Monday, March 31, 2008

Where are we (the USA) headed?

When one considers the heritage of this country, the present day culture is almost amazing. Just meander through the historical monuments in Washington, D.C., pay attention to the engravings of our forefathers, and the obvious conclusion is that the founding fathers of this nation had a deep faith in God and deep trust in the Bible. For instance, above the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court hangs an indelible engraving of the Ten Commandments. This is only one of many illustrations of the desire from those deep thinking writers of our national documents to keep God's word center stage in this nation.

So how is it that we now live in a society which believes in tolerance for everyone and everything except God and the Bible. In the early days of America the Bible was THE text book for the teaching of reading to young students in public school. Today that same Bible is not really allowed on the school grounds let alone in the classroom. Just exactly how did this happen? Who was it that decided "love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself" would warp the personality of children? Who made the determination that pornography and homosexuality are rights guarenteed by U.S. constitution? And now, a judge tells moms and dads in California that they are not fit to educate their own children? Just exactly what is happening?

Add to this the fact that we are facing a Presidential election in November without a candidate which represents the rank and file people in this country. This election is somewhat frightening. Without a miracle we may wind up with a President who either will not or cannot defend our nation and/or has little regard for human life. It seems like we are going the same way of every "Empire" before us. History tells us that these were not defeated by an external power but rather they decayed from within.

This year, like none other, the words of Alexis De Tocqueville a famous French statesman who traveled to America in the 1830’s to discover the REASONS for the success of this new nation, conceived in liberty, ring in my ears. Here are the words which stick in my mind;

"I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors...; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom. The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other. Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts-the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims."

My hope is that we can learn from these famous words of this French visitor of days gone by. And my prayer is that we will then heed these words and change the direction of this great nation.

"There is a way which seems right to man, but the end is destruction."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Making it through

Years ago I heard a preacher pontificate; "every person in this room is in one of 3 places. They are either in the middle of a storm, coming out of a storm, or about to enter a storm." At the time I didn't really believe my ears, however, a few more years of life convinces me that this axiom is absolutely true!

However, most of us have unrealistic expectations about life. We actually expect things to go smoothly and are surprised when "the train jumps the tracks." If you and I honestly review our lives, we are required to admit that trouble surrounds us. So how do we make it through?

Jesus' half-brother, James, gives us a clue. In the book which bears his name, the scripture records, "count it pure joy when you fall into various trials and testings." Two things are noteworthy from this verse. First, it is not "IF" but "WHEN" we get in a storm. Next, we need be view the reason for this struggle with joy. Why is this? Because the next verse says, "it will help us grow and mature". Understanding this principle from Holy Scripture can help change our outlook on life's circumstances. Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

EASTER!

Of all the days that should be days of rejoicing, praising, and even worshipping, it should be Easter! Much more than bunnies, candy, eggs, etc, this day is about our Lord Jesus. It was this day that He made a way for our redemption and justification!

Redemption & Justification-- hmm - now there's two big words, whatever do they mean and better yet, are they just religious words or do they apply to "me?" Well yes, they both possess a tremendous application to us all.
Redemption, by definition, means several things. Here are a couple;
1) It means to "buy back." This meaning should remind us that God designed each one of us to have a close, intimate, and personal relationship with Him. We are His by creation. However, when sin came into the world through Adam in the Garden, we lost this relationship. You see, God is a good love, but He is also a God of purity and thus, cannot allow sin in His presence. Upon sinning, both Adam and Eve were barred from the Paradise which God had designed for them. Yet, right at that point God put into action a "buy back" plan. It was and is Jesus.
2) It means to "set free." Since the time of that original sin, all of mankind have been born captive to sin. This means our sin nature will indeed pull us down. It means that our fleshly desire cause us to consistently do things which are outside of God's perfect will. For the man who is outside of Christ, give him a choice and most of the time, he'll choose for himself, for instant gratification, and to sin. In Christ we are "set free" from this captivity. Jesus came to set the captives free.
Justification, by definition means;
to make us right. Think about this. Jesus was killed for our sins and HE was RAISED FROM the dead for our Justification. What a mighty God we serve.

In Jesus we have redemption through His blood because at the right time God sent Jesus to redeem us and the very reason Jesus came was redemption.

