Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christ is offensive. Accept it and move on.

Every year at this time the news gives us examples of tension between those who believe Christ is central to Christmas and those who do not wish Christ to be mentioned. Civil governments are often the ropes in these tug-of-wars.

This year is no different. And so, the never ending debate continues. Here's a link to an example playing out right now in Pitman, NJ.

As our nation drifts further away from the Judeo-Christian values of our founding fathers (read their stuff...even those who weren't devout still held to the sovereignty of an Almighty God) and moves at a more rapid pace toward human secularism as the norm, the once accepted and at worst tolerated celebration of Christmas becomes less relevant. Once relevance is lost it becomes easy to launch attacks and legal proceedings against anything Christian. Crosses. Manger scenes. Ten Commandments (Jewish, but accepted by Christians), even the word "Christmas".

Is it a battle worth fighting? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm wrong, but except for a supernatural intervention I'm inclined to believe we're crossing the point of no return. And honestly, Jesus and his earliest followers knew that He would be a point of offense to the non-Christian culture. We were warned this would happen. So we shouldn't be surprised.

Of course, I'm praying for that supernatural intervention. Hoping it will be sooner than later.

And Merry Christmas! Free speech still protects what I can say here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


OK. I'll admit it. I've jumped on the Tim Tebow wagon.

I actually look for the Broncos games on Sundays, because I know the chances are good that the end is going to be dramatic and that somehow Tim is going to lead the Broncs to an unlikely win.

But I'm also smart enough to know that while Tebow is getting all the attention, it would not be happening if it were not for the other 23 guys. I know.... There are 22 positions on a football team. But you also have to count the punter and especially the Broncos' place kicker...whatever his name is.

Without the whole team charging forward together Tim Tebow doesn't win a thing. We'd never even know he was there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My friend Roscoe Brewer died last week. Likely you've never heard of him. But because of his passion for living out God's purpose for his life perhaps millions around the world have had their lives changed.

Please take the 15 minutes or so to watch and listen to the video. It was filmed recently. He's obviously frail from the cancer that finally took his life, but the passion was still there as he talked missions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor Day

70 years ago the United States was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. It is an event our nation should always remember. What happened on this day propelled our country into World War II, forever changing everything.

Few of the US military survivors are still with us.

So, pause for a moment today and remember. Take a few minutes and tell the story to your children old enough to grasp its significance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Where's the justice"

She called it "unfair" and wondered aloud, "Where's the justice"? I'm talking about ABC's Diane Sawyer on last night's World News Tonight.

It seems that some financial manager types bought a lottery ticket - one $1 ticket - and for a client who wishes to be anonymous. What are the chances of winning millions with a $1 ticket? Well, that's exactly what happened. A likely already rich millionaire took a chance with a buck and won over $100 million after taxes.

Wow. The rich get richer...

This has stirred up some controversy, as you can imagine, by a media that wants us to believe that there's something wrong with this picture.

But, it was fair. Anyone had the opportunity to buy the ticket, even me. (What was I not thinking?) It wasn't like a millionaire bought thousands of tickets to have a better chance. Nope. One ticket. One dollar. So, "unfair"? I don't think so.

What's unfair is that lotteries tend to milk the already poor of what they can't afford to blow. That's unfair. That's injustice. And it's sanctioned by our government!

Likely this winner will wisely invest his/her winnings and see it grow and produce more millions, certainly providing jobs in the invested businesses. Perhaps (wouldn't it be nice?) this winner will donate some of the winnings to charities that will make our world a better place for those who are less fortunate.

But an "injustice"? Only if you think it's a sin to be rich or believe we should all be on an equal financial playing field.

Some guys get all the breaks! But "unfair"? An "injustice"? I think not.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Crisis Christianity - Tres

This is the third in this series. If you're just finding these posts, scroll down to the first one - uno - and read it, then dos before this one. Makes more sense that way, I think.

Just to be redundant I'll say again that every Christian goes through crises in life. When you trusted Jesus as Savior you were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, not to save you from crisis but to lead and if necessary, carry you through it. David's Shepherd Psalm spoke of the "valley of the shadow of death" - a crisis.

Not only has God permanently placed His Spirit within us, He has also placed us within His body, the church. I've written (and spoken) extensively on the role of the church in the life of the believer, so I won't belabor that here. But one reason for the church is for there to be surrounded and engulfed in others who will be the hands, feet, ears and voice of God in our lives, including times of crisis.

God never planned for any Christian to survive life in this world apart from the church relationship. That's clear as crystal in the Scriptures. Apart from a healthy relationship in a healthy church we're easy prey for the enemy of Christ and His church. It's like living outside the walls of the fortress during a siege. It's not a safe place to be.

Yet, so often over the years I have grimaced as I've watched brothers and sisters - partners in my church family - deal with crisis alone. Usually it's after the storm has passed and the damage has been severe that I learn of the struggle. The damage has been done and the recovery will be long and difficult...a recovery that perhaps could have been avoided completely had the believer simply put down his/her pride and called out for help.

Here's an example. One of our elders will get a phone call that one of our church partners is about to have their electricity turned off tomorrow. Tomorrow. I know enough, having dealt with these kinds of situations to know that if tomorrow is D-day it's because the bill hasn't been paid in a couple months. That means the crisis has been going on for 90 days or more. Yet, nothing is discovered until it has gotten "out of hand".

Why? PRIDE. And guess what, the Bible tells us more than once that pride is sin - something that separates us from our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationships with His sheep.

It might not be a financial crisis. It could be marital, parental, career, physical...I've actually found out about surgeries after the fact! How can we serve, reach out, give or even pray if we're kept in the dark about your crisis?

If the smoke detector in my house begins to sound an alarm I need to act immediately. There's no snooze button on those things. And if I fail to respond at the first smell of smoke, it might not be long before I'm consumed in the flame. In the same way, at the first sign of personal or family crisis, don't hope it will correct itself. Don't pretend it isn't there. God wants to intervene and His plan of action is to use His children to respond.

Give Him a chance before the crisis wrecks your life. See pride for what it is. Know that there are no perfect people in the church and that there is someone who has been through that same tribulation who can walk with you through it. Be honest and transparent. Connect with a small group and nurture those relationships.

That next crisis might begin to show itself today. Be ready. You don't have to handle it alone and it doesn't have to ruin your life.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving's Presuppositon

Because of our elementary school plays we did about the Pilgrims and Indians feasting together after a tough first year for the Plymouth Rockers, we all should know that it was a time to express to God and to their neighbors gratitude for life and its sustenance.

Like the other traditional faith-based holiday celebrations that have been part of our American heritage for all of our history, Thanksgiving has undeniable roots in our country's Judeo-Christian heritage. I can't help but believe that, as best they could, the Pilgrims used that first feast with their pagan friends as an opportunity to tell them about Jesus Christ and why they had left England for the New World in search of religious liberty.

This day always begs the question: "Thanksgiving to whom?" A TV commercial playing today has several celebrities urging us "Give thanks". On Facebook lots of my friends are telling what they're thankful for, which is a good thing. But if we are giving thanks that must mean our gratitude is directed somewhere. Otherwise it really makes no sense.

For Christians, this is an annual opportunity to pause (fortunately for most of us it's still a holiday) and perhaps recount the blessings - whether obvious or cloaked - that our heavenly Father has given us. And then to acknowledge His sovereignty and provision in our lives.

If you're not a Christ-follower, I hope that perhaps you'll pause and ponder that the God who made the universe loves you and wants you to know Him. He has provided everything needed for that to happen in Christ.

There could be nothing greater for which to thank God than for life - not only this life, but for eternal life. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift. (2 Corinthians 9:15)

So as you "give thanks" today, remember that thanks given means thanks received. This is a day, above all else, for worship and praise.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crisis Christianity - Dos

While on vacation this week Gail and I met Cindy. We didn't plan to meet her (or her wonderful family). It was one of those "God made this happen" things.

In our conversations over dinner she mentioned that she was a survivor of cancer. Like so many who battle the dreaded "C" word, her experience included surgery, chemo (and all of it's fun after-effects) and the ever-present questioning, "Why me, Lord?". For many, a disease like cancer is life's greatest crisis. I can only imagine.

