Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Speaking of Cars--My Wife

A friend mentioned that his family auto is approaching 100,000 miles, and he is about to embark on the annual pilgrimage back to his Arkansas roots from the Northeast.

That reminded me of another thing for which I'm thankful this season. My wife's car, a 1998 Oldsmobile, has 230,000 miles on it. We put a new engine in it in the Summer of 2005. That engine now has over 70,000 miles. The paint is starting to peel, crack, and generally just look pretty bad, so last week I bought some sanding material, primer, and white paint. I sanded the spots where the paint has peeled and primed it, then carefully laid down a coat of paint. [All of this of course from spray cans bought in a local parts house.] I was pretty proud of it. Everything was white again. No rust spots. I thought, "Wow! She'll certainly be happy to drive this for another 200,000 miles."

Then I asked her what she thought of it. She replied, "It looks like you did it." I'm still not exactly sure what that means, but I have the growing suspicion that it was not entirely complimentary. So now I'm thinking, "She really likes that car. Maybe I need to just put a new paint job one it."

I recently bought three new tires for the car. There was a pretty severe shake and shimmy at about 60 miles per hour which continued up to 70. It felt like a tire out of balance. Alas, the new tires did not cure it. Neither, did the patch up paint job distract her from the fact of the shake and shimmy. What's a man to do? I wonder if I turn the white side walls out, that will buy me some more time.

The car has an electric antenna. It has gotten bent and will not go completely down, but that's not a big problem. Neither is the fact that the cassette player no longer works. Now, those ball joints on the front end which are beginning to have considerable slack, that might be a teensy bit of the problem. {Shouldn't they last longer than a couple hundred thousand miles on rough South Louisiana streets and roads?] I guess those new tires and my patch up paint job are simply not going to cover up the real problem. Someone recently told me that I'm trying to treat an old worn out and used up horse which should have already been put out to pasture like a three year old colt.

All of which brings me back to what I'm thankful for in this matter. The loving God of Glory has provided for us when we had absolutely no resources. He continues to sustain us during these lean times, and I'm married to a woman who doesn't have to have a new car every year or two.

I'm thankful for my God who has given me such a life partner as Diane. Her attitude about her car is a snapshot of her life.

Here is Diane showing
the size of some
gargantuan Golden Rods
growingbeside our
house in Slidell, LA.

  • Acquiring things for herself has never been a driving force in her life.
  • She continues to work in nursing to enable us to serve smaller churches.
  • She gives herself to ministering to the preschoolers so that others can participate in worship.
  • She is willing to do the most menial of tasks with a sense of purpose and joy.
  • She loves her children and grandchildren with a sacrificial love.
  • She treats everyone with respect and dignity.
  • She demonstrates her love for Christ in her everyday activities.
And the thing for which I'm really thankful: She still loves me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Flexibility is the keynote of missions. This group was scheduled to fly out of Houston and arrive in New Orleans at 10:38 PM. They arrived after Mid-night and didn't get to sleep until about 2:30 AM. Here they are loading luggage on my truck.

Ben Sigmundik wrote an article which was published today August 29th in the Texas A&M newspaper "The Battalion" about his trip to Immanuel Baptist Church with a mission group from West Oaks Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas where he is the Children's Minister, and a sophomore at Texas A&M. The group was a tremendous encouragement to IBC as they emphasized working on the church grounds. I can't help but think what a difference it would make in the lives of churches if more of us would step out of our environment to go help another struggling church with some simple clean up.

This group also spent part of one day passing out over 600 door hangers.

In his article, "New Orleans two years after Katrina Sobering Experience", Ben recounted the late night, actually early morning, arrival and the trek to Slidell from the airport in New Orleans. He spoke of the plywood bunks with very thin egg crate mattresses, and expressed thanks that at least there was an air conditioner.

Ben, along with Pastor James Heffington and the rest of the group, showed no signs of the "Katrina Fatigue" which seems to be lapping at the heels of citizens and believers alike around the country. Two years of Katrina should be enough most people believe, even as the name continues to hover over the country like a giant seismic cloud threatening at any moment to spew its hateful contamination upon the unsuspecting populace. It has cost the governor any chance of re-election and driven locals to demonstrate the heights of moral character, and the depths of moral depravity. Katrina promises to stretch into the next presidential election cycle, and though the 100 mph plus winds have long since died, she continues to wreak havoc among the weak, the elderly, and the emotionally unstable.

Completing the roof for the building which housed several hundred volunteers over the months, and now serves as a Youth and Children's Building.

Immanuel Baptist Church lost three buildings during the storm, but the greatest blow has come as individual families have begun to experience discouragement over the slow rate of growth. Such discouragement leads to dis-satisfaction with everything from the sermons to church polity and even doctrinal positions. The inevitable personality conflicts eventually become exacerbated and there seems little possibility of stemming the tide which continues inexorably on toward the looming reefs of destruction, until and unless God sends revival among His people so that they may be guided safely through the treacherous waters.

"Katrina Fatigue" seems to have given the evil one an opportunity to gain a beach head in the lives of individuals, who then are seemingly unaware of the fortresses he builds up causing defeat and moral failure in those who seemed on the road to productive lives reflective of the Grace of Almighty God. "Katrina Fatigue" is no excuse for the pre-occupation with self and things which leads to broken relationships and disrupted churches. However, I do think it explains what has happened. We remain responsible for the choices we make, and I believe the time of testing God has allowed us to endure will eventually bring great victories in His Name, when we stand fast to our first love and complete those things we have been led to begin.

Pastor Heffington said, “It was a great opportunity to help this church that has been helping out all these other people.” Since Katrina hit; hundreds, if not thousands, have slept in IBC's facilities as they have ministered on both sides of Lake Ponchatrain. They have hung thousands of door hangers, dispensed untold food packets, gutted houses, rebuilt roofs, hung sheetrock, and demonstrated Christ-like love in a myriad of ways.

Now, however, IBC stands on the precipice above a churning maelstrom which threatens to drown her in the lake of despair and frustration. She needs dedicated, sacrificial living members who are willing to accept responsibility and invest themselves in her future. She needs the prayers of God's people as she seeks to make inroads into a culture where even the Believers in Christ look to be served rather than to serve.

The group from little West Oaks Baptist Church, there in Bryan were totally sacrificial in their service, and our congregation received a needed shot of spiritual adrenalin. For a couple of days, that group ministered to us by doing needed repairs, weeding the flowers, clearing brush, and just loving us. What a blessing. There is no "Katrina Fatigue" at West Oaks Baptist Church.

Cleanup and debris removal with FEMA trailers in the background.

Weeding the flowers gave a new freshness to the grounds.

The metal roof was very hot, but that could not deter this intrepid worker.

The nursery receives needed upgrades.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Second Installment--Horse Week at Summer Camp

Today began with my having to go to several locations to find leather strips for re-tying a saddle stirrup which broke. Slidell has several horse boarding locations and Lewis Stables is pretty well supplied for the casual rider.

