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Thursday is Thanksgiving and for many in our country, particularly our younger generations, there is less and less knowledge about the reason we even celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m grateful and thankful for the proclamation offered by our current President describing why we will celebrate this Thursday. I’m grateful for the fact that he singularly mentions “Almighty God” and not some nuanced verbal innuendo about any and every “background and belief.” It’s interesting to me how the history of Thanksgiving is being re-written by the progressive liberals of our nation who propagate a false narrative through our nation’s educational system via revised History text books studied by our nation’s school children today.

There are actually those today who teach that the Pilgrims came to America and slaughtered the Indians and we should be ashamed to celebrate anything they did. Amazing! If you don’t believe this type of thinking impacts a culture, just read this one paragraph from President Barack Obama’s proclamation for Thanksgiving in 2016. Note the phrase I’ve highlighted…

In the same spirit of togetherness and thanksgiving that inspired the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, we pay tribute to people of every background and belief who contribute in their own unique ways to our country’s story.  Each of us brings our own traditions, cultures, and recipes to this quintessential American holiday — whether around dinner tables, in soup kitchens, or at home cheering on our favorite sports teams — but we are all united in appreciation of the bounty of our Nation.  Let us express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without.  Together, we can secure our founding ideals as the birthright of all future generations of Americans.

Did you catch the line I highlighted in bold? I’m sorry!

…we pay tribute to people of every background and belief who contribute in their own unique ways to our country’s story.

That’s not what Thanksgiving was about at all! The holiday of Thanksgiving is NOT about “every background and belief” at all! It’s a Christian holiday where people prayed to Almighty God…the God of the Bible. So, let’s make sure our children and grandchildren have a proper understanding of Thanksgiving. You might think they believe and understand what you and I understand, but don’t be too sure. You better know what’s in the text books. But, I can tell you a place that you can get a quick primer on a proper rendering of “Thanksgiving.” Where? By reading our current President’s proclamation for this year’s Thanksgiving 2017.

THANKSGIVING DAY, 2017

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

On Thanksgiving Day, as we have for nearly four centuries, Americans give thanks to Almighty God for our abundant blessings.  We gather with the people we love to show gratitude for our freedom, for our friends and families, and for the prosperous Nation we call home.

In July 1620, more than 100 Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower, fleeing religious persecution and seeking freedom and opportunity in a new and unfamiliar place.  These dauntless souls arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the freezing cold of December 1620.  They were greeted by sickness and severe weather, and quickly lost 46 of their fellow travelers.  Those who endured the incredible hardship of their first year in America, however, had many reasons for gratitude.  They had survived.  They were free.  And, with the help of the Wampanoag tribe, and a bountiful harvest, they were regaining their health and strength.  In thanks to God for these blessings, the new governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and gathered with the Wampanoag tribe for three days of celebration.

For the next two centuries, many individual colonies and states, primarily in the Northeast, carried on the tradition of fall Thanksgiving festivities.  But each state celebrated it on a different day, and sometime on an occasional basis.  It was not until 1863 that the holiday was celebrated on one day, nationwide.  In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, of one of the bloodiest battles of our Nation’s Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the country would set aside one day to remember its many blessings.  “In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity,” President Lincoln proclaimed, we recall the “bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.”  As President Lincoln recognized: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Today, we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving with a grateful and charitable spirit.  When we open our hearts and extend our hands to those in need, we show humility for the bountiful gifts we have received.  In the aftermath of a succession of tragedies that have stunned and shocked our Nation — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; the wildfires that ravaged the West; and, the horrific acts of violence and terror in Las Vegas, New York City, and Sutherland Springs — we have witnessed the generous nature of the American people.  In the midst of heartache and turmoil, we are grateful for the swift action of the first responders, law enforcement personnel, military and medical professionals, volunteers, and everyday heroes who embodied our infinite capacity to extend compassion and humanity to our fellow man.  As we mourn these painful events, we are ever confident that the perseverance and optimism of the American people will prevail.

We can see, in the courageous Pilgrims who stood on Plymouth Rock in new land, the intrepidness that lies at the core of our American spirit.  Just as the Pilgrims did, today Americans stand strong, willing to fight for their families and their futures, to uphold our values, and to confront any challenge.

This Thanksgiving, in addition to rejoicing in precious time spent with loved ones, let us find ways to serve and encourage each other in both word and deed.  We also offer a special word of thanks for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, many of whom must celebrate this holiday separated from the ones for whom they are most thankful.  As one people, we seek God’s protection, guidance, and wisdom, as we stand humbled by the abundance of our great Nation and the blessings of freedom, family, and faith.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2017, as a National Day of Thanksgiving.  I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessings.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

Now say what you like about our current President. Like him or hate him. But, this proclamation is spot on regarding an accurate historical accounting of the first Thanksgiving. Thank you Mr. President for this proper rendering of the history of why our nation celebrates Thanksgiving. Yes, as you said in your first paragraph: “…Americans give thanks to Almighty God for our abundant blessings.” Amen and amen!