But here was Cindy, several years later, looking as healthy as could be, with a glow on her face and a twinkle in her eye as she shared her story with us. Her crisis didn't defeat her, it made her stronger. And, not only that, it gave her opportunities she would have never had before to help others.

How? Oh, I forgot to mention that Cindy is a committed Christian. In fact, she was a bit disappointed that her vacation was taking her away from her church for a couple of Sundays where she has a regular ministry as a volunteer. In telling her story she spoke about faith - not in some nebulous pie in the sky fashion - but in words that described reality. For her, the crisis was real, but no more real than the Lord and His followers who were there every step of the way.

She spoke what I have often wondered myself: "How can people who don't know the Lord get through these kinds of things?". After all, cancer strikes non-Christians as well as believers. For some Christians that's a paradox in itself - not that non-believers get sick, but that believers do - but that's a subject for another time.

I guess the answer to that question is, "Some do. Some don't. But those for those who do it must be the most frightening experience". I guess that's why some choose to end life rather than go through the experience itself.

The reality is all of us go through crises in life. All of us. What makes the difference is that a growing relationship with Christ builds within us a strength and a reserve that continuously taps into His power to help us "do all things" and get through anything. That kind of genuine Christianity doesn't necessarily protect me from crisis (some crises are of my own making, but not all), but it gives me the faith and the relationships needed to take me through it.

Then (and only then) does this wonderful dynamic within the church body take place. Paul wrote, "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." (2 Cor. 1:4 NLT)

The "rest of Cindy's story" was what produced that look of wonder in her eyes. Friends were giving her name and number to others in the same seemingly sinking boat. "Here's someone you should talk to. She's been right where you are." She shares with them the fears she felt and the doubts and the "What if's?" about her family should she not survive.

God has not only cured her of cancer, He has given her a new voice and platform to encourage other women and to let them see and hear how her faith in Christ and the prayers and support of her church family helped carry her through. There's nothing like a life story to bring the truth of the Divine down to our level.

Handling crises with a rock-solid faith isn't random. A strong foundation of knowing God and His promises coupled with a passion for knowing Him daily and discovering the new mercies He offers with each sunrise is God's prescription.

You don't wait until the crisis kicks in to reach for that kind of faith and walk with the Lord. If you do it's like trying to dip a bucket-full of water out of a coffee cup. Instead, you build that kind of faith now, daily adding another brick to broaden that foundation for the time the storm arrives.

And there's where our humanity tricks us into thinking that because everything might be smooth sailing today, I'll worry about dealing with trouble tomorrow. And by neglecting those God-ordained relationships with Christ, His Spirit and His people we set ourselves up for life-shattering/faith-shattering crises that could and should result in our ability to glorify God, but instead bring us hopelessness and anger at Him.

I heard Rick Warren (whose wife Kay is also a cancer survivor) once say that you're either in a storm, have just been through a storm or about to go through one. How prepared you are is really a choice you make.

So start now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Crisis Christianity - Uno

"Crisis Christians" is a term I occasionally use in my writing and speaking. What does it mean?

"Crisis Christians" are people for whom a daily vibrant growing relationship with Christ is a hindrance to the lives they prefer to live. They like knowing that Christ is "there" when needed, but the only time they want to need Him is when life throws a serious curve ball their way, and there seems to be no other solution but to turn to Him.

So, Crisis Christians find Jesus to be an option or another add-on to the bundle we call life. He's a rider on their insurance policy, usually added after the diagnosis or disaster strikes.

Not only do Crisis Christians not have a life-changing walk with Christ, they also have a take-it-or- leave it attitude toward His body, the church. Mostly leave it. Take it would require commitment interpersonal relationships, including deep friendships with people who might actually take their Christianity seriously. Christmas and Easter for sure. After that it's kind church attendance is occasional at best. (And then they wonder why no one seems to recognize them?)

And Crisis Christians don't want to hang with those kinds because deep down they know it would require picking up a cross. And that's just too much for their busy lives. Life's complicated enough without getting overboard-serious about following Jesus.

A number of paradoxes come from practicing Crisis Christianity.
1. Because they typically haven't learned the grace of generosity they don't give, whether it be time or finances. They're too busy or can't afford it. Yet they always seem to be one step ahead of bankruptcy. And when the bottom falls out they hope the church has some funds available to bail them out.

2. It works...for them. Or so they think. They meet with the preacher or the deacons, and with tears and true feelings of hopelessness, not knowing where else to turn, plead their case. The church comes through, praying for their crisis and maybe even offering to bail them out with counseling or a monetary stop-gap. Once again their heads are above water and they can breathe. And with that sense of dodging whatever bullet it was, they go back to neglecting the relationships with Christ and His servants.

3. Although they are consumers and not contributors, (and typically they are going to find themselves in a new crisis sooner than later) and once again the Lord and His family will make an attempt to pull them from the ditch, eventually they will find some reason to be critical of the hand that feeds them. That includes God - "I'm angry at God for letting this happen to me". And it includes the church- the small group that bent over backwards to serve them - the counselors who gave them sound advice, including corrective steps - the givers who took money from their own wallets. Sometime down the road they'll accuse the church of being uncaring; of not being there for them.

And that's really what Crisis Christianity is all about. It views Jesus and His body as being there "for them". Never is it seen the other way around. So really, Crisis Christians are not practicing legitimate Christianity but a shallow imitation. And after 30+ years in ministry I've almost come to the place where I can see it coming - the signs are easy to spot.

But there is another way. And I've also seen it lived out in the lives of normal men, women, and even children, who when crisis comes are not only prepared, but willing to share what their crisis taught them with the rest of us.

My next post will go there. In fact, I think there will be two more parts to this thing. So before you jump on my case, let me finish!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday USMC!

The few, the proud, founded in 1775 on this date. They are the oldest branch of our military.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lesson from a long-term pastor

All my younger pastor friends take note: After nearly 21 years leading the same congregation I have become convinced that I have not seen it all. I guess I never shall.

Both in amazing blessings and in those "You've got to be kidding" moments, new stuff keeps rolling in.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

He's Not Superhuman: A story from the life of the "Prince of Preachers"

Since we're still in October, which someone has dubbed "Pastor Appreciation Month", I thought this blog on an incident in the life of Chas. Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher of the 19th (or maybe any) century.

I dare say that 99% of a pastor's church never knows or even thinks of the hurts he bears. Most of us have learned to swallow them and bear them deep within our souls. But as Spurgeon's story shows, that's not healthy. Eventually there needs to be healing.

There are some great points in this blog that as I read I said, "Amen!"
  • "Members leave easily when hurt. Why can’t we?"
  • "Jesus intends to teach us how to talk about such things to him and to entrust these pains to him. Moving too quickly gives temporal relief but leaves us still unskilled in this thing with which Jesus wants to empower us."
  • "Jesus interprets our life and calling, not our critics."
  • "Keeping us put, Jesus disciples us in fellowship with him. He teaches us how to sometimes live with uncorrected and incorrect reports about us so that we can stay with the gospel regardless. Our identity is hid in him."
  • "Our reputations as someone who is more than human need to crash."
  • "Those ready to learn humanity and dependence will not leave you."
Here's the link to the blog. Take time to read it carefully, whether you're a pastor or a member of a church. Your pastor may never tell you, but he can see himself in this story as though it was a mirror.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh, that again. It's Halloween...

As we creep upon the eve of All Hallowed (Saints) Day, the posts and tweets multiply on why Christians shouldn't participate.

But I'm not going to get into a debate about whether or not Trick or Treating is some kind of pagan ritual that celebrates a spirit of anti-Christ. When I was a kid it was strictly about one thing: loading up on candy. Period. I never heard of the Celts.

But I wonder what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:18 when He said the "gates of Hell" would not be able to "prevail" or "overpower" the church.

If Halloween is a tool in the hands of the powers of Hell, as many claim (and, yes, I'm aware of its pagan origins), is it something from which we retreat or is it something we charge as an army with the Gospel?

