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Beware of False Cookies

A little Wednesday wisdom from way back when. This post was first published in June of 2011. 

The Chinese Restaurant

This afternoon, after Sunday morning services, we went to a Chinese restaurant. There with some of our youth and their parents, we made multiple trips back and forth to the only kind of bar a Baptist is expected to frequent – one that has food.

Usually I eat a little of everything at a Chinese restaurant, except sushi – that stuff is just plain nasty. But today, because I decided I had not eaten fish in a long time, I felt compelled to stay with just one subset of the universal set of oriental cuisine: seafood…(how’s that for a math reference?). I’d had my share of deep-fried battered chicken, beef, and whatever.

Sweet and Sour What?

On a side note, have you ever stopped to think about how much trust one puts in the food he is eating? Just because a label says “Sweet and Sour Chicken,” does it mean “Sweet and Sour Rat, Cat, Snake, Penguin, Leopard, Iguana, etc.” taste any different? From what I have been told, everything not pork, beef, or duck tastes like chicken. Put enough breading on little pieces of meat and it’s all the same.

I say let’s become legalistic about this issue, if nothing else. Certain meats should have certain shapes, or at least keep the skin on it. How else are we supposed to know what has been deep fried and covered in some exotic sauce that smells so good you forget your neighbor’s chihuahua went missing. Everything chicken should look like a chicken or have a feather sticking out of it. If I’m gonna be eating rattlesnake, at least give me a rattle to take home and play with. If they don’t start doing this, I may have to quit eating at Chinese restaurants and stick with the BBQ place – you know, the one conveniently located next to the emergency animal clinic?

Edible Fortunes

Seriously, I can’t stop eating at the the  Numba Won Happy Mandarin Peking Garden of Panda Love Restaurant. Where else could I find a cookie with wisdom? Chinese Restaurants are the only places I know with fortune cookies, and somehow they really know me.

Now, some people open up a fortune cookie only to find stupid stuff like, “The sky will be blue for you today, unless you cloud it with doubt.Riiiight. Like, could you be any more vague?

On the other hand, my wife got one today that said, “Soon you will inherit land.” What? From whom? If she has a relative that has land to give away that’s not already promised to whiter sheep, then I’ll be really amazed. But mine are different. Mine are…

Scary Fortunes

One time I was just finishing up my road training before I started driving school buses in Tennessee. I went to a Chinese buffet for lunch, after which I got a fortune cookie. I am not lying, the piece of paper said, “You are about to enjoy success at a new job.” But what was more creepy was the Chinese word of the day was the word for “school bus.” N o  j o k e !

Today was another example of scary cookie wisdom. Would you believe that it knew I was a pastor? Would you believe that it knew I like to speak in front of large crowds? Amazingly, it knew that I am “the center of attention” whenever I am in a crowd (which is true at least three times a week). What is it supposed to mean?

False Cookies

It means that even a stupid cookie can get something right every now and then, especially if the statement enclosed is vague enough. On the other hand, it should be a reminder that there are forces at work in this world trying to deceive those with “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3).

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

“For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” – Mark 13:22

Don’t believe ’em, just eat ’em.

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Filed under baptist, Food, Future, General Observations, the future, World View

For Thy Stomach’s Sake

An add I’m about to place:

“Desperate Baptist school bus driver is actively seeking a Greek scholar who can verify στόμαχος (stomachos) also refers to one’s nerves.”

It’s been that kind of day. 

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Filed under Alcohol, baptist, Bible Study, Do not judge, Humor, legalism, Struggles and Trials, Theology, translations

The Woodmore Crash – My Observations

I live in Chattanooga, and I wanted to share with you some of what I witnessed the night of November 21, 2016.

A Tragedy

You’ve probably already heard the news and seen the pictures of bus 366, the one that crashed while carrying students home from Woodmore Elelementary. Maybe you were one of many who have shed tears at the thought of not only the loss, but what all involved have gone through. Certainly, the whole accident – everything about it – was certainly a tragedy.

As of this writing 6 young lives were lost due to the crash, and still 5 more fight for their lives at T. C. Thomson Children’s Hospital here in Chattanooga. Some parents are grieving, while others are desperately praying and hoping for the best. And then there are the first responders who worked the scene of the crash, those who had to recover the broken bodies of children: they will have to live the rest of their lives with memories they’d love to forget.

Yes, it was a tragedy, for everyone involved, including the driver and his family. Lest we forget, he will likely go to prison, and then there will be one more child without a father. Tragic.

