Pastor Emeritus’ Pen

August 16, 2019

A Guaranteed Outcome

Solomon’s challenge to his son in Proverbs 3:1 and 2 is timeless:  “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:  For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.”  It has become the order of the day to hear of murder, violence, and wickedness.  I am amazed when immediately the blame game begins.  Everyone seems to know that the social crisis has its cause in that other person or thing. The insanity that embraces life can easily be explained but will never be accepted by those who long ago rejected the laws and commandments of God presented in His Word.  It appears to me as people stumbling about in the dark yet refusing to turn on the light. 

            God promises days filled with meaning, lives lived to their full length and peace in the process.  Sounds simple, too simple to believe.  Yet it has been proven true over and over again by those who heed and obey God’s commandments.  When God’s commands are unheeded, tragic days, short lives, and turmoil personally and throughout society can be expected.  Parents without Biblical direction raise children with no moral compass.  Broken homes generally produce broken lives.  Children learning their socialization skills in daycare centers instead of around the family altar can only parrot what they have heard from their peers.  The seeds of anger and confusion germinate and fester.  We wonder why children reject the church, abandon the Bible, and adopt worldly appetites.  Children will always do in excess what parents have done in moderation.  Children from kindergarten up are glued to a screen from sunup to sundown much of which glorifies sex and violence.  Cyber games, virtual worlds in which to win, someone has to be killed in the most sadistic way possible.  Many children enter homes where they are treated as an inconvenience rather than a blessing.  Pets are treated as children and children are treated as pets.  Our nation leads the world in a culture of death where millions are aborted for convenience in the name of a mother’s right to choose.  It is little wonder life becomes cheap when school systems teach that we are glorified apes, products of evolution out of some primeval soup.  Don’t forget daily we are dosed with propaganda and political nonsense that denies moral laws and proclaims everything is relative and that actions don’t have consequences.  Chaos erupts and violence becomes the order of the day and we scratch our heads and wonder why.

            Solomon, the wise king of Israel, also wrote in Proverbs 22:28, “Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set.”  Where are the fathers today who set Biblical landmarks for their families?  Each generation builds from the stable foundation of the previous one.  In reality, we are only one generation away from moral and social collapse.  From Solomon’s assessment and warning, we learn that some things are not to be changed.  Biblical landmarks must be set to avoid forgetting the boundaries that give long, full life filled with peace.  Landmarks should be lasting.  The word, “ancient” portrays longevity.  God set some landmarks from Creation with no desire or intention to change.  Each generation should have fathers who accept responsibility for the setting and guarding of these ancient landmarks.  It is not rocket science to believe that actions have consequences.  We are seeing the end results of low Biblical commitment.  The impossibility of reasoning apparent outcome with anyone who rejects the truth base of Scripture is hopeless.  To be loosed from the moorings of Scriptural absolutes sets a culture afloat in a sea of change.  The anchor points immediately disappear.  It is pure foolishness to blame the ultimate shipwreck on the circumstances of the storm.

            Call me “old-fashioned,” but in my threescore and ten, I have observed a rapid deterioration of the very ingredients that guarantee peace.  When the Bible is ignored, wickedness follows like a troubled sea casting up mire and foam.  The peace with God and the peace of God cannot be legislated.  No amount of congressional approval or executive orders can change the heart.  We can spend our days bemoaning the systematic illness while ignoring the cancer that causes it all.

            No wonder the wisest of men challenged his son to remember the law and commandments of God.  He loved his son and wanted the best for him   There is a place for genuine pity for those who reject God’s Word and in doing so reject God’s Son and set themselves up to reap the results personally and socially that follow.  The burden of a believer who actually works to get the Gospel into the lives of others is not simply to have an escape route from eternal retribution but to allow that convert the opportunity to know not just life but life lived abundantly. 

            I have seen much change in my lifetime.  Our present culture cries out for change.  Change to accommodate modern progress and improve living standards is not always bad; but to remove direct scriptural principles from our lives is dangerous and fatal.

            There is no problem facing individuals, families, or nations that could not be solved by obedience to the wisdom of God’s Word.  Every subject pertaining to man is addressed either in precept or principle.  I say, without reservation, that God has blessed America because it was founded as a Christian nation with a strong emphasis on recognition of and obedience to the Scriptures.  If that is abandoned, we, too, will follow other nations who are godless and the road down will be hard.  My advice to young and old, rich and poor, dignitaries and the ordinary folk, would be to mix each decision in the crucible of God’s Word and trust His wisdom.  The promise is clear when life is weighed on God’s scales, the outcome will be predictably good.  In no way do I imply that a Bible-believer lives free of trials.  Life hands to all of us a mixed bag.  What I do guarantee is that all things work together for good to those who trust and love God, and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Those purposes are spelled out in Scripture.  Sounds simple and the outcome is sure:  length of days, long life, and peace.

July 5, 2019

The Paradox of Rest and Labor

            “Hurry up, we’re late”, is a common statement made by all of us in this busy world.  From time to time, we feel like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.  “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date.  No time to say hello, goodbye.  I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

            God, in His infinite wisdom, set one of the seven days of Creation aside for rest.  Certainly God was not weary; yet His cessation of activity on the seventh day was to stress the need to stop and reflect.  Christians, in this Age of Grace, are not under the Law.  We do not observe the Sabbath in commemoration of the Law.  Believers observe Sunday, which is the first day of the week in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ.

            I grew up on a farm in west Tennessee.  We worked the land Monday through Friday.  Saturday was for going to town or for country type recreation.  On Sunday there was not work apart from feeding the livestock.  Sunday School and church, a light lunch and rest with neighbors and relatives spending the afternoons visiting.  I recall my parents did not allow me to shoot a gun on Sunday.  Momma often spent hours of her day reading the Scriptures.

