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Archive for the ‘Church Practice’ Category

The Lord is good. I continue to be amazed at His provision in my life. I see His hand on my family and the church. Now when I say that, “I see His hand…” I’m not meaning that everything is always perfect. You know the Lord allows difficulties into all of our lives to grow us and shape us and mold us into His image. Difficulties and trying circumstances are a part of life. It’s how we handle those circumstances that will determine where our hearts are as they relate to Him. But, I’m grateful for another week. It’s been hectic and busy with funerals and Sunday’s messages and I’m in revival this week at a local church. As a matter of fact, we had 649 people on Sunday for our three services. There was nothing special going on… just an ordinary Lord’s Day. That’s still mind-boggling to me! I admit it!

Interestingly, I’ve heard some say that our church is growing because it’s liberal. Can you believe that? Me, a liberal preacher? Are you serious! I laugh when I hear that. I’m probably one of the least liberal preachers around. Don’t believe me? Watch some of the sermons I’ve preached lately online at http://www.mpbc.ws.

No, the truth is, there’s all kinds of reasons that folks, (including, sadly, other Christians), will run down another church and I can promise you, (in our case), it’s not because we’re liberal. Perhaps it’s because we don’t use the “right kind of Bible.” I use the ESV, a word for word translation of the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. I heard a NT Greek Professor say one time: “To the degree that your Bible translation is faithful to the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic), you can be confident you hold the Word of God in your hands.” But, for some, that’s not good enough I suppose.

I believe others, perhaps, believe we’re a liberal church because we use other instruments besides a piano and organ. I guess David was wrong when he said we should praise the Lord with the cymbals, trumpets and tambourines (2 Samuel 6:5). Psalm 150:5 says: “Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” Perhaps it’s just the fact that the Lord is blessing and moving and people are being saved, baptized and are growing in their faith and some don’t like that. Who knows. But, I do know this. It’s all of the Lord. It’s all Him and I give Him the praise and the glory! 

Yes, I’m finishing up revival tonight at Pleasant Home Baptist Church in Millers Creek. The folks there have been so kind to me. I’m honored they asked me to come and preach and I believe the Lord has been moving in hearts and lives. I’m excited about finishing up in a little while. The Lord is good!

In fact, as I’ve thought about and prayed about preaching and teaching the Gospel all week, my mind has been taken back to: “The Story of the Donuts.” It’s a powerful story. Have you ever heard of it. It truly is wonderful! I’ve copied it below and I hope it encourages you as it continues to encourage me. I promise you… if you read it…you will be blessed.

The Story of the Donuts

There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man, who taught at a small college in the western United States. Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course their freshman year, regardless of his or her major. Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery.

Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously. This year, Dr. Christianson had a really special, dedicated, student named Steve. He was a tremendous athlete. Steve was studying with the intent of going on to seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, well-liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. In other words, he was huge! He was the starting center on the university’s football team, and was the best student in the professor’s class.

One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. “How many push-ups can you do?” Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.” “200? That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said. “Do you think you could do 300?” Steve replied, “I don’t know…. I’ve never done 300 at one time.” “Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson. “Well, I can try,” said Steve. “Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me if you can do it,” said the professor. Steve said, “Well… I think I can…yeah, I can do it.” Dr. Christianson said, “Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.”

Well, Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. Now, these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday. It was the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr. Christianson’s class. Woohoo!

Dr. Christianson went to the first girl sitting in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?” Cynthia said, “Yes.” Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?” “Sure…” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve hopped back up and sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.

Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, who was seated behind Cynthia, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?” Joe said, “You bet I do.” Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups, and Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten push-ups for every person before they got their donut.

Walking down the second aisle, Dr. Christianson came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female attention. When the professor asked, “Scott, do you want a donut?” Scott’s reply was, “Well, I can do my own push-ups?” Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them anyway, whether you take the donut or not.” Then Scott said, “I don’t want one! That’s not fair!” Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and said, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience Steve started to do the ten push-ups.

Scott said with a red face, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!” Dr. Christianson said, “Look! This is my classroom, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it. Now sit down!” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.

Now by this time, Steve started to slow down with the push-ups. He was starting to tired. He was now just staying on the floor between sets because it took too much effort getting back into his seat. You could see the sweat beading on his forehead and sliding down his cheeks. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get more angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?” Sternly, Jenny said, “No.” Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten….Jenny got a donut.

By now, a growing sense of tenseness and unease filled the room. The students were saying “No” with greater fervor and all across the room there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve was now really putting forth a lot of effort to get the push-ups done for each donut. There began to be a pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and face were bright red because of the physical effort Steve had expended.

