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Ever been in a relationship that leaves you guessing what the other person is thinking? Tough isn’t it. It’s no question how difficult it is to get into another person’s mind and try to figure out what they are thinking.

Katy has done a wonderful job of doing that in her latest post.

I encourage you (especially parents with younger children) to read this carefully. It might save your children a ton of grief, especially as school has just started back. Take a look…

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not – Kindness vs. Affection

When I was 12 years old I had a huge “crush” on an 18-year-old guy. Josh was his name, Josh Isaacs. I was the brace-faced, freckled preteen who just knew she would marry the handsome, blond football player who was over 5 years her senior. I developed a sort of fondness for him as I tried to make sure I was near him at church and smiled a little too often in his direction. He never had anything against me. He was sweet and loved my family, so he went out of his way to talk to me and be my friend. But friendship was not what I saw, I assumed that he must somehow care for me as well and before I could recognize it, I had a full-blown obsession with Josh. He was my first thought each morning and last thought each night… and many thoughts in the middle. Josh was kind and a good friend, but as a 12-year-old girl, I believed it was more than that.

Why do I tell you this pitiful story about me? It would have been a sad ending had I not eventually gotten the proverbial “slap in the face” and had moved on. The story even graciously improved better than expected when Josh and I ended up together after all when I was 18-years-old, because it was God’s will at that time in our lives…. not when I was 12.

Kindness is really a rare thing in young men. It’s not very often you see a young man ask a girl how she is doing and smile in her direction just to be kind with no strings attached. This has bred a problem. Girls who are perhaps, hungry for male attention, have noticed this as well. So when a young man says, “Well, hey! How are you doing today?” it’s easy for a young lady to read between the lines… something that isn’t there.

Now, there are some guys who take this overboard and enjoy being “a ladies’ man” and cause girls to have feelings for them and then leave a trail of hurt girls behind, saying that they didn’t mean anything by it. And then there are just some nice young men, who are kind in general and don’t make an exception for girls their age and those girls read hearts and love all in their kindness.

It’s just something I have noticed more, even since being married. So I suggest, if a guy is not actively pursuing you of his own will, then there is a large chance that his care and concern toward you is probably just to be kind. I remember the days when friends of mine would come up to me and whisper in my ear, “He looked over here three times in a row! Do you think he likes me?!” Well, maybe he just happened to look over here three times in a row. I pondered then if guys really hinted around like that or if we girls were just looking way too deep for affection. I found the latter to be true when most of these romanticized dreams in girls’ hearts just didn’t come true. There had never been a “relationship” but the heartbreak had still occurred… one-sided. I know the pain of this since I experienced it as a 12-year-old. Josh was just trying to be nice; he didn’t love me.

So, guys out there, I encourage you to not intentionally lead girls on with obvious gestures of romantic affection if you don’t truly plan to take care of her heart. I believe you have no idea how this hurts young ladies. If you care for her and are prepared for marriage, then be intentional and don’t leave her guessing. Yet, if all you are doing is being nice and asking her how she is doing just like you would ask her father, then keep it up. I think some guys are afraid to be kind because they are terrified a girl will fall in love with them. Don’t worry about that. Just be kind to her like you would be to anyone else. We need more men like you!

crush

Ladies, if a young man smiles at you or happens to end up sitting near you two times in a row, it doesn’t mean he is ready to marry you. Guard your heart. The easiest place to lose it is not by giving it away, but by dropping it and hoping someone, anyone will pick it up, even if it gets stomped on a bit in the process. Wait till he actively pursues you with clear intentions. When both Josh and I were attracted to each other, but before we were in a relationship, Josh and I went to a football game with some friends and my hands about froze off. He went and bought me a pair of gloves. Now at 12-year-old I would have been convinced that he loved me after such a gesture, but at 17, I reminded myself that just maybe he didn’t want my hands to be cold. I remember thinking the simple thought, “He takes such good care of me.” Whether like a brother, friend, or whatever, he simply took care of me.

Do you see the balance? Guys, be careful you don’t lead a girl on. Ladies, don’t be too quick to read into something a guy says or does. I am just starting to see how many heart breaks on the ladies’ side could be prevented if only we subdued these “crushes” before they take over.

Well said my dear daughter!
Katy has written a book about this entire issue and it’s phenomenal. (I really mean that. I’m unbiased of course. :)) If you haven’t picked up your copy at church yet, I’d encourage you to do so. It’s an easy read. Remember, if you aren’t in our area, you can get her book at Amazon.com.
I also wrote a short book on it called, “To Date or Not to Date.” You can get it at Amazon as well.
To read more of Katy’s blogs, go to: http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com

I know I talk a lot about the culture. I know probably too much, to be honest. I know as I get older I’ll probably look back and say, “Why did you get so bent out of shape about the world, Jesus said it was going to get bad.” I also know the most important thing we can do (as Christians) is to focus on sharing the Gospel with others and loving people. Right? Yes, right! That’s the #1 mission. Go make disciples of nations. Yes, we are Christ’s ambassadors. But, here’s the issue. It’s getting harder and harder to share the Gospel because the grid of most people’s minds and their thinking is so askew from the Bible.

In 1955 if you went into a bar and said to a man, “You know your momma wouldn’t like it if you were in here.” He would likely look you straight in the face and say, “You’re right, she sure wouldn’t…God love her soul.” True?

