You Asked For It So Here's My Thoughts on Bruce

Ok, so I have been asked on several occasions recently to comment on the whole Bruce Jenner situation. These are my thoughts. They only reflect my opinions and no one else; not my family, not my church, and not my denomination. Just mine.

Any person who is not a believer in Jesus Christ is controlled by his flesh and his flesh alone. Only followers of Christ have the Spirit of God dwelling within Who is committed to leading us to truth and convicting us of sin. I have very little knowledge of his faith, but I have never heard of Bruce professing to be a believer in the sense that he has trusted Christ as his Savior. Thus, he is following the inclinations of his flesh and has no access to the Spirit of God within him. I have been there and know first hand what that is like. 

How about how the media portraying him as a hero? Personally, I find it very distasteful and inappropriate to use the same word used to describe the brave men and women of the military who face the enemy to secure our freedom to describe Bruce's decision to live life as the opposite sex. Or to speak of his decision with same reverence we speak of a child who resolutely faces radiation and chemo treatments to battle cancer with courage. I'm sorry, the media and I disagree greatly as to the definitions of courage, bravery and heroism.

I am surprised as to the number of women who have applauded his decision to live the remainder of his days as a female. It seems to me that women who have endured the mental, emotional and physical distress  and discomfort associated with their physiology would not easily welcome someone into their gender who has not also paid the price. Bruce may choose to live as a woman but will never have to endure the pain or inherent dangers associated with childbirth. However, this is only an observation coming from a man and not a woman. I am certain I do not qualify to speak for them; Myself having never had to deal with the challenges I have just listed.

My greatest issue is with believers. That may seem to be a strange statement, but please allow me to explain. Some who follow Christ have expressed their opinion that if this makes Bruce happy then we should be happy for him. So should our concern end there? Is happiness the main objective of life? It may be a true statement that for the unbeliever happiness is the pinnacle of existence. So should we be happy that someone, whether we know them personally or not, is attempting to find fulfillment outside of the forgiveness of sin for which we all are in desperate need. When in reality God's ultimate desire for His highest creation is not happiness but holiness.

I am not angry with Bruce Jenner. I am not disappointed with the media. They are acting according to the instincts of the flesh. Without a Damascus Road like experience they will continue to act this way. (Just for the record, I believe those kinds of experiences still occur.) I am more disappointed with my reaction. I immediately wanted to pass judgment on this former athlete. But God reminded me of the horrible mess my life was in when He found me. The only difference in my life and Jenner's is that I was not a member of the Kardashian family. I am grieved over this man's decision just like I am grieved over the millions of other decisions made every day by people who believe their main objective in life is to be happy to the detriment of their eternal souls.

   
12  There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

 

 


How Can a Man of God Treat People This Way?

It's been 5 days since a group of us returned from a missionary retreat in the Dominican Republic. We had beautiful weather and smooth travel. The rooms were clean and the food was plenteous and tasty. So why am I still so tired?

We served nearly 250 missionaries from several countries and almost as many mission sending agencies. They were young and old. They were veterans and rookies. It was really a blessing to serve such committed servants of our Lord. So why am I still so tired?

Looking back over the week from my perspective I came to realize why with so many positives, I was exhausted. I spent more time on this trip than any other counseling with missionaries. Whether at a predetermined time or at random moments I was asked to counsel and pray with missionaries consistently throughout the week. What do you imagine were their greatest spiritual needs? You would think they would be concerned about difficult living conditions or Satanic attacks against themselves and their ministries. Not so. Not one story like that. They accept those things as given. What burdens them the most is not their enemies but their supposed allies. Those they work with and work for threaten to drive them from the missionary field they feel called by God to serve.

One missionary shared with me about his priest who attempted to delay his coming to the field. He spoke of his leaders mood changes and ungodly behavior and temperament. His question to me was, "How can a person who is a man of God treat people this way?"

Another missionary couple shared with me how they had been shunned by other team members when they arrived. They described the close knit group of veterans who did not include them or listen to their ideas. They were thousands of miles from their home and all alone.