Elvis, the donkey, was in good spirits and allowed himself to be mauled by the children throughout the day. He is very genial and just simply loves people, especially children, or so it seems. He has never really told me that. :-)

Snowflake is a real favorite of the children, and here little Dixie is showing signs of becoming a real horsewoman. She took to the horses with an anxious vitality.

Torie, below, already shows signs of the kind of self assurance on horseback with assure her of many years of pleasure on horseback.

Brian on the left had never ridden before, but he is demonstrating the kind of affinity for horses which will certainly lead to his family receiving considerable pressure to obtain him a suitable mount.

This is Skylar's second year for Summer Camp with IBC and he is gaining assurance with each new experience.

Apache, is the horse which all the kids want to ride. He is just a big ole pet, but still not settled enough with people in the saddle for the children to ride him. We will try again with him on Friday.

Today the rains came in torrents. Kevin and I were soaked as we attempted to arrange a shelter for horses and we were unable to ride Thursday Afternoon. The campers were disappointed, but they must learn, as the rest of us do, that things don't always go as we planned. It is currently about 4:15 PM and the rains are still coming down along with thunder and lightening. I pray it will pass so that tomorrow will be a day when the campers can ride in both the morning and evening.

We also experienced a power outage today when a garbage truck became entangled in utility lines along Airport Road where IBC is located. All in all it has been quite a day. I plan to go home and play a game of Age of Empires with my two sons and son-in-law. We try to play a game at least once when he is home from overseas. It takes about 4-5 hours before I'm trounced by youth's greater ability on computer gaming. :-)

First Installment--Horse Week at Summer Camp

I arrived in Slidell Tuesday afternoon from the Farm in Clarke County Mississippi with two horses and a donkey. The horses are a four year old gelding named “Apache” and a three year old filly recently named “Snowflake” by my some of my granddaughters. The donkey is named “Elvis.” I’m not sure where the name came from but I got him from the former pastor of FBC, Slidell, Michael Claunch. The kids say he resembles the pictures of Elvis they see. :-)

Since the horses are only green broke, we must work with them to get them ready for the kids to ride. We saddled Snowflake and put one of my granddaughters on her. We, then led the horse around the area without a bridle. We eventually replaced the halter and lead rope with a bit and bridle just to get her mouth accustomed to the bit again.

Then my oldest son, Mike, Jr, rode her around a while. She seemed to be in a co-operative mood and the afternoon went without incident until I returned later to check on them and children from across the street were shooting off large fireworks. The horses were not very happy about that.:-)

Wednesday Morning the older campers helped me to feed, water, and exercise the animals. Then we had a class on the various articles of tack. I also explained to them how God had given animals to man for man’s dominion and for his use. I explained that God intended animals for food, work, and pleasure as they were hunted and/or captured. We were able during this time to talk about the difference between animals and men. I also emphasized that cruelty and/or mistreatment of animals by those who believe in God by faith in Jesus Christ is a violation of God’s teachings to His people, because His people are charged with being good stewards of all His creation.

After lunch we began the actual riding. We only used Snowflake for this segment, and she was a little feisty at first, but after bucking the saddle off a couple of times and knocking me under a wooden swing set, she settled down and acted with proper decorum. For some it was little more than being set in the saddle and getting accustomed to being so high up on the animal. Others were led about the area were able to familiarize themselves more fully with the horses. A few were allowed to handle the reins while I stood ready with the lead rope still attached.

When a grandmother of one of the campers arrived to pickup up her camper, she elected to go for a short ride also. Then a father of a camper arrived and told how he had never been on a horse. We instructed him in the process of mounting and I led him about the complex. He exclaimed that his wife just wouldn’t believe that he had actually ridden a horse.

I am continually amazed at the number of adults who have never had the opportunity to ride a horse. I would like to go from church to church introducing children and adults to this marvelous form of recreation and relaxation. Perhaps someday God will open up such doors and allow me to use the horses in His service that way.

After the campers were through for the day, I mounted Snowflake and rode her around the area. She is really sweet tempered, but she needs to be ridden more often than I have opportunity to do.

Kevin, my younger son, arrived about 3:30 and we began the process of working with Apache. He is a magnificent animal. He looks like his registered Paso Fino father, and is thickly and powerfully built. He was quite a challenge. He twice threw Kevin before tied up one leg and laid him on the ground. Horses, like children, need to have their will broken without breaking their spirit. They need to learn that, in all things, they must please their master.

Apache is really a great horse. He is friendly and loves being around people, but like anything left to his own devices for an extended time, he is apt to rebel somewhat when having his activities curbed. However we were finally able to teach him the lessons he need to learn. This morning we will probably need to remind him of those lessons briefly.

I will write more after today’s sessions and try to include some photos.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Obtaining God's Bessings

Obtaining God’s Blessings
Haggai 2:10-19

10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying,

12 If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?" ' " Then the priests answered and said, "No." 13 And Haggai said, "If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?" So the priests answered and said, "It shall be unclean."

14 Then Haggai answered and said, " 'So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,' says the Lord, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean. 15 'And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord--

16 since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to Me,' says the Lord.

18 'Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid--consider it: 19 Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day I will bless you.' "

Are there any among us who do not desire God’s blessings on our lives? I often ask the people I encounter throughout the day how I might pray for them. They usually mention a difficulty at work, or a family difficulty, or a rebellious child, or a health issue. Everybody wants God to bless them.

Yesterday, as Diane and I were returning from a brief Family outing, I stopped for fuel at one of those places which majors on alcohol. A young woman walked in wearing so little clothing as to leave almost nothing to the imagination. The female clerk looked at her and said, “Hey girl, you ain’t never gonna change are you?” She replied, “Nope. I do what I want to do and wear what I want to wear.”

These were the people of God Haggai was speaking to. They were the chosen people. They expected God’s Blessings because of that. They had been set aside and then delivered out of slavery into a land which flowed with milk and honey. Their king became the most powerful man in the world and the nations marveled at his wisdom.

1. If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?" The answer to this question is absolutely not. Holiness does not transfer. The people possibly have come to believe that one can become holy by associating with or participating in holy things. Here it appears that unrepentant Jews participating in God’s Holy Worship had polluted that worship.

They continued to live in sin, even though they attended church and paid their tithes. They continued their former lifestyle without a change, and their very participation seemed to desecrate God’s Temple.

Over and over again Scripture teaches that there is a difference between God’s people and the world. That difference is not merely one of activity. It is one of relationship. The unique people of God have such a relationship with Holy God that the world is made to wonder at the cause of their joy in the midst of both success and persecution.

We need to learn today that wearing a cross or carrying a Bible does not make us holy. Praying in a restaurant before meals does not make us holy. If we remain clothed with the filthy rags of the world, if we continue to pursue the same goals as the world, if we crave the attention of the world, we are not changed.

