Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Journey:

I grew up an atheist. Not by any means focused upon me. I was raised in an environment where it was accepted that knowledge and science had the answers. That we controlled our own destiny. Our actions determined our outcome and nothing was beyond that.

My first experience with the so called “Church” was when I was a young boy. Went with my Uncle's family one Sunday while on vacation in Southern California. Went to Sunday school with my cousins, who had been raised in the church since babies. I was handed a Bible, the first I had ever seen one, then the class was ask to turn to chapter and verse. I had no idea what they were talking about. So I sat there. Soon the other kids realized my lack of biblical fortitude and began to laugh at me. Short story: I never wanted to return to church again. It would be twenty years till my next encounter with the “Church.”

I would be thirty-two years old before I came to Christ. As I rose from the baptismal waters it felt like I was in-cased in a block of marble that suddenly turned to Jello and wash over me and off me.

This day, the eve of Christmas I look back and scan through the notes of my worn Bible, not asking why, but looking forward. Perhaps truly for the first time. The last two years of my life have been the darkest I have known and wish not to know again.

Would I have made it through this dark valley of time in my life without Christ? No way. Did I come to Christ for a better life? One of prosperity? One of fun and joy? That's what the world proclaims Christians to be and be living. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No, I came to Christ because of the judgment. I still do. No matter how good a life I could ever try to lead I would come up short on judgment day.

The fact of the matter, I come up short everyday. Something goes wrong I get angry. The opportunity to help someone else passes by me to only realize later I could of helped that person with little effort or cost to my living.

Tonight I am looking forward to going to a Christmas Eve Church Service. Partaking in the Lord's Supper. Unfortunately it is not being held in a church which my family and I are members. Yet, the members there welcome us as family each year. It is a service filled with love. Love not only from above but by those who love Christ. I am blessed this Christmas. -Amen

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Me and My Broken Wagon:

The day before Thanksgiving day on my way home from work my car breaks down. Not an uncommon thing. Cars break down all the time. With thousands of parts, nuts and bolts. Gears turning and the wear of the road it's something we have come to expect. When ever your car breaks down it always causes confusion and inconvenience. Especially during the holidays and cold weather. 

So I jack-up the car. Put it up on jack-stands and began to inspect for what I thought was wrong with it. Within minutes I realize this is a job beyond my abilities. That's when the frustration kicks in. Here I have a box load of tools I have gained over the past twenty years. A fairly decent knowledge of auto mechanics. Yet, there I am. Standing in front of a mountain with a shovel and a few spoons. At least that is what it feels like. I have the tools to tear it all apart, but lack the knowledge and experience to finish the job. I have only one choice. Seek help and I know it is going to cost me.

As Christians we face the same thing each day in our Christian Walk. As we read and study the Bible we gain knowledge and I pray, wisdom. We might even go beyond that. Say we attend seminary. We study. We interact with fellow Christians and professors. We write papers and dissertations. We enter into theology and doctoral issues. Really get into the spiritual meat of it.

Yet, each day we know peoples' lives are broken. With all this knowledge more often than most we still stand before others as if standing in front of a mountain with little more than a spoon in hand. We have all the tools we need. Yet, we cannot do it by ourselves.

I was recently asked, “What possibly could be the benefits of fear?” One benefit of fear is to know that we must rely on God. We must seek out help, which begins with prayer. Seeking out help will cost you. First price you will pay is pride. It's hard for a man to be beaten by a machine. A chunk of metal and plastic with wires running here and there. It's even harder for a man to step down from pride and reach up for help.

Is prayer going to fix my car? No, God has given me the first step. To pray and rely on Him. Seek help. It will cost me. God has a purpose in all this. I will let you know how it comes out.

Teach, Preach and Reach. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Standing at Your Post:

During the Civil War in the year 1861, Sam Watkins, of Company H in the First Tennessee Infantry came upon a little village called Hampshire Crossing in Virginia. Their regiment was ordered to relieve the 3rd Arkansas. When Watkins' regiment arrived they found the guard. In fact they found 11 of them. Some where sitting. Some lying down. Each and everyone at their posts. Each one was frozen solid, dead. Two of them, sentinels, with loaded guns standing in advance of the others hard frozen as monuments of marble. Guns still in their frozen hands. Watkins noted how horrifying it was to see them all with icicles hanging from their faces and hands. As the cold of death approached them. They must have known what was coming, but remained at their post till the end.

The need for “Watchmen” is found throughout the Bible. Within the Old and New Testaments.

