Sunday, February 12, 2017

Learning from Andy Griffith - "The Case of the Punch in the Nose"

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is "Andy Griffith." The wisdom and wholesomeness of Andy, coupled with the naivety and comedy of Barney, make for great TV. Not long ago, I was watching "The Case of the Punch in the Nose" and saw some great spiritual lessons. Barney was going through some old courthouse paperwork, only to discover an open case involving Floyd and Charlie in which a fight had broken out. Andy tells him it was over, in the past, and they had moved on; BUT Barney insisted on trying to close the books on this case. It turns out that Andy was right! Barney's efforts reopened an old wound and resurrected the argument.

This show revealed the truth and great wisdom to the old idiom, "It's better to let sleeping dogs lie." Sometimes it's better just to leave things as they are; especially, in an effort to avoid rekindling an old argument or making matters worse. I have occasionally witnessed the same thing in working with people. I've watched people open old arguments that seemed to have been healed and forgotten, only to have them flare up worse than before.

I can think of situations in marriage , church, athletics, employment, and other relationships that would have been served much better by moving on, rather than looking back. I'm sure you can think of your own illustrations. So, just for fun, take time to watch "Andy Griffith - The Case of the Punch in the Nose" by clicking the link below. I think we can all learn a valuable life's lesson at Barney's expense. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy952r_andy-griffith-s05e25-case-of-the-punch-in-the-nose_shortfilms

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Identity Crisis #3 - A Generation of Anarchy

On January 30, 2017, President Trump fired the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, for failing to carry out his instructions. You can call it disrespect, insubordination, defiance,or even betrayal (as Sean Spicer called it). Whatever you call it, Yates failed to realize: "The boss may not always be right, but he's always the boss." This simple and most basic concept appears to be lost across this generation. We saw it in the NFL as Mike Tomlin fired Legarrette Blount for his insubordination evidenced by walking off the field and taking off his uniform in 2014. We saw it with Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning (now Chelsea) who defied orders and their oath by selling USA secrets to Russian spies. We see the public defying law enforcement officers; students defying teachers; and employees defying managers. It appears we are living in a generation of anarchy.

Whether in the NFL, corporate America, the Church, the classroom, or Washington, DC; it's as though respect for authority is a thing of the past. It appears all semblance of loyalty and integrity have been flushed down the toilet. The church is in part to blame, because it has placed so much emphasis on feelings that it has failed to teach obedience to Christ. I also attribute some of the anarchy to the empowerment that Facebook has given cowards to criticize from the comfort of their couch and to base their beliefs on their feelings. President Trump is right in his belief that opinions now trump facts and fake news is running rampant. People often take firm stands on their opinions, whether they have any facts to back them. Sadly, this situation seems to be growing worse in both the church and the world. It is the basis for much of the anarchy that we are witnessing in our world today.

Call me crazy, but I believe this world is in chaos. Consider 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and compare it to the evening news: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" I believe the only hope for this world is Jesus! I believe 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people who are called by My name (the Church) will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Our hope can only be found in bowing to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and living obediently to Him.

If we don't begin to teach respect for authority at home, at work, and in the church; then how can we expect this generation to have respect for Divine authority! It boils down to the fact that when we don't respect God, we don't respect others. I respect President Trump for firing AG,Yates... I respect Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys), for saying that his players worked for him and if his players didn't stand during the National Anthem, they could work for someone else... I respect a Pastor who teaches people about the Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent God; by Whose authority the world is sustained. I respect and function under the authority of God and genuinely believe that one day "every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" The identity crisis of today's church has left it striving for numbers, but not teaching the most basic and foundational principles of Scripture. Obedience to God is not an option and our respect for God will reveal our respect for others. It is the obligation of this generation to teach that principle to the next. So, what kind of example are others seeing in you?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Luther Rice College and Seminary

Yesterday, I attended a Board of Trustees meeting for Luther Rice Bible College and Seminary in Lithonia, GA. As I sat in the room with the other Board members, I was truly humbled and, again, wondered how and why God gave me such an amazing opportunity to serve in this capacity. LRS has been a leader in biblical education for over 50 years! The school was founded for the primary purpose of allowing pastors and missionaries to continue their biblical education and seminary training, without having to relocate. LRS removes the need for pastors, ministry leaders, and lay-people to leave their ministries or uproot their families; by making it possible for them to receive a quality Christian education online. LRS is committed to teaching solid and sound Baptist doctrine without compromise! That is one of the primary reasons that I chose to study and now to serve at LRS. Check out their website at www.lutherrice.edu. If you are considering taking classes to enhance your biblical knowledge, I highly recommend LRS.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rejoice When Your Faith is Tested

