Thank you God

Sometimes I just forget to say THANK YOU to God

Sitting here on the weekend of all the snow on the east coast and actually a cold and blustery in Jacksonville Florida reminds me that I need to thank God more than I do.  Not because I am not stuck in snow or that I don’t have snow, because I actually like snow and miss it.  Growing up in Alabama equated to not seeing much of it growing up and now living in Florida means seeing it even less.

But today I have a roof over my head and under this roof, a heating system that comes on and keeps the house nice and comfortable for me and my wife.  I have food in my refrigerator and freezer and had to make a decision on what I wanted to take out and cook.  I have clothes to wear and socks and shoes to protect my feet should I need to venture outside.  I even have a car that I can drive in case someone calls me today and has a need from their pastor.  I have a beautiful and caring wife who loves me even with all my faults and I have two wonderful grown children and a future daughter-in-law and son-in-law, plus I will be a granddad in July.  I do say these things to brag, I just want to say out loud….THANK YOU GOD for everything

So, thank you God, because I really have none of these without you.  You have given them to me to use temporally while I am journeying on this road of life.  You are the provider of my house and everything in it, you are the grower of the foods I am able to partake of to have my strength, you are the one who provides wisdom to manufacturers so they can produce the clothes I need in order to stay protected from the elements.  You alone are the Great Provider.  Thank you God for looking out for me and forgiving me when I wander off the path and especially for not saying thank you enough.  My cup really is running over and I am drinking from my saucer.

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An Open Letter to….me

Christian….you are at war and you have been at war for a long time.

With everything that has gone on in the past month (really even longer than that), it is time for true believers to realize you have always been on a battlefield.  You just chose to treat it like a playground and are trying to stay in your “happy place” all the time.  Brothers and Sisters, this should not be happening.

We ask questions like “How can this be happening, why is it so bad in the world, how did it get this way?”  Yet while we ask those questions, we have sat by and done nothing out of fear of being labeled.  We are afraid of being called a name…name calling, you remember that when you were a kid, don’t you?  You used to even come back with the standard reply of “I know you are, but what am I” or the infamous “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Yes words hurt, but we have become do fearful of them, we have now almost lost our voice.  As a matter of fact, even when we get in an “uproar” all we can do now is “boycott” a place or product (we really showed Disney back in the 90’s didn’t we…).  People know now that we will get ruffled for a little while (one, maybe two weeks) and then we will be done with it.  Kind of like that temper tantrum you threw when you were a kid (how did that work out for you).

Have we forgotten the words of Jesus about being hated by even our relatives?  We think persecution is Starbucks serving coffee in a red cup during the Christmas season, but not having the words “Merry Christmas” on it.  If we stay on the course we are on right on, we might soon begin to realize what persecution really is.

It is time dear Christian to realize this field you are on is not a playground…it is a battleground.  You better cinch in your armor (Ephesians 6:10-17) and stand and fight.  War has been here and war is here to stay until God ushers in the new heaven and the new earth.  Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3).  By the way, wolves prey on lambs because they are defenseless to them, but the wolves forget about the Shepherd.  Since God is for us, who can be against us?

Second Mile

It is between that first and second mile that I am ready to quit, stopping and just heading back to the office and sitting down run through my head like crazy.  It hurts and I mean it hurts!  I have resumed my daily walking (taking Sundays off in honor of the Lord’s Day, unless I need to go clear my head), and my body is not always happy that I am out walking.  My right calf and shin scream at me (very loudly) around the .8 mile mark and then more I “ignore” it, the louder he screams.  As I sit here and type this not only is my right calf and shin letting me know how unhappy there are with today’s walk, the left heel has decided it wanted a part of this action of complaining to me.  Now the rest of me feels great, I am relaxed and focused and not tired and able to even multi-task on this Monday afternoon.