As Moses led the people through the desert, they still longed for the cucumbers of Egypt (Num. 11:5). They planted cucumber gardens in Palestine (Is. 1:8); in this text, the “lodge in a garden of cucumbers” refers to a shelter used by watchmen to guard the crops.
Nelson's illustrated manners and customs of the Bible (239). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The Hebrew landowner seldom visited his fields during the growing season. Instead he hired watchmen to stay in crude lounges (also called “towers”—Mark 12:1), where they protected the crop from beasts, birds, and marauders.
Nelson's illustrated manners and customs of the Bible (256). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

The men of the 3rd Arkansas, did not die in a famous battle. Their names are not published. The location of their graves unknown. Who will remember them? Not history or will their deeds be sung in songs of victory. Who will remember these men?

God will! How many times as Christians have we stood at our post? It might be just opening a door for others at church, a grocery store, a shopping mall or some mundane task. We stay at our post, none the less. From the one who cleans the bathrooms to the pastor preaching from the pulpit. From the janitor to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Each of us has a task(s). Each of us is part of the body of Christ. One cannot complete the job at hand without the other.

In a world that is “All About Me.” We look down upon others who stand at their posts. Who do the tasks of the mundane. Therefore, ask yourself, Why did Christ come as a servant?

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matt 20:28 (NLT)

Christ remained at His post while others mocked Him. He knew death was coming. He could have called for angels above to release Him. He would have had every right to call upon the complete destruction of man that very moment. He did not. Jesus remained at His post.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Let us be truly thankful for Christ. Every moment of the day He is at His post. Next to you. Loving you. Seeking you. Can we at least take a moment to seek Him?

Peace be with you.

Teach, Preach and Reach.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Muscular Faith by Ben Patterson

Ben Patterson's new book was not what I expected and I am glad for it. Taking your faith seriously is a 24/7 job. God's first and second commandments absolutely require it. Yet in our day-to-day lives we seem (myself included) to put God's commandments on the back burner of our lives. Then wonder why our lives are more of a roller-coaster ride than the abundant life God wants for us.

My copy of Patterson's book is already filled with highlights and notes. His use of scriptures, personal accounts and life narratives keep your interest from start to finish.

Like the Apostle Paul taught, we need to approach our faith as Ben Patterson so very well describes it with “Vigorous Faith.” We must train. It takes time and commitment. Focusing on the prize means giving up and putting aside self-interest (Self) and truly committing yourself to God. Easier said than done in today's world. It is the world we are fighting against. The world wants to take your attention away from God.

The four parts of Muscular Faith give you easy reference to go back to. Not a step-by-step process in such but a where to go reference. The style is down to earth writing in my opinion. If you're a new Christian or a tried and true veteran you will enjoy and learn from this book. Yes, we get beat up and pushed back in our life. So many of us wish just to sit in the stands and roar with the crowd. Patterson teaches that is not what we have been called to do. We need to get onto the field and run the race. Before we do. We need to train daily. Focus on the prize. Get our house in order. Push through and realize the “good hard” and the “bad hard.” Keep building in our daily walk with Christ.

This book is well worth reading. An excellent book to give to other Christians. Whether they are new or old. Whether they are struggling with their faith or enjoying life abundantly. It will help them both.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Encouragement Technology:

Technology is a fundamental part of American society. While watching the History Channel's Top 101 Gadgets the cell phone was rated the most influential gadget of all time so far. Last week at the hospital I saw cell phones, smart phones, laptops, netbooks, tablet PCs and to the best of my knowledge there was just three of us carrying a Bible.

With so much technology and communication you would think as a Christian the more opportunities for witnessing for Christ. Just the opposite is happening. Each year we see less baptisms and church membership continues to decline nationwide. How is this possible with so much technology and communication right at our fingertips?

Is it technological etiquette? Is it separation of church and state? How about the separation of church and God?

You Got Prayer! At least that is how I look at it when I send my prayers to others by texting. Yes, texting. Why not? Could you use an encouraging prayer sent to you during the day? I know I need as many prayers as possible. How about you?

It works two-fold. One: we are to pray now and not later. Now just does not fit in my schedule. Prayer is all about the now. Two: It keeps you focused. Focused on the needs of others. Sending prayers via technology lets you remind yourself several times a day about the needs of others. I often review the prayers I have sent during the day and pray again for them.

I wonder what Paul might think of all this technology? Would he like it that we now have audio visual presentations during church. That we chat on our phones and texting 24/7? I am sure he would appreciate how far we have come, but there would be no valid excuse for not carrying a Bible with us at all times. We have pocket Bibles, techno Bibles, audio Bibles and online Bibles. We have more opportunities to share Christ than ever before, but we don't.

