Monday, August 27, 2007

Luke #33 - Fear and Kinfolk

Luke #33 – Fear and Kinfolk

“Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, ‘O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, “We have Abraham to our father:” for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire’” (Luke 3:7-9 – King James Version).

I talk to people all the time. That’s my job. That’s what I do. When it comes to excuses I have heard them all. To be fair, I have made a bunch in my time too. I was not raised in church. I wish I had been, but SOMETIMES I am glad I was not. I say that only to make this illustration; you’ll see what I mean.

I have asked many people when they became Christians and get a lot of weird responses. Some common responses are: “I have went to church all my life”; “I was baptized when I was nine (or whatever age)”; I joined the church twenty-five years ago (again, those years vary)”; “My family helped found this church.” Still, all of those responses are noble but leave the question unanswered.

I also ask people what Christ has done in their lives. I get a lot of weird responses to that too. Some are: “I quit drinking”; “I joined the church”; “I went on a mission trip”; “I got baptized.” Again, all good things but usually all they indicate is things they have done, not transformation that Christ has effected.

We would do well to have some of John the Baptist’s preaching in the South today. We are a very religious bunch down here, but I am prayerfully broken at our lack of belief, our transformation, and our weak faith. Now, I don’t think many folks could step into the pulpit and start preaching by saying “O you brood of vipers!” That might not go to well, ya think? John was addressing a crowd who came solely in fear. Hearing John’s prophetic preaching caused fear to come upon them and they were getting hell insurance. John didn’t want them to get baptized thinking that was the cure. John wanted to call attention to the fact that truly meeting God caused an internal change.

Then John wanted to debunk another misconception. Many Jews thought that being related to Abraham was good enough to receive the resurrection. John said “God can raise up more descendants of Abraham by turning rocks into people.” After all man was formed from the ground; if all God wanted was more people, He could turn every rock into a person. It was not relation to Abraham that led people to know God, but faith like the faith Abraham had.

God values reformation more than religion. The study notes in my Life Application Study Bible ask this probing question: “Is your faith motivated by a desire for a new, changed life, or is it only like a vaccination or insurance policy against possible disaster?” We cannot come to God by reciting a few sentences after someone. Wait…I am not saying we cannot be led or lead another in a prayer to accept Christ. What I am saying is that prayer should produce inner change that reforms our outer actions. Do you dig? We cannot simply hear a scary sermon about hell, pray a little prayer, and walk away the same person living the same life and think we are saved. If all that prayer or that baptism or joining the church means to us is that we have a get out of hell free card, then we haven’t met God at all. That’s a hard saying, but it is the heart of John’s message to us today.

Religion very well may be inherited, but faith is not. God has no grandchildren. Everyone has to make a personal decision to accept Christ. Just because your mama’s uncle was a missionary to New Guinea and your grandma taught Sunday School does not make you a Christian. What makes a Christian is the person who comes to Christ Jesus broken over their sins and begging Him for forgiveness and release from sin’s grasp.

Jesus’ hardest words were to religious leaders who had not experienced deep inner change. Following Jesus means acting on what He said, not just saying the right words. I don’t say this to be a jerk; I don’t want anyone to miss out on experiencing God. I can tell you this much, if your experience of God has been limited to 11:00 AM on Sunday mornings, then you have missed the blessings of a kind and gracious Father who is stern yet tender (and so much more!).

God desires that we have “fruits worthy of repentance,” meaning that our lives prove that we have really turned from our sins. For those that have not experienced that, John warns that every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.

Listen my dear friends, repentance is not about joining the church or quitting smoking or drinking. It is about turning from God and experiencing a deep inner change. If we do that, we will WANT to go to church; we will WANT to live moral lives; we will WANT to be baptized. All of those things will come from the natural flow of knowing God.

So, did you “join the church” or meet Christ? Did you get baptized or receive salvation? Did you repent or simply clean up? Did you pray a little prayer out of fear or fall before the Lord broken? Do you depend on the righteousness of someone you know or do you have a PERSONAL relationship with Christ Jesus? God can raise up church members from rocks. He desires people to know and worship Him in truth and spirit. Don’t miss the boat on this one gang. Check yourself, does your experience with God just mean a “get out of hell free card”? HE IS SO MUCH MORE!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Luke #32 - The Message Before the Word

Luke #32 – The Message Before the Word

“The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’” (Luke 3:2b-6 – King James Version).

I was involved with a group that brought a famous athlete to speak to a group of teenagers. He was a wonderful speaker and a great guy. Before he came his assistant called and told us exactly what kind of flight arrangements to make, what kind of hotel to call, and what kind room was required. We were also told what kind of food he liked and what kind of soft drinks to have on hand. That struck me as odd. I thought of John the Baptist.

John was bringing a speaker in and that speaker didn’t have a lot of requirements. There was one; REPENT! John’s message was simple and it is all that is needed to prepare a person to receive Jesus. John’s message was indeed strict, but much needed. John was like the fire, wind, and the earthquake that preceded the still small voice of God in Christ Jesus. John’s message was dauntless. He had no fear of what would happen to him nor any fear of what others thought of him…that ‘ol boy just preached! John’s message saw past class distinctions. Take the time to glean from the Gospels the preaching of John and you will find that he had keen insight into human nature; the needs and temptations. John’s message was very practical. It was not a warm and fuzzy type of message, but it was something that one could put in their pocket and take down the road. John’s message was preparatory; it was a threefold message of preparation. “Repent”; turn from your way. “The kingdom of God is at hand”; the time for God’s personal rule over people is coming. “Behold the Lamb of God”; CHRIST IS HERE! John’s message did not have any miracles…it was simple, “Get right and get ready!” John’s message was temporary. It was meant to be that way. He was clearing the way for Jesus. John was not the main attraction; Jesus was and is.

There are several things to learn here. Chief among them in my mind is the fact that we cannot elevate the messenger above the message as was stated in yesterday’s devotion. Also through Isaiah’s prophecy and John’s preaching we see some of the things Jesus would come to do.

He would fill every valley. I see in that the filling of Jesus. I see Jesus as the The One who can take our feelings of lack of purpose and fill us with His purposes. I see Jesus as The One who can tack our feelings of lack of worth and give us worth. I see every need a person may have being filled in Christ Jesus with the innumerable riches that He has stored in heaven. Yes, to all who lack, Jesus comes to fill!

