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Poplar Bluff, MO 63901

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Jul 152016
 

While on vacation some years ago I discovered our camping tent had a couple holes in it, but that really wasn’t a problem.  I knew I had an extra tarp I could throw over in case we saw rain coming.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, we were away from our tent site when a big down-pour decided to test our tent…and our patience.  What we found when we returned was not what we expected.  At the bottom of one end was a big rip along a seam.

At first the reason this happened escaped us.  As we talked, however, it finally dawned on us.

A pool of water had collected to one side of the roof that sagged a bit.  As the little pool grew it eventually weighed enough to put a significant strain on the bottom seam as it “pulled up” over our support pole.  It finally was too much and it tore, causing a big problem.  However, I am forever thankful that on the eighth day God created duct tape and bailing wire.  I used the duct tape as my temporary fix.

In many cases, whenever something sits in one place for too long it causes problems.  For instance, whenever a church member comes to church and only sits without getting involved this tends to cause a strain on the whole church.  Non-involvement leads to apathy, which leads to deadness, which leads to a critical spirit, which leads to…  Well, you get the picture.

On the other hand, when a person is actively involved in their church as an outgrowth of their close, growing relationship with Jesus, growth in Spirit and numbers usually results because love is shared, thus stagnation is avoided.

The point is, as the Holy Spirit is allowed to freely “flow” through a person’s life and the life of a church, there is less strain due to apathetic members and more is accomplished for the Kingdom of God.  People are saved, healed, delivered and loved on and a church more unified in their mission to lost and hurting people – something duct tape and bailing wire can’t do.

So, it would be wise to ask ourselves, “Am I merely a ‘sitter’ or a ‘doer’?”  (James 1:22)

Oct 232015
 

Are you discouraged?  Feeling defeated?  Depressed?  Angry?  Worried?  Are you full of fear, resentment, or frustration?  Are you experiencing marital difficulties, problems at work, unemployment, at odds with family and relatives?  Are you lonely, uneasy about your future, facing financial struggles or have no peace of mind?

One time a pastor of a church felt defeated and discouraged.  (It happens. Trust me.)  Some of his church folks were unhappy, there were financial struggles, attendance had dropped, some church leaders were not growing in their own faith and were becoming negative, etc.

Everything seemed to be piling up and all this pastor could see was sadness and gloom.  For months he prayed for victory over his constant depression but nothing seemed to change.  Finally, in desperation, he decided to go on a retreat and pray until he found renewed strength and meaning for his life and ministry.

He arrived at the small but homey mountain cabin that would be his home for a period of time since he expected to stay for a long prayer siege.  As he was settling in he noticed on the wall of the cabin a simple plaque with the words, “TRY THANKSGIVING.”  Something suddenly awakened within him.  During all his months of prayer he had forgotten to simply praise God for who He is and thank Him for the countless ways He displays His love every day.

Sitting down on his bed he immediately began to think of things to thank God for.  He became so encouraged and renewed that instead of staying he returned to his congregation with a new sense of God’s goodness and provision, which in turn, gave him a surge of energy and enthusiasm.  Focusing on true thanksgiving had worked an immediate cure.

What about you? Have you tried thanksgiving?  I’m not talking about some holiday or a “quickie” prayer over your Cocoa Puffs.  I’m talking about adopting a new attitude toward everyday life where you regularly take inventory and are thankful for God’s consistent provision for things big and small.  It’s a sure cure for discouragement, depression and negativity not to mention the fact life becomes more enjoyable even in the bad days.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”  (I Thessalonians 5:18).

It’s a life-changer!

Sep 222015
 

Picture this:  A cute little girl about 5 years old skipping playfully along the sidewalk on a warm, spring day.  Suddenly she comes upon one of the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen springing up out of a neighbor’s flower garden.

“My,” she exclaims to herself, “It’s so pretty.”

As she admires the beautiful flower her eyes follow the stem until it sinks beneath the dirt.

“This flower is much too pretty to be in such dirt!” she says to herself.  So she reaches down and plucks the flower out of the soil and carefully brushes the dirt off the roots.

Suddenly the neighbor comes out his door and says with frustration, “What have you done?  You’ve destroyed my finest plant!”

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t like it in that dirt.” She says.

“That dirt,” the neighbor responds, “is some of the finest potting soil money can buy.  I planted it in that spot using that soil because I knew it could become the beautiful flower it has grown to be.”

Ever feel like the circumstances that come your way only “get in the way” of enjoying life?  If we’re honest I think we all must confess we complain, even get downright angry, about situations we often find ourselves in, especially the hard, painful times.

When we look at circumstances only from the human side we see only ugly, meaningless dirt.  On the other hand, if we would choose to view things through God’s glasses we’d see those hard times help us to grow in character and dependence upon our loving Heavenly Father.

