No Rush!

This past Labor Day weekend was an extremely special family vacation with my wife, our two daughters and their husbands, and our two grandsons! So much could be said about our four days together; so many grace blessings!!! So many memories made!!

One sweet joy was the “bookends” of our family get together. And “What was that?” you ask. Well, it was the trip to and from our family vacation destination. Denise and I have been referring to our marriage for a long while now as “Taking the Scenic Route.” And, that’s what we did all along the way, both in and out of the car.

Our journey to Sevierville, TN, included the country backroads near us all the way to Bulls Gap, TN. There we stopped at one of our favorite places, Yoder’s Country Market. They flat know how to build a sandwich; it’s a two-hander, for sure!! Denise and I always share one, and it’s plenty! This time it was Cajun turkey, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, banana peppers, pickles, and I don’t remember what else, piled high on sour dough bread! We added some pretzels and a drink and then found a place at the table under the gazebo. The view is total country, rolling hills and mountains in the distance.

Not the sandwich described above, but you get the point. This is a Yoder’s sandwich.

Doing my best to stay off the interstate, we traveled I-81 for twelves miles and then gladly exited off through White Pine, to Dandridge, across Cherokee Lake, to Chestnut Hill to Sevierville, all on back roads taking the scenic route. No rush. Just enjoying each other’s company and the views!

Monday afternoon when we departed, we never hit the interstate at all. Our journey from Sevierville took us to Newport, with a jaunt down a side road at the foot of the Smokey Mountains through some beautiful, lush cow pastures and farmland and by an old mill, as well as a beautiful old white church on the hill. From Newport, we travelled to Greeneville, TN, accompanied with more mountain views, the Nolichucky River and a stop for CFA. We sat in the car with the windows down enjoying the food and the quiet. The final leg of the trip took us over Greene and Washington County backroad farmlands to home. No rush. Just enjoying each other’s company and the views!

Why do I share this? Because in the day in which we live, too many marriages are always in a rush! Time is not taken to just enjoy the journey; it’s all about getting to the destination!

Get off the interstate in your marriage. Slow down; soak up the moment. Don’t take your spouse for granted. And if you have children still at home, remember, you are constantly teaching them about marriage by your example. They will also feel secure at home when they know mom and dad really love one another!

God has blessed us with the ability to see, to speak His praises, and to savor all His creation!! How about taking the scenic route. No rush. Just enjoying each other’s company and the views . . . and for me, especially that beautiful view to my right!!

Hints: 1) Plan to take one route to your destination and a different one on the way back home. 2) The date/vacation/drive to the store, etc. begins when you pull out of the driveway and ends when you drive back into your garage.

Warped Living (2)

What in the world is that? Well, Isaiah 47:10 gives us a good picture:

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’

As we saw in last week’s post, warped living is characterized five ways in this passage:

  1. Trusting in your own wickedness.
  2. Thinking that no one sees your sin.
  3. Listening to yourself and to others who agree with you, then applying what you have come to believe and what your peers are saying.
  4. Following your heart.
  5. Controlling your life as if God didn’t exist.

So, what are the manifestations of a warped life? (Connect with the five characteristics above.)

  1. Living in the destructive unbelief of worry, anxiety, fear, dread and making excuses. Tim Keller said, “Worry is a frustrated aspiration to omniscience. Worry is saying “I know and I’m concerned God won’t get it right.” Hebrews 11:6, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
  2. Disregarding the holy, omnipresent, omniscient eye of God who sees your cheating, your speeding, your porn, your over-eating, your laziness, your refusal to own your sin and then repent of it because you like it too much! Proverbs 15:3, The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (By the way, your children are watching, too!)
  3. Placing the human wisdom of man that imprisons us above the truth of God’s Word that sets us free. Example—When someone shares a troubling Facebook post about a death or illness, note all the humanistic statements.
  4. To follow your heart is make how you feel about something, what you really want, what will make you happy, to be the litmus test for your life’s decisions. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Proverbs 3:5-7 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Psalm 37:4 is crucial in this regard, Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  5. This is living with your mate before marriage; sex outside of marriage; making choices that do not match with the Word of God; no time for prayer; etc.

