Monday, March 31, 2014

A Slice of Coffee

His name was Bob Thompson. I knew him through church and work in the 80s. He was retired from IBM and now worked in the warehouse where I was a salesman. We also served as deacons together at our church.

Bob had a sense of humor that tickled me. Dry, sarcastic, witty. He also had two habits I thought were odd fits. He worked in a warehouse that was horribly hot in the summer but at break time he would sit out there to drink coffee and smoke a cigarette.

I always thought, "What a strange way to cool off."

I never took up smoking but I am wild about coffee. That's probably due to Bob and due to the next job I had at a radio station.

Bob's coffee was the strongest stuff I've ever tasted. He would come into the office each morning before anyone else and make it so I don't really know the ratio of coffee to water. But Bob would come in to refill his cup several times a day and hold the pot out like a  waitress at Waffle House asking if anybody wanted a slice. It was that thick!

I looked at the calendar today and noticed that March is all but over. The first quarter of 2014 is gone. Where has the time gone. It seems like a lifetime ago that Bob and I would share a slice of coffee.

During those break times with a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, he often said, "You know, the days just drag by but the weeks and months and years just fly."

In my mid-20s I didn't really understand but shook my head in agreement. I now have many more days behind me than before me and I understand.

Paul encouraged his readers to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16 and Colossians 4:5). Seize the day. Redeem the time. However you want to put it, this day will be gone before you know it and you'll have no more chances to make the best of it.

So you better get busy while you still have today.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Can't Imagine Our World Without God

Browsing Instagram this morning, I found this picture.

Here are the caption and some comments.

The comment from"concede" caught my attention: "Imagine our world without gods."

I suppose that's a reference to the Taliban acting out radical Islam. Perhaps this person thinks all gods are behind all evil. Maybe he thinks the one true God should be lumped together with them.

So what would a world without gods or God be like? I can only answer that through the Christian worldview I hold to.

Some might think the world would be a better place but I believe the world is only as good as it is because of God. The Bible teaches that God created the world, sustains the world, and gives purpose to the world.

Without God, the world would not exist.

Without God continuing to engage with the world, we would cease to exist.

Without God interacting with the world, we would have no purpose.

So, no, I can't imagine our world without God.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


We are almost a week into Spring. It's chilly outside today. I am amused by the reactions to a change of season or weather that is not normal or what is preferred.

My least favorite season is summer because I prefer cooler temperatures. I can deal with 20 degrees much better than 95 degrees. I prefer a day like today where the high temperature is about 60 and the overnight low is about 40. I could live here for a long, long time.

But I completely understand when someone prefers an upward shift of about 20 or so degrees. I really am not violently opposed to the heat because I pretty much have an inside job. I just wish the switch on my car's AC performed with consistency. I think there is a short in there somewhere.

Griping about seasons is like griping about Mondays. A few years ago a friend posted on Facebook this question: Why would you so despise 15% of your life? That's what Mondays are - 1/7th of your time or about 15%.

God gives us time and seasons but we complain. What sense does that make?

Many want to do away with Mondays but would they gladly give up $15 of a $100 gift? Many want to do away with either winter or summer but would they give up $25 of a $100 gift?

Our time - whether measured in minutes, hours, days, months, seasons, or years - is a gift we are to cherish. In part because of what we can do with that gift, but mostly because of the gift Giver.

When you count your blessings, don't forget to consider the blessing of this day, this season, this time in your life. Be sure to honor God with every gift he gives you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Christian, Do You Know an Atheist?

After reading Dr. Moore's post/review of Dan DeWitt's new book Jesus or Nothing, I pre-ordered the book for delivery to my iPad Kindle app on April 15. I think you should, too.

If you read the article here you might notice toward the end a phrase that caught my attention. It makes me think about my "daily traffic patterns" as Rex Horne calls it. Where do I go each day? Am I traveling safely within a bubble guarded by Christian people and Christian things?

"if you don't have any atheists in your life, you might should wonder why"

I'm sure I pass by people every day who do not believe that God exists. I'm sure a handful of my contacts on social media would claim atheism - if not verbally, at least in practice.

