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July 2009 entries

The Art of Negation

Standing before the amazing statue of David by Michelangelo an enthusiastic admirer asked the artist, "How did you carve such an exquisite work of art?" Michelangelo responded, "First I fixed my attention on the slab of marble. I studied it, sketched a few simple pencil drawings on it, and then chipped away all that wasn't David."  The famous artist already saw in the block of rock what existed inside. His task was to uncover the masterpiece inside so that others could see it as well. 

This practice is called the art of negation. It is a process where things are taken away that don't belong or that steal energy from what is best. It is a rough process and includes some disappointments and some failures. However, if viewed correctly, these all are just necessary pains to perfect who you really are inside. I'll never forget that Billy Graham failed at being a pastor, but if he had succeeded the scope of his ministry would have never reached worldwide proportions. 

What has God been chipping away in your life? What, despite your best intentions, keeps failing to deliver? Then ask, "What do people recognize and compliment me for?" What comes more easily for you that some others struggle over? Those things you may do poorly, or even more bluntly you simply stink up, are probably just the chips of marble that need to hit the floor in a heap to reveal the masterpiece you are inside. As much as some people may believe they are the best thing since sliced bread, they probably are not as good at as many things as they think. People often waste energy and time on things God has better equipped others to do and have too few resources left to accomplish their best. But, when people recognize true value and excellence in things you do, it is God's way of revealing the real masterpiece that He has hidden deep inside of you.

Don't be afraid to try. Don't be afraid to fail. These are necessary experiences for you to discover why God put you on this planet after all. And when you get recognized for things you do well begin to pour your time and energy into perfecting these areas of your life. Quit trying to be everything to everyone. You will never be your best or accomplish all God has specifically for you to do if you are worn out doing what others are better equipped to do. I don't know why, but God wanted me to write this because somebody out there needed to read it. So I've been obedient. Now it's your turn. Catch you later.

Pastor Ken         

The Kind of PLace Where Jesus Would Hang Out

Yesterday I was kind of zoned out sitting at my desk. I had just finished one difficult counseling session and was waiting for the next. I was feeling a little fatigued because of some tension around the office that was just then being resolved. I hadn't slept well for a couple of nights and for weeks prior I have been traveling alot. So zoned out is the best description for my state of mind. Suddenly, one of our pastors came through my back door and said there was a lady here that went to high school with me and would like to say hi. He told me her name and I attempted to emerge from my fog to associate her name with a face from more than a couple of decades past. 

As this schoolmate from my past walked in I immediately remembered her face. Remarkably, she had not changed much since high school. She said the same for me and I politely thanked her for kindly stretching the truth. I learned her husband also rode a Harley-Davidson and liked to hunt. She obviously married well. I asked her how some of her friends from high school were doing. She caught me up the best she could since she had also neglected the last several class reunions. Then she said something that caused me to think. She said she wanted to thank me after all these years for being kind to everyone. She had been poor growing up without a father and really struggled financially. She imagined that I was one of the "better off" kids, but that I treated everyone fairly. Then she went on to say that it didn't surprise her that I had become a pastor since that was a necessary trait for ministry. 

Okay, before you think I'm just writing this to blow my own horn I need to share with you something important. I wasn't well off. I really struggled financially too. My car in high school was a ten year old 6 cylinder 4 door Ford. Hardly a babe magnet. My clothes were either hand-me-downs or worn year after year. However, my older brother did have a sweet leather jacket with fringed sleeves that was the bomb! I wore it while he was asleep after work or any other time I was willing to risk life and limb to impress my friends. But I had nothing. No money, no cool car, no cool clothes or shoes. How had this schoolmate ever assumed I was one of the lucky kids? Maybe a better question is why did she think it strange that I associated with and was nice to everyone? Truthfully, I am still pondering those questions today, but that's not the point of my story. My point is why should anyone ever think it strange that we associate with or appreciate everyone? Maybe, I know the answer. I just don't want to admit that I am part of a select group of people who have been characterized as narrow-minded and exclusive. Preachers, I mean. We tend to be critical of everyone who doesn't act, dress, or think the way we do. Kind of reminds me of the Pharisees in the New Testament who were continually condemning Jesus for the company He kept. We often explain this by saying He was just associating with them so that He might get them saved. I thank that is partially true, but I also think He enjoyed hanging out with people who were interesting and different. The religious crowd didn't throw a very good party. They were more interested in who they excluded than those who were there. There is one place in the New Testament where Jesus talked about throwing a party and ended up sending servants out in the streets to invite everyone regardless of their social standing. (Luke 14:21 - 23) 

Wouldn't it be great if we as followers of Christ actually acted like Christ and not like those for whom He had His harshest words of criticism? I truly believe this is one of the most important factors contributing to the supernatural growth of Dallas Bay through the years. On any given Sunday you will find a biker next to a banker, an Armani suit next to a camo shirt, and Escalades next to pickups. I think this is the kind of place where Jesus would like to hang out! Let's keep it that way!

