Monday, December 18, 2017

We Must Learn Who We Are In Christ

Therefore, brothers and sister, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

     My earliest memories aren't pleasant. I remember a lot of feelings of inadequacy, being outcast, ridiculed. I remember being called fatso, tubby, and lard-##s. I guess I was just a fat kid. 
     Memories are funny things. The painful ones tend to stand out far more than the pleasant ones. Sometimes they stand out so loudly and for so long that we forget the pleasant memories. So, I'm not a big believer in my memories, but I do remember some painful things.
     Well, not long ago I was looking through some childhood pictures. As I thumbed through several pictures of myself, I was shocked. I wasn't skinny, but I definitely wasn't obese. All these years, I've felt fat. Today, sadly, I am, but I wondered how long I had believed what others had said about me and how that shaped my life.
     What we believe determines what we do. If we think we're basically good apart from God, we will never see that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Once forgiven, once we believe in Christ, we still believe much of what we did before God redeemed us. There's a process we have to go through if we're going to believe what God says about us and live that out. 
     What would happen if every man believed what God said about him? What if he believed what God said about the value and worth of women? How would he treat women? Certainly not like many men treat women. He would never treat a woman as an object to be used or abused. What would happen if every woman believed what God said about her? How would she view her value and worth? Certainly it would not be in her external beauty. It would be in her internal worth. Wouldn't that encourage her to never allow a man, or woman, to devalue her personally, intellectually or sexually. And, when things were said against her, wouldn't that strengthen her to withstand them emotionally and even physically.
     What would happen if parents spent their parenting years teaching their children their identity in Christ? Wouldn't a child be less likely to bully another if she understood her worth and the worth of the other child in Christ? If your child understood his or her worth in the eyes of God, and believed that worth, wouldn't that insulate him or her against the abusive words of others? 
     That's what I've been thinking about lately What if I had known who I was in Christ, and believed that, when I was a child? How would that have changed how I treated other kids? We used to sit around and see how insulting we could be to one another. It was a game we played, a hurtful game. If I had known and believed who I was in Christ, how would it have changed how I felt about the things that were said about me and done to me? How would it have changed the way I treated others?
     We must learn the truth about ourselves, and about God, and we must imbed it in our souls. It will transform more than our moral behavior. It will transform our identities. His truth will transform our lives. We must teach it to one another, especially to our children. They must learn more than just moral behavior, more than just "don't bully." They must also learn that the value of a person is greater than just being the pinnacle of evolution. They must learn that they are the pinnacle of God's Creation created in His image, a living soul because of His breath. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sometimes The Brightest Light Lies

All that is gold does not glitter.
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship Of The Ring

As I made my way to town for an early meeting with our elders, I noticed four lights. The first was the spotlight illuminating the welcome sign for our town. It appeared the brightest. The second was the crescent moon. The third was the bright star below the moon, halfway between it and the horizon. The final star is barely visible to the right of the moon.

The lightbulbs in the sign were blinding. The moon was bright. The star to the left, while not as brilliant as the moon, was still apparent. Actually it was not a star at all. It was the planet Venus, often called the Morning or Evening Star. The tiny dim star to the right of the moon was not a single star, but a system of three stars that appear as one to the naked eye because of their distance.  

It struck me how my perception of the brightness of each object had nothing to do with the actual brightness of each. The lights on the sign appeared the brightest, but weren't. The reflected sunlight of the moon is far brighter, and that of Venus would be even greater if the moon and Venus were both the same distance from the earth. The dimmest object to me was actually the brightest - three suns far outshine all the others.  

My perception of the brightness of each object had absolutely nothing to do with reality. It had everything to do with my proximity. The spotlights were only the brightest to me because they were the closest.

If anything in your life shines brighter than God, it is only because of your distance from Him and your nearness to whatever or whoever it is you perceive to be brighter.   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

To Calvary Regarding Church Security

     An armed security guard outside the front door of a church can seem unspiritual, lacking in faith, but think for a moment. Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread. He also taught us that if we are able to work, we should work for our food. And, he taught us to provide for the physical needs of our families.
     We can spiritualize "daily bread," or recognize that in meeting that need God gives us the ability and opportunity to work and provide. As a father I have prayed for my family's needs, and for the strength and opportunity to meet them. God provided the opportunity to work, and the bread that work put on the table. Praying and working are spiritual. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, and healing the broken do not show a lack of faith. They actually bear witness to genuine faith.
     I would rather be focused on something else this week like prayer, preaching, evangelism, local missions, and developing a culture of transformational discipleship at our church. Still, I am thankful for the opportunity to be working with others to take care of the physical safety of people seeking God.
     We have much in place. We protect children through screening and training of volunteers, background checks, checkin/checkout procedures, and camera surveillance. We have a security team that includes greeters, security volunteers, camera surveillance, electronic panic buttons, security doors and monitors.
     Even though we've done much, we will never just rest on our laurels. We'll continue to examine ways to provide for a safe environment for everyone who comes to our facilities. We are doing that now in consultation with local law enforcement. In just a few days, we will attend an active shooter training provided by the Sabine Parish Sheriff's Office. We'll take that information, examine our procedures, and make recommendations to the church. There has been and still is much evil in the world, but God has overcome the world. He uses us to carry out his plan to care for one another, spiritually and physically.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Everyone Dies, Not Everyone Lives, Pray For Sutherland Springs

