When Ministry becomes Misery
Of late I have been doing a great amount of reflecting on Paul’s words in Galatians 6 when he stated, “And let us not be weary in well doing:” - Galatians 6:9a. From the text it would certainly seem that there is an inherent danger of “Ministry becoming Misery.” The verse follows those that the Holy Spirit has given Paul on the topic of sowing and reaping. We often visit these when we discuss actions and consequences in our walk with Christ or our tendency to give in to the flesh. There is a strong admonition for us to hear and heed. We must be careful what we plant for one day it will come to fruition. But interestingly enough, the Holy Spirit also has Paul deal with the issue of being “weary in well doing.” This is the thought that has consumed me of late. And I’m very well aware that it can and does occur.
Let me be quick to say that I’m not there right now. I’m currently enjoying the ministry that God has been gracious in allowing me to do more than ever. I’m experiencing more joy than I have ever known in being a part of a loving, growing, praying church family. I still don’t understand why God has chosen to bless me in such a way. He has, and is, pouring out His goodness on my family in so many ways. He has given us friends and family, laughter and love, and has breathed life back into my soul in ways that I can’t describe.
But it hasn’t always been that way. I have walked through some places and tasted some pains that I wish I’d never known. There have been those times when, as the old Gospel song puts it, I was “tempted and tried and oft made to wonder.” Valley experiences seemed to last for months, sometimes years. And more times than not, I failed the tests that God put before me.
It was in those places that Ministry was Misery. I was reading, praying, studying, preaching, teaching, etc. but I was miserable. There was no real joy, no genuine lasting happiness. What’s more, there didn’t seem to be any relief. The days, weeks, and months of this type of existence continued to drag on like a brutal storm that would never end. Trust me, there were a multitude of lessons that I needed (and still need) to learn. But I had allowed the storm and the situations to turn the soil of my soul into less than productive ground.
Ever been there? Have you ever wondered when the wind would stop blowing and the waves would stop beating against your ship? I mean you are doing all the things you are supposed to do. You’re being faithful to Christ, faithful to your family, faithful to church and to your employer; but everything is still falling apart. Your motives are questioned. Your actions are scrutinized. Your words are misunderstood. Your “friends”, yes even the Christian ones, turn and walk away. You feel like giving up. “Because”, you say to yourself, “if this is how it is going to be, I don’t want it anymore!”
If you have been serving God for any period of time you have more than likely endured some of what I have just mentioned. Your ministry, whatever it may be, has become difficult. You too have become weary in well doing. You didn’t mean for it to happen. You didn’t set out for it to occur. You tried to guard as best you could. But still here you are experiencing difficulty when you should be enjoying delight in serving the Lord.
This is a good place for me to stop and explain that we all have a ministry. Whether you are a pastor, a teacher, a nurse, a Walmart associate, an engineer, a stay-at-home mom, or a retiree; we all have a ministry. Sometimes it could be to several hundred or even thousands. Sometimes it could be to those that sit at your table for supper. But whenever, wherever, and however it is, God has given you a place of service. In that place we are to serve with gladness. We are to be His ministers of grace in that place.
And we are to be singing instead of sighing as we do!
Again I’m thankful for the ways in which God works with us and in us during these times when the daily grind has us down. He doesn’t leave us comfortless. He feeds us through His living Word. He provides those rare and wonderful, true Christ-like friends that pick us up when we are down and walk with us through the valley when we are low. And He gives us the ultimate example and formula for how we are to approach Ministry.
In Hebrews 12:2 we are reminded to “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” If anyone understood “Misery in Ministry” it was Christ. Remember He was rejected by His own people, mocked by the religious, deserted and denied by His disciples, and crucified by those He came to save. Yet He knew that there was joy that would come. He knew that on the other side of agony there was overwhelming joy. And so, He endured. And so too should we. Let us never forget that the enjoyment of the mountaintop will only be made greater by the depth and length of the valley through which we had to go to get there.
So, “Press on weary pilgrim. Press on.” In my favorite book of the New Testament, Paul summed up what should be our prayer during such times, “. . . forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13b-14. This does not mean that we do not learn from the past, but we don’t have to let it define us. Neither do we let it direct us for the future.
Ministry doesn’t have to turn into misery. We can make the choice today to let God sustain us through both the good and the bad times that will most certainly come. Whether we are enjoying the years of abundance or enduring the years of lean, God is still God and He still has something for us to do for His glory. “. . . for in due season we will reap in we faint not.” – Galatians 6:9b.
Often we feel as if time is almost standing still. Events and circumstances that are important to us are moving at a snails pace. It could be the arrival of a child, the prospect of a new job, or even the coming of Christmas. For children especially, Christmas seems as if it will never get here. The days and weeks seem to drag on and on. Mom and Dad have taken care of the tree, gifts have been purchased and packages have been wrapped, the hours seem like days; but still Christmas is not here! But then, after many weeks or even months of waiting, Christmas Day comes. It has finally happened! The day that you have been waiting for since December 26 of last year is here! The morning is filled with tons of excitement and activity. Bows and boxes now cover the living room floor as presents have been torn into by eager recipients. Gifts are exchanged and a happiness that should have been present all year long fills the heart.
I have often wondered what it must have been like for those individuals who lived in the years prior to the birth of Christ; especially after the Old Testament was completed. For four hundred years there is no word from Heaven. Perhaps some began to wonder if the prophecies that had been given were ever going to come to pass. But when the fullness of time had come, there begins to be a whirlwind of angelic activity. Angels start appearing to the inhabitants of the earth, announcing to them that something wonderful was about to take place. A woman named Elizabeth hears that she will give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband, is even told what to name the child.
