I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have been praying for me. The Lord has been working through my circumstances in so many ways, time will not permit me to describe them at this juncture.
Additionally, I was attempting to have a date night with my wife last Friday night when I tripped over a curb in an unlit portion of a mall parking lot. I fell, managing to dislocate my left shoulder and damage the rotator cuff in the process. My orthopedist outlined a plan of action today that we both hope will allow me to avoid surgery. Pleas pray that this plan will be successful.
In the meantime, life goes on. I am becoming a little more proficient at typing with one hand, God has been blessing our church in a wonderful way and I am closer to my wife than I have ever been.
Also, my latest article is up at Baptist Press Sports. I invite you to check it out and let me know what you think.
For the last three days, my family and I have been in attendance at the Georgia Baptist Convention. This year it was held at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro.
I wish to commend those who planned this year’s meeting. The spirit was absolutely phenomenal, much more so than one would normally expect at a business meeting. While much important business was dealt with, the emphasis seemed to be on refocusing on Christ. The music was the best it has ever been and the preaching was outstanding.
I also would like to congratulate my dad on being elected as one of our vice-presidents. This is a well-deserved honor and I know he will serve our convention well in this new opportunity that God has opened.
For children who grow up in church, it is very easy for them to view it as nothing more than a religion if they never see the evidence of God at work. This fact was brought home to our church in a very real, but positive, way this past week.
Bro. Jackie and his wife were a dear couple in their seventies. After he had a stroke about a year and a half ago, they moved down from Illinois to live with their daughter. The stroke affected his speech and his mobility, causing him to be mostly confined to a motorized wheelchair and leaving his speech somewhat halting. Additionally, he was dealing with Parkinson’s disease and a number of other ailments.
Over the last few months, Bro. Jackie had two or three close calls with death, going in and out of the hospital and nursing home.
Sunday before last, he was able to be in church. It was always a pleasure to see him there. He had a million-watt smile and an obvious hunger for the Word of God. He was one of those people who could make a preacher hurt himself preaching.
At the end of the service, he motored his way down to the altar and requested that I and the elders of the church pray for his healing according to James 5:14. I called the deacons to the front and we gathered around Bro. Jackie and prayed for God’s hand to raise our brother up.
That night, Bro. Jackie slipped into a non-responsive state. Over the next three days his vital signs began to slip and it was obvious that the end was nearing. On Wednesday, about an hour before prayer meeting, he went home to be with the Lord. His family, as well as the church, felt a real sense that God had answered the prayer of faith and given him ultimate healing.
This past Sunday, one of our young boys at church, age 11, approached his Sunday School teacher and told him he needed to be saved. This young man had been raised in church and had actually been baptized at an earlier age. When I talked to him about his decision, he shared with me that his earlier baptism had not been based upon a genuine profession of faith. He further testified that seeing Bro. Jackie come forward for prayer, and then seeing God take him home had convinced him without a doubt that God is real.
Most of us have seen the staggering statistics about 85% of those church members who reach the age of 18 leave church, never to come back. Could it be that in their entire lifetime in church they have never seen God working in a manner that proved His reality? This is certainly not the fault of God as we know that He responds to faith.
The answer to reaching our young people is not another program, trip, rally, camp, car wash or (dare I say it?) class. They need to see real faith in the lives of those who are older, real faith that produces real results from a real God.
Last week was one that was full of blessings. I suppose we could really say that about every week, but this one was especially so.
Our church held Vacation Bible School beginning on Sunday evening. We had an incredible week that was the highest attended we have ever had. The kids were enthusiastic and the adults really worked together as a team. Several good contacts with unchurched families were made. Most importantly, two children placed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
On Tuesday, we got the news that my oldest son, Clay, had received a good report on an unusual mole that had been removed from his back a couple of weeks ago. The doctor said that it was not malignant. Thanks a bunch to all of you who offered prayers on his behalf.