Jesus would come and level every mountain. By His blood Jesus would confront every prideful and self righteous thought or deed of mankind. He would bring low any who thought they could save themselves or who could know God by following some rote or doing a list of deeds. Yes, to all who think they are good enough in their own deeds, Jesus comes to humble!

Jesus would come to straighten the crooked. There were (and ARE) a great many who would bend the word and the faith to suit themselves. Jesus came to straighten them out. He came to take the bends out of their thinking and put them on the direct way of truth. He came to straighten crooked theology, bent deeds, and bowed religion. Yes, all need the straight and narrow and Jesus came to put us on that path!

Jesus came to smooth out the rough spots. Where many had been taught and had lived a rough faith out of ignorance, a lot of folk had been misinformed about how to know God and how to worship Him. Jesus came to straighten that out. Yes, even today, Jesus is meeting with the misinformed and leading them to truly know God in Him!

Finally, Jesus came not only to straighten out the Jews but to make a way for “all flesh” to experience the salvation of God. At the core of John’s message was that we should get ready for that. That same message is still good today. We had better seek a filling from Him while there is time. We had better humble ourselves before it is too late and He humbles us. We had better check the bent parts of our lives and get them straight before He does. We had better settle for no less than straight instruction from the Master; that means we should supplement listening to preachers and knuckleheads like me with personal Bible study mixed with a lot of prayer.

Here’s the point…John was telling the world to get the junk cleared out of the way for the Savior was drawing nigh. Good advice then and still good today. The less junk, the more room. The more room, the bigger the throne. The bigger the throne, the more exalted the King. Give room in your life for THE KING! Repent…get rid of the junk…make more room for Jesus!

Ministry Newsletter, Part 1

Ministry Newsletter, Part 2

Ministry Newsletter, Part 3

Volunteer Newsletter, Part 1

Just click on the image and it'll get big! Why, that there thing will get big enough to see jes fine!

Volunteer Newsletter, Part 2

Volunteer Newsletter, Part 3

Volunteer Newsletter, Part 4

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Luke #31 - The Voice

Luke #31 – The Voice

“And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight’” (Luke 3:3-4 – King James Version).

I once had an interim pastor who was “old school” in his preaching. For example, he might say, “We better obey the Lord-ah!” It was that “ah” on the end that messed me up! It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it. Now don’t get me wrong, there was NOTHING wrong with the way that man preached; I just wasn’t used to it. As a matter of fact, his name was Reverend Groff and he could flat shuck the corn! That brother was anointed of the Lord and delivered a word from God with authority and power every week. He was my pastor when I left my home church to begin full time gospel ministry. I hated to stop hearing his preaching. The point I was getting to was this; Rev. Groff’s speech pattern, his being older, his difference in style and delivery…NONE of that mattered…he was called by God to preach and it was the message that mattered, not the man.

I want to concentrate on two words today: “the voice.” The Scripture that Dr. Luke in 3:4-6 is quoting was a prophecy of Isaiah (Esaias) from 40:3-5. Those two little words, “the voice,” put the emphasis on the work instead of the worker. This is the lesson for today.

We could certainly write a biographical account of John the Baptist that would wow any Bible student or churchman. He was flamboyant, different, and had personality. In doing that we may lose sight of the most important thing, which was “the voice”; the message.

Our concentration should be spent upon the voice, not the man. To concentrate on the man would draw us into the world’s criteria for worth or success. Now, don’t get me wrong, John was a man worth noting; a man of faith worth emulating. Still, there is a “voice” that is more important. There is a message from God in that voice more important than the man. John’s message was to speak against the pride of the Pharisees, the indifference of other religious leaders like the Sadducees, and to speak against the apathy and falsehood of the people at large. To concentrate on the man may cause us to forget the message.

Too many times today we follow preachers. I have seen folks leave churches because the preacher left. That’s wrong. What in the world were they going to the church for anyway? To see a celebrity? To follow a man? To hear a slick presentation?

Too many times today we find fault in the speaker. He is too loud. He is too quiet. He doesn’t do this or he doesn’t do that. He dresses funny. He is not as flamboyant as the last preacher. He is too flamboyant. He is dry. He is boring. Boy howdy…I have heard them all! I believe if we concentrate on the message, instead of the speaker, we will hear a word from God.

The voice is what is important. If that voice speaks by the leading of the Holy Spirit and sticks faithfully to the truth found in Scripture, then that voice is simply God’s loudspeaker. It is, after all, God who we need to hear from. If God can use a donkey to speak His message (Numbers 22:22-35), then He can surely use a preacher whom we find fault with. God desires to speak to buildings full of people every week through all kinds of preachers. Do we desire to hear? On the same token, God desires to take faulty folks, like you and me, and speak His message through us. He desires to use a “voice”. Will you be one?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Luke #30 - Sanctified, Set Apart, and Different

Luke #30 – Sanctified, Set Apart, and Different

“The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:2b-3 – King James Version).

I know I have told you before, but I was convicted of my sins at the age of eight and knew that Christ was the only answer for that bondage. It took seventeen years for me to surrender to Him. Thank God Almighty that He kept the conviction upon me, for without that shame He gave me I don’t think I would have ever turned to Him. One of the main reasons that I would not turn to Christ was that I understood that my lifestyle and attitude had to change. I was convicted of that at eight. How do you think I felt at eighteen? At twenty-five? Not only was the conviction sharper and more intense, but the habits I had at eight had multiplied and deepened. Where at eight I was a braggart and proud, at twenty-five I was a drunkard, a liar, adulterous, prideful, deceitful, slanderous, foul-tempered, selfish…the list could go on and on. Now friends I tell you truthfully that I don’t like remembering these things accept where I can assure someone that God can forgive anything and heal even the most wicked of sinners, of whom I am chief. My problem was that I did not want to let go of these things. All of these sinful attitudes and habits had been infused into my life; had become part of who I was. For the most part I had found a way, at least in my mind, to justify them. I convinced myself that none of these things were my fault and those things that were my fault I convinced myself were all right. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew that to know God meant that He would give me new life and that the old life had to pass away. That was hard to swallow!