Angels also visit a carpenter from Nazareth and his fiancée. It was to Mary that the news first came. She is told that she had found favor with God and was going to give birth to the Messiah. This news was troubling to her. She was a virgin. How could she be with child? Joseph, confused and concerned, is instructed to take Mary as his wife for she is with child of the Holy Ghost. What an unusual time this must have been for these people. Aside from the appearance from the angels and the miraculous news that each was told; there is something else that these individuals have in common. Upon the arrival of the angel, each person became overcome with fear. Think about this for a minute. The very people who had waited for so long for the coming of the Messiah were now gripped with extreme fear. To each person, there is a common response. For when they were afraid, they are told - “Fear Not.” Even the shepherds were fearful at first. The words “Fear Not” are also spoken to them, assuring them that they need not be afraid of this wonderful event that was taking place.
So often we are just like these people. We pray, we long for, and even try our best to cause something to take place; and when it does we are suddenly afraid of what the future will hold. Gripped with fear we run frantically to and fro searching for answers and assurance, when God has already given them to us in His Word. The New Year, and the remainder of this one for that matter, may bring with it cares and concerns, worries and woes. At times anxiety may capture our attention and consume our thoughts. But for the Child of God, for the believer in the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God, our hearts can be set at rest and be comforted with the knowledge that God is in control of it all. Nothing has ever, or will ever, escape Him. The very One that made the heart can speak peace to the heart even in the midst of a fearful storm. In 2018, and every day, Fear Not!
The air is becoming colder, the stores are stocking their shelves, and in the eyes of every little boy and girl there is a light that seems to come only at this time of the year. It is the beginning of the holiday season for us all. Soon our homes will be filled with friends and family as we spend time with those we love. Gifts will be exchanged, food will be eaten and stories will be told of how it was “way back then.” And our hearts will be moved as we hear the old, old story of that first Christmas night when Christ came to the earth.
It was the night that changed the course of the world. It was a night of shepherds and angels. It was the night when the prophecies were fulfilled and promises were made alive. It was the night that the Creator of Heaven and earth became flesh. It was the night of the birth of our Savior.
But so much has changed since that first Christmas night. Now the attention of the world is focused upon materialism instead of the manger. The accumulation of things is what seems to drive us today. Seldom do we look at Christmas through the eyes of salvation. As we gaze upon the lights that adorn houses and streets, let us recall the Light of World who died for the sins of humanity. As we look at our beautiful Christmas trees this year, let us remember the tree that God erected on a hill called Calvary. As we see gifts placed around the tree, let us never forget that God placed His gift to us on a tree.
While the attention of many people is directed to presents and packages and while even many Christians look solely at the manger; let us look past the night that Christ was born and see the day that He died for our sins. But even more than that, let us view an empty tomb, a living Savior, and soon coming King.
As the pages of this year’s calendar are turned and as we enter into a new one, our hearts are filled with the excitement of knowing that Christ’s return could be any day. Let us live in the light of knowing that we soon will be leaving this earth to spend eternity with our Savior and Lord.
My family and I pray that each and every one of you will have a glorious and Christ-filled Christmas. Thanks again for all your love, prayers, and support. God Bless you all.
Navigating the “FOG”
Several years ago, in another ministry field, I had been working through a study of II Timothy 3:1-7. Now, just as was the case then, I see these verses being fulfilled before my eyes. I watch, heartbroken and burdened, as modern Christianity careens toward an abyss. I truly believe that we are living in the last days, days much like those of Lot and Noah. In many ways humanity as a whole and even a great many houses of worship have become “increased in goods and in need of nothing.” Yet we have failed to see how utterly destitute we really are in what matters most.
As I finished the notes on the passage from II Timothy, I attempted to save the file on my computer with the title I was using, the words “A Form of Godliness,” from II Timothy 3:5. However, and this is showing exactly how long ago it was, I was unable to enter that long of a title for a file name. It had to be shortened. I decided that I would simply use the first letter of each word. As I typed the letters on the keyboard I sat back in amazement. It was as if a light bulb had switched on in my brain.
I stared at the screen in disbelief as I realized something – A FOG – that is what “A Form of Godliness” is. It is a fog, a smokescreen, an atmospheric anomaly that obscures what is really present. A fog masks the truth. It hides certain items from view. At times it can be low lying and sparse. Yet it can also reach great heights and can be thick regardless of its elevation. Visibility is significantly impacted by it. And too often, it is dangerous and deadly. That is what a fog does physically and what “A Form of Godliness” does to our lives spiritually.
While there is so much more that needs to be said here I will fast forward to a second chapter in the fog saga. A few years later, while driving early one fall morning, I encountered some heavy “Smoky Mountain” fog. Turning on the radio I listened as the meteorologist announced that the fog would linger for several hours; that is, until the sun came out and burned it off. Again there was another epiphany. This is what is needed for us when “A Form of Godliness” has settled into our lives. We need the Son to come burn away what is obscuring the truth. We need The Light of the World to shine in our hearts and transform us from what we are into what we should be for His glory. We need the refiners fire to burn bright and hot and purge the impurities from our lives.
Are you lost in “the FOG?” Does the “form of godliness” that you are practicing continually leave you empty and longing for something more, something better, something real? Could it be that for far too long far too many of us have been wandering around aimlessly? If that is indeed the case may God grant us the wisdom to “Navigate the FOG” and emerge on the other side in a place of clarity and renewed vision.
I wept yesterday. I mean really cried. I can’t tell you what specifically caused it. I know that men, so we have been told, are not supposed to cry. “It is a sign of weakness.” someone once attempted to explain. At the very least after you have reached a certain age or have arrived at a designated station in life, you are to have long ago exorcised your emotional demons. “Never let them see you cry!” has been the mantra for decades, perhaps centuries.
