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What a wonderful time of year! Graduation is in the air everywhere! And I got the privilege of watching another daughter graduate from high school this past Saturday! What a great and wonderful weekend!

Yep, Kandace walked the plank :) on Saturday at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem with a bazillion other homeschool graduates. It was fantastic!

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I don’t know if you can see it or not, but there’s a big lump in my throat as she was preparing to put on that cap and gown.

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Then, as she walked by at the end, I had another big lump in my throat! See here there in the middle? The big guy beside of her is going to be playing football for NC State next year.

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A quick selfie of proud mom and dad…

IMG_2480 I had a better one, but a lady behind us kept “photo-bombing” us.

The place was packed! They had to do the graduation in two large ballrooms because there were so many graduates. This was the back part (where the parents and grandparents sat) of our ballroom.

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Here’s the other room, called the North Main ballroom…

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Talk about a lump in your throat! Check this out…

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That’s graduation from kindergarten and high school. What happened! It truly seems just like yesterday. That little cutie is now my beautiful high school graduate with 9 college credit hours and three classes already on her resume. Wow!

Kandace said this on Facebook. It was so nice:

I owe my entire schooling career thus far to my parents and especially my mom. Mama has been my one and only teacher from the very beginning and I am so beyond thankful for the time and effort she has put into my life over the years. Daddy has been the math man, “principal,” and driver over the years. It was so special having my parents hand me my diploma today. They have poured all of their knowledge into me and for that I am so grateful.

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What a wonderful day last Saturday was for our family! We’re so delighted and thankful for the Lord’s blessings in Kandace! She is a jewel!

She will continue her education online with the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. As I mentioned, she already has three college classes under her belt. Her desire is to complete a degree in Christian Ministries, with a concentration in Missions through Liberty University. She will also continue to teach clogging and is also teaching violin lessons. She’s busy at church with all the mission work (trips to TX-June, Philippines-Oct, China-January), and singing and playing (violin) in the Praise Team and singing in the choir, and helping with the Children’s Choir. Yep, I’m one blessed daddy!

While we were in Winston, we took this picture in front of the First Baptist Church. Talk about a huge and beautiful church!! Wow!!!

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I also had the privilege of being one of the speakers at the conference…

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Like a Baptist Church, nobody wants to sit up front. I guess they are afraid I might get a little holy water (my spit) on them. Ha! :)

I’ve been accused of being animated when I speak!!

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Surely not!! :)

Hey are you curious about what people are watching on TV today? According to Barna Research…

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And here are the specific shows by age group…

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Okay, here’s the thing that might surprise you.

Who do you think watches the most TV?

Younger or Older Americans?

If you said the kids…you’d be wrong…

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Boomer and Elders watch the most TV. They watch 5-7 days per week at a clip of 4-5 hours per day. The truth is, the new “TV” for the younger generations are the smart phones. If you did the math on the smart phones and added that to the “TV watching,” I’m totally convinced the younger generations spend even more time in the front of a “screen” of some sort. It’s been said that we’re allowing our lives to be run by the “squares” (TV, phones, tablets, I-pads, etc.). I would imagine that would be true. I don’t know how I would do my job and survive without my computer and phone. It’s just gotten to that place in life for me. Yet, I know that I must have times (and this is true of my family) that we put down the technology.

I got a charge out of these images…

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Hey…this one is one of my favorites. If Jesus were to come back today, this is what we’d do…

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Seriously, shouldn’t there be some time away from the squares and the phones? For our family, we have a “no device” rule at the dinner table. That is a “no-technology zone.” It must be, otherwise, we’d never talk. There must be times that we just sit and talk, right? Surely, we can still survive without a gadget. I hope! :)

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Is this what we’re turning into in our homes?

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Will this be how it ends up?

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Yikes! Lord help us! Or should I say, “Lord help me.” Why? Because, I’m the chief of sinners, here! I’m constantly trying to put the cell phone away when I’m home, but I’ll admit it’s a temptation and a struggle. I’m working on it…constantly!

You know, I show you a lot of pictures of Charlotte, my 6-month-0ld grand baby. Well, I want to show you a picture of this little girl and ask you to pray for her.

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This is Anna Grace Matthews. She was 6-months old yesterday. Charlotte is just two days older than Anna Grace. Anna Grace has Downs Syndrome and she had major heart problems (as a complication of DS) when she was born. She is the granddaughter of church members, Ronald and Sharron Huffman and the daughter of Chris and Melanie Matthews. Melanie and I grew up together. She’s a wonderful, godly lady!

Well, Anna Grace has completed surgery at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, TN. The surgery was a success to repair her heart, but she has a ways to go. Would you pray for her as the Lord brings her to mind?

This was her picture yesterday as Melanie and Chris brought her home…

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Did I say something about “lumps in the throat” earlier? :) Praise the Lord for the miracles of modern, medical technology!

This is the entire family…

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Their story and journey can be found here. Have tissues ready. God’s power is evident…

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/annagracemathews/journal/view/id/5563d9534db921663a445580

I’ll finish up with a few shots of Charlotte. Josh, Katy and Charlotte were in this weekend for Memorial Day (thank you to all the Veterans and the memory of those who served our nation with such great honor and dignity to provide our political freedom as a country).

Andrew loves playing with her in the floor…

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If you ask me…that’s a Gerber baby if there’s ever been one. But, I’m a bit biased, I’m aware. :)

Here’s Kan and Charlotte…

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And one of the whole gang (minus the picture-taker, my lovely wife):

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Yes siree-bob…and there you have it…

It was a wonderful weekend indeed!

 

 

I love this:

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(L-R) Jonah Horton, Jonah Brooks and Michael Davis. I have confidence in those young men!

Those three young men just completed this year’s Rite of Passage (ROP) here at the church. It’s always a privilege to watch another group come through. We’ve seen 66 young adults go through ROP since 2008 at the church.

What is ROP?

It’s simply a tool from Scripture, which points to a journey that is designed to move our children from childhood to young adulthood. It’s a “raising of the bar of expectations.” Because children will rise to our level of expectations as adults. Seldom will children reach further than our expectations of them.

