Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Worry of Waiting

Recently Patty and I have been watching JAG. You remember the mid 90’s series about the Navy’s Judge Advocate General corp. (Lawyers.) The show is great and is almost exclusively about the Navy and Marine Corp. We have also been waiting for God’s move. The church in SC has rescheduled a date for us to preach in view of a call. A church in Roswell has made contact. A local church, what a novel concept. Except that they are looking for bi-vocational. So we continue to wait.

These two merged together this afternoon. My family is a Navy family. Three of my uncles served in WWII, my great grandfather was Navy, and my dad and another uncle were in the Navy in peacetime. I was in the Navy. We are a Navy family. Watching JAG reminded me of something my dad told me about that happened to him. (Actually, I think I remembered it because Mark Richt, the UGA head coach, jumped from a 30’ platform backward to prove a point to the team.)

Anyway, when dad was in training—he was an Aviation Ordinanceman— he had to go through flight survival school. Flight survival school in the Navy means water landings. Unless you are in a plane designed to land in the water, a water landing is a crash landing with the possibility of drowning and sharks. They strap you into a cockpit seat on a track, slam it into a pool, where it, by design, flips upside down and sinks. You have a set time to unstrap, open the hatch, and swim to the surface. Between the adrenaline, the disorientation, and the impact from hitting the water, over half of the first timers swim toward the bottom of the pool!

The trick is to wait. After unstrapping and unlocking…wait. If you wait, two things happen. One, the flight jacket will begin to pull you toward the surface. Second, by gaining your orientation, you will notice that the bubbles from the wreckage are floating toward the surface. Follow the bubbles upward.

When the forces of this world slam us, when our life crash lands, and that crash is not even the worst part, when we start to drown, when we become disoriented, and when the sharks are lurking, we panic. We get impatient. We accuse God. We kick and we flail.

But David says that the trick is to wait. In Psalm 27 David says, “Wait on the LORD, be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:11;14) When we wait on the Lord, we regain our buoyancy. We get our sea legs back. Then, like the flight jacket, the tug of God will begin to lift our beleaguered souls back to the surface, toward His love. When we wait, we can observe the bubbles of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and follow His lead back to safety. When we wait.



Tuesday, September 2, 2008


It figures! The search committee from Beaver Dam has asked that we put the trial sermon on hold. Someone there spoke with the Graves County Baptist Association and the Landmark thing has raised it ugly head. The problem with this is that we were emotionally invested at this point. You kind of phsyc yourself up once you are asked to preach “in view of a call.” We were planning dates when we might move, Patty had told her principal, and now everything has just come to a screeching halt. And unexpectedly came to a halt at that.

So we spent Labor Day weekend coming to grips. I emailed Jim Phillips, my most trusted counselor to seek advice. Prayed even more earnestly. And sought the face of God.

My conclusions come, as always, through the Word. May I give you my take on the 23rd Psalm?

God is my protector. He gives me everything that I need

When I am stressed, God gives me rest and peace in His hiding places.

This leads to a spiritual refreshment that gives me strength for the fights ahead. He has provided a path for me, so that, by walking this path, I may not mar the great name of my God

And even though I may face uncertainty, terrible times, and incredible stress, I know that these are small things when compared to the big picture. I do not have to be afraid, because the Lord is always with me. His discipline and His loving protection are always there.

I am able to find peace, even in the mist of turmoil. To remain calm, even in the most stressful of situations. Because You, God, are my protector. You God, are my provider, and my provision is abundant.

In the over arching scheme of things, I know that I am on the side of right, and that I am secure in the Lord for all of my life. And even though time are tough on this side of eternity, I know, that I know, that I know, that there is a place in the House of God, where I will spend my eternity, blissfully serving the Lord of lords, and the King of kings.

So we go back to the drawing board and start the process over. I keep telling myself that all good things are worth waiting for. I hope that axiom proves true.



Saturday, August 23, 2008

It’s All In The Mix

Another week and another handful of churches have contacted us. I have, much to the relief of my family, told the church in Ohio that we do not feel the Spirit leading us there. That leaves on our active list, the churches in Cassatt, and Olanta in SC, and Perkins and Toccoa in GA. One church in NC called to ask me about their position. “We haven’t elected any women deacons yet, but we have ordained a woman in the past month.” I respectfully told them that I was not their man. Inconceivably, not one church in Atlanta has called us. As we suspected from the beginning, we are small town folk.
We have been asked to preach in view of a call at Beaverdam on September 7. I believe that they will call us, and I believe we will accept. It is ironic that we are excited about Beaverdam. It is the smallest church in the mix. It has the oldest congregates in the mix, and it has the lowest number of youth of any church in the mix.
But aren’t mixes by themselves to be taken as individual negatives that make a positive whole? Stevie called me last night and asked me to bring home some baking supplies. Her concoction ended in a strawberry cake. Think about the mix. Raw eggs? Negative. Flour? Negative. Vanilla extract? Oil? Artificial strawberry flavored andyhexoflenin? All negative. One strawberry cake with cream cheese icing? One very positive. Puppy pulling freight train positive! Slap your grandma positive. Ok enough.
I hope you take the point. It is not what goes into the mix, it is what comes out of the oven. Hopefully the folks at Beaver Dam Baptist Church and our family are the mix that will make a strawberry cake experience for the community of Cassatt, SC. That is our prayer, and I would ask that you pray that as well.



Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Promises, Promises

When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fires, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3 NASB)

That is a promise verse. I have several. Someone said that there are 365 promises in the Bible, one for every day of the year. Of course the Jewish calendar is only 360 days long, so it really doesn’t add up right, but anyway… Promises. God makes them and God keeps them. It is our part in this play to claim them for our own situation. I have several. Many I have already shared in this forum. Jeremiah is full of promises. God knows the plans that he has for us. He will not let our enemies have the last laugh. One of my favorites is Jeremiah 51:17, which says, “For all men are stupid and devoid of knowledge.” (NASB) OK, so it’s not a promise, just a truth I go back to often. Especially driving in the ATL.

I was reminded of this promise of God today when a storm came through and caused the ceiling to leak…Though the waters pass over you…and remembered God’s faithfulness. Many times the floods have come. Many times the fire has ravaged. For the last two years it seems that we have been in one drawn out hurricane. But I can honestly say that God has been with us, every step of the way. Through each wind worn day and every fire plagued situation, God has never forsaken us. He is simply teaching us. As we walk through the waters of impatience and doubt.

We have been asked to go to South Carolina and meet with the folks at Beaver Dam Baptist Church. They will show us the church and parsonage and we can explore the area. We have not been asked to preach on Sunday, but I would expect that if everything goes well Saturday, that would be the next logical step.

It really must be a God thing. The Psalm 23 message didn’t hit the mark. As I’ve said, Crestview is a tough crowd. I am reminded of Jesus saying something about prophets, hometowns, and no respect. I don’t think there is a lack of respect, but I never seem to flowwwwww when I preach there.

