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, March 30, 2009

Disturbing

That is what I call some of the statistics I have been reading. It seems that, in almost every way, the Evangelical Church in North America is indistinguishable from the world around us. We have the same rates of bankruptcy, child abuse, spouse abuse, drug use, pornography addiction, divorce, and other vices, as the surrounding world. My beloved readers, this ought not to be.

Being in Christ, our God and Savior, ought to be a life changing experience. It ought to mean something. Now, at the risk of sounding prideful, let me make a few observations that I think are very true and need to be said.

People ought to expect Christians to act like .... well ... Christians. Some things that ought to be true of Christians. For one, we are supposed to be living testimonies of the truths we say we believe. Our sins are forgiven. We hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. God illuminates scripture for us. We are freed from our slavery to sin. We ought to behave better than the world. While many other groups advocate violence against people who differ from them, Christians don't. Our weapons in this world are truth, and scripture, and debate. Why? Because we are not like the world around us. We are Christians! Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, Incarnate God. We walk in the light as He is in the light. That should make us different.

Our bosses ought to be able to expect an honest employee who will give 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay. Our spouses ought to expect to be treated like they live in a Christian home. Our children too. The government ought to expect us to live up to all of our civil responsibilities, including paying our taxes and obeying the laws set over us. People ought to expect us to be charitable, merciful and gracious in our dealing with people. If anyone should be expected to behave well in public, it ought to be Christians. People should expect to be safe and secure around us. No one should ever feel threatened in the presence of a Christian. We need to remember that the heart of the law is mercy and good works.

Friends, we are worshippers of the One, True and Living God. We should be better than the world around us. Too often we are not and that ought to be to our shame. God has called us to be perfect as He is perfect. And just because we fall short does not give us a license to stop striving for that perfection to which we are called. Let me ask you this ... when people look at you or when they think of you ... do they think of you as a Christian? Or are you just another guy to them? When people are around you, do they smell the fragrance of Christ on you? I hope you can yes to that. But if you can't, are you going to do anything about it? When? I say how about now?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ode To A Virtuous Woman

In 4 days it will be my anniversary. My wife and I will have been together 24 years. Wow! It hardly seems so long, yet, at the same time, it seems to me like I can't look back and remember a time when we were not together. My wife, Aleta, said something like that when we got engaged. She said that she felt like we had been friends forever, though we had known each other only a few weeks.

Yes, I only knew her 2 weeks when I asked her to marry me. We joke with each other now, that we did everything wrong. She was still 17 years old when I proposed and only 3 months past her 18th birthday when we were married. We did everything wrong, but God smiled on us. Now, 24 years later, we are still together. We are happy with each other. We have two children, Stephen and Hannah, who have been God's blessings to us. We have one grandchild, Naomi, and what a joy she is to our hearts.

Over the years, I suppose we have given each other lots of reasons to want to leave the other, but we never did. When we were first married, we said we would never consider divorce as an option for us. And we never have. We have always worked out our problems within our marriage. We have never abandoned each other. We try to find ways to show the other how important they are to us. (Did that make sense?)

I remember, when I first started at Liberty University, a lecture by Dr. Falwell, where he laid out a Christian's priorities. He said we needed to have God first above all else. His view was that if you were not right with God, you couldn't be right with anyone else. Next, under God, was our spouses. Our spouse is half of our own person. He or she is part of us. Under our spouse was our children. They are given to us by God for a time, about 18 years or so, then they go onto their own lives apart from us. But our spouses remain till death do us part. Under our children came our ministries, those tasks entrusted to us by God. Under that came everything else. Dr. Falwell wanted us to realize that our relationship with God was most important, but next to that, that there is no ministry without being one with our spouse. No person could abuse his spouse, or neglect his spouse, and hope for any kind of ministry success. I took that message to heart.

I have not always put my wife above everything else but God. In that, I have not always been the husband that I should be. But I have put her above everything else consistently, I think. In that, I think I have tried to be the husband I should be. I realize looking back, that we have forgiven each other a multitude of faults and failings and hurts. We have a lot of water under our bridge. We really don't hold any past wrongs (that I know of) against each other. We've let them fade into the past. We have had our ups and downs, but in the end, we also have each other.

I am writing all this to say these things. I rejoice to celebrate my anniversary with my wife. She is a gift to me from God. I know she is part of me and I would not live well if I did not have her around me and in my life. She has done me good all the years we have been together and forgiven me often when I have not done the best for her. Very few women I have known would have been good wives for me. Not that there was any failing in them, but rather that I am a difficult old curmudgeon and few of them would have lasted very long if they had to put up with me. But Aleta has done it all these years and still loves me for who I am. Next to God, she is the most important person in my life. I know that without her, I would have no ministry and that I would be a very different person than I am. And not different in a good way.

She loves me very much. And I love her very much. My wife, my partner, my friend ...