I mean, if Jesus was being truthful, what about Halloween do we fear? And aren't we called to invade the culture to proclaim the chains have been broken by the Cross?

Doesn't the Gospel have the power to not only overcome but convert evil to good? And if so, does that not apply to how we approach Halloween?

I'm reminded of Larry Norman's radical lyrics that challenged the church in my teenage years. "Why should the devil have all the good music?" Likewise, why surrender to the devil a fun celebration by hiding from it? Why not turn it into something that points people to Jesus?

So, do we crash the party, or do we run away? Are we truly "like a mighty army" as the old hymn says, on the offensive, or are we monastic and reclusive, hiding out in our bomb shelters until the 2nd Coming?

Just thinking out loud.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thinking about your pastor this month?

Every so often I hear someone in the church or community make a comment that tells me that a common perception of pastors is that they aren't or can't be regular guys. One of my outside the church friends recently told me that one thing he liked about me was that even though I'm a preacher I'm a "regular guy". I took that as a compliment.

My guess is that perception of pastors being abnormal is because most in the church only see their pastors on Sundays being "pastorly". (Spell check tells that isn't a word, but I think you understand it.) You only see us when we're up front reading Scripture, praying and sermonizing. And in your minds, unless you see us elsewhere in "real life", if you don't stop and think about it, you might think that's all we do in life. On top of that, if your pastor always wears a suit or some kind of clerical garb at church, you might assume that's his wardrobe 24/7. And that's not regular.

My personal belief is that pastors are and should be seen as "regular" guys who happen to be called to lead and preach. We weren't born with Bibles in our hands. Our first words as little ones weren't "God bless you". We were teenagers at one time and had zits like everyone else.

I laugh when people see me in the supermarket or out and about and are almost shocked that I'm wearing a ball cap or that because I've been working in the yard I'm pretty dirty and sweaty. Some are even shocked to see me in a store at all. I guess they think I don't have to go shopping...that God sends an angel to my house every day with my "daily bread".

But the truth is I watch football on TV and I yell at the players if they don't perform to my expectations - just like the rest of you. If I eat Mexican food it tends to have a physical effect on me a few hours later - just like the rest of you. I have to pump the gas in my truck - just like the rest of you (except residents of NJ). I change the oil, cut my grass and put off repairs to my home too long - just like the rest of you. I stay up too late for my own good. I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, but for me it's not a matter of life and death.

I love to laugh, hear and tell jokes, tease and pull practical jokes on my friends. My wife often has to tell me to pick up my clothes. And if I could get by with it, I'd wear the same pair of jeans every day for the rest of my life. I cry watching movies about dogs. I dream of retiring and sitting around at a restaurant breakfast table with other old guys drinking coffee and telling stories. (Wait, I do that now.) My grandkids bring me great joy, but I'm glad they live at other houses with their parents.

I can get angry, but try not to. If you ask me, Forrest Gump is probably the best movie ever. Braveheart would probably be #2. I only have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. And God works on me every single day. On the good days I respond the right way to Him.

The church is my calling and I'm passionate for her. I don't understand why others are not equally passionate. So, I get impatient when Christians take her for granted. I also get impatient with the cable company and the internet provider. I never get impatient with my wife. OK. Sometimes I'm not totally honest.

I hope this hasn't been earth-shattering news for you. If it has been...get over it. But let's be sure we neither judge one another because of our pre-conceived ideas. If you've put your pastor on some kind of superman pedestal, take him down from there. Not only does he not belong there, it's not where he wants to be.

Mostly he wants to be a friend who is respected and loved. Just like you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frustrations of a Teaching Pastor

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,

For those of us who serve Christ and the church as teaching pastors, those words are taken seriously.

We know that the teaching of the Bible leads to spiritual growth and changed lives to the hearers and responders. We know that God's Word is profitable and that it's ability to mold us is like a sharp, two-edged sword. We know that the church can only be the church when it feeds on "sound doctrine (teaching)".

So we prepare. Some of us have spent many years at no small financial expense learning the crafts of exegesis, hermeneutics, biblical languages and homiletics. We work to the point of exhaustion, digging, praying for the right words and struggling at the same time with our own spiritual needs.

So we hope that the church will benefit from our ministry. We know that God's Word never returns void to Him - it always produces results when it is heard and applied. But when we work for Christ to shepherd and feed His flock and they are not there to hear from God's Word it is frustrating.

Even more is when the lessons taught that have gone unheard due to absence or unheeded due to insolence or apathy could have made a difference in a life struggling for answers. The answers were given.

Why weren't you there to get them?

But then, I remember I'll be judged for my teaching. That's between me and Jesus.

I won't be judged for your hearing. That's between you and Jesus.

And lest you think I'm riding some high horse, I didn't ask for this gift.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Presidential Religion

Recently the pastor of a leading Baptist church proclaimed that Mitt Romney, being a Mormon, is a member of a cult.

First, is that true? And whether it is or isn't, should it matter when choosing a presidential candidate?

I was planning to write about this, but Chuck Colson articulated my own views so well, I'll just share his thoughts instead.

You can read them here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Prayer of Columbus

Here's some historical into about the motivation behind the man who "discovered" America.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In My Seat - The Pilot Who Got Bumped from Flight 11

What a powerful, gripping story. Watch it to the end. It's 15.5 minutes.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Political Endorsement for President and Why

My name is Rick. There has never been a Rick in the White House before and I think it's time we Rick's got represented. I really don't know much about his positions, his party or qualifications, but that doesn't matter. He's Rick and he's got my vote!

I'm sorry for all you people with other first names. But, that's all I'm going to say about that. So, don't try to confuse me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Aerial Spraying For Mosquitoes Planned

An aerial spray operation has been scheduled this week for over 50,000 acres within Dare County to help reduce the number of mosquitoes resulting from flooding caused by Hurricane Irene. The aerial application will begin Thursday evening, September 8 at approximately 6:30pm and continue until about 2:00am, weather permitting. September 9th and 10th will be back up days in case of bad weather. The aerial application may take 2 days to complete. Dibrom® is the pesticide being applied at the rate of 0.75 fluid ounces per acre.

The aerial spray operation is being conducted in response to surveillance findings that indicate greatly increased mosquito populations and also due to the limited road accessibility in portions of the County.

Although a person's chances of experiencing any health effects from spraying are very low, the Dare County Department of Public Health offers the following steps to reduce exposure to pesticides during spraying:

• Remain indoors when pesticides are sprayed in your immediate area.
• Close windows and doors before spraying begins.
• Wash homegrown fruits and vegetables before eating.
• Should you feel you are experiencing health effects from spraying, please consult your doctor.

For more information, please contact Dare County Department of Public Health at 252-475-5003 or Dare County Public Works at 252-475-5880.

Melody C. Clopton, SPHR
Management Assistant

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Show That You Have Not Forgotten September 11

The 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 is this Sunday. Here are some practical things you can do to show you have not forgotten the acts of heroism shown that day.

Fly your flag. Do you remember how many Americans displayed Old Glory in the days following 9-11? And don’t wait until Sunday. Put it out early.

Replace tattered flags. Check out the flag flying at your place of business and the businesses you frequent. If they are tattered, ask that they be replaced with a new flag. And suggest places (Scout troops and the American Legion, for example) to give the “retired” flag. They’ll see it is retired with proper dignity.

Say “Thanks” to a cop, firefighter or EMT/paramedic. 9-11, designated by Pres. Bush as “Patriot Day” is their equivalent of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Provide a meal or a dessert and take it to your local Fire Department. If a meal, it’s a good idea to let them know early in the day. Police, for obvious reasons, tend not to accept food from the public. But a gift card to a local eatery works.

Have your kids make thank you cards for your police, fire and EMS stations. They’ll be grateful and will put them up for all to see. No kids? Drop by with a card yourself.

Attend a 9-11 ceremony or church service. Many municipalities are hosting ceremonies. And many churches are honoring public safety on that day. My department is having a ceremony at 8:30 AM followed by breakfast. And my church is honoring and remembering public safety heroes at our 9 and 11 worship gatherings.

