Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Monday, July 31, 2006

One Foot In Two Worlds

Sometimes I hear things and it frightens me that they should come from Christians. For example, today, I heard a Christian brother bemoaning the work of terrorists in the world. His solution was to hunt them down and kill them all. he used language like "slaughter", and "nuke" and "butcher" and other such words. When I heard him, I was reminded he is not the first Christian to talk like that. On the contrary, many Christians can be found using identical language. It grieves me to hear it.

But we live in two worlds. Our citizenship is in heaven. Yet, we are in the physical world too. For myself, I am a citizen on earth, of the United States of America. I once served in the American military. I carried a gun and was well trained in how to use it. I wore the award the Air Force gave to marksmen. As a citizen of my country, I was ready to defend her against any attacker.

But I am also a Christian. I know, as a Christian, that the real warfare is not between flesh and blood but with the Devil and his demons. I know that the the weapon of my warfare is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. You see, for a Christian, we do not go out and try to convince other people of the truth at the end of a gun, or by blowing up those who disagree with us. Our tactics are debate and persistant argumentation. We go out armed only with the gospel of Jesus Christ and we engage people's hearts one on one with the truth. That is how we fight our warfare. That is what we do.

When we hear on the news of another terrorist attack, our flesh, our earthly citizenship wants to strike back and annihilate our attackers. But the Christian in us ought to pray for the conversion of every terrorist out there. Paul said in Romans that vengence belongs to the Lord, but if the Lord would grant that person repentence it was even better. Best is to see an enemy turned into a friend. It is hard to live in two worlds. As a nation, we have to defend ourselves when we are attacked. As Christians, we pray and work for the conversion of every soul, even those of people who hate us passionately. I am not sure I have a solution to the dilemma to offer. It is just something I thought about earlier today. Living in two worlds ... it bears reflecting on.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Some Real Good News

Many gospel presentations today begin with the idea that man is a pretty good creature and has some sort of infinite value and therefore God came to the earth to give us the chance to allow him to make us better. Think of the phrases associated with the gospel today ... "God has a wonderful plan for your life"; "Who's your 'forever friend'? Jesus is."; "God voted for you, Satan voted against you, now YOU have the deciding vote."

Implicit in all these is the idea that man is good and salvation makes us better. But that is not the biblical gospel at all. In fact, when I took classes in evangelism I was told the first step to seeing a person come to Christ is to get them to see how lost they were. This is actually true. Ray Comfort, an evangelist gives us this example ... "If I came to you and told you I had a pill in my pocket that would cure any cancer at any stage, you would think 'That is good.' But if I told you the same piece of news and you were dying of cancer, the good news of a cure suddenly became very good news for you." It is impossible to appreciate the good news of the gospel until you understand the bad news that you are being saved from.

Well, what are you being saved from? In a word, God's judgment and wrath. You see, every child of Adam is born in sin. We are born "depraved" and what's more, since every part of our being is infected with sin, we are born "totally depraved." What this means is that because of God's absolute holiness we are utterly and totally separated from God. The Bible has a host of names for us while we are in our sins. We are called "slaves of sin, lost, haters of God, rebellious, children of the Devil, lovers of evil, without hope, deaf, blind, stony hearted, dead in sin, and there are others. But these give you a picture of man's desparate state when he is lost. Few preachers described our condition better than the American puritan Jonathan Edwards. In his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" he described how God looks on the lost sinner with loathing and disgust. From my own preaching, I would say it is as though God had thrust His hand into a bucket of vomit and as He pulls His hand out of that vomit. The way God would look at the vomit is the same way He would look at us in our sin. Edwards elsewhere spoke of how the earth cried out against Sodom and Gamorrah for justice against their sin. In the same way the earth cries out against us being on it, as we use every resource to rebel against God and sin.

This is our state before God saves us. But you see, that is what makes grace so amazing. Not that we are good and God wants to make us better. Grace is God seeing us through His wrath and hatred of sin and reaching down to us ... Him coming to us! ... and lifting us out of the miry clay and by His power making us into something new. When we were nothing God loved us enough to make us born again. He gives us life and points us to His Son. And seeing the Blessed God-man and His death in our place ... we believe... what does that mean? "Believe." It means we believe who Jesus is and we believe what He did for us personally. You see, salvation is personal. Let me use me as an example. The preacher who showed me Christ told me "For God so loved Timmy that He gave His only begotten Son, so that if Timmy would believe, then Timmy would never die but have everlasting life." I knew then, Jesus died for me! Jesus substituted for me! Personally! He is MY savior.