Yet, in 2014 if you went into a bar and said the same thing to a man, he would likely lean back and say, “Right here’s my momma.” What a difference 60 years has made. The culture is SO different. Today there is so much work that has to be done to debug a person’s mind to help them to be able to even understand the Gospel. Why? Because of the “teaching” that’s out there today. The stuff that has been pumped into people’s minds for the last couple of generations has so tainted their ability to comprehend the truth about God that it is mind-blowing to me.

I sit down and try to talk to people about Jesus and I’m awed by what I hear. I talk to couples who look me dead and the eye and say, “What’s wrong with living together. We were made for each other. We are soul-mates. We love each other, so there’s nothing wrong with it.” You know what they are doing? Repeating what they’ve watched on TV and seen in movies for years. They are totally desensitized and have almost nothing in their brain as far as a biblical grid is concerned.

How has this happened? Slowly… Slowly… Slowly… Satan is patient and he has bided his time. He has done a great job in dismissing God from our schools. No Jesus. No Bible. No prayer. And what do we get in exchange? Evolution, Climate Change (a.k.a Global Warming), and almost no teaching on character and morality (because that would interject “religion”).

Let me give you an example. Just last week, a student at our Wilkes Community College took a picture of her textbook and this teaching…

WCC book

The highlights were already there in the book. The Christian young lady in our church who sent this to my daughter was appalled.

Here’s another example.

Gay book

In the name of “diversity” and “tolerance,” school administrators and classroom teachers are being encouraged to promote materials—primarily by outside sexual advocacy groups—which blur the lines of normal gender roles. And, oftentimes without the parents’ knowledge.

The page above is from a book called: 10,000 Dresses. It’s a story about a boy named Bailey, who dreams about dresses and wants to wear them. The story switches back and forth between gender pronouns that refer to Bailey:

“Dad, I dreamt about a dress,” Bailey said. …

“And I was wondering if you could grow me a dress like that?”

“Bailey, what are you talking about? You’re a boy. Boys don’t wear dresses!”

“But, I don’t feel like a boy,” she said.

“Well, you are one, Bailey, and that’s that! Now go away, and don’t mention dresses again! So, is it any wonder that children might come home confused or asking questions about their own gender identity?

Do you see what’s happening? More desensitization. This is another attempt to familiarize and normalize behaviors, such as cross-dressing, to children at very young ages. Parents should be the ones to determine when, how and if their children are exposed to sensitive subjects like this—not public schools.

So, do you see why we should care? Because it’s going to get EVEN harder and harder to share the Gospel in a way that people will understand and “get it.” The Gospel is offensive. We know that. Jesus said as much. But, boy, oh boy…it’s REALLY offensive today. If you tell someone that homosexuality is wrong, you better buckle up…you’ll get blasted! They will tell you that you are unloving. But, folks…isn’t the most loving thing we can do is to help someone if they are living in a lifestyle that the Bible calls sin? Shouldn’t we want to help the drunk? Shouldn’t we want to help the drug addict? Shouldn’t we want to help the person who is 450 lbs and eating himself/herself to death? Shouldn’t we try to help the man addicted to porn? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. We should seek to help all sinners, of which I’m the chief!

I talked to a young man today who is 17 years old. He’s a good kid. But, his grid is so out of whack, that it took me 45 minutes to even get to the place I could convince him to let me tell him about the truth of Jesus that the Bible teaches. (He told me that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.) Do you see what I’m talking about?

Well, I know you face it too. When do you speak up and when do you not? How should you take part in a conversation where you know what is being shared is totally anti-Biblical? How do you stand for truth without being seen as a know-it-all, or worse… “holier-than-thou?”

The Apostle Peter recorded these words of the Holy Spirit:

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:13-17

See that “gentleness and respect” part in verse 15? That’s the key. But, it’s also important that you are “always being prepared.” Do you have an answer for those who are asking tough questions? Do you know the Bible well enough to impart the TRUTH? We should.

Bonhoeffer

I agree with Bonhoeffer. Do you? He lost his life putting his faith into action by housing innocent people during the reign of Hitler and the Nazi party in WWII. He put his faith where his mouth was.

Daniel said, “…but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” Daniel 11:32

It reminds me of what just happened in the beautiful city of San Francisco. The San Francisco Bay Area’s Fremont Unified School District adopted a textbook, Your Health Today: Choices in a Changing Society, for use with approximately 2,400 ninth-grade students in the district’s six high schools.

Parents balked when they saw explicit illustrations and adult-themed content in the textbook—content they found inappropriate for students as young as 13- and 14-years old. In addition to providing graphic portrayals of sexual activity and explaining how to use and purchase condoms, parents expressed concerns about the book describing controversial sexual games and fantasies.

“There’s a section that tells you how to talk to your prospective partners about your sexual history,” said Asfia Ahmed, a parent and school district employee, who was quoted in the San Mercury Jose News on Aug 8. “How does that relate to a 14-year old kid? I don’t see it at all.” But the parents didn’t give up—nor did they give in. Rather, they organized, used social media to start a petition and they quickly gathered more than 2,500 signatures to have the textbook removed. As of Aug. 3, parents prevailed when the school voted not to use the book in ninth-grade health classes.

Woohoo!! You see, there is a balance here. There has to be times when we stand for what is right. We can’t just say, “Oh well…I guess this is just how it’s going to be. Nobody can stop it.” Wrong! Christians are to be salt and light. We must get out of the salt shaker and must shine our lights before men so that they see our good works (paraphrased from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount).