After such a full week, we were ready for a little getaway, so my family and I travelled to the Julian Bruce State Park at St. George Island, Florida. We had a wonderful day at the beach and experienced some beautiful sights. Some sea turtles had recently hatched and you could see the trails through the sand where they had made their way to the water. We saw a number of different birds, but to cap everything off, we had all four swam out to the sand bar that was about forty or fifty yards offshore. While we were there, playing in about three feet of crystal-clear water, four dolphins came swimming by within just a few yards of us. They were unhurried, one even stuck his head out of the water to get a better look at us. It was an amazing moment.
On the way back home, we swung by our old haunt, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and drove down to the lighthouse at sunset. On our way in we had a close encounter with a raccoon. Coming out we got a good look at a great horned owl and a pair of ospreys. We even got to see a whip-poor-will. As often as I have heard these birds sing at night, this was the first one I had actually seen.
I hadn’t intended to let this much time slide by without posting. Time flies when you’re busy.
My family and I had a very nice (albeit short) vacation. We watched the Braves get clobbered, ate some good barbecue, visited a church where the preacher didn’t even carry a Bible into the pulpit, visited Callaway Gardens, hiked all the way to the bottom of Providence Canyon and hiked all the way to the top again (those who know me realize what an accomplishment THAT was!), came home for Clay to have his little procedure done (still waiting on the results), watched as he and his baseball team battled hard to take second place in their league tournament, put up fifteen gallons of snap beans and ten gallons of squash, picked five gallons each of butterbeans and black-eyed peas, been sick (along with my youngest, Glen) for the last three days with some kind of bug, and amidst it all still have been having church and ministry going on.
“Preacher, can I please be saved?” the little six-year-old boy asked me during the invitation after yesterday’s sermon.
I instructed him to have a seat on the front pew and I told him I would talk to him after the service. When everyone was gone, he and his mother joined me in my office where I had the privilege of showing him the truth of the gospel and leading him to Christ.
As he called on the Lord to save him, he reached a point in his prayer where he said, “Jesus, I want to stop doing bad things and start doing good things.” I was not asking him to “repeat after me” or anything else. This was what was in his heart as he asked God for the gift of salvation.
With all of the debates and definitions that surround the word “repentance”, I must say that this is about as clear and biblical a definition as one will find.
From time to time I post reviews of concerts that I attend. Occasionally I have mentioned the Lighthouse Children’s Home that has sung at a few of these concerts.
We were blessed, yesterday, to have these young ladies come to Pine Park Baptist Church. They were with us in the morning worship service. As they sang and testified, the presence of God was manifested. Those who were in attendance yesterday expressed over and over to me what a tremendous blessing the service was.
They sang a number of songs, including a few a capella numbers that were really nice. Two songs in particular, though, that really touched my heart were the classic, “He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away” and a newer song that I had not heard before, “Trophies of Grace”.
As I sat and listened to these young ladies whose lives had been derailed by the world, and yet had been transformed by a relationship with God, I could not help but feel a deeper appreciation for God’s grace.
The group travels throughout the southeast. I highly recommend them for your church. If you would be interested in contacting them, you can do so through their website.
It’s been quite a weekend. On Friday, I took my two sons along with my mom and dad to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge. We had attempted to go the week before, but had to postpone the trip due to sickness.
We had a great time and saw a variety of birds including, wild turkey, bald eagle, osprey (a really big one), white ibis, glossy ibis, wood stork, egrets and herons of several varieties (including a beautiful great blue heron), kingfisher, pelicans and some blue-wing teal. We also saw a deer as we were leaving. Migrating butterflies were everywhere and we were able to see a really nice rainbow.
On Saturday, my wife and I went with some friends to see the Seminoles beat up on North Carolina State. It was a great game, even though the weather was a little wierd. We had a lightening delay of about 49 minutes, but when we re-entered the stadium, there was a beautiful double rainbow arching over the field. (I wonder if there is any significance in that? hmmm).
We had a wonderful day at church yesterday. There was a great spirit in the services and the fellowship was sweet. Last night we had several members share some scriptures that they had been reading and talk about what they were learning from the Word. It was really great and some edifying thoughts were brought out. On the way to church, we saw yet another rainbow, making it the first time in my life that I have seen rainbows on three consecutive days.
