God is Good

“The best thing I got is the clarification of who and what a Southern Baptist is.”

“I learned a lot about how a church works, things I did not realize before.”

“I learned better what it means to be a Christian.”

“The best part was seeing the Pastor’s vision for the church.”

“It was a renewal of my personal commitment.”

“It was a confirmation of what I believe and what Balboa Baptist Church believes.”

And the comment most often given: The Baseball Diamond illustration of how the church is to fulfill our overall mission God has given us.

Our first “Membership 101” class got great reviews.  About 80 attended. I’m praising the Lord for what He did in the hearts of those who came!

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:1-4 ESV

Our Father, thank-you for how You are working in our church. Please give us wisdom to act in faith on all You reveal to us.

Almost Grown-Up

I couldn’t wait to grow up. I dreamed of turning 16 so I could get my driver’s license and drive a car like a “grown-up.” As a grade school boy, I drank coffee because my Dad drank coffee and I wanted to feel “grown-up.”

May Dad went hunting a lot while I was growing up.  Many times I watched him put on his Carhartt overalls, headlamp, pistol, and load up his registered black and tan coon hounds in the truck and drive off into the night. I asked to go with him because I wanted to feel what he felt. I didn’t know what that feeling was, but it must have been a good feeling since he did it so often.

One night he let me go. I didn’t have the Carhartt overalls, just some thin pants of some kind. We marched through the dark woods following the whine of the hounds as they trailed by scent. My little flashlight was no match for the darkness. We often encountered brier patches. The briers went right through my thin pants. The only feeling I remembered that night was pain!

It was a humbling and miserable night.

In 1 Peter 5:1-4, the apostle gives instructions to those who are mature to take care of the flock of God, the church. He gives great advice for any church leader whether you are a pastor, deacon, Sunday School teacher, youth or children’s leader, etc.

But then he says to the younger, more inexperienced ones who are watching and wanting to feel “grown-up”:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV

We all get “destination disease” from time to time. We think that the next “experience” or “destination” will make us happy. So this verse is great advice for all of us regardless of our age or experience.

I am looking forward to 2015 as pastor of the congregation called Balboa Baptist Church. Many new experiences are on our horizon. So let us as a body of believers enter this new year by daily applying this truth to our lives.

On the one hand, I can’t wait to feel “grown-up” by reaching some lofty goals we have set for ourselves. On the other hand, these goals make me anxious at times. So, I’m committing to obeying Peter’s instruction. will you  join me?

Our Father, thank-you that you care for us! Thank-you that your hand is mighty! We humble ourselves before you and cast all our cares upon you. Please work mightily through Balboa Baptist Church in 2015 to accomplish Your will!

Can 400 People Agree on Anything?

How do you get 400 people to agree on anything! Whew, only a God-thing could make that happen. With a group of people with such varied backgrounds, education, and experiences, is it even possible to consider it?

If we take the Bible seriously, and we do, it is not only a consideration, it must become a reality with the help of the Holy Spirit!

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV

Get Shoulder to Shoulder. The same word used to translate “appeal” is used to describe the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the “one called beside us.” We are called to come along side one another in unity. If each person in an army decided to fight by their own strategy, no united effort would be made and the battle likely lost.

Get the “God-thing.” Our common commitment to Jesus, the changer of our lives, is our divine element making this possible. How easily people become divided! For a large group of people to be united together in a common goal and strategy needs “a God-thing” to make it happen. Our common faith in Jesus is our God-thing!

Get Great Words. Agree. Simply “speak or say the same thing.”  The visual behind this word is “to lay it out.” We are to state clearly our common purpose.

Get the Gaps Out. Eliminate divisions. The word here is schism which means to split or cause a gap. Jesus described putting new wine into old wineskins and therefore causing the old wineskin to split or burst.

Get Together. Unite. The word “united” means to repair, adjust, or complete thoroughly. Repair broken relationships. Make emotional and mental adjustments in order to be united. Completely focus in the same direction.

Get Thinking. Unite in “mind” means to agree in our perceiving, understanding, feeling, and determining. We must be attuned or “in tune” with the direction of the Holy Spirit and therefore with one another.

Get a United Conclusion. Unite in “judgment” means to agree in our conclusions. The final product is to be a common mission, vision, and core values which guide the work we do and determine what we don’t do.

Our Father, please unite us in every facet of the work You have called us to do. Build in all of us by Your Holy Spirit a consensus of mission, vision, and purpose. We pray for miraculous results from You working in and through us. We believe it is only by Your presence and Your power we can obey this command. Thank-you Lord for the confidence we have in you!

