Over the last few years, a stunning shift has taken place in church culture. Successful, influential, and powerful pastors are being dismissed from their churches. Not for the typical moral failures or money scandals but for unhealthy leadership practices. Why has this become such an issue? Understanding the problem The simplified version is that decades…The Christian Effectiveness Officer (C.E.O.) (Clayton Pruett) — SBC Voices
Years ago, a friend and I took a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It was a short trip via the nation’s premier hiking path. For us, it was a mere three days and two nights. Many others hikers take months to cover the entire 2,200-mile foot path from Georgia to Maine. As we hiked near Damascus, Virginia, when the spring blooms were fresh on the trees, we were awe struck by the beauty God’s handiwork.
Taking a break at the top of a hill, a silver, rock-strewn creek meandered along the bottom. Fresh magnolias bloomed. The colors of the painter’s palette treated our eyes and the smell of the exploding forest surrounded us. Such beauty makes me think of how it must have been at creation.
“God is everywhere. Take a step outside and you will be surrounded by the intricacies and fascinating systematic creation that was created by our God. He is in the mountains, the beaches, jungles, ocean depths, prairies, farmland, deserts, and valleys,” Mandy Smith writes on her website, https://www.ibelieve.com/faith
God’s handiwork is all around us. That’s why Romans 1:20 struck me so.
For His invisible attributes that is eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world being understood through what He made.
Question: How have we known God’s handiwork and not recognized Him as creator? How can we attribute nature’s awesomeness to the Big Bang Theory or evolution without proof evidence.
A long time ago, I accepted that God created the world. I acknowledged that it was not a random collection of molecules from a primal swamp as the evolutionists claim. Why? Exhibit A is the majesty of the human body. How else could the body come into existence with the merger of two cells, yet grow to–in some cases—more than seven-feet tall and live for more than 100 years? How else is just the right amount of blood run through our veins? How else do a man and a woman come together to produce a child?
Think for a moment about your body and how magnificent it is. The brain is the best computer ever invented. The eyes are unmatched by any optical lens. We–unlike any other animal– can use tools to make marvelous things like airplanes.
How appropriate that we don’t have to search too far for an answer to how this came into being. This question was answered in the first verses of the Bible. As if God positioned it in the first verse of the first chapter for emphasis.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1
Application: Have you accepted that God created the world and accepted Jesus Christ as your savior? If not, why not? To become a Christian, pray this simple prayer.
Father, I know that I am a sinner and that distance from you to me is huge. I am sorry for my sins. I’m asking that you forgive them. I accept that Christ died for my sins and the sins of all. Jesus, take over my life and lead me on the right path. I cannot do this alone. Send the Holy Spirit into my life. Amen.
Then, find a Bible-based, local church that can help you grow in your walk with Christ.
“All a person’s ways seem pure to the, but motives are weight by the Lord, Proverbs 16: 2 (NIV)
I remember when I was a Boy Scout being taught how to use a compass. We were in the middle of a grassy, open field in a large Michigan forest on a sunny summer day. Mr. Maxwell, our Scoutmaster, held a compass with a clear plastic base on to which was attached a dial with a red magnetic needle. Orient the magnetic needle to find north.
“If you have a compass,” I remember him saying, “you can always find north.” Once you know north, you can find out where you outta be.” Likewise the Bible is our moral compass. Whether it’s deciding right or wrong in behavior, business decisions or national politics, the words of the Lord should be our guide.
What is your moral compass? How do you decide what’s right or wrong? Is it what your mother taught you? Is it popular opinion? Is it legal versus illegal? Is it the likelihood of getting caught?
A compass can prevent you from making bad decisions, guiding the way at every crossroad in life. Like a hidden blind spot on a road, the Bible warns you about what’s around the corner.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we are reminded in Jeremiah 29:11.
The Bible, as the compass, always points to the path you should take, and is a guide to the decisions we make.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned,” Matthew 16:16
Let’s face it, my church is a little weird. First, it’s on an island–North Carolina’s Topsail Island to be specific. That’s strange for a lifelong Midwesterner like me who relocated only three years ago. In Indiana, flat cornfields were more of the norm. There is not a major body of water within 100 miles of Indianapolis, where I had been living.
Then there’s the pastor and co-pastor. One catches a tossed football on the beach headed to baptism. The other is wearing an American-flag inspired swimsuit as he officiates. Not exactly typical for ministers getting ready to induct new Christians into the fold. Their actions may be unconventional, but they have built a growing, Bible-teaching, welcoming church under their tenure.
One of the biggest reason I say our church is weird is that we do our baptisms in the Atlantic Ocean. THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. Let that sink in for a while. It’s the world’s second-largest ocean, covering 20 percent of the earth’s surface, according to Wikipedia.com. That’s a big baptismal. By contrast, I was baptized in a baptismal slightly larger than a bathtub, something like 4 feet by eight feet. Both accomplish the same purpose, but the Atlantic, and its symbolism, is so much cooler.
When my oldest grandson told my wife that he wanted to be baptized, I was thrilled. AJ’s about the right age, 10, to make this public declaration for Christ. I’m not sure what prompted this decision, but he and his seven-year-old younger brother usually accompany us to church since we moved here. I’m sure they’ve heard child-sized preaching in Sunday School and a recently concluded Vacation Bible School. Still, some people go their entire lives hearing the gospel and never respond.
On two other occasions, they’d seen other church members be baptized in the ocean, including a young friend the prior Sunday.
