Almost back to normal?

At the beginning of December, I finished the last course for my Ph.D.   One-third of the way done with the Ph.D. requirements.  The remaining two is the completion of the oral comprehensive exam in February 2019 and my dissertation.  I thank the Lord for all He has already done and anticipate greater things still to come.  While there is still plenty to be done, it feels like a significant obstacle has been crossed, and normalcy is on the horizon.  Possibly?  It at least makes me smile.  So, the question is what am I looking forward to when my Ph.D. is finished?  What is it that keeps me moving forward?  Here are some of the things I am looking forward to doing with greater consistency and focus.

  1. Read for personal enjoyment and other interests.  With so much focus on scholarly books and articles, there are so many other books I want to catch up with reading.
  2. Write more frequently.  The blog started as a way to practice writing.  However, through it, I found a greater love for writing.
  3. Develop greater proficiency in playing musical instruments.  Right now, I can make a decent sound on most instruments.  Still, I would love to be able to have a greater mastery on the piano and guitar.
  4. Travel and visit new places.  This one is in partnership with the next one.
  5. Most of all, I am already enjoying more time with my family and look forward to completing my studies and having greater flexibility of time.  Being able to provide more for my family and giving more of myself to them is a great desire.

 

 

 

 

Whatever it is that you are doing that is a challenge and sacrifice, what keeps you moving forward?

 

New Research Publication

Thank you, Lord!  One of the requirements for our Ph.D. program is the development of a portfolio that includes a display of scholarship ability.  This requirement could be satisfied in two ways.  The first was a presentation at an academic peer-reviewed conference.  I completed this option in April 2018, at the McDonough Leadership Conference.  The presentation was on “Community Collaboration and Transformation.”

The second option to complete the academic requirement was to have an article published in a scholarly peer-reviewed journal.  Usually meaning that scholars in a discipline read articles in a blind test where they do not know the author and progressively come to a consensus on what pieces to accept.  To make sure I had more chances of meeting the academic requirement.  I also submitted to a few journals.  I am thankful to say that I had an article published.  The Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) out of Regent University has published my article on “Steward Leadership and Paul.”  Out of 45 total submissions, only 23 articles were accepted.

You can find the journal and my article by using the following link and scrolling through the abstracts.

https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/vol8no1/

 

Get out of the cave.

Last weekend, my wife and I took our children to Carter Caves and toured Cascade Cave.  The guided tour was 75-minutes long and included 225 stair steps.  Our children loved it, and we did too.   At least, the older two that stayed awake.  Our youngest fell asleep towards the end and was carried through pretty much the entire trip.

When we came out of the cave, our signal returned to our phones and messages and voicemails came on them.  We missed a lot of what was going on and valuable communications.  The experience reminded me that we can enter into spiritual caves in our lives.  The cave is not evil itself and is something that somehow provides protection and a place of solace.  However, it is not a place we are meant to stay.  Let’s look at a couple passages of Scripture to learn more.

David.

1 Samuel 22

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

3And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. 4And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. 5And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.

Elijah.

1 Kings 19

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

The Rest of Us

John 16:33 reminds us, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  I am thankful that God has provided grace that is sufficient for all our needs.  Thankfully we can experience His grace during our times of grieving and other overwhelming emotions.  While our feelings can betray us, we must still understand that God has created us with these capabilities.  Emotions are just some of the ways the Lord has given us the power to cope with all the ups and downs of life.

However, as far as the emotions associated with sadness and anger go, we must not stay there too long.  In the passages above, we see that David and Elijah went to the caves in time of despair and depression.  However, both were not there for very long.  It allowed for a moment of profound soul-searching.

We can do this deep searching of the heart during this time because typically we find seclusion.  For Elijah, it was a time where God could speak to Him in a mysterious, yet miraculous way.  Saints of old have called these times the dark night of the soul.  These are times when we feel withdrawn and numb in our emotions.  Communication with God may be foggy at best.  However, it is during these times that we can hold on to God’s Word alone by faith and in the end find out that He still reigns.  This is the peace that Jesus talked about in John 16:33.  We can have trouble and should expect it.  However, we can overcome and have peace because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.  That triumph extends to every arena of life.

Don’t Quit

This is the recent preaching outline I used for a sermon called “Don’t Quit.”

Job 14:1, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.

Who do you know right now that you would like to tell them not to quit?  Was there a point in your life, maybe even now, that you wish you had someone to say to you, don’t quit?

Job’s background and Introduction

  • He had great possessions, his family, his health, and his marriage.
  • However, beyond his control, he suffered great loss but remained faithful to the Lord.  God blessed his faithful in the end.
  • We experience these cycles in almost every arena of life.  The cycle move from the promises to problems and many of us never see the prize of being faithful because we quit during the problems.  God help us to not give up.  To not quit.
  • Like Job said, we don’t go very long in life without trouble popping up.

