Sunday, December 2, 2012
The truth is that Christ came. The ongoing truth is that He will make a repeat visit. But in His second coming He won’t be a baby in a manger, a miracle-working teacher or even a dying Savior. His first advent was as the Lamb of God, making the way through His death and resurrection for us to know God.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Basic respect, not only for the flag and the nation it represents also must include respect for those citizens around you. The simple act of standing shows respect for those who put their lives on the line and died so that flag could still be raised. You don't have to agree with what America is or has become. Just show some respect.
When I was a middle school student my family lived on an Army post. (Yes, my dad is a Marine.) I played Little League baseball, and our field was across the street from the parade field. A parade field on a military installation is where the post's or base's central flag pole is located. Every day, as I recall at 6PM (1800) there was a blast from the cannon beside the flag pole and a bugler began to play Retreat. Following Retreat as the flag was ceremoniously lowered, the bugler played To the Colors. *
I heard this just about every Spring evening. With the cannon blast we immediately stopped practicing/playing. Turning toward the flag we removed our ball caps and placed them over our hearts throughout the bugle's call. Cars in the vicinity would come to a stop in the street and their occupants would actually get out and stand at attention, saluting if in uniform or hands over hearts if not.
That daily experience, along with our coaches (who were military men) taught me respect for our flag. Today 45 years later, as I stood in formation with fellow firefighters saluting Old Glory during the Pledge and the singing of The Star Spangled Banner in a ceremony honoring our veterans I still felt that same respect I learned as a boy. My chest still swells with pride and gratitude for our great country.
Who teaches our children such things today? Apparently no one taught the reporter. He doesn't know what he is missing.
Here's a link to the various bugle calls used by our military. You'll get an explanation and an audio clip for each. Some, you'll discover are familiar to most of us. I understand that had a band been on the parade field The Star Spangled Banner would have been played in lieu of To the Colors.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Sometime tomorrow, God willing, I'll head over to our town hall and cast my vote for Romney and Ryan. If you care, I'll tell you why.
1. President Obama's administration has consistently chipped away at religious liberties over the past 4 years. It appears that the Constitution is irrelevant under his leadership.
2. President Obama's administration has pushed for the acceptance of a redefinition of marriage, something that has been in place for the entire history of mankind in every culture.
3. President Obama has signed on to legislation promoting the ongoing slaughter of the unborn in our country.
4. Something terribly wrong happened in Libya on Sept. 11, and we have been lied to about it repeatedly. Americans deserve to know the truth.
5. I'm no better off financially than I was four years ago. But, at least I still have a job. Yet the numbers of unemployed Americans continues to grow and the small businesses that can provide real economic stimulus are suffering. The economic "stimulus package" only put us farther in debt as a nation.
6. The promise of a transparent administration has never materialized. In fact, just the opposite has happened, with executive orders bypassing our Constitutional government process.
7. I'm a capitalist, not a socialist. Let free enterprise, not governmental agencies solve what ails our economy.
8. I wish everyone adequate health care. But I do not believe those of who can pay for our own should also pay for those who can't or won't. Let's find a better solution.
9. Gov. Romney is a proven business man, and has been chief executive of a state government. He will come into this job with more experience than Pres. Obama had four years ago. We need someone with Romney's track record to turn things around.
10. Joe Biden is one heartbeat away from the Oval Office!
Friday, October 26, 2012
For You are who You are
And every tear I've cried
You never left my side
I will praise You in this storm.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
I got a frantic call from Gail that water was coming out of our hot water heater and the "whole house is flooded".
Fifteen minutes later I was wading through it myself. Gail had a broom, sweeping water out the back door. Not quite the whole house, but 3 bedrooms, utility room, kitchen, office and living room. All covered with water.
I ran to the local Ace Hardware and grabbed a 10 gallon Shop Vac and started immediately getting the water out. I called a local company that deals with these kinds of things and they arrived, setting up fans and dehumidifiers. I went down to our homeowners insurance office and opened a claim. Our daughter and son-in-law came from work to help get things out of the house. Everything that had been on the floors was wet.
The adjuster comes over at noon today to assess the damage. Then the real work will likely begin and we will probably have to be out of our house for a while.
Can I say that this wasn't the best possible time for something like this to happen?
As we looked at many of our belongings, including old photos and such drying out on our deck, I could see that the emotion of it all was weighing heavily on Gail. So I reminded her of the need to put this all into perspective.
"This is how I see it. Yesterday I took the wedding ring off of the finger of a 50 year old husband and father who died unexpectedly and gave it to his son who handed it to his mom. Today our daughter-in-law is in the hospital struggling with lungs that no longer want to work and facing a second lung transplant. What's happened here is nothing in comparison. This is stuff that can be fixed or replaced. This is just an inconvenience. And God knows all about it."
Perspective matters in how we deal with the curve balls life throws our way. Keep your perspective. Most likely "this too, shall pass".
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
What is telling and appalling, however, is how, once they felt pressure to mention God, they amended their platform with what appeared to everyone to be less than the required 2/3 majority support. That the chair proclaimed the amendment passed seemed a railroad job. The people's voice seemed to be irrelevant to the process.
