Itty-bitty Christians

This picture says so much! We found these “cute” onesies in a religious bookstore this week. Others said, “Itty bitty _________” (fill-in-the-blank with a church denomination).

I think I understand the “cute” intent of the maker and store owner, but how many of us as true, born-again believers could wear this outfit?

Itty-bitty Christians . . .

  • Are satisfied to stay an infant when it comes to spiritual growth in the Word. Instead of totally immersing themselves in the daily personal intake of the Word (Psalm 119; Ephesians 4:11-16; 5:18-20), a quick dose of an internet devotional or a religious song on Sirius XM on the way to work suffices. The outcome is an itty-bitty faith in an itty-bitty God.
  • Are satisfied to stay an infant with it comes to living out all of God’s purposes for you in the body of Christ, the local church (Acts 2:42-47; Ephesians 3:10; 4:11 – 6:20). Sunday is the Lord’s Day all day, not just for a couple of hours for me to pick and choose how I want to worship. The outcome is itty-bitty participation, connection, transparency, honesty, accountability, body-life, service, praise, fellowship, prayer, evangelism/discipleship, one-another’s, exaltation of Christ, etc. As one lady told me about her church experience, “I like going to the early service because I can go, get it done, and go about my day.”
  • Are satisfied wearing a “onesie” because life is about them instead of glorifying God and serving others. (Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 1:15-18) The outcome is an itty-bitty Christian who seldom makes an impact on the world for Christ.
  • Are satisfied being a nominal Christian rather than a genuine, all-out disciple of Christ. Read Luke 14:25-27. Does that passage describe an itty-bitty Christian wearing a “onesie”?

Believers, we are exhorted to grow, to mature in the faith. Take heed to the following and let’s cast off our itty-bitty Christianity!

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:13-15)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Hebrews 5:12-13)

Life Is Never Boring

Back yard

A peek into my Thursday:

Up at 5:30.

Dunkin Donuts coffee, time in the Word and prayer on my back porch while watching the fog roll in. . . and then out.

Write in my journal.

Send out a few texts to encourage others.

See pictures of a new grandbaby of one of our church family.

Take coffee to my wife.

Read the newspaper, my wife and daughter’s blog, and a few tweets.

Add a few pictures to our church Facebook page.

See what’s been happening in the world via World Magazine site.

Receive an encouraging word from an “everydayer” texter.

Communicate with a missionary concerning an upcoming visit in September.

Talk to a guest speaker who is coming this Sunday night to preach.

Send anniversary greetings to one of my dear friends.

Help my wife a bit in the kitchen as she prepares food to minister to a burdened soul.

Rejoice over answered prayer!!!  Watch God at work!!

Put some of the final touches on Sunday AM’s message.

Leave a “Love is . . . ” cartoon for my wife on the towel covering the freshly baked bread.

Receive a phone call that brings tears of joy!!

Lunch on the back porch.

Begin working on Ephesians study.

Hurt for the tragedy in Barcelona, Spain.

Get rid of a stack of stuff that is not necessary.

Answer emails.

See some church family in the parking lot of a local store.  The smiles on their boys’ faces was priceless.

Listen to, counsel and pray with two lives that are bent and broken under the load of sin.  Grateful for the healing balm of God’s Word.

Watch others minister to the hurting.

Disciple a new believer.

Listen to a song that causes my heart to rejoice because the song repeats the phrase, “In the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

Share a few thoughts for Sunday’s bulletin.

Enjoy an Ale-8.

Count blessings.

Reflect on some of my reading from this morning in 2 Kings 3 where Elisha tells King Jehoshaphat, For thus says the LORD, . . . This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD (3:17-18).

Have watched God at work all day through the mundane and the important.  Nothing is too hard for our God. It is always a light thing for Him because “in the middle of it all, there is Jesus.”

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)

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

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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)!

And What’s My Excuse?

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She has lovingly taken care of her husband since his dementia diagnosis in 2005.  Now he lies in a hospital bed at home in their beautifully decorated sun room with full-blown Alzheimer’s.  Demonstrating her marriage vows, she wipes his face, pats his head, speaks to him in terms of endearment, cleans up his bed, combs his hair, and listens for any signs of life.

Her home is beautifully attired with all the dressings for Christmas, but one stands out among all others.  Next to her beloved husband’s bed, she has prepared a second tree, “just for him, although he doesn’t even know it’s there.”

“His biological clock has not stopped working.  He wakes up nearly every morning at 5:00 a.m.”  She sleeps in the bedroom next to the sunroom so she can respond to his needs through the night.  “He will cough, but it’s not a real cough.  I think it’s just a ‘Hey, I’m awake cough,’ and I get up to go check on him.”

Sunday evening, my wife, another couple, and I stopped to sing Christmas carols to them.  She had the bar counter prepared with Christmas goodies and fourteen cups set out waiting to be filled with warm apple cider or hot chocolate.  In the midst of her trial, she had gone to great lengths to prepare for company.  I was saddened that she expected a “small crowd,” and it was only a very small crowd of four.

