Friday, December 11, 2015

Is Church Just an "Add-On" for You?


A very common tendency today is for people to treat the local church as a helpful add-on, but not as the community of faith into which they have been saved… and summoned (by Scripture) to live out their discipleship to Jesus Christ. They are happy to reap its benefits – yet reluctant to commit to or sacrifice for.

As a pastor it is my responsibility to challenge this notion. 

First of all, the Church (made up of believers) is the only thing Jesus died for.  The Church was literally purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28; Galatians 3:15-18).  Second, the Church is the very Body of Christ (I Cor. 12).

No other organization (or endeavor) in all of life has that status.  The church is superior to them all!

Sadly, the church receives lower levels of commitment from some people than the other activities in their lives.

It’s easy to roll our eyes when considering the effect of fringe involvement and nominal commitment.  Yet this is precisely how many professing Christians relate to the local church.  This should not be!  Rather, we should be the very people deliberately looking for ways to define and deepen our relationship with the local church.  We should be making ourselves known to pastors and other believers so they know we can be counted on.

Going to church is not a quaint little time of merely experiencing warm-and-fuzzy feel-good moments.  It's an essential part on one's spiritual growth, as well as an evident demonstration of commitment to God.

For the glory of God, the good of His people, and our witness to the world, let’s labor for churches with full commitment and personal sacrifice.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Inside View of Home


The sheet rock has been hung.  Now waiting for the finishers.



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Harming the Church by Catering to People Who Don't Care


Do you ever wonder why some people never watch football?  Of course not.  It's common knowledge that some people like sports and some people don’t.

The same basic principle is also true about the church.  Some people like it and some people don’t.  Some people have a genuine interest in spiritual matters, while others could give a flying flip about them.  Some people truly care about the Church Jesus died for and others could care less.

Some people have such a lack of interest in God that the last thing they will do is gather in a building and listen to a speaker talk about Him.

Now suppose you wanted to boost attendance in a football stadium.  You’ve already got the attention of those who are interested in football, so how do you reach those who aren’t? Well, you could put on a rock concert for the half time show which would attract in a few more faces.  You could also feature a high profile celebrity and that would attract a few more attenders, at least for a while.  Finally, to keep the regulars happy, you can squish in a 15 minute game among the other forms of entertainment. 

That way, there’s something for everyone.  Right?

Maybe.  But it’s not good football anymore.  It’s not even a good rock concert.  It’s just a hodgepodge of watered-down elements.  But you’ve discovered that by doing multiple things in a compromised manner you can get more people in stands.

When did church become like that?  When did teaching people about God become less important to us than headcounts?  I don’t know for sure, but the effects are obvious.  

There used to be a time when sermons involved the pastor just getting up and talking and sharing content from the Bible.  If you wanted to learn something, you actually had to pay attention and listen to what was being said.  If you wanted to grow, you had to actually pray as you listened and ask God to show you what was applicable to you.

Vertically focused worship and Biblical teaching is not enough anymore.  Unless there is a plethora of options and/or stage entertainment, people will leave.  Why?  Because they don’t really care about God or the church... only what it offers them (and doesn't require their commitment).  Spiritual development has become something we try to squeeze in between the fun.  And just like the football game, it's not even good church any more... just a hodge podge of watered-down elements.

And guess who really gets hurt by our tendency to cater to those who don’t care about God?  Those who DO care – that small minority of souls who would actually like to grow and learn what it means to be a real Christian.  They’re being deprived of real nourishment in these lightweight snack shops.  In fact, they would grow faster if the place wasn’t  over-crowded with so many tares... that we have planted ourselves!

If you want to pack the pews, just say what people want to hear.   If you’re going to preach the hard truth, just be sure to slip it in between two thick slices of “blessings.”  Everyone wants to hear how blessed they are going to be…. how favored they are… how happy they can be… and what God is going to do for them.

No one wants to hear about what they should be doing for God.  We want to be reminded we are His children, but not His servants.  Why?  Because children get everything handed to them on a platter… while servants lay down their lives in sacrificial service.  We want to hear about our future inheritance, not our earthly responsibility.

Let’s get real about the Church.  We are not failing God if people leave.  The world hates Jesus and always will.  Not even Jesus retained everyone who came to listen.  We are failing God when we push Him (and His Word) from the spotlight and use entertainers wearing club attire to keep carnal people in.