A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
John 10:10

   Sunday I preached from Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." We think about this when we lose someone. We ask Him to comfort and He does. Many of us are praying for great loss right now - Las Vegas, New York, Sutherland Springs.
   God is not just a comforter for the losses inflicted on us. He's a comforter for our self-inflicted loss - the loss of our relationship with Him and others because of our own choices, our own sin. When we mourn our sin and turn to Christ, He promises to forgive and cleanse. When we are broken about the brokenness and injustice caused by sin in the world, He comforts us, too.
   As I watched the story unfold on the news, I was broken. 26 dead and 20 wounded in a church that averaged 50 in attendance. Then I heard that the pastor was not there that Sunday as His daughter and his church family were decimated. Sometimes we say, "I can't imagine." Well, I could. It was too much. I can imagine what it would be like to not be there when this to happened to my family and my church family. That broke me and I spent most of the rest of the day praying and seeking the comfort of God for all impacted by this evil. 
   All of this happened on the same day thousands of congregations and tens of thousands of believers participated in the National Day Of Prayer For The Persecuted Church. We went to church and prayed for persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, then we came to realize that persecution is not just over there. It is here, too.
   First Baptist Sutherland Springs may not have been attacked strictly because of religion, but the evil that empowered the attack on them was the same that empowers all attacks. It's the same evil that empowered the Islamist terrorist who drove a truck through cyclists in New York. It is the same evil that empowered an angry atheist to gun down dozens in Las Vegas. It is the same evil that inspired the racist attack on a Bible study in Charlotte. This evil does not care who plays host to it. Anyone who will hate will do be they Islamic, Christian, atheist, antifa, black or white. If you are filled with hate, this evil will use you to its end.
   It hates all life, and it especially hates the abundant life Jesus promised. We fight this evil by declaring our allegiance to the life-giver, Jesus Christ. We fight it by following all His teachings. We fight it by forgiving. We fight it by making His kingdom our priority.
   That's what the people at First Baptist in Sutherland Springs were doing. They probably didn't think of it that way. All they did was make the choice to glorify Christ by gathering on the Lord's Day to worship Him together with His people. In that simple act of loving obedience they declared the Lordship of the King of Heaven.
   They didn't know it would cost them their earthly lives. We never know when following Christ will cost us, but we are willing to pay the cost. I wonder if anyone will stop going to church because of what happened yesterday in Texas. If they do, they've let evil win.
     We fight evil by acting in prayer, and by prayer acting upon us. Pray for the persecuted church, in Syria, around the world, and in Sutherland Springs. Pray that God will comfort the hundreds of family members who are grieving. Write letters, cards, and pray more. Do whatever you can to be God's heart and hands here and now.  
     Fight evil by living boldly obedient lives for Christ. Everyone dies, but not everyone lives. Our brothers and sisters were there Sunday, worshiping together, living. They were there living when evil came to take their lives. They died living obediently for Christ. One moment they were worshiping by faith. The next they were worshiping by sight. Evil didn't win. 
     Everyone dies, but not everyone lives. Fight evil. Live for Christ.

(Thanks to Ed Stetzer for the perspective of his article How Christians can respond to this latest church shooting.)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Hope When You Are Tested

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4

Sunday I preached about hope and its dependency upon the sovereignty of God. I believe it was a sovereign plan of God that the devotional book my wife and I read each day, New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp, was, on that same day, about hope. The author pointed out that we find ourselves hopeless when we trust in horizontal relationships, the things of this earth, rather than our vertical relationship with God.

Any preacher knows that sometimes he preaches "to" the congregation, and sometimes he "is" the congregation. The latter should always be the preacher's goal. Yesterday I was the congregation. He spoke to me as I shared Samuel's struggles after Saul failed. For Samuel to get past the grief and fear that paralyzed him, he had to trust that God was sovereign. It felt good, not to preach, but to be preached to, confronted, convicted, instructed, forgiven, and empowered.

I had a great afternoon, like I was freed to live and serve in new ways. I forgot something, though. I forgot that our faith is always tested. James wrote "when" you experience, not "if." He also made it clear that in the testing of our faith God produces "endurance," which is absolutely necessary if we are to be "mature and complete, lacking nothing."  Well, before the day was out, the horizontal had tested my faith in the vertical. 

I have always been tested. You have, too. It's part of our sovereign Lord's plan for our good and His glory. Since I preach and teach every week, my testing always comes either before or after I preach. This week it was after. While the test had to do with a horizontal situation, the real test was vertical. Would I still hope in God, or would I become preoccupied with another failure of the horizontal to give me hope? 

When the horizontal intrudes on a child of God, they have a choice to make. Trust in God, or not. Even in that choice, the Lord gives help. Part of that help is in the Psalms of Lament that help us move through a process that moves us from 1) crying out, to voicing our 2) complaint, to 3) confessing our trust, to 4) prayer, and finally trusting Him in 5) praise. Here's one of those Psalms. If your faith is being tested, it might be just the prayer you need to turn from the horizontal and trust once again in God. 

Psalm 43

Vindicate me, God, and champion my cause
  against an unfaithful nation;
  rescue me from the deceitful and unjust person.
For you are the God of my refuge.
  Why have you rejected me?
  Why must I go about in sorrow
    because of the enemy's oppression?

Send your light and your truth; 
  let them lead me.
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
  to your dwelling place.
Then I will come to the altar of God,
  to God, my greatest joy.
I will praise you with the lyre,
  God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, 
  for I will still praise him,
  my Savior and my God.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jesus And His People Run Toward The Fire

"So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." 
Luke 15:20

Las Vegas is one of the 5 least religious cities in the US. Less than 29% of its residents identify with any type of religion. The percentage of evangelical Christians, those experiencing new spiritual birth by faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, is much lower. It may be only 6% of the Vegas metro area of nearly 2 million people. So, the massacre of October 1st occurred in a city that is largely devoid of belief in any God.

Last week I heard Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, talk about how God led him and his family there to plant the church, how it has been blessed, how it is reaching out with love and the Gospel to the multicultural city, how over 60 Iranian Muslims who live there have believed in the last few months, over 50 language groups attend their church, and on and on. It was so exciting to hear that when God saw "Sin City," He didn't run away. He ran to it.

He has run to Vegas for years as believers have labored in the Gospel there. He ran to it when Pitman and others planted Hope Church. He ran to the sin-broken people of that city, just as He runs to the sin-marred people of every city and town. Like a fire-fighter running toward the fire while everyone else runs away, Jesus runs to sinners. If he runs toward the fire, so should his body.

Run with prayer. Pray for believers on the ground in Vegas as they run toward the broken. Maybe God wants you to run to Vegas. Maybe you should move there and join in the mission of the Gospel in a lost city and culture. Pray for yourself and your own church, that you will run toward the fire in your own town, your own city, with the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To run toward something requires you to run away from something. Run away from doubt and skepticism. Fill your heart and mind with the Word of God so that you believe, with Paul, in the power of the Gospel to save any and all. Run away from judgmentalism. When Katrina struck New Orleans, some said it was because of the city's wickedness. Maybe it was. God knows. But, when God sent a message of judgment to Ninevah, Jonah ran away rather than to that wicked city that had oppressed his people for many years. Why? He ran away, because he knew that God did not send a message of judgment so that he could turn the Ninevites into ashes. He sent the message so that the people would hear, believe, repent and turn to God for life. So, run to "Sin City" and the sinful in every city with the love and Gospel of Christ.

