Category Archives: Preaching

Endurance: What We ALL Need!

The following video was recorded Saturday morning last week at the Tennessee Baptist Bivocational Ministers and Wives Retreat in PIgeon Forge, TN.

(BTW, I recorded this on my iPad mini, and at one point I dropped it… sorry)

This final message of the retreat, delivered by Roc Collins, was meant for us pastors and ministry leaders, but it’s a message that all of us should hear – more than once.

If you are facing a discouraging time, or if you are at a point when you feel you can’t go any further, I beg you to watch this sermon. If you are not encouraged, I’ll give you a full refund 😉

Seriously, this was a fantastic, uplifting and challenging message from which all of us can benefit, especially in this time we live.

God bless! Endure!

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

Friday Night Thoughts of Encouragement (1/25/19)

It’s Friday night in Pigeon Forge, TN, the place where Dolly Parton is famous, there’s snow on the Smokey Mountains, and legal moonshine is a hot commodity.

It’s also the place where every year at this time bivocational pastors and their wives come together for a wonderful and critical time of fellowship – the kind that says, “I know what you’re going through…you’re not alone.”

If you follow me on Facebook, you will notice that I shared some of the music and speakers live.

Below is a link to a powerful message, more like a charge to us pastors, by Dr. Randy Davis, President and Executive Director of the TBMB. (At one point I knock over my iPad – sorry)

But if you are a bivocational pastor in the state of Tennessee and you are not here, the real question is why aren’t you here?

I know that it’s not always easy to get away for a Thursday through Saturday, maybe even the Sunday, too. But my wife and I plan for this retreat every year because it is the highlight of the year for us. There’s barely anything else like it.

Unfortunately, so many pastors are loners. They think that getting together with other pastors is a sign of weakness, unless, that is, the purpose for getting together is a time to flex their preaching muscles or do anything that doesn’t include admitting you’re less than superman.

But I’m a little bit embarrassed for our own association of Baptist churches in our county. One association of Southern Baptist churches had only 12 churches, as opposed to my county’s 100+. Yet, that little association of SBC churches reportedly had 100% participation in this event, while only 3 pastors from churches in our association came! I was one of them!

They just don’t understand what they are missing!

To be honest, I came to this retreat with a very heavy heart and beyond discouraged. I was down, stiff, a little resentful, and a tad bit skeptical of whether or not this time the retreat would benefit me, my wife, or my church.

Then came the time for the first speaker to speak (at least the first one we were able to hear, because we came in a couple of hours after the whole thing started). He asked us all to turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians and stand as we all read the 1st verse of chapter 4…

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. – 2 Corinthians 4:1 NKJV

Without exaggerating, I broke down into sobs before the last word of that verse was able to be read aloud. God knew exactly what I needed at that moment…and I would even bet money I wasn’t the only one.

After some more music and some more preaching to the preachers, I found myself at the front, right below the stage, in a conference room with a few hundred of my peers, on my knees before God confessing my lack of faith, my lack of wholeheartedness, and the pitiful state of my spiritual weaponry.

And I wasn’t the only one who did that; it was kneeling room only. I’m sure the carpet was damp with tears when all was said and done.

And that’s what I’m talking about: Pastors and their wives from all across the state of Tennessee, just regular folk who work jobs and pastor churches, getting real. Getting real with God, and with each other.

We are living in a time when godlessness is taking over. The last thing we need is a bunch of discouraged, downtrodden, scared shepherds trying to watch over the few sheep they do have as the wolves are emboldened.

What we really need are more ambassadors of Christ, spiritual warriors of the Cross, who realize that though they may be surrounded by an encroaching enemy, the battle is not over! Surrounded by an army nearly twice his size, the truth of King Hezekiah’s words should be an encouragement to us…

“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that [is] with him; for [there are] more with us than with him. “With him [is] an arm of flesh; but with us [is] the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NKJV

Tomorrow is the final day of this retreat, and I’m looking forward to the blessing. But I’m also more encouraged than yesterday to attack hell with a water pistol when I get back home.