As it turns out, Jesus isn’t bait enough for the crowds.  He’s a stumbling block to them.  How dare we repackage Him into an image of our own making?  If the gospel isn’t offensive to the carnal nature then it is no longer the gospel.

There is no nice way to tell someone they are sinful by nature, haven fallen short of God’s standard, are headed to the lake of fire if their name is not found written in the Book of Life, and to be saved we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.  Look to the Bible and you never see Jesus tripping over Himself chasing after people who walked away after one of His teaching sessions.  Nor did He apologize for saying something harshly.  When Jesus saw hypocrisy, He confronted it head on.   He verbally shredded the false shepherds of His day.   He never concerned Himself about political correctness either.  His parables were blunt and in-your-face.  He demanded righteousness from His followers, and packed in plenty of graphic warnings in His teachings about what would happen to those who rebelled against God.  He never watered-down the message to attract those who did not care about God.  He spoke the truth forcibly so that He might draw those who DID care about God.

If people (in the church) are bored by the Bible and the truth contained in its pages, then let them leave.  We should never deprive those who DO care for the sake of those who don’t.    We shouldn’t be making house calls and personal visits begging them to return, apologizing ten different ways because their conscience was pricked by the Word of God. 

What passes for “loving the lost” these days is actually “catering to carnality.”

The universal Church is made up of Christians only, for these souls have been baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit Spirit, and only He has that power.  Therefore, the local church is a gathering place for believers to be nurtured, developed, and educated into disciples.  Yet, her doors are wide open to anyone and everyone who would love to join us... including the unconverted.  It is here they can hear the Word and be converted (by God's engrafted Word that saves the soul).  If, on the other hand, they decide they are not interested, we let them go just as they came.  Just as a skating rink is for skating, not baseball, the purpose of local church is to talk about God and make disciples…. not entertaining the fallen nature.

We can talk about church growth until we are blue in the face, but as long we keep doing everything possible to attract those who could care the least, we’re only hurting those who care the most.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Homemade Vinegar Pepper Sauce



Living in the South and loving to cook is a culinary adventure.  In the South we have access to more unique foods than most regions of the U.S.;   Okra, Rutabaga, Turnip Greens, Turnip Roots, Collards, Kale, Mustard Greens, Black Eyed Peas, Southern Peas, Crowder Peas, Squash, …. on-and-on it goes.

One unique feature of Southern meals is the use of Vinegar Pepper Sauce.  We love to douse our greens, peas, and fried okra with this simple yet delicious seasoned vinegar that adds just the right kick to our favorite dishes.  I even use it as an ingredient in a homemade seafood sauce (handed down from my father).

Have you ever added vinegar pepper sauce to a bowl of greens?  If you have, you know what I mean.  You are instantly hooked!

I grew up with a bottle of vinegar pepper sauce sitting on the table.  A few years ago I began growing peppers in my garden which gives me a lot of enjoyment; they are colorful, ornamental, eye-catching, delicious... and my pepper plants always produce more than enough!  I cook with fresh peppers as they are coming in.  I also freeze peppers (after chopping) to use over the winter, especially for chili, stews, and spaghetti sauces, etc.

Then there’s the vinegar pepper sauce.  I always put up several bottles of this homemade product.  I usually give a few bottles as gifts, and keep enough for myself to use on greens (collards, kale, etc) as they are harvested from my garden during the winter months.

This is a picture of a few bottles I put up yesterday.  The peppers came from my garden, and I bought the bottles from Hall’s Hardware in Milton.

I plan to put up several more to use as gifts.

I really get a lot of enjoyment from the simple things.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

Muscadine Grapes


After three years of tending these vines, the grapes are finally coming in.  It's very satisfying to finally see 'fruit' of my labor.  Patience really is a virtue.




Saturday, August 1, 2015

Today's Catch


Caught 32 mullet today.  I was using a 9 ft brail cast net, while wading.  

Renae and I went to Ft. Pickens and fished on the Sound side.  The wind was blowing from the north about 5-6 mph, the tide was high, and the surface was choppy.  Needless to say, the conditions were rough.

I was wading over waste deep, and the waves were coming over my shoulders, and throwing into the wind was next to impossible.

