In recent weeks, our "From Now to Eternity: the Church in the Last Days" sermon mini-series in Revelation has caused me to do some thinking. I read passages like we've preached in chapters 4 or 5, and I think to myself 'come quickly, Lord Jesus!' Couple this with the news we see, and I long even more for the Christ to make all things new. Particularly the passages containing the letters to the churches cause me to pause and realize that our Savior has left us here with a purpose, a Great Commission in fact. I think as we long to spend eternity in the glory of God, it hastens us in our mission to make disciples while we still have the chance. As we catch glimpses of an eternal ecstasy, it ought strengthen our resolve to evangelize between now and then. Here's why: if we want to share in the everlasting joy of being co-heirs with the Messiah, we should want others to join us!
It would take a pretty sorry believer to take hold of the free grace of God, turn around, and actively deny it to others. That's a pretty uncontroversial take. My next opinion might be a bit more controversial. When we gather in our holy hudles, enjoy learning and studying together, return to the comfort of our own homes, and neglect our Christian responsibility to make disciples of all nations, we are passively - and perhaps quite unintentionally - doing just what we abhorred above. May God have mercy if we aren't willing to step outside out comfort zone and serve our neighbors. May God have mercy upon us if we are too busy enjoying "doing church" to get out of the building and "be the church!"
I pray that my toes are not the only ones being stepped on right now. The Holy Spirit has convicted me recently in this issue, because of several current events. Let's think about the Great Commission in simpler and more digestable context: within Stokes County. We're a predominantly middle and upper-middle class, white church. What if God leads us to own the lostness of the poorest neighbors in our county? What if God leads us serve neighborhoods around Walnut Cove that are nearly exclusively black? I'll confess to you, I'm already outside my comfort zone in several ways. What if the federal government uses Meadows as a hub for a relocation program for refugees from Cuba? The presence of signage and businesses alone catering to Spanish speakers might drive some of us crazy! What if Dry Hollow were set up as a hub for the relocation of Afganis fleeing the Taliban? Are we willing to cater to these new neighbors, serve them, and love them, sharing the good message of salvation in Jesus' name? Even if these hypothetical refugees were American-friendly and even served our military personnel as translators, it would be a difficult blow to our comfort level.
I type these words to challenge you in your current comfort zone. These are hypothetical situations, but it may very well prove a realistic possibility in the months to come. I want to challenge us all, because I have been greatly convicted in recent days. First, I have been greatly convicted about my own willingness to take for granted the liberties we share in this great Union of states, specifically the religious liberties we are directly given in our Constitution's first amendment. We have millions of brothers and sisters across the globe that share no such liberties, and they practice faith and obedience to God's Word at tremendous personal cost. Second, I am convicted about my own neglect of King Jesus' Great Commission. It's pretty easy for me to spend a day in my office doing "church work", go home, put my feet up, and have never done anything of Kingdom value. I need to better steward my time so that I can be meeting more people, cultivating new friendships, and having conversations about spiritual things.
Third, my soul has been wrecked in this sermon series because of the cost of my own salvation. It's pretty easy for me to desire - in theory - the evangelism of our Afgan friends being tortured by the Taliban. It's a bit more difficult for me to desire the evangelism of that Islamist soldier. It's a bit more difficult for me to desire the evangelism of the communist leaders in China actively engaged in the genocide of their own countrymen. It's a bit more difficult for me to desire the evangelism of the Castros. O that I might take to heart that I am no more worthy of God's grace than these. I don't deserve to hear and respond to the good message of salvation any more than them. It is only by God's merciful love that I was born here to parents that brought be to church, taught me to pray, and instilled biblical values in our home. May we never allow our desire for biblical justice to eclipse our desire for souls to be saved and lives to be changed. May we never grow complacent thinking that God's good news is for those of us that are "better". May we never allow our love of country, or cultural comforts, to stifle our love for others, or our willingness to reach them with the great Good News!