Dr. Moore brings my thoughts back to something I've pondered but never really done much about: Why have I insulated myself from those who need to know the stunning truth of the gospel? All I need to do is look at Jesus' life and I'll see that he didn't stay away from those who held different beliefs than the truth he taught. Jesus didn't avoid skeptics. He didn't feel uncomfortable around them or worry about debates and arguments.

Jesus clearly had a mission. He came to die for the sins of all people, and he came to seek and save those sinners. The mission is clear for Christians: seek out those who need the gospel and tell them the good news! Having purpose - being committed to the mission - goes a long way in bringing Christians like me out of the "safe house" and into the lives of those who live on the dangerous edge of a eternity.

It's one thing to lob volleys over the wall (i.e. post Christian-ese sayings on social media), but it's something altogether different to be a friend to those so far from the salvation Jesus died to provide.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Deacons Do

Our church faces a leadership situation we've never known. We've lost four of five deacons for various reasons. So we have one and we have one to be ordained.

The number who attend our church is probably not too large for two deacons to serve. That's if we view the ministry of deacons from a biblical perspective. I've learned from my thirty-two years in ministry (and ten more as the preacher's kid) that what the church thinks deacons are supposed to do and what the Bible says they are to do aren't always the same.

To make sure Cross Road moves forward with the healthy biblical perspective, I'm meeting with these two men each week to discuss "The Deacon I Want to Be" by Johnny Hunt. We have met twice and both meetings have been productive. I'm thankful for Bob and Forrest for their willingness to serve and their desire to serve biblically.

I don't know why expectations of many modern churches do not mirror the biblical pattern for deacon ministry. Some of what they should do is neglected. So of what they actually do is not necessarily a responsibility of a deacon.

Maybe the line is blurred between being a man in the church and being a man who serves as a deacon in the church. Every man has responsibilities to serve and minister in a broad range of ways. Building maintenance, yard work, ushering, and member care are things every man can do based on his giftedness. You don't have to be a deacon to mow the yard or paint a classroom or check on a member who is sick.

(Ministry and service are open to everyone in the church. Age, gender, or experience don't really make difference. So anyone can mow the yard or paint a classroom or check on a member who is sick. In a vibrant church, that will be the case.)

The deacon ministry is a calling a man receives from God and is affirmed by the church. These men serve not in the position of deacon but in the ministry of deacon. If we took a survey of deacons and church members, what would they say deacons do? Does that really matter? I guess so but only for the purpose of providing suggestions for improvement and correction and providing a basis for praise and thankfulness.

What really matters is the Bible's description of what deacons do. Unfortunately, God did not give us a definitive list but he did give us guidelines throughout the New Testament, especially in Acts 6. Here are the five things deacons do (taken from "The Deacon I Want to Be.")

  1. Handle Church Growth - the necessity of choosing the seven men to serve in Acts 6 was the growth of the church.
  2. Protect Church Harmony - the threat of a church split makes the ministry of deacons of utmost importance.
  3. Provide for the Needy - the inability of the Apostles to meet the needs of the growing Christian community led to selecting men to serve in this way.
  4. Prioritize the Ministry - the Apostles couldn't serve believers and spread the Good News alone: they needed co-laborers.
  5. Ensure Gospel Penetration - the result of effective ministry was a greater spread of the Gospel and the further growth of the church.
A growing church must have a biblical deacon ministry; a church must have a biblical deacon ministry in order sustain growth.

I'm not looking to add to the body of deacons today. Maybe not even this year. We'll let the Lord lead us to this. But I am looking to guide the two deacons we have to serve biblically and I'm looking to teach the church what the Bible says deacons do.

Monday, March 10, 2014

When God Begins to Move

Can anyone tell me what it's like when God begins to move? I'm talking about the ver first movement. I've experienced a couple of periods of personal revival and can almost pinpoint the beginnings. Times of corporate revival have been sparse to non-existent in my experience.

What I've experienced is a gentle rumble of awakening that most of us didn't even realize until it was subsiding. It was impossible to put our finger on the starting point.

