Weeping May Last the Night…

“Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Ps 30:5)

 

As I sit and write this morning, It is a dreary day in Kentucky.

 

Days like today make it hard to focus on the positive.  To be honest, there has not been much positive for me to write.  The quarantine seems to be going on forever.  My children are missing out on the last week of school, which is a time for awards, field days, and fun.  Many in our church are struggling with isolation.  Some have gotten bad news regarding the health of loved ones.  Others have had to say goodbye to parents.  In the midst of all of this, my dog of 15 years passed.

Sometimes we get low.  Sometimes the darkness in the world seems so overwhelming that it is hard to muster up the energy to even look for a silver-lining, much less find it.  So how does a Christian respond to bad days, weeks, even months?  

It was the line that begins this post that has been rolling in my head all morning; a line found in the 30th Psalm.  As I read this psalm to myself today I wanted to share with you a few truths from this passage that may help all of us as we go through hard times.

 

In the midst of your struggles, go to God

“O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.”

We hear people say all the time that we need to “give it to God” or “trust God” and, if we are honest, we don’t really know what that means.

Going to God in our struggles means that we trust in the promises of God even during the times when those promises are not visible and seem impossible.  This is no small task because during times of stress we usually react before we think.  However, this does not mean that we are doomed to fail.

Instead, I want you to think about an athlete or a craftsman.  Often, they need to make quick decisions in a very short amount of time.  They may need to react to a ball hit into play or adjust their hands to keep a project from shattering into a thousand pieces.  In both situations, they do not have time to ponder all the options, weigh the results, and make a decision.  In order to ensure they make the right decisions, they will train their body and mind to react in the way they want.  This means studying and practicing to the point that the motions are instinctive.
The same is true for the Christ Follower.  When we saturate our mind and our behavior in the Word of God as we diligently seek a relationship with God, we will see our instincts transform in such a way that we will run towards God in times of trouble instead of run away.

“O Lord my God, I cried to You for help…”

Pain & Sorrow does not necessarily mean you are sinning, but it does show we live in a sinful, fallen world.

“You hid your face, I was dismayed…”

In our passage today, there is a hint that David may have spoken arrogantly about his own prosperity. (v. 6) However, there is no clear indicator that this is the case.  Instead, David is pointing out that his success is directly attributed to the work of God.

Unfortunately, we will go through pain and suffering in this life with no clear indicator of why it is going on.  Sometimes, it will be the direct result of our sin and disobedience towards God.  Other times, it is simply the fact that we live in a fallen world.

Make no mistake, all of our pain and suffering comes from sin, but it may not be the case that our pain and suffering comes from our sin.  Pain and suffering are the result of Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden.  Genesis 3:17 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”  This statement told Adam that both He and all of creation would be affected by sin, and therefore toil, pain, suffering, and death (v. 19) would now be part of creation.

Pain and suffering in this life should always remind us that this life is now our final destination.  We were created to be with God and enjoy his relationship forever.  If we are in Christ, then one day we will leave all of this world behind; including sorrow and death!  “and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

You hid your face, and I was dismayed…”

 

Pain & Sorrow are temporary, even if it seems like they are here to stay

Weeping may last for the night…”

In times such as this, pain and sorrow seems to pile on.  We cannot do the things we like, we lose loved ones, we cannot mourn properly, and we cannot fellowship to help with all of this.  We can feel as we sink deeper and deeper into the mire, and we simply cannot see the end of our sorrow.

Please heed the words above!  No matter how bad things seem to be, no matter how hopeless the situation may feel; there will be brighter days.  There will be better days.  There will be happier days.  The end of this statement is, “But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

We may never really get over loss, but we can find the strength to keep going.  There are going to be bad days, but there are going to be good days too.  Live for the good days, and trust that God is doing something with the bad days to grow you and help you to truly appreciate the blessings that God is sure to bring about!

“Weeping may last for the night…”

 

Pain & Sorrow should move our hearts to worship

“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

David ended this psalm by lifting up worship to God for all that he had done.  It may seem counter-intuitive to respond to pain with worship, but it is exactly what we ought to do.