Behold the Lamb, behold the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.
For sinners crucified, o holy sacrifice, behold the Lamb of God, behold the Lamb!
As many of you know, back in June, I attended the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last month, I took a Wednesday bible study session to give a report about the Convention. Allow me to commend our Mid-Week Bible Study video on YouTube to you if you are interested in watching my report. Since that evening, I have received a number of questions regarding the Convention, and our denominational affiliations more broadly. I would bunch these questions into one of three “buckets”.
The first grouping would include the questions I have received about the mechanics of our denominational affiliation. Because Baptist churches are independent, our group dynamics are unique compared to all other kinds of denominations in the world. Nothing decided upon at the Convention is binding upon our church. We don’t owe any entity any money; anything we give is because we freely choose to do so. We are a member church of A) the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association, B) the Baptist State Convention, and C) the Southern Baptist Convention. We could opt out of any one or more of the three at any time. It’s confusing for some of us to understand; I know!
The second grouping of questions I have received, deal with critical theories (Critical Race Theory in particular). Some in our denomination are specifically concerned about these theories being taught in our seminaries. Let me echo a statement made by Dr. Daniel L. Akin, the head of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (shared alma mater of Luke and me). He made clear that no critical theories are being espoused or endorsed by any of our seminary professors or administrators. He highlighted the various ways in which students are being equipped as much as possible to deal with any and all world views in their evangelism, especially on the international mission field. He finally reminded us that all truth is God’s truth, and that even deeply flawed ways to think about the world, can rightly identify problems that ought grieve our souls. I am incredibly encouraged that our seminaries produce the quality of education that they do, and that we have the leaders like these in our institutions.
The third grouping of questions I have received, are of a socio-political nature. It should go without saying that words like “liberal”, “conservative”, “moderate”, and “fundamentalist” are loaded terms. Labels like these are not always helpful when discussing issues with clarity and nuance. It should also be said that “theological conservatism” and “political conservatism” are not the same thing at all. It is obvious that the Southern Baptist Convention is an unapologetically theologically conservative denomination. We have been, and will continue to be, pro-life. We are unequivocal in how we view the Word of God. This book affects all areas of life, but doesn’t limit us to specific political strategies. Nor does it dictate which candidate or party to endorse, or whether to endorse anyone. There is a [loud] minority within the Southern Baptist Convention that think anyone [including me] that doesn’t share their political views, has given up on the authority of scripture. This has caused labels to be unfairly thrown around, a secular press to question whether a denominational split is looming, and infighting to take our “eye off the ball” of missions. As Pastor Jim preached so well on July 18, we cannot afford to become married to the culture. This can occur in multiple directions, but may God have mercy upon us if we are known more for what our political opinions are instead of being who He has called us to be: a group of broken people, serving as a refuge for other broken people. I am not worried at all about the Southern Baptist Convention’s strength, because what binds us together is what has always bound us together: the Great Commission. Our International Mission Board and North American Mission Board are the two greatest ways to spend a dollar and see it used to proclaim the name of Jesus across this planet. I am greatly encouraged to know that we are working hard to produce together the greatest mission force in history. This is what our denomination is known for, and I hope this is what our church is known to be! May we all be the hands and feet He’s called us to be; may God keep us “unstained from the world” (James 1:27); and may God magnify our witness in Walnut Cove and beyond!
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
back to the narrow way, patiently win them,
tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save!
Greetings again dear friends,
In May 2020, Pastor Jim, Luke, and I spent the better part of three weeks articulating and clarifying what the Colonel called our "decision-making matrix". In it, we tried to outline a series of phases, and decide which things need to occur in which order as we began, and then continued, the process of returning to "normal" [as if things will ever return completely]. We all agreed, and the Deacons agreed, that the last thing to return to normal would be the presence of a Choir in our corporate worship. The nature of projecting vocal air broadly, in close quarters with other people, would have been the highest-risk thing we could do just a few months ago.
