Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Backyard!!!

Recently I moved! It is sometimes hard to fathom, but I made a major move from a place I love to a place I have known for many years and know I will grow to love. For 15 years I lived in the small town of Marion, Arkansas in Eastern Arkansas just across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. This is right in the middle of Mississippi River Delta. I had the privilege of pastoring for 15 years at the First Baptist Church of Marion, Arkansas where we saw God do some amazing things!

One of the constants for me over all these years was one place...my home! Right there on Apperson Drive in the RiverTrace Subdivision my family and I spent many days and nights of life. We lived there surrounded by our best friends and many acquaintances. When we first found that house it was under construction. We were able to provide input into all its finishes and colors. Then, before moving into the house, I got a call that the house had burned to the ground during the night. This was not the auspicious start to a new life in Marion we were expecting. Still, we loved where the house was located and we rebuilt the house from the foundation up and made that place our home for all those years.

Most recently we sold our house to prepare for the move of my wife, my daughter, and all of our belongings to Lexington, Tennessee where I am now the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Lexington. When you are preparing to sell a house there is a lot of preparation that must take place.

About two weekends ago I went back to Marion to do many of the chores needed to prepare to move. I was cutting the grass at the house like I had done for many years. If you know me then you know that I am not the most emotional of people, but something happened to me that day cutting grass. Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe it was the pollen and grass clippings flying through the air, but as I cut grass in that backyard tears started streaming down my face. I started remembering....

I started remembering when we bought that house and the great pride and joy we had to own such a nice house in such a great neighborhood where God had called us. I remembered laying the sod in that backyard and just hoping it would grow. I remember my best friend Rob coming over with an tractor to dig holes and put up that old fence (I have no idea how it is still standing). I remembered seeing houses being built behind us where once there was nothing but an open field. Memories flooded my mind. The tears didn't come from those things, but something much greater.

I rode around in circles in that backyard and the tears came when I thought of little girls...my little girls playing in that backyard. Those little girls played on a swing set and slide that has long since been removed. Little girls who stomped around in boots in the mud in that backyard. As I drove in circles around its rusted remains I thought of little girls who jumped on that trampoline with their friends and American girl dolls as they squealed, laughed and giggled together. Little girls who played in their play house called "Kaylaville" that was painted all white and purple with purple butterflies all around it and flowers planted out front. I remembered the time the cat went missing for several days only to be found locked up inside the Kaylaville playhouse starved to death and wondering what she was doing in this family with little girls. Little girls who grew up and played with their friends out back with a makeshift volleyball net while their mom and dad cooked them and all their friends hot dogs and hamburgers just because its fun to have a house full of little girls. That backyard that hid a new blue Mustang for when one of the little girls turned 16 and walked into that yard to find it with a huge red bow on top. You see...Happy memories bring happy tears when you ride in circles on your mower in your backyard one more time.

Now I am going to have a new backyard behind another new house in another new place. I don't know how big it will be and I am not sure what it is going to look like, but I pray to my Lord that my new backyard will be filled with memories, love, happy times, and maybe even more little girls one day.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Attempting Something Great for God!



