Meanderings of a Minister


Lord, Do Not Hold This Sin Against Them!
September 30, 2016, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

forgive

I don’t care how many times I read this scripture from Acts 7:60, I am humbled all over again.  Here is Stephen being stoned for his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The very men that are stoning him are the ones on his heart and the prayer he makes before closing his eyes in death.

Then there is Jesus Himself.  He had been arrested, bound, led away, abused, tried, imprisoned, abused some more, tried again, interviewed, abused some more, starving, thirsty, beaten, sentenced to death, led up Golgotha, stripped naked, nailed to a cross, lifted up for everyone to make fun of, abused some more.  Just before He died, what did He pray?  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This list goes on.  How about Joseph?  His mother was promised to his father, but his great uncle traded her out for her older sister on their wedding night.  His great uncle then insisted Jacob work an additional seven years to actually get to marry the woman he loved and was supposed to originally marry.  What ensued would have made the Jerry Springer show.  Women, children being born, in fighting, dysfunction were prevalent in the house.

Joseph is given a dream of ruling over his brothers, but they weren’t going to have any of that.  It was bad enough that father was playing favorites with a coat of honor.  There was no way he was going to rule over them!  So what did they do?  They sold him.  Yes, they sold him.  Not only did they sell him, but they sold him as a slave to people heading to Egypt where they did not like his kind.  God blessed him in Potiphar’s house.  Then, Potiphar’s wife accused him of trying to seduce and sexually assault her.  He went to prison.  For 13 long years, he wasted away in a prison for something he really did not do.

After getting out of jail, he finally has some power.  He tests his brothers and then reveals himself and invites them all to come and live with him in Egypt.  They go.  Then, father dies.  The brothers come to him afraid that he will seek revenge.  How does he respond?  “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”  He forgave them!

What do all of these events have in common?  Here were men who had every reason to be angry at God and angry at others, but they chose not to.  They chose to forgive.  Not only did they choose to forgive, but they chose to pray for them and bless them and do whatever good they could do for them.  But why?  Why would they do this?

Stephen knew that Jesus was standing in Heaven and ready to receive him.  We would do well to remember that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a believer.  It is actually kind of the best, if it is God’s plan and God’s timing.

Jesus knew that the men He was dealing with did not realize Who He was.  They had no idea how they were being used by Satan, but also by God to carry out the plan God had for Him since before the foundation of the world.  We would do well to realize that many of the people who do us wrong don’t realize what they are doing because they are spiritually dead and cannot understand the things or ways of God (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Joseph chose to look at what God had done for him and not what had been done to him as the basis for the man he would be or the life he would live.  He broke the victim mentality and was an overcomer.  In our day, more of us should do just that.

So, who needs your prayer?  Who needs your forgiveness?  Who do you need to treat well even they have misused you?  Perhaps this is your chance to show them how much better life is when lived for someone and something bigger than you.  Let’s both do that.

Advertisements


Who Is This Jesus We Worship at Easter?
March 21, 2016, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jesus-Christ-on-the-Cross

I first wrote this article many years ago, but people have asked me to republish it time and time again, so here it is:

In Genesis…He is the Creator and the Seed of Woman that would overcome the Serpent

In Exodus…He is our Passover Lamb

In Leviticus…He is our High Priest, the Sacrifice for our sins, and our Cleanliness before God

In Numbers…He is the Cloud by day, the Fire by night, and the One High and Lifted Up

In Deuteronomy…He is the One True Prophet

In Joshua…He is the Captain of the Lord’s Army

In Judges…He is the Lawmaker, Judge and Jury

In Ruth…He is our Kinsman Redeemer

In 1 and 2 Samuel…He is the Prophet of the Lord

In 1 and Kings…He is our only King

In 1 and 2 Chronicles…He is the Source of Righteous Decisions and a Cleansing from Wrong

