Meanderings of a Minister


Listen Carefully and I Will Tell You Exactly Who to Vote For
June 30, 2016, 9:36 am
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Election-Day1

Unless you have been completely disconnected from any kind of media, you no doubt already know that the election season is upon us.  Here in our county, we will vote in primaries on August 2nd.  From the presidential election all that way down to smaller county offices, we will be called upon to vote our conscience when it comes to the various candidates.  But how are we to vote?

Before you raise a flag of undue concern, allow me to acknowledge that I am running for County Commissioner in District 5 of our county and this is not a shameless plug for your vote.  Actually, I am running unopposed, so there is no need.  That being said, who should you vote for?

From the beginning of our nation, we have been a republican style of democracy.  What does that mean?  It means that the citizens of this great nation have been given the privilege to actually cast a ballot for its leaders.  While it might not seem like it at the national level due to the electoral college issues, the reality is that each legally recognized citizen is afforded the privilege of voting.  As this is the foundation of a democracy, this right is one of the rights most often cited when thinking about the many men and women who have died defending our freedom.

So, why would I begin with such a pedantic reminder?  Good question.  Most importantly, because it has become increasingly in vogue in recent years to refuse to vote.  There are many reasons cited for this, such as not having a candidate that you personally like, apathy towards the future of the nation, cynicism towards the voting records of those elected, and on and on.  Many people reason that if they don’t vote, then they cannot be blamed when things go wrong.  These same people then go on to bemoan the condition of our nation.

While there is no direct verse addressing voting, there are some principles that we can apply from scripture.  One of these can be understood from Jeremiah 29:7 which says, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”  While it is beyond the scope of this article to fully expound this verse and its context, we at least see a foundational concept of doing what we can to help the land in which we live until we get to go to the promised land, which for us is heaven.  The most important part of this is to pray, serve, and love the people who make up this nation.  After that, we must go our part to make sure we help the nation move forward because in its welfare is our welfare.

So what does voting have to do with the welfare of our nation?  If those for whom the current direction of our nation is a concern stay home from voting, the only people to vote are those for whom the current direction of our nation is desirable.  It might not be our nation, but our community for which you are concerned.  Again, to refuse to vote is to allow those who are pleased to continue unchecked.  You might say, but wait!  What does my one vote really matter?  Whether it adds to a total, reverses a decision, or has any impact at all, the bigger issue is to ask if you have done all you can to love your fellow man as yourself, to pray and be involved in helping to bring welfare to the land in which you find yourself sojourning, and to let your voice be heard concerning righteousness in our land.

So, all of that is to provide the background to tell you exactly who to vote for.  Are you ready?  When you have prayed, investigated the candidates, become familiar with the potential issues facing the office being voted upon, and having done all in your power to be informed, then you should go and vote for the person or persons God directs you to vote for based upon that information.  It might not be the same person or persons I vote for, but make sure it is based upon inspiration and information.  Above all…make sure you vote!



God Never Gives Up On His People
June 23, 2016, 12:13 pm
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Your Grace Amazes Me

I was reading in Exodus today about Nadab and Abihu.  Now, I realize that most people will have to look up those names, but they are very important figures in the Old Testament.  Let me tell you about them and why they are so important.  First, they were important because they were the sons of Aaron whom God personally chose to become priests to serve before Him in the Tabernacle.  Imagine being the first priest called by God to serve.  But go further than that and imagine being called by God’s own voice! (Exodus 28:1)

Next, they were important because they were part of the seventy that had worshipped God on the mountain and had come down and had prophesied before the people and helped Moses shoulder the load of speaking to the people on God’s behalf. (Exodus 24:1)

Lastly, they were important because they decided, in spite of the instructions God had given, to offer strange fire on the altar and God killed them on the spot. (Number 3:4)

Okay, so you are thinking…”Thanks!  Now I’m depressed.  If God could do that to them, then what about me?”  I want us to learn from Nadab and Ahibu, but I want us to learn from their lives, not their deaths.  God personally called them.  Since I believe in the omniscience of God (omni=all, science=knowledge…God knows everything), then I have to believe that He knew they would fail, but HE CALLED THEM ANYWAY!  What does that mean?  What does that mean to me?

