Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Just a Personal Note

Last week began with a bang to say the least…or maybe it would be better to say a headache and then a crash, in that order. Without going into a great deal of detail,  on Sunday night as Michele and I were getting ready for bed I told her how much I was dreading the upcoming week. We were in a situation that I was praying for truth to be clearly revealed but, knew it would take some time and probably a great deal of frustration for this to take place. Monday was as difficult as I expected - before our day really even began we had a dear friend who was with us in a meeting get word that someone in their family had died...and that seemed to set the tone for how the day would go.  The pressure was nothing less that incredible with what we faced for the rest of the day (actually the whole week). On top of all this, we were a typical two car family getting used to being a one car family for the week because my truck was being fixed - having to go four different directions at any one time and trying to figure out what we could and could not do. When someone dropped me off at home Monday evening, Michele and boys were on their way out going to the boy's class, and I told her that I was going to run a few miles. Five miles later, and then after my fourth phone conversation in less than an hour, my wife calls and informs me they are on their way home. Literally 5 minutes after this call I get another call from her phone telling me that she and boys were in an accident. Long story short, Joshua (our youngest) was knocked out briefly, the ambulance came and our car was totaled. This was all just on the Monday of the week I was dreading. In short, this week was starting even worse than I had expected!  Somehow though, this week was shaping up just the way the Father expected - whether it was on our timetable and itinerary or not!  Rather than covering each day and the difficulties I want to just share with you a few things I learned.

God always supplies: When this wreck happened, the first responders; both the fireman and the EMT were members of our church and brought calmness to the situation not only to my boys, but also to my wife (thank you Craig and Diane).  In the middle of a very difficult situation, my oldest son was tested and lived out many steps of manhood we have studied, talked about and learned, but that I had only hoped he had gotten.Ultimately, we were able to all come home as a family around 3am on Tuesday morning - if the week had gone worse than expected, this would STILL have been a blessing worth holding and praising our Lord!
Our church family showed incredible love and grace to my family. From one family coming by Monday to give me their car so I could go to the hospital, to literally being offered the use of 6 different cars for the week - to meals, calls, chocolate (my comfort food), people picking up my boys, wife and even me for rides, as well as for the church member who is helping me with my truck! ...to say the least, it was overwhelming love and grace that our church family showed.

It taught us to receive: It hasn’t taken 3 ½ years for people to know that I have a difficult time allowing people in our congregation to “do” for our family. Honestly, being raised in the ministry I have seen more than one minister that I felt took advantage of a generous congregation. So, we have always responded at the other end of the spectrum. Well, this time we had no other option than to let, and even ask some of our church family for help. There was never a hesitation by them and for that I am thankful.

Truth was revealed:  After almost a week of meetings and discussions, truth came bubbling forth for all to see. It did so in a way that was so clear and open that my mind was blown. God has allowed so many incredible families to be part of our Trinity Family and even brought new ones in that fit perfectly into the body and have the ability to use their gifts and even vocation for His glory and the body’s benefit.

Going into this week, I would have told you that it was going to be very difficult, and it was. But I told Michele at the end of the week, it may have been one of the greatest weeks we have ever experienced in our marriage. God allowed all the blessings listed above - He reminded me that the van can be totaled, our other car in the shop, and a difficult week can come, but the fact that all 4 of us can get in a borrowed car and come home and pray together, thanking the Lord for His grace and protection, His provision and His Bride - that is what really matters. He also made me understand that He is the source of all truth, so He will expose truth and destroy lies in His timing not mine. This is something I knew in my mind, but to experience it - to see it so clearly - to comprehend it - that is something I pray that has burned into the depths of my soul, never to be forgotten.  I need no computer monitor, not hidden agenda, no blog, no group of people to validate truth... I am just called to live it and teach it, and trust that God works all things for His glory in His timing.