Death to life, captive to free, wrong to right, it is all bound up in this wonderful time of year, Easter Time! Let us not let this day pass without thanking God for His perfect gift of Jesus.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Will the Real President Please Stand Up!

We are early in this election year and already I'd like it to be OVER. Years ago, there was a movie in which a candidate withdrew from the election and suggested that the majority vote for "none of the above!!" Man to have that option!! Yet, to vote for none of the above means two things; 1) It means you vote with the majority. To abstain from voting in protest is tantamount to giving the majority your vote. 2) It means to not vote. With respect to one candidate, a vote of "present" is not an acceptable position. It means you're sticking your finger in the air to see which way the wind of politics is blowing and then your cast you sails to go with that wind. It means you're sitting on the fence---all you get from riding the fence is splinters.

Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in time we can make a difference if we don't give up. To not vote is to give up. Let us remember that our system of "democracy" as a republic is built on the fact that everyone has a voice, and that voice is his or her vote. No where in the system is it written or explained that "You are supposed to VOTE for the winner," but rather it is highly communicated that "You are to VOTE your CONSCIENCE" and then, accept the majority's decision.

What I would like is to have a "Statesman" to run. A true "Statesmen" is one who puts the office, the welfare of the country, and the greater good ahead of any political gain. In the absence of a true statesment, we are called to make a decision among a group of candidates--none of which are the best choice. May God give us wisdom to do so.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Really Don't Understand

In many ways, I feel like one of the most blessed and fortunate men to ever live. No, life has not always given me all that "I" wanted, but it has certainly given me more than I deserved!!

Back in 1994 I moved to Biloxi, MS, as pastor of the Bay Vista Baptist Church. Spending 6 years with that wonderful congregation and being able to stay in that "area" for another 5 years had and has its little perks. For instance, the friends established on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are friendships which will last a lifetime. Some of the best people I know live down there.

Being the golfer that I 'try to be' and loving golf as I do, Billy and Sheryl Applewhite (both golf professionals) became like family to us. We spent time in their home, they spent time in ours, we played golf together, fished together, and we even lived in their 'house' for a year! Needless to say, this is a relationship which we value greatly.

Along our journey, Billy and Sheryl have introduced us to some tremendous families. One of these families was Lowery and Kandi Anderson. In 1995, Lowery came to Bay Vista on a Sunday morning to sing for us. And SING he did. We were truly blessed by His ministry. Although the Anderson's were not in vocational ministry, it was obvious that God had a special place of service for both Lowery and Kandi.

Since that first meeting in 1995, I have counted it an honor to call this family friends. It has been a joy to have watched with Spiritual Excitement as Kandi has become involved in Christian Radio and as a Women's Speaker. Something which she continues until today.

Lowery (been trying to figure out how to spell his nickname. It's pronounced "loud" without the "d". Yet, "Lou" is not right nor is "Low" right...so, here Lowery is, once again, being unique - GRIN - way to go, Lowery) as I was saying, Lowery's story is one of personal, professional, and spiritual growth beyond what most of us can even imagine. Although he did "have a ministry", it did not become vocational in nature until he became worship leader at a really good church on the coast, Michael Memorial Baptist.

However, Lowery was so multi-talented and multi-gifted that one could sense his being a worship leader was only a temporary stop in his life. In fact, God had placed a calling on Lowery to preach, and preach He did. It was in 2003 that he was called to his first pastorate, Bel-Aire Baptist in Gulfport was the place of his calling. At that time, this church was a fairly small congregation averaging about 115 in Sunday School and 350 in worship. Compare that to this; In 2007 the church averaged over 235 in SS and over 600 in worship. During these years, they baptized over 150 people and had over 450 people to unite with the church. What a legacy!

This morning I learned that God called Lowery home. Although distance has separated us for several years, had we been reunited, the relationship would have picked up right where it left off, that was Lowery. From what I understand, what started out as symptoms of pneumonia or flu was discovered to be terminal cancer. Not only was it terminal, but it was quick.

Lowery's response? "I'm in a win-win situation. I stay here with my wonderful wife and kids, lead my wonderful church family, and serve my Lord here - or - God takes me to heaven. I win either way." While I do understand the attitude given to Lowery through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, I don't guess I totally understand this situation at all.