One more thing. Let's run away from politics. Let the pundits and 24 hour news cycle spin the gun control issue, but you, Christian, run away from that. While it is certainly an important discussion, it is not an eternal one. People need Jesus, not political agendas. Run with him. Run to the broken, the outcast, the prideful, the sinful. Run to the fire. That, I believe, is where you'll find him.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How Is Your Wife?

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her hoy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  (Ephesians 5:25-28 CSB)

War, violence, unrestrained anger, race riots, rampant drug addiction, human trafficking, hatred of Christians, compromising and apostate believers, hurricanes, floods, on, and on, and on it goes. The world's need for the church to carry out its missions has never been greater. Where do we start? Should we head to Houston, load the truck with supplies for the shelter in Beaumont, invite a family of a different color over for dinner, lobby Congress for more money for drug treatment, leave home to share the Gospel in a hostile country, or walk down the block praying for our neighbors?

We start in the wedding chamber. Whether she is saved or lost, weak or strong, sick or healthy, rich or poor, loving or nagging, our wives are our first and foremost field of mission. We are commanded to demonstrate and proclaim the love of Christ to all those in need of redemption. How we treat her is perhaps the most reliable test of our true Christian character. If we do all these other things and do not have love, especially for our brides, what are we?

This morning I prayed with a group of pastors from across the country. As we came to the point of praying for our greatest concerns, almost every pastor asked for help in ministering to failing marriages. As I examine my own life, all the busyness, the ministry, I am convinced that my wife contributes more to me than I to her. And yet I am to be like Christ to her. I am to lay down my life for her, not her for me. If I gain the whole world, but fail my Jerusalem, what will I have gained? So, brothers, before we go expecting great things from God and doing great things for God, let's ask ourselves some important questions.

"Am I treating my wife like Christ treats His church?"

"Does she experience the love of Christ through me?"

"When she fails, does she hear a message of redemption and forgiveness from me, or criticism and condemnation?"

"Do I live to lay down my life for her, or do I expect her to lay hers down for me?"

Friday, September 1, 2017

After The Flood - Do Not Forget Tomorrow

     Anyone who has suffered a tragic loss knows something. Whether it's a death, a fire, or a flood, they know that most of the help from others comes in the first few days. That help is essential, invaluable, and appreciated. Thousands have risked their lives and exhausted their resources already to rescue people from the destruction of this hurricane, but the work is not done. Previous survivors know that the hard work is about to begin. After rescue comes recovery. More are needed then than now. Family, friends, neighbors, volunteers are needed to mudout and rebuild.
     After someone dies, everyone shows up. Friends and food are there. The day after the funeral, it's mostly just a couple of close friends and family. Two weeks later, the survivor finds herself sitting in an empty room alone. The same thing often happens after disasters, but it doesn't have to happen.
     Thank God for the outpouring of brotherly love we see today in the wake of Harvey. This storm has tested our responsiveness, but the recovery will test our character. Give now, go now, but let's make sure we don't forget to go in the coming weeks and months.
     Put some reminders on your cellphone calendar. Set 3 events on it; 1 in 2 weeks, 1 in 1 month, and 1 in 3 months. Entitle each one, "Volunteer To Help." Set an alarm on that day. When it goes off, pray immediately for the people recovering. Next, call your pastor, or someone in your church who does disaster relief, or some friend or family member you know who lost everything and ask this question, "What can I do to help?" Then help.
     For those who are members of our church, take steps today for tomorrow. Here's how you can do that. Get a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with some things from the list below, then bring it to the church. We will send it all with our own NAMB Disaster Relief Mud Out Teams who will deploy next week. If you can't find a bucket, no problem. Just bring the items to the church.

Rubber Gloves, Dust Masks, Germ-X, Measuring Tapes, Flashlights (with batteries), Utility Knives, Carpet Knives, Chalk Lines, First Aid Supplies, 2 Quart Bleach, Hydrogen Peroxide, Wash Cloths, Goggles, Work Gloves, Ziplock Bags

Monday, August 28, 2017

Practical Ways For Christians To Help Hurricane Victims

(Texas National Guard soldiers arrive in Houston, Texas to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. Photos by Lt. Zachary West , 100th MPAD)

Tens of thousands of men, women and children are suffering because of the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Many of us have lived through natural disasters, and we know how personally difficult these days are. Many of us haven't, but we are still broken hearted by the situation. We all want to do something. What can we do?

PRAY - Pray now, pray often, and don't stop praying. The most difficult time for survivors is coming. As the shock and adrenaline wear off, reality sets in and rebuilding has to take place. It doesn't get easier for victims of natural disasters. It gets harder, so keep praying.

GIVE - Thousands of rescue workers are already there, like the Texas National Guardsman above, and most of those are already funded by our tax dollars. Thousands of relief workers are staging to do mud-out, debris removal, and bring meals and other supplies to victims. Most of the disaster relief that happens is not funded by our taxes, but by our contributions.

GIVE TO KINGDOM WORK - If you Google disaster relief, you'll find any number of ways to contribute financially. There is America Cares, American Red Cross, Federal Disaster Assistance, and others. While they are all worth and all help, your concern as a Christian is not just to provide food, clothing and shelter, but to also provide Christ, His love, and His Gospel to those in need.

So, consider giving to one of these organizations who will also Pray for, Care for, and Share the Gospel with disaster victims.  All you have to do is click on the name and it will take you to their website.




GO - Honestly it's too late for you to go and be part of the initial response to Hurricane Harvey, but it's not too late for you to help in person. If you're interested in being part of a team that will go and help rebuild, contact our church. As soon as those plans are in place, we will connect you with a team. 

Call Calvary Baptist Church, Many, Louisiana, 318-256-2871, or

Monday, August 14, 2017

When You Are Suffering, Lament

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
James 5:13

Yesterday I preached about emotional healing. As I prepared for this the last couple of weeks, I read and listened to several teachers I respect on the topic of healing. I was encouraged by Pastor Chip Ingram as he pointed out "how" to pray when we need emotional healing. He pointed to the book of Psalms, my favorite devotional guide, and the Psalms of Lament.