 

Call Me

When Billie Sue and I were dating, every evening we were either together on a date, or I was at her parents’ house, or she was at my parents’ house, or more often we talked on the telephone (you know, the land-line kind, the one with a chord, the one we actually had to sit down to use, instead of walking around doing something else at the same time).

When we love someone, we want to talk to them and listen to them!

A conversation is simple.  I talk to you and listen to you.  You talk to me and you listen to me.

“Communication is the key!” How many times have we heard that!?  It’s true for marriage, parenting, teaching, friendship, and employee/employer. Communication IS the key!

One of the funniest videos I’ve seen is by Jeanne Robertson. She sent her husband on a quick trip to the grocery store with a list of seven items.  He stayed gone much too long and came back with a car load of groceries.  Watch the video to see why, it hilarious! Its worth eight minutes of your time. Watch this!

I’m amazed how many times I come across it in scripture! “Call to me.”  “Ask, seek, knock.” “Pray.”

The Father loves us so much, he wants to hear from us on a regular basis, no, on a continual basis, as in “pray without ceasing.”

Then there’s “You have not because you ask not.”  He says to “make your requests known” to Him.

Why should we act so confidently?

  • What should cause this kind of faith to well up in us?
  • Why would we take the time to do something like talking to someone who is invisible?

Because He made world and everything in the it.

  • Everything belongs to Him! He is the powerful Creator.
  • He is the expert on everything that is.
  • He knows us better than we even know ourselves.

Give Him a call!

Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name:  Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:2-3

I praise You for You are a Loving Father. You love it when we listen to You, talk to You, and make our requests of You. Please use us, the congregation of Balboa Baptist Church, to do your will.  Work in us, through us, and in spite of us to present Jesus to people in life-changing ways. Lead us into the future by Your Spirit!

Fourth of July

For several years while I was a child and teenager, my Dad’s extended family and friends gathered every Fourth of July at a remote spot on Lake Greeson.  We called it “the Fourth of July point.” We spent the day together. 

I can still take you to that exact spot today.  Papa and Granny Wright, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, babies, children, teens, and old folks gathered together.  The Wright’s, Grant’s, Bright’s, McGrew’s, Tidwell’s, and also the Sorrel’s, a family who were close friends with us all came.  

We brought ski boats, picnic baskets, iced soft drinks, playpens, lawn chairs, and a relaxed attitude.  We ate, swam, skied, sunburned, and played practical jokes on each other.  Cousin A.G. (Alan George) jerked away the lawn chair my pregnant Mom was about to sit in.  She hit the ground hard.  BAD practical joke!!!  Anyway …

We experienced a togetherness I sense few families understand in today’s culture.  We could be who we were with no pretense.  We were family.  To my knowledge, no one brought an alcoholic beverage.  Just pure fun for a day!

“Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”  1 Corinthians 3:16

The New Testament word for ‘temple’ or ‘sanctuary’ was used of the temple at Jerusalem, but only of the sacred edifice or sanctuary itself, consisting of the Holy place and the Holy of Holies.

The ‘you yourselves’ in this verse is plural.  Paul is referring to a GROUP of believers, a congregation, a called-out body of saved people.

WE (plural) are the temple of the Spirit of God!  Sermons I heard over the years just referred to ME being a temple of God’s Spirit.  This is true.  But the first meaning of the verse is in reference to US.  Jesus taught us in His model prayer, to pray in the plural, it begins, “Our Father…”

I sense at Balboa Baptist this kind of family closeness similar to that of many years ago in my own extended family.  Many of you have extended family many miles away.  This church is your regular “Fourth of July get-together.” This congregation is your extended family.  You mourn with those who mourn and grieve with those who grieve. It is a privilege to be your pastor.

Billie Sue and I are looking forward to our first Sunday School picnic at Lake Balboa!  Barbeque!  Yummy.

Our Father, thank-you for the unique fellowship you give to us as believers.  Thank-you for indwelling US. Please protect our fellowship from conflict that will result in harm. Enable us to love each other, even in the differences we have with each other which every family experiences sooner or later.  Forgive US OUR trespasses as WE forgive those who trespass against US.  Father, thank-you for adopting US into Your family. 

I Don’t Do Drugs

I have never experimented with illegal drugs.  Of course I take the occasional over-the-counter stuff when needed and my doctor’s prescriptions.  But I have not experienced the drug-induced high of marijuana, cocaine, and the like which sadly, addict many people.