In Ezra…He is our Inerrant Scribe

In Nehemiah…He is the Repairer of Broken Down Walls and Lives

In Esther…He is our Advocate and Deliverer

In Job…He is our Dayspring and Living Redeemer

In Psalm…He is our Shepherd and our Song

In Proverbs…He is Wisdom Personified

In Ecclesiastes…He is the Goal of All Pursuit for Meaning

In the Song of Solomon…He is the Shepherd-Lover of our Souls

In Isaiah…He is the Coming Messiah and the Prince of Peace

In Jeremiah…He is the Righteous Branch

In Lamentations…He is the Weeping Prophet and the God of Faithfulness and Truth

In Ezekiel…He is the Son of Man and the Wheel within a Wheel

In Daniel…He is the Striking Stone and the Fourth Man in the Furnace

In Hosea…He is the Husband and Healer of the Backslider

In Joel…He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit

In Amos…He is the Heavenly Husbandman and Burden Bearer

In Obadiah…He is Our Savior

In Jonah…He is the Resurrection and the One Who Forgives

In Micah…He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet

In Nahum…He is the Avenger of God’ elect, the Stronghold in the Day of Trouble

In Habakkuk…He is the Great Evangelist, and the God of Our Salvation

In Zephaniah…He is the One Who Restores the Lost Heritage

In Haggai…He is the Desire of All Nations and the Cleansing Fountain

In Zechariah…He is the Fountain of Life and the Son Who Was Pierced for us

In Malachi…He is the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings

In Matthew…He is the promised Messiah

In Mark…He is the Wonder-working Servant

In Luke…He is the Son of Man

In John…He is the Word Made Flesh and God the Son

In Acts…He is the Ascended Lord, Voice from the Heavens and the Source of the Church

In Romans…He is the One Who Justifies

In 1 and 2 Corinthians…He is our Sufficient Lord

In Galatians…He is the One Who Brings Liberty from Sin and the Law

In Ephesians…He is the Christ of Great Riches and our All in All

In Philippians…He is our Joy and the Meeter of All Our Needs

In Colossians…He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily

In 1 and 2 Thessalonians…He is our Blessed Hope and the Coming King

In 1 and 2 Timothy…He is our Mentor and Mediator

In Titus…He is our Example and Devoted Pastor

In Philemon…He is our Friend and Brother

In Hebrews…He is our High Priest That Understands

In James…He is the Great Physician and Our Pattern for Daily Living

In 1 and 2 Peter…He is the Chief Cornerstone of Our Faith

In 1, 2 and 3 John…He is Love Everlasting

In Jude…He is the Lord coming with Ten Thousands of His Saints

In Revelation…He is the Lamb that was Slain, the Triumphant King, the Bridegroom, the Lord of Lords and the Final Say

How do you respond to a Savior like that?  You surrender in worship to Him!  No wonder we shout “He is Risen!”



Passing of Saints
March 3, 2016, 11:12 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dawn After the Dark

Just this week, I have watched as a friend said goodbye to his father.  His father was married for 70 years and was a deacon in his church for most of that time.  He was a hard worker, a great father, an amazing husband, and a friend to his pastor.

Later this week, I will say goodbye to a friend that was a stalwart in our church.  Her husband was the pastor at our church in its history for about 10 years and helped us to move to our current location.  My friend, Edith Scruggs, was a delightful lady that always had a kind word for me, no matter how much I fumbled through my sermon.  She was always complimentary of her church and a friend to those who were here.  She was generous, helpful, and faithful.

As I reflect on these two saints, and many more that I have had the privilege to pastor over the years, I am encouraged by their example, amazed by their legacy, and a little envious that they get to see Jesus before me.  I am encouraged by their example because they are proof that God is still at work around me.  Both of these saints mentioned above were well into their 90’s and were still as faithful as their bodies would allow.  They prayed when they could not attend.  They gave when they could not go.  They lifted others up when they needed someone to lift them out of bed.

Can I say that I want to be like them?  I think I can say this and be okay because they emulate the Apostle Paul when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)  They have shown a life dedicated to the display of the glory of God.  They have taken seriously the call to put others before themselves and lay down their lives for their friends.  They have shown what it means to be dedicated to their Lord and to love His Bride, the Church.

