Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Prayer and Faith

Here is a short, 2 minute vlog on Prayer and Faith:

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Big Fish In A Small Pond - Part 4

....As time went by, we were down to just one guppy when all of the sudden it happened. No, I didn't get to see the frog engorge itself on  a guppy - but now there were many little guppies swimming around! Apparently, one of the guppies who had made it this far spawned and delivered 10-15 guppies.

Once our girls saw this, they were excited...then worried. "Dad, you can't leave them in there! The frog will eat them!" Against my better judgment, I fished them all out, mother included, and put them in their own tank. One interesting fact we learned after this is that a female guppy can spawn many times after only be fertilized once.  Now, this tank resides in our oldest two girls room and it is filled with guppies (the younger two have the beta tank).

So, for the longest time now, we have only had the Cory Catfish in with the frog. But that changed this week. I went into town (that's what we do now that we live in the country-side here in AR) and found some new fish-mates for our frog and catfish. These new mates needed to meet some criteria: they needed to be able to be in the tank with different species, and they needed to be TOO BIG to be eaten by our frog. With this knowledge in hand, we picked five silver dollar tetra and brought them home.

After draining and cleaning the tank, I replaced the rocks with sand, a second log-like hiding structure, and a live plant. I was going for a more realistic-looking scene this time. Once the water was treated and ready, I returned the frog and catfish, then floated the bag with the silver dollar tetra. Twenty minutes later the new fish were swimming around in their new environment, checking out all the nooks and crannies. There fish are much larger than our frog and definitely have no fear of him.

So, what did I learn through all this? Here are a couple of things that come to mind:

  • Don't assume. If I hadn't assumed that the frog was the same, we might this have 5 neon tetra today.
  • You may be a big fish in your small pond, but there are always fish bigger than you! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Big Fish In A Small Pond: Part 3

Here is Part 2

...When morning comes, I wake up before everyone else and go to the living room and begin to count the fish: one...two...three.....and.....and....uhhh.....NOT AGAIN?!?

Now I know something else must be up because the girls were asleep the whole time. Was the frog eating the fish? I don't know about you, but when there is a question about something in our house, we quickly get out our electronic devices and "google it." A quick google search (with images) revealed to us an unexpected truth: our frog was not who we thought he was. Instead of picking out another Dwarf frog at the local pet store, I picked out an African Clawed frog. These frogs LOVE to eat small fish!

So, what did I do with the other three fish? Well, I did what anyone else would have done. I left them in there because I wanted to see this frog eat one! Unfortunately, it never happened. Don't get me wrong, he ate them, but I never got to see it. But I wasn't going to let that stop me! So, I went back to the locally owned pet store and told him my situation and what I wanted to do. He understood completely and took me to...the feeder fish. I had him scoop me up a bag full of feeder fish (grey guppies) and I took those fish home and poured them into the tank. I was bound and determined to see this frog eat a fish!

It was hard to keep count of the guppies, but there were around 15-20 of them swimming all over the place. I sat by during the daytime and never witnessed this feeding frenzy. Night would come and I would sit in the darkened living room with only a small light and watch the frog swim around. But still no dinner time theater for me. And worse yet, the number of guppies was dwindling fast.

As time went by, we were down to just one guppy when...

....more to come soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Big Fish In A Small Pond: Part 2

Here is the link to Part 1 if you have not read it yet.

...I woke up the next morning and gave the tank a quick glance on my out and thought nothing of it. The frog is mostly active at night, and I saw some fish swimming around.

Well, when I got home that evening, I sat down by the tank just to watch what is going on. I am not sure why, but I find it interesting to watch the activity in the tanks. Maybe it is the tranquility of it (though as I will soon find out on this evening, that tank was anything but tranquil), maybe it is the color, or maybe it is that there is a whole world taking place under water in those tanks. I'm not sure, but I know that I like to spend some time checking them out. But back to this story.

As I looked in on the tank, I began to do what I still do today: count the fish. So, I counted one dwarf frog, and then begin to count the tetra: one...two...three...four.....and.....and....wait, where is #5? I call Darci in, and she only counts four. The fifth one is gone, but where? Obviously, one of the girls did something to it. They were so fascinated with the tank, I bet they got the net and scooped one out and it died so they flushed it! Those little brats (don't worry, I didn't say that to them. Just what I was thinking)! So, I give each of them the 3rd degree, and they all had the same answer: I don't know?!? Now I know for sure they are up to something. They are definitely in cahoots. But, with no hard
evidence or confession, what can I do?

