Current Affairs

December 26 thoughts...

It's the day after Christmas. This used to be the most dreadful day of the year. As a child, Christmas was so long anticipated that it consumed your every thought since Thanksgiving Day. The let down afterwards was like the deep depression you spiral into 30 minutes after you have eaten half a box of Krispy-Kremes. Not that I would know personally, but I've heard others talk about it. However, the good thing about being an adult is the day after Christmas isn't such a horrible thing. It's actually sort of resfreshing. The hectic pace of my job before Christmas becomes more tolerable after the holiday.

Now I can sit back and count my blessings. I was able to spend time with my family during all the chaos and I can testify that they all still claim to love me despite my faults. The church is in better financial shape than it has been in years. My staff is working well together. We have a great new guy coming on board in two weeks to take over the middle school ministry. The Christmas program was a big success and the Christmas Eve service was the best ever. And above it all; the world did not end on December 21. I'm glad.

That might surprise some of you. Aren't we Christians supposed to want to go home? In some ways I do, but in other ways I want to hang around. There's just too many people who need to trust in Christ that God may allow me to have some small part in their salvation. I have a few wrongs I would like to correct. There are people I have pushed away that deserve better from me. I want time to meet my grandson and help him grow to love my Lord. There are so many sermons I could have preached better with more conviction. I want some time to grow in wisdom. I want to mentor more young preachers. I want to be carried away in the Spirit before I am carried away to the Spirit. I want time to become the person I know God designed me to be.

So on this day after Christmas I'm glad God chose not to abide by the Mayan calendar and stuck to His own. Thank's God for the extra time. Help me spend it wisely.     


Netflix Insight

I am trying to get a grip on why some people attend one church, or another, or none at all. There are few weeks when we either don't enlist people into our fellowship or grant their membership elsewhere. With all the churches there are to choose from, what criteria do people use to choose whether to stay or go on? This is difficult for me since as a pastor I do not have the freedom to shop. My congregation tends to look negatively toward me joining or even attending elsewhere. :)

I am convinced it is not always about worship style. That has been debated since the first upright piano was placed carefully on the church platform where once only the pulpit was allowed. People's tastes will always favor one style over another, but I am convinced it is not the primary reason for people to choose a church. Too many people move from one church to another that has the same style of worship for that to be a major concern.

Sometimes, we preachers of the Word, want to believe it is the skill or passion of the preacher. The problem with that is that I have seen strong growing fellowships with only adequate preachers. I really believe God empowers His Word regardless of the skill of the pastor if his heart is inclined toward truth. Conversely, there are some gifted preachers who are not winning people to Christ, nor serving in growing churches, because of a proud spirit that God will not bless.

This morning I heard a wealthy Christian businessman make a profound statement that helped put my thoughts into proper perspective. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick fil a said; "I do not remember the price I paid the last time I visited a Chick fil a, but I do remember how I was treated."

An experience today may have helped me further determine at least a contributing factor why people choose one church over another. I cancelled my subscription to Netflix. I expected the hassle I had from AOL several years ago. Instead, they had a button to push on their customer service page to cancel my membership. The only delay was an additional button that would allow me to pause my subscription instead of cancel it. I chose to cancel by hitting the next button and was promptly sent to a page declaring my membership had been canceled. They said they hoped I would reconsider someday, but for now our relationship had been terminated. That was it. I wasn't told what a bad person I was for depriving my family of quality movies. They did not make me wait for another billing cycle. They were just as prompt to let me go as when I had joined. It was actually a pleasant experience.

Now what if we treated people at church with the same kind of dignity? What if we treated them as nicely after they were there for a year as we did the first week they came. At Dallas Bay you get a letter from me the first week you visit and then again the first week you join. You will also receive a phone call from another staff person on each of these two occassions. After that we encourage you to pick up a newsletter to hear what is going on around here. We encourage you from the pulpit to get involved in a small group, but we have no way of knowing if you ever did. We encourage you to support the church financially, but we rarely ever tell how that money is being used to help the Kingdom.

Personal touch is not easy in a big church, but is often the reason the church grew large in the first place. I don't want to become a victim of our own success. I'm not sure how I'm going to fix these things, but I am committed to meet them head on. I have some ideas, but they are pretty radical. Let's just see where the Lord leads on this one. I'll keep you informed. Hey, even if I haven't talked to you personally lately, please know that I love you and am praying for you. God bless, Pastor Ken.


God's Breadcrumbs

I am very interested in Biblical archaeology. I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to old scrolls, pieces of pottery and ancient ruins. While in Israel I am often left standing alone in front of a dig while others are heading to the bus or souvenir shop. I love what these old artifacts tell us about the world of Moses, Isaiah or Jesus.

One of the most fascinating relics to me is the ossuary (bone box) with the inscription of the occupying bones as "James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus." This 2,000 year old burial box is a possible link to our Savior. Of course we cannot prove it is the "Jesus" of our Bible. It was a popular name in those days. But the fact that he was also the son of Joseph is fascinating. That coupled with the fact that the brother is mentioned at all is compelling. Usually, siblings were not mentioned, especially if there were several and only one is mentioned. In that case, the brother mentioned would have to be important.

