Come On In!

Hospitality Quote

“How in the world could I carry on a conversation with folks from India?  I don’t even like to talk.”

This was the transparent admission of a lady who had recently hosted a family in her home from a totally different land, speech, and culture.  As she shared her story, she quickly admitted that the evening was one of rich blessings!  During their meal together and discussion around the table, she and her husband learned of God’s work in a far off land; His answers to prayer; His working in the hearts of lost souls; His provision of peace, power, and protection; His encouragements to these precious servants of the Lord even in the most difficult of times.  She was more than glad she had stepped out of her comfort zone. Her invitation to “Come!” set the stage for some “unexpectedly happy results.”

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2).

In the Hebrews passage, the writer is not advocating hospitality on the off chance that one might happen to receive an angel as a guest but rather because God is pleased when believers are hospitable.  Sometimes unexpectedly happy results follow acts of hospitality.  It was highly esteemed in the ancient world and was certainly very important for Christians. Accommodations at inns was expensive, and in any case inns had a bad reputation.  But as Christian preachers traveled around, believers gave them lodging and so facilitated their mission.  Without hospitality in Christian homes, the spread of the faith would have been much more difficult. (The Expositors Bible Commentary, p.146)

You see, when you invite folks into your home, it’s not you or your house they need to see; it’s Jesus.  His invitation to you and everyone is always, “Come” (Matthew 11:28-30; 14:29; 19:14; Luke 6:47).  Therefore, in following Christ, you, too, say to others, “Come.” That invitation opens up another opportunity to share Christ and to live out the gospel.  Remember, Christ is the initiator in the invitation to come; therefore, you follow His lead and be the initiator in inviting others.

Have you recently taken the opportunity to host someone in your home? Have you prayed about it? Are you willing to trust in the grace of God to help you experience the joy of hospitality?  How about the next guest speaker or missionary who’s coming to your church?  (You want to really encourage the heart of your pastor?  Look at the church calendar to see when the next preacher or missionary will be at your local church.  Weeks in advance, tell your pastor you are more than glad to host them for a meal and/or provide their lodging!) What about the family that’s been visiting your church for the past couple of Sundays?  Thought about having your neighbor over for a cup of coffee?

Don’t be looking for an angel, but do remember “God is pleased when believers are hospitable.”

Come on in!

 

Let Them Come to Me

kids salvation

This week my wife has written some extremely insightful, practical and helpful posts about the issue of children coming to Christ for salvation at an early age.  These writings would be extremely helpful for parents and anyone who works in children’s ministries.

Having received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of five, this is a subject very dear to my heart.

As a pastor, I have had the joy of seeing many children born again over the years.  How precious is a tender heart coming to Christ in simple faith, taking God at His Word.

Here are the links:

How to Tell If a Child Is Ready to Be Saved

What’s Wrong with Waiting Until a Child Is Older to be Saved

What if Your Child Doubts Their Salvation

Preparing a Child’s Heart to Know Christ

Let’s Carterize!

wp-1463974026394.jpg How would you respond if you heard this statement about your church  “I would never be accepted at __________Church because I could not break through the clique.” 

For years as a pastor, one thing I have pushed for so much is that our church be really friendly.  Without sounding arrogant or haughty, I believe we are an extremely friendly church. When you walk through the front door, you will be warmly greeted and then by many others.

So, why would such a statement be made?

I’ll answer it this way:  We must do a better job of “Carterizing” others!

Rod and Hope Carter have been married for 70 years and charter members of BCBC for 60 years.  Their health has failed them greatly, so they are not able to do as they once did.

For years, I have watched Rod “campout” in the church foyer just looking for visitors, especially young singles and/or young couples as well as others.  As soon as they entered the building, he was getting acquainted with them.  His greeting was only the beginning of what I am calling here, “Carterizing.”  He would invite them to his house for dinner or out to a restaurant after the morning service and would do the same in the evening.  He made sure some other BCBC folks were invited to join the group.  He wanted folks to go to the next level of relationship and communication.  He wanted those guests to know he cared; that they needed to become a part of the BCBC family of believers.  The bottom line is, he went beyond just a greeting. He was willing to get involved in their lives.  I can call the roll of those who would testify right here!

How do you Carterize?

