Category Archives: God

Simple Preacher

“Simple Preacher”

What I am is just a simple ol’ preacher.
And what I know’s been s’ficient so far.
But when I get around some of them scholars,
They go and act like my knowin’s sub par!

They impress with their didactic polemics
And their proofs of amanuenses,
But at the risk of sounding simply solipsistic,
I just know that I know I have Jesus.

– Anthony Baker

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Filed under God, poetry, Preaching

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Listen to the Locals

“In the Middle Of…”

When I first traveled down to this part of Georgia, having no knowledge of what was around, I used a common term to describe the area. I told others it was “in the middle of nowhere.”

Since then, I have felt bad about saying that. First, unless Warthen was in the middle of nowhere – like some outpost in the middle of Antarctica – the term could be considered derogatory. Coming across as bigoted isn’t helpful.

Secondly, nowhere is actually nowhere; everywhere is somewhere because God is there. In reality, I’m right in the middle of where I’m supposed to be.

So, there’s that.

Listen to the Locals

But when it comes to getting around and finding what you need, the somewhere might not be “nowhere,” but finding anywhere when you’re there can prove difficult, if not leave you stranded with an empty gas tank and no filling station for miles. That is why before you start exploring, listen to the locals!

One of the first things that bothered me (and, I know, this is more of a first-world problem) was that there seemed to be no restaurants. My wife and I had pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that there would be no nice place to go on a date. But what we came to find out was that if we were only willing to drive a few minutes, and if we were willing to trust our local guides, we would find exactly what we were looking for.

For example, last week a couple from our church invited us to join them for a movie and dinner. After the movie, they took us to a steak house. But if we had not trusted the suggestion of our new friends, we wouldn’t have even given the place a chance. I mean this place was the quintessential example of “hole in the wall.” It was literally a steak house.

In front of Tumpies, the “Best little steakhouse this side of Texas.” It’s not too far away in Dublin, GA. It was a house built in the 1880s, but now a great place to eat!

But the food was some of the best I have ever had – ever. It will be a destination when we host friends from out of town.

Another thing that bothered me was that I didn’t think there were any coffee shops around. Again, when I listened to the locals I found out about a great coffee place not far away from where I will be meeting a new preacher friend every week to talk shop.

So, no, my place in the middle of Georgia might not be Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, or the like, but it has everything I thought I was going to miss and everything I need. I mean, come on, it’s got steak and coffee!

Been Where We’re Going

You know, the children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, were faced with a similar situation when they were about to cross over the Jordan River. In chapter 3, the Lord told Joshua to send the Levites and the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people. The reason was pretty clear.

“But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.” – Joshua 3:4 (CSB)

If there is there anyone we should listen to, it’s the Lord. Do you realize there is not a place He has never walked? Do you know there is not a place, not a situation, not a wilderness, where He has not already worn the straight and narrow path?

Think how much time and effort I saved after listening to the locals who’ve lived in this little town for years and years! How much more would all of us benefit if we’d just trust the One who’s already been where we’re going?

If you can trust the locals, you can certainly trust the Lord – He knows where everything is.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, community, Faith, Food, God, ministry

If Ever I Loved Thee

Today is Haley’s 19th birthday! Yay Haley!! And since we are back in Chattanooga for the event, I thought I’d repost something from the past – since I’m not preaching anywhere, today (we’re going to church with Haley).

Next week: Bethlehem Baptist – see you there!

A Hymn Sermon

One of the greatest hymns, at least one of my favorites, is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” This past Sunday morning I preached a sermon based on the four verses from this song.

Below is a copy of the simple outline I took to the pulpit. I must admit, it got me a little wound up. (Can I get an “Amen!“)

“My Jesus I Love Thee”

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; (Jn 21:15-17)
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; (2 Tim. 2:19)
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; (Ruth 2:10)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Regeneration)

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, (1 John 4:19)
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree; (1 Peter 1:18-19)
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; (Mt 27, Mk 15, Jn 19:2)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Realization)

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, (Job 13:15)
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; (Job 33:4)
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, (Ps. 116:15)

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Resignation)

In mansions of glory and endless delight, (Jn 14:2)
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; (Rev 21:23)

I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow, (2 Tim 4:8)
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now. (The Place of Revelation)

-William Ralph Featherstone (1864)

Regeneration. As I read the lyrics, I began to see a logical progression through the believer’s life. First, there was the love for Jesus that comes when one is born again – that moment of regeneration, when one is “saved.” The love we have for Christ is evident by our desire to repent of our sin and turn from its “follies.” Along with that there’s the humble heart that asks, as Ruth, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me?”