A lament is a prayerful cry to God for help. While Psalms is filled with hymns and praise, the largest number of psalms are laments. It's almost as if God knew we would "have trouble in this world" and gave us a practical resource to help us voice our prayers when we are in the pit. Psalms is a worship manual for God's people. So many times when I have not known how to pray, I have found my heart's cry in this book. Most laments in the book of Psalms follow a pattern that's helpful for us to follow: Cry, Character, Commit.

Cry Out To God - honestly pour out your complaint to God
Remember His Character - choose to recall God's faithful character
Commit To Trust God - trust that He will answer

If you're suffering, pray. Don't know how? Open up the Psalms. Find the Psalm that voices your heart's need and pray.  Here's a topical list of a few of the Psalms of Lament. 

Psalm 3 -  when you feel attacked
Psalm 4 - when overwhelmed by your own sin
Psalm 13 - when abandoned
Psalm 38 - when overwhelmed by guilt or shame
Psalm 73 - when you have been treated unjustly
Psalm 74 - when you have been rejected
Psalm 77 - when you're in the middle of a crisis 
Psalm 102 - when you're sick 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Curse Of Racial Superiority

As I think about Charlottesville and the misguided and satanic attempts to blend the teachings of Christ with any form of racial superiority, hatred, or bigotry, I think about Paul's letter to the Galatians. The people who made up the church in Galatia were probably Celtic settlers from Gaul, a region of western Europe that encompassed France. They were ethnically, religiously, and culturally very different from the first Christians in Jerusalem, but when they heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ they became one with every true follower of Christ.

There was a group in the early church who were either legalistic Jewish Christians or simply false teachers who accepted some of Jesus' teaching. They were called Judaizers. They believed they were superior to the Galatians, because they were Jews and still followed Jewish tradition. One of these traditions was circumcision, which was the mark of the covenant God made with the Jewish people. It was not, however, a mark of the covenant God made with Christians. No external mark makes one a Christian. "For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift, not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

When these Judaizers came to Galatia, they would not eat with the Galatians. They felt they were superior. They also believed the Galatians were inferior spiritually, because the Galatians had not been physically circumcised. Apparently some in the Galatian church forgot that they were saved by grace through faith, that they were not inferior because they were of another race and tradition, and that all who follow Jesus Christ are one. So, when Paul heard about this attitude and this heretical teaching, he was incensed. To the believers in Galatia, he wrote, "You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified." (Gal. 3:1) He then went on to remind them, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) And, regarding the Judaizers he was graphic, writing, "I wish those who are disturbing you might also let themselves be mutilated." (Gal. 5:12) In other words, Paul wished those who were teaching the Galatians they must be circumcised in order to be Christians would go beyond circumcision and actually have themselves emasculated, turning them into eunuchs.

There is no room in the true Christian faith for any attitude of racial superiority; white, black, brown or otherwise. There is no Biblical justification for it. It is sin and it requires repentance. It also reveals a great depth of misunderstanding about how great our need is for the grace of God. To think that my skin color could make me spiritually superior is to preach another Gospel. To that, he wrote, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!" (Gal. 1:8)  He didn't call that a mistake, or an opinion. He went so far as to say "a curse be on" whoever believes or teaches such a thing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fire And Fury Like The World Has Never Seen Before

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all goodliness and dignity.
1 Timothy 2:1-2

There were missile silos less than 35 miles from the little town where I grew up in West Texas. We lived only 60 miles, as the crow flies, from a SAC base where B-52 and later B-1 bombers trained and launched. In that Cold War era we didn't play Cowboys and Indians as much as we played soldiers fighting communist Russians, Chinese, and Cubans. We regularly talked about what we would do if a nuclear attack was launched. In our youthful naiveté, we thought we could survive.

If a Russian missile had struck the base in Abilene, nearly 100,000 people would have died instantly. The thermal blast would have killed another 15-20,000 tens of miles away and we, up in our little West Texas town, would have died from radiation poisoning within a matter of days or weeks. If missiles had hit the silos near us, it would have mercifully hastened the process.

I don't know what President Trump meant, when he said, regarding Kim Jong-un's continual threats and actions, "they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before." Maybe it was, as Michael McGough of the LA Times wrote, "more like a decision to meet bluster with bluster than a promise of military action the next time Kim lets loose a tirade against America." I don't know what's going on in Washington and Pyongyang, but I now it's not good. I know it feels too much like the days of my childhood.

I know this, too. If you're a believer in the Bible and a follower of Christ, you should know you have a responsibility beyond any partisan political bias. You have a responsibility to pray for whoever is in the White House. Actually, you have a responsibility to pray for the leader of North Korea, too. Doesn't Paul command Timothy to pray for "all who are in authority." Peace will only be found when it is sent from Heaven. Surely it's time to be obedient and pray for the leaders of our world. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

When A Friend Is Killing You

"So then, brothers, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Romans 8:12-13

I live with a liar. I've known him all my life. We have done everything together. He was my best friend for years. I did everything he wanted, got him anything he wanted; alcohol, drugs, food, lust, entertainment, self-promotion. It didn't matter if it was good for me or not. I have literally gone into debt to satisfy him, damaged my health for him, damaged relationships for him, and put my eternal destiny at risk for him. He is demanding, selfish, deceitful, destructive and abusive to me and everyone else in my life. And still, when he says he wants something, I battle not to give it to him. I have no worse friend than him, and he has no better friend than me.

One day, a person came to me. He saw the shape I was in, how messed up my life was, and asked if I wanted to be free from it all. He showed me how catering to my old friend was killing me, and told me that he could set me free. He would empower me to say "No!" to all the demands. He would empower me to say "Yes!" to life and freedom. He would walk with me all along the way. He would never leave me, never forsake me, and would be a friend closer than a brother. I simply had to choose between a friend who was killing me and one who offered me life.

I chose life. I chose Jesus. He did what He promised. He has never lied to me, never abused me, never made any demand on my life that would destroy me. He destroyed the power of my old friend, but made it clear that the old friend would be around until I died or until He (Jesus) returned. Jesus is with me, in me, empowering me to say "No!" to the old man and "Yes!" to Jesus and life.

