Friday, March 30, 2012

10 Things I Believe

Friday Reflection - 3/30/12

Social media makes "getting to know you" superficially easy. We often read after someone for some time before realizing what they really believe.

So, if you're interested, here's ten things I really believe:

1. I believe human beings who have moral awareness are lost in sin.
2. I believe that the state of the soul is the most important issue of life.
3. I believe a person can know the truth.
4. I believe that the truth about salvation is found in the Bible alone.
5. I believe that most people don't believe #1-4.
6. I believe that false forms of Christianity and hypocrisy are a big reason for #5.
7. I believe that God desires everyone to know #1-6.
8. I believe Bible illiteracy is one of the reasons people don't know #1-7.
9. I believe that heaven and hell are real, and eternal.
10. I believe that more people will be lost than saved. 
Do people know where you stand?  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Perfect Congregation

A little fun.

I received an email a few weeks back about a perfect preacher. It was witty and cute. You know the spiel...
"He is 26 years old and has been preaching the gospel for 30 years. He is tall, short, thin, heavy set and handsome. He has one brown eye and one blue...He makes 15 calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing those who are not Christians and is never out of his office. He makes $100.00 each week and gives $200.00 each week to the church..."
I have to chuckle at the caricature. Its a funny ode to the many hats a preacher wears, and the sometimes exaggerated expectations and criticisms he faces. I see something similar about once a year or so. 

Yet, before we laugh too much, preachers can fall in the same trap, seeking the "perfect" congregation:
  • There are twenty elders, each of whom is retired and spends about 50 hours a week in ministering to the church, and they all have Ph.D's in marital counseling. 
  • There are 500 members, but are as close as a group of 50. 
  • The offering doubles the budget each week.
  • They send missionaries to every continent, and there are exciting monthly reports from each.
  • ALL members attend EVERY service, and have stopped participating in all activities outside the home unless they are conducted by the congregation. 
  • Every visitor is taken home with someone for dinner.
  • Nobody is divorced, nobody ever feels left out, nobody ever gets disgruntled. 
  • There is a work day every Saturday. Every member shows up with a truck full of mowers, weed-eaters, and extra gas and oil (the ladies are all fashionably wearing rubber gloves and have buckets with Pine Sol hanging off their arms). 
  • There is a gospel meeting every night. 
  • Every member is having a private Bible study with a neighbor after dinner each night. 
  • The classrooms are overflowing.
  • Everybody works full time in the food and clothing pantry. 
  • You can't get the doors open for worship on time, because everybody shows up two hours early for fellowship. 
  • You can't lock the doors afterward because nobody wants to leave. 
  • The elders have decided to auction the doors and use the funds to buy the extra communion trays you've bee needing anyway.
  • The deacons work 60 hours a week at their "regular job," and 40 more for the church. 
  • The six buses pick up every non-member in town for every service. 
  • All the children are all perfectly behaved. 
  • The singing is out of this world.
  • And did I mention the fellowship meals? :)
Brethren, there are not likely to be any perfect preachers except the one you have. 

Preachers, there are not likely to be any perfect congregations except the one God gave you.

As much as possible, may we work together, to make each other better, until or unless the Lord decides otherwise.  

Disclaimer: This blog post is merely the opinion of this writer. Since the details of your congregation's situation are fact dependent, this post may not be considered legal counsel for otherwise miserable preachers and/or congregations.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I don't juggle

The internet is a great tool. I largely resisted jumping in to it. Finally, a couple years ago, Facebook broke me down when I emotionally re-connected with some people.

After that, I got the Twitter account, began a website, and then a blog. I also have Diaspora, Friendika, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, and have about 100 different blogs in my Google Reader.

Too much. For me.

I have a short attention span, and am very easily distracted. I procrastinate, and have a tendency to waste time between tasks. I haven't been able to manage those struggles while adding more internet presence.

Aside, I have a large family, and we homeschool. My wife actually carries most of that load, but my schedule must gel each week with seven other people, and one car. I serve about 100 different families or individuals who count on me at any given moment in our congregation. That balancing act is usually quite enough, without the distraction of the internet.

Bottom line: everyone's different. I need to know me, and what God wants from me. That's all I'm trying to determine, and do.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Which Ones Were the Christians?

Friday Reflection - 3/16/12

A tornado ripped through eastern Kentucky a few weekends ago and nearly destroyed the whole town of West Liberty. Since so many church buildings were destroyed or rendered inoperable, several groups came together last week for an inter-faith service. 

Present were Methodists, Baptists, Mennonites, Christian Church, and even some from a church of Christ. It was reported thus:

"As one, the Methodists, Baptists, Christians, and Mennonites sang 'Amazing Grace' with (I'll omit the name) at the piano for all four verses." Lexington Herald-Leader (3/11/12).

Um, which ones were the "Christians?"

Monday, March 12, 2012

Salyersville, KY tornado damage

These pictures taken 3/12/12. The pictures - graphic as they are - still cannot capture all of what your eyes are trying to take in (some taken from car window).
If you'll click on them to enlarge them, you'll see the timber damage on the hillsides more clearly. 