The model for ROP comes from Luke chapter 2. Remember Jesus in the Temple? He was 12 years of old and yet, He knew exactly where he was headed in life and the ultimate purpose and goal of His life. He said, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” Yes, at 12 years of age, He knew exactly what He was to be doing. He was confident in His mission in life. And so, if Jesus is our example in all things, (and He should be), then He is certainly our example for 12 year olds.

Thus, there was a transition in Jesus’ life at the age of 12. He knew He had to be “about the Father’s business.” We learn from Luke 2 that Jesus was submissive to His parents and the Bible says that He “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men.” And so we follow Jesus’ here at MPBC. Therefore, at the age of 12 (and up to age 18), you can participate in our annual ROP. It’s a way of marking time and saying, “We believe in you as a young adult and we have confidence in you in Christ.”

I wrote about this extensively in my book:

http://www.amazon.com/Rite-Passage-Church-Kevin-Brown-ebook/dp/B008A3D9D4

I’m very proud of the young men who completed ROP this year! It gives me great encouragement and hope for the Millennial Generation and let’s me know that the sky is not falling, contrary to Chicken Little.

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You see, things are changing in the way we look at young adults and Christianity in this country. There is soon going to be a “weeding out” of the fake versus the real.

I read an article recently (Found here: http://www.millennialevangelical.com/millennials-are-leaving-the-church-they-faked-caring-about-as-kids/) that shared the truth that Christianity (according to polls) is declining in America, but here’s why:

Back in the day, it was “culturally savvy” to call yourself a Christian. It had cultural value—there were benefits to being a “Christian” in American society. As a result, a lot of people called themselves “Christians” who didn’t actually possess true, convictional Christian faith. These people are called “nominals,” or people who are Christians in “name only.”

Today, a number of years after “back in the day,” it is definitely not culturally savvy to be a Christian. People don’t like Christians in most parts of the country. It costs a lot more social currency to be a Christian than it used to. As a result, many of the people who called themselves “Christians,” simply because it was more beneficial than costly to do so, are starting to check “none” on the list of faith options on social surveys. So, you could say, nominal Christianity is declining, but you cannot say Jesus is losing followers.

Christianity may be “losing ground,” but only because it was ground it never really occupied in the first place. American Christianity is bleeding, there’s no doubt about that. As one lets blood from a wound to prevent infection, so the American church must willingly release the nominal Christians whose unbelief in the lifeblood of the church makes them enemies of it.

 

Blogger Matt Walsh has this to say about Christianity. The title really caught my eye:

http://themattwalshblog.com/2015/05/14/young-people/

“Maybe Christianity In America Is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone To Death”

What is said here is powerful and without question is controversial (in some circles), but it’s something that needs to be said. I’ve cut and pasted a good chunk of the article here because it needs to be said:

…some 70 percent of us might “identify” as Christian, but how many actually subscribe not to Christianity, but to Convenient Christianity? (Convenientanity, if you like.) How many are the type who call themselves Christian but don’t consider the Bible to be a particularly authoritative document? How many are in the group who see Christianity as nothing more demanding or complex than the 30 second life lessons speech Bob Saget gives to one of the Olson twins at the end of each Full House episode? How many believe that morality and faith can be severed from each other? How many believe in a Christianity that doesn’t include the existence of sin or Hell? How many are relativists? How many are prosperity gospel proponents? How many say they’re Christian but only because they’ve convinced themselves that Jesus loves gay marriage and abortion?

And what happens when you don’t factor these Convenientists — members of the Church of Convenience, proponents of Convenientism — into the equation at all? Are we still at 70 percent? Not hardly. What’s the real number? Forty percent? Thirty? Ten? Less? I don’t know, but it’s depressing, whatever it is.

So while everyone offers their own diagnosis of the cause of this catastrophe, this is mine. The light of the Faith grows dimmer in this culture because of that…kind of Christianity, generally. The lame and bored kind. The flavorless, tame brand.

Every branch of the Faith has become infected by it, and if we want to understand why Christianity is not out winning souls and conquering the culture, look there. Yet many of our fearless leaders, pastors, and pundits think this is, rather than the disease, the remedy. It’s the same remedy they’ve tried for half a century. As the problem gets worse, they don’t change the medication, they just keep upping the dosage. They tell us that in order to bring the sheep into the fold — especially the millennial sheep — Christianity must be as un-Christian as possible. It must be stripped it of its truth, of its sacredness, of its sacrifice, of its morality, of its tradition, of its history, of its hardships, of its joy, and whatever is left will be enough to, if not engage and excite people, at least not scare them away.

And that’s been the strategy of the American church for decades: just try not to scare people. They put on this milquetoast, tedious, effeminate charade, feigning hipness and relevance…

There are still plenty of Christians who desire the true faith, but they are mostly ignored or scolded by the very people who should be leading them. And the Convenientists, of course, find no happiness in their secular Christianity, nor do they find it in secular secularism. Even if they don’t know it, they yearn in the pit of their souls for the true message of Christ, but they rarely hear it. And when they do hear it, there are a million competing voices, many from inside the church, warning them that if they go down this road it might involve changing their behavior and their lifestyle, which is a total hassle, man.

Often that’s enough to dissuade any further investigation. And that’s how we ended up here. That’s it. That’s the problem. It’s plain as day, yet every time this conversation comes up, we’re told that Christianity is declining because Christians are too religious, too bold, too outspoken, too moral, and too firm in their beliefs. That’s the conventional wisdom, but as we’ve seen a thousand times over, the conventional wisdom of an unwise society should never be taken seriously.

If the faith is to regain lost ground in this country, it will only happen when Christianity is presented and understood as what it is: a warrior’s religion. A faith for fighters and soldiers. CS Lewis said it best (as usual):

Enemy-occupied territory–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

There. There it is, explained more compellingly in two sentences than many pastors can muster in a lifetime of sermons. This is frightening, militant language, but it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and it is, most importantly, accurate. As Christians, we are fighting a war against the Devil himself. We are advancing against the darkest forces of the universe, and we march with God by our side. And all the while, all around us, on a dimension invisible to mortal eyes, angels and demons and supernatural forces, both good and evil, work to defend or destroy us.

