Monday, August 31, 2015

Fussing like Job

Recently I've had a few opportunities in my ministry to provide pastoral care to some families going through very difficult situations. Some have experienced loss, others have had major health issues, and others are facing difficult end of life experiences. By all accounts the people I've ministered to have had every right to complain and fuss about their situations. We're not talking a bad day at work here. We're talking about major life change. Some have asked why God would allow this situation to come into their life. As a pastor you want to have the answers your congregation needs, but sometimes you're left at a loss with no answers and unable to do anything other than pray for them.

My personal daily Bible reading has been progressing through the Book of Job during the same time I've been ministering to these families. I would say it was ironic but I feel like it was God working through my own spiritual development while ministering in those
situations. One thing I always find interesting when reading the Book of Job is that Job did not hold back when it came to his complaints or arguments with God. Job, in our country vernacular, "laid into" God and fussed with Him about the raw deal he'd been dealt. Job felt like the terrible things that happened to him (death of children, loss of wealth, loss of health) were all unjustifiable because of his pious life. There is something to be said for the boldness to call God out on the things He allows to come into our life when we feel like it is completely unjustifiable. I think that Job was a spiritually mature person who understood his relationship with God and felt vindicated by his "arguments" against his raw deal. But the reality of the fact is that Job was just like us. He knew God had a hand in what had occurred. Not that God did it but that God allowed it. Still, Job knew who to fuss at. 

In life when you face a situation that you feel is like that of Job, a loss of a child or a spouse, a loss of worldly possessions, or even the deterioration of your health, know that it is okay to fuss at God for what He's allowed to occur in your life. Relationships are opportunities for two parties to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the actions of the other. Our relationship with God is no different. We are able to intimately tell Him about our dissatisfaction with the situations He has allowed into our life that has seemingly devastated our life. But remember, once we voice our issues with the way God has done things, God will most likely deal with us like He did with Job. After Job finished ranting at God, we read about how God puts Job in His place. God reminds Job of His sovereignty, His power, and ultimately His love. God shows us in the life of Job, and His response to Job, the truth we read in Romans 8:28. Paul writes, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (NIV). Notice that God uses "all things," not just the things we think are good but all things for the good. It is hard to hang on to the promises of God when you feel like your world is falling apart, but that is when you need to cling all the more tightly to the God who loves you and allowed His Son to die for you.

When those difficult times in life arrive, be sure not to push God away. Draw close to Him, have very candid conversations with Him, and then allow Him to speak to you. When you do you'll find that God is there ready to help you out just like He did Job.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Life is short. Have an affair.

There are those times in your life when you hear something or read something and it sticks with you. The phrase or tone may shock, inspire, or motivate you to action. Last week I had one of those moments. I will admit that in some ways I am naive to the ways of the world. So my shock at finding out about a particular website shouldn't come as a surprise to you (or me). Last week I read about how Josh Duggar, one of the people from TLC's show 19 Kids and Counting, had publicly admitted to an affair. He admitted to the affair after the online service he used was hacked and he was one of those outed by the hackers. When I read the article it had an image in it, like the one to the right, of a screenshot from the website used by Duggar. The website is called Ashley Madison and it is an online service that helps individuals make a connection with someone so they can have an affair. When I looked at the image I noticed two shocking things. One shocking aspect of this site is the fact it has over 20 million members. Maybe the more shocking aspect is their slogan which reads "Life is short. Have an affair." As I said earlier, when you read a statement like this it should shock you at it's audacity and then motivate you to action.

It's no secret that Satan is tearing away at the fabric of our society. The easiest way for him to do that is to start in the home. By destroying marriages, Satan is winning the battle against the holiness God desires for His people. Satan is leading men and women out of a holy union designed by God and into a sinful relationship that feeds on the lusts of the flesh. It's easy to be shocked when you hear of a moral failure by a celebrity or even a friend down the road. But that shock ought to motivate you to action. It ought to remind you of the need to strengthen your own marriage, not out of fear, but out of a desire to have a strong marriage that can withstand anything Satan throws at it. 