            Let me ask all of you this important question. Warning: This question could be life-changing for you. Are you ready? Ok…here is the question: What would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew that you could not or would not fail?
            Now that is a life-changing question for you life and for my life. Some of you who are reading this really have no clue as to how to answer it. I hope that you would at least give this important question some serious thought some time today and come to some kind of an answer. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us that God created each of us to do something great for Him. Sadly, most of the people I know never even attempt something mediocre for God, much less something great! The result is that we miss out on the “abundant life” promised to us by Jesus in John 10:10. We are always settling for good when God wants us to have great.
            Some of you read that question and you know exactly what you would attempt! The problem for you is that you just lack the courage to take the first step of faith. You get all spiritual and say, “I’m just waiting on God’s timing”, but the truth is that you are just afraid to fail and you are making excuses. You are not waiting on God; God is waiting on you! Some of you won’t take the first step of faith because you do not have all the answers in advance. Well God doesn’t work like that. If you had all the answers you might not even move forward. This is a test of our faith and trust in God and it is a matter of personal obedience.
            So let’s ask the question again: What would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew that you could not or would not fail? What is the one thing in your life that you cannot shake…the thing that consumes you…the thing you want to attempt for God so bad, but you are afraid you’ll end up looking stupid or you will fail? Paul reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God does not give us the spirit of fear. Satan brings fear in our lives.
            * Maybe God is leading you to start a new business.
            * Maybe you know you need to get involved in a ministry in your church or start a new ministry in your church.
            * Maybe God is calling you to go on a mission trip this year.
            * Maybe the Lord wants you to begin to put Him first in your finances.
            * Maybe you need to change your major in school.
            * Perhaps you need to quit that job and stay home with your children.
            * Just maybe you need to seek someone’s forgiveness and let the past be the past.
There are many things God could be calling you to do, to stop, or to consider today. Remember, God isn’t working on your time schedule or according to your budget, nor is He limited by your skills, resources, or knowledge. He just wants you to be obedient to Him starting right now.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Things from God!

One of my favorite television shows is American Pickers. This show airs each week on the History Channel. It is a show where Mike and Frank travel the country looking for treasurers hidden in people's old barns, houses, storage sheds, and businesses. I am always fascinated at what they "pick" at these locations as something that is valuable. On one recent episode Frank picked a tin robot toy from the 1960's. The toy was rusted, the knob that once was used to wind the toy up to walk was broken, and the paint was faded. That vintage toy which had been sitting in an old barn for years collecting dust was considered valuable because of its rarity. Apparently the creator was a famous toy manufacturer in Japan who had made only a few of these children's toys in the 1960's and today it is a major collector's item. Think about it...Frank found this treasure in a box full of junk, made a deal with the owner and paid him $60.00 for something that once sold for $1.75 in the 1960's. Why? because of the toy's creator, value, and rarity.

As we enter a New Year I know of many people whose lives feel like the old tin toy collecting dust in an old barn. There may have been a time when you once felt useful, valuable, or cared for, but as 2016 begins you feel none of those things. Maybe 2015 was just a bad year for you. Perhaps you are going through some personal struggles. It could be that you have some strained relationships in your life right now, or you could be battling a major health challenge. Just today I have talked to people who have told me, "Pastor my life is going no where fast. I feel useless and worthless. I trust in God, but I just do not know what is going to happen next. What can I do? How can things be different in my life?" It could be that today you are asking the same kinds of questions yourself.

Listen to the words of the Lord for your life today. These words come from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 43:18-19, "18 Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. 19 Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." One of the best principles I have ever learned in my life is this: The past is past so let it go! Is this principle not true? You cannot do a thing about your past except confess it to the Lord, find His forgiveness, and move forward. The Lord wants to forgive you of your past sins, mistakes, and failures. He wants you to forgive yourself and others as well. It is time to let the past determine the direction of your life today and into the future. The Lord looks at your life and today and He wants to pick you up, dust off your life from the sins and mistakes, and remind you and everyone around you that you are valuable and precious to Him! You are His valuable creation! He made you to love you, not leave you. He made you to care for you, not condemn you.

Today you need to change your focus away from your problems and challenges and start focusing on God's love and purpose in your life. Let God do something new in your life in 2016! He is ready and willing if you will allow Him to do His work in your life.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Few Thoughts for Christmas!!!

Since it is the Christmas holiday season I thought it would be good to maybe give you a few thoughts that might help you have a better holiday this year.

1. Enjoy the moment!
There were two buddies who decided to go sailing the week before Christmas. Suddenly they were caught up in a big storm and their boat was blown onto a sand bar. These two guys found themselves standing in waist deep, freezing water with sleet falling all around them and the wind howling out of the north. One guy looked at the other and said, "Boy this is sure is a big mess we've gotten ourselves into. Even if we are rescued we will probably have pneumonia for Christmas." His friend replied, "Yep! We are in a big mess...but it sure beats Christmas shopping with our wives!" 

