Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Whimpy Parents

There was a time, not too many years ago, when schools and other organizations designed to meet the needs of children never considered having activities which conflicted with church attendance. Not so anymore! Why, you ask? Well, I think the answer is simple: We have a bunch of whimpy parents who, though they profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, are afraid to stand up to the Satanic influences of society. I thank God that a long time before I became a pastor, my wife stood up in meetings of the Seguin Youth Basketball Association and the Seguin Youth Soccer Association and said "NO!" to playing or practicing on Sunday's. It was interesting that all it took was one person of conviction to stand and say "no" to see many others join in. As the wave of support for no Sunday practice or games grew, both organizations backed down and Sunday was protected as "the Lord's day".

Not all churches met on Sunday evenings, and many do not today, but Christians of many faiths banded together with an understanding that Sunday belonged to the Lord.
Even those who did not meet on Sunday evenings remembered that God said, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." Why? Because they respected one another.

Today, whimpy parents have forgotten how to say "no", both to the organizations and to their own children. Today, schools and organizations never think twice about having events on Sunday. It's no longer the Lord's day, but "family day", or "fun day." I'm pretty sure the Bible hasn't changed and that God still sees it as His day.

Whimpy parents, learn to say "no" again. Dave Ramsey gives some great instructions: "Place your tongue just behind your upper front teeth. With a nasal "n" sound, exhale slowly while moving your tongue down and your lips into a circular shape. Keep doing this until you hear it...'.......Nnnnnoooooooo."

By the way, once you catch on, you can stop being a whimp toward your own children as well. You can begin to say it to them too. "Nnnnnooooooooo."

Got it? Now try it!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Missions - My Take On It All

There is rarely a week that goes by that I do not receive at least one request for assistance from some well meaning, biblically based missions ministry. They run the gambit in personality and style. They focus their ministries on building churches, assisting in disaster relief efforts, starting and maintaining orphanages, sending medical teams to combat AIDS, or any one of a thousand other missions. All are good and well-meaning missions. I have no doubt that most people involved in these ministries have a divine calling and real passion for their particular ministries, but I generally choose not to support them financially. I have been criticized for this on many occasions and some believe I am uncaring or lack sympathy for those who are hurting in our world. In fact, I am offended by those nay sayers. They generally insinuate that my position is founded upon little thought or prayer. That could not be farther from the truth. So, today I am sharing my reasoning for supporting Southern Baptist ministries and missions. I share from my heart to yours.

Long before I was ever born, the church began to realize that the Great Commission was given not just to the eleven apostles, but to the entire church. The importance of missions and evangelism began to grow in importance. In May 1845 two hundred ninety-three Baptists met together in Augusta, Georgia and formed the Southern Baptist Convention. Since then, Southern Baptists have had their fair share of squabbles, disagreements and even some downright failures, but to be where they are today, they must have done something right as well, I won’t go into a lengthy history of the Southern Baptist Convention here, but I believe God has had His hand on Southern Baptists down through the years.

In the early days of the Convention, and even before, each ministry segment of the convention was pretty much on its own, particularly when it came to funding. The Foreign Mission Board, the Home Mission Board, the publishing arm, and others all were self funded. All of these entities were called “Societies” and each society was busy raising funds for their own work, even at the expense of the others. It seemed as if they were often working against one another, rather than with one another. As the work of God’s kingdom grew, this societal method for funding became ambiguous, cumbersome and less effective in carrying out the total ministry of the church. In 1925 the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a simple but profound change in the way it funds ministries, both at home and around the world. They called it the Cooperative Program. Simply stated, churches and agencies would begin to cooperate with one another in their funding strategies. Local churches would send funds to their respective state conventions, who in turn would retain a percentage for state missions and ministry funding, then send the rest on to the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC would then divide the money among all of its ministry and mission agencies in accordance with directions received from its executive committee. This committee was, and still is, made up of members from every state convention. No longer were individual ministry or missions agencies allowed to solicit direct funding from the churches. For these last eighty-four years the Cooperative Program has worked magnificently well, and it is a major reason that I have elected to be a Southern Baptist.