But whoever this self proclaimed paragon of wisdom and expert on human emotions was, I am afraid they sold us a bill of goods that not only is untrue but also damages those of us who buy into it. We have allowed ourselves to accept a lie and our embracing of this soulless fiction has left us bitter and scared. And yet we still keep our tears and our dreams and our anxieties carefully bottled up inside.
For some of us it has indeed been far too long since rivers flowed from the windows to our souls. A myriad of hollow excuses are offered as to why we no longer engage in an action that is as cleansing for the heart as it is for the eyes. Yet interestingly enough, the most trained physicians have assured us that it is healthy to cry from time to time; if for no other reason than the benefits that are brought to our eyes. From washing out the dust and debris that occasionally find their way into them to helping give clarity of vision; the list of advantages goes on and on.
But wait, do those same things not occur within our hearts when we open up and weep? Do our tears not help make us cope with the destruction that has been left in the wake of tragedy and turmoil? Do they not wash away many of those things that have been strewn recklessly across the landscape of our lives? Do the tears of our hearts, when directed Heavenward, not give way to a clearer vision of God’s plan for our lives? Yes, yes I believe they do!
Sitting here even now I find myself starting to shed tears once again. I do such because of the years I have wasted that should have been spent in more genuine service to my Savior. I weep because of the times that I have responded in a way that does not reflect His love to those around me. I cry because of the intense inner evaluation that has been taking place of late; for I see so many places where I have failed as a husband, as a father, and as a pastor. I call out for mercy and for forgiveness. I plead for grace and restoration. And I cry tears of joy knowing that all that I seek will come from the hand of a Heavenly Father that is moved by the burdens on my aching heart.
What a peace there is when we accept these wonderful gifts from a gracious God! What release there is in crying out with our whole heart knowing that He hears, He understands, and that He, only He, can wipe away all tears from our eyes.
It is my prayer that the Lord will continue to soften our hearts and moisten our eyes. May we always be found faithful to the Lord in what He calls us to be and to do. And may God continue to bless us as we serve Him together.
Often, as I sit and begin to write to you every month, I have a great difficulty knowing exactly where to begin. So much has taken place over the last few weeks that it seems impossible to categorize all of the events in a few short lines. And then when I stop long enough to take a quick look at the calendar, I find that in just a few days school will be starting.
Soon buses will be traveling up and down the roads of our county and children will be running through the halls of our schools. Everywhere one looks there are signs that it is “Back to School” time. Stores stock their shelves and advertise the sale that they are having on those much needed items; and moms and dads are busy making sure their children are prepared for another year of proper instruction.
All of this has caused me to give some serious thought to how these matters apply to our lives on a spiritual level. Paul told Timothy to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;”. Obviously, the act of acquiring knowledge in areas that pertain to our walk with Christ should be of great importance to the Christian. We are given various mandates in Scripture and are also told that we are to pass on these lessons that we have learned to “faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
But just what have we learned? Have we learned to trust Christ in the ways that He has told us to in His Word? Do we trust Him to take care of our finances, our families, and our future? Are we walking with Him by faith or by sight? Are we too busy with the hectic schedules that we keep to spend time as Mary did at the feet of the Master? Are we listening to His every Word, and by doing such learning what is needed in order to make us into the faithful servants that we should be?
All of these questions are ones that must be answered by each individual Christian. What are your answers? In thinking of these issues, we must also be careful that we not approach the act of gleaning information from the position of feeling that we have already arrived and have nothing more to learn. There are still mountains of lessons that must be learned in order to grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
So as our children head back to school and hit the books, I pray that we will hit our knees and put our noses in The Book; praying that God will give us what we need as we serve Him.
“All set?” I can’t tell you the number of times I heard that phrase while in Maine several years ago. “All set?” seems to be the universal question asked by Mainers to those who frequent their shops and restaurants. It is a statement that inquires as to whether or not a person is ready to have their check brought to their table or if they are ready to pay for the items that they have decided to purchase. In essence, it asks, “Are you ready?”
As I pondered on this unique way of speech, I could not help but apply it to matters of a spiritual nature (After all, everything is a sermon illustration to a preacher). If this question were posed to us in regards to our spiritual condition, I wonder what would be our response? Are we indeed “All Set?” Are the essentials and details of our lives in tune with what God commands from His Holy Word? If today were the day that we checked out of life here on planet earth and stood before God, how would we stand before Him?
It is certainly a question that demands our consideration. And not just for those who are uncertain about where they will spend eternity; for it also applies to the child of God. If you are lost, and have never seen your need for Christ, then you are not “All Set”. Your affairs are not in order and were you to stand before God today you would still be in your sins. But even the Christian needs to give serious thought to this question. We must all be diligent and sensitive to the leading of the Spirit of God in our lives. We must be willing to go where He directs and do what He commands. Anything less than this, is failure on our part, does not please God, and is thereby sin.
Oh, how desperately we need to be listening to His voice in this present hour. The lost, those in Lenoir City and the world, need to hear about Jesus. They need to hear that Christ came and gave His life for them. And the saved need to hear about the growth that should be taking place in their lives as they seek to serve the Lord faithfully.
The next few days and weeks will be filled with various opportunities for us to minister to the hearts of hurting people and to point them to the only one that can heal their broken hearts. I want to encourage every member of Calvary Baptist Church to be faithful in their attendance to the house of God and to consistently be used as instruments of light and salt in the lives of the people the Lord brings our way. Perhaps our speaking His words and our obedience to Him, will cause these individuals to make sure that they are “All Set”. In closing, I trust that you will continue to walk with the King as we anticipate His soon return.
“Where am I going? Why am I here? What up ahead will I find?” Of late I have been haunted by these words I heard so many years ago as a young Christian. They were part of a study done in connection with Bunyan’s Pilgrims’ Progress and I have found myself drawn to them time and again throughout my life; but especially more so in the last few months. They echo through my soul. They cause me to look deep within and examine areas of my life that often I would rather leave alone. They speak to issues of faith and future and of following the One who should be more important than anything or anyone else. And yet this inspection sends me gazing into an abyss; a dark chasm that I do not like seeing, much less admitting that it truly exists within me.
