able to do next year. Why is that? People say its because I think I am better than them or that I am putting on a show because I really am not that way. No my friend, I am perfecting holiness. The first song my sister and I sang in church was "He's still working on Me," and it is more true today than ever before. The point is, if you cannot see a progression in holiness in your life, there is something wrong. We should be perfecting holiness.
2. God is holy. He is the definition of Holiness. "For I am Holy" He said.
3. We will probably, because of our flesh, never truly understand holiness until we get to Heaven. When Isaiah saw the Lord in chapter 6, his first words were "Holy, Holy, Holy". When we see God, we then will truly understand holiness.

We must strive to be holy and should be able to see a progession in our walk of holiness. I enjoy going to the Cincinnati Reds Game. I love college basketball, etc. Can we do these things and be holy?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hope has Arrived!


Lets take a break from all the debating and opinion sharing and celebrate a birth. On September 20, 2008 at 10:34 a.m. my wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl who we named Hope Anne Burke (Anne with an "e"...some of you will understand that). Hope was announced to be 7lbs. 8oz. and 21 1/4 inches long. Praise the Lord that mom and baby are doing well so far.
Hope of course has the day/night thing switched around so far. We are praying for a quick change of opinion in that from her. She is loved by her brother Alex and sister Grace. I know there will be some adjusting time, but am confident she will fit right in.
Snickers, our choc. lab, is very uneasy about the new addition to the family. He has smelled her alot and barked at her once. Stacey got nervous when he carried in one of Grace's dolls by the head. Needless to say, Snickers is spending all his time outside.
Both sets of grandparents were able to be there when she was born, and for that we are very grateful. We will miss Papa and Mama Joey (Burke...they were named Joey after their dog by a baby Alex and it stuck), but know they will be around as much as possible. Papa and Mama Napier are already working on spoiling the new one. Luckily she doesn't realize it yet.
One can never see the miracle of birth and not praise a wondeful God. We thank God this week for the arrival and blessin of our Hope.
Sorry it is a short post this week...but I am beat and need to go take a nap!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah Palin

On August 29, 2008, Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain announced that his choice for Vice Presidential running mate was Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. Amidst a crowd of excited Republicans on September 3, 2008, Mrs. Sarah Palin accepted the nomination for Vice Presidential candidate. The crowd roared with excitement, and by my opinion, she made an excellent speech…perfect for the situation.

I am so glad Sarah Palin is against abortion. I am so glad Sarah Palin knows how to cut an overspending governmental budget. I am so glad Sarah Palin sold the governor’s jet on ebay to cut spending. I am so glad Sarah Palin holds that marriage is only for a man and a woman. I am so glad that Sarah Palin seeks to deny benefits to homosexual couples. I am so glad Sarah Palin encourages small business growth by reducing business taxes. I am so glad Sarah Palin is strong against crime. I am so glad that Sarah Palin desires that public schools teach Creationism along side of evolution. I am so glad Sarah Palin supports private schools and home schooling. I am so glad Sarah Palin believes “Under God” should still be in our pledge of allegiance. I am so glad Sarah Palin seeks that our nation provide more of its own oil resources. I am so glad Sarah Palin seeks to be a friend of special need children. I am so glad Sarah Palin supports the right to bear arms and seeks to protect that right. I am so glad Sarah Palin believes health care should be ‘market and business driven.’ I am so glad Sarah Palin supports our troops and homeland security. I am so glad Sarah Palin said “The Bible has profoundly influenced America.” I am so glad Sarah Palin seeks to cut taxes and not increase them.

Then again, I could say all the same about my wife (except the selling the jet thing)…she stands for the same things. Difference is, she is at home being “discreet, chaste, keeper(s) at home, good, obedient to their (her) own husband(s), that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Titus 2:5. The “( )” added by me to make the sentence make more sense.