Pain and sorrow mean that we are not home yet.  Pain and sorrow mean that God is still working in our lives to make us more like Him.  Pain and sorrow mean that God is bringing about a greater good.  Pain and sorrow remind us that we have a purpose, and a mission in this world.  James said it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4)

I challenge you to do the same.  If you are suffering (like I am), then will you respond with joy?  Will you remember that God is at work in your life?  Will you rejoice as you realize that God has promised you a better future in glory?

 

I hope you will & I hope this will give you the perspective that you need to get through these difficult days.  

Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.


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Civil Disobedience

It has been over a month and a half since we as a church have been able to meet in our building.

Many are starting to feel the fatigue that comes with social distancing and the virtual shutdown of our society in recent weeks.  In light of this, the call to reopen society and allow churches to meet in person is growing increasingly louder.

We are tired.  We are impatient.  We are ready to move forward.

As is often the case, the government moves much slower than the desires of the people.  Sometimes this is a good thing; sometimes it is not.  In our current situation, it can become very tempting for churches to “choose their own path” and begin on-campus services sooner than local, state, and national officials recommend.

This leads to the question, “When is it okay to disobey the government?”

When the church looks to answer this question, she will undoubtedly be drawn to the book of Romans:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  (13:1)

Or the words of Peter

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  (1 Peter 2:13-14)

However as we dive deeper into Scripture, we find many examples of God’s people defying their rulers.

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego – Defied their King by refusing to worship the golden idol that he set up of himself.  (Daniel 3)

Mordecai – Esther’s uncle refused to bow and pay homage to Haman even though the King had decreed that everyone should do so.  (Esther 3:1-6)

John the Baptist – John spoke boldly against Herod’s improper relationship with his brother’s wife, despite him being the tetrarch of the region where John preached.  (Matthew 14:1-5)


So what is the Christian to do?  How do we navigate these waters in a way that above all glorifies God?

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Check Your Heart

Before you make one decision, before you say one thing, take a moment and prayfully reflect on what you are doing.

I know this may sound trite but the Christian must be sure that they are moving forward with the right intentions and in the right method.  Are you looking to defy leadership to flex your own muscles or to serve God?  Even if your intentions are good, are you doing it in a spirit of gentleness or are you simply angry & spiteful?

Prayer does a lot to calm an angry soul and put him or her back on the path of righteousness.  Remember, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

2.  Remember, the church is not a building

Next, we need to take a moment and ask what we can and cannot do.  During a pandemic like COVID-19, we are not able to meet in person like we normally do.  But what can we do?

We can still worship.  We worship in our homes and with family.  We worship through social media and television.  We can worship in our living rooms, our cars, and our neighborhoods.

We can still share the gospel.  Today more than ever we are able to invite our “Ones” to join us for worship.  Simple “Watch Parties” on Facebook, and the sharing of music, scripture, and sermons online can have a huge impact on people all over the globe who are stuck at home with only the internet as their window to the outside world.

We can still love No one is stopping us from picking up the phone and checking on people.  No one is stopping us from emailing people.  No one is stopping us from showing love and grace to those who are still serving us at the grocery store, drive-thru, or hospital.  Let your love shine even brighter today, so people will want to know the God you serve.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matt 5:16)

3. Does it further / hinder the Kingdom?

Finally, we have to be sure that we are keeping our mission at the center of our work.

I understand that there are many who want to make this a constitutional issue.  We are tremendously blessed to live in a country where the right to worship freely is part of our governing document.  Very few countries are as blessed as we are in that regard.  Yes, this should be something that we defend and defend consistently.

Having said that, we cannot sacrifice our witness for Christ in order to defend the Constitution.  This is less about whether to defend it, and more about how we defend it.  Let our words be gracious, our resolve be unwavering, and our morals be true.  We have to remember that one day the United States of America will be no more, but the Word of God endures forever. 

Please don’t use your words to scare people away from a relationship with Christ.  Instead use them to whet their appetite and make them curious about your passion for this Jesus whom you call the Christ.

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Col 4:6)

In all that we do, point others to Jesus so that they will love Him like we do.  Yes, we may occasionally disagree with the government.  Yes, we may occasionally have to do what we feel is right even in the face of opposition.  However, let us never lose sight of the fact that we are called to first & foremost make disciples of all nations! (Matt 28:18-20)


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Let Us Worship…

In my high school & college days I worked at a movie theater in my hometown.  


