Thursday, December 15, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Sometimes I think my life is about meetings but have realized that this is one very important key to unlocking doors. As John Maxwell says "people don't buy into ideas until they buy into the leader".
In the last week I have been on three fishing trips with three different people and have enjoyed every one of them. All three were more than just fishing trips. Went to a fellowship at one person's house to watch a basketball game with a group of people and then out to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant with another group....some of the same folks. Worked side by side with folks who camp up to the camp to help out one day and then just hung out with another group who were on spring break another day.
Coming up in the spring and summer will be conferences Denise and I will be teaching and others we will be attending. Our prayer is that our house will sell soon though the market does not look very good. Denise will be having another surgery in June and there is a job issue to decide upon as well.
We are becoming more and more involved with the folks at the new church start we joined recently Ignite City Church and seeking to build relationships and gain their trust. The Pastor has great potential is very doctrinally sound and a great guy as well.....there are many ideas and suggestions I would like to share with him and over time intend to do this.
One of the things that has disturbed my heart lately is the lack of believers out there who seem to have no desire to seek a blameless life. Now while we will never be able to live a sinless life while down here on this earth, a *blameless* life is obtainable. Scripture says Job did it, Titus 1:6 says an Elder must live a blameless life, Psalms, Proverbs and Philippians all talk about it as well.
So what is a blameless life? This is one where we are concerned more about others than ourselves. It is one where we chose to perhaps pass on or give up things that may not necessarily be a sin to us but others may struggle with. When we are striving to be blameless, we seek to eliminate a habit or action that someone might could hold against us or cause them to question our ethics.
It is one where there is a huge distinction between us and the world...it is often referred to in scripture as one filled with holiness. Paul refers to this in Acts 24:16 that it is his goal to have a clear conscience before God *and* man. We sometimes take the attitude that God knows my heart and that is all that matters, not so. I just don't see very many folks these days trying to go above and beyond the minimum when it comes to holy living and a large part of the fault rests with my generation.
Now I am sure not knocking other strategies in the church that have led folks to salvation but is this not how things are supposed to work? --> As the church we go out after the lost, not waiting for them to come to us, share the path to salvation, the Holy Spirit convicts them, they accept or reject and then those who accept are brought into the church where they find something found no where else......which is a group of people who love each other and take care of each other and teach them how to live radically different than the rest of the world and in turn share with others the path to salvation? The blameless life is a radical life and is full of sacrifice for the greater good. It is one more concerned with love and responsibilities than our rights and privileges.
So what are "spiritual guardrails" and how do they come into play in the blameless life? These are habits or plans of action we put into place that not only keep us way away from temptation, but steer us clear of things that call our actions into question by others.
I can remember years ago when the Holy Spirit placed on my heart one of these guardrails that I put into place and have remained committed to it ever since. I used to do some painting and often it meant I would be in a house doing a job when only the wife or woman was there. Never had I been tempted or accused of any wrong doing but the Holy Spirit said this was not a good idea. If a particular lady said I had done something with her or stolen something it would be only my word against hers. Also what if some other brother was weak in this area and saw that if it was ok for me to do it how could I say to him it was not ok?
A guardrail would be that Bosses, pastors, coaches or others which include dating couples, put a system in place and make the commitment that they will not meet with the opposite sex alone. Another one would be that an organization has more than one person handling their money.
There are programs that can be installed on our computers to protect us. Someone traveling alone staying in a hotel might ask them at the desk to turn off the cable to their room. Another guardrail might be someone with a debt problem cutting up all their credit cards.
There are certainly too many to list. Oh I have heard folks say these things are silly and I don't need to do these things....and every day another pastor or fellow brother or sister we hear about ruining their testimony because of sin. What is really being said when we say we don't need to do these things is I am strong enough on my own....when we are depending on ourselves that is right where Satan likes to have us!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Through the years I’ve had several thoughts on this subject on more than one occasion and have even written them down a time or two. A week or so ago I heard a ten year old boy use a word in a sentence that took me back to this familiar subject. This particular child is a relative, raised in a Christian home, and one could tell that he used it freely and without remorse. Now in the last couple of years, even in my own family, I have heard this same word spoken. It really raises the hair on the back of my neck, as not too long ago it was considered profanity. Who moved it out of that category? The culture. The word I am talking about here is another word for urinating. The dictionary says in its slang form it means to anger. I believe the use of this word by believers is a symptom of another issue.
