Good Habits to Develop – Part 5, Striving Together

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The problem with the label independent, fundamental Baptist is that many often emphasize the “independent” rather than the “fundamental.” This mindset often leads to an isolationist-type ministry, acting like the depressed Elijah as he moaned about being the “only one” still serving God. Elijah made it possible for a statement to be both depressing and arrogant. What an accomplishment!

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Would You Like To Be Prominent or Significant?

I read a quote this week that has caused me to stop, pray, and ask myself some very serious questions. The quote?

“Never confuse prominence with significance. If you think because you are not prominent that your ministry is not significant, you are wrong.”

Of course, trying to track down the origin of the quote didn’t help. Whoever you are, Anonymous, thanks! Really. This quote caused me to dig deeper into my Bible for the answer to the title of this article, “Would you like to be prominent or significant?” In answering the question and thinking about the quote, I found some passages that have helped me personally (in my home) and professionally (in my ministry and in public).

You may be asking, “What does the sailboat have to do with this?” I’ll answer that in a moment, I promise. Just keep reading and it will all make sense.

Before we continue, let’s define the words “prominent” and “significant,” both adjectives.

The word “prominent” in the context of this article means, “leading, important, or well-known.” The Medical Dictionary adds that the word means, “immediately noticeable, conspicuous.”

On the other hand, the word “significant” means “important, notable, or momentous.” It comes from the Latin word significant which simply means to signify. Common synonyms for the word are consequential and weighty.

As you can see, the two words can be easily mistaken as synonymous (and in some cases they are). But in the context of our Christian life and service for the Lord, they are not the same. As the earlier quote suggests, the two ought not be confused.

It’s easy to think that prominence will make you significant. After all, doesn’t influence come with prominence? The more you are known or even immediately noticeable, don’t you have more opportunities to share what you know and Who you know? But are these moments of influence significant? I wouldn’t call them useless or unprofitable but think about your own experience, who are the people in your life that are most significant?

For D.L. Moody, it was a Sunday school teacher named Ed Kimball. For Charles Spurgeon, it was a Primitive Methodist preacher named Robert Key.  For William Carey it was a fellow apprentice named John Warr. For me it was a youth pastor named Bro. Faulkner (I can’t even remember his first name). These people are significant not because of their prominence as measured by their church’s membership roster, or contributions to Christian magazines, or their position on some organizational board. They are significant because they were faithful in doing what God has called them to do. They just did their jobs! They served God without promise of recognition or praise. They just loved God so much that all they wanted to do was please Him.

Jesus didn’t focus on preaching to the 5,000; his focus was mentoring and discipling the twelve. Though Paul impacted many lives, his strategy was what Barnabas taught him: encourage, mentor and teach individuals. As the songwriter wrote, “Each one, reach one.”

It’s not about how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have. It’s about being faithful to the Lord and allowing Him to bless your efforts. Just because no one notices doesn’t mean God isn’t pleased.

There’s a saying most Navy sailors are aware of, especially those who serve on ships:

“It is the unseen wind that drives the ship, not the lofty sails.”

Though the sail is visible to us and may seem to be the source of the boat’s power, it is the invisible wind that moves that vessel along.  Likewise in ministry, it’s easy to think it’s the people in prominent positions that can have the greatest significance but without the nursery caregiver, the children’s worker, the usher, the people in the media booth, the member that cleans the bathrooms and straightens up the songbooks, our churches would be a mess! They may be at times unseen, but they are the faithful force that helps drive our church forward.

So next time you think no one is listening to you or no one can see what you’ve done, remember that it doesn’t mean you aren’t significant. Look up Hebrews 6:10 and 1 Corinthians 15:58. Friend, serving our God brings real significance.

And finally, if you are blessed with prominence, don’t waste it by being insignificant. Impact live today!

Remembering 9/11

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According to the Rasmussen Poll, most Americans believed that after 9/11, the nation was better. People were united and helpful. Today, over 66% of Americans believe that because of the 9/11 attacks, the nation is actually worse.

