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Another summer is upon us and it’s in full swing in my world. This week is VBS and next week is off to Texas and Mexico. In the midst of that Kandace and 8 other ladies in our church are in China and there is the process of putting together the budget for next year, getting people in places to serve (Nominating Committee) and planning for the future. There’s never a dull moment.

Pray for us tomorrow night. We’ll have a ton of parents here and they’ll be watching their children and see what they’ve learned this week. I’ll be sharing the Gospel by way of the Three Circles.

It’s a fantastic way to share the Gospel and how the Lord delivers from brokenness all those who will repent and believe in His Son. If they will do so, they can be restored to God’s design for them. A perfect life? No. But, a life where His presence and peace covers us and provides for us strength and security for each day. Knowing God is the most unbelievable part of life. To actually call the God of the universe: “Father” is mind-boggling to me! But, that’s the offer to all those who will receive Jesus by faith, and choose to repent of their sins and follow Christ. It’s such a simple exchange. But, it’s so hard for so many. Satan has such a stronghold on their lives and their minds. Truly, salvation is a spiritual transaction and we must approach people by means of prayer as the greatest tool in our sharing the Gospel… Yes, a good approach (like the Three Circles above) is necessary…but, the essential thing is prayer.

So, I’m praying already about who will be here tomorrow night. I’m praying the Holy Spirit will speak to hearts as they watch the Three Circles. I love this presentation of it from a student at Appalachian State University.

How cool is that! So, pray for us tomorrow night around 7:30 pm, as I share the Gospel.

I checked the weather forecast for Weslaco, TX. When we land on Saturday it’s supposed to be 101 degrees. Yikes! We’ll be seeking to pour the roof of the church next week. That will finish the project. It’s hard to believe we started working on this project five years ago. Praise the Lord that it will be complete (Lord willing and there are no issues).

This is how it looks as of today…

We want to get that roof on next week! But, we also want to minister to the people of Weslaco, TX. We have been going to Mexico since 2008 and it’s been a wonderful journey to watch children who were very little, who are now grown and continuing to follow the Lord. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul has he went back to the same towns on his missionary journeys to care for the people and to encourage them. That’s what we seek to do as well. Pray for our team of 26 as we head down on Saturday. Thank you!

My goal is to upload pictures on Facebook throughout the week as much as I can. I’ll look forward to reuniting with Kandace as she will arrive back on the 23rd and we’ll arrive back on Saturday the 24th. It’ll be about 1 am or so before I hit the sack…but, I’ll look forward to hugging my girl the next morning before heading off to church to preach. Reuniting when you haven’t seen your family for a couple of weeks is bit like heaven if you ask me. What a grand reunion we will have there one day. How in the world does our Heavenly Father hold back from sending Jesus to come get us… I’ll never know. His love and desire for more to come to know Him before it’s too late must be the overriding desire of His heart. Otherwise, it would be: LET THE REUNION BEGIN.

Here’s this week’s Two Minute Tuesday. Senator Bernie Sanders really put his foot in his mouth last week. See here, why he doesn’t understand the claims and teachings of Jesus at all. Also see  why the Senator doesn’t even understand our Constitution. How does a man like this ever get elected? It’s beyond me. And on top of that…he was almost the Democrats choice! YIKES! It’s gotten almost 4,000 views as of this afternoon.

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

Here’s last week’s TMT on “Judging.”

https://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/lnz5z6z

Kevin

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As I get older I see more and more that this life is going to always be riddled with problems and issues. Why? Because this world is riddled with sin. We’re going to overcome one hurdle, only to be confronted by another one. Where it gets tough is when the hurdles come really close together and you can’t seem to gather yourself to clear one, before the next one is right on top of you. Now, I don’t say this to be depressing. I say this to state in reality: “Life is hard.” And because of sin…that’s the way it’s going to be.

How do we handle these problems, these issues? Well, in a myriad of ways I suppose. However, as I try to boil down those ways, I see two main options: God’s way or the World’s way. I get to choose His path or the world’s path. And so do you. The question becomes: How do we know His path? Well, that should be pretty simple. His Word…the Bible. It’s a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

You see, it’s so easy to stumble and stammer around wringing our hands, when we have the GIFT of God’s word. Notice those large, bold letters: GIFT. The Word of God is a “gift” and for most Christians it remains an unopened and unused gift. Many Christians seldom read the Bible and when they do, it’s only a snippet here and a verse there (usually found in a devotional passage). Now devotionals and the like, aren’t bad. That’s not what I’m saying. But, it’s like this. If I could offer you a 7-course meal (and you’re really, really hungry) or a bologna sandwich; which would you take?