Realization. The second verse describes a maturing love for our Lord that, over time, gains an appreciation for what Christ actually did to save us. Our love deepens when we begin to realize all those little sins, even the most petty, caused the sinless Son of God to have to endure unimaginable pain and humiliation, not out of obligation, but because of His love for us. His cross should have been mine, but He loved me first; therefore, I love Him.

Resignation. Thirdly, there’s that place in life when we must ultimately resign everything – our hopes, our dreams, our lives – to the One who ultimately lends us each breath. This deep, trusting love comes from a life that has witnessed the enduring faithfulness of our Savior, leading us to echo the words of Job, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Revelation. Then, finally, there will be the place of revelation that will send our love for Christ soaring to infinite heights. We will know as we are known. We will have no more need of faith, for faith shall become sight. We will be eternally overwhelmed by the Love of the ages, forcing us to cry out, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus tis now!

Just thought I’d share 😉

Sermon: “My Jesus I Love Thee!”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, salvation, worship

We’re All Sinners. Selah.

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” – Psalm 4:4

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A musical notation calling us to pause, to rest for a moment and consider what has just been said. In this verse, we are told to “commune” with our own hearts upon our beds. What about? Let’s think about it.

How Long?

Before, in the previous selah in Psalm 4:2, David was asking the question “How long?” How long would those whom he had once trusted betray him? How long would his former friends treat him like an enemy? How long would they promote lies over truth, and turn his “glory into shame?”

You and I may not be kings in exile, or have former commanders in our personal guard out for our head. However, there may be people who lie about you; spread untruths about you at work; misrepresent you to your children, or withhold that little bit of evidence just to win their case against you. How long will they get away with it?

You observe the culture. You watch the news and see the movies. You shake your head with disgust as you witness sin and shame, practically every deviancy known to man, promoted like it was the new gospel. You narrow your eyes and grit your teeth and whisper under your breath, “They should be glad I’m not God.” How long will God let them get away with it?

Awful Angry

Stand in awe, and sin not…” The Septuagint renders it “Be ye angry, and sin not…” The same is repeated by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4:26 when he says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” So why awe in one and angry in the other?

The word translated both as “awe” and “angry” is an interesting one. Consider Strong’s treatment of it:

רָגַז râgaz, raw-gaz’; a primitive root; to quiver (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear):—be afraid, stand in awe, disquiet, fall out, fret, move, provoke, quake, rage, shake, tremble, trouble, be wroth.

So, when David is telling us to stand in “awe,” he is not telling us to do something like look up to the stars and go, “WOW!” No, David is giving us permission, as Paul did, to be angry; angry to the point of violently shaking, full of emotion and rage.

Just without sin.

Go to Bed?

So, just to make it clear, it’s OK to get angry, just as long as it’s a righteous anger (the last thing we want to be found guilty of is a lack of emotion when confronted with perversion and injustice; apathy is its own sin).  But in an apparent contrast with the later writing of Paul, what does King David suggest we do?

Go to bed and think about it? He said, “…commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

But wait! I thought the Apostle Paul said we shouldn’t go to bed angry? What’s the difference?

The difference is GRACE, pure and simple. And hallelujah for that!

Humble Communion

Go ahead, get angry at the sin of the world. Go ahead, tremble with indignant anger at the way the glory of God is impugned on a day-to-day basis. Go ahead, quiver and shake with anger over the way people have been treating you – you have that right. But there’s something else you need to do: Remember the grace of God.

No, David is not telling us to go to bed angry and stew on it; he is encouraging us to remember that we are sinners, also.

To “commune with your own heart” means to reflect on yourself and your own condition. And when we add to that the words “be still” (דָּמַם [dā·mǎm]), which according to some* carries with it the idea of wailing and lamenting, along with being silent, what we have is the suggestion to be angry, but to remember we are sinners, too.

When David was treated horribly, he got angry, but he also remembered that if it wasn’t for God’s mercy he would suffer the same fate as the wicked. So, although we should get angry, at times, it is important for us to remember that although God is righteous, He is also gracious and good.

Thank Him for His mercy as you commune with your soul, and let Him handle those other people. Selah.

 


 

*William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 72.

*James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

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Filed under Christian Living, God, Selah, Theology, worship

How Long? Selah.

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” – Psalm 4:2

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. A word that calls us to stop for just a moment and contemplate what we’ve just read. This morning pause and consider the glory of God.