There are those of you who have prayed for us, ministered to us and encouraged us in ways for which I can’t begin to even express my gratitude. But I thank you for your love!  I thank the Lord for His grace, and I am so grateful that he can take something that seems so difficult and use it for His glory. I love you and thank you for being such a blessing to me every week, but especially this week!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Great Application

I can’t imagine a more misquoted or misinterpreted verse that Matt. 7:1. I came across a blog that helps give practical application of how to avoid this sin, or help in convicting me when I commit this sin. Needless to say, many people quote Matt. 7:1 whenever someone confronts them with a sin - but certainly the intent of this verse is not a call to ignore sin in my life or in the life of another. So what does it mean? I think this blog gives us some helpful applications:

Don’t Assume
Description: Don’t Assume avatar
It may be the best known Bible verse in our culture: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).
As one of our society’s most popular verses, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Too many people, non-Christian and Christian, take Jesus’ words to be a blanket rejection of all moral evaluation. But given that Jesus alludes to his opponents as dogs and pigs five verses later, it’s safe to think Jesus wasn’t condemning every kind of judgment. We see from the rest of the Gospel that Matthew 7:1 is not inconsistent with strong criticisms, negative statements, church discipline, and warnings about hell. Judgmentalism is not the same as making ethical and doctrinal demands or believing others to be wrong.
And yet, after all the necessary qualifications, we must not mute this important command. As sinners, we are apt to assume the worst about people. We are eager to find favorable comparisons that make ourselves look good at the expense of others. We are quick to size people up and think we have them figured them out. But I have learned over the years–both as the giver and receiver of judgmental assumptions–that it’s best not to assume.
Don’t assume you know all the facts after hearing one side of the story.
Don’t assume the person is guilty just because strong charges are made against him.
Don’t assume you understand a blogger’s heart after reading one post.
Don’t assume that famous author, preacher, athlete, politician, or local celebrity won’t read what you write and don’t assume they won’t care what you say.
Don’t assume the divorced person is to blame for the divorce.
Don’t assume the single mom isn’t following Jesus.
Don’t assume the guy from the Mission is less of a man or less of a Christian.
Don’t assume the pastor looking for work is a bad pastor.
Don’t assume the church that struggles or fails is a bad church.
Don’t assume you’d be a better mom.
Don’t assume bad kids are the result of bad parents.
Don’t assume your parents are clueless.
Don’t assume everyone should drop everything to attend to your needs, and don’t assume no one will.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Great Blessing

2nd Tim. 2:1-2    You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also

One of the greatest joys of my life happens for about 30 minutes each Wednesday afternoon:  I have the joy of meeting with around 25 men and boys as we walk through quality books about biblical manhood. Right now, we are walking through Disciplines Of A Young Godly Man by Kent and Carey Hughes. I believe our youngest boy is around 7 years old, and the oldest man would be late 40’s to early 50’s. Then, on Thursdays at 6 am, for about an hour, I meet with 50-60 men who range in ages from 18 years old to over 70 years old. These two events have done more to shape the life of Trinity Baptist Church than anything else I know. I thank the Lord for the growth in our men, the way the lead their family, they way they love their wife and children. To be quite honest this is one of those blogs that I feel so blessed and excited to be a part of what God is doing in our fellowship, that I really have no point except to rejoice!! 

As a result of this emphasis on the Word and what we should be, we have men who are walking with boys who may not have a saved dad, or may not have a dad in the picture at all. This year, our 12th grade men are having a special time of study and discussion with their dads as they focus on things they need to spiritually be prepared for as they face the next few years out of high school.

I say all of this to encourage our men to keep on!  And, to encourage other men to join this journey with us. What is shaping Trinity into the church it is today, are the men who are loving and leading - not just in their homes, but in our fellowship. Thank you men, and thank you Lord for blessing us this way!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What to do with this?

Some people tend to frown at the fact that I and others will mention names from the pulpit of those who distort or deliver a false gospel. If one wonders where this crazy idea comes from…they need only to read Paul. I am fully aware that there is no one that I mention more than Joel Osteen. The reason I “call him out” so often is that we live in a day that many people in churches believe that if numbers are going up, then God must be on it. Let me state this so there is no misunderstanding…God’s anointing or His blessing is NOWHERE near Joel Osteen and his ministry. He doesn’t distort the gospel - he just doesn’t teach anything close to a biblical gospel. Below is a demonstration of his complete spiritual blindness.


