Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When Samson Saw Through Blinded Eyes

The life of Samson is a tragic picture of how our carnal desires can lay to ruin the opportunities that God desires for us. Unlike his predecessor in the Book of Judges who through his weakness God made strong, Samson’s story is one of great power and strength who fell into weakness.

Samson’s parents were told he would be special. A pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God announced to them his destiny. His life would be constrained to openly demonstrate that he belonged to God for a special purpose. This Nazarite lifestyle would generally affect followers in three ways. Samson was forbidden drinking wine or strong alcoholic drink of any kind. He was also forbidden to handle a deceased person. While these first two seem to have been challenged by Samson’s choices during his life, it did not seem to have any restraining effects upon his divinely enabled ability. The third condition he was to permanently live with was hair that could never be cut.

The reason God had sent this particular man into the world was to deliver the Israelites from the evil and oppressive Philistines. Samson was not given the great gift of diplomacy or negotiation. He was not very innovative or ambitious. Instead, he was a simple man who had simple dreams. Sadly, his upbringing was not as disciplined as needed. For whatever good things he was taught, Samson struggled his entire life restraining his own passions. Were his superior strength and physical abilities stumbling blocks on his road to developing humility?

However Samson’s personality developed into manhood, we see the outcome as a hot-tempered, brash fighter who embraced the arrogance of supposed invincibility. One of the key elements of his behavior was self-will. It could be a possibility that because of his special status as a future deliverer for the nation that his parents never taught him self-control and humility. As Samson developed it is clear that he was not following the example of a godly leader.

While his life and exploits were shaped by lust and moral failure, what is of interest here are the reflections of Samson’s heart on the night he was betrayed. Imagine the night as he thought about what had happened while he was with Delilah that final day. As the frustration and pain began to settle from his awful experience, what would have been the theme of his thoughts?

We know that he eventually called out to God for one last moment of strength. So maybe his mind began to see how his lust for the wrong women had led him into the path of failure. We can never really know the thoughts of his heart, but we can see the fruit. Samson had been brought low because of his sin. His reaction to this could have been the hardness of heart, but instead, he humbled himself before God. He finally understood that God’s way is the best way.

So on that terrible night, Samson took inventory of his life and choices. He recognized that he alone had brought the suffering upon his head. His personal choices paved the way into the grindhouse. When this was done he embraced the loving forgiveness of God. He confessed his sin and shame to a loving Heavenly Father. He did not deny his guilt. He did not argue for his choices. He did not blame his parents or his friends. Instead, he claimed what belonged to him.

The biblical principle is still then same. If we will confess and forsake our sins we will find mercy from God. Samson received this forgiveness and mercy. Sadly, his life should have been filled with so much more. It should have been strong and righteous. Yet through his restoration, Samson was given one last opportunity to strike out at the pagan enemies of God’s people.

The great truth from this man must be a cautioning of unrestrained passions. When we abandon God’s way we must always expect the consequences to mirror our decisions.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Sermon Theme for 2016!

Are you weary of having a faith experience that is not powerful? Have you ever wished to see God do something special with you and in you? If so, you're not alone! Countless Christians have longed for something amazing in their relationship with Christ. They have grown tired of a weak and shallow spiritual experience.

This year, our Church theme is called Experience Christ. We will be taking our services during the Sunday morning and focusing on the stories of people in the Bible who had unique experiences with God.

Some of the stories we will see are men and women who saw God do amazing things with them. These will be people like David when he went down to face Goliath and Peter when he stepped out onto water!

We will also learn from those who had to experience some challenges from God so that they could understand God. These will be people like Jonah when he ran away from his call to preach and Moses who learned the hard way the importance of listening to the details God gives us.

As we see how God worked and moved in the lives of others, we may begin to see how He desires to work in our lives today. Jesus said that He wants to give us abundant life. But we must always remember that the foundation for this special experience comes from a faith relationship with Christ.

So as we journey together through these amazing stories come seeking something special from God. Come to Church expecting God to impact your life! And by the grace of God we will learn what it means to have a meaningful and genuine experience with Christ!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

We are not the stars!

After reading this blog post from Kevin DeYoung, I was amazed at how much self-promotion and self-glory there seems to be amongst preachers of the Gospel. Hard as it may be to accept, we are not the stars of the work of Christ. In an era of superstar preachers with mega Twitter accounts, many have forgotten that God does not like to share His glory!

In the Gospel of John chapter 1, we see a powerful statement made in relation to John the Baptist. Although he was testified by Christ as being the greatest man born to woman, he was not elevated to deity!

The verse says "He (John) was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."

Our calling is not about Us! The purpose of our ministry is not so that we can be well known. The gifts God has entrusted us are not for our glory.

The greatest task we have to accomplish upon this earth is to serve our Lord Jesus in the calling He expects of us.

No person will ever rise to the level of the Baptist and he was set totally apart from the due glory of the Light of the world.

Are you seeking glory that belongs to God? Do you want the attention and recognition?