What this means to me is that, in spite of my worst failures, God will continue to give me chances.  In spite of my worst stumbling, He never gives up on reaching out to me.  No matter how little faith I have, God, the author of faith, is always there and always offering His Hands.  If I will spend more time looking up for His help and reaching out for His forgiveness, I can spend less time carrying a heavy guilt load and a bunch of shame I was not meant to carry.

Here’s the best part.  If you are a new creature in Christ, you can do the same.  If you have surrendered your life to Christ, He will never turn away.  (Romans 5:9-10)  He will never put you to shame and He will in no wise cast you out.  (John 6:37)  I don’t know about you, but that is great news to me.  I feel more like Paul all the time in Romans 7,

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.  So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”  (NASB)

Isn’t it good to know God won’t give up on you?  Why not take the time today and thank Him for just that reason?  Having thanked Him, let’s hang on and get it right so that we don’t end up like Nadab and Abihu.



What Right Do You Have to Be Angry?
June 16, 2016, 12:13 pm
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Ever Been This Angry?

In the book of Jonah, we read about how God used a prophet who did just about everything wrong.  He used Jonah in spite of his disobedience, disdain for others, and his distraction from God’s purposes.  I know that you already know the story, but here is a quick review.

God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, to tell them that they needed to repent of their evil ways or God was going to destroy them.  Nineveh was known for its harassment of Israel as well as its cruelty in battle and in victory.  Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.  It is later in chapter 4 that we find this was due to the fact that Jonah knew God would forgive them if they repented and Jonah did not deem them worthy of God’s forgiveness.  Jonah went down to the sea and booked passage on a ship heading for Tarshish.  Most scholars believe Tarshish was in Spain which is the opposite direction from Nineveh and a long distance.

The ship had not been underway very long before God sent a storm to afflict the comfortable prophet.  It must have been a doozey because the weathered sailors became panicky.  They tried praying, sacrificing, throwing their precious cargo (for which they would have to pay) over the side, rowing back to land, and weathering the storm the way they had so many other times, but to no avail.

Finally, they ask Jonah and he tells them it is his fault and tells them to throw him over the side.  They try everything else first, pray and ask God for forgiveness, and then they throw him over.  God appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah whole and keeps him alive for three days in the belly of the fish.  Jonah prays and asks God to deliver him.  God delivers Jonah on dry ground and calls him again to go to Nineveh.  He goes, but does not do exactly as God had said.  He tells them nothing about the option of repentance and just that God was going to destroy them in 40 days.  The people repent.  The king repents.  And Jonah gets mad.

This is the point where God asks Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry?”  Perhaps by looking at this question for Jonah, we can also ask ourselves the same question.  Jonah had sinned against God by not going to Nineveh in the first place.  Romans 6:23a says the wages of sin is death.  God could have killed Jonah on the spot.  (See Acts 5:1-16 and how God did just that with Ananias and Sapphira.)  God was merciful.  God had rescued Jonah from the storm, from drowning, and from the belly of the fish.  God was compassionate.  Jonah had disobeyed God, but God gave him another chance to obey.  God was slow to anger.  God had sent Jonah to preach to a people who did not worship or know Him.  God was abundant in lovingkindness.  Keep in mind also that Israel was sinning greatly against the Lord at this time.

With all that God had done for Jonah, Jonah got angry because God forgave the Ninevites with the same mercy He had shown Jonah.  Jonah did not think they were worthy of forgiveness and he got mad at God.  He was mad at the Ninevites and he was mad at God.

