Pastor's corner

May 19, 2024
Congratulations! That’s always a word associated with something good, whether it be the wedding of friends or someone in your family, the announcement of a new baby, receiving a promotion at work, the accomplishment of a long-time pursued goal, or in the case of my wife and I, the graduation of our youngest child from High School. This afternoon Emilia will become a high school graduate, and undoubtedly there will be many congratulations directed her way, as it should be. Mom and I are obviously very proud of our daughter and all that she has accomplished and excited for all that the Lord has in store for her as well.

But as I was thinking about Emilia’s graduation, and thinking about accomplishments, I really started to think about the things in life that go unnoticed. How many things do we, or someone we care about, do that are significant, but don’t received the recognition, the congratulations. For a high school or college student, how about when they are tempted to cheat, to plagiarize, or to in some other way “cut corners,” but instead they decide that they should work hard, be honest, and be a person of integrity—congratulations, that will make a big difference in your life. Those decisions might even be more meaningful than the diploma they will eventually hold in their hand.

What about the couple who’s trying to save money for their retirement or for the purchase or renovation of a home, or to purchase a “new to them” car, and they have some choices to make. They can fudge just a little bit on their taxes, they can give less to the Lord, they can manipulate their time cards to get some “extra overtime.” Or, they can be honest, faithful, and generous with “their money.” Is it really theirs to begin with? That’s another discussion for another day. But if the couple decides on the latter, displaying integrity, congratulations, the Lord will honor what is right, always.

What about the husband and wife who have had their ups and downs and their times of disagreement, but they always came back to the fact that it was God who instituted marriage, and they truly believe that “till death do us part” really meant, till death do us part. Divorce never became an option. It simply wasn’t on the table, because they were being led by a greater authority, and they were willing to yield themselves to that authority, even when it was hard. That’s integrity.

At the end of the day, there are so many examples that we could give that deserve a huge congratulations, but will never get them. That’s just the way it is. So don’t get discouraged when you don’t get that pat on the back, that well done, or that congratulations. God sees it all. He knows. And one day, it should be our goal to hear those words, “well done, my good and faithful servant,” even if it means never hearing those types of words from anyone else. After all, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” The one thing we do know is that God is watching. So step up, do the next right thing, and live a life of integrity as you follow Christ. If you make that your goal of how to live, you’ll never be disappointed.  
MAY 12, 2024
This past week weathermen were warning us that storms were coming! On Tuesday night I watched the local news and that particular weatherman sharing what was then tomorrow’s forecast, made the statement that the atmospheric conditions were “better” for majorly severe storms than he had seen in the last decade. Honestly, that was a little bit scary, as he would then go on to describe what he meant by majorly severe storms—baseball to softball sized hail and very strong tornadoes. Yeah, not exactly what I wanted to hear from my trusted weather forecaster, but it’s what I needed to hear.

Now, did we end up with massive sized hail and very strong tornadoes? Thankfully, no. But I’m at least glad that the weatherman told me the truth of what could happen, even if the prognosis was bad. What good would a weatherperson be if everyday they just said that tomorrow would be beautiful, a great day, and problem free, meteorologically speaking, even if they knew that would not be the case? They don’t want to ruin anyone’s day. They don’t want to rain on your parade, pun intended. They don’t want to give you news that might cause you anxiety, stress, or worry. That wouldn’t be a very good weatherman, would it? I would say “no.” It’s the job of the weatherman to be honest and truthful, even when it means giving “bad news.” That bad news, however, might save someone’s life.

As I thought about the honesty with which weather forecasters approach the weather, my mind then went to the doctor. If I go to the doctor, I expect him or her to tell me the truth about my condition. If the test shows cancer, I want to know about it. I want to know how far along it is. I want to know how it’s affecting my body. I want to know if, in their opinion, it’s treatable. I even want them to tell me it’s terminal, if it indeed is. At least I would know the truth. I wouldn’t consider them a very good doctor if the tests and scans all showed cancer and they turned around and gave me a clean bill of health because they didn’t want me to worry or didn’t want to hurt my feelings. It’s the job of the doctor to be honest and truthful, even when it means giving “bad news.” That bad news, however, might save someone’s life.

My next line of progression then came to the Christian. Our world today says that if you’re going to be a Christian you must be nice, kind to everyone, and only speak things that are nice and kind, with “nice” and “kind” being defined as never saying anything against anyone else. Now I’m not touting being mean-spirited, hateful, and unkind. In no way, shape or form is that authentic Christianity. In fact, Christians are called to humility, kindness, compassion, and mercy. We are also called to honesty and truth. This is the tightrope that a true Christian must walk.

