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My “Good Thing”

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD (Proverbs 18:22)

I am going to take the time in this note to brag on my wife. Kathy and I have been married for 35 years and when we married many people said we would not last 5 years. I do not look at her and think we have “lasted” a lot longer, I look at her with grateful love and appreciation that she said yes to me. We have been through a lot together.

We married on March 30, 1984 (our first date was December 10, 1983). I deployed on April 23rd for seven and a half months. When I returned, she had our first apartment all set up and ready for our first “home”. She did this without fully understanding everything about being a Navy wife and she did it with magnificently. Spanish Oaks in Charleston, South Carolina will always be special to us.

She gave birth to our son, Jason, on November 29, 1985 at 4:55 AM because she told my mom she was not having Thanksgiving in the hospital. God was good and let her have mom’s thanksgiving meal…then he broke her water just a few hours later. We had no idea how much her life would change in less than a year.

In 1986 a scan revealed a grapefruit sized tumor in her brain. While we were not faithfully following the Lord, we prayed that He would help us, and He did (a reminder that God is faithful even when we are not). Even though Jason’s first birthday was celebrated in Kathy’s hospital room, the tumor was successfully removed. The only complications we had were dealing with a few infections, which called for surgery to remove part of her skull and replace it with a protective mesh. This just means she cannot go on rides at amusement parks that throw you around or get you dizzy. The doctors also told her that because of some of the medications she was on she might not be able to get pregnant again…they were once again wrong. In the summer of 1987, we found out she was pregnant.

Because of the medications she was having to take, this was not an easy pregnancy. Kathy started having seizures and we spent many days rushing to the ER to monitor her and the baby. On March 27, 1988 at 11:36 AM, our daughter Amber made her entrance into this world. She was born a few weeks early and did not like normal formula for a while, but she was healthy and so was Kathy.

Over my 21 years in the Navy we moved almost every 3-5 years, and Kathy was usually the one having to do all the planning and preparing (I was out to sea or on a mission during shore duty). For some reason the Navy always moved us around her birthday (Oct 5), this was an emotional strain for her.

Since 1986, Kathy has been diagnosed with many health issues, many of the hereditary. She has neurofibromatosis (discovered because of brain tumor), equilibrium issues, osteoporosis (especially in her lower back causing chronic pain), arthritis, and most recently fibromyalgia. I write all of this not for anyone to feel sorry for her, she nor I want that, but to say how much I appreciate everything she does when she is able to do them.

Yes, there are times she cannot make it to church or church events due to not being able to move well or simply unable to get out of bed. But this does not mean she is unfaithful to God or His church…she is just in a tremendous amount of physical pain. I would not even wish that my worst enemy had what she has. I miss her deeply when she is unable to be with me at church (she is my strongest support and my helper). I hate traveling alone (except on my hunting trips with my dad). Even when she sleeps in the car while I drive, just having her there means the world to me.

So, if there are times you do not see her, then say a prayer for her. She might be in pain and in bed trying to ease the pain or she might be in the nursery or extended session with our grandson, Connor, and the other children. She loves the children, and she especially loves being Nana to Connor. My wife is an awesome wife, mom, Nana, and friend. She is God’s gift to me, and she strives to be the best pastor’s wife she can be. I love her more than words can express, and I thank God everyday for her. So, I am happy to brag on her in this note, because she makes me proud to be her husband. She truly is my “good thing.”

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It’s Personal, Pastor

What if you got everything you always wanted? Would you be satisfied and content? The answer to that question is NO you would not, because you would then have to deal with the issue of opposition from others who did not receive everything they wanted. Personal preferences are just that, personal to the individual that desires them. Therefore, you will never find your “perfect” church.

For many years, I was “away” from church because of how I was treated after my parents were divorced in 1981. For some reason “Christians” have made divorce the “unpardonable sin”, and I was ostracized by the church family I grew up with for the first sixteen years of my life. But that is for another post later. I tell you that to say it was then that I stayed away from church, because churches did not meet my preferences. I made a “mental” list of what a church must look like for me to return. It was an unachievable list, but one that I justified within myself. People still make these lists today causing them to stay away from church but justifying their actions.

So, what are your personal preferences that hinder you from being where God wants you? Musical style, preaching style, Bible translation used, small groups meeting away from the church instead of in a Sunday school environment, how people “dress” for worship, activities for your children, ministries offered by the church. You can continue your list as you would like, because this is not all inclusive, nor is it based on things at this church…these are just from over sixteen years of observance as a pastor in a small church. Have we forgotten the cost of following Jesus, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk 9:23)?