I guess they liked it. It certainly wasn’t the delivery I would have liked. Crestview has one of those Garth-Brooks-aircraft-controller-head pieces instead of a lapel mike. I envisioned the thin, translucent headpiece. Oh no. We’re talking about 8th grade dental headgear with a windscreen the size of a softball. I would have looked like I was trying to eat a black orange! (A blorange?)

So we will trust God for one more trip (at least) and hope that He will give us that elusive sense of “This is it!” we have been longing for, for seven months. We trust. We obey. And we know that He will continue to give us more that we deserve, or are able to conceive.



Friday, August 1, 2008

No Fear

I have decided that I will use the 23rd Psalm for my message at Crestview this Sunday. I am going to concentrate on verse 5 only.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.”

The symbolism is wonderful, but then everything about the 23rd Psalm is wonderful. It is why it is our favorite Psalm. But in studying for that one verse, I noticed something else.

In verse 4, David says that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Now, if you read the first three verses, you will notice that David is using the third person to describe his relationship with God. Then suddenly, in verse 4, it shifts to the first person. The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me to still waters…He causes me to lie down…etc. Then in verse 4, he says, “for You are with me.” Why the shift? Simple. We have nothing to fear, not even death.

What are we afraid of? Death. Embarrassment. Crisis. Actually, a study done before 9/11 by Newsweek listed the third greatest fear of Americans as being the fear of public speaking. 4th was death. I can’t remember the first two; just that public speaking was higher than death. That has probably changed post 9/11. #1 Fear in America? A Muslim on an airplane.

The point is that we have nothing to fear. Why? Because He is with us. David got to this part about the shadow of death and realized that God is always with us and we have nothing to fear, so he switches the tense and is reassured that God never forsakes us or leaves us. “You are with me” emphasizes the relational character of Jesus. God doesn’t care about offering, or rituals, or sacrifice. (See Psalm 40:6) What He does desire…no, require…is a personal relationship with Jesus. And Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” It’s Lo, by the way, not low, even though the valley is a low time.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a real place in the Kidron Valley. It is actually called the Valley of Shadows. (It sounds like something off Shock Theater. "Boris Karloff staring in The Valley of Shadows.") The valley is so deep and the crevasses so narrow, that the only time light gets to the bottom is during the midday, for about a half an hour while the sun is directly overhead.

But even here, in a place that some would refer to as “God forsaken”, David knew that God was there with him. What is the opposite of fear? Peace. What is peace? It is not the absence of trouble, fear, or worry. Peace is simply the presence of God. “You are with me.”


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Gospel According To Sconyers

Well, we’re off on another grand adventure this weekend. No, not vacation, another preaching trip. The kids call these “working vacations.” I guess this time they may be right, as we are headed home to Augusta. That means we get to eat at Sconyers! That may not mean much to you, unless you’ve never been to Sconyers or have not had to take years off from eating there. I can fully empathize with foreign missionaries. I’ve never given up electric service, running water, flushing toilets, or American amenities. But I have made other sacrifices for the Lord, and eating “foreign barbecue” is certainly one of them.
In Tennessee, they do not add sauce to the meat—they will, however, give you vinegar if you’d like. Yaack! They also have the annoying habit of putting coleslaw on a BBQ sandwich, unless you ask them NOT to. What’s up with that? Forget that one time, and you’ll never forget again. In Kentucky they did provide sauce. But it was generally sweet and smoky. Not bad, but it is certainly not Sconyers. The spices were all off. Another thing they did in Kentucky was BBQ ham. That was a treat. So the meat was not a problem, but they give you white beans with everything. And don’t get me started on white beans and catfish! No Grits!? Totally uncivilized. How can one be expected to eat catfish and hush puppies without grits? And any kind of BBQ with out hash and rice is just another meal.
Wow, now folks, that is a rabbit being chased! We will call this the Gospel According to Sconyers. Anyway…like I said, we are preaching for another church this weekend. They are in Cassatt, South Carolina. Another place that has good BBQ, by the way. Yellow BBQ. Mustard based, you see. Anyway, before I chase more rabbits, let me get on point here. The church we are preaching at is our home church, where we were married. In the morning service, they have asked me to give testimony to what God has done for us and then they are going to pray for us. I have preached at Crestview twice. (Once in 1993. It was my first sermon. It lasted about 5 minutes. For those of you who know me, and are thinking in a loud inner voice, “INCONCEIVABLE!” don’t worry, I just preached the same five minute sermon three times. We still beat the Methodist to the restaurants that day, but I did get in fifteen minutes. The second time was homecoming a few years ago. Tough crowd.) On Sunday night, the third time will be for the PSC. James says that the fervent prayer of the righteous avails much. The word fervent is a good ole King Jimmy term for hot. So those of you reading, pray until you work up a sweat. Pray for us. Pray for the committee. Pray for God’s will do be done. We could use it.



Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Inconceivable Glory of Fish Vomit

In May, I told Patty that I thought we were like Jonah. That the great fish was not a curse that was to punish Jonah, but the Grace of God sent to save Jonah. Jonah was in a fish called Grace. He had wandered away from God. Actually, he had been down right rebellious toward God’s sure call on his life. But the point is that the fish was there, appointed by God, to rescue Jonah. Then, when the time was right and Jonah was ready for the trip to Nineveh, (his calling) the fish vomited Jonah back onto dry land.

So our little mantra here lately has been about our being vomited out. You know, as in, “I wonder if we have been spit up on shore yet?” Meaning: has God finally revealed the path we are to take. Well, keeping with His ironic sense of humor, we now have four churches seriously considering us. Two in SC, one in OH, and one in GA. Plus a few others that have told us they are interested but aren’t ready to narrow the field down to two or three just yet.

So, we have been vomited up onto dry land, and there are many paths before us. Which one to take? I have been invited to preach at our old church in Augusta on August 3 for a pastor search committee (PSC) from a church in Cassatt, SC. We know that they have a parsonage but that is about all at this point. The PSC from the church in Ohio has scheduled a phone interview for this weekend and has sent a questionnaire. The typical stuff, “tell us about your call.” “Are you SBC?” etc. Unlike Vann Avenue Baptist Church in Evansville, IN that has sent a questionnaire that is about six pages, front and back. Here's a sample...

Q: “Explain your belief about God.” A: “I like Him.”

Q: “Explain you stance on Calvinism.” A; (I hate that question.)

Q: “What is your belief in the validity of the impact of Q on the Gospel of Luke?” A: I feel like I’m taking a Theology exam at the seminary.

Q: “List the last three books you have read.” A: “1) The Complete Works of John Calvin. 2) Q: A Titilating Look At The Unknown Gospel 3) Van Avenue Baptist Church’s PSC Application.”

The path that we take must be a level path, the one that God has chosen. Jesus told us the narrow path leads to righteousness and the broad path leads to destruction. In other words, God’s way is often the hard way, but pays off in the end. And transversely, the Devil’s way is always easy in the beginning, but ultimately leads to destruction. We have chosen to walk down the narrow path—inconceivably happy about being covered in fish goo. Isaiah said, “The paths of the righteous are level, because You make level the paths of the righteous.” Isaiah 26:7

Trusting in Him,


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rock of Ages, Roll For Me

At church Sunday, the offering hymn was a rock number. No, not a CHRITSIAN Rock number, a rock, rock number. I don’t remember the name of the group. Herman and the Dirty Noses? Willy and the Wonka’s? Foreplay? I don’t know…some such secular group. I have seen the lead singer before in a magazine. I only know that because Patty told me. He used to be married to Kate Hudson. Anybody that USED to be married to Kate Hudson is obviously a moron and a drug user. Or a homo, if you’ve ever seen Kate Hudson. Hoochie Mama!