A couple became very discouraged when their parents tried to talk them out of becoming missionaries. Another spoke of how angry one set of in-laws would become when they stopped at the other in-laws first on their brief visits to the U.S. Still another couple told how letters and sponsorship had ceased since the leadership of their sending church had changed.

I could share many other sad stories I heard. Where support was withdrawn or not present from those who should have been their greatest allies. However, I'll end with this one. After our last night of meeting together of singing and teaching in English. A great treat that many missionaries longed for. The Spirit was strong and the Lord was doing some great things in that room on the last night of the getaway. I was walking alone from the meeting room to the dining area when a young lady called my name from behind me. She had been waiting for several minutes for me to walk by. She looked to be no older than her mid-twenties and was on mission all alone. She told me how much the sacrifice our team had made meant to her. I thanked her and told her we received a greater blessing. She then asked me to pray for her and help her if I could. It seemed that just after the meeting she had words with her supervisor. He became angry at her and told her she should find her own way back to the airport. I assume her boss had picked her up there or had rented a car. "Can I catch one of the buses to the airport tomorrow even though I have not signed up?" she asked almost in tears. I assured her I would make it happen even if I had to pay for it myself. I then prayed for her and walked to dinner.

As I thought about the young lady's story and all the other couples I counseled with last week it has left me with a sadness that has resulted in my physical weakness. I think it is because their stories are not unique to the mission field. Most hurts I hear of and experience myself are not from the enemy; not directly anyway. They are from those who should be our allies. Those who should bring encouragement into our lives discourage us with their words and actions. Many church members leave church for the same reason missionaries leave their assignments. They aren't run off as much as they feel pushed out. They guard against attacks of the enemy just to be sucker punched by their fellow believers while their guard is down. Remember, you can only be betrayed by a friend. Just ask Jesus. 

Our flesh has a tendency to elevate and protect self by de-valuing others. That is why the author of Hebrew finds it necessary to write, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

Dear Lord, may we die to self and love each other as You have loved us.

"Come on people now smile on your brother, everybody get together. Try to love one another right now."

The Youngbloods

 


A Water Hose and My Spiritual Life Are Much Alike

While talking with another pastor who has also been enduring some stress lately, I think I came up with the perfect word picture for how I'm feeling: a garden hose. Here's what I mean.

When the faucet knob is turned to the on position and water rushes toward the rose bush or the family sedan, the hose is filled with water to capacity. That's because a garden hose is only full when it's being used. When the job is done and the knob is wrenched to the off position the hose falls limp and only a trickle of water remains.

When I'm being used by God to do what I've been gifted to do I'm full of His Spirit. When I'm through I fall limp into a recliner. Only a trickle of the Spirit remains. When I'm being used I spill out onto others. When I'm not, I can barely muster a drop. So what to do?

Find more occasions to be used by the Spirit. If the Spirit fills me (us) when He empowers me (us) to do His will, then it makes sense to be sensitive to God's will so I (we) may be used more. The result will be more power, enthusiasm (literally to be filled by God) and joy. So Lord, turn the knob full  throttle and point me where you choose! I need the Joy!

 Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
13  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

   


Are We Still Baptists?

To some of you this will make either little or no sense. The readers of this blog vary from people I know very well to those I have never met. Those in between, those I know, but not well, have been asking a question concerning the church I am privileged to pastor. Are we still Baptists? 

The reason for this question stems from the change in our logo. After years of using the Dallas Bay "bug" we updated the logo to something a little more up to date with current graphic design. 

 

Dbbc bug_2 web_1

 

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Dallas Bay Logo

I spent considerable time researching logos of churches I respect for their integrity and innovation in sharing the gospel. The new logo reflected design elements of those churches. Notice the cross in the "B". Some had been concerned that on the facade of our satellite campus there was no mention of church nor was there a cross on the outside of the building. I hoped this new logo might relieve both of those concerns. I was not prepared for the question of our affiliation just because of the change in the logo.

