Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Harvest....


Garden harvest is coming in, plus we are buying from local farms.  Combined together, we have a lot of vegtables to deal with; it's a busy time for us, but very, very enjoyable.  We are eating fresh produce (a pure delight), and we are canning/freezing as much as we can.  Check out the pictures below.  We brought the corn and some of the field peas from Minnonites near Atmore; the rest is from my garden.









Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where Have All the Baptisms Gone?


Denominations all across America are reporting a decline in baptisms.  The United Methodists have been in decline for years.  Southern Baptists just reported this week their lowest level of baptisms since 1948.

Wow.

Keep in mind, water baptisms are how we estimate the number of people we are reaching for Christ with the gospel.  Plus, it’s an ordinance of the Church; a command of Jesus Christ Himself to be practiced and observed.  When someone declares that he or she is a follower of Christ, that person is expected to follow through with water baptism, publicly confessing Christ.

But baptisms are in steep decline. 

Some churches go all year without baptizing a single convert.

Not good.

Of course, our efforts to reach people should not end at baptism.  Discipleship (spiritual maturity) is the ultimate goal.  Nevertheless, water baptism is an essential part of the Great Commission and the discipleship process; some call it the first half of the Great Commission.  If water baptisms are in decline, then something is broken.

In three weeks, Pace Community Church will be having a baptism service.  I will have the honor of baptizing fifteen people that day.  It’s going to be a great day as we witness this part of New Testament Christianity being fulfilled right before our eyes.

Most of these people are newly committed Christians.  A few of them are being re-baptized, having re-dedicated their lives to Christ after wandering away from the faith.  Either way, God gets the glory.

I feel fortunate to be part of this ministry and to witness the works of God.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pastors, Church Workers, & Extramarital Affairs


Believe it or not, three pastors of megachurches in one city – Orlando – have stepped down because of moral failures.  All within a six month period.

This has been in the news and is now public knowledge....  Isaac Hunter, lead pastor of Summit church, resigned in December after admitting to an affair with a staff member. Sam Hinn, pastor of The Gathering Place Worship Center, stepped down in January after admitting to a relationship with a member of the congregation. Then, just a few weeks ago, David Loveless resigned from Discovery Church after admitting to having an affair.

All I can say is, “wow.”

Why does this happen?  Here are three reasons that come to mind for me:

1.  Emotional Depletion

Many pastors are running on an empty emotional tank.  You may have thought I would say “spiritual” tank, but it’s the emotional fuel gauge that gets most people.

Why does this matter?  When you’re hurting and empty, if you don’t find something God-honoring to fill your emotional tank with, you’ll find something that isn’t God-honoring.  Or at the very least, you’ll be vulnerable to something that isn’t.

2.  The Lack of Sexual Fences

Another reason so many people (including pastors) give in to temptation is because they fail to build sexual fences that are absolutely necessary for protection.

For example:
·        How and when you are alone with someone of the opposite sex
·        How you touch people – being careful with your hugs and lingering touches
·        Not visiting someone alone, at home, of the opposite sex
·        Having a long lunch along together, or staying late and working together on a project
·        You get the idea….

This is just common sense, but very few build these common-sense fences.

3.  Deception

Another reason pastors and church workers often fall prey to affairs is because of a deep spiritual deception.

Let me tell you something that you may have never heard before:  Ministry is hazardous to your soul.  If you haven’t found that out by now, you will.

Here’s why:

a. When you are constantly doing “spiritual things” it’s easy confuse those things with actually being spiritual. For example, you are studying the Bible and reading good books in order to prepare a talk, and you believe it’s the same as personal devotions.

It’s not.

You are praying in church services, during meetings, at potlucks, and it’s easy to think you are leading a life of personal, private prayer.

You’re not.

You are planning worship, leading worship, or attending worship, and it’s easy to believe are worshipping.

Chances are, you’re not.  Know why?  Worship is an exercise of presenting yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice on a daily basis... not just at church.

When you are in the ministry, it’s easy to confuse doing things for God with drawing near to God; to confuse activity with intimacy; to mistake trappings of spirituality for being spiritual.

It’s an easy deception.

b. You are constantly being put on a spiritual pedestal by people and you begin to believe it. The truth is, people have no idea how spiritual you really are, whether or not you have actually spent any time alone with God in reflection, prayer, and repentance over the last six weeks; they don’t know what you are looking at online; and they don’t know how you really treat your spouse at home.

They just afford you a high level of spirituality.

Here’s where it really gets toxic: you begin to bask in this spiritual adulation and start to believe your own press. Soon the estimation of others about your spiritual life becomes your own.

This is why most train-wrecks in the ministry are not as sudden and “out of the blue” as they seem. Most leaders who end up in some kind of ditch were veering off the road for some time beforehand. Their empty spiritual life simply became manifest, or caught up with them, or took its toll.

You can only run on empty for so long...

My advice? 

Do everything you can to stay emotionally healthy, in good relationship with your spouse, build sexual fences for safety, and avoid self-deception by maintaining a closer walk with God.

And, oh yea.  Practice some old fashioned self-denial.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Someone You Can Count On


If you work in a leadership position in church work, you will need fellow workers.  You will not be able to do the work alone.

The question will come up as to whom you can trust.  You will have to decide the quality of men and women with whom you are surrounded, particularly your inner circle of leadership.

Here’s the kind of person you can count on no matter what is happening…

The person who comes in when everyone else goes out.  The apostle Paul paid tribute to a friend named Onesiphrous:  When he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).  Paul was in a Roman prison, in great need, and deserted by almost everyone else.  He was lonely, needy, and trying very hard to be faithful in the most difficult of circumstances.  He needed a friend. 

Onesiphorus was such a friend.

Paul said, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me” (2 Timothy 1:15).  And again, “At my first defence (before Caesar), no one supported me, but all deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:16).

Only Onesiphorus came.

Everyone else was afraid to run the risk of associating with a condemned prisoner.  Some were embarrassed that their leader was ending his ministry so shamefully.

When you succeed – win big on American idol, publish a best seller, or get promoted to the corner office – everyone is your friend.

When your reputation goes south – you are thrown in jail, suspicion abounds, and you take a job selling used cars or insurance, or you get old and sickly and are forgotten – true friends are hard to come by.

But we thank God for them.  They walk in when everyone else has walked out.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013