            Our world has changed radically in the last 75 years.  Swing shifts, two-family incomes, seven-day workweek, athletic and recreational madness that turn weekends into holidays.  All of creation rests.  The energies and productivity of spring and summer turn to harvest of fall and inactivity of winter.  Animals, birds, and fish all sleep.  God speaks repeatedly of rest.  The prerequisite to rest is always labor. 

            Israel was sent into a 70-year captivity in Babylon because it had violated the mandated rests of the land.  God spoke of Israel’s inability to enter into the Promise Land because of their unbelief denying themselves rest (Hebrews 3:19).

            Today there is so much to do, to see, to learn.  Volumes of data swirl around us.  We are barraged with information as to how to live, what to eat, what to wear, where to go, how to make, save or spend our money.  The average person is weary and cries out, “I need rest.”  I recently saw a cartoon with the caption, “The Rat Race is Over – the Rat Won!”

            Yet, the Bible speaks of rest, not just Heaven, although that will be perfect rest for perfect glorified bodies.  I personally believe Heaven will be a beehive of activity without exhaustion.  I am thinking of today, in time, in the midst of all the turmoil of living, the promise of rest.  I call this the greatest paradox of Scripture.  Rest in the midst of labor and heavy lifting.  “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-31).  When the partner in our labor is Christ, there is an unexplainable tranquility of soul.  The more we learn of Him, the easier the yoke rests on our shoulders.  I know from experience.  I have tried it both ways.  To assume it is your yoke and not His brings anxiety and frustration.  Burnout is a misnomer.  Many who strive only for rest rust out.  Many confuse attending a church service once a week with laboring for the Master.  Every believer needs a ministry that involves service to Christ for others.  Sitting in a pew once a week is not the heart meaning of the Great Commission.  Any pastor worth his salt has a mile wide list of things needed in the church and community.  No small wonder that churches with inactivity, non-laboring members have turmoil.  When we are pulling hard on the oars, the boat is seldom capsized.  Dr. R.G. Lee, noted pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, stated, “No man has the right to a good night’s rest who has not had a hard days work.”  The “rest” spoken of by the Savior in Matthew 11 is available only to those harnessed in the yoke.

            It is common knowledge that January 1, 2019, I stepped out of the traces after 45 years and four months as Senior Pastor of the Fairview Baptist Church.  I handed the reins to a very competent young man, Matthew Herrell.  He is well on his way to take this ministry to a much higher plain.  Over these five decades of ministry, two facts greeted me each morning as I awoke.  First, this life will have its struggles and second, there is a peace that passes all understanding.

            I read of an art contest held to find the perfect picture of peace.  Two paintings were selected.  The viewers were astonished as the first showed a mirror-smooth lake with surrounding landscape under the glow of an evening sky.  When the second painting was revealed, the crowed gasped in amazement.  A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice.  The sky was filled with storm clouds, lightening, wind and rain.  In the midst of that cold scene, a spindly tree clung to the rocks with its branches dangling over the falls.  But in that tree, the artist painted a little bird contented and peaceful, undisturbed in the chaos surrounding her.  Eyes closed and wings covering her little ones truly exhibiting peace in the midst of the storm.

            The “rest” I speak of cannot come from a bottle.  The missionary sleeping on a dirt floor in a mud hut can have it while it escapes the man sleeping on the most expensive mattress.  William Tyndale, John Rogers, and Thomas Crammer had it when they and thousands like them died martyrs deaths while laboring for the Master.  Pillowing your head on the truth of the Gospel of Christ and the principles of Scripture is the only possible way to have rest now and forever.

June 28, 2019

Desperation

            Three of God’s choice servants became so discouraged they prayed that God would let them die.  Moses, Elijah, and Jonah had different circumstances that led to their discouragement.  Moses’ load as leader of Israel took its toll.  Elijah was afraid and weary from the journey.  Jonah suffered from disappointment of outcome.  Add to the list rejection, loneliness, a sense of failure, and self-pity and we all can potentially be under the cloud of discouragement.  The loss of purpose and joy, as well as losing touch with reality, can be symptomatic.  The Apostle Paul certainly had manifold reasons to live in discouragement.  He was in prison, lonely, suffered personal need and privation.  Along with the never-ending conflict, there was his constant concern for others. 

            I read of an anonymous young man so discouraged he penned this poem entitled, “Desperation.”

My world is filled with dreams

Magic, moments, thoughts, and schemes.

A collage, a whirling kaleidoscope

Plans and plans and desperate hopes.

Blueprints with wings that fly away

Ghostly days that never were

Words and sounds I need to say

Life’s pace a whirling blur.

Hopeless feelings of come what may

Never achieving yet perceiving

Somehow there’ll be a better day.

Not contented often resenting

Believing the cost will equal the pay

So afraid I’m here to stay.

Contrast the spirit of discouragement presented with the words of blind Fanny Crosby written while very young:

Oh, what a happy child I am although I cannot see.

I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t.

So weep and cry because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.

            It is a sure fact that discouragement finds its footing in self-living.  It is easy to develop the PLOM (poor little ole me) syndrome.    The cure for most discouragement is to help someone else.  A lady came to Dr. Jack Hyles discouraged and depressed.  He asked her to bake cookies for a shut-in, visit the nursing home, comfort a bereaved widow, and take a turn in the church nursery.  Dr. Hyles met the lady several weeks later and inquired concerning her problem to which she stated, “Oh, my problem seems to be much better.”  She took her eyes off herself and placed them on others.  Others, Lord, yes others:  Let this my motto be.  Lord, help me to live for others that I may live like thee.  The person who is wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.