Jesus' 'Epic fail'

"Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them" (Matthew 11:4-5).

If Jesus could heal blindness, lameness, leprosy, and deafness, why not just eradicate them altogether?

A young man - the only son of his grieving, widowed mother - was raised from the dead. Jesus raised His good friend Lazarus from the dead. Last I heard, both of these men are dead.

All recipients of Jesus' miracles later died. In today's jargon: epic fail.

But in fact, this actually helps us understand that miracles had a very specific purpose at a very specific time. They were used to confirm Divine testimony (cf. Mk. 16:20). They were not a source of entertainment. Further, the power to heal could only be conferred by the apostles, which means their duration was limited.

Man has offended God (sin), and because of sin, he will die. Without forgiveness for sin, his soul will languish in eternity apart from his Creator.

When Jesus suffered torture and death, He proved that physical healing is not the greatest attainment. When God raised Him from the dead He showed us that  though He is compassionate toward our earthly suffering, it is THIS victory, rather, we should seek (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54-57).

Biblical miracles substantiated the greater healing we all need: sin. And they pointed to the one climactic miracle we must attain: the resurrection to eternal life. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

On the fringe of the storm

Friday Reflection - 3/9/12

We wandered around a bit. We looked out the door, listened, watched, prayed. My children begged me to open my [nerd alert] still-in-the-package Star wars toys - again. After about 30 minutes of hearing and seeing literally nothing (save the occasional lightning strike), we decided to head out of the basement.

michaelhumphrey/cnn - West Liberty, KY
About that same time a deadly tornado ripped through areas just north and west of us. Their homes - their lives - were being ripped apart by the deadly force of nature. 

Such contrast! It is still unimaginable that just ten miles away, at precisely the same time, a sixteen and twenty year old boy were fighting for their lives. They lost. 

When all was said and done, that particular tornado had traveled 95 miles through eastern Kentucky and West Virginia

We were on the fringe of the storm. 

Life is lived on the fringe of the storm. We walk the razor's edge of time and circumstance; which, said someone, happen to us all. Life is delicate and fragile. "We are standing on the brink of another world" (William Law). 

How many times have I been protected from something of which I am not aware? How many times has God spared me from that which I cannot see? 

Before last Friday night, just how often have I been on the fringe of the storm?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Jesus had iron in the fire

Red-Letter Monday
"My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work" (John 4:34). 

To accomplish a task is noble. It means to have a goal in mind and to achieve it.

Many start projects; few finish.

Jesus finished His task.

Jesus' primary work was summed up, "to give his life." Every other task He did was viewed with that end in mind. It was His food - His fuel.

Jesus didn't have a lot of irons in the fire, just one strong, brightly burning one.

What do you want to accomplish? What is your goal? And what are the small things you are accomplishing each day so that you may say, "It is finished" (cf. John 17:4; 19:30).

Perhaps much of our problem is not too many irons in the fire. Perhaps its that some of them do not help us achieve what we really need to accomplish. If they did, would they still be in the fire? 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Who's Who?

Friday Reflection - 3/2/12

Received an e-mail some weeks ago about having my name published in one of those "Who's Who" type things. I never responded, but it got me thinking.

A blogger and preacher friend of mine posted some thoughts a while back about "Who's Who" in the church - as in, among preachers. The post was candid. I appreciate that. It was written from the perspective of a ministry "outsider," i.e., no family pedigree, either in preaching particularly, or in the church specifically.

My father was a Freewill Baptist preacher, as was his. But, I was raised up in churches of Christ. After conversion, my father attended Memphis School of Preaching, and has been preaching the gospel for 40 years this year. I guess that makes me an "insider." I can't say that its never advantaged me. Can't say that it comes without disadvantage, either.

Anyway, I used to be a little star-struck by preachers. And, having labored in the gospel for just over a decade now, I can't say that I've lost all that fondness. I still have a dream to hear [name drop warning] Tom Holland in person, after all. But, superficial admiration has been mostly replaced with deep respect and appreciation.

As a boy I envisioned myself being invited to speak on all the "big" lectureships, preaching for a "big" congregation, and being published in all the "right" journals. I'll admit, I thought that's what it meant to be a successful preacher.

Now I know better.

The fact is that MOST preachers are relatively unknown outside of their local influence. Most preachers' names are NOT synonymous with brotherhood lectureships, scholarly journals and landmark congregations. And most of them couldn't care less.

Nor should they. Loyalty to anything beyond the truth inevitably creates conflict. But I digress.

I've met, corresponded with, and even know personally, several preachers whose names either have been or are synonymous with the big lectureships, papers and churches. You know what I've found? Few (if any) whom I could call anything other than perfectly humble servants of Christ.

And you know what else I've found? A few "local" ninnies who think they're a pretty big deal.

Pedigree may matter to a few. But the fact is, most preachers are just busy carrying the burden God has called them to bear.

"Who's Who?" Concerning preachers, nothing could matter less. God knows "Who's who."