I am so thankful for the grace of God in our church over the past year. Though [according to my last count] over 30 of us contracted the corona virus in the past fifteen months, we have been blessed with no spread across our church family. I would like to thank all of you that were willing to bear with the measures our leaders put in place, even when you thought they might have been too stringent. Because of these measures, our church did not experience a viral out-break, and by Easter, over 85% of us were comfortable gathering together in-person once again! Our measured, patient responses have worked to keep us safe, but even more importantly, they have served to maintain humble unity across our church body. In April, SONquest returned to weekly children's church services. In May, we returned to Wednesday evening activities, and in June our Sunday School classes returned. In the past six weeks, we also amended our face covering policy from "expected" to "respected". More and more of you are comfortable sitting close together, shaking hands, and even hugging. In all of these things, I am so thankful that God has kept us safe, and that He has protected us from factions and divisions.
I am so glad that "F.B.C. in July" this year allows us the opportunity to celebrate a return to a sense of normalcy. In the past, "F.B.C. in July" has been about taking a break from some events, allowing us to "do" less church and freeing us up to better "be" the church! This year, we can return to full slate of events, and in doing so, we want to encourage more and more people to join with us in "being the church" together! If you, or someone in your family, has been less than fully engaged in our church over recent months, let me encourage you to get back into the habit of joining us on Sundays. Join me engaging those we haven't seen lately, and encouraging them to take part in our sweet fellowship. Consider inviting your "One" or another neighbor to worship with us.
July will mark the return of our monthly Prayer Meeting and the Choir will begin practicing. I do not believe you'll see the Choir right away on Sunday morning, because it may take a couple of practices to get us ready again, but trust me, it'll come. There are few things in my life that warm my heart the way my heart is warmed on Wednesdays at 8:00, when we don't have to perform, but can simply lift our voices together to praise the name of Jesus! If you haven't been part of the Choir before, or haven't been in a long time, please consider joining us! You don't have to audition; you don't have to read music; you don't have to be particularly adept at singing harmony parts; you do have to love the Lord Jesus and want to praise Him with your voice!
Now that we are in summer, let's raise the spiritual temperature of our hearts. I humbly challenge you to A) dedicate 10 new minutes per day and spend time in prayer; B) seek out one person with whom to have a conversation about spiritual things this month; C) hold a time of worship, including a song and bible study, with your spouse and/or children one time per week. Pick one of these things and commit to raising the spiritual temperature across your home and family. If we all do this, our church will be used by God to raise the overall spiritual temperature of our town! As we charge ahead with a calendar of events - including students' and children's ministries - if we have a renewed fervor toward biblical faithfulness, then our "doing" church will have a broader and deeper impact across Walnut Cove.
Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dewlt secure;
sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.
A thousand ages in Thy sight are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.
Allow me to humbly recommend to you my thoughts from last month’s news-letter. In that article, I discussed a biblical sense of community and fellowship. I’d like to build this month’s thoughts upon this theme. Biblical community is one of three important aspects of discipleship. If someone claims to be a “Christian” but isn’t a committed disciple of Jesus, striving to make further disciples, their Christianity is just that – a claim. Discipleship is not just “a thing” that we do as a church, it is “the thing” for which the Church should be known. Think of it this way: for several decades, churches have viewed discipleship to be an “application” that they run on their device. A more biblical understanding is that discipleship ought to be the device’s operating system, upon which all the “apps” run!
Is discipleship practiced on Sunday mornings in the Sanctuary? Assuming that the Word of God is being faithfully preached, yes, but it is limited. Can we practice discipleship better on Wednesday evenings, or in Sunday School classes? Perhaps, but there are still great limitations as we practice both of these things. The reason there are such limitations is because of a difficulty in working out all three aspects of true discipleship: learning, community, and mission.