“My glory”

It is important that we realize first that when David writes these words it is not only about himself. This is one of those verses which have a double meaning: one that is meant for the time it was written, and another that implies a bigger story. In this case, it’s about the glory of God.

In case you’ve ever wondered, the word glory carries with it the idea of a “heaviness” or a “burden.” It concerns one’s “reputation.”

“Sons of men…”

David was probably writing to men whom at one point were his trusted friends, but now they were trying to kill him. These were men who made up his inner circle of government, who acted in his name. Yet now, here they were in rebellion, turning the glory of David’s reign into shame.

Sons of men was something of a title of honor and dignity.

“Vanity” and “Leasing”

Vanity is that which is hollow and worthless. Vanity is that beauty that fades, the riches that decay. Yet, what does the world love? It chases after fleeting fame and false beauty. It’s constantly trying one-up God’s creation. Yet, men “love” it; literally, they “flirt” with it. Why not seek after things that last?

“Leasing” is another word for lying. David is asking why it is that men seek after lies? I guess the answer could be found in the modern context of news. Why do we keep going to the media for truth about the world when we know they rarely tell the truth?

From Glory to Shame

God is asking His creation – the ones who bear the fingerprint of their Creator – “Why do you turn MY glory into shame?” Why do men and women constantly seek after emptiness and lies, when the Truth is right in front of them?

Why did David’s men rebell against him, knowing he was God’s annointed King of Israel? Why do men rebel against Jesus, the eternal King of Glory? After all, we are who we are because of God; we are the jewel of His creation! Why do we love to devalue ourselves, turning His glory into shame?

Tragic, isn’t it? Nevertheless, the “how long” part of this verse hints at something very important: We can’t rob God’s glory and impune His name forever.

Just think about that for a while.

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Filed under Bible Study, God, Selah

Life Lessons from the School Bus (#4)

Till the Storm Passes Over”

Yesterday a strong storm front moved through our area around 2:25 p.m., EST. I was in the bus. NOT a good idea.

On a normal day, schools get out at 2:15. Yesterday, because of the coming storm, school dismissal was delayed until 2:30. That was a smart move. It would have been really dangerous to be on the road with a bunch of children and a tornado coming.

Because I knew that rain and high winds was on the way, I went outside of the school building and onto my bus to put up the windows. That was at 2:15……2:17, it was still calm……2:18, the storm hit like a bull catching a matador.

The following is what I posted on Facebook from my iPhone:

  • 2:18 pm “Storm is on us at lookout valley. In bus. Not good. Think was a bad idea.”
  • 2:21 pm “Laying on floor.”
  • 2:21 pm “Just a little scared.”
  • 2:23 pm “Hail.”
  • 2:24 pm “Hope somebody is praying.”
  • 2:30 pm “Whew! Bad stuff is over. Kids will be getting on bus soon. They held them in the school until the storm passed. Was scary.”

The reason I got down in the floor, as opposed to sitting in my seat, was because I was afraid that broken glass might start flying around. I also thought that I might be safer on the floor if a tree came looking for my head. Who knows? All I know is that while I was on the floor – while the bus rocked and the wind roared – I prayed.

I didn’t get off the bus because the wind was so intense, and opening the door would have been difficult, if not impossible. Not to mention, I had no idea if I would have been blown away or hit by a head-seeking oak branch. At least in the bus there was some metal protecting me. But on the other hand, it would have been a lot safer in the building. The bus was a bad idea.

As a result of the storm, there were hundreds of calls to the police for help. Trees were down everywhere, blocking roads, taking down power lines, and even crushing cars and damaging houses. As a matter of fact, I had to wait for nearly an hour for a power line to be cleared, just so my bus to get down a little back road. It was a mess.

Life Lesson

Sometimes storms come when you least expect them, even when you expect they will come. When they do, it is best to find shelter in a place that can weather the storm.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. – Psalms 18:2

When the storms of life hit, the best place to be is within our Saviour’s protective hand. The flimsy philosophies of this world are no better than a school bus in gale force winds. Till the storm passes over, resting safe within His arms is the best place to be.

“Sheltered in the Arms of God”

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.
They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.
I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,
The dark clouds rise,
They don’t bother me;
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.
He walks with me,
And naught of earth shall harm me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

– Dottie Rambo

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Filed under Future, God, Life Lessons, the future

“Let God be True, and Luther a Liar”

The following post (and it’s a long one) was written 8 years ago in 2011, shortly after returning from Florida where I officiated a beach wedding. I thought this piece might be a nice reminder that racism, regardless of the race, is sin. Unfortunately, the best we can do is still going to be flawed. Our only hope is found in God, our Mighty Fortress and Strength.