I'm going to speak more in depth to the reasons for the logo change when I teach DB101 to the church body beginning the first Sunday night after Labor Day this September. It is all about the philosophy of ministry the church has followed for the last 25 years. Let me lay it out in less detail here now than I will then for those who have asked the question.

The logo does not reflect a change in doctrine or denominational affiliation. We are Baptists. We have been Baptists since day 1. We are Southern Baptists and have been since our inception.

One of the reasons for the change is a practical one. Around here we usually just refer to ourselves as Dallas Bay. We welcome people to "Dallas Bay." There is no attempt at hiding Baptist from the name. It's always just been easier to say "Dallas Bay". We are known in the community and by other churches simply as "Dallas Bay." Changing the logo from dbbc to our current design was an attempt to reflect more accurately how we are recognized by ourselves and by others.

Another factor for the change is that the churches in America who are reaching the most people for Christ with the gospel do not include their affiliation in their name. In 2013 Outreach magazine listed the top 50 fastest growing churches in America. In the top 50 only 4 listed their denomination in their title. Many in that top 50 were Baptist. The highest ranking Baptist Church was number 6. It is "The Church of the Highlands" in Birmingham Alabama. They are not only Baptist but they are Southern Baptist as well. They chose not to include their affiliation for the same reason most churches in the top 50 did so. They did not want to erect any barrier between them and reaching the lost or unchurched.  They know who their target audience is and make decisions to have an opportunity to share Christ with them.

Many Baptist Churches do include the denomination in their title. However, most people would have to agree that we are not the typical Baptist Church. Many have a preconceived idea of what a Baptist Church looks like and how a Baptist Church behaves. It is not uncommon for me to speak to a guest of our church who is delighted to have finally found us. After a Sunday morning service they tell me that they had delayed visiting us because they had been to other Baptist churches and believed they would have the same experience here. Don't misunderstand me, I am not being critical of other Baptist Churches. It all has to do with the person God has purposed for us to reach. Dallas Bay is populated to  a great degree by those who have been turned off by the typical church.  It is in our DNA. We are a wonderful melting pot of His followers. That diversity adds to our worship and causes us to have a broad view of mission work. We have consistently been a leader in reaching people for Christ in the nation.  

There are other reasons I will share in September but I told you this would be brief. So let me sum it up before I have to retract that statement. We are Baptists. Proud to be Baptists. But our greatest goal is not to promote a denomination but to lift up Jesus. That fact influences the way I dress; the way the buildings are decorated and designed; the types of ministries we do; the furniture in the hallway, the singing, the preaching... Well, I hope you get what I'm driving at. It even influences our logo. I love you all. In Christ, Pastor Ken      


Something to Ponder While in Church this Sunday

I usually share my thoughts in “Outside the Box” about seeing life through the eyes of a non-conformist pastor. I try to make these insights light hearted but helpful. Today, however, let me speak of a more serious topic; the intense Christian persecution occurring around the world. 

In my world Christians suffer worship centers that are too cold; worship schedules that interfere with ball practice for the kids; music that is either too loud or too old; pastors who only talk about money and other horrendous atrocities being perpetrated against American church-goers. In the rest of the world things are considerably worse. 

Did you see in the news last week where over 800 people drowned aboard a dilapidated ship while they were attempting to make land in Italy from Libya, fleeing the chaos there? Did you know many of them were Christians? Were you also aware that on another crossing, not publicized as well the capsized ship was an incident where fifteen Muslims threw twelve Christians overboard while traveling in those same waters. 

Brutal religious persecution is going on around the world today. Thousands of believers have been martyred in the last few years. Many others have suffered imprisonment, torture, burning, enslavement and starvation. Often newscast don’t share that those who are being abused are being persecuted because they are Christians. 

 

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith — that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations. 

I’m convicted we don’t pray enough for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Miles are no deterrent to our prayers. We are all a part of the body of Christ made up of “every tribe and tongue” who will confess Him as Lord. I have to believe the music, preaching, temperature and friendliness of American churches would be more tolerable if we forgot about our own preferences long enough to pray for those who would give all they had to be sitting next to us this Sunday.     