Living a warped life is to be deluded and led astray from God and His Word. Whatever choices you are making that are currently leading you away from God, please reject them, repent of them, and replace them with that which does not take the place of God. Please meditate on the following:

Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is favor
.

10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.

11 The house of the wicked will be overthrown,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.

1There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:9-12)

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore
. (Psalm 16:11)

(Picture – The Crooked House, Sopot, Poland, eurolink.co)

Warped Living

Sitting in my study chair reading Isaiah 47, the following arrested my attention.

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, is describing the fall of the Babylonian empire due to her (47:1-3) pride and wickedness. In doing so, He uses this descriptive phrase: Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you.

To be warped is to be led astray; to be deluded; to be perverted. How does this happen in an individual’s life, especially a believer’s life?

You are warped when . . .

1. You trust in your wickedness. In other words, you live in the land of your own human viewpoint rather than absolute truth, divine viewpoint. A slow, meditative walk through Proverbs 10 will describe the difference between wicked (human, selfish) and righteous (divine, godly) living.

2. You say, No one sees me. How easy it is to think that you sin alone; no one sees you. Then as you continue to accept your sin, to justify your choices, and brush over the wickedness, even calling it acceptable names, you have already gone far down the road of believing that anyone sees. I assure you, God does, your friends do, and if you are a parent, your children do. Warning: more is caught than taught.

3. You listen to yourself and to others who agree with you, then you apply what you have come to believe and what your peers are saying . . . Your wisdom and knowledge have warped you. There was a day in your life when you knew what God said was right or wrong, but over time, you have come to accept and gloss over sin.

4. You follow your heart . . . and you have said in your heart. The warning of Jeremiah 17:5-10 should get everyone’s attention, especially verse 9.

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

5. You control your life as if God did not exist . . .I am, and there is no one else beside me. Peruse through Isaiah 45, and you will see that only God alone has the right to say, I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me (45:5). When we live by our own expectations, our own desires, our own thoughts, for our own happiness, and leave God out of the picture, we are living a warped life.

What are the manifestations of warped living? That will be the topic of our next post. In the meantime, read Isaiah 45-47, and the words above. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where you are living a warped life. He will guide you and show you the Truth. As He does, confess your sin, repent and follow God and His Word.

I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right (45:19) . . . not warped.

(Photo by Nicholas Kennedy Sitton)

Blessed Quietness

Noise is everywhere! Music blaring over the speaker system in the clothing stores, loud diesel pickup trucks billowing their smoke as they scream by your house, parents hollering threats at their children as they make their way through Wal-Mart, phone notifications and text messages keeping us on edge, etc.

Sadly, too many of us do not know how to be still or even how to deal with “awkward” quiet. For far too many, our lives are characterized by rush, running, and racket.

While being on sabbatical this month, one of the blessings that has come our way has been times of quiet and stillness. They have come to us seated by the lake at Watauga Point for the afternoon, enjoying the gardens outside Boone Tavern Inn after breakfast, outdoor supper by a quiet brook at Pottery Barn Cafe & Grille, on our back porch, in our family room, and on the deck and the upstairs window seat of a friend’s lake cottage to name a few.

Blessed Quietness, a hymn from yesteryear, speaks to that which alludes so many. How can you know and experience that blessed quietness?

The fourth stanza says, “What a wonderful salvation, where we always see God’s face! What a perfect habitation, what a quiet resting place!” First of all, you must have the chaos in your sinful heart and soul quieted by the resting work of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ alone. On the cross when Jesus was crucified, He declared, It is finished, and He bowed His and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The work of salvation was complete (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9). The greatest rest for man comes with the complete assurance of full salvation through the complete work of Jesus Christ. Take time to read the following: John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28; 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13.

Second, meditate and operate in life through the familiar words of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (1-4).

In Hebrew, the words for ‘still waters’ in Psalm 23:2b are “Mai Menochot”, meaning literally, “restful waters”. Our Shepherd wants to lead us to a place of rest, a place of trust, a place of confidence, a place where you rely on Him and focus on Him without anything that will distract you. He wants to take the “heavy load” from your life and replace it with His everlasting peace and rest. (Moran, Hope4Israel.org)

Begin each day with quiet in the presence of your Shepherd. Bathe your soul in the Word of God and prayer. Rest in Him as you read. When you pray, talk out loud to God, but then stop and listen to Him speak quietly to you. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 42:1; Philippians 4:6-8).