That’s how you stop the “decline” of Christianity in America. Tell people the truth. The truth, that’s allMove them. Love them. Make them feel anger, and fear, and longing, and sadness, and happiness, and hope, and determination. All of these things. These are all a part of our Faith, because our Faith is everything. As Chesterton said, “there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life.” Yes, Christianity gets more out of life. And whatever it gets might not be comfortable, convenient, or relaxing, but at least it isn’t boring. And best of all, it’s true.

Well said!

So, I’m hopeful and I’m confident there will be a sifting of Christianity in America and the wheat will be left and the chaff will blow away. What’s left will be strong, courageous and profoundly faithful to Jesus Christ.

And it’s this generation that will do hard things, like end abortion. This video is five minutes long and it’s powerful. It’s a video of young people who could have been aborted but weren’t. It’s amazing…

My Generation Will End Abortion, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ylD7ajPflqo

I must tell you that my kids aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am proud of my children. Kandace is graduating from high school this weekend at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem.

She finished teaching her last clogging class last night. Here she is when she started (left) and then on the (right) is where she walked out of studio last night.

She said this:

From my first day of dance to walking out of the studio tonight on my last. So bittersweet. I can’t believe it’s over. So many memories were made here. Time really does fly. 💜

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She sure has grown up. Here she is with her dance teacher, Tonya Wentz:
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She’s now passing the baton to Clara…
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I am so thankful for Kandace and for Clara and for these two:
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I bet this next picture will make you say, “Aw!!!!”
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I love Josh! What a phenomenal man he is!
Katy has been so busy being a mom that’s she’s not had time to blog much. But, she did the other day and here’s an excerpt:
…what I am saying is: don’t sweat the small things of life… and small things are usually material things. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard to apply to life. So. Here I am admitting that maybe I can’t make baby food all natural and do cloth diapers and cook and clean, pack to move home and a million other things and then wonder why there isn’t time to just sit beside the hubby on the couch or maybe write once in a blue moon or even touch that keyboard I haven’t hardly glanced at in months. Just maybe life is going to pass me by and what will I be able to say? Boy, I sure got all those clothes washed and look how much money we saved making baby food? None of that will matter. Time. Time will matter and what I did with it. Did I make a difference? And I used to think only “differences” could be made on extravagant mission trips or on big stages…. Ahh, that was a foolish thing to think. The biggest differences are made not from podiums or classrooms. They are made right at home.
 
So here I sit in my little home (only to be home for two more months) and savor each moment for what it is: a precious gift only given once. That is precisely why I shall stay home with my Rosebud as she grows never to leave her, for she is my legacy and a legacy can only be made with a whole lotta time, effort and love. I may not be good at this mommy thing all the time, but it’s right where God placed me and that helps me know… He thinks I’m good enough for the job.

http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com

And just so you’ll know…she’s now sitting up on her own…

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Woohoo!!

The Revival ended well last week. It was wonderful! We ended up with chairs set-up for the last two nights and a packed house. IMG_2421

Clara went with me the last night. That’s her on the front row. I shared about the importance of making sure that (as families) we focus on getting the gospel transferred to the next generation. That task is more important than academics and athletics. It’s more important than them being well-rounded and making “good money” one day. The Holy Spirit broke the church and there was a fantastic outpouring at the altar in prayer. Families were praying and crying together! All I can say is, “To God be the glory!”

Now the truth in “Revivals” are always revealed about a month after the meeting. If there is growth and the fervor continues to move the body forward, then I will feel good about officially saying that there was “revival.” Yet, I will say that I’m pretty convinced the good folks at Riverview Baptist were indeed stirred up to good works.

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I shared with the church (as I have at MPBC) why it’s important (at least in my mind) to preach through the Bible text in an expository manner. In fact, I found this neat article that explains the importance of this kind of preaching. It lists “6 Advantages to Expository Preaching:” (Full Article here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/6-advantages-consecutive-expository-preaching/)

1. Expository preaching introduces the congregation to the entire Bible.

2. Expository preaching ensures that infrequently traveled areas of the Bible are covered.

3. Expository preaching prevents preachers from unwittingly shaping the way their hearers read their Bibles.

On this one, I wanted you to see these quotes:

A prime object of pastoral teaching is to teach the people how to read the Bible for themselves. A sealed book cannot be interesting. If it be read without the key of comprehension, it cannot be instructive. Now, it is the preacher’s business, in his public discourses, to give his people teaching by example, in the art of interpreting the Word: he should exhibit before them, in actual use, the methods by which the legitimate meaning is to be evolved. Fragmentary preaching, however brilliant, will never do this. Robert Dabney

John Stott, in an interview given in 1995, speaks to this issue:

We want to let the congregation into the secret as to how we have reached the conclusions we have reached as to what the Bible is actually saying… And gradually, as you are doing this in the pulpit, the congregation is schooled not only in what the Bible teaches but in how we come to the congregation as to what it teaches. So we have to show the congregation what our hermeneutical methods are. John Stott

4. Expository preaching is the only preaching method that exposes a congregation to the full range of Scripture’s interests and concerns.

5. Expository preaching provides variety to sustain a congregation’s interest from week to week.

6. Expository preaching, better than any method I know, aids preachers in thinking and preparing ahead.

I loved these comments to conclude:

Faithful expository preaching, whether textual or consecutive, is “a most exacting discipline,” according to Stott. He adds:

Perhaps that is why it is so rare. Only those will undertake it who are prepared to follow the example of the apostles and say, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God and serve tables…. We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:24). The systematic preaching of the Word is impossible without the systematic study of it. It will not be enough to skim through a few verses in daily Bible reading, nor to study a passage only when we have to preach from it. No. We must daily soak ourselves in the Scriptures. We must not just study, as through a microscope, the linguistic minutiae of a few verses, but take out our telescope and scan the wide expanses of God’s Word, assimilating its grand theme of divine sovereignty in the redemption of mankind. “It is blessed,” wrote C. H. Spurgeon, “to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your spirit is flavoured with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is Bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows from you.”

