Category: Devotionals

Baptist Deacons

Baptist Deacons

Jimmy Youree and Dennis Serratt both faithfully serve the Lord in their role as deacons.
Two deacons cleaning up after they served a meal to our family following my mother-in-law’s memorial service.

 For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

– 1 Timothy 3:13 CSB

I have had the privilege to serve as the pastor of three Baptist churches – two churches as a full-time pastor for an extended period of time (13 ½ years and 12 + years). In both churches, I have been blessed by those men who serve our Lord in the New Testament role of deacon.

My First Deacon

The first church I “pastored” was a very small rural church in Locker, TX. It had a congregation of about 10 and was set on the edge of a cow pasture that once was a thriving town. They believed their mission was to keep the doors open so that young “preacher boys” would have place to “cut their teeth” in the ministry. It was the one ordained deacon that provided steady leadership for that church. I will forever be grateful for their love and support. It was while serving this church that our first daughter was born. They showed love and compassion that went way beyond their size.

Deacon Jokes

Growing up in the church, it seems that deacons were often the brunt of jokes from various corners. I have even been guilty of a few “deacon jokes” myself (not that they haven’t thrown out a few “pastor jokes” along the way). I have also known ministers who considered the deacon body to be their adversaries in the church. One pastor told me years ago that he started the church and he didn’t want deacons because they “would get in the way.”  I had been warned that the deacons would want to “run the church.”  I have never found this to be the case. In fact, my experience has been much the opposite.

Faithful Servants

In both FBC May and FBC Watauga, I have been overwhelmingly blessed by the deacon body. These guys have been my prayer warriors and support. It is usually among the deacons that I find my best friends in the church. It is usually the deacons who are my first line of help in the ministry. In May FBC, I was challenged to share the Gospel with boldness by the example of a Baptist deacon (thank you Troy). I was taught how to lead people by another (thank you Don).

In Watauga, it has been the deacon body that leads out in visiting prospects and sharing the gospel. They serve and encourage families that have been assigned them for ministry. They lead by example when they chauffer the elderly and visit the hospitals. In both churches, the deacons have been Godly men who loved the Lord, loved the church and worked hard to serve the church and their pastor.

Simply Human

Neither deacons nor ministers are perfect. We all sin and will all make mistakes. But I am confident that these “ordained men” of the church will continue to seek and serve our Lord alongside me. Every day for most of the past 28 years, my family has been blessed in some way by the ministry and service of Baptist deacons. Though we might not always agree, I am continually reminded that we are “on the same side.” We serve the same Lord and seek to see Him rule over the church. We are all servants in a spiritual body where there is only one head – Jesus the Lord.

Serving Together in Christ

Through every struggle, the deacons of the church have been like a “band of brothers” for me as we serve the Lord together. Though we are just men and we won’t always agree, with Jesus as our solid foundation, we will press on to accomplish His kingdom purposes. I recently wrote a tribute to one of these men on this blog site. Those reflections provide a wonderful reminder of the lasting bonds that are created as we serve the Lord together.

Most of this blog was originally posted as a note on Facebook in 2011. I have revised and updated it for this format.

Humble Servants Glorify God

Humble Servants Glorify God

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time.” 1 Peter 5:6

In the middle of September, Kirby (a retired pastor who I count as a good friend) and I loaded up the truck and headed west to the community of May. We were hoping to knock down a few dove, but mainly just get out of the city and enjoy the countryside for a couple days. I had contacted an old friend who would graciously let us hunt and sleep on his farm.

Good Memories

It had been more than a dozen years since I pastored the wonderful congregation at FBC of May. It’s a community that holds a very special place in my heart for many reasons. The entire drive I shared memories of several of the men and women who I still consider close friends, though we are now separated by over a hundred miles and many busy schedules.

As we turned by the school, I pointed out the many upgrades that had taken place over the years. The most recent building was the much-needed new gymnasium that had been long overdue. I described how the community had been blessed by the great leadership of a long-time Superintendent who had recently retired. He had led the school and community to continue to move forward with their facilities for the kids of May.