Pray for our country and her leaders. Terrorism continues to exist. Our leaders need wisdom from on high as they serve to protect freedom.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Some Biblical Thoughts on Labor

Today is Labor Day. For me, it’s a holiday, for which I am grateful.

Jesus said that when life is built on the foundation of His words it becomes a life able to withstand the storms that invariable come. God’s Word is not silent about a good work ethic.

You will surely eat what your hands have worked for. You will be happy, and it will go well for you. – Ps. 128:2

There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty. - Prov. 14:23

A slacker’s craving will kill him because his hands refuse to work. - Prov. 21:25

There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and to enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand. - Ecc. 2:24

It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. – Ecc. 3:13

Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward.
God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. - Ecc. 5:18-20

Whatever your hands find to do, do with ‹all› your strength, because there is no work, planning, knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. – Ecc. 9:10

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. - Matt. 11: 28-30

Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. - 1 Cor. 15:58

The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. - Eph. 4:28

In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: "If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat." For we hear that there are some among you who walk irresponsibly, not working at all, but interfering with the work ‹of others›. Now we command and exhort such people, by the Lord Jesus Christ, that quietly working, they may eat their own bread. - 2 Thess. 3:10-12

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"I need more hands"

That was what Curtis, the deputy fire chief at Stumpy Point said to me yesterday as we were nailing tarps on the roof of a church in that little village.

Most of the homes in Stumpy Point were flooded. Some lost their roofs. All have suffered damage. Many of the residents evacuated and are just now returning to find all they own destroyed by water. Curtis and his dad, who is the fire chief, are doing their best to help out. As I looked at Curtis and listened to him tell the stories all I could see and hear was his own exhaustion and sense of being the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.

Little communities on the Outer Banks like this have no real local government infrastructure. They're rural communities, who are communities in the real sense. Stumpy Point is our most "isolated" community here in Dare County, separated by miles from the rest of us and surrounded by water. On a normal day it is a most beautiful spot. After a hurricane, it more resembles something from the Apocalypse.

Roads have just been opened. Cell service is pretty much non-existent. Mosquitoes, snakes and turtles are abundant. And so is the need. These are proud watermen, the kind of people who have been self-sufficient for centuries. Hard working and resilient they are. But now they are in something they never imagined and the likes of which no one can remember.

County-wide the needs are overwhelming. Great resources are being put to work to restore power, water, food, ice, and especially roads down on Hatteras Island. Ferries loaded with necessities are going throughout the day to supply them, and I'm glad for it. But right before the ferry dock is a little village that seems to be neglected and has enormous needs as well.

If your church or group is looking for somewhere to go, please consider Stumpy Point. You'll meet some wonderful, God-fearing people who have lost all their material possessions but not their spirit.

And I'm with you, Curtis. I could use a few more hands this week myself.

Monday, August 29, 2011

In the Aftermath of Irene

We are partnering with NC Baptist Men's Disaster Relief agency to make a difference.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Gracious Response to the "Disciples of Intolerance"

Once again, those who want everyone else to tolerate them demonstrate how intolerant they are. This time they put pressure on a leading business executive to not speak at Willow Creek's Leadership summit. And he bowed out.

In the video, Pastor Bill Hybels graciously explains the position of his church. I hope you'll watch and listen carefully. I've used the same explanation, that at Nags Head Church we don't ask anyone at the door their beliefs or about their sexual lives. Everyone here, as they are at Willow Creek, is welcome to attend and hear the Gospel.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tiptoeing Through the Tulips

If you know me, you know I love to laugh and have fun. But on those rare days when I’m angry and, as we say in the South, “ill” in mood, it’s often because I’ve allowed negative or critical people to ruin my day. Note I didn’t say they ruined my day. No, I allowed them to do it.

But there are some folks who seem to thrive on being offended by the most insignificant things. Another driver cuts him off and he takes it personally – personal enough that he speeds up beside the offender to look at him (or her) with a menacing glare or one-finger salute. The server at the restaurant waits on the table that arrived after they did first and now the entire meal is ruined.. Her covered vegetable dish at the church dinner somehow was mixed in with the desserts and was largely ignored. She’ll never speak to the covered-dish-table committee again.

So, here are ten lessons I’m learning from experience about how to avoid being easily offended.

1. Don’t be so quick to judge another’s motives. In fact, realize that unless you can see within another’s heart (something only God can do), judging their motives is impossible.

2. Not everyone is like you. Some people assume that everyone else thinks like them – especially those who are dishonest and untrustworthy. So, if I’m a liar, I believe everyone else is as well, so I trust no one. If I’m a thief, I expect people to steal from me. Not true.

3. Figure out something else to do with that chip on your shoulder. Daring the rest of the world to look at you or challenge your thinking can’t be a fun way to live. The chip is there because you have some warped sense of needing to be defensive. Find a way to get rid of it.

4. No one enjoys walking on eggshells. Life’s too short to constantly be scared of being taken the wrong way by a thin-skinned narcissist. I’m going to have fun and attempt to be myself. Here’s a fact of life: neither you nor I are the center of anyone’s universe (except maybe our own…).

5. Really, who actually lives to offend others? I’m sure there are some truly mean to the bone people in this world. But I don’t know any. Well, I remember one guy in college. But I think he was just immature. But if I did, I’d just steer clear of them. Most people don’t mean to offend or hurt. So, if you’re offended consider that maybe it isn’t them that has the problem, but you.

6. Be confident in who you are. God created you to become a person of significance. Unless you’re a total jerk, it’s doubtful that everyone is in a conspiracy against you. Guess what? They’re not. Until you grasp that, you’ll always think there’s a target on your back. Isn’t that paranoia? Get real. Be reasonable. Chances are the vegetable dish wound up with the desserts accidentally. Isn’t it possible that you have simply taken something the wrong way?

7. Learn to laugh at yourself. Life’s too short to take everything so seriously. If everyone is laughing at you, maybe you should join them. And if they’re laughing, it’s because they can see the humor in life. Most of the dumb things I do are trivial, not life altering. One of my oft quoted sayings is, “Rick, you’re such a dufus.”. Really…is your name Charlie Brown?

8. Get the burr out of your saddle. If you’re easily irritated, get up and find out the root of your irritation. And likely you won’t have to look beyond your own dissatisfaction with yourself. It the source is avoidable, then avoid it. If not, then get to work on making the situation better.

9. Even if your day is ruined that’s no excuse to ruin someone else’s. Nobody wants to hear your whining. Sorry, but it’s true. Don’t be surprised if people head the other direction when you walk into the room.

10. If what somebody said/did seems out of character, it probably was. Give them the benefit of the doubt. But maybe your interpretation totally doesn’t match their intent. Everyone has a “bad day”. Maybe they just slipped. Extend some grace. Let it go. Get over it and move on.

Oops. I think I hear egg shells cracking…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Remember Travel Agencies?

Years ago, if I had to take a trip that involved a flight, I found the simplest way to book the tickets was to go to a travel agent. My local agent would look on her computer at the airlines and find the flight that best suited my need. Since I either didn't have a computer at the time, the travel agent saved me time on the phone shopping with various airlines.

She would select my flight, book my rental car and make the hotel reservations right there from her desk. It was simple. All I had to do was either drive to her office or call her on the phone.

And there was an abundance of agencies in the area competing for my business. Every shopping center, it seemed had a travel agent renting a storefront.

Today I looked up Travel Agents in the yellow pages. Guess what? In our phone book there is one listed...something called "Cruises Inc". One, and they specialize in one thing. What happened?

Of course, you know the answer. The internet, with .coms like Travelocity, CheapSeats, Kayak, etc. put the travel agent out of business. Now I can book my flights, rent my car, and reserve my room or choose my cabin online in the comfort of my home at my convenience. I haven't been to a travel agent in years.

I'm sorry for the travel agents, but it's not a bad thing. It's just the way technology has changed how we do life. Convenience, as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing in my busy life.

And who writes checks anymore? Most of us no longer carry cash, but use a debit card. Our regular household bills are paid by automatic bank withdrawal. That's another way technology has changed how we do life.

