Thursday, December 8, 2016

Moral Relativism vs. Moral Absolutism

     Moral relativism is the notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural influences. So what may have been viewed as morally wrong in the 1600s, may not be viewed as morally wrong in the 21st century. What is viewed as morally wrong by one culture, may not be morally wrong for another culture.
     Proponents of moral relativism site man’s growing sophistication as the basis of their adherence to belief. Proponents declare that man has grown as a species and previous moral standards and cultural morays must change.
     The opposite of moral relativism is moral absolutism. Moral absolutism is the notion that right and wrong are not subjective, but is objective. An objective standard is used to measure right and wrong regardless of differing times, cultures, or philosophies.

     Certainly, history has seen the misapplication of moral absolutism by some people. However, that misapplication does not negate the need for moral absolutism.

     A society left to determine its own version of right and wrong, its own version of morality, or its own version of acceptable human behavior will produce a society based on pleasure, comfort, and ease.
     Transcendent morality is the moral compass that keeps humankind from veering into moral disaster. Although rejected by some philosophers, some members of academia, and others, some form of transcendent morally is essential to prevent a degradation of society. Historically, the Bible is the most honored moral code. It has survived the changing of empires, shifting cultures, and varying times.
     The Bible contains God’s standard for living. Some may disagree with it. Others may openly reject it. The Bible IS the objective standard for moral conduct. The Bible is the transcendent standard for moral conduct. The Bible is GOD’S standard for moral conduct.
     So what?
          1) When facing a moral dilemma, consult God's Word.
          2) When evidence of moral relativism emerges, apply God's Word.
          3) When needing direction for life, refer to God's Word.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Defining Moments

          We all have defining moments in our lives. Sometimes we realize those moments for what they are and at other times they pass us by. Defining moments occur in our professional life, our marital life, our family life, our spiritual life, etc.
          From a spiritual perspective, defining moments are life altering, crucial moments in life that God uses to demonstrate Himself in an obvious way resulting in you never being the same again. Those moments define you from that point forward. Those moments reveal who you are at your core. Those moments give you direction and purpose.
          Some defining moments are good and some are not so good. Some defining moments are successes and some are failures. Some defining moments are experiences and some are events. Yet, they all impact us for a lifetime.
          Often, we do not recognize those defining moments in our life until they have passed. It's more of a review mirror type realization.
          For me, the defining moment concerning God's faithfulness occurred in 1983. I desperately desired to attend an Evangelism Explosion Training event to better prepare myself to live on mission. The cost was $ 300.00. I was just starting out in ministry and money was very tight. I asked God to supply the funds. Two weeks later, I served as evangelist at a series of revival meetings in a neighboring church. At the end of the series of meetings, the church treasurer handed me an honorarium. My first reaction (remember that I was young in ministry) was "I get paid to do this!?!" Probably not the most spiritual thing I ever did, but I drove down the country road about a mile, pulled over, and took a look at the honorarium. It was exactly $ 300.00. That was a defining moment for me concerning God's supply in my life.
          So, what's the point? 1) Take a few minutes to review your professional life, your relational life, your family life, and your spiritual life and identify at least one defining moment in each area. Give special attention to your spiritual life. 2) Recognize that the circumstance you are currently experiencing may be a defining moment in some area of your life, therefore, respond appropriately. 3) Know that past mistakes should not continue to define you for a lifetime. 4) Choose Jesus to experience the most significant defining moment in your life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful For It All

In May 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. They imposed many restrictions on the Dutch people. Among those Dutch residents was the family of Casper Ten Boom. They were Christians.

Mr. Ten Boom, from his study of the Old Testament, understood that the Jews were God's chosen people. As a result, he eventually became involved in the Dutch underground hiding Jewish refugees.

In 1944, an informant exposed the Ten Boom's work. They were arrested and sent to prison. Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom, two daughters of Casper, were transferred to Nazi concentration camps. They finally landing in Ravensbruck, a women's labor camp in Germany. Ravensbruck was a miserable place, yet the two girls began ministering to their fellow prisoners. After a hard day's work, they would hold worship services and encourage others, using a Bible theat they had managed to sneak in.

