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Archive for February, 2011

God’s Will?

One of the most asked questions I get as a pastor/elder is: How can I know God’s will for my life? It’s a great question. But, I have learned something over time that may sound odd when I share it with you. I don’t believe the Lord is so much interested in revealing a specialized, nice, neat, wrapped up box with a bow on top to us that says:

“God’s Will for YOU inside.” The question we should be asking is not, “What is God’s will for my life,” but instead: “What is God’s will?” After many years, I think I might just be starting to learn the difference.

The first question is ego-centric. It is all about me. I want to know God’s will for MY life. The second question is about God. I simply want to know His will and then join Him where He’s already at work. So, what is God’s will? I believe Romans 12:1-2 tells us:

 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I am to be a “walking, dead man.” That’s an oxymoron, I know. Yet, that’s what Paul said to the church at Rome via the Holy Spirit. We are to be “living sacrifices.” God’s will for my life is that I die to myself. I am to be crucified with Christ so that I may live (See Galatians 2:20). Dying to myself is hard. Why? Because I like making ME happy. I like to eat what I want to eat, sleep when I want to sleep and do what I want to do. I’d like to do all of these things preferably in a comfortable manner. I don’t want to hurt, suffer or sacrifice. Just show me your will Lord and please don’t let it hurt. If you don’t mind, could you make it come with a promotion, more money, bigger house and with a slimmer waistline too! 🙂

If I really want to know God’s will then I must lose my life to gain it. “I” must lose “MY” life to gain it. MY life is no longer MINE, it’s God’s. Guess what? When that happens…hold on to your seat now…drum roll please… I will discover the will of God. That’s right! When I choose to be a living sacrifice and offer my body up to Christ, something will happen. I will become holy and I will no longer operate by the patterns of this world. My mind will become transformed. Do you know what it means to be transformed?

That’s a picture of transformation. The butterfly can do things the caterpillar could never do. So, it is when we seek the Lord because He is worthy to be sought. We go after him (ask, seek, knock) because of Who is He, not what He can do for us. Sometimes I treat the Lord like a jukebox. I put in my “prayer quarter” and expect to get my selection.

Psalm 37:4 says:

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Oh goody! I get what I want when I delight in Him. Ok, I’ll do that! Hold on! Wait a minute! We’re back where we started. I have a question. If I’m truly delighting in the Lord, what will MY desires be? Won’t they be His desires? Shouldn’t they be His desires? And, if they are His desires that I want, then shouldn’t I be able to discern His will? 

BINGO!

That’s it! When our delight is in the Lord, then we will die to ourselves, thereby becoming a “living sacrifice,” developing a transformed mind and what do you know… I’ll tell you what we can know…

The WILL OF GOD!

That’s the last part of the passage from Romans 12:2…

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Isn’t that amazing? So, let’s quit coming to God asking, “What’s Your will for MY life.” Let’s start asking, “Lord, what is Your will?” When we do so in this fashion and then obey what He asks us to do, we’ll suddenly find we are smack dab in the center of God’s will. Don’t you just love the Lord!

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God’s Accuracy

Before I get into the meat of this post…I just have to show you what Clara was doing on her own a minute ago. We had just finished supper and I turned around and Clara had the dishwasher almost loaded all by herself.

Doing dishes!

Children are indeed a heritage and reward from the Lord! Clara has been taught by her momma how to load the dishwasher and she enjoys doing it. This is the first time she’s done it by herself (we handle the knives!). But, as you can see, she did a nice job. The Bible says even a child is known by his actions whether they are right and just. My next statement is not meant to come across smug or boastful, but simply to make a point. Can your child load the dishwasher? Can they do their own clothes (i.e., load the washing machine, know how to pour in the liquid, turn it out, etc.)? Who does the majority of laundry and dishes in most homes today? Moms. But, they need help. Can children help? Sure they can. They can run any computer or cell phone you put in front of them. Which is harder: Programming a cell phone to send a photo or loading the dishwasher and turning it on? Is it time to do some training?

As I’m typing this…I see Clara has finished a load a towels too…

Towels are done too!