Why I Exist

Here I am at my office in front of my desktop blogging.  As I look out my window rain is coming down and the streets are sloppy. The sky is dark grey and the sun is a distant memory. So I'm at work. I'm also on vacation. I am not one of those people who can lay on the couch at home reading a book or watching TV to relax. That would be my definition of purgatory.

My problem is that I like my work. I love being a pastor and teacher. Some people can't wait to get away from the office or the shop. I can't wait to get here. I don't mind working late or on my off day. Weird, huh?

I don't work for a paycheck. Although they are greatly appreciated by my family. When I apply for a loan or fill out an IRS form I have to go to personnel or the bookkeeper to ask how much I make. Money doesn't motivate me to come to work. Considering this is April 16th, I am very aware how quickly money can disappear.

 

In case you think my favorable attitude toward my calling is because I am known by a lot of people; you would be oh so wrong. It's nice when people speak to you in the coffee shop or grocery store. However, it's not so pleasant when they want to "give you a piece of their mind" while waiting in the checkout line or pumping gas. Being a pastor of a church with over 3,000 souls is a heavy burden where every difficult  decision is scrutinized.

So, why I am in the office on my vacation? Because I am certain this is why I exist. I know God created me for this purpose. Nothing else thrills me like teaching God's Word. Seeing God transform people's lives is as exciting as winning the Master's or pitching a no-hitter. To have someone quote a line I said years ago in a message and tell me how many dark days those words have gotten them through; that's a feeling money can't buy.

I'm still waiting for the skies to clear. I want to go fishing. I want to drive my car with the top down and not get soaked. I'd like to play 18 holes with my oldest son before my vacation time ends. My mind needs some time off. I need to clear my head and breath some fresh air. But I'm not wanting to escape my job or looking for another. My payer for you is that you find your purpose too. Vacations are great, but a person is blessed when they love their work as much as they do time off.                 


You are Unique

Both a cactus and a possum wood tree are vigorous long-living plants. The cactus is ideally suited to thrive in environments where water is scarce. The plant has the ability to embrace the little water it receives and sparingly draw from it over weeks of drought. So cacti are found in environments where drought like conditions are likely to occur. A cactus flower is a beautiful sight to see in an otherwise barren desert.

The possum wood tree needs lots and lots of water. These giants grow to nearly 200 feet tall. They prefer wet soil and lots of rain. You'll find the possum wood tree in the rain forests of South America. This lush tree produces a toxin in it's sap that natives if that part of the world place on the tips of arrows for hunting.

Each plant, the cactus and the possum wood tree, need sun and water to live. But their needs for each are much different. A healthy cactus planted in a rain forest will not last long. The tallest and mightiest possum wood tree in a desert will soon wither and die. Keep them both in their unique environments and they thrive. Remove them and they die.

I am different than you. You are different than your neighbor. I would be happy if I never visited the beach again. Give me the mountains and a cold mountain stream. You, on the other hand,  may just as soon the good Lord just take you on up to heaven if you never had another day at the beach. Mountains, in your opinion, may be too boring and isolated. Neither opinion is wrong. They are just different.

I believe God made us different. If we were all the same we would be redundant. God has made us all similar in that He has called us all to know and glorify Him. However, how we do that may be as different as the cactus and the possum wood tree. So don't always be comparing yourself to others. I don't preach like other preachers. I'm good with that. I want God to use me in the way He created me to be used. How has He designed you? How do you best express your calling? Have you attempted to be like some other believer you appreciate and admire just to fall flat on your face? They may be a possum wood tree and you just may be a cactus.

Why did God plant cacti in deserts? So they would thrive. Why do possum wood trees grow in rain forests? They would never survive in a desert. Our Creator knew this when He planted them where they are. God planted you where you are. If you have wandered away from where He designed you to grow, get back there. Quit trying to be someone else. Be who God made you. Thrive where He planted you. Don't envy others for their gifts or situations. Thank Him for strategically placing you where you are and get on with your calling.