Men, you take the lead. Discipline yourself to have times of uninterrupted quiet with the Lord. Designate a place at home, in the woods, on a walk, or by a creek where you can read the Word and commune with the Lord. Here’s a helpful resource.

Husbands, make sure your wife has times of solitude. She is your first ministry.

Dads, teach your children how to be still before the Lord even when they are young.

We will always have noise around us, but don’t let it rob you of the stillness of salvation and your relationship with The Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Exchange the rush, running and racket for blessed quietness.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
what assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me,
how the billows cease to roll
!

The White Blazes

We made it!!

If you have ever wondered what it is like to hike the Appalachian Trail, it is apply defined by the words extreme adventure!

As you trod over the well-worn path, one step after another leads to decisions, caution, carefulness, speed, slowness, rest, joy, possibilities, views, varying weight, anticipation, etc.

As I recently hiked a section in Virginia with a friend, the AT reminded me of participating with Christ in living His life, the Christian life! Indeed, when Jesus invites us to follow him (Matthew 16:24), a good synonym would be extreme adventure!

As you hike the AT, there are many items needed such as hiking shoes, back pack, trekking poles, tent, food, much planning, and major will power to make this trek successful. But above all, there is something you must have to make it from Springer Mt. in Georgia to Mt. Katadhin in Maine. What is it? The infamous white blazes. There are approximately 165,000 of these rectangular 2 x 6 inch white markings that are found on trees, posts, and rocks. The distance between each blaze varies but they are the “law” on the trail; they are the surety markers if you are to stay on trail.

In this extreme adventure of following Christ, we have an eternal white blaze that guides us every step in this journey of life, the Word of God (Psalms 23:1-3; 32:8-9; 119:105; John 14:6; Colossians 2:6). Just as I cannot stay on trail without the white blazes, neither can I participate in Christ’s life without His Word (Galatians 2:20).

This life will offer many different side paths to take (e.g. blue blazes) that may or may not be beneficial. There will be rocks, creeks, roots, decisions, caution, carefulness, speed, slowness, rest, joy, possibilities, views, varying weight, anticipation, etc. along the trail of life, but you must daily follow the white blaze of God’s Word. These white markers are surety on the AT; the Word of God is the same in this trek of life.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Establish my footsteps in Your word… (Psalm 119:133).

More COVID Counsel

How Elevators Work | HowStuffWorks

Often, after supper, my wife and I read from Chuck Swindoll’s devotional, The Finishing Touch. He has been a long distance mentor of mine since the late 70s through his writings, preaching, grace living and laughter! He, among others, has helped to keep me balanced in life.

Having dealt this weekend with more of the ups and downs of the state-by-state, county-by-county, store-by-store, people-by-people response to COVID, Denise and I found this devotional last night to be encouraging and edifying. Grab a cup of coffee and read “Stop the Elevator.”

Elevators are weird places. You’re crammed in with folks you’ve never met, so you try really hard not to touch them. And nobody talks, except for an occasional “Out, please.” You don’t look at anyone; in fact, you don’t look anywhere but up, watching those dumb floor numbers go on and off.

In a strange sort of way, an elevator is a microcosm of our world today: a crowded, impersonal place where anonymity, isolation, and independence are the norm.

A recently published report by sociologist Ralph Larkin on the crises facing suburban youth underscores several aspects of this new malaise of the spirit. Many children of affluence are depicted as passively accepting a way of life they view as empty and meaningless, resulting in a syndrome that includes “a low threshold of boredom, a constricted expression of emotions, and an apparent absence of joy in anything that is not immediately consumable.”

Exit: involvement and motivation.

Enter: indifference; noncommitment; disengagement; no sharing or caring; meals eaten with headsets turned up loud; separate bedrooms, each with a personal telephone, TV, and private bath; and an it’s-none-of-your-business attitude.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, author of one of the most widely used psychology textbooks, addressed this issue in a Psychology Today article entitled “The Age of Indifference.”

