A Much-Needed Reminder

This past weekend was a much-needed refreshment for my soul. Ministry in the past year and a half has been difficult. While seated by the lake at the Wilds, the Lord pointed out this passage to me. Reluctantly, I must say that I had forgotten some of the ingredients of gospel ministry, of following Christ. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reminded me last Saturday morning.

But as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

Pressing forward in His grace!

That’s My Old Church

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A man is rescued after many years on a desert island. As he stands on the deck of the rescuing vessel, the captain says to him, “I thought you were stranded alone. How come I can see three huts on the beach?”

“Well,” replies the castaway, “that one there is my house and that one there is where I go to church.”

“And the third one?” asks the skipper.

“Oh, that’s my old church.”  (Wikipedia)

How many of us could drive through our town or city and say the same thing?

There are definitely a few biblical reasons for leaving a church and moving on to another, but I am convinced that most of the time, it has nothing to do with biblical reasoning or issues.  And sadly, many of the stated “biblical issues” are not biblical at all.  They are just strong preferences.

Wonder how many churches in your area are splits off of another church, and sometimes sadly are a split from even another church?  Some church splits are due to personality clashes, arguments over a building project, music preference, translation issues, petty offenses, wrong interpretation of separation, perceived misconceptions, etc.

Then there are splits created by sins such as gossip, pride, sowing discord among the brethren, refusal to obey the biblical instructions of how to address conflicts, power-struggles, dictatorial leadership from pastors and/or deacons, unbiblical response to church discipline, bitterness, etc.

The point of this post is simply this.

  1. As spoken by Thom Rainer, “There is little good that comes from church splits.”
  2. God is bigger than any issue that creates a church split.  Why not trust God?  Everything man puts his hands to, he ruins.  The flesh profits nothing.
  3. Prayer and humility is the answer, not gang warfare.  We should be fighting in prayer not in corner groups, email or on social media.  Even in situations of doctrinal deviation, patience and prayer should be the overriding mode of operation.
  4. Remember that every church is made up of sinners, hopefully saved by the grace of God, in desperate, daily need of God’s grace, and purchased by the blood of Christ.  We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9-20).  We are to be growing in grace everyday (2 Peter 3:18).
  5. Whatever issue causes that split, because of a lack of humble resolution, it is the reason for the “new church” to start.  Is that a proper foundation?  Will it last?
  6. The greater testimony for Christ in our communities should be repentance, reconciliation and rejoicing, not division, discord, and death.
  7. Consider please the following passages of Scripture before ever being a part of a church split: Proverbs 6:12-19; 13:10; 15:6; Romans 12:3-21; 13:10-14; 15:1-3; 15:5-6; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 10:31; Ephesians 4:1-3, 14-32; Philippians 1:12-18, 27; 1 John 4:7-20.

Sadly, the word “split” is more synonymous with “church” than the word “reproduction.”  With the first, there is usually death.  With the last, there is always life.  Paul sums it up correctly in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17.  May I suggest it this way—Are we of the _____________ version, or of ______________ism, or of _________________ denomination, or of ______________ college, or of ____________________ conference or . . . of Christ?

Oh that our eyes would ever be on Christ alone! (Hebrews 12:1-3)  When we stand before Him at the Bema, He is all that will matter.  It’s His Church anyway, not “my old church.”

 

 

 

Worldwide Intercession

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While reading Psalm 61 this morning, the following thoughts came to mind about the far-reaching, awesome blessing of prayer.

  1. Prayer is the response of a fainting heart no matter where I am in the world (61:2).
  2. Prayer takes me to the Rock, the Transcendent Summit, that is higher than any place in the world (61:2).
  3. Prayer is my strong tower and refuge as it places me in God’s tabernacle/tent that can be accessed anywhere in the world (61:3).
  4. Prayer joins me to the heritage of those who fear the Lord’s (past and present) around the world (61:5).

