Monday, November 30, 2015

The End Does Not Justify the Means

Recently, the abortion issue has been destabilized with the shooting of a mass shooting at an abortion clinic. Unfortunately, the timing is so terrible. Just when the pro-life movement seemed to be gaining so much steam with the videos released detailing the abhorrent selling of aborted baby parts, this happens. This man has done the movement no favors. In fact, he has done it much harm.

Because I labor in the trenches of the pro-life movement, I want to echo the cry of many Christian leaders and pro-life supporters: there is no justification for these actions. Even though at least 3,000 babies are killed every day in our country, killing others who may be abetting in this atrocity is not the way. The image of God is upon every man, and even God forbade people from avenging the blood of Abel by the murder of Cain. The image of God makes every life sacred; that is the principle upon which we stand as biblical Christians. Exodus 9:6

In our minds, often many "good" things are justified, even though we might have to cut corners ethically to achieve those ends. We might tell a "little" lie to "protect" a loved one from the truth. We might break the speed limit, so that we can get to church on time. We might avoid another brother or sister in Christ in order to keep the peace, rather than dealing with the issue and forgiving. We might lose our temper and be harsh with another to get them back in line.

Listen: the ends do not justify the means. We must maintain a biblical standard. We must maintain our integrity. We must maintain our convictions. If we do not, we will be hypocrites, and seen as such. We will have stooped to the level of those that we oppose. Let us with one voice condemn these murders just as we do the genocide of millions of babies each year. May the Lord protect us from others like him, and glorify Himself through the reactions of His saints.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trembling and Trusting (and Waiting)

In Luke 18:1-5, we are told about an unjust judge who answers the pleas for justice from a woman even though initially he will not hear. Jesus said this to those of us that grow weary in prayer and waiting on answers. In Matt 15:22-28, we are told about a Canaanite woman who asked for only the crumbs that fall from the Master's table have been rejected by Jesus as a Gentile dog. Jesus also says that we can move mountains in Mark 11:23, that is, if we do not doubt. In Acts 16:6-7, we are told that Paul and Silas were not permitted to go here and there. Surely they were seeking God in prayer, and He answered. God answers prayer.

These are nice answers, positive answers, happy endings, but that is not always the case. Time would fail to tell of the prayers unanswered in the fashion plead for; of martyrs who didn't seek death, but didn't escape it; and so on, seemingly endless. Sometimes it's the prayers that are unanswered that make the deepest marks upon us.

So, what are you to do if you keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, but silence seems to be the answer you receive. We tend to then rely on human wisdom (ours or someone else's) to determine what might be the best way. We are warned against this in an oft quoted scripture - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;" Proverbs 3:5. Some of us stagnate and wait without doing anything. Some of us look for the easiest route. Some of us keep on rolling, figuring that something is better than nothing. Sometimes we let our mind play tricks on us and overthink everything, trying to read God's signs into everything. Keep praying, don't lose heart!

I have been struggling with a huge burden, an answer that I need. It has consumed much of my prayer life for months now, and I still wait. I wish I had answers to give you who are in a similar position. God will complete the good work He has begun in me, Philippians 1:6. I know that He will order my steps, Proverbs 16:9. Proverbs 3:6 says to acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths. We are told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure, Philippians 2:12-13. So we tremble and trust. We tremble with Isaiah's words from Isaiah 30:21 "Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left." We trust because we know that God is working all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11.

In short, I think that the bible does instruct on what to do, but guarantees nothing except that we are loved of God beyond what we can imagine; that He is good and wise and sovereign; and that nothing can separate us from Him if we are believers. We are supposed to keep praying; be specific, don't doubt. We are supposed to fast, to seek God more earnestly (not supposing that this obligates Him). Drown yourself in the Word, in preaching/teaching, and in godly books. Raise up a group of believers to pray with you and for you. We are to seek the counsel of the godly around us. Then we trust and tremble, knowing that our waiting on God is not wasted time.

Andrew Murray said:

If any are inclined to despond, because they do not have such patience, let them be of good courage. It is in the course of our feeble and very imperfect waiting that God Himself, by His hidden power, strengthens us and works out in us the patience of the great saints, the patience of Christ Himself.

I guess I just needed to preach to myself. Maybe it helped you as well. If you could pray for me, please do. Thanks for reading, thanks for praying!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spirit of Giving

Christmas time is just around the corner (feels weird to say that as I write before Halloween), and I want to take a second and remind you about the opportunities and needs that are presented us during this season.

