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.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Redeeming the Time

As the old year winds down and the new year is upon us, I have been thinking about time. You might say that time is on my mind. I will tell you why. I was reading about the life of the Scottish preacher Robert McCheyne recently. One quote stuck in my mind. It was this ... that he know that everyone he met would soon die and end up either in heaven or in hell. He determined then always to live with eternity in his mind. It drove him and God blessed him and his ministry because of it.

You see, time marches on. It stops for no one. Once a moment is past, it is gone forever. You can never get it back. So the Bible teaches us to "redeem the time." We are admonished to use our time wisely. We serve God by being a good steward of the time He gives us.

That brings me to another important lesson. There is no guarantee we will be alive tomorrow, or make it through to tomorrow night. The number of breaths we will draw before God calls us to our heavenly home is known to Him already. But none of us know. So, we go through life with the illusion that we are immortal. We live like we are never going to die. But in James, we are warned that such thinking is sin. It is presumptuous of us to say "next week or next year we are going to go and do such and such a thing." Instead, James tells us to say "If the Lord wills, we will do such and such." In other words, we need to live with eternity in mind. We need to live knowing that our end is rapidly approaching.

I had occasion to think about this during 2006. I had heart surgery just at the end of 2005 and gall bladder surgery in 2006. Off and on I have felt the twinge of pain in my chest that reminds me that I am a mortal being. And so is everyone else in the world. We are all mortal. For us Christians, we are getting ready for our heavenly service to our loving Lord. And the lost world goes on oblivious to their danger. But God has called us to be faithful to go into the world and tell them.

I resolve to go into 2007 with my mortality, and that of the people God brings across my path, clearly in mind. I am not sure how much time the Lord will grant me, but what time He does, I resolve to use it wisely. How about you?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Charles Dickens Doesn't Get It

One of my favorite Christmas movies is "Scrooge", the old Alistair Sims black and white version of A Christmas Carol. It is on now, even as I am typing these words. Really ... I love that movie.

I was at a conference some years ago and one of the speakers mentioned finding a very old copy of the book (A Christmas Carol) in a used bookstore. He said it had an appendix written by Dickens in which he sought to explain the lessons of the story. He said, as he read Dickens' words he realized that Dickens did not get it. Dickens did not understand the gospel message.

In the story, Scrooge has condemned himself by cutting himself off from humanity by his failure to do charitable works as he had the means to do. Jacob Marley, his dead business partner, comes back to warn him that if a man's spirit does not walk "abroad among his fellow humans" in life, then it must do so in death. Marley was condemned to walk among the world seeing what he was never part of. He tells Scrooge that three ghosts representing Christmas Days past, present and future will visit him. The first ghost tells Scrooge that these visits are for his "reclamation." Therein is the rub. Through reminding Scrooge of the joy of being large hearted and loving with his fellow men, they sought to reclaim his soul.

In the movie, Christ is a peripheral figure who is mentioned mostly as one who did good and taught men that doing good was the chief end of man. These are my words, not the story's. But they are accurate nonetheless. One can see, the teaching of the story is that Scrooge, by learning to be generous and loving again, could save himself from the judgment he would face when he died. And that is pelagianism.

Jesus came into the world because sinful, depraved, human beings had no ability at all to seek God or to do a single good work that God would accept as being meritorious for salvation. In other words, we were helplessly lost. We are not the people of God. We had no hope in the world. We were sinners and were already under God's condemnation and on our way to hell.

But God is not glorified in helping us do for ourselves. He is glorified in doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We could not seek God so God came to us. In Jesus Christ God entered the world to die for sinful men. Now, every sinner who in utter helplessness comes begging God for mercy, finds mercy, and is saved. They are rescued from the coming judgment of God because they know, by faith, that Jesus has already stood in their place and taken God's judgment on himself for them. Moreover, by faith, the sinless life of Jesus Christ is counted to the sinner, so that the sinner is clothed in the very good works of Jesus. Understand, not our own works but Jesus' works. In all this, God frees us from our slavery to our sin nature and calls us to live a life of good and charitable works. But not to save ourselves, but because we are saved. The difference is vast.

On this Christmas Day, 2006, if you have never called out to God... you know you are a sinner. You look at your life and you know that if God is perfect, you are not. If judgment is real, you will not pass it. But, there is a savior, who is Christ the Lord. He stood in the place of sinners. Has he stood in your place? Did he die for you? Look to Christ O man! Look to him and believe that he died for you. Believe that he is your savior. Believe and be saved.