Every showtime would introduce the feature presentation with a commercial for the theater, and every commercial would invite the guest to do the same thing:


“Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”


Soon, the light would dim, the music would get louder, and the movie would begin.


Recently, I was reflecting with a member of our worship team and we began to discuss the tone of a worship service.  We talked about what it was, what it could be, and what it ought to be.


We both noted that there is a temptation in churches today to give the same invitation that movie theaters still give today,


“Welcome to “So & So” Church!  We are so glad you are here.  Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!”


In many cases, churches also dim the lights, turn up the sound, and start the show.


As we were talking about that, we began to wonder if that was what God wanted from his people when they gather to worship?


As I pondered this question, I found Psalm 95:


O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,

Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.”  (. 1-2)

And

“Come, let us worship and bow down,

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (v. 6)


So what does this passage say about how we worship?


1.  We are called to sing; not listen.

The invitation we see in this psalm is an invitation to sing.  The church was not invited to listen to the professional singers, but to sing themselves.  Yes, we live in an age where we can give a few singers microphones that will allow their voices to fill a room, but God calls the whole congregation to join in the singing so that praises to Him will fill the room, the neighborhood, the city, even the entire globe.  It does not matter if an individual is a skilled musician or incapable of holding a tune; what matters is that God’s people lift up praises to God in unity!

2.  We are called to respond; not receive.

The passage also calls the congregation to bow with thanksgiving, kneel, and even shout to “the rock of our salvation”.  These are calls to respond to God in the midst of corporate worship.  It is right and good for the people of God to shout words of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration to their Maker as the Word of God washes over them.  He is NOT calling us to be lumps on a pew anxiously waiting for the service to be over.  Instead, we ought to think, meditate, and then respond to the Word of God through affirmation, and a change in our behavior.

3.  We are called to worship; not be entertained

It is interesting to note that every verb in these passages is an active verb; not a single one of them are passive.  Nowhere did God call the people to sit back and take in anything.  Instead, they were called to “do”.  The people gathered to worship, and to worship through songs, shouts, prayers of thanksgiving, and acts of submission to the God they loved & trusted.  Worship, whether personal or corporate, should be the active response of the worshiper to God.  Anything else falls short of what God intended it to be.


If you take the time to read the rest of the psalm, you will discover that every invitation to worship God is followed with a list of reasons why.  Verse 3 reads, “For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods.”  This is what we need to understand:  the only reasonable response to knowing God is worship.


He is just so great, so wonderful, so powerful, so gracious, so merciful, and so loving.  If you know God, if you have experienced Him through His Word, then you just have to worship.  You will want to worship Him, and no substitute will do.

So get to know the Lord in whom you have placed your trust.  Read His Word, learn who He says He is.  Then join us as we worship the God who loves us, and saved us by sending us salvation through Christ Jesus!


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We are not Powerless

There is nothing to do….”


Have any of you heard this over the past couple weeks?  Are any of you guilty of saying it yourself?


It might be very easy for us to think about all the things that we want to do, but we cannot.  

We want to see one another. 
We want to gather as the church for worship & Bible study. 
We want to go to a restaurant and share a meal with others.We want to go on trips, get back to work, and even go to school!

We want to, but we can’t… and it stinks.

However, this does not mean that we are powerless.  Often when we realize that we cannot do something; we also think that we cannot do anything.  

And in response to that, I want to take a look at the words of Paul:

At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (2 Timothy 4:16-18)


So let’s think about what he is writing…


Paul is in Prison.

Paul is writing about a defense he made for what he was doing as an apostle.  He is standing trial while also under house arrest for sharing the gospel. In many ways, he is under the same constraints that we are.  He cannot leave his house to do as he pleases. He cannot gather with friends or the Church. He cannot travel or maintain his usual routine.  Paul is all alone.

It would be very easy for Paul to just give up, sit at home, and await his sentencing.  However, this is not what he does!