I was sent an email earlier today from a dear friend from a past job and past career. The email was about the wonderful accuracy of God in all that He made. It’s outstanding! See what you think:

God’s accuracy may be observed in the hatching of  eggs. For example: 
-the eggs of the potato bug hatch in 7  days; 
-those of the canary in 14 days; 
-those of the barnyard hen in 21 days; 
-The eggs of ducks and geese hatch in 28  days; 
-those of the mallard in 35 days; 
-The eggs of the parrot and the ostrich hatch in 42  days. 
(Notice,  they are all divisible by seven, the number of days  in a week!) 

God’s wisdom is seen in the making of an elephant… The four legs of this great beast all bend forward in  the same direction. No other quadruped is so made.  God planned that this animal would have a huge body,  too large to live on two legs… For this reason He  gave it four fulcrum so that it can rise from the  ground easily. 

The  horse rises from the ground on its two front legs  first. A cow rises from the ground with its two hind  legs first. How wise the Lord is in all His works of  creation! God’s wisdom is revealed in His arrangement of sections and segments, as well as in the number of  grains. 

-Each watermelon has an even number of stripes on the  rind. 
-Each orange has an even number of  segments. 
-Each ear of corn has an even number of  rows. 
-Each stalk of wheat has an even number of  grains. 
-Every bunch of bananas has on its lowest row an even  number of bananas, and each row decreases by one, so  that one row has an even number and the next row an  odd number. 

-The  waves of the sea roll in on shore twenty-six to the  minute in all kinds of weather 

All grains are found in even numbers on the stalks, and the Lord specified thirty fold, sixty fold, and a  hundred fold – all even numbers. God has caused the flowers to blossom at certain specified times during the day, so that Linnaeus,  the great botanist, once said that if he had a conservatory containing the right kind of soil, moisture and temperature, he could tell the time of day or night by the flowers that were open and those that were closed! 

The  lives of each one of us is ordered by the Lord. He is Sovereign and in control of all things…including what you are going through right now. If we will allow God to have total control, He can order our life perfectly. If we try to do it…well…we’ll make a mess. Most of our closets are not in order, much less our lives.

I, for one, want the Lord to run my life. Believe me…I need Him.

Book update: I’m at that point where the book is bearing down on me. I’ve done a lot of this:

But, I’m happy to say, I’m half-way through with the last chapter (number 6). I’ve got people helping me to edit and we’re up to chapter 3. Thanks to all of my wonderful proof readers and editors. You know who you are!! So, it’s coming along. Thanks for the many well wishes and prayers in this regard. I need them! March 15th is the deadline and I’m trusting the Lord to get me there. 🙂

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Marriage

I’m so blessed to be married to a wonderful, supportive and dedicated wife. I know what you may be thinking, “You are being sentimental because we just finished up with Valentine’s Day.” Well, that may be part of it, but the truth is, she is my helpmate and I’m blessed beyond measure!

She is the consummate pastor’s wife. She truly is selfless. In the middle of homeschooling our four children and helping me to edit my book, she took on the job of helping coordinate a meal for a family that lost a loved one in the church. She made numerous phone calls and coordinated a meal for fifty people? She was cooking at 7:30 am this morning. Why would she do that? Let somebody else with more time do it, right? After all, she’s busy. That’s not how Pam thinks. She believes in showing “hospitality.” She knows there is a cost to true sacrifice. She models this to our family. Christians are commanded in Scripture to show “hospitality,” and she takes that command seriously. We try to have people over to our home that are new to the church often. She will put something in the crock pot on Saturday night or early Sunday morning so we can have a meal ready when we get home from church to share. I’m thankful she thinks ahead and is even willing to cook! 🙂 

Some people may think because Pam doesn’t “work” outside the home that she can take it easy. (Pam has her Master’s Degree and taught school for five years before feeling led to “spend” her “education” and effort on her own children.) Pam is by anyone’s estimation a hard-working lady. She is in constant motion from sun-up to almost midnight every day.

We basically have two sets of children. Katy and Kandace are 16 and 13, while Andrew and Clara are both 5.