Backpacks for Appalachia – These are due really soon. We have become a pickup site for the GBC this year. Several of your churches participate, and the pickup info is on Nov 5th at after noon at Northside. So, if you have your backpacks, you can bring them to Northside between 8-4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, or Thurs before lunch. Everything has to be boxed and ready by Thursday at noon. This is a needed and worthwhile ministry. If you need info, or want to participate individually, here is the website

Lottie Moon – Of course, most of you know about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It is our biggest offering of the year. This offering goes strictly to missionaries on the field and the supplies they need to carry out their ministries. This offering makes up nearly 60% of the IMB’s budget for the year. We have missionaries from the Mell Association serving overseas, and this helps keep them there. Info on the LMCO is located here - As you may know the IMB has made large-scale cutbacks this year because of funding shortfalls, and we must help! Goal again for this year is $175,000,000 (for you and me that get confused with 0’s, that’s $175 million), let’s help them reach it. Five billion people need it.

Santa’s Helpers – This is an opportunity to give and to volunteer at the same time. Through this ministry we give 1200 underprivileged children in Tift County. This year they have experienced a cut in funding. Since Jog for Jake did not go this year, Santa’s Helpers lost $15,000 of their $20,000 budget. This means that instead of helping 500 families, they will only be able to help 300, as well as reducing the number of toys. We took up over $3400 to help make up the shortfall. You as individuals and as churches can really help meet this need. And of course, they are always in need of volunteers to help pack (Dec 7-11) and distribution (Dec 17th). This year’s distribution will be at the county fairgrounds.

End of Year Gifts – Many non-profits in our area benefit from end-of-year donations. After you talk with the Lord (and your financial advisor, if you wish) consider giving to one of the location organizations such as Christian Women’s Job Corps, Ruth’s Cottage/Patticake House, Pregnancy Care Center, Lifehouse Ministries, Called to Care, Brother Charlie’s, or you could also give a gift to the association (we don’t turn money away).

Of course there are others, as we are commanded to look after the orphans and widows, to visit the sick and imprisoned, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give cups of cold water in Jesus name. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus all the time, but let this time of year, when Jesus came to earth as the greatest gift and most humble servant ever.

Let me be the first to say it J, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Snuggle of Sheep

This is just a quick reminder that October is Pastor Appreciation month! I have already heard of churches who are giving their pastor a weekend away all expenses paid, or a dinner in his honor, or check for some additional money as a gift. Why is it so important?

Most pastors love their jobs and callings, but sometimes it goes for a while without anyone saying "thanks." With the time they invest into the equipping of the congregation for ministry and their personal time as servants of Christ, their days and nights are full. They love you, their sheep, even when you bite sometimes. They care for your wounds, labor in prayer for you, lead you beside still waters, feed you from the word, and they will give an account to the Chief Shepherd for their work.

Having been one, I know; so do something special to show your appreciation to your shepherd this month!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Greatest Obstacle

I was in a meeting the other day, and the question was asked of someone, "what do you see as the greatest obstacle to reaching the area?" The answer did not surprise me, but I think the mindset behind it is common, but misses the point. Christians confuse winning individuals with winning a nation (in the geo-political sense of the word). They are convinced that the great american cultural tide flowing against Christianity is what is to be overcome if we are to reach people. Therefore we hear proposed solutions to obstacles to reaching people:

"God needs to be back in schools!"
"The Ten Commandments still need to be taught and posted!"
"Marriage needs to be back to a man and woman!"
"Nativity scenes should be put on the courthouse lawns!"
"We need a Christian back in the White House or on Capital Hill!
"We need prayer in a our school functions!"

And of course with the most recent incident of the KY court clerk and her marriage license civil disobedience, lighter fluid has been poured on the Christian fire of former days of a national moral conscience. But I really think all of these things are not the road back to making more followers of Jesus.

The advance of the church and expansion of the Kingdom of God is not tied to whether or not there are nativity scenes in courthouse lawns. In fact, historically, baptist have argued for a separation between church and state, not in the sense of removal of all religious symbols, but in the sense of we do not want the state inserting itself into the practice of one's faith, or endorsing one particular faith over the other. Especially the Anabaptist strain of our faith history was vigilant in its commitment to this principle, almost to a fault. The actual phrase "a wall of separation of church between and state" came from a baptist to then presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson, making sure that he had no plans to set up a state church or national religion. The first amendment provides freedom of religion and laws prohibiting the free exercise thereof; basically, it is protecting the church from the government.