Last month, I shared my thoughts about what genuine community should entail. Learning should be rather self-explanatory, but I would make an emphasis on the differences between passive and active learning. Sitting in a pew and listening is the epitome of passive learning. Reading, writing, discussing, and homework are all aspects of active learning. Having a copy of God’s Word in our hands is an essential pre-requisite to having His Word in our hearts. Taking notes of a sermon is good, taking your own notes with your thoughts on a passage, or journaling through your personal prayer life are better. Talking through scripture, or spiritual precepts, is an important part of internalizing and applying God’s Word. I think we might all agree that to know what the bible teaches is good, but to walk in obedience to the truths of scripture is even better. It doesn’t take much thought to recognize the limitations to active learning during a corporate worship service, or even a mid-week bible study or Sunday School class. What can we do to cultivate better opportunities for folks to learn in an active posture? What can you do to be more engaged in active learning?
The third aspect of discipleship is mission. Over-achievers reading this might immediately think of “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus gave us this Great COMMISSION (Matthew 28:19)! If we aren’t making disciples, then we aren’t obeying the mission. If we aren’t engaged in missions, then we aren’t really being faithful disciples. I don’t really make much of the distinction between discipleship and evangelism, because evangelism is simply pre-discipleship. If we aren’t actively sharing our faith, with brothers/sisters AND unsaved neighbors, then we aren’t as engaged in discipleship we ought to be [don’t be mad at me; I just stepped on my own toes too!]. Again, I assume you read my last article. Are we experiencing in-depth community? Do we need to avail more opportunities to you so that you might experience it more fully? Is there someone in our church family that may not have as much fellowship with others as you? What can you do to draw them in more deeply? Who’s Your One? Whose path do you cross regularly that doesn’t have a church home, or a relationship with Jesus at all?
I am encouraged that our church promotes discipleship, but our heads are in the sand if we think we have no room for improvement. Many high-quality Christian ministries promote one of the three aspects of biblical discipleship. A few healthy churches promote two really well. Few and far between are the churches that have a robust practice of all three aspects, and we want to be one! If any of my above questions have piqued your attention, or caused you to think, PLEASE tell me. If you have an idea of how we can better fulfill the Christ’s commission, or would like to help us come up with ideas, my door is always open to you!
So Spirit come, put strength in every stride, give grace for every hurdle,
that we may run, with faith to win the prize, of a servant good and faithful.
Salutations again friends,
As some of you know, my tendancy is to write these articles as a result of what lessons God has been teaching me lately. I'm pretty hard-headed and don't always pay attention as keenly as the Lord would like me to, but often times writing these forces me to process and synthesize my scattered thoughts into a more coherent point. I must admit that I don't really know where I am going this month, but I humbly ask you to join me for this journey!
I have been mulling over the meaning of "community" in recent days. This word means different things to different people, and means something very different in a biblical context. The mayor of my home town said a week or two ago "the Greensboro community". I don't know how 250,000 people can be in one community. I have read many articles in recent months referring to "the black community". I freely acknowledge that I am [very] white, and could never empathize with some of the experiences many of our black neighbors have shared, but I find it difficult to lump 42,000,000 people scattered across 50 different states into one "community". I have also recently read about several of the rifts cutting through "the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community". This seems to be the height of irony to me, because if groups are becoming increasingly divided, why would we refer to a singular "community" at all. I think "the Walnut Cove community" has a bit more standing; first, 4,000 people seem a more appropriate size to be described by this word, and second, because roots tend to run a bit deeper here, cultivating a sense of identity.
Though I tend to reject many of the world's uses of "community", I do think that the themes of identifying and solidarity are important. Let's circle back to "the black community": as fellow members of a particular racial minority, our black neighbors may genuinely experience a bond to and with one another that is quite foreign to us as white folks in the majority. I don't want to discount this sense of identity at all, but I would argue that our increasingly globalized society suffers from a tendency to lump people according to which boxes they check rather than getting to know people as individuals. In an age of digital communication, people can choose to become part of a group (enter "the Fortnite community"), engaging with one another online around common interests, all the while becoming more and more isolated, lacking genuine friendship.