As I go to bed that night (after the girls and Darci are asleep), I count the fish: one...two...three...four. When morning comes, I wake up before everyone else and go to the living room and begin to count the fish: one...

...to be continued...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Big Fish In A Small Pound: part 1

Most people have hobbies. One of my hobbies is keeping up with our aquariums. As of right now, we have four total:

  1. A 10 gallon tank with 2 Sunburst Platy's, a Dalmatian Molly, 3 Zebra Danio's, and a Ghost Shrimp.
  2. A 10 gallon tank with 1 Cory Stripped Catfish, an African Clawed Frog, and 5 Silver Dollar Tetra.
  3. A 5 gallon tank with a momma Guppy, and all her baby guppies that survived the frog (more on  that later).
  4. A 1-2 gallon tank with a Beta.
Monday evening, I took the girls to the pet store to get some supplies for tank #2. I had let the water level go down on that tank knowing that I was going to replace the rocks with sand and get another structure and a live plant. At this time, the only thing in that tank was the frog and the catfish. Not a lot for a 10 gallon tank, but there was a reason for that.

We became intrigued with the frog through the girls home-school science curriculum. So, we went to a local pet store chain in the Westland, MI area and we found an African Dwarf frog. These frogs will not eat other fish. At that time, we had one small, one gallon tank, so we picked up the five gallon tank. With a bigger tank, we decided to get some fish to go with our Dwarf Frog. Our girls picked out five of the neon tetra. They are not very big, but they are very colorful.

As we get home we set the tank up and begin to feed the frog the dried bloodworms that we got for it. It was fascinating watching this frog, under water, with its little T-Rex like arms shoving food in its mouth. All the while, the tetra swim around and enjoy their new environment.

Well, unfortunately, the frog did not last long. Not sure exactly why, but I decided that instead of going back to this chain pet store (which had A LOT of dead fish in their tanks), I would go to the local owner-operated pet store and pick out another frog there. I walk in, find the tank, get another frog, pay for it, take it home, and introduce it to its new tank. After floating the bag for some time, we release the frog to freely swim in his new home with his new tank mates.

Everything was going just as planned. Then, one monring...

Stay tooned for Part 2.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are You Apart or A Part of Jesus?

Are You Apart or A Part of Jesus? - John 13:1-17

As Jesus is gathered with His disciples, He gets up from the table to begin to wash their feet. When gets to Peter, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. Jesus was the one who Peter promoted as the Messiah, the Son of God (even if he didn't quite understand it fully yet (Luke 24:45, etc.), there was no way He was going to wash his feet. At this point, Jesus tells Peter that if he won't let Him wash his feet, that Peter will have no part in His work (John 13:8). Peter's response (John 13:9) shows that he misunderstands verse 8 and now is asking to be completely washed. Jesus responds and lets Peter know that the washing He is administering has nothing to do with salvation, but an example of not only humility and servanthood, but the daily cleansing that each believer needs. Just as the dirt from the roads would gather on the feet of a person as they walked the city streets, even after coming from the central bath house (read more about it here) where they have been fully cleaned, sin gathers in the life of the believer and we need that daily cleansing, or repentance of sin. So, this is not only an example of humility and servanthood, but a picture of our need for daily cleansing from sin as believers.

With this in mind, when we reconsider what Jesus said to Peter, we see that Jesus warns him that unconfessed sin with keep Peter apart of the ministry and fellowship of Jesus. If we want to be A PART of the work of the Lord, we cannot allow unconfessed sin in our heart and life. Ephesians 5:25-26 give us the mode of washing today: the Word of God. It is through our daily, consistent study of the Word of God that we can be washed of the daily sin that gathers. Without this daily washing, we will not be A PART of our Lord's work, but it will keep us APART from the work.

So today, at this moment, are you APART or A PART?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grace & Politics

While I could start off by saying there has been a lot of politics in the news today, the truth of the matter is that politics are always a hot-issue button. But what does the Bible say about our role a born-again believers within the realm of politics?

Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

We see from Paul's words to Titus that we are subject to the office AND the person in the office. Not just to be respectful of the office, but obedient to the office AND person. Even if the person holding the office makes it difficult, we are to obey the office.