Recently I came across another great find. About 10 years ago an oil lamp dated in the 1st century surfaced that is just now being published for the public to see. It is unusual in several respects. First, it is carved from stone and not molded from clay. This is very rare and uually indicates it is for ritual use since clay is given to impurities. You might remember that we are regarded as clay in the potters hands and that Jesus is the "rock" that the builders rejected. Simon was renamed Peter, that is rock, by Jesus when he showed signs that he was becoming sensitive to the voice of God. Second, it is large. It is about 9 inches acrosses and weighs 4 pounds. That is huge for an ancient artifact. Thirdly, and I find this the most fascinating, it has seven spouts where flames would be lit. Most oil lamps have one. Rare lamps have two. This is incredibly rare.

Picture

My mind immediately raced to the opening chapters of Revelation. Jesus is said to be in the midst of seven golden lampstands. You may note that the opening where the oil would be placed in this ancient lamp is in the middle of the lamp between the seven spouts. Oil in the Bible stands for the presence of God's Holy Spirit. In Revelation 1:14 John declares "His eyes were like a flame of fire." Flames of fire would have surrounded this oil lamp when lit. The text goes on to emphasize the importance of the number 7. There are seven stars, seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls and seven angels.

Could it be that this rare and ancient article, most probably used in Temple worship in Jerusalem, was the basis for the symbolism of God's revelations to John. Could it be that it has been found in the last days to remind us that He is coming soon? I believe God leaves us breadcrumbs so that we may not lose our way. Maybe, these two recent finds in Israel are God's breadcrumbs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sooner than Later

I had to respond to an article I just read on my iPad Fox News app. Iran has moved some of its nuclear centrifuge machines to an underground mountain location in Fordo. They claim the centrifuges are being used to produce radioisotopes for cancer patients.

Iran has openly declared their intentions to destroy Israel. The enriched uranium not only can be used for medical purposes, but it is also the key ingredient to producing a powerful nuclear weapon. The President of Iran has indicated in previous speeches that he feels it is his mission to see both Israel and the United States defeated. Sooner than later is his declared time frame.

The cavernous facility near the holy city of Qom is nearing completion. For believers it is clear that God's intentions are nearing completion as well. Soon we will hear the trump of God and the voice of the archangel. I believe it is sooner than later. Look up for our redempion draws near.


Maybe It's the Heat

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's because I am about 10 days out from summer vacation with the family. Or maybe it's because I'm on edge about a doctor's appointment on Friday. But I'm in a sorry mood. The staff are keeping their distance. The family waits for me to speak first when I get home and the dogs run the other way when I pull into the driveway. You know what's ticking me off now. Some religious group, who appears to speak for all of us evangelicals, is telling people to not participate in a call to prayer this Saturday in Texas.

It seems Governor Perry of Texas is calling for people of faith to come together this weekend.  He is going to lead out in prayer for this country. There are no T-shirts being sold. No concession stands. Just prayer and reading from God's Word. So why is this religious group opposed. Here are a few of the headlines they have sent to me. "Texas Governor's August 6th Prayer Event Includes Cult Members",   "How the Church of Rome, Protestants, Hindus, and All the World’s Religions Are Becoming One", and "God Cannot and Will Not Bless this Event or Our Nation for being Unequally Yoked with Unbelievers." It seems some of the group are not of the same denomonation as the fundamentalist group reporting these headlines. Thus they are unbelivers.

Do you think that God might be wise enough to discern whether a prayer is coming from an unbeliever or one of His children? Would it be better to boycott an event because not everyone is of our faith, or by being a part bring the presence of the Holy Spirit with us? Come on. Can't we just applaud a politician for standing up for his faith? Do we have to alienate every unbeliever on the planet because we are so isolated we cannot speak without our face turning blood red with indignation and self righteousness. Here me well. I believe Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. I believe the Bible is true from cover to cover. There is a real heaven and a real hell. But I do not believe any one group of Christians has exclusive rights nor have the right to condemn other believers who are not as right or as left as they are. Being a Southern Baptist I can attest to the truth of that. When we secured our seminaries from the hands of liberal professors and adminisrtators, we then proceeded to hunt down those who were not conservative enough. It has led to a decline in our denomination and baptisms. We need to get over ourselves. (I told you I was in a sorry mood!)

Thank you Governor Perry for calling your state to prayer. I wish we had faithful national leaders who would do the same. I am praying for you and your event. I would encourage you to do the same.

  


Observations from an Avid Observer

I am an observer of people. It gets me in trouble with my wife. While in public together she often redirects my gaze back to her as we talk. Any movement...any movement at all draws my eyes in that direction. I find that people are amazing and infinitely interesting.

