Category Archives: Christian Living

The value of man (and brown bird)

We took our grandsons camping overnight a couple of weeks ago. Our three year old grandson wanted to bring along his favorite toy. Usually this stays with his parents, but since it was overnight we told him he could bring along ‘Brown Bird’.

Brown Bird is a Fisher Price Little People Zoo Animal.  It has the letter ‘N’ on it’s chest to teach the children their alphabet and on this particular bird it stands for Nightingale.  It has brown wings so my grandson calls it ‘Brown Bird’.  He carries it everywhere he goes.  I foolishly vowed to my son that we would keep a close eye on Brown Bird and make sure the toy made it back home safely.

After setting up camp and eating dinner we were playing outside with the grandkids when realization struck me and I looked at my wife and said “where’s Brown Bird?”   She looked immediately concerned and we both realized we had not seen this toy for a couple of hours.  We spent the rest of the evening secretly looking for this toy without purposefully alarming our grandson.  We moved everything, looked everywhere we could imagine and then looked again.  No Brown Bird!

The next evening as we were driving the boys back home my wife texted my son to let them know we were coming back minus one very important toy.  We stopped by a Walmart on the way – but they didn’t have anything like that.  After dropping off the boys, we immediately got on Ebay and found someone that was selling Brown Bird – it was less than three dollars (plus shipping of course) so we ordered a new Brown Bird right away.  Within a couple of days, my grandson was reunited with a new Brown Bird, he didn’t know the difference and was happy as can be.

Why was Brown Bird so important?  Was this little Fisher Price toy valuable?  No.  Was it rare? No.  Was it a collectible?  I don’t think so. It was valuable because of the value my grandson put on it.  It was his favorite toy.  We searched and searched and eventually ordered a new one because it was important to my grandson.

The Word of God tells us that we were formed from the dust of the ground.  In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we find that God made everything that existed from nothing with just His very Word. Except for mankind.  With mankind, He formed the dust into a human being and breathed into him the breath of God – and then man became a living soul.  When man sinned – God sent Jesus Christ to die for him.  Why?  Man has do value.  He is from dust.  Why didn’t God just do away with the sinful one and create new perfect ones?

Because mankind was valuable to God.  God loved man and was willing to die in order to redeem him.  The value of man’s soul is determined by his Creator.

(And Brown Bird is not allowed at Grandma and Grandpa’s anymore).

What is ‘Walking in the Spirit’?

We often teach and preach about the importance of ‘Walking in the Spirit’ but what exactly does that look like?  Specifically, what should change in my life if I am walking in the Spirit?  How do I do it and how do I know if I am walking in the Spirit?

 

1) To walk in the Spirit, we must first be aware of God’s Spirit and we must be aware that His Spirit resides in the life of the believer.  We too often don’t act like we have God’s Spirit within us. We must spend time studying Who the Holy Spirit is, How He works in us, and How we are to respond to that. We must be aware of Him.

2) If I am walking in the Spirit I will look at things spiritually.  I will take a spiritual application on a subject.  My first response in any situation should be with God in mind.  Problems that come my way, people that I meet, conversations that I have, blessings that I receive; all of these should be opportunities for me to grow in my relationship with my Savior.

3) I must feed the Spirit.  When we feed the flesh we will think and respond in the flesh.  When we feed the Spirit we will respond spiritually.  I feed the Spirit by reading the Word of God, by studying the Word of God, by listening to teaching and preaching on the Word of God, etc.  The Bible is our spiritual food.

4) I turn to the Spirit first in time of trouble.  When I am faced with a crisis how do I respond?  Where do I turn for help?  When I am walking in the Spirit, I rely on the Spirit when troubles mount.  I pray first.  Instead of throwing up my hands in despair I rely on my faith and God’s promises.

5) I am offended by worldliness. When I am walking in the Spirit, I am offended by sin.  I find that I am increasingly in contrast to culture.  Light and Darkness have nothing in common, therefore I should be offended by culturally acceptable positions that are opposed the Scripture.