At the writing of this letter, Nero was in charge of the Roman Empire and Western World. The following info on Nero can be found here:

Nero (Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December 37 – 9 June 68) was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death. In 64 AD, most of Rome was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome, which many Romans believed Nero himself had started in order to clear land for his planned palatial complex, the Domus AureaHe is infamously known as the Emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned"[7] and as an early persecutor of Christians. He was known for having captured Christians to burn them in his garden at night for a source of light. This view is based on the writings of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, the main surviving sources for Nero's reign.
It has been said that no one embodied the very spirit of antichrist more than Nero. So if Christians were expected to be subject and obedient  unto good works towards Nero, what would be expected of us today? Peter said that it was better to obey God than man (Acts 5:29), but what was the context? (Acts 5:17-32). They were charged with not preaching that Jesus was the Messiah and that it was the Jews who killed the Son of God. This charge was for all times and in all places. So, when government arrest us and tries to make us completely stop the preaching of the Gospel - we must stand against it. Or, when the government makes a law that would force us to do something contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, we must stand against it (EX: Daniel, refusing to pray to King Darius, lions’ den). But lets be honest: has that happened to us today, here in America?

How did Jesus react to the government during His earthly ministry? We see one of the ways in Mark 12:13-17. Consider this - do you think Jesus agreed with everything Caesar did with the tax money? Yet, He said to give to Caesar anyway. Why? Because he would be the one accountable for how it was spent;  we are accountable for not obeying the laws and not paying the tax.

How did Paul react to the government during his ministry? Paul, even after being arrested and jailed on multiple occasions, never called for a change in government. Instead of getting caught up in political dealings, Paul focused on his calling as a missionary and evangelist to a lost and dying world in need of Jesus. The persecution he faced from governments was his cross that he bore. His goal was to not know anything, except for Jesus and Him crucified. But lets be honest: more people know Christians by their politics and their faith.
So then, what is our duty to government?
  1. Pray - 1 Tim. 2:1-2.
  2. Obey - this is what we see in the text of Titus 3:1.
  3. Here in America, we also have a third duty - make our voice count when it comes time to vote.
But as we vote, we realize our hope and strength is not found in government and ballotsAnd once we make our voice heard at election - we move on serving the Lord no matter the election outcome.
Why is obeying those who have the rule over us so important?

Romans 13:1–2  — 1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

So, before you forward that email, or share that Facebook picture, or tweet your disgust of our current politicians, remember Romans 13:2 and think, "When I complain, say spiteful and mean-spiritied things, and rebel, I am really doing so against God."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown: WE are the Problem

While there is no shortage of opinions on the "who's" and "why's" of the Government Shutdown, there is one "who" and "why" I haven't heard. One that I think is the real culprit to this mess.

WHO: It is not the Democrat's or the Republican's fault, even though both parties are acting like spoiled children who refuse to talk to someone who disagrees with them. It is no the Tea Party's fault. It is not Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, or any other new outlet's fault though each of them often slant the news to their own agenda. 


We are the ones who voted for these men and women. Now, you may be thinking to yourselves, "Well, I didn't vote for ___________." But you did vote for the other person. And while I will not make a blanket statement about ALL politicians, I am comfortable enough to say that MOST politicians don't run based on their personal convictions about right and wrong. MOST politicians, if the truth were to be told, run on VOTES. They say and do what they think will either get them elected, or help get them re-elected in the next cycle. And...they act in a way that they think their electors want them to. 

All of this leads to the WHY. Why is it politicians are so divisive, so unwilling to converse with the other side to come to a peaceful resolution? Because the people they represent, the people that voted them in, are. Don't believe me? Spend some time parsing through social media. If you do, you will read nothing but extreme statements and opinions with no consideration for the other point of view and any merits they may have. We are an angry society today, and look for any reason to express it.

Case in point. Today, I needed to call my old post office in MI to look for a package that was delivered there. I have a forward on my mail to be sent here to my new home in AR, but sometimes that doesn't happen. So, I looked up the number and called. The phone began to ring....and ring....and ring....and ring. No answer. What did I do next? I went to Twitter and posted:

After posting, I decided to "google" whether or not the post office was supposed to be closed due to the  government shut down...and it wasn't. So I called again, and they answered.

We spend so much time complaining and criticizing everything, and especially those that disagree with us, that we have lost the art of dialogue. No one listens to anyone anymore. Paul listened to others, viewed their actions, and dialogued with them (Acts 17:16-34). Instead, we want everyone to know our opinion, how we've been wrong, and how everyone who disagrees with us is completely wrong and has no business doing whatever it is they are doing. Now, in this world, there are absolutes. Some things are right, and some things are wrong. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try our best to keep the lines of communication open with those whom we disagree with. 