Pam and I are “one flesh” in the eyes of God and Pam is certainly my more than “suitable helper” in many areas. Her wisdom and insight are amazing. She is more “intuitive” than I am. I’m A to Z and very “type-A,” while she is more even keel. She helps me see things that I’d miss otherwise. She is my best friend and I trust her unequivocally. I’d rather spend time with her than anyone. This is important as married couples. I counsel many married couples that have their own set of friends and go out regularly with those friends while leaving the spouse behind. This is dangerous. An occasional outing is certainly fine…but, beyond that it, when it becomes “common,” it can be very unhealthy.

Honestly, Pam and I don’t get as much time together as we would like right now, (like most married couples today). We have to make the time and that usually comes at about 11 pm at night. (But, I’m going to be taking her out for a belated Valentine’s date on Friday night-I was at the funeral home Monday night.) We understand that we’re in a season of our lives where we know our children need our attention, training and love. It takes much time to be a parent. Pam has never been selfish and said, “I’ve got to have ‘me time.'” I appreciate that about her since we live in a culture that almost demands it.

If there is a function going on at church, she’s there. She never says, “that’s not my thing.” She participates and supports the ministries in the church whether they are “her” thing or not. You gotta love that as a pastor. Not all pastors I know have that kind of support. She helps me so much. She makes our ministry stronger. Notice I said “our.” It is a “combo” ministry.

Some ministers are actually “hurt” in the ministry because their wife is uninvolved or chooses to even be “all about the family.” What is the family? The “family” in eternity is the family of God, not just our immediate family. There is a balance here of course. We can’t sacrifice our family on the altar of serving everybody else’s families, but many go the other way and are unengaged with the church. If a pastor’s wife is only taking care of “her” family, what does that say about her? What does that say about how she feels about the rest of the church? If there is work to be done at the church or a function there, then Pam packs up the kids and makes sure we’re at church…right on the front row or first table (at our Wed. night meal). (No hiding…when they aren’t there…everybody knows it…and that’s how it should be…accountability in action.) We truly are ministering together as a family. What a blessing!

I’m grateful for Pam. I don’t want to put her on a pedestal, because she is an imperfect human, just like me and just like you. But, what is she? She is dedicated and totally committed to the family, the church and most of all…our Lord. That’s what makes Pam, who she is. She is a follower of Christ and her desire to follow Him is an inspiration to me and others. Thank you darling! Thank you for somehow finding that right balance and doing it well! I love you with all my heart and am honored to serve the Lord with you!

 

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Death…

Death. Just seeing the word by itself…

                         Death

…invokes many emotions. Finality. Pain. Hurt. Disillusionment. Loneliness. Suffering. Grief.

I’ve seen these emotions first-hand over the last few days. A dear friend of mine lost his mother earlier this week after a long battle with lung cancer. She was told three years ago she wouldn’t live but a few months. She proved the doctors wrong. Actually God did. He’s the Author of life. They had just moved her to a hospice house the day before. She had desired to live as long as she could in her own home and she did. God granted that request for over three years.

Another sweet and dear lady in the church lost her brother after the family had to make the decision to turn off life support. And this morning, one of the kindest, most gracious ladies I know; lost her son suddenly as a 65-year-old man. What’s more excruciating is knowing she lost her son on his birthday. His tombstone will record his date of birth as February 12th and his date of death as February 12th.

Did God know when He would take my friends’ mom, brother and son? Yes, because He is in Sovereign control of all life. All of our days have been laid out before the Lord. He knows the moment we will die. We will not live one second longer or live one second less than what He has ordained. That’s comforting to me. As a pastor I’ve tried to offer encouragement to these dear families over the last week. I struggle at times coming up with the words, so I find that a hug and a knowing look of love is best. When we are hurting and grieving, we don’t need pep talks and religious lectures of how we should feel. Being allowed to cry and hurt ultimately allows us to experience God’s healing balm of peace and strength. We feel His greatest strength in our most devastating weakness. Thank you Lord!