I still have to choose who I will believe. Will I feed the demands of the flesh, believe the lies of the so-called friend who tried to kill me, bow down to the threats? Or, will I trust the friend who died for me? I spent all those years destroying my life for a so-called friend, and sometimes I still believe him. Jesus came along and died for me, and sometimes I still doubt him. How crazy is that?

I hope these words shed light on the struggle we face in this world. More than that I hope they encourage you to believe in the only true friend you will ever have, Jesus. Don't believe the lying promises or lying threats of your old friend. Trust in Christ. Depend upon His power as you say "No!" to sin, self, and the devil, and "Yes!" to God, Jesus, and life.

Photo Credit:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

When You're Married To An Unbeliever

If any brother has an unbelieving wife and she is willing to live with him, he must not leave her. Also, if any woman has an unbelieving husband and he is willing to live with her, she must not leave her husband. . . For you, wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Or you, husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?
1 Corinthians 7:12-13, 16

My dad didn't follow God. My mom did. So, I watched it first hand. My wife married me when she probably shouldn't have. I claimed to be a believer, and probably thought I was, but I wasn't. So, I've lived it first hand. This is not an exhaustive treatment of the topic, "How to live with an unbeliever or backslider." It's just some observations that I hope help someone.

1. Confess your sin.

Scripture tells us not to be unequally yoked. If you're a Jesus follower and you married someone who wasn't, you sinned. You can beat yourself up or ask for forgiveness. Beating yourself up won't do one good thing. Confessing your sin will result in your forgiveness and your cleansing.

2.  Love your spouse, but don't follow them spiritually.

You have to strike a balance, but you don't have to walk off into spiritual oblivion with a lost or worldly spouse. Your spouse may be a "good" lost person, but they have a different worldview than you. Follow Jesus. You have to do life together and you want to. You're married. So, ask for wisdom and pray for strength so you don't follow a lost person down the road to hell.

3.  Commit to your church.

It's amazing how much I found to do on Sunday mornings when I was lost. You want to do life with your spouse, but you're part of an eternal family, too. As a matter of fact, you were never intended to be successful in the Christian life apart from a church family. Commit to your church. Find a small group with people of the same gender who can pray for you and support you. Ask for wisdom to know how to love your spouse and your church.

4.  Abide in Christ.

Sometimes we ride our spouse's spiritual coat tails. We loaf while they love Jesus. You can't do that if your spouse doesn't love Jesus. Really, we can never do it. If you're married to a lost person, you need your daily walk with the Lord more than ever. Discipline yourself in scripture, prayer, meditation, and obedience.

5.  Don't go there.

The world will drag you down. If you're married to someone who is walking in the world, be aware that you will probably be tempted to walk the same road with them. If you love your spouse, and you should, it's going to be hard not to get sucked into the worldliness.

6.   Pray, pray, pray for your spouse.

Never underestimate the importance of your intercession for your lost spouse.

7.   Humbly live it out (meaning you repent when you're wrong).

Your life is the great tool God wants to use in the life of your spouse. If you're faithful to Christ, it will cause conflict with your spouse. That's why humility is so important. If you're not faithful, they will see that there is no real reason to believe in your God. How you handle your failures before your spouse is just as important as how you handle your successes. Do both with all the humility you can muster.

I hope this helps someone. It's tough, but God is greater. Hang in there. Don't give up. Trust in and follow the Lord. He is faithful.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How Hospitality Built Our House

"No. I want to do this for you," was a phrase we heard often in the year we spent planning and building a house.

Hospitality is simple. It's sharing what you have for the good of others - drink for the thirsty, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, love for the rejected, and care for the broken. It's opening our hearts and homes to the brother, the sister, and the stranger.

To be Christian is to have been shown hospitality. To be Christian is to practice hospitality. We who've been welcomed into Jesus' home, cannot help but welcome others into ours. At the core of Christian hospitality is our attitude toward our houses, our homes.

We had been blessed to live in a parsonage for 17 years, but knew we needed our own home. It was not as much an investment issue as it was practical. If I retired or could no longer be a pastor, my wife and family would have nowhere to live. For years we looked for a house. Nothing worked.

Today we live in our own home, but that reality was only possible because of the generous hospitality of so many. Contractors worked with little or no profit. God led us to sub-contractors who were believers who wanted to bless us. A men's Sunday School class bought us tools to use. I cannot give you many details because they all asked us not to tell others what they had done. They were not hospitable to us because they wanted recognition. They were hospitable to us because Christ had been to them.

From the land to the final product, our house was built by hospitality. We have been given a great resource that we can now use to practice the same hospitality toward other brothers and strangers. May God never let us forget. May he never let us become selfish with his generosity.

(The picture was our wonderful framing crew, John Pollard and the Hernandez brothers.)

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Loaner, a Cabin, a Call from the Game Warden and Hospitality

It's hard to define hospitality. It does mean a "warm greeting," in other words a handshake or neck hug. But, when it comes to God's definition, it's beyond the handshake. Here's what I think, Biblically, it is. It's seeing someone with a need, possessing what it takes to meet that need, and then meeting that need with a generous heart. It's all that, because that's what Jesus did for each of us. He saw our need. Had what it took to meet our need. Then He met our need because He loved us. I'm going to spend this week talking about times others have practiced hospitality toward me and my family. Maybe that will help define how I can be hospitable to others.

I was out of state with my son. My wife and daughter totaled a car. A Christian friend in that town showed up at the wreck sight, helped them through the process, made sure they were ok, and then gave them a spare car he had so they could continue on their trip.

Friends owned a beautiful vacation cabin in the mountains. We could never afford a place like that. We really couldn't even afford to go on a vacation, except to stay with friends. The people with the cabin made it available to us whenever we wanted to go and take a retreat from ministry. The picture above is my son fishing on the river where the cabin was located.

In our first church, we were nearly starving in ministry. A local game warden used to bring us animals he had confiscated, both for us and to give away to people worse off than we were in our church and community. Sometimes it was the only meat we had for weeks.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Train Your Child To Be Great

But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 20:25-28

The room was full of family. All of them were singing the old lady's praises. She grew up in poverty. Lived simply all her life and was now about to meet her maker. Everyone in the room talked about how she fed them, loved them, and did whatever it took to raise them. They said she had literally given away her own clothing to help others. She was drawing near to the end of her life, but her family was filled with joy. She had served them without any thought of herself all her life and now they were glad to spend whatever time they had left serving her.