But most concerning was how many opposed the amendment to include to mention God. Is this a party that reflects the values of most Americans? Is this a party platform God-fearing people can support?
I hope not. But perhaps I am wrong. Much more is at stake here than jobs and deficits.
we insist that abortion in this country is about a woman's rights over
her own body and to choose, then we must first insist that the unborn
have no moral or civil rights in this country. The rights of the unborn
must first be negated, or at the least seen as secondary. All the
"what if" scenarios must take a lesser place to this supreme right.
To insist the unborn have no rights requires a belief that life does
not begin until birth. Therefore, for 9 months the unborn is not a
valid human but an appendage of the woman, who is not yet a "mother"
because the child has not gained person-hood, just as I am not the
"father" of a skin tag that pops up on my neck.
It only follows
then, that if a woman who is pregnant refers to or thinks of the fetus
she carries as her "baby" ("I felt my 'baby' move/kick"; "I hope my baby
is a boy/girl") she believes that within her womb is a human life
preparing for entrance into the world, not simply an appendage.
Therefore, for such a woman to consider the pre-born in her own womb a
"baby" but to not desire to protect the lives of other "babies" (whom
she considers valid human beings) by taking a pro-abortion rights stance
is illogical. And for someone who takes the position that an unborn
child is a "baby" to refuse to stand up to defend that person's moral
and civil right to life is unconscionable.
Life is the basic
human right. Everything else is built upon that, making it vastly more
important than jobs, the economy or foreign affairs. If we turn a blind
eye to the foundation of life, everything else will eventually crumble.
The choices before us as Americans are very clearly drawn as we
approach this election. There can be no neutral ground on this issue.
(Read on if you consider yourself a Christian.)
As Christ-followers we hold to a view that life is sacred and that it
begins at conception. Those views are grounded in our belief that the
Bible is the Word of God. Each of us will be held accountable for our
actions and our words, and that must include (as Americans) what we
support at the ballot box.
If life is sacred and holy to God,
it must be to us as well. Please be sure your vote has been formulated
by a biblical worldview.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Monday, August 6, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Indeed, again. If we're going to seek an example of how to engage culture and what to expect from that engagement, I can think of no greater than Jesus. But as we consider Him, we need also to understand Him a bit, including His worldview and how it was established.
Jesus was a believer in the Scriptures. At that time the "Scriptures" only included what we call today the Old Testament - often called "Moses and the prophets" in the Gospels, because Moses authored the Law (Torah or Penteteuch) and much of the remainder of the Old Testament was penned by prophets.
Speaking specifically of "the Law" Jesus said: For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. (Matthew 5:18 HCSB) Many today like to point out the aspects of the Jewish Law, meant to preserve them physically as well as spiritually, are essentially ignored today by Bible believers. They likely don't understand the theological reasons (there is tremendous depth to Scripture as well as a "big picture") for the dietary and clothing restrictions, for example, not being adhered to by modern Christianity. Yet, Jesus accepted that Law as "Gospel".
He even believed in the stories of Noah and the Ark and Jonah being swallowed by a fish only to emerge three days later to preach repentance to a pagan nation. If we're going to use Jesus as our example, let's be sure we understand what shaped His words and deeds. It was an unwavering acceptance of all of Scripture. If we're not willing to understand that then perhaps we shouldn't be referring to Him.
(Really, if we're going to "follow" Jesus wouldn't that mean the same acceptance of Scripture?)
Jesus was counter-cultural. Some would call Him radical or revolutionary. He found great occasion to confront the religious hypocrisies of His time, and minced no words in judgment and condemnation of those who were steering the people in a direction away from truth and justice. He even threatened them with condemnation in hell. But then, He's Jesus, and only He has that right.
His counter-cultural stirring of the pot would cost Him everything. Eventually those he exposed and challenged became angered to the point that they conspired against Him and succeeded in having Him executed. Indeed, there is a price to pay for daring to warn the fish that they are swimming in the wrong direction.
Jesus was the friend of "sinners". The religious power-brokers - those He dared to offend - were shocked that He ate and drank and conversed with the marginalized of their society. But He came to seek and to save them; to provide them a way to move out of their enslavement to whatever sinful addiction had them entrapped and to set them free. He knew that the best way to accomplish that purpose was to engage them and befriend them. They already knew they were "sinners" - they knew the Law and felt the disdain of the self-righteous. Jesus knew they were sinners as well. And more than anything he wanted to make a difference in their lives.
Yet, He came to bring to them a real righteousness. One story in His life illustrates how He could bring together the seeming paradox of believing that sin condemns, yet offering grace to the sinner that expects radical change. While I find the phrase used too often, He indeed was showing us how to "hate the sin but love the sinner". (Not His words.)
A woman was brought before Him who was guilty of adultery - a sexual sin involving a man to whom she was not married. Some believe it was a set-up, especially since the man was not brought to Jesus. Only the woman. But that's another discussion. The point was, she was guilty of "sin" according to the Law. And His critics, those who would later falsely accuse Him and set Him up for crucifixion, were hoping to cause Jesus to deny the Law He so believed in.