Like most areas of life, the church is usually the last to catch on. (Are you still sitting on 17th century pews?) At my church we have web sites, blogs and more than one Facebook group. So, we're not totally in the dark ages. But, I'm pleased that starting this week our church has just made online giving an option for our congregation.

Why did it take us this long?

Oh, we'll continue to pass the offering bag around. Some prefer to bring their tithes to "the storehouse" in person, and that's cool. But for those of us who are apt to forget to bring it physically, we'll now be able to send it electronically. And that's cool, too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hate the sin; Love the sinner. Easier said than done.

If we denounce the sin, the sinner takes it personally. And why shouldn't he/she? No one wants to be judged as wrong.

If we dare declare something right vs. wrong we're told by the disciples of the religion of tolerance that we are intolerant, and that they will not tolerate that.

If we speak a word of disagreement with pop culture or political correctness we are told, "This is 2011!", as though a changing calendar makes changing morality right. I'm resolve to being a dinosaur.

I was recently told in a public forum where I shared my views (in a matter of fact but non-judgmental way), that if I wanted to live in a theocracy then I should emigrate! Believe me...I'm looking forward to that day. And I think it's sooner than later. At least I hope so.

Monday, May 30, 2011

When Your Focus is on the Gnats You Miss the Camel in Your Drink

Over the years our church has been blessed by the gifts and talents of a brother who has given his life to portraying great preachers of the past as well as Bible characters. His ministry is a combination of acting and preaching. It’s quite effective, spiritually moving and very entertaining.

Once, preparing to minister in our church on a Sunday morning, he contacted another local pastor about coming to his church that evening. In previous years and in another locale/church he had ministered in that pastor’s congregation, and felt they had a good relationship.

But that pastor said, “No. We can’t use you here.” His reasoning? “You’ll be at Nags Head Church on Sunday morning. For you to then speak in our church would be confusing to our people.” Although his church and ours are essentially the same in beliefs, we choose to affiliate with a group of Baptist churches he deems to be less then orthodox. I’m sure he also does not approve of our lack of dress code and musical preferences either. So because of who WE are and that they judged us to be wrong, he and his church chose to separate themselves from our actor/evangelist brother. Too bad for them!

Secondary separation is the practice of withholding fellowship or association with another Christian – not because of sin or unorthodox beliefs - but because he/she has fellowshipped/associated with someone you deem to be wrong or apostate in some way. Usually it’s about crossing doctrinal lines. But it can also be about methodology, denominationalism or other such minors. Because it takes the idea of separation one degree beyond personal experience it is called “secondary”.

Those who hold to this level of being separated from “the world” are apt to conjure up what isn’t real or true about someone. In their imaginations they conclude that because someone ministered to a particular group or attended a meeting in a particular place where there were infidels (whether real or contrived) that they, too, have bought into the apostasy or have united with anti-Christ.

Their fear then, is that by welcoming this brother to share God’s Word with their congregation, they indirectly endorse everywhere he’s been and everyone to whom he has previously ministered. When that happens their “separation badge of honor” is taken down off their wall and replaced with “compromisers”.

It’s where we go when we choose to major on the minors. Jesus said to the legalists of His day, “Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!”

Maybe I’m wrong, but why or how can you come out and be separate from something you’ve never joined? Two years ago I preached a funeral in a Catholic church. I don’t think that “confused” any of my flock at Nags Head. At least I hope not! They know what I believe.

Of course, today, with the plethora of internet blogs and sites added to the preponderance of radio talk show hosts babbling once conspiracy theory after another; and added to that the reality that as time marches on we are drawing closer to the end of the world (that breeds its own class of left field teaching), it’s no surprise that well-intentioned (but gullible) Christians are living in fear of anything “different” and fall prey to legalistic views of separation (that can lead to a cultic isolationism) and false teachings. In fact, this is how cults are born.

Once, when Jesus’ disciples were out and about, they apparently came across someone who was doing ministry in Jesus’ name, yet wasn’t following “them”. In other words, this person they did not know wasn’t part of their group. Jesus didn’t seem concerned. In fact, His reply was, “Don’t stop him, because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterwards speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:39-40)

Let’s not be guilty of swatting at gnats when we could be in the path of a stampeding camel. Make the main thing the main thing. Let God sort out the rest.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some gave all...

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping"...

For more info on the history and meaning of Memorial Day, click here.

While many confuse it as a day to honor veterans, (their day comes November 11) Memorial Day is a day of remembering those who died while in military service for our country and the many other countries America has liberated, and continues to liberate fro tyranny to this day.

Many communities host Memorial Day ceremonies. If you have young children or grandchildren, consider taking the to such a ceremony on Monday to teach them what a great price has been paid for their freedoms.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Camping's New Spin: Saturday was a "Spiritual Judgment"

Deluded Harold Camping, a man who thinks He's out-smarted Jesus by determining the date of the "rapture", has come up with the reason why he miscalculated. Again.

Don't forget that this same man predicted a rapture to happen in 1994. When it didn't happen, he used the same excuse..."I miscalculated".

Now, he claims that the May 21 apparent "non-event" was actually God's day of "spiritual judgment" on the earth. "Spiritual", of course, meaning, "something we could not see". The rapture, he tells us, will come on October 21, the day he earlier predicted as the day the earth would be consumed by a fire ball.

You know, he could be right. October 21 might be the day the trumpet sounds and those in Christ are called up to meet Him in the air. Or, it could be today, or tomorrow or any day, for that matter. We don't (and can't) know, said Jesus.

But Camping's reason for Saturday's confusion - a "spiritual judgment" - belies his poor grasp at best of what is called in theological terms "soteriology": the doctrine of salvation. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the sins of mankind were judged in Christ as He hung on the cross. That judgment ushered in a period of God's grace wherein any man or woman can by faith accept Christ's salvation and have his or her sin forgiven. And that time of grace will continue until Christ appears in His second advent.

Now, if Jesus didn't return Saturday, that means we still live in this gracious time when "whosoever will" may receive God's forgiveness and know that their sins were judged in Him and paid for by His death. If, as Camping would have us believe, God spiritually judged all on earth who have not received Christ, then there is no more option of salvation for anyone.

So, not only has Camping stepped out on a limb, he has cut it off behind him. No one who believes in historic Christianity will accept his view. Long ago he cast off any submission to a local church. Now he has ventured further off the straight path and has moved into the cultic arena of heresy.

Sadly, people will choose to believe him. But happily, there still remains God's grace for the Gospel of Jesus to give new and everlasting life to all who will by faith trust in Him.

That's the message we need to share.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do we close our eyes to the poor?

In recent years at Nags Head Church we’ve made intentional efforts to reach out to the poor and needy in our community. Some of the organized efforts have been:

* giving school supplies away through Operation BackPack;
* giving away winter coats
* Donating to Interfaith Community Outreach, which acts as a clearinghouse for dispensing funds to people with needs in Dare Co.;
* Participating in Ruthie’s Kitchen, which provides a weekly meal in the winter months to the hungry;
* Hosting the homeless for a week at a time through A Room at the Inn;
* Encouraging the church to participate in the Advent Conspiracy.
* Cleaned out the homes and yards of flood victims.
* Food pantry

Maybe you’ve wondered why we do such things. Isn’t our primary task to evangelize the world? Someone asked me this question recently and said that American churches shouldn’t be doing “social” ministries. It was also suggested that our church is in danger of gravitating away from the Gospel to a “social gospel” by these outreaches.

The term “social gospel” was something applied to liberal, mainstream churches in the mid 20th century who reached out to the poor, especially in 3rd world countries with social projects – building hospitals, providing food and clean water – those kinds of things, and saw those kinds of good deeds as sharing the gospel. The criticism of them was that they were not leading men and women to Christ. They were taking care of physical needs, not spiritual needs.

The reaction of the evangelical and fundamentalist churches in America was to go the other direction. Rather than meet physical needs of food, clothing, shelter and medical needs, churches only preached to the poor. So what you had were two extremes. One giving the necessities of life without giving the Gospel; the other ignoring the hunger and poverty but telling them Jesus loves them. My guess is that both had right motives. But that the right thing to do is to bring them together.