Years ago, not long after being hired on at the Fire Department, it was required of me to “rove” to many of the stations. Word came down from headquarters or from somewhere higher up that a particular person from one of the stations had been diagnosed with Hepatitis. Now I am not sure which one as there are five different types, but it was strongly advised that anyone who had spent any time at all at that station should be checked for this disease. I went to the doctor to be tested, very shortly after receiving the notice. Now while my memory is not completely clear as to how long this process took, I will never forget the conversation with my doctor. He called me into the office and said good news, while the test shows you have been exposed, you are not contaminated. While certainly I was relieved at the statement my immediate question was “what is the difference?” He said the test showed antibodies in my blood that are only present in people who had been around or exposed to hepatitis. He went on to say that with too much exposure contamination would occur. Well Doc, I asked, how much is too much exposure? He said that it was hard to say and that it varied with each person and that lots of factors figured into the equation. A person’s health and how often the exposure occurred were two critical things in how long someone could prevent contracting the disease. The last thing I remember him saying was the least amount of exposure the better, as even a person with the strongest immune system can only resist so long.
There are many things we as believers cannot prevent exposure to if we are to reach this lost world, but how much do we purposely expose ourselves to for no good reason at all? Scripture is very clear that we are to be in the world but not of the world, and this means to not be like the world. Jesus was radically different, Paul was radically different, but it seems in today’s world there is more and more gray area between who God’s people are and the rest of society. Do we really grasp the meaning of the Scriptures that say “our body is a temple”, or that “we are to be holy?” If we wouldn’t bring something into the church why would we bring it into the temple? I think sometimes we place way too much confidence in ourselves and how strong we are against being influenced. People often comment that just because they read something or watch a movie or a show on TV that doesn’t mean they will follow that example in their own life. Why does the Bible say to choose our friends carefully or to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers? God is concerned about them influencing us, not the other way around. Isn’t this another way of saying that with enough exposure you will be contaminated? Our thoughts become influenced before our behavior. Exposing ourselves unnecessarily over and over again to profanity, for example, eventually affects our spiritual discernment in this area. Our tolerance level for this creeps up slowly and without even knowing it. When is the last time we told someone who uses profanity that it offends us or that we wish they would not use that type of language around us? If someone opened a pornographic magazine in front of us would we say something? Would we be shocked, offended, or walk away? What is the difference? If we went to see a “Christian movie” and there was profanity would we be surprised? Would it bother us? Why? If the Pastor uses that kind of language in his message on Sunday would it bother us? Have we re-defined holiness instead of accepting what the Lord says it is? Aren’t we living our lives for Someone else now? Just because we are not committing a particular sin doesn’t mean we might not be hurting our Christian witness. We all have been exposed; the question is are we contaminated and if so what can we do about it? I’ll discuss this in the next post.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Before we left for Tampa and the NAMB commissioning service, Camp MACOBA was filled with the Fowler family (Denise relatives). We had borrowed a pop-up camper from some dear friends of ours for her parents to sleep in and her sisters family stayed in tents. When they first arrived the weather was ok then cool temperatures hung around the entire rest of their trip…oh and we had a thunderstorm one day as well. A couple cords of wood were burned as folks pretty much hung around the campfire for most of the stay. One day Joseph took the kids down to the pond and got stuck so I had to hook the tractor up and pull him up the hill. During this time we celebrated Sawyer’s first birthday and that was pretty cool. Anytime Denise folks come down they like to make a visit to Rosie’s so we made that visit on Monday. We left out early on Wednesday morning while most everyone was still in bed but did manage to say our goodbyes. The trip to Tampa was eleven hours so an early start was necessary.
Our trip to Tampa was the first time I had ever been in the state of Florida. As a matter of fact I am the only one I know who has never seen the ocean and I didn’t get to see it this trip either! Oh we could have driven down to the beach but I want to make this event one where we have some time and are not rushed. The NAMB commissioning service is one I will not soon forget and it was broadcast live on the internet. We met lots of great folks and no two ministries were exactly the same. The hotel stay and meals were great. This event was almost an information overload but very helpful. I must admit prior to this past weekend I had many questions and even some apprehensions connected to the NAMB. The new leader taking over and making so many changes early on was a little disturbing along with what I had been reading and hearing in conversations around the local association. The staff down in Tampa was very good about answering all our questions and never putting us off about anything and I did my share on inquiring. I feel now that everything is going to be ok and NAMB is on the right track. Brother Harold Sellers and Ron Lynch from the Madison Baptist Association even flew down for our commissioning service and took us out to dinner. It is nice to know we have that kind of support in our local association but then again they are two fine men who have really been there for us during this whole process.