Therefore, from my family, we offer to you and yours our desire that you may have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving! May Almighty God bless you and keep you in His abundant blessings today and in the coming year!

Kevin 

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It’s Complicated

Honestly, I’m still getting over the jet-lag and waking up at 4 am, as my body adjusts from the 14-hour time difference from the Philippines. What a trip! Wondering where the Philippines is in the world? See here:

The Philippines is made up of 7000 islands and has 103 million people (slightly less than Japan’s 127 million). It’s predominately Roman Catholic. Very few understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why we go. The Filipino people love Americans because we helped liberate them from the Japanese in WWII. The things the Japanese did to the people of the Philippines (particularly the women) were so heinous, that I’ll not mention them here.

General Douglas MacArthur said he would return to the Philippines to liberate them and he did.

He is highly revered in the country and so are these…

See to the left? That’s a Jeepney. They are replicas of the American Jeeps from WWII turned into their “taxi cabs.” We loved riding in them. 

They are a bit tight for me! Being 6′ 6″ has it’s disadvantages traveling, believe me!

Truly, we were on the go from the moment we landed.

The thing that really sticks out the most in my mind from the trip is something Pastor Dave DelaPaz said to me. He said, “The life of a Filipino is complicated.” I said, “Complicated, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, hard…difficult.”

Let me show you what he means…

See all of that traffic? There are no street lights or stop signs. It’s first come, first serve and it’s CRAZY! People are up all the time. They never go to bed. If you look out the hotel window (where we stayed at 2 am) the streets are full of people and the sidewalks thick with folks. It’s amazing!

You see, the traffic is so bad that it takes forever to get anywhere. Our hotel was about 4 miles from the church and it took a minimum of 30 minutes to get there. Sometimes 45 minutes. The airport was 10 miles away and it took 1 1/2 hours (minimum). Can you imagine? It’s nuts! So, folks have to get up at 4 am to go to work if they live far from their job. College students I met get up at 2:30 am to go to classes. They ride a Jeepney, then what’s called a tricycle. See that picture above? See the little vehicle with the number 33 on it and there’s a white one beside of it? Those are tricycles. They carry 2-4 people. Some folks have to take a train, as well. Then, they have to do it all again to get back home. Often arriving home at 8 pm…literally needing to go to bed right then, so they can get up in 5 hours and do it again. COMPLICATED! You better believe it. I’ll say: “UNREAL!”

Truly, I came to the realization on this mission trip just how hard the Filipino people have it trying to make a life for themselves. They are seldom together as a family to eat meals together. They often just pass each other in a blur to survive. It sounds a lot like America doesn’t it? Maybe that’s where they learned it. In the constant striving to attain more and more…we actually have less and less. Less and less of what? Each other. That’s right. We don’t have relationships much anymore. We’re so busy that when we are together…we’re distracted by the smartphones, television, social media and Netflix. Families don’t spend much time together. It’s sad, but true. And what are we reaping from all of this activity? I’ll let you decide. (Hint, a whirlwind…emptiness.)

I’m praying for myself and my own family in our lives of busyness. I’m praying for my church and my own relationships. Might we slow down and actually “see” one another. Sometimes I just take my children’s faces in my hands and I say, “Let me look at you.” I want to look into their eyes and see their faces. They are so precious to me. Oh, Lord, help me to slow down! I don’t want to miss what’s important.

It’s like Sunday at church. I got out of the rut of the routine. I posted this on Facebook on Monday:

Some Sundays aren’t routine. I hate to use that word, “routine,” but the truth is, for most of us, going to church and worshiping the Lord can become just that, routine and old hat. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone. However, yesterday was different. The Lord really did speak to hearts and we saw (I’m convinced) 5 genuine professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

That’s right: Five! In fact, one man gave his life to Christ whom we’ve been praying for many, many years. Seeing him walk down the aisle with that smile on his face was worth it all. Truly, I’ve come to believe that numbers aren’t everything. I’m the first to admit that. I know MPBC has grown a lot over the last decade, but that’s truly immaterial to me (numerically speaking). Days like yesterday, when lives are being redeemed from Satan’s kingdom to God’s kingdom, is truly what Jesus desires. After all, “He came to seek and to save that which is lost.” Praise His name for all that was accomplished.

Now, I know that every Sunday won’t be this way. I’m realistic about that. But, having a taste of what the Lord can do has given me an increased burden to seek Him in prayer and with faith that I hope there can be many more Sundays like yesterday. Thank the Lord for all of our churches that are seeking to bring people to Jesus. We are God’s army and I praise the Lord for my brothers and sisters in Christ spread throughout the world.

Who needs your prayers today to be saved? Who is literally hanging in the balance between heaven and hell? Pray for them. Pray that the Lord will move and believe that He will do so. And you know what…believe that this Sunday could be the day that they make that walk into God’s kingdom!