What greater Christmas gift would you receive this year than the gift of eternal life given to you in Jesus Christ our Savior? You see, Dickens didn't get it. Do you?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

It is almost hard to believe that another year has passed behind us now. 2006 was an interesting year to say the least.

Probably the high point of the year was the chance my wife and I had to attend the annual Pastor's Retreat at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas. We were treated like royalty by the staff and members there and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We had a much needed rest and God used that rest to prepare us for the upcoming months.

On the other side of the coin though, a charitable deed my wife and I committed ourselves to made the leadership of our church in Minot, North Dakota decide it was best if I no longer served in the leadership there. I resigned two Sundays after returning from Texas. That led to a rough summer in which I was most unemployed. However, we sent out resumes and had high hopes in finding a new church where we could continue to serve our Blessed Savior as a shepherd to His people.

Our prayers were answered when a church in Davenport, Iowa choose to take us into their leadership. However, a month after arriving, the deacon board decided that the leadership in North Dakota was right in having me move on, and set off a chain of events that resulted in my also leaving my new church. I pastored there but 5 quick weeks.

But God is mysterious in His ways. I found myself in a new city with no job and no church. I wondered what strange providence had brought me here to this odd situation. But prolonged times of prayer and the counsel of a few close friends led me to believe God had opened a door of opportunity for a new Southern Baptist church to be planted in the center of the city of Davenport. The group is still more of a home mission church but good things are happening for us. The group that meets each week for worship is small but it is a solidly committed group.

Aleta is well, and I continue to be well after my heart surgery at this time last year. Aleta and I both endured gall bladder surgery, myself in March and Aleta in May.

Stephen and Hannah remained behind in North Dakota when I moved to Davenport. They are completing their studies there. Stephen is getting ready to begin college shortly. Hannah met a fine young man who is serving in the Air Force. They dated for some time and were engaged just before I left for Iowa. They are intending to have a wedding next summer. They want to do it in Missouri close to where my parents live.

God is good to His children and though we do not know all His ways and understand all that He does, still He is on the throne and His love towards His people is boundless. 2006 was not one of the best years I have lived through, but it had many good high points. Even in the midst of the valley, God was good to His servant.

One thing I enjoy is the beginning of a new year. Each new year is pregnant with possibilities. The past is the past, but the future is a new story waiting to be learned. Though the future is uncertain to me, God is already there. He rules over the future as surely as He rules over me today.

To all of you who may see these words, Merry Christmas. May God's richest blessing fall on your and your families at this time of year and throughout all of 2007. Remember, at this time of year, that it was for wretched, helpless, rebellious, slaves of Satan that Christ came into the world. For those who had no hope, Christ came to bring us hope. As the inspired Apostle wrote, "we love Him because He first loved us." Truly the angels sang that the coming of Christ was "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people." Unto us was born a savior, who is Christ the Lord. As we pause to reflect on the year past, and look forward to the year to come, let us not forget the real reason why we celebrate this time of year. Truly, Jesus is the reason for the season. We celebrate the coming of the God-man, Christ Jesus into the world. Our savior, who would die a criminal's death 33 years later. But in dying, He gave life to all who believe. Enjoy the family, the fun, and the festivities, but honor and praise Christ the Lord. To you all I bid you ... Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

A Prayer ...

O Lord, my God ... Help me. I have learned the doctrine of depravity O Lord, and I have found it in myself. I am weak and often drawn anyway from the perfections of my Lord Christ. I find, Most Holy, that everything in the world works to draw my mind away from Your glory and from a heart singly given over to You. Every TV show, every joke, every conversation, every lesser pleasure serves to entice my flesh to sin. I find myself too eager to sin, too eager to be angry, too eager to speak with a sharp tongue, too eager to be frustrated, too quick a reply, too zealous of a bad attitude ... and I find more than enough opportunities in a day to do these things. My mind and heart betray me O Lord, too often because of the least temptation. I find corruption in me and my flesh is too eager for sin. But I find two laws in my members. Yes, one leads me too sin but there is another, O Sovereign God, that calls me to holiness. Even as my flesh revels in sin, I hear the voice of Your Holy Spirit calling me to You. And I loath myself in my sin. My spirit O God, is zealous for Your company. I ache for Your presence in my life, family, ministry and work. I desire to know You above all things. More than anything else my God, I want to be totally Yours. Help me O God to hate sin and to love You. As John the Baptist spoke "He must increase and I must decrease" help me to decrease. Teach me to be small and in being small, teach me to magnify You in all things. As I grow down in my own eyes, may my vision of You grow higher every day. Help me O God because I cannot do this myself. I am not able because my flesh is too eager to betray me. But what is not possible with men is possible with You O God. What I cannot do, You can do. I am in Your hands. I am helpless. My only hope is in Your promises of Presence and mercy. In You alone do I trust. Help me I beg You. I ask in the Name of my God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Doctrine Needs Application

