Category: General

My Thoughts On Halloween

My Thoughts On Halloween

So today is Reformation Day. It is also the popular secular holiday called Halloween. What are Christians to do on this day? My mind is filled with thoughts – dissertation length thoughts, deep thoughts, and shallow thoughts – but I don’t have the time or energy to write them all down here. I won’t answer all your questions here, but I hope to provide some balance. If you don’t have time to read it all, READ the FINAL TWO PARAGRAPHS!

What I Won’t Do

I won’t turn off my lights and hide upstairs because this is “Satan’s day” and I am afraid of him. He doesn’t have a day unless we give it to him! The Psalmist cries out in Pslams 118:24 “This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” I believe the Lord who created each day and blessed me with the breath to enjoy it.

Further, Jesus tells us that forces of hell take a defensive posture when His church marches forward and the gates of hell cannot prevail against His church (Matt. 16:18). Next, I will choose not to walk in fear of Satan’s schemes. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” In summary, the only way that Satan wins a day is if we allow it. I will not “give” Satan this day. I will choose to seek my Lord’s direction in how to press forward His kingdom agenda.

Heed the Warnings

Satan does want to drag you into His world – of course not just today, but every day. It would be absolute idiocy for a believer to attend a séance tonight. We ought to avoid the sacrificing of cats, drinking of blood, and all other means of directly worshiping the enemy. Ouija boards are out and so are pentagrams. I say this only partly jesting. I have seen Christians who unknowingly walked into Satan’s traps and became entangled in His web. The devil is real and real people really do worship him year round, but especially on this night. Stay out of that garbage.

I don’t believe that precludes a believer from every aspect Halloween. Susan and I plan to hand out candy and a special tract sharing the Gospel of Jesus to every neighbor kid who comes by our house. I hope to meet a few parents and open a few doors to share His kingdom. Maybe I end up shaking hands and fellowshipping with tax-gathers and sinners. Some Christians will take a different approach tonight. I’m not too worried about it, I just want to do my best to follow my Lord’s example and spread his message of Good News. Besides, what other day of the year will I have over 100 kiddos come to my door where I can put the message of Jesus in their hands along with a couple pieces of chocolate?

Don’t let this Day be a Stumbling Block

Some Christians have been given clear convictions that they are to stay clear of this day. OBEY the direction from your Lord Jesus. He knows you best. You may have one of those personalities that would take things too far if you got started. You may have people in your sphere of influence that need to see you completely abstaining from any hint a connection with this holiday. If so, abstain. If you have had any connection with the occult or witchcraft in the past, you may be one who needs to stay home and watch the World Series tonight! I would not encourage a recovering alcoholic to go evangelize in a bar. Likewise you probably need to stay completely away from the “bad” part of this night.

What We Can’t Do

First and foremost, we (the church) cannot let our differing opinions define us and distract from His kingdom work. On social media this week I have seen earnest evangelical Christians regularly post opposing viewpoints. This is okay! Thankfully I have seen very few inappropriate arguments. It’s okay to disagree, but we must be cautious. Jesus made it clear that the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for each other – not by our doctrine.

People are Our Priority!

We must maintain balance in our relentless pursuit of the “truth” and our willingness to offer “grace.” This is tough! Some of us are prophets and teachers by nature (or giftedness) and it is our gift to hammer home “thus saith the Lord.” Others of us are more gifted with the tender hearts of mercy and service. It is our nature to love and come along side of our hurting brothers. Only Jesus was the perfect picture of both “grace and truth” (John 1:14).

I lean more toward the “thus saith the Lord” crowd, but I and the kingdom need the mercy folks. Sometimes I think that they are wishy-washy, but that comes out of their God given desire to show compassion. Sometimes, they think I am too rigid and hard-hearted. I hope they see that comes from my God given nature to preach and speak truth. The bottom line is that because none of us can display all of the characteristics of Christ by ourselves, we need each other. Jesus was the only one who perfectly expressed grace and truth, mercy and justice, leadership and encouragement. If the lost world is to see Christ on earth it will only be when we serve together, putting all of His characteristics on display to form a unified “body of Christ.”

Let’s get Busy with Show and Tell

Let’s show the world what love looks like. And let’s tell them how much God loves them! I won’t be celebrating Halloween, but I will celebrate Jesus on this day. I hope to “redeem the day” by engaging the lost (and saved) who come to my door with a smile, a handshake, and a word from God.

Happy Reformation Day! No tricks, just treats!

Glorify God in Unity

Glorify God in Unity

When we work together in unity, we are all better for it and the Lord is glorified. In the past couple days, I’ve had the privilege to witness beautiful examples of God’s kingdom work. God’s love shines especially bright in contrast to the darkness of racial division that presently covers our nation.