            Many years ago, I had the opportunity to spend an hour with the late Dr. Warren Wiersbe.  I picked him up from the Memphis airport and drove him across town to our church.  As a young preacher, I asked him every question I could think of.  My interest peaked when he said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”  Dr. Wiersbe knew that a rested servant is a productive servant.  Jesus, when pressed to the point of weariness, slept in the front of the boat.  He commanded His disciples to ‘come apart and rest a while’ (Mark 6:31).  Realizing your physical limitations can prevent discouragement.  Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel.  He traveled from Mount Carmel through Jezreel to Beersheba, then a day’s journey into the wilderness.  He fell exhausted under a juniper tree.  God fed him, let him sleep, and then fed him again declaring the journey is too great for you (I Kings 19:9).  Elijah was discouraged, and fearful with a sense of self-pity and loneliness.

            Worry and discouragement saps strength, diverts energy, dries up zeal, and denies proven truth.  There are some things God takes out of our control.  Some problems are unsolvable and it takes courage to face those life situations.  Each person must develop a plan to live above discouragement.  Begin by diagnosing each problem.  Be truth-based and know the facts.  Be solution-oriented.  For fifty years it was my practice that when a personal or corporate problem developed, I would immediately plan a positive program to lift those around me and myself above the difficulty.

            Even true Bible-believers are not exempt from discouragement.  Because of this possibility, God assures us constantly of His care for us as we serve Him.  A.M. Overton put it best in, “He Maketh No Mistake.”

My Father's way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I'm glad I know,
He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I'll trust my Lord to lead
For He doth know the way.

Though night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break;
I'll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There's so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight's far too dim;
But come what may, I'll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift
And plain it all He'll make,
Through all the way, though dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

            It is not strange or unusual to have periods of discouragement.  It is tragic to live in it.  The story is told of Satan addressing huge crowds of fallen angels and demons.  He brought out a large bag of tools explaining his use of each to distract and destroy believers.  He then proclaimed, as he reached into the bottom of the bag, and held one tool aloft, that this one was his favorite and most effective.  It was the tool of discouragement.

June 21, 2019

“Oil the Hinges”

             We all need to be encouraged.  I read the story of a man who rode a bus daily to his downtown job.  Each day he noticed the squeak in the bus door as passengers got on and off.  The next day as he boarded, he took a small oilcan from his briefcase and oiled the hinges.  That story reminded me that we all should carry a bit of encouragement with us wherever we go.  Ann Frank stated, “Everyone has inside them a piece of good news for someone else.”  It might just be that this is the greatest need in the world.  Whenever there is good done by anyone, look closely and you will find an encourager.

            My favorite example is Barnabas in the New Testament whose name means, “son of consolation.”  Barnabas played a major role in the history of the Early Church.  He stepped up when he was needed, sold his land and gave the proceeds.  He stepped in when needed, took the converted Saul of Tarsus and introduced him to the Church.  He stepped back when he needed and promoted Paul because he knew Paul could take them farther.  He stepped out when he needed and took John Mark on the second missionary journey.  Barnabas has a legacy of being an encourager.  An encourager sees the opportunity in every difficulty, realizing optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.

            I recall one morning when I was in seminary.  I had worked the night shift on a truck dock and was headed to an early class.  I can remember being very tired when I met Dr. Lee Roberson coming out of the old Chauncey-Goode Auditorium.  He stopped me, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “My, that’s a sharp tie you are wearing.”  He turned and went on his way.  I remember the tiredness evaporating, my spirit being lifted, and my steps lighter all because someone took a moment to be an encourager.

            It is true that it takes no size to criticize.  A pat on the back creates optimism better than a kick in the seat of the pants.   It has been projected that life is ten percent of what happens to you and ninety percent of how you react to it.  Success breed’s success basically due to the encouragement it produces.  Crapehangers are a dime a dozen.  Many have a half empty glass and pride themselves in their ability to be pessimistic.  That might be acceptable if it did not spill over into the lives of others.  Every church has “againers.”  They are everywhere. 

            I love keeping company with those whose trademark is, “We can do this!”  It is possible to have only one thought at a time; we should make it a good one.  Winston Churchill stated, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right,” was a favorite quote of Henry Ford.  He also stated, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.  Problems are neat things to have.  Many people stockpile them to explain their lack of success.  The encourager is solution-oriented.  Belaboring the problem will most often make it worse; use the time to solve it.

            King David found himself in a dilemma fleeing for his life from Saul.  His home base had been attacked, his family kidnapped, and the people spoke of stoning him.  In the midst of the storm, David encouraged himself in the Lord.  (I Samuel 29:6)  If your train runs on the stream of other’s encouragement, many times it will sit idle on the sidetrack.  People change, circumstances change, but our God is always the same.  For over five decades, I have enjoyed, “handfuls on purpose” of encouragement in more ways than I could possibly tell.  They always seemed to come when the fields were dry and barren and the brook had dried up.  Our God is the supreme encourager.  Taking our cue from Him, we can daily look for the best candidate that needs the most.  To do this is actually against our nature.  We all love to be around the popular, positive, person and shy away from he problem-laden ones.  As a pastor, I have purposefully looked through the sea of faces to pick out the one who is alone, downcast, and visibly shaken.   

            I confess to being somewhat of a packrat, especially with cards and notes that have been sent to me during times of triumph or testing.  I read them over and over thinking of the person who penned the encouraging words and remembering the impact they made on me.  It is amazing what a few well-chosen words, a friendly handshake, or just a smile can do to help someone take the next step.  Instead of crossing our arms and expecting to be entertained, we should move out of the pew and brighten another’s day with a word of encouragement.  Children need it, teens require it, adults crave it, and senior saints relish it.  Take the initiative.  Encouraging words are a breath of fresh air and a cool drink of water.  Imagine the dullness of athletic contests without screaming fans or cheerleaders.  Think of the marathon runner with well-wishers lining the course and cheering at the finish line.  Our youth certainly profit from mentors who have traveled before them:  Will Allen Dromgoole said it best in his famous poem of 1948:

An old man going a lone highway,

Came, at the evening cold and gray,

To a chasm vast and deep and wide.