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching from James 1. Everyone will experience trials of some kind during their lifetime. For some, the trials will knock them out of church and sideline them from serving. For others, they will use the trial as a stepping stone to help them reach the greater things that God is trying to prepare them for. James instructs us to "...count it all joy when we fall into various trials." That statement sounds ridiculous; but James realized that trials strengthen our dependence upon the Lord. Someone once said that "Without a great test, there can never be a great testimony." The key word here is "test." It is important to realize that God will test our faith, but God will never tempt us to sin as James explains in James 1:13.

James also teaches us that the testing of our faith works patience or endurance. It is through these times of growth that our faith matures and we see God in a whole different perspective. It's one thing to trust God when everything is going well; but it's another to trust Him on our difficult days and in the middle of difficult circumstances. Bible stories like Joseph, who was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten; will bring great joy when we see that it was through his testing that God positioned and prepared him to be a great leader. Abraham's faith was tested when he laid Isaac on the altar and raised the dagger. Job's faith was tested when he lost all that he had, but he refused to curse God. Daniel's faith was tested when he refused to bow down and was tossed into the lions' den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had their faith tested when the door of the furnace was opened and the guards prepared to throw them into the fire. In each of these tests, the individuals passed the test and God poured out His blessings upon them.

I will quickly admit that I've not passed every test. In fact, no one has. Life is full of adversity and we can either quit when we fail or get up and learn from our failures. I encourage you to begin recognizing life's trials as tests of your faith. In addition, begin to realize that others are watching how you respond and your response will reveal what you really believe about Christ. My goal is to continue growing and maturing to the point that when others see me, they see a clear representation of Jesus in both the good times and in the difficult times. I don't like to be tested, but I sure do like to know God is pleased with me when I pass the test!

One of my favorite songs about trials and times of testing is "REJOICE IN THE LORD" by Ron Hamilton. If you didn't recognize the name, Ron is AKA: Patch the Pirate. It was through the trial of losing his eye to cancer that God tested Ron and prepared him for an amazing ministry that would be launched by using his new eye patch. CLICK HERE

Monday, January 23, 2017

Perception is NOT Reality!

How many times have you heard someone say "perception is reality?" The fact is that "perception" is merely a lens through which we see the world, ourselves, and others; while "reality" is the true state of things. The phrase "perception is reality" might make for a nice saying, but one's perception has absolutely no bearing on real truth. Truth is truth, no matter what the perception is! Consider a few examples: A building may be perceived as structurally sound; but in reality, it may have a weak foundation. A sports car may be perceived as fast, but what if there were no engine under the hood? A stone may be perceived as a diamond, but it may be a cubic zirconia? A person may be perceived as religious, but his heart may be wicked. There is no question that perception is NOT always the reality, unless the truth has been properly perceived.

Consider these illustrations: Perception initially kept the Israelites from conquering the Promised Land, because they didn't believe the reality that God would defeat the giants. Perception may have kept David from facing Goliath, but he knew the reality that God gives the victory. Perception caused Gideon's army to get reduced, but the reality was that they easily defeated the Midianites. Perception almost kept Jesse from presenting David to be anointed King, but Samuel made clear the reality that "...man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7.

Jesus also addressed this idea of "perception vs. reality" as He called-out the Pharisees in Matthew 23, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." My wife and I have seen those huge, ornate sepulchers (tombs) in Israel. They are HUGE, nicely decorated, and really something to look at; but inside there is nothing but death! I've read the passages many times, but to see those tombs really brought new understanding of what Jesus was saying about the Pharisees!

The concept of "real vs. fake" or "perception vs. reality" was a lesson that Jesus drove home repeatedly. In Matt. 13:24-30, He taught this lesson with the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. In Matt. 7:15, He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." In Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira lied and they died. They wanted people to believe something about them that was not true... they were giving a false perception. The culmination of Jesus' warnings of "real vs. fake" comes in Matt. 7:21-23. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ The Bible warns over and over and over again, that many are not what they seem to be on the outside. Take comfort or warning that the day of judgment is coming and the truth will be revealed.

