Saturday, April 28, 2018

Learning from Party Lines, Pay Phones & Pagers

A couple of weeks ago, I found a plastic bag laying on the walkway leading to my front door. Curious, I opened the bag and to my great surprise, I found a Yellow Pages phone book! I honestly did not know that phone books were still distributed and I probably have not used one in 8-10 years. In fact, the last time I saw a Broward County phone book, there were two 2-3” thick Whitepages and one 2-3” thick Yellow Pages. Interesting how much these books have been scaled back now that people find the information they need online.

Seeing that phone book started my reminiscing. I thought back to the “party line” that meant the neighbors shared a phone line and you had to wait, until it was clear, to make a call. It also meant you could listen to your neighbor’s phone conversations! I remember phones with rotary dials and cords. I remember the cordless phones with the antenna you had to pull out each time you wanted to make a call. If you ventured outside the house, there were pay phones on almost every corner and people could deposit a dime (later a quarter) to communicate. Only a short time after that, pagers were the talk of the town and “beeps” and “tones” were being heard coming from belts and pockets. I remember the first cell phone that came in a large carrying case and then the “brick” phone that would pull your pants down if you tried to carry it in your back pocket. Then came flip phones and Razors. The race was on to make them thinner and smaller. In fact, I remember Nokia and Ericsson commercials bragging that their phones were small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.

Then someone had the idea to merge the cell phone with the Palm Pilot and two devices became one. Soon, the Walkman and iPod were merged into that same phone. Shortly thereafter, the cell phone also became a GPS. These new uses and the introduction of social media called for larger screens to accommodate people’s desire to read and look at pictures on their phones. Next came app’s and videos, and before you knew it, cell phones increased in size and started looking more like iPad Mini’s! If that were not enough, people started talking to their cell phones and Siri or Google Assistant started dialing, searching for information and providing directions for them. Now, most people will text and rarely even talk on their cell phone; but the purpose of communication is still being accomplished. New technology continues to be discovered and user needs are continuing to change, so no one really knows what telecommunication technology will look like in the next 5-10 years!

The Church can learn a lot from the telecommunications industry. Times will change, needs will change and the Church will need to change and adapt to effectively meet the needs of those they desire to reach and serve. Someone said, “The Church exists to take the never-changing message to an ever-changing world.” Someone else said, “The message never changes, but the methods do.” The point is that the telecommunications industry has changed drastically in my lifetime; but the primary purpose of facilitating communication remains the same. In the Church, there have also been many changes: praise teams have replaced choirs, bands have replaced orchestras, guitars have replaced organs, video has replaced overhead projectors, colored lighting has replaced white lights, theater seating has replaced pews, casual dress has replaced suits, online Bibles have replaced printed Bibles, and so much more. In spite of all these changes, the purpose of the Church has not changed – the Church still exists to share the Gospel message with those who still need to accept the gift of salvation found through the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

You have been noticing some changes at Grace Church over the past year. These changes have been and continue to be made with the intent of helping us to become more effective in sharing the Gospel and bringing people to Jesus. The fact is that the Church is one of the only organizations that exists for those who are not its members. Yes, our methods are changing; but the message preached from the pulpit of Grace Church will never change! If you are looking for a place to help you discover your faith, learn about God and grow in your relationship with Him… then Grace Church may be just the place for you!

Friday, February 16, 2018

It's a New Day at Grace Church in Pompano Beach, FL

It is hard to believe, but Sunday, March 4, will be the one-year anniversary of my first sermon as the Senior Pastor of Grace. This first year has been a little overwhelming, but very exciting to see what God is doing. I tell people that it is a new day at Grace and if you have not visited with us recently, you need to come worship with us soon. In this post, allow me to briefly share where we were, where we are, and where we are going as a ministry.

Grace and Highlands have had a rich heritage of 50+ years, but the church and school have faced some struggles over the last decade. I believe that God, in His timing, brought in a new Senior Pastor, new Executive Pastor, and new School Administrator to help lead this ministry to a place of health, stability and long-term sustainability. I am so thankful to be part of the leadership team that God assembled here. I am also thankful for the wonderful staff, support team, and the loving congregation that makeup Grace Church. These committed folks have been so willing to follow and support their new leaders as we make changes that will position Grace and Highlands for a very bright future.