Through which was flowing a sullen tide

The old man crossed in the twilight dim,

The sullen stream had no fear for him;

But he turned when safe on the other side

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,

“You are wasting your strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day,

You never again will pass this way;

You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,

Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;

 

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

“There followed after me to-day

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm that has been as naught to me

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

 

    Encourage someone today!

June 14, 2019

“Why Do You Do What You Do?”

            What we do in this life is of paramount importance.  Why we do what we do is crucial.  There are three basic motivations that prompt all action:  fear, duty, and love.  These are not operative one at a time in segments of life experience but interwoven.  A mother cares for a child out of fear for the baby’s health, an internal duty call, and at the same time, a love for the child.  Certainly, love in any action is the highest of the three, while fear may be the lowest.  Scripture explicitly states that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).  A reverential awe of God is the key element missing in the life of the person who consistently violates God’s commands and man’s laws.  This is also true on an earthly plain when children rebel and in disobedience flaunt the express wishes of parents.  A child’s greatest fear should be that their actions might hurt those that love them.  In the same token, parents are to fear provoking their children to wrath.  Mix our duty, our fear, and our love in the same hopper and our actions will measure up to God’s greatest command:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

            These three motivations are so intertwined until it is impossible to differentiate the driving force behind an action.  We all are heading for a reckoning with our actions.  We will give an account of words and deeds.  What will temper the degrees of punishment in Hell or the degrees of rewards in Heaven will be “not what we did but the reason we did it.”  Paul explained this to the Corinthian believers when he stated that, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest . . . as to what sort it is” (I Corinthians 3:13-14).  The word, “sort” carries the meaning of motive.  Legitimate service to God and to man can stem from illegitimate motivation.  It is easy to fall into a pattern of habit while losing the right motive.  Pride and self-glory can motivate even the best of men.  Personal profit and self-gratification drive many toward the precipice, even though the work accomplished may be defined as honorable.  It is all in the motivation. 

I laughed to myself when I read this story that illustrates my point perfectly:

            Alabama and Auburn were playing in one of the most crucial games of the year.  Alabama was leading by five points with two minutes left in the game.  Alabama had the ball twenty yards from the goal line.  On the first down, Alabama’s number one quarterback was injured.  Coach Bear Bryant sent in his number two man, but before sending him in, Bryant gave him strict instructions:  He was, under no circumstances, to throw the ball.  He was to run the ball three downs even if he didn’t gain a yard.  By that time, the game would be almost over and the defense would hold them.  On the second down, Alabama was stopped cold.  On the third, they gained a yard.  On the fourth down the quarterback turned to hand the ball off, but missed the handoff.  He broke out of the pocket, began to run and spotted an Alabama receiver open in the end zone.  He couldn’t resist the chance to be a hero and lofted a pass, which was intercepted by the all-American safety that happened to be the fastest man on the field.  He pulled the ball in and headed down the sideline.  All of a sudden, like a flash of lightening, the second string quarterback, caught the safety and tackled him on the two yard line just as the clock ran out giving Alabama the win.  After the game, the Auburn coach asked Bear Bryant, “I’ve read the scouting report . . . my man is known for his speed.  Your quarterback is known to be slow.  How is it that he caught up with the fastest man on the field?”  Bear Bryant replied, “It’s simple.  Your man was running for six points.  My man was running for his life.”

            After dealing with people for fifty-two years as a pastor, I conclude that people do pretty much what they want.  I have yet to be surprised at the actions of unbelievers.  After all, why would the unconverted world be incentivized by godly standards?  To this date, however, I am amazed at many in the Christian community whose stated beliefs are compromised by their actions.  The explanation has to revolve around motivation – that driving force that gets us out of bed, that pushes us past our abilities, and draws on reserves we do not know we have.  Principle-driven living is always spurred by the triangle of motivation:  the fear of the Lord, the duty of obedience to Scripture, and the love of Christ and others. 

            The old illustration of the donkey that plodded along because of the carrot held just in front of his nose vividly pictures extrinsic motivation.  Contrast that mental picture with the thoroughbred racehorse, nostrils flaring, hoofs pounding, every muscle straining because he was born with an intrinsic motivation to run.  Mindless involvement in activity, even religious activity, is of little difference than the common motivation of the unsaved world that seeks profit, wealth, power, self-gratification, and pleasure.  Motives are the keys to a righteous, determined, acceptable life, or else we, like the Pharisees, do the right things for the wrong reasons. 

Motivation defines the process that initiates, guides, and maintains behavior.  We love Christ so we keep His commandments.  We fear the Lord so we act accordingly.  We recognize responsibilities and duties to Him and carry them out.  David Livingstone made the topic of motivation clear to the students of Cambridge in a speech in 1857:

“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office.  People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa.  Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?  Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?  Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought.  It is emphatically no sacrifice.  Say rather it is a privilege.  Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this be only for a moment.  All these are nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in and for us.  I never made a sacrifice.”

What we do is important.  Why we do what we do is crucial.

June 7, 2019

Commencement Address – Fairview Christian Academy

             Last Friday, May 31, I spoke to the 41st graduating class of the Fairview Christian Academy.  I was honored to address these exemplary young people, the parents, extended families and a host of friends at this momentous occasion.  As students of the Fairview Christian Academy, many since K-4, their training was extensive and productive.  The academy equipped them academically and intellectually.  They had matured with a Christian worldview and individual spiritual and ministry emphasis. 