“When prayer is a mechanical act, and there is no soul in it, it is a slavery and a weariness; but when it is really living prayer, and when the man prays because he is a Christian and cannot help praying, when he prays along the street, prays in his business, prays in the house, prays in the field, when his whole soul is full of prayer, then he cannot have too much of it.” (C. H. Spurgeon)

 

Dried Out, Delighted Men

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It happens every January at Men’s Prayer Advance, the most-anticipated yearly event on my personal calendar.

Thursday afternoon, men from all over the country gather for three days of preaching, praying, and “like-a-reunion” fellowship.  As the congregational singing begins, you can sense that this is going to be good and the preaching will be spot on, . . . but it’s not there yet.

Thursday evening, the singing is again filled with praise and the preaching is convicting and good, but it’s not there yet.

Then one of two major events occurs following the evening service . . . group prayer meetings.  These groups consist of men from their own local church or with various others attending MPA.  We are challenged to gather at our meeting location or back at the motel for a time of “CPR” praying.  Each group prays through three rounds of prayer, which consists of Confession, Praise, and Requests.  Each group is encouraged to get honest before the Lord.  Each individual is challenged to get clean, not cleaner.  As we work our way through CPR, we are in no hurry.  Sometimes, the confession goes around several times and can last for awhile as does the praise and requests.  These prayer meetings can last for an hour or on into the morning hours.  Meeting with God in honest prayer changes hearts, changes lives!

Friday morning, some men are a bit tired from the long night, but all are deeply refreshed and ready for the morning sessions.  The music and preaching are once again stirring and challenging, . . . we are not there, just yet.

Then comes the second most important event of the MPA, the Sweet Hour of Prayer.  Each man is given a folded brochure that will help guide him through an hour of private prayer before the Throne of Grace (Matthew 6:5-8).  For many first-timers, they find themselves asking, “How can I pray for one hour?”  Well, let me just say that this question has been answered many times over the years with simply, “Wow! I ran out of time!”  As men are located all over the campus inside and outside before the Throne of Grace, the touch of God comes upon us, and we can say, “I have seen the Lord!”  Everything changes.  Spiritual vision becomes clearer.  Consciences are clean.  Some trust Christ as their personal Savior.  Homes and marriages are restored.  Phone calls back home are made. Men are revived. (Psalms 51; 85:6; Isaiah 6:1-8)

What happens?  It’s called prayer!  You see, when we first come to MPA, so many of us have been “intoxicated” with all that this nasty world throws at us with its sin and satanic influence that it takes those two prayer events combined with the preaching of God’s Word to get us “dried out” and delighted in our God (Psalms 34:1-3; 37:4)!

Come Friday night, it’s on!  There is an anticipation in the hearts of men that begins with the first song and carries through to the final amen (Psalm 100:1-5).  The praise is glorious, the singing of 750 men is victorious, and the altar is filled with tender-hearted, broken, contrite men drawing ever nearer to God (Psalm 34:18; James 4:8)!

Then on Saturday, it’s time to hear one more message and reflect upon all that God has done in our hearts for His glory.  We know we cannot take MPA with us, but the God of MPA never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5b-6).  We know He will enable us to continue on for Him as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Peter 3:18).

You see, that’s why it’s call an Advance!  The greatest advancements we make in our Christian lives are “on our knees” in prayer (Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7-11)!  As Harold Vaughan reminded us, “How refreshing to be clean in the presence of God!”

“I Don’t Have Time.”

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“And in the morning, when I rise . . . .”

Really?

Question is, how does any true born-again believer think he or she can live in this present life without spending time at the feet of He Who created life; He Who gives you the ability to walk, talk, breathe, think, act, speak, etc?

Trust is, there is not a moment in our life that we are not desperate for God.  There is not a moment in our life that we are not dependent upon God.

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Taking the Scenic Route In Marriage #2

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My wife and I love to travel over the mountainous, country roads of East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia.  What beauty!  What adventure!  What fun!

Sometimes, we come to the end of road and wonder which direction we should turn.  Many times we have lost our GPS signal.  There is a bit of hopelessness in feeling lost, needing direction.