So what’s new and what’s been going on at Grace?

First, we established a 3-year plan as follows:

• Year 1 – We have been focusing on getting healthy, by putting our finances in order and trying to eliminate all ministry debt by this May. (I am happy to report that it looks like we are going to achieve that goal!) We have streamlined our staff, replaced people with personnel, started positioning this ministry for long-term growth, and casting a vision for the future. In this first year, God has been blessing tremendously and our average worship attendance has nearly doubled in just 11 months. The greatest blessing is that we have seen over 130 people saved and over 70 baptized during that same time.

• Year 2 – Repairs and Renovations will be our goal and our efforts will focus on repairing what can be repaired, replacing what needs to be replaced, and renovating areas that need some freshening up. A few of the first things you’ll notice will be the renovation of the Solid Rock building into a new Youth Center, a fresh look in our Nursery lobby, and a polished & professional look in our Conference Room.

• Year 3 – In the third year, we hope to be functioning like a well-oiled machine that is healthy and completely focused on evangelism, discipleship, ministry growth, engaged in our community, and possibly building to accommodate the new people that God is bringing to us.

Second, Grace has a new vision. It is our goal to become “A Church for All Nations.” South Florida is a very diverse and international community. I believe the demographics of the local church should represent the community that it serves. With that in mind, our goal at Grace is to become one church with many services preached in multiple languages. We have been and will continue to work toward that goal!

On December 10, Grace started a new Creole-French service to reach our Haitian neighbors. Pastor Jean-Marc Desire’ is a Haitian national who oversees five churches and two Christian schools in Haiti. While continuing his mission work in Haiti, Pastor Desire' is also helping to establish this new ministry at Grace. This new Creole-French service meets in Grace’s Fellowship Hall at 11am for worship each Sunday. The Creole service is already averaging 110 in worship.

On January 7, Grace started a new Spanish service to reach our Hispanic neighbors. Pastor Samuel Herrera has served locally as an Associate Pastor for 14 years and recently felt God’s call to lead a Spanish work. Pastor Samuel’s enthusiasm for serving the Lord is contagious! This new Spanish service meets in the Upper Room (next to the Library) at 10:45am each Sunday and they are already averaging 56 in worship.

Our next goal is to start a Portuguese service for our Brazilian friends! Let me know if you are aware of a doctrinally sound Brazilian pastor who would be willing to help with this endeavor.

Finally, you will see some other changes as Grace not only tries to preach the Gospel in a variety of languages, but we also try to become culturally relevant to our community. Some of the upcoming changes will include more home and community groups, because we believe the church should gather all week long and “do life together.” This fall, we will offer multiple English services in order to offer different musical styles and time options, as well as, seminars and events that focus on the real needs of families in our local community. We want Grace to be a place where people have almost unlimited opportunities to hear about, learn about, and serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

We are excited about what we believe is a VERY bright future and we want you to be part of it! To learn more about Grace Church, checkout our website at www.gbcfl.org or follow us on Facebook @gracebaptistchurchfl. You have a standing invitation to come worship with us! If you would like, please call the church office at (954) 421-0190 to setup an appointment with one of our pastors to ask more questions or seek help regarding a spiritual question.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Confusion About Organic & Mechanistic Styles in Church Leadership

Allow me to offer a prelude to this article... I've been a pastor for 34 years, attended dozens of leadership conferences, led leadership forums, lead a two-State church planting network, served as a 3-term Board member & Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations, served on the Board of Trustees for a seminary, hospital, other non-profits, and more. I clearly understand leadership models, terms and theories; including the systems of "organic vs. mechanistic." Having said all of that, I offer the following article exposing the misunderstanding of many young pastors regarding this topic and the laziness that results from it.

Over the last year and in several recent Pastors' networking meetings, the word I've heard repeated more than any other has been the word "organic." Ironically it is most often tied into some thought of working from a coffee shop, no accountability, and the lack of a structured environment. It is glaringly apparent that many have built their theories on the following excerpt from a detailed work by Burns and Stalker. Here's all some church leaders read, "An organic organization is one that is very flexible and is able to adapt well to changes. Its structure is identified as having little job specialization, few layers of management, decentralized decision-making, and not much direct supervision." A misconstrued interpretation of this definition without an understanding of the entire context works well for those who don't like structure and accountability.