We are all so prone to listen to the voices of confusion and chaos that shout from without and whisper from within; the seemingly never ending cacophony of misdirection and misinformation. Where is the clarity? Where is the calm in a storm tossed sea of fear and anxiety? Why does that place of placidness elude us so? Could it be that we have forgotten how “to be still and know that He is God”?
I truly believe that this is a lesson that the Father is trying to teach me at this point in my life. Even in my remembering those words from my youth, God is attempting to get me refocused on Him and on His plan for my life. Honest, real, genuine self evaluation must take place from time to time in the heart and life of the Christian or we will find ourselves too comfortable, too complacent, too conveniently floating along with only this life in view while eternity gets brushed aside.
So I return to my original query - “Where am I going?”; ultimately Heaven is my destination, my home, my real place of rest. I must always remember that as I follower of Christ I am still just a pilgrim and a stranger in a foreign land; one that is becoming more and more alien to me with each passing day. Do not be alarmed by these thoughts. This is not some form of self imposed depression or despondency. It is just a powerful reminder that “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through. My home is laid up for me, somewhere beyond the blue.”
“Why am I here?” The simple answer to that question lies in the fact that I am a Christian, am ambassador for the cause of Christ in a dark, tasteless world. I must view this as a calling from Him, no one else. If I seek to walk this path because of or for some other, I will find only heartache and heaviness of soul. But His burden is easy and His yoke is always light. He gives the strength to see the race to its end. And only when I remember to cast all of my care upon Him will I find that He gives me the lighter end of the load.
“What up ahead will I find?” - in short order, I will find Him. If the journey that I take is the one that He has directed, I will find Him at each mile post and at every step along the way, giving encouragement and nourishment that only He can provide. And yet, even if I stray from what He most desires for me, I still will find Him. Gently, patiently, He will call to me to return to Him; to follow His guidance and direction that will lead me safely home.
So what of you my friend? “Where are you going? Why are you here? What up ahead will you find?” I urge you to listen to His voice, to follow His plan, and to trust in His ways; for no one, no thing, will bring peace and strength to you. Only Him!
I am forty-five years old now, and I realize that there are many things I may never accomplish in this life. I may never write a great American novel, climb Mt. Everest, pastor a church with several thousand members, and I probably will never be elected to an important position in my denomination. At the end of my life, my name will probably not even be remembered or honored around the world.
There was a time however when all of that was important to me; but not anymore! I still want to be the very best that I can be in everything I do, but I am no longer driven by outward symbols of perceived success. Accomplishments of that type are meaningless when compared to the true achievements of life, the shaping of the lives and inner character of my children.
I firmly believe that the day will come when we stand before God and will give an account for all we have done in this life. At that time I do not believe He will ask what kind of car I drove, the square footage of my house, or the size of my financial portfolio. God will not be impressed by the degrees I earned or the honors I was given. But I do believe He will ask what impact I made on the lives of my children.
That is a very sobering and alarming reality! It causes me to see that the greatest reward I can ever hope to receive, this side of Heaven, is to see my children walking in the truth. And yet this will not occur on its own. It will not take place by means of osmosis. I have been entrusted by a sovereign God to bring up my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I must train them up in the way that they should go, a way that will see their hearts turn to and follow the Lord with all their heart.
May God grant me, may He grant all of us, the wisdom and boldness to do what must be done so that future generations of faith do not perish from the earth.
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work. – Nehemiah 2:18
In the verses preceding the passage above we find that Nehemiah’s heart had been burdened for his homeland. While a stranger in another country, Nehemiah had heard of the condition of the city of Jerusalem. The news had so affected his heart that it caused his countenance to be affected as well. While serving in the court of the king, it became so apparent that something was weighing heavy upon his heart that the king inquired as to the nature of the problem.
When Nehemiah explained his burden to the king, something wonderful happened. The king granted Nehemiah not only permission but also provisions to return and do a wonderful work in the holy city. Nehemiah’s burden and subsequent excitement became contagious. His fellow countrymen were soon encouraged to the place that they too were willing to rise up and do something for the glory of God. The last phrase of Nehemiah 2:18 then states that “they strengthened their hands for this good work.”
In many ways I feel much like Nehemiah. I am burdened greatly by what I see going on in our country, in our cities, and in our communities. It is as if Satan has opened up the very pits of hell and has unleashed an all out assault on the institutions and ideals that are to be the foundations and pillars of a godly nation. The heart, the home, and even our houses of worship are all under such attack that it often appears as if the enemy is going to win. But in the midst of great opposition, there are greater opportunities! And we must always remember that greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.
These are truly exciting days in which to live. The events that are transpiring globally in nations such as Israel, Iraq, North Korea, and even here in America should cause all of us to realize that the return of the Lord is drawing very near. Therefore, we must be about our Father’s business and we must make good use of the time that we have been given. We are doing just that here at Calvary Baptist Church. It is my prayer that every effort, every attempt, every ministry opportunity that we are given will be used to reach the lost, reclaim the wayward, and refocus the faithful into areas of service that are truly pleasing to the heart of our Savior.
Oh that we would do just as the people did in Nehemiah’s day; that we will strengthen our hands together for this good work. I firmly believe that together we can accomplish great things for the Lord. Furthermore, I want to encourage everyone to become involved in what God is doing. Only eternity will tell of the number of lives that will be rescued and restored, as we are faithful vessels dedicated for the Master’s use.
I want to personally invite every member of the Calvary church family to be present at the many events that are scheduled during the month of April. Come out, get connected, and enjoy some wonderful moments of fun and fellowship. May God continue to bless you as we serve Him together.