Psychologists say that today 80 percent of parents teach children that the priority in life is personal achievement and happiness.  That means those are the priorities for 80% of parents. So there are at least two generations who are doomed to fail.

They will fail because those are not the priorities that bring true success. As a matter of fact, if you want to find personal happiness, making personal achievement and personal happiness your priorities is exactly what you should not do. It dooms you to failure, because the only way to live a great life and have a great eternity is to make servanthood your priority. When self is the priority, there is never any true peace and happiness. When servanthood is the priority, not only does the servant find peace and joy, but the world sees peace and joy.

This has to be one of those areas of life where we, Christians, are radically different than the world.  It has to be because it's what Jesus said and did. The world needs to see the value of the difference and uniqueness of the Gospel. The Gospel is about Jesus. Jesus didn't come to achieve or to be happy. Jesus came to serve and give his life a ransom for many. And, Jesus was full of joy. When we preach Jesus as the only way and don't show who Jesus is, we gut our witness. When we preach Jesus and show it by serving, we give credence to our testimony. 

If you're an 80 percenter, what would it take for you to reprioritize your life? What would it take for you to reprioritize your parenting, your grandparenting?  Start by changing your message. Stop preaching personal achievement and personal happiness and start preaching personal servanthood. Then show your children how to serve others. But, what if you don't want to? What if you don't want to serve? Well . . .

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When Serving Seems Wasted

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:45

     Not long ago I saw a post on social media. It brought back a lot of great memories. I remember how they were when they showed up at our church, and I remember how our people served them. It was like watching 1 John 3:18 played out, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." I remember watching as they become part, got excited about Jesus, and began to serve others rather than just being served themselves. It was one of those stories that you sit around and say, "God, you're good. You're right. You used your people to restore these people."
     The post also renewed the pain. See, after all that, they went back. All that work. All that prayer. All that service. It all bore fruit. They were transformed. They moved from being desperately in need to meeting needs in the name of Christ. And then they went back. They began to drift in devotion to the church family. They began to drift in devotion to God. Another crisis came and they stopped serving others, devoting all their attention to themselves. People reaching out again, serving, praying, encouraging, but it got harder. It got harder because they never responded. It also got harder because even the greatest servants are still human. And, after awhile, it's hard to keep serving people who seem to take and take and never give.
     The post reminded me of one of the greatest challenges of servanthood. It's the one that happens when you've served and served and it seems your service, your love, and your caring was wasted. I saw their post, and I was angry. I wasn't angry at God. I was angry at them. I was resentful that our church had done so much for them and they had responded like they had.
     So, I sat down to write this. I sat down to remind myself about the only pure motive for servanthood. We're told that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. We're told that people don't respond to the Gospel anymore until they have seen it in our lives, and that we are to build relationships with them - we are to serve them.
     We are to serve them, but it's not our service that saves. Only the Gospel saves. We are to love, but it's not our love that saves. It's only the love of Christ fulfilled on the Cross and believed upon after hearing this same good news. We are to serve and to love. We should hope and pray that others see the love of Christ in our love and our service. But, never delude yourself into thinking that those you serve owe you. They owe you nothing, but you owe Him everything.
     Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. We should never serve someone so they will serve us, even if that service is becoming a believer and part of our church. I think there may even be some twisted pseudo-Christian ethic deep inside us that thinks that people "should" believe in Jesus because "we" have been so loving to them. Yes we want them to believe. But, we must guard against any thought that we had anything to do with their belief. 
     Everything we do we do for His glory, not ours. People only truly believe when they believe in the only true love - the love God expressed pristinely in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People are only saved because of His love, not ours. So, the only motivation that works for the child of God is the love of God. We must serve others because He first loved us and so we love Him. All other motivations will be revealed in resentment or discouragement. Why? Because most of the people we serve and preach to will not believe in Him. The road to destruction is broad and many are on it. The road to eternal life is narrow and few there are who find it.
     So, if you have ever wondered if your service has been in vain, check your motive. Did you serve so they would join your church, or even so they would profess faith in Christ? Did you become their friend so they would become yours? Or, did you serve because you are a sinner loved and saved by a gracious God?
     Your purpose is to serve, not to be served. To love, whether they believe or not. Your purpose is to love the one who loved you first. Any other motivation that the love of Christ, will result in your downfall. You will become jaded at best, resentful at worst. And, if you quit serving you will become small in the kingdom, for the greatest in the kingdom are those who serve.
     When your service seems wasted, remember Christ. They took all His love and put Him on the cross. Still He loved them, and He will empower you to love them as well. Keep your love for Him front and center. Every time you give a cup of water, give it to Him.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Police Jury Election, The Tax Renewal For The Animal Shelter & Christian Stewardship

The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For He has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