How do you react when something good happens to you? Do you praise God and rejoice in His glorious mercy? Perhaps many do. So how do you react when something bad happens to you? Do you grouse around while griping, grumbling, and complaining, or do you rejoice in God’s glorious mercy? You see, the genuine Believer is to rejoice and give thanks “...in all things...”

Proverbs tells us in chapter 15:8, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” God is not pleased with the religious exercises of those who continue to thumb their noses at God while determined to continue their own paths.

2. "If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?" When Haggai asked this question, the priests were quick to respond, “Yes.” The law made clear that holy things could be contaminated by direct contact with uncleanness.

In this age it is very important that we understand the implications of this. A man or a woman, a boy or a girl, can develop polluted thinking by the things they associate with. That is why it is so important to guard our ears from certain sounds, our eyes from certain sights, and our lips from certain delicacies.

Those things we dabble in, those things we casually touch, those things we carelessly listen to come into our very soul and become authorization for the enemy to establish a beachhead within our lives. That is why Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:27 to not give place to the Devil. That is phrase speaking of warfare, and it is closely associated with what our U.S. Marines try to do when they are put ashore on an hostile shore. They try to establish a beachhead. From that beachhead, the Marines set up a command post and build up a stronghold. That is precisely what the devil attempts to do in your life by the things you associate with.

That is why parents have such responsibility to guard the activities of their children. Over and over I hear parents lament the condition of their children. Yet they refuse to obey God and lovingly discipline their children consistently. Today’s children often decide too many of their activities. They decide with whom they will play, what they will listen to in terms of music, which movies they will watch, and they are allowed to choose to emulate terrible role models in dress and makeup. Children need firm boundaries to guide them as they learn how to make the kind of decisions which will enhance both their lives and those of their progeny.

3. And now, carefully consider from this day forward: from before stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the Lord. Haggai tells the people to mark this day, the day they re-started their work upon the temple. The day they decided to do things God’s way. For all these sixteen or so years that they had allowed the temple of God to just lie there, they had not been blessed. Their harvests had not been full. The work of their hands had not brought satisfaction. Their labors had been just so much empty activity. But from the day they chose to obey Him, they would see that He had already begun to bless them. They might not see it, but as the prophet Habbakuk had proclaimed, “...the just must live by faith...”

It is time for them to begin acting as if they believe God. They need to live in anticipation of the harvest to come. Elijah, we’re told, was a man subject to the same passions which plague all of us. Yet one day, after a drought of three years, he went up on a mountain and prayed for God to bring relief. Then as he looked out over the horizon and detected a faint wisp of a cloud in the distance, he said that’s enough. He said, “Folks, it’s going to come one of those stump floating, gully washing down pours.” Elijah believed God and he began running for home.

That’s what Haggai is telling the people here. You’ve planted your seed. You can now anticipate the harvest. God will bless.

Now this presupposes several things to us: (1) We’ve gathered and stored good seed. (2) We’ve prepared the ground properly to receive the seed. (3) We’ve spread the seed evenly over the area. (4) We’ve tended the plot where the seed has been planted. (5) We’ve made preparations for the harvest. (6) We’re prepared to put harvest to work.

I remember, as a child, that four of us would take a bed sheet and toss shelled corn into the air allowing the wind to blow away the husks and refuse. Then that corn would be carefully examined and preserved for next years planting. In our area, it was always important to keep good seed corn because it was just too expensive to purchase new seed corn each year. Now the seed we store up is the Word of God. It is good seed and we need to spend time ingesting it into our souls so that it might be ready for planting in God’s planting season.

Preparing formerly cultivated soil is always different from preparing new ground. With formerly cultivated soil one only needs be careful to rotate the crops so that the nutrients are allowed to regenerate regularly. The breaking up of the soil is fairly easy, and one doesn’t anticipate discovering roots or huge stumps hidden beneath the surface. But preparing new ground is a different story entirely. Brush and trees have been cleared leaving untold and unknown obstacles beneath the surface. For two or three years, one might continue to catch his plow on a heretofore unknown root or boulder. Such a discovery often requires the use of considerable energy and a sharp axe or kaiser blade to remove. In the case of a large boulder, one might be forced to dig around it to dislodge it enough to move it out of the field.

The seed planted in new ground often grows quite fast, but it also has considerable competition because even the most through inspection will not discover the seeds of the briars, morning glory vines, and cockle burrs mingled with the soil and the good seed.

Once the seed starts to grow we take the mule and using a “gee whiz” we clear out from between the rows and toss freshly turned dirt against the young stalks to protect the roots from the harsh sun and remove some of the competition for the precious moisture.

While the plants are growing, storage facilities must be maintained, and in some instances new facilities built or existing facilities enlarged in anticipation of the bountiful harvest. Nothing is worse than having a great harvest with no place to put the grain.

Then some of the grain is turned into feed for livestock, some for food for the family, and some is sold on the market, and the best is retained for next year’s crop.

God says through Haggai that they need to begin acting as if they anticipate a bountiful harvest. He said, “I’ve already begun to bless you. The seed may still be in the ground and you might not be able to see its growth, but I’ve already begun to bless you. Mark this day that you began to walk in obedience and you’ll see that I’m faithful.”

Now, folks, let me add a bit of caveat here. God does not bless those who act in order to be blessed. He blesses those who act out of a heart which desires to serve and obey Him. That is why the people of Israel were so troubled. They were doing what they did in order to receive a blessing, not out of an obedient and loving heart. That is why God had withheld His blessings.

The people were now concentrating on building up God’s Temple. Haggai could promise them on the authority of Holy God that God’s blessings had already begun.

Exactly what is your motivation for what you do? Is your worship pure and guileless? Are you trying to worship Christ while hanging on to the old dreams and aspirations? Do you live each day in promise of His blessing?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shooting Fireworks

The Fourth of July is nearly upon us. When you ask what people think of first, it is usually fireworks. I’m both blessed and cursed in this matter of fireworks. God has allowed me for several years now to supplement my income by shooting professional fireworks displays.

We shoot shows for churches, cities, athletic teams, birthdays, weddings, and almost any occasion. However, July Fourth is by far the time when we shoot the most. While there is little danger associated with watching a professional fireworks display, there is always the danger of operator error, or a manufacturing error, or even a mechanical error. Such errors always put the pyrotechnician at risk.

The photo at the left showed me shortly after I had made a terrible error while shooting a show in October of 2001 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This photo is why people must be very careful around fireworks.

I’d like to show you some of the things we’ve done.

The Mississippi Braves located in Pearl, a suburb of Jackson, Mississippi is a farm team of the Atlanta Braves. Each Friday home game features a fireworks extravaganza following the game. The fireworks are colorful and designed to create a widely varied effect as they are shot to various musical themes.

The First two photos on the left along with the lead in photo at the top were taken following Braves Games.