Now, Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to go over and watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten push-ups in a set. He told Robert, “Make sure he does them all.” Robert complied. He didn’t like Steve anyway. He thought he was a “goody-goody” and so, he watched Steve closely and Dr. Christianson started down the fourth row.

From time to time however, other students from the class across the hall would come into Dr. Christianson’s class. The professor across the hall would not allow late-comers to barge into his class, but they would be counted present if they attended Dr. Christianson’s class. About that time, 4 students walked in and sat down on the steps that ran along the back wall of the room. As they came in they said: “Mmmm… We can smell the donuts!” When Dr. Christianson realized this, he did a quick count and saw that there were now 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.

Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Steve was really having a rough time now. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set. Steve asked Dr. Christianson, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?” Dr. Christianson thought for a moment and then turned to Robert the atheist and said, “What do you think, Robert?” Robert looked at Steve as Steve was lying on the floor with his arms beginning to shake and Robert said, “It’s alright…he doesn’t have to touch his nose to the floor.” Steve looked up at Dr. Christianson and then to Robert and said, “I’ll do them right. Nose to the floor.” Dr. Christianson, now with tears in his eyes didn’t say a word and continued on.

Just at that moment, Jason, a notoriously late student started to walk in to the room when all the students yelled in one voice, “No Jason! Don’t come in! Stay out!” Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.” Professor Christianson said, “Steve, you realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten push-ups for him?” Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut” Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out-of-the-way right now.” He asked, “Jason, do you want a donut?” Jason, new to the room of course, hardly knew what was going on and said, “Yeah! I’ll take a donut.” “Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?” The class groaned! Steve did ten push-ups very slowly and with immense effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and he sat down and bit into his donut, while everyone glared at him.

Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row, and then started on the late-comers seated in the back of the room. Steve’s arms were now shaking violently with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity. By this time, sweat was profusely pouring off of his face. There was no sound in the room except his heavy breathing and the splattering of sweat on the floor. Oh…and the muffled sobs of some of the girls as they sniffed away the tears. Even the guys were struggling to watch this display. The last two students in the room were two young ladies…very pretty and very popular.

Dr. Christianson went to Ashley and asked, “Ashley, do you want a doughnut?” Ashley said, very weakly, “No, thank you.” Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Ashley can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push-ups for Ashley. Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Courtney. “Courtney, do you want a donut?” Courtney, with tears flowing down her face could barely answer for the tears and she said, “Dr. Christianson, why can’t I help him?” Dr. Christianson, holding back his own tears said, “No, Steve has to do it alone, I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.”

Dr. Christianson continued: “When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve here is the only student with a perfect grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice when a player messes up he must do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could eat at my party unless he paid the price by doing your push-ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.”

“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Courtney can have a donut?” As Steve very slowly finished his last push-up, understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him. 350 push-ups. On the last one, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor with a “thud.”

Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said. “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, pleaded to the Father, ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit,’ with the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him. He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, you have chosen to leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.”

Two guys helped Steve up from the floor and to his seat. Steve was physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile, as he wiped the sweat from his eyes. Dr. Christianson said, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” adding, “Not all sermons are preached in words.”

Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. God spared not His only Begotten Son for you. Whether or not you choose to accept His gift, the price has been paid regardless. You see, Cain brought his offering to the Lord. It was unacceptable because it was brought with a dishonest and corrupt heart. Abel gave his best and it was received by God. What does God want? He wants you! He wants your all. He wants your faults, your failures, your fears, your struggles, your past, your present and your future. He wants to give you life in exchange for your certain death without Him. He wants your worship and He wants your love. He wants you to give from a heart that is clean and righteous before Him. He doesn’t want your effort. He doesn’t want your performance. He doesn’t want your good works. He doesn’t want your church membership and He doesn’t even want your money. He wants you! Just you!” And as the professor walked to the door of the class: “And that is the meaning of this class. Class dismissed.”

Perhaps as you read that story, it moved you. Perhaps there were tears in your eyes or a lump in your throat. Do you know what I find interesting about that possibility? It’s the fact that we can be moved by a story of a young man struggling to do push-ups, yet the Lord and Savior of the world was slaughtered on a cross and because we’ve heard the story so much, we are hardly blink an eye. Why? Because we’ve forgotten how good it is to be saved and just how blessed we are! We have little excitement or passion in us about our Lord Jesus because He’s become commonplace. Why don’t we thank Him for His precious salvation.

Thank you Jesus!!!

Kevin

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I love people. I love being around people…especially young people. Pam and I love our young adults and we wanted to show them. So, we’ve hosted two “Connects” over the last few weeks. “Connect,” (as we’ve called it), is where our church young adults just out of high school or in college, come over to our home for a time of food and fellowship. We believe this is so important for our young people during this stage of life. Why? Because they have tons of pressure on them. This stage of their lives can be a very tumultuous time.