So we found ourselves walking with sand in our toes on a nearly cloudless day this past Labor Day week. The temperature was in the ’90s, and the beach was packed as a small crowd gathered. A few of those frolicking on the beach looked on.
Our lead pastor, caught a football from some boys playing on the beach as he neared the ocean’s edge. The co-lead pastor walked into the water too.
The pastors’ called for AJ first. The thin, African-American boy responded by taking his place between the two men. “Do you believe that Christ died and rose again on the third day and that he is alive right now,” the co-pastor asked. “Yes,” came his short reply. “With forgiveness of your sins, do you accept Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord.” “Yes,” again came his response. Then AJ, another adult who was being baptized, waded into the ocean and prepared to have their sins forgiven.
They waded into until the water was knee deep for the pastors. The white-capped waves rushed past every few minutes. Then, at the waves peak, AJ was immersed under the water, then raised back up, a new man in Christ.
How many baptisms have their been since Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist? Millions and millions or is it billions and billions. Each one has God’s grace, and each one-changes lives forever. But this one was special to me because it was my grandson and because it took place in the Atlantic Ocean.
Dear Heavenly Father, bless those who have yet to embrace you through baptism to accept your invitation away from the condemnation, to everlasting life. May all accept this gift, for which we cannot pay, and clutch the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” Romans 10:17 (ESV)
We all know that the Bible is the word of God, that it is the most read book in human history (estimates of 6 billion copies printed), and that there are more than 6,900 translations. But is reading the best way to absorb the word of God? Are there advantages to hearing it?
Recently, I fell behind in my effort to read the Bible through in a year. Something always got in the way: Meetings, work, family time. Reading the Bible was pushed to the side. I didn’t want to be a slacker. I wanted to keep this commitment.
Then, I remembered that several years ago I listened to the Bible on CDs. I enjoyed the richness of the Lord’s teaching, but somehow in the move from Indiana to North Carolina, the CDs got lost. Should I buy another set? Was this my answer for staying up on my read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year assignments? Could I stream the Bible for free online?
No. Yes. Yes. I eventually found out. I decided to avoid the cost of a new set of CDs because I could listen for free from multiple sources. This was the answer.
This new way of “reading” turned dead time into useful time. For example, on my 30-minue weekly trip to Wilmington, I listen to more than my daily assignment. I hear the Bible while making a pot of beef stew, doing yoga, or riding the exercise bike.
Sites to download or stream the Bible are plentiful on the Internet. All I had to do was click on the speaker icon on Biblegateway.com to hear the word in the elegant voice of Max McLean read Exodus to Revelation. Unlike me, Max doesn’t stumble over names of places like Kiriathiam or names of people like Jehoichin. But there are other great site too, including Biblestudytools.com, audiobible.com, and theonlineword.com, to name just a few.
Whether you read the Bible, as has been done for thousands of years, or listen to Scripture through online streaming or downloads–as we’ve done the last 30 years or so, the truths of the Bible are a priceless guide.
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Although I am not Catholic, I have always appreciated the Pope’s stance on the issues of the day. How we treat the poor, the unborn, and divorce are all issues of the Pope’s leadership for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and many others, Christian, and non-Christian worldwide.
So when Pope Francis last month reversed the church’s position on capital punishment–stating it is “inadmissible” because it “attacks” the inherent dignity of all humans,” as reported in USA Today, an American newspaper, I listened.
“The Vatican said the pontiff approved a change to the catechism, which gives worshippers a go-to guide for official Catholic Church teachings on subjects ranging from the sacraments to sex. Previously, the catechism said the church didn’t exclude capital punishment “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” says USA Today.
My previous view of capital punishment is that it’s wrong to deprive another of her or his life, except in limited and extreme circumstances. My reason reflected the fact of racial and economic imbalances in those executions and the number of inmates on Death Row found proven innocent by organizations like the Innocence Project. I believed that some people, like terrorists who killed scores of innocents, though, deserved to die. Of course, their deaths would not bring those people back to life, but it gave me some satisfaction.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23
But it wasn’t until a Facebook post on the page of a friend, a retired Methodist pastor in Indiana, that my view radically changed, like a slap in the face, being dunked in cold water, or an electric shock. He wrote simply “Kudos, to Pope Francis,” Then came the surprising words from a woman responding to his post: ” Try to remember that your salvation is the result of the death penalty.”
What? My life being spared? I have never killed anyone, stolen anything, or been arrested. What did she mean?
I had never thought of salvation–deliverance from God’s wrath– in comparison to capital punishment. I had been condemned to die, but by going to the cross, Jesus stepped up and took my place. Yet it seems a good comparison. In one the courts condemn an individual to death. In the other, God sentenced us to die ( the wages of sin, Romans 6:23) but loves us so much that He provides His only Son to die in our place.
Is there any greater love? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend,” it says in John 15:13. Jesus set an example of this love when He followed the agonizing path to the cross. Without this sacrifice, no one would have eternal life.
Adam and Eve existed in a perfect world, but they chose to sin. As a result, they were forced from Eden to live in a world of hardship and the death of the physical body and the soul. The world we live in today.
How do you feel about capital punishment now? Does Jesus’ sacrifice affect your opinion? Is there a comparison between the two? For me, like the Death Row prisoner who gets a reprieve from the governor, I am so relieved and thankful. And I grant my fellow humans–any and all on them–a reprieve from death, no matter how gruesome, the number murdered, or the circumstances. They deserve punishment, but not death.
And I thank Pope Francis for pointing that out.