  1. You come to church expecting to meet visitors, sit with them during the service, and have your meal planned and prepared so you can invite them to your home. If it is not a visitor, it is someone who has been attending for a period of time, yet you haven’t gotten to know them.
  2. When you plan your weekly calendar, you build in an evening to have guests in your home or meet them out for a meal or ice cream or time at the park.
  3. When you get together, you ask questions, you listen, and you share time in the Word and prayer.
  4. Be listening with all your heart as you look for ways to minister and really care.
  5. Invite visitors or repeat guests to your men or ladies’ ministries, small group Adult Bible Fellowship, camp retreats, etc. You have to be intentional.
  6. When at church, do not gravitate to the folks who make you comfortable. You reserve your personal conversations for a later time.  You are there to minister to others like Jesus did.
  7. Make your guests believe they are the most important people on the planet.

You see, getting involved in people’s lives takes planning, preparation, prayer and perspiration.  Instead of coming to church and just being friendly, you must “Carterize!”

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:41-47)

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

Men, Your Sons Are Watching You

father son church service

Men, may I ask you some questions?  These are not accusatory questions.  They are truly questions from my heart after 35 years as a senior pastor.

  1. What are your sons learning from you about a vibrant, personal, daily, dependent walk with Christ? (Job 23:12; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 11:1)
  2. Have you taught your sons to pray? (Matthew 6:6-8; Luke 18:1)
  3. Do your sons know how to study and apply the Word of God to their daily life? (Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:15)
  4. Are you memorizing Scripture with them? (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:11)
  5. Do your sons bring their Bibles to church, use their Bibles during the message, and take notes from the message because you do? Do you discuss the sermon with them afterwards? (Ephesians 6:4; Psalms 19:7-14; 119:97)
  6. Do you and your sons sing with all your heart in church? Are you engaged mentally, physically and emotionally in the presence of God?  (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
  7. What have your sons learned from you about serving in the local church? (Colossians 3:23-24; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
  8. Are your sons solid in their personal salvation testimony? Are they able to give a Bible reason for the assurance of their salvation? (1 Peter 3:15)
  9. Have you taught them how to share the Gospel with the unsaved? (Matthew 28:18-20)
  10. Do your sons have a critical spirit toward Christ, His Church, and other believers or are they deeply in love with Christ, His Church and other believers because of you? (Ephesians 4)
  11. Are you sons learning that you love Christ with all your heart, that you are seeking Him first, and that in all things He is the preeminent One? (Matthew 22:37-40; 6:33; Colossians 1:15-18)

Men, your sons are watching you, imitating you, and learning from you . . . and you don’t have to say a thing.  The old saying goes, “what you do in moderation, your children will take to excess.”

Men, it is important that our sons learn how to work, drive a car, be a gentleman, and make a living, but it most important they learn about the One Who is Life and how to really live by divine viewpoint.  When they stand before the Lord at the Bema, they will be so glad that Dad walked the talk and taught them eternal values.

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
  (Proverbs 2:1-9)

I Met Jordan

Jordan

Living in the mountains of East Tennessee gives many reasons for rejoicing and thanksgiving! The scenery changes every day and every season through the myriad acts of God’s creative, sustaining, sovereign hands.  How often I find myself singing “How Great Thou Art,” and “How Great Is Our God!”

Yesterday while driving back from Asheville, NC, I had in my mind to stop along the creek near Rocky Fork State Park near Flag Pond, TN.  Major rains had descended upon us through the night so I knew the waterfalls would be awesome, and it would provide a peaceful place to sit and commune with my God in prayer.

The Lord had other plans for which I am oh so grateful.  When I turned onto the Old Asheville Highway, there was a bearded man with a full pack and hiking poles which immediately signified an AT thru-hiker.  Since I love to hike, especially on the Appalachian Trail, this was a great opportunity in many ways!  Upon offering him a ride, he threw his gear in the back of my car, and we headed for Erwin and Uncle Johnny’s.  What a special treat to listen to his recent weather-related stories as well as the back-story of his life.

The very best part was the joy of talking about eternal life, listening to his answers, caring for his needs and ministering to him Christ Who has finished the work of salvation for all sinners including Jordan and myself.  What a special privilege!!

Please pray for my new friend, Jordan, as he hikes the trail.

Meeting Jordan was the highlight of my day!!

 

Here are two links to his story and the reason for his AT journey:

Jordan’s Story

Jordan’s AT Thru-Hike

 

Here is a video link for you to learn how you can have a personal relationship with God and know for certain your sins are forgiven and that you have a home in Heaven forever.

The Gospel Message

Making Investments

barbara-chandler-1483368330

There she lay.  Her earthly labors were over.  Her bodily tent had been comfortably tucked inside a beautiful, stained wooden casket adorned with a regal spray of flowers.  Her days here were over, but her life in Heaven had only just begun for all eternity on Saturday (John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 5:7-8).