John the Baptist preached repentance. People don’t seem to like that message. It is a hard message to hear; that we must change. The common argument today seems to be stated this way: “Jesus was forgiving and accepting of every lifestyle.” Well…Jesus was forgiving, but He would tell the person “Go and sin no more.” Another popular argument is stated in this way: “God would want me to be happy.” PHOOOOEY! God would never want a person to be happy if being happy meant living in sin. Take homosexuality for example; it’s a sin and God simply does not approve of any kind of sin. The person coming to Christ MUST realize that. They MUST turn away from that kind of lifestyle. Does that mean they will NEVER struggle with it again? No, and it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. The church gossip must turn away from that sin as well. The sin of gossip and homosexuality are the same in God’s eyes.

Repentance was John’s message. He wanted people to be prepared to know Christ and serve Him. To do that meant they had to turn from sin. To turn from sin is to turn to God. Yes, a person can straighten up and live moral, but without turning to Christ the guilt of sin is still upon that one. To turn to God is to turn from sin. Yes, a person can think about God, try to talk to God, and even go to church, but if they do not confess their sin and seek God’s forgiveness they have not really turned to God at all. And don’t think confessing is good enough…it must be partnered with forsaking those sins as well. The person that tells me they have turn to God but not did their dead level best to turn from sin has not met Holy God.

To be a Christian does not mean walking a church aisle, reciting after the preacher, getting dunked in the baptistery, and having your name put on a church role. To be a Christian means to trust Christ with everything…it is a transformed life! Listen now, if you are out there today reading this and you think you are a Christian just because you got dunked after VBS one year or sprinkled after confirmation, check yourself. Why you can dunk a donut…does that make it a Christian. You can sprinkle your lawn…does that make it a Christian? I mean it with the utmost love. There has to be change! Are you different? What work has Christ done in your and heart?

The Christian is set apart; different from the world. John the Baptist was set apart from religious society. He ministered in the wilderness by a river, not in Jerusalem at the temple. He ate locust, drank honey and dressed weird. Did that set him apart? No, he lived in such a strange fashion because he was already set apart.

Will going to a Christian school make you set apart? Will not cussing make you set apart? Will reading your Bible make you set apart? Will attending church make you set apart? Will not cheating on your taxes make you set apart? Will not drinking set you apart? Will telling people about Jesus set you apart? Will getting baptized set you apart? Will joining the church set you apart? Will teaching Sunday School set you apart? NO, NO, NO! Any of those things can be done in the power of the flesh. What we should experience is a desire to do those things AFTER meeting Christ, becoming transformed and letting HIM set us apart with forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We won’t even desire to serve God until we are set apart. Read Isaiah 6; it’s the account of Isaiah’s calling. Isaiah met the Lord and realized how sinful he was. God cleansed him…set Isaiah apart…and Isaiah’s response was a resounding, “Send me!”

Trust me on this one…better yet, trust Jesus…He will take our heavy yoke (the one we don’t want to put down) and trade us a lighter one. That being said, we can’t do it our way. We must repent, be changed, be set apart, and be different from the world around us. After all, is God like us? If He is truly at work in us, we will become more and more like Him all the time. When that happens we will continually become less like our old selves and less like this world.

It WILL be hard to let go of sinful thoughts, attitudes, and habits that we have come to embrace, but God is the trade off…now that’s a good deal! Are you sanctified? Are you set apart? Are you different? Has knowing Christ meant only church attendance, or public morality, or is it your “get out of hell free card”? If that’s all He is to you, repent. That’s not relationship and that’s what He desires. Experiencing God requires change. The question before us is simple: “Will we turn from our way and turn to God?”

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Luke #29 - Fame and Faith

Luke #29 – Fame and Faith

“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2 – King James Version).

My Granddaddy Bowes was a regular guy. He worked for the Department of Transportation for the state of Virginia for thirty-seven years. He worked on automobiles and tractors in a little shop in front of his house every day after he got home from his regular job. He liked to hunt deer. He loved baseball and NASCAR racing. He held no titles. He couldn’t read. He was one of the smartest men I have ever known. He was my greatest hero outside of my Savior Jesus Christ. He never said a lot to me, but I seem to remember many of the things he did say. Watching Granddaddy was a hobby of mine. I scrutinized every thing he did; not looking for fault, but trying to be like him. He was worth emulating. One hundred years after Granddaddy has been dead there will be no history books reporting about his life, but he certainly wrote a record on mine.

Luke 3 opens with a list of fellows that I believe Luke used to give us time line for the period that things were happening. I also believe that Luke informed us of who the leaders were that we might be able to understand the climate that surrounded the events that were about to take place. You can find many records of most of these fellows listed. Some archaeological findings have been uncovered that show that history and the Bible are correct in identifying these guys and dating there time in power in their various roles.

There is listed here a group of rulers who go done in history for their various roles in the Roman Empire and Jewish history. Tiberius is noted for being the Caesar at that time; notable enough. Pilate, as most Bible students know, was the Roman ruler over the Judean province; notable enough. Herod Antipas and Philip ruled their areas; notable enough. Perhaps the most notable thing about those last two was that they survived their crazy and cruel father Herod the Great. There is also listed Lysanias who had powers equal to Pilate, Philip, and Herod Antipas; notable enough.

Another interesting story in all of this is the two High Priests. Annas was the son-in-law of Caiaphas and the High Priest that Rome chose to supersede Caiaphas, so Annas was the government's choice for High Priest. Caiaphas was the High Priest in the people's eyes. In effect there were two High Priests; one chosen by the Jews and another chosen by their conquerors. That's pretty notable, wouldn't you say?

Most notable in these two verses is John the Baptist. Did people choose him? NO! God did! Now, THAT'S notable. He upstaged both High Priests and people paid more attention to his ministry than to EITHER High Priest. He called Herod Antipas' sin what it was and was beheaded for that. He did not leave this world with a great title nor did people recognize him for the office he held. He came to recognition because John was a called man of God doing what God called him to do. Greatness is not measured by what we have or what title we own but by the faith we have in God.

I admire people like my Granddaddy and John. Their lives are not astounding by the world's record, but both were men of faith living for the Lord without any recognition by the world. Those other fellows in the above verses are known for their fame as rulers. John is known for his faith and obedience to God. Which would you have today?

Would you rather have recognition from the world for worldly things that will be destroyed OR would you have approval from God who is eternal? Do you want to go down in history as famous or faithful? With fame the world may know your name for centuries. With faith the heavens will know it forever. If I had to choose between the history book or the Book of Life...hands down...I want my name in the Book of Life.