Take time to hear out both sides, and realize there is only One who in infallible, only One who has the answer. We don't, and we would do go to remember that when in discussion with others who disagree with us. A kind spirit goes further than forceful words filled with hate and ignorance. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Final Sign That You Might Be A Pharisee

As we come to the conclusion of the seven woe's Jesus pronounced to the Pharisees, we see the final one in Matthew 23:29-32. Here, Jesus reminds them that even though they think they would not have murdered the prophets of the Old Testament, they were just like their ancestors and would finish what they started. Here, Jesus was alluding to the fact that they would be the ones calling for the crucifixion of Jesus shortly. In essence, Jesus is saying that their problem was that they were ignorant of their own spiritual condition.

Today, we can see how this pharisaical attitude can creep in to our heart and lives today. It is so easy to get swept up with everything "religion" that we never stop to take a good hard look at ourselves. We get so busy going about our "church business" of attending worship, shaking hands, singing songs, praying prayers, giving offerings, and keeping up appearances, that we neglect our actual spiritual condition. We have replaced "spiritual" with "busy." As long as we stay busy at church, we can ignore the elephant in the room.

As a side note, after reading this I couldn't help but think of the Christians of old that many highlight and promote today. They were men and women who were inventive, unsatisfied with status quo, and willing to try new and different ministries, outreaches, etc. Yet today, we stone (via social media) those who have that same attitude today!

As a child of God, lets not ignore our true spiritual condition by "staying busy" in church. Busyness does not equate righteousness.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Signs #5&6 That You Might Be A Pharisee

So far, we have seen the first four signs that we might be a Pharisee from Jesus' discussion in Matthew 23. As we combine the 5th and 6th woe's, we see that the pharisees had their priorities backwards. This was evident in:

#1 - As a cup that was clean on the outside and yet dirty on the inside, they were more worried about their apperance instead of focusing on their heart and mind (Matthew 23:25-26). 

#2 - As a tomb that was clean on the outside but filled with dead bones on the inside, their focus was on what others thought of them and not what God knew about them (Matthew 23:27-28).

How did this happen? For one, they elevated their own traditions and laws over God's Law. Their own greed caused them to promote their way over God's way. They wanted the preeminence and prominence amongst the people, even at the expense of their own standing before God. As long as everyone else held them in high esteem, that was all that mattered. They looked sharp on the outisde, but there was nothing but dirt and death on the inside.

As I read these verses, I can't help but think of too many preachers, pastors, and evangelist today who preach and promote personal preferences that focus on the exterior, all the while ignoring the heart of the believer. Young converts are swept up in the madness and loaded with burdens they were not made to carry. And why carry these burdens? So that the preacher may feel better about himself as his little minions copy his every mannerism. As long as everyone looks like we want, speaks like we want, and acts like we want, we are fine. This is why they elevate their opinion of those "grey areas" in the Bible   as a Black and White, clear-cut issues. Their personal conviction becomes a Bible truth, and anyone who does not follow their view is a liberal, compromiser, etc.  All the while, the heart of this preacher is filled with wickedness and death. Their private life (the inside of the cup, the inside of the whitewashed tomb) is filled with the dirt of sin and the stench of spiritual death. But that is okay, as long as everyone is following their opinions as fact.

And it is not only preachers that have this issue. Many believers live their life trying to fool everyone around them by cleaning up the outside. Yet, their heart is filled with sinfulness and wickedness. God knows it, they know it, but as long as others don't know it, they are okay.

As believers, we must make sure that we don't get swept up in this movement. Make no mistake - this is in no way, shape, or form, making it okay for us to be "dirty" on the outside of our cup. But lets start on the inside first - because that is where God starts! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sign #4 That You Might Be A Pharisee

In today's sign from Matthew 23:23-24, we see the Pharisees had a problem with picking and choosing what to obey. They were giving a tithe off of the little things they owned - but neglecting those characteristics of true righteousness: exercising justice, giving mercy, and living a faithful life. Jesus had already warned the crowd in Matthew 23:3-4 that the Pharisees taught and made people carry heavy burdens when it came to the Law, but they themselves would not lift it. They chose what they wanted to follow, while demanding that everyone else follow ALL THE LAWS. And when they saw someone neglecting a law, they made sure they were "put in their place." They became like the taskmasters the Israelites had to deal with in the early days of Moses.