This is how it is Monday – Friday, getting into that second mile.  The first mile is really quite easy and I could be done with walking in about 18 minutes if I did only one mile each day.  At least I could say I went out and did some exercise, right?  Then no one could tell me I needed to be more active, because I would then come back and say “hey, I walk at least 1 mile a day”.  It’s that second mile where I learn the most about myself.  It is that second mile where I find the greatest victories.  I understand even more now why Jesus taught us this lesson in Matthew 5:41whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two

It is easy to “walk one mile” in someone else’s shoes, because all along the way we are counting the steps until we no longer have to walk in their shoes.  As a matter of fact we are going 5275, 5276, 5277, 5278, 5279, 5280…”I’M DONE”.  All along the way we never really learn what the other person was really going through or what it is they do in their ministry (that we normally complain about them doing).  We just want to put a check in the box that shows we “walked a mile in their shoes” and then we say stuff like “and it didn’t seem that difficult to me as they make it out to be”.  While at the same time forgetting all we were doing was counting the steps to 5280 so we could be done with this “task”.

It is that second mile where the growth happens and you start paying attention.  It is there you find out that there are some pains in their ministry and there are some difficulties they encounter that you never knew they did (because they never mentioned it and never complained about having to do it).  It is that second mile where you see the attacks of the enemy that they battle day in and day out, week in and week out.  It is that second mile where you see the real strength of that individual as they too push through the pain knowing others talk badly of them behind their back, yet they continue on when others would have walked away long ago.’

If all you have is a one mile ministry, then you don’t really have a ministry.  It was required for citizens to carry items for Roman soldiers one mile whenever they were told to.  After one mile they could put the items down and leave.  That was not a ministry that was a duty.  Jesus said don’t just do things out of duty, go beyond that.  Don’t stop at one mile…go two miles and in so doing you will have ministered to them in ways unimaginable.

Will you go that extra mile and learn, or will you count the steps until you hit 5280 and stop?  Complaining and moaning / groaning is easy, going that second mile and learning is not, but in so doing, you will grow like never before.  It is in that second mile……

Man versus God

Throughout today (I am writing this on Friday June 26th, 2015) people have reacted (or even over reacted) to the ruling that the United States Supreme Court gave on the definition of marriage.  People have asked me my thoughts on this and what this means for the church and my first response to them was to stay calm and not panic (and also to come and hear the sermon God has given me in our series on Fear…The Fear of Losing Control).  Let me preface all this with saying, I am not mad, I am not upset, I am not running around calling people names or even going go out to protest the Supreme Court.  While I am disappointment with the ruling, at the same time I expected it.  Why, because when you put things in the hands of man without God in their lives, you get what man feels is right and fair in his/her eyes and you also get what man feels will make people happy and keep them off their back.

If we as Christian over react, all we do is bring credence to the claim we are closed minded and haters of the homosexual community.  If we stand up and say “I guess I will be carted off to jail”, then we again have over reacted to something that is not even there…yet.  If we Christians think this caught God off guard, then our understanding of God is very shallow.  God is sovereign and He knew this day was coming (this is why there is free will deep with the love of God).  Before the first words of God were ever spoken (Genesis 1:3) what happened today was known by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  God is not up in heaven pulling out “plan B”, there is no plan B folks.  Plan A was the perfect plan and will always be the perfect plan.

That being said, man has pulled out plans B, C, D, E…, throughout history, but that doesn’t make them right.  You have to go back to the beginning if you want to understand God’s plan and also understand that His plan is perfect and pure.  Study the account of creation and you will see that at the end of each day of creation God looked over that day and saw that it was good.  At the end of day six, God looked over all of creation and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:31).  Man and woman were brought together and God ordained the institution of marriage.  So that settles it for me as far as the definition of marriage goes.  Yes even Jesus reiterated in Matthew 19:3-6 and Jesus even explained why Moses granted divorce decrees (vs 7-9).  Go ahead read it…I will wait for you right here.  Did you see it?  “because of the hardness of your hearts”…”but from the beginning it was not so”.  But what happened in the garden is why we are here today with this “re-definition” of marriage.  Man believed he could be God and thus know more than God and be better than God.  Man decided to “re-write” God word and God’s ways.