Some might justify the use of secular music in a worship service. “We need to be relevant to the seekers.” I would agree. But not at the cost of being irreverent to the God we are there to worship. One of the lyrics said something about finding the light and being guided. But let me assure you that Kate’s ex did not mean the Light of the World, nor did he mean that the Holy Spirit should guide us. Make no mistake about it, Mr. Hudsonless here probably meant himself.

Now I am not some fuddy-duddy that thinks we should only sing hymns and the doxology. I love hymns. Hymns are great. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Come on, man! That’s great stuff. But I also love great praise songs and contemporary worship songs. But understand, the point of calling it a worship service is that we have gathered to worship the Lord. Everything that is done during that time should be pointed to the King of Glory! The prayer should be worshipful, the Scripture reading should be worshipful, the preaching event should be worshipful, and the offering should be worshipful (all you preachers say, “Amen!”) And most certainly, the music should be worshipful. Everything that we do should lead us and others present to worship the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

I love Psalm 95. Listen…

O come let us worship the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation! Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with a song of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

O come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.

You can not do that with a Coldplay song. You just can’t, and you shouldn’t try.



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Platypus and the Divine God

If anyone wonders if God has a sense of humor, just look at the platypus. A beaver with a duckbill, and a mammal that lays eggs…what a design! God is a lot of things. Adjectives fail to encapsulate Him. He is Holy, Good, Righteous, Just, and Sovereign. And, He is funny. Do you read the Bible the way I do? Then you know.

Consider Moses. Moses insists on a sign from God, and God says, “Take that stick in your hand and throw it on the ground.” Moses does and POOF, it becomes a snake. Moses runs and God has to call him back. That’s funny. I can picture Moses in mid flee, when God tells him to come back and pick up the snake. Now I have faith, but I might have kept running. When Jehu rides into Jerusalem to kill Jezebel, she does a Tammy Faye Baker and loads on the make up. I picture her with her hand on one hip, slightly turned toward the window saying, “Hey big boy.” (Think Mae West) Of course she was over 60 YEARS OLD! Not so inciting any more there Jez, baby. Jehu is 30 and he is not Ahab, and he sure ain’t interested. Which is part of the reason Jehu had her thrown out of the window. Now, that’s funny. Think about Elijah up there on Mt Carmel. The prophets of Baal are dancing around and cutting themselves trying to get their god to ignite some kindlin. Elijah…Lord love him…taunts them. He says, having trouble getting your god’s attention. Maybe he’s sleeping. Maybe he’s on vacation. And then, just as the prophets are getting their blood a’boiling (and a spewing) Elijah says, “hmph…maybe he’s in the john.” Now friends, that is funny.

Now here is something funny. I met with a man from Bethel Baptist Church in Olanta, SC. The search committee asked him to meet with me and so we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I interviewed with the full committee on the phone. This guy was really nice, and had a lot of nice things to say about his church. He also mentioned, just in passing really, about the “other” church in town. His comments about this sister congregation were less than flattering. The committee sent me an email Monday to tell me they were going to keep looking. Here is the funny part. Monday, I received a letter from the “other” church in Olanta asking me if I was interested in their search. Ahhh. You gotta love God.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I spoke with the search team from Gap Creek on Wednesday night. They have decided to pass. This is fine, as we have had yet another church contact us.

After 25 years of being a Christian the ways of God are still a mystery to me. For years I believed that I shouldn’t send out resumes. That it was somehow unspiritual and unseemly to ASK a church to call you. That God would see to it that you were where you were supposed to be. I guess I was a bit hyper-Calvinistic in my ministry search! But if that is so, why do so many churches advertise? Now that I have sent my resume to a few churches (literally, about 10-15) I am getting responses back almost weekly. More than half of the search committee from the church in South Carolina went on a mission trip and will be home Monday. They have already asked us to travel to SC and meet them and preach: date to be determined. If nothing else at least I am getting my grove back behind the pulpit. I believe in synergy. Everything has a purpose and you have to let every element find its place in the whole. This is not New Age physcobabble. It is actually a Quality Assurance concept. But truly, it is older than that…read on.
Patty and I claimed a verse years ago as our verse for ministry and life, as you can imagine it is Jeremiah 29:11. Listen…
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the LORD. Plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.”
God’s plan for my family and me are good ones. He is my God, and I am His servant. Now Paul adds to the confidence of Scripture for me. In a verse I claimed for myself 25 years ago. Again, listen to the Word…
“For we know all things work together for good, to those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28
Let me work with this one a bit. 1) Notice the word “know.” We KNOW God will be there for us, we do not have to wonder. 2) Notice the word “all.” Not in some things, but in all things, God is there with us. 3) Notice the word “work together.” Yeah, I know it’s two words in English, but it’s only one in Greek. It is the word sunergeo. It is where we get our word synergy. You know: different parts coming together to make a whole. It is the different elements of our lives, coming together to make a whole. Notice what it does not say! It does not say that everything IS GOOD. It says that things (events, tragedy, triumph, victory, and loss) all work together to become good in the end. I may not see the good now, but God sees the big picture. Also notice that this promise is only for those whom He has called. This is not meant to be Calvinist debate fodder. It means that those who have trusted in Him, the elect, the regenerate, the brethren. What it means is that those who have Jesus have already won. You see, the only way for it to all work out in the end is if you win eternity. It does not matter what happens in this life, but what happens in the next. Ultimately, things did not work out for good if you go to Hell! Trust in God and know, that no matter what, He is with you, and will never forsake you.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Striving After The Wind