Paul is still Proclaiming

Despite what appears to be a dire situation, Paul takes hold of the opportunity that he is given.  He goes before the leadership that will hear his case and proclaims the Gospel to everyone who is listening.  He did not regard his current situation and an obstacle or excuse to give up his calling. Instead, he viewed it as a new venue and a new opportunity to reach new people in new ways.  Ultimately, God delivered him in this particular situation and he stood confident that God was using his current situation to His Glory and for the Kingdom.
 

So how about you?

Paul did not let his current circumstances keep him from fulfilling his mission.  How about you? How is God using you during this time of “social distancing”? Are there doors that God is opening to you?  Are there opportunities to connect with people in new ways that you are discovering? If you are not sure, let’s look at some opportunities that we are seeing:

Start with your family.  For many of us, we are spending way more time at home than ever before.  All the things that used to over-fill our calendars are suddenly gone. Take this time to clearly share the Gospel in your family and develop healthy spiritual habits like a family devotion & quiet time.

Look in your neighborhood.  Have you noticed an increase of walkers, joggers, and bike riders?  There are many people who are getting out of the house and exercising in their neighborhoods.  How can you reach them? Be present! Try taking a walk yourself, working in your yard, or sitting on your front porch.  You can wave, greet, and converse with neighbors as you distance yourselves. As you do so, be sure to ask how you can pray for them!

Pick up the phone.  Not everyone is savvy with computers, but just about everyone has a phone. Set aside time to call people.  You can call people in your church or people from work. Try to check on friends, classmates, and the elderly; anyone God has laid on your heart.  Again, make a point of offering to pray with them. You never know who needs to hear the Gospel!

Get online.  Finally, we are so blessed to live in a time with the internet.  Through the world wide web we are able to video chat, message, post information, and SHARE THE GOOD NEWS THAT CHRIST DIED TO SAVE US FROM SIN & ROSE FROM THE GRAVE.  There is no better time to start an online Bible study, share your testimony on social media, or invite a friend to watch a church service online. You can also reach out to neighbors, start new groups to connect with people, or just check in on people with whom you have lost contact.


Paul used his time under house arrest to see that “the proclamation [of the Gospel] might be fully accomplished…”

How might you do the same thing?


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How Long, O Lord?

Oh I will never complain about being stuck at home again!!!

This pandemic reminds me a little of when I first moved to Kentucky.  It was January of 2011.  I moved before my wife and daughters did in order to get the youth ministry started at Tunnel Hill Baptist Church.  Since I came in winter, I knew that there was going to be the occasional snow day, but I was not prepared for what actually happened.

From the end of January all the way until the beginning of March, it snowed every single Wednesday…

Every. 

Single. 

One. 

We had a policy at the church that if the schools canceled, then we would not have services.  I learned very quickly that very little snow would shut down the county schools and therefore, our church as well.

I found myself in a new place, very far away from my family, and I was unable to do what I was called to do…  or was I?

It did not take very long for me to figure out that I could still do ministry, even if it wasn’t on Wednesday nights.  I could still connect with the youth through social media like Facebook.  I could still call and check in on them.  I could still be where they were like sporting events and band concerts.  Just because I could not do what I wanted to do (or had always done), did not mean that I could not further the Kingdom of God.

Today is no different.  We are very used to gathering on Sundays & Wednesdays.  We see our people on those days and we invite people to these gatherings in hopes that they will follow Christ like we do.  However, these gatherings have been put on hold, but the Great Commission has not!

How can you still serve the Lord while you are social distancing?  Can you call another member or your “One” to check in on them?  Can you set up a computer chat to get people together for Bible Study?  Can you lead your family (especially the kids learning from home) in a daily devotional?  Can you deliver food or other needs to those who need assistance?

Many Psalms have the phrase that is the title of this post, but I want to leave you with the words from Psalm 56:3

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.”

Let us as the Church put our trust in God and continue to serve Him in new & exciting ways!

Who knows?  Maybe when we gather again one day soon, we will see new faces joining in our worship!!!


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Take my Heart, Lord. Take & Seal It.

I was talking with a group of people recently about New Year’s resolutions and the increase of people at the local gym.