Always deny yourself the glory that belongs to the Lord. Always seek to give God glory and lead others to do the same. God's people, and especially His chosen servants must be busy about preparing the way for His Second Appearing!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dark Days

            The MRI said I had two lower discs impinging upon my spinal nerve. The pain shifted from blade-like to a more nauseating pain. The doctor said the medicine would help me. The pain was so bad I could not read, walk, or function at any normal level. I felt that I had to have relief. Surely I could not live with this amount of terrible suffering. So, the prescription was written and filled. The first moment of relief came quickly. It was a feeling of joy and relief that I truly cannot explain, possibly some sort of euphoria. My pain was completely gone.
            But then after a few hours something else became noticeable. While my suffering had vanished, so had my attention span, concentration, and ability to stay awake. If I became still for a few seconds I would immediately begin to snore! Obviously, this is not good for a man who spends countless hours reading and praying. For the next 24 days I fought to maintain an appearance of normality and energy. You cannot imagine how difficult it was to preach during this time. But God brought me through and allowed me to keep my basic pastoral necessities. During the third week it became apparent that this was not going to be a real solution. I made an appointment with my doctor and we agreed to shift me away from this powerful medication. This, however, would all be the easy part. Little did I realize what I was about to endure.
            The next couple of days I replaced this strong med with a medication that had much lower potency. Then on the third day after I stopped the medicine (it was administered as a pain patch) I began to experience a restless feeling in my arms, legs, hands and feet. My skin felt as if it was crawling with bugs. I was unable to read or concentrate. I wanted to scream. I would writhe on my bed suddenly without warning. I became beside myself with anxiety and felt as if I wanted to die. Over the next two weeks I prayed for death. I did not really understand at first why these things were happening. It seems the drug, a narcotic, was in my body long enough to create a hold upon my system. I would never have thought it was have possible over such a short period of time. It was as if I was losing grip on reality. The thoughts were so foreign to me I was completely taken aback by the extreme nature of my feelings. Then after of a few days of this awful experience I come to understand what was happening. That knowledge helped to some extent, but only a bit.
            In order to get relief I would take a hot shower until I could no longer stand the pain of standing. Sometimes I would run bath water into the tub and set on the edge with my feet in the water. This would help calm me. I also would play music and find the songs that would bring a calming feeling. Oddly enough the playlist I created was very eclectic. Nevertheless, it helped. One evening, or early morning, I stumbled across a YouTube video of a Jimmy Fallon episode with Blake Shelton lip syncing a song from Starship called Nothings' Gonna Stop Us. The whole funny clip seemed to sooth my agony. I watched it many times during those dark days. I am sure it sounds weird and probably unspiritual. But please know that through all of this I was calling upon the Lord to help me. Each hour that went by I was asking for deliverance and peace. 
            It took about 13 days to fully feel back to normal. I looked back on that experience with a sense of gratefulness to God for His mercy. I also have come to understand pain in a unique and personal way. It has also given me an appreciation for those poor unfortunate souls would are coming off months or years of regular drug use. In truth, my experience was small compared to what they would go through. But my heart goes out to them.

            The reason I write this is not to show how ready I am to help someone through drug induced withdrawal; instead it is so that I can rehearse the experience again and give God the glory for keeping me sane and alive. It was extreme and it was changing. So, every now and again I turn on that music playlist and remember.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ten Essential Christian Behaviors

I regularly follow the blog writings of pastor and author, Kevin De Young. He does offer some good insights into the Christian life and pastorate. The first book I read that he wrote was called Why We're Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be).

Recently, he compiled a list of behavioral activities that should be considered essential. I thought these were very positive and worthy of contemplation. They are intended to be seen as areas of intentional effort. Often people teaching on particular concepts of behavior can be accused of being legalists or worse. It is absolutely true that Salvation was purchased upon the Cross of our Lord, He still demands that we strive for holiness and godliness.

We must hold the concept of expectations clearly for all to see and understand. There is no excuse for a person to claim the title "Christian" while living blatantly in opposition to footsteps of Jesus.

Right living should be a daily aspiration for all who claim to have been Born Again. The list below addresses some of the areas that normally arise in our lives. It is not an exhaustive listing. But they can certainly be goals for each of us!

So I therefore offer these ten things for your consideration.

1. We repent and turn from our sins (Matt. 5:29-30; 11:20-24; Acts 3:19)

2. We forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:33-35).

3. We are undivided in our devotion to God and to Jesus Christ (Matt. 6:24; James 1:5-8).

4.    We publicly acknowledge Jesus before others (Matt. 10:32-33; 21:33-44; 22:1-14; 26:24; John 5:23)

5.    We obey God’s commands and do not make a practice of sinning (John 14:15; 1 John 3:9-10; 1 John 5:2).

6.    We live a life that is fruitful and not fleshly (Matt. 12:33-37; 21:43; 24:36-51; 25:1-46;Gal. 5:18-24; 6:5; Heb 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

7.    We are humble and broken-hearted for our sin (Matt. 5:3; 18:3-4; 1 John 1:8-10).

8.    We love God and love others (Matt. 22:34-40; John 11:35; 15:12; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 1 John 3:14-15).