Jesus practiced both grace and truth. He didn't dodge the issue. He didn't give in, either to the self-righteous or to the guilty sinner. To the surrounding crowd He acknowledged that the Law required this woman be stoned - put to death - for her sin. (Within the same context of the Levitical Law were all forbidden sexual practices.) And remember, Jesus accepted this Law as God's eternal word. So, first He threw the ball in the court of the religious, telling them that whoever was sinless should commence the judgment by throwing the first stone.
Not only did He silence the crowd, His requirement of self-judgment dispersed them as they unwittingly were moved to see their own sin. Ouch. But the story doesn't end there. The next part is just as crucial to understanding Jesus as the first.
Turning to look at the woman He asked her a question: "Where are your accusers?" Looking up and around, she realized through teary eyes that they were gone. Now it was just her and Jesus. How powerful that the only one qualified to stone her would not. "Neither do I condemn you." That's grace - receiving what we don't deserve. The Law said she deserved death. Jesus was giving her life.
But don't miss what He said next. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
What didn't He say? He did not say, "You know, I'm not an adulterer myself. It's not how I roll. But if that's what fulfills you, OK." He didn't say, "Nobody's perfect (except Me), and I know this is probably not your fault that you think it's acceptable to do another woman's husband. So, be a little more discerning about who you welcome into your bed from now on." He certainly didn't say, "The Law is so outdated. I say 'If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you're with'".
He didn't come to redefine sin. He didn't come to free her to continue to sin. He came to free her from her sin and it's consequences. He didn't water-down her guilt. He told her simply, "You're free. Now live a changed life. What you did was wrong. Put it in your past and don't go there again." That's truth.
Grace and truth were what Jesus came to bring. He epitomizes the blending of the two. If we who are His followers are to be like Him, we have to do the same. We cannot turn a blind eye to the truth and in the name of Jesus only give grace, because grace, without being coupled with truth only becomes license to sin. Nor can we go the other way and preach truth without extending grace.
The Gospel requires a message of both. Grace provides the freedom we need from sin. Truth provides the boundaries we need as well. They are not mutually exclusive. They are the very essence of Jesus and how culture should be countered.
Just remember that when and if you do counter the culture, there will likely be a cost to be paid. Not everyone respected Jesus then. Not everyone respects Him now, mainly because they have crafted a Jesus of their own making.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I'm a baby boomer, so for me words meanings go back to at least what they were in a generation past. Not long past, but past. But as we saw and heard in President Clinton's term, "is" may not mean "is" anymore to some.
Apparently the same is true with terms that are being hashed out in the cultural debates in 2012. Here's what I've noticed. In 2012...
..."Tolerance" means agreement. If you disagree with me you must be intolerant. Back in the day "tolerance" meant I may not agree with you. I may think you are dead wrong. But I'll respect your right to disagree.
..."Disagreement" means "hate". If you disagree with me you hate me. I grew up believing that it was possible for friends and families to love one another yet be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Today's mantra is "Don't hate", which simply means, don't disagree and please don't verbalize that disagreement. I still believe it is possible to disagree on major issues politically and morally and not want to kill the person you disagree with. In fact, I think you can and should love even those you with whom you disagree.
..."Love" means acceptance. If you love me you'll let me. If you love me then you'll let me do my thing, whatever it might be, and respect my right to do it, even if you think it's wrong. Yet my parents often stopped me from making major mistakes while growing up because of their love for me. Love in my day didn't mean you didn't confront someone. We believed in something called "tough love" if it was necessary. Love didn't mean "I'm OK and you're OK".
..."Judge" means disagree. If you disagree with me you're judging me, and everyone knows Jesus even said not to do that. If you're judging me it means you think you or your opinion is better than my own. There was a time in this country when to "judge" meant to use common moral sense about right and wrong. And so, we made judgments - moral evaluations based on a greater, higher authority than our own. Some call them "absolutes". We believed them so deeply we were willing to stand up and protest. But absolutes have gone the way of Blockbuster Video. Seen one of those lately?
For example, there was a time when murder was always wrong (an absolute) because life was sacred (another absolute). But then we began to redefine and water down those absolutes so that even the criminal became acceptable.
Abortion and assisted suicide somehow became acts of love. Selfish love, perhaps, but we determined culturally that they were no longer wrong. To speak out against them was judgmental, intolerant and hateful.
So, it becomes increasingly difficult to debate a point when the other person in the debate is essentially speaking a different, redefined language. Hence the feeling of frustration. Up is down when I think it is still up.
I guess we'll have to learn to be bi-lingual if we're ever going to make sense. And would someone please notify Webster of the changes?
Monday, July 30, 2012
What has me most concerned is not so much that there are so many who now believe in a different definition of marriage, and that anyone who disagrees with them is somehow a bigot or hater, but that so many who profess allegiance to Christian values see more conservative believers as bigoted.