Respected Leadership

Don Rhodes was a man who provided steady, faithful leadership for the school, which serves as the hub of this small community, for four decades. As a leader in the church, he served as the chairman of the pastor search committee who had called me in the Fall of 1991. The next August as a young 25-year-old pastor, I had the privilege of leading the church to ordain Don as a deacon along with two other men. He quickly became a friend, confidant, and even a mentor in many ways.

Don not only provided leadership for the community, he helped me grow as a pastor. He knew how to lead people and more than once he sat me down to give this young pastor solid advice. Certainly, we shared in many ups and downs. The Lord allowed me to minister to Don and Sue through the difficult loss of their son, Ethan. Years later, Don was a strong shoulder for me as I faced the death of my daughter Katie.

Cricket Cleanup

As we passed by the gym, I was anxious to point out the beautiful brick sanctuary that we had built for the church. Next to the church was a man sweeping up piles of crickets and shoveling them in a trashcan. Anyone who has lived in the country has likely experienced the cricket infestations that can often follow the first cool front in early Fall. The church had been overwhelmed with them. Additionally, someone had come along and sprayed for them. Now there were thousands of crickets dead on the sidewalk needing to be removed from around the church.

A True Servant

It was at that point that I saw the image of a true servant of God. There was Don, in all his retirement glory, probably the most respected man in the community, sweeping up crickets. He was serving his church, serving his community, and most importantly, serving his Lord.

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus told his followers that he came to serve not to be served. He expected his disciples to follow that example. Though Peter struggled with the idea, he eventually understood it and wrote to the church in 1 Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time.”

Men who Glorify God

In more than a quarter century of pastoral leadership, I’ve been a part of ordaining and serving with many godly deacons. Like most of them, Don did not feel worthy to serve when he was first approached. I’ve learned that those are the deacons I want. These humble men who faithfully serve the Lord bring glory to him and not to themselves.

Wait on the Lord

Wait on the Lord

The gentle murmur of the Gros Ventre river is only drowned out by the constant chirping of the song birds. With Susan by my side and Koda resting at our feet, I sit under the shade of the beautiful cottonwood trees. The air is a crisp 55 degrees. The incredible Grand Teton mountain range is over my shoulder. It is a wonderful morning to stop, wait, and listen!

Stop and Rest

It is good to stop and rest. The Lord did after creating the world. Jesus did when the crowds pressed in looking for attention. Yet, it is one of the most difficult lessons for me to learn. I have grown accustomed to a life filled with busy-ness. Most of us only slow down once we get sick and we have no other choice. Our “work ethic” is encouraged in God’s Word, but He also reminds us to set aside time to rest.

My Struggle

Even on vacation, I find it difficult to slow down and rest. I’m in a new place filled with the beauty of God’s marvelous creation. I want to see it all. Rushing from place to place, I try to get the perfect picture of that moose or bear. I want to photograph the sunrise and sunset. I want to stay up late and take in the bright starry nights, only to rise early to rush to the next beautiful place. By the time I arrive back home, I’ve experienced a great adventure, but rest has once again eluded me. This is MY struggle.

The Lord’s Whisper

In the middle of the hustle, I find the LORD gentle whispering, “Slow down and wait on me.” Read my word. Listen to my voice. Find my rest.

So, after a battle with the flesh this morning, we stopped. Koda is glad. Riding in the truck had worn him out. As I read through many of the Psalms this morning, one phrase struck me, “Wait for the Lord.” The Psalmist repeats it twice in Psalm 27:14. Of course, my mind immediately asks, “Wait for what?” This morning the answer seems simple – “the Lord.” I’m not waiting for another experience or adventure. Those will come in HIS time.

Sit, Listen, Rest, and Wait

This morning I sit, listen, rest, write, and most importantly WAIT – experiencing the presence of the Lord in the midst of his great creation.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart be courageous.
Wait for the Lord.

– Psalm 27:14

Where Do We Find Lasting Happiness?

Where Do We Find Lasting Happiness?