With me is the LORD my God to help us and to fight our battles – I am not alone!

I am unwavering!

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Filed under America, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Church, Faith, ministry, Preaching, worship

What Is “Organic Church”? Listen to the Sermon

Not long ago I posted the notes for this sermon. Now you can listen to the audio. 

I hope it’s a blessing and an encouragement. 

I also hope it helps encourage a more “organic” approach toward worship.

Click on the picture to listen.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Christianity, Church, Preaching

Displaying Masculinity With Photos

Since it is a topic of hot debate these days, I figured I would keep the boat floating in the stream a little while longer and write a little more about the subject of masculinity.

Except today I’m going to do it from a laptop in the passenger seat behind my wife while she’s driving – it’s a long trip.

And I’m going to do with with pictures – like the one I just took of my computer before I typed this sentence 🙂

By the way, as of this moment, after nearly 10 years of blogging, I’m only at 49% of my memory limit with WordPress, so I’m not worried about the amount of photos in this post.

Anyway, I was thinking about masculinity and how it’s displayed, and that’s when I decided to search back through my phone’s photos. I thought it would be interesting to post some pictures from my life and share what I though was “masculine” or “manly” about them.

Some of these photos might fit a stereotype you don’t like. Some may make you scratch your head. But if I was to tell a young boy what it means to be a man, and if I could show him through some of my own pictures, this is what I would say.

And please understand, I’m not trying to make this all about me… I’m just making observations.

A real man is one who makes a commitment to one woman for life and remains faithful, treasures her, and makes her laugh.

Real men don’t shame their mothers; they make them proud. This is me with my mother and late grandmother who died last year. It’s called honor.

A real man is humble enough to wear a tie he doesn’t like because his wife and daughters do.

Fun. A real man has fun with his kids. He makes memories for their sake, not just his. This was during the last total solar eclipse. Awesome!

 

I love my girls. I’m proud of my girls. Both this picture and the next one are of me with my girls when I escorted them to a purity ball in Hopkinsville, KY. I know what some people think about promoting purity (abstinence), but I really don’t care – I’m a dad.

Masculine men let their daughters know they are loved, no matter what. Even if they disappoint me, I will still love them. But a real man – a masculine man – will be his daughters’ hero, protector, and defender of their honor. And no joke, their lives are more precious to me than any boy who’d hurt them. Be warned, guys – and that’s not hyperbole.

On the day that this picture was taken, we dropped Katie (the one on the right) off at college. When I got back home and walked by her empty bedroom, I cried like a baby for 30 minutes. Real men can cry when there’s a reason to cry, and that was one of them.

Nearly 6 years ago I finally earned my Master’s degree. This is my wife, all three daughters, me, and Mr. Monkey (he was an honorary graduate). I’ve still got a lot of room to improve, but a real man is one who finishes what he starts; he makes a commitment and follows through. I started college in 1986…I finally got my B.A. in 2011, my M.Min. in 2013. I’m still working on my D.Min., but I’ll get there.

This is a Ford flat head V-8. I think the essence of manhood is being able to work on something, to fix things. In my opinion, every man ought to rebuild an old engine at least one time in his life.

And speaking of working on cars, every man should teach his kids how to take care of things on their own. He should teach them how to be responsible and not always have to depend on others to fix their problems. Here I am teaching Haley how to change out a windshield wiper motor on her Acura.

You can be a real man and remain calm, cool, and collected when teaching your children how to drive. A masculine man doesn’t have to lose his cool.

There are cowards and criminals who use guns. But here in America, a masculine man isn’t afraid to teach his daughters how to shoot, even a Colt .357 Magnum revolver. My girls prefer a man who likes the smell of gunpowder and has wrists at least as strong as theirs 😉 2nd Amendment all the way in this house.

 

Real men, masculine men, admit their fears, but then they do what needs to be done – like getting on a roof to tar leaking shingles.