The terms "organic" and Reformed go hand-in-hand for many of today's young pastors. This leadership trend is turning churches inward and intellectual, rather than outward and evangelistic. In these churches, the attendance is often declining, baptisteries are empty, and the concept of church membership is removed. It appears that the Great Commission has been replaced by the worship of academia. Remember that Jesus gave the Great Commission and sent out simple-minded fishermen to evangelize the world; while on the other hand, the religious intellectuals (Pharisees) presented the greatest opposition to this effort.

While the Church is a living organism, it is also a business. We, the Church, are in the saving, healing and life-transformation business. We must have a structure, strategy, accountability, and a means to measure our success. If no one is being saved, baptized and added to the Church; then we are certainly not following the example of the Early Church (Acts 2) that so many today claim to model.

Young pastors might like the idea of being "organic;" but the growing and great churches of our nation all have detailed plans, well-defined strategies, and high accountability. Realizing that real disciples make disciples, it stands to reason that church leaders should be setting the example by leading people to Christ, seeing them baptized and taking them through the process of discipleship. Too many organic church leaders feel they are exempt from the Great Commission and their only responsibilities are to study and teach. This explains "why" they dislike goals, reports, and accountability... because requiring those things would expose their lack of productivity to the church body that they serve.

It all boils down to the fact that too many pastors want the title of "Pastor," but they don't want the responsibilities of the Office. They will answer the questions of an Ordination Council, but they don't want any accountability after that. They want to preach, but they don't want to build a church. They want the full-time pay check, but they don't want to work a full-time schedule. It is time for some older, seasoned pastors to pour into the lives of these young pastors and help them see the awesome responsibility of their calling. It's time to teach, train and raise the level of accountability. It's time for Church leaders to lead God's army against the darkness. The time is now and the souls of men are hanging in the balance! Let's get our mechanics in order and sharpen our irons, so we can cut the organic myths that are stifling real ministry!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Colboch's Christmas Letter 2017

Dear Friends,

We pray this letter and Christmas greeting find you and yours happy, healthy, and serving Jesus! For us, 2017 has brought a whirlwind of change for our family, so we decided to write a letter to bring you up to speed on where we are and the wonderful things God has been doing.

After 14 years serving the Lord in Hartsville, SC; God in His sovereign mercy and infinite wisdom moved our family to a new ministry at Grace Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, FL where I now serve as the Senior Pastor. God was so good to us through the years in Hartsville and a summary of what He accomplished during those 14 years can be found on my personal website at garycolboch.com. We left behind many very dear friends, but realize that miles don’t separate true friendships. Several have already come to visit us in FL, others call and send cards regularly, and some are already making plans to stay with us in the summer of 2018. We have not moved often in our ministry, but with each move God just enlarges our circle of friends!

Looking back, we see how amazing God is and how Psalm 37:23 is so true, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD…” God was ordering our steps, even before we realized it! In the summer of 2016, we put our house on the market for the purpose of downsizing and our house sold in a few short weeks from list to close. We tried to buy 3 houses, but each purchase fell through and just 1 week before we closed on a 4th house, God revealed our move. All along, it was as though He was saying, “You’re not staying in Hartsville... I need you somewhere else.” That became clear as on February 5, 2017, Grace Baptist Church in Pompano Beach, FL formally called me as their Senior Pastor. The church had been without a Pastor for 7 months and the Lord connected us just 3 days before they closed their search. During our 5-day visit interacting with the church members (prior to the church vote), we signed a contract on a house that wasn’t even listed on the market. (Did you get that? After months of unsuccessful looking for a house in SC, the Lord led us to a house in FL in just 5 days.) Until we officially closed on the house, God provided me with a free apartment and used a renter from Chicago to delay the closing on our new house, until Flora finished teaching in SC. Through God’s provision, we never had the pressure of 2 house payments. Oh… and did I forget to mention that our new house is… right on the golf course! Amen!

