Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

It’s All About Being “Real”

The Following was written six years ago in May, 2011. Sort of a “squeeze” from the past ūüėČ


Have you ever been completely spent? Worn out? Empty? I have. As a matter of fact, I woke up this morning feeling like a squeezed out tube of toothpaste.

Yesterday was a great day. I was blessed to be able to preach in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. The only problem is that when you go all day, preaching your heart out, by the end of the day you’re exhausted. When I got up to drive the school bus, I looked at that tube of toothpaste and said, “That’s me.”

Over the next couple of hours a thought came to me: how can you tell when a tube of toothpaste is empty? Usually, it is flat and rolled up. The compacted tube shows evidence that all of its contents have been used – there’s nothing left. Then what about the hard, stand-up kind?

These new containers for toothpaste are deceiving. Unlike the old-fashioned tubes, they do not compact and show any visible signs of being empty. They always look full. Then it hit me – what hypocrites! Those new-fangled containers are just putting on a show and never give any hint of being used up. In other words, they’re not “real.”

I want to be “real.”

This is not a lesson on hypocrisy. This is not a lesson on being a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones. This is about being “real.”

Too often, especially in ministry, we are forced to put on a¬†fa√ßade, thereby making ourselves appear to be something we’re not. It’s not meant to be hypocritical. It is meant to spare others from the truth of our own inadequacies – our own emptiness. Sadly, because we don’t want to be a burden or a disappointment, we endure the emptiness…the¬†loneliness…the fatigue. Being “real” is risky.

There are limits to how much dirty laundry a pastor can air in public without losing his ministry. There are limits to how vulnerable he can be around others. But may it never be said that we have to pretend to be something we are not. We are human. We have¬†weaknesses. We have limitations. We can feel “used up.”

Fortunately, unlike a tube of toothpaste, we can be refilled. And for that matter, even a seemingly squeezed out tube always has just a little more to give. God gives us what we need, when we need it. ¬†The important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t try to act full, when we are empty. When we do that, that is when we act in our own strength. Let us then admit our weakness and emptiness, and in turn our heavenly Father will refill us with what will bring Him glory. Who knows, maybe it is our emptiness He wants to use most.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJV

Just keep it REAL.

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, legalism, Preaching

Happy Resurrection Day!

Happy Easter!

For the Christian, this is the day we remember the most important event in historythe resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There have always been those who don’t believe, of course. But ever since that first morning when the women showed up to an empty tomb (Matthew 24), untold numbers have staked their eternity on the testimony of those who¬†“heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

As a matter of fact, one cannot call himself a true Christian if this day means nothing, for unless one “believe in his heart that God hath raised him [Jesus] from the dead,” he cannot be saved (Romans 10:9). The resurrection is so important to the Christian faith,¬†“if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14 RSV).

I don’t know about you, but this is one case where all my eggs are in one basket; my eternity depends on it.

Again, have a happy Easter. He is RISEN!

Easter Morning Sunrise over Chattanooga

 

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Filed under Christianity, Easter, Faith

Made Perfect in Weakness

A Note

A few years ago (2013) I received a note in the mail from one of my congregation. It was such an encouragement that I wanted to share it with all of you.

Dear Anthony,

You and our family are such a blessing to me.

Wednesday p.m. service was a comfort to me and I know from what three other people shared it was a comforting message they needed to hear, too.

I seems when you are most broken, weary, discouraged, Jesus and the Word pour through you in a powerful way, and we are touched.

Your prayer was like a shepherd interceding for his sheep. 

Thank you for always being so sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

I am blessed to sit under a man of God who teaches and preaches the true Word of God.

You are continually in my prayers…

You see, there are times when we find ourselves wondering if we are even making a difference. But even though we may feel like we are useless at times, the truth of Scripture rings true…

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. –¬†2 Corinthians 12:9

Send your pastor a note of encouragement. I know he will appreciate it. 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, General Observations, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

“You Might Be a Legalist If…”

The following list is not original on my part, I am unsure of who came up with it. But even though I didn’t write it, I want you to read it.

All that’s needed is Jeff Foxworthy to add his voice and declare, “You might be a legalist if…”

1) God’s love for me depends on what I do.

2) Meeting the expectations of others, especially those in my congregation or in positions of authority, are paramount.

3) Moral and ethical questions are usually black and white and only made into fuzzy shades of gray by hand-wringing, bleeding-heart types.

4) I try hard to obey God and it irritates me that others think they can get away with avoiding the same level of dedication.

5) I fall short because I don’t have enough faith, or because I haven’t prayed enough, or because I just need to be a better person.