Did you hear about the farm in New York that was ordered to provide training for their staff because they declined to have a lesbian wedding. It’s their private farm! My goodness! Get this…  The farm was fined $13,000 by the state Division of Human Rights for declining to host the same-sex ‘wedding’ on their property and they were ordered to train their employees in the future to accommodate homosexual ceremonies despite their Christian beliefs. Read the full story here: http://christiannews.net/2014/08/15/ny-farm-fined-13000-for-declining-lesbian-wedding-ordered-to-prove-staff-training/

Well, enough of that. You get the picture. The point is. We need to lovingly and winsomely stand for the truth. We are told in Scripture to “contend for the faith.” So, let’s do that.

I leave you with a wonderful article about how to help families who have family members who are struggling with same-sex attractions. This is exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to lovingly and kindly helping those who are struggling with sin.

The article begins with this picture…

You're not alone

Here’s the first few paragraphs to give you a taste…

It’s a moment many Christians have had to face: a family member’s announcement that he or she is gay.

Amid feelings of sorrow, guilt, fear and anger that families may experience surrounding such an announcement, biblical counseling experts say believers must have hope and realize that Jesus always changes those who come to Him in repentance and faith.

The “lie” that “change is impossible” for people who experience same-sex attraction “is an offense against the Gospel because change is Jesus’ gig,” Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press. “We need to be infusing people with hope. We need to be infusing them with the deep conviction that Jesus has been changing people for 2,000 years and He will change you if you have faith in Him.”

Lambert; John Babler, associate professor of counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested several ways Christians can help family members struggling with same-sex attraction.

Develop a culture of honesty where family members can confess their sins and ask for help.

“In view of the mercy of God, if there is a Gospel, it makes no sense to avoid, deny or minimize same-sex attraction,” Williams, a member of the SBC Executive Committee’s Mental Health Advisory Group, told BP in emailed comments. “I would like to propose that there is a properly Christian form of ‘coming out of the closet.’ Should we not all come out of the closet with anything we find inside that is broken and wrong? We do this so that we can repent more thoroughly, and receive all the help and healing that comes through authentic Christian relationships.”

It’s important for families not to act more “creeped out” by a confession of same-sex attraction than they are by confessions of other sins, Lambert said.

“Christians forget that sin is sin,” he said. “We have to be really careful not to move someone beyond hope and beyond help or think that they have a higher ‘ick’ factor with their struggles than we do with ours.”

Express love and explain that homosexual lust and behavior are sins.

Families must avoid the twin mistakes of either blowing up at a confession of same-sex attraction or avoiding conversation about the topic for fear of damaging relationships, the biblical counselors said.

A statement of unconditional love is a good starting point for any conversation about a family member’s homosexuality, Babler told BP, but that must not be the only thing said.

“Say that homosexuality is clearly a sin issue, as the Bible teaches,” Babler said, although it is not “some ultra-sin that is worse than anything else.”

The rest of the article can be read here…

http://www.bpnews.net/43011/when-samesex-attraction-hits-home-how-families-can-help

Let’s stand for truth and go love the world to Jesus!

There is so much evil in the world right now. Satan is having a field day on planet earth.

You’ve seen this image…

Foley

That’s James Foley, a New Hampshire native. He was a 40-year-old freelancer for an online news outlet. He was on assignment when he disappeared on November 22, 2012 in northwest Syria, near the border with Turkey. He was captured by ISIS and beheaded earlier this week.

It’s hard to even type that word: “beheaded.” But, that’s what happened and it’s evil. In case you don’t know ISIS stands for: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They are terrorists of the most despicable order. They need Jesus in a desperate way. They believe they are doing the will of Allah (whom they often call: God), but you understand that Allah doesn’t exist. He is a figment of the imagination of Satan as given to a man named Muhammad some 1,400 years ago. Only Yahweh lives. Yahweh (Jehovah) of the Bible is the ONLY God. No others exist. Satan is the author and originator of ALL other “gods.” Satan is the Great Deceiver and seeks to counterfeit God.

ISIS believes in what is known as the “caliphate.” It is pronounced: “Kayla-fate.” Think of a girl named “Kayla” and the “fate” of trapped animal. A caliphate is an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph or a “successor” – to Muhammad. A true caliphate would be a world-wide sovereign state where Islam rules.

ISIS has sought to take over in Syria and Iraq and they have made claims that they will place the flag of Islam in the White House. Currently President Obama has authorized jets to target and blow up ISIS strongholds in Iraq to weaken their organization. In retaliation, they killed journalist Foley.

ISIS is following the same path as the Nazi’s of Germany. They are killing people in Iraq by the thousands. They round them up by the truck load…

ISIS 2

…unload them…and then…

ISIS

…they shoot them in the head with a pistol or rifle before kicking their bodies into a river or mass grave. Earlier this week, I watched a video sent to me from a Christian man who obtained footage of one of these mass killings. It turned my stomach. It was a 4 1/2 minute video of evil. I cried after I watched it. Those images will stay with me for a long time.

Those images were gut-wrenching and they literally brought me to my knees. I am praying like I never have before for people I’ve never met. I’m praying for the innocent like journalist Foley and I’m praying for this little boy…

Boy soldier

He is an 11-year-old son of an ISIS soldier. He is being trained to be a killer. I pray for him and his family and for the Lord to touch them with His love and mercy. But, somebody has to tell them. Somebody has to pray for them. I know it’s hard, but we must!