The Promises

  • The first day on the job, honeymoon & marriage, children (Job. 14:1), health, home, education, etc.
  • Each of these

The Problems

  • We tend to settle or surrender.
  • We then quit, give up.
    • Gal. 6:9 and reiterated in 2 Thess. 3:13, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
  • To not quit, we need to ask ourselves the question, “what wrong things do we need to quit so we don’t quit on the right things?”

The Prize

  • God rewards faithfulness in life.
  • The ultimate reward of faith is eternity with the Lord.

 

  • 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
  • Heb. 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

 

 

Not willing that any should perish.

Last evening in service we had one of our directors of a foreign mission field.  It was great to hear of the work being done, challenged by devotion despite oppositions, and the significant needs across the world.   The greatest need of all is the salvation that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord is currently providing the opportunity if people would only receive him.  In Scripture, we see that is a free choice of individuals to make.

2 Peter 3:3-10,

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

Christ will set all things right (vs. 3-7, 10)

One of the oldest positions of skeptics is that the return of Christ has taken far to long.  Peter was acquainted with this critique and provided his response.  He noted that the flood took place as part of God’s previous judgment.  With the certainty of the flood, Peter assures his audience that God’s next judgment was ready at any moment.  Christ will return but it will not be expected.  It will arrive like a thief in the night.  However, instead of a flood, the judgment would be an intense fire.

The Lord is not willing that any should perish (vs. 8-9)

In the meantime, Peter provides an answer as to why the coming of the Lord has not happened yet.  He first remarked in verse eight that time does not impact God as it does with creation.  Many take this to be a literal understanding of time with God, but the truth is that whether a day or a thousand years takes place, God is not affected.  He is eternal.  Peter paraphrased Psalm 90:4 which stated, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”  Again, the notion is that the Lord is eternal and exists outside of time.

Peter associates the eternal nature of God with incredible patience when it comes to acting in time.  Especially concerning the return of Jesus Christ.  The reason for God’s patience toward us is that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  God desires all to be saved.  However, we also understand that not all are not saved.  To understand this dilemma, two solutions are considered.  First, the Calvinist redefines the words “any” and “all” to only mean the elect.  Or, the second, is to understand that God has given free will and does not force salvation on any or all people.  Instead, he receives any, and all that will freely choose His Son, Jesus Christ.

God is waiting patiently to send His Son to set all things right because He longs for people to repent and receive His salvation.  If you are not saved, the time you have right now is a gift of mercy because the Lord is patiently waiting.  If you are saved, then be busy about the Father’s business, not wanting any to perish, but working to help all come to repentance.

So great a salvation.

We have been given a great salvation.  However, it can be neglected.  Which means what to the believer?  Let’s search this out.

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4)

First, why is this salvation so great?  We will find the answer in the previous chapter.

Salvation begins not with us but the incomparable majesty of the Son.  The glory of the Son far beyond the Old Testament prophets and high above the angels.  Jesus is the only begotten of God, meaning one of a kind.  He is uncreated and eternal present before the creation of the world.  And, He is the one who sits at the right hand of Heavenly Father.  

It is Jesus that has purged us from our sins.  We see this referenced in chapter one and a deeper dive in the second chapter begins to open this more fully.  They center on the truth that Christ became flesh, dwelt among, died for our sins, and rose victorious.  Christ became as one of us to die and cleanse us thoroughly from our sins.

What does it mean to neglect?

It is a moral and spiritual command that we pay attention to what God has said.  Our response is a matter of ultimate blessing or loss.   As the Hebrew writer will explain, we need to be more careful than those at Mt. Sinai who heard the words of God through the angels and the holy man Moses, for we have the Son of God!  They listened to the word but did not mix it with faith.  That is not our path.

How prone we are to “neglect?”  It is so easy to treat the things of God as if they were unimportant, to become occupied without comforts and the affairs of this life.  We wouldn’t want to offend others who have their own believers. We don’t intend to deny the faith – we are just taking it a bit easy and being a bit reasonable.  The writer warns us that such an attitude leads to eternal loss. We shall not escape.

Give a more earnest thing to the things we have heard.

We must wholly commit to learning the Word of God.  We do this through personal and congregational study.  However, it is more than gaining knowledge.  The believer needs to proceed further into the application of the Word.  The sincerity of faith will move us past intellectually discussions and empty feelings.  We must seek to live after God as he taught us to in the Scripture.

Push-Through

“Push-Through” is a saying that I grew up hearing.  It was immensely valuable and still is today.   To me, it carries encouragement and challenge.  Let me ask you a question.  How do you approach God? If the Old Testament teaches us anything, it is that there is a right way to approach God.  And, the New Testament echoes it.  Clearly, in the OT this would seem to happen by purity laws and sacrifices, but what we know the New Testament does not focus on these works?  Instead, a connecting theme to both testament, and the through behind the idiom to push-through, is faith.  Faith is the thread, from Abraham to Christ today.  

