Category Archives: Christian Maturity

You Can Do What Through Christ?

Warming Up & Weather

It is a wonderfully blustery Wednesday afternoon as I write this on my own computer. However, because I do not have Wi-Fi or a wireless card on this computer, and the nearest place to plug in is too far away for the Ethernet cable to reach, I’m sitting here enjoying my own keyboard and creating a Word document to save on a flash drive, and then take to my wife’s computer which is connected to the world.

I know you didn’t need to know all of that, but I needed to warm up my fingers – I’ve been too long at the iPhone and iPad.

Storms are about to sweep through our area again, much worse than the lightening that came through yesterday. As of the moment of this writing, we are under a tornado watch and expecting straight-line winds of up to 60 mph, along with hail. That’s not good, but I guess it could be worse – Hillary Clinton could be coming to dinner.

So, before the power ends up going out, or at least before I end up having to shut everything down again, I am now going to share with you some thoughts I had yesterday, before my flash of brilliance (that’s call humor)was interrupted by a flash of lightening.

“I can do it!”

tim-tebow-si-coverHow often have you heard it proclaimed, especially by athletes and motivational speakers, “I can do all things through Christ”?  I’m sure you’ve probably seen Philippians 4:13 written on the sleeves and foreheads of runners; tacked on the end of messages to struggling college students; or heard from friends before you accepted that challenging new position.  For the most part, Philippians 4:13 has been used as a tool to soothe our fears of failure and encourage us to greatness, because, after all, “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”

The only problem with using Philippians 4:13 is that the context has nothing to do with what most people want to accomplish. It has nothing to do with running races, lifting weights, saving relationships, getting promotions, or making money; it does, however, have everything to do with enduring hardship, pain, and unfair loss with growing faith.

In verses 11 and 12 the Apostle Paul stated that he had learned how to be content in all circumstances, whether poor or rich, hungry or well-fed, comfortable or uncomfortable. The “things” to which he was referring in verse 13 are anything but contests, races, jobs, relationships, etc.

So often we forget the struggles and trials our forefathers in the faith have endured. In chapter 4 in his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul was attempting to encourage a poor congregation, not a rich one. He was thanking God for their renewed financial support (v.10), while at the same time encouraging them not to feel guilty for their previous lack of support, because they had “lacked opportunity.” He was saying to them, “Hey, it’s OK! Really! God has taken care of me and met my needs. And even when I was in need, or pain, or suffering, the miraculous power of Jesus Christ has proved real in giving me the ability to be content, whatever the situation.”

But I need Jesus

I don’t know where you are in life, but I am trying to learn, as Paul did (v.11), how to be content, even when I don’t know where I’m going to be living in a month, how I’m going to see the little church I now pastor survive and grow, or whether or not we will be able to pay our basic bills, much less keep the cell phones going. The temptation is to fall prey to fear and doubt, to envy and lust, and to struggle against the current of His will, like a butterfly against a hurricane.

However, if I could just rest in Jesus, admit my frailties, and lean on Him, His grace is sufficient for me, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). It shouldn’t matter to my faith if the money isn’t there like it used to be, for “according to His riches” (Eph. 3:16) I will be “strengthened…unto all patience and longsuffering” (Col. 1:11).

Just remember, context…context…context!! Don’t use Scripture where it was never meant to apply. However, no matter what you do, remember the words of Jesus in John 15:5: “…for without me you can do nothing.”

Christ will strengthen the believer that puts his/her trust in Him, but only for the things He has called you to accomplish for His glory. If winning a gold medal, making your first million, or getting that promotion is part of the plan, then so be it; but don’t count on it.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials, Theology

An Embarrassing Reminder

I was planning on sharing something different this morning, but then I read another post (from Matthew Winters) that changed my mind.

I won’t go into detail, for, as truth would have it, the Devil is in the details; I will just give you a thumbnail sketch of what happened to me a couple of hours ago.

Early in the morning hours I made a call over the radio on my school bus. It was not a serious call, just one to add a little humor into the day. I called into my dispatch (everyone could hear this) and said, “All of my elementary students are acting right for a change…please advise.” After a silly reply or two, a serious voice came over the radio from the head boss, the manager of the whole show, and asked to see me in his office when I got back to the lot.

Why did he want to see me? Well, it was nothing important, at least nothing I need to recount here. However, for an hour I had to think about what it was that he wanted to see me for. I kept thinking to myself, “What did I do?”

It wasn’t long before I was considering how I would explain to my wife and family my firing. How would we make it? How would I pay the bills? It’s already tough at the moment, but what would I do now? I was literally ready to hear the words, “We are going to have to let you go,” and I hadn’t a single reason.

I was shaking. I was nervous. I was fearful. I was ashamed of myself. I was faithless.

Once the short meeting was over, my boss, a Christian guy, asked me, “So, you still looking for a new church to pastor?”

I left his office feeling like a fool. I left embarrassed. I left with only one short prayer on my lips…”I’m sorry, Lord.”

This is how Satan attempts to defeat the children of God. He accuses, even when there is nothing for which to answer! He makes us look for wrong in ourselves, judge ourselves unjustly, and forget that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and watches over us. He seeks to destroy our faith with fear: fear of the unknown; fear of what doesn’t even exist.