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the Christmas shopping, the gifts, the lights, the parties, and all of the activities of Christmas to the point that we forget to enjoy the moment. We sing "Silent night" but there is never any silence in our lives at Christmas. There is only noise and chaos. Why not slow down or just stop right now...relax...quit hurrying...cease activities and just enjoy the moments of Christmas. This time we have at Christmas to celebrate with family members (yes even the ones you don't like) and friends will never come again. Why rush through it? Choose to enjoy it. 

2. Don't complicate Christmas!
Jesus was born to simple parents in a simple place and was visited by simple, uncomplicated shepherds. What we have done is take "the most wonderful time of the year" and we have complicated it with so many things that have nothing to do with Christmas. Stop trying to have a Normal Rockwell Christmas. Stop trying to turn your Christmas and family into a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. Do you really need to make all those cookies for everyone? Does every present have to be wrapped like the women who posted on Pinterest Do you have to go to every party? You do not have to complicate the holidays. The messenger of God brought to our lives that first Christmas "Good news of great joy" and not bad news, chaos, or complications.

3. Focus on Jesus!
It is really easy to get all caught up in all that the world tells you will make you happy at Christmas while forgetting all about Jesus! Christmas is about Jesus. It is about His love for us. It is about how God gave US the greatest gift of all in sending His one and only Son into the world (John 3:16). Christmas is about Jesus coming into the world as "Emmanuel" which means "God with us" so He can identify with our lives, struggles, challenges, hurts, temptations, and pain. Christmas is about the one who received the name "Jesus" because "He will save His people from their sin." 

Refamiliarize yourself and your family with the Christmas story. Attend Christmas Eve service at FBC at 5 pm or a Christmas eve / Christmas day service at your church or a church near you. Pray and thank God for all of His many gifts and blessings in your life. Give a gift of yourself, your time, and your resources back to God this year. Financially give money over and above your tithe to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for International missions. Help another family in need. Make this Christmas about Jesus!

4. Come out of Christmas Changed! 
If you go through the entire Christmas celebration and you come out on the other side of it the same person you are right now and not more committed to Christ then you've missed the entire point of the holiday. When Jesus came into the world that first Christmas, everything and everyone who came in contact with Jesus was changed forever. The Shepherds, for example, went away rejoicing, praising God, and telling others about all they had seen and experienced. I pray this will be what happens in our lives this year as well!

Merry Christmas and may your holiday be filled with the love of Jesus!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

CALLING ALL MEN...Post # 2 in the Series



God is speaking to the men who were supposed to be leading His people. Rather than leading the people, they had abdicated their roles as leaders and started living for themselves. It mirrors our society today. God asks, “Where is My honor?” Today I want us to see what God tells us He is looking for in our lives!

First, let's talk about the Place of God in your life! Here is the question all men must ask: "Who is really in control?”
                Men, one of the clear reasons you are so confused as to your God-ordained role in your home, in the church, in our community, and on your job is because you have either never understood or have completely forgotten your role before God. God has ordained that it is men who should take the role of leader in all of these areas. In no way does that demean anyone else. In no way does this mean that men and women are not equal. What I am telling you is that men and women are equal before God, but they have different roles to play, ways to serve, and ways to lead in the home, church, and community.

                What has happened is that we as men have ignored or never learned our role in hardly any of these areas of life. In other words, we are really confused as to the place of God in our lives. Until we figure out where we stand with God, we cannot understand or carry out our role in the other places of our lives.

                One of the principles of life we often overlook is the words of Jesus quoted in Acts 20:35 when it says, “…it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When we understand the place God has in our lives, you and I can become conduits of God’s blessings into the life of our family members, our churches, our co-workers, and in our community. Rather than conduits of God’s blessings, we have become a cul-de-sac of God’s blessings. We want God to focus His blessings into our lives and not through our lives to others all around us. Again, this is a sign that we do not understand the place that God is to have in our everyday lives.