The following is a brief summary of my remarks to the 2019 graduating class of Fairview Christian Academy:

            A little known verse of Scripture about a little known Bible character is found at the close of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossi.  His name is Archippus.  He is mentioned twice in Paul’s writings once in Colossians 4 and then again in Philemon chapter 1.  Paul defines him as a fellow soldier and admonished him personally with five words of exhortation.  “And say to Archippus, take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord that thou fulfill it” (Colossians 4:17).

Paul wanted his fellow soldier to succeed and to live an effective life serving others.  The very fact that he personally addressed Archippus lets us know that Paul considered him worthy of his investment.

His first words were, “take heed” or “stop and think” where you are in life, what and who brought you to this place, and what are your plans for the future.  Gratitude to those who have helped…parents, teachers, friends, and others who played a roll requires “taking heed” or “stopping to reflect.”

The second word of admonition is the phrase “to the ministry” or “serve.”  It was apparent that Archippus was serving.  It is thought that he might have been the pastor of the church in Philemon’s house.  We live in a self-serving, indulgent culture, which is a stark contrast to the minister of God whose life is a life of service.  Each believer is called into full-time Christian service.  We simply have different job descriptions.           

Paul then states to Archippus, “which thou hast received.”  His third word is “surrender.”  God, in His ultimate and great plan of the ages, has given each of us a tiny portion of ministry.  It is a gift for us to receive.  It is a debt for which we are responsible.  It is a calling we are to surrender to.  It is an opportunity we dare not allow to pass.

The fourth part of this verse identified to Archippus, a ministry received “in the Lord.”  This phrase adds the spiritual dimension to the equation.  We are “in” the circle.  He is Lord of the ministry we receive.  There is no dichotomy of the secular and the spiritual.  What surprises me is that God could use any of us.  The fact is that it is His ministry.  We are His twice over:  by creation and by redemption.  The world is His and all that is in it.  No wonder Paul reminded Archippus that his ministry was “in the Lord.”

All words lead up to the final phrase – “that thou fulfill it.”  Paul wanted Archippus to succeed in his life and ministry.  The thrill of his heart was his great desire to see Archippus and others make the best of the opportunities and possibility in life.  None of us know or realize the great and unknown powers and possibility that lie dormant within us and before us.  Who knows whom by hard work and diligence may become the outstanding leader of this generation.

The height by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” (Longfellow)

The list is short of those who succeed; yet, those who go before, root for each one who strives.  To pursue success in any field is to first redefine it from outcome to obedience.  To fulfill your ministry requires thousands of right decisions that often drive a person through the pain and problems of the process.  Medical articles prior to 1954 stated that it was physically impossible for the human body to run a four-minute mile.  Then, a medical student, Roger Bannister, broke that glass ceiling.  Because of his pioneer example, many others have sought and achieved this once thought impossible goal.

Edison was slow to learn in school but the entire world knows his fame and contributions.  Take, for instance, D.L. Moody with his fifth grade education impacted two continents with his life.  Nature teacher us it takes time to come to maturity.  Seed that is sown in earth takes time to germinate and bring forth fruit.  So it is in the lives of men.  It took John Milton 40 years to produce Paradise Lost.  John Bunyan spent twelve years behind the locked doors of Bedford Jail, to write Pilgrim’s Progress.

Let us have worthy goals in life and whatever we do, let us do all to the glory and honor of God and the uplifting of humanity.  Let us strive with all our might, for we only pass this was but once.

It is apparent that Paul loved Archippus.  He wanted him to fulfill the ministry that was granted to him by God and could only be completed by him.  I share this same desire for the graduates of the Fairview Christian Academy.  I, personally,

believe they will succeed; after all, with the training and encouragement they have received how could they fail?  As they fulfill their ministry in life’s journey, we all share our anticipation penned by Johnson Oatman, Jr.:

I’m pressing on the upward way,

New heights I’m gaining every day;

Still praying as I’m onward bound,

“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

I want to scale the utmost height,

And catch a gleam of glory bright;

But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,

“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.

 

May 31st, 2019

What is Really Valuable?

            We often confuse the price of something with true value.  As a result of this confusion, life can be wasted on trinkets.  I read where a burger sold at Serendipity 3 in New York City, held together with a solid gold diamond encrusted toothpick, for $285.00.  A 1962 Ferrari sold at auction for 35 million dollars.   One square meter of real estate in downtown Tokyo sold for $1,200.00.  The Hope Diamond on exhibition in the Smithsonian has a price tag of 350 million.  Raphael’s Head of a Muse drawing sold for 47.9 million.  A parking spot in the 8th story luxury condominium at 66 E. 11th Street in downtown Manhattan went for one million dollars.  A Honduran cigar shipped in a camel bone chest sold for $1,150.00 each.  A bottle of 1907 champagne discovered in a century old shipwreck was priced at $25,000.

            Several years ago, I remember, one speech by Bill Clinton drew a $500,000 honorarium.  An article in the “Chronicle of Higher Education” reported that the highest paid public employee is, most likely, a college football or basketball coach.  Case in point:  Mike Krzyzewski, Duke’s basketball coach, has a reported annual salary of $7,233,976, not counting any endorsements.  Contrast that with the national average starting teacher’s salary at $38,617, while the average teacher salary in America (non-starting) is $58,950.00.

            Who makes these value decisions and what criteria are used to calculate the final tally?  Is it based off of ownership?  Certainly John Wayne’s hat or Elvis’s guitar would fetch a high price because of their owners.  Maybe it is the ultimate ability to meet a need.  In certain circumstances the value of a glass of water would exceed the value of a glass of gold.  A one of a kind item will often sell at a high price because of it rarity.  The previous owner or the age of the item will play into the asking price.