This is an unfortunate state, but one that many Christians can easily find themselves in. Many in Christendom today become enraged with the stories in the news (murder, lying, adultery, etc.) and cry what a wicked and cruel world it is. But, they will often ignore the words of Jesus, who told us, "If you are angry with someone you are in danger... if you think lustfully about someone, you've committed adultery with them (reference in Matthew 5:21-30)." Why is it that we often hold the unbelieving world to a higher standard than we hold ourselves? Is it because we have developed a Pharisaical mindset? Maybe that is why our witness (not the Gospel itself, but our witness of the Gospel) has become so ineffective? Maybe those who are hearing us have been watching us for longer and view us as a hypocrite? Our actions have spoken louder than our words and have made our words of null effect. 

May God deliver us from the heart that picks and chooses what to obey in His Word as we embrace the exercising of justice, the giving of mercy, and living a faithful life. May we spend less time straining the gnats while ignoring the camels

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sign #3 That You Might Be A Pharisee

Before you continue reading, check out Sign #1 and #2 first before you read today's.

We see from Matthew 23:16-22 that the third sign that you might be a pharisee is that you value money and prosperity over the things of God. In this "woe", Jesus calls them out on the fact that they were worried and focused more on the financial gain that came from the offerings than the sacrifice and worship of the offering. They were so focused on material gain that they could not see what they were losing - God.

Just recently we have started a Sunday night series at church through the book of Titus. It is interesting to me that one of the qualifications that Paul wrote to Titus about was that a pastor/shepherd was not to be focus on gaining riches and fame in a dishonest way. Now, Paul is not saying that they should not receive gain, but that they should not get it though dishonest means. Jesus pronounced his third woe on the Pharisees for just this reason. It is an issue that easily trip up anyone, but it seems especially so for the pastor/leader.

But as I thought about this woe, I am reminded of a quote I read last night from Andy Stanley's newest book Deep & Wide. In it, he made the following observation: The tragic truth is, most churches in the United States won't change until finances force them to. How many of our churches make spiritual decisions based on money and not ministry? Many churches know what, "Thus  saitheth the Lord," yet in reality, it is, "What saitheth the budget." 

If money is our primary motive in ministry, no matter which side we may be on, we might be a pharisee.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sign #2 That You Might Be A Pharisee

If you have not sone so, read Sign #1 first.

Today, we see the second sign that you might be a Pharisee (by the way, are you, like me, having trouble not saying the phrase "You might be a Pharisee" in the voice of Jeff Foxworthy? Thought so!):

#2 - You Are More Worried About Building Your Own Kingdom At The Eternal Expense Of Others - Matthew 23:15

As we read this, we understand that Jesus was not chastising them for going to the far reaches of the world to make converts. The problem was what they were converting them to. They were not leading people to a faith-based relationship with the LORD, but were enlisting them in their own religious institution. They put in much labor, but not for the right reason.

Maybe it is just me, but I can see all around how this attitude has crept into many of our churches. We emphasis coming to church, but rarely do we push for people to come to Jesus. Our prayer usually goes something like, "Please pray for ____________ that they will come to church." And once they do, we rejoice...and do nothing else. Pretty soon, after many weeks and months of coming, they are entrenched into the membership roll of the church - but are not on heaven's membership roll.

Sometimes it is seen in the fact that we are guilty about proclaiming our own standards, way of doing things, etc. as eternal truth. We become more worried that people are formed to our mould of what is "God's way" at the expense of their own spiritual growth. Instead of making disciples who are Christlike, we are forming miniature versions of ourselves.

Too many pastors and Christians are trying to play the role of the Holy Spirit in every one's life. Our job is to declare God's eternal truth and allow His people to live as He directs them.

How have you seen this attitude played out today in the church?

What is the remedy?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Signs You Might Be A Pharisee? Part 1

If you gather a group of Christians together, especially so with pastors, and begin to talk about other groups who are not quit like you, you might hear the label "Pharisee" thrown out. Sometimes, you may say it about someone else. Sometimes, it may be said of you. Either way, I wonder how well we actually know and understand what it means to be a Pharisee? 

If you take the time to read the conversation that Jesus had first with a large crowd, then narrowing down to the Pharisees and Scribes (The scribes were the teachers of the law who usually get left out when we tell this story!) from Matthew 23, you will notice seven signs, or characteristics, of a Pharisee. 

Now, as you read the following seven posts on the Seven Signs You Might Be A Pharisee, please do me one favor: RESERVE YOUR JUDGMENT until the end. Your tendency may be to think ahead, but take the time to consider each sign and how it relates to you. And NO, I AM NOT TALKING PERSONALLY ABOUT YOU OR YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM. These are general statements taken from the words of Jesus Himself. My purpose is not to pick on you, your church, or your association/denomination/fellowship/non-fellowship fellowship (some of my readers will get that last one!).