Let me help Joel: Mormons are not Christian - they are not kind of right and they are not close to truth. Their teaching is false, it is a cult and it is wickedness. I do not hate Mormons!  By contrast, I long to see them come to Christ. Michele and I have had Mormons in our home on several occasions and have shared the gospel with them. But the Jesus they look to is NOT the Jesus revealed to us in the Word. Does this mean we should not vote for Romney? Certainly not, but neither should I for one moment confuse true Christianity with lie.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Online Giving - A Great Option

Our church has been participating in on-line giving for almost a year and about 10% of our giving comes through online.  As you know, I seldom just write a blog that deals exclusively with our congregation, but I really wanted to take a moment and express to you why our family decided to give this way and why each member should consider this option.

I have found that in our life we tend to automate the important. Most of our bills are paid online and we set up automatic debits so as not to “forget” the necessary.  We show our priorities and set reminders or automate giving towards the things we DO NOT want to overlook or be tempted to wait on - things like our house payment, insurance and similar bills.  In our lives as a family, the only time we ever wrote a check was for the offering (certainly we have people that still give this way in our church and that’s great)… but, the ultimate priority in our home is Christ, and our giving at TBC should be one of our top priorities!   How many times, when things are tight, are you tempted to withhold that check you have not yet written?  But, the battle going on inside of you at that point – the one that pushes you toward faithfulness, obedience and trust vs. the one that pulls you toward the easier “out” – that battle can be avoided by building in some accountability with automated giving.  Certainly that is not the end of the war with our flesh as automatic drafts can always be changed, etc., but in doing so we must “step over” our convictions to alter our tithe and plans and thus, it causes us to slow down and realize the steps we are taking into disobedience.  If we would put filters on our computers to guard our eyes, put restrictions on our tv shows to guard our minds, why would we not put accountability in place in our finances to guard the area we probably struggle with more than any other (an area we are tempted with disobedience probably more than any other) – faithfulness and trust in our giving.   

At Trinity, we are increasingly becoming more mission minded and I am blessed to be a part of a church that cares deeply about reaching people for Christ. I know that the Lord chooses to use the obedience of His people in giving and sharing the gospel to see lives transformed by the grace of Christ.  Each month when I am doing our finances, I am reminding myself that the difference between paying my house payment online and giving on line for Kingdom work, is that I am investing in eternity and blessing others when I give to the Lord vs. paying for something that will only burn up one day when I pay my mortgage.  Now, I am not saying that we should not pay bills or that our mortgage is unimportant, I AM saying that we should be mindful of the things of Christ even in the everyday things we do and the priorities we set with our finances.

The second reason we choose to give online is that it allows a teaching point for our children. Most of the time when we put our offering in the plate during a service, I was sitting in one place, Michele was sitting somewhere else because she had to slip in from the nursery or from teaching Sunday school, and the boys would be with their friends many times. But, we can give at home and it reminds us of the priority in our lives to keep the importance of giving in front of our boys. I hear so many people speak negatively about the “younger generation” - that they live only for video games, iphones, ipads, ipods and stuff in general. But, I believe if my boys watch Michele and I model giving, it can teach them generosity. I lead them in family worship, we model living our scripture as we walk each day, and it certainly can’t hurt to talk about why we give as a family.

Last, we give because it is commanded by God. We give on-line because of convenience and it has become how we do most all of our finances. But, we give because our Lord commands us to be givers. The word of God deals with stewardship and finances more than it speaks of prayer. Our desire is not to give in a reluctant way, but in a cheerful way. We give each month because it honors God.  For our family, we give during the third week of each month.  At one point last year we wrote our check and then went on vacation - the reason we wrote our check in advance was because we were not going to be in town the third week, and it would have been very easy to forget to do so when we are out of “our routine”.  Later, when we went out of town to be with family in November, we were set up to give online and it was much more convenient and it automates my priorities.  Anything I can do to make my life more organized I will do it! 

Regardless of how you give, know that the desire of Trinity is to always use it for the glory of God and to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. But, with summer approaching and people out of town on vacation, I want to encourage you to at least try this convenient way of honoring our Lord and setting the standard of giving regularly for your family.