In my weakness, partly because I didn’t start my day with prayer, I fell victim to the enemy’s lies and nearly defeated myself.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

“…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matthew 28:20

Next time the devil starts whispering those accusations in my ear, let me be reminded Who’s side I’m on and Who has already won the victory for me. That might save me some embarrassment when next I fall on my knees.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Life Lessons

Happy Birthday, Valentine!

valerieToday is my wife’s 50th birthday! Yes, she is 50, and I don’t care to tell people about it.

Does she care? I don’t think so. Why? Because she is the type that constantly quotes the words of Paul to the Thessalonians…she even concludes her emails with these verses:

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So, Happy Birthday to Valerie (because she was born so close to Valentine’s Day), the greatest Valentine a man could have ever received!

“Happy birthday, you’re so nifty, even if you’re hitting fifty! / Valerie, my Valentine, I’m so very glad you’re mine!”

Cheesy poetry is better than no poetry, right?

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Marriage, Relationships and Family

All I Need

We have moved into our new, temporary abode, but I don’t have my computer set up. My wife does, but she’s more important than me – she does taxes. 
So, the following is either being written or texted by voice on my iPhone, therefore please forgive me if there are any errors.

Anyway, the last night that I stayed at the house where we used to live, I slept there with hardly anything in the house that belonged to us; most everything except bulky stuff had been boxed up and hauled away. 

I looked over into the open closet, and there was nothing there but one set of clothes and a pair of shoes that I was going to wear the next day.

I looked up from the bed that I was lying on and saw the ceiling above me, keeping the rain that was falling hard outside from falling hard on to me. 

Downstairs there was a refrigerator with a little food in it, just enough to make some breakfast and maybe a little extra.

I had running water, electricity, heat, and locks on the doors. 

It was as I was looking around at the near-empty rooms, something very important struck me: I really had all I needed.

I mean, what more did I really need? I had food, shelter, security, a place to sleep, clothes, and probably a few other things that I didn’t notice. With everything gone from the house, I still had everything I needed.

That made me ask, “Why do I have all that other stuff in the first place?”

It made me realize how rich I really am. Take everything away and an “empty” house is not as empty as I thought. 

That’s when I started thinking about Jesus. When everything is gone I still have him, and he’s really all I need.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Are you rich? 

Are you content? 

Do you have Jesus? 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, General Observations, God, Life Lessons, salvation, worship

Different Metal, Different Furnace

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 NKJV

Gold or Silver

In case you were not aware, there is a difference between gold and silver (Well, duh!). Seriously, there is a difference between the two, and that fact should not be taken lightly. Gold is gold, and silver is silver. Obvious stuff, right?

Well, sometimes the obvious is profoundly important.

Gold is extremely valuable, but is soft and pliable. Silver is not as valuable per ounce, but is nevertheless a harder precious metal. Gold is highly sought after and coveted; silver is more common, but is still critically important for a wide range of applications, everything from electronics to medicine.

How one refines gold, compared with silver, is not the same. What’s more, the temperatures of the refiner’s fire is hotter for one than the other.

What R You?

When I read Proverbs 17:3 the other day, something obvious proved to be very profound: depending on how God wants us to be used, each one’s trial by fire will vary in intensity, the heat of which will determine what metal we are made of.

gold furnace

Source: The Australian

Unlike gold and silver, we are human; our qualities and usefulness change. Some days we are made of gold, while other days we are silver, but most of the time it is hard to determine which. That’s when the Refiner turns up the heat.

There is a lot to refining gold and silver. Not only is there heat involved, but various acids, too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when God not only allows us to endure intense pressure (heat), but permits the caustic, painful situations of life to eat away the impurities within us.

God is the refiner of hearts.

Iron Man

But, you know what? Gold and silver, while both rare and beautiful, will never make good axes, swords, cannons, I-beams for skyscrapers, or bridges across raging streams.

Sometimes there are jobs that can only be done with iron.

Don’t feel special? Don’t think of yourself as gold-like? That’s OK! You’re important, too! As a matter of fact, the melting point of iron is nearly double that of gold.

You may think what you are going through right now is far tougher than anything a “golden saint” might deserve. Don’t lose hope; the fires forging you are instilling a strength that may be needed to wage war against the Enemy, support the heavy loads of many, or bridge the gap between understanding and ignorance.

Don’t curse the furnace. Let the Refiner do His work.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

Responding to Temptation

Young Woman,

I don’t care how young you are, 20’s or whatever. I don’t care how pretty you are, at least what I can see. I don’t care how much fun and full of energy you are; I’m not. I don’t care how much you want to please me. I don’t even care how much you care about me, or how much you need me. 

You see, whatever you have to offer, no matter what it may be, is not worth my marriage. No amount of “love making” could compare to the love that’s been built over the last 23 years with my wife. 

I love my wife and I love my God who gave her to me. I love my daughters and the trust they place in me. Nothing you can offer is worth what I’d have to give up. 

Lastly, marriage is designed to be symbolic of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Because of this, and because of the gospel, I will remain faithful to my wife because Jesus is faithful to me. 

In other words, I’m not interested in what you have to offer. 

Respectfully,

Happily Forever-Married Man

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Marriage, Relationships and Family

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