You see, sin is sin.

This man might be a sinner for all we know.

businessman-1

I have no idea. I just pulled his picture off the internet. The point is this. Sin is sin. Whether it’s men dressed in fatigues toting rifles or men dressed in a business suit carrying an I-pad. Sin is sin and evil is evil in the eyes of God. Our job as Christians (as ambassadors) is to do all we can to spread the Gospel. That’s our job. It should rise above everything else. In other words, if someone gave you $100 out of the blue…

$100

…would you spend it on yourself? Go get a good meal? Buy a nice shirt? Or would you use it for the kingdom of Christ and try to reach people for Jesus? It’s a hard question. My tendency is to be selfish. I believe that’s probably true for all of us. It’s innate. We would probably want to spend the money on ourselves. So, we’ll have to continue to train ourselves to live for the kingdom to come and not make life on this earth our “kingdom” that we’re living for.

As Christians we are called to love whenever everyone else is living in hate. As the old song says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love…yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

But it’s hard isn’t it? It’s hard to love people who kill with no conscience. But, that’s what the Romans did to Jesus…

jesus-on-cross

And what did He say?

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

Mary, might would have cried out: “WHAT DO YOU MEAN! THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY’RE DOING! THEY ARE KILLING YOU!”

But, that’s what makes Jesus different. That’s what makes Him God! He loved us enough to take all of our nasty, rotten, filthy, heinous sin upon Himself and die in our place. Even his place…

ISIS

and his place…

businessman-1

and yes…

KevinBrown1

my place too.

Amazing love! Amazing grace!

Yes, there is horrible and unspeakable evil in this world and it will only get worse. That’s why as Christians we will have to be stronger and stronger to stand in this world for Christ. But standing looks a lot like this…

person_praying

That’s right. Standing best looks like praying.

At our church, we are calling our people to a season of Fasting and Prayer the week of September 7-14.

 

032_Breaking_Strongholds

The only way we can break mighty strongholds in this world and in our lives and the lives of hardened and evil people is through prayer and fasting. Won’t you join us?

Below is what I’ve shared with our church over the last couple of Sundays about fasting and prayer. It just happens to be what I believe is the best response to evil in the world today.

Breaking Strongholds-Prayer and Fasting

The week of Sept 7-14, 2014 we will be fasting as a congregation. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that has been largely neglected in our indulgent society. But it is a biblical practice and helps focus and intensify prayer. Perhaps the following notes will provide a starting point for your own study of this topic in God’s Word and a new, or renewed practice of fasting for God to work in powerful ways in our day.

Definition-Fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food and other legitimate enjoyments for spiritual purposes.

“To make the matter complete, we would add that fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not only be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some spiritual purpose.” -D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

“Whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.” -John Calvin

Fasting helps the believer to concentrate the mind and body on spiritual concerns so that fervent, extra-ordinary prayer might be given to those concerns. Various kinds of fasts are mentioned in the Bible:

  1. -A Normal Fast involves abstaining from all food, but not from water. (Mt. 4:2)
  2. -A Partial Fast is a limitation of the diet but not abstaining from all food. Daniel ate only vegetables. John the Baptist ate only locusts and wild honey (Dan. 1:12; Mt. 3:4)
  3. -An Absolute Fast is avoidance of all food & liquid, even water. (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9).
  4. -Congregational Fasts involve the church participating together. (Joel 2:15-16; Acts 13:2)
  5. -A National Fast is a call to the nation to fast. (2 Chron. 20:3; Neh.9:1; Jonah 3:5-8) (The US Congress has called 3 national fasts, under John Adams, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln)
  6. -A Private Fast is the one referred to most often by Jesus, and should be done without calling attention to oneself. (Mt. 6:16-18)
  7. -Occasional Fasts which occur on special occasions as the need arises. (Mt. 9:15)

Again, the week of Sept 7-14, 2014 we will be fasting as a congregation. You pick the day that you want to fast and how many meals you feel led to do so. Most will enter into this as a normal fast. Others will engage in a partial fast. Your physical and medical health should be taken into consideration before fasting. Even those who for medical and health reasons should not abstain from food can abstain from other legitimate enjoyments such as, TV, internet browsing, recreation, entertainment, etc.

Fasting Should Be Done for a Purpose:

-To Strengthen Prayer (Ezra 8:3) -To Seek God’s Guidance (Judges 20:26, Acts 14:23) -To Express Grief (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:11-12; 1 Jn. 1:9; 1 Sam. 20:34) -To Seek Divine Deliverance/Protection (2 Chron. 20:3-4; Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:16) -To Express Repentance and a Return to God (1 Sam. 7:6; Joel 2:12; Jonah 3:5-8) -To Humble Oneself before God (Ps. 35:13) -To Express Concern for the Word of God (Neh. 1:3-4; Dan. 9:3)

-To Overcome Temptation and Dedicate Oneself to God (Matt. 4:1-2)

-To Express Love and Devotion to God (Luke. 2:37; Zechariah 7:5)

We will be fasting to break spiritual strongholds of sin in our lives and for the Gospel to break through in the hearts of loved ones, friends, co-workers and people the Lord has put on our hearts to pray for their salvation. As we fast and pray, we are not seeking to twist God’s arm to do what we ask, but simply saying, “Dear Lord, we desire to be holy and to see souls saved more than we seek to feed our appetites.” He honors that type of commitment and earnest petition. Let us come boldly and expectantly before His throne!

