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It’s another year in the books. I told you last week that by this time next week I’d have pictures of another group of Young Adults who participated in our annual Rite of Passage. Well, here you go:

Isn’t that a fantastic group!! We had three that couldn’t make it to the Banquet on Saturday night (when this picture was made), so we had 14 in all. I’m ecstatic! Here’s some more pictures from the weekend.

The “Baton Pass…”

Here, the parents are preparing to pass the “baton of faith” to their young adult. Why? Because the young adult has to “own” their “own faith.” It can’t be their parents or someone else’s. It must be there’s and that’s what ROP does. It pushes them to “own” their faith. Here’s a picture of Emma Golds. Isn’t she just beaming!

I love that! Here’s another shot of some of the Young Adults holding their batons up high!

I’m so proud of these young adults and I’m proud of that young lady dressed in blue on the far left in the picture above. That’s Clara and that’s child #3 of mine and Pam’s who has been through this process.

(This was taken right before her violin recital in Winston-Salem last week.)

Andrew will be #4 next year. But, I don’t make them do this. I talk with my kids about what it means to be a Christian. I talk with them about what it means to own their own faith.

You see, it’s hard to grow up as a “pastor’s kid.” The expectations are unreal! People place responsibilities and demands on my kids that they would never dream of placing on their own. That’s the cold, hard truth. And that’s why a lot of “pastor’s kids” walk away from the faith. They are treated with a different set of rules than anyone else’s kids.

Now, please don’t get me wrong… Pastor’s kids should be held to a high standard, but there isn’t a passage of Scripture that says they are to be held to a higher standard than your kids. They are to be held to the same “Christian standard” in 1 Timothy 4:12. There isn’t a passage of Scripture for pastor’s kids that’s any different from anyone else. Paul told Timothy that an Elder (or Pastor) must: “manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” (1 Timothy 3:4) But folks, that’s true of any home, is it not? Every Christian home should seek to raise “submissive” children. Even Jesus was submissive. At the age of 12 the Bible describes that…

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51

So, when you see my kids…you are simply looking at children who are being raised in a glass box with expectations that are off the charts… Therefore, if you get a chance…pat them on the back for bearing up on the pressure. No, my kids aren’t perfect. But, they are following Jesus and I’m tickled to death about that and I praise His name for His mercy on them and for their desire to swallow hard and follow Him.

Oh by the way, I didn’t show you this picture of me and Charlotte from the beach. I love this picture…

Ain’t she a cutie-pie! She loved making sand castles with Christmas trees on top!

Here was our family picture from the beach…

We take a family photo each year. My, my, my how the kids have grown! And now I’m watching my grand babies grow! I’m a blessed man!

Speaking of my children and grandchildren… Katy wrote a new blog post this week that truly sums up so much of life. I leave you with it this week…

“IT’S OKAY THOUGH”

It’s funny because I’m not really sure if she picked it up from me or someone else, but Charlotte has picked up a new phrase. It’s one of the dozens she learns every week in this season of tremendous brain development and learning, but this one has stuck out and surprisingly has become of help to me.  She now says it many times a day as though God spoke it to her to comfort me. The first time happened like this….
I was having a rough day. Everything was getting on my nerves and all the mess and stuff to do was crowding out my joy. To make matters worse, I dropped something on the floor in the kitchen and food spilled out everywhere. Charlotte (2 and a half years old) was sitting in her seat waiting for me to deliver lunch to her empty plate. I let out something like, “Dad gum it!” There was a pause and then she calmly respond from her seat behind me “Oh Mommy! It’s okay though!”
It’s okay though. It hit me. How funny it is that my young daughter is so quick to remind me that this really isn’t a big deal, but me in all my adult-ness, blew it out of proportion. That’s when I realized that I do that a lot. Little stuff can make me so overly upset and aggravated. The actual big things that are more than just inconveniences seem crippling because I blow the LITTLE things out of proportion.
You know what I mean.
You have to wait and the doctor’s office longer than you wanted.
A rock cracked your windshield.
It rained on your new shoes.
You caught a cold before a presentation.
The potty training toddler peed on your carpet.
Your teenager absent mindedly locked his keys in the car.
You know.
But if those things cripple us and plummet us down the spiral of despair then what could real trauma do to our hearts? Cancer, Bankruptcy, Fire, Murder, Kidnapping, Death etc. What then?
That’s when it dawned on me that Charlotte is right. This little mess is okay. It’s not a big deal, because when things ARE a big deal I want to remember all that was actually good in my life and how even in the things that really are not okay, that God is good.
When Satan tempts you to blow the minor things out of proportion, remember that he is trying to get you and I to spend our whole lives selfishly focusing on ourselves. He wants us to think we don’t have enough to give, that we are too young or old or busy to help, he wants you to think that you have it so bad. But we don’t. I pray even if I do have it rough…. really rough one day, that I will look up and thank God anyway and be thankful that I tried really hard not to “major on the minors” when I had the chance.
Enjoy the flowers. Feels the breeze. Remember, it’s okay though.

