Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A tractor, chef, and markers!

Today I was called and told that one of the ladies in our church was out at our church property on the tractor mowing.  This was a big deal for this lady is our church chef!  I flew out of my desk chair with my phone in pocket to drive out and get a picture of this event.  She can cook!  And I learned today that, even with it being her first time, she can mow with a trim mower on a tractor.  I have been driving tractors for over 40 years.  I was blown away with her new discovered ability to cut grass - and even get the corners!

After I took the picture, we talked for a while and she said something that really got me thinking.  I mentioned how she was cutting even the grass on the corners.  She described her quickly learned lesson.  She lined the ornament on the front of the tractor to outside of the yet to be cut area and thus, she cut all the grass.  Nothing was left standing.  You need to realize that she was doing this with a trim mower - smaller than a bush hog.  Once she realized that grass was being missed, she adjusted!

Is this not the way markers work in our lives.  We track along in our journey looking back to see what we missed.  If only we would realize that it is the markers in front of us that must be lined up.  They prevent and thus help to avoid the need to look back.  When our markers are right, our lives are on the path with nothing left out.  We experience the full reality with no turning around and going back to get something we missed.

Peter said it this way:

2 Pet 3:11-18
11    Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
12    looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
13    Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
14    Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
15    and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16    as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
17    You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;
18    but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

We need markers in our lives.  Have you lined your markers up recently.  The things we are reminded of when a church chef gets on a tractor!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why the Trifecta of Scandals Should Matter to Christians

In a world of conflicting views about how faith and politics should interact we discover a defining moment in the current trifecta of scandals.  Benghazi, AP News Subpoenas, and the IRS targeting of individuals should be a wake up call to Christians in America.  For those who have had enough of the political involvement among evangelicals, you might want to revisit that thought.

First Benghanzi
How can any Christian condone the ease of which the Administration is brushing off the fact that 4 Americans died?  Where is the outcry?  Have we heard the reports of how these men were killed?  It was horrible! When an Ambassador is murdered along with other Government officials and we do not feel or see the outrage, we are in worse shape than many think as a country.  I find the Gosnell trial and little response on the horrendous acts of murder and the cover up of Benghanzi highlighting how pathetic our understanding is for the preciousness of life.  The endit movement to put an end to child sex slavery is important.  But we must remember it is equally important!  We must not forget that all life is valued and precious.  When the Government of our country so easily brushes the value of life away and when the President of the United States has the audacity to actually say to Planned Parenthood "God Bless You" - the evil we feared would come has actually already arrived!

Second AP/Fox News Scandel
A free press is vital to a free society.  A country that threatens and intimidates the press is a country where freedom is fleeing.   Christians should be the first to take note of such a dangerous course.  Yes we have had freedom for years.  Yes we have often abused such freedom.  But we cannot afford to allow such freedom to come to an end!  It is one thing to get beat - it is another to not put up a fight!  A move to control information is a move that will find itself seeking to control what is preached in churches across America.  Pastors are you ready for this climate?  Will you stand strong and preach the Word of God even if it means audits, harassment, and even jail time?

IRS Target of Specific People and Groups
This one gets to the core of the threat to the American way of life.  Did you read the title of this section carefully?  It was not only the Tea Party that got targeted.  Specific people were targeted.  I am told that more evangelical pastors have been audited under this administration than ever before.  When the IRS goes after specific people, America is no longer free!  This scandal ties in with the AP/Fox News scandal.  When the Government is allowed to target specific people due to their message and beliefs, while fast tracking and look away from others who are in agreement with the Governments position, you and I are seeing a day that has never ever been before in America.

And all is not over.  The fourth scandal will hit in October when we all discover that the overhaul of the healthcare system is a disaster unlike any we have ever seen.

Do Christians care?  When will we engage?  These scandals matter!  They matter more than you and I can even imagine!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Salvation: Free Gift and Fear and Trembling

 Eph 2:8-9
8    For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9    not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Salvation is a free gift from God to everyone who will believe.  Yes, salvation is that simple.  The faith required to receive Christ is small.  We know this.  We teach this.  We also teach something else.

Phil 2:12
12    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Salvation is not to be taken likely.  It is simple.  But it is not as simple as saying "I do not want to go to Hell!".  Salvation is simple.  But it is not as simple as saying "I want to go to heaven!".