            God has quite a bit to say in His Word concerning what is really valuable.  We must begin with the soul of any man.  Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Life is brief at best.  Man was created as a living soul with eternal destination being the question.  What value would you place on your eternal soul?  In considering things of value, we must think of the commodity of time.  How sad when we speak of wasting time, or killing time when each second that ticks away reduces the amount left.  A man’s account is opened each day with 86,400 second deposited.  We cannot hold over from yesterday or draw from tomorrow.  As the day ends, we lose what we fail to invest.

            While listing things with real value, my mind turned to true friendship.  It has been said that a friend is someone who knows all about you and likes you anyway.  It is actually much more than that.  The Greek word we get our word, ‘friend’ from is reciprocal.  Certainly, friendship is a two-way street.  Solomon stated it this way, “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). 

            High on the list of value is a virtuous woman.  Proverbs 31:10 states her price is far above rubies.  Strategic in importance to family, community, and our nation, a graceful, godly lady elevates all that she touches.

            God has a perfect will for each person.  The reasonable service of all is to present ourselves a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice to God.  We are transformed by the renewing of our minds through God’s Word and rejecting conformity to this world system.  All this found in Romans 12:1-2 leads to discernment of God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will for our lives.  To travel life’s journey on an off road and miss God’s perfect will is to embrace an existence and miss countless and valuable opportunities presented in God’s will.  Knowing and doing God’s will is of utmost value.

After seventy-five years, more than two-thirds as a Christian, I cherish the reputation of a good name.  Certainly a valuable asset in any person’s life is an untarnished testimony.  The wise man stated in Proverbs 22:1a, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”  The same writer in his later years wrote, “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1).

Over the years, I have asked my Heavenly Father for many things.  A recurring request has been for wisdom.  Proverbs 3:15 tells me that it is more precious than gold.  James assures us that God will give it liberally to those who request it.  Wisdom is valuable in order that our life decisions may align with God’s Word.  I am constantly amazed at the wisdom found in Scripture.  It is impossible to pose a topic that is not covered in precept or principle.  Show me a man, or woman, who applies Biblical wisdom in every day circumstances of life and I will declare that you have found a wise person who discovered a thing of value.  There is a marked difference between intellect and wisdom.  The Bible holds little value to the reader unless it is mixed with actual life faith that translates into action. (Hebrews 4:2)

I cannot think of anything more sad than living a life surrounded by trinkets and bobbles and refusing those things that are of real value.  It is an easy step to crave what an unconverted world exalts; yet, in the end, it is always wood, hay, and stubble.

Redeem the valuable.  Be serious about appropriating true wealth.  The gold, silver, and precious stones are limited in quantity but available to all who hold timeless value in the things God declares as precious.  Learn early, and embrace fervently life’s truly valuable things . . . “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorry with it” (Proverbs 10:22).

May 24th, 2019

Nobody is Talking About the BABY

            I recently watched a panel discussion that reviewed the topic of abortion.  The point was presented as an exposition of the recent decision of the State of Alabama enacting legislation to restrict abortion after a baby’s heartbeat could be detected.  I watched and listened intently because to me abortion has always been a terrible act and nothing short of murder of the most innocent and unprotected of humanity.  Each member of the panel predictably gave their talking points and verbalized their political platitudes.  The validity of Roe vs. Wade and its precedent as the law of the land was a driving argument of one panelist.  Another spoke of the reproductive rights of women and to the sanctity of a woman’s body.  The pro-choice business community and the Hollywood stars presented the financial issue along with the boycott of the State of Alabama.  Politicians were quoted, particularly prospective candidates for office, as they were horrified that right wing extremists, not only in Alabama, but also across the country, were attempting to destroy the longstanding Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.  Right on cue, a panel member projected this move by Alabama would result in more abortions by unsafe, illegal means.

            One by one the typical jargon droned on.  I watched and listened hoping for a slight mention of the most important entity of the topic only to be disappointed as usual.  In the exhaustive discussion, not one person ever mentioned the BABY.  In fact, it seems that great care was taken not to, in any way, declare that what was being talked about was the murder of a BABY.  I futilely spoke to the T.V. screen, “What about the BABY?”  Is that a real heartbeat we are talking about that can be detected at six weeks or earlier?  Does the fact that the heart is beating give rise to the greater truth:  that life is flowing through that heart.  That mysterious ingredient, whose origin is God, stimulating that little fleshly organ is about to be destroyed if the abortionists have their way?

            From day one, no, from the moment the nuclei of the ovum and sperm unite and 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 chromosomes from the father, carrying some 15,000 genes, a new life begins.  Recognizing that from the moment of conception, this is not a potential human being but a human being with great potential drastically changes the discussion.  Think a moment about the BABY -- a unique individual who never existed before in the history of the world.  At day one, so tiny, smaller than a grain of sand, or a period typed at the end of a sentence; yet, possessing life until natural or violent death overtakes it.  After the first week, this tiny BABY has nested in its mother’s womb and begins to tap into tiny blood vessels and draw nourishment.  By the second week, the umbilical cord, the amniotic sac with the placenta has comprised a self-generated space capsule and life support system for the development of the BABY.  By the end of the first month, the BABY’S spinal column and nervous system are forming.  Simple kidneys, a liver, and the digestive tract are already taking shape.  Just four weeks old, the BABY is now ten thousand times larger than the fertilized egg.  After two short months, brains waves can be detected.  Ears, nose, lips, tongue and eyes are formed with the skeleton changing from cartilage to true bone by the end of the second month.  The BABY has developed and grown to an inch or more in length.  In the BABY’S third month of life, fingers and toes are formed and it becomes apparent whether the BABY is a boy or a girl.  At four months, the heart can be plainly heard and is pumping up to twenty-five quarts of blood a day.  Fine hair begins to grow and the baby is eight to ten inches long.  After the next two months (five and six), the BABY’S lungs are usually well developed and can be born, though premature, could survive with adequate care.  During the last three months (seven through nine), the BABY will triple in weight.  Approximately one week before the two hundredth and sixtieth day, the BABY will stop growing and drop, usually head downward into the pelvic cavity, and wait for the drama of birth.  When the BABY changes places of residence from its mother’s body, it also changes its external life support system and eating habits to continue a life begun nine months earlier.