In his great work on the human condition, Solomon points us to the finer nuances of life on earth. He titled it, Ecclesiastes, or the Teacher. The title actually comes from the first word in the Hebrew, which means Teacher or Preacher. If I wrote the book, I would have titled it something like, oh, let’s see… “Life Sucks.” No, wait, How about: “The Problem of Life With God.”
Solomon extols the pursuit of mankind’s days. Men typically spend their time on earth pursuing three things; Money, Happiness, and Education. Solomon tried materialism. This is the folly of youth. How much can I get, and how does it stack up with what everyone else has? It did not satisfy his soul. In fact, it left him wanting. He had great possessions, but he was empty on the inside. His stuff was just that…stuff. That new boat, the paint is fading. That new BMW, the doors are dinged. That new 56” big screen with the 1080I wide angle and surround sound DVD is not even 6 months old, and there is already a 60” 1080p and Blue Ray with digital Dolby. All of our new material stuff gets old and dusty and not-so-new anymore real quick! The satisfaction is fleeting.
So he tried the folly of the middle aged—hedonism. He pursued happiness with a vengeance. Of course that leaves you wondering the next day, “what was I thinking!” The happy drunk is the cranky hung-over guy waiting to happen. There were other, more tangible consequences as well, like 600 wives and 1,000 concubines. Holy alimony, Batman! Can you imagine 1,600 mother-in-laws!? Eeek. So, hedonism was no answer either. In the end, pleasure is just as fleeting as stuff. It is like cotton candy for the soul, it tastes so sweet and wonderful, but just as you start to enjoy it, it melts away before you can sink your teeth in.
So he tries the folly of the old—education. “I have to be able to get satisfaction somewhere!” Solomon cries out to us. “Maybe I can find it in wisdom.” So he pursues learning with the same vigor that he collected chariots and divorce lawyers. At the end of the day, the wisest man who ever lived said, “After I became so educated, I realized a very poignant fact…What happens to the fool will happen to me also.” (That’s the King Steve Version of Ecc 2:15-16) In other words, in the end, everybody dies, so everybody looses. It does not matter how much stuff you have, how much fun you had, or how wise you are, or how broke, dull, and dumb you are, when you are dead, they throw dirt on top of you.
Everything, Solomon saw, was like chasing after the wind. Just when you though you about had it, it slips through your fingers…like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our vanity! Then Solomon realized that what gives satisfaction in this life is not stuff, not fun, not even wisdom, but having God on your side. And, more importantly, being on His.
I have nice things. I have fun. I am one smart cookie! But when I think about my life, I am so glad that I can say with Job, “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and on the last day He will stand upon the Earth. And after my skin has thus been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see my God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold Him, and not those of another. My heart faints with in me!” Job 19:23-27 (ESV) At the end of the day, it is not the one with the most toys who wins. It is the one who has Jesus!



Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Presence of God and the Patience of Man

Elijah was on top. No, I mean, literally, he was on top. On top of Mt Carmel, that is. He was celebrating his greatest victory having just defeated the prophets of Baal in a fire-starter kinda-way. Here comes old Ahab, and he is m.a.d. He’s hot. It hasn’t rained in three years, and now his precious (think Golomh, from Lord of the Rings) has lost her favorite possession, her control of the people’s religious beliefs. Enter some clouds, a little mini flood, some comic relief at the expense of Ahab, and Jezebel is the one who gets hot under the collar. She is jumping up and down like an all-star short stop! And she sends word to Elijah that she is coming to get him. Here is a man that stood up against this horde of false prophets, faced down the king of Israel and made him look foolish, and is now knocking his knees together at the threats of this Tammy Faye Baker look-a-like. (See 2 Kings 9:30)
He runs like a BMW on the Autobahn. He hides under a juniper tree. He climbs into a cave on a far away mountain. This gets us to where I want to be for this post. Elijah is hiding in a cave. God is giving him rest. Now I’m no psychologist, just a biblisist; but folks, this is clinical depression we have going on here. (Read the whole story is 1 Kings 18-19) Elijah is in a funk. And here we see God ministering to him. Angels bring him food. You say “what kind of food?” Angel food cake, of course. Then something happens: a storm blows up. A class 5 tornado blows by so that the rocks are torn asunder. But God was not in the storm. Then an earthquake shakes things up a bit. But God was not in the earthquake. Then a raging fire roars through what was left of the stone. Now that is a fire! But God was not in the fire. After all of these things, God shows up, in a still…small…voice.
The point is that God doesn’t speak to us through the chaos of life. God doesn’t show us Himself through the storms. He speaks to us through peace. The calming, still, small, and might I add, sweet voice of His presence. I may be in a storm, an earthquake, or a fire. In the modern vernacular, these represent pressure, stress, strife—Atlanta traffic. Think of what causes you to lose your patience. Those things; finances, marital problems, unhappiness at work, disappointment with life in general, are represented in the storm, earthquake, and fire. In all of those things you will not find God. However, if you listen closely, if you will quiet the world around you, you will find God there. He is asking you to slow down, listen, and find the small, still voice of His presence.
Patty and I were watching Evan Almighty this weekend. In one scene God, adeptly played by Morgan Freeman, profoundly asks, “When people pray for patience, do you think I give them patience, or put them into situations that make them patient?” I would like to have peace, and so I’m looking for God to put me into a situation of peace. LOL. Instead of that, God has put me into a storm of emotions and volatility, and said, “Listen for my voice. Be still, and know that I am God.”



Monday, July 7, 2008

Gap Creek Baptist Church

So I haven’t written in a few days. That is because I have been asked to go to Cumberland Gap Tennessee to preach for a church that is interested in possibly calling me as their pastor.
I preached on Judges 3:31, "Shamgar, The Man Who Did What He Could." In a nutshell, Shamgar did what he could, with what he had, where he was, and he did all for the Glory of God. He did what he could (killed 600 Philistines) with what he had (an ox goad) where he was (on a rough road. see Judges 5:6) and he did all of that for God’s Glory (to save Israel).

The meeting went very well. The church is full of incredibly sweet and godly people. As you would imagine, pastoring a church in the East Tennessee Mountains would be an absolute answer to prayer, but pastoring a church full of this caliber of people anywhere would be amazing! For those who know us best,you know that our last two churches represented their own challenges. We loved everyone, but we were not always loved. At FBC, our ministry was a ministry of bonding. We, I believe, helped the church through a rough time as she found her footing and wrestled with doctrinal challenges. When I say rough, think stucco bathtub!

At CRBC our ministry was to bring healing to those who desired healing, and to show the door to those who did not. While we grew personally at CRBC, we were once again asked to love people who needed help in learning to love, especially one another. The "Great Split of '97" colored everything that we tried to do, and eventually became a burden we could no longer bear. It was 2007 after all.

I honestly believe that if God calls us to Gap Creek, it would be for the sake of loving people just because PEOPLE deserve to be loved. The church’s vision for a leader and our philosophy of ministry are a good match. As previously stated, the church is full of sweet folks who love the Lord. And they are growing and desire to continue. They are about 175 in SS currently, although the church was full Sunday. And the choir is awesome. If it is God’s will, we will go. If God has more challenges, a longer timetable for rest, or just another great church, we are open to His leading. Pray for us as we pray through!

Wherever He leads, I’ll go!