Let's contrast this secular use of "community" with a biblical one. Scripture teaches us that to know one another and be known by one another is very important. Not only does this assume individualization, it drives toward intimacy. It’s one thing to know something about someone; it’s something entirely different to know someone as a brother in Christ. Genuine community is something that we all crave. In this sense, the world gets it right, because we all desire to be loved and accepted. We will never, however, find the love and acceptance we all need apart from the true unity found in the love of God.
Romans 1:11-12 gives us a picture of Christian community - strengthening and encouraging each other by practicing spiritual gifts. Hebrews 10:24-25 also help us understand a biblical "community" encouraging one another, provoking each other to love and good works. This carries even more weight in light of verses 19-23: holding onto our confession and drawing near as we enter the sanctuary. As we draw near to the Christ, it stands to reason that we would naturally draw near to one another as brothers and sisters. Couple these ideas with the most common New Testament word to describe Christian community: koinonia. This is the share which one has in anything, joint participation, fellowship. When we celebrate with those who rejoice, and weep with those who mourn, we are living out biblical community.
After 13 months of lacking much of what makes "community" biblical, and living in a culture where these truths are increasingly misunderstood, or even dismissed, I have found myself craving true community. I long for prayer gatherings where we bear burdens together before the Lord. I miss three-hour lunches where I get to know people at a much deeper level, or where old friends hold me accountable, challenge me, and encourage me all in one! I miss "bro hugs". I miss friends knowing what I was struggling with last week, or sharing excitement with me this week.
As we continue the process of regathering, our children's ministries will be operating with more regularity. This will enable us to resume Wednesday activities, move toward holding Sunday School classes again, begin more small groups, and RESTART THE CHOIR!!!!! As we do, let me leave you with two more thoughts. First, biblical community results in life transformation. We should strive for high-quality life-on-life intentional relationships, study of God's Word, and outward reaching mission emphasis. If we neglect to strive for any of these three, we won't achieve full life transformation. Second, deeper friendships, accountability relationships, spiritual growth environments, maximum participation, and missional opportunity are all more robust as this sense of community is smaller and more tightly-knit. Therefore, reproducing small groups are the best vehicle to experience biblical community. Pray about how God might lead you to commit to this sense of community in the months ahead as we continue the regathering process!
Let us sing now everyone; let us feel His love begun;
let us join our hands that the world will know we are one in the bond of love!
Greetings and salutations dear friends!
It's the least wonderful time of the year - in my opinion, anyway. Wait, that isn't the lyric! O well, for those of you that enjoy spring, I am glad for you. Really, I am! I just don't want to hear about all the excitement. For all of you that call me Scrooge around Christmas, I will give twice as many "ba humbug" replies in the days ahead. I loathe involuntary sweating, so as the temperatures rise, I will be more and more uncomfortable. Pastor Jim and I always joke around this time of year "we'll be comfortable again in November!" The pollen is a wonderful thing; honey bees are some of the world's most fascinating creatures. Every year, I am in awe when Loyd Cline teaches me about the bees, but I do not enjoy inhaling the pollen! Don't even get me started on so-called "Daylight-Saving" time. My father jokes every year that it's like 'cutting a six-inch strip off of the bottom of a blanket, sewing it across the top, and calling the blanket "longer".' I am convinced that arbitrarily leaving standard time (for longer than six months) is the biggest sham in modern society. I do not like eating supper in broad day light, the "we're saving energy" argument has been thoroughly debunked, and folks on the internet still say "Eastern Standard Time" furthering the confusion! I have a beautiful map as the background image on my computer with all the time zones across the globe, so my wrist watches and Jeep are going to remain in ours where we belong!