As I meditate on the legacy they have left behind, I have to admit to being a little intimidated.  They both seemed to live for God seemingly effortlessly.  They were so convinced of the reality of the presence and pleasure of God that they could do nothing but speak of Him often, share Him readily, serve Him humbly, love Him wholeheartedly, and represent Him faithfully.  They have shown what it takes to be wholly His.  As I struggle with managing a home, a church, trying to be all things to all people, I wonder if I will ever be grown into the stature they reached under the direction of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

All that being said, I realize they were not perfect.  I realize that Edith and Dillan were not flawless.  I think that gives me hope, but also challenges me at the same time.  It is a comfort because it means that God can use me as He used them for His glory.  It is a challenge because it means that I have no excuse for not submitting my life to God with the same abandon.  It further challenges me to ask, “Am I follow Christ like they did?”

As I think about these two, and many other, saints that have gone on to glory, I am reminded of the words of Psalm 116:12-19:

“What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones. O Lord, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds. To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, In the courts of the Lord’s house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!”

Thank you, friends, for the reminder to give God all that I am and all that I have!



Where Do God’s Blessings Come From?

blessing

Chances are good that, if you turn on the television and tune into a religious channel, you will hear a lot about God’s blessings.  You will hear that God wants to bless you beyond your wildest imagination.  You will hear that God’s main concern is that you be happy, fulfilled, wealthy and blessed.  Actually, they are right!  But, many times, they are just as wrong.  Allow me to explain.

First, we need to understand what blessing means from God’s perspective.  The word for blessing in the Old Testament actually comes from a root word that means to prepare.  It is a word that, properly translated, means much more than just stuff.  So many times we think blessing means that we get a new car, new home, lots of money, etc.  Sometimes this is the case because God gives us those things in preparation for what He wants us to do and do with them.  This is not always the case.  God equally blesses the person that has nothing as He works in his or her life to prepare them for the ministry He has ahead of them.  Sometimes God even uses difficulty to prepare us to be useful for His Kingdom!

Consider the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7.  Her husband has died, the food is gone, and the creditors are going to take her two sons away as payment for her husband’s debts.  She is at the absolute end of her rope.  She has nowhere to turn; however, she does have one last desperate choice.  She goes to Elisha, the prophet, and asks for his help.  With the desperation that we can only see in a mother that trying to keep her family together and her home intact, she cries out to God through His prophet.  Much to her chagrin, the prophet asks what she wants him to do?  She has no answer.  He asks what she has left in her house.  She replies that she only has a little bit of oil and that is it.

This is the chance where she has a choice to make.  She has presented her request to God and He has responded by asking her to give up the little she has.  That would probably not make for a successful television ministry, but it was what God wanted.  Faced with this call to action, the widow had a chance to obey or not obey.  By not obeying, she could protect the little she had and continue to find a way out that was more appealing or popular.  If she obeyed, she would have to trust that God knew what He was doing and would take care of her.  She chose to obey even though it made no sense from a human standpoint.  What did she receive?  God’s blessing.  In this case it was stuff, but it was not the stuff that mattered.  It was her obedience that taught her to trust God and provided her example for us that mattered and still does.  Her difficult circumstance was the blessing!

What are you facing right now that is tempting you to question the goodness of God?  What are you going through right now that is not what you wish it would be?  What difficulty is threatening to crush you?  Perhaps, just perhaps, this might be God blessing you, not with stuff, but with the opportunity to obey and learn about Him, grow closer to Him and be used more by and for Him.  Maybe instead of searching the television channels for a person to make you feel guilty and inferior because of what you are going through, you should spend that time talking to the One in charge of your circumstances and ask for Him to guide you through it.



Thanking God for 2015

thank-god_t-300x225

Many people in our church are praying for the world through a resource, Pray for the World:  A New Prayer Resource from Operation World.  Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of our world or a different country and give information on how to pray for the spread of the gospel in that country.  As I was reading the introductory information on the world in the first few days’ entries, I noticed a number of things for which we can thank God as we start a new year.