9.    We must persevere in the faith (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29-31; 12:12-17; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 5:11-12).

10.    We help our natural family and church family when there are physical needs (1 Tim. 5:8; 6:18-19; 1 John 3:17).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sharing Our Source

We have all been in the place of trying to present a great piece of literary effort. The desire is to make the best argument, presentation, or paper possible, but if we are not careful our desire to succeed can back-fire if we do not take citation integrity serious. Using another writer's ideas or words within our own work is a great way to give weight and strength to our own project. But how we handle the disclosure of our original sources is vital to academic trustworthiness.

Once one decides to use material from another’s pen, great care must be taken to honestly disclose the source of the information. While most take license with sermon preparation, we should all strive to give credit where credit is due. If you quote someone, tell the listeners who originally said the quote.

However, the most serious place to strictly cite ones source is within written work. The sin of plagiarism is rampant today. Yet is also easier to expose such laziness. Many plagiarize because they fail to recall the exact person who said a phrase or concept. This is still no excuse. Others will copy sentences and even whole paragraphs knowingly because of laziness. Many students have deceitfully submitted papers in which they took another writers work and simply changed words and sentence structure. Others have used someones ideas and sought to express the concept in their own words, passing the idea off as their own.

Whether intentional or unintentional, not honestly giving ones source for utilized material is simply wrong. We, as ministers of the Gospel, should diligently strive for integrity. Therefore, when we write, it is imperative to share the name, publication, and date of the repeated material. While there are a number of types of formatting options when it comes to citations, the important element is to simply determine to honestly cite your sources consistently.

In my seminary studies, the form that is expected of me is 7th edition of the Turabian A Manual for Writers. This guidebook provides a million points of structure for papers, theses, and dissertations.

When I began my first Masters level course I had to purchase this book. It took me a few months before I had finally absorbed the importance I give to citation detail. Beforehand, I had believed in citations but afterward, I finally understood the need for solid citations.

Even now, beginning my seventh semester, I still must reference the manual to get the exact formatting correct. I even find myself noting the various types of footnotes and endnotes the author uses while reading their work.  

If we are writing a research paper, a book, or even typing a tweet, we should be honest about using someone else’s words.

Here is a PowerPoint Slide presentation concerning Liberty University's view of Academic Honesty

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Benefit of good Biblical Resources

Sources. This term means something totally different to me today than it did two years ago. I have always thought I understood what it meant to reference sources when studying or writing, but over the past twenty-four months I have come to see it in a new light.

For many preachers, there is only ministry and programs within the church. They are only interested in these foundational things. Their gifts and calling are completely satisfied by this routine ministry. They study for sermons and lessons. They read books that may interest them, but do not overload their time with anything too strenuous. Souls are saved, people are baptized, and church ministries are organized. These efforts are the cornerstone of all pastorates and mission stations. But beyond these things, I was not satisfied with my education. It was my desire to understand the major areas of theology and how they were developed. I wanted to know the historical development of Christianity in general and Baptists in particular. I had questions as to why certain preachers believed things that were soundly rejected by others and I wanted to know why.

In the past, I felt limited in the type of resources that I would allow myself to read. I would feel guilty if I read a writer who used a different Bible version than what I was committed to. The only sources I felt comfortable to interact with were all very old and sometimes hard to find.

Why has there been such a lack of solid writing from preachers within conservative Baptist groups? Yes, there have been the sermons books, transcribed conference pulpits, and glorified Sunday School lessons, but why is there a terrible lack of substantive writing? The answers to these questions are for another time.

Eventually, I kicked peer pressure to the curb and began to find a whole world of outstanding material written by men who were committed to the same doctrinal and theological stance that I honor. I began to see that there is more to studying than Matthew Henry’s commentaries!

In the past, my favorite author was F.B. Meyer and still is! But I know have found men who can write books that offer some of the greatest thoughts and concepts I have encountered! One must never seek out only those who agree 100% with all you advocate. For if you do, the pool out of which to draw will be extremely small.

Many within today’s fundamentalism would be surprised to know that John R. Rice, the esteemed editor of the Sword of the Lord, did not hold to some of the earmarks of many fundamentalists. First, he did not believe or advocate in what he called “store house tithing.” Second, he did not consider the King James Version of the Bible to be the sole God approved English translation. Third, he did not isolate himself from great men of the Southern Baptist Convention. He often printed a number of sermons from SBC preachers who were active in ministry along with those who had passed on into Heaven.

What I am saying is that there are treasures worth of encouragement found within the writings of many conservative evangelicals of our day. So, be wise, discerning, and exploratory. Read and read a lot. Absorb that which is helpful and ignore the rest.

And remember, most current conservative evangelicals of our day are actually more doctrinally sound than the dearly beloved D.L. Moody! And if you question that statement, please research before thinking ill of me!