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.