If you want to see something beautiful. Take a few minutes and check out this “fly over” of Jerusalem. It was filmed in IMAX. It’s amazing! It’s like having a tour of the Holy Land in a blimp:

http://vimeo.com/15034110

I was in the Holy Land in 2007 and I must say that this is the closest thing I’ve seen that can do justice to what I saw and experienced. I’ve been blessed to go to many places around the world: (Ethiopia, Italy, Greece, China, Mexico), but Israel is absolutely tremendous! I’d love to go back again and I’d love to take the family. I sincerely doubt that will ever happen. But, it’s wonderful to wish and dream. :)

Hey…it’s been a while since I said anything about the weather. Do you want to know how the snowfall stacked up for last winter? This is in inches:

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North Wilkesboro showed 10 inches. At my house we got closer to 14″. That is above average by about 3″ and is what I predicted back in October. Here’s a line from my blog post on October 24, 2014.

That puts us in line for about 14-15 inches (in Western NC), if this pans out.

We started out slow with the winter precipitation. Ultimately, winter was delayed, but would not be denied.

Why did we get more than just 24 miles away at the airport? Elevation. We’re about 500 feet higher in elevation than the airport, so that makes sense. Interestingly, Boone and W. Jefferson were below average, but Mt. Mitchell was above average.

I can’t help myself. Do you want an early prediction for next winter? Well, I’m not ready to do that. But, it does seem that we will have a moderate El Nino (which actually never really developed last year). That means cold and wet. I’ll leave it at that for now. :)

Guess what came in the mail last week?

IMG_2422I’ve been wanting this book for some time, and a kind man said, “Tell me a couple of books you’d like and I’ll send them to you.” Bingo! Here’s the first one! Thanks so much! It’s tremendous and life-transforming.

Aren’t familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Check him out here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/martyrs/bonhoeffer.html He tried to overthrow Hitler and was killed. He was a powerful, humble yet gracious man. This book is spiritual dynamite!

The garden is in…

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Andrew and Clara helped me this past Saturday. We’ve got three rows of beans, two rows of corn, five tomato plants, 4 pepper plants and cucumbers. The kids also planted pumpkins and sunflowers (EVERYWHERE)! Around the house…you name it. I can’t wait to see where they all pop up!

Got to spend the weekend with this little beauty!

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She’s growing up and will be 6 months old in about two weeks. Man it’s hard when Josh and Katy leave with little Charlotte. But, praise be to God, come mid-July they are headed to Wilkes for good! Woohoo!

Over and out… :)

 

Let me show you some people who are the “salt of the earth.”

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Those are the folks I’m having the privilege of speaking to this week. That’s the congregation of Riverview Baptist Church in Creston, NC. Let me tell you, those kind people are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. They have been so gracious and kind to me and my family. I continue in Revival there tonight and tomorrow night. And I must tell you that I really believe we’re having revival.

So far I have preached on “Warning People with the Gospel” and “The Power of Prayer.” Tonight the message is “Forgiveness.” I’m really excited. Here’s the church.

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As you can see, it’s a small church, but it’s a lovely church. It’s deep, deep in the mountains of Ashe County and it’s so beautiful up there in “dem dar hills.” He’s one of the roads right next to the church. Yep…you’ve got to cross the New River on this particular road…

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Isn’t that pretty?

We’ve had some wonderful music each night. It reminds me of my childhood. There was a group of men who came last night that played Bluegrass Gospel. It was wonderful!

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You know it’s an amazing thing… This past Sunday at MPBC we had almost 600 people (584 to be exact). I would guess at Riverview this week that we are running around 50-60 people each night. (The pastor says that’s a really good crowd.) Yet, some would question, “Why go to a church that’s so small?” Answer: Christians are Christians and Jesus ministered to the multitudes and he ministered to the 10 lepers and the 1 woman at the well. We make a big deal about numbers I guess. Numbers are important in that they represent lives. But, I’ve never made a practice of “not” doing a revival or speaking engagement because it’s “too small.” I honestly try to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you go back and look at the first picture, you’ll see standing in the aisle, (behind the bald fella) the pastor of the church. He has a beard. His name is Evan Moore and he is 27 years old and he is bi-vocational. He has a wonderful wife and three children and he’s a mail carrier. He’s my hero! He’s getting the job done in this little community that takes me an hour to drive to each night. When I tell you that this church is in the sticks…buddy…it’s in the sticks. But, people are people. And Evan is doing an outstanding job leading this church. He’s been there four years and that’s (top end) for most churches for most Southern Baptist pastors. I applaud this young man and the job he’s doing.

Yes, he only has a church of about 60 people (1/10 of MPBC), but he’s a success. He’s a success because he is doing the work of the Lord in this little mountain community and he’s touching lives. Yep, Evan is my hero and I’m honored he asked me to come and preach to the wonderful flock the Lord has entrusted to him. Please pray for me as I preach tonight (I’ll be leaving soon). Ask the Lord to bless us and move among us as I minister among the “salt of the earth.”

I Really Care

Imagine if you were a teacher and the majority of your students failed the class. Imagine if you were a choir director and only a few choir members ever learned their part, rendering each performance before an audience as an utter disaster. Imagine if you were a running a manufacturing company where the machines broke down the majority of the time delaying shipment after shipment. That would get frustrating wouldn’t it?

Think about it. The teacher would be dismayed that her students never studied and failed so often on tests, while the choir director (who sought excellence) would be discouraged because he couldn’t get a good performance, and certainly the manufacturer would be devastated when his company went belly up because he couldn’t count on the machines.

Can I tell you wonderful, faithful readers of this silly little blog something: Sometimes I get a bit dismayed like the people mentioned above. Want to know why? It’s real simple:

I care.

I really do.

I care a lot!