I confess. Over the years I have "softened" my understanding of many things I once felt strongly about, mostly because I recognize more and more my own limited knowledge. At the same time I hold to a very high view of Scripture, treating it as the very Word of God. I also have a high respect for the two centuries of orthodox faith, meaning that it would be virtually impossible to conceive that the body of faithful Christianity, including it's greatest thinkers, apologists and theologians have "gotten it wrong" all this time.
Really? Would the Holy Spirit allow that to happen without constant generational correction? God is patient, as He demonstrated with Israel in the Old Testament. But God also had limits to His patience, finding ways to bring them back to Him when they strayed. Certainly He cares no less for the Church in this era of grace.
There are those who point out that Christians indeed, "got it wrong" in this country in the past, using slavery as an example. And they are right. But, they did so in defiance of Scripture and by contorting it to agree with their wrong conclusions.
But marriage has been the same since Adam gave Eve her first kiss as his bride, with God officiating the ceremony. (Yes, I'm using allegory.) "Male and female" was the Divine design, and that was before the Mosaic writings condemning homosexuality among the Jews BC and the Pauline words AD to the Roman and Corinthian churches that homosexual behavior had no place in the life of a Christian.
So, what has me perplexed is the seeming growing number of professing Christians - most I will admit are millennials - who see no problem with what has been regarded for two thousand years as not just wrong but really wrong. Has the church, in an effort to win a generation by failing to teach every part of the Bible, even the hard parts (and there are many) or by dodging the counter-cultural in Scripture, turned a generation who says they love Jesus into one that thinks He's great, but His Word is irrelevant?
I've been pastor of the same church for 21 and a half years, so I've seen an entire generation come and go. Longer than that, I've been either a pastor or a theological student (hopefully I'm still both) for the better part of four decades. Longer than that (!) I've been a reborn Christian for close to half a century. And all that time I've been an observer both of culture and of the church. Often I'm a critic of both.
My observations are driving me to believe that if the church does not see we are in a war for the souls of our children and grandchildren and realize we must now stand in the gap and "fight back" by grounding the church in "sound doctrine", those generations will have no grasp of the differences, whether subtle or stark in the worldviews that are captivating them. It will take more than creative tweeting or posting. It will take a prophetic voice.
And we all know what happened to the prophets.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I just watched online as the Southern Baptist Convention - the denomination with which my church affiliates - voted by a cheering acclamation a black man to be our denominational president for the first time. Frankly, I was moved to tears, seeing the unanimity and joy of those assembled, and then watching a clearly humbled Fred Luter come to the podium and simply say, "To God be the glory for the things He has done."
Southern Baptists didn't have a good or righteous start when in 1845 they separated themselves from the Baptists to the North over the issue of slavery. Clearly their reasons for establishing a new Baptist group was not based on anything espoused in Scripture, but was solely motivated by cultural economics and secular politics. That is unfortunate, since Christians are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God before they owe allegiance to any state or flag of man's making.
As those generations died off, and the American Civil Rights movement (led most prominently by a black Baptist pastor from Atlanta) began to right racial wrongs held over from the previous era of blindness, Baptists in the South slowly began to change from the past sins of their fathers. In the late '90's at a Southern Baptist Convention (at which I was in attendance), the group put forth a resolution expressing repentance from the sin of racial prejudice.
Today, that change took a very large step toward turning words into action. As I looked via the camera at the crowd on their feet and applauding with "Hallelujahs" and "Amens" I was looking at a very white crowd. But, that's mostly who makes up Southern Baptist Churches.
This will not mean now that every Baptist church will suddenly become racially diverse. Churches tend to reflect the communities in which they are located, and not all communities (ours for example) is very integrated. Yet our church is racially diverse at a higher percentage than our town. My guess (and hope) is that is because we value everyone regardless of their color and refuse to allow race to be any kind of issue here.
I also know that churches tend to be comprised of people who are "alike". First-time guests to a church are more prone to return when they look about and see others who look like them, whether it be age, race, tattoos or whatever other cultural identification. So, there will always be Southern Baptist churches that will be predominantly white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. Always...not because others are not welcome, but because people want to worship where they are comfortable. Like it or not, that's a fact of life.
At the same time I'm not ignorant of the fact that within our own Baptist association of 65 churches in our region there are some - maybe many - all white churches that either through practice or unwritten rule would not accept believers of other colors into their congregations. Perhaps today's election will spark a change.
Such churches should now consider whether they want to remain within the SBC fold. Sure, the president of our denomination has no power or authority over any church. We all know that. Baptists are autonomous. But why belong to a denomination whose president would not be welcome as a member in your church? How great a hypocrisy!
My hope is that those churches within our denomination who are today shaking their heads and will continue tosecretly or quietly ostracize other races from their membership would do the honest thing and pull out of the Convention so that the remainder of us can be unhindered by their testimony and move forward to reach all people to discover life in Christ.
We used to sing it when I was a child. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight". It is good to see it begin to be lived out in word and in deed.
Monday, June 11, 2012
The result was extremely helpful as Nathan and Tricia spent 9 months living near Duke University before and after the transplant.