Pastor Ken           

Here's the Scoop for the Next Six Months

I’ve just returned from my semi-annual sermon planning retreat. I know this surprises many of you who thought I just walked up each Sunday morning and shared what’s on my heart. Actually, every message is months in the making with much study and prayer. Twice a year I get alone with a few books and the Lord and emerge with 6 months worth of sermon series and dates. Here is a sneak peak of what the Lord and I came up with:

Mirrors – a 3 sermon series about our true identity in Christ

Solomon’s Prayer – this 4 message series uncovers the secret to Solomon’s wisdom and wealth

Masterpiece – for 8 weeks we will take a verse by verse tour of the Book of Ephesians where we are called “His workmanship”

Better Together – I will reveal Scriptural truths why a united family is best in this 4 week series

Christmas for Dummies – For two weeks prior to Christmas I’ll break down the birth of Jesus so that even an unbeliever can see the mighty hand of God revealed this holiday

The Real Paranormal State – There is an unseen world out there, but not the one that is being peddled by Hollywood or TV. We’ll explore what the Bible says about it and the magnitude of the spiritual world and how we relate to it.

On Wednesday nights at 6 we will be studying the life and times of the prophet Elijah and his protégé Elisha in a series called “Some Say Elijah.”

No Government Bailot for the Church, Please!

Summertime for a pastor is always a difficult time. We thrive on big crowds and opening up overflow rooms. Not a problem in the summer. This year we added about 150 seats to our auditorium which is absolutely necessary three seasons out of the year. Most of that time we have to run a live feed of the service to overflow and then it's not always enough. But the extra seats now just add to the feeling of emptiness in the room. I can handle it for a short while, but then I'm ready to get packed out again. What I have a more difficult time with is the lack of funds. When people vacate for summer they also take their tithes with them. Three months of tightening our fiscal belts around here will eventually cut off spiritual circulation. For example, last month we had 50 less givers than in the Spring. Ouch! So it got me thinking. What would happen if we applied for government subsidies; like GM or Chrysler for instance.

Then I began thinking. Now that DBBC is considered a large, if not mega, church we would probably be called on to redistribute our wealth. As a condition for government assistance, Uncle Sam would probably insist we share our members with less populated churches. What if they insisted that the most optimum size would be 500. We would be asked to downsize by sending 2,000 of our congregants to smaller churches so they could be stimulated. While that would hurt us a great deal, imagine what it would do to Brother Joel out in Houston, Texas. He would have to give up 22,500 members to smaller congregations. I bet it would be difficult to pay the light bill with funds left after such a mass redistribution of wealth. Or what about poor Bill Hybels at Willow Creek in Chicago. Bill would have to sacrifice 16,500 faithful followers to other congregations in and around the Windy City. 

I can imagine if the government did get involved in church bailouts their would be bureaucrats galore. Someone suggested the formation of a government agency called Church Redistribution of Saints and Sinners. (CROSS) They may require pastors of churches receiving government funds to adhere to the government mandated Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine would assure that Arminian and Calvinist doctrines be given equal time in Sunday sermons. Balance would be required when addressing issues like pro-life|pro-choice, gay|straight, and conservative|liberal interpretation of the Bible. CROSS would evaluate the church based upon important social issues like tolerance and acceptance. Any smack of standing for absolute values would incur the wrath of big brother. Churches who do not show a financial profit or numerical growth may face an end to their government subsidies or even face nationalization. 

Of course receiving a bailout would mean DBBC would have to comply with OSHA standards as well. Total immersion baptisms could be considered a form of "water-boarding" and strictly forbidden. It would also be difficult to sprinkle or pour since the water would have to be inspected for the presence of organic microscopic creatures who's lives are protected under law. Deacons would have to pass physicals and complete a government certified course on safe food handling before being able to administer the Lord's Supper. 

OK, so much of the above was said with "tongue in cheek, just suggesting these impositions by the federal government may brand me as a rebel. Well, if being a rebel means that I believe the government should stay out of the church's business then I'm guilty as charged. I believe, as did James Madison, "Religion flourishes in greater purity without...the aid of government." So I'll endure a paucity of monies during the lean summer months if it means keeping our independence to worship in freedom and without interference. Seems like some other forward thinking followers of Christ held to those same ideals a few hundred years ago. It worked for them and the God that blessed their determination has never changed. Hang in there pilgrims!

Pastor Ken           

Heads Up from Middle School Retreat in Gulf Shores

Hey, just a word from sunny Gulf Shores, Alabama. I'm here on the DBBC Middle School Retreat cooking for the kids. This is one of my favorite times of the year. All week I get to work in the kitchen 8 - 10 hours each day and serve our young teens. It gives me a chance to meet many of them that I would never get to meet back home. Let me say, we have great kids. The bus drivers, who have driven thousands of kids to camp, said these are the most well behaved teens they have ever transported anywhere. 

Yesterday I had the awesome opportunity to baptize 8 of them in the ocean and 2 more in the pool as the other 98 or so stood around and cheered. Last year I baptized in the Jordan River in Israel and this year on the Gulf of Mexico in LA (Lower Alabama). How's that for diversity? Well, I've got to work with the other kitchen help, Dawn Noles and Beverly Stone, to get lunch ready. Keep praying that God moves in the lives of these kids as He has the last few days. We leave in the morning so pray for a safe trip home as well. I will write again next so in the meantime have a happy 4th of July and we'll see you soon.

Pastor Ken