To fully understand today’s blog post, I would encourage you to read Taking the Scenic Route #1. As we saw, the scenic route is not the normal route.  Its less-travelled and not the overwhelming choice. There we learned, first of all, that God created marriage, not man.

Today, and second of all, God directs marriage, not man.

When you take the scenic route, you better have a good map like in the old days or have faith that your GPS keeps a good signal.  Otherwise, you are likely to get lost.

So many marriages today are directionless, struggling, floundering, trying to run on auto-pilot, and so very sadly are on the verge of collapsing altogether.  Why?  Because too many couples are not getting their directions for marriage from the One Who created marriage.  Read carefully the following words: O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23).

The Bible, God’s infallible Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), gives us the truths and principles we need for a God-honoring, role-fulfilling, blessed, satisfying marriage (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:18-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7).  Therefore, outside of prayer, the greatest thing you can do for your mate is to be a man or woman of the Word!

You see, it takes three to make a good, biblical marriage: God, the man, and the woman.  This is beautifully illustrated by “The Triangle.”

 

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The closer each spouse moves to God, the closer they move toward each other.  But, the further each moves from God, the further they move from each other.

Direction in marriage is so needed every day for each spouse, as well as each other’s own personal, relational growth in Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16; 2 Peter 3:18).

How does this happen?

  1. Read & be clean by the Word (Ps. 119:9; John 15:2-6; 1 John 1:9)
  2. Study the Word (Psalm 119:33-40)
  3. Personalize the Word (Memorize/Meditate — Make it your own (Psalm 119:73-80)
  4. Share the Word (Ephesians 4:15)

There are so many ways to take in the Word of God through Bible apps (YouVersion), Scripture memory apps (ScriptureTyper), and podcasts (Love Worth Finding, Adrian Rodgers).  Be sure to journal what God is saying to you each day.  Then, gather up your journal and your Bible and have a special time with your spouse sharing what the God of your salvation has said to you (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Broken, directionless marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God, abandoning prayer and the searching of God’s Word.

Consider the following:

  1. Before you take the scenic route, you want to find out where you are going. I like to look at the map and I have an idea of where the road goes. The Word of God gives you a picture in your mind the roads and lay of the land in marriage. The Word of God always keeps you on the right road
  2. Sometimes on the scenic route, you let your intuition (hunch) take over. As you learn the Word and grow in the Word, you will come to rely more and more on the Word in your marriage. In essence, your spiritual instinct takes over.
  3. On the scenic route, if you get lost, you stop and ask for directions. Men usually hate to ask for directions, but in reality, men, you should be the one who is always stopping to pray (ask for directions) and point your wife toward God.

You see, just as the scenic route is not the normal route, a marriage directed by God who created matrimony is not the norm against the backdrop of this world.

Surrender to God today.  Search His Word.  Trust and live out His Word.  Enjoy the journey.

Your most important turn in marriage is the next one! —- Will it be toward God?

Family Friday – Invest in Time Away

Today, I’m sharing my wife’s post from her blog, refreshher.com. Marriage is a blessed grace gift from God that He created and directs. By grace, you invest in your marriage every day. My life is rich because of God’s grace and my gal!!!!

This week during our Valentine’s dinner, I pulled out a dating journal that my husband and I kept for quite a few years. We recorded lunch dates, overnighter’s, and weeks away that we were blessed to share during the years our girls were home. Wow! It was filled with special memories we had forgotten. But one thing rang true – we missed our girls while we were away, but those times alone helped shape our relationship. It made us better parents, and it made our marriage stronger.

We literally had to scrape together every dime to go on these outings, but it was so well worth it! I’m thankful we have that journal to remind us of the joy those times away were for us. Some dates were simply a shared ice cream cone, or a picnic lunch at a nearby park. As a matter of fact, most outings were minimized in extravagance, but maximized in enjoyment AND effectiveness! It was always profitable for our relaitonshhip.

For any married couple to spend time away together so they might invest in their relationship, will require an investment. That simply means it is costly.