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Life Changing Experience

Some years ago, I got to through the F.A.I.T.H. training in El Paso, Texas. F.A.I.T.H. is an evangelism strategy for reaching people with the gospel. Central to this strategy is the gospel presentation. The presentation follows a three part format ... how I was before I was a Christian and it ends with how I am now that I know Jesus. In between the two parts however is a phrase. We were told to use the same phrase all the time. This is the phrase we were taught to use ... "Then I had a life changing experience." You see, F.A.I.T.H. taught what the Bible teaches, that meeting and knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, is a life changing experience.

Henry Blackaby echoes this idea in his study "Experiencing God." He says that no one can truly meet God and walk away unchanged. To see God, to meet God, to speak with God, to hear God, to know God, is always a life changing experience.

But too often in our churches it is not a life changing experience. There has been a lot of discussion about this in the SBC in recent months. Our many programs have made us numbers conscious and it has hurt our churches. We rely on people signing a decision card, or raising their hands, or praying a prayer or some other non-obtrusive way to show they are responding to what we are saying. We are afraid of driving people away, so we soften the gospel to make it not be offensive. In these ways and many others, we keep on moving ourselves away from the very things that made us Baptists to begin with.

One Baptist distinctive is a regenerate church membership. That means that no one should be a member of our churches who has not given evidence of being born again. You see, being born again is another word for regeneration. They are the same thing. Our church membership ought to be born again people. Regeneration is the sovereign act of God by which He imparts spiritual life to the soul of the sinner. We don't ask for it but we respond to it when it happens to us. Our eyes are open and our ears can hear, and we hear the gospel and see Jesus Christ in His glory as our God and Savior and we do what? We have a life changing experience!

But too often our churches are like the Jews described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 2. Paul's indictment of the Jews is summed up in verse 24 where he says,

"For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written."

Even though they all the spiritual blessings available to any earthly people, they did the very things they were not supposed to do. So much so that the Name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of how they saw the Hebrews, the People of God, acting. It is the same with Christians today. Now I am not denying that there are many good and holy people in our churches. But friends, it doesn't take a prophet to see that North American Evangelical Christianity is in trouble. Studies demonstrate that incidents of child and spouse abuse, of divorce, of adultery, of pornographic addiction (and many other things) are NO DIFFERENT in the Church as in the world!

Beloved, we are to be different than the world. We are God's children, Christ's brothers and sisters. We are holy people. We are Priests to God and Kings in heaven. We hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. We have the indwelling Christ. We have the holy scriptures and the illumination of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. We are the light of the world, a city set on a hill. Our lives are supposed to be living testimonies to the truths we proclaim. As Tom Ascol cried out many years ago "Can't we agree that being a Christian means something!?"

If you cannot see in yourself a life changing experience in meeting Christ, it is possible you were never genuinely converted. If that is you, then look to Christ alone and be saved. If you are a Christian and have had that life changing experience, then live it out. Be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. For the sake of truth and the glory of the Living God, go out and be what you are. You are a disciple of the Lord God, Jesus Christ! You are a Christian!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Another Quote

I am not sure where I saw this, but it stuck with me...

"Prayer is the work of the ministry." - Anonymous

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Quoting Myself

Just a moment of vanity while I type out a quote I made in a sermon some time ago.

"A Calvinist is a Christian whose chief aim in life is to see God glorified in all things - for all things."

John Sneed



Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Milestone and a Thought

This is my 200th post. I never thought I'd make it that far. One of my best friends set this blog up for me as a way to let me express my thoughts and say a few things I thought were important. I began this trip almost two years ago. Now, I have posted 200 posts. Wow!

This milestone reminds me of something. When I started blogging I had read other blogs that had reached 200 or more posts. I thought to myself that I might like to stay on the Internet that long. But how long a person stays on the earth (how is that for a switch in focus?) is in God's hands. We are guaranteed to have what we need for today. We are not guaranteed to be here tomorrow. The minutes of a person's life are measured by God. The time of our death is in His hands. We never know, when we go out in the morning, if we will make it back that night.

James tells us that it is vanity for a man to make future plans, since the future is so unsure to us. Instead, James counsels us to say "If the Lord wills, we will do this or that thing." But if the Lord does not will, then we won't. With all that being true my friend, savor your time on the earth. Don't waste it on trivial fights and petty jealousies. Stop and smell the roses. Kiss your spouse and hug your kids. Whatever you do, as scripture says, do it with everything you have. Live life with all your strength. Serve the Lord with gladness and love God and your fellow men with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And thank God with every day He grants you. Live today and if God gives you tomorrow, then live in that day too.

No one knows when God might call them home. He owns us and it is His right to call us home anytime He chooses. But in the time that God gives us here on the earth, be grateful and use it to good purposes. John Piper has a book called "Don't Waste Your Life" that captures this idea perfectly. Remember that, at the end of life, we will give an account of how we have lived as Christians. Today may be the last day you will be on this earth. If that turns out to be true, will you look back over your final day and think that you wasted your time, or will you look back and think "I lived it as fully and completely as I could"? For me, I'd rather it be that latter than the former. Wouldn't you?