I am observer of culture. Everything from fasion trends (its fashionable again to roll up the pants legs on your jeans) to the political climate where absolute ideology is supreme. (To compromise, a basic necessity for a bicameral two party system, is now a sign of weakness. The result is gridlock.)

However, given my calling, I am an acute observer of faith. The trend now is to be open-minded and tolerant. This is different from the compromise of politics in America where at least two parties exist simultaneously. There is but one God. We do not get to decide His fate through our opinion or input. He decides ours. Faith is is not a democracy. It is a benevolent dictatorship with God being Supreme. Therefore, we cannot choose to melt faiths into one that suits our opinion about who God is and what He does. When different faiths stand as polar opposites as to the identify of God, one of them must be wrong.

As much as I would want all people to be saved, and I really do, it is not possible. As long as the paths lead in different directions they cannot end at the same location.  So, what is the basic difference between Christianity and the other religions of the world. It is simply the direction they travel. Other religions in the world are following paths they have determined lead to God. They differ in what direction that is, but essentially that is the purpose of each journey. With only finite wisdom and limited spiritual sensitivity it is not possible for man alone to find God, especially when there are so many who would purposefully lead them astray. The direction of Christianity is just the opposite of all other religions of the world. While the desire is the same, to meet, be loved, accepted and forgiven by God, only Christianity understands it is humanly impossible. No, the direction of the journey is not from man to God, but from God to man. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son..." This faith principle causes Christianity to stand alone among all other well meaning faiths of the world. So while it is not fashionable Christians must continue to declare:

 Acts 4:12 (NLT)
12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” That name is Jesus!

I hope to see you Sunday!!!! 

 

     


Politically Speaking

When I accepted the calling to be a pastor I decided to keep my politics to myself. So for years I have remained silent. I am still following my principle to remain neutral, in public at least, as to any party affiliation. But I do think it is about time I spoke to the circus that our federal government has become. Neither side wanting or willing to give an inch to promote the fiscal well being of our country. Instead they are constantly running for office. They are not representing their constituents. They are only representing the financial contributors to their campaigns. Their willingness to send our country into further financial ruin so they may please a select few borders on insanity. God help us, and I mean that literally. The Sovereign of the Universe has provided us with sound financial and social advice to not only get out of the mess we are in, but counsel that  will keep us out in the future as well.

 1 Timothy 5:8 (NKJV)
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Our God puts a premium on personal responsibility. He does not intend for those who are able to work to look to the government for aid. We are to work and work hard. If  you want more, then work  harder, smarter and create wealth so you may fulfill your God given responsibility to take care of your family.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NKJV)
17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,
19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

God does not condemn those who have achieved riches. They are to recognize their prosperity comes from the Lord. It is not to be used as leverage for this life, but as an investment for eternity. The well healed are to remember the needs of others. They should not withdraw from the poor, but willingly share with the truly poor what God has given to them. God  has blessed them with riches for that very purpose.

If we continue on the self serving political path both parties are taking, I am afraid we will soon reap what we have sown.

Mark 3:24-25 (NKJV)
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.


Coming Next Season

It's time for that sneak preview I give to all of you who read "Out of the Box."  Here in the blogosphere I want to share with you what the Lord has laid on my heart to study and teach for the next six months or so. There is nothing mystical here. I just look at my Bible for the things I have been recently reading and list those things I know people have been dealing with. I try to balance Old Testament and New. I begin writing on a notepad those things the Lord is bringing to mind. Some things never make it to fruition. Like this year, I had planned upon delivering a series of messages called "Insecurity." It's not going to happen. At least not this year. It seemed like it was from the Lord at the time, but I was never able to bring it to life. I think the Holy Spirit guides during these times and He wasn't leading down this path. Maybe next year. I know there is some risk here. More than once I have seen my series advertised on church signs before I ever bring them to the podium on Sunday. I can live with that. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I will be speaking at Christmas on the Christmas theme. That's a given. I don't think its a cop out or being lazy. I just never tire of telling the stories of the characters surrounding the birth of Jesus. But after the holidays here is what I'm planning. (Not necessarily in this order.)  

Upon this Rock

Biblical accounts of past and future events on and around the Temple Mount. These are some of the most dramatic and teachable moments in the Bible. (The story of the sacrifice of Issac is an example.)

Running On Empty

Cause, effects and cures for spiritual burnout. We will look at characters in Scripture and study how they got through, or didn't make it, during times of burnout.

Shattered

Stories of Biblical characters whose lives were shattered by tragedy and how they survived.

House

Following the thread of God's presence in the midst of His people. (Mt. Sinai, the Tabernacle, The Temple, Jesus Christ incarnate, and heaven.

Delivered (Romans 7:6)

The truth about being delivered from the burden of law into the liberty of God's grace.

The Word

What the Bible says about its purpose and its origin. Arguments and evidence for the truth and accuracy of the Bible.

These topics should get us through the first half of 2011. Please pray that God will use these series of messages to bring about His will and purpose in our lives.