"Not OFfended by the Vatican" by Al Mohler

Not Offended by the Vatican

Albert Mohler

President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Aren't you offended? That is the question many Evangelicals are being asked in the wake of a recent document released by the Vatican. The document declares that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church -- or, in words the Vatican would prefer to use, the only institutional form in which the Church of Christ subsists.

No, I am not offended. In the first place, I am not offended because this is not an an issue in which emotion should play a key role. This is a theological question, and our response should be theological, not emotional. Secondly, I am not offended because I am not surprised. No one familiar with the statements of the Roman Catholic Magisterium should be surprised by this development. This is not news in any genuine sense. It is news only in the current context of Vatican statements and ecumenical relations. Thirdly, I am not offended because this new document actually brings attention to the crucial issues of ecclesiology, and thus it presents us with an opportunity.

The Vatican document is very brief -- just a few paragraphs in fact. It's official title is "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church," and it was released by the Vatican's Congregation for the Defense of the Faith on June 29 of this year. Though many media sources have identified the document as a papal statement from Pope Benedict XVI, it is actually a statement from the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith that was later approved for release by the Pope (who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, headed this Congregation prior to assuming the papacy).

The document claims a unique legitimacy for the Roman Catholic Church as the church established by Christ. The document stakes this identity on a claim to apostolic succession, centered in the papacy itself. As the document states, "This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him."

Lest anyone miss the point, the document then goes on to acknowledge that the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy also stake a claim to apostolic succession, and thus they are referred to as "Churches" by the Vatican. As for the churches born in whatever form out of the Reformation -- they are not true churches at all, only "ecclesial communities."

Look at this:

According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense.

Pope Benedict was already in hot water with the media because of his recent decision related to the (limited) reinstitution of the Latin mass, complete with a call for the conversion of the Jews. He was not likely to be named "Ecumenist of the Year" anyway. This latest controversy just adds to the media impression of big changes at the Vatican under the current papacy.

There have been changes for sure. Benedict is truly a doctrinal theologian, whereas his popular predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was more a philosopher by academic training. Those familiar with the current pope know of his frustration with the tendency of liberal Catholic theologians and laypersons to insist that the Second Vatican Council (known popularly as "Vatican II") represented a massive shift (to the left) in Catholic doctrine. Not so, insisted Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith. Now, as Pope, Benedict is in a position to shape his argument into a universal policy for his church. Vatican II, he insists, represented only a deepening and reapplication of unchanging Catholic doctrine.

Evangelicals should appreciate the candor reflected in this document. There is no effort here to confuse the issues. To the contrary, the document is an obvious attempt to set the record straight. The Roman Catholic Church does not deny that Christ is working redemptively through Protestant and evangelical churches, but it does deny that these churches which deny the authority of the papacy are true churches in the most important sense. The true church, in other words, is that church identified through the recognition of the papacy. Those churches that deny or fail to recognize the papacy are "ecclesial Communities," not churches "in the proper sense."

I appreciate the document's clarity on this issue. It all comes down to this -- the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Pope as the universal monarch of the church is the defining issue. Roman Catholics and Evangelicals should together recognize the importance of that claim. We should together realize and admit that this is an issue worthy of division. The Roman Catholic Church is willing to go so far as to assert that any church that denies the papacy is no true church. Evangelicals should be equally candid in asserting that any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. This is not a theological game for children, it is the honest recognition of the importance of the question.

The Reformers and their heirs put their lives on the line in order to stake this claim. In this era of confusion and theological laxity we often forget that this was one of the defining issues of the Reformation itself. Both the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church staked their claim to be the true church -- and both revealed their most essential convictions in making their argument. As Martin Luther and John Calvin both made clear, the first mark of the true Church is the ministry of the Word -- the preaching of the Gospel. The Reformers indicted the Roman Catholic Church for failing to exhibit this mark, and thus failing to be a true Church. The Catholic church returned the favor, defining the church in terms of the papacy and magisterial authority. Those claims have not changed.

I also appreciate the spiritual concern reflected in this document. The artificial and deadly dangerous game of ecumenical confusion has obscured issues of grave concern for our souls. I truly believe that Pope Benedict and the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith are concerned for our evangelical souls and our evangelical congregations. Pope Benedict is not playing a game. He is not asserting a claim to primacy on the playground. He, along with the Magisterium of his church, believes that Protestant churches are gravely defective and that our souls are in danger. His sacramental theology plays a large role in this concern, for he believes and teaches that a church without submission to the papacy has no guaranteed efficacy for its sacraments (this point, by the way, explains why the Protestant churches that claim a sacramental theology are more concerned about this Vatican statement -- it denies the basic validity of their sacraments).

I actually appreciate the Pope's concern. If he is right, we are endangering our souls and the souls of our church members. Of course, I am convinced that he is not right -- not right on the papacy, not right on the sacraments, not right on the priesthood, not right on the Gospel, not right on the church.

The Roman Catholic Church believes we are in spiritual danger for obstinately and disobediently excluding ourselves from submission to its universal claims and its papacy. Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for their submission to these very claims. We both understand what is at stake.

The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, responded to the press by saying that the Vatican's "exclusive claims" are "troubling." He also said, "what may have been meant to clarify has caused pain."

I will let Bishop Hanson explain his pain. I do not see this new Vatican statement as an innovation or an insult. I see it as a clarification and a helpful demarcation of the issues at stake.

I appreciate the Roman Catholic Church's candor on this issue, and I believe that Evangelical Christians, with equal respect and clarity, should respond in kind. This is a time to be respectfully candid -- not a time to be offended.

© All rights reserved, Used with permission.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. He is a theologian and ordained minister, as well as an author, speaker and host of his own radio program The Albert Mohler Program

Luke #28 – How to be a Great Kid and an Excellent Christian

Luke #28 – How to be a Great Kid and an Excellent Christian

“And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:51-52 – King James Version).

Trying to get me in line as a kid was like trying to get a knot to go with the grain. Looking back now I wished I had given my parents less grief. Hindsight is exactly what they call it…twenty-twenty. I would do stupid things just to aggravate my dad. He hated for someone to sit in his recliner right before he got into it, so naturally I’d sit in it. He’d bellow, “Get out of my chair! You’re making it hot!” (I still do that to my dad, but it’s to be funny not rebellious now.) “Don’t smoke; it’ll kill you!” he might say. What did I do? Smoke, of course, reaching four packs a day before I quit. He went away for the weekend one time and before dad left he said, “Don’t touch my truck except to wash it.” Of course, you guessed it, I went mudding on it. I did wash it, but only after I’d gotten it dirty. I could tell you a million stories; some funny, some sad, and some that make me feel ashamed down to my bones. I was not an obedient child. Whew…I tell you one thing, looking at those two little girls of mine makes me awfully scared when I know the Bible says you reap what you sow.