As we mature in life and train ourselves to see everything as an opportunity for God to show His power and us to grow, life becomes a joy no matter what.  The fact is God is always good all the time, and He has the ability to transform our bad experiences to make them work for our good and His glory.  It’s one of His specialties!

Just ask Joseph…  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…”  –Genesis 50:20

Or Paul…  “All things work together for good, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  –Romans 8:28

That “all things” stuff makes for some pretty good dirt!

Sep 012015
 

As part of my studies in college I had to take a course in advertising.  I learned a lot about the methods and logic of marketing.  I also learned there are good sides and bad sides of the business.

One of the bad sides I discovered, as many folks have, is that sometimes advertising can be so powerful that we are convinced we need something when we really don’t.  If it’s “packaged” right we believe we need it.

I read an article recently that emphasized the notion that it pays to advertise. It went on to ask, “Did you know that there are 25 mountains in Colorado higher than Pikes Peak which few people could name?  So, why then, do we know so much about Pikes Peak?  Answer: Advertising.

We also learned there are two basic ways of advertising a product: 1) Using various media such as TV, radio, newspapers, etc., and, 2) Word-of-mouth.  This entails one person telling others, person to person or small group, about a product or service they like…or not!  So it probably won’t come as a surprise that those in the business agree the most effective, by far, is word-of-mouth.

Have you ever wondered about the best method of “advertising” in order for people to come to know Jesus Christ?  You guessed it – word-of-mouth.  This is not to say other forms do not work to a certain, limited extent, but nothing even comes close to the influence of sharing one-on-one.  It’s near impossible to overestimate the power of one person telling another person they have found the answer to all of life through a personal relationship with the God Who created the universe, through His Son Jesus Christ.

We can read it in a book, in a tract, on a billboard or facebook, or hear the message on TV, radio, or the internet, but when the message of Jesus becomes flesh though another human being, it becomes much more real and a lot more powerful.

I believe this is why Jesus called us to be evangelists, which doesn’t mean we have to have the gift of preaching evangelistically in order to share the Good News.  All we’re required to do is share what Jesus has done for us.  It’s that simple.

Like one elderly man said, “Sharing your faith is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  What a great way to advertise the Bread of Life!

Jun 252015
 

If we had asked the above question fifty years ago most people, with very rare exception, would answer a resounding, “Yes, of course!”  Now days, however, the answer would depend on who you ask.  This said, most Americans I know and know of would still affirm we are a “Christian” nation.  What does this actually mean?

Psalm 33:12-19, along with many other Scriptures, describes what a God-honoring, Bible-believing nation is, especially verse 12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…”  In other words, God’s favor and blessing is bestowed on the nation who honors and follows the God of the Bible as their ultimate ruler.  But what does this look like…exactly?

FIRST, A CHRISTIAN NATION RECOGNIZES THAT GOD’S LAW IN THE BIBLE IS SUPERIOR TO ANY MAN-MADE LAW.

Psalm 33:12 says we are blessed only as we allow God to be our “Lord” which in essence means “master” or “controller” of our lives.

George Washington said, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.” (October 3, 1789, Proclaiming a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving).

 Then, in 1821 Daniel Webster said, “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper, but if we and our prosperity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury our glory in profound obscurity.”

SECOND, IN A CHRISTIAN NATION GODLY LIVING IS HONORED AND SIN IS ABHORRED.

The book of Proverbs nails this point from several different directions:

–>14:34 “God-devotion makes a country strong; God avoidance leaves a people weak.” (The Message Bible).

–>11:11 “Through the blessing of the upright a city (or nation!) is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.”

–>11:20 “The Lord detests men of perverse heart but He delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Think: living for God wholeheartedly).

Regardless of popular thinking today, tolerance toward what the Bible defines as sin does not equal love; it equals a curse that, if not dealt with, results in our destruction.

THIRD, A CHRISTIAN NATION PRACTICES THE FACT THAT TRUE FREEDOM HAS BIBLICAL GUIDANCE AND BOUNDARIES.

Think about this for just a moment.  If a person is allowed to do anything and everything he or she wants to do, what “feels good” to them, regardless of the consequences then that person will eventually end up destroying him or herself and likely other people in the process.   Once “freedom” is taken out of the context of God’s Word and love and respect for others, chaos reigns.  True love declares, “I will do what is best for the other.”  And, surprisingly, this includes our self!  (See Mark 12:30-31)

FINALLY, A CHRISTIAN NATION PRAYS FOR ITS LEADERS REGULARLY BECAUSE HER PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF PRAYER. 

1 Timothy 2:1-4 sums this up beautifully:  “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

In other words, we are to pray for an orderly society where Jesus Christ is Lord, leaders rule righteously and people are giving their lives to Jesus Christ and living by the truth of God’s Word!

So how do you answer this question…and why?