The photo to the left was taken from across the lake as we shot the Meridian, Mississippi Fourth of July Show in 2004.

The shot below shows the Meridian show in 2005 after it is set up and the crew is relaxing with a fishing pole.

The photo to the left shows the lake and the firing location for the Meridian show. The Audience is located across the lake

This photo shows a moderately small finale wrapped in tin foil to prevent premature ignition.
The racks contain tubes called mortars.

In this photo the shooter is about to begin hand lighting with a road flare.

This is part of the finale for the Meridian, MS show for July Fourth 2004

More of the Braves Friday Night Show

The fans always give thunderous applause at the Braves show.

CBF--A Different Denomination

Yesterday Patricia Heys, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) communications person, released to the news agencies a new CBF global missions strategy. http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/content/news/2007/06_18_2007/ne180607nash.shtml

CBF Global Missions coordinator Rob Nash said that both a new structure and new strategy will be introduced at the annual meeting in Atlanta.

Those who continue to believe that the CBF is not building a separate denomination are seeing the world through glasses conveniently tinted to mask that fact. I applaud them in their energetic and forward looking approach, however, I find distasteful the insidious continuance to present themselves as Southern Baptists.

It appears they think they can have it both ways and some churches and pastors seem inclined to go along with that rather than risk alienating a portion their congregations which are already fractured by theological divisions.

Where are the Baptist Statesmen of years gone by who would stand and fearlessly denounce the liberal and theologically challenged positions of those who dare to claim the name Baptist? Where are the Bill Powells who will take on the entire denominational network to expose the liberal policies and teachings? Where are the B. Gray Allisons who will take on the entire seminary system and affect reform by establishing a conservative seminary? Where are the Charles Spurgeons, a 5-point-Calvinist, who railed against the abuses and excesses of hyper-Calvinism. Where are those, who with the intellectual eloquence of an Adrian Rogers, stirred our hearts to reclaim our historic commitment to God’s Word? Where are the Criswells whose bombastic pronouncements elicited fearful cries of “uncle” and drove the enemies of Biblical authority into the CBF dungeon?

Today we need men of wisdom and courage to confront openly those who seek to divide and undermine our mission. Enough of this fearful accommodation! Churches and preachers need to decide where they stand on this matter. For me, it is a theological position. The CBF consists primarily of the most liberal leaning segments of Southern Baptist Life. I welcome the constitution of that denomination and bid them God’s Speed. I do not fear a loss of influence when churches defect to the CBF. That which we lose, is what we never had anyway; so how can we say we lost it.

I’m reminded of the bi-vocational pastor who returned to work after a week or revival meetings at his church. When asked how the revival went, he replied, “Great.” When asked how many people were saved, he answered, “None.” When asked how many joined the church, he said, “None.” When asked how many rededications, he replied, “None.” When asked how it could be a great revival if there were none saved, no additions, and no rededications; he answered, “We had some blessed subtractions.”

I think Southern Baptists need some blessed subtractions. A good start is with those who still hope to convert us to their liberal theological position and support a de facto denomination while trying to call themselves Southern Baptists. How do we accomplish it? Not the way Missouri is attempting to do it, by challenging the autonomy of the local church, but by statesmen exposing them for what they are. Grassroots Baptists will respond when they know the truth.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Grave Error at SBC

Tonight I ache to bottom of my soul. In what I can only assume was an attempt to mollify the moderate leaning wing of inerrantists within SBC life, the messengers at the annual meeting in San Antonio approved a motion to limit the ability of trustees to set criteria for the hiring of personnel and the appointing of missionaries to the skeletal statement of faith comprised in the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000. Where or where were the great leaders of the past who would have quickly explained the import of such a motion and exposed the diabolical plot to promote the seemingly self-serving agenda of those who’ve been trying for two years to bring this about.

This appears to be a blatant attempt by the Burleson/Cole/McKissic group to allow missionaries who believe in tongue speaking and social drinking, as well those who have questionable baptism to be appointed as missionaries. Rebuffed last year in their attempt to intimidate the IMB trustees and convention, they seem to have resorted to a more devious ploy this year. Rather than bring their pet beliefs before the convention which almost certainly would have issued them another resounding defeat, they couched their nefarious ploy in confusing and baptistic sounding language.

Trustees currently are free to employ guidelines which they believe reflect the standards of the vast majority of Southern Baptists in appointing missionaries and hiring personnel. The vote at the convention will remove the trustees ability to use criteria other than that codified within the BF&M to determine the worthiness of individuals to be appointed.

Currently there are a significant number of individuals who desire to serve as missionaries, but do not qualify because they speak in tongues, drink socially, or have questionable baptism. While the vast majority of Southern Baptist laity believe that tongues is so much gibberish, the trustees will be forced to appoint such individuals to the mission field. Such action will result in local churches refusing to send mission monies to the co-operative program and opting to support those missionaries they know personally, or it will result in a cumbersome and highly codified statement of faith.

Motions to modify the BF&M are already being formulated. Battle after battle will be fought over the matter of Alcohol, Tongues, and Baptism in the years to come as statements reflecting the Biblical views of the majority of Southern Baptists are presented for adoption into the BF&M, which the action of the convention meeting in session has made necessary by one mistaken vote.

The Baptist Faith and Message is not intended to be a comprehensive compendium of Baptistic Belief. Rather, it is a skeletal statement of basic beliefs which we consider absolutely essential for fellowship and co-operation. The perpetrators of this heinous and insidious proposal played on the fears of 5-pointers, who often seem to act as if they are only one step from being dismissed from SBC life, anyway. Such a coalition, however wrongly constituted, was able to carry the day in this matter to what I’m certain will be the bane of Southern Baptists in the months to come.

Should I be proven wrong, I will happily recant my wild prognostications. I just don’t think I am.

May God have mercy upon us as we hold forth the faith once received.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Political Intrigue Permeates the Air Around Southern Baptists

June, each year, begins the final push for political factions within the Southern Baptist Convention to advance their causes. Already, I have been frustrated by the position of one admired individual on a particular subject, while dismayed by the position of another on a different subject. What am I to do? None of those presented for leadership seem to understand Biblical Theology as thoroughly as I. For should they have my understanding, it is inconceivable they would take positions on any topic contrary to my own. Is it possible that the demise of the Southern Baptist Convention is imminent?

Last year, Frank Page was not my choice for SBC President. However, enough of those delegates, who obviously lack my astuteness on theological matters, voted for him to elect him on the first ballot. Dread, gloom, and despair overshadowed my normally effusive disposition. For the first time since 1976, my candidate had not been elected. What should I do? Should I call a press conference and announce that I’m leaving the SBC? I quickly realized that not even my wife would show up for that.