  1. There is an amazing harvest of new believers throughout the Majority World. If you are not familiar with this term, it is a term that means the parts of the world where most of the population lives.  There is a mighty movement of God throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.  There are now very few countries that don’t have at least some Christians.
  2. Evangelical Christianity has grown faster in the last 60 years than any other world religion. It is up from 2.9% of the world’s population to 7.9%.
  3. We are down to only about 200 million people (out of 6.9 billion) who do not have at least some scripture in their heart language. Bible translation work is ongoing and this number should be drastically reduced even by the end of 2016.
  4. Social media, the internet, and mobile technologies have enabled a growing network of prayer support and connectedness around the world like never before.
  5. The Great Commission has become globalized. There are actually more missionaries being sent around the world from the Majority World countries than the Western World.  This is great because it means that churches throughout the world are enabling gospel witness instead of waiting for it to be done for them.
  6. Areas that have been in the news for war, catastrophes, etc., have actually become places of great gospel witness as the desperation of the governments and the people have opened the doors to disaster relief from various evangelical denominations. The groups have come with material support, but more importantly have come sharing the gospel.

Consider this quote from the book:

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), we need Jesus to open our eyes to the hidden truth.  God is answering prayers, and doing wonderful things in the world!  This has been a remarkable generation in church history.  Who among us, 30 years ago, could have imagined more than 300 (my correction) million Chinese Christians, or massive people movements to Christ in Iran and Algeria, or breakthrough in Cambodia and Nepal?  Only God!  So we begin with answers to prayer, with all gratitude and praise to our Lord.  And we persist in prayer for the things that to our eyes seem impossible, because nothing is impossible with God.

Would you join me this year in praying that the Great Commission will be fulfilled in our lifetime?  In this year?  Will you join me in praying for the believers scattered around the world?  Will you give to missions, go on missions, and ask God to make missions successful like no other time in your life?

Let’s believe, pray, stand, go, give, weep, laugh, and celebrate what God is doing…TOGETHER!  And let us start by thanking God for all He has done as we look forward to what He is going to do.



Saying Goodbye
April 30, 2015, 11:12 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goodbye

Early this morning, we lost a great example.  Let me explain.  Virgil E. McWilliams, Jr., known to most of us as “Mac” passed away this morning.  No, this is not his obituary.  That will be coming later from the family.  As I have reflected on Mac’s life, I realized that I have just witnessed a man who died well.

First, Mac was diagnosed with a form of cancer that usually leads to a very painful and debilitating death.  This was the path that Mac went down and that makes the way he endured all the more amazing and inspirational.  He was in tremendous pain and endured not being able to eat and all of the unpleasantness that comes with it.  Even with the pain and suffering, Mac and I visited last Friday for a few hours and he said something that is very rare to hear in our day.  He said, “I have no complaints.  I have had a good life.  I have a good wife.  I have an amazing family.  I have traveled and experienced much of this world and all it has to offer.  But most of all, I have the Lord on my side and that is more than I could have hoped for.”  In spite of all he was going through, he was thankful to God.

Next, Mac was appreciative of everything and everyone.  Even the day I visited with him, it took a toll on him, but he wanted me to stay and visit.  As we sat on his back porch, he talked about how thankful he was to God for all of the things I listed above.  He talked about how thankful he was for his Sunday School class and the fellowship they share.  He talked about how thankful he was for his wife.  He did not think he would ever find anyone like Margaret and vastly enjoyed being married to her.  Even she said there was not a day that went by without Mac telling her how much he appreciated her, how lovely she is, or how much he loved her.  He was thankful for his kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.  He was thankful for his house.  He was thankful because the doctor had said he had three months to live and it had been something like fourteen months ago!  Even in pain and suffering, Mac was appreciative of others and all he had.

Mac was also selfless.  Every time I visited with Mac, at church, in the car, or at home, he was always offering me something.  He wanted to make sure people were taken care of.  If it was not offering me his famous peanut brittle, it was produce from his amazing and bountiful garden, books from his library, or any other manner of things he thought would benefit me.  This last Friday, he even offered to get up and go into the house and get me a Diet Coke.  Here he was less than a week from death and in great pain and he was concerned because it was a little warm and I did not have a cold drink.  That was Mac.  He was that way with the granddaughters.  He wanted to make sure they were safe and that they got an education, but also that they had what they needed.  He would fix wind chimes, lawn mowers, bicycles, toys, or anything else they needed because he wanted to make sure they were taken care of.