Let’s look at two individuals who had to approach Christ in faith in their most desperate hour.  In Luke chapter, a man comes to Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  Moved by the humility and hope of this man, Jesus follows him.  However, a woman pushed through the crowd that surrounded these men.  She was there for her own healing.  Read the next passage to see what took place:

And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.  And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.  But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.

Luke 8:46-50

 

Did you notice that both of these people are exhorted to have faith?  Verse 49, “Daughter be of Good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  Verse 50, “Fear not: believe only and she shall be made whole.”  Faith from the Greek word πίστις (pistis), and believe from πιστεύω (pistoue) are connected foundational.

The woman with the issue of blood, who was healed, had to push through a crowd to get to Jesus.  It is a picture of what it is like to have faith.  The man, Jairus, found out that his daughter died while he and Jesus were on their way.  No doubt, the advice to not trouble Jesus seemed sound.  But, the Lord said to him to basically push through the grief, shock, and fear.  To keep believing and as we read on, she really was made whole.

 

 

You need to push through.  Keep your faith in Christ. Romans 10:9-14 talks about salvation and makes the statement, “whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Even during the most challenging situations, we need to keep the faith and push through.  Living as though Scripture is true and God is really real.

Camp Meeting Time! 5 Reasons for going to Camp Meeting.

Last month, I posted a blog that shared the top responses of why people go to youth camp (check it out here and my reasons here).  This month is our annual camp meeting.  I love camp meeting personally. In 2017, I wrote on how to pray and get involved (click here and find the 2018 schedule here).

This time around, I am sharing the 5 top reasons shared for going to camp.  In order of least to most:

Staying at Camp

Why do we go camping in any form, really?  To get away from it all.  Several responses noted that staying in the dorms and campers was a highlight of their year.  There is no better safe space than a sacred space like the Church campgrounds.

The Food

Yeah, this is a typical activity for us.  Where Christians meet, Christians eat.  There is actually some scriptural background to this thought in that Jesus ate his regular meals is the same pattern He shared the Last Supper.  But, I that’s not what I’m writing about.  Instead, the food at Church camp is fantastic.  And, my favorite dish is the ribs that they make.  Yum!

Physical and Emotional Healing

These comments focused on the truth that getting away from discouraging environment allows for spiritual healing.  The atmosphere at camp is transformational and healing.  Not only have I seen broken lives healed, but I have also seen broken bodies healed at camp.

Seeing People Saved

The greatest type of healing is when a person receives salvation.  Camp meetings have always been evangelistically geared.  This reason and the next were mentioned by every person.

The Services

In some form or fashion, the services or at least parts of the worship gatherings were brought up.  The preaching, singing, and everything else in between was central to each respondent.    I have to agree.  There is nothing like camp meeting services.  Believers from different churches and even denominations gathering together to worship Jesus Christ through word, testimony, song, and more.  Nothing can beat it.

Walk worthy of your Christian calling.

The apostle Paul reminded the Church at Thessalonica, “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:12). He used this wording in his letters to the Ephesians (4:1) and Colossians (1:10). The word he uses for “worthy” is ‬ἀξίως (axiōs). Which roughly means to act or behave according to a standard. Paul noted that God has called the believers to live according to the standard of God’s kingdom and glory. However, that is not what we find among many so-called followers of Christ. Instead, we find…

Believers who walk according to worldly cultural expectation.

These believers have not taken the initiative to respond to the Holy Spirits work in their life to out from among the world. We have our work in the world but there is a distinction between believers and unbelievers. Namely, that of faith. Faith is more than a mental assent to God’s existence and other Scriptural claims. Faith is an active pursuit of God in response to Christ’s work in our every day life. Living by faith translates to a different way of living for the believer in comparison to the lifestyle of unbelievers.

Believers who walk comfortably and not engaging in the great commission.

Other believers also simply attend church out of a habit or to ease a sense of guilt, instead of devotion to Christ. They do not engage in church work that requires much commitment. This type of attendance and participation is extremely shallow and extends to the next type of walk as well.

Believers who walk after consumer Christianity.

Somewhat a result of the denominational concept birthed in 17th and 18th centuries, consumer Christianity has become exponential greater during this mega church era. Not only are their options of interpretation (which I don’t think most people pay any attention to), there is a wide selection of ministries to be involved in, either to the believer the self or work in the community. Personal preference rules the heart of many. When this comes to their walk of faith, they confirm their biases and pad their preferences with preachers and churches who feed their desires.

We need believers who are committed to Christ’s kingdom and all that entails.