After we see all seven signs, I think you may come to the same conclusion I have: I may not personally know someone who fulfills all seven signs, but if I am not careful, all of these attitudes have or could creep into my spiritual life.

So, without further ado,  7 Signs that you might be a Pharisee from Matthew 23:13-29.

Sign #1 - You are spiritually lost and preventing others from being saved - 23:13-14.

This is a pretty straight forward sign of a pharisee: you are lost and doing what you can to keep others from coming to a knowledge of saving faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus called this the "blind leading the blind." Easy enough. And of course, most who read my blog would not fall into this sign....or do we?

The pharisee's problem here was a two-fold one. Number One, they were religious, but lost. While we may not think this is an issue, truth be told there are many who spend much time in church but have never put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If that is the case with you (and only you would know this), I invite you to go HERE and read more about what you should do next.

Now, assuming you are good with Number One, lets consider the Second problem the Pharisees had: they were keeping others from coming into a saving relationship with God. We often talk about how important it is to reach others for Jesus Christ, but are we effective at it in our church's? For many churches, one of the greatest tools for outreach that we have are our weekend services. Isn't this why we give people a chance to respond at the end of the service? And while we may be shocked, or disappointed, when no one does respond, do we ever stop to consider why?

Sometimes it is because we have done all that we are supposed to, but the hearer chose to ignore it, and/or they disagree with what God has told us in His Word. There is nothing that we can do about that. The response is between that individual and God.

But what might we be doing leading up to that point that is shutting the door on individuals who are genuinely seek a faith relationship and want to turn to God? Often times, new people have already made up their mind about a church and in turn God, well before the preacher ever stands to deliver the message. They base their choice on the cleanliness of a church, the friendliness of the people, the passion of the music program, the quality of childcare services, etc. 

At this point, you may be thinking, "Well, none of that really matters. They should just be interested in the message. Those other things don't affect me, so they shouldn't affect them." And while that may sound right, the truth is we should be willing to do anything possible to prepare people to hear the Gospel. When we allow things around the church to falter and our attitudes to sour, it gives off the impression to outsiders that we don't care and it is no big deal. 

But you do care, and you do think it is a big deal. If you didn't, you probably would have stopped reading a while back. So, while we may not be an actual Pharisee, we all must guard against allowing our personal preferences and likes, and even our complacency, to shut the doors of heaven to those who come into our churches looking.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Eyes of A New Person

When was the last time you were the "new" person somewhere? For me, it has been a while...until our recent move. As the new pastor of the First General Baptist Church of Rector, AR, I have been reminded of a few things. One of this is this: it is a lot different viewing your church from the eyes of a new person.

I am sure it would be the desire of all of my readers for there to be new people in their church services each week. That is our desire, and it is the fruit of a church on a mission for God's mission (Matthew 28:18-20). Our new church is great, and there is a lot of excitement and partnership in what God is doing now and what we pray He will do in the future.

But (and isn't there alway a but?!), our family has noticed that there are some things that go on that, if you are new, you would never either know about it or you would not know how to get involved.
This is not done purposely, because it is the desire of the church to reach the lost and those who have fallen out of church over the years. The fact is, many churches, if not most, have this issue. We get so used to the routine of everything that we forget others may not know.

So, what is the solution?

First, we must always remember and assume that there are those listening to us for the first time and those who are sitting next to us for the first time. As leaders in the church, we must make sure every thing we say and do is communicated clearly so everyone knows and understands. We cannot take for granted what we assume everyone knows. This includes not only our announcements and welcome committees, but also our preaching and teaching.

Secondly, as church members, we can't forget what it was like to be a new person in a new surrounding. If someone is giving announcements and the information seems silly and redundant, remember that at one time you didn't know about it. Part of worship is sacrifice, and that includes sacrificing our time in making sure everyone is up to speed. Don't assume that new person knows where the nursery is at, what the purpose of Sunday School/Bible Study/Small Groups are, etc. Do your part to make the new guests welcomed and help them get "up to speed."

Lets view our church's and their services with the eyes of someone who is new.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Trip To The Pro Football Hall of Fame

My brother and sister-in-law, who live in Dallas/Ft Worth, came up to Kentucky and Ohio for a vacation and to see some sights. Since Darci and the girls are in Texas visiting family, I decided to drive down on Memorial Day to see them and tag along with them as they went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. Growing up I remember watching on t.v. every year the newest Hall of Fame class get inducted. I can still see these men, standing on a stage in front of a very large crowd, wearing their yellow blazers, and telling us what an honor it is to be remembered while thanking their coaches, teammates, family, etc. 