Pam and I wanted to give these dear folks an opportunity to come together and fellowship and rest. Yes, rest. Being a 20-something (or soon to be 20-something) is not easy. Again, it’s a very topsy-turvy time of life where tons of decisions are made. You think about all the decisions that are made from the time a person turns 18 until they are around their mid-to-late 20’s. Usually during that span of 8 to 10 years a life can be set. Usually a person’s vocation comes into focus and often so does a mate or a potential mate. Who knows, even children might be coming along by then. That’s a lot of stuff happening in a window of time (say: a decade) of an average person’s life (living to be say: 80) that makes up only about 12.5% of your life. That’s a lot of stuff indeed!

I remember how I felt back in the day. Pam and I were 21 and 22, respectively when we were married.

15590217_10208433339737123_2585322649366309779_nWe met in college at Appalachian State and it was such a blessing! Yet, those years were stressful in college. I remember them vividly.

So, with all of that said, we wanted to provide that Holiday Break and “Connect” our MPBC young adults. Here’s some pictures.

 img_0802First rule: Feed them good! Village Inn Pizza and Chick Fit-A nuggets do the trick! And so does a lot of coffee! They love coffee!! And sweets…I can’t forget the cookies and chocolate! (I must admit that I love all that stuff too!)

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Teach and be transparent about your own life and struggles. At our first Connect, I shared and I think I actually kept it to about 20 minutes. Wow! 🙂 (Don’t get any ideas MPBC Sunday and Wednesday folks. :))

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Keep it comfortable. Above was last night’s crowd. Below was a couple of weeks ago.

15578538_1330609773670392_5547020218254417074_nWe just let everybody sit wherever they wanted to. After all, with almost 30 people in your house…that’s about the best you can do. 🙂 Pam shared last night about overcoming worry and doubt.

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She’s such a rock. No one can possibly know what she means to me. Truly, our work at MPBC is a team effort. I think everyone had a great time! We played a game where you had a person who was truly the person that something was about them and two imposters. The rest had to figure out who the “REAL” person was and hope to not be tricked by the imposters.

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They laughed their heads off! They’ll have some great memories about some funny truths they learned about each other.

In Scripture Elders are encouraged to show hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2). Peter admonishes us: Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). Pam is an excellent hostess. At the end of the evening we’re tired after cleaning up, etc. But it’s a good tired. It’s a tired where you lay your head on your pillow after a long day and say: “Yeah…that was good,” knowing that these wonderful lives we got to be around will hopefully know how much they are loved and cared for!

Kevin

 

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I just read an article by Dr. Russell Moore of the Ethics Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was talking about how to engage the culture in the post-Christian country we find ourselves in today.

Here’s his thoughts (below). Just a quick excerpt. Really good stuff:

The test will be if we can engage the culture without losing the gospel. If we ever were a moral majority, we are no longer. As the secularizing and sexualizing revolutions whir on, it is no longer possible to pretend that we represent the “real America,” a majority of God-loving, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth cultural conservatives like us. Accordingly, we will engage the culture less like the chaplains of some idyllic Mayberry and more like the apostles in the Book of Acts. We will be speaking not primarily to baptized pagans on someone’s church roll, but to those who are hearing something new, maybe for the first time. We will hardly be “normal,” but we should never have tried to be.

I believe Moore is right. Honestly, the younger generation will embrace the Gospel better than my generation. Much of my generation is weak. We were handed the Gospel on a silver platter and we’ve done little with it. I’m sorry to say the next generation is being handed the Gospel on a napkin, but I believe they’ll run with it. Yes, there will be fewer self-identified “Biblical” Christians going forward in this nation, but that’s good. We’ll see the true Christians versus the cultural Christians. It used to be easy to be a Christian in this country. Not any more. It’s going to cost Christians to be “Bible-believing” Christians going forward.

I read another interesting article last night from a college professor at Notre Dame. His name is Patrick Deneen and he teaches political science at Notre Dame. He also taught at Princeton and Georgetown. He described his students as “know-nothings… devoid of any substantial knowledge.” As I was reading his article, he quoted an essay titled “Exercises in Unreality: The Decline of Teaching Western Civilization,”Anthony Esolen, who describes a university climate today in which many students and professors no longer possess the knowledge and skills that their peers of previous generations took for granted:

“But what if you know hardly anything about anything at all? That is an exaggeration, but it does capture much of what I must confront as a professor of English right now, even at our school, which accepts only a small fraction of students who apply for admission. Nor, I’m afraid, does it apply only to freshmen. It applies also to professors.”