I believe in the way we, as Southern Baptist’s do missions and ministry. I believe that when we cooperate together to carry out the great commission, we can accomplish far more than any of us could alone. Southern Baptists’ have, over the past eighty-four years led the way in evangelism and missions. Our missionaries, both at home and abroad, never have to worry about how they will be funded. They do not have to return home every few months to beg for more money. They never have to fret over health or life insurance. They can sleep in peace knowing that their children will be educated. When there is a problem, they know that there is a strong agency behind them with a competent, trustworthy team to support them. They can spend their time, all of it, doing the ministry they were called to, without worrying about their personal needs. They know that when Bibles are needed, they’ll be there. If an automobile, or boat, or even and an airplane is needed to accomplish their mission, it will be made available. The Cooperative Program isn’t perfect, but it is the best financial strategy God has ever given. Why, because it’s Biblical. God has instructed each of us to “bring the tithe into the storehouse.” That is, we are to bring a portion of what He has given to us (10 percent of our growth) to His church, so that it can do the ministry He has called it to do. The same principle has been applied to the conventions ministry and mission, and it works better than any thing else because it is a Biblical principle.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, but as an adult I can choose to be a part of any denomination I desire, or none at all. I choose to be a Southern Baptist because I like the way we do missions! We have our faults, but mission support is not one of them. I support our missionaries for two major reasons. First, because they are depending on me. As a Southern Baptist, I have made a commitment to them and I plan to remain true to that commitment. This is also a major reason I rarely support other mission sending agencies or independent missionaries.

The second is equally important: Southern Baptist missionaries are held highly accountable. There is a structured system in place to both select the most highly qualified applicants for missionary service, and to monitor their activity once on the mission field. Southern Baptist missionaries are held accountable in their personal lives, their financial lives and in their ministries. I know that the money I, or my church gives to Southern Baptist work will be used in a manner that is uplifting to the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that our missionaries are held to a higher standard than many other agency missionaries are, and I appreciate that. While the Southern Baptist Convention is a huge organization, my church and I still have a voice and a vote in what takes place. Southern Baptist missionaries are OUR missionaries and they are accountable to US, and I like that. So, I will continue to support Southern Baptist mission and ministry causes above and before all others.

There are an abundance of wonderful ministries out there, but if you are a Southern Baptist, I would encourage you to support your own first. Give your tithe through your local church and celebrate the Cooperative Program. It’s our lifeline to world missions.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kid's and Grandkid's, A Whirlwind Trip

Well, we made one of our famous 32 hour trips to see our family in the Ft. Worth area. We all met in Keller, including my mom, and had a great time! Here are a few photos I wanted to share.
A couple of quick slides before the rain began.
Grandma C gave baby Drew a new monkey blanket for his bed.
Gram made this beautiful crocheted blanket for baby Drew. She made one for Thatcher and Ashtyn when they were born, so now all three have a special keepsake.Gram gets one of many double hugs that made the trip all worth while.Gram made Ashtyn a special blanket for her baby doll. It matches the one Gram made for her when she was born.Grandmother is helping Thatcher open his special gift, a new bull dozer.After lunch on Saturday, Gram and mommies went shopping so Grandpa, daddies and kids went to Cabela's. We got to see some very big fish!Thatch and Ash enjoyed looking at the stuffed animals.Wow! Look at the size of those trout. There almost as big as the ones Grandmother caught a couple of weeks ago!Ashtyn isn't sure if she's a princess or Tinker Bell, or what, but she said she didn't like this dress. I think she'd rather wear a basketball uniform.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 Remembering The Day

9-11-01 It's a day we'll always remember. Where were you when you first heard the news that day? You remember exactly, don't you? It impacted your life. It's burned into you memory. Now, the big question. Where were you when you met Jesus Christ and invited Him into your life? Don't remember? Must not have happened.

When you meet the King of kings, you'll know it, and never forget. On this day of remembrance, remember the attacks on America. Remember those who gave their lives in the attacks. Remember the men and women serving in our armed forces. But, also make this a day when you remember the most impacting death ever: the death of Jesus Christ. America has risen from the ashes of 9-11-01, but even more dramatically Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!

So, as you remember 9-11-01 also remember the day of your salvation. Give God thanks today that even in your sin, He loved you and gave himself for you. If you've never accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, take a moment and pray. Ask God to forgive you of your sin. Turn from your sinful ways and turn to His word, the Bible, for His divine direction. As God moves in your life, it will be a day you will never forget. It will be a day that impacts not only your life here on earth, but for all eternity.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Questions of Forgiveness and Judgement

Thank you who follow my blog. I agree with much that has been said and thank everyone for their comments (and Bill for finally signing up).

One problem that I often see as a pastor is Christians who know they have messed up never really ask for forgiveness. They assume that they haven't hurt anyone, or a least only a limited few. They may ask God for forgiveness and maybe the limited few, but they never consider that their actions often have far reaching effects. Extended family, church friends, and even fellow workers may have had their lives impacted by a negative decision or action of another, but we tend to ignore their pain. We hide behind our pride and never say, "I really messed up. Please forgive me for hurting you." We simply ignore the pain we've caused others and go into denial mode. We become paranoid that others are talking about us and run for cover. We may leave the church, break fellowship with relatives, or even move to another town to escape the feelings of guilt, when all that may have been necessary is to ask for forgiveness. I believe most are willing to forgive, and don't need to know all the gory details. A simple statement of repentance and request for forgiveness is usually enough. It might go something like this, "You know, I really messed up. I know I've hurt you and I am truly sorry. I ask you to forgive me and pray for me as I walk through this difficult time."
Other times I have seen Christians try to forgive those whom have hurt them, and the forgiveness is ignored or unaccepted. The lifeline is thrown out and the sinking Christian is so overcome by guilt, pride, or whatever that they are unwilling to reach out an take hold. The Christian offering forgiveness is then in a dilemma. Do I continue to try and forgive while being ignored, or do I simply give up and move on? Unfortunately, it is usually the latter.