http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com/2017/05/its-okay-though.html

 

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288,000That’s the number of people who went to the movies last year at Two Rivers movie theater in Wilkesboro, NC. That’s over four times the population of Wilkes County. That’s a lot of people!

Let me ask you something. Do you think people who go to the movies would be a good audience to share the Gospel? Do you think if you could find a way to share with the 288,000 who frequent Two Rivers Cinema annually about your church and the Gospel you would try?

Maybe if you could do something like this at the beginning of each movie for the next year?

What did you think? Well, we’re going to try it! We’re going to try to go out into the “highways and hedges” and compel people to come! I’m excited to see what the Lord is going to do with this.

You know, I love the fact that as you study the Gospels in Scripture you see Jesus going to the synagogues throughout Galilee in the first year of His 3-year ministry. But, at year #2, He’s doing outdoor ministry. He is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. He’s feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 and He’s everywhere! And His popularity is growing to the point that the people want to make Him the King. Do you see the focus? It shifted. He started in the synagogues, where He proclaimed the Good News to those who were “God-fearing” people. But, after that was complete, He made His way to the common people by going to where they were.

In fact, He really made people mad by eating with publicans and sinners, tax collectors and such. It’s the whole “be in the world, but not of the world” idea that He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. John 17:15-18

In Matthew 15, the Apostle records what Jesus did in Capernaum:

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand.” Matthew 15:10

Jesus was with the people. He went to where they were because He came to seek and save that which is lost.

Do you remember where Paul went when he was in Athens? Mars Hill…the Areopagus. It was the “marketplace” of ideas and it was there that he explained to the people the “unknown God.” Paul went to the people just like Jesus.

Now, I know some will say, “I can’t believe you are running a 15-second ad in a movie theater. Don’t you know what kind of movies they show in there?” Yes, I sure do. Some pretty rough ones and because of that, wouldn’t it be pretty amazing to have our ad pop up right before that movie. Aren’t those the folks we want to try to reach? And you know what? Some Christians might be sitting in those “rough movies” and might could use a little conviction, don’t you think? As the old preacher says, “If you can’t say, ‘Amen,’ say, ‘Oh my!'”

I ask you to pray for us as we try to make an introduction to 288,000 people about the church, which would be the avenue through which we can share Jesus. We’re excited to see what happens!

Speaking of being excited… This past Sunday Evelyn was dedicated to the Lord at church.

Isn’t she precious! I’m certainly a blessed Papa! It’s hard to believe she’s already 6 months old. Last night Clara had her violin recital in Winston-Salem…

She’s been taking lessons for 7 years. That’s also hard to believe!

She played Vivaldi’s “Concerto in A Minor.” She had to memorize it and it’s about 5 1/2 minutes long. Let’s just say that I couldn’t have done something like that in a million years. It’s amazing what you can teach a young person. It’s astounding what they can absorb.

Speaking of young people… This is a big weekend at church. We’ve got our annual Rite of Passage (ROP) Banquet for our young adults who have chosen to go through Rite of Passage this year. What is ROP?

Well, 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.” It’s been said, “Children will rise to the level of their parents’ expectations as adults.” The model for ROP comes from Luke chapter 2. Do you remember how Joseph and Mary couldn’t find Jesus and then discovered Him  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?” Did you catch that? “Father’s business?” It was time (at 12) to be thinking about the ultimate mission of life. We know Jesus is our example in all things, and in all stages of life and that includes 12 year olds and becoming a young adult.