As her pastor approached the podium, he read from Proverbs 31 and then described her life by two words, one of which was, investments.

An investment is “an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.”  This dear lady, 83 years old, had spent most of her making investments . . . into people.

She invested . . .

  • The gospel into lost souls of every walk of life not matter who they were, the color of their skin, or their lot in life.
  • Time and energy in prayer crying out to the Lord.
  • Time and effort in prayer crying out to the Lord for the salvation of her husband. God heard and answered her prayer!
  • The Word of God into her children, her grandchildren, and her Sunday School class by her teaching and her example.
  • In “throw aways,” people that others did not want to “touch.”
  • In her pastor by encouraging him and praying for him.

I am quickly reminded of what Jesus said as recorded in Mark 10:42-45, But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Jesus came, died on the cross, and rose from the tomb to make an eternal, soul-saving investment in any one who would receive Him (John 1:12).  Barbara Chandler, a devout follower of Christ, made investments in others for the cause of Christ to lead others to Christ because Christ lived in her (Colossians 1:27).

I never knew her in this life. No matter, even in death, she made an investment in me.

What are your plans in 2017 to make investments in people, to make a difference other’s lives, to make those eternal investments?  I believe it’s called laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)!

A Parent’s Best Gift

a3a75efae65f142cc47486c4ae3ed866

Let’s go back to the Sears Christmas Wish Book I mentioned yesterday.  So many memories..

Here’s a few of them:

24fae8ffbc955c78f4b4f56d757e745e
Wow! A banana seat bicycle!  Pop a wheelie!
1975-sears-frosty-sno-man
Can you taste it?
6a00d83451ccbc69e2010536daf00b970b
This was serious right here!!

How many times I would pour over the pages of the catalog, mark what I wanted, then proceed to my mom and dad and say, “You know what I want for Christmas?”  And how many times did I hear them say, “We can’t afford that.”

What could they afford?  The same thing that every parent can afford—time.

When I survey Scripture, I see God’s instructions to parents taking time not money.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

  • To train, discipline (which is teaching, instructing, and correcting) and nurturing takes time.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

  • Often children get into trouble because they are just crying out for someone to pay them some attention. They want to know where you will draw the line.  It takes time to teach what is right, what is wrong, what to do to stay right, and what will happen if we choose to go our own way.

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

  • Please note again the meaning of discipline and the need to take time to be diligent to fulfill the complete picture of discipline/discipleship. If a child does need a spanking, it should not be a quick strike out of anger, but a time of loving correction and training.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9        And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

  • Once again, you cannot teach, train and disciple on the run. It is your lifestyle.  It takes time.

Parents, your greatest investment on this earth will be your children.  They don’t need you to buy them things to make up for where you have failed.  They need your love, attention, character-training, and fun times.  They need you to teach them the Word of God.  They need to hear how you came to salvation.  They need you to pray with them.  They need you to make spiritual applications of life with them throughout the day.  They need you to teach them how to work, how to eat, how to be hospitable, how to serve others, how to talk, how to be a blessing to others, how to make their beds, how to get up and make the day count, how to cook, how to do life in general by the grace of God.

They need you.  They need you every day.

Parents, this Christmas, rather than spending so much money, spend a lot of your time.  Give your children something that will eclipse that banana-seat bicycle.  Give them the best gift—your time; give them you.

Target, Starbucks and Happy Holidays

 

starbucks-red-cups-hed-2016

Wow!  Now that’s a troubling, profane trio!

Really?

I like shopping at Target. They have spacious aisles, a quiet atmosphere, good product selection, and usually decent prices.

I love Starbucks.  The coffee is outstanding, the conversation around the tables is engaging, the staff is usually friendly, and it’s a genuine coffee shop.

I love the holidays.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are tops in my book right under Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  And they are holidays filled with happiness and joy.

Now, I realize that my troubling, profane trio is a concern to thousands.  Then I read about Jesus in the following passages:

Matt. 9:10           And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house (Matthew’s), behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.

Luke 14:1             One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.

Jesus mixed and mingled among sinners, and as you read on in Luke 14, you see it was for the purpose of calling men and women to be His disciples.  His last command before ascending into Heaven was, Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).  Indeed, Jesus renounced sin, but He called sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32).

I am greatly disturbed by some of the decisions of Target, Starbucks, and the general pushing of Christ out of Christmas.  I must say something and stand against unrighteousness. Nevertheless, there is a divine call that supersedes all of this—Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).  I have that same divine command upon me as do all disciples of Jesus Christ.  We have what the people in Target, Starbucks, and the whole world need (John 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 4:7).