The reason I write this is not to influence anyone on how to vote, but to express my concern for my nation. It is no secret that the “lesser of two evils” mentality was there amongst our stripe when talking about the 2008 election. Now, with the introduction of Sarah Palin, I hear so much excitement about someone who “believes like we do” from folks I love and respect in the ministry. While I do appreciate what she believes in, I find it disheartening where our nation is today. Isaiah 3 speaks about the chastening of the Lord upon a nation that turns it back on Him. Part of that punishment is that the Lord will remove male leadership (vs. 1-3) and according to verse 12 “Children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.”

Then I was thrown the excuse that Deborah was a lady used of God in a leadership position. I would remind friends of the deplorable state Israel was in at that time. Again, we see that as a nation turned its back on God, punishment followed and in this case again a woman was in leadership. Just because things happened in the Bible does not mean that it was what God intends for His people. Israel worshipped Baal, the people threw their children into the fire, David committed adultery, Solomon had many wives, Peter cursed. That doesn’t mean it was right for us to do. The story of Deborah exactly backs up my point.

Again, I am not suggesting who to vote for. I am not saying Sarah Palin is a tool of the Devil. I am just saying that for us as Christians we should be able to look around us and see events like the naming of Sarah Palin and fall to our knees. Our nation is in trouble. Sin is rampant. The God-ordained leadership is being removed. We must, as God’s people, humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways; then God will hear from heaven, and will forgive our sin, and will heal our land.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Soon Arival!!

The last few days have been filled with anxiousness, excitement, and much work and preparation.  Just this past week, our doctor informed us that my wife will probably give birth in the next few days.  When I received that news, I was in Michigan.  I immediately left towards home.  I called my parents and they too immediately left Kansas and headed home.  The last few hours have been filled with packing bags, cleaning house, stocking supplies, and waiting.  Every few hours I call and check up on my wife.  I dare not stray too far from home.  I wake up each morning with an amazement that I have another day.  The signs are there, the preparations made, the excitement real…just looking and waiting for the event.

 

As I sat today and pondered this thought, I was ashamed.  My life these past 9 months has been in preparation for the arrival of this child, and now we are about there and there are not enough hours in a day, there is so much anticipation, my every thought is “this could be the hour!”  How much more should that be our every day as Christians?

 

Our Lord has promised His coming!  Our Lord has given us signs to watch for…we are there!  We should be spending our every day in preparation for that coming.  We should be cleaning house, busily preparing, staying close to our Lord and His church, and every day we should remind ourselves, “this could be the hour.” 

 

We get so busy in our lives that we forget sometimes that He could return today!  This could be the hour!  Every time my phone rings, the reality hits again, that that could be my wife and it could be now!  Every time you pick up the newspaper or turn on the news, you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; you will hear of famine and diseases; you will hear of earthquakes and pestilences; you will hear of sodomy and sin abounding; you will hear Russia and her aggression; you will hear of cries for peace from around the world….we should be reminded of the reality that He could come now!

 

Friend, are you ready for His arrival?  Do you know Christ as your Saviour?  We need…got to go, my phone is ringing!