Now that I have begun to articulate why I dislike this time of the year, let me attempt to pique your interest and have you join me in getting excited about its - perhaps sole - redeeming characteristic: EASTER! Easter is my favorite day of the year. Easter doesn't just make spring bearable; it makes bearable life itself. Easter makes funerals bearable. Easter makes watching news reports highlighting the horrors of this broken world bearable. Easter makes strained, or even fractured, relationships bearable. Easter - literally - makes even our own sin bearable! Without Easter, our church is useless, our system of beliefs is pointless, and sin is just as powerful as the Creator Himself. Easter is not just a redeeming quality for a season of the year; it entails the very essence of the redeeming of our immortal souls! Are we getting excited yet!?!
Easter is the single day of the year that I want to wake up before the sun rises. I am glad our church holds a service in our Cemetery, and I am especially glad our Cemetery is positioned up on a hill. When we stand among graves, it gives us a greater appreciation of I Corinthians 15. Just as God the Son left his grave on Resurrection Sunday, our loved ones' graves will be made empty one day too!! On Thursday evening, the Christ instituted the symbol of His New Covenant. On Friday, I was on His mind as He paid for my sin; the wages of sin are His death. The second day was quiet, but the third was loud. Jesus, the Messiah, breathed new life again! He arose from death; He arose from the grave; He resurrected! This is a foreshadow of a resurrection that we can all look forward to if we trust in Him as Savior and Lord! God the Son condescended to become a human. He lived a life free from sin, uniquely qualifying Him to pay for my sin and yours. He bears our sin on the cross of Calvary, and gives us life eternal in its place! Whether anyone else needed this redemption or not, I do. Whether or not you needed salvation, He did it for me. My sin alone was more than enough to make Him lay down His own life. He did it for me!!! The God of the universe loves ME that much, and He loves you that much too!!!
I don't cry very often, but I nearly weep just typing these powerful truths. I am not sad, which messes with my brain, but overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. As the 'music guy', a particular portion of my job is devoted to corporate worship. In my opinion, the best way to explain biblical worship as a corporate - or personal - lifestyle is this: response to who God is and what God does. Given my last paragraph, let's respond to what the Messiah has done for us. We as a church must do this week in and week out, but let me challenge you to personally do this day in and day out! Worship is evangelism; worship is reading the bible; worship is prayer; worship is singing; worship is sitting quietly and contemplating these things and lifting our unworthy heart to the Lord and weeping in grateful joy. God is certainly worthy of our worship whether or not Easter happened, but as a singular event, nothing should make us want to worship God more than Easter does. Join me this spring by walking in the glorious hope of the resurrection, and living your life in response to these truths!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was He;
full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Some of you know that I am a big fan of stand-up comedy. Those of you that are comedy purists know that “stand-up comedy” might be a bit redundant, but hey! I want to remain approachable, even to those of you whose taste might not yet be as refined as mine, haha! I have great respect for those that view nothing as sacred with a healthy dose of self-deprecation and a heavy sprinkle of cynicism. I might be such a fan of comedy because a willingness to make jokes about any issue, and an equal-opportunity approach to pick fun at everyone, could very well be the last bastion of speech that is truly free.
I didn’t really listen to them before that time, but since March 14, 2020, I have become a consumer of pod casts. I listen to [possibly too many] comedy programs, others on current events, history, Carolina, politics, sports, religions, and the Christian faith. I prefer to use the Google Podcasts app; I know there are many others out there if you have any kind of device connected to the internet (my secret is to listen at 1.8 speed!). In addition to an audio-only format, I have also begun to consume some new sources of information and entertainment through YouTube. Allow me to make a dozen recommendations – in order – that might bless you and your family as they have blessed me in the past eleven-and-a-half months.
-“Albert Mohler | The Briefing” by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. – Dr. Mohler is the head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. This comes five mornings per week (less than 30 minutes) and is an analysis of news and current events from a biblical worldview. I don’t always agree completely with his analysis, but he is a help to me as I formulate my opinions.
-“The World and Everything In It” – This comes five mornings per week (about 35 minutes) and special episodes on random weekends. This is largely a news report, but there is analysis from various Christian points of view.