That is why the Apostle John proclaimed "behold what manner of love the Father has for us, that we should be called the children of God." Yes, look how the Father loved us, that even when we were like vomit in His hand, when we lived in rebellion and sin, when we were still His enemies and under His wrath, He loved us and sent Jesus to die for us, and made us into His own dear children. THAT is grace! And friend, that is really good news, wouldn't you agree?

If you are reading this and you have never come to God in your sin and known you were there with nothing to offer, if you can but look to Jesus, the God-man, who died in the sinner's place and know that He died for you too. I invite you today to confess Jesus Christ as your Lord, God, and Savior. You have but one question to answer ... did Jesus die for you? To say yes, you have to know your sin and your helplessness, you have to know that He died to save sinners and that He died for YOU personally. So, do you believe? You'll never be asked a more important question in your lifetime. So, what say you?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jesus said, "By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another." There are many areas of our Christian walk that the North American church could do better at, but this one is near the top of the list. I wanted to take just a couple of minutes to look more closely at this statement from our Lord.

"By this..." It begs the question, "by what?" By the love we have for one another. The love that Christians have for other Christians is the "this" that Jesus is talking about. We are all baptized into one body by the Holy Spirit. If we are all in Christ, and if we love Christ, we must love the people of Christ. It is not optional. If you love Christ, you must love his people. The Apostle John addresses this in his first epistle when he says, "If any man say he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar."

But more than this, people, lost people, the world, will know that we are Jesus' disciples by the way that we love one another. The way I read this is that (even) the world will know that we are followers of Jesus by the quality of the love we show towards our Christian brothers and sisters. Our love for each other is supposed to be such a love that even unsaved people will mark us as Jesus' people by what they see passing between us.

Now, the reality is that I know few people who are more grouchy than those who claim to be Christ's people. And they are rarely so grouchy as they are when they deal with fellow Christians. All those things the scriptures tell us ought not to be known among us (slander, back biting, gossip, evil speaking, hypocrisy, lies), these are the things that are much more common among Christians than the things we ought to be known for. In some churches, the members are in open warfare with other members. I knew a pastor once who was so hated by his congregation that some members actually hissed at him when he would enter the sanctuary (no, not me). As a group, we love getting the dirt on each other and magazines still write articles asking "Why do Christians shoot their wounded?"

Isn't it time we started becoming known for godly things, good things? Wouldn't it be a blessing to be known as a Christian for the love we show? I fear we are far too fond of our flesh because we seem to enjoy living in it. But I look to a day when we love living in the Spirit more than we love living in the flesh. I am resolved to do better at being known for my love towards the brethren. When I die, perhaps even lost people will examine my life and mark me as a Christian instead of a curmudgeon. But if they do, it'll be by the love I have for others.

One preacher once said that Christians don't tell lies, we sing them. Let's make that old church song truth and not a lie ... you know the song I mean ... "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Psalm 46:10 has always spoken powerfully to my heart. It reads "Be still and know that I am God." When I read it, my mind recalls the flight of the Hebrews out of Egypt. God had led them to the edge of the Red Sea then put it into Pharoah's heart to pursue them and destroy them. With Egypt's army on one side and the sea on the other, the Hebrews had no where to run and nowhere to turn, except to God. Moses, with God's rod in his hand, admonished the Hebrews for their unbelief and said to them "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!"

These passages and others like them teach us an important lesson. God shares His glory with no one. He will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. He delights in the impossible. In fact, I believe God brings us to places, like the Hebrews, where we are at the end of our own wits and abilities. He brings us to the place where we are forced to turn to Him. Because, it is in those places where we are totally dependent on Him. And I believe He loves that.

The hard part in all this is that God knows when it is time to intervene. We are almost always too impatient. The Bible says He never puts more on us than we can handle. But sometimes (I confess) I find it amazing how much He thinks I can handle.

But that is when God comes through. Doing it like this increases our dependence on Him and grows our faith about what can be done. God will stretch us. But He is a loving and perfect God. Everything He does is ultimately for our good. And that is good to remember.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

As more and more people begin to blog, I am able to find some real gems of godly wisdom out there (on the Internet) from God's people. The following is posted with permission of the author from the "kerux noemata" blog. I believe it is well worth considering....