September 11th will forever be etched in United States history as one of the most atrocious acts of terror upon Americans. In some way, we have all been affected by the events of that fateful day. We are a changed people. We view the world differently now than we did the morning before those planes crashed into New York’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Regardless of how one feels about the nation after 9/11 or the change it has brought to one’s life, we can all agree that lessons have been learned in the past ten years, helping prevent another attack of this magnitude. It has also taught us to view life quite a bit differently.

September 11 Taught Us About The Brevity of Life

One of the most horrific photos of 9/11 for me is the photo of a man standing on top of one of the buildings. I am not sure if this image is real or a hoax but it does demonstrate one poignant fact. Those in the World Trade Center Towers woke up that morning expecting to enjoy the sights of New York City or another normal work day. They did not plan to die! Whether this man perished or not, we know that thousands did that day. Office workers expecting another mundane day at the work, tourists celebrating a wonderful work of architecture, soldiers logistically planning our country’s defenses, airline passengers on their way to see a loved one- these and many other lives were lost unexpectedly on 9/11.

If life can end at any time, should that not motivate us to reach the lost at any cost? God is not calling you to win souls for Him. He’s commanding you to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” The Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we can be witnesses! Life will end and sometimes unexpectedly. Don’t squander the opportunities God brings your way.

September 11 Taught Us To Be A Vigilant People

Love it or loathe it, the adjustments to American travel are acts of vigilance against the enemy. If 9/11 happens again, it won’t be because we were not vigilant! America’s carefree travel life has been shaken and now we are asked to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

Can you imagine what churches would be like if every Christian was being “sober and vigilant” because of Satan? The pettiness that creeps into our hearts and the vain imaginations that flood our minds would almost be non-existent. It’s simply amazing how Christians allow Satan free reign in their lives! There’s no reason for it and moreover, it’s sin. It is completely disobeying the Lord’s command to be sober and vigilant.

These two are a few lessons I learned from 9/11. There are many more but these have helped me in my life to make decisions that draw me closer to Him. Life is short- be a soul winner. Satan is around- be sober and vigilant, staying ever so close to Christ.

How about you? What lessons did you learn from 9/11? How has it changed your life?

June Weddings

Why is it that so many people choose to get married in June? Some say it’s because of the weather (whoever said that wasn’t from Arizona!), some say it’s because the sun is out and it makes people happy (again, not from Arizona), while others contend that most get married soon after everyone is done with school- it’s summer vacation and more people can attend. Florists say that most flowers bloom around this time of the year which gives brides for of a selection.

After being married for over ten years, I contend that it does not matter when you get married. The act and blessing of the wedding itself is enough for me. I love being married and I love thinking back on those days leading up to and even after the wedding!

The Courtship

My wife and I have different accounts of this time, based on our paradigm. I enjoyed the “getting to know you” stage. Everyday was a new discovery, another confirmation that God has led us to each other.

I still remember the notes she would leave for me on my desk. I would read those notes over and over again. My students would sometimes laugh because of how “in love” I was!

I remember the times of serving the Lord together. My favorite was when we made a follow up visit on a family that came to our church because we had knocked on their door. I had the privilege of leading the mom and dad to Christ while Amy led their children to Christ in a separate room. There was the time when we served together teaching a high school speech class. Taking our teenagers out soul winning on Saturdays was always fun.

All these times were used of God to draw our hearts closer together as we drew closer to Him.

Do you remember what it was like when Christ, through the wooing of the Holy Spirit was courting you? Remember when you were first saved and you wanted to do everything you can to please Christ? These desires should not be removed because of the passing of time.

I am afraid that marriages, like our spiritual marriage to Christ, have been weakened because of familiarity. The effect should be opposite! The more I know about my wife, the more I love her. She’s not perfect (just look at her choice for a husband!) but she’s a gift from above. Likewise, the more you learn about Christ, the more you’ll love Him.