However, as her health improved, and trips to Duke became less frequent, the trust fund lost its steam. Now, with her status very much changed, and already this year multiple trips to Duke, including the current hospitalization for rejection, we have reinvigorated the fund. Below is a letter that appears on a Facebook group for donors.
If you are not in that group and would like to be able to donate via PayPal, I've added a button at the top left of this blog site for your convenience.
If the idea of donating is offensive to you, we are sorry. Please refrain from negative comments.
Dear Friends of 65Roses4PattySue,
Amazing as it sounds, this past April 2 marked the 4th anniversary of
the night Tricia was wheeled into an all night surgery that would give
her a life-saving “new” pair of lungs. If you’ve followed either
Nathan’s or Tricia’s blogs or their Facebook posts, you know how that
while Tricia’s much healthier than pre-transplant, her overall health
has been and will always be a roller coaster ride. But, who would have
thought that she would again be able to play softball, sing in the choir
and most of all mother her Gwyneth Rose?
just passed as well. Tricia turned 30 on May 13. So, the Lawrensons,
Kirschners and all who love her have much for which to be thankful.
When crises settle down, as Tricia’s did after the surgery and the
subsequent battle with lymphoma, we tend to relax and even forget that
she will always be a post-transplant and cystic fibrosis patient at Duke
Medical Center. When we began the 65 Roses Trust Fund nearly four
years ago it was during that time of crisis. The response from so many
made it possible for Nathan and Tricia to stay in Durham during her
pregnancy leading up to Gwyneth’s miraculous birth and then on through
the transplant, recovery and cancer treatments.
we’re appealing to Tricia’s friends to re-invigorate the trust fund. In
March, as you may know, Tricia was diagnosed with acute and chronic
rejection after a long bout with RSV and pneumonia. This new struggle
is just as threatening to a transplant survivor as cancer, and very
costly. Though they have a very good insurance policy, Tricia will
always require costly medications to battle rejection and her Cystic
Fibrosis. While the disease will not attack her new lungs, it continues
to attack her pancreas and digestive system.
She also must
frequently return to Duke for checkups and tests to ensure all is still
well. And all this means travel, gas, meals and other expenses above
and beyond what their insurance will cover. Already this year they have
driven the 200 miles to Duke multiple times, and the trips will surely
continue. For example, tests results from a trip on May 14 require a
return trip on May 21 for anti-rejection medication. Just the cost of
gas for these trips this year has already cost them hundreds of dollars.
So we are again asking you to consider helping financially as you are
able. And we promise to send annual reminders for those inclined to
partner with Tricia. If you are unable, we certainly understand. But
we also know that any gift makes a difference.
Because this is
a trust fund gifts are unfortunately not tax deductible. Whether you
can make a one-time gift or perhaps give on a regular basis, all monies
given are dispersed by fund trustees and only for expenses related to
Tricia’s continued medical care.
Gifts can be sent to 137 Sir
Chandler Dr., Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948. Please make checks out to “65
Roses 4 Patty Sue”. Funds received are disbursed by trustees (her
parents and in-laws) according to actual costs relating to treatment of
Tricia’s disease not covered by insurance.
We will be looking into alternative payment options such as PayPal as well.
Thank you and God bless you.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Tricia was admitted back into Duke Medical Center today for treatment for acute rejection. Essentially what that means is that her body is attacking her lungs, and their function is being terribly weakened.
Your prayers for her are always welcome.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
If you were to read Spurgeon's biography (as I have) or his sermons or devotionals you would know how greatly this man loved the Lord Jesus. His many years of life following his conversion as a teenager were devoted to proclaiming the Gospel and winning men and women to Christ. As much as any modern man, Spurgeon was consumed with knowing Christ and sharing Him with others.
But, Spurgeon was not perfect. Like all of us, he had chinks in his armor. One of which was his passion for a fine cigar!
One day as he was walking through a London neighborhood he passed by a tobacco shop. To his utter dismay the shop owner had posted (I use that word intentionally) a sign on the window advertising a certain brand of cigar with the tagline, "The cigar Spurgeon smokes".
It was at that moment a tranformation took place in his heart and life, for he never again smoked a cigar. "I will not allow that I be known for my cigar preference. Rather Spurgeon's name should only be tied with that of Christ". (My paraphrase.) Is smoking a cigar sinful? Maybe not. But Spurgeon would not let his freedom in Christ to do so become a stumblingblock to someone needing salvation.
Do we realize that our posts on Facebook reveal something of our character and of our relationship with the Lord? I find it disarming when believers display photos of themselves or make comments that lend to a public persona that may not portray the living Christ within. What you are doing in the picture or saying in a comment may not be "sinful". But can it be a stumblingblock, causing a non-believer to doubt your relationship with a holy God?
Let's be discreet. People are watching and listening. Facebook can be a tremendous tool for advancing the Gospel. It can also be a tremendous tool for turning people away from the life-changing salvation Jesus offers if only by a comment or ill-advised photo.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. - Colossians 3:17
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
This week, for example, my life has and will include..
...A great Sunday!