                Today let’s decide…what place does God have in my life? It is either 1 of 2 things:
* Some men have a Casual Relationship with the Lord
                In Malachi God several times refers to Himself as Yahweh…this is His majestic, authoritative name as the creator over all things. In English it is the capitalized LORD. God speaks not only of His person, but His position. God’s accusation against these men who were to be leading His people was this: You take your relationship with me casually and it is not a priority of your life.

                God told these people that they call Him their father, they claim to have a relationship with Him, but they were so casual in this relationship that it no longer possessed respect, honor, or fear of who God was in His person or His position. The people acted dumb and asked, “How are we casual in our relationship with you God?” God told them, “You are guilty of giving me only your leftovers! Others get your best, but I get leftovers.”

                Men at FBC, if ever there was something that could be said of us, it is this: We approach our relationship with God is such a casual manner that at best we only give Him our leftovers! They brought God blind & lame lambs for their sacrifices. It was not their best, it was their worst. That which was left over is all they gave God, but here is the thing: They wanted God to give His best to them. They wanted all of God’s blessings, but in return they offered very little to God.


Let me give you an illustration: Let’s say men that the President & the Queen of England decided that Tuesday night they were coming to have supper at your house. You call your wife and tell her the great news. You start talking about all the amazing meals you could have for them. The prime cut steaks, the jumbo gulf shrimp, all the fixings…and you wife says, “Oh don’t worry about all of that. I am looking in the fridge right now. We still have about 3 pieces of that Pizza Inn pizza left from Friday night…that’ll feed the queen. Oh, and I have they ½ piece of lasagna we brought home Sat night. I don’t have any tea, but I’ll stir up a little red Kool-aid the kids like. I got it covered.”

                We would be horrified men! We’d think our wives had gone crazy. Who would feed the President and the Queen leftovers? Yet we are so casual in our relationship with God that we think NOTHING of offering Him nothing but our leftovers. Let me show you what I mean:
                                1. We give God our Leftover Time
                We give God our attention only when we are through watching all our shows and games on TV…when the weather is too bad to fish…hunting season is over…there is not a football weekend in Fayetteville…when mama is satisfied that we visted…when we aren’t working that overtime to buy more stuff we do not need. Then, maybe God gets an hour once in a while on a Sunday. But don’t ask for more…not  Sunday night, Wednesday and certainly no ministry to others.
                                2. We give God our Leftover Service
                When we do decide to do a little something for the Lord or others, we just throw something together at the last minute…that SS lesson, that help with the students or kids, our attendance to SS, coaching an Upward team, or some kind of ministry somebody twisted our arm to do. Meanwhile, our friends, the golf course, our hunting club buddies get all kind of work out of us when it is time to get the food plots and shooting houses ready.
                                3. We give God our Leftover Money
                For a majority of men God through the church only gets pennies on the dollars we make only after we have purchased, financed, or secured all that we want for ourselves. Now we want God to help us get out of debt, provide nice things for our families, give us good paying jobs, get us that raise and promotion, and help us pay our bills.


Again, let me illustrate what I mean: Suppose you went to work this Friday, you put in 40-50 hours & at the end of the week the boss comes by with your check. You open it up and it is $10.00 bill. He says, “Look, I know you put in your time, worked hard, met deadlines, and helped the company this week, but here is the things…after we spent all the money we needed to create inventory, infrastructure, hire more people, entertain all our clients, buy up our season tickets, and purchase airfare for the CEO, that is all we had left for you. Enjoy the $10.”

                What place does God have in your life? Some mean have a casual relationship
* Some men have a Committed Relationship with the Lord
                Men…in our everyday lives we must fear God! To fear God simply means to take God seriously and allow Him to take control over all our lives, as opposed to taking God casually. How do we do this? Listen to the words of Jesus -Mt. 16:24-25: “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.”