One great way to do this is to list every single thing Jesus does for you, big and small. You will be amazed at how much He loves you and it will cause you to love Him back!

The Wedding Day

My day wasn’t as stressful as most. I remember being so excited about the day. When the doors opened and I saw her dressed in white at the end of the aisle, I started to weep. I was hers and she was mine and we were both the Lord’s. What a day that was!

What a day that will be when our Jesus, our bridegroom comes to catch us away! Are you looking forward to that day like you did your wedding day? You should! In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, we will find ourselves in His presence. Wow!

The Honeymoon

When Amy and I were married, we found ourselves between ministries so we took full advantage of it. We were out for three and a half weeks! We simply basked in each other’s love and enjoyed each other’s company.

Our honeymoon with Christ- forever! For all of eternity we will worship Him for His goodness to us. I’m ready for it now. Are you?

Behold Thy Mother!

One of the last words Jesus spoke on the cross was, “Behold thy mother.” Somewhat unusual at first glance yet a closer study of God’s Word reveals to us the reason. We know that Jesus did not come into the world to destroy the law but rather He was the fulfillment of the law. The very first commandment that deals with interpersonal relationships is the parent-children relationship. I believe the reason Jesus said the words, “behold thy mother” is to set for as an example of honoring our parents, and in this specific case, honoring our mother. Scholars believe that at this time Joseph has passed away. And now that Jesus was going to be returning to Heaven, He did not want to see His mother without the proper care.

How can we give the proper care to the mothers God has entrusted us with?

Her Spiritual Care

As men, we must not make the mistake of thinking that, because God has called us to lead and provide for our homes, we are the only ones that are busy.  According to Salary.com, a mom who has one preschool child works approximately 96.6 hours a week. Taking the number of hours spent as a housekeeper, cook, day care teacher, facilities manager, driver, psychologist, janitor, laundry machine operator, CEO, etc. locally speaking (Gilbert, 85296) she should be making $114,392 annually. Wow!

And yet if we are not careful, Mom can be so exhausted from all her work that she neglects her spiritual needs. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5 that as husbands we must sanctify our wives by the washing of water by the Word. This is important so that we can present her to the Lord holy and without blemish. Husband, what are you doing to spiritually nourish your wife? She cannot be a godly wife without spending time with God; likewise, she cannot be a godly mother without spending time with God. Protect her time by helping out and properly training your children to honor the time she must spend with the Lord.

Her Social Care

As a husband, I know that Amy is my best friend and I am hers. That’s the foundation of our relationship, humanly speaking. However, there are times she needs to just be around others friends. Your friendship is not threatened when this happens; it simply allows her to let her hair down and enjoy listening to other moms running around chasing their little ones.

Sometimes, this care is provided by taking her on a date, without the children! A romantic restaurant, a picnic at the park, a walk in the mall are all great ways to socially care for her. When she starts “baby talking you” it’s time for a date!

By the way, don’t just care for mom on “Mothers’ Day.” Everyday should be “Mothers’ Day!” Acts of kindness on a daily basis will go a long way in ensuring that your relationship with your wife stays strong as well as her relationship with your kids.

Encouraging Teens

Last week, eleven teenagers from our youth department traveled to Lancaster, California for the annual West Coast Baptist Youth Conference. The days were filled with preaching, as well as fun activities for the young people to enjoy. I remember as a teenager enjoying these times.

After watching some of the messages, I have no doubt in my mind that many, if not all of our teenagers, made a decision for Christ. For some, it has to do with their entertainment. For some, relationships. Others maybe dealt with some secret sins. Many undoubtedly reevaluated their devotion to the Lord. I believe we can say that their trip to California was a success. But how can we keep the spiritual momentum going?

Be Encouraging

I know that in the back of your mind your saying, “We’ve gone through all this before. When will we all go back to normal?” Do you realize that teenagers are not the only ones that go through the proverbial spiritual roller coaster?

I like what D.L. Moody told someone when asked why he keeps holding revival meetings, even though people go back to their normal ways after a few weeks. He responded with a question, “Do you take a bath everyday?”