Well we are back and have hit the ground running as there is much to do. Today I will have lunch with the head of the local Christian Southern Archers. We formed a partnership with this organization last year and it has been working out well for both parties. Chris Hester really has a heart for Jesus and in helping kids and is such a fine man. Next I will be meeting with the Pastor of “Ignite” a local new church start. We recently joined this church and look forward to worshiping there and helping them in the coming year. Later on Denise and I will make a stop back at Lighthouse Baptist for church pictures so a busy day is in store.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Change Is No Respecter Of Persons……
Change is no respecter of persons. He comes into everyone’s life sooner or later and loves to catch us off guard. The world is full of things that have been brought on by his intervention and will continue to be until the end of time. Now many folks don’t like him and will take steps to slow down or just outright derail his arrival. As I have grown older, I like to sit down and talk with Change for awhile and hear what he has to say before making any kind of decision. There are times when it makes sense to allow him to come, as he will occasionally bring along some friends called Improvement and Happiness. This is not always the case however as he will also try and shake things up simply out of boredom, restlessness, for no good reason at all, or even to give some individual glory for accomplishment. Change at times will travel down a long winding road or come suddenly like a thief in the middle of the night. Shock value is often included in his methods. There are times we can see him from a great distance and can prepare, but when he shows up suddenly and uninvited, we are then forced to deal with him.
Change chose this way to visit with our family. We were on a fast road of expectation, and jubilation and steps had already been taken to travel down this new road when the train ran off the tracks. How does one with no hope put the train back on the tracks?….I don’t know. Those of us with hope know that the One watching over us and guiding us was not caught off guard by this tragedy. We trust Him so much that we believe that even this can be used for His glory and our benefit.
Change often brings along a cousin of his called Grief. Now this second cousin, on his dad’s side, can help us in the transition process. He moves in for awhile and helps us to deal with others who usually show up called Sadness, Confusion and Anger. Faith can be our best friend, especially if he has grown strong. He can stand up to many things well, but if not strong enough when stabbed over and over by Grief, can be weakened and a person scarred forever. Satan has used Grief to drive many folks away from the Lord by taking them down the “why” road and seeking someone to blame. Faith does not need all his questions answered and is more interested in restoration and recovery than blame.
I think the train is back on the tracks now, but the wheels are not moving very much yet. Bearing one another's burdens is what the church is called to do, though not practiced very much. Now one also must be receptive to those who are sincere in this area as well.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
The weather has been changing here up on Limestone ridge this morning. As Denise went off to watch Sawyer this morning, I got out and walked as the temps were hovering around 45 and the wind was asleep. By the time I had run an errand and come back from the post office, it was raining hard. Not an hour later the wind has not only woken up, but is running up and down the hills here so hard I had to wind the awning on the RV in to prevent it from being ripped in two. The rest of the day will be a quite one spent inside working on a ministry newsletter and some cards to send out until it is time to head out to James and Kim's for dinner.
This morning’s study comes out of the book of Hosea and has lead to some interesting thoughts. A friend of mine and I were discussing various things a while back and the subject of a popular evangelist we both knew came up…well actually I brought it up. He had fallen from grace and damaged his ministry severely because of an affair, and yet I seem to recall he was back again. My friend had told me that he had gone against advice from those who have a specific ministry of helping people to be restored and came back too quickly. When I read Hosea I am reminded that before God restored His people He always judged them first. There was a time of suffering for their sin against Him. From what I understand in Scripture, the one who repents and is asking for forgiveness does not set the terms. It would seem one’s heart is not right if they have committed a sin against another and then turn around and say okay here is what I am going to do to make things right. If we are truly interested in restoring the relationship, we humbly ask, "What can I do to make things right again?"
The 4th Annual Board meeting of Restoring The Church Ministries went well. We brought a new member on the board as another came off. Dr. Richards is a fine man and I hate to see him go, but understand his reason. He has been on board since the beginning of this ministry and he will be missed. On the other hand I am very excited about the new member, Dwight Moss. He brings so much to the table and I look forward to working with him in the future.