Today’s passage is another one of those that gives us a peek into what the smart folk call “Jesus’ silent years.” Those years are the years between His early life and the time His public ministry began. We see here very clearly what Jesus did during those years. He obeyed His mom and Joseph and grew. Jesus grew in four ways: in wisdom (mentally); in stature (physically); in favor with God (spiritually); and in favor with man (socially). That is a list that would keep most any person busy!

A few things: read the Scripture carefully. You will never find an independent spirit in Christ Jesus. He was most interested in God’s will. Part of God’s will is being subject to our parents. Though Jesus was God in the flesh, He felt no need to assert Himself over His parents. The only time He did was the two three times that His family did not understand what He was doing…it is important to note that those three times were times He was directly in His Father’s will. Those three times were when He was in the temple at age twelve, when Mary wanted Jesus to make more wine, and when Mary and Jesus’ brothers wanted to get through a crowd to see Him. (I am not telling you where to find those references! Do the work!) Also note this; Jesus was not rebelling in those times, rather He was simply about His Father’s business. Children need to heed Jesus’ example. If it was good enough for Jesus, then it should be good enough for us too. AND, Christians should be careful to remember that we are God’s children and to take the example of our Savior to heart as well. Today’s society seems to appreciate independent spirits. God honors obedient children. Which is your desire? Do you want to be honored by the world today and humbled by God later OR humbled before God today and rejected or misunderstood by the world? Choose carefully dear friend.

Secondly, every Christian person would do well to remember that our first ministry, most important ministry and most blessed ministry is to be the home. Whether you are a young person reading this or a parent or a spouse the most important thing you can do is take care of business at home. Don’t you forget that friend, not for anything.

Third; spend your time making your mind stronger. Romans 12:2 tells us to renew our mind daily. Spend your time making your body healthier. God gave you a horse and a message. Don’t kill the horse before you deliver the message. Spend your time growing spiritually by tending to the things of God. Spend your time being winsome to the world around you. Folks are regular dying and going to hell everyday; we need to be attractive (truly, not putting on a show) so that they may see the Christ in us. Mary watched every thing Jesus did and “kept” those things in her “heart”. A lost world is watching each of us every day.

Attend to all of these things and you can pretty much bet that you will not find stories of your life written in The New York Times, but you will be a great kid and an excellent Christian. I cannot go back and undo my rebellious childhood. Neither can you. What I can do is live like the changed man Christ has made me into. So here begins a new day of sowing. I pray to God that tomorrow is a better day of reaping.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Praises and Pleas

Youth for Christ Roxboro Aug 15, 2007

Taste! See? The Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. Lions
may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Ps 34.8-10

Praises: Lord, we know we lack no good thing because we have You; You are SO
good; thank You, Lord, for providing loving donors to give just enough money
to pay the bills during this dry, dry summer; and for the staff’s spiritual
revival as they wait on You each day for provision; for summer interns who
said this was the best summer of their lives for growth in Christ; for
Intern Amy Edlund wanting so badly to continue working for You at the
Warehouse that she is raising support for the rest of the year (we’ve been
praying for someone to help us reach gals for quite awhile); for policemen
showing up at just the right moment to catch Justin and Calvin King so they
didn’t get away with breaking into the Warehouse (may You redirect their
lives because of this, Lord); for the Christian plumber donating his time to
plumb OMC’s lodge in Maggie Valley

TODAY'S KLOVE ENCOURAGING WORD - 8/15/2007 We are pressed on every side
by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to
despair. --2 Corinthians 4:8, NLT

Pleas: for the Skateboard competition and Back to School party tomorrow to
reach more kids than ever for You, Lord; open their ears to hear that You
love them through the messages given in music, testimony and food, and help
their hearts love You in return (DW); for our supporters to be faithful when
You call them to give to YFCR; for the golf Birdie Challenge to raise
$15,000 and more friends for the ministry; for volunteers who want to go
deeper with teens in Campus Life small groups this fall; for all Tim’s books
to sell; for hard-working volunteers to help finish Outdoor Mission Camp’s
lodge; for 15 board members and 7 prayer Wed morning warriors

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Luke #27 – Mind HIS Business!

Luke #27 – Mind HIS Business!

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it. But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, ‘Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.’ And He said unto them, ‘How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?’ And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them” (Luke 2:41-50 – King James Version).

I have found that the four favorite subjects of most church folk are the biggest cause of problems in the church today. The first subject is nothing. Church folk spend more time talking about nothing than any other group of folks I have ever met. My pastor calls it “church chit-chat”. That is the kind of talk that people use to avoid revealing anything about themselves or avoid opening up to one another.

The second kind is worldly talk. That’s the kind of conversation that is consumed with temporal junk. Not to say a church people cannot talk about music, books, or whatever…I am simply saying that we spend too much time talking about things that won’t last. Of course, one of my favorite sayings is “whatever is in the well will come up in the bucket.”

The third kind is whining. It is MY OBSERVATION that church folk complain more than anyone I have ever known. That catches me as strange. For a people that claim that all of eternity has been handed to them and that Jesus means so much it seems strange that we have a lot to complain about.

The fourth kind is gossip. This kills me! Folk need to learn to mind their own business! Folk need to learn to speak the truth in love. More damage is done to unity in a body of church people by gossip than any other thing. Gossip is cowardly and useless. If you have something to say about somebody be sure you have had the courage to say it to them first.

There are several other subjects that I will leave off of this list, but these are the most notable. Now I believe in straight talk and I want us to receive some healing from this devotion. There is a pair of things that will cure all of this and they go hand-in-hand. They are personal holiness and Kingdom focus.

We get an example of this in Jesus today. Today’s Scripture is the famous account of the twelve year old Jesus interacting with the religious teachers in the temple. Jesus was concentrating on God’s will and it caused two things that I want to point out.