"I urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received." Ephesians 4:1      


Is Perception Always Reality?

I joined with about 40 others at church in a "Biggest Loser" competition. We were divided between two gyms and several trainers. The contest started in early January and ended last Sunday. Several people lost over 20 pounds each. My goal was 20, but if I came anywhere near that I was going to be satisfied. Six weeks into the eight week process I had lost 16 pounds and I thought I might have a shot at that 20 pound goal after all. The final two weeks I checked the scales every other day or so. Each day the same weight. No weight loss. One day I was shocked, even though I was eating better and working out twice a week, to find that I had actually gained a pound. The next day or so that pound disappeared, but once again I had fallen to the sixteen pound loss plateau.

 

So eight weeks finally passed and my weight stabilized at that plateau. During that time period I had only tasted a piece of cake that a friend insisted that I taste. I had not bought or made french fries in two months. No sweetened beverage had touched my lips. I had only one piece of grilled chicken pizza. I had been a good boy. Now with all restraints cast aside I have become less careful as to my consumption of delectables. Since Sunday I have eaten 3 pieces of pizza, several pieces of cake and hash-browns from the Huddle House. Well as long as I'm confessing, although I ordered unsweetened ice tea at said Huddle House, the server brought sweet tea. I didn't send it back.

I began to feel like I had lost all momentum and gained several pounds by this morning. As early as yesterday, clothes had already begun to feel tighter. So this morning I decided to step on the scales and see how much damage had been done. Preparing for the worst I stepped up and squinted down at the number just beyond my toes. I HAD LOST ANOTHER POUND! ARE YOU KIDDING? I had now lost seventeen pounds. Why did I feel heavier than last Sunday when the contest ended? The answer: PERCEPTION. My perception because of my actions was that I was heavier. For most of us our perception is our reality.

Good story you say, but where is the spiritual application you ask. Really, do you have to ask? How many of us feel more "saved" after we have shared our faith. How many believers feel more "righteous" after a month of consistent church attendance, Bible study or tithing. All of these things are good in themselves and should be practiced. Just like eating right is a good thing. But on the opposite extreme, when we stumble or become lax in our faith walk we perceive that we are less that righteous. Or if we lapse into an old habit that plagued us before we gave our life to Christ we begin to doubt our relationship with Him. Remember, perception is a powerful thing. To many, perception is their reality.

In times like these we need to step on the scales again. Get the facts instead of relying on feelings. The truth is we have become new creations in Christ. When you were saved you didn't go from bad to good. You went from dead to alive. You were never accepted into His family because you straightened up your act. You were adopted as a child of God because you were forgiven. Don't let the enemy tempt you to doubt by having you focus on your weaknesses instead of His tremendous grace. Perception is not always reality.                   


I Don't Have Favorites

A question often posed whose purpose is to get to know someone better often begins, "What's your favorite.....?" The phrase is then followed by options like "vacation spot", "food", "sports team", or "color". This is a first date question. It's a way of quickly making an evaluation of a potential long term relationships or a security question before your forgotten password may be revealed. 

What happens when you don't have favorites? This has been a issue with me for my whole life. I really don't see the world through eyes that elevate one thing above another. I don't have a favorite color, restaurant, song or movie. I like a good steak, but I also love pinto beans and cornbread. Banana pudding is great, but so is a chocolate eclair. I love the first Star Wars movie but no greater than The Chronicles of Narnia. I enjoy the gospel of John, but sometimes the Book of Daniel stirs my heart. Those who know me well or have heard me preach often may think there is one exception to the rule: Christmas. I can see why you would come to that conclusion. I am crazy about Christmas. I love everything about it. However, Christmas must never be ranked above Easter.