  • It could require a financial investment. There are lots of things to do that don’t cost, but most overnighters aren’t free.
  • It will require time – time away from family, away from work and away from all other distrations.
  • It will require a willingness to get honest with one another so you both can make changes that are necessary.
  • The sacrifice of your pride is crucial so you can listen to your spouse without thinking about what you want to say.

After 36+ years of marriage, I would have to say that time away from pressures and demands – even for an hour – is time that helped build our marriage. It’s so easy to get on two separate tracks when things are so busy.

May I ask you – are you making a true effort to spend time with your spouse – just the two of you so you might talk in depth, pray together, have times of rest, laugh, strengthen one another in the daily grind, and pour into your marriage so you can both be ready to move forward?

Let me encourage you, if you’re wanting to share these times but your husband is reluctant, plan a short outing. Do something you know HE would love. Keep it lighthearted and encouraging. Pour into him. Bless him with what he needs. Pray about it, asking the Lord to make your time special. Keep doing these ittle outings and work your way into a weekend away. Allow the Lord to move in his heart.

God has a plan for your marriage and you can trust Him to make it what it needs to be. But again, time with just the two of your is one important ingredient. Even though there are no longer children in our home, my husband and I have to get away to really have time to talk and share uninterrupted. We still need it. We still love it!

Let me end by sharing some photos of the weekend Sweetheart Retreat my husband spoke at last weekend at The Wilds. It was a wonderful blessing to our hearts to gather with 80 couples and pour into their lives for two days! If you’ve never experienced a couples’ retreat at The Wilds, you don’t know what you’re missing! These pictures will give you an idea of the fun we shared!

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My favorite speaker!
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Fun Time is always full of the good medicine of laughter!!

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This baking skit…oh my!
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Old friends surprised us!
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Does this look like CAMP FOOD?!
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More old friends that blessed our time there!
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Love the bookstore!

Valentine’s day is behind us, but you live in your marriage every single day. Make the most of it by making investments that will benefit your relationship for years to come!

Refresh your marriage – Why not start planning now for an outing?

Who attends couples’ retreats? Where do you go?

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Keeping Your Marriage Fresh

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June is a good month to get married.  Just ask the thousands who will walk an aisle during this month to promise their lives to each other “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.”

June 20th, my wife and I will celebrate 36 years together.  Those years have contained many, many days of laughter and joy, many days of burdens and sorrows, and many, many days of answered prayer.  God has been so good to us.

Today, I want to share with you five ways to keep your marriage fresh even after 36 years.  Tomorrow, I’ll give you five more.

  1. Be assured of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone. “God made all of us to have a personal, vibrant relationship with Him. Whoever you are and wherever you’ve been, God is personally interested in you and longs to share a close relationship with you.”  Watch the following video to learn more about the most important relationship: The Gospel
  2. Live together in the Word of God. Since God has created marriage, the best place to learn how marriage is to operate is to read the Creator’s Word.  Share with each other what God has personally taught you in His Word and read the Word together.  The Word of God is never stale, so glean from its fresh manna everyday.
  3. Pray together. One of the best ways to keep your marriage fresh and to stay connected is to pray throughout the day together, at meals, when burdens arise, when wisdom is needed, and before you drift off to sleep.
  4. Have fun. It is so easy to grow old in your marriage, get used to each other, and then forget how to enjoy life. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Keep a light heart.  Laugh with each other; laugh at yourself.  I mean, who needs comedians? We have people!  We are just funny!
  5. Keep on dating. Men, remember what you did to win your girl’s heart?  Go back to those days.
  • You can have a quiet date on the back porch after the kids go to bed . . . star gazing!
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood and hold hands. Stop along the way to enjoy the flowers, the scenery, and each other. Kissing is permitted on the sidewalk in public!
  • Buy one ice cream cone and share it as you sit in your car listening to the old songs of your dating years. When the ice cream is gone, put your arms to good use!
  • Play a game and enjoy a bowl of popcorn.