If these passages haven't convinced you that "perception is NOT reality," then let me close with a few final thoughts. The religious crowds (the church folks of the day), perceived Jesus to be the son of Mary & Joseph, but Jesus was born of a virgin. They perceived Jesus to be a mere religious teacher; but He was omniscient. They perceived Jesus to be a simple human, but He was the Creator Who took on the form of His creation. They perceived Jesus to be a blasphemer, but He was GOD! They perceived there are many ways to heaven, but Jesus said, "No man comes to the Father except through Me." Now would be a good time to make sure that your perception is in line with the realities of Scripture!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Identity Crisis #2 - His Blood is on Your Hands!

My heart was broken recently as I heard about a young man who had taken his own life. That young man (we'll call him Bob) had a troubled past, plagued by substance abuse. A Christian family took Bob in, provided shelter, food, and invited Bob to their church services. During a church event, Bob made the decision to trust Christ as his Lord and Savior. Bob was baptized the following Sunday, told many of his decision, started attending multiple church services per week, and was beginning to get plugged-in with his new church family.

Not long after, the young man was facing the same battles that many of us face... his old nature was warring against his new nature. Bob reached out for help, but was pushed aside as a church employee and his wife made up false allegations against Bob. As a result, Bob was asked not to return to that church. Bob had now been turned away from the only real family he had ever known; from the place where he had found hope and acceptance. The people who could have helped Bob grow in his faith, were the people pushing him out of the church. Fast forward the story... Bob took his life. Bob's blood is on the hands of those who pushed him away from the church.

The man's name was not Bob, but the story is true and should remind us of what Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Many have forgotten that the Church was once called a "soul-saving station," and a "spiritual hospital." We've forgotten that the Master told his servants, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." The Master NEVER said, Go gather people who dress like we do, like the same music we do, use the same Bible version we do, cut their hair like we do, refuse tattoos like we do, and hide all of their weaknesses like we do! The Master didn't say to establish a commune... He said, "I will build my Church!"

The church identity described above has been replaced with today's "clubhouse mentality" or "pep-rally mentality;" in which members of the church gather to sing a few songs, tell a few jokes, talk about their favorite sports teams, and then they return home to resume life as usual. BUT... that is not the purpose of the Church! Ministers are not mere performers and ministry is NOT merely a 9-to-5 job! The Church is a spiritual army, the Church is at war against the forces of evil, the Church is a lighthouse in the storms of life, the Church is the vehicle that God established to share the Gospel and disciple believers! If the Church won't reach the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the homeless, the rejected, the broken, the unemployed, the sick, the and even the religious Pharisees; then who will? That's what God called His Church to do! Listen to the words in Luke 4:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Yes, real ministry is messy and when you reach down to lift someone up, you'll probably get dirty! No doubt that shepherds smelled slightly like the sheep back in New Testament times! I challenge those pastors who see ministry as a 40 hour per week job to pick-it-up or have the integrity to go find other employment. Ministry is not a job - it's a calling! I challenge those who see the church as a clubhouse to reexamine Luke 4:18-19. I challenge those who are not sharing Christ with others to start doing so. I challenge you DO NOT allow the story of Bob, to be true of you or your church. God help Your Church to see the battle and defeat the enemy! "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Identity Crisis in Today's Baptist Churches

In my previous post, I recommended listening to Dr. Bill Monroe's sermon "God's Plan for Church Leadership." If you haven't yet watched it, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. Just click the link.

Today's Baptist churches are experiencing a crisis pertaining to church leadership and government. I personally believe that this crisis stems, in part, from a generation that has seen churches focused more on numeric growth, rather than spiritual growth. Today, success is measured by the 3 B's: Buildings, Budgets & Butts. In years past, the success of churches was measured by spiritual decisions: salvations, baptisms, memberships, students enrolling in Bible college, surrender to vocational ministry, church plants, and missionaries sent out. Those measures now seem archaic to many and have been lost in the quest for numbers. Where once Baptist churches were known for their doctrinal depth, today, many are known simply for their musical styles, casual dress, and contemporary atmosphere. Personally, I don't have a problem with any of those items, but they should not define any church. Those are marketing issues and have nothing to do with depth. When a pastor tells you more about his church's style than he does about its doctrinal beliefs and spiritual decisions, you know something is wrong! Sadly, this focus on growth without depth has led Baptist churches into a state of confusion, maybe even into an identity crisis.