He explains:

“I now regularly meet students who have never heard the names of most English authors who lived before 1900. That includes Milton, Chaucer, Pope, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Tennyson, and Yeats. Poetry has been largely abandoned. Their knowledge of English grammar is spotty at best and often nonexistent. That is because grammar, as its own subject worthy of systematic study, has been abandoned. Those of my students who know some grammar took Latin in high school or were taught at home. The writing of most students is irreparable in the way that aphasia is. You cannot point to a sentence and say, simply, ‘Your verb here does not agree with your subject.’ That is not only because they do not understand the terms of the comment. It is also because many of their sentences will have no clear subject or verb to begin with. The students make grammatical errors for which there are no names. Their experience of the written language has been formed by junk fiction in school, text messages, blog posts, blather on the airwaves, and the bureaucratic sludge that they are taught for ‘formal’ writing, and that George Orwell identified and skewered seventy years ago. The best of them are bad writers of English; the others write no language known to man.”

Is that sad or what?

I’ve been reflecting lately a lot about what it means to remember the Lord’s goodness in times of hardship. I wrote this yesterday in the Daily Devotion:

Yet, these are the times that we must remember the goodness of the Lord! These are the times when we must not let our circumstances dictate how we choose to see the situation. These are the times when we must not rely on our feelings, but on what we know. We must CHOOSE to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” We must CHOOSE to reflect on how He has delivered us in the past and that “his steadfast loves endures forever.” We must remember to “utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,” because it’s when we do that we’ll be reminded that the Lord is unchanging and steadfast in His love for us. It’s when we praise Him in the midst of uncertainty and pain that He receives glory and honor. It’s when we lift our hands to heaven as the tears flow down our cheeks that we can sense His power filling our lives slowly but surely. It’s in the defeat that we can sense victory! Do you see that? You must see that?

Listen, this life is a training ground. It’s not heaven and we’ve got to stop trying to make it heaven. When sin came into the world, it destroyed paradise and brought devastation. And with that devastation comes pain. The question is: WILL WE CONTINUE TO GIVE THANKS IN THE PAIN? Can we fight through our emotions and our broken dreams or bitter defeats and still see that Jesus is enough… Jesus is faithful… Jesus is worthy.

Do you agree? Is Jesus worthy?

Here’s a picture of the church.

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It’s hard to believe we’ve been in this building for 10 years. We’re getting it close to being paid off. We owe just under $677,000. That’s not bad since we started out owing close to $3 million. We should pay it off in about 3 1/2 years at our current rate of giving. Thankfully the church continues to operate in the black. That’s saying something for a place where, when Pastor Brad and I took over, we had $12 in the General checking account. Most don’t know we were on the brink of collapse. Attendance was dropping and things were looking pretty bad. I really thought to myself “What have I done!” That will be nine years ago this Thursday, (August 12th). I was named “Senior Pastor” that day. (I hate that title…and I refuse it…I’m simply just a pastor/elder like Dale Jennings and Brad Cordray. The Senior Shepherd of this church is Jesus Christ :))

Yes, the Lord had mercy on us and has shown His favor and we’re now averaging 607 people for our three services combined. We average right around 300 people on Wednesday nights. How crazy is that? Our attendance since going to three services is up 10.4% and we’ve added 68 people in the last year. Folks, the average size church in NC is 75 people. So, we’ve added almost an entire church in one year. I think going to three services was a success, don’t you? 🙂

Here’s how the church looked in our second service before we went to three services last October 2015.

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And for all the money people… You know who you are! 🙂 Our total giving year-to-date is currently $103,000 over budget and that’s with a budget increase of over 10% last year. Hey…you add people…it’s just like adding a baby to your family…your budget goes up. Our projected budget in the coming year is projected to be just under one million dollars.

This is all taking place while the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is shrinking. According to the Annual Church Profile Report, last year attendance in the 46,764 churches across America decreased by 97,381 to 5.6 million people. And here’s the sad thing. There are 15.3 million members of SBC churches. Do you get that? Only 36% of the membership attends church weekly and only 23.6% attend Sunday School.

Why do I tell you all of this? Simple. The Lord is blessing and He is to be praised! This is a work that He is doing! How long will it continue? Will we continue to grow? I have no idea. I’m not seeking growth. None of our leadership is seeking growth. It’s just happening. What I want to do is to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus and preach the truth of His word. Our music is impeccable and is such a tremendous draw! I’m telling you…the talent the Lord has blessed us with here is beyond belief. Pastor Brad does an unbelievable jump of putting together our teams and leading them. I don’t think people realize how talented he is to do this. He’s not only gifted musically, his organizational skills are truly wonderful!

