Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Making Every Connection

I recently flew from Little Rock, Arkansas to Jacksonville, Florida with a connection in Baltimore, Maryland both ways. Southwest Airlines did a good job getting me there and back. The departure from Little Rock was delayed about 90 minutes and the connection in Baltimore was only ten minutes longer so I left Little Rock thinking I would have to sprint through the Baltimore airport. The Southwest folks in Little Rock told me I would have a seat on a later flight from Baltimore to Jacksonville, but that would put my arrival much later. So I was ready to hustle!

As we approached Baltimore the pilot notified us that we would be arriving about ten minutes early. Now my ten minutes to connect became twenty. I was relieved. After deboarding the plane and walking through the jetway into the terminal I checked the video screens for the Jacksonville flight information. It was delayed thirty minutes. Now my twenty minutes became fifty. I had time to relax, stop by the restroom, and enjoy a stroll through the Thurgood Marshall International Airport in Baltimore.

The fifty minutes then shrank to exactly the amount of time it took me to get from the arrival gate to the departure gate. I'm not sure how much that was. I'm convinced that Southwest was holding the departure from Baltimore so that the three of us connecting from Little Rock could make the flight. We took off a few minutes late, but not thirty minutes late. We arrived in Jacksonville right on time. Southwest Airlines did everything they could do to get me from Little Rock to Jacksonville via Baltimore as planned.

That makes me think about the security of my salvation. Once I accept Christ as my Savior he will do everything necessary to make sure I arrive in heaven after I die. Life may be uncertain or difficult along the way but God ultimately works around and through those things for my good and his glory. My salvation depends upon God's grace and my faith in him. His grace provides the means of salvation; my faith simply gets on board.

My journey to Florida and back may not be typical for those who travel by plane. Sometimes travelers miss connections. Sometimes jets have mechanical problems that delay flights. Sometimes weather brings havoc to the flight schedules. Sometimes a passenger waits too long in the restaurant. People miss flights for many reasons. People who place their faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation never miss heaven.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thank You, Pearces

This has been one of the most refreshing weeks I've had in a long, long time. I am attending the Pastors Conference at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. This conference has been on my wish list for several years; I'm so glad I came this year.

The preaching has been great. The workshops have been very useful. The fellowship with other pastors makes me miss my friends back home. If I were to grade the conference, it gets an A+!

Perhaps the most special part is the couple I've met who are housing me for the week. In order to help keep costs down for those who need it, the members of the church who are able open their homes to guys like me. The hotel bill for this conference would have been several hundred dollars. Instead, $0.

Allan and Pat Pearce are a delightful couple. They have been part of FBC JAX since the '70s. They have served their church and the pastors in countless ways. Until this year they were part of the "Ask Me" crew - those folks that point us in the right direction as we try to move from place to place across this big campus.

Another way the Pearces have served, and how they are serving me, is by opening their home to me. Not only that, but they also picked me up at the airport AND let me use one of their cars to go back and forth to the conference each day. That saved another couple hundred dollars. Then I could also talk about the wonderful fellowship around their breakfast table, too!

It might be fun to fly into town, get a shuttle to a downtown hotel, and ride the metro to and from the conference every day. But I would have missed getting to know Allan and Pat.

I admire FBC JAX because of this conference, because of their pastor, but mostly because of the Pearces.
For my new friends, the words to this old gospel song seem appropriate: "If we never meet again this side of heaven I will meet you on that beautiful shore."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Classic (and bad) Case of Proof-texting

Our crew was walking at 5:30 this morning. About 13 minutes in our hardcore trainer began praying. He was thanking God for the pain we were feeling as an indicator of our progress.

Then he began quoting scripture about perseverence and the strength God gives.

Then I just couldn't help myself. From several paces behind him I resorted to a typical pastoral tactic. I proof-texted; I pulled a verse out of context to make my point.

In the dark hours of an early Tuesday morning I shouted: Be still and know that I am God!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weekly Devotion - January 20, 2012

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13 HCSB

"I just hope this works out." She was visibly nervous when she spoke these words. A hint of desperation tinted her voice. The unspoken words were "but I really don't think it will."