With the void of historical and doctrinal teaching; the gap has been filled with attention on preferences resulting in misunderstandings that have wreaked havoc in the church. Baptist churches are beginning to look like Presbyterian churches as they implement Elders and embrace Reformed Theology; including "Election" and "Predestination." Ironically, John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, considered Baptists to be heretics and now many Baptists are embracing Calvin's religion! Power struggles also stem from a lack of understanding as it pertains to forms of church government. Today, feelings and opinions seem to take preeminence over the Bible.

In Scripture, we find a stark contrast to the roles of Deacons and Elders when compared to their usage in modern churches. Again, Baptists have become Calvinistic in describing these terms, also. In the Scriptures, we find God calling a man... not a committee... not a Board, to lead His people. God always called a man. Consider some of these men: Moses, Joshua, David, Gideon, Peter, Paul, and others. Interesting that the idea of Elders in Baptist churches really only began to take hold in the late 1990's; but Baptist's trace their roots back over 2000 years. Allow me to be totally transparent in telling you that every time I have seen Elder rule established in a Baptist church, it was initiated either by a group desiring to control and limit the Pastor or by a struggling Pastor in an effort to use a small group (Elders) to control the congregation. Someone once said, "You can either have control or you can have growth, but you can't have both."

I tell people that I am a Christian first and a Baptist second. I believe Baptist beliefs and doctrine are the most accurate in keeping with the Scriptures. When Baptist churches don't take time to teach Baptist history and doctrine, then they eventually lose their Baptist identity. I encourage you to read books such as the "Trail of Blood" and to study Baptist history. Once finished, you'll see the rich heritage that makes Baptists different. Finally, for those who think this is just another post by a small church pastor, leading a dying church; my last church doubled in size and was the largest in the community. I didn't say choose teaching or growth... I believe solid Bible teaching will lead to substantial growth!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

God's Plan for Church Leadership

You've got to watch this sermon! Without question, today's churches are experiencing a crisis pertaining to church government and leadership. Below, you will find a link to a sermon preached by Dr. Bill Monroe, founding and current Pastor of the Florence Baptist Temple in Florence, SC. Bro. Bill is a godly man, a humble man, and a friend to me and my family. My wife's family were ALL saved through the ministries of Florence Baptist Temple and Florence Christian School. Bro. Bill is a "Pastor's Pastor" and he loves God's Church. God has used him to help churches, pastors, and I pray his sermon will be a blessing to you.

Click on the link and scroll down the page to watch this powerful sermon entitled "God's Plan for Church Leadership" preached on December 4, 2016 at the Florence Baptist Temple. CLICK HERE TO VIEW SERMON

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Memorable Events of 2016

Each year, people compile lists of important events that occurred over the course of the previous year. In this post, I want to briefly mention 10 things that I will remember about 2016:

1) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The US Presidential Election surprised everyone, but made it loud and clear that Americans are tired of "politics as usual" and were ready for some strong leadership. We learned never to believe the media, the polls, or the neighbor's opinion. We learned that honesty does matter to the public and that people aren't as dumb as politicians think we are. We learned that President Obama is delirious in his recollection of success, as due to his leadership we now have a Republican President, Congress, Senate, and additional governors. The tolerance the liberals champion is dependent upon whether you agree with their viewpoint. The projected plunge of the stock market has turned out to be an incredible surge of 7.7% since Donald Trump won the election. Bottom-line is that I'm glad the election is over and no President is as powerful as they think they are!

2) ZIKA VIRUS
Many had never heard of the Zika virus, but it got national attention after cases were reported in almost every state whether contracted locally or by those traveling. Scary to hear the CDC say there is no vaccine and the virus can cause microcephaly, along with other brain defects.

3) CHICAGO CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES
It's been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers in 1908 to become the World Series Champs, but they reclaimed the title in game 7 against the Cleveland Indians! The curse is broken!

4) NC BATHROOM LEGISLATION
NC found themselves in the news and the target of boycotts for wanting people to use the restroom associated to the plumbing they were born with. There is a small part of me that could understand the problem such legislation causes for those who have completed sexual reassignment surgery; but no part of me comprehends restroom usage simply based on which gender he/she "identifies" with on a particular day. Such absurdity opens the door for perverts, pedophiles, and more. Some argued NC's legislation was an attack against the gay community, while others argued it was an attack against common sense.

5) POKEMON GO
Released in July 2016, the game uses the GPS in mobile devices to locate and capture virtual creatures, called Pokemon. The game has become a phenomenon and extremely profitable for its creators.