In the wake of Page’s earthshattering defeat of all right thinking Southern Baptists, I decided to hunker down and try to ride out what I envisioned as a disastrous year for Southern Baptists. Now, I’m really in a quandary. In spite of Page’s obviously callous decision to refrain from availing himself of my great store of wisdom on all subjects extant, he has not affected great harm to the SBC. In fact, he might have strengthened it. Of course, that just goes to show that God’s blessings fall both on the just and the unjust.

All of this brings me to the current dilemma. What should I do? I have certainly not been shy about expressing my well thought out, and extraordinarily accurate position on the subjects at hand. Is it possible that the SBC can sustain two successive years when those elected to office do not have my seal of approval? I must make a decision. I fully realize the gravity of said decision because it will either validate or invalidate the actions of the convention as a whole. Such burdens should not be placed so squarely upon the shoulders of one man. Albeit, an incomparable man, yet one man nevertheless.

For those who wait with breath abated for some word as to which is the correct path, please be assured I do not take this responsibility lightly. Pursuant to said responsibility, my revelation-like insight will be available immediately upon receipt of such insight. In the interim, please occupy yourself with prayer, trusting that God may in His own mercy, see fit to also provide you with direction through the current political morass.

© Mike Rasberry 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Mother's Care

This is a poem I wrote for Mother's Day at Immanuel Baptist Church. we framed and presented copies to each mother on Mother's Day. I pray it will be a blessing to you.

A Mother’s Care
Mike Rasberry
Mother’s Day 2007

The feathery brush of fingers light
Across your forehead in the dead of night
A furrowed brow and a whispered prayer
They demonstrate a Mother’s Care.

Watchful eyes and ready feet
See you at play in the noonday heat
A gentle warning about the heated air
They demonstrate a Mother’s Care.

A faithful vigil by the telephone
While you’re out and all alone
Her tear stained Bible open by her chair
They demonstrate a Mother’s Care.

Outstretched arms and face aglow
That welcome you where ere you go
A strong embrace and tousled hair
They demonstrate a Mother’s Care.

Faithful instruction day by day
Satisfaction when you find God’s way
Tears of joy that He’s called you there
They demonstrate a Mother’s Care.

© 2007 Mike Rasberry

Friday, March 23, 2007

How Ought We to Live in Light of His Promise to Return

"...this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." Acts 1:11

I recognize that my soul occupies a very frail lump of clay. This clay is rapidly hardening and becoming increasingly difficulty to manipulate and mold. I doubt that the process is advancing more rapidly than it was in previous years, but I am much more aware of my intractability now than I have been in the past.

I wonder why I don't totally submit my stubborn self-will to Him, in order that He might make me more usable during the time I have left here on this earth. The song writer said that he was looking for a city not made with human hands. Many of us seem to have fallen so in love with this present world that we seem unable to plan for the celestial home which He has promised. It is not a strange thing for the unbeliever to develop a strong attachment for this world system. His next stop will be far less pleasant than the most mundane experience here. However, the true believer is not so. His future holds the promise of total fulfillment in the glorious presence of The Lamb of God. Why then, do we live as if accumulating things and position is the end for which we strive.

Is it possible that He can be LORD, if we still make decisions based upon the temporal things of this age? It may be that many have mistakenly substituted a confrontation with Christ in which they were convicted of sin, confessed their sin, and even were contrite for their sin, with genuine conversion from sin. The life of Judas demonstrates that one might realize his condition, confess it, and even be sorrowful for it unto death without experiencing conversion from sin.

Should one really believe that Jesus is coming back he ought to prepare to meet Him and not wait with the half-hearted expectation of the foolish virgins who found their lamps empty of the precious oil when the bridegroom arrived. The genuine conversion which acknowledges Him as LORD of every facet of one's life, compels the individual to study, pray, and so live as to proclaim to the world that His return is indeed imminent.

Is it possible that the Evil One has blinded the eyes of many of those who have professed Christ as LORD? Many of today's professing believers seem unwilling to accept that one single, unconfessed, unrepented of sin gives the Evil One authority to operate in their lives. These seem to excuse sin as the natural failings of the human experience without acknowledging the consequences of such when left unattended. Such professors treat only those sins deemed socially unacceptable as needful of repentance.

The conclusion at which one must logically arrive is that either such professors have believed the counterfeit religion the Evil One promotes, and are not genuinely converted; or they, though converted, have wilfully allowed the Evil One to influence their thoughts and actions by believing the Evil One's lie that "a little sin won't hurt."

The true believer should conclude that he ought to live a life characterized by: An anxious anticipation of the soon return of Our Dear LORD. A life lived in the world, but focused on the celestial kingdom. A life in which the Lordship of Christ is evident in every aspect of that life. A life which is continually being cleansed and purified as the believer confesses and repents of known sin daily.

© Mike Rasberry 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Guerilla Warfare Today

Guerilla Warfare

On March 14, 1954 a force of 40,000 Vietnamese guerillas began the attack on about 15,000 French troops at Dien Bien Phu. The French assumed their superior armaments and artillery would demoralize and eventually destroy the attacking force. However, they underestimated the effectiveness of guerilla warfare. On May 7, 1954 Ho Chi Minh’s troops over ran the French positions bringing about Vietnam’s independence from France, and ending a war which had turned the tide of public opinion in France against the war.

The American Army of the West was forced to contend with the unconventional warfare utilized by the Indians of the West whose attack and retreat methods coupled with their ability to launch deadly assaults from hiding. Their ability to inflict death and destruction created such unease that time and again the forward progress of the nation was stalled, and Eastern newspapers reflected a growing frustration with the military’s failure to affect a speedy victory over the disparate tribes.

Fidel Castro made guerilla warfare so popular in the Western hemisphere, as he operated from remote mountains to eventually overthrow and depose Fulgencio Batista of Cuba in 1959, that revolutionaries sprang up in nearly every Central American Country. The “Big Stick” diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt evolved to a “Walk Softly” approach as the Communist advanced inexorably forward under the leadership of Castro disciples like Che Guevara who became the spiritual leader of revolution in the Banana Republics, due in no small part to the fear of entanglement in more prolonged, costly, and painful guerilla warfare.

Then the ominous and effective tactics of Ho Chi Minh, when once again pitted against overwhelming military power, led to the disenchantment of yet another nation as America lost her will to defend an embattled people. The public clamoring for an end of American participation in the bloody conflict, led to an ignominious retreat from Saigon and the consignment of millions of Vietnamese to the brutal atrocities perpetrated by their new communist masters.

Ho Chi Minh, an autocratic dictator who ruled by force of arms, was not constrained by the need for popular support. Casualties, wrought in pursuit of the ultimate goal of victory, were little more than logistical inconveniences. Hoards of sapper squads penetrating defenses in suicidal attacks did little to affect military victory, but the emotional effect they left on the fragile psyche of a soft American populace cannot be overstated.