My Role

If you didn’t know, I am a Police Chaplain with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. I have been in this role for about a year, doing what I can to minister to those who put their lives on the line to protect us. Thursday night, November 21st, was the first time I was called upon to offer my help in the middle of a catastrophe.

Like many other chaplains, pastors, and ministers from all over the area, I went to one of the locations where parents, family, friends and neighbors, media, and a host of men and women in uniform were gathered. My job, as it were, was to simply offer the “ministry of presence” to whomever I could. People were grieving, fearful, and angry, so I went to offer whatever help I could, even if it was nothing more than my being there.

What I Witnessed

I can’t begin to describe in this short blog post all the pain and suffering I witnessed in the lobby and waiting rooms where hundreds of distraught family members were gathered. Just think, for every one of the 27 that were taken to the hospital there were multiple family and friends waiting for news – news that was long in coming, for it was difficult to identify children when they had no ID’s and all wore the same school uniform.

The hospital estimated that over 800 people came to the children’s emergency room. That’s a lot of worried, grieving people!

Broken Families. There were so many broken – as in divorced and separated – families at the hospital. This became obvious as many of the parents of the children yelled at each other, either in person (where some had to be physically restrained) or over the phone. One father, obviously not the custodial parent, cursed his child’s mother for not letting him see his child. During a time when a group had gathered in a circle, holding hands in prayer, a mother stood ten feet away screaming into her smartphone: “You ain’t never f****** been there when we f****** needed you, so get your f****** ass down here right f****** now!”

Varying Responses. Different people deal with grief in different ways, and this was never more apparent than on Monday night. Some people would hold each other and silently weep. Others would appear emotionless as they walked around or sat and stared. Others would seem calm for one moment, then break out into wails of, “Not my baby! Not my baby!” There was plenty of anger to go around, so many were already talking of law suits and violence. But a few would explode into rage, putting fists through walls, throwing chairs, running through the rooms at full speed and crashing into glass walls and doors (thankfully, none shattered). People were falling onto the floor, rolling and screaming, fighting off anyone who’d try to calm them down.

Great Professionalism. It’s times like this that bring out the best in people. The police officers, EMT’s, firemen, security personnel, hospital staff, and doctors all did their jobs as true professionals. Even though they were certainly affected by all of this, they not only maintained control of their own emotions, but they compassionately managed the traumatic outbursts of others. Even though the medical staff were completely overwhelmed, I never once saw panic in their expressions – only calm assurance that everything possible was being done. Many, if not all, went above and beyond.

Heartbreaking Hopelessness. Without doubt, the hardest thing for me to witness was the hopelessness of some. Actually, there were more than a few family members who grieved in such a way that I was vividly reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13:  “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Tears came to my own eyes as I listened to cries of loss, the kind of loss that is permanent and hopeless. That was the true tragedy of all this.

What I Learned

I don’t know if I really learned a lot Monday night after the crash, but I was definitely reminded of a a couple of things.

First, coloring is a good thing. Yes, sometimes all one needs is a little distraction in order to deal with trauma. When that distraction is creating something beautiful, all the better.

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Click on the picture to read my interview in the Baptist Press.

Secondly, life is short. Again, I might not have learned anything new Thursday night after the crash of bus 366, but I sure was reminded of something: life is short, no matter how long we live. We never know when our lives will end, so there is never a better time to make things right with God than today.

Please say a prayer or two for the families and all those affected by the tragic crash of bus 366, especially on this Thanksgiving Day. Also, the next time you see a school bus driver doing his/her or job well, say something nice – it’s a tough job.

 

 

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Filed under baptist, current events, General Observations, Life/Death, ministry

Having Fun While Filling In

One thing about not regularly pastoring a congregation is that I get a chance to visit other churches. Last night I got to visit New Salem Baptist Church and fill in for the regular pastor, Alan Rogers.

If you’ve never done it before, filling in for another pastor can be rather fun. In other words, it’s always refreshing to preach from someone else’s pulpit when there’s no risk of you being fired. HA!

So, just in case I have many more opportunities to cover for other pastors while on vacation or at a conference, or whatever, here are some sermon ideas I’m considering. Just let me know when you want me to come preach one….(cue the maniacal BWWAAAHAHAHA!)

  1. “Put On that New Robe: Why Congregations Should Buy Their Pastor a New Suit
  2. “Beautiful Are the Feet that Carry the Gospel: Keeping Your Pastor’s Feet Healthy and Happy In New Shoes
  3. “Smite a Scorner: Ways to Deal with Gossiping In the Congregation
  4.  “The Hem of His Garment: Why Jesus Is Concerned With How We Dress
  5.  “The Holy Spirit: What Scares Baptist More than a Clinton
  6. “Deacons: Who, What, When, Where, and How to Deal With Them
  7. “The Pastor’s Family: Living In a Glass House with Those Who’d Love to Throw a Rock Back

Below is a picture of me preaching at New Salem Baptist in Soddy-Daisy, TN. They had a big screen behind me, but it was not put to use when I was talking. Therefore, I did a little editing. What do you think?