May 222015
 

The irreplaceable role of the Father is being riddled today with the bullets of society’s convoluted philosophy.  What I mean is the traditional, biblical model of family consisting of one man married to one woman living with their children is being attacked as outdated and a person is even considered hateful and narrow-minded if they firmly hold to this.

As a pastor I clearly understand that people have problems in marriage, even Christians, and divorce happens for a myriad of reasons.  However, when the present secular culture attempts to redefine “marriage” and try to force this new, unbiblical model onto all of society then we’re in BIG trouble.

The purpose of this article is not to bring a scholarly argument for the biblical definition of marriage (though I could) but rather to emphasize the absolute importance of the role of the father in the family.

One man reports: “I remember visiting my middle son’s nursery school class, at the teacher’s request, so that I could observe a “problem child” in the class.  It so happened that I was sitting and observing a group of boys, including my son, who sat in a circle nearby.

“The conversation went like this:  CHILD A:  ‘My daddy is a doctor and he makes a lot of money and we have a swimming pool.’  CHILD B:  ‘My daddy is a lawyer and he flies to Washington and talks to the President.’   CHILD C:  ‘My daddy owns a company and we have our own airplane.’

“Then my son (with poise and confidence, of course):  ‘My daddy is here!’  with a proud look in my direction.”

Both mothers and fathers have been assigned, by God, very important roles in the family and both are critical in raising healthy children.  Now I strongly believe in God’s grace that makes up for our sincere mistakes, short-comings and sins if we’re willing to take advantage of it.  Nevertheless, in the case of the father, the role of head of his home cannot be underestimated.

God has designed the role of the father to help demonstrate what loving authority is all about but we can’t do it if we’re never around, or don’t take an active interest in our children’s lives or live before them so they can see what it means to be a Godly man…mistakes and all.

I believe it’s the perfect time to renew our commitment to being Godly husbands and fathers.  With Father’s Day coming up in June I might even recommend your whole family watch the movie “Courageous,” an excellent depiction of what it means to be a true Christian husband and father in the midst of personal struggles and life’s many obstacles.

P.S.  THANK YOU FATHERS – AND BE COURAGEOUS!

Apr 222015
 

It’s a word that, when you find out the real background, could offend you.  It’s a word you’d not usually choose to describe yourself.  Yet this word is right on the money when we place it in proper context to describe you and me – “sheep.”

I was raised a farm boy and even though we didn’t raise sheep for a living I knew something about them.  I remember one year we bought a new-born lamb to raise for the fun of it.  We named her “Corky.”  It wasn’t until she began to grow and we learned about sheep we realized how appropriate this name really was.

There are several ways to describe sheep:

-Sheep are slow, weak and defenseless.

-Left to their own devices, they would starve to death.

-They are easily panicked by predators.

-They follow one another is sort of a “herd instinct.”

-They are particularly vulnerable to parasites and disease.

-They tend to overeat, and then lie down and can’t get up. (Can we say “Thanksgiving”?)

When all this is taken into consideration one wonders why sheep aren’t on the endangered species list.  The answer?  Sheep follow their shepherd who is responsible to provide for them and protect them.

Is it any wonder why Jesus used the illustration of sheep and shepherd to describe our relationship to Him?  He wasn’t trying to insult us, but to help us understand how absolutely helpless we are without Him.  Left to our own devices and natural cravings we just end up killing ourselves.

The only answer that makes any sense is to follow the Shepherd.  Through faithful discipleship He’ll make us strong, defend us, meet our needs, give us courage, make us sensitive to right and wrong, heal us and give us self-control so we can experience the true fullness of life.  (See John 10:1-18, especially verse 10.)

I’ll never forget Corky.  And now that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ for some reason I’ve developed more compassion for sheep.  Imagine that.

Mar 192015
 

If you’re a Christian and attend church regularly then you are familiar with Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, when we remember how Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in sort of a parade fashion.  During this occasion a very large crowd shouted and praised Him as a king as they laid their robes and palm branches on the road he traveled.

At this particular moment Jesus was popular with the crowd.  Many were shouting “Hosanna!” (“please save us”) but weren’t sure why.  All some knew was that this popular man called Jesus was in their midst and they just wanted in on the festivities, while others wanted Him to rule as their earthly leader.  Precious few did it because they recognized He was actually the Son of God.

One time a man traveled to Zimbabwe where cattle were being raised.  There among several hundred steers was a full-grown female elephant who had been “adopted” when she was young. She spent her days associating with cattle trying to fit in and be received by them.

Because the elephant was smarter than the cows, she sought ways to win their acceptance.  She would use her trunk to unlock the gate even though she had no interest in escaping.   And, believe it or not, she even tried to learn how to “moo”, so she could sound more like the “in group.”  Isn’t it interesting what a little peer pressure will do?  (This story was related by Dr. James Dobson.)