Jesus was so concentrated on God’s will and God’s business that He had no time to get caught up in anything else. Age differences didn’t matter to Jesus. He sat with His elders talking about the things of God. Suddenly it did not matter who was older and who was younger. Cultural differences didn’t make a difference to Jesus as He concentrated on God’s business. He was from Galilee, an area known to produce people of an unrefined nature. Galileans were generally not liked by Judeans, but that didn’t matter as they concentrated on God together. Education levels did not matter to Jesus as He concentrated on God’s will. I am sure those fellows that Jesus talked with had more formal education that He did. They weren’t talking about formal education; they were talking about God. I also have to think that while most boys (and grown people) were out enjoying the festivities of the Passover season that Jesus did not miss anything really important because He was focused on His Father’s business. Take a lesson from this! Concentrate on God’s business and I guarantee that we won’t get caught up in a bunch of mess.

Jesus was misunderstood because of this. His mother and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was doing, but He didn’t care. He was about His Father’s business. Do you want to get released from caring about what others think of you? Concentrate on God’s business more than your own image and you won’t care what others think of you. You will care more about what God thinks. Sure, if we do that we will be misunderstood but who cares?

I said in the beginning that “church folk” have some subjects that really goof some things up. I said that because not all “church folk” are Jesus’ folks. Christian folk aren’t perfect by any means, but we should not be defined by trifling talk; we should be defined by our likeness to Christ. His main goal and focus was God’s will. Can the same be said of us today? If we truly begin to focus primarily on the things of God it will cure gossip, worldliness, complaining, and conversations and activities that amount to nothing. Jesus did not care what people thought of Him because His image was not His primary concern, glorifying God was. Whose image are you concentrating on today; yours or God’s? How different would our lives be if we only got offended when God was offended? With love, I beg all with ears to hear to MIND HIS BUSINESS! It will do wonders for the Kingdom, your congregation and your own life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Luke #26 - In the Meantime

Luke #26 – In the Meantime

“And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:39-40 – King James Version).

The moment I was saved I knew that God had something in store for me. I’d been through too many harrowing episodes and been delivered too many times to think otherwise. I ought to have been killed several times and probably should have been locked under a jail somewhere. Sure enough, about three years after I accepted Christ I felt a clear call into Gospel ministry. It was not a frustrating three years, nor was it confusing. Sure, I wanted to know what God’s plan for me was but I was smart enough to know I had to grow into a stronger Christian and had to grow into God’s purposes. I also knew that until God gave me specific instruction that He had left a pile of instructions for every Christian in His word; enough to keep me plenty busy in the meantime. Even after I accepted God’s call I didn’t know exactly where or what He’d have me do; I only knew to do whatever He put right in front of me until He revealed to me otherwise.

There are probably a lot of Christian’s that wonder about Jesus’ childhood. I know I have. Careful study of the Scripture will explain a lot of His early years on earth. By reading all the Gospels we can find out much about what Jesus did and where He went. By common sense alone we can determine that if John was to be the herald of the Messiah, then John would have to grow up and into the role God would have him perform. If Christ’s ministry on earth was to be preceded by a herald, then He had to wait until that herald was ready to do the heralding.

Today’s passage is one of those that clear up some of Jesus’ childhood life. He grew up! His body got bigger and stronger. His mind developed. He lived in Nazareth. He experienced God.

Now that may not mean much at first glance, but upon closer inspection I see a big lesson for us and an easy one too. It is a lesson both in waiting and doing.

When Elizabeth Elliot heard that her missionary husband, Jim, had been killed by Auca Indians, she washed the dishes. When someone asked her why she did that, Mrs. Elliot replied, “It was the next thing that needed to be done.” Friend, that’s what we must do; the next thing. Jesus’ family did what the law required and went home. That was their next thing. Jesus grew up. His body got bigger and His mind grew stronger. He had the hand of the Father upon Him and experience God’s grace. That was His next thing.

God has a purpose for all that He draws into the Kingdom. Until He lets each of know what that may be, we can give heed to His word; do the things found within. We can perform ministry, grow in knowledge, spend time with God…all a list of “next things” that should keep us busy for quite a while.

Did Jesus do those things in some distant land? No; He did them right there in His parent’s hometown. There’s another great lesson. We can do the next thing right where we are. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s harder to do and more important to do right where we are than in some far away place where we are not known and cannot be held accountable by our peers.

Little of our story will be recorded. In comparison with what we know of Jesus, there is much we do not know. Our peers will know little of what we do, but if we are faithful in doing the next thing that God puts in front of us He will certainly know it. In the big scheme of things, who else really matters?

Does God have some special mission, ministry, or calling for you? I’d be willing to say He does. Until you know; until He reveals it; until His timing is right; what will you do in the meantime?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Little Known Fact About Me

Johnson Mountain Boys
Hanover, Massachusetts, 1981

Sure, I loved Guns-n-Roses, Megadeth, AC/DC, Metallica and many other hard rock bands. Most people who knew me "back in the day" knew that was the stuff I listened to a lot. If you really knew me you know I loved 70s rock a lot more. Though 99% of the music I listen to know is Christian, I still think Lynyrd Skynyrd is the best band of all time. I loved to listen to the Beach Boys too, but VERY few people knew that about me. I loved OLD R&B and Motown stuff. My mom and I loved to listen to Elvis Presley and one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time was a Jerry Lee Lewis cassette. (All time favorite was the THREE times -- one album and two cassettes -- I received "Second Helping" by LS -- I kept wearing copies out...I now own it on CD for the second time.)

I digress...or, I'm not so sure you can do that on your own blogspot...

The point to all of this is the band pictured above. Because, though LS is the best band, the best music - hands down - of all time is Bluegrass. I loved, and still love Bluegrass music. The Johnson Mountain Boys were the MARK for me during my late childhood and all through my teens (throw Seldom Scene in with them too). What I loved about JMB was two things: Dudley Connell's voice made me realize that Bluegrass is the white man's blues...which is nothing more than the story of a good man having a bad time. It's the grit; the truth and the horror wrapped around a melody and driven by a beat that slays me. It's stories told well by acoustic readers. It's simple folk's lives put to music. That's me and nobody put a voice to it better than Dudley Connell. Besides Connell's voice, it was the group's art: traditional bluegrass sound with fresh songs. EVERY BODY hashed out classic Bluegrass tunes. They are hard to improve on, and no amount of studio tomfoolery can make them better. So, JMB took it to the next level. They gave us trustworthy, down-home style in BRAND NEW songs. I was amazed!

It opened my mind to the possibilities of Bluegrass when I was on the verge of giving up.

What's this got to do with anything?

Nothing. It's just my life.

