Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Seuss and Huck




Been reading about Dr. Seuss becoming a victim of the cancel culture.

It reminded me of literature I read in my youth.
I recently found a very old (early 20th century) edition of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn". I read this book over 50 years ago (along with Tom Sawyer) and understood then the times were different, and that the racist language and imagery reflected those times, not that the times made racism right.  
But reading them was very educational for me, a jr. high boy in the mid-60's... a time
when we were learning to move away from those past injustices.
Context is everything. We can teach our children a lot by remembering, not canceling history.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Finding the line between conspiracy and truth

Recently I was challenged on social media to expose and condemn a group known as QAnon.  I had no idea who or what that was, partly because I don't spend time reading conspiracy theory claims that pop up, often from my Christian friends.  And those theories, as you know, abound.  Then I saw where some of the arrestees from the recent mayhem at the Capitol were identified with this group, so my curiosity was peaked.


My personal philosophy is to emulate the words of Paul, the Apostle.  He wrote, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8)  If I'm going to be balanced and well-focused, those are the things with which I need to fill my mind.

Today this showed up on my news feed.  It's an article from a trusted source about QAnon.  Since I was challenged to expose/condemn them, I felt it wise to learn about it.  And I realized not only did I have no idea about it, I think I have many friends who have swallowed this particular flavor of Kool Aid.  And I am sure that such conspiracy nonsense and mindless biases lacking reason are on both sides of the spectrum.

Anyway, here is the link to the article.  And remember, "there is none so blind as he who will not see".  Beware of false prophets.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Fist Shaking is Not the Answer


While watching current events unfold (and reactions to them)...
American evangelicals have (for generations) had a "worldview" that supposes God treats us as His favorite children. We watch horrible persecution of Christians in other countries and we pray for them. But, when a little persecution begins to percolate on our shores we proclaim the Rapture is almost here, as though hard times for the American Christian are more than God can bear, so He must act now.
We're so full of ourselves. Rather than shake our fists at the world acting like the world, perhaps it is time to repent and become full of Christ.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Just Who Was He?

 Some years ago my son Nathan and I sang a song together in our Christmas Eve service.  I can only remember one other time just the two of us sang a duet and that was in South Africa!  

This is not a Christmas song, but it addresses the question of just who Jesus was and is.  Christian songwriter/musician Larry Norman first recorded this about 50 years ago.  Larry is now with the Lord, but during his life did much to rattle the doors of the church, and I have been appreciative of him, his music and his stand since I was a teen.  I encourage you to check him out online if you don't know his work.

Anyway, the link to the video is below of "The Outlaw" we did.  Not the best recording, so pardon that and my attempt to sing and play.  (It was the last time I did such a public thing!).

 If you wonder who Jesus was/is, I'd love for you to come to know Him.   As the last verse says, "It's time for us to leave", referring to His soon return.  Are you ready?  I hope so!

Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 14, 2020

Monday Rant: Stop Using The Lord's Name in Vain

 Immediately, with some seeing the title the thought is, "He must be talking about cussing."  Not at all.


I've seen this being posted lately.  Have you?  (It's spreading like James 3:5 wildfire.) Maybe you've shared it...  I quote:

"After hearing Mark Zuckerberg saying that posting the Lord’s Prayer goes against their policies, I’m asking all Christians to please follow my example Jesus said; Everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33
This is the best challenge I've ever seen on Facebook. So if you love Him and you're not ashamed, please join me in this challenge of faith!
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.🙏
Then it ends with "Can I get an Amen?"

But, Rick! Is that taking the Lord's name in vain?  Absolutely.  Here's why.

1. Did anyone actually hear Zuckerberg say something like that, and if so, where is the evidence?  Post a link, please.

2. The original poster says that the owner of Facebook said posting "The Lord's Prayer" goes against Facebook's policies, implying they will remove it.  Yet, behold, there it is in living black and white.  Maybe someone at FB is asleep at the wheel?  Not likely.  They've shown themselves to be highly sensitive to anything that goes against their "community standards". So, the post itself disproves itself.
3. Knowing that this can't be true, yet using Jesus' words to falsely prove something that isn't provable is using His name in vain.  If anything (and I believe He's a whole lot more) Jesus is truth.  So, why propagate a lie, or at the least something you don't know to be truth by attaching perhaps His best-known words to it? 

My years on social media have made it clear that there are none in our culture more gullible than Christians who post things that are either inaccurate, have no evidence behind them or are outright falsehoods.  And God help us...we tend to go even farther with political conspiracies.  By the way, God included such in a prohibition in His Ten Commandments.

