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February 2012 entries

I'm Privileged

Someone just asked me about my transition plans when I leave DBBC. I wondered if he knew something I didn't. The truth is I have thought about it. I know the day is coming when God will have another take my place in the pulpit of the church I have now served for 22 years.  Truthfully, it scares me to think of not preaching every week. I'm not really very good at anything else. 

Vance Havner, famous Baptist evangelist, would get up everyday in his nursing home room and prepare as if he were going to preach.  I can't imagine not having the opportunity to speak God's Word into people's lives. It is a blessed role I have been given and I appreciate it more each day. I know that the church will need a new voice someday and I am ok with whatever God plans. Until then I will count each day a privilege.  


Scientist Says We are not Responsible for our Actions

Flip Wilson's much repeated excuse, "The devil made me do it" is not far from accurate. Not that the devil can make you do anythng, but the force that influences  you to obey God or be "bad" may run deeper than we evangelicals realize. A recent book, "INCONITO: THE SECRET LIVES OF THE BRAIN" by David Eagleman, reveals how something lying deep within our being motivates our behavior. Eagleman is head of Baylor's Laboratory for Perception and Action and has studied how the brain functions. He writes that we most often are controlled by the brain as it plots the course for our life without our awareness or input.  

Eagleman says that the part of the brain we control  is the long term planner for our lives, but the day to day operations are controlled by parts of the brain over which we have little access or control. In Christian terminology that would sound like, "After we have made a committment to be a faithful follower of Christ we often slip up daily and do things that seem to be incongruent with that desire."  Or as Paul said it,  

Romans 7:19-20 (NKJV)
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Eagleman says we are not blank slates when we are born. For example it seems babies expect to see faces and respond positively to smiles and pleasant voices. They are not taught this, or make up their mind to behave this way, it is just that way. The author explains this intuitive behavior by declaring we are products of our evolutionary pasts. He says we are not so much responsible for who we are as we are a result of who our ancestors were and their behavior patterns have been hard wired into the circuitry of our brain.

Before you discount what he writes as a result of being a misguded derelict who just needs to get saved, let me point out some things we may learn from what he says. I don't think he knows how close his findings are to historic Christian teachings. It is just that he is using the vocabulary of a scientist and not a preacher. We do suffer from the effects of a past that is not of our own making. It is not evolution, but original sin. We inherit a bias toward doing wrong and not right because it has been passsed down to us by our ancestors, Adam and Eve. Paul wrote two thousand years ago,    

Romans 5:12 (NKJV) 

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--

 We are also influenced by our immediate heritage. We know that children who are raised in Christian homes are much more likely to grow up with strong faith and to live lives that are a benefit to society. That is not evolution, but the result of being obedient to God and being blessed. According to Eagleman, the battle between the conscious mind and our behavior is most often won by behavior we have trouble bringing under control. I say AMEN to that. Only I would say it is a battle between my flesh and my spirit; between that within me that has been redeemed and that which is waiting for the rapture to be reborn immortal and incorruptible.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (NKJV)
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Eagleman writes, "We are not the ones driving the boat of our behavior, at least not nearly as much as we believe. Who we are runs well below the surface of our conscious access, and the details reach back in time before our birth." That is true, but it is no excuse for sin. It is a daily dying to self that God calls us to so that we might rise above what come naturally and do what may only occur "supernaturally!" 

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NKJV)
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.






Yesterday Iran boasted to the world that they were proceeding rapidly to produce their own uranium despite sanctions from the west. They claim they have already exceeded our abilities to produce nuclear material on their own. Perhaps it is because they are not nearly as interested in safety as civilized countries that intend to use their nuclear programs for peaceful purposes. Iran claims they are producing uranium for power plants and medicine, while their public rhtoric demands another reason. They have stated publicly that they want to destroy Israel and the United States. Recent attacks by Israel to take out weapons before they were launched revealed that these weapons were not localized missiles.  I have been told they were ICBM's capable of crossing the Atlantic.

