June 2016


Over the next couple of weeks, we Americans will hear more and more talk of a patriotic nature. As America’s Independence Day draws close our hearts will turn to things that make us thankful that we are part of this great nation. I think it is worthwhile to be patriotic and to proclaim boldly your national pride.

One of the things that makes me proud of my heritage is held in the first amendment to the United States Constitution which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In short, not only am I free to worship how and where I want, the government is restricted in telling me how and where to worship, who to worship, and I also have the freedom to gripe about it if I so wish.

What’s even more amazing is that God has designed His plan in such a way that I have even more freedom than allowed me by the constitution. God wants us to be free to choose—and He gives us the freedom to choose, even if we choose not to follow Him. Certainly there are dire consequences if we choose the way other than God’s way, but we still have that freedom. In Christ we can be truly free!

“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  —Paul (Galatians 5:1)

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Me with My Dad (Thomas Potter)

Too many times, I let days go by without being thankful to my father for the heritage he gave me. It would be appropriate today to send a message of gratitude his way, and I hope that you can be inspired by my words.

 

Dear Dad, thanks. Perhaps it’s not really enough to say just that simple word, but there are very few others that can fully harness the necessary sentiment. So, thanks.

Thanks for loving my mother for the godly woman she is, and treating her right. I learned how to be a true, honest, and loving husband by watching you.

Thanks for the years of discipline and teaching that you took with me and my siblings. We learned what a father should be just by being in your home.

Thanks for living faith out loud and unashamedly at home and in the world. Through your life, words and lifestyle I found a firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. I learned how to be active and faithful in my church. I learned that my best example of father may not really be you, but our mutual heavenly Father. So you taught me to say:

Dear Father in Heaven, Thanks. Thanks for life, for love, for all you are.

Today, I am thankful for my fathers—both earthly and Heavenly. I count it a privilege to know both well and intimately.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”  (Psalms 103:13)

Here’s a hymn that we have traditionally cordoned off to Thanksgiving, but read it again:

 

We gather together to ask the lord’s blessing,

He chastens and hastens his will to make known;

The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing,

Sing praises to his name, he forgets not his own.

                                                                     (Anonymous Dutch Hymn)

 

The gathering together is the church at her best. Gathering for the blessing from God. Gathering for guidance. Gathering for repentance. And gathering for praise. Sounds like church to me. And church can be the height and glory of the family.

When families come together (or gather) with the family of God, we become the ultimate of what family can be. We like to assume that the family of faith is the extension of the family of home, but really, for Christians, the reverse is true. As we come gather for worship we see what real family is. Then we as a family of people imitate that which we find at church in our homes.

For our homes to really fulfill their mission as families, the family must re-discover the importance of the gathering with fellow Christians. It is through this gathering that faith is built, bolstered, and brought out in the lives of the parents and the children of our congregation.

 

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” –Jesus (John 13:35)

Sunday, June 4, 2006, I stepped into the pulpit of First Baptist Church of Mulberry Grove for the first time as her pastor. My prayer on that day: “Lord take us somewhere special together.” In ways it seems like yesterday. And in others, it is hard to remember those days when we weren’t family together.

Yes, I remember my years growing up, inviting Jesus to be my Savior in a little east Texas church at the age of 6, fully surrendering to Him and to ministry service at the age of 12, and walking (sometimes stumbling) down that road of my calling that led through several states, and countries, different languages and cultures, and even different assignments. Even so, it’s hard not to see that I am not your pastor, your brother, your friend.

That is what makes me love you so. You are my family. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes we celebrate, sometimes we disagree (and I pray that we will always do that agreeably). That is also why I pray for you. I pray for your hurts and your healings. I pray for your needs and your feelings. But mostly I pray for your souls—that you will grow, that you will hunger for Christ, and that you will follow Him fully. As with my own personal prayer—“Make me more like Jesus than ever before”—I pray that each of you will grow closer to Him and become more like Him today than you were yesterday.

And now, on June 5, 2016, this is my prayer: Thank you Lord for FBC Mulberry Grove. Take us where you want us to go!”

“’For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)