I guess we need to understand what the word "hope" means. The common usage of the word indicates wishful thinking. A person has a dream that is out of reach yet they hope to achieve it. This kind of "hope so" mentality is based upon experiences, our own abilities and those of others.

But the biblical usage means confident expectation. Christians have hope not based upon their ability to achieve or anybody else's abilities, but based upon the promise of God. Do you believe God will keep his promises? He has proven himself to be trustworthy, his word proclaims his reliability, so I trust his promises.

I have hope that God will provide for me. I have hope that even in difficult times God is guiding and helping me. I have hope that a person who calls on the name of Jesus for salvation will be saved. I have hope that when this life is over there is an eternal life in heaven awaiting me.

This God of hope fills those who follow him with joy and peace. That means that even when life is not going the way I want it to go I can have an inner sense of satisfaction. Even though the storms may be raging around me I can have a sense of calm. Joy and peace reinforce my hope.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all involved. That means that the fullest essence of God is at work in Christians' lives to help us with what we face now and in the future. That's not "hope so," it's "know so"! Pray that God will give you hope and joy and peace.

JAX Pastors Conference

I've been waiting for a long time. The Jacksonville Pastors Conference is next week. Every year I get the promotional piece in the mail and tell myself that this is the year I'm going. It's just never worked out. Either I didn't have the money or the time. But this year, I'm going! And I'm pretty excited about it. Can you tell?

The church members of First Baptist in Jacksonville, Florida offer their spare bedrooms to guys like me to help reduce the travel expenses. I will be staying with Allen and Pat Pearce. We've emailed back and forth several time and they sound like a delightful, godly couple. Not only have the Pearces offered a comfortable place to stay but they will also pick me up at the airport. That's good hospitality. Pray that I'm a good houseguest!

So the Lord is working through the church in Jacksonville, Florida to help this preacher from Little Rock, Arkansas have a time of rest, study, worship, and encouragement. I am thankful for the excellence in stewardship.

Now I have to think of a nice gift of appreciation to give the Pearces. And I need to think of ways my church and I can impact and influence people for the cause of Christ through hospitality.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekly Devotion - January 13, 2012

“But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31 HCSB

Sometimes I get tired. It doesn’t take much exercise or physical labor before I’m breathing heavily and sweat begins to run down the side of my face. Some men in the church got together last summer and poured a concrete sidewalk connecting two of our buildings. I thought I was going to pass out! My strength was sapped too quickly. I admire those of you who can do that sort of physical work.

I’ve been walking for exercise three mornings each week since the first of the year. I’m being pushed by the two who are walking with me. Sometimes it feels like they are dragging me! But not long after we are through with the exercise my breathing returns to normal. And after a little while longer my legs actually have a little more spring in them. We’ve only been at this for a couple of weeks but we are already walking farther and faster.

These examples of physical tiredness and renewal may help us understand the times when we are spiritually tired or weak. That happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Maybe temptation gets the best of you. Or you have to face a particularly difficult situation regarding your health or a relationship. Sometimes it’s multiple layers of stuff that drag you down.

You may feel like quitting. You might think you’ll never get on top of this. The prophet’s promise is good news for all of us: those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. These words are so encouraging because I’ve been tired in my spirit before but I’ve been renewed. I’ve fallen but soared again. I’ve gasped for breath but have run again.

If you trust in the Lord you can have renewed strength to get through tough times. Pray that God will help you trust him more and feel that renewal.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Walk before You Work

The last four nights have been good for me. I had the opportunity to lead music in a Bible Conference at Otter Creek First Baptist Church in Little Rock. Since I am a pastor, I don't get the chance to do this much. But I love it.

And I heard four good preachers deliver four good sermons. I love that, too. So it's been a pretty good week!

Gary Hollingsworth is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock. He spoke on the topic of living in the will of the Father. One of his points was that our walk with the Lord is more important than our work for the Lord. He was quick to say - and I agree - that our work for the Lord is important. It just doesn't matter if the walk is right.