                Jesus says we need to do 3 things to develop a committed relationship with Him:
                                1. You need to say “no” to yourself
The biggest giant most men face is not outside of them, but inside of them. To follow Jesus means to learn to say “no” to what you want in order to say “yes” to what He wants! This is a big deal for us because as men we do not like to tell ourselves “no.” Not telling ourselves “no” contributes to almost all the major problems and issues we face in our lives from our family, to our job, to our church, and to our relationship with the Lord.
                                2. You must take up your “cross”
To carry your cross does not mean “carrying a burden” or saying things like “my in laws are a cross I have to bear.” Jesus says to “pick up YOUR cross.” The cross you pick up and bear IS YOU! The Roman Government made a criminal carry his own cross (Jesus). Carrying your cross is an open submission to the authority of the one who has rule over you. This is yielding your life to God. It is following God’s will instead of your own will.
                                3. You must follow Jesus and only Jesus
We are not blessed by following the world’s way…the way of the expedient…the way of the politically correct. Remember Psalm 128:1, “Happy is the man who fears the Lord and walks in His ways.” Men...it is time for change to come into your lives…homes…churches…workplaces…& our community. 

Over the next few posts we will unpack what all this means but it will not happen until we determine what place the Lord is going to have in our lives!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CALLING ALL MEN...Let's have a Talk!!!



I have discovered that one of the biggest problems facing American families, business,
churches, and children can all be traced back to one common denominator: Men who will not fulfill their God ordained role of being God’s man in this world. The verse that will be foundational to this series of blog posts comes from the book of Ezekiel. God is talking to His people about how the nation is in disarray, it’s leaders are corrupt, its families are falling apart, and how people were pursing personal gain, materialism, and possessions to the point they no longer knew the difference between right and wrong. Then God said this: “I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one (Ezekiel 22:30).”

            
Today God from Heaven is looking for men who will stand in the gap…men who will repair the things that are broken…men who will fear the Lord and walk in the truth of His Word. God is looking for some men who will Man Up and take the lead in their church, home, and community for His glory!Listen to the principle of Psalm 128:1-4 when it says this: How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways! You will surely eat what your hands have worked for. You will be happy, and it will go well for you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your sons like young olive trees around your table. In this very way the man who fears the Lord will be blessed.”
 
                There are a couple of presuppositions you need to know that form the foundational base for this series of blog posts: 


1. Men in America are in a state of confusion!

We live in a society of masculine meltdown. Because of the lack of fathers in homes over the past 40 years, our society has been feminized at every level. Rather than men taking the lead in their homes, on the job, in the church, or in the community, they have decided to stand in the corner of the room and not lead. Men have forfeited their God ordained role of leadership in the home, church, and society to women. In most cases, thank God for women, especially in a Baptist church. Without them nothing would ever get done. But this is not how God ordained it and when you do not do it God’s way, God will not bless it! 


2. Men in America who are confused create Problems!

Our society reflects the values, indecisiveness, and confusion of men. Men’s lives are filled with pain, loneliness, unfulfillment, and no meaning. Men today do not have the ability to communicate with other men, their families, or even their co-workers. Men have few if any significant relationships or friends. They have no clear identity about what it means to be a man. The primary reason for this is because as many as 55% of boys grew up in a home with no father and 70% of them had no father who actively engaged in their lives. This has created major problems for families, workplaces, marriages, and churches. 


3. Men in America are passive to the point of ineffectiveness!

Men have been programmed over the last 40 years to stop taking risks. We easily settle for less than the best for our own lives, our families, and our purposes. We are easily satisfied with the mediocre things of life while forfeiting the best things in life. We fear failure, the ridicule of women, and have basically grown lazy and passive on the big issues of life such as parenting, working, making decisions, communicating with our spouse & children, providing for needs, serving others, ministry in God’s house, prayer, volunteerism, and serving God. 