As always, let's get direction from the Scriptures.

God required His people Israel to give to the poor. When they harvested their crops they were to leave the corners of their fields unharvested and allow the poor to come and freely glean from their fields. (Lev. 23:22)

They weren’t to withhold giving to the poor when they had resources to give. Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. 11There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need. (Deut. 15:10-11)

Job’s testimony was that he "rescued the poor man who cried out for help, and the fatherless child who had no one to support him" (29:12) and "I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame." (29:15-16a) It seems Job was saying, “All this is good and what God expects of me, a rich man”. He knew that the very character of God is to care for the poor and the hungry. (Job 31:16-23)

Some might argue, “But that was Old Testament Law and applied to Israel, not us”. OK. My first response might be, “So has that heart of God toward the poor changed? And if so, how do you know that?” My second response would be, “OK. So what then about Jesus’ teaching? Isn’t that for us?” So, what did Jesus say?

When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid.

On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Lk. 14:12-14.

If you want to be perfect…go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me. - Mt. 19:21

It seems extremely clear (to anyone looking with spiritual eyes) that Jesus was telling us to give to the poor. How can that be hard to see?

With our economy so crippled, the question shouldn't be "Why do we give to the poor", but "How can we not address the needs of the poor?". At NHC we have never preached a “social gospel”. The only Gospel we preach is Christ crucified, buried and risen. But as we give to the poor we do so “in Jesus’ name”, saying to those who receive, “Here’s a church that cares about you.” We give out gospel literature; we invite them to come and see what we believe; we pray with them and offer them hope.

Frankly, I’m hoping we do even more giving and at the same time be even more intentional with evangelizing at the same time. But to close our eyes to the needy and to not see the opportunities to share the gospel and the opportunities that giving opens, or to say it’s not something we should be doing as an American church is missing the heart of Christ. Someone said, “I won’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.”

So, we’ll continue to find ways to show Christ to the poor in our community. And when they wonder why we give things away, the answer is simple: because it’s what Jesus wants us to do. We don’t apologize at all for caring for the poor. It seems that when we do care we are closely following His footsteps.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Toughest Lesson

I’m no psychologist. But I did take enough psych classes in college to remember Freud’s concept of id, ego and super-ego. Not that I find Freud the “go-to” guy in matters of the “heart”, but there is something to be said about our innate desire to elevate our own desires above others. His “ego” helps explain human self-centeredness and selfishness.

Of course, it wasn’t a 19th century Austrian neurologist who came up with the notion that we are basically driven by our own desire to be king (or queen) of the mountain. It harkens all the way back to the very first of our species to inhabit earth. When Satan, in the form of a snake tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, his enticement that broke down her resistance was the lie that she would be like God once she ate.

So, seeking our own way is really part of our heritage. It’s in our DNA, so to speak. We can’t help it! It’s who we are. It’s what we do…naturally. The craze in our culture for “reality” TV has brought selfishness to the forefront, hasn’t it? Have you seen those bridezilla shows? Wow! But then, don’t we feed that kind of thing? “It’s your wedding day, sweetheart. It’s all about you.”

Now maybe you’re one of those people who learned early in life that you weren’t the center of the universe. Whether that was because of incredibly effective parenting or you chalk it up to your “personality”, you are amazing and rare. My hunch is that most of us truly battle with wanting the world to revolve around “me”. My observation is that most of us see self-centeredness for what it is, but that some go through life blinded by their own need to be affirmed and catered to by everyone else.

Something in me nauseates my soul when I realize I want it all my way.

It must be that when you take a look at our Savior you find the direct opposite of someone who lived for self. His mission was not to be served, He said, but to serve. When He was challenged about His agenda He said He had come not to do His own will but the will of His father. When His closest friends totally missed the lessons He was trying to get through to them He didn’t give up on them.

Once, when an opportunity was given Him to exercise legal authority that was His and condemn a guilty lawbreaker to death, He instead chose to gently and compassionately extend grace. Faced with impending arrest, torture and death, His request in prayer was for His own will to be submissive to His Father’s. Later that night, as those closest to Him betrayed, then abandoned and denied Him, He completed His mission on their behalves.

There was not a self-centered cell in His body. Not a bad example to follow.

Someone noted for following Christ was a former egomaniac with a self-appointed calling to destroy the movement Jesus began. But once He came to know the very one he had hated, his life was changed in a radical way. To the Galatian churches he penned these words that so well describe a better way to live than for self.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

When I see myself as dead to self because of the new life given to me by Christ then and only then can I abandon self-centeredness. It may be the toughest lesson in life to learn: “It’s not about me”. But once it is embraced life becomes a smile instead of a pout.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This past weekend found me transported back in time. Way back! I was on the West Coast for a reunion.

Forty years ago, when I was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school my family moved from Northern Virginia to Southern California. We moved in the middle of the school year to a place where we literally knew no one. Most people might think that would be a traumatic experience for an adolescent, but not so for me. That move proved to be a most positive life-change for me.

Because our family was Christian, Mom and Dad made sure the first Sunday we were in town we found a church to attend. Guess what? It was not just any church…it was the right church for us. And for the next 19 months that we lived there the influence of that church – especially the youth of the church – played a huge role in shaping my life.

So now, every few years the youth group of that era in the 1970’s get together to re-connect. What’s most interesting is that the church no longer exists, but there indeed is a “tie that binds”, even four decades later.

Reunions are great times, whether they are family, school, military units, whatever. Rekindling those relationships forged long ago brings great joy as we hear each other’s stories, both old and new.

Reunion is also part of the Christian faith. The “blessed hope” of the believer is that one day we will be reunited in heaven forever with those who have gone before us, and most importantly, we’ll be in the presence of the Lord. It’s something we anticipated.

What will happen then? Well, one thing is that we will be changed. As my long ago friends and I began to gather Saturday it became clear that we weren’t quite the same as we were in high school! A few more pounds. A bit less hair. Glasses adorned most faces. We were the same people…but different. Age does that!

The Bible tells us that when we get to heaven a transformation will take place in our bodies. Paul encouraged the Corinthian church with these words about that future day:

“Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.” – 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

We won’t be the same, yet we’ll recognize each other. I had no problem at the reunion recognizing long ago friends – even those I had not seen since 1973. In heaven, although we’ll be given perfect bodies, they will somehow still be recognizable to those who knew us and “we’ll be known as we are known”. Different, but greatly improved! Maybe best of all the lame will walk, the blind will see. Our physical limitations and handicaps will be gone forever.

If you belong to Jesus the Holy Spirit lives within you as the guarantee that you’ll arrive at your heavenly destination safely and forever. It’s where Jesus is and all who have died before you in Him. It will be a time of great reunion.

The good news is that Christ is preparing heaven right now for all who have put their trust in Him. And He guarantees they will arrive there one day safe and sound. The old hymn says, “What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

I hope to see you there!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Post-resurrection transformations

Imagine the reaction.

It’s still early in the day. Already at least four of your closest friends have seen with your own eyes proof that you are alive. After seeing it for themselves they went back to the rest of their friends, who were hiding in fear, and told them what they saw and heard.

“I saw an angel roll the stone away. He said He was not there and I peeked in to see for myself. And it was true!”

“When I arrived the tomb was opened, just like Mary had said. I was too scared to look inside, but then Peter got there and went inside. He was gone!”

“When the earth quaked and the angel rolled away the stone the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb passed out with fear!”

“I went inside to see for myself. There was the burial cloth still lying there. And, get this – the cloth that had covered His head was neatly folded and in another place!”

“I lingered after the men left. While I wept, believing His body had been stolen, He spoke my name. I turned and it was Him!”

The first eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection did not initially believe, even though Jesus had predicted exactly what would happen. "Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him, and He will rise after three days." - Mark 10:33-34

You do just exactly what you said you would do. It’s proven to eyewitnesses who are also your friends. They say they believe you are who you say you are. But when it comes to actually believing? They hide in fear and doubt.