I also want to share with those of you who might be interested about a blog that some friends are running right now. Keith and Julie Parker and their son race are the son-in-law, daughter and grandson of Cleve and Judy Dixon who attend Pine Park Baptist Church. Keith recently graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They are in the process of adopting a little boy from Viet Nam. Julie is keeping a blog of their trip and the process. You can read about it here. Please keep this family in your prayers as they travel.
Over the last few years, the topic of leadership has become a mega-industry, even within Christian circles. Due to various responsibilities and opportunities I have had in the past few years in my association, I have read stacks of books and attended dozens of workshops on the subject. Some of what I have learned I have found to be useful. Much of it left me feeling as if I had wasted my time.
Here’s the thing, the church is not a corporation. I understand that for tax purposes and other legal ramifications certain papers must be filled out from time to time, but it is a grave mistake when we try to run the church according to the principles of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. The church is the flock of God, not a business.
Pastors, God has not called us to be CEO’s. He has called us to be shepherds. We are to be leaders, that much is certain, but let us model our “leadership style” after Christ instead of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates.
In Isaiah 42:1-4, we find some prophecies concerning the Messiah. Consider the description of Christ in the first verse:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
Notice that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is described as a servant. I do not say this to be critical of God’s servants, I have known many of them in my life and many of them have had profound impact upon me, but too many times it becomes so easy to forget our role. I have seen church leaders with overblown egos or insecurities who became control freaks. I have seen pastors who developed a sense of entitlement, as if their service automatically guaranteed that they deserved special treatment from the people to whom they ministered.
Jesus did not build a network to defend his position. He realized that He was upheld by the Father who had chosen Him for the role in which He was placed. People of God, we should pray for God to grant us the humility to accept the purpose He has designed for us within His kingdom. It is not about our delights our aspirations. Above all, we should pray that God would deliver us from the spirit of selfish ambition that seeks to turn our area of ministry into our own little kingdom.
Jesus labored in the strength of the Holy Spirit. He did not rely upon personal ability, a slick image or clever marketing gimmicks to get the job done. I am learning that God neither requires nor desires any abilities that I may think that I have to carry out His plan for me. If He can communicate His message through a braying donkey, a crowing rooster and even a silent worm, why does He need eloquence or good looks today?
The last thing we can see in this verse is that He spoke the truth. He came to bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He did not teach us prosperity, how to be a champion or even how to win friends. Very simply, He came to teach us the why and how of being declared righteous before God.
I hope that as pastors and church leaders, we will take our leadership lessons from the ultimate servant instead of trying to turn God’s kingdom into a corporate ladder. Truly, he who will be the greatest must be the servant of all.
Okay, let’s try this blogging thing again. This summer has been great, but it has provided a lot of opportunities that have pulled me away from the computer. Now that we have resumed our homeschooling, I now have a little more time to devote to throwing my scattered thoughts into cyberspace.
We spent the entire month of June and the first part of July involved in Clay’s all-star team. His team did very well, exceeding the expectations of a lot of people. Eventually, they finished third in their district which also placed them in the top twelve teams in the state. Congratulations, Cairo Blue!
The one exception to baseball during June was our VBS. We had a fantastic week. It is wonderful to see how our folks get into doing their work during this time. We had some great classes with one decision for Christ as well as a number of other opportunities to minister to families in need.
We have had a few family outings that have been a lot of fun as well. We love to visit a number of state parks and a nearby federal wildlife refuge. God has allowed us to make some very special memories this summer.
In addition to all of this, has been the normal involvement in the ministry of our church. God has blessed as we have seen a number of answers to prayer take place.
One other reason for my lack of material has been that I have taken up another writing project. When I have felt the creative juices flowing the last couple of months, they have been diverted in that direction. If this project works out, I will tell you about it sometime, otherwise, you may never hear of it again 😉 .
I hope to get back to a more regular form of posting now. I appreciate all of those who have been so encouraging with your comments over the last couple of months. There are a lot of benefits to this thing of blogging, but to me, by far, the greatest is the connections you make with other people.