 

I think a good sign of masculinity is being able to handle big machinery. An added sign of masculinity is being able to teach others how to handle big machinery without getting killed or killing others. This is me at the bus garage one summer while training new drivers.

Not the best picture, but this is me in uniform as a chaplain for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. My definition of a real man, a real leader, a masculine man, includes being a servant. This is a voluntary role, but a needed one. Those who put their lives on the line for us need people to have their backs, too.

Masculinity is not devoid of humility and meekness. This was during a VBS when I agreed to let kids who won a contest treat me like an ice cream sundae. The cherry on the top was a literal cherry on the top.

Masculine men don’t avoid going to the doctor when they need to, but they don’t act like babies, either. Real men – masculine men – keep a “stiff upper lip” and do their best to keep others encouraged, even when they might be scared themselves.

This is me in Zimbabwe with Mr. Monkey. Real men, masculine men, aren’t too proud to get down in the dirt to put a smile on a child’s face.

Real men, masculine men, treat all of God’s creatures with respect and care. This is Nugget and me (Nugget went missing a couple of years ago and I still miss him). He always looked forward to going out on Saturdays for coffee and a treat from Hardee’s or McDonald’s.

Real men should at least try to grow a beard at least once. It’s a right that none should deny, even to non-Calvinists. But being masculine doesn’t mean you should let small woodland creatures take up residence on your face.

It takes a real man to get into a cold lake to baptize somebody. Of course, it takes a real man to be willing to be dunked in the cold water, too! But on a different note, in many places getting baptized in public can cost you everything. Therefore, this wasn’t as big a deal for me and this brother as it is for others. Good to keep things in perspective.

Katie and I recorded a video on Facebook Live. We played “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.” I don’t know what’s exactly masculine or manly about this, but standing in a public park playing hymns takes nerve these days.

This was from Jan. 16 of this year…from when I took the stage with Katie for her final song of her senior recital. All I can say is that I must have done something right to have been asked by my daughter to step on stage during a formal recital at a university and play guitar for her. A real man doesn’t make his kids ashamed of him but earns their respect.

Masculinity demands that a man take charge and kill the bugs. The women folk shouldn’t have to. That includes carpenter bees trying to destroy the house. The face of a warrior.

Masculine men aren’t afraid to have friends, especially the kind who keep him accountable – iron sharpens iron. This is me with two of my blogger brothers, James Neff and Wally Fry. Real men. True friends.

Real masculinity will exhibit some form of competitiveness. It’s just in a man’s nature to be the warrior, the fighter, the competitor. We need fewer men who hand out participation trophies and more men who compete to win – or at least root for a team that wants to. Go Braves!

This is from when Building 429 stopped by a local Cracker Barrel and I legalistically misjudged them (I wrote a post about it). This is Katie posing with them after I admitted my sinful error and asked for their forgiveness. Real men, masculine men, aren’t afraid to admit when they’ve done wrong.

This photo was taken of me when I prayed on the steps of Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, after the deadly shooting. Real men shouldn’t be afraid to pray in public, especially in places where reconciliation is desperately needed.

 

Lastly, here I am in front of the church where I am Pastor. Genuine masculinity demands that a man be bold, courageous, and unafraid to speak the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear. Jesus was our greatest example of manhood, but there was also Paul, John the Baptist, and a host of others. Their brand of masculinity is what I’m striving for.

I’m just glad I had a dad that taught me what it meant to be a man. He was a consistent, loving, meek, humble, trustworthy, honorable, hard-working, self-sacrificing, faithful husband and man of God.

That’s about all I’ve got to say. Hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures.

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars, current events, Family, General Observations, Life Lessons, Marriage, Parenting, politics, Preaching, Relationships and Family, Witnessing

What Is “Organic” Church?

The following is copied directly from my notes for this Sunday morning’s sermon. I thought it would be worth sharing.