To share the next amazing detail… Grace is a place that has special meaning for Flora and me. Grace was a church plant from my home church, FBC of West Hollywood. Grace is the church where my sister-in-law grew up and where my wife and I first conversed at her brother’s wedding. Grace’s school (Highlands Christian Academy) was a big sports rival when I was competing in high school at Hollywood Christian and coaching at Berean Christian. The story of how God connected us with Grace is nothing short of a miracle and God’s hand can be clearly seen throughout the process. You can see more about Grace Baptist Church and Highlands Christian Academy by visiting:
• Church website – gbcfl.org
• Church Facebook - facebook.com/gracebaptistchurchfl
• School website – highlandschristian.org
• School Facebook - facebook.com/HighlandsChristianAcademy
• Twitter - #gbcfl or #wearehighlands

God is already blessing our efforts at Grace!
• In our first 10 months, God blessed us with 78 saved and 36 baptized in our services!
• Our total attendance has increased by 142.
• Approx. $30,000 of like-new furniture was recently donated to us. (Conference table/chairs, exec. desks & chairs, guest chairs, couches, file & storage cabinets, greenery, etc. and it’s all in great condition!)
• Our church will give $100,000 to missions in 2018.
• Our Haitian ministry launched on Dec. 10 with 115 present.
• Our Spanish ministry will launch on January 7.
• A Brazilian ministry will be launched in the spring of 2018.
• Highlands Christian Academy reached our goal of 600 students for 2017-18.
Again, we give God the glory for what HE is doing and thank Him for allowing us to be part of it!

Not only a new ministry, new house, and God’s blessings; but Flora also started a new job. When God puts the pieces together, they all fit perfectly! Flora had been working with 4K in SC for 11 years. Should it surprise us that a 4K teaching position opened at Highlands this year? The state of Florida pays schools for the 4K program, so the requirements on teachers is very high. Flora successfully completed the equivalent of 120 credit hours in 7 months (God allowed some previous CEU’s to count toward the requirements). Flora now has her FL VPK certification, national CDA certification, and is a NAEYC member! Pray for her as she works on her Spanish and Portuguese language skills to communicate with students and parents.

So… new ministry, new house, Flora’s new job… and let’s add new grandparents to the list! Our first grandchild, Hadlee Grace, was born to Courtney & Brandon on July 21, 2017. She is as cute as can be. So far, we’ve seen Hadlee (and our kids) more since we moved to FL than we did in SC. In addition, we get to Facetime regularly and receive daily videos of her progress. Courtney went back to work as an RN and Brandon continues his work as an attorney. I couldn’t be more proud as a dad and now a Pop!

New ministry… new house… new job for Flora… new granddaughter… and new son-in-law! Yep, Bethany was married to Bradley Gainey on November 6, 2017 on Deerfield Beach. The setting could not have been more perfect and I had the privilege of officiating the wedding. Justin Facenda opened the ceremony, so I could walk Bethany down the aisle. Bethany and Bradley reside in SC where Bradley works as an engineer. Bethany continues to work as a graphic designer. Bradley has been chasing Bethany since 5th grade, so we’re glad she finally let him catch her. Our family loves Bradley and it’s good to have sons-in-law that love our daughters, but also love the Lord! Two down and one to go. (No hurry)

New ministry… new house… new job for Flora… new granddaughter… new son-in-law… and a new study program for Lindsay! God answered our prayers and Lindsay was 1 of 10 accepted into the Physical Therapy Assistant program. God also provided a beautiful place for her to live with a long-time, family friend. This dear lady has taken Lindsay in like a daughter and we cannot thank her enough. We also thank our dear SC friends who still look out for Lindsay and have reached out to help her on several occasions.

As you can see, 2017 was a year of "NEW THINGS" for the Colboch family. The passage that Flora claimed this year was found in Isaiah 43:18-20; but especially vs. 19, “Behold, I will do a new thing..." For me, I chose Philippians 3:13-14 as my life's verses years ago and like the Apostle Paul, I am "...reaching forward to the things which are ahead..." We thank God for what He is doing in and through us. 2017 reminded us that God is faithful, He orders our steps, and He has a wonderful plan for us (Jer. 29:11) We extend our heartfelt thanks to all who have been prayer warriors for us during this time of transition.

For those of you that live in the Hartsville area, I’ll be preaching a revival at Fourth Street Baptist Church on April 22-25, 2018. I was so honored to be invited by their Pastor and my friend, Harry Wallace, Jr. I would also be honored if you would mark your calendar and join us for that revival. It will be a wonderful time to reconnect with friends and, once again, preach the Word in the city where God allowed us to serve for so long!