So, as a pastor, may I say, "Cut it out!"  This copy and paste stuff, especially if it paints a picture of some kind of persecution (even it is dubious) does nothing to elevate the Gospel.  If you KNOW something to be false (not due to hearsay or because your most trusted BFF posted it), then by all means share that information.

Otherwise stick to pictures of cherub angels and unicorns.

Rant over.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Vaccination? Yes, I will.


My rationale for getting the vaccine is simple.

First, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I pay no attention to hype that has no factual basis.  Really, who thinks big pharma or the government or some mega rich guy really wants to wipe out the population of the world.  I've read ahead about the world's future, and we're not ready for something like that.

Second, since I was a child I've gotten vaccines - small pox (remember those?), polio (remember the sugar cubes), flu, and so on. I grew up in an era before many vaccines were available, so I contracted the measles and mumps. No fun! But, I've never had polio, small pox, whooping cough, diptheria, flu - all those things for which I was vaccinated.  Heck, I just got shots for pneumonia and shingles because neither illness is attractive to me.
Third, since I really don't want to get sick with COVID-19 I'll take the chance on this new vaccine. Some ask, "What if the vaccine gives you the virus?". Looking at the testing of tens of thousands, that's not likely. And if it does, so be it. Without the vaccine I probably would have gotten the virus at some point, so I'll go with the possibility (and minimal risk) that the vaccine will give me immunity.
And fourth, if I get the virus and die from it, I'm ready for what comes after that. Death has no sting for those in Christ. I'm covered by the most amazing insurance policy: the death of Christ who forgave me of my sin when I believed in Him. 
So, look for me in line. I'm 65. I have an underlying medical condition. I have a daughter-in-law who I can't risk catching something from me. So, give me the shot and soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

What's Next?

 In my previous post I wrote about my upcoming retirement from pastoring Nags Head Church.  The timetable looks like that will happen sometime in the first half of 2021.

So, what's next?

I'm not ready for the rocking chair, and my goal for "retiring" now is so I am still "young enough" (I know, that's a relative term) to do some other things.  When God called me into "vocational" (and I don't like that term) ministry as a 15 year old I felt then as I do now that it was a life-long calling.  


So for all those who have tried to convince me not to "retire", please know I'm really not...unless God is finished with me.  But, I believe when that takes place, and I've done all I'm supposed to do in this life I'll graduate to the next.  That could take place today, couldn't it?  But, not knowing when that will be I want to prepare for hanging around a while longer to do other things.

Really I have no plans other than to be open to whatever.  There are a few things I would like to do (or at least try to do) while I'm able.  But, I'd like to hear from you - especially those of you who know me - what you think I might do in the coming years.  I'm not looking for hobbies or ways to "spend my time", like "more golf" or "more pickle ball", but ways to do ministry and/or mission.  I do plan to dust off my guitars, put some new strings on them, maybe take a lesson or two and become a rock star.  So, don't say that.

Gail and I plan to keep our permanent residence right here in Kitty Hawk near our family.  But, we're open to some short term assignments, or even long-term if we can commute.  So, feel free to comment below! 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

It's (almost) time

 I've been thinking a lot lately about retirement. Friday I got to use my Medicare card for the first time!  That fat check from Uncle Sam will appear in my checking account in about 14 months!  That time is drawing near. 

Actually, I started thinking about it about ten years ago when I hit "double nickels" in age.  It's at about that age when you realize that you've reached (or passed) the top of the hill and are starting down the other side.  If all works out as I'm hoping and praying it will, I'll preach my last sermon as Lead Pastor of Nags Head Church sometime in the Spring of 2021.  It's coming fast!

While the news of my retirement has been made known in recent weeks, our pastors and staff, along with my wife and family have known for a while.  We just kept it quiet.  And as the word got out there have been mixed reactions.  Everything from "Good for you!", and "You deserve it!" to "You're too young to retire!".  


I don't know that I'm deserving of it, and I hope it's "good" for me, but way back a decade ago I truly hoped to retire from my lead pastor role at NHC while I was still young enough to do some other things - other things that I hope that Lord has prepared for me.  So, how do I know the time is right?

In January I will have been the lead pastor of this one church for 30 years!  That's a long time, and in my heart I know it's time for someone new to take the reigns and lead a great church to become greater.  


Frankly, I'm tired.  Not so much a physical kind of tired (although I do enjoy a good nap!) or the kind of tired an  extended vacation would relieve, but anyone who has been a pastor understands the tiredness that comes with the job.  And at 65 I don't bounce back as quickly as I did at 35, 45 or even 55.