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Would you like to know why I HATE the devil? If so, that’ll be my next post.

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Filed under baptist, Church, Humor, Preaching

Different, Yet the Same

South Soddy

Yesterday (Sunday) I was blessed to be able to preach at two different churches, one in the morning, the other in the evening.

Yesterday morning I was the guest speaker at South Soddy Baptist Church. The congregation there was warm and friendly and very receptive to the message I delivered. Below it a picture I took inside the auditorium (sanctuary).

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Notice, South Soddy Baptist was constructed back in 1946. It is small, simple building by today’s standards.

Mile Straight

Last night I was very privileged to be invited to speak at Mile Straight Baptist Church. Mile Straight is a much more modern building (it’s been remodeled, too) with plenty of up-to-date technology. Click HERE to visit their website – it’s pretty cool.

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Notice, even though Mile Straight has a more modern layout than South Soddy, something about the two are very similar. Can you tell what that is?

Neither have big choir lofts.

I first noticed this at South Soddy yesterday morning. I noticed how in the old design of this church the focus was never supposed be on the choir. Instead of an entertainment-like model many Christians have come to expect, this old church was set up so that the congregation would do all the singing and “worshiping,” not simply be entertained by the choir.

When I got to Mile Straight I saw the same thing. Oh, Mile Straight used to have a choir, but not so much anymore (I think). No, more focus is place on congregational singing than choirs. Even though they do have more of a “praise team,” the idea is to lead the congregation in worship rather than just sit and listen to others do it.

Honestly, I have no problem with wonderful, trained choirs. Friday night I got to hear my daughter Katie sing a solo in her college choir, and it was chillingly glorious! But that was a true performance…we paid to go see that. Church services should never be about entertaining the crowd; they should be about corporate worship. So, have a choir if you want, but encourage the congregation to be more than just consumers.

Two very different church congregations and buildings, yet still very alike in at least one important way.

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Filed under baptist, Christian Unity, Church, worship

Resigning to Trust My Shepherd

Most of the time I can enter the title of a post before I begin to write it. In this case I don’t know what to call it. All I know to to do is start writing and let things fall into place.

That’s sort of where I am in life, right now; I don’t know where I am going, but I had to get going to find out.

Old News

By the time you read this post, someone in my former congregation will have read aloud my formal resignation as Pastor of Riverside Baptist Church – at least I hope they read it…all of it. It took me a couple of hours to craft it, all 1,026 words worth, and some of the words were painful to write. However, it had to be done.

Themes

In my resignation letter I focused on two main themes. First, it was important to note that the Church, including the local body of believers I pastored, did not belong to any of us; it belongs to Jesus Christ. Secondly, I stressed the importance of effective leadership: both the need to have it, and the willingness to accept it.

If either one is dysfunctional with either party (the pastor or the congregation), tension will grow…even worse, the power of the Holy Spirit will fade.

Feels like…

Therefore, based on several reasons, I had to accept the fact that my leadership was no longer effective, thereby necessitating a change, however painful and scary it may be. Unfortunately, it feels like a divorce (even though I’ve never experienced one). Maybe I could say it feels like a death, but that’s not really true – I have experience that kind of loss many times.

What it does feel like, however, is a missed opportunity…an “Oh, well” moment. I guess that’s why it’s called a “resignation.”

More to Do

Nevertheless, I will share with you the closing words of my resignation letter, for they express something that is more important than anything else – God is still sovereign! He’s got this! None of this caught Him by surprise, for He already has been working to make things new.

If you will remember, the Mission Statement of Riverside is as follows:

Reach the Lost, Rescue the Perishing, and Restore the Wounded for the Glory of God.”

Continue to reach the lost… We will. Endeavor to rescue the perishing… We will. And especially today, seek to restore the wounded, heal divisions, and move forward with grace and forgiveness… We will.

Pray for Us

Please, please, pray for my family and me as we seek to follow God to the next field of service, wherever that may be. Please pray for my former flock that they will find a more suitable shepherd and follow his leading.

Also, please pray that I will be able to put in to practice the lessons I have learned over the last eight years, thereby being able to replace the “missed opportunity” feeling with assurance that all things work together for good, to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.

After all, there are still plenty of lost, perishing, and wounded out there.