One Day You Will Die...
A tired looking seagull landed on the roof of my parent’s cottage on Tuesday morning... it was obvious he was in some distress. The kids were the first to notice the bird and we watched off and on over the next hour as the life slowly drained out of him until his head flopped over and he was dead.Death of any kind is a sobering thing. Jonathan Edwards, when barely 20 years old, resolved this:“Resolution 9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.”North America is a deathless culture. We have sanitized and secularized death to the point that we only need think of it for a few brief moments at a “memorial service.” But our Bibles are full of reminders of the brevity of life. Life is compared to a mist, a flowering plant, grass, a vapour – things that are here but for a moment. We fool ourselves into thinking 80 or 90 years is a long time. Just ask the resident of a nursing home how fast their life went.Are you prepared to die?Have you thought of how your heart will one day wear out and perhaps how you will face with some awareness the inevitable cessation of your body’s life? Have you pictured the world without you? Have you imagined what others will summarize as “your life” when they gather a few days after your expiration to remember you?Are these morbid thoughts?I do not think so. They are real thoughts. One day I shall die (unless the Lord returns during my life) and at that moment I will stand before the Maker of all things. Am I prepared to look upon glory?Did that seagull wake up Tuesday morning knowing it would die? I don’t have a clue. But I do know that 10 out of 10 humans will die.Why shrink from thinking about the inevitable?We need more Christians that “sober up” with a good meditation on their own death – who then live with more zeal and more passion to redeem every day God blesses them with in this life.

I don't know. What do you think?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"Baptists are a people of the Book." I have been told that since my earliest days. "Baptist people are Bible people." It appears in a variety of formats, but it is always the same message. If you are Baptist you are a Bible believer. But more and more evidence suggests that is not the case. There have been serveral studies done that show that church members, by and large, do not know their Bibles. AND, according to at least one George Barna study, even when people demonstrate some biblical knowledge, they do not use it to base their lives on. In other words, they do not live out what they know.

Consider just a few examples ... according to those who claim to be "born again evangelicals" (as defined by the Barna Research Group), more than half think any good person will make it into heaven. A fourth think Satan is only a symbol for evil and not a real being. 6 out of 10 think the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon are all equally valid and true religious books. 4 out of 10 deny the existence of hell.

Now, I am not a rocket scientist, but (as my parents used to say) there is something rotten in Denmark. Things are not as they ought to be.

Beloved, we need to BE people of the Book. Let me make two important points. First ... "All scripture is given by inspiration of God ..." That is what the inspired apostle said. I think we fall into the trap of reading a lot about the Bible but we do not read the Bible. I was preaching once and during the sermon I started pulling out books I had arranged beforehand. I told the congregation ... "Here are Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Edwards 2 volume collection of works, James Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology, Hodge's three volume systematic theology," and several other books. I stacked them up and said "If you read all these books and understood what you have read, you will have a superior theology knowledge. But I tell you the truth, one single page of Holy Scripture is more valuable and profitable to your soul than all these books put together. Why? Because all scripture is given by inspiration of God. All these books are good, but this Book (holding up my Bible) is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God Himself." My friends, God has given His Church gifted teachers and theologians. We ought to read them and study them. However, we must never let them become a replacement for the Bible. "Jesus loves me, this I know" Why? "For the Bible tells me so." Read about the Bible, but read the Bible too.

Second, we have to learn to believe the Bible. I had a discussion once with a lady who denied eternal punishment for the wicked dead. I took her to the book of Revelation and showed her the Great White Throne judgment and the eternal lake of fire. After reading the passage carefully, she looked at me and said "I don't care what the Bible says, my god wouldn't send anybody to a lake like that." Balance that with George Mueller, who was asked what was the secret to his great faith. He replied "I simply read the Bible and believe it." Beloved, it is not for us to conform the Bible to our beliefs, but to be conformed to what the Bible says. It is US who change. When God speaks, we obey. And make no mistake, the Bible IS the word of God written. When the Bible speaks, God speaks; what the Bible says, God says.

The world has offered us alternatives to believing the Bible ever since the beginning. Satan's first recorded words in scripture are "Has God really said ...?" It is time for the world to see the power of a Bible believing, Bible living people. Not only Baptists, but every Christian who names the Name of Christ. Join me today and let us purpose in our hearts, in the sight of God to really be .... People of the Book.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them..." That admonition from Hebrews 13 (Holman Standard Bible) weighs heavy on my mind sometimes. I used to read the Commission magazine that used to be published by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I especially used to like just inside the front cover. They would have these paragraph sized news items of happenings from around the world. I would always be particularly moved by the stories of the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters. It awakened in me a desire to know and learn more about those who suffer for the Name of Christ.