Go ahead. Be different and encourage others using today's technology. By phone, text, email or even by an old fashion card or letter. Use technology to share God's Word in today's fast pace world. It might just slow up enough to hear God.

Teach, Preach and Reach.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

No Response

Yesterday, Friday, June 24, 2011 the Sate of New York passed a law for same-sex marriage becoming the largest state in the union making same-sex marriage legal. While viewing the New York Times website I saw no evidence or rebuttal from any affiliation of the Roman Catholic Church. Then I went to the Southern Baptist Convention website. There again I found absolutely no response or rebuttal on the recent event. The Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention represent the two largest Christian organizations on the planet. Yet, they remain silent on the matter.

Homosexuality is deemed a political hot potato. Same in our pulpits as more and more preachers are threatened with being accused of promoting “Hate Crimes.” It seems our First Amendment rights from the Constitution of the United States continues to take a back seat to organized political machines.

Years ago when I lived in California I worked in an office where several of the employees were Gay. Even the boss was a lesbian. Not once was any sexual slur or any inappropriate action was ever taken against me or anyone else in the office. In fact those who were Gay were some of the hardest working employees there. I cannot say the same for any Christians. Based on that experience, the Gay community has my respect. Which I must say does not sit well with my Christian beliefs.

Homosexuality is a sin. That does not give us the right to persecute individuals for we ourselves as Christians have been persecuted and still are throughout world-wide. Today in our century.

What a political hot potato this is! If we as Christians do nothing then thousands of brothers and sisters will be going straight to Hell for their sin. If we make a stand we are looked upon as no better than the Romans who mercilessly slaughtered millions of Christians.

It is the sin and not the sinner we should be against. Hard to separate the two. As Christians we should be the first ones to step up and freely admit that we are sinners. Making us no different. Yet, Christianity does not stop there. After giving ourselves to Christ we must follow and obey. This means giving up our sinful life and/or lifestyle. This is the problem all of us Christians face each day. Do we obey God or not? This question stands in front of each Christian every second of our life once saved by grace through Jesus Christ.

So what do we do? We cannot condone it. We cannot ignore it. We cannot persecute and condemn them.

A homosexual couple is not welcome in a church. Yet, one of the first things we offer is to come to church. The very place, ground zero, of persecution in their eyes. What alternative can we offer? Their eternal salvation for one, but that is hard to see shaded by us Christians standing in the way of the will of God.

As Christians we do not speak with one voice. With nearly 80% of the population of the United States claiming to be Christian we cannot even vote Christians into positions of political power. In the book of John, chapter 17 is the longest prayer ever recorded of Jesus. A prayer of unity. As Christians we are no closer to that unity as we were 2,000 years ago when Christ first made that prayer. How sad a thought.

If we had boldly given our lives to Christ then we would fully admit that we are no longer calling the shots in our lives. That we are no longer truly in control of our lives. Jesus, not me is in control of my life. This goes against worldly thinking. It we truly have given our lives over to Christ we would support our pastors, preachers and evangelists around the world to freely preach and proclaim God's Word. No matter who it might offend. The very souls of our brothers and sisters as well as our own are at stake here. We fail to realize it. Too busy with our day-to-day activities. Working at a job. Paying bills and living for the weekend.


We need to publicly proclaim God's Word no matter what the consequences. If the law threatens our pastors, preachers and evangelists then we must go with them. Insisting that we be jailed too. We need to learn to witness as Jesus did. See Luke 18 beginning with verse 18. Convincing others that we are all guilty in God's eyes. That we have sinned against God. Heart convicted as we kneel at the cross and not a promise of prosperity as many of the modern gospel preach. God centered preaching and not a man centered message. Not offering an alternative lifestyle. The offering of an eternal salvation through Christ and Christ only. 

Teach, Preach and Reach. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Earthquakes and Tornadoes:

My wife and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during the earthquake of 1989. In California you get used to quakes. They happen weekly. So often you begin to live with it and stop remembering how dangerous they can be. Hey, the boat is leaking! That's OK, not enough to be concerned. The pump will take care of it. That was like the attitude back there in October of 1989. Then the big one hit. Everything changed. News coverage was based in San Francisco. Not because that was the epicenter, but because all roads and bridges out of San Francisco were blocked. The World Series was being played. All eyes were on the Bay Area. So they reported from there. It was devastating. Buildings collapsed, no power and chaos galore. The Bay Area was not the epicenter. It took days until reports from the outlying areas showed the real damage along the fault lines of the earthquake. Nearly 8 days passed until help and organization came into play. The San Francisco Bay Area has over 6 million people. The Quake of 89 should have killed more. Where was God? Right along with us, side-by-side.