What Most People Want Out of Life

What do we want out of life? Ultimately, most people are looking for happiness and meaning. These seem to be fleeting for too many of us. Like the country troubadour who went “looking for love in all the wrong places,” we go searching for happiness in all the wrong places.

Where We Go Looking for Happiness

Some of us search for happiness in relationships. I’ve seen countless people who thought they would be happy if they could just find the right partner. Others search for happiness in things that money can buy: a new car, a nicer home, or the latest gadget. Often there is a satisfaction in these things for a short time, but it rarely lasts long. Relationships ebb and flow.

Things that Don’t Satisfy

The “perfect” partner isn’t the answer. No other person can truly make us happy or give us purpose. That new car is wonderful, until the “new car smell” fades and next year’s model provides an upgrade. Many of us love our new iWhatever until the manufacturer produces a slick new version that has some feature that we think we must have. Lasting happiness will never be found in these things.

Who CAN Put Joy in Your Heart

David provided the answer to this essential question in Psalms 4. He noted that the LORD is the one who puts joy in his heart. The psalmist posed the question this way, “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us anything good?” David then looks to the Lord and says, “Let the light of your face shine on us, Lord. You have put the joy in my heart.” The joy that comes from the Lord is greater than a plentiful harvest that causes wealth to flow. We will find lasting joy and meaning in life when we look to the one who created us, knows our needs, and can put that joy in our hearts.

Many are asking, “Who can show us anything good?”
Let the light of your face shine on us, Lord.
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, LORD, make me live in safety.

– Psalm 4:6-8 CSB (Christian Standard Bible)

A Fantastic Fish Tale

A Fantastic Fish Tale

The story of Jonah usually evokes crazy images of a poor young man somehow surviving in the belly of a whale. Our minds immediately race through questions like: what did he eat, what did it smell like, or how in the world could he last three days in that place? We get so caught up in these questions that we miss the message of the story.

This is certainly a “Fantastic Fish Tale,” but it is much more than that. It is the story of many of our lives. The whale wasn’t Jonah’s punishment for disobeying God. The whale was his salvation. God rescued Jonah, and then used him to rescue a nation!

Jonah’s Deliverance Came at a Price

Jonah fled from God even though he knew exactly what he was supposed to do. He received incredible grace from God, delivered in an unimaginable way. The Lord sent the fish to rescue Jonah as he was sinking into the depths of the ocean. The Lord rescued Jonah, but his “deliverance” came with is own difficulty. When we run from God, we sometimes have to go through a few stinky days before we can get back on the right path.

Nineveh Repented, God Relented

Jonah eventually obeyed God walking through the streets of Nineveh preaching God’s message. God’s message was represented, Nineveh repented, and God relented (Jonah 3:10). Jonah still refused to rejoice in God’s grace. He never did learn to give God the gratitude that He deserves. Too often, even when God moves in a mighty way, we miss Him because we are too focused on having our personal pity parties.

Jonah’s Story and My Life

By finding our story in Jonah’s life, we can learn from his mistakes and avoid living a life that smells like stinking guts of a fish – a life of disobedience, grouchy attitude, reluctant obedience, and ingratitude. May the Lord use Jonah to remind us of His love and grace? May we be challenged to walking in obedience from the beginning so we don’t end up overboard, sinking into the abyss, only to face difficult days because of our disobedience?

 Rescued to Rescue Others

Perhaps, God has rescued you so that he can use you to rescue someone else! Many of us are too busy having our personal pity parties because we didn’t get life our way. If God has saved you from eternal punishment, He desires to use you to rescue someone else. Quit looking in and start looking out for who the Lord wants us to rescue with His message of grace!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8 CSB

 

The God of Creation is the God of Our Circumstances

The God of Creation is the God of Our Circumstances

Katie was just over 6 months old when she faced one of the most difficult times of her life. She was having kidney failure and was brought into Dallas Children’s Medical Center for a catheter placement so we could begin peritoneal dialysis. She was very tiny so as the catheter was place in her abdomen it nicked her bowl and she became septic. She quickly became very ill. The medical team recommended that we seriously consider letting her go, because of the many severe medical problems she faced. We were forced to make a difficult decision to discontinue treatment or to take drastic measures to save her life.