After walking around for 3 or so hours and taking lots of pictures, I came away a bit confused about what I thought of the place. I had a lot of fun and was definitely glad that I got to go...but there was something. I don't know what it was, but there was something about it that didn't match up with what I assumed it would be. Part of the Hall was being remodeled for a new exhibit, and it seemed like there

Romo's in the HOF!
was a handful of items that were missing. It was interesting to walk around and see and read some of the history. The room with all the busts was unique. You could definitely tell it was an older building built during a different time. But...I don't know, it just didn't seem to measure up with what I had thought the place would be. That doesn't mean it was their fault. Even though I was glad that I got to go, it just was not what I had thought. 

All of this leads me to this thought: sometimes we build things up in our mind, only to be let down by reality. Has this ever happened to you? How do you handle the reality of un-met expectations?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

That's Why

Have you ever had that moment, that event, that "something" that cements in your heart why God prompted you to do something? I had one of those moments last night (Tue. 5/21). 

All this week we have had Evangelist JC House, and his wife Wanda, with us (you can read more about him here). It has been a great week with many wonderful messages from God's Word on Stewardship. We had two adults walk the aisle and put their faith in trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior on Sunday morning. In the past, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. House for many years while I was in Texas. He would preach every year in the church I was saved in (Trinity Baptist Church of Grand Prairie, TX), which ran a couple hundred of people. I have heard him preach in churches and meetings that were 600+ in attendance. This week, unfortunately, we have had only around 20 for our evening services. In spite of that fact, you could not tell from his attitude in and out of the pulpit. He is the same preacher, preaching in the same manner, at our smaller church as he is at the much larger churches. And as a pastor, I have greatly appreciated that because I cannot say that about some preachers - which is a shame.  So, if that was all that this week was for us and for myself, I could tell you without reservation that it has been a good week. 

But it's not.

Last night, Dr. House preached from Luke 6:38 (KJV 1900) — 38 Give, and IT shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (emphasis mine). I am sure many who read my blog have preached, or heard someone preach from this verse many times. Often, the message is about our giving. Yet, as Dr. House unpacked this verse, he brought us the the realization that the immediate context was not about giving money (though there is the secondary application to be made for giving financially), but it is about "it." What is the "it" you ask? IT is given to us in the previous verses:

6:37 - Judgement (and 6:30-36 shows us that when we fail to give to those in need (money, mercy, etc.), we are judging them). Why are people unfriendly with you? Maybe because you are unfriendly to them? Why are people critical to you? Maybe because you are critical to them? etc. etc.
My point of this post is not to re-hash the entire message, but to share with you that "ah-ha" moment that I had. Sitting on that front pew soaking it all in, I realized that this night was the reason why God prompted me almost a year ago to call Dr. House and invite him to come. And for that, I praise the Lord. 

Have you ever had one of those moments?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fighting For Motherhood

Proverbs 31:10 (KJV 1900) — 10 Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.  
As I (a son, a husband, and a father) consider the mother's of my life this week and how thankful I am for them (the mother who raised me, and the mother of my four girls), I thought about the virtuous woman of the 31st chapter of Proverbs. When we think of the word "virtuous," we often think of the following definition:
  1. Having or showing high moral standards.
  2. (esp. of a woman) Chaste.
chaste - moral - righteous - honest
But as I considered what the Bible means by "virtuous," I came across something additional. The Hebrew word translated "Virtuous" is:  chayil (298c); from 2342b; strength, efficiency, wealth, army. We can see here how the Hebrew word is translated:

Part of the word "virtuous" means to have valor in battle. So, when you put it all together, we see that the character of the virtuous woman is something that should be fought for. Motherhood means fighting and striving for what is right in you home, what is godly for your children, and with (on the same team, not against) your husband. 

As a mother, are you fighting for it? Are you striving to be a virtuous mother,a virtuous wife, a virtuous woman? Remember this - just because you are not fighting, does not mean you are not in a battle. It just means you are probably losing. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Whosoever Church For A Whosoever God

When you think of your church (if you don't attend church, that is okay, I have a question for you in a second. Just read on), what first comes to mind? The people...the building...the worship service...preaching...evangelism...helping others...something else? Those are good things, and needful things, but that is not what I am worried about at this time. 