April of 2011 here in Alabama. The weather radio in the house went off. Advising us of an incoming storm. I had signed up for weather alerts through my cell phone months before. Every time it began to rain my phone alert would sound off. Not this time. We do not have TV. Radio reception is poor where we live. We checked the internet and saw the predictions of bad weather coming. The bulk of the storm was to hit us by 7 PM. At 7:05 PM it did. Wind and rain beat on the house. Yet this time the cell service went out. The local city sirens went off. They had done that before, but this time was different. The power flickered a bit. Overall it was not bad. Cell phone service returned and we started to receive calls from California asking if we were alright? Then they told us of the tornadoes touching down throughout the state of Alabama.

We went online and found a live feed broadcasting from Birmingham. The devastation was unbelievable. Unlike an earthquake that hits everywhere all at once with no warning. Here was this funnel over a mile wide slowly ripping through the state. Leaving death and destruction in its wake. Multiple tornadoes touched down all over the state. Surrounding our county but not within it. Why were we spared?

Days later thousands remain homeless. Thousands more without power, water or just basic necessities. Like the quake in California. It will take a week or more for help and organization to come. Again the question comes up. Where is God in all this? Still right beside us. In an earlier article I explained there is nothing natural about natural disasters. See: (Weeds in the garden tells us everything)

If there is anything we can learn from these disasters is that we are not prepared. I am gong to die. You are going to die. We are going to die. Could be today. Could be tomorrow. Could be a hundred years from now. The fact is we are going to die. That is the truth. We do not want to hear the truth. We ignore it at times. Deny it most of the time. Thank ourselves lucky when it misses us. The truth is that we are not ready for it. Not physically or spiritually.

I was once told this following story. Back not so long ago in a farming community. Very few had running water or indoor plumbing. It was even rare if one house had the luxury of a radio. If one did. Others relied on them for news and weather warnings. One day such a warning came over the radio. The father told his son to run over to the neighbor's home down the way and tell them a tornado is coming our way. The boy took off. Along the way he saw a bird in a tree. He stopped as some boys do. Then threw a rock at the bird. Missing it. So he decided to wait. The bird came back. He threw another rock striking the bird. The boy went over and picked up the bird. Blood dripping onto his hands. Suddenly in the distance a roar and an explosion echoed through the valley. The little boy could see the home of his neighbors being ripped to pieces. The family there scattered to the wind like rag dolls. The boy quickly ran home. His father had seen, from a distance, the devastation of his neighbor's home. He saw his boy running home. Quickly taking him into his arms. Asking, “Oh son what took you so long? We were so worried about you.” The boy explained that he never made it to the neighbor's home. Then the father saw the blood on the boy's hands. He knelt to his son and ask if the boy was injured. The boy said, “No, father it's the bird's blood.” The father said to the boy, “No, son it is the blood of our neighbors for failing to warn them.”

We as Christians are commanded to warn others of the judgment that is coming. How many who have recently died now face a second death?

Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death.
Rev 20:14 (NLT)

Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.
Rev 2:11 (NLT)

And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned."
Mark 16:15-16 (NLT)

God's Word is tough I know. These are hard words to take right now. They are the truth. There are so many here in our state hurting. Their lives not just turned upside down, but all the way back to zero. Thousands here in Alabama will have to start life all over again because everything they once had is just plain gone. Scattered debris over hundreds of miles. They are alive. Why were they spared?

If there is a clear sign for the need for healing and revival now is the time. Prayer and the simple need to serve others is now before us. Pray that it is not the devil who gathers the harvest.

Teach, Preach and Reach!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weeds in the Garden Tells Us Everything:

This evening I was sitting outside of church before evening service reading my Bible. (The Evidence Bible, compiled by Ray Comfort) Studying the question on “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” Pastor Comfort suggest studying the soil for a moment. I was outside so I did. As he had stated, “There you will find weeds.” Weeds seem to grow everywhere. Even though you pull them out by the roots they still grow back again. No one plants them. No one cares for them making sure they receive enough water. They just appear. They grow up in the cracks of sidewalks and the streets we drive on. As Brother Ray puts it, “They are a curse.” Why?

And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Gen 3:17-19 (NLT)

Did you see it? Look at the words “the ground is cursed because of you.” We over look it. I never gave it that much thought. Yet, it is the key to the problems of the world.

Pastor Comfort goes on in the lesson noting that we are constantly subject to hurricanes, earth quakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and other what we call natural disasters. According to scripture there is nothing natural about them. Sin entered the world and we and all the earth was cursed. Am I reading it wrong? I do not think so. It makes sense.

