Thursday, March 26, 2015

Snake Handling Baptist

Not sure what part of the ministerial job description this is, but today I was asked to remove a snake from the church property. The facilities manager, who is even less fond of snakes than I, was my wildlife relocation assistant.

I normally would have said, "no" to the request to handle a reptilian varmint, however preschoolers from our Child Development Center were in close proximity to this ovoviviparous slithery creature. The child care workers said all the kids were looking at a new cable in the grass next to the playground, THEN IT MOVED!

Initially, we couldn't find this "moving cable," but my calm assistant decided to lift a garbage bin. All I saw was a salamander and then the ancient fear jumped into my throat as I saw the snake near the corner of the bin in the mud. I was trying to stay calm and not arouse fear in the preschoolers while my heart pounded in my head. I walked quickly to get a bucket and then it was time for a snake round up. I laid down the bucket and pushed the snake in with a broom handle, then covered it with a towel to keep him calm like I had seen the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin do on the TV.

We released him into the woods a little ways from the church, after we attempted to show him to some petrified secretaries who locked themselves in the office a the first mention of the word snake and first glimpse of the bucket.  Oh and did I mention he was just an 10 inch Garter snake?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gifts and Talents

Each of us have been given or endowed with gifts and talents and things we do well. Unfortunately whoever said, "your greatest strength can also be your greatest downfall," was right. Some of us feel so compelled to use our greatest gifts, that we force them upon unsuspecting folks who didn't ask for our gift. As a matter of fact they may see it as an afront. 

Our gifts have been given to us to bless others, not to become burdens that have to be tolerated by others.  Most times it is the perspective of who the gifts are for. If we see the gifts as primarily to satisfy our need to use them to feel useful, superior, or sufficent, then we will have missed the best use. If instead, we see our gifts as gifts we can use to help, assist, or build up others, we will begin to settle into the best way to use them. 

Ephesians 4:10-13 (MSG) ...He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, 11 filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher 12 to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, 13 until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Made for relationships, we human creatures. The only thing "not good" according to God about His creation was that Adam was alone. There are times we need aloneness, but in the long run we must have relationship. We are not made for isolation. Humorist Psychologist Charles Lowery says, aloneness makes us crazy. It is not good for man to be alone. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Whole Shebang!

The whole shebang, the whole enchilada, the whole nine yards... the whole thing.  That's what God wants of us.  He wants the whole of us. He wants ALL of you and me.

"Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength.'" Mark 12:30 (NIV)

I have tried the "you can have almost all of me" thing.  And it doesn't work.  If I hang on to one part of me that I want to keep for myself, it ends up corrupting the whole rest of my relationship with God. Jesus says, a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. If I hold one part back, then I begin to do things like point to how "good" I am in my "good" areas.  I begin to be self righteous about my good behaviors and pretty lenient on myself on the parts in which I want be my own god. It just doesn't work.  My relationship with God becomes a percentage thing... I'm 60-40 good-bad.  It doesn't work like that.  It's all or nothing.

Like the song of Ado Annie in Oklahoma - "with me its all er nothin'... it can't be in between... it can't be now and then... no half and half romance will do.  The King of Kings and Lord or Lords deserves our all in all.  I am painfully becoming more aware each day of the parts I hold back from Him. He is redemptive of those parts, but He's not afraid to discipline me to let go of them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When Biblical Community Gets Even Better

What is Biblical Community? It's all the " another" verses being lived out together (see them below). It is the expression of Jesus command to love one another like He loves us. It's not just the Sunday morning connection of pew sitting believers,  it's more than that. It's the hanging out and praying together when the alcoholic spouse is AWOL on a binge. It's standing around a hospital bed with a family as the mother is going under the knife to remove cancer, uncertain of the outcome. It's weeping with a young mother who will never see her son again after a tragic accident.

Oh there are some times when community hangs out at the pot luck dinner to share some food and fun and maybe a devotional thought. But Biblical Community gets more real when we connect with hearts that have been ripped out by great disappointment; and when we lock eyes with eyes that are fiery red from regretful weeping about pain inflicted carelessly on loved ones; and when we have sympathy stomach pains, post-kick, because someone we love is doubled over at the shocking news of betrayal.

I like the way Joy Jordan Lake describes community in her book Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous
“Christian community, taken seriously, means suddenly you’re shouldering the tragedies, the abandonment, the grief of the people around you, just as they are shouldering yours.  Community means sharing each other’s joy and hope and healing. In a thousand ways, taking Jesus seriously makes life harder, tougher, uglier. 