 

Now I know how to title this post 🙂

 

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Filed under baptist, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Church, Future, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching, the future

Was Dr. John R. Rice a Heretic?

Back in 2011 I wrote what has been my #1 most visited post every year. I’ve only re-posted it once, and that was in April of this year (2016). I would like to beat my total viewing stats for 2013, so why not post it again? Couldn’t hurt, right?

The Doctor

I would like to pose a question to my brothers and sisters who refuse to recognize any other translation: Was John R. Rice a heretic? If you don’t know of whom I am referring, let me give you a little background information.

Dr. John R. Rice

Dr. John R. Rice (d. 1980) was one of the most well-known fundamentalist writers and evangelists of the 20th century. He wrote more than 200 books and booklets which were published in many languages and sold all over the world. He condemned the compromise, liberalism, and apostasy being taught at major denominational colleges and seminaries, and fought for a return to holiness and the fundamentals of the Christian faith. But what I think he will always be remembered for is his founding of the weekly paper, the Sword of the Lord.

For the record, I highly respect Dr. Rice, and my personal library contains several of his works published back in the 1960’s. However, even though Dr. Rice was a great preacher and author, he was not flawless; he said some things back in the day that I have a hard time with. On the other hand, he also said some things that would shock the average reader of Sword of the Lord, especially those who believe the KJV is the one-and-only perfect, preserved text for the English-speaking world.

From 1611 to 1901

Unlike the Sword which continually decries any other translation as dangerous and confusing, Dr. Rice actually recommended the 1901 ASV. (OK, would somebody get a glass of water for the fainting KJV-only person on the floor?) Dr. John R. Rice, founder and editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, actually said that the…

“…American Standard Version, translated in 1901, is perhaps the most accurate of all versions… It takes advantage of the three great manuscripts – the Sinaiticus, the Vatican, and the Alexandrian manuscripts – which were not available when the King James Version was translated.”   from, Dr. Rice, Here Is My Question (Wheaton: Sword of the Lord, 1962), p. 59.

As an overall explanation of his beliefs on the topic of multiple translations, Dr. Rice also stated:

“[There] are many, many translations. The differences in the translations are so minor, so insignificant, that we can be sure not a single doctrine, not a single statement of fact, not a single command or exhortation, has been missed in our translations. And where the Word of God is not perfectly translated in one instance, it is corrected in another translation. And if the Word of God is not perfectly portrayed in one translation, it is portrayed, surely, in the winnowed sum of them all… Have copyists passed on to us any major errors so that in any particular matter we miss the Word of God? There is abundant evidence that they have not. Do the various translations differ materially on any doctrine, any fact of history, any Christian duty, on the plan of salvation, or the Person of Christ, or any comfort or instruction? No, they do not! God has preserved His Scriptures. – from, Our God-Breathed Book, the Bible (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1969), p. 355.

Now, according to those who refuse to read or use any other translation of the Bible than the King James 1611, Dr. Rice, who had probably been one of their heroes, is now a liberal.

What a shame! He did so much!

Original or Translation?

I believe that God inspired His Word (2 Timothy 3:16). I believe He gave it to us in the original autographs. I believe that He has preserved copies of those originals in the examples we have of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts. What I do not believe is that the King James Version was the one-and-only, forever-settled-as-pure-and-inspired translation. It is ONLY a translation. To say that no other English translation is the Word of God is to say that the Geneva Bible, 51 years older than the KJV, was just a book.

The Kings James Version of the Bible changed the world. We should all be grateful for it. I still use it many times when preaching, and especially when memorizing verses. But even though the KJV was and is a blessing of God, His Word is preserved in the ORIGINAL TEXTS. Anything other than the original languages, including the King James, is a translation.

Do No Harm

Our goal should be to use the best translations of the texts at our disposal when we are preaching and teaching, comparing them with each other and the originals, when possible, so that we can better understand how God’s Word should be understood in today’s language. After all, if you can’t understand it, doing you no good is the least of your worries – doing harm because of a faulty understanding based on a changed vocabulary is far worse. That is where the REAL heresy comes from.

But hey, it doesn’t matter which translation, if you are not reading it and studying it on your own, you might as well be reading Harry Potter and the Temple of Whatever.

READ your Bible. STUDY your Bible. Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you read and study. If you do, several wonderful things will happen: you won’t be ashamed in the end (2 Timothy 2:15); you will find light for your path (Psalm 119:105); and you will know how not to sin against God (Psalm 119:11). Even the ASV, ESV, HCSB, or the NIV will tell you that!

Wouldn’t you agree, Dr. Rice?

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Filed under baptist, legalism, translations, Uncategorized