So, there's my soapbox for those that want a return to national morality, and Christianity specifically, to achieve revival in America. Nominal Christianity is fading, which by the way is one of the main contributing factors to increase in immorality, and this is a good thing. Statistically younger generations are more willing to listen about faith and truth, but less willing to go to a church. Therefore, the greatest obstacle to reaching our area is getting our people to love their neighbors, build relationships with them, evangelize and disciple them in their homes, then integrate them into churches, Hence, the number one obstacle is us, and our unwillingness to reach unbelievers personally, where we live.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mechanics of Pregnancy Centers

As most of you know, I work for a Pregnancy Care Center in addition to my work as a director of missions for the Mell Baptist Association. At the PCC, we are preparing for one of our annual fundraisers; a 5K color run. I write on the sanctity of life a couple of times a year, but usually directly about abortion and the Christian call to protect life. This time I wanted to give you some insight into how we operate.

This year we have implemented an additional strategy for advertising, and I feel like I am always pushing and pushing this event on social media. Event creation, then sharing, tweeting, retweeting, promoting, boosting, inviting, and telling others to invite, share, tweet, etc, are constantly coming from me (this doesn't count the direct fundraising I do to underwrite the cost of the event). So why do I (the PCC) and other non-profits spend so much time fundraising? Well, simple right, they can't make or sell anything to make a profit, and very few are self-supporting.

So we have about three fundraisers a year: a banquet, a baby bottle campaign, and for the last two years we have had a 5K/1M color run. These fundraisers make up a little less than half of the financial needs that we have to support an executive director and four part-time staff, including a nurse manager, patient manager, advancement manager (me), and an office manager. We definitely don't do it for the money, it's a service to the kingdom, women, and children. Then there are the volunteers who don't get any remuneration, and do everything from being patient advocates, nursing, newsletters, preparing food, counting coins, serving on the board of directors, and aiding with events. This ministry could not continue without them.

The other funding for our center comes from regular individual givers, churches and a few businesses. These are crucial to the continuation of our ministry as well. All these help us minister to women with unplanned pregnancies in at least eight counties. They help us share the gospel to over 100 women, and preserve the lives of 50-60 babies each year in the most recent years.

All that to conclude that these fundraisers (and their seemingly endless promotion) allow children to take their first breaths, and mothers to be rescued from the lingering scars of abortion. Thank you for all that you do, especially those who labor in prayer for us. If you are a runner, or know of someone who is, tell them to join us for our Color Me Baby color run on Oct 24th. You can get all the info on the site. If you want to donate, you can do that as well through the site or through our Facebook page. Pray that it goes well, and that the Lord with use it to provide for us! Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Those That Stop Clinging

It is a burden to me, and to many pastors, to think about those who have an initial outward conversion experience, and then don't follow through. The Freewill Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Church of Christ, and most other protestant groups might have the easiest explanation: they were truly born again, but now they are not. Baptist have a conundrum in the fact that most of them believe in eternal security in its absolute sense, but need to explain those that "receive the word with joy" but then produce no lasting fruit and endurance. (Matthew 13:20-21)

Theologically and practically there are a couple of things to consider. First, we must know that there will be people who "believe" but don't really believe, in the sense that all Israel is not Israel (Rom 9:6). Secondly we can't fully know, and it's not our job to make the judgment, whether or not someone has been truly born again. If they have truly believed, they will return ultimately. Even though the NT speaks of carnal Christianity (1 Cor 3:1-4), I think that Jesus would delineate a line in there somewhere about the pattern of one's life related to fruit (Matthew 7:17-18). Many passages can be cited as well to demonstrate with good consistency that if one is genuinely saved they cannot lose their salvation. So we attempt to be discerning in our discipleship of people, but only God knows, and only time will tell.

So my main frustrations are these: 1) Believers, including pastors, that think and act as if people who have made some sort of profession, and show no fruit or forsake the faith, are truly born again. At funerals they preach people right into the pearly gates even though their lives have not even demonstrated old things passing away and all things becoming new (2 Cor 5:17). 2) The impact that these so-called believers have upon the church and Christ's reputation. 3) For me, maybe the most painful, the falling away of people that I love dearly in Christ, people that I have such high hopes for, people that initially showed such change and passion. It truly does, and rightfully so, break my heart that people I thought were believers, might not be...I love them.

Not to make a serious subject light, but to use an illustration from Star Wars Episode VI, some of them, even though they have turned away from the light to the dark side, I hope, still have some good in them, and they will someday repent. That is what I long for...