So, what will you do today to get fresh, be fresh, and live refreshingly with your spouse?

From a pastor’s heart,

Dale

Take a Vacation from the Lord

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Come on now.  Don’t deny it.  You’ve been thinking about that annual summer vacation to the beach, Disney World, Pigeon Forge, etc.  Vacations are a good thing.  We all need our physical, mental, and spiritual batteries recharged!

Question.  When you go on vacation, do you plan for those special daily times to build your relationship with the Lord?  Do you take your Bible, journals, and books so you can feed your soul? Can you say when you have returned that you and your family love the Lord more or less?  Do you research the area before you arrive to find a solid Bible preaching/teaching church where you and your family can worship on Sunday morning?

I will submit to you without reservation, the best parts of our vacations over the years have been our time in the mornings in the Word and prayer.  Vacation must not be a time to leave the Lord at home. Vacations should be a time where everyday distractions are removed, and you can enjoy His presence and His precepts!

I hear so often from so many that due to their work, school, recreation, and church schedules, they struggle to get time in the Word and prayer.  And believe it or not, it shows (I know by experience in my own life).  Vacation is a time for you to unplug from all the aforementioned things and be refreshed.  What better way to do so than to meet with Jesus everyday as an individual, as a couple and as a family.   Even Jesus Himself went apart from the crowd to meet with His Father (Matthew 14:23).

Furthermore, because you are in such a relaxed mode on vacation, that’s even more reason you need the Word of God to ward off the attacks of your flesh, the world and the devil.  I promise you, they never take a vacation.

And finally look at the effect the intake of the Word will have upon you:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.  (Psalm 19:7-11)

97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. 101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.  (Psalm 119:97-104)

So, as you plan for all the places you will eat, recreate, lodge and relax, be sure to seek Him first (Matthew 6:33).  By the way, He’s the One Who gives you the strength, provides the funds, and watches over you for your vacation.

Don’t take a vacation from the Lord when you are on your vacation!

The Day After Valentine’s

 

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Valentine’s Day is always a very special day for married lovebirds!!  Red roses, boxes of chocolates, dinner dates, romantic venues, recalling of Valentine’s Days of the past, perfume, cards, terms of endearment left on sticky notes all over the house, pictures posted on Facebook and Instagram, communications of the degree of love for each other, and on and on it goes for this special day!!

But . . . what about today, the day after Valentine’s Day?  You put much thought into how you would express your love to your Sweetheart.  You went out of your way to purchase that perfect gift.  You fantasized in your mind the most romantic setting and fulfillment for this special day.  You wrote down your thoughts of love and appreciation in a card.  You made sure the whole world knew about it on Facebook.

All of this took intentional thought and effort.

This leads to me say one crucial thing about how to keep your marriage moving forward, to keep it hummin’!

You have to work at it every day! 

No, you don’t have to buy a $75 bouquet of flowers or have a candlelight dinner at Ruth’s Chris every day. You intentionally . . .

  • Verbalize your love to each another
  • Kiss (Eliminate the peck!)
  • Pray together
  • Hold hands
  • Look at each other
  • Seat your wife at the table
  • Pray together
  • Hug each other
  • Serve each other
  • Enjoy a 5-minute date in the pantry with the door closed
  • Leave love notes
  • Pray together
  • Share what God has taught you from His Word
  • Laugh together
  • Hold each other
  • Speak words of encouragement
  • Enjoy being with each other
  • Listen to each other
  • Pray together
  • Forgive each other
  • Make sure your spouse comes before your children
  • Make sure your spouse knows you love him/her more than the children
  • Pray together
  • Be gracious to each other
  • Touch each other
  • Pay attention to each other like your mate was Facebook
  • Wash her car
  • Pray together
  • Bake him his favorite cookies
  • Do the things you did when you were dating . . . even many years later
  • Keep having fun (Don’t grow old grumpy!)
  • Pray together

So, what are your intentional plans for your lovebird today, the day after Valentine’s Day?

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