I try my very best to teach and preach the Word of God and to be as faithful to the Scriptures as much as I possibly can. I study, pray, prepare and work hard so that when I stand to teach/preach, I can do my very best. Consequently, I suppose I have high expectations. I suppose I care enough about what I’m teaching and working hard to preach week in and week out that I want people to succeed. I want people to “get it.” I want people to walk with the Lord in a genuine, powerful way. Bottom line: if I’m preaching and teaching month after month and year after year, then I want to see results. Is that expecting too much? I want to see people grow and mature in their faith and walk with Christ.

Is that okay? Is that over the top?

Let’s say you are teaching someone how to hit a baseball. Let’s say you are being paid to teach someone to “lay wood on leather.” Yet, the athlete you are training athlete simply refuses to buy into what you are saying and continually goes zero for four at the plate in games. That would get a bit old, would it not? Sure it would. In fact, you would begin to question if you were making any difference at all.

The truth is I think pastors/elders go through these same questions from time to time. We ask, “Am I making a difference?” We ask, “Are the majority of people really getting it?” Again, this is no different from a teacher desiring for their students to play well in front of an audience or do well on a test. Yet, as a pastor, (believe it or not) I’m sometimes looked at by people who believe that I shouldn’t care so much. But, I’m not alone.

Today, I met with a young pastor in Statesville, NC. He pastors in Charlotte and he’s solid. Real solid. I was very encouraged and it was great to hear his story and to offer insight to him (as he did for me). Yet, he is facing a lot of what most of us “pastors” face in our world today. He is coming to the place where he is realizing that he can prepare, pray, work hard and do everything in his power to pass along the truths of God’s word and it still might not bring a tremendous amount of change in a lot of lives. In other words, he can do everything right as a pastor and still not have a “passing grade” (in his mind). I told him, “Brother, you are going to have to come to terms with that and it’s hard! And let me tell you…it is hard! Real hard! I’m being honest here…this truth is really, really hard to swallow! Especially if you are a “results” guy like me. Why? Because, I want to see everyone “get it.” I want to see everybody growing.

You see, settling for less than the best is like telling the batting coach, “Hey, don’t worry if he strikes out 3 out of every 4 times he steps up to the plate.” That’s like telling the dance teacher, “So what if she doesn’t point her toes…after all, she’s doing most of the dance right.” No, no, no! That’s not acceptable…not if you are seeking excellence. It’s not acceptable for the choir director to allow sloppy “cut-offs.” No sir! She expects you to “cut off” when her middle fingers touch her thumbs and not a nanosecond later. Right? Exactly! Excellence is the goal.

I love what Paul says in Philippians 1. Try to feel the heart of Paul for the believers in Philippi. Try to feel his yearning for them like a father for his children.

Philippians 1:8-11

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul wanted them to “approve what is excellent.” He wanted them to be “pure and blameless.” He wanted them to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Hey!! I know how Paul feels! I really do!

Well, the young pastor and I discussed how it’s hard not to care when you see things that you wish you didn’t see and when you point out these things, you are accused of being the “police of the world.” Perhaps pastors are supposed to preach and not care about the results. Perhaps pastors are supposed to stand in the pulpit week after week and month after month and preach with all they’ve got and not care if there is any growth…any excellence. Wrong! I don’t buy that for a second. You know me better than that.

So, I say this to anyone who thinks that I should be like a second grade teacher who teaches 1 +1 = 2, and yet not care if the student says 3 on the test. Look the other way! Don’t worry if they get it wrong. Just teach. Don’t worry about the results. I’m sorry, that’s 100% wrong and it must be pointed out to the student that it’s wrong or they will never learn the truth. The school principal would expect as much, correct?

Does God expect any less of me? I think not.

Therefore, if I see that something is way out of line in a person’s life (who professes to be a believer), then I’m obligated as a shepherd (someone who really and truly cares for his flock) to check on them and see what’s wrong. I’m obligated (if I really care) to say, “Hey, is everything okay?” And if that happens to be you someday, don’t think I’m trying to get “all up in your business” or I’m trying to be the “police” of your life, or that I’m trying to “look down my pastoral nose” at you. I’m not. I promise. It’s just that I care. I really do. I care about you. I care about what happens to you and I care about your life.

Isn’t that what a shepherd is supposed to do for his flock? So, I ask you now to pardon me if I am too passionate or if I expect too much. I promise you…and I really mean this…I promise you I don’t expect any more out of you than I do out of myself. I promise you that if I were your baseball coach and you had the ability to bat .500, then I won’t be happy with .250. I promise you, if I were your guitar teacher and you have the ability to play a difficult song, but you refuse to try…then I’m going to tell you to “step it up.” I promos you, if I’m running a manufacturing company and you always show up late, then I’m going to say, “Get here on time, or else.” Is that too much to ask? If it is…then, I guess I care too much. And if I care too much, then I humbly ask you to forgive me. But, my plan is to continue to preach and teach and give the Lord everything I’ve got and I hope and pray (with all my heart) that will be okay, and that we’ll all continue to grow and mature together…striving for excellence.

Speaking of growing… Something blew my mind last week.

I read this on one of my favorite weather blogs (you know I’m a weather geek):

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Final Notice To The Viewers

This is quite likely the most difficult post I’ve had to write in the last five years of running The Weather Centre, and I can assure you it wasn’t easy actually sitting down to hammer it out, either. After all, this has been my livelihood for so long, I can’t really remember what occupied the majority of my time before this. That’s why it makes me sad to announce that The Weather Centre blog will close permanently on our five-year anniversary: April 26th, 2015.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I read this guys posts every week. He’s brilliant. He’s weather forecasting was fantastic. In fact, he was probably one of the most accurate forecasters for last year’s winter (cold/snow) of anyone on the net. I thought to myself, “Why in the world is he quitting.” I continued to read:
When I started The Weather Centre on April 26th, 2010, I wasn’t much of a forecaster. At the time, I made the blog solely because I had an interest in weather, and because there happened to be a severe weather event on the way on April 30th of that year. My initial posts, if you dive back to look at them (example herehere, and here), were simply maps with some crude MS Paint drawings on them if even that, describing the upcoming pattern for that late April set-up.
As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even much of a person yet. I started The Weather Centre blog when I was 12 years old, just rounding out 7th grade. In case you’re wondering, yes, you’ve been receiving the musings of a teenage aspiring meteorologist for the last five years… 
Over the past five years, I’ve had more than a few people ask me how old I am, or what my credentials are in the forecasting world. To be quite frank, I never answered those questions, because I’ve grown to learn that it really does not matter. I see degreed meteorologists publicly shaking their heads on Twitter, Facebook, or on other public social media at something a kid just like me may have done…

Isn’t that marvelous? Oh the power of a teenager. They can do so much! Mary was a teenage girl who gave birth to God. Jesus had a rag-tag bunch of teenagers following Him around as a Rabbi. Amazing! Just remember, our teenagers will strive to our level of expectations.