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
Gary & Flora Colboch

Friday, December 15, 2017

Symbols of the Season Point Us to the Savior

You’ve heard the saying, “Jesus is the Reason for the season!” That is true, in spite of efforts to take Christ out of Christmas dating all the way back to King Herod’s effort to “take out” the baby, Jesus! Today, the Christmas season has been overtaken by commercialism and busyness. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, it is easy to forget what (Who) Christmas is all about. Yet, we are surrounded by symbols of the season that point us back to the Savior. Allow me to highlight a few of them.

Whether you are a Christian or atheist, whether you call it a Christmas tree or a holiday tree, whether you like real of artificial, the fact is that the Christmas tree points us back to Christ. It reminds us that Jesus was born for the purpose of dying. It was through His death on that old rugged cross (made from a tree) that eternal life would be purchased for all who believe.

A star is found at the top of many, if not most, Christmas trees. Stars are symbols of the Christmas season and seen on greeting cards, lampposts, ornaments, star shaped cookies, and so much more. The star reminds us of the star the wise men followed. It was the star that directed them to the King of Kings.

The practice of exchanging gifts reminds us of the gifts the wise men brought to the house (Matt 2:11). An undisclosed number of wise men arrived when Jesus was approximately two years old and came bearing three types of gifts. The gold was symbolic of Jesus as King, the frankincense symbolized Jesus as our High Priest, and the myrrh was symbolic of the spice that would be used to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

Tied to many gift boxes are ribbons and bows. Christmas bows are often found on window decorations, atop of wreaths, and tied to mailboxes. No doubt that bows have become a staple part of Christmas. The bows are beautiful; but they are also symbolic and remind us of the “tie that binds,” that unity that Christ-followers find through Jesus Christ.

Candles have been part of the Christmas season from the beginning. Candles were used to decorate Christmas trees prior to the invention of electric bulbs and can now be found as decorations, in windows, on city lampposts, and used in Christmas Eve candlelight services. Christmas candles remind us of Jesus’ statement in John 8:12, “…“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Christmas bells are a beautiful part of the seasonal decorations and have inspired songs such as, “Jingle Bells,” “Silver Bells,” “Carol of the Bells,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” “Come on Ring Those Bells,” and more. Traditionally, bells were used to ring in special days and to get attention prior to a major announcement. Christmas bells remind us of the announcement of Christ’s birth!

The colors of Christmas are red and green. Red symbolizes the blood that Jesus would shed to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Hebrews 9:22 reminds us, “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” Green is the color of the Christmas fir tree, an evergreen tree, which represents the fact that those who call on Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Red Poinsettias are often called the Christmas flower. The red color reminds us of the blood Jesus shed to purchase our salvation and the star shape of the flower reminds many of the star that led the wise men to Jesus. The annual bloom of a Poinsettia is beautiful and symbolizes the resurrection, as the flower blooms, withers, and blooms again the next year.

Boughs of green holly are often used to “deck the halls,” to decorate homes, and to make wreaths. Holly is prickly and reminds us of the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head during the trials and crucifixion. The red berries remind us of the blood He shed for us.

Mistletoe is hung above doorways and light fixtures. It symbolizes love. Tommie Connor wrote the song, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” …where…underneath the mistletoe! This symbol of love should remind us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16) and “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). God’s love for mankind is what Christmas is ALL about!

Stockings that are hung by the chimney with care are also a symbol that point us to the Savior. I know… some of you are already thinking… he’s really “stretching” this one! Think about it… when the stockings are empty, they hang limp, as though they are just waiting to be filled with gifts. Likewise, we are empty and waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of our salvation!

Finally, for now, the Candy Cane is also a symbol pointing us to the Savior. The “Legend of the Candy Cane” tells the story of the candy cane and its rich symbolism. Click the link for the whole story or think about the “J” shape that represents Jesus, the “crook” shape that represents the shepherd’s staff, the “red” color that represents the blood of Christ, and that whenever a piece is broken-off, it reminds us of Christ’s body that was broken for us.