“Organic Church”

In thinking of ways to promote our little church, the word “organic” came to mind. But why? What does the word organic mean, anyway? I went to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary to find an answer. Here is the definition in four points:

Organic

adjective

1    relating to or derived from living matter.

▶   Chemistry relating to or denoting compounds containing carbon and chiefly or ultimately of biological origin. Compare with inorganic.

2    Physiology relating to a bodily organ or organs.

▶   Medicine (of a disease) affecting the structure of an organ.

3    (of food or farming) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.

4    denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole.

▶   characterized by natural development.[1]

 

Thinking about the first part of this definition, what is church if not “relating to or derived from living matter”? What is the Church but the body of Christ in the earth, with Jesus as the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23)? Do we not derive our life from Him? Without a relation to a living Being, aren’t we nothing more than dead sepulchers?

Ephesians 1:22-23 – And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Colossians 1:17-18 – And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

I find it interesting to consider, too, that “organic” means something that is “ultimately of biological origin.” Even though the Church is a spiritual body, does it not find its origins in the actual living body of the risen Jesus Christ? YES! Jesus, God in flesh, the God-Man, is the Chief Compound from which the rest of us get our DNA.

1 Corinthians 15:14-17 – And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Thinking of the second part, it might be difficult at first to draw a connection. However, “relating to a bodily body of organs” is absolutely pertinent and applicable to whom we are. South Soddy Baptist is one organ in a body of organs; we are part of the Body as a whole. Even though we may have our own structure and unique characteristics, we are organically related to a larger organ, the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:16 – From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Paul made it abundantly clear that not all parts of the body are the same, nor do they all function in the same way. Some are more prone to honor, while others are humble and rarely thought of. Nevertheless, each one is important and useful and needed to help with the function of the whole. Even the smallest organ in the body, if it becomes infected, can spread sickness and death, affecting other parts of the Body in ways that might not be felt until long down the road. Therefore, even though a large church in an association may serve the function of a major organ, such as the heart or the lungs, the small church, like an infected tooth, or a torn tendon, can render the collection of organs ineffective, if not worse.

1 Corinthians 12:14-16, 20, 22 –  For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. … Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

The third part of the above definition has to do with food and farming, and that’s really where our modern society has become the most familiar with the word organic. Organic foods are sold for a premium because they are supposedly produced “without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.” People want “naturally-grown” food, not the kind that needs engineered and artificial influences to produce what is assumed will appeal to the mass market.

What is organic church but the result of seed planted, rooted in doctrinally-rich soil, watered by the Spirit, and exposed to the radiance of the Son? Will it be a product that the mass market will desire? Not likely. It doesn’t usually conform to the manufactured standards and the whims of finicky consumers. Will it meet the desires of every taste? Not when the average palate has grown accustomed to added sweeteners and flavor enhancers, as opposed to the simple, wholesome sweetness of heavenly manna itself.

Numbers 11:5-6 NKJV – “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; “but now our whole being [is] dried up; [there is] nothing at all except this manna [before] our eyes!

Psalm 19:9-10 NKJV – The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The modern church, in so many cases, is nothing less than the result of market analysis and product enhancement. So often, instead of being simple, rough around the edges, oddly shaped, and maybe a little small – i.e., organic tomatoes – the many of the more well-attended churches are often dosed with unnatural additives meant to appeal to the increasingly desensitized taste buds of the average worshiper.

Psalm 119:140 – Thy word [is] very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Then there is the fourth part of the above definition: “denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole,” and “characterized by natural development.” Let’s try to unpack that a little bit.

Something that is organic should have as a characteristic the tell-tale signs of everything having worked together as designed to produce a product that is typical of the original, natural design. It should also display signs of having naturally aged, matured, and ripened.

What healthy church is one that is at odds with, in contention with, or in competition with other elements within the whole? How can there be “harmonious relationship” when one branch fights with another branch of the same plant? How can a healthy church “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” when it eats its own?