I think being in the Philippines helped me to see the need to slow down, even in how I was preaching. So, on Sunday, I asked our folks to bow their heads as I shared the plan of salvation. I asked them to raise their hands if they wanted to be saved or weren’t sure they were saved (after giving a quick…but, detailed explanation of salvation). Hands went up everywhere during all three services. No, I didn’t have them repeat a prayer after me. How, can a person possibly know if someone is sincere that way? You can’t. But, I asked them to raise their hand so I could know how to pray and so that the Lord would see their hearts. All of this, (as I shared above), ultimately culminated in 5 people coming forward either at the invitation or afterwards to the side room we have set up as “Guest Information.” Praise the Lord! Slowing down. Yes, that helps to “uncomplicate” life, wouldn’t you say? Yes. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Much of the living conditions of the Filipinos is very difficult.

Many live in shacks. Yet, the government is beginning to tear these down to build more roads…

Again, very complicated.

We were able to share the Gospel in a whirlwind of ways. They are wonderful at promoting what we do…

We shared with hundreds…no…literally several thousand people while we were there. I was even able to share the Gospel with the government officials in a town called Tay Tay last week. View here:

https://subsplash.com/mpbc/media/mi/+2zxyg7s

It was an amazing experience to share about Jesus being “The Life” with government officials. Can you imagine trying to attempt that in America? Forget it. Even though we were founded on Biblical principles, we are no longer allowed to mention the name “Jesus” in government settings. So sad. Here’s a few pictures from Tay Tay…

Notice how they cover their hearts when their National Anthem is being played. No kneeling in the Philippines…I can guarantee you that!

I was even able to speak about Jesus in a police station with officers in a town called Pasig City…

We were able to speak in the schools…

That’s Kandace and Clara singing.

That was about 700 students. Here’s another 250…

We spoke under covered basketball courts all over the place. (They love basketball…there’s not much land…so pretty much forget football, soccer and baseball.)

Pastor Dale even spoke in a McDonald’s that was rented to share the Gospel…

Kandace and Clara sang there too…

And we fed the people in McDonald’s…

And at the basketball courts…

Feeding stomachs and souls…

We went anywhere and everywhere! And the reactions were precious…

People raising their hands to be saved…and then, coming forward…

Then, talking to counselors… This is pastor Dave’s wife, Ethel…

Kandace and Clara sang and sang…

I shared with children on the ground…

Kandace shared with the girls…

Pastor Dale taught they boys…

Pastor Dale and I shared in the prisons…

Look at how those men are packed in there. See the ladies at the top left?

We taught in the church at night (Shekinah Glory Baptist Church). I love mentoring and training…

What a joy!! We love the dear people at the church…

The girls have made such wonderful friends!

Might I say that we’re considered giants in the Philippines. Look how much taller Clara and Kandace are…

Is that crazy or what? Speaking of crazy…

Yep…that’s a python! We’re crazy! Kandace was the brave one first…

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What a wonderful time…

And a beautiful country…

I’m a blessed man!

Thank you Lord for the privilege to go share the life-saving Gospel! Thank you for the privilege to do that here in America. Thank you for that privilege to do that everywhere we go!

Thank you to a church (MPBC) who allows us to go. And for funding mission work so that we can help these pastors to share the Gospel in the Philippines…

And really…when you think about it…sharing the Gospel…well, it’s not that complicated. 🙂

Here’s this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday: “Wearing Ourselves Out Trying To Relax.”

https://subsplash.com/mpbc/media/mi/+9655fs8

Kevin

Tornado!!!

Monday afternoon I walked outside at the church at about 3:20 pm and realized the air felt strange. Hot and cold air swirling and so were the clouds. I went back inside and pulled up the radar. I saw the massive line of storms developing to our west and I saw they were coming in from the south.

Hey folks, when we get weather coming from the south or the north, watch out! That’s when we can get straight line winds and yes, tornadoes. Typically we are insulated here in the foothills from these weather phenomena because we’re protected by the mountains as the fronts come in from west to east. But, not on Monday. We had a freight train coming from the south.

I got on Facebook and said:

Strong line of storms will be coming through Wilkes this evening as folks are getting off of work. 5:30-6:30 pm timeframe. We’re under a tornado watch. So, know where you’re gonna go in threatening weather. Have a plan.

I meant it! Sometimes people like me (weather nuts) can be a bit overly dramatic about the weather. I admit it! 🙂 But, I was concerned. Real concerned! Then at about 4:45, I pulled the radar back up at my desk and I saw what was coming through Hickory. I saw the hook-echo in the signature of the line headed our way. That’s when I left the church and headed home. I knew my daughter Katy was going to head to dance class in N. Wilkesboro at Tonya’s Academy of Dance. I thought, “Surely, she won’t go.” After all, I had been texting my family since 3:30 telling them to “keep an eye to the sky.” My daughter, Kandace was at work at Cook’s Sporting Goods, but would soon be leaving to go to Tonya’s to teach dance.