If we believe that we hold the words of life in our hands, which is the Bible, and the Bible reveals to us the only way for eternal life and forgiveness of sin, is it not the kindest thing that we can ever do to tell others the truth of God’s Word? I would say, yes. In fact, not telling others the truth of what God has said is the equivalent of the weatherman saying that every day is a perfect sunny day or the doctor always giving a clean bill of health to the patient. That’s not good at all, but rather evil.

So Christian, let me encourage you. Speak truth. Do so in love as Ephesians 4:15 instructs, but speak the truth. Speak the truth about God, that He is the one who created everything, including man. Speak the truth about man, that we have sinned, broken God’s holy and righteous law, and that we are deserving of death. Speak the truth of Jesus, that Jesus has made a way so that we could live and be forgiven of the sin that we commit. And then speak the truth that all men must give an account to God one day for the decision we make concerning Jesus.

These truths actually comprise the message that all Christians are called to share. We sometimes summarize it in the four words that must be fleshed out as we share Christ with others—God, man, Christ, response. Be honest, be truthful, and the whole time, be loving, kind and compassionate because we are all sinners in need of a Savior. The only difference between the Christian and the one who is not, is that we have already accepted God’s greatest gift, the gift of salvation. Shouldn’t that gift be extended to others through you? I think the answer is yes.
MAY 5, 2024
CHANGE! It’s a scary word. It’s a word that we’re uncomfortable with. It’s a word we try to
avoid. And yet, it’s a word that’s inevitable. It’s also a word that can actually be good, at times,
when not forced, and when purposeful, and, and, and…

In case you didn’t notice, this week, our church bulletin underwent some major changes. Now
I know that changing the layout and format of the church bulletin isn’t an earth-shaking
change. No one’s life or death rests on the presentation of the bulletin. Hopefully we won’t
split the church over changes made to a piece of paper. However, something so small as
tweaking this hallmark of Baptist church tradition, the bulletin, can reveal a tendency toward
resisting that which might be good and necessary in our lives, change.

John D. Rockefeller once said, “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” George
Bernard Shaw said, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” C.S.
Lewis wrote, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” And leadership
guru, John Maxwell stated, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

Each one of those quotes is quite poignant in their own right. Rockefeller focused on the heart
of good change, going from something good to something better or something great. Shaw
focused on the necessity of mental preparedness and mental toughness to see that change is
often necessary. Lewis focused on the desired outcome of change, that we, and I think he had
in mind especially the follower of Christ, are always looking forward to that which is far better
than what we currently are experiencing—heaven anyone? Then Maxwell helps us to see that
there are really only two possible options or outcomes resulting from change, either growth
or stagnation.

Change, when done correctly, makes an improvement to the status quo. And as a church, and
as individual Christians, we, of all people, should be proponents of change. After all, the status
quo is that the same people are doing the same things, in the same place, the same way. That
goes against everything that God has called us to do. God has called us to go, to tell, and to
make disciples. He has called us to teach all things that Jesus has commanded. He has called us
to shake up the status quo so that people will clearly see the love of Christ, repent of their sin,
and trust in Him and Him alone for salvation. If people remain where they are, doing the same
things they’ve always done, and they don’t ever come to a place of repentance and faith in
Jesus Christ, they will die and forever be separated from God in a very real place called hell.
So when I really think about the church in general, and our church in particular, I’m willing to
make the statement that there are things that all of us must change. I’m willing to also make
the statement that there are things that must change within our church, to better align with
biblical truths and principles. Do I know what all of those things are? No. But as God points
out those things that must change even within our own church body, we must be ready,
willing, and able to not only accept change, but to embrace change, if that means being a part
of what God’s doing to advance His kingdom.

Is that scary? Yes. And for me as your pastor, it’s really scary because by nature we are simply
resistant to change, even when it’s good and God-ordained. And when the church is doing
well, as is the case right now, you don’t want to overturn the apple cart. The tendency is to just
keep doing what we’ve been doing, the status quo. But God doesn’t want any church to simply
maintain the status quo. So let me challenge and encourage you. Look to change as a good
thing. Be willing to walk with me and your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ through any
changes that God might show to us. And remember the words from Joshua 1:9, “Have I not
commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for
the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”