I believe that good works naturally develop out of a good walk. Nothing gets a person interested in helping others like getting to know the Lord better. As we learn more about Jesus we will soon learn that he was all about helping people. As you turn the pages of the Gospels you can't help but notice how he reached out to touch a blind man's eyes or a crippled man's hand. He had compassion for those whose family members were dying (or already dead!). He cared about the lonely, broken, left out in the crowds.

And could you dare claim that Jesus DID NOT have an incredible relationship with the Father? Of course NOT! Now, we aren't God like Jesus is. But the principle is the same: walk before works, walk leads to works.

One of my points of focus for 2012 is spiritual development. I plan to lead our church to a greater depth in relationship with Christ. What will come of that? I expect we will be more compassionate and will impact more people around us. I expect we'll be more urgent sharing our faith and will see more people come to know Christ as Savior and Lord.

In other words, by focusing on our walk we'll do good works. That will help us reach the goal of "Impacting Eternity at the Cross Road of Life."

Friday, January 06, 2012

Weekly Devotion - January 6, 2012

"You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath."
Psalm 39:5 NIV

Have you ever watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Broadcast each year from various spots along the parade route, millions of people get an close-up view of the spectacular. The parade lasts three hours and follows a route from 77th Street to Herald Square in New York City.

Parade watchers line the streets as one by one the floats and bands and balloons pass by. The parade stretches for blocks but a viewer can only see a few presentations at any one point in time. Once the parade has been going for a little while you would not be able to see the beginning or the end; just what's in front of you.

That's the way our lives are: a small part of a long span. Just a breath to God, the psalmist said. That's because God is eternal; we live in a temporal realm. God has no beginning or end but this life does, as evidenced by inscriptions on all the grave markers in the local cemetery.

Rather than trying to limit God to our understanding of time, why not try to see yourself as an eternal being? At least an everlasting being. You see, when this body gives way to death, our soul continues on. We exit the temporal home of this world and enter the eternal realm of God.

What will that look like? I'm not exactly sure but I do know that the Bible gives us wonderful descriptions of heaven and tragic descriptions of hell. Those are the two dwelling places in eternity and every person who has ever been conceived will be in one or the other forever.

Do you know which destination will be yours for eternity? Pray asking God to forgive you of your sins, claiming Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Contact me if you have questions or would like to talk about salvation.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Bible Reading Plan

I want to challenge you to read the Bible in 2012. Not just a little bit but a lot. In fact, I challenge you to read the entire Bible. Will you take the challenge? Will you join me? No other "resolution" will impact your life as much as this one. I believe this decision will actually empower you to make other changes in your life you've resolved to attempt.

So let's do it! Let me know if you accept the challenge so I can encourage you throughout the year.

Check out this website for some guides if you need help. This is the plan I'll be following. There are lots of resources in print or online...or you could just open your Bible and start reading!

Be sure to listen as you read. I suggest you keep a journal of what you sense God is saying as you read his word.

Alright, let's go!

Both Are Wrong

I read an article this morning about a singer changing the lyrics to a song written by John Lennon during a NYE show on Times Square. According to the article, here are the original and changed lyrics sung by Cee Lo Green.

Instead of singing "Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too," Green instead sang, "Nothing to kill or die for, and all religion's true."

Two extreme positions on religion. Two wrong positions on religion.

John Lennon missed it by saying there is no religion. In fact, there are thousands of religions. Very few people are actually atheists. Even at the core of atheism is a humanistic idea that they are their own god.

Cee Lo Green missed it by saying that all religions are true. If that's the case then anyone can believe anything. That's really the point for Green and those who think like that. Look closely at world religions and you'll see vast differences. Some claim a higher power that must be appeased by good works. Some claim a higher power equivalent to one's self. One claims a higher power that desires a personal relationship with you and even sacrificed himself to atone for our sins. The only way to be right with this God is to trust him, love him, and obey him.

I guess it's true that anyone can believe anything. It's just that believing some things won't make  you right with God. Only faith in Jesus Christ can do that. And without it, a person chooses to perish for eternity. Embrace the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Nobody comes to the Father except through him. Your good works can't save you but his grace can.