While visiting around the counter and enjoying the tasty treats, this dear lady said something that arrested my attention.  “Last week, I invited some of my friends here for a meal.  We had a house full.  These are folks from up on the mountain where I’m from.  I am concerned about one lady in particular.  I’m not sure she is saved.”

Wow!  I mean, wow!  Here’s a lady whose life is consumed with the care of her husband, and she intentionally prepared a large meal, invited guests to her home, and all for the purpose of sharing the gospel.  In the midst of caring for her born-again husband suffering from the awfulness of the sin-curse and will one day know no more pain or memory loss, she reaches out in compassion to those who will suffer for an eternity in hell, if they do not receive Christ as their personal Savior (John 1:12; 3:16-17).

Enough said.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

And of some have compassion, making a difference (Jude 22).

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

Looking back over this past week, there are so many grace blessings that my heart is overflowing.

Andrew, Dale and Mike


Last Friday, I had the privilege of participating in the funeral, and on Saturday, the burial committal service for a precious lady, Dixie Gouge. I wrote about it in last week’s post.  Another grace blessing from this event was serving together with two other pastors.  Mike Garland was baptized as a young man by father when Dad pastored Forest View Bible Church, Johnson City, TN, of which Ralph and Dixie Gouge were members.  Mike is also a nephew of the Gouge’s.  The other pastor is my son-in-law, Andrew, who is our assistant pastor at BCBC.  What a joy to stand between these two men that have special ties to my heart!  God is so good to let you clip such blessed grace coupons! 

Two hams!


What a special treat to minister to our neighborhood, especially the family next door to us. Their two precious children come to our home every week for Bible club.  They are our adopted “grandkids” and are such a blessing to our hearts.  Here we are having some silly fun time!

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Mr. D doing what Mr.D does best!!

Pioneer Children’s Club, Wednesday nights: How grateful to be in the midst of people who love children and demonstrate a passion to see them be more than just good kids; better yet, godly kids.  Even better is the passion of Mr. D who wants to see these precious children and their parents come to Christ for salvation!  He is faithfully out knocking on doors and doing bus visitation on Tuesdays in preparation for Wednesday nights!

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Apples of Gold Decor

Apples of Gold Ladies Mentoring Ministry: Last Saturday, we hosted twenty people at our home for the AOG Celebration Dinner. My wife had every decorated so beautifully.  She and her helpers prepared delicious soups, salad and desserts. What a special blessing it was to eat outside, and then to be gathered around the fire pit sharing testimonies and singing songs under a starlit sky.  God is so good!

Clippin’ Grace Coupons in Ministry

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Life is all about the grace of God.  We do not deserve anything except hell because of our sinful state.  But in His grace, God has provided salvation for all men (John 1:12; 3:16; Ephesians 2:1-4, 8-9; Titus 3:5).  Then, in and through His grace, He provides so many undeserving gifts everyday of our lives (John 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-7).  How easy it is to dwell on all the bad around us that we forget to focus on the grace of God which is transcendent over all (Romans 5:20).  So with that in mind, my goal for Friday’s blog is to share with you from a pastor’s heart some of the “grace coupons” in ministry that I’ve been able to “clip” over the past seven days. So here we go!

  1. Worshipping on Sunday at Boones Creek Bible Church! One of the many true blessings of a Sunday at BCBC is joining with our congregation as they sing.  With raised voices, uplifted hands and glowing countenances, praise is abundant!  Many Sunday mornings on my way to church I find myself saying, “I can hardly wait to sing with my brothers and sisters in Christ today!”   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
  2. Seeing ladies cry out in prayer, singing, and worship as they joined together for three hours in the presence of the Lord at BCBC. You can read a bit more about it on my wife’s blog post Friday Favorites.
  3. When I was an earlier teen, my dad pastored a church here in south Johnson City, TN. Words cannot describe what a grace blessing it is to be living and pastoring in the same area that has always been so special to me.  When we moved here from Bluefield, West Virginia, two men, Stacey Tester and Ralph Gouge, came from Johnson City to assist us.  They made a huge impression on me.  Stacey and Ralph have since gone on to Glory, but today, I have the privilege of participating in the funeral for Dixie Gouge, Ralph’s precious wife.  Furthermore, Ralph and Dixie’s daughter and three of their children are part of the BCBC family.  Also, I saw Ralph and Dixie’s son this week which was the first time since we moved away.  As we sat in the Gouge’s living room and reminisced about our time here and about my parents, I thought, “Lord, how good you are to me, and how good to be still connected to my dad’s ministry in such a blessed way!”
  4. Joy in ministry is often mixed with sadness and sorrow as even mentioned above. Yesterday I stood by the bedside of a dear man whose body is riddled with Alzheimer’s. His wife has faithfully stood by his side and cared for him with love and great compassion for several years.  With Bernice on one side and me on the other, we shared Psalm 23 and then sang several songs:  In the Sweet By and By, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, Heaven Is a Wonderful Place, Until Then, I Have Found a Hiding Place, and others.  As a pastor, I am so grateful for the opportunity to minister the balm of God’s Word and the blessed encouragement of song that gives encouragement for today and expectation for the future.  It is all by His grace!
  5. Finally, there’s the blessing of preaching and teaching the Word of God!! Currently, I am preaching through Revelation . . . the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How timely; how sobering; how hope-filled!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ . . . . To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  (Ephesians 1:3, 6)

School Cancelled Again?!?!?!?!