One thing that they noted was that most gyms see all those News Year’s resolutions start to waver by the third week of January.  I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that so many give up so quickly.  I also understand.  The first week you are really excited.  You exercise, break a sweat, and you start to feel better.  By the second week, I have no doubt that the soreness begins to kick in.  If you are doing it in the morning, the bed starts to feel so comfortable.  If you do it in the evening, your calendar starts to get busy. 

I just doesn’t take much to create a good excuse.  “I’ll go tomorrow.”  “It’s too cold.”  “I need a day to rest and recuperate.”  They are all good excuses, but they also begin to take you down the road to a broken resolution and no real change in the New Year.

Over the past couple days we have been studying Jeremiah as a church in our January Bible Study.  During our study, we focused on the events of Jeremiah 34.  In Jeremiah 34, the people living in Jerusalem find themselves in immediate danger.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has come to Jerusalem to overthrow the city and crush a rebellion.  In their fear, they make a covenant with God, which included the liberation of all Hebrew slaves in the city.

The King declares this covenant and all the wealthy of Jerusalem resolve to free their slaves.  There is a big public ceremony to show their intention and shortly after doing so the armies of Babylon leave to address an army from Egypt that is marching to aid Jerusalem.

Here’s the problem.  Once the armies began to move out, the people celebrated and almost immediately took back the promises they made in the covenant.  The wealthy found excuses to justify enslaving their countrymen again. 

This results in the following prophecy:

“You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming release each man to his brother and each man to his neighbor. Behold, I am proclaiming a release to you… to the sword, to the pestilence and to the famine; and I will make you a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (v. 17)

God was not fooled by their false promises, nor their good intentions.  The truth was that their motivation for making this covenant was never about love for God.  On the contrary, they only wanted to avoid the punishment for their disobedience.  Soon the armies would return and leave Jerusalem in waste with many taken away into captivity,

We do the same thing today.  We beg, plead, and try to make a deal with God in hopes that He will grant our wishes or allow us to escape certain doom.  However, once the threat has passed; we often go right back to sin as usual.

In 2020, we need to break the cycle.

We do this by putting fear in its proper place.  We need to stop fearing punishment and start fearing God. 

Fear of God is more than terror that He might make our lives unpleasant.  Instead, it is the realization that He is our Creator, and He is sovereign over all things.  This realization ought to move us to reverence of Him and obedience to Him. 

It also shows us that even though He is so high and lofty, He loves us; showing us grace and mercy over and over.

So let us be motivated by our love and fear of God in 2020.  If we do, we may just see the changes we really want to see this year.  “For nothing is impossible with God!”  (Luke 1:37)


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Looking to 2020

2019 was a year of amazing ups & sorrowful downs.  We have seen many come to know Christ & be baptized, while we have also had to say good-bye to many of our dear members. After a year such as this, we have to ask the question, “Where do we go from here?” A quote by C.S. Lewis has been making the rounds that seems fitting here.  He has been credited as saying, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”  So what can we do as we walk into 2020?  I’d like to offer a few suggestions.

  1. Take prayer seriously

One thing we can know through Scripture is that prayer is a powerful tool for the believer.  James 5:16 says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  We should take that to heart as we go into the new year.
Pray.  Pray without ceasing. (1 Thess 5:17) Pray in your time alone with God.  Pray with the church gathered.  You cannot imagine how much God can do when we just surrender ourselves to Him.

  1. Pursue your “One” (Or get one & get started!)
Let 2020 be the year where we see our friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances surrender their lives to Christ.  It begins with prayer, but then has to come obedience to the Great Commission.  You have been called to be Christ’s witness to your circle. (John 20:21) This means you are the one that God wants to reach the people around you.I understand that can be both intimidating and overwhelming.  This is why we want you to pick just one.  Reach one.  Pursue one.  Witness to one person and stick with that person until they can experience Christ through your friendship, hear about Him through your Gospel presentation, and be saved.  You can do this; don’t wait all year!  Start as soon as you can!
 
  1. Gather with the church

Finally, COME TO CHURCH!!!  Do you know how you spell priority?  T-I-M-E.  The things that fill your day and your calendar are the things that you prioritize.  One of the ways that we show our faith to be a priority is showing up.  We show up to worship.   We show up to learn.  We show up to be trained.  We show up to serve.
There are lots of things calling to us to change our priorities, but they all have one thing in common:  they want us to pursue worldly things.  However, we have been called to pursue Christ.  There is a lot of power in saying “no”; just make sure that you say “no” to the right things.  Say “yes” to gathering with the saints, building up the body of Christ, and working together to see the nations reached for Christ!