God simply asked Jonah if he really had a good reason for being mad at anyone or anything.  Jonah answered that he had a very good reason to be angry.  He really didn’t.  And neither do you or I.  When you consider all the ways God has provided for, protected, and propitiated you and your sins, how could we possibly be mad at God or anyone else with whom He is working?  The modern health and welfare movement seems to teach people that God owes them something.  If they have enough faith, God owes them all of their wants and desires, including health, wealth, friends, comfort, and ease.  When God doesn’t meet their demands, they feel like they can be mad at God.  They often forget that we all deserve death (Romans 3:23, 6:23a), but we have been given the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23b).  God has already given us more than we could hope for, so who in their right mind could get angry with a God Who has done so much more than we could ever hope for?  Jonah wasn’t thinking right and neither are we if we do not fall on our faces before Him and tell him, “Thank you!” from grateful and sincere hearts.



Is There A Saboteur in Your Church?
June 9, 2016, 12:08 pm
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SABOTAGE-2

If you are like many people, you have seen movies or read books about World War II.  You cannot watch or read very far without encountering the concept of sabotage.  For instance, when I was a kid, there was a show on television called, “Hogan’s Heroes”.  The main characters were locked in a German Concentration Camp, Stalag 13.  It seems that they wanted to be there because they often would escape and go into town for this or that and then return.  The main job of Colonel Hogan and his compatriots was to undermine the German war effort and pass along information to the Allies.  They were saboteurs.

As I am on a Sabbatical (extended time off granted by my church to relax and refocus and revision), I have been reflecting on how the ministry of the church is going.  What directions do we need to go in the future?  What are our strengths?  Our weaknesses?  What do we need to do to help people understand the gospel better?  How can we get some of the hundreds of attenders to take the leap to become members?  How can we get some of our members that used to be more active to plug back in?  How can we get some of our members to step up to lead and teach?

As I have been thinking about these things, a book by Colin S. Smith, entitled, 10 Keys to Unlocking the Christian Life, brought up the idea that some of the problems of the church might be due to a saboteur in our midst.  Perhaps there is something that is actually working against what we are working so hard for.  You may know about First Southern Baptist Church as we do a lot in the community.  You may know how much work our wonderful people are willing to do to love on people and tell them that Jesus Loves Them and So Do We!  With all of that work, wouldn’t it be a shame if there was a saboteur in our midst undoing everything we do?  Sound too fantastic to be true?  Consider the following verses:

 

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5–7, NASB95)

 

If God opposes the proud and we are instructed to clothe ourselves with humility towards one another, then pride in the church could actually be a hindrance that is undoing what we have been doing.  Perhaps the reason that we don’t see more people saved, more people move into meaningful membership, or more people move into leadership and teaching positions is because pride has secretly moved into the church and is working against us and is informing the enemy of our strategies for winning the war.

What might be some ways that you see pride in your church?

  1. What attitude comes to mind when you hear of the struggles of another church?
  2. When comparing your church to another faithful, Bible teaching church, do you look down on them, or are you envious of them?
  3. Do you tend to criticize other churches that worship differently than you?
  4. Do you tend to look down on churches that are not as contemporary as you or are more contemporary than you?
  5. Do you find that you talk to people more about your church than you do about your Lord?

While these are just some indicators, there could be a lot more.  So…what is a person to do about pride in their church?  Simply what the scripture says.  Choose every day to focus on thanking God for what He has done, cast your cares on Him and trust Him to work them out, and choose to clothe yourself with humility.  Who knows, you just might find out that what you thought was worth bragging about or hanging on to is actually the very thing that has been working against you.



How to Know if You Are Growing by Jonah
June 2, 2016, 12:08 pm
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Website-Growing-in-Christ-title-slide

Dr. Mark Yarbrough, in his book, How to Read the Bible Like a Seminary Professor, does a fantastic job of analyzing books of the Bible that most of us would look at and say, “Been there.  Done that.  I don’t need to read that book again.  I got it.”  He looks into the books through careful observation, expertly interprets the text, and then applies it to life through faithful and carefully constructed applications.  In addition, he teaches us to do the same.

In reading through Dr. Yarbrough’s book, I came across the following excerpt and found it quite thought-provoking when analyzing my own walk with Christ.