Here were both of my daughters and my two grand daughters exposed to this line of storms. But, surely Katy wouldn’t be going! Surely! Nope! I pulled it right at 5:03 pm and sure enough less than a couple of minutes later, there she went down the driveway. What!!! What in the world is she doing!!!

Well, Katy teaches piano on Monday afternoons and Pam goes to watch the girls while she teaches. The dance class at Tonya’s is at 5:30 pm and we live about 20 minutes away, so Katy has to high-tail it down there to make it before the class starts. She was so busy teaching her piano class and Pam was so busy taking care of Charlotte and Evelyn, well…why pay attention to the “wolf-crying meteorologist want-to-be” like me??? Right??? After all, it seems (to them and perhaps many others) that I’m always saying, “The weather is going to get rough!” Yes, I’m paranoid! I admit it!

When I was about 4 or 5 years old I remember living in a mobile home with my family and it was in the afternoon and there was a tornado warning and remember going to my grandparents home (right beside of our trailer) to seek shelter in their basement (me, my mom and my sister). I still remember that vividly!

So, yes…I am constantly texting my family about weather fronts. But, this time was different and I tried to express that. But, they were all so busy! Kandace had to get from Cook’s to the dance studio ASAP too and so…there you have it… A perfect storm of: “EVERYBODY IS OUT IN THIS MESS!!” Yikes!

No sooner do I get in the door at my house than Pam pulls in from watching the grand babies and I said, “Why in the blue blazes is Katy going to dance! Is she out of her mind!” I pointed to the television and there was the blue screen that said: Wilkes County, NC TORNADO WARNING…a tornado that is radar-indicated is moving from Boomer toward Wilkesboro and N. Wilkesboro. Van Denton was on FOX-8 and Lanie Pope on WXII-12 saying, “Take cover Wilkes County residents: NOW!”

I told Pam, “Call Katy and tell her to turn around!” Pam tried and couldn’t get through. By now it was on!!! The cell lines were jammed! Everybody and their brother was calling and texting and the systems were overloaded. But, then Katy gets through to Pam. Pam said, “It’s Katy!” Hallelujah! “Tell her to turn around!” Pam told her. “What?” “Oh no!” Pam was saying with fear in her voice. I said, “What’s going on!” She said, “She’s trying to find a place to take cover in Millers Creek. She said it’s like the wind is picking up the van and the rain is white blowing sideways. “I can’t see anything!” Katy said. It was panic mode.

At that moment, my cell phone is buzzing… “Kandace Brown” I swiped it! “Daddy, what’s happening!” I said, “Kandace you’ve got to get out of the building NOW!” (You see, Tonya’s classes meet in a second story building that’s old…real old and I knew that building could never stand a direct hit.) At this point I had my computer pulled up and I could see the swirl on the radar coming just to the east of them…but, it was going to be close.)

“Kandace, get those kids out of that building and go to the ground floor of the Wilkes County Library next door. Now baby! Go!” She said, “Are you sure Daddy, I’m scared!” I said, “I’m sure baby…go.” Kandace is brave and strong but she was frightened and I knew Tonya was too. I could hear here in the background. They had about 40 little girls to take care of. Ultimately, they were able to get them to safety in the lower level of their building because the shop owner below let them in.

Meanwhile, back to Millers Creek and Katy and my granddaughters. They had gotten out of their van at a produce stand across from Millers Creek Baptist Church. They were holed up in the back of it…drenched, soaking wet. What a scene! Chaos unleashed on Wilkes County. It was amazing! Thankfully, everyone was safe. Oh…and I shouldn’t neglect to tell you that Josh, my son-in-law was driving in the mess too! He goes from Wilkes Communications in Wilkesboro over to N. Wilkesboro to the dance studio to meet Katy and the girls on Monday evenings. He was driving around trying to avoid the flying debris that was blowing around right behind Tonya’s studio. What an amazing scene! This is the Jewelry store just down the street…

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The damage around the county was amazing…

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Thankfully no one was killed in the storm. Yet, tragically, a lineman (a bi-vocational pastor) was killed. Here’s the news report:

The victim was identified as Brian Keith Wilmoth, 31, of Wilkes County. The sheriff’s office said Wilmoth, an employee of Asplundh Tree Expert Company, was operating a chainsaw and cutting a tree that had fallen on a power line. As Wilmoth cut the tree in two, the power lines sprang upward, throwing the tree back on to Wilmoth. Here’s the full story: http://www.wxii12.com/article/wilkes-county-man-killed-after-cutting-down-tree-in-county-hit-by-storm/13090052

Please join me in praying for this precious family…

My heart breaks for that sweet lady, his wife. I saw an interview on TV where she said, “The Lord will take care of us and I know my husband is with Him now and it’s going to be okay.” I have tears in my eyes typing those words. What a Christian lady! I just sent the family some money. They’ll need it. You can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-karla-wilmoth/thankyou?d=nsbldhX1mz6AifZ87plLIYyVTedZ9UyUeKbZk07eWqY%3D#

I’m so blessed that my family is safe! I know many suffered without power for several days. We were without power for a day. But, even in that…we see the Lord is good.