Our culture has changed drastically in the years since I started pastoral ministry in the late 1970's.  Most of those changes have not been for our spiritual good, but for our detriment.  And so much of what is going on simply frustrates me as a Bible believing, Bible teaching Christian.  Paul was so right as he described the latter days to Timothy.  Confronting those changes needs energy that I no longer have.  So, my hope is for a younger man to take the baton and lead our church to overcome the things that work against us.


Leading change is hard work, and we have cultivated an environment ready for change here.  The changes took place - to God be the glory for that - and a dying church came to life.  More changes will come, I'm sure as our church finds new ways to reach our world with the Gospel.  I'm excited about where the Lord is taking us online, and thankful to have gotten in on the ground floor of it.  So, I think we're poised right now for greater things ahead with new leadership.


Bottom line (for me, anyway) is that it's time.  While I'm sure that it will take a bit for me to get used to not preaching to eager parishioners every Sunday, I know it's time.  Maybe God is using this pandemic to prepare me!  I honestly never imagined my last year of full-time pastoral ministry would include not preaching to a live congregation for months.  


The final date has not yet been set.  But it's getting nearer.  My confidence is that God sets our seasons (Ecclesiastes 3). He is in control.  And I'm good with that.  It's time!

What will I do?  Maybe that will be the subject of another post.  But, I honestly don't yet know!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Kindness and Generosity: Things God Loves in Us

Did you see or hear the story of Shetara Sims, the single mother in Missouri who gave the $100 she won from a scratch off lottery ticket to the family if a police officer who had been shot in the line of duty?  It’s a genuine feel good story that I believe illustrates a few valid biblical principles.

No, that principle isn’t for us all to go out and buy lottery tickets!  I don’t believe gambling is practicing good stewardship of what we have.  But, who hasn’t dreamed of what you would do with the money if you won the lottery, especially if it was one of those mega jackpot winnings of hundreds of thousands of dollars?  I have.  And the result of my dream is that I pat myself on the back because of how I would give most of it away to further the Gospel. 

And then I say something to God like, “See God.  If you would let me win a lottery look how much ahead you would be financially”.  Then I realize how dumb that thought is. 

Anyway, this single mom had a daughter murdered in 2012, and the police supported them with daily messages, family visits and more.

“The detectives were really there for us. They were there for us more than anyone I can imagine. They did things they didn’t have to do,” Sims said. “They came to see my kids. They did a lot. They were fathers, therapists. They were everything.”

Then one day she picked up a dollar she found in a parking lot and spent it on a lottery ticket, and won $100.  Her daughter suggested that she give it to the family of the wounded cop.  She sent it anonymously to the police department to go to the family.  Being cops, they wanted to know where the $100 came from, so they did some detective work and somehow found her to thank her.

But there’s more to the story.  Then, after learning she was a struggling single mom, they started a GoFundMe for her and quickly raised $12,000 as of yesterday. 

What’s the biblical principle?  It’s not to spend your money on lottery tickets hoping God will make you rich.  He doesn’t work that way.  But there are three lessons here.

1. Be kind to those who are hurting.  The police were kind beyond the call of duty to Shetara when her daughter was killed.  Shetara was then kind to the family of the wounded officer.  Look for ways to express kindness to your neighbors and people you don’t even know.  If God blesses you with some extra, share that blessing.  Be kind, especially when you don’t have to be.

2. You will reap what you sow.  God says so.  And here is a story of someone who sowed kindness (the police) and then reaped kindness and generosity when they received that $100.  For some of us $100 is not a lot of money, and to sow it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But for a struggling single mom $100 of groceries or gas or new shoes for her girl to wear to school was a big amount.  But, she sowed it because of the kindness she had received earlier.

3. Give and it will be given to you.  Remember the story of the widow’s meager amount of flour and oil that she gave to Elijah?  Remember the widow who gave her last two pennies to the Lord?  God honors that kind of generosity.  What can you give to someone in need?  Jesus promised that generosity doesn’t go unnoticed by the Lord, and He promises to take care of your needs. 

We’re coming up on a time in our community when there are going to be some opportunities for us to give.  Working parents are scrambling now, wondering how they’re going to work and homeschool their kids, even for 5 weeks.  What can you or I do to help?  How can we be generous?

Be kind.
You’ll reap what you sow.
Give and it will be given to you.     

Monday, March 23, 2020

We're All in This Together

I was asked to write a piece for the local Outer Banks Voice.
Here it is.