Truth is, we might be really hungry, but for most…we’re eating bologna sandwiches. And when we eat bologna we’re going to struggle. Because we begin to exude bologna. Everything that comes out of us becomes…yep…bologna. Solution: Sit down and read the Bible daily. The Bereans studied the Scriptures: DAILY. Not just when they felt like it. That’s bologna, you see. Didn’t Jesus say, “Give us this day our daily bread”? Now, I don’t know about you, but I like to eat (way too much). But, I can easily falter in my appetite to read the Word of God. And that is to my own detriment.

I know over the last several weeks I’ve gone through some real ups and downs in my life mentally and spiritually, as I have tried to assess where I am, where my family is and where the church is. I’m an old businessman at heart, so I continue to analyze over and over ROI: Return On Investment. I ask: Is the time and effort I’m spending growing the kingdom of God?

Think of it this way. Is your family growing the kingdom of God or hindering it? How about you? Are you growing the kingdom of God or hindering it? Think about how you work, play, etc. Think about how you spend your life. Is it growing the kingdom of God or the kingdom of you. Ouch! I’m asking myself those questions and I ask them a lot. Truly, I want to honor the Lord with my life and I want that for my family and for the church I help to shepherd.

As I think about the last several weeks, (which thankfully included a much needed vacation), it’s been a time of self-reflection for me. (Often vacations prove to be that for me. It’s typically the only concerted time I get to truly unplug for a few days where I can really assess things. And truthfully, that needs to change.) As a matter of fact, right after I took this picture…

…(that’s Clara and Andrew, of course), the sun was setting on Holden Beach, NC, and I took a walk down the beach by myself. That was the only time of the trip that happened. If you have kids you know how that is. They love to play and I love to be with them…but, in this case, they went back to the house and I thought, “Well, I’ll just take a quick walk.” And it was quick! A whopping 20 minute walk. 10 minutes down to the pier and 10 minutes back. But I must tell you, in that short period of time the Lord spoke into my spirit. He said, “Kevin, you need to think about everything you’re doing and self-assess. You need a cushion of time…y0u’re trying to do too much.” And I knew it. That’s my nature. I have never seemed to build much of any cushion in my life. How about you? Do you build cushion in your life? Is there any time to sit still and know that He is God, or are we all running 1,000 mph all the time? It’s a feeling of never getting done. Do you know that feeling? It’s a feeling that will beat you into the ground and the stress of that, (where there is no cushion in your life), can become suffocating. The Lord showed me that’s where I had been a lot for the past year or so.

So, as I walked on that warm sand and looked at the gorgeous sunset, I began to self-assess in my mind. I thought about all that I attempt to do each week and I said, “Father, what do you want?” And that’s when He quietly and firmly began to show me things in my mind and heart that needed to go and be adjusted. Truth is… I’m still working on some of these things in my mind and my heart and I’ll share them as the Lord leads. But, I began to feel a burden lift. A burden of not trying to be all things to all people.

Yes, self-assessment and building a cushion are good things. And for me, it took a walk down Holden Beach to grasp that fact. Hey, I feel like I can breathe again and that feels good! Thank you Lord! 🙂

Kandace wrote a fabulous blog post earlier this week about the upcoming trip she and 10 other ladies from our church will be taking to China next week (June 8-23). I’m so proud of her and her desire to do the work of the Lord around the world. Missions is in her blood.

PREPARATION

We’re closing in on our upcoming trip to China…. with just a little over a week to go until we get up at an ungodly hour on Thursday morning and depart from the hotel to the RDU airport to board our plane. I think everyone who has ever gone on an international trip where you will be gone for more than two weeks knows that feeling that hits you when you’re about a week out….. It’s one that is full of panic and excitement. I sat down with a close friend who will be my roommate on the trip yesterday and we went over our packing lists and that feeling of “dear Lord there is SO MUCH to do” washed over me.