This week’s Two-Minute Tuesday was about that, “When Everything Stops.” http://subspla.sh/w4j8fkp

Next week, Pastor Dale, Kandace, Clara and I head to the Philippines to share the Gospel. We’ll be speaking to as many as 5,000 people while we’re gone. That includes government workers and public school children. Pray that people will be touched and lives saved for Jesus Christ. Would you pray for us, please? We’ll be leaving after church on Wed. night and return about 2 am on Saturday morning, Nov. 11th. Thank you!

Kevin

Back in August I shared a preliminary winter forecast from the Farmer’s Almanac.

I’m not sure that’s a good bet now. Why? Because it appears that the Moderate El Nino isn’t going to materialize. It’s looking now like we’re going to have a La Nina. More on that in a moment. I think the Old Farmer’s Almanac (below) is probably closer to accurate. Note I said, “OLD” Farmer’s Almanac. This is different from the “Farmer’s Almanac.”

So, with that said, I’m going to take a middle of the road view. I really believe we’re probably going to have a closer to average winter than an above average winter regarding snow. I believe we’re going to see huge swings in temperature throughout the winter and probably end up about 1 degree above average in overall temps. By the time all is said and done at the end of the winter I believe (in the Wilkesboro area) we’ll have had around 9-10″ of snow, which is average for our area. I had originally thought we could have around 14″+, but that seems less likely now with the onset of La Nina. I believe we’ll see the majority of the wintry precipitation in late January and February. But, here’s the deal: Since we’re in the “dividing zone” of the precipitation between warm and cold, we could still get the “Big One” and that’s one storm with a foot of snow and there you have it…a “BIG WINTER.” So, we’ll see.

Now, for those of you who want the details and some other forecasts to compare, let me begin with Ray’s Weather out of Boone. He’s predicting Wilkes will get around 9″ of snow. Here’s his full forecast:RaysWeather.Com Fearless Forecast for Winter 2017-2018

Ray, like me and a lot of people are really focused on La Nina… As a reminder, here’s the big deal about La Niña/El Niño. This is simply the periodic cooling or warming of the waters off the west coast of South American in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. That warming and cooling can shift weather patterns over a period of months, bringing the possibility of more sustained warm, cold, wet or dry weather in parts of the world.

Right now, the sea-surface temperatures in this area are much cooler and that is why many folks are forecasting the potential for La Niña conditions to develop later this fall and winter. See below the patch of cooler-than-average waters (in blue) that are in place right now (as of 10.18.17). That’s La Nina.

While the water temperatures are below average, they have not quite reached the threshold for a La Niña event. That’s probably going to happen by December. Most forecasters give about a 55%-65% chance during the fall and winter that La Niña will fully form. If La Nina conditions develop, most predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived. During a typical La Niña winter, the Northwest and Midwest are typically colder and wetter, while the Southwest to Southeast remains drier than average.
This all happens because the Pacific jet stream meanders higher into Alaska and Canada, helping to keep some of the dips in the jet stream farther north. That means (here in the Southeast), we get less really cold, arctic shots of air during the winter. Now, it doesn’t mean that the Southeast won’t have cold air…it just means the chances are just lower for a lot of snow, and the average temperature is likely to be a bit above average.
So, with that being said, here’s the Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) Forecast is for the winter for Temperatures and Precipitation:

Here’s the NOAA/Weather Channel forecast for temps and precip. It’s similar to the CPC.

Do you see how western NC is on that dividing line? We’re in the “normal range” on precipitation, but the “wetter than average” is close by in the Tennessee and Ohio Valley.

Again, most forecasters are relying on the formation of a La Niña to provide most of the clues about how the winter will unfold, but there are other weather pattern features like the North Atlantic Oscillation (called the NAO for short), which could easily alter conditions. If we were to get a blocking High Pressure over Greenland…that’s a game changer and it pushes the cold air south and can override a La Nina. This is why winter forecasting is SO HARD!! There are so many variable. In other words, there are no guarantees! Typically the track record for winter outlooks is better than that of outlooks for other seasons, or about 30% better than the flip of a coin (that’s sad isn’t it). Yet, these forecasts are made to give commodity traders an idea of what winter might be like and typically the forecasts are good enough for people to be able to utilize the outlooks for their needs, but the forecasts aren’t something I’d take to the bank.

Here’s the NOAA forecast for temps November through January:

Here’s their forecast for temps January through March:

And here’s their precipitation forecasts for the same periods N0v-Jan and then Jan-March. Are you seeing a pattern yet?