One of the ways to strengthen your marriage is to remind yourself that your responsibility is to build up your spouse. It's your responsibility to help your spouse reach what God has designed them to be. That also means making your focus, not on what you get out of the relationship, but what you can give to the relationship to meet your spouse's needs. 

Another way to strengthen your relationship is to communicate. The quickest way for a relationship to deteriorate is for the lines of communication to break down. Put the phone, tablet, or laptop down and actually talk to each other. You will find that as you spend time together and engage each other that your bond will be strengthened. 

Finally, pray for your spouse. God can do infinitely more in a second for your spouse than you can do in a lifetime. Seek His plan for your spouse. Ask Him to strengthen your marriage. If you aren't daily praying for your spouse then you need to start today

Also, I'm not under any illusion that one spouse working to make a relationship work will be able to sustain a marriage very long. This counsel above is intended for both spouses. If both spouses are not willing to work to make the marriage strong and healthy, then it will end up being weak and open to outside influences. If you and your spouse are at the point of needing some major work on your marriage seek out a Christian marriage counselor or speak to your pastor.

Marriage is not easy. But it is even more difficult when you allow it to slowly crumble due to a lack of preventative maintenance. Do what you know you need to do to strengthen your marriage. When you do, then you'll be able to withstand all the damage Satan tries to cause.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Real mementos can't be put on a shelf.

This past weekend I had the privilege of leading our church's mission team to Bluefield, WV to put on a one day VBS event at Meet Us At The Cross Church. As always the trip made an impact on me, our team, the church we served, and the kids we ministered to at VBS. Since 2008 I've had the privilege of leading 98 different people on short-term mission trips to Canada, Pennsylvania, Vermont (twice), Wyoming, Honduras, and West Virginia. Each and every time I led a mission team, God used it to impact the lives of those on the mission trip in some way. I started a tradition on my first mission trip that has stuck with me since. When I return home from a mission trip I bring home a memento from the trip and put it on a shelf in my office. I keep them as a reminder of the trip and as a reminder to me of how God used me and how God worked through that trip. I have the M&M Minis container full of Canadian quarters that a disabled man in Canada gave us to encourage us to do more missions. I have a DVD of a NC Baptist Men's interview for Mandate from our trip to Pennsylvania. I have a Vermont wood cutting guide and a picture one of my sons colored in Mission Kids for our two trips to Vermont. I have a picture given to me by our mission team in Wyoming. I have a rock sifted out of river sand used to help build a house in Honduras, as well as the bracelet I wore when sharing the gospel there. This time I added the salvation bracelet we had the kids make in crafts at VBS in West Virginia. Those are all nice things to look at and keep but the real mementos can't be put on a shelf.

If you were to ask me what impacted me the most from each of those mission trips, I could tell you. I could tell you of an instance on each trip where God moved powerfully and impacted me, my team or the people we served. I could tell you how God accomplished God-sized tasks to clear huge areas of land in Canada and Wyoming with teams of 26 and 28 so that more ministry could be done. I can tell you how God taught me what it meant to truly serve others in Pennsylvania and Vermont. I can tell you how I saw God immediately answer a desperate prayer and part clouds like He parted the Red Sea so our team could get a church painted in Vermont. I can tell you how I saw Honduran Christians who literally had nothing sacrifice what they did have to say 'Thank You' to our team. I could tell you about a quiet little girl in West Virginia that God used to teach me more lessons about my faith than I ever learned in seminary. Those are the types of things that God does in and through your life when you allow Him to use you. It doesn't take a trip half-way across the country or half-way around the world for God to impact you through missions. All it takes is your willingness to be used by Him. If you are a willing vessel, then God will use you. My encouragement to you today is that if your church is not currently active in doing some form of local, state, national, or international missions, then speak with your pastor about mobilizing your congregation. If your church is active and you've been sitting on the sidelines, then start getting active. Find ways that God can use your gifts and abilities to minister through the missions of your church. And finally, if you want to be involved in a church that has many opportunities to get involved in missions, join us at North Catawba Baptist Church ( We have plenty of ways to get involved in missions and we'd love for you to be a part of what God is doing through our church. The key thing is to find a way to serve God through missions and then do it. So how will you get involved?