I was also at the hospital this morning, visiting a lady in the church who is battling with electrolyte issues. Her daughter was sitting with her and we shared about our years as children. I asked her how old her daughter was (I haven’t seen her in years). She said she’s 29. I said, “29! Are you kidding?” My mortality has really hit me in the face lately. On the way back from the funeral home tonight I drove through the neighborhood where Pam and I first lived. I drove through very slowly…soaking it all in. It was in that neighborhood and in a little home on Maple Drive that Katy and Kandace were born and learned to walk, talk and run. Where has the time gone? Life is indeed like a vapor.

Just like our breath on a cold winter’s morning comes and goes in a few brief moments…so does life. It’s here…then in an instant it can be gone. The lady that lost her son this morning (on his birthday) had just spoken to him on the phone. When she walked down the path to his home from her house 45-minutes later, he was gone. She told me, “I just talked to him and now he’s gone!” The pain in her voice and the tears pouring down her face were heart-wrenching to see. I hugged her and told her everything was going to be alright and the Lord loves her. She wept with her face pressed against my chest. I just rocked her in my arms and let her cry. After a few minutes, she looked up at me and smiled. She said, “Thank you Preacher.” 

A little while ago I saw a video of the old gospel singer Vestal Goodman. I remember her on the old “Gospel Jubilee” Sunday morning TV show. I can hear her singing…”Jubilee, jubilee…” I found a YouTube of this old show! It took me about 20 minutes to find a video. When it started playing…I was taken back to my childhood. If you are over 35 and lived in NC during the 70’s, then you may have been awakened each Sunday morning with these sounds…

Click here if you would like to be taken back…

Vestal Goodman is in heaven today. She died 12/27/03. What a lady and what a voice…

I remember her singing “Rock of Ages.” The lyrics still ring in my mind…

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

She sung another wonderful old song that I heard many, many times as a boy. I remember my grandmother, Clara singing it too, most often while she was washing the supper dishes. It’s called “Angel Band.”

I share the lyrics of these two old songs, because I don’t believe it was coincidental that I heard them tonight after all the death I’ve seen this week. It’s not going to be long…we are all going to die if Jesus doesn’t return for us first. We rank life in years. But, what are years in comparison to eternity? Whether we live 100 years or 100 minutes, it ranks the same compared to eternity. Think about that. Eternity. Forever. Time with no end. So, what are we living for? Are we storing up treasures for this earth? They will be passed to someone else. I saw that today. Possessions changing hands within families. What will last? What lasts is what we have done for Jesus Christ…that’s it.

My latest sun is sinking fast
My race is nearly run
My longest trials now are past
My triumph has begun

O come angel band,
Come and around me stand.
O bear me away on your snowy white wings
To my immortal home.
O bear me away on you snow white wings
To my immortal home.

I know I’m near the holy ranks
Of friends and kindred dear.
I’ve brushed the dew on Jordan’s banks,
the crossing must be near.
I’ve almost gained my heavenly home,
my spirit loudly sings.
The holy ones, behold they come,
I hear the noise of wings.

O bear my longing heart to Him
Who bled and died for me;
Whose blood now cleanses from all sins
And gives me victory.

O come angel band,
Come and around me stand.
O bear me away on your snowy white wings
To my immortal home.
O bear me away on you snow white wings
To my immortal home.

It’s been a difficult few days, be these days have helped me to look again at what matters and what my priorities need to be. We are not promised a tomorrow. It could be you or me that dies next. Are you ready? Am I ready? I want to be and I want to be like Paul who said these most heart-felt words in his swan song to young Timothy:

6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

I long for his appearing… Even so Lord, come quickly! In the meantime, I want to serve him with all I’ve got…because tomorrow may be my last.

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Winter Snow

 Since Katy, my daughter, is my guest blogger this week, I thought I’d post a video of a song called “Winter Snow” that she plays and sings. It’s about how Jesus came to the earth like a “winter snow.” Listen to the words…it’s beautiful. You’ll like the special snow effects too!

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From Guest Blogger: Katy Brown (my daughter) 🙂
 
As technology soars people spend more and more time playing and messing on screen devices.
 