-“Knowing Faith” by Training the Church – This comes thrice per month or so. It is hosted by deep-thinking theologians and walks through passages of scripture, explains how they shape systematic theology, and apply them to our society.
-“Ask Me Anything Podcasts” by LifeWay Leadership Podcast Network – This comes out weekly and is an interview format with my former pastor, Dr. J.D. Greear. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but it ranges greatly across a host of topics.
-“Christ and Culture” by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary – Hosted by my theology professor, Kenneth Keathley, this comes out once every couple of weeks. Dr. Keathley interviews experts on medicine, social issues, politics, etc. and discusses how the Church can speak truth into these things.
-“The Empowered Advocate” by The Pregnancy Network – This is an overtly pro-life program produced by a Triad non-profit care center on the front edge of offering alternatives to abortion. Join us in praying through how we might partner with this great organization in the months ahead!
-“United? We Pray” – This comes out monthly and I listened casually until July. Since the summer, I have greatly valued this insightful, biblical view on how the Church can work to improve race relations in our country.
-“First Baptist Church of Walnut Cove” – If you aren’t already subscribed, what are you doing with yourself!?! Get it together! and remain informed of what we are doing as a church.
-“KeithAndKristyn Getty” – This couple might be the best hymn writers in a century. Be blessed by their music.
-“Dude Perfect” – Conner Rothrock is responsible for turning me onto this channel several years ago. These gentlemen have a tremendous Christian witness, and have supplied me with light-hearted entertainment a lot recently.
-“Andrew Liggitt” – Andrew & Katherine continue to bless us as they share new music they are writing, and we get to look in on the boys playing instruments!
-“JStuStudios” & “MoreJStu” – I don’t know why there are two channels, but Justin Stuart and his best friend Andrew are young men that share their Christian witness very well. I’m nearly too old to appreciate their humor; this recommendation is for our elementary/middle school students and their families! It’s pretty mindless entertainment for adults, but the kids will enjoy it!
I’ll share my political, sports, and comedy favorites with you too, so ask me about them! Please share with me what some of your favorite things are. Are there any kinds of “infotainment” that have been a blessing to your heart since the CoViD-19 fog rolled in around us? If they’re that good, I’ll use my blog page to share your recommendations too!
For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind’s delight;
for the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!
Hello again church,
Many of you know that one of my favorite television programs is “Jeopardy!” It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trivial Pursuit is also my favorite board game. In addition to enjoying about any quiz show, what makes “Jeopardy!” so special in my heart is its host, G. Alexander Trebek. For more than three decades he had an open invitation into the Reynolds’ home five nights per week, for about thirty minutes at a time. (We never watched on Wednesdays due to church activities, but my Dad and I were excited with the advent of the d.v.r. as it allowed us to record all episodes and “binge watch” them later!) Alex passed back in December after publically carrying out a valiant fight against cancer. His final episode aired January 8. Folks have made many a comment about what a great guy he was, but all “Jeopardy!” fans know that he refused to be called ‘the star of the show’ instead always insisting that he be introduced as ‘the host of the show’. I believe this is a symbol of his own humility, always wanting the spot light to be shined on others. He worked hard through a number of charitable organizations to instill in school children a love of learning. Though he was a sinner in need of a Savior – and some of his sins were rather public – I do believe that he was a man of faith. From what I have read about him, I understand him to have placed his faith upon the God of the bible, and I very much hope that he is in heaven even now.
The afternoon of Wednesday, January 6, was really exciting for me! While the rest of our country watched a great stain on the legacy of our own liberty, I had the special privilege of attending a virtual retirement ceremony for my uncle, an event that I would have never been able to attend on an Air Force base in Ohio. He retired from civil service through the Department of Defense after working for 19 years as the commandant of a security cooperation institute. He accomplished a great deal over the course of his civilian career (after accomplishing a pretty significant amount during his military career), but during his retirement ceremony, the presenters were quick to gloss over the multitude of things he had done. Instead, they placed emphasis upon the number of people he has influenced, and the various personal ways he had made such an impact in them. In addition to being so proud of the first Dr. Reynolds in our family, and in addition to the excitement Dad and I share that we’ll get to see much more of him in the years to come, it caused me to pause and consider what kind of impact I have. I have thought much in recent days what it means to leave a legacy.