            So why is no one talking about the BABY?  After all, there are only three people involved—the mother, the abortionist, and the BABY.  The rights of the mother and the abortionist dominate the conversation.  We spin on and on about reproductive rights—the right to have an abortion and the right of a doctor to kill the BABY but is anyone talking about the BABY’S rights?  More importantly, since the BABY is unable to protect him or herself, are we not responsible to assure the BABY of his or her right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

            As a pastor and Bible-believer for over a half century, I am positive that Scripture condemns abortion and that life begins at conception.  Medical science has been catching up to absolute Bible truth for years and concurs when evaluated honestly.  So doesn’t it make sense to begin a conversation about the BABY?

            My wife and I have three children and seven grandchildren.  Along with those, my wife had a miscarriage.  This little boy waits for us in Heaven.  Although he was just shy of four months old (from the moment of conception) we had picked out names and envisioned holding him.  Although we were not sure the baby was a boy I thought he would give us the two and two to round out our family.

            The issue becomes clearer whenever I open my Bible, hold a baby in my arms, walk by our church nursery, or go to a hospital to congratulate a family that has a new baby.  Whenever I see a woman holding a sign promoting abortion, I often think:  her mind would certainly change if she were holding a baby instead.  This is not a complicated issue if we stop talking about the non-essentials and just talk about the BABY.

May 17th, 2019

God’s Plan and Purpose for the Ages

God has a plan and purpose for the ages.  We forget that from God’s creation of man, He has been working that plan.  Each human being is a piece of that puzzle.

Time is an island in the sea of eternity.  It is an invention of God that began with man and will end with man. God is eternal.  He is always the same –yesterday, today, and forever.

Throughout the course of time, God has progressively revealed Himself to man.  A dispensation is a period of time in which God deals with man in a particular way with respect to sin, man’s responsibility, and His revealed purposes.  The dispensations form a skeleton that when fleshed out reveal God’s plan and purpose for the ages.  The word, “dispensation” means, “the administration of the affairs of a house” or “house law and rule.”  Each dispensation begins with a covenant and ends in a judgment.  There are seven basic dispensations and eight covenants some conditional and some unconditional.

The first dispensation takes us back to the Garden of Eden.  Man lived under the most favorable conditions.  Man had one test in obedience to the will of God.  He failed to obey and was cast from the Garden in judgment.  Untried virtue is not virtue at all; therefore the first dispensation was called innocence.  It is interesting that in man’s first sin we have also the first promise of the Redeemer in Genesis 3:15.  After the Creation and the expulsion from the Garden, man knew good and evil.  He became conscious to avoid evil and to do right.  Conscience will not bring a man back to God because it can be programmed, seared, and defiled.  All men today fall under the Adamic Covenant and continues to sin.

The third dispensation began with the Noahic Covenant; and is the dispensation of Human Government.  Genesis 6-11 records the worldwide flood and Noah’s three sons becoming the heads of nations where men would rule over other men to bring order and purpose to life.  Capitol punishment was introduced.  Regardless of the types of human government enacted over the centuries, none has had the effect of bringing man to God.

In Genesis chapters 10 and 11, God reached into the mass of humanity and selected one man from the Ur of the Chaldees, a descendent of Shem and began with this man a nation.  This nation would bring three things to the world:  the knowledge of monotheism in a polytheistic world, the Christ our Redeemer, and the written Word of God.  This dispensation we call Promise.  It began with the Abrahamic Covenant and promised a land, a people, and a blessing.  From that point forward in Scripture, the nation of Israel is historically woven throughout human history.  God moved the sons of Jacob and their families into Egypt when there were only 70 souls.  The next 430 years confined in Egypt, Israel increased to over 600,000 men not counting women and children and was liberated by the next covenant named the Mosiac Covenant.  In the Mosaic Covenant God gave the Law on Mt. Sinai to the nation.  It was prescribed in ten specific commandments, a host of judicial commandments, and the specifications for the Tabernacle and the sacrificial law.  This dispensation applied only to the Jew in practice but contained timeless principles for all mankind.  This dispensation of the law was born from a conditional covenant.

Today we live in a period we call Grace.  The Law was nailed to the Cross.  The Holy Spirit came to indwell believers and the Church as an organism was born.  This dispensation will end with the Rapture.  The covenant is called the New Covenant. The dreaded Tribulation will be the judgment for this age as well as the age of Conscience, Promise, and Human Government.  After the seven years of Tribulation and the judgment of the anti-Christ, the second phase of the Second Coming of Christ will see Christ come back to this earth to literally reign on a literal throne in the literal city of Jerusalem for 1,000 literal years.  This dispensation is called the Kingdom or Millennium.  The covenant of this age is the Davidic Covenant.

If I could have chosen a time in human history to live, it would be now.  Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled almost daily.  Israel is in their homeland.  The European Common Market has been formed.  Arabic nations are aligned against Israel (Ezekiel 37 and 38).  Our economy is swiftly moving toward a cashless society, paving the way for the antichrist and the Mark of the Beast.  The One World Order and the U.N., along with the ecumenical movement will be the platform for the antiChrist to come to power in the Tribulation following the Rapture of the Church.  Abortion and the homosexual movement are both indictors of society’s total depravity and coming judgment.