Here’s a few more comments from this young man, Andrew, on his final blog post:

Before I close up shop here, I want to go over the achievements we as a community have accomplished. 
– In five years, The Weather Centre has accumulated over 5,650,000 page views. I can safely say I would never have dreamed that so many people would have wanted to read my weather discussions, and it is such an incredible honor to have run such a successful blog.
– The Weather Centre was featured and/or mentioned on the Toronto Star, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, NPR, Yahoo, and countless other meteorological and news entities. Every one of them made me more proud to do what I do.
– We formed a community of over 3,700 Facebook fans, and close to 1,300 Twitter followers. I have found that you all are the best group of weather enthusiasts I have come across on the Internet, and it is an immense privilege to say that. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to converse with all of you.
So, for the last time, I want to extend a thank you. I want to thank you, the viewer, reading this right now, for supporting not only this blog, but me for the last five years. Thanks in large part to The Weather Centre, I have grown into a person I never thought I would become, and I’m incredibly excited to see where my life takes me next. I’m leaving not out of selfishness, but because this chapter of my life is naturally coming to a close. In the next several months, I’m going off to college to start my studies to become a degreed meteorologist, my life’s dream. In addition, research projects that I began this past winter are quickly showing signs of verification. One of them, forecasting the EF-strength of tornadoes before they form, is looking very promising, and I’ll need to devote a significant amount of time to improving my research, my studies, and everything else that makes life worth living. The one thing I ask of you is that you do what I’ve done. Go out and teach others about the weather; there are so many people that want to understand the weather but find everything too complicated. This blog provides a great resource for you to continue on.
Once again, thank you for these last five years. They’ve been the best five years I’ve ever experienced, and I’m incredibly proud to say we’ve accomplished the goal that’s been in place since I first started The Weather Centre: to show others that weather can be easy to understand, to learn, and to share with others.
The last couple of weeks before April 26th will be mainly cleaning up some things, probably issuing some sort of winter prediction for 2015-2016 (it’s only fitting, given our preliminary winter forecasts used to be issued in early June), and enjoying the ride. You’ll still find me tweeting about the weather even after we close, and perhaps an occasional post on the Facebook page as well; you can follow the Twitter account at https://twitter.com/TheWxCentre, and our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheWeatherCentre
Sincerely,
Andrew Racki

Way to go Andrew! Here’s his picture:

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I’m sure going to miss reading your excellent blog and gleaning from your excellent forecasts. I can’t wait to see you on TV one day. Who knows, you might even be Jim Cantore’s (The Weather Channel) replacement!

You know, I think Andrew really cares about the weather. I think he really cared about offering phenomenal weather forecasts and I can truly relate to that. Because I really care too! wink, wink :)

Rest

Last week was a great week! It was certainly good to catch a break. Several months ago, I saw that there was an excellent conference in Orlando, Florida and it hit me that there was an opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone.” Catch a great conference and get some R & R with my family. Super!

So, I scheduled it and I’m so glad I did. I needed the break and I realized that a few days into the week. Pam or one of the kids (I can’t remember) looked at me one day and said, “You actually look relaxed.” Woohoo! I thought, “That’s great!” And the truth is…our family can tell the quickest about our emotional and spiritual barometer.

Let me give you a brief recap to catch you up…

On the way down, we stopped in Georgia to see some dear friends that we met 9 years ago when we adopted Clara from China. The Windsor family is phenomenal! Frank and Robin have two biological children and have adopted 6 children from China. That’s right, I said, “6 children” from China! They love the Lord Jesus and have a heart and compassion for children. We got to hang out one night at their home and the kids played in the pool.

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What a crew!!

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That’s Clara and Dottie (adopted at the same time…9 years ago) with two of Dottie’s sisters, Naomi and Grace. Thank you Frank and Robin for the wonderful hospitality and for you allowing us to crash in on you guys for a superb evening!

The conference really recharged my batteries. I was greatly encouraged by all the young people who were there. There is a growing fervor among the young people who are sick and tired of the stale traditions of the church and desire to teach, preach and most importantly “live” the Gospel.

I got to hear this man…

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That’s John Piper. He was outstanding. I was overwhelmed with all the books. You know I love books…

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There were over 6,000 people at the conference. Here’s the main hall before we were released to go in…

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Here’s the breakdown (notice the ages) by percentage of attendees:

<19, 11% 20-29, 23% 30-39, 34% 40-49, 18% > 60, 8%

That’s 68% under the age of 40. Makes me feel old, but encouraged! People came from all over the world. 24 from Denmark, 300 from Canada, 17 from China, 63 Dominican Republic, 5 Cuba, 40 Brazil and others from Israel, Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana (and I didn’t get them all written down). Amazing!

I’ll say it again. I was exceedingly encouraged and refreshed by the vigor of the preaching and teaching and the commitment to global missions and spreading the Gospel by this “younger” generation of Christ-followers. There is hope!

Disney was a blast. We loved our hotel room. It was near a pool…

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We took Andrew to his favorite place…

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Then it was Disney…

Let me tell you something. Those folks have customer service down to a science. Being a former businessman, I am always analyzing service. Disney treats their customers like none other. Everything is pristine and clean. The people are super friendly and it’s 100% safe. People park their strollers with all their stuff still in them and stroller stops and nobody steals anything. It’s crazy! At the bus stop I looked at the shelter and there wasn’t a cobweb anywhere. The walls of the bus stop look like they had been wiped down daily.