Monday, September 1, 2008

I Go to Prepare a Place for You

In John chapter 13 we read about the Lord knowing that it was time for His departure from this word. Verse one reads, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father,”. Jesus told His disciples that it was time for His departure from them. As expected, the disciples were crushed at the news. Peter wanted to follow wherever it was that Jesus was departing to, but Jesus answered him in verse 36, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards.” The disciple’s hearts were greatly troubled. It was then our Lord told them, (14:1-3) “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
This passage of Scripture has been preached upon countless times (as well it should). Jesus encouraged the heart of His disciples with these powerful words, and these same words have encouraged the hearts of countless saints since in times of heartache, loss, and despair.
We all have heard sermons preached on this topic and especially the “I go to prepare a place for you…” I believe, because of our sensual materialistic flesh, we make the focus of this verse the MANSIONS. We are strong to preach that we do not have a “room” prepared for us, but a Mansion (AMEN to that). We use the ‘easy amen gett’r “If our Lord created the universe and all that is in it in 6 days, think of how great our mansions are going to be if He has been preparing them for 2,000 years (admit it…you have ‘amen’ed that J). Problem is, it is not Scriptural. Before our Lord said, “I go to prepare a place for you,” He said “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Problem is, the mansions were already there!!
So that brings us to question, what was to be prepared? Heaven was already there. The mansions were already there. The golden street was already there. So what was to be prepared? I believe the answer to that was also given by our Lord to the disciples in “that where I am, there ye may be also.” Jesus wasn’t there.
Now before you get all super spiritual on me, I know Jesus is omnipresent, but Heaven was not prepared at this time. You see, our Lord knew He had to still go to a cross, He still was to shed His blood for you and I. Following His death, He would descend to Paradise, lead the Old Testament saints from Paradise with His blood toward Heaven. Upon entering Heaven, He would present the BLOOD as payment for all mankind’s sin before a Holy God. We would be declared Justified! NOW, a place was prepared.
That is why in chapter 13, Jesus told Peter that “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me NOW.” But afterwards…after He would die upon a cross, after He would resurrect, after He would present His blood before a holy God, after our sin debt was declared JUSTIFIED….NOW we can follow Him, NOW a place is prepared, NOW we can go to Heaven!!
Heaven is not a mansion or a street of gold; Heaven is an eternity with God and His Son Jesus Christ. The disciples heart was encouraged not in the fact that there were mansions, but in the “where I am, there ye may be also.” We focus on the materialism too much! Praise God His Son prepared a place, through His sacrifice and shedding of blood, so that we might forever live with Him!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grace-based or Truth-based Church?

Recently our church was accused as not being a “grace-based church.” I received the ‘criticism’ as kindly as I could and have spent much time reflecting on the statement. My grandfather once said, “If someone criticizes you, think and examine before you react.” I have tried to do so the past few weeks.
First, I want to thank that person for causing me to study and pray and seek out in God’s Word the concept of being “grace-based.” I have prayed and studied God’s Word concerning the topic and asked the Lord to ‘open my eyes’ to the truth and to be willing to follow the truth no matter what. God, as He always does, opened my eyes and taught me ‘wondrous things out of thy law.’ I will also take this time to recommend a book to read on the matter by Pastor Mike Allison (http://www.madisonbaptist.com/) entitled, Who is the Lord?
What is grace-based? Do a google search on “grace-based” and you will get the idea. There are grace-based churches, grace-based schools, books and teachings on grace-based parenting, etc. To what I have read and understood, those who seek to be ‘grace-based’ hold to the following: A “Biblical” belief of how to treat others, self, and our children (in parenting) based upon the “grace” of our Lord and His treatment of us.
Now, I am sure that those who believe such thoughts would have a better definition than that, but I also think that each one would agree that my synopsis is correct as well.
You will notice I placed “Biblical” and “grace” in parenthesis as I do not fully agree with their way of thought. I will give an example: If one is a thief, we should not judge them or condemn them, but love them and accept them as Jesus did the thief Zacchaeus. Thus, we have grace-based theology and practice. Jesus “didn’t judge Zacchaeus, He loved and accepted him and he was won by that love and lack of legalistic judgment and great showing of grace.” Sounds good doesn’t it? Of course to this crowd things like standards and practicing church discipline is ‘ludicrous.’ (as it was put to me last week by a separate critic). After much prayer, I make the following response:

John 1:14 says that Jesus Christ was “full of grace and truth,” and verse 17 reads “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” To many people, the terms ‘grace and truth’ do not go together. We love the Truth and we love Grace, but we rarely use the two terms together; yet Scripture does repeatedly. 2 Peter 3:18 says that as a believer I am to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge (truth) of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…” Grace and Truth. Colossians 1:5-6 teaches that grace comes from hearing the truth. We all know what grace is: getting what we do not deserve (example Heaven). We all know what truth is: Truth is the Lord Jesus (John 14:6) and Thy Word is Truth (John 17:17).
Facts are: You can have truth without grace, you cannot have grace without truth, and you can only have as much grace as you have truth. Let me expound…You can have truth without grace. If God wanted to, He could have not given grace to us and still been perfectly righteous, holy, and true. You can have truth without grace. You cannot have grace without truth. Truth exposes us for what we truly are. It was truth that told us we were lost. It was truth that told me I was a sinner and condemned me(Rom. 7:7). Why? Galatians 3:24 tells me, “Wherefore the law (truth) was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” When I was given truth (I am lost), then I could receive grace! Amen! That is how any of us got saved, by being shown we are sinners and lost (truth) but we could be saved by grace through faith! Then, I can say, you can only have as much grace as you have truth. As we grow in the truth, we grow in grace.
Now let me bring it home…when we are accused of not being a grace-based church, it is because of our standards, our practicing of Biblical church discipline, and/or our strong preaching against sin. Fact is, we must have those things; for the more truth we get through preaching and practicing of the Truth, the more grace we can experience and offer. We need strong New Testament preaching that “reproves, rebukes, and exhorts with all longsuffering.” There are people that covet and don’t think its bad. Matter of the fact, it is common today for people to covet their neighbor’s wife. Why is that common? We have departed from the truth. Now, when that person hears the truth, “Thou shalt not covet,” he realizes he is wrong and now can experience grace upon asking forgiveness.
People today want the grace without seeking the forgiveness. Read Luke 17:3-4 and you will find the command of God, “if he repent, forgive him.” We should forgive every time someone asks forgiveness. Why? Because God said to.
People say, “But you owe me grace!” NO, grace is something we DO NOT DESERVE! If we get it, Amen! If not, we deserve the judgment. Grace is not an entitlement we have.
I close with this. In 1 Cor. 5 a man was known to be participating in immorality with his step-mother. Paul brought the sin before the church. Paul counseled that they should remove the sin from the church to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. In today’s world, the church at Corinth would have been a “grace-based church.” They knew the sin was commonly reported, but were accepting him and the sin. Paul said this is wrong. The man was confronted with the Truth…that he was in sin. Praise God, the man repented and by 2 Cor. 2 Paul told the church to forgive him and show grace! The man was forgiven and experienced grace after truth! Had Paul not shown the truth, the church would have remained carnal, the man would have continued in sin, and he or the church would have ever experienced grace.
Summary: You can’t have grace without truth, you can have truth without grace, and you can only have as much grace as you have truth. That is why to every preacher who holds standards, practices church discipline, and preaches that sin is sin…keep on keeping on! For when we quit presenting truth, we will cease to experience grace. We don’t need grace-based churches, we need truth-based churches, and the grace then will be there. By the way, Zacchaeus got saved because the Lord told him he was lost—the truth—then came grace (Luke 19:10).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Lost Art Amongst Baptist