And richer. Finer. Finally worth living.” 

(Kindle Location 368 from Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous by Joy Jordan Lake, Paraclete Press. Brewster, Mass)
So, enjoy the body of Christ when it's fun and full of laughter, but also embrace it when it is painful and risky to do so.  You will engage in something so much bigger than yourself... something eternal...something Good... something satisfying.

Here's a list I found of the "one another" verses. Try these in your Biblical community.

 (credit North Wake Church)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We Are All Just Prisoners Here of Our Own Device

We are so easily entangled by our sin. But we have a answer. We have a deliverer, a rescuer.  Here is a sermon from last year with some thoughts on the subject. The sermon begins at about 24.00 minutes into the worship. Click here to view the sermon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Unless the Lord Builds the House...

For several years I tried the latest self-help. self-improvement, motivational plans:looking back, looking forward, goal setting, vision honing, purpose discovering,... with limited success. Perhaps I was deceiving myself in believing that I was planning my work and working my plan. But I have discovered that...

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:1-2 (NIV) 

This Psalm comes from Solomon, the wisest man to ever live.  He built a temple, a palace, gardens, roads, government buildings... He knew about God enabling him to build.  He also knew when God was not allowing it, nothing would be built, no matter how hard he worked.

So, before going back to the drawing board, we should go back to our knees and talk to God about our great plans. He may have other plans and He is the One to built everything from tiny atoms to the vast expanse of the universe.  And by the way "... in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17 (NIV)

Jesus says,  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

I guess I'll be seeking first the Kingdom of God and build what He builds...
(photo Habitat for Humanity)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hole in Your Heart

Love hurts. True Love, heavenly love won't hurt, but love in a fallen world can be extremely painful. We hurt those we love, not always intentionally, yet we still, in our fallen state, hurt them. We bump around like bulls in a china shop crushing precious fragile feelings with words, actions, and unfulfilled expectations. We neglect and abandon. We look to our own interests at the expense of others. We knock to the floor with careless words, then crush what is left by blaming others.

We get a taste of heavenly love from Jesus, who loves us even though we don't deserve it. It cost Him much pain, but resulted in much joy. I'm looking forward to loving more like Him; unconditional, unsuperficial... Love that builds up and nurtures and doesn't retaliate when hurt. The turn the other cheek kind of love that would rather give up his own interest for the sake of real, true, no imitations, no shelf life kind of love.

Source: Copyright 2014 Claudia Karabaic Sargent

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Happy or Holy?

Does God want us to be Happy? My first response is "Sure He wants us to be happy, right?" A famous pastor's wife once said, "God wants you to be happy." Well maybe, but I believe He is more interested in our Holiness. He wants us set apart with Him. Happy is temporary and fleeting depending on our circumstances. Holiness may bring happiness at times. But holiness brings joy mostly. Joy can exist in pain, grief and sorrow. Not so with happiness. Some sins can bring us temporary happiness, however the consequences always result in sorrow and regret.

Peter says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

He doesn't say you are a happy nation called to please themselves. We must aim a bit higher.

We have become lovers of ourselves instead of God. Paul warned believers have nothing to do with people like us. Ouch! (2 Tim 3:2)

Jesus didn't die just for our happiness, He died for our salvation, our holiness. He set us apart from sin. 

I also believe God desires our purity over pleasure. I believe God gives us great pleasure, but not at the expense of purity, 

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age," (Titus 2:11-12 ESV)

Next time instead of asking for happiness request holiness instead. Next time before seeking pleasure seek purity. In the long run, the results will be joy, not regret. And you may even enjoy some happiness along the way. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Word Bludgeon

I don't care what I was told as a kid, words can be just as painful as sticks and stones. The blunt force trauma inflicted on the psyche can leave scars for a lifetime. Researchers have now discovered that adults repeatedly abused by words as kids are much more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, addictive behaviors and other lingering physical maladies, not to mention the lasting emotional issues. Life expectancy for the the severely abused can be up to 20 years less than those with emotionally nurturing childhoods. It takes significant resilience to recover from word pommellings. Words hurt. 

Truth is words can come out easily, but they are impossible to truly retract. Saying I am sorry can help, but sometimes the damage has already been done. 

Jesus says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak," (Matthew 12:36 ESV) That makes me want to be more circumspect about the words I use even in jest.

I overheard another verse when my wife was teaching a group of teenage girls in my home and it stung a bit. "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18 ESV)

I definately want to be wiser with my words in the future.  I want my words be healing and not wounding!