...Two back to back DOA calls in the post-midnight hours of Monday morning.
...A great game of golf with friends (a golf game gives you every emotion).
...Seeing my grandchildren smile this morning.
...A funeral on Thursday. (Oh, I had a funeral last Saturday, too.)
...A wedding on Saturday.
It's just Wednesday morning, so only God knows where my roller coaster car will go next. So, I must have a heart focused on the only Constant in my life, Jesus Christ. As my Shepherd He can be trusted to lead me through the darkest valleys and to the greenest pastures. Knowing that keeps me from questioning Him about the track of my life.
How great it is to know He won't leave me hanging emotionally, but keeps life moving moving through it's seasons.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
It is rapidly disappearing from sight.
I am no longer perplexed however, as to why biblical prophetic literature mentions world powers in Europe and Asia, but the United States is absent. That used to puzzle me. It no longer does.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
What will happen next will be those who voted against the amendment will angrily fire shots at those who believe marriage is defined by the Almighty as "one man and one woman", calling them "ignorant", "bigots" and "hate-mongers". This is an issue that has drawn deep lines because it is a reflection of belief. And, by the democratic structure that makes America great, one belief was affirmed while the other rejected. Likewise, some who savor the victory will use it to throw barbs at their opposition.
Sad is that those who see marriage as being broader than man and woman see hatred in the votes of those who disagree. It's been made into an anti-gay mandate, mostly by the extreme left, as though those who voted "for" are Nazis, out to exterminate an entire people. I personally know of no one wanting to exterminate anyone.
Reality is that those in same-sex relationships a generation ago chose to stay "in the closet" because they were viewed culturally as deviant. Now, they are now increasingly main-stream, largely due to a very calculated effort to make acceptable what had been seen as unacceptable in most circles. Reality is that homosexuality has taken great strides in being viewed as a "minority" deserving of the same rights and status of those in our society with skin colors of red, black and brown. In that effort they have succeeded for the most part.
Someone has said that what is tolerated by one generation will be embraced by the next. Those in favor of treating those with homosexual behavior as a minority, including the "civil right" to marry only need to be patient. The vote in North Carolina, while it may have slowed the snowball's momentum, it will not stop it without a nationwide change in worldview. And while that is a possibility, it is not likely. Pandora's box has already been opened.
Those in my generation often wonder, "How did it come to this?". I believe the answer is that we now live in a post-Christian America that holds no truths to be absolute. "Faith of our fathers" has no relevance to the Millennial generation. Therefore, it matters not that society since the beginnings of mankind has consistently held to a man/woman view of marriage. Nothing is sacred because God has either been reconstructed to our own making or relegated to being something previous generations needed as a crutch and who is unnecessary today. Everything is up for grabs.
Absolutism says, "This is truth. It does not change". Our culture has shifted away from the absolutes of earlier generations of Americans to the absolute truth that nothing is absolute. Therefore, anything goes. Tolerance now means "no boundaries". Formerly tolerance meant "I don't agree with you, but you have a right to freely practice or believe what you do as long as you don't try and force it upon me". Now, if a segment of society...even a majority... seeks to maintain historically accepted absolutes they are viewed as intolerant.
At stake is the very foundation of our culture, a foundation constructed by our Founding Fathers. Imperfect men, they still held to the absolute that the Creator ordained certain things to be right and true, and that we as mere men have no right to usurp His almighty authority as the One who created us in His image and dismantle either the absolutes or the foundation. That they held to such absolutes is undeniably evident in their writings, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Historic Christianity and it's Judeo roots of Law and justice were accepted by all three branches of our founders' government.
That foundation has been eroded gradually over the past several generations like a slow but growing tide eats away a beach. At first, it is so small that it is not noticed. Then when it is discovered it is dissed as non-consequential. However, when the houses begin falling into the surf it is virtually too late to make the attempt to rebuild. Witness the fall of the mighty Roman Empire.
There are those who spew hate on both sides of this vote's coin. Even those who claim to be on God's side can be the most vitriolic. And in that ugliness, the message that should be conveyed is lost in a muddled mess. Those who genuinely base their opposition to a redefinition to the sanctity of marriage on an absolute belief should be anything but hatemongers. Hopefully we voted for the amendment, not because we hate anyone, but because we truly believe that if marriage is tampered with, not only will our culture lose its moorings, but the doors will be opened to a host of other redefinitions that will prove detrimental in the long run to our future.
I wonder how much hatred would be displayed by the "for" voters had the vote gone the other way. What would Jesus do in that scenario? I suspect in either scenario He would show love and grace.
Let those who choose to hate not be those who name the name of Christ. Rather, let those who follow His teachings and accept the Scriptures as the Word of God build bridges that demonstrate love to everyone. Let us pray that the power of the Gospel to change men and women will be evidenced in the changes in our own hearts first, and then in the hearts of our friends and neighbors, regardless of their views. May the God who created law, morality, sexuality and government, be revered as still worthy of acceptance by all. Without Him we truly are adrift in a sea without an anchor or compass.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap Him by what He said. They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”
Trying to trick Him, the self-appointed arbiters of righteousness in His day broached the issue of the relationship between civil government and the sacred. In 1st Century Palestine, the government was that of a foreign power. While there was a fairly high degree at the time of freedom of religion, the Jews resented being part of a Gentile empire, which, as any government does, taxed them for whatever provisions Rome supplied.