Bottom line.  The greatest way to curtail sin, unrighteousness, and unholy living is the gospel.  As I say to our congregation so often, you do not go to the grocery story just to buy a gallon of milk.  You go with a heart for people, looking for the Lord to connect you with some precious soul that needs Him.

It is so wrong to condemn the world for living what they are, and then not sharing what they can be in Christ.

So, if your conscience does not condemn you, go ahead on over to Starbucks.  Get a cup of coffee, and don’t grumble about the price. Then, engage in conversation with someone to build a relationship that will lead to sharing the gospel that day or in the future.

As I have heard and repeated many times, the gospel changes everything.

Oh, and you’ll have a happy holidays, too.

 

“In other words what frees you to live radically for others in this world is the confidence that this world is not the main world.”

His Heartbeat

operation-cmas-child-1140x450

It was one of those moments!!  I’m seated on the front row of our church auditorium Sunday morning as we watched an Operation Christmas Child video.  Within seconds I was captivated.  There I viewed precious children wearing huge smiles of joy as they received and opened their shoe boxes!  Greater still was the testimonies of children who had received Christ as their personal Lord and Savior as a result of this initiative.  Then I realized that these children were not only gripping my heart, but it was touching the hearts of many around me.  Our church is buzzing with excitement this month as we participate for the first time in OCC!!  Missions is the heartbeat of God! Look at the cross and empty tomb.

Prior to the OCC presentation, one our church members shared the good news of God’s working in another missionary endeavor in Salt Lake City, Utah.  What a thrill to see and hear the testimonies of children and adults declaring their desire to be publicly identified with Christ in baptism; announcing their decision to follow Christ and be His disciple!  One adult, newly saved, walked in off the street, asked to be baptized, and the tank was filled during the morning service so this “Ethiopian treasurer” (Acts 8:26-38) could be obedient to the Lord!!  Missions is the heartbeat of God! Look at the cross and empty tomb.

What is missions? In its most direct and simple form, missions is Matthew 28:19-20, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you . . . .  Furthermore, Psalm 96: 3 says, Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!  Also, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Missions is the heartbeat of God!  Look at the cross and empty tomb.

How wonderfully blessed to be a part of a church that is involved in the heartbeat of God!  This month, our focus is on Grace Giving Missions, the means whereby we support these and other missionary endeavors each year.  My challenge today in this post is really directed to our church family.  As you seek the Lord in prayer this week for what He would have you give each month for missions, would you ask yourself this question, “What is my heartbeat for missions?”  Before you answer that question, take a long look at the cross (Matthew 27:27-54).  Then stand for a while at the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-10).  Do you have God’s heartbeat for missions?  Matthew 16:26 says, 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?  The Lord placed more value on a man’s soul than the wealth of the world.

I believe those moments like Sunday morning in church are a result of your heart beating like God’s heart because missions is the heartbeat of God!

I’m Still Learning

0603161857.jpg

Well, the School of Running continues to be a good teacher.  Check out the June 2nd post, In the School of Running

Lesson:  You are greatly influenced by the people you run with.

Monday morning, I passed a guy running in the opposite direction that is new to our “neck of the woods.”  We have spoken to each other before, but that all changed.  As we passed, I asked him how many miles he ran each day.  With that, he turned and started running beside me.  As we ran and chatted, I found out he has run eight minute miles and even faster. I also found out real quick that his pace and mind don’t match.  After all, he is approximately 25 years my junior. But I was determined to keep up with him, and I did for a mile or more before he went his own way.  (Boy, was I glad!)

As he headed on his way home, and I continued my solo jaunt to the house in the opposite direction, I was struck by how a better runner had so quickly influenced me.  That leads me to ask, what kind of people do you “run” with?  Who has the greatest influence on your life?  Do you like to be with folks that challenge you, ask you the hard questions, hold you accountable, help you grow in the faith, lead you to raise the bar in your relationship with Christ, and enjoy life in Christ?  Or, do you gravitate toward people who are lazy, critical, selfish, backslidden, complaining, downcast, minimal in their walk with Christ, and/or make you feel comfortable in your current state?

Here’s a good verse that speaks to this lesson: Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word (Psalm 119:74).  Are people glad to see you coming because they know you are a person who loves, learns, and lives the Word of God?  They know you will biblically love them, be an encouraging exhorter to press on for Christ, and be willing to give you godly counsel? Proverbs 27:17 reminds us, As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

Consider who you “run” with.  What kind of influence do they have on you?  Are you all running toward Christ or away from Him?