This is reflected in American sitcom where Dad is always the baffling buffoon, the butt of all the jokes, and the one who is inferior to his wife, daughters, teenagers, and well-groomed female co-workers. Dad has not role in the family other than to hold a job while everyone works around him and behind his back to achieve what they want out of life.


4. Men in America have become self-centered and focused on self!

The first question of the generation that came before this generation of men was this: “How can I serve?” (my family, kids, my church, my country, my God). The first question of men today is this: “How will this serve me?” The result is that the average American man changes jobs every 2-4 years, divorce is at an all time high, money spent of recreation and entertainment for men is record breaking, and men spend less time with their children than ever before in American history.


5. Men in America can change, should change, and should do so now!

Men…the bottom line is this: it is time to Man Up! I preached a sermon series in January of 2014 and told the men of our church "It is time to Man up at home and lead God’s way! It is time for you to Man up and lead God’s people! It is time to Man up at your workplace and in this community and lead according to God’s Word!" 


Look at Malachi 1:6 in an effort to clearly define what God expects from men When we look into the book of Malachi, we see God does most of the talking. In fact, God is telling His people exactly like it is. God does not sugar coat what He expects from us, especially from we who are men. He says this in Malachi 1:6, A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me? says Yahweh of Hosts.”


We are told here in Malachi that we are to fear God! The word “fear” literally mixes 2 words together to form one meaning. Fear means both dread and awe of God. Quite literally to fear God means to take God serious in every area of your life by coming under His authority and control over your life while holding God in the highest esteem!


God is speaking to the men who were supposed to be leading His people. Rather than leading the people, they had abdicated their roles as leaders and started living for themselves. It mirrors our society today. God asks, “Where is My honor?” Over the next few posts we will see what God tells us He is looking for in our lives and how to honor Him with our lives as men!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Make YOUR Life Count!!!


Almost all of us know the name of Alfred Nobel. He is the man behind the highly respected and sought after Nobel Peace Prize. This award goes to those who excel in humanitarian purposes, literature, peace, and other contributions to people throughout the world. Not many people realize how this prize came into existence.

Nobel came into fame and fortune as the inventor of dynamite. He was a gifted chemist who was also a pacifist. He soon became troubled to realize that his largest customer for dynamite was the military, who had seized his invention as one of the newest weapons of war. Meanwhile, while his factories were operating at maximum capacity producing this new weapon of war, his brother Ludwig died unexpectedly. A French newspaper, thinking Alfred Nobel had in fact died, mistakenly printed this headline in the paper: “Merchant of Death Dies!”

 Alfred Nobel was horrified at the thought that this is how he would truly be remembered by the world at the time of his own passing. Therefore, with the fortune he had amassed from the sale of dynamite, he set up a foundation that would award yearly prizes in his name to the people who had most benefited humanity. Today, most people recognize the name of Alfred Nobel more because of his foundation than his invention.

Whether you realize it or not, you are writing your legacy and your lasting testimony every day. Every decision you make writes on the pages of your life exactly how you will one day be remembered. Stop and think for a moment what your epitaph might say about you. What would those who know you best say about your life, your contributions, your love for your family, your dedication and service to God, and your faith testimony? I wonder if what others would honestly say about you matches your view of yourself? Are you really becoming the person you want to be?

In the Bible Jesus once said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and yet loses his soul? (Mt. 16:26).” The good news of God’s Word is that there is still time for you change. You can start right now on this very day and at this very moment rewriting the pages of the legacy and testimony of your life. The time to take action and all God to change you is right now! Stop making excuses, acting like you are a victim, or proclaiming how unfair life is. You have chosen the person you are today by your own decisions. Why not start making better decisions? Make the Lord the priority of your life. Spend more time with your family and friends. Be counted on at your church. Serve God and serve others in practical ways of ministry.
 
It is time to let your life count for something more than it has up until this point. Don’t waste one more minute living a wasted life that doesn’t reflect the real you. If you will allow Him to do so, God is willing and has the power to help you become the person He wants you to be and the person you really want to be.