6) I am sensitive to my sin and desire to make quick confession.  When I am walking in the Spirit I am quick to make confession to my sin.  I will immediately understand that my relationship with my Savior is not what it should be because of the sin in my life.  I will immediately repent and confess my sin as sin unto God.

7) I am growing and not complacent.   When I am walking in the Spirit I will be growing in my relationship and knowledge of Christ.  When I have no desire to grow or learn I should quickly reevaluate whether or not I am walking in the Spirit.

..”that which was right in their own eyes”.

I was watching the Today show this morning and Caroline Kennedy was being interviewed about the JFK Profile in Courage Award that was being presented to President Obama.  In the midst of the interview she was asked how President Obama had displayed courage.  She responded that politically he showed courage by “doing what he thought was right”.

Doing what he thought was right.  Is that how one displays courage? Isn’t this a clear indication of a clear change in our culture?  One can be courageous in many ways and certainly one of those would be that you can be courageous when you do the right thing regardless of the consequences.  It is an entirely new angle to be considered courageous for doing what YOU think is right.

The Bible specifically mentions this as a problem in past generations. A time when every man did that which was right according to himself (Judges 17, 21 and Proverbs 21).  We are living in a day when this is accepted as good.  We should be doing that which is right according to God and that which is morally right – instead every one determines for himself what he feels is good.  Then we reward this as courageous.

You are responsible for YOU (Lesson 5)

After twelve years of being a pastor I have conducted many sessions of marriage counseling.  There seems to be one consistent theme:  each individual wants me to tell their spouse what they need to fix.  No one ever comes in thinking that they themselves are the problem.  They all “know” that their spouse is the problem.

The Word of God teaches us that we must all give an account before God.  We are going to give an account of ourselves.  We are to judge not because we will stand in judgement before God for our own deeds.  Suffice to say: we are only responsible for our actions.  We can only control our own actions.  We will give an account for our own actions.

We cannot change someone’s actions or thoughts.  We can, however, change our own.  That is the only control we have in any relationship.  We can make sure that we are doing the right thing, that we are responding the right way and that we are handling each situation the way that God wants us to.

Our reaction is the difference (Lesson 4)

As a Christian it is our reaction to the situations in our life that set us apart from those without Christ.  Regardless of the circumstances that come our way – good or bad – we know Who is in charge and we know from Whom our strength comes.

To those that do not know us very well, the fact that we are a Christian may not be readily obvious.  Lots of people are nice, hard working, patriotic, family oriented, and involved in their communities.  Those qualities are not exclusive to a Christian – though they should be evident in a Christian.  It is when things suddenly go wrong – when the crisis arises – that the faith on which the Christian rests is suddenly tested.  The Christian should not panic when others are frightened  The Christian should not gloat when he is recognized.  The Christian should not lash out when they are wrongly accused.  The Christian does not complain when life seems unfair.

Our testimony and our faith is on full display when life sends a big moment.  Good or bad, our focus should be on God and our purpose should be for God to get the Glory!

 

 

 

My thoughts on those that disagree with me

We live in an era where everyone is able to express their opinion. Social media has opened the door to everyone giving and getting opinions on everything.  Obviously, we are finding that many are intolerant of others’s views.  If you don’t like my presidential candidate than I will unfriend or un-follow you on Facebook.  If you don’t agree that home-schooling is the only acceptable method of educating your child than I will berate your choices and flood you with information to the contrary.  Perhaps you have found out that you have a sensitivity to gluten and you are now overwhelmed with those who accuse you of trying a “fad” diet, or that you have been misdiagnosed or you are faking it or you are just looking for attention

People can be mean and nasty – especially now that they can spew their venom from a keyboard.  Things they would have never said face to face is now much easier when they can spout an opinion and then log off.