Hey…do you think you don’t have much to offer the Lord? Think again… Here’s today’s “Two-Minute Tuesday.” (By the way, we had a family here this past Sunday who said they came to visit because of the TMT’s.)

http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/8cd80d5

Blessings!

Kevin

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Jesus Came Down To Us

We had VBS this week… Here’s my granddaughter singing…

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Wasn’t it just yesterday that was Katy standing up there doing that? What a great week! Perhaps the hi-light of the week for me was this:

http://https://www.facebook.com/april.shell.12/videos/1100315446681848/

It was a fantastic week!!

We finished up last night and this is what I shared with the parents and the children. I titled it: “Submerged: Jesus Came All the Way Down To Us.”

Here you go:

I love this by C. S. Lewis…

“In the Christian account of God bringing Himself down to man. Jesus Christ descends to reascend. He comes down, down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity, down further still, down to the very roots and sea bed of the nature He had created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great, complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift. He must also disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. 

He is like a diver…gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water down…down…down into the deep black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay. Then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting till suddenly he breaks the surface again, holding in his hand the dripping precious thing that he went down to recover.”

What is that precious thing He went down to recover? YOU and ME!!! The Apostle Paul told Titus:

Titus 2:11

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. 

Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 2:4-6

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

Have you considered lately what God did to reconcile us back to Himself? He came in the second person of His essence, Jesus Christ. And when He did…He came all the way down to us. Think about that… Here He is. He owned everything, but when He came into this world He was borrowing everything from men. He had no place to lay His head when He was born in a stinking, nasty animal feeding trough. He had to borrow a place to perform His ministry in Capernaum, because He didn’t even own a home. When He traveled down to Jerusalem, He had to stay with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany or sleep under the stars on the Mount of Olives. He had to borrow a boat every time He wanted to cross the Sea of Galilee. He had to borrow a donkey to ride into the Jerusalem. He had to borrow a room for the Last Meal. He even had to borrow a tomb to be buried in.

Think of it, the only person who had the right to everything in the universe wound up with nothing. He became a slave…a bondservant. He came into the world as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the rightful heir to the throne of David. Yet, He had no advantages, no privileges, no prosperity in this world. He had no money. He had no treasure. Nobody gave Him anything. No land. No animals. Nothing! He walked everywhere He went. And yet He was the Son of God! But, in all of that…He became nothing for us!

You know it would have been one thing for God to become a man. Certainly that is humbling enough…but for God to become man and then, for mankind to treat Him as a common criminal is almost unconscionable. Jesus allowed mankind (His own creation) beat Him and mock Him and punch Him in the face and pluck out His beard…and ram a crown of thorns on His head and treat like scum…and then hang Him on a cross…

Yes, that’s God’s grace…

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. Titus 2:11

That’s the love of Jesus, who…

Philippians 2:8

8 being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Do you want to know the truth? If I had been Jesus, I would have looked at us and said, “They’re not worth it! This is too much…Don’t they know who I am!” If I had planned it, and I was Jesus, I would have come to a palace. I would have been born wealthy and to a prominent family…not a couple of poor peasants in a stinking feeding trough. I would have been educated in the finest university in Rome with the most elite teachers and the finest tutors. If I had been Jesus coming into this world, I would have made sure everybody loved me and revered me and honored me and respected me like I deserved.

I would have never spent time in a sweaty carpenter’s shop in an obscure, nothing little town in Nazareth. I would have never lived without any earthly possessions. I would have never put up with a rag-tag bunch of faithless followers like the Apostles, who would all desert me. Yeah…I would have done it differently and you know what…because of that…if I had done it my way…we would have never had the opportunity to be saved. Do you understand that? Because Jesus chose to go all the way down for you and for me we have the privilege of being saved. May that fact humble us all today!

Kevin

 

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Each year I thoroughly enjoy leading our church through our annual Rite of Passage (ROP) ceremony. I started ROP back in 2008 and we’ve had 75 young adults (counting the nine going through it this year) over the last 9 years. It’s been phenomenal for our church in how we look at our young adults and how we value them.

Here is this year’s group:

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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. You 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. We learn from Luke 2 that Jesus was submissive to His parents and the Bible says He “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men.” And so we follow Jesus’ example today. Thus, here at MPBC, at the age of 12 (and up to 18), you can participate in the annual ROP here at the church.

1 Corinthians 13:11

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

ROP indicates that the young adults who participate in ROP are going to be expected and encouraged to act like young adults and to behave accordingly. It means he or she is expected to accept accountability for mature actions and to assume greater responsibilities. Why? Because we know maturity does not necessarily come with age, but with the acceptance of increased accountability and responsibility.