There is a quote I saw somewhere by John Calvin. In it he says "It is easy to preach 10 sermons but hard to live one." There is a lot of truth to that. Sometimes I think to myself that if I could live out half of what I preach that I'd be doing ok in my Christian walk. Oftentimes, far too often, I fall far short of the ideal. I have a picture in my mind of the kind of man, the kind of Christian, I want to be. But the reality is that I fall way short of that mental image. And it bothers me and it motivates me to press on (as the old hymn says) towards "higher ground."

But many Christians never give the quality of their lives a second thought. They go to church, carry their Bibles, give to the offering plate, and away from church, they completely live like the world around them. Then they pat themselves on the back for their spirituality. The idea that the doctrines and teachings of the Church ought to have a practical application to our daily lives is an idea that seems lost on most people.

But the fact is that we ought to be a people who are becoming more like Jesus every single day. How do we do that? By reading the Bible and applying to our personal lives the things we see written in it. If we come to a teaching and we are not living in conformity to it, then we need to change ourselves to match what we see the Bible teaching. We struggle with sin and strive for more and more holiness. And a little each day, we are shaped by God, through His word, into the image of Christ. Just because it is hard to live on sermon does not mean that we ought not to try.

You see, doctrine must have application. Let me say it again so as to be clear ... doctrine must have application. Doctrine must be lived out. Let me mention a single area of application (although the application of our Christian beliefs ought to be seen and felt in every area of our lives). But let me use this one area for illustration.

In Church, we are given the instructions of love, of "one anothering", fellowship and so on. I believe in a church where people think and speak well of one another. Where the pain of the least and lowest member of the church is the pain of all the church. Where every victory is a group celebration and every communion service binds the hearts of the people closer and closer together. I believe in a church doing the right thing for people no matter what it costs. I believe in loving someone at first sight and loving them completely and without hypocrisy. I believe in loving and restorative church discipline. I believe it is possible to see a congregation grow upward in holiness and outward to the world through solid biblical exegetical preaching. I believe it can be done. Because, if we cannot live out our Christian beliefs among our brothers and sisters in the Lord (who are friendly to our cause of holiness) how can we ever succeed in living them in the world which is hostile to us?

It has been said rightly, that doctrine without application is dead orthodoxy. And application without doctrine is simply fanaticism. Truth is in the balance. Doctrine and application together. Like two sides of a coin, you cannot have one without the other. If you do, you have a warped thing indeed. But together, you can have a thing of value and beauty ... Christianity as it was meant to be ... right beliefs lived out every day. And that is what we are after.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Something We Are Missing ...

This is something that popped into my head a little while ago and the more I think on it, the more I really wanted to make this post. There is a lot being written today about the prosperity gospel. This gospel, so called, teaches that God intended that His people be healthy, rich, and prosperous in every area of life. If you have enough faith of the right kind, God is obligated to provide you with good health, and material blessings beyond those enjoyed by the world around us.

And while the prosperity gospel, per se, focuses on material possessions and worldly wealth, others have focused on other areas. Though it is not part of the prosperity gospel itself, others have made the accumulation of political power, or influence over society as the goals of their Christianity.

Both types of people make Christianity the means to an end, the accumulation of success according to the standards of the world. Whether it is money, houses and mansions, cars, jewelry, political office, international acclaim, or the desire to be the power behind the power, God is seen as the means to achieve all that can be achieved on the earth. Indeed, many have come to believe that this was the mission of Jesus on the earth, to make His people famous, rich, and powerful. In fact, according to some, if you do not have these things, it is either because you lack faith or because God has cursed you somehow.