But no culture/state wants to be ruled by others. Every nation desires autonomy. In Judea was a rebel faction called zealots who sought the overthrow of Roman occupation by violent means. They hoped to convince Jesus, who was quickly gaining the following of the masses, to not only join them, but also be their “Messiah” and lead them to conquer Rome. He wasn’t so persuaded because overthrowing a political regime was not His mission.
His enemies then sought to use politics as a way to trip Him up and present Him as urging the people to refuse to pay taxes. Now there’s a way to win the approval of the people! But it wasn’t to win the favor of the citizenry that they posed this question to Him. It was to run back to the Roman authorities and charge Jesus with being a revolutionary and have them end His life and with it, His growing movement.
Jesus saw through their scheme. “But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the tax.’ So they brought Him a denarius (a Roman coin). ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ He asked them. ‘Caesar’s,’ they said to Him. Then He said to them, ‘Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”
Not only did Jesus recognize the place of civil, human government to look over the affairs of mankind, He also gave support to the ability of government to impose taxation. Note that when the opportunity arose He did not condemn either Rome or taxes. We know from another story in the Gospels that Jesus was a taxpayer Himself.
At the same time Jesus clearly drew a line. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in a letter, called it a “wall of separation”. The framers of our Constitution also recognized Jesus’ “line” in the Bill of Rights’ 1st Amendment. Some areas are clearly the domain of the government, especially protecting our freedoms and rights. But others belong to a higher power – the Creator. He is the author of morals, faith, ethics and what we call “personal conscience”.
Jesus’ made it so simple. Give to Caesar (the civil authorities) those things that belong to “him”. Give to God those areas of life that belong to Him. It is when we mix the two or allow one to take over the other that we move away from Christ’s words of wisdom.
The message seems simple. Let the government rule over that which God has given it. After all, government is God’s idea. But don’t allow the government to rule matters of faith and the morals and institutions over which He alone should have control.
And giving back to God the things that are His can be far more difficult a choice than filling out a 1040 and mailing a check.
This article is taken from The Outer Banks Sentinel, April 18, 2012
Rick Lawrenson is the Lead Pastor of Nags Head Church.
Copyright 2012 Rick Lawrenson
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Saturday, March 3, 2012
When I was ten I was a 5th grade student at Clyde A. Erwin Elementary School in Jacksonville, NC. Baseball was my first love. It was while I was ten that my dad left us for thirteen months, going to a violent place in Southeast Asia. I rode a bike and got the newest fad of transportation that year...a skateboard. Mom and dad owned a modest little home in a rural development called Half Moon Heights.
I turned twenty while serving an internship in Ft. Myers, FL. A few weeks later I started my junior year of college in Lynchburg, VA. After 3 years of not playing baseball I tried a comeback, but in just three years the skills had become too rusty. Huge disappointment. But in a couple months I would meet a girl while working for J. C. Penney who would partner with me for life. today. Huge break! My ride was a '65 VW bug that was a piece of junk. Still lived with the folks.
At 30 I was serving in my third church, a youth and music pastor, since graduating college eight years earlier. My seminary degree's ink was still wet, and our family now included a four year old son and a seven month old daughter. We rented a house in the same neighborhood where my wife grew up. The next five years would prove to be the hardest of my life.
By age 40 I had been pastor of Nags Head Baptist Church for four years. Our family now included a teenager and two young daughters. I was coaching baseball and softball with my kids and totally engrossed in my job. Three days after turning 40 I got my first pair of bifocals. We were driving our first brand new car, a mini-van that would last us for the next eleven years. The church provided us with a comfortable home in Kitty Hawk, a home we would later purchase.
At the half-century mark we enjoyed the stability of being in the same position and even living in the same home for 15 years. Life is good! Our kids are finding their own ways in life. Our son is happily married. I've had some health concerns, but have fortunately resolved them with diet. Gail's dad passed away a few years ago and her mom and my parents are dealing with the issues that come with aging. The next years would bring the joys of weddings, grandchildren and the greatest trials of our faith.
Now I'm past the midway mark of my 6th decade. The seasons have flown by! I'm watching my children go through the same stages of life through which I've been. Hopefully the faith and values they've learned through life will carry them through their decades to come.
Looking back I can see how God works all things together for good to those who love Him. Solomon wrote that, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven", and went through those times and seasons of life. Most important is that we discover that purpose and see our lives as being given to us to glorify our Creator in every season.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
I looked up at Gail and she said, "It's kind of late for a phone call", knowing that when the phone rings that late in a pastor's house it isn't going to be a lunch invitation. She was right.
"He's been taken to the hospital and his wife has asked that you be there." The prognosis was not good.