I tell ya…

I’m so thankful for my church family. Forget about the fact that I’m a pastor/elder. I’m talking about simply being a member of the family of God. I’m talking about being part of a group of folks who love Jesus and have a desire to edify His name throughout the world so that others might know Him too.

I say this because I have acquaintance with two situations right now where there has been a death in one family and a death is looming in another and neither family is in church. What does that mean? It means they have no support system or structure in place to help them. They are literally “on their own.” And it’s so sad! These families have had opportunity after opportunity to receive Christ and be ministered to, yet they have refused time and time again. But, we won’t give up! No way! We’ll keep trying to reach people and be longsuffering, just as the Father is longsuffering with us. But, that doesn’t change the fact that these two families give credence to the fact that a church family is a blessing beyond measure.

Are you a part of a good, Bible teaching, Gospel-preaching, Christ-centered, loving, mission-minded, worshipful body of believers? If you aren’t, then you honestly don’t know what you are missing. The joy of being part of a group of believers who care about you and love you is an inestimable privilege.

By the way, you know that Jesus died for the Church, right? He gave His life for the Bride (the Church). That’s how much He loves her. In fact, He’s going to be married to her in Heaven one day. There will be a wedding in heaven and Jesus will be married to His radiant bride, made spotless and redeemed by His own blood! So, the Church is of highest importance to God. Therefore, it should be to us.

Do you support your church? To give of your time and talents? How about your treasure (money)? Do you expect others to carry your part of the load for you? You might not mean to… But, when you are not actively helping to carry out the functions and mission of the church in the ways the church is choosing to reach the world, then you aren’t pulling your part of the wagon. If you aren’t giving (monetarily) with a cheerful heart, then you are literally robbing yourself of God’s abundant blessings for your life. How much should you give? 10%? A tithe? No way! That’s Old Testament! You are under the blood of Christ and the New Testament, so you don’t have to give what was under the Law. No sir! You don’t have to give 10%… Nope! As a cheerful, born again, blood-bought, New Testament believer of Jesus Christ, you could give 15% or 20% if you wanted to! :) We’ll give a good waitress 15%.

Well, I’m meddling aren’t I? :) I don’t mean to (…well maybe I do just a little bit). I’m simply asking if you think of yourself as a kingdom-minded church member? If you do, then you will be contributing to His work. And that work emanates around the world. There are so many needs. There are so many people who need Jesus. Are you helping in the job of “seeking and saving the lost?” That was Jesus’ mission and when He saved you, that should have become your mission. Your job and the money you make is a primary way of you being able to help Jesus reach that goal. What goal? Reaching the world with His name. If that is not a priority in your life, and you call yourself a “Christian,” (which means: “little Christ”), then you could have been captured by the dastardly Giant called: The American Dream. You know the American Dream:

Get all you can, while you can, put it in a can, sit on the can until you kick the can.

Sad isn’t it. We live most of our lives saving for retirement and then we’re too old and too tired when we get to retirement to do anything with it. In fact, most folks get to retirement age and they don’t want to go anywhere anyway. They like their own bed and their own food. I get that. So, think about today… the here and now… Think about the needs before you.

I want to encourage you to become an ACTIVE part of a local church if you aren’t. Make certain they are teaching the Bible though. Just “any ole church” won’t do if they aren’t teaching with sound doctrine. But, when you do find that church, get involved. Help in the work. Give in the work and give to the work. You’ll find that when you do, you’ll be more satisfied and more fulfilled in being part of something “bigger than yourself.”

Summer Evenings

Kandace took this picture a while back, but this evening the sky looked like this again…

sunset-kan

Gorgeous! The Lord’s handiwork is amazing! I had Andrew and Clara with me as I had to run back up to the church for a few minutes and the evening air was so nice, we just rolled the windows down and smelled the sweetness of the air. Many farmers are cutting their fields for their last cutting of hay for the year. The sweet aroma is unbelievably satisfying. Satisfying? Yes…it’s the only way I can describe that captivating, warm sweetness. Thank you Lord!

I am listening to Kandace play the guitar right now and singing “Look Down that Lonesome Road.” It is famous to us by Rafe Hollister on the Andy Griffith Show.

Rafe Hollister

Kandace has a voice as smooth and sweet as the smell of that newly cut hay and on a summer evening I’m relishing in it the simple things of life.

While driving tonight with the windows down we saw three small calves playfully “fighting” in a field. It was beautiful. Earlier in the evening we ate at Chick-Fil-A and I finished the meal with an ice cream cone. We ended up outside on the patio because it was so lovely outside. I took a few bits of the cone and tossed it to some sparrows. He flew within a few feet to pick up their prize. Andrew said, “Dad, they don’t worry about food do they?” I said, “Nope, son, they sure don’t. The Lord feeds them and He said He would take care of us because we are worth even more than the sparrows the Bible says.” That’s a “devotion” right there. Thanks Andrew!

As we drove back from the church I drove by several gardens where corn had grown tall and straight. We’ve had 4 3/4″ of rain in the past week and it’s like a Garden of Eden around here. Thank you Lord for blessing us so much!

It’s the simple things in life that mean the most. I know you know that. I do too, but I forget! So, thank you Lord for reminding me tonight.