We are truly coming to the close of this Age of Grace.  I Thessalonians 4 records that the Age of Grace will end with Christ returning to earth to receive the Church to Himself.  The Bema Seat (judgment of Christians for degrees of reward in Heaven) will follow along with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Heaven.  The seven-year Tribulation will begin on earth and consummate with Christ returning with the Church at the close of the Tribulation.  His feet will alight on the Mount of Olives.  He will enter Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate and begin the millennial reign.  I personally believe my generation will be the generation to see this happen.

With each dispensation man has greater light and therefore greater accountability.  “To whom much is given, much shall be required” (Luke 12:48).  Time will cease one day and eternity will begin again.  Each person has eternal life.  Eternal destination is the question.  Each person from Adam to the end of the Kingdom Age has a role to play and is a piece of the puzzle of God’s plan and purpose of the ages.  For anyone to miss the perfect will of God for his or her lives would be a total waste with an eternal regret.  For this alone my greatest fear is not that I will not succeed, but that I will succeed in that that does not matter.

May 10th, 2019

The World’s Most Influential Position

Mother is indeed a sweet word and the station is indeed a holy one; for in her hands lives are placed to be molded almost at her will.  The memories of my mother are precious to me.  Although she had barely a sixth grade education, her wisdom rivaled any Supreme Court Justice.  She placed her stamp of goodness on my life and all that I am for time and eternity, I owe to her.  Others have echoed my testimony of appreciation for my mother through the ages.  

Mothers are special.  You cannot walk in a midnight haunt where she cannot see you.  You cannot enter a prison whose bars will keep her out.  You cannot mount a scaffold too high for her to reach.  When the world shall despise and forsake you, when it leaves you by the wayside, the dear old mother will gather you up in her feeble arms and carry you home.  

Motherhood is by far the most influential position in the world.  It has been well said, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  Susannah Wesley helped shape the spiritual history of two continents in rearing John and Charles Wesley.  The Apostle Paul gave credit to Timothy’s mother and grandmother in II Timothy 1:5.  Elisha was cared for in Shunem by a great woman of perception and hospitality.  A generous woman of beautiful countenance, named Abigail, aided David.  Eli met a burdened woman, named Hannah, who became the mother of Samuel.  A Gentile, named Ruth, from Moab received Naomi’s God and became a link in the genealogy of the Messiah.  Esther, a Jewish maid, became a queen and saved her people.  Sarah called Abraham “lord’ and gave birth to the patriarch, Isaac, in her old age.  While Jesus taught, Martha served and Mary sat at His feet choosing the best part.  Jochabed hid her son in a wicker basket in Egypt’s bulrushes and raised Israel’s deliverer.  Solomon gave a complete chapter to a great woman in Proverbs 31, no doubt thinking of his own mother.  The first Gentile convert of Philippi was Lydia, the seller of purple.  Elisabeth craved a son and God gave her John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ.  Christ spoke seven times from the cross; once assigning care for His mother to the Apostle John.

Simon Peter listed the attributes of a great woman in I Peter 3:3-4, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting of the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”  The Apostle Paul also visits this topic in I Timothy 2:9-15.  Both authors stress that women are to be adorned with modesty as the standard.  The word, ‘shamefacedness’ is to be ‘red-faced.’  In our culture, we would speak of the blush in the cheek indicating bashfulness.  A sign of the coarseness of society is that women lose their blush.  Being sober or serious about a woman’s role as wife and mother brings real reward and fulfillment.  Contentment and patience in accepting God’s assigned authority and leadership produces godliness.  God rewards women by their awesome contribution in joining with God in the producing and training of the next generation.  Elsie Duncan’s poem in Sunshine Magazine entitled, “Her Occupation” lauded the daily life of a mother:

One day the census taker called and wrote down in a book,

And so, as I was hanging ‘round, I thought I’d take a look.

He had our names and ages all, and put down dad’s vocation;

And after Mother’s name he wrote she had “no occupation.”

Why Mother’s up before it’s light, and through the work she races;

She starts the breakfast, straightens things, and washes all the faces.

She packs our lunches, finds our books—of course, it keeps her busy.

She washes, irons, sweeps and dusts—you’d think she would be dizzy!

She bakes a cake and maybe pies; she finds some time for sewing!

There’s mending, making over, too, because we all are growing.

Then dinner comes, and dishes next, first one thing then another;

And when our homework bothers us, we say, “Please help us, Mother.”

So she keeps going all the time, and though she’s often weary;

She never gets real out of sorts—she’s always gay and cheery.

She keeps so busy every day and sure needs some vacation;

And yet, the census man wrote down, she had “no occupation.”

D.L. Moody said, “My mother prayed me through.”  Charles Spurgeon said, “I cannot tell how much I owe to the prayers of my good mother.”  Evangelist Billy Sunday said, “If you wish to hurt the Devil, don’t hit him with a crutch.  Hit him with the cradle.”  Daniel Webster remarked, “If there be ought of eloquence on my lips, it is because of Scripture learned at my mother’s knee.”  President Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”  Andrew Jackson stated, “The memory of my mother and her teachings were the only capital I had to start life with, and on that capital I have made my way.”

I remember some things at the cemetery where my Mother was buried though it’s been a number of years ago.  I remember the grave and the fake grass that covered the dirt clods in that little country cemetery.  I remember it was cold and there was a light snow falling.  I stood beside my sister.  I remember seeing the marker beside Momma’s grave where Daddy was placed two years before.  We said, “goodbye” to Mother.  Ah, but I’ll see my Mother again.  I said, “I’ll see you again!  In just a little while, I’ll see you again and thank you for being a godly, loving mother to me!”  She was valuable as all mothers are.

The world has need of gentle hearts

Love that’s warm and true.

Kindness, comfort, helping hands

Mothers just like you.

You’ve made the world a better place

With your thoughtfulness and love.

So may your day be blessed

With all that you’re deserving of.

Happy Mother’s Day!