The young adults have to complete a rigorous gauntlet of questions that has them digging in the Bible for hours. They answered a myriad of questions in great detail such as:

  • What does it truly mean to be a Christian? (And they described their salvation experience.)
  • What does it mean to be obedient and honor your parents?
  • What does it mean to act like and behave like a young adult?
  • What does it mean to be responsible with money?
  • What does it mean to live a life of purity?

In the ceremony on Sunday, the nine young adults took a public oath of their commitment to follow the Lord as a young adult. Here’s the oath:

“Today in the presence of my family, my church and my God, I commit to put behind me childish ways and serve the Lord with His leading and guidance as a young adult. I agree to follow the teaching of Scripture as Paul told Timothy in… 1 Timothy 4:12:

12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

We did a ceremonial “passing of the baton.” The baton represents Jesus Christ, the Word of God and the principles of being a disciple of Christ. The family is (in essence) passing the baton of faith to their young adult, who now OWNS IT FOR THEMSELVES. Here’s what one mom said afterward on Facebook about the experience with her son.

What is “Rite of Passage?” In a nutshell, it’s your young adult owning their faith, their own relationship with Christ and not ‘mom and dad’s’. The father (who is the head of the home based on Scripture) is passing the baton to their son or daughter to continue their race (1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7). The young adult (12-18) is given 20 thought-provoking preparation questions for them to research through using Scripture based on what God says. The young adult develops his own alone time reading the Bible and praying. The questions are in regards to being a follower of Christ, work ethics, friendships, showing respect, future spouse, and character traits to name a few. Some start out and realize that they are not ready and that is ok. This is not about a notch in the belt. It is about taking on the responsibility of becoming a young adult and starting to put away childish things. When we make mistakes, we own up to it, ask forgiveness, learn from them, and move forward. Each individual, as a young adult, is accountable. The goal is representing Christ in all we say and do (Colossians 3:17). All for Him! We give glory to God for Josh’s testimony that came from his own heart. 🙂

This is the live version for Josh Saffold:

Here’s Josh’s testimony (which the majority of the participants shared with the church via video):

Here’s a picture of one of the young adults, Emma Wages with her baton…

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Check out this look on Emma’s face…

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I just love these pictures… This is Paige Phillips and me. What a smile!!!

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I can’t tell you what this means to me. It brings tears to my eyes!

We had a banquet Saturday night here at the church. (We cater a meal for the families and their siblings.) It was wonderful. Here’s Pastor Dale speaking to the group.

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The families also shared hand-written letters with their young adults and gave them a box or nice container, as a “keep-sake” through the years. Man oh man, did the tears start flowing when the letters were being read… This is Kenet Heacock and his mother and father, Scott and Victoria.

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Yep, I’m pleased as punch! I think this verse is so powerful and describes how we feel about our young adults…

3 John 4

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I praise the Lord for a church that’s willing to go to Scripture and ask: “What is working and what’s not with young ministry.” Are we just spending money and spinning our wheels, or are we truly raising Christ-centered Young Adults. As a former businessman, I look at ROI. Do you know that term?

Return on Investment

What’s the return on investment in many of our churches when it comes to truly raising warriors for Christ? You’ll have to answer that question. I have studied for years about what the Bible teaches about our young people and how to seek to train them and that’s why I wrote a book about it.

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It’s not that I’m an expert (far from it). It’s just that I’m a businessman innately and I don’t want to waste time and money. And when I hear that between 70-90% of our young adults (raised in youth groups and “Christian homes”) walk away from the faith by their 20th birthday (Barna.com), that grieves my heart. There is a better way. It’s found in the pages of Scripture and it ain’t easy. Because it’s the parents who have to roll up their sleeves and train their children. The church comes alongside to help, but we can’t and won’t do it for them. It’s the parent’s job to trains their children and dad’s should lead out in this.

Psalm 78:1-8

1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
    incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
    I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
    that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
    and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
    to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
    the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
    so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Amen and amen! 🙂

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Want to see an almost silly site?

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Yep, that’s a “non-carpenter” doing carpentry work. 🙂 Let’s just say it’s rough carpentry. Thankfully I was only helping in certain spots that I could do. The work is about to come to a close at Josh and Katy’s house. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we’ll be awfully close to being done and moving them in! Woohoo! I’m excited for Josh and Katy and Charlotte and the baby to come!!