6) God is predisposed to be angry with me because I am a sinner. My main goal in life is to try to gain God’s favor by doing things that will impress him.

7) My sense of spiritual well-being is linked to a Christian leader or membership in my church rather than a personal relationship with God.

8) I tell my children not to do something in church or around other Christian families that I allow in my home.

9) I believe my church is God’s true church and that most other Christians may be sincere, but are sincerely wrong.

10) The exterior choices a person makes in what they wear, hairstyle, piercings, tattoos, etc. is a clear indication of that person’s character.

11) I sometimes worry that people might take advantage of grace if it’s preached too much ‚ÄĒpeople might think they can do anything they want.

12) After being around Christians for a while I feel drained ‚ÄĒweary of putting up a false front.

13) When I happen to miss a service or activity of my church I feel guilty.

14) I will likely get into heaven, even though I’m far from perfect, because I have tried to be a basically good person and God will take that into account.

So, are you a legalist? I used to be, but I still struggle. That is the reason for this blog. That is why I call myself a “recovering” legalist.

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Filed under Church, legalism

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

Recently, I have been asked about the issue of divorce and whether or not it ultimately disqualifies one from ministry, especially the pastorate. Even though I know there will be many of you who disagree with me on this, here are my thoughts on the subject. Please understand that I did not come by them lightly.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA about 16 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor. ¬†They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call. ¬†Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?” ¬†I responded coldly, with squinted eyes and through clinched-teeth, “Yes,¬†ME.” ¬†Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung, nevertheless. I had chosen to marry a woman who had been divorced and it cost me. But even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes,¬†I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church. ¬†So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates¬†gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst, ¬†I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot. ¬†Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer. ¬†Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues. ¬†

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says, ¬†“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...” ¬†Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...” ¬†The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is¬†interpreted. ¬†

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a¬†divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married. ¬†Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives. ¬†In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.”¬†

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12. ¬†The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons. ¬†All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.” ¬†How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced? ¬† ¬†

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God. ¬†Has he always been blameless? ¬†Has he always been on his best behavior? ¬†Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger? ¬†Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.” ¬†

Do you see it? ¬†If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation)¬†should apply to the other “must be’s.” ¬†“Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced. ¬†“Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai). ¬†The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven. ¬†What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life. ¬†In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.” ¬†Paul said, “and such were some of you: ¬†but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full reign as leaders in the church.¬†

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

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Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

Monday Monkey Re-Run

It’s a Monday and some of you need a smile. It’s been a while since this was last posted, but it’s worthy of a re-run.

One of the greatest country songs to come out of Nashville in the last, oh, 20 years was Jesus Take the Wheel.

This video is not meant to make fun of that song, so I hope Carrie Underwood doesn’t hate me when she sees this (I hope she see this).

This episode/edition of “Monday Monkey” pays tribute to Jesus Take the Wheel, while at the same time making fun of Monday-morning drivers.

“There’s a Monkey at the Wheel”

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Life Lesson from the School Bus #9 (Making a Way)

This post is one in a series I did back in 2011. And yes, I drew the bus.

Trying to Merge

Have you ever tried to merge into traffic, only to find that everyone else is in a bigger hurry than you? Try convincing a bunch of motorists on their way home that your school bus needs to jump into the flow.

Every time people see my kid transporter attempting to enter traffic from a side street, they say to themselves, “Oh no! I can’t get stuck behind a bus!

So, without any compassion for me and my nerves, they pretend that they don’t see me. Better yet, they hold up a hand, wave slightly, and give me a look that says, “Sorry, but my schedule is too hectic to let you in front of me.” Jerks.

Making a Way

That’s when a school bus driver has to be proactive…he has to make a way into traffic. By being assertive with 35,ooo pounds of deisel-powered intimidation, one can MAKE motorist slow down and be polite. Making a way into traffic is possible because of a simple fact of life – getting put on the local news for hitting a school bus full of children is NOT in one’s best interest.

Life Lesson

God can make a way, when there seems to be no way.

Isaiah 43:16, 20 KJV – [16] Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; … [20] The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

When God chooses to do something, nothing in heaven or on earth can stop Him. God can make a way. No decree of man or law of nature is an¬†obstacle to the LORD of creation. If God has told you to go somewhere, do some work, or reach some person, even if the way seems impossible, He is God…He will MAKE a way. Are you going through a valley? Are you on a stormy sea and can’t see past the waves? Do you think that there is no hope, no way out of it this time? Trust in Jesus – He can make a way, where there seems to be no way. He can give rivers of hope in the midst of your wilderness.

Hope you enjoy this short video of a beautiful song by Don Moen.

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Filed under General Observations, Life Lessons, the future, Uncategorized