Beloved friends, if you are reading this, you have access to a computer, to the Internet, to technology that would make you the envy of many Christians overseas. In the comfort of our bedrooms, or offices, or Internet cafes we are safe to surf the net and read stories of things we can barely comprehend. I wrote elsewhere (and stand by what I wrote) that we American Christians think we are sacrificing for God if we show up at church once a week. We think we are suffering for Jesus if we have to hear that pastor mention money in a sermon.

One story I read (I am sorry, I forget the precise source), told of a church in Africa. This church meets at a particular tree every Sunday. You see, the tree is in the center of a vast plain and it is the only tree out there. So everyone knows where it is and which one it is. The story told of a mother who would dress her three children and put together food for the day. They would leave early in the morning walking four hours (that's right WALKING 4 hours) to get to the tree and get a good spot for the day's church services. She would carry one child and the food. The other wouold walk beside her. They would spend 6 hours or more in church. Between the singing, the praying, and the preaching, church would run until the late afternoon or early evening. Then ... 4 hours walk back home. Lunch and dinner are shared by the brothers and sisters around the tree. Then back home. All this to praise the Name of Jesus Christ.

What is not mentioned is that the whole thing is done in hostile territory. The walk to and from church is very dangerous. Look outs keep watch the whole time church is in session.

Friend, as you read these words Christians are being beaten, raped, burned, or killed. Their children are brutalized in front of their eyes. In Sudan, soldiers from the north raid Christian villages in the south for slaves. That is, Christians are captured and sold into slavery. Groups like Christian Solidarity International work to free those taken slave. This goes on every single day.

I often wonder how I would fare as a Christian if I lived in a place where my life was in constant danger because of my faith. I praise God I live in the United States. The next time you enter into your prayer closet, remember those in chains. Pray for those and their families. It is the least we can do. Sometimes, it is the most we can do too.

For more information about the persecuted Church ... you can get Voice of the Martyrs monthly magazine for free by asking. Go to http://www.persecution.com/

Thursday, July 06, 2006

"A people saturated with God." That is how author Brian Edwards describes true, God-sent revival. I have always been fascinated with the stories of revival among God's people. I think this fascination was birthed in me by my good friend and mentor, Tony Mattia. He seems to me to have forgotten more about the topic than I will ever know. In addition to Tony, I had the chance to hear Richard Owen Roberts speak on the topic at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary once. His voice was powerful as he described the effects that real revival has on the people of God. I have never forgotten. And I have always wanted to be in a place where real revival happens.

But I confess, I am afraid. You see, there are certain moments in history when God's presence is manifested in a particular area or region with unusual power. As Richard Owen Roberts said, God's presence is so tangible that you feel like you could put your hand out and touch him. He added quickly, "You can't really put your hand out and touch Him. But it is like that." And I admit that to see God's presence so clearly and powerfully made clear is exciting. But you see, I am afraid and the reason is that every story of revival tells us that it comes with a price.

When God comes in power to a place, His utter holiness pervades everything. And if there is sin among the people of God, any sin in any person, it has to be dealt with. God's holiness rips the veneer off any pretense of hypocrisy. That which is hidden is brought to light. The skeletons in the closet are there for everyone to see as the door is ripped off the hinges by the truth bringing light of the Holy Spirit. Hearts are broken and souls are crushed. Brokenness and contrition are the watchwords of God's people. Holiness is the result. Christians everywhere are on their knees and on their faces before the Holy Living God. Sometimes the recognition of guilt (of sin) is so intense that reports have told of people wailing and crying out to God for mercy, even long time saints as they have had to deal with secret sin. God hates sin and if His blessing is to come it is to come to a people whose hearts are ready for the glory to appear.

O Christian! Just when you would think despair would set in, the love and the mercy of God in our salvation through Jesus Christ is made clear to the broken and contrite heart. The mind dealing with the darkeness of guilt is shown the light of Christ and the joy of the saint's salvation is shed forth in the believing heart. Here the fire of revival is lit to full flame! Suddenly every working and operation of God is sweeter, more powerful, more lovely than ever before. When this kind of power is let loose in a town, city, or region, the true power of the Christian presence and witness is shown to the world. What if a single Christian got that kind of fire? What is a class of Christians? Or a church? Or all the Christians in a town (at the same time)? Can you picture it?

I think the reason we don't see stuff like this happen is because we are like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3. They saw themselves as rich and wealthy and having need of nothing. But the Lord saw them as poor, wretched, blind and naked. The first step to seeing revival is admitting that you NEED revival. Admitting the need leads to calling on the Lord to bring it. Because revival is of the Lord.