Here is my position on those I disagree with:

  1. There are those that I NEVER agree with.  They have different opinions and different standards on everything from God to politics and virtually everything in between.  I do not expect to ever agree with these folks.  Some are my friends, former co-workers or neighbors.  We have some small aspect of our lives that unites – but overall we are worlds apart.  I cannot get upset when these folks disagree with me – I expect nothing less. They do not have my foundation of faith, they do not have my foundation of political opinion, they do not have my worldview of culture, life and education.   In fact – when there is a rare moment that I do agree with them I often find myself re-evaluating my own position.  If we actually do agree on something perhaps I have limited information or have not thoroughly studied this subject.
  2. There are then those that I usually always agree with.  When they completely disagree with me it gives me pause to re-evaluate my position.  I trust their thoughts and opinions so perhaps they know something I don’t  Perhaps I know something that they don’t. When I disagree with this person in my life I dig a little deeper to clarify  the why’s and the how’s.  I also evaluate the commonality of our relationship.  If the common ground is our faith and the disagreement is in regards to our faith than I evaluate that disagreement more earnestly.  If our common ground is our employment, but our disagreement is on politics, than I must regard that their baseline for making decisions may be completely different than mine.

Disagreeing with someone is no reason for ending relationships, becoming stressed or getting angry.  Each disagreement gives me the opportunity to evaluate, learn, research and make an educated decision.

That I may know Him (Lesson 3)

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

My prayer for my congregation, my family and myself is that we may know Jesus Christ in a personal way.  We spend much time learning ABOUT Jesus.  We learn about His life, His ministry, His teachings, His death, His resurrection, etc.  However, do we ever really get to know Him personally?  Do we have that close relationship with Him that He desires?

This was clearly Paul’s desire in the above passage.  Paul wanted to walk with Jesus and know Jesus the way that Enoch walked with God in Genesis 5.  The way that Moses was called the friend of God and the way that David was a “man after God’s own heart”.

How do we get to know Him?

  1. We spend time in prayer.  Praying to not only talk but also to listen.
  2. We stay away from sin.  Sin separates us from Him.
  3. We obey Him.  We keep His commandments.

“That I may know Him”!

Character affords the opportunity (Lesson 2)

  • In our continuing series of the Top 10 Lessons I want to share to my congregation – this is Lesson #2: Character Affords the Opportunity!

The Word of God gives us ample information and background on many of the heroes of our faith.  We can consistently see that the character of the individual opens the door to the opportunity that God has for them.  Here are three Biblical examples:

Esther.  The Bible tells us that Esther made a very positive impression on Hegai (2:9),  the one appointed to look after the young women chosen to be presented before King Ahasuerus.  She was not vain or needy by evidence of her refusal of complimentary items(2:15).  The Bible also tells us that even as Queen she  listened to Mordechai, her cousin that raised her, just as she always had (2:20).  Is it any wonder then that the King was so pleased to see her when she presented herself at his court?  Any wonder that he “hasted” to her dinner both the first night and the second?  Her character in the little things opened the door when things looked dire.

Nehemiah.  In chapter 2 of Nehemiah we see that this cup bearer for the King was troubled by the information he had just received concerning the tragic condition of the city of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s countenance was fallen because of this news.   Verse 1 of chapter 2 tells us that the King noticed his demeanor because he “had not been beforetime sad in his presence”.  Wow!  He had never shown up to work sad before.  This was so out of character for Nehemiah that the King of the largest and most powerful empire in the known world at that time stopped all of the business of King’s court to find out what was troubling him.

David.  In 1 Samuel we see the story of young David in the familiar showdown with Goliath in chapter 17.  David’s attention to detail cannot be understated.  In verse 20 we see him rise early and leave his foremost duty (tending to the sheep) in the hands of someone else.  He makes his way to the battle as his father had commanded him to do and leaves his dad’s carriage in the hand of another keeper.  He is coincidentally berated by his older brother Eliab in verse 28 for showing his interest in the events of the battle.   Eliab even questions why he abandoned his sheep to come to the battle. Of course, the Word of God had already told us that he had not abandoned his duties.  Isn’t also interesting that even though David was not watching sheep this day – he still had his sling and his pouch to carry the ammunition?