My friends this is why we are where we are today, we have believed the lie that we “shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5) and we have decided one true God is not right or fair.  So we will decide what is right, fair and equal and we will not stand for someone, especially God, to try and tell us we can’t do that or that it is a sin.  Because telling someone that they have sinned is judging and we are told not to judge (I will clarify all that at another time for you).

That being said, can I also clarify something to all my homosexual friends (yes I know people who are homosexual), I do not hate you, I do not think I am better than you, I do not look down on you with loathing and disgust.  I just don’t agree or condone your lifestyle choice and I will venture to say you don’t agree with me on the majority of my theology or conservative view points.  Also, would you please stop associating me with Westboro Baptist Church, they are nowhere near correct in their theology nor doctrine and they bring a discredit to the message of Jesus Christ.

So church, this changes nothing for us; we are to be the church that Jesus gave His life for to everyone, everyday, until He calls us home.  We are to love our neighbors and share Christ with them.  Are people going to get mad at you, probably.  Are people going to “unfriend” you on Facebook, or stop “following” you on twitter, maybe.  But as a believer, you know this and you should expect this and you need to embrace it.  We are called to be salt and light to the world, not to a select few and not to just those who look like you, dress like you, talk like you and act like you.  When it comes to man versus God, God wins every time.  So don’t panic, don’t over react and don’t say things that are not even in the Bible.  Instead do exactly what Jesus did

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matthew 9:36)

Yes love wins….true love that only comes from God.

Choices

Choices; everybody makes them and everybody has that freedom to make them (at least here in America you do).  Just because you make a choice however does not mean everybody has to support your choice, agree with your choice, or like your choice.  There are many choices I make that some people like and there are just as many that do not like them and that is okay, because as of right now, you are free to choose.

God had a choice too and He chose to create man, knowing that man would reject Him, despise Him, curse Him, mock Him, and one day crucify Him.  But He still chose to say “Let there be light”.  The all knowing (omniscient) God loved / loves you so much that He chose to suffer through many things with the simple hope that you would choose Him also.  He did this knowing that “broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7:13-14).  Today that is not how it is.  Today we don’t want the few, we want the many.  We crave for thousands of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter.  We “post” something and then anxiously await the number of “likes” or “re-tweets” we get.  We have chosen man’s ideology over God’s perfect knowledge and will.  Now here is the funny thing, God doesn’t “force” you to choose Him and He also doesn’t try and “guilt” you in to accepting Him.

I am making my choices based on His Word and His Word alone.  Some of you will call me a religious bigot, a right wing nut, someone who clings to God and guns, an ultra conservative, or whatever else becomes the “buzz word / phrase” soon.  I am not telling you or forcing you to make the choices I make; my choices are mine and they are based on my convictions.  With my choices come consequences (all choices have consequences) and I live with them.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love you or care about you if I choose to not support something you support or travel down a road you travel down.  My love for you comes from God and God loves everyone, if He didn’t then His Word is a lie and John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 must be stricken from the Bible.

Friends and family, I love you all and I want you to know that there is an important choice you will make while you are alive on this earth.  That choice is where you will spend eternity, heaven or hell.  God chose to send us His Son (Jesus) to pay a debt we could not / cannot pay and He gives you the freedom to choose to accept that payment or reject it.  My choice was to accept it and by faith believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He gave His life for mine.  That choice is made on this side of eternity (before you die)… what choices are you making?

What do we want?

“Give us a New Testament church”. I have heard that many times in the 11+years I have been pastoring. I normally reply with “Really, you want a NT church and why is that?” Most answers tend to be:
• They were on fire for Jesus
• They had great unity
• They were growing
• They loved each other

While all of that is true, we seem to forget one thing. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Acts 2:46

Notice that word daily? We want a New Testament church, but in our new fashioned way. In other words, I want the fire, I want the unity, I want the love, I want the growth…but I won’t commit to it. When these new believers got saved, they also got changed. They had a new priority in life and that priority was God. He became first to them in their life, their family, their work. They thought about God, they talked about God, they went to the temple (everyday), they went to houses (everyday) and God blessed them for “having no other gods before Him”.