What healthy church is in conflict with the soil in which its roots take hold? What healthy church repels the water of the Spirit? What healthy church is in conflict with the light of the Son? What healthy church grows to great heights overnight? What healthy church – what organic church – produces food with empty calories that leaves the hungry fatter, yet more malnourished than when they first consumed it?

What are some additives we need to watch out for?

  • Elaborate facilities?
  • Mood enhancers, such as lighting, stage sets, pre-service promos, etc.?
  • Creative outlines and sermon series?
  • Committees on committees on committees?
  • Denominational teaching curriculum?
  • Worship times and schedules?
  • Titles and positions?
  • Social and cultural programs?
  • Celebrity status?

What does the unmodified, unaltered, heirloom-seed quality product look like?

Acts 2:42-47 – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. [43] And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. [44] And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [45] And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. [46] And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, [47] Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

James 1:27 – Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) [24] And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The only kind of foods that look exactly alike, like the ones in the bins at the supermarket produce section, are the ones that have been genetically modified, chemically enhanced, and very often forced to mature and ripen earlier than nature’s schedule. They are presented that way in order to appeal to the preconceived notions and tastes of the largest number of consumers.

Organic fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will not always look alike; they may have little flaws here and there; and size will always vary. But one thing is for sure, they will be much better for you and your family; they will require a lot more care to keep fresh; and you’ll definitely pay a higher price to obtain them.

Let’s ask God to work in us, purify us, and make us into the organic church He wants us to be.

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Qualifications for a Pastor (and a reminder for the rest of you)

There are places in the Bible where the Apostle Paul describes the qualifications necessary to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9).

But there are some additional characteristics I think every pastor should have if he wishes to survive until the next Easter service or deacons’ meeting… and believe me, I speak from experience.

This photo was taken at a bi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. These men were gathering around a fellow pastor who’s son who was a drug addict and missing.

Among other things, a pastor should have a thick skin, a broken heart, a humble spirit, and a hope that rests in the fact that Grace is there to pick up the pieces.

As for you, the congregations they lead, be reminded that the only perfect Shepherd was Jesus; the rest are human.

Pray that the light of Jesus will shine through the cracked vessel which is your pastor.

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Beginning a 10-Part Series

Happy New Year (2019) to everyone! 

If I was rich, and if I had a secretary who brought me coffee and handled all my correspondence, I would have sent every one of my followers a Christmas card and a New Year’s card – but I’m not rich and I don’t have a secretary, only my wife. She put water in the coffee pot for me this morning, but I’m not going to push my luck.

So, I hope all of you have had a blessed season, even though I wasn’t able to express my feeling with a Hallmark.

The Starter Sermon

Last Sunday, the last one of 2018, I preached a sermon entitled “Things I Want to Do In 2019.” It was a 10-point sermon, but it only took 30 minutes to preach. Unfortunately, it didn’t record! Oh well.

So, what I want to do is take the points – the individual things I want to do – and spread them out over the next couple of weeks, unpacking them in a little more detail than time allowed me to do from the pulpit.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if this series will interest anyone or gain me a bunch of hits, but I feel it needs to be done for myself, if no one else.

As it’s been said many times in the past, if you don’t write down your goals you’re unlikely to reach them.

As a teaser, here is the basic outline I’m going to follow:

“Things I Want to Do In 2019”

James 4:17; Colossians 3:17, 23

  1. Lose an “X” in my clothing. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  2. Avoid anger. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
  3. Avoid whining and complaining.  (Phil. 2:14-17)
  4. Show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace. (Rom 14).
  5. Don’t take time for granted.  (Psalm 144:4).
  6. Strengthen my marriage.  (Proverbs 5:18).
  7. READ more, starting with my Bible. (Ps 119:105, 140; John 17:17)
  8. Never preach another boring or routine sermon.
  9. Pray. (Psalm 55:17)
  10. Win One More. (Proverbs 11:30)

So, may God bless you and and be with you this year. With God’s help we can do more than we think possible.

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