How do we put these two passages together.  No doubt there has been in our history those who would emphasis the easy without much attention to the work.  No doubt there are many parents and grandparents who want their family to be in heaven.  And many times, these desires allow our emotions to control our sharing and teaching more than the Word of God.  This issue is not new.  This issue is not going away anytime soon.

As a Youth Pastor I dealt with this on many occasions.  I can remember back when we would Baptize 30 to 40 teenagers a year.  I remember a large portion of those who had "made decisions" as children wanting to avoid Hell and now as teenagers discovering that just avoiding was not the real deal.  I can still hear many parents saying "but they were Baptized...". 

I know as a Pastor the struggle of young parents wanting to answer the questions the right way for their children.  The time spent reviewing the answers before they meet with me or one of my staff.  I hear the words "they are almost there, they are getting it" only to discover that often they may not be as close as we would like to think.

I want everyone to go to Heaven!  I do not want anyone to go to Hell!  And this demands that people get a Biblical salvation.  It is simple - Jesus died to pay for our sins.  It is easy - we must simply accept through the exercise of faith in Jesus.  But it is tough - to work out the repentance aspect.  And some will say "what?"  Indeed this is what Jesus said.  

Mark 1:14-15
14    Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15    and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Without the act of repenting, there is no salvation.  This is the most difficult aspect of sharing about Salvation.  To repent means more than "I am sorry".  It is not a head knowledge of right and wrong.  It is more than realizing that we have sinned.  To repent is to see the sin in our lives as the very thing that put Jesus on the cross.  It is to see sin as Jesus sees it.  To repent is to respond to our sin with godly sorrow.  A sorrow that is deeper than regret.

2 Cor 7:10
10    For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Matt 7:21
21    "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

And now you see why though simple, salvation must be worked out within our lives.  Do we repent?  Do we have godly sorrow?  

Salvation is a free gift that requires fear and trembling in getting it right.  To miss it, is to spend an eternity in Hell with no hope forever!  To say you believe in God and Jesus means nothing.  To make a quick decision for Heaven to avoid Hell won't cut it. Being Baptized or sprinkled only gets you wet.  To say love wins out and repentance is not too difficult is to fall for the trap of this world.  

Where are you?  Do you know with zero doubts?  Are you sure? What is your connection with Jesus?  Is it His connection or your religious way?

I Jn 5:13
13    These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Why and how?

John 3:16
16    "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Rom 10:9-13
9    that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10    For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11    For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
12    For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
13    For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Oh The irony - Carson Newman and My Son

I have served in Tennessee twice in my lifetime.  I have been in the state for one month shy of 7 years this time.  In both instances Carson Newman has been a part of my service.  Members children and adults who graduated from CN - now Carson Newman University (CNU) have been in my churches.  In both terms of service, I have had staff members who either attended or graduated from CNU.  And now, I have staff members children who attend and have graduated.  And beyond that, my oldest son is a student at CNU!

In understanding what I am about to say one needs to know that I am a Liberty University graduate.  It is hard to mix the blood line of Liberty and CNU.  I resisted it for months.  They are not as close as Apples and Oranges by any stretch of the imagination.  A few have often said that I cannot cooperate with those who theologically believe different.  And once again reality is about set the record straight.  For my oldest son is now a Junior at CNU.  There was no way we could afford to send him to Liberty or Truett McConnell (my two choices).  Neither was in Gods plan.  But CNU was.  The first two years of his education are behind him and they have been beneficial.  He also serves as a Resident Assistant (was named RA of the Year for this school year) and works in Resident Life.  He is a Religion major and making dad and mom very happy with his GPA and progress.  In fact, I am the first to admit that I am more than pleased with the educational value and environment of CNU.

The following are simple observations from a dads perspective of two years of CNU interaction, who happens to be a staunch conservative Pastor, in light of some of the dart throwers of today:

1.  CNU is a typical college campus with typical college life issues.  It is not a Convent and no one should expect such at any of the Baptist related schools of today.

2.  CNU has a mix of theological slants.  I have not seen much liberalism in my sons classes.  I have seen little compared to what I prepared him for.

3.  CNU is not changing the Gospel nor watering It down.

4.  There is a freedom to challenge the professors in theological discussions and that freedom is encouraged.

5.  CNU may be slanted somewhat less than conservative yet conservative is not berated nor excluded.  My son often wears Liberty and Truett McConnell shirts to class just to highlight his position (he has fun like his dad).