For anyone who might not know, I went to China in January of 2016 with my mom and worked alongside some ladies from MPBC in an orphanage for two weeks. It was a life changing trip and on the plane ride home I was already trying to work out in my head when I could go back. I just knew I wanted to go back sometime when it wasn’t in the winter months. I nearly froze to death. 😉 I love China and I love Chinese children. I happen to have two of them for siblings. It was one of the most meaningful trips I’ve been on. ICC (International China Concern) is the organization we partnered with and they were awesome. Such a great group of Jesus loving and people loving individuals. I am so excited to go back and be partnered with ICC again.

In 2016 we went to Hengyang, China. This year we will be going to Sanmenxia. It will be a completely different orphanage with different kids. I hate that I won’t get to see the ones I built a relationship with last year, but I know that most of them have probably been adopted by now or are in the process of finding their forever families. It will be exciting to meet new kids and build new relationships. So, there’s a little of the backstory…

Along with this trip being in the summer (average temps are supposed to be in the upper 90s to low 100s) it will be different than the last trip in the fact that we will get to do a little touring in Beijing before we head to Sanmenxia. I’m super excited about this. China is such a unique and culturually different country. It’s always fun to get to do a little touring and site seeing along the way. I am hoping to be able to get some wifi here and there and share pictures and updates. Hopefully the hotel wifi will be stronger than the wifi we had last year. It worked two times for about five minutes out of the whole time we were there…. That drove me crazy because I love to post stuff when I’m on trips. Guess I’m too used to the free and lighting fast American wifi. 😉

I think the big thing with a trip like this is just the mental and emotional preparation that has to come along with it…. We will see and hear about heartbreaking situations and there will be times when the overwhelming feeling to cry or just scoop a certain child up and put them in our suitcase will overcome us. It happened to me a few times on the last trip. Each of the 11 people on our team will leave a little piece of their heart in China. I had a lump in my throat the whole way home last year. It’s so hard to leave. I think about how that must be how God feels when He looks at us. His helpless children who need love and guidance. He wants to scoop us up and take us home and make the pain and suffering of this life end, but there is more time on the clock and there is more work to be done, but one day it won’t have to be that way anymore. All of the orphans and helpless will have a home and a Father. That’s a really spectacluar thought. And for two weeks we will do everything in our power to scoop those children up and love them like Jesus loves us.

I was recently talking to one of the ladies who will be going on the trip and she was sharing about how she was feeling a lot of anxiety and like Satan was trying to attack her with doubts. Before every mission trip that I have ever gone on that has happened to me… It might come in the form of sickness striking close to the departure date or problems with a background check or a grandparent taking ill or just in the form of doubts… Satan will throw something at us and cause us to break down in fear and question why we’re even doing this. He wants to do everything in his power to stop the impending work that will take place in that orphanage in China. Even though we aren’t allowed to share Jesus with our mouths I believe he will shine through our actions and love. And Satan, of course, hates that.

So, I’m asking all of you who took the time to read this post to please pray for us. Pray for us in these upcoming days of preparation. Pray that on the days that will be hot and tiring and full of mentally exhausting circumstances and situations we will feel supernatural strength. Pray that our stomachs will be strong and that our bodies adjust to the time change. Pray that we will put our focus on why each of us chose to go on this trip and let Jesus work through our actions. Pray for me because I won’t have my Mama with me this time and that makes me a wee bit nervous. 😉 Just pray for us. I can’t wait to see what happens over those 16 days. I thank you in advance for your prayers and for partnering with us in this amazing work. I’ll be sure to post a lengthy blog when I get back. I know there will be tons to tell.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted. You consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” ~Psalm 10:14

http://kandacebrown.blogspot.com/2017/05/preparation.html

Kandace

Here’s this week’s “Two-Minute Tuesday” about how we use our cell phones. Do you sleep next to yours? Are they allowed at the dinner table? Take a look at how American’s do this “smart phone” stuff.

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

Kevin

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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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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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Can I be honest with you? I needed a break. And I got it (by and large) last week. No deadlines. No meetings. No hospitals. As much as I love what I do, (and I sincerely do)… I needed the break and so to the coast my family and I did goest! 🙂

Here are some pictures…

The family:

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The sunsets were amazing!