Hey…do you want a quick sneak peek at the upcoming winter? I bet you do…

Here’s Joe Bastardi’s “WeatherBell” preliminary temperatures for Winter 2014…

Winter Prelim 2014

Okay, so it is going to be 4 degrees Celsius colder than normal in Western North Carolina. That’s around 7 degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal. Well, what about precipitation? Drum roll please!

Here’s the Snowfall Forecast for 2014-15.

Winter Prelim Snow 2014

Wow-ee! Can you say, “Bull’s Eye” for North Carolina!! 167% above normal for Western NC! Woohoo! Being a snow lover that makes me excited!

I just love the Father’s nature. (Notice I didn’t say, “Mother Nature.” She doesn’t exist! :))

Enjoy the evening!

The Unbroken Road

They are here! Katy’s book is in hand. Katy’s one happy camper! And SO AM I!

Book-Katy

I’m going to have copies of the book at church tomorrow night and on Sunday. $10. You can’t beat that with a stick. Otherwise you can get it on Kindle at Amazon for $5.99, or in book form for around $10.Parents, if you have children who are 10-12 years old, you need to get this book into their hands and encourage them to read it. Now I know what some of you are thinking! You are thinking, “Come on Kevin! You are a proud daddy who wants everyone to read his daughter’s book.” Well, that would be true…but, it’s not the total truth and it’s not even what is most important.

Let me explain.

This culture we are living in today is going more and more pagan by the day. We don’t know which way is up. This is true even in the Church. We continue to succumb and look more and more like the world. Just check out social media and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The things that are acceptable today would have been considered scandalous 30 years ago and 60 years ago would have been non-existent. Now some of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering “What in the world is he talking about?”

Well…this is where it can get interesting.

You see, if I leave this blog post now and go on my merry way, what has been changed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing! Do you know why? Because you would be left guessing as to what is acceptable today versus 30-60 years ago.

See this man?

charles_g_finney

That’s Charles Finney. I wrote a devotion about him a few days ago. I’ve been reading a lot about Finney lately. He lived from 1792 to 1875. He was an American Presbyterian minister and leader in what is known as the Second Great Awakening (I’ve been reading and studying Revival in America). He has been called The Father of Modern Revivalism. He was best known as an innovative revivalist during the period 1825-1835 in upstate New York and Manhattan. He promoted social reforms such as the abolition of slavery and equal education for women and African Americans. In 1835 he began teaching at Oberlin College in Ohio, which accepted both genders and all races. He served as its second president from 1851 to 1866, during which its faculty and students were activists for abolition, the Underground Railroad and education for men and women. Do you think he caught some hit for any of this?

Finney was a fiery, poignant preacher! And here’s why I bring him up…

He once preached a message entitled: “How to Preach So As to Convert Nobody.” In the message Finney said in order to see that no one is converted to Christ simply “preach about sin…just don’t name any.” And that’s exactly where we are today. Preach about sin (generically), but just don’t name any. Sin is what somebody else does…but NOT YOU! Sin in the Church has become an anvil that Satan is using to weigh down the gospel and damn the souls of the lost that we should be reaching.

Some of the last words of Jesus recorded in the Bible are found in the book of the Revelation as He implored the churches to repent. He told the church at Pergamum…

Revelation 2:16

Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

Repent of what? Repent of that which we have accepted as okay.

  • Loose living
  • Viewing filthy movies, TV shows
  • Listening to obscene music
  • Glorifying sex
  • Woman and girls dressing like…well…I better not say…

Here’s the point…the things that we (in the church) are accepting today as far as language, music, clothing, entertainment and morality is moving further and further from the tenets of Scripture. Jesus said we are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We would rather be like customers of Burger King and… Have It Our Way. We no longer desire a path of holiness. We desire a path that looks like the world.

I worked this up for the message this past Sunday…

034_cycle of freedom

Start at the top and work counter-clockwise. If you have a proper understanding of the truth of God’s Word, it will lead to confession of sin, which will lead to repentance, which will lead to holiness. You see, holiness is freedom in Christ. We are free to be holy! We are not free to sin!

No way…that would make a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He died to pay for our sins that we might be set free FROM sin…not to live IN sin! You are free to be holy and when you repent of sin you will grow in holiness as you apply the truth of God’s word and it’s the truth that set’s us free and aligns us with Christ who is the truth.

We are all on a spiritual journey and we’re all made in God’s image and the essence of His image is holiness. To go outside of that understanding of Who God IS will only take us back to the Garden of Eden and to Satan and to Sin.

You see, Adam and Eve chose disobedience (they chose unholiness) which led to sin, bondage and banishment from a perfect place. That’s what sin does. It moves us from that which was intended by God…which is: holiness in His presence.

Dear reader friend, the reason the Church in America is so weak is because we are NOT living out what is true, proper and holy before the world. We have forgotten our position in Christ! That’s why there is no power in our churches and that’s why churches, if they grow at all are only swapping members and hardly ever see anyone outside of their own children saved in the church. How is the world ever going to see truth if we aren’t living holy lives before them?

When you became a Christian, whether you realize it or not…you signed off on a transformation program. It’s called the new birth. You were regenerated…literally born again. You were placed in a process called sanctification. Old things were to have passed away and all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17). What does that mean?

It means this: When you surrender yourself to God in the process of being made holy…sanctified…then that process will take you away from everything that can harm you.