Unity in Service – Back 2 School Rally 2017

  • >650 Backpacks distributed Saturday
  • Hundreds more going out the door this week
  • 1000 slices of pizza
  • 560 hot dogs
  • 180 free haircuts
  • Eye Exams, Hearing test, balloon animals
  • Hundreds of free Bibles distributed
  • Dozens of Gospel conversations and families lifted in prayer

This list could go on and on! Saturday evening the Baptists, Methodists, Holiness, and other churches in Watauga came together to serve the children of Watauga and the surrounding community. Over 250 volunteers from many different churches and organizations gathered to serve for a common purpose. People of all races gathered as we served the Lord and serve each other.

Honestly, I didn’t even think about the various races represented until this morning. Sure, there were many from El Buen Samaritano who were specifically helping communicate with the hundreds of Spanish speaking families who gathered. But, nobody’s skin color or country of origin made any difference! That’s the way it is when we put our focus on the Lord and serve His Kingdom together.

The common theme from Saturday evening were SMILES. I saw joy on the faces of the parking lot volunteers, the registration team, evangelism team, and puppet show team. The firemen, policemen, and police explorers all served diligently without complaint. Of course, there were the hundreds of smiles on the faces of the kids with new backpacks, popcorn, and pizza!

As I reflected on the Rally this morning in my personal prayer time, I was struck by the stark contrast between what I saw at the event and what I had seen on the news. Those focused on divided agendas in Virginia brought shame on themselves and on their causes. Those serving the Lord and the community in Watauga will likely never make the national news, but they brought honor to the Lord and to the groups they represent.

How Great Thou Art – Worship in Two Languages

As encouraged as I was after reflecting on Saturday evening, things got even better at noon on Sunday. My friend and fellow pastor had contacted me early in the week about using our baptistery to begin their worship time on Sunday. Often, we have our congregation finish up and move out so the congregation of El Buen Samaritano can use the auditorium for baptism. I felt the Lord prompt me to ask Br. Elias to allow us to finish our service with him baptizing so that we could celebrate together this week. I had no idea the events that would darken our national news this weekend.

Immediately after concluding our invitation, El Buen’s congregation began to enter the sanctuary. To my joy, the congregants of FBC Watauga began to clap and welcome our brothers and sisters as they joined us finding their seats. As Br. Elias baptized two new believers, the entire congregation celebrated with shouts of “amen” and “praise the Lord” with cheers and clapping.

To my surprise, Br. Mario who I had meet as he was sharing the Gospel at the Rally the evening before, stood with his guitar to lead us in worship. He chose “How Great Thou Art” so everyone could sing in their own language. What followed was a stirring time of heavenly worship with English and Spanish blended together as we sang in unison to the One True God! One of our congregants tweeted this sentiment after the service.

Assisted by a translator, I closed out with a short “Thank You” to El Buen for their wonderful service in the Back 2 School Rally. I gave a short reference to how beautiful it is when we come together under the banner of Christ to serve Him and our community. What a stark contrast to what we had seen and heard on the news! As we closed the service together in prayer, the Spirit of God was evident in the exuberant joy that filled the “amens” along with the smiles, hugs, and handshakes that followed.

Praise the Lord that in Him we find common ground!

  • Unite in Service
  • Unite in Love
  • Unite in God’s Word
  • Unite in His Redemption
  • Unite in Worship

Let the name of Jesus be praised and lifted up in our words and in our actions!

Thanks Dad for the Hard Lessons

Thanks Dad for the Hard Lessons

I Didn’t Always Like It

Dad, I didn’t really enjoy cleaning all those car parts when I was a kid. The smell of kerosene on my hands and the grease under my fingernails weren’t the most pleasant. It seems I was only 6 or 7 years old when you’d hand me those wheel bearings and a butter tub half filled with gasoline and have me get them shiny clean.

Hard Work

You didn’t buy me a car when I turned 16, but you helped me get one on the road. You stood by as I overhauled the engine just like you’d showed me when you made me help with yours. You taught me to sand off all the rust spots on the body, covering the big holes with fiberglass, and “bondo” and sand and “bondo” and sand until each spot was smooth.  You called in a favor from a friend to help rebuild the transmission. We then chose the paint and painted it together. Then mom let me pick out the material and she re-upholstered the seats.

Some of my friends were driving much nicer vehicles purchased by their parents. I received much greater gifts. I learned the value of hard work. I learned the love of a mom and dad who helped me grow by teaching me skills. I gained confidence that I could take care of problems when they arose.

Lessons Learned

Painting “Old Blue” – My first car was a ’71 Ford Maverick bought from my bother for $50.