Let 2020 be about loving God, loving others, and seeing as many as we can come to faith in Christ Jesus!  Happy New Year & God bless!


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Seeking the Crown of Glory

A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness. 
(Proverbs 16:31)
 
I began the process of writing this blog post at the beginning of the week.
 
I had just seen a news article about a local church that was opening a new campus to minister exclusively to their senior members.  That’s right, for the first time that I can remember a church is opening an “old folks” church, like a nursing home.
 
As I read the article, I could not help but laugh at their rationale and their attempts to make it sound like it would be anything but a place to cater to the preferences of older adults in regards to time, music, and style; merely a place to keep them happy so they will continue to give their tithe to the church
 
. But as I pondered it more, I realized that the people that are really going to suffer in this decision are the members who will miss out on a relationship with these wonderful people and the wisdom that they offer.
 
And then my world went upside down for a moment…
 
Yesterday morning I received word that one of these men, a senior member of my church, had passed away.
 
Mr. Bird was the kind of man you wanted to be around.  He was a Deacon Emeritus.  He had served in our church and a few others throughout the years, so he knew a thing or two.  He was always quick to encourage, always positive, always smiling.  When I was down, he would lift me up.  When things did not look good at the church, (low attendance, conflict, etc.) he would have an encouraging word or he would remind me how important family is.
 
Just recently our church decided to go into the community and invite people to church and VBS.  He came up to me after services on the first day we went out and said, “You never know.  Sometimes when we are faithful in one area; God will open up a door in a completely different place for you to minister.”  We went out, we met people, and then a few days later a different community asked us to come and share with them!  I will never forget that.
 
Now imagine…
 
Imagine if I had just shipped this man and his wonderful wife to another campus because I think they would like the music better there and they would be with their own kind!
 
He would have missed out on the chance to encourage me, my wife, and my family.  He would have not been able to bring his wisdom, leadership, and positivity to our congregation.  He would not have changed the lives that he has changed.
 
And we would have missed out also.  I am a better man today because he was in my life. 
 
That is why it is so important that we don’t divide people; not by age, not by race, not by wealth.  We have so much to offer one another.
 
We are one body.  We need each other.  I am reminded of that today.
 
Thank you, Arvil Bird.  I will see you one day again in glory along with the many other godly men & woman that I have had the privilege of knowing as pastor.

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Like Arrows in the hand…

The school year is already upon us and many of us have spent the morning getting our kids ready for school, taking pictures on the front step, and dropping them off for their first day in a new grade. Many of us also worry through the entire day.  We ask ourselves, “Will they be okay?”  “Will they make friends?” “Will they make the right choices?”  It really doesn’t matter if they are going into kindergarten or walking into their last year as a senior; we always worry. As we set our kids loose in their schools, let us remember the words of God,

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them. (Psalm 127:3-5a)

God compares children to arrows in the hands of a warrior, and there are few things about children that this comparison should teach us:

  1. Children are important
    1. It may seem silly to say this, but our children matter. To a warrior, arrows represent their ability to fend off attackers and win the battle.  They are important, even crucial, to the success of a warrior.  We must never look at our children as an inconvenience or a hassle.  It is very easy for children to misunderstand our words and attitudes, so we must be clear.  They are important to us.  They are loved.  They are valued.  We have to tell them that and tell them often, and we need to show them with our time and attention.

  2. Children need preparation
    1. Okay, think about this for a second… what has to happen to an arrow before it is shot? It has to be drawn back!!!  Our children need to be prepared!!!  No, I am not talking just about school, nor am I talking about sports practice.  Our children need to be prepared to live for Jesus in a world that it is still hostile towards God.  When they are young, we teach them right and wrong, we teach them to be generous, and we teach them to be kind to others.  As they grow older, we teach them how to navigate peer pressure, we teach them how to apply the Bible to any situation, and we teach them how to share their faith with others.  These are things they will not learn magically on their own.  Arrows must be drawn back to be effective and our kids must be trained by us!