There are glossy flat screened TVs, Ipads, Iphones, Xboxes, and computers everywhere. They are so inviting and are fun and even useful, but suddenly the reading levels of children have dropped unbelievably and the use of these devices seem to be a large part of the reason. A Fox News article in 2007 revealed, “The lack of reading is the most important socio-economic issue in the United States today.”  It said that 72% percent of high school graduates were deemed by employers as “deficient” in reading and writing. Less than 50% of 9 year olds read more than 5 books a year, other than for school and 20% in high school. 

There was a time in this nation when reading was common.

 
People even enjoyed it. Many kids I talk to now laugh at reading and books as though they are outdated. I’ve seen several Facebook profiles that say in the “favorite books” section, “Seriously, who reads books??” How sad. I can honestly say where the majority of my learning has come from is reading. Even books that I chose, I learned from. I took a college class on “Analyzing Literature” and was mortified by all of the Old English and confusing poems, but once I dug deeper I actually enjoyed finding the meaning behind the formal, rich words. I was amazed that even something that I had considered “stuffy reading” could really capture the imagination.

A lot of adults have the philosophy of, “Okay, so lets just get kids readingsomething.” So the most popular books, for boys especially, are often extremely inappropriate. The titles to many of these books alone indicate that! So even those who are reading often tend to read junk. There are good books out there for kids. I absolutely loved the kid’s “Left Behind” series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, when I was young. It was 40 fast paced books that were really quite unbelievably awesome! 

Why do I think reading is so important? Because it is proven that those who read, especially thought-provoking books, are more intelligent, and even well-mannered adults. Readers really are leaders. Reading stretches the brain like nothing else. A good book is better than any movie. You’ve seen a movie and heard someone say, “The book is better.” Books have a way of pushing us. Kids have lost this in the fast-paced, thrilled culture. I love Facebook, but it can easily eat up hours of time. People don’t know how it feels to have to imagine anything anymore. Sometimes we need to have to be patient for the climax of a book or have to really think about the story line. I love movies and TV shows, but they just don’t require much brain power. Reading does. Lets get back to reading and thinking. It is worth it and is incredibly enjoyable!

 
To learn more about Katy’s blogs, click here…

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What a great time last night was had by all at the church. Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church hosted a Sportsmen Wild Game Banquet last night at the church. Approximately 500 people were there…

What a crowd!

We were giving away door prizes and our children were helping with this (getting everybody involved)…

Our helpers wore orange hunting vests...look great huh!

We worked hard serving everyone a wonderful meal of barbecue beef, potatoes, slaw, baked beans and rolls along with some wonderful chocolate cake for dessert! Yum! Here some of the workers are getting a chance to eat…

I love the "togetherness" of working for the Lord!

It felt like we were on the mission field in Mexico or Ethiopia…yet, we were in our own back yard. What do I mean? Well, we were all focused on serving rather than being served.

Way to go Chris, Melody, Lisa and Willie...carrying those tables!

We wanted to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and that was our single focus and that’s what was accomplished. Only in eternity will we know what the Lord did in the hearts and lives of the men, women, boys and girls that were there last night.

Crowd listening to Mitchell Johnston

Mitchell Johnston the National Grand Champion Turkey Caller (who happens to live in our own county of Wilkes and is a local boy), shared the Gospel while telling hunting stories and offering all kinds of turkey calls. It was fantastic! The audience was glued to him as he shared and made those calls! Thank you Mitchell for a job well done!

I am grateful for a church that is willing to invest in our own community as well as in our state, nation and world. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said go and make disciples of all nations. We were in our Jerusalem last night. Jesus said to go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. We’ll be doing the “uttermost” in Mexico in June and Ethiopia in November. In the meantime, there is more to be done locally. How bout you? On mission anywhere? Who needs Jesus that you know? You and I carry the life-giving medicine that the sin-sick need. Will we keep it to ourselves? God help us not to! Let’s share Jesus, shall we! Praise His Name!

Thought I’d let you know that another storm may be headed our way…

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