Notice my question above has asked you what it is that hinders you from being where God wants you. A hindering heart is a non-serving heart and a heart that God will not use for kingdom work. There is a great need in the church today to put away all personal preferences and focus on the Great Commandment as we fulfill the Great Commission

Final Thoughts at Christmas 2018

As I sit here looking at what is left of Christmas when you have a two-year-old grandson in the house, I smile at the mess, but I also feel sad that the day is ending. I know that for months we have planned on this day to arrive so we could see the excitement on his face, this was the first year he understood Santa and presents. Even though he is still under the weather, he was overwhelmed with the gifts and is still processing all that this day brought.

I also know that Christmas is not the same for everyone as it is for me and my family. I miss being with my family back in Alabama during the holidays. It has been over ten years since I spent Christmas back home. It was the final Christmas my mom ever had, and we had to celebrate it with her in the hospital. Today, there are many of you that had similar feelings mixed into a day we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. I spent some time today doing what I could to help a dear friend that was not have a joyous Christmas and it was difficult for her. I spent time thinking on some that this Christmas was their first Christmas without a loved one who had passed away this year. Emotions are high, and low, on this day and as believers we should be sensitive to this so we can better minister to those around us.

So, as Christmas comes to a close in just a few minutes, I want to let you know that you are loved with a love that is greater than any words I can type or say. No matter your circumstance at this moment, God loves you with a love that surpasses anything this world attempts to suppress you through meanness or ugliness. In the brokenness of man’s relationship with God brought on by the fall in the garden of Eden, God promised to send a rescuer to restore fallen man into a right relationship with Him. Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises. He promised that through the seed of woman would come someone who would crush the head of Satan, while only bruising His heel. This man was born on the day we celebrate Christmas and His name is Jesus. Why did this happen? Because “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16–17, NKJV). May you never forget how much God loves you. God bless you as you press forward into 2019.

 

Another Year

Here we are…Again. Another year is rapidly ending. The saying is true, “the older you get, the faster the years go by.” I cannot believe 2018 is about to be over and we will ring in 2019 (Lord willing) in a few days. Soon you and I will put away the Christmas decorations, make a promise to ourselves to we will do much better in 2019, and some of you will join a gym for the month of January. Just for your information, the worst time to join a gym is now…they will be extremely crowded the first month of the year.

Oh, there will be other promises made besides the standard workout, eat better, and get off soda ones. Christians will make the standard ones too; pray more, read the Bible more, give more (or begin to finally give), and go to church more. There is that false assumption that if I do more, God will love me more and all will in my life. Yes, things will be better by spending more time with God, you will begin to have a close fellowship with Him and He desires for you will become easy to recognize and understand…it will not make Him love you any more than he already does. A central attribute of God is that He is LOVE and love always flows from Him.

As we enter 2019, my challenge to my church is the same it has been for many years…stop trying to do things for God under the false assumptions mentioned above. Instead, be only who God has called you to be in His kingdom work. By being who God has called you to be, others will see Him in you while you simply do those things because of your faith in God to be God. Being causes the doing and the doing is a result of our being in Christ. The apostle Pual wrote, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1–4, NKJV). May this be our driving force until the Lord returns.

Critical Spirit

Paul, in his letter to the church at Galatia writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:22–23, NKJV). He is letting believers know that there are “fruits” that should grow from their life showing evidence that they are a child of God. Believers must take notice that these fruits are good in nature and produce healthy fruit that is good for the feeding of one’s soul and that of others.

Do not confuse these fruits with spiritual gifts, they are not the same. Just like a tree planted by a gardener, these trees require cultivation, care, and work to produce the good fruit. In other words, you need to exercise your spirit in the good things to produce good fruit. If you are wondering why you are not seeing these fruits in your own life, you need only do a self-examination and see how you are spending your time. You cannot blame this on someone else, your “demeanor”, or upbringing. Your fruit is based on your work to grow the fruit produce within you. Jesus said, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” (Mt 15:18). The adage is correct, “garbage in, garbage out.”