“What school did you attend? What was the highest degree you have earned? Do you have your MBA or PHD yet? Are you taking any CE classes?” From friends to family to the forms we fill out in various offices, the questions seem to come almost continuously, and they all appear to be geared in the same direction; what is your “Higher Education?’ Before anyone misunderstands me, or the motive behind what I am saying, hear me out. I am a strong advocate of college, graduate school and doing whatever is necessary to be an informed, well-educated professional in the career area where you have been led. We have far too many in our world today that are not listening, not learning, and thereby not leading, as they should in the place of influence in which God has them. As was said to me several years ago, “If you want to be a leader, you must be a reader.” Therefore, we should take every opportunity available to us to be growing and relevant in our present world.
But at what cost? For if our education our intellect, our acquired abilities are at the expense of effectiveness in our service and our ability to relate to those around us, what has been gained? If we exude an intellectual superiority that turns people off and away from the message that we should be delivering to them, we have made a grave error. Oh how often I have seen good men and women passed over for opportunities of service simply because they didn’t attend the preferred college or seminary.
We all have an audience, whether it is family, or friends, fellow laborers, or even our foes. People around us listen and learn from and about us. That is why the message or even the means that we use to deliver it should never be wrapped up in us, or in the degrees we have earned.
As we look into the Scriptures, we see that God used men and women from varied backgrounds and professions to deliver His Word and His warnings. From the classically trained to the cultural outcasts, God empowered His people with His message. In the New Testament alone, we see a stark contrast between the human leaders of the early church— Peter and Paul. Of Peter, and John, it was said, that they were “… unlearned and ignorant men.” Obviously they had not attended the “right” schools to be able to stand in front of such a diverse crowd on the day of Pentecost. Yet those that heard them “...marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Herein lies the most important of all educational qualifications: “They had been with Jesus.”
But what of Paul? There is perhaps no keener mind in the New Testament than the former persecutor of Christians. He had been trained in the best schools Israel had to offer. Had sat at the feet of those who were so well versed in the Old Testament that one could now quote the Pentateuch. He became the human penman of almost half of the New Testament and was comfortable sharing the Gospel in the presence of royalty. Yet, there seems to be a downward progression in the life of Paul as we follow him in the New Testament. From “a Pharisee of the Pharisees,” to “the least of the Apostles,” to his acknowledgement that he was “the chiefest of sinners.”
Years ago I was admonished that “God keeps His best gifts on the lower shelves.” The sentiment that was being conveyed in those words was that as we humble ourselves and lower ourselves by our standards, and by the world’s estimates as well, that God pours out blessings that would have never been ours had we kept thinking too highly of ourselves. Numerous passages in the Scriptures bear this out—Matthew 15:27-28, II Corinthians 12:10, I Peter 5:6, etc.
Therefore, let us not be so caught up or impressed with the “higher education” of some when what we truly need is more “lower education” as we realize that we are nothing more than a tool in the hand of the Master Teacher.
A Fixed Heart – Psalm 108:1
February being heart month, it stands to reason that we should spend some time on matters that pertain to the heart. What a blessing it is to know that as we open the Bible, we have a book that has been written as a love letter from the heart of God to the heart of man. Here within the pages of the Scriptures we find the heart of God the Father revealed as He sent His only begotten Son to pay for the sins of mankind. We also find that the heart of Christ is burdened for the souls of lost men and women, boys and girls.
Psalm 108 was penned by the one referred to as being a man after God’s own heart. When we think of this person we are reminded that he was a shepherd, a poet, a mighty warrior, and an ancestor of Christ. In short, he is one of the greatest men in The Word of God. But alongside those memories stand others; for he was also a betrayer, a liar, an adulterer, and a murderer. His strengths are those that we all wish we would possess. His weaknesses could very well be present in any of us were it not for the grace of God. The Bible makes no effort to hide this man’s failures; he often writes of them himself. Yet he is remembered and respected for his heart for God.
Psalm 108 gives us great insight into David’s heart. In it he explains various aspects of what has, what is, and what should be taking place within the hearts of those who have placed their trust in The Lord. In examining this Psalm two things can be seen. We learn first that the heart needs fixing. The Word of God speaks to this point on several occasions. We are told that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, that our hearts can be turned from what we know is right, and that we should be careful to whom we share the secrets of our hearts. David certainly knows all of this all too well.
But this Psalm also reveals to us a glorious fact. In seeing that our hearts need fixing we are also shown through the language of this Psalm that there is only One that can properly fix it; it is the One who has made it. Knowing every part of our being, God is able to perform a miraculous spiritual procedure on the hearts of those who truly want to serve Him.
He can fix our Hearts. And when God does a work within our hearts there are some wonderful results that are evident.
The word fixed that is used in Psalm 108:1 carries with it the idea of being steadfast or immovable. But I also believe that there is something being said to us by David stating that his heart is now fixed. We were all born with a heart that has been searching for something to fill the emptiness that is inside it. In truth, our hearts have been damaged and are defective because of sin. We have a God-shaped hole in our heart and He is the only One that can fill it. He is the only One that can fix it. And when we come to Christ and receive Him as our Savior, He fills up the emptiness and loneliness with peace, joy, and a love for both Him and others.
So whether we speak of our heart as having been broken or the fact that it is now steadfast and immovable, it is plain to see that God is the One who has fixed our hearts. Only He could put the pieces back together again and only He can make our hearts strong and immovable.
May this month and this year be one where our hearts are turned back to the One that loves us with all His heart. Thank you once again for your faithfulness and your heart for the Lord and for others.