How do I know we really don’t want a NT church? Because on Sunday morning we average 100-110 in services, but come Sunday night we average 35. Wednesday nights are 35-45 in attendance. When special services are conducted on a “non church night” (i.e. revival services, special singing, or just fun fellowship times) again we get around that 35-45 range in attendance. Now I am not saying that you have to just come to the church to “prove” you are a New Testament church, because there are many church activities that go on outside the four walls, but even those are poorly supported by “the church” (the body of Christ). What I am asking is when was the last time someone asked you to do something and you asked yourself “was there anything going on in my church that I could / should be supporting”? When was the last time someone invited you to an event on a day / night that is a normal day / night your church meets and you told them “No thank you, I go to church on that day / night during that time frame”?

Yes, we want a NT church, but it must happen between 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM on a Sunday morning only…Hmmmm, really?

Conversations With My Dad

Every year I do my best to go spend a week with my dad at his hunting club.  It is always a fun time and to be honest with you it is not about harvesting a deer (that is simply the cherry on top).  Over the past few years, it has simply been a great time to have a conversation with my dad.

I am reminded of this verse as my years on this earth go by.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

While growing up in a very loving home with my older brother and sister, I never thought about all the things I had and all the things we did as a family.  I just enjoyed the ride if you will.  I was the kid in the candy store that never wondered how I got the candy.  Every year we went on a vacation, usually for two weeks, and it was either a camping trip or to Gulf Shores Alabama.  Again I never thought about how we did it, I just knew when we loaded the car (those old station wagons), I got in the “very back” and enjoyed the ride.  Next stop for me was a new and exciting place to play and enjoy for a few weeks.  It meant ice cream, eating out, cooking out and so much more.  I was a child, what did I have to worry about anyway, I was reaping the benefits that my dad was giving me.  Sure is fun being a child isn’t it?

But then something happened, I graduated high school and life was staring me in the face and jobs in 1982 were scarce in Birmingham.  My dad “tolerated” my non employment for a few months, and then the question was asked “son, what are you planning on doing with your life?”  BAM……childhood officially over.  Should have been over a few years before this, but I never really gave that much thought.  So away I went to begin my 21 year U S Navy career.

Over those years, my dad was always there for me, providing me with sound advice full of wisdom, my downfall was I didn’t always listen (just like most of you didn’t listen to your parents either).  So mistakes were made and consequences came with those mistakes.  I was in my 30 years when I realized my dad was the smarted man on the earth.  My education was maturing that no college could ever provide.

Now back to the hunting club and my continuing education.  I asked my dad on my most recent “Dad, how did you do it?  We went on trips every year; we had wonderful birthdays and Christmas’s.”  His answer didn’t surprise me; it was just something I never thought about, even though I grew up watching it.  He told me he worked overtime every chance he could and on Saturdays when the chances came along.  Funny thing is I use to get to go to work with him on some of those Saturday’s and never realized, he was doing that for me (and my mom, brother and sister).  You see what I mean about When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child….  I know this……MY DAD IS THE GREATEST!  He worked hard and I reaped the benefits.  He gave and gave and gave, because I am his son.  He did all of this because he loves me.  He never told me why he worked late, sometimes all night, or why he had to work a Saturday and we couldn’t go dove hunting that day.  But now I know…..it is called LOVE.  All I can say now is “Dad, thank you for the best education you gave me without ever stepping foot on college campus”

My conversations with my dad mean the world to me; my regret is waiting so long to ask.  He has always been there and willing to tell me, I just never asked.  So familiar?  yet ye have not, because ye ask not (James 4:2).  God stands ready to answer you also, when will you ask Him?  I just had to get to this point in my life…. but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Life means growing up and learning from those who have paved the way before us and then teaching those behind us that life is not easy and hard work is required.  One day you will reap the benefits, but the “sower” has to sow the seeds in order to get the harvest.

I can’t wait to have more conversations with my dad and to have these conversations with my children.