However, there were SO MANY FISH SWARMING IN SCHOOLS that it was hard to miss.

After we got home, we cleaned all 32 fish.  I filleted them and Renae skinned them. 

Dang!  She is dangerous with a sharp knife!









Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When We Backslide, a lot of things happen, and None of Them are Good


The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15)

Backsliding.  It’s an interesting term, isn’t it?  It says what it is.  It needs no explanation.

You’re saved.  You love the Lord.  You express your devotion publically.  You’re doing well, and then you fall into sin one way or another.  Perhaps you slipped or you plunged… either way, you knew full well what you were doing.

Now look at you. 

God seems so far away, and the closeness you once had with Him a distant memory.  You remember when you felt so close to God, so clean and pure, and so happy in Him.  You delighted in reading His Word, and perhaps even teaching it to others.  You used to love gathering together with the Lord’s people singing hymns, worship songs, and praying together. 

But not now.

Something in your heart has died.  The light has gone out.

And you know it.

No amount of wine, fine dining, amusement parks, camping, road trips, hanging out in taverns, lounging by the pool, sleeping in on Sunday’s, or whatever… can replace the spiritual void that now exists in your life.

Husks of corn are fit food for swine, but cannot satisfy the hunger in the prodigal's belly... neither can worldly entanglements provide nourishment for your soul.

What’s wrong?  You have backslid.  It could involve sins of commission or omission, or both.  Either way, the joy you once had in the Lord has disappeared.

This is a miserable place to visit… and no one in their right mind would ever want to live there.

When this happens, a hundred things takes place.  None of them good.  Here’s my short list:

You are treating Jesus with contempt.  Your turning to sin is an insult to Him.  It's as much a slap in His face (or more) as the Roman soldiers did to Him the day He was crucified for your sin.  Does His sin-sacrifice mean so little to you that you now have left Him and embrace the world?

You have lost your first love for Him.  Read Revelation 2:4 and be fearful.  Also read Revelation 3:14-22 about the believers who had grown “lukewarm” in their faith.  They were under threat by Jesus Himself to be “spewed out.”

You resent reminders of your spiritual status and your need to repent and return to the Lord.  These friendly reminders from friends, family, or spiritual leaders feel like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  Your spouse points out you no longer read the Bible, and you explode.  A friend from church calls to say they have missed you, and you grow angry.  And, had no one called, you would have used that as an excuse against the church.  Anger is ruling your life.

The backslider becomes critical of the church, Christians, preachers, and Christianity in general.  “They’re all hypocrites.”  Or, “They’re all so judgmental.”  Or, “If that’s what a Christian is, then I don’t want to be a Christian.”  On and on it goes.

The backslider can wax eloquent on the faults of the church… and yet, there was a time in your life when you didn’t feel that way.

The backslider rationalizes his/her new lifestyle while indulging in behaviors he/she would have previously shunned.  This needs no elaboration.

Worship of God loses its meaning.  The backslider stays home or finds something else to do on the Lord’s Day because their devotion to God has been lost.  Now, cleaning out the garage, sleeping in, or going to the beach is more important.  The Lord’s Day has now become Sunday Fun Day.

His/her testimony is compromised and credibility is shot. You once lived for the Lord in deep devotion.  You  espoused the virtues of  godly living.  Your testimony was clear.  And people noticed.  Your family, friends, and co-workers were impressed with your commitment to God.  

But now they notice something else... how far you have backslid... and it makes a deep impression on them.  But not a favorable one.  Only contempt.  In fact, they probably think it was all a put-on.  That it wasn't real....

But it was real.  You know it was real.  God knows it was real.  

And that's exactly why God has to do something about it.... to bring you back to Him.

God will intervene, bringing chastisement.  Pain and correction are the backslider’s future.  The Bible is clear, God chastens His children who stray.  (See Hebrews 12:4-12).  He does this for the express purpose to get us to repent and return to Him.  He uses pain and correction to produce the fruit of holiness in our lives. 

He doesn’t do this to the unbeliever.  He does it to His children who have strayed.  It's guaranteed to  happen.  Look it up.

However….

After he humbles himself and repents, and after he is back in church serving the Lord and enjoying the close fellowship with Him and His people, the believer looks back and wonders: “What was I thinking?”  And he is so grateful for the loving kindness of the Lord.