As the disciples were in seclusion, fearful they would be next on the most wanted list for crucifixion, Jesus met with them post-resurrection for the first time. There He was, standing in the same room – a room they had secured by locking the doors. Yet locked doors, like tombstones, were no match for the supernatural. Still, some doubted.

You know his story. Poor Thomas. He’s infamous for one blunder. He doubted and expressed his disbelief. Likely more were thinking, “Yeah. What Thomas said”. Then Jesus held out his hands and challenged him to touch the crucifixion wounds in His hands, feet and side. That challenge changed Thomas from doubter to worshipper. “My Lord and my God”, he said.

None of them emerged those post-resurrection days the same. The fears and doubts were erased by the fact that Christ had risen from the dead. How can that not fill you with confidence? They walked and talked with Him – even ate with Him – again as they had done before His death.
Then He commissioned them to not only be changed themselves, but to tell everyone they met that they, too, could be changed forever.

I wonder how many who gave something up for Lent in preparation for the resurrection were glad to see those forty days finally pass so they could go back to whatever it was they had temporarily surrendered.

Easter isn’t just a once a year reason to go to church then be free to go back to life the same as you were before. It’s about celebrating new life, not a return to the old. Don’t let another just come and go with nothing to show for it but some Peeps to eat.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

1 Who has believed what we have heard?
And who has the arm of the LORD been revealed to?

2 He grew up before Him like a young plant
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no form or splendor that we should look at Him,
no appearance that we should desire Him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like one people turned away from;
He was despised, and we didn't value Him.

4 Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
and He carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

5 But He was pierced because of our transgressions,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and we are healed by His wounds.

6 We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the LORD has punished Him
for the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open His mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
and like a sheep silent before her shearers,
He did not open His mouth.

8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered His fate?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
He was struck because of My people's rebellion.

9 They made His grave with the wicked,
and with a rich man at His death,
although He had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.

10 Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him,
and He made Him sick.
When You make Him a restitution offering,
He will see [His] seed, He will prolong His days,
and the will of the LORD will succeed by His hand.

11 He will see [it] out of His anguish,
and He will be satisfied with His knowledge.
My righteous servant will justify many,
and He will carry their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion,
and He will receive the mighty as spoil,
because He submitted Himself to death,
and was counted among the rebels;
yet He bore the sin of many
and interceded for the rebels.

- Isaiah 53 ca. 700BC

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Mill

A good rule of thumb is whenever you hear something and your initial reaction is "I can't believe that!", you probably shouldn't.

Not long ago I was told a friend of mine had made some bad life-changing decisions that pretty much ruined his career and his marriage. I was shocked and in disbelief. But until I heard it from the horse's mouth I refused to believe it. So I asked him.

With the proliferation of email forwards (many that have been floating around for over a decade) about soft drink cans and efforts to remove religious broadcasting from television (a lot of it should be removed) I have learned to do one of two things: (1) Hit the delete key; (2) check it out on

Same thing is true on Facebook. What was it a couple of weeks ago...Adam Sandler died in a skiing accident in Austria or something. Did I "pass it on"? No, I simply went to a couple of news outlets (legitimate ones) and saw nothing about Sandler. It's not that hard to find the truth.

Problem is, we seem to live in a culture that prefers to believe lies. Some are harmless. Others bring pain. It's like we want to see someone brought down.

Yesterday I was told of a rumor about my church that had no factual basis, but was created from false assumptions. Fortunately, the guy who told me is one of our partners, and he told the guy who shared the rumor with him the truth. I wonder whether he was believed.

But the fact that something false was being said about us that was concocted to hurt our reputation bothered me. Yet, I know those things happen.

Stay out of the mill. Be a truth-seeker, not a rumor spreader. And please don't send me any forwards.

Friday, April 1, 2011

From my perspective

Anyone who knows me well knows that possibly my favorite place in all the world is the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The Parkway that meanders along the peaks gives views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Piedmont to the east that are at times breathtaking. I love it. From high on the mountain you can see for miles and miles. At the same time you can see what's right in front of you.

But I've also been down in the Valley - a beautiful place as well. Yet at the lower elevation my vision doesn't allow me to see as much or things as distant as when I'm higher up. And if I'm in the forest, surrounded by trees, or in the fog my vision only allows me to see feet away.

Perspective makes all the difference in the world. Our opinions, judgments and conclusions are shaped by our view. And our view is shaped by our life experiences and that which has influence over me. That would include books I read, sermons I hear, internet blogs and sites I visit, conversations, and just plain things that happen in life.

God, we're told, has ways that are "higher" than our own. I take that to mean those ways are clearly seen by Him, but because of my perspective they may be mysterious or oblivious to me. I don't have and will never have His vantage point. So I accept Him and His ways by faith - the evidence of things hoped for and the substance of things unseen. That I can (usually) handle. I'm not God.

But what about my fellow humans? Could it be that there are some, who because of their perspective and position - higher than mine - see far more than I? We sometimes refer to being able to see the "Big Picture", referring to vision that requires a higher elevation. The CEO of a corporation sees more and what is farther away business-wise than the entry level employee.

This is true in every area of life, not just business. It's true spiritually, relationally, corporately, morally. Some, because of their relative immaturity, like the entry-level mail clerk can only see the mail room. The chairman of the board sits on the top floor in a corner office with windows looking out. Someone who has walked with God for years or decades can "see" a bigger picture than a new believer or one whose life is cluttered with "fog" or "trees", which can be other people, emotions, schedule, "baggage" and so on.

I have leaders in my life that I should respect because they have proven character and a greater perspective than me. If their character is questionable they shouldn't qualify to be my leaders. Maybe I don't understand why they do what they do, but that they occupy a "higher" place should cause me to consider their perspective before questioning their judgment or decisions.

What's the old proverb about not criticizing someone until I've walked in his shoes?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Should they put prayer back in schools?

One of the latest Facebook "polls" going around is asking that question. I don't participate in those kinds of things on FB (primarily because I don't trust that someone isn't using it to hack my account), but I do have an opinion.

No! Please, no!

(Let the hammers in the hands of some begin to pound the nails. I fully expect it.)

I can remember our class in early elementary school bowing our heads as we stood in line to go to the cafeteria (I think we called it the "lunch room") almost 50 years ago and someone leading us in "God is great, God is good....". However, that was another America, two generations removed. It was still the "Leave It to Beaver" era. And no one (to my knowledge) ever abused the prayer or found it "unconstitutional". Everyone, it seemed, believed in the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Those who didn't were a huge minority.

But in the 60's things began to rapidly change, didn't they? Court rulings found such things as prayer in school "unconstitutional" - a violation of the so-called "wall of separation" between church and stated. So it was stopped in government schools.

Those weren't the only changes, however. Our nation as a whole, since World War II increasingly became more and more secular. Families, that had for generations been regular church-goers curbed their attendance to Easter and Christmas, if that. Organizations led by atheists (remember Madelyn what's her name... She was a real activist before becoming an email forwarded hoax), People for the American Way and the ACLU lobbied and sued to strip any vestiges of religion, especially Christianity, from anything public, despite the efforts of the "Christian right".

That led us into the 21st Century and what has been rightly labeled a "post-Christian America". Nowadays, if the preacher in the pulpit proclaims the historic orthodox faith of his church he is likely to be criticized by the membership for being intolerant! Our national religion is pluralism.

"But won't restoring prayers to the public school life help bring our nation back to God?" That's the question and reasoning of those who think it would be a good thing. Our kids need to pray!!

OK. Who in the government-owned school is going to lead that prayer? To what "God" is that prayer going to be directed? Remember, we now embrace multi-culturalism. So do you really want someone who believes in praying to "Mother Earth" or some other pagan entity leading your child in prayer in school? When it's Islamic prayer day, do you want your child bowing toward Mecca (so as not to offend the Muslim students) while a prayer to Allah is being said? That's the only way in the America in which we now live that it would ever happen. Is that what you want?

"But", some reply, "why not just have a moment of silence and let everyone silently pray to the deity of their own faith?" Now we're getting somewhere... almost. But do we even need that?

