Monday, September 10, 2007

Faithful are the wounds of a friend

Prov 27:5-65 Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.(KJV)

As a pastor, I love serving in the role of encourager. One of my favorite things to do is build up the people of God through the Word. The bible says that the role of prophecy is primarily to speak unto men edification, exhortation, and comfort. I typically enjoy less the role of "rebuker" and "reprover." After all, it's much more fun to build people up than to give them a scold (I realize there are some exceptions and I will attempt to resist the need to "rabbit trail" here simply to indulge my funny bone).

But the bible says that we must "speak the truth in love". I think we sometimes have the mistaken notion that we must sacrifice truth in order to love....that somehow we have an obligation to keep people happy, even if it means watching them go down a road to destruction. God's word says that there are times when it is necessary to "wound" the pride of our friends, for their ultimate benefit.

On the other end of the spectrum is the "flatterer". His kisses, though seemingly convey friendship are deceitful. One immediately thinks of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Master with a kiss. I'm not a forty-year veteran in the ministry, but I didn't just fall off of the proverbial turnip truck either. Here are some of my observations about these things:

It's typically not the man or woman who occasionally wounds my pride that seeks to undermine my ministry efforts. Sometimes their feedback may be sharp or stinging (after all..."iron sharpens iron" according to scripture), but usually their intent is to make me a better person. But the ones I have learned to watch out for are those who make me out to be the best thing since sliced bread. Those who use excessive flattery or praise often (but not always) have a hidden agenda. It will usually come to the surface at some later point. Here is an illustration from the Word regarding "the flatterer""

Prov 27:1414 He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him .(NKJ)

Those who go out of their way to use flowery language and excessive praise, prove their motives to be suspect. There's nothing wrong for giving encouragement for a job well done, or letting someone know how much you care. But when it becomes overkill, naturally it does (and should) cause suspicion to arise. In like manner, we shouldn't always get angry when someone loves us enough to tell us the truth. After all, the bible says "faithful are the wounds of a friend."

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Liberty Worship Center Sermons Now on iTunes

You can now listen to our sermon podcast on iTunes. This means that you can listen on your computer if you have the iTunes software downloaded, or if you have a mobile player such as an iPod or other mp3 device, you can automatically receive the materials and listen to them at your convenience.

All you have to do is Click Here to subscribe and/or listen to the sermon podcast

Have a blessed day!

Friday, July 27, 2007

New Sermon Podcast

I'm proud to announce that I just launched a sermon podcast. Feel free to check it out over at Liberty Worship Center

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Swimming in the Deep End

Thursday, July 05, 2007
Swimming in the deep end

I'm blogging tonight from beautiful Surfside Beach in SC. I am a firm believer that God uses everyday, ordinary events to speak to His creation. I think that I had one such moment today at...of all places....a swimming pool. My oldest daughter still hasn't mastered the art of swimming. Actually her doggie-paddle isn't even anything to write home about- but she tries (bless her heart).

Fortunately for us, the pool at our resort has no real "deep end." The pool is 3 & 1/2 feet at both ends, and 4 & 1/2 feet in the middle. For all of you quick thinkers like myself, that means....both ends are shallow. But this is the first time my daughter has swam in such a pool configuration. She's used to one end being the "shallow" end...and the other know.
I've had a difficult time this week, trying to get her to understand that she can safely "swim" at both ends of the pool. Even though I've been right by her side; encouraging, cajoling, and entreating her to enjoy both sides of the pool she has been quite reluctant. Despite what the markings on the side of the pool say, and what her loving, handsome (indulge me here please), and trustworthy dad told her- she allowed past experiences to shape her understanding of the current situation.

Ok- now I'm going to get spiritual (you knew it was coming didn't you?). How often does our Father tell us to go over to the "other side" and that everything will be just fine and we refuse to believe Him? He has declared the end from the beginning, He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith- He is the forerunner who has already gone before us.

Admittedly, I was a bit frustrated that my daughter didn't trust what I was trying to tell her. Tonight, I ask myself and any other poor soul bored enough to read my what ways am I frustrating my Father? Does He not always have my best interest at heart? Has He ever once failed me? Even in suffering, He has promised He would never leave me nor forsake me and that He would be with me always- even to the end of the age! Have I limited Him in such a way that I have turned a shallow end....into a deep end? Is anything to hard for God? Remember the wilderness wanderers of the Old Testament? They entered not in because of unbelief.