The self-proclamation of always being critical is nothing to be proud of. It is neither a fruit of the Spirit, not a spiritual gift given to you by God when you became a Christian. While there is the attempt to “justify” this area of one’s life by saying they are “looking out for the best interest of the church (or an individual),’ or “someone has the be the one to make them think of possibilities.” Those “exercising” this “gift”, do nothing but tear a church down and exhaust fruitful church members. They are easy to spot, just say how much you like something that the church, or a ministry within the church, is doing. The response will be their opinion on why it is bad, or the way that it should have be done to really do it right. They are easy to spot because they tear down instead of building up the body of Christ. They are easy to spot because they are your last minute “advise givers” (interpreted as this is how it should have been done and would have been done if I was in charge).

Back up a few verses in Galatians 5 and you find that those with a constant critical spirit have much more in common with the works of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit. Paul writes you will see their results in, “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” (Ga 5:19–21). If you see this list in your life, fruit will not be produced that is Kingdom enriching. It is time to bring these works to the altar, kill them, and burn them up completely. When you do, God will purge you, the good seed will go deep into your heart, and you will produce good fruit by walking every day in the Spirit. What are you producing, “works of the flesh” or “fruit of the Spirit?”

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Jesus gave his disciples many warnings about a life on mission with Him and for the kingdom. He tells them, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15, NKJV). I do not believe this verse only applies to “spiritual leaders” in a church or religious organization, I believe it applies to everyone claiming to be a “Christian”.

As a pastor / preacher / teacher of God’s Word, I have said many times (as most preachers have) that just because you get dressed up on Sunday morning, that does not make you a Christian. Satan will come to church, and he will show up with many disguises. When the Apostle Paul called the elders from Ephesus to come to Miletus to give them guidance and say his farewells; he said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock (Ac 20:28–29). Pay attention to those last four words, “not sparing the flock.”

While sheep will bite, butt heads, and irritate each other every now and then, it is extremely rare for them to bring intense harm to the flock. Most of the time after sheep “bicker” they move past it and mend together with the other sheep. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will do the same, but only long enough to appear as genuine sheep. Read those warnings again and pay attention to the adjectives describing the wolves (ravenous and savages). Wolves will even fall under the authoritative hand of the shepherd, but this too will only last for a short period. Wolves have no problem with attacking and attempting to kill a shepherd.

So, how do we get better at recognizing these pretenders? I believe the answer is found in Jesus’s letter to the church at Ephesus given to John in the book of Revelation. Jesus commends them when He says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary (Re 2:2–3). It is evident to me here that the elders adhered to the instructions from Paul and tested those who came into the church desiring to be a part of the church. This is where we fail too often in our churches. We get enamored with numbers (though we will never say that out loud). We forget to test those who want to become a part of a precious flock, we stop asking about doctrinal (biblical) beliefs. We want them in the choir, teaching a class, leading a ministry; all for the sake of our “numbers” not looking bad. We must also get better recognizing that wolves will begin to “isolate” some sheep before they attack. They want the sheep to trust them, be their friend, and rely on them for as much as possible.

We should not get upset if someone asks us our beliefs on biblical issues, the sheep in that church are only following the guidance given to them by God. Jesus reminds the apostles (and us), “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16). Wolves will come, but we can, and should, recognize them.

Come and See

Having spent the past fifteen years as the Senior Pastor of this church, I have learned a great deal about people that become members of the church. In this timeframe I have run the gauntlet of emotions and I am positive I have put members through the same gauntlet of emotions in their lives. One thing I can tell you up front…I am by no means a perfect man, nor am I a perfect pastor, I will (and do) make mistakes. I love being a pastor and I love the people God brings in my path to minister to.

What can you expect if you visit us for a worship service? Just about anything, and I say that in a good way. We are a group of imperfect people, meeting and worshipping the perfect God. We worship God in a reverent and humble fashion, but we also have fun, not silliness, in our worship. I desire for people to smile (even laugh) when God moves. You can expect to hear the truth from the Word of God (the Bible) and I will not water it down. This means you have the possibility of being convicted, angry, sad, hurt, helped, healed, glad, and cut by this Word. Every time we gather my prayer is always for God to meet all of us at our deepest need and He will if we are willing to be open, honest, and give Him full access to our heart.

In my time here, I have laughed with just as many as I have wept with. I have buried many people ranging from church members, family or friends of church members, to people I had never met before. I have seen babies born, children grow up into adulthood and start their own family, and families join and leave the church. As mentioned earlier, I have run the emotional gauntlet (and still do) in my calling as a pastor.

So, come and join us. Laugh and cry with us. Let God speak to you as you worship with us and as you get to know the wonderful people that worship here each week. I am not perfect, but I will love you right where you are at this stage of your life. I want you to meet Jesus and fall in love with Him…He is the life changer you need.