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I even saw a man with a sidewalk buffer, who was cleaning the sidewalks. It’s an amazing thing to see!

But, I must tell you I saw some things that were different than our last trip down about 5 or 6 years ago. Scooters. They were everywhere. The population today is in great need of scooters. I also saw black panty hose everywhere. You know that stretchy stuff that women and ladies wear now that looks like panty hose. I used to work for a panty hose company (Ithaca Industries) and I never thought I’d see the day that panty hose would be worn as “outerwear.” Yikes! Please wear a large T-shirt to cover you, please, please! :)

The kids looked great in these hats they tried on…

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One the kids’ favorite places was the Brown Derby, where Lucille Ball had one of her funniest episodes filmed… (I missed that one because I was at the conference… Boohoo!)

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Of course, the roller coasters were a big hit. Check out Pam and Kandace on this massive roller coaster called, “Everest.”

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My personal favorite… Before and after…

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This was the big hill!!!!

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Had to have a shot with Mickey…

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Selfie at Epcot…

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The fireworks were the bomb (pardon the pun) :)

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On our way back home, we stopped by where Pam grew up (until she was 4 years old). Yes, she was born in Orlando, Florida!

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How cool is that! It’s a cinderblock house. Most of them are in that area. That’s her street…

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I’m really, really glad that George and Mary moved back to Wilkes County so that I could meet Pam at a Bible Study I was teaching in 1988 at Appalachian State University!

Well, it was a great time had by all! It’s good to rest. In fact, I love what Dr. David Black said a while back on on his blog:

Thursday, March 12 

8:04 AM A wise old preacher once said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). Without doubt that includes a time for rest. Jesus once told His disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while” (Mark 6:31). Notice the “when” of His command – while “many were coming and going.” When do we need to recharge our batteries the most? It is while we are surrounded by people in great physical and spiritual need. Vance Havner once told the story about two men who discovered their home towns were fairly close to each other. One of them said, “You know, I used to visit your town once a week when I drove a horse and buggy. It took me a while day to get there and back, but I enjoyed it. Now I can get there in half an hour by car, but I don’t have the time.” Are we using our time wisely? All of it? We all have exactly the same amount of time – 24 hours in every day. The important thing is how we use it. And we should consider leisure time as part of our stewardship responsibility before God. 

Are we good stewards of our time when we spend night after night allowing a one-eyed god bathe our minds from 7:00 till 11:00? The Internet can become no less a subtle dictator, giving us so little of what is truly worthwhile and beneficial in return. If we sit at a desk all day it would be less than wise to do nothing more than sink into an armchair during our time off. “Rest” in that circumstance might mean a little physical activity. Nor is there anything wrong with enjoying a “day off” that includes a time for sensible change. For example, all around us in America are many famous places (and some not so famous) that help us step back and remember that history is “His story.” To stand at the base of Mount Rushmore, or under the shadow of the “Clump of Trees” at Gettysburg, or at the spot in Texas where the defenders of the Alamo made their last stand, always fills me with a tingling knowledge that my own life is something more than a disconnected accident. I urge us to look on leisure as something the Lord God gives us to enrich our lives. Plan it sensibly – then enjoy it! By any reckoning, hyper-activity is pseudo-Christianity. That being so, our Lord’s words to His disciples need to be heard loud and clear, and heeded here and now: 

“Come away … and rest for a while.”

We’re back now with Katy and Charlotte.

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As you know, she’s been staying with us while Josh is finishing up his deployment in Key West, Florida. Lord willing, Josh (after three delays) is finally supposed to be boarding a C-130 this afternoon and come home late tonight (Cherry Point, NC). Lord willing, he’ll be able to come home (Wilkes County) after working till noon tomorrow. We’ll see. The Marines are notorious for changing “the plan.”

Charlotte is now “talking” her head off (jabbering). Here’s an example…

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Yes, life moves on and it’s back to the land of the living. And that includes replacing shower heads…

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But, I’m grateful for the rest. God is good!

Have you ever heard the statement, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid?”

Kool-Aid

Do you know where that statement comes from?

Drinking the Kool-Aid” is a figure of speech we use to refer to a group of people who are holding an unquestioned belief or philosophy without really examining why. The phrase is often used by people who are knowingly going along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure or to be politically correct.

The phrase is actually derived from the November 1978 “Jonestown deaths” that occurred in Guyana, South America.

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Jonestown was the name of the community that cult leader Jim Jones established. On November 18, 1978 a total of 909 members (1/3 of which were children) of what was called the “People’s Temple” committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide poisoning.

Why did they do it? They believed Jones when he said that all who would go with him to Guyana would start a utopian (peaceful) society and they’d live together in a commune and it would be paradise. Obviously he lied and because of declining health (lung cancer) and mounting pressure from the US government, he demanded (at gun point) that his followers drink the Kool-Aid.

The youngest children were the first to die, as parents used syringes to drop the poison-powdered fruit juice down their children’s throats. Adults then lined up to drink the Kool-Aid while armed guards surrounded them. When Guyanese officials arrived at the Jonestown compound the next day, they found it covered with hundreds of bodies. Many people died with their arms around each other.

A memorial service was held in 2011 for those who died in the mass suicide…

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Amazing! How could this happen? Well, let’s go back to our definition from earlier…

Drinking the Kool-Aid: a group of people who are holding an unquestioned belief or philosophy without really examining why. This rings so familiar to me today in our nation. People today are “drinking the Kool-Aid” when it comes to the definition of marriage, the sanctity of human life, “climate change,” etc., etc. Whatever is reported in the media via TV or the internet is received as the “Gospel” and is seldom questioned.