Most folks are leaning the same way with these forecasts. Here’s one more that I use from “Weather Decoded.”

There again…western NC is close to the “dividing line” of normal to above average precip.

The cool thing is that only the Lord knows. I know there’s a movie out right now that depicts mankind’s attempt to change the weather. Well, that ain’t happening! It’s a silly thought! Only God can control the weather. Dropping things from airplanes into hurricanes to “blow them up” is about like me trying to hold back a tidal wave with a teaspoon. It’s ludicrous. So, we’ll see what the Lord does. But, either way…as one of my favorite forecasters (Joe Bastardi) says: “Enjoy the weather, because it’s the only weather you’ve got!”

Kevin

That’s a picture of the marker indicating Mount Pleasant Baptist Church was established in 1875. That’s 142 years ago. That’s only 10 years after the end of the Civil War. Needless to say, the church has been around a long time. I love this artwork of Ivo Dean McGee, who is now with the Lord:

That was the church in 1875 when we started. A handful of men from the community started the church and look at what we are today…

Could they have imagined such a place? When I was a boy…this is how the church looked in 1974 when I was six years old…

Times sure have changed in the last 142 years. Here’s the total campus now…

The building at the top right is the old church, (we now call the Prayer Chapel) and the building attached to it making an “L” shape was built in 1960. It’s the administrative office building and houses the old fellowship hall on the ground floor. The building at the back of the Prayer Chapel, which has the drive-thru attached, was completed in 1996. I was the chairman of the building committee for that project. In fact, in 1992, as a wet-behind-the-ears 24-year old, I was named chairman of a committee called the Long Range Planning Committee that would eventually become that Building Committee. We built the Reach Center as the multi-purpose facility that it is and moved into it on July 6, 2006 that’s in the foreground of the picture to the left.

It still blows my mind that we average (year-to-date) over 600+ in attendance with three services each week. I remember as a boy when we had goals for High Attendance Sunday set at 100.

Now, I say all of that to share some things I read recently from Thom Rainer and LifeWay Research. This is Thom:

He’s a phenomenal researcher and I want you to see his study about churches and whether or not they’ll survive. Here’s his study research:

The Study encompassed 1,000 randomly selected churches with available data for 2013 and 2016. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%. (If you’re not a numbers nerd that means this data is incredibly accurate.) The possible weakness of this study is that it only includes churches of my denomination (Southern Baptist).

We took this path because we have a gold mine of data. I do believe, however, this data can be a good approximation of evangelical churches, and a rough approximation of all Protestant churches in North America. We used average worship attendance as our metric rather than church membership. We found:

  • 56 percent (not 80%) of churches are declining.
  • 9 percent of churches are plateaued.
  • 35 percent of churches are growing.

Over 61 percent of churches average fewer than 100 in worship attendance. But if your church has fewer than 100 in worship, it is likely to be a declining church. In fact two out of three of these small churches are declining. There is a direct correlation with the rate of decline in a church and the size of the church. Simply stated, the smaller the church, the greater the rate of decline in attendance. Perhaps these three statements will clarify my point:

  • A declining church with an attendance of 200 or more declines at a rate of 4 percent each year.
  • A declining church with an attendance of less than 100 declines at a rate of 7.6 percent per year.
  • A declining church with an attendance of less than 50 declines at a rate of 8.7 percent a year.

It’s a death spiral. Declining smaller churches decline much more rapidly than larger churches. Once the declining church goes below 100 in attendance, its days are likely numbered. Here is the sad summary statement of the research: Once a church declines below 100 in worship attendance, it is likely to die within just a few years. The life expectancy for many of these churches is ten years or less. Here are some surprising discoveries from this research:

  • If a church is growing, it is highly likely to be growing faster than the community in which it is located. In fact, 91 percent of the growing churches are outpacing the growth of the community. That is a huge number! And it’s really good news if we can move our churches from decline to growth.
  • Growth and evangelistic effectiveness are not limited to any one geographic area. To the contrary, we saw a very low correlation between the geographic region and evangelistic effectiveness. I see such information as very hopeful, because it tells us that demographics and geographic location are not usually limitations for churches.
  • We can no longer use membership in our metrics for churches. It does little good to use membership as a metric in most studies of large numbers of churches. Many churches have bloated membership rolls filled with missing and deceased members. Other churches don’t bother to even measure membership at all. This reality forces us to use worship attendance as our base metric. It is the most common and, usually, the most accurate metric churches keep.

 Here are the summary metrics:

  • 31.8% of churches are growing, and they are growing faster than their respective communities.
  • 61.0% of churches are declining or plateaued, and they are declining more rapidly than their respective communities.

We surmise the following: Culture is not causing churches to compromise. Churches are compromising and culture is saying it’s okay. The way you bring people into a church will show them the expected commitment level for the future. You must have introductory or perspective new member meetings.