Weeds are a curse. Disasters are a curse. Diseases are a curse. Again Brother Ray points out sin and suffering cannot be separated. The Bible tells us that God cursed the Earth because of Adam's transgression. What is Sin?

….for sin is the transgression of the law 1 John 3:4 (KJV)

Therefore we should be reaching out to God instead of pointing the finger at Him accusing Him of wrong doing. Scripture tells us who the real accuser is in Job 1:6, 2:1 and in Zec 3:1 in the New Living Translation of the Bible. Check it out for yourself.

Next time you see a weed in your garden, in your lawn or growing out of the crack of a sidewalk it is a reminder of what is wrong in the world. Sin and suffering cannot be separated.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Attractional Events

This week on page 3 in the March 10, 2011 issue of the Alabama Baptist newspaper was an article entitled: “God's Plan for Sharing 2012 preparation under way, to focus on attractional events.”

Jerry Pipes, president of Jerry Pipes Productions states,”The way to reach across the state (Alabama) is through attractional events.” Not once in the entire article does it mention reaching out to the lost. Not once. So who is Mr. Pipes telling us to reach? Are we planning some media blitz to make God a mainstream fade? Mr. Pipes also states from a study that 92% of the most effective churches hold attractional evangelistic harvest events. What constitutes “most effective?” Number of members within a congregation? Number of baptisms? Number of newsletters and cards mailed out? Here in America we think bigger is better. If that is so then why did Jesus pick twelve apostles and not 1,200 or 12,000? Jesus, who's he?

There is one disturbing quote that really makes me wonder what is going on here within the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. Jerry Pipes and Director Sammy Gilbreath state, “...want to see what God can do in the state with GPS.” Does anyone care to think that God might be waiting to see what we will do with the Great Commission, Mark 16:15? Are we not commanded too?

Jerry Pipes does make one outstanding quote within the article. “Ninety-five percent (95%) of Southern Baptist churches won't lead one person to Christ.” There is the problem. The one problem and only problem we should be focusing on in my opinion.

Witnessing! We do not preach it. We do not teach it and we certainly do not lead in it. That includes me. I too am guilty and it burdens my heart. Why is Islam growing? Because they are out promoting it. Why is Mormonism growing? Because they are going door-to-door witnessing for it. Here we are, Christians, expecting “that if we build it they will come.” Let's plan a concert. Let's build a new slippery slide for Jesus. Something cool so others will be attracted to come on by. Why include the name “Baptist” in our church name? Entertainment Center would be much more marketable.

Mr. Pipes is quoted, “ … the plan is for churches and associations to partner in media buys in their particular markets in March and April of 2012.” I guess I missed that part in Mark 16:15. Does it say thou shall go out to your particular market?

The article ends with Director Gilbreath saying, “Let's saturate this state with the gospel.” I am all for it. I disagree with their methods. In my opinion, we as Christians need to get out of the four walls of the church and seek and save the lost. Not bright lights and waiting for those to come inside. The fact is if they did just “come on in” they might not like what they find inside. 

Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Mark 16:15 (NLT)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scars of a Chef

I just finished reading Chef Rick Tramonto's new book entitled: Scars of a Chef. If you think the cover shows attitude, wait till you start reading. I like it. Immediately his style of writing was like sitting down with him at the kitchen table looking over scrapbooks and old photos. Then asking, “How did this all happen.”

It is a wonderful adventure if you like roller coaster rides. The author does not hold back. He is not Mr. Nice Guy. Growing up with literary nothing but determination and attitude. The shear odds of him making anything of himself were all stacked against him. I found myself nearly shouting, “Go Ricky, you can do it!”

Chef Tramonto gives us a look inside the world of fine dinning only a few ever see. At age 22 I worked as a bartender for large French owned restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was chaos behind those swinging doors. Multiply that a 1,000 times and we just scratch the surface of Rick's life.

What inspired me the most was how he had to start all over time and time again. Nature of the business? Perhaps. In the book you are right there with him. Taking the hits and struggling to get back up. Whether you are a Christian or not you need to read this book. I found myself after reading it going back to the pictures in the middle to get to know the faces that went with the names.

Here in the South some might say Rick takes the long way around the barn to tell a story. True, but well worth it. You really get a chance to live his life through his words and his story.

Where is God in all this? That is one of the best parts. I am not going to spoil it for you. Rick faces his demons just like the rest of us. With what he had to go through I am surprised God put up with him for so long. Just goes to show you God's grace, mercy and love.

If you want to shock someone then give them this book. Do not be surprised later to hear back from them thanking you for it. The best part about it is the story of Chef Rick Tramonto is not finished. Looking forward to his followup book.

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