I read a lot of stats and I read this a few a days ago from Thom Rainer’s website (a Christian statistician and CEO of LifeWay) and I chuckled:

Unknown3Here are ten of the most common painful sentences uttered to pastors by church members:

  1. “I love you pastor, but . . .” The pastor will only hear the words after the “but.” And they usually are painful.
  2. “Why didn’t you visit her?” Of course, she’s not a member of the church. She was in a hospital 70 miles away. And she’s married to the third cousin of the church member.
  3. “Gotta minute? This question is typically asked in the time frame of one to five minutes before the pastor preaches.
  4. “Have you heard this podcast pastor?” Meaning: That podcast pastor is better than you.
  5. “Pastor, people are saying . . .” Of course, there are no “people,” just the gutless person who won’t speak for himself.
  6. “We’ve never done it that way before.” And that is one of the key reasons the church is dying.
  7. “I do pay your salary, you know.” In other words, it’s not God’s money; it’s my money.
  8. “I wish she had heard that sermon.” And the pastor was hoping you heard the sermon.
  9. “I wish I worked just a few hours a week like you.” After all, the pastor just needs 30 minutes to prepare a sermon and 30 minutes to preach it.
  10. “Your kids need to behave like pastor’s kids should behave.” You can find those standards in the Bible: Hezekiah 3:16.

My favorite is number 3. I just chuckle because I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with most of these now. But, I did in the first 2-3 years of ministry. Thankfully, I’ve been doing this for over a decade now and I think I’ve paid my dues enough that most of these things aren’t applicable. But, I do know pastors who are having to deal with these kinds of things and they can really hurt. I hope to encourage all of us to spend twice as much time praying for our pastors as we do talking about them. 🙂

Thursday is the National Day of Prayer and boy does our country need prayer. I just saw where Trump won Indiana and Cruz dropped out. That will leave Trump vs. Hillary. Let’s pray for our nation and for God’s mercy on us.

I thought this was a great article.

10 Reasons Not to Vote
by John Stonestreet & Matt Shervheim
The following is an updated version of an article written by John Stonestreet during the ’08 election.
“Everyone should vote,” or so they say. I disagree. Here are 10 reasons why you should not vote today:
1. If your main reason for registering to vote was “cash and cigs.”
3. If you think Republicans and Democrats should come together, but have no clue why they should, how they can, what they should accomplish, or even who they are.
4. If your main source of political information is Saturday Night Live, late night TV stand-up, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, The View, etc. (However, if you actually are informed but still enjoyed this great parody of the Youtube Democratic debate, it’s OK to vote.)
5. If you can’t find Iran on a map, and think the “Iranian Nuclear Deal” is some sort of discount sale.
6. If the reason you give for your selection of the next leader of the free world is any of the following: (a) “I just like him better,” (b) “He seems more presidential,” (c) “He is a better speaker than the other guy,” (d) “He speaks to my needs,” or (e) “He’s just so inspiring.”
7. If, during this election, you have never asked yourself of any political candidate, including your own, this question: “What did he really mean by that?” and “Is that true?” Or, in other words, if you cannot tell the difference between an assertion and an argument.
9. If you are not familiar with any or all of the following, or if you have heard of them but have no clue what/who they are: (1) Obergefell v. Hodges, (2) ISIS, (3) Conestoga Wood v. Burwell, (4) Vladimir Putin, (5) Kim Jung-un, (6) the Supreme Court, or (7) the United Nations.
10. If you really think that “every opinion counts,” including those that are stupid, uninformed, and dangerous.
And, two more for good measure:
1. If you feel there is no difference between the presidential candidates.
2. If you think voting is your “right,” without remembering how you got it, why you have it, and what “responsibilities” are.
For more from Summit on Christian political engagement, check out Summit’s The Political Animal course, available here.

I hope you are laughing! Here’s today’s Two-Minute Tuesday:

http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/3585c34

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I saw this picture yesterday and I was struck by what was missing. Do you see it?

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The Pastor’s name is missing. Now perhaps, (God forbid), he just passed away. Or more likely, this fellowship is currently without a shepherd because he has moved on? Again, I don’t know which assumption is correct (perhaps neither). Yet, far too often, this is the case for a Southern Baptist Church about every 3 1/2 to 4 years. Yes, that’s the average length of a pastorate now in the Southern Baptist Convention. How sad.

That creates tremendous upheaval, did you know that? Why? Because once a church is without a pastor, guess what they do. Duh!! They go looking for another one, right? Sure! Well, where do they go looking? Hmm. Let’s see. Well, uh…they go to a successful, thriving church and they go under cover (these people are called a Search Committee) and they try to get that pastor to leave that church to come to their church. So, that’s going to create another sign problem for another church. They are going to have to paint over that pastor’s name and go looking for another one. Can you say, “Domino Effect?”