Today, America again stands against a foe who is little influenced by public opinion or the need for popular approval. While this enemy gives little thought to affecting a military victory, he is purposeful and vicious in his attacks upon the soft underbelly of the collective psyche. The resolution with which the enemy was initially confronted has dissolved into a wavering and mushy fear likely to result in the “jello diplomacy” of the late 1970's.

The anniversary of the beginning of the battle for Dien Bien Phu seems as good a time as any for us to ponder the consequences of yet another Saigon. The battle raging across the fruited plain is not how best to affect a military victory, but rather how best to withdraw with some semblance of honor. Politicians vie for the public’s ear as they promote onerous plan after onerous plan intended to build some measure of political capital, rather than affirm integrity and statesmanship.

What lies ahead should we run, with tails tucked firmly between our legs, from this new foe who not only wants us banished from a region of the globe, but annihilated from the face of the earth? The malaise” of the Carter years, and the capitulation to a kind of national self-debasement which resulted from defeat at the hands of the guerillas of Ho Chi Minh was nothing compared to the possible consequences of our squandering the opportunity to curtail a much more ominous threat to world peace.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Baptist Resource Network vs State Convention

Relationship of Churches and State Conventions.

The State convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey is in the process of re-structuring how they minister to churches. If I understand it correctly, associations would be basically abolished. They are seen in this study as an anachronism.

Read the report at the following link and tell me what you think. Is this something worth pursuing in the Bible Belt, or below the Bible Belt, in South Louisiana? http://groups.yahoo.com/group/southernbaptist/files/BRN%20Task%20Force.pdf

I've thought for some time that the Associations could actually do everything the State Conventions are doing, and do it more efficiently. With today's technology, I wonder if we do need all the layers, but I wonder which is anachronistic. Baptist polity seems to be in conflict with the decision making in Pennsylvania/South Jersey because it appears that the state convention controls the associations, and they seem to have a layered bureaucracy.

Traditionally, Southern Baptist Churches relate to each entity individually because they are independent and autonomous. However, more and more often institutions require the local church to "go through" the state convention. I'm thankful here in Louisiana that we have a very responsive state convention which has worked diligently over the last six years to promote that autonomy. I have no "ax to grind" with a particular state convention.

If a church contacts the North American Mission Board, we're often told that they have partnered with the State Convention and everything must be approved by some individual in the State, making them the de facto bishops over those churches. This, for me, is a troubling trend.

Now, some will surely say, "But one needs accountability." Yes, we've all had domineering church members express that over the years when they were trying to control the activities or expenditures of the church. I fear we are in danger, as Southern Baptists of creating a layered hierarchy to which each church is made subservient.

While I have no problem with autonomous entities requiring accountability for the use of resources, I see great danger inherent in policy which requires the state convention to "approve" projects before they can be consummated between the local church and an autonomous entity. That is certainly egregious to any church which relates directly to the SBC, but is not a member of an association or a state convention.

The church is the highest entity in traditional Southern Baptist Life. Is that a non-negotiable doctrinal position? I certainly pray that it is so.

Is it not time for some open discussion about the nature of our relationships, and whether or not funds are better expended in other ways than by maintaining extensive administrative staffs? I often wonder just what the State Convention does which could not be achieved as efficiently and effectively at the local association.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tim Hardaway's Outrageous Comments?????

NBA Response to Tim Hardaway

Recently Tim Hardaway a retired National Basketball Association all star player raised the almost universal ire of both print and electronic media by his statement that he hates homosexuals. Hardaway was wrong. It is wrong to "hate" people. I would hope, however, that this does not continue the slippery slope of acceptance of the aberrant lifestyle of homosexuality.

One might find the practice and lifestyle totally abhorrent, but it is no less abhorrent than the sexual promiscuity promulgated by the heterosexual community in the NBA. I find it ironic that the NBA would make such a strong statement of condemnation of Hardaway while lionizing and promoting those whose lifestyles of moral corruption violate nearly every principle of a significant segment of society. Drug abuse, cheating, fraud, violation of amateur status while in college, attacking a coach, and attacking fans do not result in being “banned” from extracurricular NBA activities, but speaking harshly about those in the homosexual community do. Does the word “inequitable” seem to fit here?

The Dennis Rodman’s of NBA society are infinitely more detrimental to a well-functioning society than Hardaway. However, Hardaway articulated a position against a segment of society which seems to have an inordinate amount of influence relative to the size of its constituency. This ever growing influence is seen in the movement toward same sex marriage and legal unions.

One cannot but wonder aloud what would have been the reaction had Hardaway have said, “I hate fundamentalist Christians.” While I’m certain that some would have lamented his statement, it would have had little impact upon his life, and would have commanded little or not attention in the media. Yes. I think “inequity” is a very appropriate word.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Lord is My Shepherd Part 1

The Lord is My Shepherd
Psalms 23:1-6
Part #1 of 3
Preached at Immanuel Baptist Church
Slidell, Louisiana
January 28, 2007

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

I’m going to deal with the 23rd Psalm in a little different way than I deal with a passage. As we move along, we’ll have words on the overhead so that you can have a clear definition of their meaning.

Let’s start our examination of the 23rd Psalm by just the first two words, “The Lord.” You know it doesn’t say, a Lord, it says, The Lord. That definite article is pointing to the Lord God of Heaven. It’s not “a Lord”. This passage does not speak of a possible choice from a pantheon of gods. The Lord, now Lord, that’s Yahveh God, the God of the covenant who is able to establish a covenant and to maintain it, even when you and I are unfaithful. I’m so thankful that my position in Christ doesn’t depend upon my being good all the time. I’ll tell you, I’m glad when I grew up, my relationship to my parents didn’t depend on me being good all the time. I was still their child. When I embarrassed them by my behavior, I was their child.

I’m so thankful that God loves me in spite of me, I’m going to tell you, there is nothing within me to commend me to God, except the Love of God. You know what your heart is like, you know how you get twisted and turned, how you are occasionally led astray, how you are sometimes distracted by the cares of this world. You know how that goes. Isn’t it great to know that God loves us, even though we’re sometimes, may I say often times not very lovely, God loves us in spite of ourselves.

You see these sweet, lovely couples and you understand how it’s easy for them to love each other. But it is very encouraging to know that there are people who love us in spite of ourselves. If we’re honest most of us would have to admit that we’re pretty fortunate to have anybody that loves us, it’s amazing why anybody want to love us. Listen that love they demonstrate toward us is not dependent upon what we do for them. We have a relationship, a marriage, a brotherhood of believers, a blood kinship which demands love.

So what then is love? Love is acting in such a way as to demonstrate we care about a person’s well being. The Lord, the God of the covenant the one who has promised a redeemer, the one who sent that redeemer, the one who has promised His Spirit, and sent His Spirit, the one who has promised to return and I tell you He will return, that one has established a covenant with those who have become His followers. We are in a personal and intimate relationship with Him. He is the Lord of the universe, not just one of a multitude of gods. He is the one true God.. He is the God of glory, the one who is revealed in scripture. He is the creator. He is the one who spoke the world into existence. He is the one that gave life to every living thing He is the one that separated the darkness from the light and called one day and one night. He’s the one who separated the great waters in the watery deep and put the earth in the midst of them. He is the one that called the seven seas into their locations. The great oceans are scattered and separated the way God wanted them to be separated.