Lord don't let that happen to me! Oh- and I still love my daughter dearly, and look forward to swimming with her again tomorrow. I have to believe that my Heavenly Father is ready to give me another shot as well. Be encouraged and be blessed!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Hebrews 8:13 In that He says, “A new covenant, ” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (NKJV).

The writer of Hebrews is making a powerful point about the only means of sacrifice that God now accepts. I fear that far too many of us have a fascination with the obsolete in our spiritual lives. Can you imagine going down to your local car dealership and requesting a test drive but with this caveat...."I only want to test drive cars that have an 8-track player in them"? I realize some of my twenty-something and younger readers may not be familiar with the glory days of 8-track cassettes, but I'm sure you still get the point. Or how about going down to the local Best Buy (or insert your fave electronics store here) and asking for a PC that runs on BASIC language commands (remember those old Texas Instruments computers)? Very few of us demand that our next purchase of a laptop come equipped with Windows 95 (please- no quips from you Mac users- I still love you though!).

Back to a serious note: The intended audience for the letter of Hebrews was weighing a tremendous choice. They had already endured one round of persecution (see Heb 10:32-34) and apparently were facing another bout with it. The choice set before them was this: to endure suffering in the present time, with the knowledge that a far greater realm of glory and deliverance lie just ahead......or......return to an obsolete system that would alleviate present persecution, but would have everlasting consequences and punishment. To you and I, the decision seems so simple- why return to an obsolete system of sacrifices which were only the type and shadow and never the substance?

But every generation faces such a challenge. For you and I, it may not be a return to a system of temple sacrifices and ritual cleansings but it may be a return to our former lifestyle. Human nature is to remember "the good ole days" with great fondness. The Israelites cried for deliverance from Pharaoah and God answered. But it wasn't very long after their miraculous rescue from bondage, that they were crying for the "good ole days" again. What seemed so bitter and cruel at the time, seemed a little more sweet in the face of the trials in the wilderness. What Satan does not want you and I to realize, is that his system is obsolete. While the world is still operating at a functional level- it is going to vanish away in its present form. Right now the wicked prosper, the faithful are tempted, evil men seem to live life on easy street, true Christians endure hardships. But the Bible promises a new heaven and a new earth where the first will be last, and the last will be first. Injustice will be eliminated, and those who have been faithful in a few things, will become ruler over many.

Be encouraged today as you face the trials of life. No matter how lovely and attractive the world and the devil makes the alternative look- remember that the whole system of the world is obsolete and will one day vanish. Let's not be like Esau who sold his birthright for a meal but afterward regretted it. Let's value the investment we've made in an eternal Kingdom which shall never pass away or become obsolete.

Until next time......


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Blogging Hiatus

I apologize for my absence in recent days/weeks. I feel as if I've had very little to say of any real substance in this format, and even though this is a "blog", I'm still a bit reluctant to post mindless drivel about the minutia of life. Perhaps I'm just a bit too self-important and should lighten up (yeah, that's probably it). Well, oddly enough, today's entry will be rather self-indulgent, and lacking in any real substance as far as devotional value. Basically, I wanted to let people know I haven't dropped off of the face of the earth. Here are some pictures from a recent "Marriage Renewal" day we celebrated at our local church. In case you're wondering, I'm the guy who happens to appear in all of the photos.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Desire Spiritual Gifts

1 Cor 14:11 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (NKJ)

I'm teaching a series on spiritual gifts in our local church. It has been rewarding for me to revisit some of the great texts of the bible which deal with the subject of spiritual gifts. Many people immediately think of the Corinthians when the subject of spiritual gifts comes up. But there is a wonderful passage in Romans 12 about spiritual gifts as well as Ephesians chapter 4. Because of the Corinthian excesses and selfish displays, many have sought to discredit the value of spiritual gifts in our post-modern era.

To use the book of 1 Corinthians as some kind of proof-text against spiritual gifts is a grave error. Paul was not seeking to forbid or devalue the importance of spiritual gifts- just the wrong use of them. What becomes evident from the very outset of Paul's letter to the Corinthians is that they had a problem with divisions and factions in the church. Paul makes numerous references to this problem (I Cor 1:10,11, I Cor 3:3, I Cor 11:18) in this letter. This problem spilled into the arena of spiritual gifts as well- some felt superior because of their gifts, while trying to demean those who had (what they deemed as) the "lesser" gifts.