I wasn’t driving a flashy new car. I was driving ’71 Ford Maverick. It was over a decade old and put back together with hard work and sweat accompanied by lessons learned from two loving parents. Parents who loved me enough to provide what I needed and not give me everything I wanted.

Of course, like many teenagers, I didn’t appreciate those lessons immediately. It was during the following years that the full value of those early lessons was realized. I vividly remember my first year in college. It was a very cold winter morning and the choke hung on that Maverick like it was prone to do in cold weather. I was in a hurry to get to class on the Daniel Baker campus, so I grabbed a pen cap, opened the breather cover, and stuck that cap in the butterfly to hold it open.

Life’s Curveballs

Sure enough, the engine started right up, but because I had used the cap and not a whole pen, I immediately knew I had a problem. The cap got sucked right down into the intake manifold and stuck in one of the valves. I made it around campus, but I knew I couldn’t make it back home to see my girlfriend the next day.

There weren’t many of my college friends who would have the confidence or the experience to take care of that problem on their own. That afternoon (after giving you a call) I purchased a gasket kit from the local auto parts store. I borrowed a torque wrench from a friend (the only tool I didn’t already have in my tool box). Right there in the parking lot of Jennings dorm on the Howard Payne University campus, I took the engine apart, removed the troublesome pen cap, and got the engine up and running. The next day I drove back home and never missed my date with that beautiful young lady.

Dad, I Miss You

I miss you, Dad. Life has thrown me many more difficult and painful curveballs than the pen cap in the intake valve. It has been 2 years since you took your last breath on this earth. I don’t work on my own cars as much as I used to. However, I still have the confidence and knowledge to do many things with my own hands that many of my peers don’t. I hope you were proud when I stood next to your casket and honored you as best I could.

Thanks for the Lessons, Thanks for Your Time

I didn’t always like the hard work or the dirty jobs, but I’m grateful you made me join you in the garage and under the shade tree. I am thankful for the lessons you taught. It wasn’t just about cars. I can clean my own fish, butcher my own deer, tile a floor, repair a waterline, build a fence, and take care of many other things. I am grateful for all the things you taught me.

I’m most grateful for the time you spent with me. Time that flies by much too quickly.

Thank you, dad.

I miss you.

Why “Mountains and Ministry”?

Why “Mountains and Ministry”?

As I set out to begin this blog, one of the most difficult decisions was what to title it. So, I decided I would make that the subject of my first post.

Mother’s Day Memories

Today is Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend. Tomorrow will be the first Mother’s Day I have attended a worship service with my mom since I began serving in the pastoral ministry almost 30 years ago. This is a special weekend. Two years ago on Mother’s Day, my brothers and sister were visiting mom when dad apparently had a mild stroke. He spent the next few days in the hospital before passing away on May 16th. One of my more difficult and fulfilling “assignments” from the Lord was officiating his memorial service.

But what does this have to do with a blog title? I was blessed with wonderful parents — not perfect parents. I don’t believe those exist. But I had a mom and dad who loved me, sacrificed for me, and taught me the value of hard work and sacrifice for others. They both served their community as volunteers in the local fire department and medical services.

A Man and the Mountains

My favorite memories with dad are in the outdoors. There are photos of me at his hunting camp in Colorado when I was only three years old. Of course, I don’t remember much of that trip, but it must have planted something in me. We spent many days fishing together with my younger brother, mostly on Lake Travis. He taught us to hunt with integrity, giving us a healthy respect for all that God has created. I also gained a love for camping in the mountains and the national parks as we camped all over many of the western states. As I sit in the backyard of my childhood today, I remember many days working with him in the garage and watching him haul in fish with the rod and reel that sits next to my chair.

One of the largest deer taken in Colorado in the Fall 1970.

A Mom Pointing to Jesus

Mom introduced me to Jesus. She took me to church when I was very small. It seems we were out of church for a few years. When I reached junior high age, mom began to take me to New Hope Baptist Church not far from our home. As I look back at that time, I’m guessing that mom was getting worried. My older siblings suggested that I was getting a little wild (of course, I’m sure that is an exaggeration). We hadn’t been attending very long when the Gospel pierced my heart. I remember talking to Mom about it on the way home. The next day I surrendered my life to Jesus as my Savior and Lord. It was only a few years after that when the Lord called me to a lifetime of pastoral ministry. I will be grateful for her influence for all of eternity!

Mountains, Ministry and God’s Glory

Mountains and Ministry – Dad filled me with a love for the outdoors – a love for all the incredible things that God has created. Mom pointed me to Jesus. Today, I am filled with many memories of dad. Dang it I miss him! Tomorrow, I will worship with Mom at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. Today, I start this blog.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” – Ps. 19:1, 14