I want revival. I want it for me. I want it for my church. I want it for my denomination. I want it for my nation. I need it. I long for it. How about you? Will you join me in praying to God for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit among the people of God in North America? With all my heart, I hope you will.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The absolute glory of God has always been one of the lynchpins of my preaching and teaching. It is the umbrella that arches over everything. I agree with Spurgeon when he said that the truth of any doctrine can be measured by how it exalts God and debases man. Everything is measured by how high it lifts up God. He is God. Isaiah saw God in Isaiah 6. One of the first things it mentions there is that Isaiah saw God "high and lifted up." But I fear, at least among American, and perhaps European, Christians, we do not see God like that anymore. For many years, we have been fed a diet of man centered doctrines, beginning with the way we look at salvation. Instead of the miracle of the new birth, we are given a god who is powerless to act without the decisions of men enabling him. We are given the offer of the carnal Christian, one who has decided to make Jesus his or her savior, but who has not yet decided to make Jesus their Lord. We are then taught a Christianity that is easy and convenient and requires no commitment on the part of the professing believer. It is as little and as much as you want it to be. In the end, it is all up to you. It is the ultimate seeker friendly, non-threatening, self esteem building, feel good experience.

Beloved, this falls so far short of the Biblical idea of God and His gospel as not to even be in the same universe. Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above. He is power. His word creates. His word holds all things together. His will is reality. He speaks and nothing stops Him from accomplishing what He has said will be. He enters into the human experience with divine power bringing about the new birth. He calls His children by name and they hear Him and follow Him. He changes their hearts and minds and wills and sets them into the world to be living testimonies of His truth. he calls them to be living sacrifices for His glory. He sends them to their homes, their work, their communities, and into a dark and hostile world. Many die for His Name, and gladly, for they die to carry the glorious Name wherever people need to hear it.

Don't be fooled by cheap substitutes. In the Bible, Shishak took away the golden shields from the temple and replaced them with brass ones. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage (beans). Christianity Today magazine had an article a few months back that said that for most Americans, their god was just a little taller than they are. We are willing to allow that God rules over the universe, just not over us. Beloved, don't call brass gold or cheaply sell the birthright that you have a child of God. Our God reigns. He is our God and we are His people. If we don't learn to see Him "high and lifted up" we will not, indeed, cannot get anything else in the Christian religion correct. I challenge you, learn to see Him as He really is.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Voice of the Martyrs taught me a new acrostic. b.a.s.i.c. It stands for "brothers and sisters in Christ." It can also mean "brothers and sisters in chains." It is a reminder that, around the world, there are Christians who suffer horribly for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Without exaggeration, there are Christians today who will have their houses burned down and be forced to relocate. They will be raped, scalped, flogged, beaten, beheaded, imprisoned, and all for the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But in America, where we are affluent and self satisfied, we often forget those who suffer. The very idea is foreign to us. For many Americans we think we are suffering if the pastor asks us to show up for church once a week. If we feel we need to give more than a buck or two to the offering plate, we think we qualify for martyrdom. But that is not how it is in many places in the world.

As we celebrate our American freedom, we need to remember those who are in the Body of Christ who suffer for His Name. The persecuted Church is out there. You can learn more by logging onto http://www.persecution.com In your prayers this week, remember your "brothers and sisters in chains." b.a.s.i.c.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

It is worth noting that I served 20 years in the United States Air Force. When I retired, I served 2 years as a police officer. I have added to that more than 10 years as a police chaplain. It is important to note because it establishes that I know what I am talking about. I know what I am talking about when I tip my hat to those men and women who serve our nation faithful to keep us safe and free. All over the world, and many here at home, there are those unnoticed servants who serve us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, in (sometimes) life threatening conditions, in places none of us would choose to go. They serve because they love their country and they are there to back each other up. They serve and they deserve our thanks. A few years ago I was moved to write a short poem, inspired by a scene in the movie "Gettysburg." Here it is ...

Liberty's Cost

The people cheer,
The banners wave,
The flags go passing by;
Young children laugh,
While old men salute,
The soldiers we called on to die.

Important men speak,
Others just smile;
In boardrooms they toast their success;
While others called,
On battlefields fight,
We give up our young and our best.

Freedom's not free,
It comes with a price,
That we must be willing to give;
Liberty's Cost,
The blood of those,
Who die so that others may live.

So here's to you all, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines ... the police officers, the firemen, the EMTs and other emergency responders ... here's to you all. This fourth of July, we tip our hats to you ... true American heroes.