Does all this mean that the end is near. Certainly not. Jesus said before the end there would be wars and rumors of war. It does mean that the pieces are all falling in place for God to wrap things up. Never before has this student of prophecy seen the pages of the Bible become so real and current. I cannot find one more piece to put into palce before the Father says to the Son, "Go get your children." The Bible says that Christ will return with a shout. (I Thes. 4:16) Much speculation has attempted to discover what thay shout might be. I have my opinion.  I think it may be "ENOUGH. IT IS FINISHED" Enough death, enough disease, divorce, orphans, violence, and idolatry.  So keep your eyes on the horizon and your ears alert to hear the cry!     

Celebrating Success

Many of you responded to last week's blog "Epic Fail." Like the pastor who held the conference by the same name a lot of people resonate with failing as being a learning experience that draws us closer to God. That being said, I never want to celebrate failure.  Failure is often just inability to rightly define success.

What is success? May I offer my working definition? "Success is discovering and doing God's unique purpose for my life and helping others do the same." I want to point a few distinctions of my view and other commonly held definitions of success.

    First, succes is not a situation in our life that we hope to attain. It is not about money or fame. It is not always dangling somewhere out in front of us. It can be a constant reality. Success is in the seeking as well as in the doing.

    Second, success is not based upon being gifted, your personality or situation. In the course of discovering God's unique purpose for your life you may go through many different situations, both good and bad. That's ok, because success is not a place but a process.  So succcess is not how many homes you sell, awards you win, or the balance in your bank account. It's not even the number of people who attend your church. It is about learning and doing what God has uniquely prepared you to be.

    Third, a truly successful person brings other with them. They help others find their unique role in the world. They encourage, involve and pray for others to be successful. They celebrate the fact that God has created us not only to work with Him, but to work with each other. 

These truths are are born out of my own experience. For several years other pastors often refer to my ministry and the church I serve as successful. I agree, but not for the reasons they cite. If it were based upon pure numbers, where did we begin to be successful? Was it at 100. Maybe a church becomes successful at 500. Do you see the error of this way of thinking. Dallas Bay became successful when about two dozen people answered the prompting of God's Spirit to begin a mission at a local grade school. Whatever came of that church would not dictate whether those people were successful or not. They were successful because they dared follow God's voice regardless where He led them.

I encourage you to consider adopting my definition of success for your own life. Is there only one successful salesman in your company. Certainly not! Is there just one successful parent in your neighborhood? I would guess there are several.  Are you less a success than your friend just because he has a larger car, or home or bank account? No, no, no... neither was Paul any more successful when he finished than when he began. Because he understood life to be a journey where we are to look to Him for strength, Paul knew he he could never use the world's definition of succes as his own.

Philippians 4:11-13 (NKJV)
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.




Epic Fail

A recent article in Leadership magazine told of a pastor who held a conference called "Epic Fail." Having left deflated and discouraged after attending more than one conference where pastors told of their many success stories, this fellow decided to find out how many others felt the same way. He started a website called "Epic Fail" and soon had more than ten thousand viewers. He rented a second story meeting room and more than one hundred people attended his first conference. They shared their sad stories of programs gone bad and frustration toward those who chose not to follow their vision. Oddly, they all felt better and are looking forward to next years conference.

Sadly, the churches and church leaders who only tell of their victories are often hiding their failures from public view. What they may not know is that we are more prone to pull for those who are transparant in their struggles. Looking back over my life I can remember harboring ill will toward pastors and churches that never seemed to have a down Sunday or miss their budget needs. When one pastor called me and related that he was not able to raise enough to build a proposed worship center, I closed my office door and and did a victory dance around my desk. (I later repented in sack cloth and ashes.)

Here are some facts I have learned in my many failures:

    I have learned more about myself in defeat than I ever have when I won,

    Being honest about your failures endears you to your peers,

    Frequent failures make victories more fun,

    Failure is just one more option I have elimintated on my way to what works,

    I would rather try and fail than never try, and finally

    I often find failure means I simply did not define sucess correctly.  

So the next time something doesn't turn out the way you planned, I suggest you ask God what He was trying to teach you in the process. Then write a book, start a webpage and hold a conference. You might be surprised how many people show up.

In His Shadow,

Pastor Ken