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These next two pictures of pelicans flying in V-formation above me were fabulous: img_0945 img_0947

Clara likes taking selfies:

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I got a real charge out of this one… Gotta love the “duck-face” she got Charlotte to make with her…

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It was truly a great week! Honestly, I think the build up to some time for R&R is almost as fun as actually resting. Is that crazy or what? You know it’s true. Planning a vacation and thinking about the fact that you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and you can eat (a bit naughty) is really kind of fun (in and of itself) to think about and experience. 🙂

Isn’t it true that we all go at such a break-neck pace that probably none of us rest enough. We almost feel guilty when we do. I know I do. My mind is in overdrive almost all the time. I guess it’s just my nature (at least that’s my excuse). But, it takes a lot for me to push the “stop” button of my life and just “be still.” You know being still can make us better and more productive people. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” And that’s what I did last week. I was still.

I hope you didn’t miss me too much! 🙂 But, the family and I were ready to have some undivided attention together. I liked that “undivided” part. Pastoring, (as wonderful as it is), leaves your attention divided a lot. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend or your day off, it can always be changed in a moment, in an instant.

That being said, it makes me think of Pam. I thought about her a lot last week because I was actually with her! 🙂 She is such a trooper and deals with even more than I do juggling all that she does so that I can do what I do. If it weren’t for all that Pam does as a stay-at-home, homeschool mom…the church wouldn’t get nearly as much out of me as it does, I promise you that. Sometimes I don’t think she gets enough credit for all she does as a pastor’s wife. I get the “at-a-boys” after a message is preached…and I’m grateful for those…but, I wish I could defer those to Pam as some “at-a-girl…way to go Pam!”

Some might think, “Well you guys just need to grin and bear it Kevin…after all you are a pastor’s family and that’s just the life you live.” Well, that is most definitely true, but it doesn’t change the fact that everyone likes a pat on the back occasionally and a “job well done” from time to time. Friday night last week, for instance, she did most of the packing up while I began working on a funeral sermon (because of a sudden death in the church). I delivered that sermon yesterday. Yes, it had to be done and as usual, she made it happen.

Yep, my lovely bride is a trooper and lest you are thinking she put me up to saying these things…you would be dead wrong. That’s not her style and those of you who know her know it. She’s one of the most unassuming and kindly, humble people you will ever meet and because of that fact…she’s often taken for granted by ME and many others. And so I’m publicly saying: “Pam Brown you are the bomb and I love you and I’m so proud of you that I can’t see straight! And thanks for all you do honey! Without you, I’m half of what I am (at best)!”

And while I’m at it…may I give a shout out to my kids. Pastors kids are placed under a microscope like no-one else’s kids, period. The expectations of pastor’s kids…well, let’s just say the expectations are almost unattainable. People expect things from pastor’s kids that they don’t expect from their own children in most cases. As harsh as it sounds, I’m really convinced that some people wish my kids would fail so that they could feel better about their kids. Ouch! I don’t mean that in a mean-spirited way… I promise. It’s just the way it seems and feels at times. I’ve been doing this for almost 11 years and unless you have lived it…you don’t understand it.

Now please, please don’t get me wrong. Pastor’s kids are to be submissive and under control (so says 1 Timothy 3), but many PK’s are expected to walk on water and that’s just not possible. They are human beings too! And yes, they need a break from time to time where they get 100% of their daddy and dad can just be Dad. They need me NOT to be in “work mode” as they call it. (Often times they’ll say to me…even at home… “Come on dad…get out of work mode…it’s us!”) It’s hard sometimes, I must admit, but Kandace, Clara, Andrew, (and still Katy, and now grand baby Charlotte and soon to make her appearance: Evelyn Ruth) are understanding and I’m grateful! And yes…I had a wonderful time with all my children and grandchildren last week…without a phone stuck to my ear and a computer on my lap! Woohoo! We had a blast! And thank you, thank you, thank you for being wonderful children who love the Lord and serve Him out of your own heart of love. You’re the best!

Might I say that I believe for folks who live an “on-call” 24/7 lifestyle, there must be times to totally unplug or you’ll burn out. You can’t run a race horse every single race and not eventually kill it. It’s got to have some “pasture time.” So, this pastor did just that…I cooled my jets and had some “pasture time” at the coast with the most. It was such a blessing to get away for a few days. And now, (as always after a break), I’m recharged and ready and raring to go and I’m back in the saddle again! Praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy and for the time to enjoy His creation at the coast and to have been with my family for a wonderful week!