Concerning judgement, we are not to judge the pagan. God alone knows the heart. However, the New Testament clearly teaches that the church is to maintain a high level of accountability among those claiming to be God's children. Speaking of Christians, Jesus said "By their fruit you will recognize them." (Mat. 7:20) We are accountable to one another for the fruit we bear. We are also accountable by the life we lead. Paul speaks judgmentally toward members of the church at Corinth in 2 Cor. 12: 20-21. Also, 1 Cor. 5 speaks directly to this issue. Please take time to read it in its entirety, but Paul completes this chapter with these words "What business is it of min to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you." In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira (both were a part of the church) were admonished by Peter for their behavior. To the young pastor, Titus, Paul warned, "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him." (Titus 3:10)

Of course, the accountability we are to hold each other to is tempered by repentance and forgiveness. 2 Cor. 2:7-8 teaches that we must be ready to "forgive and comfort" those who repent so that they'll not be "overwhelmed by excessive sorrow" and that we should reaffirm our love for them. Galatians 1:1-2 says that when we have judged a fellow Christian, we should seek to restore them gently. In Thessalonians 5:15 Paul teaches that we should "never pay back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other."

So yes, we are to judge one another (hold one another accountable), not to our standards, but to God's. His word, the Bible is our standard of living. All of us fall short, but when we do we need to hold one another accountable: in a loving manner; striving toward forgiveness; and motivated by restoration.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Question of Forgiveness

From My Heart to Yours---

It happens quite often. One person says something, does something, or fails to act a certain preconceived way and someone else is offended. Suddenly, best friends are at odds with one another. Many times this senerio leads to hurt feelings, anger and downright hostility. We expect this in worldly settings; but in the church? Is this an expectation that we have of those who have been miraciously forgiven and birthed into the family of Almighty God? Unfortunantly, it happens in our church families on a regular basis.

Here are a couple of observations from one who has been a pastor for almost two decades. First, it is almost impossible to motivate those who have been offended to approach the situation from a Biblical model. In Matthew 18 Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But, if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church..." (vs. 15-17)

In my tenure as a pastor, I have noticed that most Christians find it easier to complain behind the back of those involved or simply ignore the conflit even exists than to walk through this Biblical model. Neither of these preceived resolutions are right, nor Biblical. The correct proceedure for dealing with conflict within the church is clearly stated by our Lord in the passage found in Matthew 18.

When a Christian is motivated to follow Christ's admonition, it is troubling to see that a second breech of Christian life usually takes place. Again, as a pastor it has been my observation through the years that when one Christian approaches another with a heart bent toward conflict resolution, the second party is usually not willing to listen. Rather than resolution, the outcome is more likely to be greater conflict. Someone it seems, always becomes defensive. Rather than having a heart of forgiveness and resolution, a heart of bitterness rises. This is when anger and hostility begin to penetrate the lives of those who have been called to holiness. It is during this time that the effectiveness of witness is diminished or lost. It is now when the joy of our salvation is stolen away by the decitfulness and deception of the devil. Wonderful Christian servants have had their ministry and testimony destroyed by this tactic of Satan. Some have left the fellowship of the church, never to return, simply because they were too proud to face truth, deal with reality and forgive in a manner similar to the way God had always forgiven them.

Of course, people of our day are not the first to face these frustrations. Even before the first New Testament church was formed, Christ was dealing with these issues. His own apostles didn't understand his teachings concerning conflict resolution, so immediately they came to him and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven?" (Matthew 18:21)

You see, the fact is we don't like to forgive. We'd rather sulk in our own self pity and hibernate in our own cavern of unmercifulness. We'd rather throw away all of the joy of salvation than to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus knew we wouldn't want to confront one another with the differences we might have. So, he made it very simple as he responded to Peter and the apostles, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven."

If every Christian could grasp this simple command and live accordingly, we'd never have to confront one another. We'd simply forgive and move on with our lives, loving one another with all of the compassion of our Lord. But, Jesus didn't leave it there. He then told a parable about a lord who forgave his servants, but one of the servants was then unwilling to follow the lord's example. The servant refused to forgive a neighbor of a simple debt. When the lord heard of the servant's unwillingess to follow his example, the lord "in anger turned him over to the jailers to be tortured..."

Then Jesus gave us this stern warning, "This is how the heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (emphasis mine, Mat. 18:23-35)

What part of this teaching do we not understand?