“A life that is growing spiritually:

  • Move towards God’s commands, not away from them (Jonah 1:1-3)
  • Shows a consistency between words and works (Jonah 1:4-9)
  • Exhibits a testimony to the nonbelieving world – not the reverse (Jonah 1:10-17)
  • Confesses sin – not pious words of religiosity (Jonah 2:1-10)
  • Responds to God in humility, not in arrogance and pride (Jonah 3:1-10)
  • Extends grace to and rejoices in the maturity of others (Jonah 4:1)
  • Strives to love as God loves (Jonah 4:2-4)
  • Evaluates the heart, removing that which hinders service or perspective (Jonah 4:5-8)
  • Is concerned about people, not things (Jonah 4:9-11a)
  • Is concerned about “that great city” (Jonah 4:11b)”

As I think through this list, I am challenged to ask myself how I measure up to the actions for sure, but more than that, the attitudes it takes to generate those actions genuinely.  For instance, 1 John 5:3 says the way we love God is to obey his commands and those commands are not seen as a burden.  I hope that I will always strive to live out the faith God has given me, but the question is not so much about the activity, but about the attitude.  Do I serve God out of gratitude, love, appreciation?  Or do I serve Him hoping it will somehow earn me some grace or some consideration?

As a pastor, I am really challenged to ask if my words match my actions…even when no one else is paying attention!  Am I sharing my testimony about God with the world, or am I more influenced by the world’s view of God?  When I confess my sins, is it because I am broken over how I could soil the Name of God with my filth and fallenness?  Or do I confess my sins because it is what I have been trained to do?  Do I really even give any thought to who or Who that sin has affected?

As you go through the rest of the list, how would you say your life is growing spiritually?  Do you see ever-increasing evidence of God’s grace resulting in more and deeper and greater maturity being displayed outside the church building as well as inside?  On top of these markers, do you hunger for more of God?  Do you hunger to know Him better?  Do you jump at every opportunity to study His Word, serve His people, and share His story?

I hope that you can answer a resounding, “YES!” to each of these questions.  If you can’t, what will you change today, now, right this minute?  Will you pray and surrender your rights to God and beg Him to change your heart, mind, body, and soul?  Will you do something different today?  Will you put off lunch and read God’s Word?  Will you turn off the TV and call a friend to share about what God is doing in their life?  Will you get off of Facebook and get your face in a book that can help you grow?  If not, why not?  What does that mean?



Stones of Remembrance
May 26, 2016, 12:03 pm
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Stones of Remembrance

This last week, we celebrated, or remembered those that have died in defense of our freedom.  We have held services, parades, golf tournaments and had cookouts, dinners and a day off, but do you realize that Memorial Day is a regular part of the Bible?  In Joshua 4, God told Joshua to have one man from each of the 12 tribes carry a rock from the middle of the Jordan River all the way to Gilgal as a memorial of God’s activity.  Additionally, he had Joshua make a pile of stones in the middle of the parted Jordan that would only be visible when the water was low.  This would have made a periodic reminder of God’s mighty power on behalf of the people.  God gave the people instruction that they were to tell their children about God, His activity on their behalf and His sovereignty, when they asked because they had seen the rocks.

You and I have people that we need to be asking about God’s activity as well.  We need to be talking to our grandparents and great-grandparents and asking them about God’s activity in building this nation.  We need them to remind us about sacrifice because someone taught us that our nation owes us a living.  We need them to remind us about discipline because someone taught us everything should come from a microwave.  We need them to remind us about saving because someone taught us to rely on credit cards.  We need them to remind us of our responsibility because someone taught us that freedom should be free.  We need them to remind us about bread lines, tire stamps and collecting animal fat because someone taught us to throw everything away because there will always be more.  We need them to remind us about caring for extended family because someone taught us that nursing homes are for that.  We need them to remind us about coming together to be Americans because someone taught us that we can be Native Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Pacific Island Americans.  We need them to remind us about an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay because someone taught us to do as little as possible and demand as much as we can get.  We need them to remind us about customer service because someone taught us that customers are an interruption to our day.