I VIVIDLY remember hearing that JMB disbanded and becoming emotionally and physically sad. Then I remembered the beauty of the craft is that, just like great old songs, great musicians are forever recycled in Bluegrass. Rock bands crash and burn or become irrelevant...Bluegrass folks just keep on keeping on!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dry Branch Fire Squad

L to R: Dan Russell, Brian Aldridge, Tom Boyd, Ron Thomason

So, I know a few of my friends read my blog from time to time. I was listening to DRFS today and just thought, "Wow, I love these crazy guys. I should tell more people about them." So, here I is doing just that very thing.

IF you do get the notion to check these guys out, BUY THIS ALBUM first. Ron Thomason tells these ridiculously funny stories (and some heartwarming stories as well) in between songs during live performances. You will love their style and their flair; you will love their music, charm and wit. Give DBFS a try!

Parents can help teens stay in church

The following is another great article from Baptist Press. Please click on link to read the article in it's original form

Parents can help teens stay in church

Posted on Aug 7, 2007 | by Mark Kelly NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Parents and churches together can help their teenagers decide to stay in church as young adults, new research from LifeWay Christian Resources indicates.

Despite appearances, teens do want guidance when it comes to the decisions they face in everyday life, and parents and churches who meet those needs make it more likely those teens will stay in church as young adults, according to the survey of more than 1,000 adults ages 18-30. LifeWay Research conducted the survey in April and May 2007.

While the study revealed that 70 percent of young adults ages 23 to 30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between 18 and 22, it also indicated several tangible ways parents and churches could make them more likely to stay in church.


Two-thirds of the teens who stay in church as young adults describe the church as "a vital part of my relationship with God" –- demonstrating the importance of each teen having a strong relationship with God, as well as the importance of church attendance, said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

"Teens are looking for more from a youth ministry than a holding tank with pizza," Stetzer said. "They look for a church that teaches them how to live life. As they enter young adulthood, church involvement that has made a difference in their lives gives them a powerful reason to keep attending."

By ages 18-22, attending church has become a matter of choice -– and young adults can be very pragmatic in making that choice, added Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research.

"Gone are the days in which young adults attend because they are 'supposed to,'" McConnell said. "Only 10 percent of those who continued attending church did so to please others. Young adults whose faith truly became integrated into their life as teens are much more likely to stay in church. If church did not prove its value during their teen years, young adults won't want to attend -– and won't attend."


Teens who find their pastor's sermons relevant to everyday life also are more likely to keep attending as young adults, the research indicated. Sixty-three percent of those who stayed in church said their pastors’ sermons were relevant. A similar margin said the worship style of the church they attended as teens was appealing to them.

"Attending worship is the basic level of involvement for most who attend church at all. Many never add to or go beyond this as teens," McConnell said. "If as teens they can't relate to the sermons at their church or don't enjoy the worship style, then as young adults they can easily fall away from their only connection to the church.

"While it is a constant challenge for a pastor to communicate biblical truth to multiple generations simultaneously, the importance of targeting teens with the message is clear," McConnell added.


Teens who had adults from church make a significant time investment in their lives also were more likely to keep attending church. Forty-six percent of those who stayed in church said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.

"The Bible teaches that older women should mentor and invest their lives in younger women. Clearly, this holds true for both of the sexes," Stetzer said. "When adults pour their lives into young adults, both are better for it."

Meaningful relationships with adults at church helps teenagers see church as a place they belong, McConnell said.

"Investment time in young people lives out the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible way," he said. "It proves that a young person belongs at church. It can help connect the dots to help a teen integrate their faith into their life. And it gives the teen a connection to church after graduation when many of their peers are no longer around.

"Anybody wondering if they can make a difference can stop wondering," McConnell noted. "One Sunday school teacher, one chaperone, one discussion leader, one person at church who clearly cares can impact the course of a teen’s spiritual journey."


Teens who, at age 17, have parents who are authentic examples of Christian faith -- proactive and consistent in living out their faith -– also are more likely to keep attending as young adults. Across the board, 20 percent more of those who stayed in church indicated they had parents or family members who discussed spiritual things, gave them spiritual guidance and prayed together.

"Despite the conflicts that often occur during these years, it is difficult to understate the impact of a solid family involved in the faith community on the future involvement of teens," Stetzer said. "And that isn’t something that can be faked."

Youth are experts at noticing inconsistencies between what parents say and do, McConnell added.

"Simply attending church is a positive influence toward the teen continuing as a young adult," he said. "However, any sign that parents have second thoughts is a negative influence. These seeds of doubt include only one parent attending, parents not agreeing on a denomination, and a gap between beliefs at church and life in the home."

Of course, many factors in a teen's life are beyond the control of both parents and church leaders, McConnell noted.

"Many teens have parents who are separated or divorced," he said. "A church's worship style won't and can't appeal to everyone. But this is an exciting study because it shows there are several tangible things parents and churches can do to prepare teens to want to stay in church."

While parents and church members can have a real impact on keeping young adults in church, they don’t control the decision, Stetzer added.

"Whether teens are bombarded with positive or negative influences about church, they all make their own decisions about whether to continue or stop attending," he said. "This study shows the benefit of parents and church members faithfully doing their part, but in the final analysis, we must leave it in the hands of God to work in their lives."

To listen to a podcast with Stetzer and McConnell discussing the research with leaders who serve in student and collegiate ministry, go to

Telling Article from Lifeway....

Click on the link to read the article named: Study looks at college age church dropouts

This great article brought to us by: Baptist Press of Nashville, TN

Erin Glillespie toon

Another rendering from my friend, Erin. Check out Erin's website ( and blog (

Friday Fragments from YFC/USA President, Dan Wolgemuth

August 10, 2007

The verdict hasn’t been completely established at this point, but it seems that some combination of weight and weakness proved lethal in downtown Minneapolis. The bridge over the Mississippi River fractured when a point of failure and vulnerability was exposed.

Undoubtedly it will take months to determine the exact cause, but each day more speculation exists that the combination of construction equipment weight, and growing weaknesses in the bridge collided. The result created a cascade of disaster that rippled through the entire river span. Even areas of strength crumbled when points of dependency failed in catastrophic proportion. Cars, buses and trucks were tossed from the bridge as those that trusted the infrastructure were impacted by the breach.

The scenario is all too familiar. The lethal combination is much too frequently repeated. Weight and weakness collide, an infrastructure collapses and lives, families, children, organizations, neighborhoods are tossed into chaos.