With so many Christmas symbols pointing back to Christ, it makes me wonder how anyone could miss the message of the manger found in Matthew 1:21, “And she (Mary) will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Without question, Jesus is the Reason for the season and the symbols point us to the Savior! This year, look for those Christmas symbols that point to Christ and receive God’s gift of salvation, if you have not already done so.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

"One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, is holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged." - Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary. We have all heard that statement above or the term "presumption of innocence." Our American judicial system has always been based on a presumption of innocence; but the times they are a changing.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you have heard about the accusations of sexual misconduct flying all over the entertainment world and Capital Hill recently. Having a wife and three daughters, I certainly believe men should conduct themselves properly and be held accountable whenever they cross the line of sexual harassment. Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein and other prominent individuals were proven guilty and deserve whatever punishment they received. On the other hand, it should concern all of us that in today's climate, any person can simply "claim" an act of misconduct and they can immediately ruin another person's reputation forever. With simply an accusation, a dark cloud can be cast and a stellar reputation can be lost whether the accusation is true or not.

Regardless of whether you are a Republican or Democrat, and whether or not you like a particular candidate; you should be concerned with what we are witnessing. Roy Moore has long been attacked for his conservative Christian beliefs; but throughout the years of accusations, he has never been accused of sexual misconduct, until now. President George H.W. Bush has had a stellar reputation and now some attempt to tarnish his reputation at age 93. I was stunned the other day when I read that Ravi Zacharias was now facing accusations from a lady who emailed nude pictures to him and then "claimed" that he solicited them. That's bizarre! In light of these recent headlines, it appears that VP Mike Pence revealed great wisdom and integrity when he stated that he does not have private meetings or dinners with those of the opposite sex.

People have always had a tendency to stomp on others as they try to climb the corporate ladder. Whether a pyramid scheme, a no-fault lawsuit, frivolous claims of negligence, or Bernie's push for Socialism; people will do whatever it takes to get money out of someone else's pocket. There is no doubt that narcissism has overtaken our society. Think of the world's affinity with selfies, social media, etc.; and it should not surprise us that people would do whatever it takes to advance their cause, even at the expense of others. I've seen it in the secular world and even in the church. I've also seen how accusations travel slow and are often snuffed out, when made against those who live by character, integrity and faith.

So what can we do? We must teach men to practice the biblical principle of being a "one woman man." Older men can teach the younger men how to properly treat and respect ladies. We can stay away from off-color jokes and comments. We can practice the Billy Graham rule of not being alone with a woman who is not your wife (at any time). Men should ask permission, prior to hugging or touching a woman for any reason. We can also genuinely love people in both business and ministry. People who feel loved and appreciated will probably help squelch the rumors. Finally, we can help comfort those who are being falsely accused. If we as believers join in the accusations without evidence, then where will hurting people go for comfort? Remember, Jesus loved the outcasts and provided many examples of extending forgiveness and facilitating reconciliation. Let's do our best to follow His example.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thanksgiving & Things I'm Thankful For

In a day that much of history is being rewritten, memorials to the past are being removed, and the word “entitlement” now describes much of the society in which we live; the real meaning of Thanksgiving Day is fading quickly. For many, Thanksgiving correlates with nothing more than a day off, turkey, and football. For that reason, I want to start with a brief history of Thanksgiving.

In September 1620, the Mayflower left England, carrying 102 passengers seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and find opportunities for prosperity. The difficult journey eventually took the Pilgrims to Plymouth, where winter and disease were so brutal that only half of the original passengers and crew survived.

The Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate corn, to extract sap, and to fish. In November 1621, the Pilgrims had organized a feast to celebrate their successful harvest and invited their Indian friends to enjoy a meal of celebration with them. This feast is remembered as the “first Thanksgiving.” On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated each November.

It is now not politically correct to say Indian and some will frown on the term Native American. I assume it won’t be long before Thanksgiving Day is removed from the History books. So, before that happens, teach your children about the first Thanksgiving and allow me to express a few things that I am thankful for.