  3. Children must be launched
    1. The hardest thing for any parent is to let their kid go. But arrows are not weapons unless they are launched!  Parents, we have to keep the end in mind.  Ultimately, our end is to see our kids grow up, and live for the glory of God!!!  We have to remember that our kids will not and cannot stay with us forever.  We must let them go, launch them, into the world to make a difference for Jesus.  They may do that by serving faithfully in the church.  They may do it by answering the call to missions; foreign or domestic.  They may do it by having a career; working as unto the Lord.  They may even do it by faithfully raising their children (your grandchildren) to fear the Lord.  Every job is important and we send them on their way!

 

Our children are a blessing to us, but they are a blessing we were never meant to keep for ourselves.  God has a purpose and a plan for them, just like you!!!  So trust in God, and be ready to send them where ever He would have them go!!!

I’m praying for you!!!!


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Why Do You Stand Looking into the Sky?

And just like that Easter is over… The decorations are being put up, the candy is slowing (or not so slowly) being consumed, and our work schedules have returned to normal. Like most churches, Tunnel Hill Baptist Church filled her calendar with special events to bring people to our church in hopes that they might hear the Gospel and be saved.  We have experienced some success and we hope that we will see even more success in the weeks to come from those efforts.  However, I think we all have a temptation to stop and relax for a little bit now that the Easter Season is over. As I pondered this, I was drawn to the events that happened in the first chapter of Acts.

Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:7-11)

There is a ton to unpack from this passage but I want to draw your attention to two things.

  1. Before Jesus ascended, He gave us a task.
Despite the disciples having loads of questions, Jesus only tells them two things:  You will receive power from the Holy Spirit & you will be My witnesses.
 
This was what we need to know in order to continue on in this life after Easter.  First, we would receive power from God.  One of the most fantastic and yet overlooked realities of the Christian life is our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  I find it both frustrating and annoying to hear how people constantly try to do the things of God relying on their own knowledge or abilities.  We have been empowered by God to do fantastic and wonderful things through his Spirit.  We need to set out to do the work of God, but not through the carnal means of the world.  Churches and individuals should not and cannot rely on personality, marketing, or entertainment to reach a lost world.  The world is already using these things and they will always do a far better job than we can.  We might see short-term success, but we will make very few disciples.
 
Instead, we need to allow the Spirit to work through us and draw people to God.  We need to be shining examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  We need to come alongside people and stay with them for the long haul.  We need to constantly point people toward Jesus, his grace, and his example.  At first, people will not understand what we are doing; sometimes we will not really understand either.  But eventually, Lord willing, they will begin to see the truth and the truth will set them free (John 8:32)

 

  1. The Angels had to give the Disciples a push
Once we understand the first part, we are allowed to give a little laugh at the second part.  Jesus has commissioned his followers to go and be his witnesses.  He then ascends to Heaven and the clouds obstruct their view of Jesus.
Then, his followers just… stand there.We should all understand why.  I am sure that every reader would do the same thing.  I have never seen a man fly up into the sky and I am sure I would stare for a while to see if He came back down!!
 
So the angels gave them a little push.  It is one of the questions in the Bible that make us stop and think, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky?”  The angels confirm their hopes that Jesus would indeed return, but it would not be today.  Their statement serves and a gentle reminder.  They are being reminded that they have work to do.  They were called to go and be His witnesses, but they could not do that if they continued to stand there and stare at the sky.
 
The same is true for us today.  Since we have the same task, we also need the same reminder from time to time.  We have not been called to sit and relax.  We are not here merely to be a check-mark on an attendance sheet or to fill a space in the pew.  We are His witnesses, and as witnesses we have to tell people about Jesus.  We have to tell them who He is, what He has done, and how we have experienced Him in our own lives!!!

Did you know that there is not one time in Scripture that a pulpit is mentioned?  Yet there are several times where Paul, Peter or another disciple was in the market or walking along the road, and they share the Gospel with people who believed and were saved. You are crucial to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and it won’t happen just in the church building.  It will happen where you work, play, and live. So what are you waiting for?  Quit look up at the clouds and let’s do something TOGETHER!!!!


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