A flaw is exposed before it is dealt with… the pressure and opportunity of everyday life press into the crack and disaster is the result.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
~ Psalm 139:23-24

God understands the need for inspection. He loves us enough to want full disclosure before we experience full disaster.

When weakness intersects with the weight of everyday living… innocent people are flung from the bridge. Unsuspecting individuals are caught in the chaos. Disaster.

Is it time to double check the spans in your life? The disastrous metaphor is much too poignant to miss. Yes, dear Lord, “Search me,” expose the points of weakness. Relieve the stress points. Then lead me. I trust you. I need you.

Back from F-L-A; News from the Southern Area Conference

Photos of Sand Key Park (beach) near our hotel taken from internet. Care and the girls went to the beach for about 30 minutes one day. It was nearby, but Katie and Rachel (especially Rachel) abhor the beach. They, and in a larger context, we, had more time to go, but with the girls hating the beach so much, we didn't go back.

I am super glad I went and super glad I'm back!

As you can tell from the photo (right), the accommodations were spare. I don't know how we made it!

Nights in the pool, in particular, were rough (especially watching movies on the big screen while swimming).

Seriously, it was a good conference. We concentrated on abiding in Christ and being pruned during our study times.

Perhaps one of the best times was the time I spent with other Executive Directors from around the South. I already knew a few of them, but was SUPER glad to meet others. North Carolina was well-represented with myself, Wayne George of Greensboro, Hugh Constance of Haywood County and Diana Johnson of Fayetteville. (We missed good ol' Scott Shives of Western North Carolina AND the new fellow from Triangle -- sorry to say I haven't met him and don't know his name.)

I will amend this post with the other EDs names from across the South that I know -- call the red a reminder.

Interim Field Director, Larry Lance, and YFC-USA President, Dan Wolgemuth had a breakfast just for the EDs. One of the best things I have ever heard in my life was, after asking EDs to share their prayer concerns, Mr. Wolgemuth saying that he gladly scrapped his agenda so that he could hear from the EDs hearts. I think he planned on giving us a "state of the union" type address, but chose to hear from us instead of talking to us. That was good leadership.

The best part of the whole adventure was that I was able to take my family. Not only that, but the SAC leadership teams seemed to have the foresight to make it family friendly with times built in for family AND for YFC Family.

At any rate, I'm glad I'm home.

Luke #25 - Old and Useful

Luke #25 – Old and Useful

“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38 – King James Version).

Johnny Smith said once how amazed he was that Americans would spend thousands of dollars to tour the Holy Land to look at 2000 year old buildings only to come home and build structures meant to last only twenty years. As he shared with us about the Holy Land I became very interested in looking at pictures of things over there. (I REALLY want to go one day!) What I found very interesting was that many of those buildings that have been standing for over two thousand years are still in use. They are old AND useful. Somehow our American mind doesn’t believe that, or at least it seems that way. Mr. Smith nailed it; we don’t build for the future nor do we appreciate aged things. Sure, we value antiques, but only for monetary value, not for useful value.

When it comes to old people, many times we have a poor attitude as well. Now I know it is not politically correct to call aged people old, but I’m not trying to be politically correct. To me being old does is not a bad thing. My granddaddy used to say “You don’t get old being no fool.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Anyway, I digress; back to the point. We encourage people to retire, to rest, to get away. There’s nothing wrong with retiring from a job, getting rest from a lifetime’s labor, and getting out and seeing the world. Somehow there has become attached to that the thinking that retirement equals the end of usefulness. BAH! That’s what I say! Most old folks have more usefulness in their fingernails than I’ve got in my whole body.

For the Christian person of significant years (how do you like how I said it that time?), there is even more of a wealth of usefulness than can be imagined. That’s what I think of when I read about Anna. She had years of experience, years of knowledge, and most importantly years of faith built inside of her lifetime. We see a culmination of much of that in this passage. Let’s look at five things we can learn from Anna.

First, hardship had built Anna not broken her. Anna had been widowed at a young age; obviously she found comfort in God. She turned her attention to Him and He refreshed and sustained her. Too many people reach the end of their time on earth having become bitter. The one who turns to God in hard times finds comfort and strength. That same one can use that experience to comfort others. One great affliction early in life may bless the one who suffers it until the end. Every experience makes us bitter or better, depending on who or Whom we turn to.

Second, to live a lengthy life means to experience God’s provision for a long time. Too often it is the pains of life that overwhelm us when those very pains may be catalysts that turn us to God. We can experience the world’s emptiness or God’s supply. Again, it depends which way we turn. We may think Poor Anna, all those years without a husband…tsk, tsk, tsk. Anna might have thought How blessed am I?! All my comfort comes from God!

Thirdly, a long life provides more opportunity to serve God. Anna “served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” She didn’t sit around in her lazy-boy watching The Price is Right and counting the hours until the next dose of medicine had to be taken. She served God even (or possibly especially) in her advanced years.

Fourthly, living a long life, and especially a long life with God, brings a special sweetness at the end. When Anna saw the Christ she was thankful; thankful for the wait and thankful for the reward. What she had longed for, the redemption of Israel, was nigh at hand. How good it must have been to receive what she had longed for those many years! I pray that if the Lord sees fit to leave me here a great amount of years that I will be excited about meeting the Lord whom I have served for most of that time.

Lastly, a wealth of years grants a wealth of knowledge. I imagine that Anna was not surprised that Micah 3:1 came true before her very eyes. She long expected, prayed for, and fasted for the redemption of Israel and the coming of the Messiah. She, in her old age, had a great perspective on things to come and was smart enough and spiritually mature enough to see that was exactly what was happening.

If you are young and are reading this take Anna for example and waste no years enjoying the Lord. If you are aged and reading this take Anna for example and serve God…live to the fullest! Old age is no curse. Enjoy God right until the last!

Gospel Sing

Mount Zion United Methodist Church
2nd Walk of Faith Gospel Music Concert

Saturday, August 18, 2007
7:00pm @ Kirby Theater

In Concert:
Sue Dodge
The Hayes Family
Bob & Jeanne Johnson

Tickets ($10 each) available at:
Person to Person Insurance (Main St.);

Roxboro Savings Bank (Main St.);
Lion Oasis Christian Books & Gifts (Chub
Lake Rd.); and Crossroads Christian Bookstore (Depot St.)

Proceed goes to Mt. Zion UMC Building Fund Campaign.