Lastly, Mac was positive, but also realistic.  Over the last year or so, after being diagnosed, Mac would always say that he was thankful for the time he had, but that it was somewhat borrowed time.  He would say that the doctors had given him three months, but that the doctors are not God.  God knew the plans He had for Mac and for Mac’s life.  Early on, Mac would say he felt okay, but that he knew it was going to get worse.  Mac would even say that he looked forward to heaven, but that he wanted to make sure those left behind did not have to hurt.  He talked about his faith in God and how he knew he was forgiven, but that he knew that he had much to be forgiven for.  We even talked about some family relationships that Mac wished were different, but knew that people have to do things their own way.

While there is more that can and will be said about Mac McWilliams, about his life, travels, career as a Veterinarian, military service, oil field work, etc., I guess I am most thankful in this moment that Mac has shown me what it is to die well.  That may sound strange, but Mac has shown me how to die well.  To die with dignity, thankfulness, hope, realism, compassion, appreciation, but most of all with the confidence that comes from a rock-solid faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  When I die, I hope I can face death with that same understanding, hope, and dignity.  Thanks, Mac for showing me,

Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.” (Habakkuk 3:17–19, NASB95).

We could all learn from him.



Light Is Needed Most When It Is Darkest
February 6, 2015, 11:55 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

light

The other day, as I walked out of my front door just south of Liberal, I looked up and was stopped in my tracks momentarily.  As I looked to the north, where Liberal should have been, there was nothing.  No lights.  No traffic.  Nothing.  It was dark out and it was foggy.  This combination synergized to obfuscate the normal photoluminescence of the conglomeration of domestic abodes known as Liberal.  In other words, like my previous sentence, they confused me by being too dense to see through.

As I looked at this sight, I was struck with a thought.  What would it be like if Liberal actually wasn’t there?  What if some storm, bomb, earthquake or some other terrible event happened in the night and I awoke to find that the entire town was simply gone.  It had been destroyed.  How many people would go into an eternity without a relationship with Jesus Christ?  How many people would have to stand before the judgment seat of God and hear, “Depart from Me, I never knew you?”  How many would be doomed forever to spend eternity in Hell, tormented with no possible relief or deliverance?

As I pondered these things, I started to feel disturbed.  I wondered how God must feel about all of the people that would miss out on Heaven.  I wondered how I should feel, if I am a slave of God and am supposed to be about His business.  I wondered how many loved ones would mourn, knowing there was no such thing as a second chance.  I wondered how many people would try to feel better by saying, “Maybe, at the last second, they cried out to God.”  Don’t get me wrong.  If they had done that, they would be saved, just like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, but how likely is that?  And certainly how likely if they have never even heard they need to cry out to God for anything?

All of this was swirling in my head and heart as I began to drive in.  And then I was hit again by another thought.  As I was driving, I had gotten far enough away from the park in which I live to have passed outside of the effective range of the lights there, and had not gotten far enough to begin to see the lights of Liberal, which I trusted were still on.  As I looked around, I realized that I was in the middle of nowhere with no light, no point of reference, no direction, but still moving.  I wondered if that is not how many people, and many churches are living their lives.  Have we forgotten that people need light for a reference?  Even though they say that all truth is relative, don’t we all really want something as a reference to even know if we are on the road?

In that quiet moment, I renewed my commitment to sharing Jesus with as many people as I can.  Not so that I can get another notch in my belt to impress people with my evangelistic skills, but because there are people that might die today without Christ.

Will you join me in praying for your city?  Will you pray for your church to be a light on your corner or block?  Will you let your light shine so that others will at least have a reference point?  Will you share Jesus with them?  Will you help them out of the dark and into the light?  I hope so, because driving in the dark, on a rarely deserted road, with no lights is pretty scary, but I only had a few miles until I could see light again.  What must it be like to do that for eternity?