Esther, Nehemiah and David.  Why did God chose these servant for the tremendously important events for which we know them? Perhaps much can be said for their character in the little details of life which mattered so much to God.  So much so that He recorded these little details in His precious Word.

Top 10 Lessons: #1 – Understanding WHO God is!

I have just concluded twelve years of being the Pastor at Cedar Hill Baptist Church of Dillsburg, PA.  I calculated that I have preached or taught at Cedar Hill over 2500 times.  During these years there are several important lessons that have become key lessons that I want to make sure are emphasized.  These are the top 10 lessons that I want people who have sat under my teaching to remember.  (Note: these are in addition to the foundational truths of Salvation by Grace alone, the verbal inspiration of the Word of God, etc. )

#1  We are to understand WHO God is!  When things become difficult and questions arise we so often center on trying to find out Why is this happening? or When will this trial end? or What did I do to deserve this?  The Word of God teaches us that the correct question is WHO?  Who is in control?  Who knows what is going on? Who set the stars in the heavens?  Who is ruling and reigning on the throne of eternity?  Who?  Who is God?

This does not seem like a natural reaction and it is certainly not the question we want to ask.  In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, it is not necessarily even the answer we are looking for when things are bad.  However, it is the question God wants us to answer.  Let’s look at a few Biblical examples:

Job.   In the book of Job we see the incredible challenges he is up against as he loses practically everything in one day.  He loses his home, his flocks, his children and eventually his health.  Job is searching for the answer to Why?  Why is this happening?  His friends come along to help him answer this question – with their conclusion being that Job must have done something wrong. However, we will notice God’s response beginning in chapter 38.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,  Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?    

The Lord will go on to build upon the truth of WHO He is throughout chapter 38, 39, 40 and 41.  Job responds in chapter 42 and verse number 2 with I know that thou canst do everything…

 Mary’s Magnificent.  The prayer of Mary recorded in Luke 1:46-56 outlines once again that Mary’s prayer of praise is all about WHO God is!

Solomon’s prayer for the Temple dedication.  In Solomon’s prayer recorded in II Chronicles 6:12-42 he repeatedly acknowledges WHO God is.

When the struggles of life begin to rage – we ask the wrong question. The question is not when, why, or how – rather the question is WHO?  When we find the answer and acknowledge that the Who is God Almighty – the rest of the questions fade away.

I’ve said ‘No’ to heterosexual marriage ceremonies many times.

The recent supreme court ruling on homosexual marriage has ignited a firestorm surrounding whether or not a church and or minister should be required to perform a same sex wedding.  Can a minister deny performing a same sex wedding on the basis of his/her faith?

The assumption is being made that Pastors marry heterosexual couples without hesitation. This is simply not the case.  Any Pastor with standards and a high regard for marriage evaluates every potential marriage ceremony individually.  There are multiple reasons a Pastor may excuse himself from performing a wedding.  I have personally declined several. The Word of God commands individuals to not be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers”.  Scripture forbids a minister from marrying a Christian and a Non-believer in marriage.  The first question I always have is in regards to their faith.

The issue of divorce and remarriage is also a hot topic among church leaders.  This issue alone will affect the decision of many ministers in whether or not they will perform the wedding.  I require three sessions of pre-marital counseling which some couples don’t want to go through.  This eliminates some potential ceremonies.  I have a pastor friend which requires potential spouses to take a test first to gauge how well they complement each other.  There are others who want a marriage reception atmosphere (alcohol and music) which is against my standards and they find other arrangements for their ceremony.

Marriage is a sacred union that must be taken seriously.  I feel it is important to note in our discussion of marriage today that the issue of heterosexual vs. homosexual may be grabbing the headlines but I for one take many, many other things into account.  I have several members of our congregation which respect my high standard for marriage and while I was not able to perform their own wedding they are still a part of our church. Marriage is a divine picture of Jesus’ relationship with the Church and is not to be taken lightly even in a heterosexual ceremony.