I know of no more potent killer than isolation. . . . It has been shown to be a central agent in the etiology of depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, rape, suicide, mass murder. . . . The Devil’s strategy for our times is to trivialize human existence in a number of ways: by isolating from one another while creating the delusion that the reasons are time pressures, work demands, or anxieties created by economic uncertainty.

Philip G. Zimbardo, “The Age of Indifference”, Psychology Today, August 1980, 71-76.

We must come to terms with all this. The need is urgent! Our Savior modeled the answer perfectly. He cared. He listened. He served. He reached out. He supported. He affirmed and encouraged. He touched as well as stayed in touch. He walked with people . . . never took the elevator.

The only escape from indifference is to think of people as our most cherished resource. We need to work hard at reestablishing family fun, meaningful mealtimes, people involvement, evenings without the television blaring, times when we genuinely get involved with folks in need—not just pray for them.

Stop the elevator. I want to get off.

“Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact—it is silence which isolates” (Thomas Mann).

To escape indifference, think of people as our most cherished resource.

— Charles R. Swindoll (Excerpted from The Finishing Touch, Copyright © 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Word Publishing)

Discipleship & Running (2)

Wow! The smell was rank! It may have been just me or both of us, but the aroma in the car was almost roadkill worthy. But, what do you expect with all that sweat!

You say, “what does that have to do with discipleship?” Well, you may or may not have heard it said, but “discipleship is messy.”

Think of all Jesus dealt with in reference to his disciples. Here He is leading this band of twelve knowing one would betray Him, one would deny Him and they would forsake Him at the cross.

At various times Jesus had to deal with their insecurities, their misunderstandings, their pride, their selfishness, their unbelief, their hasty decisions, their inopportune sleepiness, their parents, their confusion, their rejection of children, their hindering statements, their temptations, their prejudice, their low commitment, their fears, their bad spirit, their doubts, etc. Leading these men was messy.

We and those we disciple are messy, too. As you do life with others, as you get to know one another, weaknesses, sins, and frailties are exposed. We can easily relate to the list in the previous paragraph. Many times, the stories of those we disciple are complicated by sin and its consequences. It’s a mess! And, we too, have paragraphs and chapters in our life that we wish had never been written.

If we stopped right here, it would end like a cheap television talk show. All the gory details, the mess, the sin, the raw display of our humanness, but no solution, no spiritual transformation.

Discipleship is simply helping someone take the next step toward Christ for God’s glory. As you do life together, pray together, read the Word together, serve together, work in the yard together, play ball together, share together, laugh together, eat together, talk together, etc., you will work up some holy sweat as you together exercise unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).

The smell of a messy life can be transformed by the grace of God (Romans 5:19-21) into a sweet-smelling aroma for Christ and unto God (2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:12).

As someone has said, “Let your mess be transformed into a message;” a message of the Christlife being formed in you and lived out of you (Romans 6-8; Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18). That’s a pleasing aroma!

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Discipleship & Running

One of the joys of my life is running on the nearby Tweetsie Trail in Johnson City / Elizabethton, TN. The views of the mountains, the trees lining the trail, the fresh air, the quiet, the deer and squirrels, and the bridges are all way cool!

Another joy is running with my son-in-law. He’s a great encourager as he runs alongside me asking every now and then, “You doing ok?” I’m sure he would run a fastest pace than me since he’s 35 years younger, but he stays right there with me until the last mile. That’s when he moves on ahead to our normal finish line of 4.3 miles.

He and I have run many times on the Tweetsie as well as in other timed races. His question “You doing ok”? is standard fare and reminds me of discipleship in another believer’s life.

You see, we are not okay if we think we can go solo in this walk with Christ. Besides the residency of the Trinity within us (John 14:15-24), we must have one another outside of us asking, “You doing okay?”

When you consider all the “one another” passages in Scripture as well as Matthew 28:18-20 and Titus 2:1-8, it is very evident we need our family in Christ to go beyond the shallow, surface relationships of what has sadly become normal Christianity. We need to seek it out and also offer ourselves in genuine love and transparency to encourage and edify one another in our participation with Christ in this life.