Whether as a military collaboration expert, or a game show host, or a President, or teacher, or plumber, or bean counter, or tobacco farmer, or mother, or grandfather, or friend, or even pastor, we all leave a legacy. Some are good; others are quite checkered or even poor. Only time will tell, but I have been challenged by these thoughts. In a career field of events, and processes, and accomplishing feats, my uncle will hopefully be known more for his impact on people. How much more should a pastor be remembered for impact on people? I am instilling into whom a love of what? Matthew 6 helps us ponder these questions in verse 20 and again in verse 33. As disciples of Jesus, let’s think about our own legacy. Let’s reflect upon the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission, and let’s passionately practice obedient faithfulness, working to advance the Kingdom of God!
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name!
I don’t know that I have ever loved patience. In fact, for much of my younger life, I thought that patience was stupid. I still – very much – do not like to learn lessons in patience. I need not remind you that since March 13, 2020, we seem to have been in one big lesson in patience. I don’t want to over-simplify a global public health crisis, but one of the largest lessons God seems to me teaching me in all of these things is to wait upon Him. Though the past nine-and-a-half months have not been fun by any stretch of the imagination, the importance of waiting upon the Lord has been sweet to my soul.
“Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning. Weeping only lasts for the night. Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning. The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight.” These are more than just the words of Bill and Gloria Gaither; these are words from Psalm 30. These words are part of a precious truth that runs throughout God’s written Word. Since October, I have been meditating upon the various scripture passages that discuss waiting upon the Lord, and though there have been many silver linings in our circumstances since March, one of the most powerful lessons I have learned is the significance of biblical joy. It is not a synonym of “happiness”. To be happy is a fleeting emotion. Joy, as we learn in scripture, is an inner soul-stabilizing force that comes with a personal relationship with our Creator. He alone can give us a joy that remains true regardless of circumstance. It is when we experience joy, even in the midst of acute grief and pain, that we really begin to appreciate the depth and source of a joy that comes from God alone. I believe this also helps us comprehend Paul’s description of a peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
Forgive me for taking such a tangent on joy – and peace – when I am supposed to be writing about patience, but it’s easy to see how the second, third, and fourth precepts of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) can be so tightly intertwined. Another silver lining I experienced personally in December was a clearing of my calendar. Without many of my normal events, I was able to spend a bit more time reading and praying. A pod cast I listened to just a week before Christmas challenged me with this question ‘is Christmas more about nostalgia for you, or is it more about worship?’ After some careful reflection, I was less than pleased with my answer. I was also challenged by Luke’s question in our bible study on December 16: ‘which was the greater miracle, the resurrection or the incarnation?’ In chewing through this question, we cannot help but to worship the Christ, because He was and is the Creator of the universe!
In these – and other meditations – this Christmas season, I have a new appreciation for the people waiting upon the Lord in the run up to Jesus’ birth. Not only were the faithful waiting upon the Lord as David, and the Prophets, and Moses, and Joshua, and Israel, and Noah, and Abram had; there was a craving desire – a longing – for Him to be with them. O that we might long for the Almighty to draw nearer to us. May we thirst for His presence! It seems to me that leading up to the coming of the Messiah, some rabbi, in some synagogue, in some small Judean town read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah. As we eagerly, yet patiently, await the day when we can all gather safely again, I leave you with a song lyric inspired by Isaiah 35…
strengthen the feeble hands, and steady the knees that give way.
Say to those with fearful hearts “be strong and not afraid.”
For your God will come; your God will come with a vengeance.
With divine holy fire, your God will come to save you!