You and I both know that Satan is not happy with the decisions these young people have made and he’s doing everything he can do deter them from keeping their vows. And may I remind you that Satan is a very powerful foe? Our teenagers do not need another enemy!

Instead of being so negative and self-righteous (because you’ve never fallen before), be encouraging. Ask young people about their decisions and commit to praying for them and with them. Offer to help in any way that you can to assure that they keep their promises to God.

Be an Example

One of the first tools Satan will use in defeating a teenager are the adults that surround them. This may happen through the wrong kind of influence or a disappointing, unexpected action and attitude.

Even though Christian teens don’t come out and say it, they expect more from us. They know we’re not perfect but when we act like we are or worst yet, when we act like we don’t care- they quickly find an excuse not to continue living for Christ and we’re the ones they blame.

I understand that they have to make the choice and that no one will be tempted above that which we are able to handle. But the Bible also speaks of not being a stumbling block. You can’t have one without the other!

In over a decade of working with young people, I have heard many times how teens have tried to live for Christ by getting rid of sinful influences in their lives. In doing so, they were scolded by parents. They were even pressured to accept that which is sinful because “it was okay with mom and dad.” Talk about an uphill battle!

Be Edifying

The basis of scriptural edification is love. Love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, edureth all things.” Loves never fails! Tell that teenager you love them. And when you do, you will do all you can through Christ to build that teenager’s life.

Encourage teens! Why? They may be pastoring and ministering to you someday! Furthermore, it is the right thing to do.

Having a Virus

The past few weeks (it may even be months) our church has been hit hard by sickness. From the flu to common colds, members have fallen victim to one or more of these viruses. At one point, twenty percent of our school (including teachers) were out because of sickness.

In our home, both my wife and child have had colds and infections. For the most part, I was able to stay well and care for our family. What I noticed in most cases was that this virus (or its cousin) did not hesitate to hit you again a few weeks later! And the relapse was worse than the initial conflict with this illness.

Last week, it was my turn. It started with a headache, but it didn’t stop there!

All of a sudden, every other part of me started to hurt- even parts I didn’t know I possessed! I felt awful. And the more I tried to get better, it seemed the worst it got. I did everything from medicine to sleeping to fluids. I was hoping it would be over in 24 hours. That’s how it used to be, right?

This virus got into my body, set up camp and decided to stay for a while. As many around me at school and church started to get sick, I did all that I can to stay well but for this round the virus won and I was suffering the consequences. Needless to say, I looked and felt miserable!

Why is it we don’t treat the “sin virus” the same way? Many Christians today are walking around with this virus and may I add, it is contagious! They wipe their sinful snot on everything, their carnal sneeze travels through the air, and the bitter fever affects everyone around them.

The Bible is clear that sin wants to enslave our body according to Romans 6. We ought to yield to Christ through the Holy Spirit. And yet, just like a physical virus will cause us to do things we would not usually do (such as vomit, among other things), the spiritual virus causes us to live a defeated, bitter, complaining, powerless life. My friend, this is not God’s plan!

To top it off, we walk around (and hang around) those that have this sickness and act as if we are immune. The Bible is clear that we are to “walk not in the counsel of the ungodly.” Solomon said, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” After all should we not instead walk with wise men? Sure they’re not perfect. Who is? Yet, they strive for holiness by the power of Christ!

And let me address the relapse. I am thankful for 1 John 1:9. I am thankful that where sin did abound, grace did much more abound. But remember, too, that to whom much is given, much is required. Friend, God’s grace is sufficient. But don’t frustrate this grace (Galatians 2:21) or ask God for more sacrifices (Hebrews 10:26). Sin sure is pleasurable for a season but remember that God is not and will not be mocked. A man will always sow what he has reaped.

How do we get well? Go back to the Word! A shot of Psalm 19 and 119 will get you on your way. And the virus will stay away with a daily dose of John 17:17 and Psalm 139:23-24. Get well now!