I remember the first passion play I ever attended as a follower of Christ. I was in my early twenties and my future wife and I had been invited to one her friends church's Easter event. We had to sit in the balcony because of the size of the crowd and our late arrival. Different scenes interspersed with song were played out before us. There were the healing miracles of Jesus portrayed as those pretending to be blind or lame were brought back to health by the man playing Jesus. It was all good, but not up to Broadway standards. I admit I was getting a little fidgety as the performance passed well into the second hour. Then it happened. Jesus had been carried off stage near the end of the last scene by some men acting as rough looking Roman soldiers. I was not prepared with what happened next. Some forward thinking church volunteer had decided that the man playing Jesus should now be paraded off the stage and through the crowd. His bloodied back and wet matted wig jarred me to my soul. The man bent under the weight of a wooden cross. The actor playing a Roman soldier was slapping his back repeatedly with a prop made to look like an ancient instrument of torture. Jesus, I mean the man playing Jesus, fell under the weight of the cross in the aisle.

I suddenly was moved by a wave of emotion I had not felt at any other time in my life. I began to openly sob. What had always been just an ancient story in a moment became a sobering reality. Jesus had endured much more than I had ever allowed myself to imagine. Even this church portrayal of His suffering was almost more than I could bear. When the actor finally reached the apex of the stage, created to resemble Calvary, my tears were more than I could conceal. I began to understand for the first time what God was really trying to convey in John 3, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." He didn't give Him to live, but He had sent Him to earth to die...for me!

Now Easter and Christmas are held in equal regard in my mind. The joyous sound of the angels at His birth cannot mask the angry mob's railing, "Crucify Him!" on Golgotha. The magi lifted up gifts of precious metals and costly spices to the newborn King. Thirty-three years later Roman soldiers lifted up sour wine to the lips of the King of the Jews. The cold hard stone of a borrowed tomb is now where Mary lay her Son's head. A far cry even from the warmth of the manger and the soft hay beneath her Child's tiny head. Without Christmas, Easter is not even possible. Without Easter, Christmas loses it's meaning. One day cannot be held above the other. One is a gift given and the other a promise fulfilled. I get just as excited in the days leading to Easter as I do in the days prior to Christmas Day. I anticipate that morning in Springtime with equal longing as I do December 25th. I hope that if you are a follower of Christ that you begin pray as we prepare for Easter. May His death and resurrection be celebrated in your heart as if you were celebrating His birth. Both rely on the other for their meaning and purpose. If you are not a believer ask God to make the story of Christ's death more real to you than ever before. Let your heart hear His cry of pain. Hear Him say, "Father forgive them" and know He's talking about you.                   


50 Shades of Compromise

Morning news anchors are extolling the merits and excitement about the opening of the film "50 Shades of Grey".  A middle school parent in Pennsylvania complained when his child was handed a word puzzle based on words used in the erotic movie. The predated ticket sales indicate movie theaters all around the U.S. will be packed out.  Unfortunately millions of those who attend the movie opening this weekend will also attend houses of worship this same weekend.  I like to be known for what I am for more often than what I am against, but in this case I'm making an exception.

I know what some will ask, "Have you read the book? How can you be critical of something you haven't even read yourself?" I am against LSD even though I have never taken the drug. I am opposed to dog fighting even though I have never attended a fight or bet on a dog. There are things a person can stand adamantly against without ever having experienced them. I believe this is one such instance. There has been enough released about the movie through the media for me to know this is something that can not be beneficial to any person of faith.

Why is such "soft porn" so acceptable and even advocated as beneficial. When Elvis danced on TV he was not seen from the waist down by anyone who was not present in the studio. Now those same networks that would not televise his gyrating hips are promoting a movie about sadomasochism. Our society's moral standards are at new alarming lows. However, as followers of Christ we were never intended to be measured against the moral standards of the culture around us.

 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV)
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

 As God's steadfast holiness became increasingly higher than those of our culture, Christians began to feel the sting of being different. So somewhere in the not distant past, the accepted norm of morality in His church became just a step above that of the society around her. So as public morality descended, the church's standards were lowered so as to stay just above those of society. However God's standards did not change. This truth has made the gap between ourselves and our Holy God increasingly wide. Now the world can barely tell that we are different at all. A fact that I am afraid will be painfully evident in movie theaters this weekend.