Some Thoughts About My 58th Birthday!

On August 8, 2018 (two days from the writing of this post) I will be 58 years old! Now, that might not be such a big deal to you, but it means the world to me! I always make a big deal of my birthday! Why? Because every birthday reminds me of just how precious the gift of life is! Now, some might wonder, since my birthday is on the 8th, why am I writing this post today? Well, since tomorrow is not promised, I will not take for granted that I will be around two days from hence, and also since I’m having these thoughts now, I will share them now because I might be inspired to share something else (or not) Wednesday!

At the church I serve, I always (in jest) make a big deal of my birthday! I usually tell the membership on the Sunday before the historic day, that I will be available after church to give them written excuses to miss work on my birthday, which is an unofficial national holiday. (I offer to write them an excuse, with no guarantee their employers will accept it nor any offer to compensate for any lost wages; LOL!) Just this past Sunday (yesterday) one of the members said that I should wait until the day of my birthday to collect gifts, to which I replied: “No! I’ll collect any gifts offered or given today, to save people the trouble of trying to locate me on Wednesday!

But, in all seriousness, we should all be excited, not just about birthdays, but about every day! Life is such a wonderful and precious gift! You may be going through a rough patch right now and life might not be treating you very well; but you still have reasons to celebrate life! Why? Because the rough patches in life, whether they are self-inflicted or unjustly caused, are tools that can be used to teach some valuable lessons or weights to help build character and endurance. Whatever life brings your way, the important thing is your response! Life can make you better or bitter; but which, depends on how you respond!

I made up my mind, some years ago, that I would always look for the good in every situation! Many years ago, I read a book entitled: “Happiness Is A Choice.” Every since then, I constantly make a conscious decision to be happy! As I contemplate upon reaching 58 in a couple of days, I am happy because there were some friends I grew up with and some people I went to school with; some younger and some older, who have died, but I’m still here! I realize I am here, not because I was better or more deserving, but rather, only because of God’s grace and providence! Some years ago, when I reached 50, I realized, with all things being equal, I would probably not live another 50 years! I realized that I had already lived longer than I would live! Therefore, I decided then, more so than at any other point prior to that point, that I would no longer allow frivolous pursuits or people to monopolize my time! Life is too short to waste! People who kill or waste time should be arrested and because time is so precious, wasting and/or killing it should be a crime! Sadly, most people madly pursue the paper (money) while neglecting to respect and honor life’s most precious commodity; time!

Now, I realize I’m not the only person who will have a birthday in August 8, in fact, every day is somebody’s birthday! But, I just wanted to share with you my excitement about my birthday to encourage you to celebrate, not only your birthday but every day of your life! Even if you don’t feel like celebrating or you don’t see what’s worth celebrating; life really is good! No matter how bad things appear; just remind yourself they just look that way; usually things are much better than they appear! And even if things really are that bad; look for the silver lining, because; there really is a bright side somewhere!

Have a “good day” today!, As for myself; I am definitely going to have a ‘happy’ birthday; Wednesday! But just in case I don’t make it to Wednesday, that will be alright, because every day is a day worth celebrating!

The Old Preachers Were Right!

spurgeon  When I started in the ministry, nearly forty years ago, I said that I whenever I was blessed to lead a church, I would not preach the message the old preachers in that day and time were preaching. It seemed to me that they were “preaching to the choir” so to speak when they preached a message about repentance and the need to be born again Sunday after Sunday. It didn’t make sense to me: Why would you always preach about the need to be born again to people who were already born again? Why talk so much about the need to repent to people who had already repented? Me and my naïve self! I was under the impression that all church members were saved! It wasn’t until I became a pastor myself that I was ambushed by the startling reality that everybody that talks about Heaven will not be going! When I became a pastor, I found out for myself that many church members are members of the church, but they are not members of the Body of Christ! They have their names on the church-roll, but their names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! They have given the preacher their hand, but they have not given the Lord their heart! Many church members claim to be “saved” but the truth of the matter is; they are saved only in their own minds! As Paul writes of the Jews in Romans 10: They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, are going about to establish their own righteousness and have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God!

Now, before you say I’m being judgmental, I am just merely being observant. Jesus said that a tree is known by the fruit it bears! We live in a culture today wherein if you call a spade a spade, you are labelled as being bigoted or intolerant. But there is nothing wrong with making judgments; it’s just wrong to be judgmental. It’s nothing wrong with being critical, as in being analytical, it’s just wrong to be constantly criticizing, like you are more or better than anybody else! But lest I stray too much, let me get back to my main issue.