Met with a rather high profile guy for breakfast last week and if he decides to get involved I believe it will really help our efforts out at the camp. Like I shared with the Board on Friday, much of my time right now is spent on the phone and having lunch with folks building those relationships. Met with a young pastor last week and we are praying about where God would have us serve next.
One more week until our second grandchild, first child for my daughter, enters the world. These are exciting times! I am so proud of both of my children and their spouses. Just a commercial here if you ever need pictures made check out “Something Beautiful Photography”. There are many out there who can take pictures and fairly good ones with all these digital cameras and such, but James just seems to have an eye for what looks good. We have been updating the Camp MACOBA blog and just added a couple of new entries…only two more to go. The rain and wind are keeping the critters away for the time being but I am sure they are not too far away.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
This past Thursday and Friday I spent on the Eastern Shore. Seems like I remember something about Orcs patrolling these shores…didn’t see any though. The ABREA Annual meeting was held in Fairhope this year and I rode down with a friend of mine from Athens. Dwight Moss is the new Minister of Education at Decatur Baptist and let me tell you he is on top of his game. He came over from Clements Baptist where they were voted as one of the best growing churches in the Southeast in the last five years. The trip is a little over six hours one way. When you spend that much time in a vehicle with someone, the opportunity to know them increases quite a bit. The conference was a good one and the speaker, “Jay McSwain“ did an excellent job. This may have been the best conference on connecting people to ministry I have ever been to. As a matter of fact, we will probably be receiving several training sessions in “Place” (http://www.placeministries.org/) to help make us more valuable to the churches we serve. We had the privilege of viewing a new movie that is not coming out until September called “Courageous”. I thought it was the best Christian movie yet. Brent Shaw, who was the ABREA President and our host, did an excellent job. We had fresh seafood at the banquet and plenty of it. I remember meeting some friendly folks such as Wayne Polk and Chuck Ashley. There were packets from Lifeway given out to everyone which included a book. You can always count on Michael Gentry for some goodies. Speaking of Michael, it seems he was battling some kind of bug for awhile there. Saw Rick Ellison and Daniel Edmonds at the conference; now there are two busy guys. At our table was Charles Simmons, Minister of Education at Sardis Springs Baptist. He seems like a fine man who really knows his stuff when it comes to Sunday School and we had much conversation during our stay there. The wit and sarcasm of Mike Davis was missing as he was absent. Someone told me he was using some paper he was working on as an excuse. All in all it was a great trip and I am already looking forward to next year…which by the way is in Coosada. Not sure where that is going to have to Google it.
The rest of this evening will be spent making phone calls and setting up some lunch meetings for next week and preparing for our Ministry Board meeting on Friday.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
This morning’s study was on meditating and I have been doing some of that today along with a little wandering as well – with my thoughts that is. There is a meeting tomorrow that may have an effect on the direction of our ministry in the near future…we will see. Later this week there is a conference (Alabama Religious Educators Association) I will be attending with a friend of mine in the ministry and who will be coming on the board this year. You have heard the expression before that someone is “on top of their game”? Well he certainly is. My intention is to spend our time riding down and back getting to know him better.
There is a possibility that the hard economic times may be affecting my family in the near future and I don’t feel as prepared as I should be, which may lead to some hard decisions. If the house was sold it would sure help matters. Denise picks up her special ankle brace today and the special drugs I ordered came in as well. Hopefully this will help her ankle and we can avoid ankle fusion surgery and starting this whole recovery process all over again.
Yesterday I posted a quote on facebook from my study concerning respect and what God had put on my heart about this subject. This is one of those things where the world teaches us one thing but scripture teaches something else and the war within ourselves takes place. Like many others I was taught that respect is earned and it can be lost. We were taught to respect our elders, our teachers and the law enforcement officers. There was a certain amount of respect given to everyone. Now if someone was dishonest very often they began to lose our respect. If people were mean to us or did not show us respect, we began to hold back ours toward them as well. This has just about become the normal attitude nowadays. As a believer we are called to a higher standard and this is one of those areas where it sometimes becomes difficult.