Ecclesiastes has been called by some, The Book of Ancient Wisdom For Modern Man. In this book we find that Solomon has gathered all the people of Israel together and preaches to them this sermon dealing with his backsliding. The very scope of this book is to expose the vanity of all worldly enjoyments; to show that man’s happiness does not lie in natural wisdom and knowledge, or in worldly wealth; or in the mere externals of religion, but in God and the worship of Him.
Ecclesiastes shows us the experiences of a man who had tried everything under the sun to satisfy his heart and who had learned that it was all vanity. After years of searching, Solomon now sees that it was useless to seek for pleasure in those things that are temporal at best. In Ecclesiastes we learn that without Christ we cannot be satisfied even if we possess the whole world. Throughout the book we find Solomon, led by the Holy Spirit, penning words that are both powerful and practical. With rich poetic language he gives us insight into how it is we should live our lives in this present world.
Here we find practical living at its best. As you read this letter, the world is making ready for a new year. It will be a year that will bring with it many challenges and opportunities. It will be a year that will undoubtedly be different than those before it. It is at this time that many people make “New Year’s Resolutions”. They decide that they are going to lose weight or save more money or worry less; and the list goes on and on. But resolutions are limited.
Yet for the Christian, there are some positive aspects to making “New Year’s Resolutions”. There is something to be gained from setting goals for ourselves and striving to achieve them; so long as they are pleasing to the Lord. The Scriptures give us numerous examples of people who did just such a thing. They vowed a vow unto the Lord and trusted in Him and His Spirit to give them the strength to bring it to pass. As we enter into this New Year, we as believers in Christ should look to the One who holds all of our tomorrows in His capable hands. As we look to Him, let us be faithful to do those things that He has called us to do.
It is my prayer that 2017 will be one of the greatest years that Calvary Baptist Church has ever experienced. Will you join with me as we labor together in our Master’s vineyard and as we await the harvest that He will bring? I pray that God will continue to bless you and your family in the coming year.
Working on Christmas?
All day long a thought has been rolling over and over in my head. “I wonder how many people have to work on Christmas day?” For many, Christmas, and perhaps even days surrounding it, are days that their place of business has scheduled for time off. The office closes, the children have gone home from school, the plant is in “shut-down” mode. Time can now be spent with family and friends and food and football and, and, and . . . well you get the picture. But at the heart of the holiday for many is the simple fact that they don’t have to get up and go to work. They can finally take it easy for several days in a row.
But what about those that must work through Christmas? We need to remember the fireman, the soldier, the highway patrolman, the ER doctor and nurses – all of those that are there for us when we need them, when things do not go as planned. Oh, how appreciative we should be for all of these and many more.
But working on Christmas is really nothing new. Historically there have always been people who either had to or choose to work on December 25th. Obviously the types of professions that I mentioned earlier would count. Yet my mind goes back to the first Christmas. There were certainly shepherds who were working. The wise men were busy at their jobs. There was an innkeeper, a host of angels, and a young couple from Nazareth who were all working hard that night.
And there was Another who was at work that first Christmas. He had, in fact, been working from before the foundation of the world to bring this night, this series of miracles, this birth to come to pass. Laboring in ways clearly seen as well as those totally invisible to the human eye, God was continuing the work of redemption that started before the fall of Adam.
Hearts were empty, lives were hollow, eyes were blind, and souls were lost. Into this sea of spiritual chaos came Immanuel. Working in hearts, laboring in lives, saving souls – God worked, and worked, and worked.
And He still works today. On Christmas, God wants to work in all of our hearts and lives. He wants to mold us more into the image of His Son. He desires to do so much, if we will only let Him.
Will you give Him “permission” to work on you this Christmas?
History tells us that almost 400 years ago a small group of settlers from England and other parts of Europe began a long and treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. After many months of travel on the seas, their battered ship finally reached the shores of North America. There they embarked on an even greater journey as they stepped foot on Plymouth Rock.
102 people had made the voyage across the ocean to begin a new life in America. It was to be a life dedicated and founded upon the principles of Freedom; political, economic, and most importantly religious freedom. They quickly began constructing shelters in preparation for the long, hard winter that would soon be upon them. They faced trouble from the very start and paid a high price for the privilege of worshipping God freely. 44 settlers died before spring and only 58 people survived to plant the spring crops. And yet, not a single Pilgrim returned to England when the Mayflower set sail.
God had given them courage and had blessed them with an abundant harvest. The Governor of the colony then proclaimed that there should be a time of thanksgiving. So it was that the remaining colonists, along with some 80 Native Americans would meet together for a time of giving thanks. According to The World Book Encyclopedia, the Pilgrims devoted the day to preaching, praying, singing, and then eating. For them, Thanksgiving Day was centered on the Lord and on giving thanks to Him for His many blessings.
On November 24th many of us will sit down at a table filled with the foods of the Thanksgiving season. There we will pause and give thanks to God for the meal that He has set before us and for the hands that have prepared it. We will spend the day laughing and talking with our family members as we enjoy this very special holiday. But if we are not very careful, we could find ourselves focusing on our material possessions and miss the most important reasons as to why we should be Thankful.
It is clear from history that we as Americans have a rich heritage and that we have so much to be thankful for. However, as Christians, we have a greater and higher purpose of giving thanks. Throughout The Word of God we are exhorted and instructed to give thanks and to praise God for His many blessings. “. . . come before his presence with thanksgiving. - Psalm 95:2”. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. - Psalm 100:4”.
Therefore it is of paramount importance that we understand an important truth. It has been by the hand of a good and gracious God that we have been given so many blessings. And furthermore, every day, not just Thanksgiving Day, should be a day of giving thanks! We should focus our attention on the blessings that God has given to us. Blessings and benefits that none of us deserved, but that were richly bestowed upon us when we accepted Christ as our Savior.