But all this thinking falls short of the biblical picture of what we gain as Christians. "A man found a treasure in a field, and sold all that he had and bought the field to possess the treasure." "A man found a pearl of great price, and he gave up everything he had to purchase the pearl for himself." (These are my paraphrases of our Beloved Lord's words). But what is this treasure? Wealth? Political power? A million dollar home? No, the treasure was Jesus Himself. "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." Friends, we have Christ. Our treasure is Jesus Christ himself.

We have too many Christians in public places who have their eyes on worldly things. We need to get heavenly minded again. I have heard the old saying about the Christian who was "so heavenly minded he was of no earthly good." I really don't think we need to worry about that problem much in today's Church. We have turned it so that we are so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. Why? We forgot that it is all about Jesus Christ. He paid for our sins. He lived in perfect obedience to the Law of God so that we could be counted righteous in Him.

Friends, we are Christians, followers of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Our treasure is Jesus. Until we remember that again, we will always be lured away by lesser pleasures and worldly baubles. God gives us a banquet in Christ and we settle for pig-slop from the world. God gives us the treasure houses of heaven (which is Christ Himself) and we settle for colored beads from the world.

Beloved, don't sell your birthright for a bowl of pottage. Possess Christ as your greatest, highest, indeed, your only treasure. Above all things, possess Christ!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Credo (I Believe) ...

I confess I have a vision of what a church and what a Christian ought to be like. My vision is based on what I believe a great, sovereign miracle working God can do. Let me share a few things with you ...

I believe that God is God, that His will is reality in heaven and on earth and that no one nor nothing can stop His mighty power when He sends it forth.

I believe He is holy and that there is no darkness nor shadow of darkness in Him at all.

I believe man is far, far beneath God.

I believe man is utterly lost and without hope in his sin, dead to the things of God and a slave to every thing that works against the holiness of the Almighty Majesty.

I believe there is no bottom to how low man can see himself when he is compared to the Infinite, Majestic, Almighty, Most High God.

I believe every single jot and tittle in the Bible is the God inspired Word of God given through the minds and pens of His inspired writers, to men.

I believe salvation is a life changing encounter between a helpless and dead sinner and the Sovereign King of Life.

I believe the gospel is the only hope of humanity, in this life or the next. It has power to change the lives of those who believe it's message.

I believe in a church where truth is believed and Christians accept and love one another in genuine holy affections just as the Bible teaches us.

I believe none of us are sinless but that we can learn from Christ and learn to live well as Christians, in church and in the world.

I believe the God who lives in us all (all of us Christians) walks and talks with us and points us to the Holy Scriptures, which is His true voice to men.

These things I believe. Amen.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Unambiguous

It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to stand up and say some things boldly and clearly, without being ambiguous about it. Some things are easy to see. There is only one True and Living God. Salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and that salvation is not found in any other religion or religious leader.

One area where we (the Church at large) fails miserably is in calling sin what it really is ... sin! The Bible says "Woe unto them who evil good and good evil." It also says that "friendship with the world is enmity against God." God called us (Christians) out of the world to be a holy people. We are to be a people who are set apart to Him. It is more than calling ourselves "saved" and "saints" or even "disciples." We are bought and paid for with the precious blood of Jesus. Now he owns us. He calls us "brothers" and "sisters" and members of God's own household. We are to be holy as He is holy.

But we have forgotten that, by and large. Therefore, large amounts of worldliness and sin have infiltrated the Church. Consider this ... some studies have shown that incidents of child abuse, divorce, spousal abuse, pornography, gambling, lying, stealing and so on ... exist at the same levels as they exist in the lost world around us. In short, we have become, in many ways, just like the world. And the worse part is that many Christians don't know that what they are doing is wrong.

Why? Because we have come to a time when we (the royal "we") do not want to be offensive. So, we changed our terms. We make things sound better than they really are. In this, we sin greatly.

It is time we stood up and called sin sin. It is time we started calling the Church to truth and holiness. It is time we restored accountability among our leadership. And we need to quit finding reasons to explain away the clear passages of the Bible that deal with sin and start believing it as it is written. We need clear voices who are not afraid to thunder out "Thus saith the Lord..."

We are set apart for God, for holiness. Our lives are supposed to be living testimonies to the truth of the existence of God and to the truth of the life changing gospel. People are supposed to be able to look at us and see the truth of the things we proclaim. For that to happen, we need to have some clear talking among the saints of God. Until we can learn to say what we mean, we will not be able to truly mean what we say. It bears thinking about.