  • Regular church attendance has waned in recent years as the commitment level of members continues to drop.
  • Leaders in the church set the example of commitment for the rest of the church. In other words, if leaders in your church sporadically show up, the rest of the members will see that and follow suit.
  • Unfortunately, there are a significant number of Christians who no longer see church attendance as important.

Our conclusions as to why they don’t see it as important:

  1. The importance of the local church in the community has been minimized.
  2. We worship the idols of activities.
  3. We take a lot of vacations and play a lot of sports.
  4. We do not have high expectations of our members.
  5. We make infrequent attendees leaders in our churches.

However, We are encouraged to say that once a church has a turnaround from decline to growth, the outlook becomes very positive. We pray for our churches and their health.

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Is the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. Thom has a Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

That’s some good information. And here’s some interesting information from our church clerk, Amber Edmiston:

According to our Chronological Membership Roll

Increase in Members Per Year from 2007 to 2017 (10/1-9/30)

’07-28                         ’12-42                         ’17-60

’08-46                         ’13-95                         Total = 607/11 years = 55.2 people per year

’09-66                         ’14-70

‘10-63                         ’15-49

‘11-36                         ’16-52

That’s pretty amazing! And it shows the hand of God on us. Will it continue? Only God knows. I promise you these three guys are going to keep working hard, praying hard and trusting in Jesus…

Thanks be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Kevin

Why?

When a tragedy like what took place in Las Vegas earlier this week takes place, the human heart wants to know: Why? Almost 60 people killed. Over 500 injured. Why? Why would someone do that? Human beings have a natural aversion to killing another human being. So, what could have possibly happened in the heart of a human being to bring them to the place to do something so EVIL?

Yes, I used the word: EVIL. More and more people in our culture that preaches a mantra of: “not hurting anyone’s feelings,” and don’t “judge,” well…there’s an aversion to call any one or any thing: “evil.” However, that’s what the murderous act in Las Vegas was: plain, unadulterated evil! I obviously didn’t know the man, nor his heart. And I won’t say his name, because that’s what many of these people want. They want to go out in a blaze of glory and be remembered as their name and face are plastered on every media outlet. But, I will say this. I have a pretty good idea he’s in Hell today. I believe he was tricked by Satan. For, I believe Satan was speaking into his mind. And the ultimate diabolicalness of the deceit of Satan is the horrible fact that this killer most assuredly left this world from that 32nd floor hotel room and entered the horrors of Hell. To say this whole situation is “sad” is such a gross understatement. It’s demented and twisted and Satan’s fingerprints are all over it.

So, why do things like this happen? Why does ISIS decapitate people? Why do babies die and people get cancer? Why? Well, I appreciate what the president said on Monday:

…Hundreds of our fellow citizens are now mourning the sudden loss of a loved one, a parent, a child, a brother or sister. We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we are here for you. And we ask God to help see you through this very dark period.

We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family, and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community, and the comfort of our common humanity. Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence, and though we feel such great anger, at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today. And always will. Forever.

In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy. But we can take solace knowing that even the darkest space can be brightened by a single light and even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.

I appreciate the fact that every President in my lifetime has chosen to use Scripture during times of turmoil and trouble. Barack Obama did when Gabrielle Giffords was shot. He used the book of Job. George W. Bush quoted Psalms on the rubble of 9/11. Bill Clinton used Scripture after the Oklahoma City bombing. Ronald Reagan quoted Scripture after the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and said, “(they) waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.” I’ll never forget that speech.

You know, whether we realize it or not, that is what we expect our presidents to do. We expect them to try to bring comfort as “Comforter in Chief.” And where do they almost always turn? The Bible. They turn to Scripture. I’m truly grateful, even though we are becoming more and more a post-christian and secular nation, we still look to an authority outside of ourselves to explain pain and the “unexplainable.” Honestly, even if the men quoting the Scripture don’t read it in private, (because I’m not saying that any of the Presidents I’ve mentioned were big-time church goers or super dedicated Christians… Truthfully, most weren’t), but I’m still grateful that they quote Scripture in public. Because what else could they quote that could have such comforting impact? Nothing! Because the Word of God is supernatural. It’s, after all, God’s Word!

But the question remains. Why? We still ask: “Why?” We still want an answer to the question. After all, we aren’t animals, (contrary to what those with an evolutionary mindset believe), therefore we want an answer. Think about it. A tiger sees a wounded rabbit and thinks nothing of eating it. However, as a human being (a moral agent), we see the rabbit and think, “Aw, I want to help it’s little injured leg.” That’s why we ask: “Why?” Because we are created in the image of God. We are moral beings and we have a conscience and we want answers. And the hard truth is: some people allow sin to dominate them to the point that their consciences are seared and they surrender to the forces of evil in the spiritual realm and they are doomed.