We are kept by God, the Lord of the covenant. He has made a covenant with man and we can stand and believe in that covenant. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days He says I will write My words in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. That tells me that the Lord, the God of glory is active in the affairs of men and God puts into our minds understanding and then He puts into our hear the desire to obey Him, the Lord, there is no other Lord..

Then comes the verb, “The Lord is”. Not long ago a prolonged debate on the meaning of the word “is” was promulgated by a certain political figure. When you study other languages you soon learn that mastering the verb “to be” is essential to learning the language. When Scripture says, “the Lord is”, there is no room for equivocation. There is not hint of possibility. There is the proclamation that He absolutely “is”. Scripture doesn’t say that one day the Lord might become, or could grow to be. No Scripture says, “The Lord is.” That is a positive affirmation.

Then the psalmist says, my shepherd . Wow, my shepherd, a shepherd generally has to do with ruling or guiding. A shepherd was charged with the responsibility oh having his sheep in the proper pasture with the best graze, and that they be safe. David is saying here is that the Lord is my boss. My wife gave me a cap for Christmas which says, “ Jesus is my boss.”

The Lord ought to be our boss. He ought to determine where we will go and when we will be there. I often ask people how they came to be in South Louisiana. They give all sorts of reasons, but seldom do they say attribute it to God’s Divine intervention in their lives. Someone might say, “I was in the military in Virginia and met this young lady who was attending University there. She was from the New Orleans area. We married and when I was discharged from the military we looked for a job in South Louisiana.”

We who are believers in Christ, need to learn to God’s Divine providence in orchestrating our lives. We ought to have a sense of God’s leadership in where we live, and what we do. We ought not simply move from one place to another while looking for that perfect job, community, church, or house. It’ll be a great day for us when we understand that our job is to obey the Lord. The Lord is my shepherd.

The word shepherd includes both provision and protection. He is a protector and a provider. His purpose for sending us where He does is so we can do that which honorsHim and glorifies Him. Our purpose is not to bring honor and glory to ourselves but to bring honor and glory to the God of glory. The Lord is my shepherd. He is the one whose responsibility it is to provide for me and mine. My responsibility is to find His will and do it by His strength. I’m so glad that it’s not my responsibility. Let me tell you, we’re pretty flimsy.

I remember on one occasion in India where we were 30-35 kilometers away from the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. We traveled out by auto-rickshaw only to discover at the close of the service that night there was no transportation available. We thought we might have to stay the night, but the locals were afraid for us because we had stirred up the ire of the militant Hindus in that area. They had thrown rocks into the compound where we were worshiping and attempted to disrupt the proceedings. We prayed and told God it was His problem. If he wanted us to stay the night, we were willing.

God then sent two people on motor scooters to us and they transported us back to the hotel on those scooters. Now these folks had not been out looking for people to give rides into the city. They were moved, I believe, by the Holy Spirit to go to the house of the pastor there. You see, God had everything planned. Our job was to be where God wanted us, doing what He wanted. The details were and are His problem. It seems to me the more we worry the more foolish we appear when God finally reveals His plan. I believe God delights to work things out and God just worked it out. Let me tell you, it didn’t surprise God that those people were agitated against us over there. It didn’t surpriseHim at all. It didn’t surprise God that we needed transportation. The shepherd knows our needs before we ask them.

God knows what’s going to happen to you tomorrow. It will not take Him by surprise. Listen the Shepherd knows our need. He knows where we are. He knows our heart, our fear, and our failings. The Lord is my shepherd.

Now I want to tell you something else. Because the Lord is my Shepherd, “I shall not want.” That word “want” means to have a lack of. So what the Psalmist is telling me here is that I shall not lack in what I have need of. It means my needs will be met. Glory! Glory! Glory! Jesus Christ declared that He came that we might have live life to its fullest. He will provide every necessity for us to accomplish what He calls us to do on this earth.

Consider what He said, “The lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.” God doesn’t want us to live our lives with a sense of lack. He said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall have no lack of what I need.” Wow! I shall have no lack of what I need for living the abundant fruitful life. Now that doesn’t mean that I’ll always be able to have that $200 package with charter cable. That doesn’t mean that I’ll always be able to buy a new car every year. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to go to Neiman Marcus shopping twice a year. That’s not what it means. What it does mean is that God will meet every need you and I have to fulfill His purpose for us here upon this earth. I shall have no lack there of. I shall have what I need because the Lord is my shepherd. I trust Him.

When I was a child we would walk up in my Grandfather’s pasture on warm Spring Sunday afternoons, and we’d pick flowers. They seemed to grow everywhere. There was one tiny lily looking flower we called a flag. It was beautiful. Purple running to yellow with yellow pistil. The only purpose of those flowers is to adorn God’s earth with beauty. They fulfilled that function to perfection. Oh, that you and I would seek to fulfill our function to perfection.

Listen to me, dear friends. If God takes care of the flowers and clothes them in such beautiful array why do we have to think that God won’t take care of us, why do we worry, why do we get our lives so convoluted, so messed up, so fouled up worrying about things that we have no control over. God knows our needs, God knows what we have need of before we ask Him. Now He expects us to ask because asking is an act of faith, but God knows our needs.

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. You know the sparrow is a fairly dull bird. There are untold numbers of them everywhere, it seems. They don’t have the brilliant colors of the cardinal or bluebird. They’re don’t intrigue like the tiny, beautiful hummingbird. But Scripture tells us that God know when one of these seemingly insignificant creatures falls to the earth. Listen Jesus didn’t die for the sparrow. He didn’t leave heaven and walk the dusty streets of that small Palestinian country for the lilies of the field. He did it for me, and for you. Don’t you think that if God cares about the sparrows and the lilies, you can trust Him to care about you?

God really cares about you, God’s really concerned about you and your functioning on your job, He’s concerned about you and your functioning with your neighbors, He’s concerned about you and your work in your family, He’s concerned about you being an influence to your community. God cares about you. It’s a matter of trust, can we trust God to meet our needs, or do we have to go through life worrying because things aren’t going like we thought they should?

Every time I take my mind of God’s plan, I begin to worry. I look at the steel laying on the ground on our property and I know that we simply cannot afford that building in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s decimating of our congregation. It is a scary thing to just think about paying the light bill on that building. But I knew 5 years ago God wanted us to build that building. I didn’t know it was going to come as a result of a storm. Listen the steel is paid for. It’s laying on the ground and it’s paid for. I trust God, but there are moments when I’m a little weak, I say, “God did I make a mistake?” But, dear friends, I trust Him. As much as I know about His plan for Immanuel Baptist Church, we’re right in the center of His will in this matter. So I have to feed my faith and starve my doubts. I have read His Word and pray. I have to return to that point where I’m certain He is directing my path. Then I marvel at my lack of faith. How could I doubt Him?