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Monday, August 10, 2015

How much do you give...and we're not talking money

Yesterday's morning worship was an awesome service at our church. Please don't hear the preacher bragging on the preaching. Honestly, I didn't think it was the right direction to go with the message and I really struggled with it but as always God led us in a direction that we needed to go. The focus of the message was on putting Jesus at the forefront of what God is doing in our church. God has been adding families of different ages to our church and we've experienced some rapid growth. With that growth we needed to have a preemptive strike against taking credit for the growth and instead giving the glory to God. At the end of the service yesterday, instead of doing a traditional invitation, we allowed church members to give God glory for what He is doing in our church. We had about 8 or so people stand up and give God glory for what He is doing in our church. I had several people mention after the service how powerful a service it was to them. I truly believe the impact of the service was due to the glory God was given.

As believers in Christ, Christians are taught to praise God and give Him glory for what He does in their lives. We don't give God glory just to say "Praise God." We give Him glory because He is the only one worthy of praise. We also give Him glory in the hopes that others will see how desirable it is to be in a relationship with God and then want to start a relationship with Him. It is vitally important that we understand that God deserves all the credit for what happens in our lives. He deserves praise when things are good and we are on top of the mountain. He also deserves glory when He walks us through those difficult valleys of life. When it comes to your own personal worship of God through praise, how much glory do you give Him? Do you take the credit for what He's doing in your life? Is it an after thought to give Him praise for His blessings? Or are you putting Him at the forefront of what He is doing in your life? Do others regularly hear you talking about how God has blessed you?

My encouragement to you today is to start making it a habit to give God the glory for what He's doing in your life. Work to make it a part of your daily speech. By doing so you'll bring glory to God and He will be able to work all the more through your life. In the end it will help to bring all the more glory to Him.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Taste and See

This morning my wife was making some lemonade before leaving for work, which is really ironic since she is allergic to it. When she had poured in the mix and stirred it up she needed someone to test it out. I was thirsty so I was ready to be at the front of the line. Our oldest son Dru edged his way in front of me and said he'd test it out even though he didn't really like lemonade. As Misty handed the glass to Dru she said a phrase that we've all heard or said about testing the quality of some drink or food. She told Dru, "Taste and see if this is..." I've always found that phrase to be odd because you're talking about two different senses, taste and sight. But when someone tells you "Taste and see if this is good," we know what they mean. They wants us to try something and then respond as to what we think about the drink, food, or dessert.

In Psalm 34 David wrote about his time in the court of the Philistine King Achish while on the run from King Saul. While there David pretended to be insane and was able to leave Philistine lands to hide else where. But in this psalm David wrote a phrase that many Christians have either heard or said. He writes in verse 8, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (NIV). In this particular psalm David speaks of how God was his refuge and protection during a difficult time in his life. But we don't have to wait until we see our world falling down around us to give God a try to see if He is as good as people say He is. We need to give God a try everyday and we will find that He truly is good. We'll see Him working in our lives, growing us spiritually, and using us to further His kingdom. One of the core characteristics of God is His goodness. He is the definition of good. All we have to do is give Him a try and we will be able to tell others "taste and see that the Lord is good." 

So how have you seen God to be good in your life? Take a moment to post or tweet about it to encourage others. Start it off by saying, "God is good because..." You're post may be the very thing that causes someone to "taste and see that the Lord is good." If you aren't on social media, text or call someone and let them know what good things God has done in your life.

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