There have been times when Andrew asks, “Are you doing ok?” that I have had to declare, “I’m struggling today!” Or, “You go ahead, I’ve got to slow down. I’ll catch up with you.” Or, “Doing great!” There have also been times that I have done the same for him. We are definitely transparent with each other.

You see, running together makes this question mean something. We are both running for the finish life; we are on the same trail; we are pushing each other; we care for one another; we are involved in each other’s lives; we are sweating together; we know this is good for us! Discipleship is the life of Christ! This is what we are, disciple-makers. This is the core of life!

Who are you running with in discipleship? Who are you honestly asking “You doing okay?”?

(More on this in future posts.)

21 Days of Prayer (Day #21)

You made it! How marvelous it has been to intentionally set aside a time to remove all distractions and behold the wonder of our God. Thank you!!! I’m sure you could say as Solomon, Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, Who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. (Psalm 72:18-19). Indeed, this will fully occur when Christ comes to reign, but how wonderful through prayer to see God’s will done on earth as it in heaven (Matt. 6:10) right now!

As we wrap up this 21 day journey, may I encourage you . . .

  • Do not let up! Keep on delighting in God through intimate conversations in the Secret Place (Psalm 91:1-4). Stay out of the rut of dull routine. Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:3-4)
  • Continue to pray with your spouse, your children, your brothers and sisters in Christ, your neighbors, etc. Meal time praying does not count. Your best conversations will always be with others at the Throne of God. (Hebrews 4:14-16; James 5:16, Pray one for another.)
  • Seek the Lord each day whereby you reach such a level of intimacy with God that the only thing that can account for your prayer life is that it has become one with the prayer life of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 6:8; John 17; Romans 8:26)
  • Join with your church family in making prayer the primary ministry at BCBC. How I long for the auditorium to be filled at 8:30 on Sunday mornings with “the 10:30 crowd” of faith-believing, Word-filled, expectant believers crying out in prayer for the God-sized tasks!! (Jeremiah 33:3) Until we do, we will see God do a few things but not what He really wants to accomplish through His people for His glory. (Matthew 13:58)
  • That prayer would be “hot” in our discipleship small groups that meet on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Answers to prayer would be seen over and over and over and over as we recognize the character of the Giver of all good things!!
  • To abide in Christ in your life of prayer (John 15:7) as we pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).
  • To earnestly pray that BCBC will fulfill the Great Commission in every area of ministry; that discipleship will be the main motivation of ministry. This is our mandate in this Church Age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
  • Join with Christ in you Who rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
  • To pray much for this Resurrection Sunday gathering as we acknowledge the One Who gives us resurrection hope in prayer, the reason to pray (Ephesians 1:15-23; Hebrews 7:25). Pray for lost souls to be born of God (1 John 5:1, 11-12)!!!

Again, praise the Lord Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19); for all He has revealed to us about Himself, our Savior and ourselves during these blessed days of prayer!! Be in awe of Him and believe in Him to do the impossible!

Thank you!

Pastor C

21 Days of Prayer (Day #19)

Our teen ministry at BCBC is based around this mission, “To produce adults who in their independence live their lives for God (Col. 3:1-4).” This mission makes the decisions for what we do and what we study. Colossians 3:1-4 says, If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

We want the teens as they gain independence into adulthood to be convinced that living for God is better than living for anything else. We try to accomplish this through Five Core Values:

  1. Treasuring God (Matt. 6:21)
  2. Build Strong Faith (1 Peter 3:15)
  3. Oneness in the Body (Eph. 4:12)
  4. Discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20)
  5. Christ-Compelled Service (Mark 10:45)

What should we pray for the teen ministry at BCBC? Pray that our teens would be poured into in such a way that they would be convinced that living for God is superior to living for this world. Pray that each core value would be something that is established in each teen.

I often tell the teens what I hope to see in their life one day. I tell them that I want to come to their weddings someday and see them marrying a godly person. I hope to meet their children who are being taught that living for God is better than this world. I hope to find out that they are being discipled and discipling someone in their church. I hope they are an intricate part of a body of believers. Please, join me in prayer for our teens!

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4)

Pastor Andrew Isbell