Odessa Waters Video

Odessa has become a star via her daily video rants and raves.  She is a hoot!  After viewing this video and reading many posts on Facebook, I have to ask parents, “Why did you have children in the first place?”  Let me get right to the point, and with a saddened and concerned heart.  Is it really that bad for your children to be home from school for several days?

Here’s several reasons why it is a blessing to have your children home from school due to the weather:

  • These are valuable opportunities for you to instruct your children in the Word of God, to pray with them, to sing with them, and to go over their Sunday School lesson with them.
  • These are precious opportunities to do crafts, teach them how to bake cookies (and eat them!), help do some spring cleaning, and/or rearrange the furniture in their room.
  • These are fun opportunities to play outdoors. Go sledding. Make snow cream.  Roll in the snow and make a snow angel.  Build a snowman.  Take a bunch of photos. Make a ton of memories.
  • These are priceless opportunities for you to give your children your undivided attention. Many of their behavioral problems are due to you be so preoccupied with your phone or ipad.  Turn them off. Listen and talk to your children.  Ask questions.
  • These are treasurable opportunities for you to influence your children, watch them learn, and see them grow rather than the daycare worker or school teacher seeing all the “firsts” and telling you about it later on.
  • These are beloved opportunities to pretend. Build a blanket fort and camp out. Eat your lunch under the tent; maybe even sleep there with your pretend fire glowing through the night.   Or, for supper, pretend you own a restaurant and teach your children how to set a table, serve others, and act at a restaurant.  Or, pretend you are having church and let your children preach, lead singing, receive the offering, etc.

There’s one important aspect to the success of these precious opportunities—-PLANNING.  Yes, it’s a whole lot easier to watch Frozen for the 1,237th time or to spend hours mindlessly surfing Facebook or the internet while your children “get on your very last nerve!”  Let me say, I understand children can be rambunctious and parade their old sin nature for all to see, but most of their misbehavior is a lack of loving, caring, patient training and discipline that needs to come from you.

So, don’t squander these awesome opportunities because you are not getting to do what you want to do.  Serve your children.  Love them.  Teach them. Hold them.  They will be gone before you know it.  God gave you children to enjoy and edify, not to endure.

Say, what do you have planned for tomorrow if you hear that school has been cancelled?   (Btw, you and your kids should be so disappointed that school is back in session because of the cool plans you have made!!)

Outreach Opportunity Month

As I watch the farmers around my house cut hay and prepare for winter, my thoughts have drifted to harvest time and colder temps.  These are great days to look on the fields (Luke 10:2) and pray for harvesters and a harvest.  But, we do not just pray, we get involved.  For the dear congregation of Boones Creek Bible Church, I offer on this the first day of October, some outreach ideas for you to exercise the heart and compassion of Christ and be a laborer in the harvest field of opportunity!  Start or continue to build relationships that point to Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38)

  • Invite a group of folks to your backyard, build a fire, and make s’mores. Play a game.
  • Bring someone to the Community Caring Closet at church, October 18-29, that could use some clothes and some gospel care.
  • Prepare your car trunk with goodies for Trunk or Treat night, October 28, at church. Have a theme for your and bring some other kids.  After the service, all the children will walk through the parking lot receiving your goodies.  Great opportunity for you to connect with the kids and be a blessing to them!
  • Reverse Halloween: It’s the one night of the year when most folks are at home and eager to answer the door. Of course, residents will be surprised when they get treats instead of having to give them out. Go door-to-door to distribute bags of goodies containing candy, Christian DVDs or CDs, a gospel tract, a book, a card, etc.
  • Help a neighbor rake leaves and/or take in their summer furniture; just offer to help in some way.
  • Family Free Car Wash: Make up signs saying “FREE Car Wash” and “No Tricks, Just Treats”. People will stop and ask, “What’s the gimmick?” Tell them, “We’re Christians, and doing something for you, at no charge, is one way of letting you know that Jesus loves you and so do we. We want to treat you today by washing your car for you.” Most people will stand outside while their car is being washed. This is a good time for friendly talk, to invite them to church, and if possible to ask them about their relationship with the Lord Jesus. As they leave, give them a tract and information about our church.
  • Prepare a harvest basket of fruit, cookies, etc and deliver it to a policemen or fireman as way to say thanks. Be sure to include a gospel tract, a personal note of thanks with your address, and church information.
  • Lead a church service at the local nursing home by singing, reading Scripture and prayer.
  • Distribute donuts, hot chocolate, and a gospel tract at a local bus stop.
  • Bring in breakfast for all the teachers at a local school near you.
  • Go door-to-door in your neighborhood and ask how you can pray for them. Write it down and go back in a week or two to find out how God answered.  If possible, have prayer with them at the door.
  • Offer an evening or Saturday to help a single parent. That may include babysitting, fixing things, helping maintain a car, help cleaning the house, etc. Ask questions and be a good listener. Perhaps offer to pray.

Opportunities are everywhere because people are everywhere!  See the harvest?