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Tale of Two Storms

I first read a tale of two cities when I was sin 7th grade. As a 7th grader, I wasn’t impressed with the assignment, but I did enjoy the book. And it left an indelible impression. When I read the story of Jonah again, I thought about this post…a Tale of Two Storms.
In the Gospels we read about a storm that was raging on the sea of Galilee. Jesus was asleep in the bottom of the boat. Sound familiar? The storm came up and the winds blew and the sailors were pretty concerned about the hydrological security of the vessel. They began to form a bucket bridge and finally someone thought to themselves and said…”Hey! Where’s Jesus? We could use another bucket passer.” No really, they said “We could use some help.” Help. But what kind? Jesus was tired. I mean to the bone, dead-to-the-world, as exhausted as a muffler tired.
Here is the real problem with the Panic 12 up on the poop deck. It was as if thy believed that Jesus was only God when He was awake. “Wake up, Sleeper!” See they woke Jesus up and He walks out and says, “BE QUIET!” The Greek work used here is siopao. It can be interpreted as “Shut up!”
Sometimes I wonder who He was talking to. Listen to the disciples’ question, “Do You not care that we are perishing?” Does He not care!? Does He NOT CARE!? Are you serious? Do you know the reason Jesus was so tiered? He had just learned that His cousin and herald was just murdered. He had spent the entire day preaching and healing, and let me tell you that when Jesus healed everyone got healed. The time didn’t matter to Him. But His human body had caught up with His God nature, and He was exhausted. And so He slept. The lesson here was that the Disciples needed to see Jesus in His vulnerability and contrasted with His Divinity. They saw a sleepy eyed prophet that was able to control nature with just a syllable, siopao.
The contrast is clear. God, sleepy and tired from doing good, and a rebellious man of God sleeping through his guilt and shame. I am glad I have a Savior that had to sleep. I am glad I had a savior that cried. (John11:35) I am glad I have a Savior that got hungry. (John 4:8) And I am glad I have a Savior that suffered from a little anxiety. (Luke 22:42)
Perhaps most of all I am glad I have a Savior that had to ask God Why? (Matthew 27:46)
You see if Jesus had some vulnerability, He can be more of a Savior to me. If Jesus asked God the Father “Why?” how much more should I feel OK with asking God Why.
Lastly, I am so Glad that I have a Savior that can calm a storm with a word. Siopao. Be quiet and know that I am God.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jonah and the sailors, part 2

So, our boy Jonah is asleep in the belly of the ship, so-to-speak. And there is a great, God generated storm tearing apart the ship, and the prophet is snoozing. Now the captain comes down, probably finds the original Napster behind some cargo getting ready to be tossed, and says, “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”
This is amazing! The sailors have to ask Jonah about his religious preference. They don’t even know he is a Believer! I wonder…do the people where you work know that you are a Christian? You know I looooove college football. And nobody who is around me for more than a minute or two has to wonder who my team is. How ‘bout them Dawgs! Go you silver britches? Woof! Woof. So let me throw my first football analogy at you. Those wonderful boys in red and black do not receive a free education, great coaching from Brother Richt, and national exposure for no reason. Suppose that they came on the field on a sunny, Saturday, September afternoon in Athens, ran out to the middle of the field, and huddled up. Now imagine that they never broke the huddle. The 90,000 plus in the stands wouldn’t cheer for long. Eventually, they would expect them to get out of the huddle and run a few plays. And hopefully score a few TD’s! People, God did not save us so that we could gather up in our Holy Huddles on Sunday mornings! He saved us so that we could get out there and make a few plays. It is great, in fact needful, to get in the huddle. Sunday mornings are not supposed to be our Christian existence though. We huddle up so that we can learn the plays, then go out on Mondays, and execute.
Jonah told them he was a Believer. And the men freaked. They started to pray to their one gods. Eventually Jonah tells them he has to go for a swim. They don’t like it, but they do throw him in the drink. Instantly. I mean the second his big toe gets damp, the wind stops. What do the sailors do? The believe. And as close as you can make the analogy to an Old Testament event, they get saved! They make vows unto the Lord. Isn’t that what we do when we get saved? Make a vow to God? Absolutely. Jonah wasn’t happy. He was running from Nineveh to keep from having Gentiles saved, and he inadvertently leads to a mass Gentile conversion. One day I want to talk to those sailors in heaven. They are some of the heroes of the Old Testament to me. They were throwing a party, as Jonah was drowning. And why not, the angels were undoubtedly singing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jonah and the Sailors, Part 1

We last saw our hero Jonah boarding a ship, bound for Tarshish. He is running from the presence of the Lord. He doesn’t like his latest ministry assignment. Go and preach to the Taliban. Convert Osama Bin Laden. So, instead of following God’s instructions, he flees.
“But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god, and threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load. But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep.”
A few things for this post. 1) Jonah is running. Notice the Bible says, “But the Lord.” The first “But” is Jonah’s. The last “But” is the Lord’s. He always has the last say-so. 2) The Lord sent out a great wind. The Hebrew term here is Tuwl (pronounced tool.) It means to hurl. God hurled the storm. Here, God means business. He is sending a sign to Jonah. God shows us His will on a consistent basis; many times, we either don’t perceive them, or too often, just ignore them.
The storm is so great that the ship is about to be torn apart. The sailors are doing everything they can to save the ship. They are manning the decks, rigging the line,…row, row, rowing the boat. But to no avail! Finally, in life threatening desperation, they throw the cargo overboard. Remember that this is a cargo ship. They take stuff from here, trade it for stuff over there, and then sell the over-there stuff over here to make a few drachmas. This is their livelihood, people! This storm is so bad that they are willing to sacrifice their fortunes to save their necks, and Jonah, the Lord’s man, the preacher, the pastor, and the calm assuror…is sound asleep!
Let’s camp awhile, shall we? The first thing I see is how our sin affects other people that are around us. Jonah’s sin cost these sailors. When they would get back from Tarshish, their wives would meet them at the docks, with the little rug rats in tow, waiting to go to Joppa Kroger, Joppa Wal Mart, and Joppa Payless (a lot of shoe need to be bought.) But because of Jonah’s rebellious sin, the sailors suffered as well. The principal is crystal clear to me. When we sin and refuse to repent, we hurt those closet to us. A man has an affair, he shatters his family. His wife is crushed, his daughter becomes untrusting, his son mimics his behavior. We lie, those near us suffer. We lose our temper, we hurt those we love. We sin, those close to us pay a cost.
The other thing is that Jonah was asleep! They are about to die and he’s taking a nap! Here is a clear analogy to the church in today’s culture. The world around us is going to Hell in a hand basket, and the church is dead asleep. Outside of our four walls, there is a whole world lost, dying, and on their way to Hell. And we argue about what color to paint the woman’s restroom or how much money we spent on our last Trunk-or-Treat!
In the meantime, the culture is invading the church! Listen, I’m all for becoming culturally relevant. Blend your worship service, put in rotating lighting, and preach wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. But for the love of all that is right and holy, stop making yourselves so culturally reflective that you can no longer tell the difference between you and the world. Jesus said that we are to be a separated people. That’s what “called of God” means. To be separated from the world. Not isolated from the world, but to be a peculiar people. In other words, we are to be different from the world. In the world—but not of the world. Jerry Vines has said it best; “The church is not called to be a thermometer registering the temperature of the culture, we are called to be a thermostat setting the temperature of the culture.” We should show the world that there is something better. We can make adjustments and thereby make the culture want to be a part of our services. But there has to be a point when they recognize that they need something more. And that something is Jesus! WAKE UP, CHURCH! Show these people the Jesus in you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bumper Sticker Faith

I heard a story (Don’t all preachers?) about a woman having a bad hair day. A guy in front of her stopped short at a red light and she blew a gasket. She honked, screamed and gestured with a certain finger, when suddenly a rap at the door startled her. She saw a police officer. He had her step out of the car and accused her of stealing the car. She asked why he would think she had stolen the car, and he said it obviously belonged to a Christian. There was a Christian fish symbol and Right to life bumper sticker on the car., Her gestures and foul language surely suggested that she was not the owner of the car!
That got me thinking, do we have a Bumper Sticker Faith? Are our beliefs boiled down to a bunch or pithy sayings and churchese. Sure, we speak of our faith. We can talk about being washed in the blood and giving the right-hand-of-Christian-fellowship. (I’ve always wondered where all that blood came from. I guess the guy missing his right hand!) Anyway, we speak of counting our many blessings, and praying through. But are they more than just words?
Peter told us that we are to be Holy, just as God is Holy. Can we ever truly achieve the same Holiness of God? Not here, obviously. One day, surely. But in the meantime, we are to strive to be more Christ-like. Don’t have a bumper sticker faith. Strive to be more like Him. Strive to have a holiness like Christ! Don’t just know about Jesus, don’t just know about your faith. Know Him. Paul said, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” What does that mean? Paul said I have put everything in this world on hold. I have made them secondary so that I might be able to reach out to Him, the way He reached out to me.