Peer pressure – it’s quite a powerful force.  It can be good or bad.  We can be pressured to do what’s right or it can lead us down paths we normally wouldn’t take if the decision were left entirely up to us, as was the case with the crowd on Palm Sunday.

“Brian, do you mean to say that praising Jesus Christ as King is wrong?”  Of course not, in fact His praise should be continually on our lips.  What I am saying is that many were saying the words because it was the popular thing to do at the moment but, for many, their heart wasn’t really in it, or was in it for the wrong reason because they misunderstood His Kingship.

The proof of negative peer pressure, however, would become evident in just a few short hours.  It wouldn’t be long before most of this same crowd would be shouting “crucify Him!”

Whether it’s Palm Sunday, Easter, or any other day of the year it’s important we give our praise to Jesus Christ, but we should know why we’re doing it…

…because He’s the great God Who created the universe.

…because He humbled Himself by leaving His throne in heaven and coming to live in the flesh among us human beings.

…because He chose to pay the penalty for our sins by dying for us.

…because He rose from the dead and is alive now.

…because He sent His Holy Spirit to empower us for abundant living and doing His work.

…because…HE IS!

The answer is found in our heart as we focus on our relationship with Him.  “But in your heart set apart Christ as Lord.”  (I Peter 3:15)

Think about it, allowing Christ to be Lord, the controller and focus of our life, prevents us from a lot of fickleness, like “Hosanna!  Crucify Him!  Moo!”

Feb 182015
 

Awhile ago I read about a man who heard about an Indian who lived in Mexico.  This particular Indian was said to have near perfect memory of the minutest details.

This man was skeptical so he approached the Indian and asked, “What did you have for breakfast on September 10, 1943?”

The Indian answered, “Eggs.”

The man was wary of being made a fool of, so he replied, “Everyone eats eggs for breakfast.  He’s a phony!”

Roughly thirteen years later the man happened to see the same Indian at a bus depot.  Wanting to greet his Indian acquaintance of long ago he walked up and said cheerfully, “How!”

The Indian answered, “Scrambled.”

Memory can be a wonderful thing.  God has created within our mind the capacity to remember things that our conscious mind many not recall but still has stored somewhere.

Memories can also be detrimental.  Some things we may try to forget because of the unpleasantness or even trauma of a particular event but we can’t seem to shake.  This is one reason the Bible strongly urges us to guard what we allow into our minds because everything that goes in affects us in some way.  In many cases there is a need for healing of memories.

However, do you want to know something great?  It has been said, in Scripture no less, that God has a bad memory.  That’s right! If we have repented and asked Jesus to forgive us of our sins, God has the ability to forget them.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  -Jeremiah 31:34

Now, while God may remember every detail of your life, he has chosen to forget completely every sin you have committed that has been placed under the cleansing blood of Jesus when we come to him with a humble and repentant heart.

I like the story about the guy who came to God and prayed again for forgiveness for a sin he had committed a long time ago.  He was heard crying out, “Oh God, please, please forgive me for committing that awful sin. I feel so bad. I’m so sorry!”

And God replied, “What sin?”

Feb 032015
 

Did you know you are of more value than you may think?  Out of all of God’s creations He values you and me more than anything else.  In fact, it doesn’t matter where you rate on the world’s popularity chart because God’s says, “I love you with an unfailing, unconditional love.”

Bob had a friend named Ken who happened to mention a time or two that he knew some pretty important people.  “If you’re such a person in the know, why don’t you get on the phone and call the President?” asked Bob.

“Okay,” said Ken.  He punched in a phone number and in a few seconds someone answered the phone.  “Hello, this is the President,” said the familiar voice on the other end.

Of course, Bob thought it was a trick.  “Okay, that was impressive,” quipped Bob.  “Now why don’t you just get Buckingham Palace on the line and let me talk to the Queen?”

Ken went back to the phone and dialed a number then handed the phone to Bob.  “Hello,” said the distinctive voice on the other end, “This is the Queen of England speaking.”

Bob was impressed but still very suspicious.  “All right, you maybe happen to know the President and the Queen, but if you’re really such a big shot then you’ll get the Pope on the phone.”

“I’ll do better than that,” said Ken.  “Come with me.”

They drove to the airport and flew to the Vatican.  Bob soon found himself standing in a throng of people in St. Peter’s square while Ken disappeared for a few minutes.

Before Bob could recover from all this the crowd suddenly became silent as they all stared at the balcony where Ken and the Pope were standing side by side.

Leaning over to him a man standing next to Bob poked him in the ribs and asked with a heavy accent, “Who’s that in the balcony up there with Ken?”

In God’s eyes we are as important as the President, the Queen of England or the Pope.  Don’t believe it?  Get God on the line and ask Him!

“I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your love toward me.”  -Psalm 86:12-13