Hence the “Rolling Stones Magazine” article about the supposed gang rapes that occurred at the University of Virginia, which ended up being a hoax. Hence the idea that all gay people are “born that way” and they are like black people in that a gay person can no more change their sexual identity than a black man can change his color. Folks, we’re drinking the Kool-Aid. The Bible is clear that a person can be redeemed and delivered from their homosexual tendencies just as much as an adulterer, drunk and thief can (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Yet, we’re not interested in really researching what the Bible says. We’ll just go with what our favorite actor, athlete or politician has to say about the subject. We won’t use the Word of God as our “…lamp unto our feet and light unto our path” Psalm 119:105. No, we’ll just go with CNN, Huffington Post and our favorite politician or sports figure.

When we do this…we’re drinking the Kool-Aid. You know this don’t you? What will be your guide? What will be your grid from which your brain makes decisions? Will you go with the current “cultural thinking?” Well you not question what you are seeing and hearing and just gulp down the Kool-Aid? Most are and that includes “Christians.”

It’s particularly happening with the situation in Indiana and the pizzeria that said they’d rather not cater a gay wedding (it was a hypothetical question). They had never been asked the question. But, an ABC news agency saw crosses in the business and thought, “Aha…got one!” Well, let’s turn the tables (and it’s being done). What about a Christian who goes to a gay baker and says, “Bake me a cake that says, ‘I support what the Bible says about marriage: One man for one woman, for life.'” If the gay baker says, “That goes against my convictions and my beliefs,” will he/she be forced (like the Christian bakers) to make the cake anyway? Will he/she be forced against his/her convictions to condone this type of thing?

As I said, this very thing is being “tested” as we speak and yet, no major news agency will pick it up. Because the agenda is not “Free speech,” the agenda is “You believe what I tell you to believe.” The agenda is, “When I want your opinion…I’ll give it to you.” The agenda is only “tolerance” for the position I tolerate and you “Christians,” no way…no can-do on your position. You can no longer point to the Bible as your guide. You must go with the cultural norms (mores) of the day.

You say, “Why does this matter?” I’ll tell you why it matters, because if taken to the extreme, one day they will come to me and say, “Kevin, if you preach that homosexuality is a sin and that it can be healed and forgiven, then your church is going to lose it’s tax-exempt status.” What happens then? How many people still write checks to a church where they can no longer receive a tax deduction. Think about that as you prepare for April 15th.

I read this on a blog the other day about the issue that I thought was excellent. It comes from http://thesidos.blogspot.com/2015/03/around-web-on-rfra.html:

Rod Dreher, writing for the American Conservative has a very comprehensive piece, Indiana: A Religious Liberty Bellwether.

It seems to me that the media/elite freakout over the Indiana law is a moral panic analogous to the freakout over the UVA rape case. People rushed like lemmings to endorse as true something that turned out to be a hoax because it confirmed their prejudices about Bad Classes of People. This is why so many in the media are making no pretense to be fair in their reporting and commentary on the Indiana law. As Mollie Hemingway avers, the most interesting — and most worrying — aspect of all this is that religious liberty is not considered to be important at all to very many people in this country, especially the most powerful people.

Notre Dame’s Pat Deneen wrote this weekend on Facebook that law school friends tell him of plans underway now by progressive law profs to “Bob Jones” churches and religious institutions that have policies they consider discriminatory against LGBT people. That is, they want to campaign to take away tax exempt status from all religious entities that have traditional views and practices related to homosexuality. This is the next frontier. Many churches and religious entities operate so close to the margins, budget-wise, that they will not be able to survive this.

I saw this on Twitter…

Any cause with the active support of Apple, NCAA, Wal-Mart and the Kochs is not a beleaguered minority, but the ruling elite. 

As the blogger noted: “The groups he lists have a lot in common, namely that they want nothing to rock the boat and interfere with the money flow that is the lifeblood of the government, the academy, the entertainment world and the massive corporations. Ironically the American Left has placed itself firmly on the side of the most privileged and white organizations in the world.”

In essence, the American Left and the Progressive Liberals hope Americans will continue to______???

Yep…you guessed it…

DRINK THE KOOL-AID

Let me give you an example of drinking the Kool-Aid by way of a couple of videos. First is a David Cameron the British Prime Minister. Below is his “Easter Message.” It’s just over 2 minutes long.

Okay, no watch President Obama’s “Easter Message.” It starts out okay, but in the middle to the end, you can tell that our President has been drinking the Kool-Aid.

So, what did you think? He gave away the farm with: “Whether faith in God shapes our lives completely or not at all…” Amazing. He just made “as equal” on the celebration of Easter (the  resurrection of Jesus) those who celebrate faith and God and those who don’t. Oh my goodness! Come on Mr. President. You just said that you were a Christian. Stand up and say it. Stand up and believe it. David Cameron did. You didn’t! Why? Because you, Mr. President, have been drinking the Kool-Aid. In fact, I’m convinced he’s now pouring the Kool-Aid.

I posted this on Facebook the other day:

This country is changing so fast. The reason we are here is because we left England seeking a place of refuge that we might be able to worship God freely and without oppression from the government. Well friends, welcome to 2015. Oppression is back. As a Christian, you are no longer allowed to believe what the Bible teaches if it contradicts the “new thinking” on a subject such as marriage. Today in America if you are a Christian and you hold to the Bible as THE ONLY source of authority for making all decisions, then you are a bigot and a hater. So sad. The issue before us is will we stand on the principles of Scripture, the timeless Word of God, or will we cave to the changing winds of culture and the whims of the “created” instead of the Words of the “Creator.”

Another Christian nailed me for it and said that (my words) I need to lighten up. Well, folks, I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid. I’m doing my dead-level best as a pastor and simply as a Christian to allow the living water of the Word of God to quench my thirst, because it’s the truth.

Christian, we have got to get back to the knowing what the Bible says and not being afraid to follow it. We’ve got to stand (lovingly, but firmly) on the teachings of Jesus.

Paul said:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

Did you catch the part about “knowledge and discernment?” How about the part about what is “excellent…pure…blameless…righteousness?” You see that’s the truth and Jesus said it best when He said:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37

Hey…I’ll take Jesus any day over Kool-Aid…won’t you? :)

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