Thanksgiving Day has deep meaning and should cause us to take time to reflect on our blessings and to thank God for His provisions. So, where do I start? I am thankful to live in a country where the Gospel is preached freely and that I was able to come to know Christ as a teenager. I am thankful for the privilege I had to grow up in a Christian home, to attend a Christian school, to raise my family to know Christ, to worship freely, to own multiple copies of the Bible, and to preach the Gospel for 33 years and counting. I am thankful that God is faithful, even when man is not. I am thankful for a godly, loving and faithful wife. I’m thankful that my wife, my children and I were all able to attend college. I am thankful for dear friends locally, across the USA and around the world. I am thankful for my health, food in my pantry, clean drinking water, clothes on my back and a good sanitation system. I am thankful for the privilege to own a car and a house. I am thankful for a free nation, those who serve in our military, for law enforcement, fire fighters, and other first responders. I am thankful for easily accessible healthcare and the modern technology that enhances and prolongs our lives.

I am thankful for the warm welcome we have received at Grace and for the privilege of leading this church to follow and accomplish God’s plan to impact this community for eternity! I am thankful for the privilege of serving with a great team of co-workers. I am thankful for our Christian school in which we can teach academics, instill wisdom and develop critical thinkers who can make decisions based on a Christian world-view. I am thankful for the opportunity to make disciples locally and globally. I am thankful that my children are saved, living for Christ, and pursuing godliness. I am thankful for two wonderful sons-in-law and for my new granddaughter.

When we pause for a moment to count our blessings, it is amazing to realize that we have so much to be thankful for. Life gets busy and we often get caught up in it like the hamster on the wheel; but let me encourage you to take this Thanksgiving Day to pause, reflect, and give thanks to God for His many blessings! Sure, eat the turkey, enjoy the family and watch some football; but also take time to give thanks to God and to those family members and friends He has blessed you with.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I am a Very Rich Man!

Just the other day, I drove down A1A between Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach. The homes (mansions) are breathtaking and look more like hotels than single-family homes; the yachts parked along the Inter-coastal cost more than some will make in a lifetime; and I was following a Bentley just before I pulled up beside a Maserati at the traffic light. It's easy to get caught coveting, if you're not careful. As a Pastor, I will probably never live in one of those houses, own one of those yachts, or drive one of those cars; but I am so filthy rich! I have a beautiful, loving, godly, and faithful wife that I've been married to for almost 32 years! I have 3 beautiful and godly daughters, 2 wonderful son-in-laws, and 1 adorable little granddaughter! I still have both of my parents to enjoy, my aunt & uncle, my sister's family, my wife's family, nieces, nephews, and more! I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and cars that are paid for. I have friends all over this country and some around the world. I have people who love me and I am honored to be called Pastor by the people of Grace Church! I am happy, healthy, and rich in so many ways!

I know that some of you think I'm just crazy, but I couldn't be happier! Happiness isn't determined by the material possessions we have or don't have. I have the joy of the Lord and know that one day, I will have my mansion in Heaven! But, I really don't care if it is just a small hut or even the heavenly equivalent of a cardboard box. I'm not looking forward to the residence I'll have in Heaven... I'm looking forward to the Person I'll be seeing in Heaven! The greatest reward is to see the face of Jesus! To hear His voice, to look into His eyes, to see His scarred hands. The truth is, I don't care about pearly gates, golden streets or magnificent dwelling places. I can't imagine that I'll be taking many naps or spending too much time inside, when I can be worshiping the King of Kings and Lord or Lords! Just think... happy on earth and headed to heaven. It only takes a few minutes of reflection to realize just how rich we are with the things that really matter!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Running is Good, but Running the Right Direction is Better!

Throughout the Bible, we find athletic references and illustrations used to drive home teaching points. Running is one of the sports mentioned in Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 9:24 it states, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it." In Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." We're told not only to run; but run with the intention of winning.

On October 22, 2017, Eyob Faniel, won the Venice Marathon after the 7 lead runners followed a motorcycle and veered off the course. Yes, they were running; but they ran the wrong direction! By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late. The runners corrected their course, but they were too far behind and could not catch the Italian runner. Eyob Faniel's win was the first time an Italian man had won the Venice Marathon since 1995. What an epic failure for the leaders, but what a reward for the persistent endurance of the man who stayed the course.

As I watched the news reports and read the stories on the Internet, the spiritual significance of this event was glaring! Believers are in a spiritual race, and we must stay the course! Real victory only comes when we run to win... and run in the right direction! The Bible charts our course and the Holy Spirit guides our steps, but it is the responsibility of each individual believer to follow in obedience. It's not enough to just finish the course; we must run to win the race! The starting line is BROAD and lined with many, many runners; but the finish line NARROWS the field and the runners usually cross single-file. Many start the race, fewer cross the finish line; but only one wins the race!