We also know 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 seek to follow Jesus’ example. So, at MPBC, at the age of 12 (and up to 18), you can participate in our annual ROP. Here is our theme verse:

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.

You see, ROP indicates that according to Scripture, a young adult is expected to act like “young adults” and to behave accordingly. It means they are 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 and ownership of increased accountability and responsibility.

This year we have 14 young adults who have successfully completed a rigorous gauntlet of questions that had them digging in the Bible for hours. This is taken from the book I wrote about the subject…

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_14?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=d+kevin+brown+rite+of+passage&sprefix=d+kevin+brown+%2Caps%2C229

This year is our 10th year of doing Rite of Passage and we’ve had 89 young adults go through the program. This was last year’s group:

Isn’t that cool!!

Now, why is this significant? Well, various studies show that young people are walking away from their faith in droves by their 20th birthday. Some studies show as much as 80-90% of “Christian teens” will walk away from their faith within 18 months of graduating High School.

The truth is, I saw this happening. I taught the High School Sunday School class at church for over 15 years and this statistic was shockingly accurate. I knew there had to be a better way. We had to find a way to stop just entertaining our kids and actually raising the bar of expectations in their lives and give them a job to do in the church and use them for God’s glory. Young people want to feel a part of their church, not shoved away in some room with games, food and hand-me-down sofas. They want to feel needed, wanted and involved. Hence, Rite of Passage.

The banquet is tomorrow night. This was last year’s…

We’ll conclude the weekend with the Recognition service on Sunday with the Ceremonial “Passing of the Baton.” This was one of the young ladies last year (Emma Wages).

Yes, I’m excited about all of this because we’ve reversed the percentages. Yep, you read that right. We don’t have an 80-90% failure rate, but instead we’ve flipped the percentages. No, I’m not saying just because you do ROP in your church you will guarantee that your child will walk with the Lord. It’s not 100%. But, it’s certainly a lot better than what we’ve been doing I’ll tell you that! 🙂

One of the things the young adults have to do in the process of ROP is to describe Biblical Salvation and their salvation experience. I want to give you just one example of one of the answers. In this case a 16-year old, sophomore young man. (Used by permission.)

“For the longest time I wished I could tell people that I had your ‘average youth salvation.’ I never could though. I now rejoice in it. My conversion experience was so shaking to the core that I abandoned my will to God. The average youth salvation is: Around 8 or 9 years old you go to the altar and shake the pastor’s hand and he knows why you are there, because he knows your parents have probably been pushing you. Most likely due to insecurity, your parents pushed for this experience and the child felt pressured to make a premature decision for their faith that’s not really theirs. This pains me so much because we create so many false conversions, and because of that; when challenged about their salvation, they respond in arrogance to their sin…

What they don’t understand, and using this as evidence against their ‘conversion’ is they don’t truly understand salvation. Salvation is a continual process by which we grow in Christ confirming our salvation in His finished work on the cross. Fruit being the only outward evidence we can see is so important because that is our witness! We are the link between the Holy Spirit and people that attract non-believers to Jesus Christ.”

Folks, what that young man just described is Biblical salvation and I believe that’s the issue. So many young people aren’t really walking away from the faith by age 20. I believe many were never Biblically saved in the first place and it’s not totally manifested that this is the case until they leave home and get on their own. Hence again, the need in our churches to make sure we are locking down on what true, Biblical salvation is and to point that out to our young adults so as to make certain of their salvation.

The mother of this young man sent me this email:

“I want to tell you how grateful I am for the Rite of Passage program at MP.  It has been a great deal of work for [my son] and I am so happy he decided to participate.  I never encouraged him to participate, because sometimes that back fires on us a parents… This was all on him!! This study has really caused him to think about what he believes and writing it down appears to have put some solidity to it for him and for us. Thank you for all your hard work and time surrounding ROP…”

And that dear folks is why we do what we do!

Here’s this week’s “Two-Minute Tuesday” on “Why Atheists Could Die Out Because They Aren’t Having Babies.” It’s certainly thought-provoking!

https://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/sx4csug

Kevin

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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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