Can you respect someone you don’t agree with or even like? The answer is yes; we can certainly show them respect. What makes a person respectable or easy to respect? Well let’s look at Respect’s two cousins named Dependability and Consistency. I can give my respect to someone who has a belief or characteristic about themselves, even if I don’t agree with, if they are consistent. Let me use an example from the workplace. Let’s say that you have someone who is always lazy and does the minimum in their job and really has to be made to conform to the rules. Somehow, sometime down the road, this person gets promoted and they become a stickler for the rules or maybe even become a slave driver. Get the picture here? Or say management tries to enforce rules that don’t apply to themselves. Now if someone has always been a hard worker or go-getter and then gets promoted why would anyone expect this character trait to not still be present? No doubt about it Consistency is related to Respect and he has other relatives as well which we won’t get into until another day. What about Dependability? If this younger cousin fails to show up enough times he will not only become lost but people will stop looking for him. You may hear statements like “can’t count on him,” or “they are never on time”. This is a shame too, because it is so easy to have Dependability move in with you and stay. I once read that a person who is always late is subconsciously saying, “My time is more important than yours.” It’s all a matter of Will, who by the way is a dominator and is constantly trying to be king of our life.
De-programming, or changing our thoughts and lifelong behaviors, takes much effort. When we can give our respect to those who have not earned it or we feel do not deserve it we are pleasing the Lord. We are called to be a different people, one set apart, and this is an area where we need all the help we can get sometimes. The Lord has sent us a helper for situations such as these, called the Holy Spirit. When we give our respect to those folks, it has the possibility of opening a door someday to share the reason why we follow a different drummer. I go back in my mind to Luke 6:32-33, which covers so many things, “If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to only those who do good to you what credit is that to you, for even sinners do the same.”
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Currently I have two other blogs (Restoring the Church Ministries and Camp MACOBA) which I will continue but I want to try and do this one at least weekly, maybe even more frequently. I am kind of thinking a good time would be on Sunday afternoons...we will see. This one may include some of the things I talk about on the other ones but will have much more personal thoughts and observations.
This winter has been an unusual one here in North Alabama with the ground being wet from either snow or rain almost every day since Christmas. This has delayed some outside projects I had planned up at the camp. The New Year looks to be our busiest one yet as many things are on the horizon. It seems that God is bringing the three areas of ministry I am involved in together and hopefully I will be able to see how these three pieces of the puzzle all fit together to honor Him in a mighty way. He knows what He is doing I pray for the wisdom to see it as well. The pieces I am referring to are Restoring The Church Ministries, Camp MACOBA Hosts, the North American Mission Board and the Madison Baptist Association where I am serving currently as the Associational Sunday School Director.
The second piece is Camp MACOBA Hosts. A little over a year ago we entered into a mutually beneficial agreement with the Madison Baptist Association to serve as Camp Hosts. Church Camps are going out of business every year all over the country and the same thing almost happened here a few years ago. A group of dedicated men, many which are now on the Camp Committee, came forward at the annual meeting when the camp was being considered to be sold and said they could not stand to see that happen and mobilized much time and effort to clean the place up. We too fell in love with the camp our first time up here and have given our time and money to help move it in a positive direction. The economy is down and we have sought out other ways to help raise money and have formed some partnerships over the past year. The MBA Office tells us that in 2010 more people used the camp than any year they can remember. We have many ideas, which all take money, but are confident that God wants to use this place in a mighty way in the future and we'll feel honored if we can even be a small part of this.
Piece three is the North American Mission Board. Last year we went through the long process of applying to be missionaries through the NAMB. Late in the fall we were notified that we had been approved! We will be serving in this area at least until I retire from the Fire department in about three years and then who knows. There are two type of missionaries that come under the NAMB one that receives funding and one that does not which is called Mission Service Corps (which is what we are). At some point I will have to look into the ins and outs of this issue but if you know someone out there who wants to adopt some missionaries.... :)
Finally the last piece is with MBA as Associational Sunday School Director. I am so honored to serve on the Leadership team in this area. I have scheduled several conferences for the Association this year along with our annual Sunday School Banquet. My goal is to really focus on serving in this area in 2011. My wife Denise serves selflessly as well. She led the women's ministry just a few years ago in a church with 600+ in attendance.
We are expecting our second grandchild in March (first for my daughter). My daughter and her husband are currently serving in a new church start which is exciting. My son is on staff at Flint River, where he takes care of any publications and graphics, and his wife joins him in serving in the youth ministry. How could a man be more blessed than knowing his whole family is serving the Lord!
One project within the ministry is a book I am working on. The goal is to interview 100 Pastors and use this information to help others who are new or considering coming into the ministry. So far I have met with ten and already learned a lot. Criteria is that the Pastor has to have been in the ministry at least 15 years. A couple of questions in the interview involve what they did not learn at Seminary that would have been helpful to know and ways they have dealt with crisis.