As if that were not enough, we have also been taught that freedom of religion means freedom from religion.  We have been taught that the constitution does not really mean everyone is created equal.  We have been taught that government’s job is to redistribute money from the rich to the poor.  We have been taught that it is the state’s job to educate our children.  We have been taught that a promise is more of an intention.  We have been taught that a person’s character and job performance can be separated.  We have been taught that you can lie, cheat and steal and call it politics.  We have been taught that nothing is right or wrong just because it is right or wrong, but only if we have defined it as so.  We have been taught that children are disposable interruptions to our pursuit of the good life.  We have been taught that our heroes should be people famous for nothing other than being famous and that policemen and women, firemen and women, emergency medical service personnel, the National Guard and the Armed Forces are just doing what they ought to do, but a man or woman that can dunk a basketball, throw a perfect pass or hit a homerun are the ones that are worthy of our attention and praise.  Oh, how we need the reminder of those that are quickly passing.

We need them to remind us that we exist to serve God.  We have been taught that He exists to serve us.  We need them to remind us that God is oftentimes more concerned about our holiness than our temporal happiness.  We have been taught we ought to expect challenge-free, trouble-free, criticism-free lives.  We need them to remind us about sacrificial giving.  We have been taught that all the church wants is our money, so we ought to give it or withhold it based upon whether we agree with the type of music played or the preacher.  We need them to remind us that we come to church to serve God and others.  We have been taught we come to church to be coddled and catered to.  We need them to remind us that church is supposed to be about reaching the world with the gospel.  We have been taught it is about my personal comfort and tastes.

If there has ever been a time that we need the previous generation to remind us about God, it is now.  God, let us see the rocks and let us find those that know what they mean before we lose them or, worse, lose the freedom we enjoy.



I Pledge Allegiance

American flag flying in the wind

I have been writing this article for years.  I have written hundreds of articles for many different publications, blogs, newsletters, and web sites.  I don’t say that to boast, but to say that I do not think I have ever written an article like this one.  I should have written about this before, but have not.  I am not sure why when it seems so needed.  I have written on much more important issues than this one.  I have written on topics much less important than this.  I just have never written on this topic before.  What is that topic?

Not that long ago in our nation’s history, children all over our nation used to say these words at the beginning of each day of school.  Meetings were begun with these words.  Congress was started with these words.

 

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands:  one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

You may know these words as the Pledge of Allegiance.  Do you know why we say these words?  Red Skelton did an amazing skit on his radio program explaining each word many years ago, so I won’t do that here.  But do you know why we say these words?

In 1892, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus making it to our side of the world, these words were used throughout public schools.  Since then, the words have been modified one time, instructions for its recitation have been added to the United States Flag Code (Title 36), and schools have been instructed to recite it, but given permission not to, if they do not desire to do so.

On June 22, 1942, the pledge was officially added to Title 36 of the U.S. Code.  This was the official recognition of the words school children had been reciting for 50 years.  In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced or coerced into saying the pledge in school.  In 1945, the title was officially changed to the Pledge of Allegiance.  In 1954, Dwight D. Eisenhower, as President, authorized the addition of the words “under God” to the pledge.  Other than that, the pledge has remained, and hopefully will remain, a unifying statement shared by all citizens of this nation.

With that being said, it is interesting to note how attitudes have changed over the years.  President Eisenhower authorized the adding of the words, “Under God”, for the purpose of distinguishing us from the officially atheist and communist Soviet Union.  In his official statement on that day, President Eisenhower stated, “In this way, we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

Did you notice that our President humbly admitted that he desired for our nation to be different than those around us?  This is the definition of holy.  He desired for our nation to be holy.  He further stated that our greatest asset in maintaining our freedom and prosperity would be to acknowledge God daily in our recitation of our Pledge of Allegiance.  To pledge our allegiance to America was to acknowledge the role of God in our history and our future.  How far we have fallen!

It seems that we are now trying to become like everyone else, which is unholy.  If President Eisenhower was right, and I believe he was, then to attempt to remove God from our nation is akin to sabotage.  To want the United States to become like every other nation is to cut our collective knees out from under us.  Perhaps it is time that we got back to living holy as individuals, and realize that we are only indivisible as a one nation when we realize we are under God and not take His place.

I told you it was going to be different.




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