Okay…so what’s that got to do with this…

unbroken road

It’s the story of how a young girl grew up in a very NON-PERFECT home (with an overbearing father at times) and yet, because of the mercy, grace and love of God, she took that which we taught her and decided to go for GOLD! She decided to try to navigate this “go with the crowd” culture in which everyone acts pretty much like everybody else (Christian or non-Christian) and seek to remain pure to her wedding day. Was it easy? You’ll have to read for yourself. It was very hard! On top of seeking to walk holy in an unholy world, she was a preacher’s kid and homeschooled. It’s the Christian trifecta that can kill most. But, Kate withstood it! She took the heat. She took the pressure and she took the persecution (and still does) from the world and yes…even in the Church and she overcame! She’s showing the way for other young adults including her siblings. Kandace is walking that road now and I’m super proud of her too!

It’s the UNBROKEN ROAD. It was never broken. It’s not the song lyrics that say, “God blessed the BROKEN road that led me straight to you.” No sir! It’s this:

God blessed the unbroken road that led me straight to you.

See the difference?

Will you go for Gold or settle for silver or bronze? Your choice. Same for your kids. My advice… Get this book in the hands of your kids. You read it and you’ll see the road to UNBROKENNESS and you might just be inspired to be righteous. And that’s exactly what Jesus asked us to do…

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

 

It’s History!

We did it!

I was so overjoyed on Sunday…man…I can’t even begin to describe how pumped I was after the services on Sunday. For two reasons:

#1 We made history by moving forward with Elder Leadership (we now have three)

#2 The church is excited about prayer and fasting

Let me explain.

#1 The Vote

For over six years I have taught the church what the Bible has to say about Biblical leadership. Without question, the Bible speaks of a plurality of Elders. This means a shared and equal responsibility of leadership, not just one man sitting at the top of some hierarchal pyramid calling the shots. You might remember that I shared with you back in June about Dale’s desire to help me and Brad lead in the church…

Here’s Dale and his wife Lori and their daughter Chloe…

Dale's family

Well, I’m excited to announce that the church embraced elder leadership and chose a man from their own at a 96.4% vote (291 to 11)! That’s huge folks! I only got an 82.5% vote. Yikes!!

Now let me tell you what this means to me. It means that we are serious about following Scripture. It means we saw the Biblical model of plural elders in Scripture (Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 3:1, Titus 1:5, 1 Peter 5:1, etc.) and we said, “We’re going to follow that pattern, not the traditions of man and not the business (organization chart) model.” Thus, Mt. Pleasant now has three Elders. We all three have different gifts and different focuses in our work and ministry in the church, but there is no question that we are equal in the eyes of God. I will still lead in the majority of the teaching, because that perhaps is my greatest gift and it’s what I love to do most. Brad will lead in music and looking after the facilities (because that’s where he’s most gifted) and Dale will help and lead with Missions, pastoral care, counseling and visitation, because that’s where he is most gifted. Isn’t it cool how the Lord works all of this out? He did all of this right in the body.

So, things are going to be better for these two guys going forward…

Kevin and Brad

Isn’t that hilarious? That picture was made almost seven years ago to the day. Brad and I both look a wee bit different today. Ha! But, the church is a WHOLE lot different. We’ve grown from around 285 per week to over 500 and it’s just been the two of us! But, no more! We hung in there and taught what the Bible says about Biblical Eldership. We fought the temptation to put an ad in the Biblical Recorder and bring someone in here from the outside. We wanted to do this “right.” And the only “right” way is the Biblical way.

You see, the vote for Dale on Sunday brought to fruition the fact that not only were we voting to add another pastor/elder to the church, but we were also confirming the Biblical model of church leadership on how the church should be structured and led according to New Testament teaching. Truly, it was a referendum on whether we would follow the traditions of man, or go the way of Scripture.

It was also a referendum (to a degree) on my leadership. Was I nervous? Honestly… Yes. I felt like I was giving birth. (I know you ladies are thinking… “You have no clue.”… You’re right… I don’t…but you get the point.) I woke up several times Saturday night and I was bombarded with doubts. Even Sunday morning Satan was hammering me with doubts. It was so bad before the first service started that I thought I was going to be sick. But, it was more than just about the vote. It was more importantly about what we’ve called the church to do. Reason #2.

#2 Prayer and Fasting

I don’t know how you feel about it… But, the Church in America is very, very weak. We are weak not because Jesus is weak. No. We are weak because we are not living by the Spirit. We are walking in our flesh and we have allowed Satan to short-circuit our power by making us B-U-S-Y. Do you know what that spells? Buried Under Satan’s Yoke. We have gotten so busy chasing the American Dream (prosperity, success, happiness, comfort, pleasure, etc.) that we no longer pray.

You say, “Wait a dog gone minute… I pray.” I know you do, and so do I. But, do you really pray? I mean REALLY pray? How serious are you about sin in your life? How serious are you about lost loved ones? When is the last time you were brought to your knees in humble, brokenness before the Lord? Hey…I with ya! I’m not pointing the finger at you. Up to today, I’ve only had 14 posts on this blog on prayer. I ought to just take the category off the list. So, I’ve got three fingers pointing back at me. I get this…

Fingers

So, in our study of 1 Thessalonians, we were brought to chapter 5, verse 17. You’ve heard the verse a million times…

…prayer without ceasing.