Some of you have made significant personal purchases over the last couple of years. You’ve prayed, you’ve waited, and you prayed some more. You’ve committed your path to Christ, consciously sought His guidance. So don’t begin to fret when things become tight at point along the path. God is capable of providing supernaturally for your personal needs, the same as He does for the sparrows. Just continually submit your self to His leadership, and be willing to do whatever He leads you to do.

Over the last four years, we’ve been able, as a church, to minister to many families. God has used us to put transmissions in cars, to rebuild cars, to purchase cars, God’s helped us to buy beds, and hot water heaters, even air conditioners for people, I don’t know where that money came from. God always seems to provide the funds necessary to accomplish what He wants us to do. Listen, if He does that in the church, He’ll do that in your individual life, but you’ve got to learn to trust Him, and you got to be faithful. Unlike the sparrow, you can choose to obey. You must be faithful to serve God, faithful with your finances, faithful with your trust, learn to obey Him in all things. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. You can place your own name there.

The Psalmist then makes another statement. He makes me to lie down. Think on that for a moment. God, My Lord, my boss, makes me lie down. He expects me to rest, to relax, to lie down. Sometimes God has to get our attention to make us rest, but He delights to give rest to His people. Dr. Adrian Rogers once preached a sermon entitled, “How To Rest in Peace Without a Tombstone.” The theme was that one could live his life even in the midst of the chaos of the environment with a sense of refreshing peace.

It matters not the number of hours you work each day. If you’re going where God wants you to go, doing what God wants you to do, you’ll have all the energy you need to accomplish the task. However, if you’re continually running out of day before you run out of deeds then it may be that you need to reevaluate that to do list. Perhaps you need a “don’t do” list. You might need to make sure that God is arranging your schedule rather than the circumstances of life. After all, we know who controls the circumstances of life, don’t we.

Listen if you don’t let God arrange your schedule, if you don’t let God plan your day, plan your week, plan your month, I don’t understand how in the world you can make it. You’re depending on your own strength and your own power. But I’m telling you that when God is leading us, when we’re doing what God wants us to do, the way God wants us to do it, where God wants us to do it, in God’s power, in God’s strength we’ll have all the energy, we’ll have all the strength, we’ll have all the resources we need to accomplish that task for His glory. I couldn’t serve a God who would tell me to do something and not give me the where with all to accomplish it.

I believe if God told me to jump over this building He’d give me the legs to do it. God’s in that business, that’s what God does. He makes me to lie down. He makes me to rest. Oh how we need to learn to rest in the Lord. It all comes bact to trusting God. If you’re anxious, if you’re easily agitated over your circumstances and situations because you’ve not learned to trust God, you’ll not rest.

I remember as a young man how from time to time something would not arrive when I thought it should have been there. Now sometimes it didn’t happen because I was not diligent to order it in a timely manner. That’s probably happened to you hasn’t it. You’ve procrastinated and then when something didn’t arrive when you needed it, you were upset. Maybe you’ve never done that, but I have. Then there are those times I did everything I needed to do, did it when I needed to do it and it still wasn’t there on time. Man, oh man, I’d pace back and forth. I’d yell and then I’d call the delivery service or the post office and I’d make a complete fool of myself by talking harshly and rudely to them. Now, I sure none of you have ever done such a thing. I want you to understand that was when I was much younger.

Listen, I learned that when I’m doing what God wants me to do and I’ve done it in a timely manner like God wants me to do it, and something’s not happening the way it should, I need to start looking for God’s divine intervention; or I need to start looking to see what I need to learn as a result of this situation. You see, God knows what’s going on, we just have to trust Him, it’s not our problem, it’s God’s problem, and the problem with most of us is that we just haven’t learned to trust God, we haven’t learned to say God it’s your problem, we’ve made it our problem and we’ve taken control of it, we’ve taken responsibility for it, and we intend to see it through if it kills us and everybody connected with it, the fact is, it’s God’s problem when we obey Him.

Now don’t get upset at God or UPS if you’ve been late placing your order, let God teach you a lesson there, do things in a timely manner. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me to lie down.

Next the Psalmist says, “in green pastures.” “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” This “green” means a tender, ripe, succulent sprout. My cows and horses love that tender sprout of grass. The problem is that the tender sprout is often not well rooted in the ground, and the livestock pull it out as they’re eating it. But that tender sprout is the most desirable of all the graze. Sheep, cows, and horses are drawn to it like I’m drawn to Lemon Icebox Pie. He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

One must realize that the pasture is the center of the sheep’s existence. He lives there. That is where he accomplishes his life’s work of growing wool and raising lambs. That says to me that God wants us to enjoy our life’s work. Those places of rest are not just any old place. They are the most choice places anywhere. When we’re trusting God and allowing Him to guide us, we can be sure that He gives us His very best for us.

Finally scripture says He leads me besides still waters, He leads. Scripture says that God led the Children of Israel into the wilderness when they left Egypt. Now I know that doesn’t fit contemporary theology, but God does sometimes lead through hardship. He could have led Israel out of Egypt and on to Kadesh Barnea in a very short time, but it took them two years to arrive there by the circuitous route He chose for them. He led them by the difficult path.

Let me tell you that your path may appear frustratingly difficult at times. But you must believe that God leads. You must trust His choice of routes. The Psalmist says He leads us “beside the still waters.” This passage is often pictures as a clear, cool, brook rippling over smooth rocks. But the Bible says these waters are quiet, they’re calm. The quiet and calm spirit which reflects an abiding trust in the Father’s direction, provision, and protection.

Are you resting in the soft tender sprouts of calm and quiet as you resolutely give yourself to again and again to God’s service? Are you demonstrating by your calm and quiet spirit that you trust God’s leadership for your life. Do you and those around you depend upon God’s divine provision and protection?

Today, if you recognize a need, that means God’s Holy Spirit is dealing with you. Will you make Him the boss of your life today? You can’t come to Christ on your own. You must respond to the urging of your heart. My prayer is that this day, you will confess your need of Him as Lord and Savior, and put your trust in Jesus Christ.

If you know that you are a believer, but you’re not enjoying the rest that He has promised to those who follow Him, then it is certain that you have unconfessed and unrepented of sin in your life. I might not some great moral sin, it might be the sin of prayerlessness, or failure to study His Word, or failure to share His grace. It might be that you occasionally give into the pressures of the world, and demonstrate a lack of trust in His guidance, provision, and protection. 1 John 1:9 was written just for you. “If you confess that sin, He is faithful and just to forgive it and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” Trust Him today. Take Him at His word.

© Mike Rasberry 2007