Sensing the Lord leading, we felt it wasn’t time to let her go just yet. The doctors intubated her and she was place in the Pediatric ICU. She recovered miraculously and only spent a couple days in ICU. However, the positive news only lasted a few days. She was in a hospital room having regular treatments on her lungs waiting for them to become strong enough for another surgery.

I still remember that afternoon as though it was only a few years ago. The respiratory therapist had just left the room after giving her a CPT treatment and suctioning her lungs. Hearing Katie give a faint cry, I went to her bedside to see her turning blue with her eyes rolling. We yelled down the hall for the nurses and things began to happen very quickly. Our baby was again facing death.

We were ushered out of the room as emergency teams rushed to re-intubate her trying to save her life. As Susan and I sought to comfort one another, I went to the phone to contact my friend Dr. Frankie Rainey who I relied on as my pastor. Dr. Rainey was already out of his office, but Dr. Art Allen took my call. After listening to my story, Dr. Allen promised to relay our prayer request to Dr. Rainey and take it before his church that evening.

Then Dr. Allen asked me a question that has stuck with me for more than 27 years. He simply asked, “How are y’all doing?” I immediately began to reiterate Katie’s dire circumstances, but Dr. Allen stopped me. He said, “You’ve told me about Katie. How are you and Susan?” I paused for a moment, because my focus had been entirely on Katie. As I took inventory of my own condition, I felt a peace come over me. I replied, “Dr. Allen, we are okay. The same God who was in charge last week when we Katie was miraculously healed is in charge today. He’ll take care of us. We are okay. Thanks for asking.”

I learned many valuable lessons the two long months Katie was in the hospital that stay. But none of those lessons had a greater impact than the one I learned that day. The God of creation is the God of our circumstances. He never changes. He is faithful, trustworthy, and true. The God who created the sea is still God when the storms rage and the seas of life get rough.

As they were sailing He fell asleep. Then a fierce windstorm came down on the lake; they were being swamped and were in danger. They came and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” 

They were fearful and amazed, asking one another, “Who can this be? He commands even the winds and the waves, and they obey Him!” 

-Luke 8:23-25 CSB

 

One of the World’s Greatest Questions

One of the World’s Greatest Questions

Jesus and his disciples were in Galilee. It was still early in His ministry. He had sought some private time with His disciples, but the crowds continued to pursue Him into the deserted place near Bethsaida.

After feeding over five thousand with a few fish and loaves of bread, Jesus sent the crowds away and withdrew to pray with his disciples. It was here that He asked them a couple crucial questions. The first question concerned what others were saying about Him.

While he was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” – Luke 19:8

The disciples reported that the crowds were unsure. Some thought He was John the Baptist. Others believed He was a prophet sent by God. Jesus then turned His attention to the disciples asking them, “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Our world is still confused about Jesus’ identity. The Time Magazine cover article on August 15, 1988 was titled, “Who was Jesus?” Simply phrasing the question in past tense indicates that Time misses the truth of Jesus, the eternal, resurrected Lord.

Peter got the answer correct. He simply responded, “You are God’s Messiah.” Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the deliverer who God had promised to send. A few days later, Peter would ascend a mountain with Jesus, James, and John. On that day, he witnessed an amazing event. As Jesus was transformed before Peter’s eyes, He appeared with Moses and Elijah. God confirmed Peter’s belief when a voice from the cloud spoke, “This is my Son, the Chosen One, listen to Him!”

The world will continue to miss the identity of Jesus. Our faith does not depend on a consensus of authors or scholars. We must all answer the question that Jesus asked the disciples for ourselves. “Who do you say that I am?” For those who profess Him as the Messiah and Lord, with our mouths and lives, God will confirm our faith with His presence.

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He’s always near

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

– “He Lives” by Alfred Henry Ackley