My heart overflows with thanks this month as I see all that God has done, is doing, and as I anticipate all that He will continue to do in the future. He has richly blessed me, and my family, in that we are a part of such a loving, caring, giving church family here at Calvary. I don’t believe I will ever be able to repay or convey all that is in my heart. Thank you for allowing me the privilege and the honor of being the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. May God continue to bless you and your home during this Thanksgiving season.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. - Romans 12:1-2
Where am I going? Why am I here? What up ahead will I find? These three questions are often asked by those who are believers in Christ; yet they can all be summed up with one question - What is The Will of God for My Life? Since the beginning of time man has tried in vain to answer these questions on his own through the futile efforts of intellect and experience. And while some believe the answer to be light years away it is in fact as close as the mention of a single name. That name is Jesus and He, along with His Father and the Spirit of God, has a perfect plan for the life of every individual.
While it may seem to be redundant, God does indeed have a purpose for our lives and He does want us to know it! He has revealed His plan for our lives in The Word of God. It begins with salvation. In order to be in the perfect will of God, one must first have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not enough to know Christ in an intellectual sense, you must have met and acknowledged Him as your personal Lord and Savior.
The next step in finding and doing God’s Will for your life is to be Spirit-filled. By having received the presence of the Holy Spirit at salvation, we now have access to an enormous supply of
power from God. Once we yield our every decision to the control of the Spirit, we will have the courage to face any challenge that presents itself. The only way an individual can accomplish this is to be saturated with the things of Christ and to be a constant student of The Word of God.
Thirdly, the Christian searching for God’s will for their life must be sanctified. In other words, they must be pure. In doing this, the believer learns to control their own body as well as their very thoughts. This then leads the child of God to the position of being submissive. As we submit ourselves to Him and to His purpose for our lives, we will soon find that the path ahead of us becomes clearer.
As I write to you this month, I pray that you will spend time in earnest prayer to the Lord for His Will for your life. It is of paramount importance that we seek to live for Him, worship Him, and serve Him faithfully; knowing His Will for our lives until He returns for His bride. Along the way, we will continue to rejoice in all that He has done, is doing, and will continue to do; for these are truly exciting days in which to live and in which to be a part of His work here at Calvary Baptist Church.
Thank you once again for the overwhelming joy that floods my heart to be a part of this wonderful church family.
Another summer is past and school is getting ready to begin. Soon the sounds of children on buses will be heard all throughout the county. It always seems as if there are tons of changes from one year to the next. There are new styles of clothes and shoes that are worn. And just as soon as one person wears the new fad, then it seems that everyone must have the same thing, or even something a little better.
But fashions are not the only things that change from year to year; there are also new challenges as the difficulty of the work increases. The books are heavier and the subject matter is even weightier than the books. The word problems are much harder and at times it appears that the chemical equations will never balance. Life just became that much more difficult because of all of the changes that are taking place.
Yes, styles and schedules have changed since last year, and so have the faces around us. There are people we have never met that now sit next to us in class. If the truth were known, they are just as nervous and anxious as we are. They have the same fears and frustrations that plague our lives from day to day. But there is one thing that should make a difference in the lives of those who are saved. We know Jesus. This should make a lasting difference in our lives and should bring peace to our hearts.
Oh I know that it sounds like I am addressing this letter to those of you who are attending school. But in all actuality, we who are saved are all students in the school of the Savior. There are lessons that we are to be learning. There are tests that will come to us from time to time. And yes, there will be times when we fail to learn what is being taught. But how blessed it is to realize that in the midst of an ever changing world there is one thing that never changes. Jesus is the same; yesterday and today and forever. He never changes.
However, while He never changes, He does desire to see changes made in us. We should be growing in our Christian life, we should be maturing as believers and we should be reaching out to others like never before. Every week brings with it the possibility of reaching out to countless homes and families through the many ministries of Calvary Baptist Church. God has given us an awesome task to perform. As we strive to complete that task, let us commit to doing it in a way that will always bring glory and honor to Him. As the new school year begins, and as new ministry opportunities present themselves; let us all commit to a spirit of service that will be pleasing to our Master and Savior.
Tonya and I want to thank you for what you mean to us and for your continued love and support. Thanks again for all that you are doing for the cause of Christ. It is my prayer that God will continue to bless you richly for your love and labor for Him.
Often, as I sit and begin to write to you every month, I have a great difficulty knowing exactly where to begin. So much has taken place over the last few weeks that it seems impossible to categorize all of the events in a few short lines. And then when I stop long enough to take a quick look at the calendar, I find that in just a few weeks school will be starting. Soon buses will be traveling up and down the roads of our county and children will be running through the halls of our schools. Everywhere one looks there are signs that it is “Back to School” time. Stores stock their shelves and advertise the sale that they are having on those much needed items, and moms and dads are busy making sure their children are prepared for another year of proper instruction.
All of this has caused me to give some serious thought to how these matters apply to our lives on a spiritual level. Paul told Timothy to “continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” Obviously, the act of acquiring knowledge in areas that pertain to our walk with Christ should be of great importance to the Christian. We are given various mandates in Scripture and are also told that we are to pass on these lessons that we have learned to “faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
But just what have we learned? Have we learned to trust Christ in the ways that He has told us to in His Word? Do we trust Him to take care of our finances, our families, and our future? Are we walking with Him by faith or by sight? Are we too busy with the hectic schedules that we keep to spend time as Mary did at the feet of the Master? Are we listening to His every Word, and by doing such learning what is needed in order to make us into the faithful servants that we should be?
All of these questions are ones that must be answered by each individual Christian. So what are your answers? In approaching these issues, we must also be careful that we not approach the act of gleaning information from the position of feeling that we have already arrived and have nothing more to learn. There are still mountains of lessons that must be learned in order to grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
So as our children get prepared to head back to school and hit the books, I pray that we will hit our knees and put our noses in The Book; praying that God will give us what we need as we serve Him.