My concern is this: what do "outsiders" think of first when they think of the church? The truth is, we often don't ask this question, and that is probably because we are afraid of what the answer might be. Week in, week out we sing great hymns such as, "Just As I Am," but do we mean it? Truth be told, many churches really mean, "Just As...Long As You Look Like Us, Talk Like Us, Think Like Us, etc."

When Paul wrote "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13)," there were no qualifiers for it. Paul did not say, "For whosoever shall fit into our church culture shall be saved," but WHOSOEVER. That included people who think differently, act differently, grew up differently, and have different backgrounds. Why is it that we often put more hurdles up for people to jump in order to get to God in our churches? Do sinners feel comfortable coming into our church buildings for worship? Before you get up in arms and try to tell me that sinners shouldn't feel comfortable in our churches, re-read the story of the woman at the well. She felt comfortable enough to converse with Jesus, even after He confronted her with the truth of the sinfulness of her life. 

Our churches are not country clubs filled with similar people - but a place where whosoever's can come and hear the truth that they are sinners who are loved by a holy God and His people; Jesus died for their sins just like He died for our sins; and they can believe the Gospel in their heart and call upon the Lord to save them (Romans 10:9-10) just like we did. The church today has politicized certain sins and spends more time ranting and raving about them then loving those people and sharing with them our faith. And then we wonder why people have such a negative view about Christians and the Church!

If you read this and don't attend church, would you please comment and let me know what is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear "church"?

If you read this and do attend church, what can you do better in order to help your church be A Whosoever Church For A Whosoever God?

Friday, April 19, 2013

All Baptist Are Like Westboro Baptist

Do you like the title of this blog post? I am sure that most of my readers don't. If that is all I said, you would probably fill my comment section, Facebook page, and Twitter feed (_brad_Gilbert_), berating me otherwise and trying to "set me straight." Before you skip the rest of this post to do so, understand this: I don't think all Baptist are like Westboro Baptist. They are a very, very poor representation of what a church is supposed to be, and what we as Baptist believe. Truth be told, I don't even like using the word Baptist or Church when talking about them. 

So then, why would I say it? My goal is that some who read this may open their eyes and see that blanket statements made about other religions and people groups can be just as hurtful. As the situation in Boston unfolds further, it did not take long for the anti-Muslim posts, tweets, pictures, etc. to make their way around. Which is interesting, because as of now (4/19/13 11am EST) no specific detail as to what, if any, group they belonged to, and motive, has been revealed. Now, it may come out that there is some connection to a Muslim extremist group, but it hasn't yet - but those facts don't stand in the way of what many post, share, or promote. 

It is easy to sit behind a computer, or smart phone, and make a bold proclamation about an entire people group without ever thinking through what you are saying. Just as we would agree all Baptist are not like Westboro Baptist, not all Muslims are here to take away your freedoms and kill you. As my wife could attest (she volunteers with a missionary family to work at a local Arab American Friendship Center teaching Muslim women English), many who come to America do so to escape the violence and live the American dream - just like our ancestors did not so long ago.

When I read these blanket statements that are filled with such smugness and vitriol, whether the issue is homosexuality, Muslims, etc., it reveals to me that the person saying it and posting it has never actually tried to reach out with the Gospel to that person. Truth is, most people who make these types of statements live their life in a vacuum with people who believe, live, and act just as they do. As someone who comes in contact with people of the Middle East all the time, and someone who has personally spoke with and counseled with those who are caught up in the homosexual lifestyle, I know that these kinds of statements do not help. In actuality, they often reveal that we are more like those who attend Westboro Baptist Church, whether we want to admit that or not. 

So, all I ask is that you think before you post, share, say, etc. Think about who may read it. And think about how that may harden their heart for the next person who actually wants to share with them the love of God and sacrificial death of His Son Jesus for their sins. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

America: Be The Change Needed

As news filters out about the terrible tragedy of the bombing of the Boston Marathon and prayers are lifted up on their behalf, my mind began to think of the recent outbreaks of mass killings here in America. Whether it be a movie theater, school, or a sports event, one thing is true - the violence that we see oversees has made its way to our shores. I am sure many people have their theories why, and I have mine. And while many will use the suffering and tragedy of others as their own personal soap box for whichever side of the issue they fall on, that should not be our focus. The "why" is not important at times like this, the "what" is more important.

What ever the reason, one thing remains the same: the Church needs to be the Church, and Christians need to be Christians. The more salt and light that exist, the less of these tragedies we see. Instead of lamenting why, lets seek ways to be used of God to be agents of change. Start with your city, your street, your house - you heart. Just start. If you won't, who will?