Don’t ever backslide.  The way of the transgressor is hard.

Peppers


These are Cajun Bells.  They're like a bell pepper, only smaller and slightly spicy.  Perfect for cooking.

In the background are field peas (Brown Crowder)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

All in the Family...

Me, two sons and a grandson... started with my father
Four generations






Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Trusses



Raising Trusses with Crane

Starting to look like a house!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Moving Along

From Monday to Friday this week has been a transformation.  Material arrived on Monday... to now having walls (interior and exterior) with window/door openings and insulation siding.

This phase is occurring very fast.  Having to coordinate multiple contractors and material suppliers in a certain sequence has been a learning experience for me.  But is has been exciting too. 

 It's been like an ant hill of activity at times.  

Today the trusses arrived, the foam board insulation (blue siding) is going up, and the vertical posts are in place for the carport.  Monday, incidental trim-work will take place.  Tuesday, the trusses will go up.  Decking and dry-in will follow.  

Week three, windows and exterior doors will be installed.

                                            




Monday, June 22, 2015

Framing Began Today


The framing crew arrived about 6:00 a.m. this morning and worked until 2:30 p.m. this afternoon.  It was blazing hot.  I mean life-threatening hot.  Temps in upper 90's with the heat index at 108 degrees!

They framed the outside walls and braced them in place with temporary braces.  Tomorrow they will work on the interior walls, then tie it all together with more rigid bracing and bolts.  

A lot was accomplished in eight hours.  With the  wall up it is beginning to take a 3-dimensional shape which gives me a better sense of scale and feel for each room.

Material Arrived


Beams for the Porches and Carport

View from the Rear
View from the Front



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Concrete Poured!


This is how I spent most of my time last week - getting ready for, and assisting with the cement pour.

To begin with, I did all the back-filling myself (as well as the compacting of the soil).  

You'll notice this is a high foundation - it's four block high -i.e., we added the fourth course as a change-order - which required more dirt , more time, and more concrete to fill the cavities, and more cost.

By my best calculations, I moved 183 tons (or 270 cubic yards) of fill dirt that I had delivered several years ago. It took me several weeks to move it from the back of my property to inside the foundation, but I saved myself about $4,000 by doing it myself.

This week, on Friday, the concrete arrived and with the finishers on site, the foundation phase was completed. The pictures below show how the day unfolded.  I had 65 cubic yards of concrete poured.  That's a lot of concrete!  

Btw, the finishers did an exceptional job... smooth finish... attention to detail... very level... and they also cut control joints for me (to control where cracking occurs).  I am very pleased with the quality of their craftsmanship.  I would recommend them to anyone needing a finisher.  They charge 55 cents per square foot.

I was very interested and reassured in seeing the concrete flowing into the cavities of the block (i.e., I have one picture of that below).  This makes for a very solid and tight foundation... all of which is built on undisturbed ground... giving me great peace of mind.

The pictures below are in sequence....


This is the Carport 


Notice the depth of monolithic footing for the carport 


Some of the concrete trucks poured from the front - which was very precise.


Carport being leveled


House Foundation - notice the concrete flowing into the block cavities


This machine creates a smooth finish


My on-site office... the tailgate of my pickup truck


Pour complete....


View from the other end...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sunflowers in the garden.  A closeup of bees on a flower (I plant flowers to attract bees). And a bunch of tomatoes I picked early this morning.




Saturday, June 13, 2015

Veracruz Style Red Snapper


This is the dinner Renae and I prepared last night for a family meal (the kids, grandkids, mom, and the two of us - four generations).

The main dish was Red Snapper prepared in a Veracruz style (i.e., Mexican Gulf Coast).  Basically, the fish is baked in a bed of selected vegetables (after they have been sauteed and seasoned to taste on the stove top).  

In this meal I used cherry tomatoes (halved), sweet white onion (chopped), fresh garlic (minced), jalapeno pepper (de-seeded to remove the heat, then diced), capers (not shown) green olives (sliced), and fresh oregano.

The dinner was rounded out with boiled shrimp (locally caught), fresh corn on the cob (locally grown), a corn salad (with sun dried roasted tomatoes infused with olive oil), fried mullet, steamed broccoli, and a platter of tomatoes (yellow and red) from my garden.

"This is how we be doing it at my house."