But, I asked the question: “How in the world can we do that?” How can we prayer without ceasing? I mean…come on! We’ve got to live and work and eat and sleep. How do we possible do this? I explained the condition of this type of praying. To prayer without ceasing is more about an attitude of prayer, then being on our knees 24/7. It literally means to be in a state of mind and spirit that you could break out into prayer at any moment…without any hesitation… It’s being so conscious of God’s presence in your life that you are capable of calling on His name without reservation.

But here’s the deal folks… We can only do this if we are living in obedience to that which the Lord has shown us. You see, God is a holy and righteous God and He cannot and will not go against His character and honor our requests to Him if we are living in known, disobedient and unrepentant sin. This is why most of our prayers don’t make it above the ceiling. We are cussing, fussing, fighting, cheating, lying, looking at porn, hating people, gossiping…and somehow we expect God to bless us. That’s like me telling Clara to clean her room and she refuses and then asks me to go to Chick-Fil-A. Can I take her? Of course not? I would be raising a brat if I did.

The Psalmist tells us:

Psalm 66:18

18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,     the Lord would not have listened

You and will never be in a position…condition or state of mind…to expect anything from the Lord if we are living with known sin in our lives. Quite simply our relationship with the Lord will be greatly hindered. Truly, there can never be divine power in the life of a believer who is living in known sin. Never!!

Now, certainly I know that none of us are perfect and NO…we’ll never be completely rid of sin in this life, but if there is known sin in our life and the Holy Spirit has brought it to your mind and you blatantly refuse to give up and you refuse to repent of it, then you should NOT expect to hear from God.

So, I asked the church to come alongside me and repent. I asked the church to do something that is very unpopular today. CONFESS OUR SIN! You see, confession is simply acknowledging and admitting that which God already knows. But if we confess our sin, the Apostle John tells us that something really awesome will happen…

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We can be cleansed!! Wow!! Simply because we confess and repent of our sins. But, I believe there are many Christians (like me) who have major blind spots.

That’s where the green car is…

Blind spot

I can’t see it! If I pull into that outside left lane, I’m going to wreck us both! So, we have to ask the Holy Spirit to show us our sin. And once that happens, then we can really get serious about praying.

Praying for what?

Lost souls.

People need Jesus and they are all around us. They are blind to their need as well.

2 Corinthians 4:4

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In the spiritual realm, we wrestle not with flesh and blood. You know there is a war going on for souls in the spiritual realm that you and I can’t see.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Daniel, chapter 10 describes this in great detail. It’s an awesome account of how Gabriel was held off by a demonic Prince for 21 days (Daniel 10:12-14) until Daniel’s prayers caused Michael (archangel) to come to his aid. Wow! Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it!

Do you think Satan liked me preaching that message this past Sunday? No sir! And he tried to scare me in my mind and spirit. He sent wave after waves of doubt to my mind right before I was to speak in the first service. It shook me for a few moments. But, then I remembered who I am in Christ. I’m a conqueror and I quoted Scripture: “Get behind me Satan, for it is written, ‘You will worship the Lord your God!'” I resisted him as James tells us to do and he left. Will he be back? Sure he will. He already has. But, I rest in my yoke. I’m yoked with the Lord Jesus who tells me that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you Lord! I don’t carry this alone!

Folks, we’re in trouble and it’s time we get serious about prayer. I saw even more pointedly the seriousness of the condition we are in as Southern Baptists.

Did you know according to last week’s Biblical Recorder, that last year (2013)of the 46,000 SBC churches in America 11,000 churches had ZERO baptisms! ZERO… In a whole year! Get this… in another 9,000 of the 46,000 SBC churches only 1 PERSON was saved in a whole year! Cumulatively, that’s over 20,000 churches or 44% of the SBC churches baptized 1 person or less in an entire year. Do you think Satan has some strongholds in our churches? And get this… it was reported that almost 60% of our SBC churches didn’t baptize a single teenager last year!

We are losing the battle folks! Horribly!!

So, we have called the church to a season of Fasting and Prayer, Sept. 7-14.

038_Breaking_Strongholds

I will be preaching about Fasting and Prayer on Sunday, Sept. 7th and we as a church are going to fast and pray during that week leading up to Sunday, Sept. 14. We are going to be praying specifically for two things. #1 that we might see the Lord break spiritual strongholds in our lives and #2 that we might see people come to Jesus. We have determined to get serious and we are going to intentionally go before the throne for one another and for the lost. And we are going to try to share this experience together.

On Wednesday, Sept. 10th as a church family, we are all going to try to fast something during that day. Obviously, in Scripture, “fasting” is typically going without food, but for some…because of medical reasons…this won’t be possible. Yet, we are asking people to decide to fast something else. Perhaps they could fast soft drinks or their morning cup of coffee. Perhaps they could fast TV that day or using the internet. But, whatever it is…we are asking that during the time they would normally be occupied by that task, person or thing, that they might use the time to call on the Lord to break spiritual chains in people’s lives.

I am planning on a three-day Esther fast that week, leading up to Wednesday. I am accustomed to fasting. I fast one day per week for my children, their spouses (current and future) and for God’s will to be done in their lives. Some might fast like Daniel and eat only vegetables. Whatever the case might be…I’m super excited to see what the Lord is going to do.

Now are we twisting God’s arm when we fast? No. We are simply exchanging one appetite for another. We desire God to work and do the miraculous more than we want food. It’s that simple.

So, I’m overjoyed and ecstatic about all the Lord is doing! I can’t wait to see what the next several weeks hold for us! Hey…join us! The more the merrier! :)

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