That's what I want to know. I've studied HOW revival starts. 2 Chronicles 7 says we are to humble, pray, seek, and turn then God will hear, forgive, and heal. Keys found in Acts 1-2 are obedience, prayer, focus, unity, and action. Acts 3:19 says, "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord." Those are a few of the keys to revival; there are many more that tell us HOW revival starts.

Revival is an act of the Holy Spirit. We can't really do much to bring on revival outside of praying and repenting and being obedient. The Spirit rains down upon us stirring our hearts. I long for that.

Sparks of revival glow from time to time and I wonder if I'm doing something to hinder it. Am I not yielding to the Spirit? Am I following some preconceived idea of revival rather than listening to and following the Spirit?

I sense an expectancy among our church. I hear our prayers and desires. I know God does, too. Is revival happening? Is it starting now?

Paul wrote to believers in Philippi, "I will press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (from Philippians 3:12-13).

Revival is necessary because believers have taken our eyes off the prize. We've run off chasing goals other than that set before us by God.

Will God send revival? I think he will because he wants us to follow him. Will God revive us today? I don't know but I believe it won't happen until the Spirit moves within me and I respond by yielding to his call.

Sometimes I listen to the chimes on the front porch. No sound at first, then a light pinging, then a heavier clang. The wind picking up indicates rain may be coming. Sometimes it doesn't. I hope the wind I'm feeling in my spirit is the refreshing of revival that comes from the Lord.

In Revelation 22, John responded to Jesus' promise to return with the words, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." I believe Jesus wants to revive his people today as much as he wants to return to us some day.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, and revive us.

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Weighty Opportunity

I'm working on sermons for the Easter season. In some regard, this is an easy task. I will preach about sin, sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption. I will expect the Spirit to work in me as I prepare and present the messages. And he will work beyond me to impact those who hear the messages. Easter can and should be an expectant time in the church - the whole world talks about Jesus for a few weeks! I understand, as you do, that the talk is not always good but just the mention of his name is powerful. So, let them talk about Jesus!

Easter sermons are also hard to prepare. By hard, I mean that the weight of the preparation is heavy. (I take all sermon prep seriously, by the way.) Some who have never heard the gospel clearly presented will hear these sermons. Some who have rejected the claims and offers of Jesus will hear these sermons. Some who are just attending to fulfill an obligation will hear these sermons. That's not a whole lot different from any other sermon, but this is Easter! How do you tell the Good News in a fresh way that is true to the living word of God? Honestly, many of our regular attenders have heard Easter sermons for decades. I not only want to be compelling to the person who does not know salvation in Christ but also to those who are faithful. The gospel impacts both our eternity and our today.

So I'm deep in thought and prayer anticipating a great work of the Lord. That work will be seen several times. I'll see it as he fills my mind with thoughts. Then he'll guide the thoughts from my mind to my notes. Those in the congregation will sense the work of the Spirit when I stand before them to speak the words. The Spirit will work within them to plant truth deep within them. For some, that truth will sprout at that moment and begin to grow as them embrace what Jesus means to us. Others will have to process the ideas longer but when it clicks they'll move forward with Jesus. Sadly, some will reject the truth the Spirit has brought to them.

For some reason God chose to use "the foolishness of preaching" to bring hope to all who will listen to and embrace the gospel. The opportunity to preach the gospel cannot be taken lightly. Nor can the opportunity to hear the gospel. As I and other pastors prepare our messages for the Easter season, you can prepare to embrace these messages. That's a good way to approach Lent. You can read my thoughts on Lent from a couple of years ago here.

The greatest message in the world deserves our greatest attention - whether we deliver the message or hear it.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

How to Argue

I just sat at the dining room table at my in-laws' house and listened to them argue. MIL said to me, "See, we still argue." I thought, "It's better than not having your spouse around to argue with."

So are there any rules on how family members should argue with one another. I googled it and found this article at that I thought was pretty good. I'll share the basics but you can read the entire article here  It's not a long article so please go there.
  1. Have a plan.
  2. Bite your tongue.
  3. Avoid the unanswerable.
  4. Don't blame, abuse, or punish.
  5. Fend of fights.
I've been watching some of the Rocky movies during our snow days. Please, when you argue, don't leave your family member a bloody mess like Rocky and Apollo did to each other. That makes a good movie but not a good home.