We were simply acquaintances, although his wife and mother-in-law are family of close friends. In fact, he was my son's Little League coach 22 years ago. I had only seen him a couple of times at the most in those two-plus decades. But I was asked to come right away, and being a believer in Divine appointments, I put on my shoes, brushed my teeth, and headed down the road.
While I'm no physician, I've been around the block a time or two in the hospital and ER in my pastoral experience. As I stood just inside the curtain that separated the room from the doctors and nurses station, it only took a second to know this would likely be my last chance to see him.
He was conscious and alert, and through the mask that covered most of his face, giving him oxygen as he labored for every breath I could see his eyes widen as he saw me. I took it as a sign that he was glad to have me there. At least three medical professionals were tending to him, working on needles, bags and such. So I stayed near the foot of the bed and gave a simple wave.
This was not a good time to try and get close enough to talk, so I left for the waiting room.
My third trip back to see him found him hooked up to everything imaginable. Only one nurse was there, punching things into a computer. So I walked up to the side of his bed, took his hand and said what needed to be said. His wife stood beside me.
"I'm not going to tell you what you don't already know. You don't have a lot of time left on this earth." He was looking directly into my eyes as he continued to struggle for each shallow breath. A slight nod told me he knew it, too. "I need to ask you...are you ready? Do you know Jesus is your Savior?"
The next nod wasn't so slight. It was deliberate.
"Knowing that will give you the peace you'll need through this night, and it will bring great peace to your family."
I prayed with him that God would help him through the night; that he might get some rest; that the Lord would bring comfort and strength to his family.
He was transported by helicopter to a hospital 80 miles away where he could be in an ICU. Today, after his wife, children, mother and sister said theirs goodbyes, he was taken off the ventilator and in a few minutes slipped into eternity.
He was ready.
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life."
One day all of us will have a similar experience. Perhaps it will be dragged out for days or weeks. Perhaps it will happen in an instant and be totally unexpected. But we will all face our mortality.
Ready or not.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Maybe if they talked vision and solutions instead of wasting time taking each other apart I could tolerate them.
Besides, the guy with the most dinero in his war chest wins the nomination anyway, right?
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Some observations, then some thoughts about CS in my chosen field.
- An appointment is required. This can be done online, so it's very easy. They tell you what's available and you choose the time that is most convenient for you. You can also let them know the nature of the visit so they can be prepared.
- Upon entering the store I noticed it was very busy, but the employee to customer ratio was very high...maybe 1:2. Almost immediately upon entering a friendly, outgoing Apple associate (I don't know what they call their employees) asked me if she could help me. I didn't have to go looking for her. She noticed me, even though she was already engaged with someone else. I did not see one blue-shirted employee not serving a customer.
- On her Ipad she found my appointment. I was almost 30 minutes early and they were "running on time", which meant it might take that long before I would be seen by someone from the "Genius Bar". Their lingo for tech support. So she offered to let the know (via the Ipad) that I was there, and to give them a description of me ("handsome, graying with stunning blue eyes", I'm sure) and when a "genius" was available he would find me. No standing in line. I was free to roam about the store. I declined to hang around because I had one other item to take care of in the mall, but would return in plenty of time.
- Ten minutes before my appointment I approached the "Genius Bar" where a young man was finishing up for an earlier customer. Seeing me, he immediately asked how he could help me. He found my appointment on his Ipad and said he would be right with me...which he was.
- In short order I was walking out of the store. As I left, the young lady I originally met saw me and told me she had let them know I was back. That meant she remembered I had come in earlier. I said, "Thanks! I've been taken care of and am on my way out."
This is not the kindest thing to say, but I've visited churches who don't have a clue about Customer Service. I'm not talking about church members who expect others to serve and wait on them...they certainly don't get it. But in my travels I've had the unfortunate experiences of being a guest and being ignored.
Church leaders perhaps should venture out more and find out how others either accomplish or utterly fail when it comes to welcoming guests. To some people there is nothing more frightening than to wander into a strange building, where perhaps you know not a soul. Making that even more uncomfortable is when, not a soul offers to get to know you.
One church my wife and I visited had multiple buildings with no signage. So we picked one, found out it was the children's ministry building and asked where we belonged. Another church, known for its pastor's excellent teaching, was as cold as ice. The only greeting or acknowledgment we received was from the guy handing us a bulletin at the door. Still at another we arrived a bit early. The doors were all solid wood and closed. The windows were all stained glass so we could see nothing inside. Again, no signage or evidence where the main entrance might be. For all we knew the door we were about to open led to the pulpit. And no one was posted there.
I get the impression that some churches either don't really expect anyone new to try them out. And for good reason.
My belief is that the church, the family of God, the body of Christ is commissioned to share Good News that much of the world, including my community, has not yet heard. And if guests show up (and we should encourage the church to invite and bring their unchurched friends) we should act like we're both ready for them and expecting them. It should be our desire for their first time (and subsequent visits) to be the most welcoming experience ever.
After all, our Savior said, "Whosoever will may come". If they show up, apparently it's for a great reason. Let's let them know we're glad, for eternity's sake, that they did. Let's let them be glad as well. If we do, there's a great chance they'll be back.