The old preachers were right! The greatest field for evangelism in America today is within the four walls of many church buildings! The church today is being rocked by scandal after scandal! It’s not a month that goes by wherein the secular media is not reporting about some pastor or prominent religious leader involved in some sexual or money-related scandal! All this adverse publicity of immorality is just what the cynics love to hear! It gives them an excuse to write Christianity and the church off as being just a rip-off and a racket! What makes it even worse is the offenders rarely show any real signs of Godly sorrow and true repentance. The only sorrow they show is the sorrow that they got caught! The gullible faithful readily forgive the offenders without the offender offering any real sign of repentance! All this serves to make a mockery of the faith and the Name of the Lord to be blasphemed (spoken ill of, cursed) by unbelievers! Because of the behavior of many church members, the world is cursing God and the church!

And so, I’ll say it again; the old preachers were right! The main problem with the church today is that there are too many members, too many leaders, yes, even too many pastors, who simply have not been born again! They have not had a true spiritual encounter with God! Their lives have not been changed or transformed by the Spirit of God!

To make the situation even worse, at a time when the preaching of repentance and true faith is needed the most; we are preaching less! When was the last time you heard a sermon about being born again? When was the last time you heard a sermon about the need to live right? Most of what we hear preached these days is about being blessed and getting more of this or that! Faith these days is not measured by the content of character or by right actions, but rather by the size of houses and bank accounts! But let me go “old fashion” for just a minute: God will not bless mess! A real spiritual transformation, a right-relationship ,and righteous living are still the requirements of true biblical faith!

And so, I want to apologize to the old preachers! I thought I was right and they were just old fashioned and wrong! But they were right and I was just young and naïve! Yes! In a time and day wherein this type of preaching is passé, I want to go on record to say: The old preachers were right: You must be born again! You must repent of your sins to be right with God! For as Jesus once asked: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26 KJV)





Where There is No Vision

Wild WestIn the King James Version of the Bible, Proverbs 29:18 reads: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Usually in Hebrew poetry, which is the genre (type of literature) of this particular text, the first phrase is complimented or contrasted by the second phrase. This is the tell-tale trait of Hebrew poetry called: parallelism. English poetry usually recognized by rhyme, such as what is found in “Jack and Jill” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” So, when we look at Proverbs 29:18 in the KJV text in the light of the fact that it is Hebrew poetry, we are immediately confronted with a problem! What is the connection between “vision” and keeping the “law?” At first glance, there seems to be none, especially if we take the word “vision” to mean what are the common definitions today. Vision is usually thought of as having to do with seeing or sight or dreams and goals. But is that the primary definition the author had in mind when he penned this text? I used to think so, but when I really looked at the text in light of its genre, I began to think differently.
I researched the Hebrew word that is translated as “vision,” and I discovered that the word can also be translated as; “prophecy or divine communication.” The Hebrew word that the KJV translates as “perish” is a word that means, “to be loosened of restraint.” Wow! That makes more sense to me in light of the whole structure of the verse! So here’s the Miller Translation: “Where there is no divine communication [no word from the Lord], the people are unrestrained [the people run wild]; but he that observes and obeys the word of God, happy [blessed] is he!”
Isn’t that where we are in the world today? Many people have cast off all restraint and as Paul wrote in Romans, not only have they cast off all restraints, they even deny the existence of the One who restrains! The Apostle Paul said: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:18-23 ESV)
Because the world has cast off the restraints of God, civilized humanity has degenerated into an uncivilized and inhumane mess! We have gone from one extreme to the other! I remember when I was growing up; I heard that the television shows; “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” were taken off of prime-time television because they were too violent! The cartoons our kids are exposed to today are more violent than they were! The racy R-rated movies of 30 years ago are the G-rated television shows of today! Speaking of “Gunsmoke,” I was in a store the other day and I observed a man who had a holstered-gun on his hip in plain sight! It reminded me of the cowboy-days of the old wild-west! One of the things I remembered from Gunsmoke was the fact that Marshall Dillion, Chester, and Festus, often had a problem distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys because everybody was wearing a gun! I think with the current gun laws and climate, particularly in America, we are no progressing in civility; we are regressing back to the days of the wild-wild-west!
Now, in the midst of this climate of unrestraint, where people are demanding freedom from all restrictions; my question is this: “Who is going to save us from ourselves?” History has proven over and over again; when people reject God and are let to their own standards, there are no standards and that culture is soon destroyed!
I pray that America turns back to God, but if history and the Bible are credible, and I believe they are, it will not happen! So what should the true Christian do in times like these? Be a credible witness to the truth of God’s word! Don’t compromise to cultural relativity! Be a living example of God’s love and grace! And pray! Pray for the courage to be salt and light in such a time as this!