 

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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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It’s another hot week in the foothills of NC and I’ll admit to you…I’m about ready for a break. The pace has been relentless over the last several months. Perhaps you are there too. Have you had a break lately? Do you ever get a day off? Good! That’s so important! I’m hoping to catch a break in late July and then I’ll head to the coast with the family in late September like we normally do. We’ll hope we can chase the hurricanes away! 🙂 Until then…I’m kind of like what the Carolina Panthers say… “Keep pounding!”

You know lately, I’ve been watching the political landscape and I continue to be dismayed at what I see. It’s like watching something from another planet. It’s hard to fathom the yo-yo-ing up and down of this Presidential campaign. The ads by Clinton have already started. They make her look like Mother Theresa as she cares for all the children. Have you seen them yet? Wow! I wonder if they have any footage of all the “Whitewater” days from Arkansas?

I’m also wondering what Trump will say next? It is a bit disconcerting that he is saying that we should shut down all mosques. Why do I say that is disconcerting? Read carefully: Because one day a President could say the same thing about Christian churches. The first amendment is clear here, in my opinion. The government has no right to get involved in telling people what to believe. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not espousing Islam. You know me better than that. Islam is a religion inspired by Satan. But, when a government can determine which “house of faith” remains open based on what they (the government) thinks is right…well…that’s all “peaches and cream,” until the government decides that what Christians teach and preach is also unacceptable. We just saw this last summer in Kentucky with the County Clerk. We are seeing this now with bakers and t-shirt makers, etc. Believe me, if we go down this path…and the government begins dictating what is and isn’t acceptable to believe…wow…that’s going to become a very slippery slope in a hurry.

By the way, have you seen any Trump ads? He’s not started yet, apparently. I’ve not seen even one. I’m hearing that he’s looking for money now. Truth is…if he doesn’t start running some soon, he’s going to get behind in a hurry. Clinton has a huge money machine behind her and people believe what they see on TV. Most Americans are so easily  duped. Am I saying that we’re dumb. Yep…pretty much…yep…that’s what I’m saying.

You see, regarding this whole election, I continue to allow my thoughts to be directed toward the Supreme Court vacancies. That’s what is driving my thinking right now. Which person is going to select conservative judges? Clinton…NO WAY…zero chance. Trump? Who knows. He says he will…but, then again…he flip-flops so much, it’s hard to tell. Pray and let the Holy Spirit guide your conscience. That’s what I’m continuing to do. All I know is that we are in one HUGE (to use Trump’s word) mess!!

Here’s another example of the mess we’re in… I’ve decided that the situation in Orlando is being played out by the Obama Administration as just another form of their spin and propaganda. I’ve never in my life seen anything quite like it. They’re scrambling you know. Why? Because they are absolutely bewildered in how they are supposed to spin this whole thing? Think about it. They’re big-time pro-homosexuality and pro-Islam…so, how does Obama do this? How does he make this thing work without alienating either group (who are so loyal to him)? Well, you’re seeing it. He sends Attorney General, Loretta Lynch out on the Sunday shows and she spins a tale and then he has her walk it back yesterday. Amazing! It’s so wacky. Poor ole Loretta Lynch! She’s such a scapegoat. I feel sorry for her.

I feel sorry for us as a nation. I feel this way particularly about the next generation. We are failing you, young people. We are raising a generation that can’t tell fact from fiction. College professors, according to an ACT study, say this is the case. Only 18% of college professors say incoming freshmen have the ability to tell fact from fiction. I talked about this earlier today in my Two-Minute Tuesday. You can watch it here:

http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/8b3c583

Do you know what I’ve decided? Just give people Jesus. I stopped a long time ago trying to win people over to my argument about politics or global warming or evolution or traditional marriage. You see, if I win them to my side of the argument, but I don’t win them to Jesus, then I’ve “won nothing.” I don’t want to major on the minors. I want to major on Jesus. So keep preaching Jesus! We need to preach Him in how we live even louder than what we say! He said, “Be doers of my word…not hearers only.”

Let’s do it!

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