God Bless

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pit

Let’s take a break from Daniel and Jonah. I listened to Ed Young Jr today (it’s Sunday). He was speaking about Joseph and his trials. First with his brothers, then Potiphar’s wife, and then the wine taster. A quick refresher: Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, and Jacob showed it openly. He was next to the youngest of 12 brothers. Jacob didn’t mind showing that he was the favorite. He had a dream about his brothers falling at his feet, and so he told his brothers about the dream. This was no casual conversation mind you. He was boasting. I’m daddy’s favorite, I have the coat of many colors (spelled R.O.Y.A.L.Y.) and one day you will all be in submission… The brothers had had enough. They threw Joseph into a pit, took the coat and dipped it in animal blood, told Jacob that Joseph was dead, and sold Joseph into slavery. A really bad day! He woke up a king and went to sleep a slave. Ed’s sermon was about Betrayal. What God spoke to me from this message, and from the entire story, was about pits!
Why was Joseph, one of the greatest men ever to live, thrown into the pit? I think there are lessons here. Because Joseph was sold to a guy named Potiphar, a high-ranking official in Egypt. Now, Joseph was out of the physical pit but not out of the spiritual pit. He toiled as a slave for 10 years or so with Potiphar. Eventually, his looks and his brains got him to be Potiphar’s chief slave. He was a good-looking guy, and Potiphar’s wife took notice. She tried to seduce Joseph, and he refused. Eventually she tried to force him into bed and even ripped of his…hmmm...his coat. That boy had coat problems. The coat or cloak, like and outer shirt, was a sign of his rank. She falsely accused Joseph of rape. She gave the coat to Potiphar as proof of the “attempted rape.” Joseph had been a loyal servant to Potiphar for 10 years! He had proved himself, and even been faithful to God, by fleeing the seductress! Yet what happed? He is thrown into prison. He was thrown into another pit!
Why do we go from pit to pit to pit? Why do we work steadfastly, prove our loyalty, and even our devotion, and are still thrown into pits! It seems so unfair! Well, another decade goes by, Joseph proves himself faithful and loyal, and eventually he is made the chief of the prison! Still a prisoner, but over the affairs of the place. One day some new prisoners arrive. The baker and wine taster to the Pharaoh. They had been accused to plotting an assassination. The baker and the wine taster were in key roles. Obviously, the baker cooked Pharaoh’s food, and the taster ate some to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. After a few days in the prison, these guys have a dream. They are disturbed. I would think that the death sentence would have been disturbing, but they have a dream and freak out! Joseph, the dreamer, says, “Hey! I am your guy! The best dream reader in history!” Well, not really. Joseph says, “Doesn't God alone know the meaning of dreams? Now tell me what you dreamed and I’ll get God’s take on it.” Somewhere along the way Joseph has learned from his twenty some years in pits that “It ain’t about me! It is about God.”
The interpretations of their dreams come true. The baker in given a long walk on a short pier, and the wine sipper is sent back to Pharaoh. Joseph’s last words to this guy were, “Hey, remember me when you get back to Pharaoh!” And of course, he …didn’t. For two more years Joseph stayed in the pit. The rest, as they say, is history. The wine sipper eventually remembers Joseph when Pharaoh has a dream. Joseph makes and impression, because of God saves Egypt from famine and is made number two in all of Egypt, only under the Pharaoh himself. Eventually, Joseph saves his family, and yes, the brothers fell down at his feet.
Quite a story, but I have never really paid attention to the pits in Joseph’s live before. Joseph was in the pit because he had not gotten where he was going yet. Each pit taught him something, and each pit was a step along the progression. Had he not gone to prison, he would not have been in a place to influence Pharaoh. Had he not been at Potiphar’s house, he would not have been in an Egyptian prison. Had his brothers not sold him into slavery, he would not have been at Potiphar’s house. Joseph had some things to learn about himself. But ultimately, Joseph went through these pits so he could save his family. He got where he was going, where God intended him to be. The dream was not so Joseph could be lifted up above his brothers, but to show him he would be as a savior to them.
The pits in my life seem severe to me. I would like to think that I have grown through each one. And I hold out hope that I am not where I am going yet. That there is a place where God wants me to be where I can be an influence to a community of Believers. But through it all, I must remember that no matter how horrible my pit may seem, that Jesus Christ suffered a much worse pit than I can imagine. He took my place in the wrath of God poured out upon my sin. He paid the penalty, the debt that I owed, and in so doing, did not just become as a savior, but He became my Savior. When I think about that, it makes my pit a little more bearable. I hope it makes yours the same as well!

God Bless

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Going God’s Way

Ok. So Jonah is told to Arise and Go to Nineveh. And he arose to go to Tarshish. He was the original marathon runner. He was told to go 500 miles northeast, and he goes 2500 miles southwest. He first heads to the port city of Joppa so he can catch a ride to Nineveh. A ship, actually. Joppa was a port town in Judah on the coast of the Mediterranean sea. At the time it was still called the Great Sea. (They hadn’t seen the Pacific yet!) Tarshish was a port city in Spain, on the opposite end of the Great Sea. Two things we know about Tarshish: it was known for its iron goods. The word tarshish means “to smelt.” No doubt the boat Jonah boarded was a cargo ship. It would take cargo, olive oil, wool, and timber from Lebanon to Spain in trade for iron goods like weapons, tools, and ore. The second thing Tarshish was known for was that it was considered to be the far end of the world. Timbuktu. China. Outer Mongolia. It was far. About as far as you could get, in fact, in the opposite direction that God wanted.
Jonah had decided that if he went to Outer Mongolia, he would not have to preach to the Ninevites. But the first leg was to Joppa. “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
So he went to Joppa, and what???!! He paid the fare. Wow. I could camp out here for a long while. But let us get right to the heart. This was not like going to Hartsfield International Airport and catching a flight to LA. It was not everyday that a boat was sailing to Tarshish. But when Jonah was running from the LORD, there was a boat waiting to set sail. What am I driving at? Simple. If you are ready to run from God’s will, the devil is waiting to provide the transportation! Thinking of cheating on your wife? The devil will make sure that some hussy comes strolling by with high heels and short skirts, with more make up on than Tammy Faye Baker! Thinking about scamming some dough from your employer? The devil will make sure that the boss never checks your expense reports. You get the idea. The second thing I see here is that when you run from God, you pay the fare. When you run with God, He pays the fare. I cannot even begin to express to you how many times God paid the fare. Nor how many time we had to pay the fare. Sin is like a box of choc.. oops. Wrong analogy. Sin is like a credit card. You can run up a tab with no pain. But one day the bill comes due.
Think about Moses’ mother, Jocobed. She trusted God and put her baby in the Nile river. Pharaoh’s daughter found the child and paid Jocobed a salary for nursing her own child! Run with God…He picks up the tab. And I think about the time Patty and I had bills due and no money. I prayed about it so earnestly. We were attempting to go God’s way. The day before our mortgage payment was due, the money was in our account! It was a God thing. Psalm 37:3 says, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” We have had our share of issues, but verily we have always dwelt in the land and been fed. I want to go God’s way. What about you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Rebellious Preacher