Yes make no mistake, I believe in the sovereignty of God, trust the truth of Romans 8:28, and know that God's timing is always right. It just that, when a 56 year old man, who has been healthy as a horse and strong as an ox for all these years, leaves us so quickly, I find myself wishing God would give me a little more insight into what "HE'S" up to. He a good God and can be totally trusted, I guess I simply wish HE would trust ME, with a little more info.

For my part, I offer my love and prayers to Kandi, the family, and the friends (who number in the thousands). Plus, I rely on God's word for comfort and understanding, "Now we see in a glass darkly, then face to face. Now, we know in part---then, we will know as we are known." Even so Lord Jesus, come quickly. Shalom.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Remember, Repent, and Return

One of the great part of being a Pastor is seeing God changing people's lives. There are those who come to faith in Christ and their lives are transformed by the power of Christ. These changes are those which make the angels in heaven rejoice. (In human terms, that would mean "throw a party"). We are designed to have a personal relationship with God. When we come to Christ through faith we find forgiveness, new life, and this personal relationship with God. According to His word, the ONLY way to have a personal relationship with God is in Jesus Christ.

These days my heart has been blessed by the repentance, confession, and renewal of some who have known the Lord for a long time. They have, for one reason or another (most of the time "accidentially"), allowed their relationship with the Father to grow cold & stale AND NOW, they have heard God's voice and responded to His call.

Honestly, all of us who know the Lord have been right there! Today, it is not about how cold our hearts have been, but about the call of Christ to remember, repent, and return. This is the call given in Revelation 2 to the Church in Ephesus and it is the call which resounds today.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Just wondering

Recently I sent out one of those blanket emails which I happened to think was "right on" (actually, delete most of them). This one was about the 10 Commandments' place in the history of the USA and gave information relative to some of our founding fathers and their attitude towards God, the Bible, Christianity, and even religion in government. Candidly, I carefully selected (or at least I thought I did) my receivers from my list of "friends" and sent it out with a reference to one of our "Presidential Candidates". You guessed it, less than 6 hours later I had a blistering response from one of my "friends". This "friend" was all over me for such propaganda and went on to literally denegrate the philosphies and impact of those leaders who established this great nation. So I sit and I wonder.......

Can a person be "Christian" politician and consistently vote for the murder of babies? Or to give "Civil-Rights" special status to people who live in the sin of homosexuality? Can a person serve as a "Commander in Chief" of a nation which he refuses to repect, salute, or even acknowledge the Flag?

I'm not saying YES nor NO...I'm just wondering....We all BETTER wonder because November is coming!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Hueytown Community Revival Meeting

Most of us remember (in years past) of attending "Community Revival Meetings." In fact, we even had a name for those meetings. We called them "Crusades." The preachers who were invited were always well-known. Billy Graham, James Robison, and E. J. Daniels are but three from a long list of "Mass Evangelists." Many times these events were held in "Football Stadiums" and people came from miles around to attend this event. (Personally, I remember my church group driving over 3 hours to hear Billy Graham). The super part of these meetings (this picture which is still etched in my mind) is hundreds of people making decisions for the Lord.

Sadly, today those meeting are viewed as a "relic" of days past. Yet, in good ole Hueytown, Alabama, last week we saw (what I believe) to be the beginning of a renewal of this revival effort. Many of the congregations in and around this community came together for a meeting such as this. Admittedly, there were several differences from those in days past.

First, this meeting was NOT held at a "ballfield or some other neutral" location, but at Pleasant Ridge Baptist church. Cudos to Bro. Rick Patrick and the entire congregation of PRBC for being such outstanding hosts. Next, we didn't just have one GREAT preacher, but five. Next, we did see many people make decisions for Christ (AMEN!!)...Next, there was a great spirit exhibited by everyone in attendance, the music was good, and the fellowship was outstanding.

Finally (and possibly most excitedly) the local pastors will gather the week after Easter to evaluate and plan for the next one. In a day when many say "believers do little but fight", it is my prayer that this effort will grow into something very special that together we will work to build the Kingdom by changing people's lives for both time and eternity.

Amen!

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