But yesterday, I was on a high.  But what a good one!  Six people, precious in God’s sight, came forward at invitation time. Three of them seeking baptism!  I shared the gospel with two of them yesterday afternoon.  They prayed, believing the Gospel wholeheartedly, and received Christ as Lord & Savior!

Dozens of people encouraged me that the messages are hitting home.  Even in the 2.5 hour Personnel Committee meeting, God gave me a sense that these people are passionate for excellence in serving God in and through this congregation called Balboa Baptist Church!  That’s really amazing, huh!?

Forty years of experience in local church ministry has drilled into me another reality.  Enjoy the emotional high of days like yesterday, but emotions DO subside.  A coming-down always follows.

Jesus led Peter, James, and John to a mountaintop. An amazing meeting with God, Moses, & Elijah unfolds.  The divine Jesus glowed brightly with the shekinah glory of God.  I would have done the same thing as these three disciples wanted to do!  They wanted to build a house and STAY there!

But Jesus immediately took them back down to the valley of reality.  They encounter a demon-possessed man. Jesus healed him.  Jesus confronts the disciples with their small faith.  Wow, what a spiritual gut-check. (Click here to see Mark 9)

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am still rejoicing in the victories!  I am praising the Lord at 4:00 a.m.!  Praise the Lord!  The spiritual high is still real! God is SO good. God’s mercies endure forever.

I believe God took pleasure in His people yesterday.  Many of you invested in these six persons’ lives through Sunday School, ministry, friendship, and love.  You have been doing this for months or years before I ever came on the scene.  I praise the Lord I got to see the fruit of your labor!  You planted, watered, cultivated, and weeded.  Fruit!  Excuse my grammar but, “You done good!” God gave the increase and honored your labor of love.

I believe God adorned your humble acts of kindness with the results of salvation. Committees sort out the nitty-gritty details of church life behind the scenes. But keeping our eyes on THIS prize is why we do it all!  This is the big WHY!  This is the GOAL!  This is the BIG PICTURE that keeps pulling us into the future with faith.  We are to make disciples.  Jesus said He would build His church.

Let’s marinate in what God has done!  And then let’s get back to work.

“For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalm 149:4

I Loved the Family Vacation!

A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28

Each summer while growing up in Glenwood, we made an annual trek to Lake Greeson to camp for a week.  We went to the lake almost every week on my Dad’s day off during the summer, but this week was special.

Before the Corps of Engineers changed the rules, we even camped in an area with no camping facilities.  My Dad hunted a lot back then, so he knew all the back roads.

He pulled our small camper behind his pickup truck.  Dad piled the old homemade wooden picnic table upside-down in the back of the pickup with lots of other stuff on top it.  We camped at the end of a peninsula that jutted out into the lake.  We felt like the Swiss Family Robinson on our own deserted island!

My mother drove the station wagon packed with supplies.  My Mom’s parents, Victor and Gladys Cooper, usually came too.  They came in tow with an old army tent.  They slept on cots.

My Grandpa Cooper loved to make things instead of buy them.  He made a cooking table from a flat piece of metal and old plumbing pipes that screwed in for legs.  He was tight with the finances.  He rarely bought any fancy camping equipment because he could make just about anything from the old stuff he had stored in the old chicken house he had converted to a shop / storage building.

My Mom, Dad, younger sister and two brothers slept in the little camper.  I slept by myself in the station wagon.

We skied, swam, fished, played, ate, and hiked all day.  My Dad drove the boat a lot while we skied.  My Mom cooked.  Granny Cooper painted lake scenes. I still have some of her paintings (see photo).  Papa Cooper made the frame.

In the evenings, tired and sunburned, we drank lots of iced tea, and sat around a small fire.  The old Coleman lantern my Dad had pumped up and lighted hung in a tree nearby.

Granny Cooper always wanted to play the whisper game.  She would whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to her.  Then they in turn would whisper to the next until it went around the circle.  Then the last person would repeat out loud what they heard.

Granny then revealed the original sentence.  The difference was amazing!  The end statement did not even resemble the original.  We would laugh and laugh at the ridiculous things that came out on the other end!

Wow, what a lesson it taught us as children!

Repeating half-truths, assumptions, exaggerations, and hear-say in life doesn’t get laughs.  It gets conflict and damaged relationships.  Ruthlessly reject gossip!  It will destroy a congregation’s unity and hinder God’s work and Spirit!

Encourage each other.  Praise the Lord.  Speak only truth.  Say lots of prayers.  Use your words carefully.

Father, discipline our lives to carefully build-up with our words instead of carelessly throwing words to the wind.