Many have rightly emphasized the need to follow and pursue charity (love). But following love and desiring spiritual gifts go hand in hand (see the initial verse I posted at the top of this blog entry). The two are not mutually exclusive! I have noticed and observed that many have made attempts to excuse their lack of desire for spiritual gifts. I hear comments like "well, if God wants me to operate in spiritual gifts, He will give them to me, but right now I don't think it's His will." While there is a truth in the sovereignty of God in the distribution of the gifts (I Cor 12:11, 18, 28), this should not be used as a cop-out for not desiring the gifts. This is much like the instruction in the book of James regarding prayer for the sick. While we acknowledge that not everyone is healed when we anoint with oil, and pray the prayer of faith- this does not diminish our responsibility to follow the directives of scripture. Regarding spiritual gifts, God may not grant us the spiritual gift (or gifts) that we desire, but that does not negate our responsibility to desire and pray for them. Paul especially seems to value the need for prophecy in the church.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Life Under the Sun (Part I)

I'm beginning a series of sermons on the book of Ecclesiastes, so I thought I would blog some of the highlights from the messages here. Today I preached a summary from the first two chapters of the book. In the first chapter, the writer of Ecclesiastes (most likely King Solomon, who refers to himself as "the Preacher") laments a life lived only with an earthly perspective. The Hebrew word translated Ecclesiastes means "to assemble." Bible scholars believe that Solomon probably wrote this book in the latter portion of his life. It is not difficult to imagine him assembling folks around him to rehearse the meaning of life and teach lessons about wasting youth on pleasure and the pursuit of earthly wisdom.

He realizes that things continue on an unchanged course- the rising and setting of the sun- the cyclical patterns in history- and that there is "no new thing under the sun." He describes how he sought meaning in life through wisdom. Without doubt Solomon was the wisest man of his day and beyond (until Jesus Christ's advent of course). He had such a breadth of knowledge that he could intelligently speak about horticulture, agriculture, zoology, and practically any other topic. And yet with all of that knowledge he was still miserable.

Then he says he decided to search for purpose in pleasure (the beginning of chapter 2). Scripture records that Solomon's house was 13 years in building. He had thousands of stalls for his horses and chariots to match. He had beautiful gardens and waterfalls to entertain him. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (which eventually turned his heart away from the Lord to serve idols). He could easily say with confidence to anyone who asked of him that he had "been there...done that...and got the t-shirt." If anyone knew what it was to live a life of luxury, power, and was Solomon.

He then laments the fact that all of his wisdom, pleasures, and riches and labor could not prevent his death. That one event unites the foolish with the wise. The writer of Hebrews says that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this- the judgement. Further compounding the problem is the fact that most likely his heir Rehoboam would turn out to be a flop (which history and scripture both reveal that he did- disregarding the counsel of wise men and keeping the company of fools).

Until next time....

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Beating the Air This New Year?

1 Cor 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air (KJV)

If you're like me then you're probably midway through your first day of your new diet and already wondering if it was such a good idea after all! By the grace of God (and the loving support of my wife), I somehow found my way to the treadmill this morning for a brisk walk. I must say that it felt good to get my blood circulating this morning and get some excercise. (We'll see how it works out tomorrow). Ok- enough about me and my journey towards physical fitness, let's wax spiritual for just a moment.

Paul told the Corinthians that he discharged the duties of his ministry with purpose. It's very easy to make bland and generic goals when a new calendar year rolls around. We say things like "I'm going to pray more this year", or "I'm going to get closer to God", or perhaps "I'm going to increase my giving to the work of the ministry this year." These are all noble desires, but sometimes I think we are like the proverbial man that Paul describes "beating the air" or running around aimlessly. Many times we expend a lot of energy and resources, but end up accomplishing very little for the Kingdom of God.

I hate to sound cliche' but just as the old proverb goes, "no one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan." Paul used the analogy of an athlete. No serious athlete approaches a contest or competition with a haphazard method of training. They typically follow a strict diet, exercise, and rest routine in order to maximize fitness and endurance. I'm not saying that our Christian life must be so rigid and programmed that there is no sense of vibrance or variety (the Pharisees and their customs immediately come to mind). But I also believe we should set some quantifiable goals and then be mindful to evaluate our progress (or the lack thereof). Paul said that he had to beat his body into subjection and make it his slave. We must take the initiative and do those things that we know are needful for our spiritual maturity.

If you've been waiting for someone to motivate you into action, then hopefully today's blog entry will serve that purpose. I know I have certainly challenged myself to do more for the Kingdom in 2007.

Until next time.....