You know, humankind had a choice in the Garden of Eden and that shooter had a choice too. So do you. So do I. Yes, I get a choice. You get a choice. You and I get to decide how we’re going to live our lives. We aren’t robots. Is God sovereign? Yes, of course. But, in the paradox of His sovereignty, He gives man the responsibility to “own” their own decisions.

Sin came into the world as the juice of the forbidden fruit was trickling down the throats of Adam and Eve. And as they wiped that juice from their chins, preparations were being made in Heaven for Jesus to come to set aright that which had been made terribly wrong. Jesus would come and be executed so that humankind would have an opportunity to know pardon from our inexorable death sentence.

So, we’ll continue to ask: “Why did he do it?” Why would a man kill that many people? We may never know the answer. But, I must tell you that I still ask the question: “God, why would you do it?” How could you have sent your one and only son to die for men and women who would hate you? How could you watch your son drink the bitter poison of separation from you on the cross and endure the Hell of that separation…alone?! I’ll never know the answer to that question either. But, in the meantime, I will trust my Father and His sovereignty and the fact that until Jesus returns, evil exists in this sin-fallen world and the only place to find comfort is in God’s Word…as our presidents have shown us.

We had such a wonderful week on vacation. I know most folks have Facebook, but in case some of you don’t, here’s the obligatory picture with the castle in the background.

I’m grateful for the time off and the time to recharge. Everyone needs a break from time to time.

Might I say that one of my favorite times was spending time with my grandkids at the bus stop and on the bus and at the parks. What a joy! Here’s Evelyn and me at the bus stop.

Ain’t she cute! (I’m biased I know!) Riding the bus to the parks was a hoot. Honestly, it’s just time to sit and be with your family.

I know that sounds simple and it is…but, there is something tranquil just riding on a bus with your family and just chatting and even holding hands.

Call me crazy…but, I really enjoyed those rides to the parks.

One of my jobs was to watch the little guys while the bigger “kids” ride all of those wild and crazy rides. I’m way too old for those! Sometimes we could even pull this off…

Precious!!

Here’s one of my favorite pictures…

Oh…oh…oh…and the rides… Vicarious living is so much fun when you see things through your grandchildren’s eyes. Evelyn loved “It’s a Small World.”

She clapped and clapped! 10 months old and loved every minute of it! What a joy!

Pam and I even got to ride my favorite ride: “Soar-in.”

That ride has you flying around the world seeing God’s beauty, from whale’s jumping out of the ocean waters to elephants throwing dirt around in Africa. And you get to smell the dirt! It’s amazing! I always have tears in my eyes when I’m done.

You see, Walt Disney figured out the “human experience.” Disney employs 73,000 people! Is that amazing or what! Sadly, he never got to see Disney World in Orlando open. He died in 1966, five years before it opened in 1971. But, here’s the thing Disney figured out. People live amusement parks. Why? Because life is hard and they want to laugh and they want to be with other people and experience something exciting and fun. That’s why people love sporting events. It’s a joy to experience things together. That’s the same for congregating in a church. That’s why our church services can’t be boring! They just can’t! No! I’m not talking about having the Praise Team drummer entering the stage from cables in the ceiling. No! But, I’m saying, the reason so many people are forsaking the church is they feel it’s irrelevant. We’re doing church like we did in 1975. The music is boring. And the preaching is even worse.

And so, let me be blunt… Churches are in competition today with golf courses, amusement parks, fishing, sleeping in, eating brunch…you name it. All those things are happening on Sunday mornings. So, pastor…you better have your act together. Music leader, you better have your act together. And please, please…before everyone gets all up in arms and say, “Come on Kevin, people should simply come because they well…should simply want to come.” Well, I get that sentiment. I do. But, the truth is, for a lot of Christians today are not going to go to church unless there is something in it for them.

When I was growing up, you went to church no matter who was preaching or what was going on. Not today. If the lead pastor isn’t there…yep…Sunday off! “We’re not going today.” That would never be said by my grandparents. They would say, “We’re going no matter what.” You see, that’s what Christians did in the 80’s. You went to church no matter what was going on.

So, we can lament the fact that only about 36% of Americans go to church today, versus about 68% just 40 years ago. But, we must come to the sobering realization that if we don’t teach and preach well and the music is bad…well, you are going to struggle to keep people. You might think about the best restaurants you go to for a few minutes. What makes them good? As a pastor, I’m thinking that way about church.

So, this Sunday, when you come to the church, you’re going to get coffee and some muffins when you arrive. You are going to be taken care of from the moment you drive into our parking area with our First Impressions Team…to the Hospitality Team who will take care of you upon your entrance into the building to the Security Team who will make sure we’re all safe while we’re here. We’re going to make sure that the music and preaching is as good as we can possibly be, because Jesus deserves our best. I’m excited about Jesus and the fact that He saved my soul from Hell and that’s what I hope to get across every time I have the privilege to preach.

Can you tell I’ve been on vacation? I’m fired up and ready to go! Praise the Lord!

One last picture…

Dole whip! Such fun!!

Kevin