Acts 17:11 reads “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Here we read of the people of Berea that Paul and Silas spoke to after being forced to leave Thessalonica. The people of Berea are given a great compliment in that they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” There is much to be gleaned from this verse of Scripture. First of all, can you believe that the people of Thessalonica and Berea were compared and one was found “more noble?” In our modern church age we love to claim “Grace” as an excuse for our pride in wanting to do things our way. The modern “church” loves claiming liberty to worship as they interpret worship. This is simply not so. There are some churches and some people “more noble” than others. Who is to judge? Scriptures! It was the Scriptures that were being searched and received by the Bereans, and that is what made them “more noble.” I want to be a part of a ‘more noble’ church!Secondly, the people received the Scriptures with all readiness of mind. They came into church expecting to hear from the Lord! Can you imagine if everyone came into church expecting to hear from the Lord? We are so ‘busy’ that we never hear His voice. We have to get to church on time, go to choir practice, take the kids to the bathroom, check our outfit, talk to Brother and Sister so-in-so, get to our Sunday School class, get the quiet seat out of the car, think of what bus game to play, read the bulletin, write out the offering check, find ‘our pew,’ and sign up on the food list for drink before anyone else (because that is the easiest you know), that we miss the entire purpose of church…to hear His voice. God wants to speak to you and I every time the Word of God is opened. Did you hear Him this weekend? While I am not saying that any of those ‘to do’s’ are wrong, we better never forget to stop and listen for His voice; and not just listen, but receive it. And not just receive it, but receive it with readiness of mind. I’m going to live it! Every pastor in the world would love a congregation like that, and God would love every pastor to be that way too!
But thirdly, the lost art I believe is in the final portion of that Scripture: “they searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” I believe in personal devotions. I believe every child of God should spend time every day in reading, meditating, and memorizing of Scripture. But that is not what this speaks of. The people of Berea received the preaching, was willing to live the preaching, but also sought out in Scripture the preaching…thus the lost art. We all love the ‘evangelists’ sermon. Preaching of the Gospel and everything we all agree upon. We all leave happy and excited about Jesus. But what when our pastor preaches a message that we aren’t sure about? For example, the Lord has led me to preach on the proper way of finding life’s mate for our young people. I have preached from Scripture how ‘dating’ is wrong. There are those who are willing to try it out, for which I am grateful. There are those who want to see it before they’ll believe it…and they can. There are those who don’t like it and think it’s foolish…proof’s in the pudding as they say. But, where are those who went home and came back having searched the Scriptures for themselves on the issue? I love when brothers in Christ come to me a week or two after a sermon and ‘add on’ to my sermon I preached. Amen! They searched the Scriptures.
We unfortunately live in a ‘church world’ of dictatorial preachers whose every word must be followed- or else, or of passive ‘keep them all happy’ preachers who will preach the easiest and most unoffending messages. If you have a pastor that is willing to study Scriptures and share the Scriptures in love, you ought to praise God for him, but still search the Scriptures for yourself!
How much stronger would your faith be? How much deeper would your conviction be? How much more perseverance in standing for the Truth would you have if it all was based upon what you have found to be true in Scriptures. When we base our convictions and standards on what the church believes or on what our pastor preaches…they will never last, or the first time there is opposition or what seems to be a failure in them, we will quit. Let us find the truths in God’s Word for ourselves! By not doing so, we have created a ‘belief buffet’ amongst us Baptists. We will take what our liking is and pass on what doesn’t agree with us. We can not continue this! We must search the Scriptures!
I know recently I have preached on the error of dating, our children being in church with our parents and not in jr. church or clubs, God still works miracles, assurance of salvation, bride of Christ, separation, finances, etc. How much did we search the Scriptures for ourselves on our own time on these matters? For it was that which made ‘the people of Berea ‘more noble.’ I definitely don’t want to be like the world, and I really don’t want to be like the typical Christian, but how wonderful for God to look at our families and our churches and be able to say, “they receive the Scripture every time with all readiness of mind, and they search the Scriptures daily, whether those things that pastor says are so; they are not like everybody else…they are more noble.” It’s a lost art, but it can be done!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I Hate Dishwashers

While growing up, my mother had the greatest dishwasher I have ever seen. This dishwasher always cleaned the pots, always shined the dish, and left glasses without spots or debris. This great dishwasher used no electricity and very rarely broke down. Of course, you know by now the brand…Momma’s Hands! She, and eventually my sisters, washed the dishes every night and ever dish was placed back in its place that night, dry and clean. Years later, I married the most wonderful lady on the face of the earth (better have that written due to content of this devotion). My wife though, had us purchase a dishwasher. I had no idea the frustration, smells, and grime that were to come. Soon, I began to notice “crusties” as I call them, spots everywhere, and worst of all…”floaties” in my drink. I began to investigate. At other times, there would be no bowls in the cabinet, no spoons in the drawer, and I continued to investigate. THEN, one day I came home on a late Sunday night to a horrendous smell. I finished my investigation and found the culprit to be-the DISHWASHER. What I have found is this. It can clean up dishes, but not clean them. It needs to get “full” before you use it to save water and electric, so we may run out of certain dishes at certain times. Some of those “waiting periods” are marked by distinct moments of odor emanating from the machine that when finally used does not have the power to clean the hardened left over particles of food. I say all that to simply say this. God expects us as Christians to do the work of the ministry. Our faith, demands our work! Don’t rely on everybody else to do a work that you and I can do. When that happens, things don’t get done, don’t get done right, wastes resources and power, and truly stinks in the eyes of God. Lets do the work!!