What a spiritual application! Broad is the way that leads to destruction and narrow is the way that leads to life; but few there will be that find it. So, as you run your spiritual journey, keep your eyes on the prize and stay on the right path. It should be every believer's goal to say with the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." Keep your eyes on Christ and you'll be heading in the right direction!

Friday, October 13, 2017

October is Pastor Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. The Apostle Paul first taught this concept in 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." Focus on the Family started recognizing pastors and encouraging congregations to honor their pastors in the 1990's. In 2002, the first greeting cards were printed in recognition of Pastor Appreciation. The practice of raising awareness about pastor appreciation now continues each October.

Pastor's don't enter ministry for recognition. True pastors enter ministry in response to God's calling. Serving as a pastor is rewarding, but difficult. Pastors and their families live in fishbowls with their congregations critiquing their every move. They serve people who often feel they know how to better manage the affairs of the church. The expectations are often unrealistic, the hours are long, the pressures are immense, they are expected to be perfect, and they deal with people... which can be both rewarding and very draining. An interesting and shocking article about reasons pastors leave ministry can be found here at EXPASTORS.COM. The article is good and the comments thought provoking. It's worth the read and may give you a greater appreciation for your pastor.

I'm finishing my 33rd year of ministry. I've had some of my greatest life's joys in ministry, as well as, some of my greatest life's disappointments. Both were directly connected to people. Even when people are cruel and unfaithful, pastors realize that God is faithful and He is ultimately the One we serve. God allows pastors the privilege of loving His people here on earth, and there is no greater honor than to hear someone call you by the name, Pastor.

I am blessed to have many men in my life that have served as my Pastors and friends:
- Dr. Verle Ackerman - took several "preacher boys" under his wing and taught us how to love God and love people.
- Dell Lindsey - Was my dear friend and ministry mentor. Faithful in the face of suffering.
- Jack Baskin - The first pastor I worked for and he gave me a heart for missions.
- Dan Burrell - A very dear friend, who taught me to do everything with excellence and showed me faithfulness through trials.
- David Nelms - Taught me to think outside the box and how to transition a traditional church into a vibrant church.
- Milton Frazier - Taught me faithfulness all the way to the end of his life.
- Jeff Huey - A brother (truly like family), friend, encourager, soulwinner, picture of Jesus! I don't have enough words to describe my love & appreciation for this man.
- Bill Monroe - Showed me that people are the heart of the ministry. My wife's family was saved under his ministry and he walked with Flora & I through a ministry valley.
- Clayton Simmons - A pastor and a true pastors' friend! He will go the extra mile (or two) to help others. He is the example of a pastor's heart.
- Tom Waggoner - A trailblazer that always sees the potential in men and ministries.
- Greg Hales - Encouraged me through one of the darkest points in my entire life. I owe this man so much!
- Ron Long - The greatest encourager of pastors that I've ever known. He is a pastor's friend and a lifter of my soul. Someone recently said that he has done more to influence modern-day Christianity than anyone they know!

These 12 men have influenced my life in ways they will never fully understand. They helped to teach, train, shape, stretch, help, heal, make and mold me into the pastor that I am today. You'll notice that most of these men are older, experienced pastors. They learned ministry in a generation that understood it differently. They aren't CEO's, clock watchers, slaves to their computer screens, counting their hours or looking for extra time off. These are ministers who prepare sermons; but they also serve, visit, teach, and train others. "God, please help me to be a pastor like these men and to apply what they poured into my life!" If you have a pastor who has made a difference in your life, take time to at least send them a note of encouragement. That small gesture will go a long way to help them keep on, keeping on.

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to the pastoral team with which I have the privilege of serving at Grace. Duane, Luke, Steve A. & Steve L.: I've served on, with and led several pastoral teams; but you are some of the finest men I've ever known or had the privilege of working with. Your commitment to Christ, love for his Church, compassion for people, attention to detail, commitment to excellence, heart for evangelism, tireless effort, and support for your Pastor is noticed and VERY MUCH appreciated. May God give us many years to serve Him together!