St. Petersburg, FL

Forgive me, but I am not a big fan of St. Petersburg, especially in the winter when it is 45 degrees. To me, Florida is supposed to be HOT. The warmest it got last week was in the low 70’s. The water on both coasts was terribly cold; therefore, sightseeing was more appropriate than sunbathing on the beach (which I don’t prefer, anyway). But aside from all of that, I still don’t think I would have liked St. Petersburg, even if it had been in the dead of summer.

However, they did have a few nice museums.

From books to IPhones

One museum we (Katie and I) enjoyed was the Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.fine-arts.org/). Believe it or not, it was the first time that I ever had the chance to stand in a room full of paintings by Monet. It was impressive, especially when you consider how close a teenager could stand next to objects worth multiple millions of dollars. Fortunately for the paintings, teenagers have touch-screen phones to keep their fingers occupied.

Another place we went, at my insistence, was the Florida Holocaust Museum (http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/). I felt that it was important for the girls to see with their own eyes what true hatred and bigotry, even false religion can do. Not as big, nor as impressive as the museum in Washington, D.C., this museum still told the story well and featured an original cattle car that once carried Jews to the concentration camps.

Amelia Island, FL

When we left St. Petersburg, in order to find another beach to help Haley with her science project, at the advice of my brother-in-law, we went to Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida. Now THAT was a change from St. Petersburg. Through priceline.com we even got a 3-star hotel for $52 a night! Not bad for a place with a huge, clean beach and a small-town feel.

“Big Guns on the Wall”

The highlight to the trip, for me, was when we got to visit Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. The fort was built back in the 1800’s and served both the Conferderate (1861) and the Union troops. It was a massive, red brick fortress overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and was meant to protect the Cumberland Sound. Fully restored, with reenactors playing the part, it was meant to give you the feel of stepping back in time to 1864.

I was really impressed with the fort. Even my wife was amazed. As I stood on its walls with huge canons, or on its proud bastions, I could not help but remember the words to the famous hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress.”

 

“A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.”

A Painful Thought

But while at Fort Clinch a painful thought crossed my mind. Just the day before, my girls were able to read other words from Martin Luther in the Florida Holocaust Museum. You see, even though Luther has been regarded as the father of the Reformation, in later life he became very anti-Semitic . In one display chronicling centuries of hatred toward the Jewish people, the words from Luther’s book, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” was written in bold for every Christian to see. Here are some quotes from that book:

“He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.”

“If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.”

“Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

“My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.”

What a contrast! One moment I am being inspired by a fortress that reminds me of the greatness of God, the next I am being reminded of the painful truth that men are sinners – all with the same song. How could the words of one man inspire both the Church and the Nazi party at the same time?

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress” based on Psalm 46:11, “The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.” God is our refuge and our hope in time of trouble. The Psalmist also said, agreeing with Luther,

I will say of the LORD, [He is] my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. – Psa 91:2 KJV

What are we to make of this, then? Is my hope in God supposed to be dashed all because of the actions of some (or all) of his followers? Are we to assume the truth of God is a lie because of the hateful words of Luther, as opposed to his hymns and 95 theses? Martin Luther was terribly wrong in his observations of the Jews. For that matter, David wasn’t perfect, either. No, God is God. Man is man. That is why it is so important to keep in mind the following words from the Apostle Paul:

…[Let] God be true, and every man a liar…” – Romans 3:4 KJV

When Peter got it right, Jesus called him “blessed” and praised the fact that the Father gave him the words (Matthew 16:17). However, when Peter spoke in the flesh, out of his own selfish desires, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (verse 23). When we speak out of hand about God, that does not change the truth about God.  Luther got some things right.  Luther also got some things wrong in a very bad way.

My God IS a mighty fortress…and He loves the people of Israel.  He has made that abundantly clear, despite the ramblings and false doctrines of men. God said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Gen 12:3 KJV  Nothing has changed.  Let God be true, and Luther be a liar. Let God be true, and Peter a liar. Let God be true, and every one of us a liar. God is Who He is, whether we get it right or not. But because of Luther’s mistaken words, may we be ever more diligent to heed these words:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2Ti 2:15 KJV

Why? Because Jesus said it right, and He ALWAYS got it right, when He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – Jhn 17:17 KJV

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Pro 30:5-6 ESV

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