Jonah was a rebellious preacher. What!? Rebellious preacher? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? Listen to Jonah 1:1-3. “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.”
The first thing is that the Word of the LORD came to Jonah. Just so we don’t miss it, this is Amittai’s son, Jonah. Yeah, that Jonah, the famous prophet from Gath-hepher. (see 2 Kings 14:25 and Jonah’s famous prediction) Hmmmm. Not ringing a bell, eh? OK, lets put it into a modern perspective. Jonah was from Possum Trot, KY. He was from Pumpkin Center, GA. He was from Bell Buckle, TN. He was a down home, red neck, Tennessee windsucker of a preacher. In-other-words, he was a famous guy from a not so famous place.

It makes me wonder if Jonah had a small town chip on his shoulder. He shopped at the Jerusalem Wal Mart, while all of his contemporaries shopped at the Mall of Israel. Niemen Marcus wasn’t his thing. Neither was the high falutin politics of Israel in the reign of Jeroboam. The enemy was the Assyrians, specifically their leader, Tigleth-Pileser. Envision Hitler, Hussein, and Osama all rolled into one.
Now here was this country boy from Nowheresville, the famous preacher who had led Israel into a great time of national revival and to a certain point spiritual revival, and the word of the LORD comes.

At first I would imagine that Jonah was all excited . A word from the LORD. Would it be another famous prediction? A great word of oratory he should deliver to the priests? Perhaps a promotion…that rascal Jeroboam could stand to be taken down a notch or two. No. Nope. Uh-uh. The word of the LORD came to Jonah, the son of Amittai saying…wait for it… Arise. Go to Nineveh (Tigleth=Pileser’s home town) that great city and cry out against it.

You may say that’s not so bad. Except Jonah knew his theology. God would not issue a call of judgment unless He also offered a chance of repentance. And Jonah was not about to give the Ninevehites a chance to repent! He was a bigoted, racist, judgmental Bapti..uh, preacher. A rebellious preacher. Instead of following God’s sure, certain call, he ran in the opposite direction. I’ll say more about his run later. For now, I want you to see the contrast between Daniel’s purposeful position, and Jonah’s rebellious run. Both were godly men. Both knew the truth. But Jonah lost his way. How often do we lose our way? Pretty often I would guess. The great thing is that God still finds a way for us, even in our rebellion. That “Way” is Jesus Christ. Paul said that While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. While Jonah was still formulating a plan, God was creating a really big fish. While you were still learning the ropes of sin, God was “dieing” on a cross to take your place. The great thing about God is that He doesn’t wait for to come to Him, before He starts planning the good things He has in store for us. Take a special encouragement from that this week, won’t you?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jesus Christ, Superstar?

This blog entry was supposed to be about Jonah and his spiritual journey. Or at least the beginning of Jonah’s journey in comparison to Daniel. Then tonight I was asked a question that brought me to rethink that. So Jonah will have to wait another day.

The question was simple and innocent enough. “Was the woman at the well the same person as Mary Magdalene?” The answer is no, of course. Mary was from Magdala, hence Mary the Magdalene. The woman at the well was from Sychar. (Compare John 4 with Luke 8) Magdala was a small village near the Sea of Galilee. Sychar was in Samaria. But I digress.

Nevertheless, it is the source of the question that is distressing. The question came from the vile play Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ve never seen it, and probably never will. But apparently the insinuation or out right plot-line is that Mary and the woman from Sychar were one and the same. Here is the rub. Too many Believers today have a Jesus Christ Superstar theology. We receive our Biblical education at the hands of the Hollywood elite, who to a person hate the very existence of the light of Jesus Christ. We believe Indiana Jones when he says that the cup of Christ imparts ever lasting life—and that the eternal life spoken of is a fleshly life. We believe Dan Brown when he tells us that Da Vinci was some great potentate of the secreted truth and that “Christianity” voted as to whether or not we would believe in the divinity of Christ. We believe Peter Jennings when he tells us that the search for the historical Jesus proves that there is no proof of a resurrection.

We believe because we have a Jesus Christ Superstar theology. What kind of theology should we have, you ask? Let’s ask Jonah. (I can’t help but chase these rabbits and right now Jonah is one of them.) Jonah had a Jesus Christ Superstar theology. He cared more about what the culture thought than what God thought. Until, that is, the water flowed over his head.

Listen to Jonah 2…”When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.” When did he remember the LORD, in the moment of his distress. Jonah chapter 2 has no less than 12 Psalms referenced. Jonah discovered a Biblical theology.

We need to get into God’s Word. We should study it to show ourselves approved. (Any AWANA leaders out there?) Then we won’t be dependent on Hollywood to teach us the Scriptures. When we make His Word a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, we will become like a tree planted by the river, that brings forth fruit in do season. Then we will be able to say, “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” How can we know His plans, when we don’t know His Words?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Purpose of the Heart

Daniel is a complex character. In the book of Daniel it says that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat. The back story has to do with the historical over throw of the kingdom of Judah. The neo-Babylonian Empire had conquered Judah. Daniel, a boy probably about Luke’s age at the time, was from the royal household. No one knows for sure, but he was probably a nephew of the king, Jehoiakim. The politics are interesting enough, but suffice it to say that the Babylonian king, a lovely guy named Nebuchadnezzar, conducted a policy to insure his kingdom’s power over the far flung empire. He would take young kids from the royal house holds, take them to Babylon, and turn them into Babylonian clones. In this case, he wanted Daniel to be Jewish on the outside, but Babylonian on the inside. Then he could send him back to rule over his own people. Accepted by the people, acceptable to Nebuchadnezzar.
One way to do this was by opulence. He would give the boys everything they could dream of! The best wine, the choicest cuts of meat, the most decadent desserts. Fine things, finer women, feather beds, and a heard of servants. Who wouldn’t be indebted to Nebuchadnezzar? Well, Daniel. The meat that was set before him would have been offered to idols. This was a small and trivial point, because Daniel himself didn’t do the idol worship. But it broke the rules none the less, and Daniel simply couldn’t break the rules. So he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat. So he went on a diet of pulse and water. What is pulse you ask? That’s easy...grits! The Hebrew word Zeroa’ translates basically as “anything that is grown in the ground.” So it was vegetables.
Here is the point, the world offered this teenage boy anything he wanted, and he chose to honor God. Maybe one of his ancient relatives had a part in his understanding. Solomon once said that if you raise a child according to the truth, when they are “old,” (the term means “coming of age,”) they will do what is right. (See Proverbs 22:6) It is obvious that Daniel was raised right.
What about me? What about you? When the world offers us opulence, do we honor God? When we are given a heap full of grief, do we honor God? The man I want to be on the outside wants to purpose in my heart. However, the Jonah sometimes raises his head.
To be continued…..