6) RIO OLYMPICS
The summer "Games of the 31st Olympiad" were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with more than 11,000 athletes participating from 205 countries/regions. The USA won the most medals, but was plagued by the dishonesty of 3 members of the men's swim team. Ryan Lochte got a 10 month suspension for his elaborate story and effort to hide the scandal.

7) TERRIBLE DECISIONS: IRAN NUKE DEAL AND US VOTING AGAINST ISRAEL

What more can be said about either of these issues other than ASININE! God protects those who stand with Israel and this is just one more proof of President Obama's sympathy toward Muslims.

8) SCARY CLOWNS
The first scary clown sighting was reported in WI and quickly spread to SC, to at least 20 other states, and continued worldwide. They have caused school closings, led to several arrests, and caused a ban against clown costumes on Halloween. No doubt some are just pranking, while others are certainly up to mischief.

9) DEATH OF A DICTATOR - FIDEL CASTRO
Fidel Castro was a Communist dictator- period! Read the stories and talk to Cubans who have come to the US and you'll hear of hardship, poverty, shortages, rations, etc. All one had to do was watch the joy, jubilation, and celebration by the Cubans on the streets of Miami and in Little Havana and you would know the type of ruler Fidel Castro truly was. He lived his life and protected his lifestyle at the expense of everyone around him.

10) 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF PEARL HARBOR
With the kneeling protests of so many during our National Anthem, I want to make sure we remember this 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I have a great respect and appreciation for those who serve or have served in our military. I realize that the freedoms I enjoy are a result of their sacrifices. Having traveled to many other countries, I've know that not every place is like this place! The United States of America is the greatest nation on earth and I am proud to be an American!

So, those are my top 10 memorable items from 2016. Your list may be different; but the point is to look back, appreciate, and learn from our experiences. Let's use what we learned in 2016 to make 2017 even better! I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Year's Resolutions Can be Character Indicators

With another New Year celebration comes another abundance of New Year's Resolutions: Lose weight, go to the gym, eat healthy, start saving for retirement, quit smoking, stop drinking, or a myriad of other goals that people make and break annually. While some take New Year's Resolutions lightly, I see them as a window into a person's character. Fulfilled resolutions often reveal people who are committed and determined. Broken resolutions often reveal those who are less disciplined or may be starters, but not finishers. Some people are completely afraid to make any type of commitments! The excuses a person makes or the frivolous way he approaches a promise, will often reveal his character. If a person is willing to break one promise (resolution), then he is most likely willing to break another.

I've always been a fan of the "Promise Keepers" movement and believe men should be men of their word! James 5:12b says, "...But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment." I remember the days when men could shake hands on a deal and their word was their bond. Sadly, times have changed and even "Christians" have to have legal contracts with one another. Truth is now relative, church leaders often lie, and you may need to beware of those who put a Christian fish symbol (Ichthus) on their business card. Whatever happened to being a promise keeper? Whatever happened to being men of character and integrity?

Character starts with the ability to admit a mistake or own up to the responsibility for a failure; but people have become experts at blame-shifting and finding excuses for their failures and shortcomings. The "blame game" becomes more perfected with each passing year. For example, after 8 years, President Obama still blames President Bush for the failures of his current administration. The Democrats are blaming James Comey and Vladimir Putin for Hillary losing the election. Hillary blamed a video for the attack in Benghazi and her aides for setting up her home server. No wonder people are tired of politics as usual!

Likewise, churches will go through several pastors, only to realize that the perceived preacher problems were really congregation or staff problems. In marriage, a perpetual divorcee will continue to blame his ex-spouses. NFL teams blame the coach for a losing season. Even in the corporate world, companies blame former employees for their ongoing problems. Lazy employees blame their bosses for poor performance reviews, and so on...and so on...and so on.

We must get back to teaching the basics about personal character and Exodus 20 is a great place to start:
- Honor your father and mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not lie.
- And 5 other character commandments to live by.

Our world appears to be more focused on treating the symptoms of poor character, rather than looking for a cure. Here's a clue... IF YOU REMOVE WHAT YOU THINK IS THE PROBLEM, BUT THE PROBLEM STILL PERSISTS; YOU ADDRESSED THE WRONG ISSUE! Just as wearing workout clothes, eating a salad, and purchasing a gym membership won't make you skinny; neither will simply going to church on Sunday and praying before meals make more like Jesus! You must address the deeper issues in order to effect real change! It takes total surrender and complete commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. So, let's resolve to make 2017 the year that our New Year's resolutions focus on building Christ-like character... and let's stick with them!