The trees are budding, the birds are singing, and the flowers are beginning to bloom. All of this can mean only one thing - spring has finally arrived. There is something special about this time of the year. The remnants of a cold and harsh winter are all seemingly washed away by the bright rays of sunshine and beautiful days that are filled with laughter and activity. It is as if the entire earth is waking up from a long and deep sleep; waking up to realize that a new day has dawned and life has begun anew.
Such scenes of rich beauty surely testify to the power and majesty of a holy God. I am continually amazed when I stop and think about all of the ways in which the Lord has blessed us. Just looking around at the breath-taking scenes that He has painted on the canvas of His world remind me once again of His love and His grace. To think that the Composer and Conductor of the Universe has His eyes upon the flight and activities of the sparrows of the field; knowing exactly when one of them falls to the ground. And yet, He is never too busy to take care of the needs of His children. What a comfort it is to know that God does indeed see every tear, hear every prayer, and knows every thought that burdens our hearts.
In this time when so much evil is present in this world, it is important to keep in mind that God is still in control. There has not been a single event that has escaped His attention. He is watching, directing, and guiding the course that the world is taking as every action will in the end bring glory and honor to Him.
As the forces of darkness gather and unleash their assault on the body of Christ, we have been commissioned to be faithful soldiers of the Cross. It is our duty to lift the blood-stained banner high; to announce to the world that the rallying point has always been and will forever be the Cross of Calvary. It is to this place, the Cross, that we must point a lost and dying world. It is only here that they can receive pardon and forgiveness of their sins. Through the shed blood of Christ they can have their names written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life” and they too can make Heaven their eternal home.
During this upcoming month, let us all commit ourselves to the faithful and loyal service to our Commander in Chief - Jesus Christ. May we strive to never take our eyes off of Him. May we all follow His directives and commands as we live for Him and as we look for His soon return.
Thanks again for your prayers for me and my family. We love you all and thank God for you. May God continue to bless you.
Greetings in the wonderful name of our risen Lord and Savior. It is such a joy to be able to sit and write to you this month. As I ponder what the Lord has been doing in the hearts and lives of people here at Calvary over the last few weeks, I am amazed at all of the ways that God has blessed as well as how He has given peace and direction. How great it is to know that we serve the God of all of the universe. There is nothing that is outside of His control or His sight. He sees our needs and knows the burdens that we carry. That is why we are told “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
As we enter this new month there is much to keep in mind. God has a work for each of us to do in His kingdom. Regardless of age, education, or even ability, the Lord desires that we place ourselves at His disposal to be used as He would see fit; for it is not ability that the Lord seeks, but availability. As we give ourselves totally over to Him and as His Spirit leads, there is no end to what God can do in and with and through our lives. Oh how wonderful it is to see a group of people united together in the service of the Savior!
The month of March is certainly filled with various activities and events here at Calvary. Easter is this month and I am excited about worshipping together on that morning as we have the joy of celebrating a risen, living, soon returning Savior. We are starting a new ministry geared especially toward the men of our church as we will meet for a prayer breakfast on March 12 at 8:30am. This will be an important time of fellowship, edification, and encouragement. (Don’t worry guys, there will also be food!) It is my prayer that this will be something that all of the men of the church will put on their calendar and will look forward to attending. Not to be outdone, the children, youth and seniors will also have several opportunities for fellowship and activities.
March is also the month when we focus on our annual Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. I want to encourage you to begin praying now about what the Lord would have you give so that those who have never heard the Gospel can hear the most wonderful news that can ever be shared. We must never forget that missionaries can only go and share as we are obedient in our support of them.
There is certainly much about which to pray and there are many places in which to serve. My desire is that the Lord will continue to knit the hearts of His people together in love for Him and for one another. Thanks again for all of the prayers and support that you so freely give to me and to my family. We love you all and pray for you each day. God bless.
Those words remind us of two important facts. The first is that we serve an awesome God. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above anything that we could ask or even think. His eye is constantly on His children and on their needs; nothing goes unnoticed. Even though He takes care of the birds in the field and keeps the planets in their orbits in space, He is never too busy to take care of me and you. He is great and is greatly to be praised for His marvelous works.
But that phrase also reminds us of another important fact. Not only do we serve a great and awesome God who is overseeing the lives of His children, supplying their needs, and keeping them safe and secure; but those who serve Him should attempt great things for Him based on how great He is. It is amazing how often we speak of these matters, yet how seldom we act on them. As His children and His followers we should search for ways to do mighty things in His name. However, the actions of His people should be done in a way that directs all of the attention, affection, and admiration to the One who has enabled us with the strength to attempt and/or accomplish this great feat. Far too often many fail to give credit to the only One to whom it is due. Without Him we can do nothing!
But with Him we are able to move mountains. This year at Calvary is going to be filled with numerous activities and events designed to promote fellowship within our local assembly while at the same time reaching out to those who do not attend church. We already have various special days scheduled on the church calendar through December and are looking to reach out in a way like never before. But it is important that we reach out in a way that consistently shows the compassion that Christ has for the lost, the wounded, and the weary. Our goal in reaching out is that others will reach up to the One who stands ready to meet their every need.
That is why I would like to encourage every person who actively attends Calvary Baptist Church to become involved in this outreach in some capacity. There are many ways in which each of you could be involved this year. When we stop long enough to examine the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ, and what it has done to us, it should impact us in a way that will make it clear that there are still millions upon millions of people who have never heard and who need to be told the same simple message that Jesus Saves! Will you help us tell the glorious story?
Once again, Tonya and I would like to thank you all for your prayer, love, and support for us as we labor for the Lord here at Calvary. Our prayer for you and for your family is that the Lord will continue to bless you as you seek to serve and follow Him in your daily life. As He does, let us all labor faithfully together, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Thanks again and God Bless.