     Everything belongs to God, including you. When you believe in God through Jesus, His Son, you surrender the control of your self. You confess that He is Lord of Your life, and joyfully give yourself to His word and His ways. His Word begins to inform and shape your opinions, your desires, and your direction. Before you believed in Jesus, you thought you owned your cars, your house, and even yourself. Now you know you don't. Rather than being an owner of everything, you've recognized that you're just a steward, a caretaker of everything in your life. There's great peace in knowing that God has and will provide all you need, and all you have to do is take care of it for Him.
     What does stewardship have to do with local politics and an animal shelter? Well, a great deal. Most of us will vote for the police juryman we believe stands the best chance of fixing our roads. We want an official who will take care of our tax money, and we should. But, these aren't really our roads, and that's not really our tax money. It's all God's. We should elect someone who will also be a good steward of all within his realm of responsibility. 
     What about the animal shelter tax? Well, the animals belong to God, too. So, if you have animals, and you're a follower of God, you're supposed to take care of them. The shelter is a place for those animals whose keepers have failed in their stewardship.  So, will those realities impact your vote?
     As a follower of Christ, you have a responsibility to take care of the environment because it belongs to God. It's easy in a world of radical environmentalism to forget that it's the believer's responsibility to take care of the world. The Bible doesn't dismiss environmentalism. It defines it. That responsibility extends to the animal kingdom as well. In a world where many people seem to love animals more than humans, it's easy to forget that. Don't.
     Look, animals aren't humans. They're not eternal. God didn't create them in His image, nor did He breathe the breath of life into them. They are given to mankind to have, use, even consume, but not in an irresponsible manner. The Bible says God created animals, takes joy in them, and uses them for His glory. While they have no soul, they reason and have emotion of a sort.
     So, a person who takes God's ownership of all things seriously, and His Word seriously, will treat animals humanely. "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." (Prov. 12:10) If all people would do that, we wouldn't need an animal shelter. There would be no indiscriminate breeding, no starved livestock, and no abandoned pets.
     That doesn't mean we would never kill an animal. God gave many animals for food. It means that when you kill an animal for food, you do so humanely. It also means that when stray animals must be destroyed, it is to be done humanely. That's what an animal shelter does when it cannot place the animals with someone who will take care of them.
     Now, He did not send His Son into the world to save the earth or the animals. He sent His Son to save human beings. When He returns, he will redeem the world from the curse of sin, but at the end of the age He will also destroy the existing heavens and the earth and create a new Heaven and earth in which redeemed men, women, boys, and girls will live with Him. Until then, followers of Christ should take good care of the earth, all it contains, and those who dwell on it as they go about demonstrating the Love of Christ and preaching the Gospel of Christ.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dixie League: Savior Or Satan

     It is Spring so two things are in the air - pollen and baseball. In the past that meant three practices and two games a week. Now it can mean a lot more. No one likes to lose, but sometimes we get so obsessed with winning that we will make our kids do whatever it takes to win.
     For Christians whose kids are involved in ball, being faithful to God, church and playing ball can be a challenge. Many will attend church less until the season is over. Some will just check out all together. If you've decided that you can substitute ball for church and still be a faithful follower of Christ, we disagree and this article isn't for you. But, if you're trying to help your kids take advantage of a great team sport and still be faithful to God and church, read on.
     Baseball isn't Satan. It won't turn you or your kids into win-crazed sports junkies. It also isn't the Savior. Sports won't save your kids. You still have to parent and they still need Jesus. If your goal is to live your life on mission for God, the ball field provides you a great mission field. The challenge is to remain committed to Christ and His church, while playing ball. How can you love your kids, help them enjoy a great team sport, and have some great family time while glorifying God and making Him known?

#1 - See the mission field at the ballpark. Life on mission means the mission field is wherever you go. So, build relationships with parents and coaches. Look for spiritual and physical needs and meet them. Pray with your children for the team, the opponent, and for your coaches. Ask God to show you doors of ministry in those people's lives. Display the love of Christ by serving, coaching, and caring rather than criticizing and cussing the kids, the coaches, and the umps. Share the Gospel and invite people from the field to your church.

#2 - Make God's glory your goal, not making it to all-stars. We've all either seen or been that parent. You know the one; the parent, grandparent, or coach who loses it. We know how poor a witness that is. When God's glory is your priority, you're much less likely to lose it at the ballpark. You will love the kids, support the coach and be a witness to the sufficiency of Christ whether you win or lose. Remember that you aren't going to glorify Christ if you act the fool at the ballpark.

#3 - Enjoy the experience. Whether your kid starts or not, whether your team wins or loses, when the ball field is your mission field, you'll never lose. Every moment is an opportunity to enjoy the life God has given you, enjoy the game, enjoy the people, and display the joy of the Lord.

#4 - Preach the Gospel with your priorities. Some professing Christians will have no problem practicing and playing while their church meets. Will you or will your priorities reflect the priority of worship and the body of Christ? If you're a coach, don't set practices on Wednesdays and don't play on Sundays. If you're a parent, let your kids and their coaches know you won't practice or play when your church is meeting. Don't do it with a holier than thou attitude. Just humbly make your kids and their coaches aware of what's important to you. 

Imagine how great the season can be when you live it on mission for God.

Photo Credit: Wildernice/Original uploader was en:User:Barry Bonds at en.wikipedia

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Of The Greatest Ways To Reach The Nations

Approximately half of the world's population lives in countries that restrict or ban the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet we are commanded to take the Gospel to all the world. There is an amazing current opportunity to do that very thing. We can take the Gospel to many, if not most, of those nations without ever leaving the relative comfort of our own nation. And, we can do it face-to-face.

Here's how it works. People from those nations immigrate to this nation all the time. Those immigrants have real needs. While their greatest need is spiritual, they also need to learn the language, navigate the culture, find jobs, and raise families in a strange and foreign land. When they come here, the doors that were shut in their countries are opened.

When an immigrant from a closed country meets and believes in Jesus Christ, and are discipled, they become a missionary to their own people - those living here, and often even those of their own people group living in the nation of their birth. 

Here's a story about how Southern Baptists are supporting this kind of evangelism here in North America.

Read more about them here:Ron &Tim Carr, NAMB

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ministry Of Showing Up

Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a  joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46-47

     I don't know exactly what to call it, but I know it when I see it. The people who do it are invaluable. What they do makes all other ministries work. They may never teach, lead a song, or preach a sermon, but their ministry is life and church transforming. 
     Maybe this one ministry shouldn't be so important, but after spending the morning with a group of pastors it is clear that it is. And the funny thing is the people who do it probably don't have any idea what a source of strength and encouragement they are. 
     Sunday School after Sunday School, worship service after worship service, home group after home group, discipleship group after discipleship group, event after event they show up. That's what I call this ministry. It is the ministry of showing up. They suit up, and they show up, even when it's tough to put up or shut up. Superstar athletes are exciting, but only if they show up for the game.  You can only win the game with those who show up. 
     I've had the privilege of pastoring the same church for a long time. I've seen many come and go. I've seen many get hot and grow cold. I've also seen those who have been here, come here, and stayed here. Forgive me for not saying thank you enough to those of you who continue to be part of the ministry of showing up. THANK YOU!!!  I don't think you know how much encouragement your faithfulness to this church is.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday, Repeal and Replace, & True Christian Fasting