Guess what? There is no law prohibiting a student from praying while in school. Now, if someone insists the prayers be made aloud and before an entire class or over the intercom, maybe we should read Jesus words on "public" prayers in Matthew 6.

No one can stop a student from praying silently before or after a class. Who said a Christian student can't pray while walking to and from class for his/her classmates and teachers? No one can stop a student from bowing his/her head in the cafeteria to thank God for the meal. And there is no law prohibiting like-minded students from gathering at the school before or after classes to pray together. (Heard of "See You at the Pole"? I just wonder why it's only once a year.)

So what is it that we really want? The days of Wally and the Beaver are forever gone. We surrendered our cake by apathy. It's too late to eat it now. So, instead of trying to get back what we began to give up three generations ago, why not teach our kids that their ability to pray never stops and that God can hear their hearts' utterances, even in the midst of a geometry exam? That was when I found myself doing a lot of praying.

We don't need a regimented time to pray, do we? If we do, then the real question should be, "Should we put prayer back into the everyday lives of Christians?". What did Paul mean by "Pray without ceasing"? Do our kids need someone to tell them when it's the legalized time to pray?

Maybe the answer should be found in Christian parents and churches teaching students that prayer can happen anywhere at anytime and that the answer to our spiritual needs as a nation won't be provided by legislation. If it is, can we truly call it prayer?

As long as there are Christian students and teachers in our public schools there will always be prayer in school. It can't be stopped.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Words Have Meaning

apostasy -
1: renunciation of a religious faith
2: abandonment of a previous loyalty: defection

Twice in recent months our elders have been told that our church is headed down the path of "apostasy". Both times that was the word used. We were both amazed and offended by it.

While I fully expect that not everyone agrees with or understands the vision and methods of ministry and outreach we utilize to accomplish the purposes God has for us, to bring a charge of "apostasy" is, indeed, a far stretch and shows a lack of understanding.

Charles Ryrie, a most-respected theologian in evangelical circles, gives the following indicators of apostasy. I'm quoting him in full, so it is rather lengthy, but I also do not want to pick and choose, either.

1. The doctrinal characteristics of apostasy. These include at least three: (a) a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity (1 John 2:22-23 ); (b) a denial of the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ (1 John 2:22 ; 4:3 ; 2 John 7 ). In John’s day this took the form of denying the true and real humanity of Christ, though it also takes the form of denying the true deity of Christ. Rejecting either the Trinity or the Incarnation denies the existence of the God-Man which is essential to our salvation. If Jesus Christ were not a man He could not have died; but if He were not also God, that death could not atone for sins; (c) a denial of the doctrine of the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:4 ).

2. The Lifestyle characteristics of apostasy. Defection in doctrine always brings a decline in morals. Paul lists eighteen characteristics of such declension in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 . They are: love of self, love of money, a spirit of pride, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, lack of thankfulness, lack of holiness, lack of natural affection, unceasing enmity so that men cannot be persuaded to enter into treaties with each other, slander, lack of self-control, savagery, opposition to goodness, traitors, headiness (rashness or recklessness), high-mindedness, love of pleasure, a pretense of worship without godliness of life.
Basic Theology, Chapter 83

That leads me to the following conclusions:
1. Nags Head Church remains orthodox in our beliefs! We have defected from none of the above (or from any articles in our statement of faith, for that matter) and continue to hold a high view of Scripture, Christ, Trinity, etc..

2. Nags Head Church maintains a high view of holiness in the life of the church because we hold individuals in the church accountable for their morals. We still practice church discipline for those who choose to depart from a godly lifestyle.

3. Therefore, we must not be "apostate" nor are there any signs, based on Ryrie's summation, that we are headed in that direction.

4. Criticisms such as "apostasy" that clearly have no merit are typically generated by sources with an extremist agenda (they abound in the media and online), whether it be a mixture of politics and religion or be from the far left or right. The Apostle Paul found himself accused of heresies from within and without Christianity, even in those early years. We should not expect less.

5. Everyone should have access to a dictionary.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guard Your Heart

Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 (GWT)

All of us are emotionally wired. Of course that doesn't mean we all react emotionally the same. Some of us are fairly calm and even-keeled. Others, however, wear their feelings on their sleeves and seem to ride a roller coaster, going from emotional heights to depths at the snap of the fingers. Regardless of how you or I are emotionally predisposed, the bottom line is that we're each responsible to have self-control.

God's Word says that guarding my "heart" - the seat of my emotions - is a wise thing to do because my heart, more than anything else will determine the direction and passions of my life. It's why Jesus told us to love God will all our heart. If my love for Him consumes my "heart" then my emotions will be governed by that love. And that can only mean my emotions will resemble Christ's.

Sadly, I have met men and women who equate emotional highs and the warm fuzzies with God. So many are stressed and beaten down by life, poor choices and things that are just out of their control. Surely, they reason, God can help and they begin looking for Him. Maybe they start attending church. After all, isn't that where God shows up? And there's nothing wrong with seeking after God.

But maybe at church a song or a sermon or just the whole experience tugs at their heart strings and while they may be looking for God, what they experienced was mostly or maybe even purely emotional. The truths of the song, sermon, service may have never penetrated their hearts, but they leave with an overwhelming sense of feeling good. And they equate that feeling with God.

The opposite can happen as well. Something happens at church or is said in a sermon that makes them feel bad or angry. Rather than asking, "Is it possible that what has me upset or angry really God working in me to bring about changes", they walk away hurt, concluding that either God or that church isn't for them.

This is why it is so necessary that our "religious experiences" are based on faith and fact, not feelings. Feelings come and go; rise and fall. Feelings not only can be deceptive, they can be destructive to those with the feelings and to those close to them.

God said this about our emotions. The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve. - Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)

So guard your heart. Give God control over what feeds your emotions. Know what your hot buttons are and resolve to not put yourself in places or situations where you know they are going to get pushed. Before you let your emotions get the best of you, calm down and seek the balance that comes with giving your heart's control over to the Holy Spirit. Let your life and how you react be dictated by faith and fact. They don't lie.

And a grounded faith based on sound doctrine won't lead you or I to act in ways we'll later regret.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Because today is my day off, I was able to watch the video and each moment's updates of the double disasters of earthquake and tsunami that plowed through northern Japan. It was reminiscent of the 2004 disaster in Sumatra, but even felt more dramatic and tragic because we were live and had so many more vantage points from which to view.

On top of the natural disaster are the collateral effects. As I write there is great anxiety over the prospects of not one but two nuclear disasters as power plants are in danger of melt-down. Already nuclear-laden steam has been released into the air in order to reduce pressure in the core. That can't be good, but should the core overheat it could be even worse. A nuclear disaster, ala Chernobyl could have regional and hemispheric ramifications.

Roads are impassable for first responders. Who knows how many dead are scattered about the landscape, trapped in collapsed buildings or floating in the sea? It is horrible, to say the least.

Not only that, our coast in Hawaii and on the West Coast have been on alert all day for the possibility of seismic sea waves.

And it all happened with precious little or no warning. We woke to the news utterly surprised and shocked.

I haven't seen the movie, but I have a friend who, when news such as birds mysteriously dying, or earthquakes, simply says, "2012", referring to the Mayan prediction of the end of the world. We all chuckle when he says it.

Yet I live daily with the belief that an apocalypse is coming. This planet "groans", the Bible says, waiting for a day of redemption. Jesus predicted earthquakes and disasters, wars and insurrections would be on the increase. Makes me wonder about the rash of political upheavals in the Arab world. John's vision, the last book of the Bible tells of horrible disasters bringing untold loss of life and property.

Who knows when? 2012? I'm not banking on any date setting. But at least we have been warned.

Of course the big question is, "What do you do with the warning?" Or, "Are you prepared?".

I don't live in fear of "the end of the world" because I have a hope in salvation that God has promised and by His grace has made available to all in Christ. These words from Paul to Titus give me great hope that no matter what, I'm secure in that grace. Christ is coming back, and in that I have peace.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. - Titus 2:11-14 NLT