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Why in the name of heaven do we do this to one another? Why do churches feel it’s okay to steal pastors from one another? Why do we feel it’s okay to go into another church covertly and surreptitiously and listen to another preacher just so that we can potentially make him an offer that he can’t refuse if that “Search Committee” deems him good enough to fit the bill? Folks, it’s madness and it’s the way we’ve been doing it in Baptist circles for as long as I can remember. But, how Christian is it? Not very, if you ask me.

I served on a Pastor Search Committee when I was 21 years old and I went with a man and a woman in our church to another church to hear a pastor preach. That Sunday, the rest of our committee (5 others) had gone to another church. Me and this middle-aged man and middle-aged lady go to this church in the mountains and as we walk up to the front door, an old man, an usher, says, “Well, what a nice looking family! Welcome!” The looks on our faces had to be priceless. But, as I thought about it, that’s exactly what we looked like. Even though the man and woman weren’t married and I was certainly neither’s son, that’s what it looked like to that old usher.

Do you know how I felt? Like a heel! I felt terrible! The whole time we were there, that was the assumption almost everyone made. It was such a nice church too! About 75 people in the mountains of NC and they were “the salt of the earth.” And I thought about what it would be like to take their pastor from them, RIGHT UNDER THEIR NOSES! Thankfully, we didn’t choose that man, but he ended up “in the running” anyway. Yet, he didn’t have his resume on the market, we just heard he was REALLY good and we all thought that if he was offered, he might want to come to a larger church. We were running about double what they were (150) and certainly the money would be better.

Isn’t that sad? It’s like dangling a carrot in front a horse!! I ask you, “Where is the Lord in this whole process?” Where is the Biblical precedent for this process? Answer: There is none! This is stealing, folks! Flat out stealing! And somehow we’ve gotten numb to it! Yet, the Biblical model is to choose pastors/elders from “within” the body of believers from that community. In fact, if you read the book of Acts you will find the Apostle Paul went from church to church appointing elders from men already serving within the church (Acts 14:23). In Scripture, pastors/elders were not parachuted in from another town or region. That’s absurd! Could you imagine someone living in Philippi pulling up stakes and moving to Corinth or Ephesus to be an elder in a church? That’s ludicrous! No! The men chosen to be pastors/elders were already known by the people in their home community. They were trusted by them and these men had shown they had a desire (1 Timothy 3:1) to serve in that church and community.

Pastors don’t have a reason to stay in most churches, when things get tough. Why? They have no roots in the community. We’ve got it backward! Instead of stealing pastors from other churches, we ought to look within our own ranks like they did in Scripture. Oh…but, I can hear the complaining… “What about their education? What about their resume? What about their pedigree?” Okay, “What about it?” Let’s say you hire a guy with a Master of Divinity or a PhD (that stands for “post hole digger,” if you didn’t know :), of course you know I’m kidding), does that mean they are going to hang around? Nope! It’s certainly no guarantee. In fact, it’s likely when the next “higher paying” church comes knocking, they’ll go running and call it “God’s will.” Yes, we’ve got it backwards!

But, I’ve got good news! Things are changing! Slowly but surely, churches are wising up to the fact that this process is absolutely unbiblical and simply doesn’t work. What is needed is a biblical approach. That approach is to look within the congregation and begin to ascertain, “Who might God be raising up for this task?” The truth is: that’s what Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church did with me. Little did they know that they would be training up their own pastor when I was a boy going to church here. Yet, here I am. I’m now in my 11th year as a pastor/elder and I’m still amazed!

I told the church on Sunday during all three services, that I’m still amazed that I get to pastor in the church where I grew up. I still can’t believe it when someone calls me, “Pastor Kevin.” I look around and think…oh yeah…that’s me! 🙂 But, let me tell you something! I love those people! I love them with all my heart! No one or nothing is going to run me off or lure me away. I’m convinced it was never God’s intention for elders to leave a church. You see it through. You are there for the long haul. You are committed! Isn’t that what a shepherd does? Wasn’t Jesus called “The Good Shepherd?” Would He ever leave us? No way!

By the way, look as you might, you will not find a sign on the grounds of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church that has my name on it. Do you want to know why? Because I’m not the pastor here. Jesus is. I’m just one of three undershepherds. We have three pastors/elders: Brad Cordray, Dale Jennings and me. We all work together to lead this wonderful flock and I’m beyond grateful!

Hey, did you see the picture of me and my granddaughter and my son-in-law? He’s a big Duke fan and so I bit my lip and we had this picture made together.

Charlotte w-Kev-Josh w-Duke Shirt 3-5-16

Love will sure make you do a lot of things! 🙂

Did you see this picture?

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I had to laugh to keep from crying! 🙂

Kevin

 

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