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Spiritual Journey

I can’t say that I want to get back to the roots of this blog, because I never really got started. I wanted this to be a place for me to reveal the truth of the Word, an outlet of sorts for what God is telling me as I read through the Scriptures.

So over the next several weeks I want to talk about my two favorite personalities of the Old Testament—Jonah and Daniel. Daniel is a favorite because he is so Christ-like. Jonah because he is so…well…me-like. The signature verse in the Book of Daniel is 1:8, “So Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.” He purposed in his heart that he would not forsake God and God’s rules. For Jonah, the key verse is 3:1, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.” We all know how bad Jonah messed up, but God kept giving Jonah a second chance. (If you don’t know how bad Jonah messed up, keep checking back.)

You see, it doesn’t matter if you are a great man of purpose like Daniel, or a total screw-up like Jonah, God can use you. (And, can use me!) He is the God of the second chance, or third chance, or hundredth chance. I love the comparison found in these two men, and the internal comparison I make between what I strive to be on the outside, and who I feel I am on the inside. Both men took a trip—a journey of faith and self discovery. Over the next few weeks, join me on a similar trip of self searching and faith building. A trip of Biblical understanding that hopefully will help us all to realize the inner Daniel and combat the internal Jonah that keeps us from God’s presence.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Handling Fear in the Face of Oppression

What is fear? Webster’s says it is “A feeling of disquiet or apprehension.” I kind of think of it as an irrational feeling or emotion of anxiety or dread. So what do you fear? I fear money. I don’t worship money, I don’t covet money, I fear it. And sometimes, especially days like today, I fear money more than I fear God. It seems over powering and dreadful. I understand well why people feel so desperate over something so trivial.

God is working with me in his area, and is certainly teaching me some valuable lessons. I have been concentrating on Him, instead of the worry. There is precedent for this. The writer of the book of Hebrews said this… “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 (HCSB)

Amen. What can man do to me? Despite my fear, I will trust God and move forward. This too shall pass. I am reminded of the story of a ship at sea that was dilapidated. The crew came to the captain and asked him about their fate. The captain said, “Well the ship is taking on water, so we may sink. And the boilers are old and decrepit, and they may blow. But whether we go up, or whether we go down, one thing is for sure, we are going on.” I may be rich, or I may be poor, but I am going on.

Do you know the difference between contentment and discontentment . Discontentment is a disease, and it takes away your joy and it takes away your peace. And what is contentment? Contentment is not getting what you want, but it is wanting what you already have. I think I’ll try being content.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Born Loser

When I was a kid, about nine years old, I really got into the comic section of the newspaper. Peanuts, Blondie and B.C. were all great strips. There was one strip I enjoyed in particular though. I think my attraction came from the fact that it was the only strip my dad would read. Boys at this age tend to emulate their dads. (A post for another day!) The strip was The Born Loser. The misadventures of poor old Brutus Thornapple can still be read today at
The Bible speaks of a born loser as well. His name wasn’t Brutus, however; it was Jabez. Listen to 1 Chronicles 4:9: “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’” Jabez was born in pain. He undoubtedly lived his life that way as well. After all, Jabez means “Pain.” Most commentators believe that he had some form of disability that caused his life to be wracked with pain. This boy walked around everyday being constantly reminded of his pain whenever someone called his name. On the playground, “Hey, Pain, want to play kickball?” At the office, “Excuse me, Mr. Pain. Do you want to see the sales forecast now?” Now despite all of this it was Jabez…Pain…that uttered the prayer, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory.” Jabez, the born loser, called upon his God.
You know, the same prayer that Jabez uttered is available to you and to me. We can also call upon our God and pray for ourselves, for our families, and for our churches. Won’t you? Ask God to enlarge your borders, your circle of influence. Ask Him to walk with you, holding you by the hand. And pray that God would keep you from harming His witness. Listen to the HSCB translation: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez and said, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez called out to the God of Israel: "If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain." And God granted his request.”
In a sense, we are all losers! We lost the first moment we sinned; but we do not have to stay that way. I would challenge you to expand your prayer life. If you are praying five minutes a day, make it ten. If you’re praying two hours a day, make it three. Like Jabez, you may not be free from your pain, but you will have God’s blessing on your life.

Monday, June 2, 2008

plastic in the pulpit

OK. Occasionally, I read a weblog. When I do, it is either Al Molher’s or Wade Burrleson’s (See favorite places.) Until recently. My wife stared to “blog.” So I check out hers everyday, and would encourage you to do the same.
Alright, so much for the blatant advertisement.
I write emails, not blogs. I write sermons—well I used to write them, before God and Clarks River put a stop to that. I write job descriptions now. Whoo boy. Now I guess I write blogs. Who knew that I had a following with my emails. So this I write for my fan base at Annette Winn elementary school. You guys rock!

What I could not understand, but have just begun to realize, is why God did not provide a church for us when we left CRBC. What I have found is that God definitely wants us to learn something about church and ministry.

Here is a big one. What is up with all the plastic in the pulpit? We have visited a lot of churches since moving to Atlanta. Big ones, little ones, and everything in between. What I have noticed is that many preachers have forgotten that they are called to be pastors!

The Bible uses three terms for those who are called to be the “pastor” of a church. Elder (Presbuteros), Bishop (Episkopos), and Pastor (Poimen). We in the Baptist realm shirk the whole Elder and Bishop thing. We will leave the high falut’n titles to the Episcopalians and Presbyterians. Pay close attention to the Greek words in the title.

The term poimen translates literally into Shepherd. Ah, ha. Shepherd. A pastor is to be a shepherd, which is why I prefer the term. You see, a shepherd smells like his sheep. When a lamb is born, the shepherd will hold the lamb in his hands and rub it for hours. Forever after, that man is the sheep’s shepherd. He smells like sheep.

Sheep don’t like plastic, and I’m seeing a lot of plastic in the pulpit. Why can’t these guys see that church members care more about having someone who will sit with them at the hospital, that is just as comfortable talking on the front porch as from the pulpit, and (hello) actually cares more about their lives than they do about great oratory.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have sat in a church lately and watched a preacher stand at the front of the church, waiting to be approached! It makes me scratch my head. Have we come so far that we believe we are an elite group of Holy men? Plastic preachers, preaching from plastics pulpits. Well, ladies and gentlemen, step right up and see a real, live pastor. Or at least, read a real live pastor. Oh, well. I have vented. Check back to find out what I have to say about what God reveals in His word.