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.
Isaiah 58:5-7

     It's Ash Wednesday, a tradition practiced by some Christians for over 1,000 years. It's a tradition, first of all, not a command. And, it's a combination of two Biblical practices - fasting and repentance in sackcloth and ashes. Jesus makes it clear that even under the new covenant, His followers will fast, "But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don't show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:17)  But, He says nothing positive about the external show of fasting in sackcloth and ashes, nor does He command it. He actually seems to discourage the outward attention-calling practices of sackcloth and ashes and points to an inward change of heart that results in a change of behavior.
     Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It's the Old Testament practice of repentance in sackcloth and ashes combined with a memorial period of fasting, repentance and reflection. It memorializes Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. Again, neither ashes nor 40 day fasts are commanded by Christ. Fasting, however, is expected. The length of fasting is not prescribed, but a change of heart is required. 
     Even under the law in the Old Testament, God expected more than lip service. The passage in Isaiah above makes it clear that when His people merely went through the motions of fasting, He was unimpressed. He said that they should deny themselves, but that they should also serve others. They should fast AND lose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share their food with the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked stranger, and take care of their own family as well.
     Forgive me for using a popular (or unpopular) term, but they should repeal their regular religiosity and replace it with pure religion, "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) 
     God's heart did not change from Old to New Covenant. He has always expected His people to love their neighbor with acts of kindness and sacrificial love. Here is the Law of the New Covenant, "For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) 
     It's still about loving and caring for others. Jesus describes the judgment of the nations and says that the difference is how they took care of others. To His sheep, He will say on that day, "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited me." . . . "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:35-36, 40) The goats who were not His people did some of these things, but not for Him. They did them only for themselves, perhaps as a religious act of penance or good works to earn a better place in eternity. 
     So, ashes or not, there's probably a need in most of us to repent of selfish religious practices like, "What did I get from church today?" Then we should replace those selfish practices with selfless, pure and undefiled religion - food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, water for the thirsty, justice and freedom for the afflicted and oppressed, clothing for the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoner. 
     Ok, here's one last Scripture. Please do not use this to go off on anyone who has ashes on their forehead. They may well have entered into a 40 day period of repentance and service to others. Let God judge the motives of their hearts. You deal with your own.
     "Whenever you fast, don't be sad-faced like the hypocrites, For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They've go their reward! But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don't show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Mathew 6:16-19) Repent of sin. Replace with active service to Christ and the least of His brethren, meaning whoever He puts in front of you today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pray, Care, Share Begins And Ends With Prayer

     If you've read the last few posts on my blog, you've read the testimonies of several people in our church who went prayer walking (or prayer driving) a few weeks ago. Honestly, I was surprised at the number of people who responded to my request for testimonies. I was surprised at the number of encounters. I shouldn't have been. Dozens of us had been praying for our neighbors for several months. What should I have expected?
     Prayer is the priority of a caring, sharing church. At least that's the way I read the Bible. Before Jesus sent out the 12, he told them, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Mt.9:37-38)  Before He sent out 70 more, he told them, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Lk.10:2)
     Before He sent the Holy Spirit to fill and propel the first church out into the world, He said, "And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high." (Lk.24:49) Then Luke tells us how they lived out that obedience, "All these were continually united in prayer," (Acts1:14) And, when Paul taught the church at Ephesus how to act like God's household, how to live as the church of the living God, he gave them this priority, "First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone," (1Tim.2:1) and that the priority of the church was the mission of God to save sinners through the preaching of the Gospel.
     So, after months of prayer, many of us went out. And, as we went out, we experienced divine encounters. Through prayer, our hearts had been prepared. Through prayer, we were led to the harvest. The danger, the risk, is always that we will pray, go, get busy, and then forget to pray.
     That's what has happened again and again to the church. In dependence on God, we wait and pray. In obedience to God we go, love, care, and share. Then the harvest begins to come in. We get busy. We keep loving, caring, and sharing, but we stop praying. Then the harvest seems to dry up. Why?
     The harvest never dries up. We dry up. The harvest does not occur because of us. It occurs because of God. It is His harvest. We are His servants. The power of God, the control and fullness of His Holy Spirit, comes when we obey Him. It does come when we finally go, care, and share the Gospel. It also comes when we pray. Going is no substitute for abiding. They are two sides of the same coin.
     Do not forget to pray. Do not neglect prayer. Especially when the harvest begins to come in. You will need Him more than ever when it does, and you cannot abide in Him if you do not abide in prayer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Misunderstanding, A Pot Of Peas, And A Neighbor - Prayer Walk Testimonies

I thought I had told everyone just to bring a sack lunch and we would eat and go out after church to walk our individual neighborhoods. As we were gathering after church, a young mother in our church approached me, "I thought we were having pot luck, so I made a pot of peas." My wife, beside me, said, "Yeah, I was unclear about that, too."  I felt bad that this mom had gone to all that trouble, apologized, and we had to go on our way.  Guess what God did with my mistake, a misunderstanding, and that pot of peas. Well, you don't have to guess. Here's the prayer walk testimony about it all.

Would you believe we were able to share lunch with one of our neighbors since we had such a big ol' pot of peas! One neighbor we've been praying for pulled in the same time we did. We stopped to talk to him and he said he'd been to church. I asked if we could pray for him and he couldn't think of any needs he had but was open to prayer so we just praised God for His provision and love. The last time we'd prayed with this neighbor he was in tears over a friend's health condition. His friend is doing fine now. What a blessing. God is so good.

So, the peas didn't go to waste. God was praised. Healing had occurred. The body of Christ was strengthened. You never know what's going to happen when you step out your front door on mission with God.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Prayer Drive And Special Prayer For A Neighbor We Know - Prayer Walk Testimonies

Some of us couldn't make our neighborhood on foot, so we "prayer drove" rather than "prayer walked." Here's one such testimony.

Ok, we went 29 miles in 1 hour and 35 minutes. Made all our neighbors and called out each name in prayer. No activity or vehicles home at most homes, but we were able to see the overall picture of our neighborhood.

Here's another family that prayer walked with all their children, most of whom are teenagers.

It was really cool because all my children could choose their houses and then pray. We didn't see anybody outside, but was thinking how cool it was and how it didn't take long to pray for each one. Many of them we prayed that they would come to know God, but in front of one neighbors home who we know personally we prayed God would continue to use her as an encouragement and a light to our parish.