6.  CNU challenges students to dig into their Bibles for answers.  My son is an apologetic s nut.   CNU has NOT changed his conservative theology nor has it altered it.  And he loves the interaction with the professors in debating the different topics.  His positions and stance on doctrine have not been weakened.

7.  CNU is preparing my son for ministry and doing a great job of it.  Reading some blogs recently one might question whether CNU is Baptist enough or Bible enough.  As a parent, I can tell you that the times of questions and concerns have been few. 

8.  CNU has their own confession.  So what?  Only one college in the whole of SBC landscape has professors that 100% have affirmed and signed the BFM2000.  Only one!  That would be Truett McConnell in Georgia.  Anyone griping about CNU or Campbellsville might want to take this truth to heart before raising this issue.

9.  CNU leaders are the real deal in caring for and interacting with students.  I have been thrilled at the authenticity of the professors with the students.  They care and take time to get to know the students.  They interact well.  Case in point, a professor not as conservative as my son recommended my son for a staff position at a conservative church.  Those of the Calvinist/reform beliefs should take notes on that one.  CNU is not out to change my son.  They are developing him as college should. 

As shocking as it is for some to read this, I cannot find much fault with CNU.  It was not where God had me attend. I can tell you that it is the place that God directed and has blessed my son to attend.  Key in this discussion is the simple fact that my son started learning the Bible when he was little.  He grew into an avid reader of apologetic s and theology.  He was solid before he arrived on campus.  CNU did not change him in this area and that speaks volumes to me about where CNU is on the Baptist/Theological landscape. He is still a solid conservative.  And he is a conservative that knows how to use his learning tools to defend his beliefs and discuss them in intelligent and compelling conversation.  I encourage you to listen to his latest sermon, preached at our church last year when I was preaching out of state. 

Be careful in what you read and hear about a few colleges in SBC life.  There is always a motivation and slant.  I know these exist for what is written of late is little on fact.  I know this because I have a religion major enrolled at CNU and what he is getting does not match what is written.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Classroom Rant WRONG-Parents Please Read!

These days it appears the lessons of life are everywhere.  I have been asked via email my thoughts about the Texas student and his rant in a classroom caught on video and now viral to the world.  I actually saw the video yesterday and almost posted on it then.  I determined to see how the video would be protrayed and I also wanted to watch the local news from Texas to see further reporting and interviews.  Yes it still amazes me what the internet allows us to do!

Here is my take on this scene:

The Situation:
This event took place in a classroom.  A student is not happy about the quality of education and decides he has had enough.  The student disrupts the class and rants away.

The Problem:
Snce when did we become a people who applaud teenagers being disrespectful?  My father always says, even just the other night, "the end never justifies the means!"  I also seem to recall something about respecting those in authority.  I am sure I was taught that growing up.  Obviously this giy was not!

The Motivation:
Some say that it is the motivation that matters?  Not true.  No teenager should ever be applauded for the kind of behavior that this child lived out.  Even if the teacher is not doing her job, this type of solution is NO solution.  The rant makes whatever argument null and void.

The Real Lesson:
Excusing the behavior of this student highlights what is wromg in America today.  We are giving so many mixed signals in what is right, acceptable, tolerable, appropriate, and allowed to our teenagers.  To condone the actions in the video is to tear down the control and authority of the teacher.  The classroom cannot under any circumstance be subject to this type of behavior.  Who knows if the student has a point-he blew it by his conduct.  Surely we as Americans have not sunk so low as to justify this horrible example.  The classroom cannot become a zoo!

The Need:
We need to train our children at home in what is right and what is wrong!  I would have never been allowed to act like this growing up.  The punishment at home would have rightly been far worse than the punishmnet at school.  And rightly so.  Parents this video is a point of learning for all of us.  Children go to school to learn.  Teach them that at home.  Teach them how to act.  Train them.  Do not tolerate such behavior.

And in teaching them, model for them how to appreciate and respect their teachers.  Even the bad ones.  Not every teacher is perfect or motivating.  That is not the students problem to solve.  But every teacher is in fact placed in the classroom and should be given respect, period!

I thank God I had parents who let me know without any gray area what would happen if I chose the path to disrespect my teachers.  And I thank God for the many teachers who taught me through the years!  May you be honored and appreciated!

I sure hope we learn from this disaster quickly.  And to all who currently teach-thank you!  This is one Pastor who has your back!