During those difficult days, Betsie Ten Boom reminded her sister to be thankful for God's grace. She even encouraged her sister to give thanks for the fleas that infested their barracks. At first Corrie could find nothing about the irritating bites of the fleas for which to be thankful. She uttered gratitude to God anyway. For weeks the two women were able to worship with and minister to their fellow inmates without harassment from the SS Guards. They later discovered that the flea infestation was the tool God used to keep the execution guards from entering their barracks. THANK GOD FOR FLEAS!

What was first considered an insufferable nuisance was actually God's instrument of protection. We can give thanks in all circumstances and at all times because God works all things together for our good and His glory. I did not say all things were good, but rather God could use all things for our good and His glory.

Gratitude soothes our spirit. It adjusts our attitudes. It changes our perspective.

So how do I get to the place of "thanking God for fleas?"
  • Express thanks regularly (1 Corinthains 14:16)
  • Live Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:18-20)
  • Understand God's sovereign care (Romans 8:28)

Remember, a thankful attitude must be cultivated regularly. What are the first steps?
  • Determine to become intentinally thankful
  • Determine to be thankful in ALL things
  • Thank HIM for His grace and your circumstance NOW.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lesson From My Visit to the Apple Store

A hypothetical "group" conversation went like this.

Me: Hi. My name is Allan and I suffer from Mac Snobbery.

Group: Hi, Allan!

Me: I have been doing really well with my Mac Snobbery until last week when I stubbled.

Leader: Tell us about it, Allan.

Me: For some time now, I have had my Mac Snobbery in check. I have not looked down my nose at PC users. I have not poked fun at the fact that PC users must update thier virus protection program almost daily. I have not spoken sarcastically about how Windows rolls out a new operating system and lets the public find the problems with it.

Leader: Go on, Allan!

Me: Recently, the church where I serve as pastor determined to purchase an iPad for me. It was a pastor appreciation gift. It was to replace our families very first iPad - a Gen 1. It served me well for 5 productive years. A couple of days ago, I dropped by the Apple Store and picked up my new iPad. As I walked out of the store, it overcame me - Mac Snobbery. It is contagious at every Apple facility.

So what lessons were learned from the visit to the Apple Store?

1)  Man's battle with sin is ongoing and will never cease this side of heaven.

2) If a particular person, place, or action contributes to your spiritual failure. Avoid them!

3) Pride goes before a fall.

4) Don't judge others because of their weaknesses. Yours are just as great!!!

Looking forward,


Friday, November 11, 2016

Five Years and Counting

October 31, 2011 was officially my first day as pastor of Celebration Baptist Church. That’s FIVE years ago! Amazing.

When those “time flies” moments occur, I am reminded of an older gentleman named W. T. Floyd. He was a member of the church that I served in the Marion, Arkansas area. I had passed the five-year mark serving as their pastor. I placed a small announcement in the weekly publication noting the milestone. As I walked down the center aisle of the church building, just prior to beginning Morning Worship, Mr. Floyd reached out and tugged on my coat tail. With a smirk on his face, Mr. Floyd commented, “Preacher, you haven't been here five years, have you?” I confirmed replied, “Yes sir, I have been here five years. Time flies when you’re having fun.” With a gleam in his eye, he responded, “Son, when you get my age (north of 80 years old), time flies whether you're having fun or not!” The older I get, the more I appreciate his candor!!

Highlights for me, over the last five years, have been 1) the establishment of some wonderful relationships in Haskell and the surrounding communities.  2) I have thoroughly enjoyed serving our community together as a church family and believe we have made a difference in our little town. 3) I am celebrating the maturing of Celebration Baptist Church. We have moved from a newly organized congregation to a “sending church” for group in Fort Smith. 4) I have watched many of you assume various roles of leadership. Some you didn’t think you could do, but did. 5) You have grown numerically, financially, and in your serving.

Just remember, God has more for Celebration Baptist Church to do in our community and the world.

Finally, allow me to say THANK YOU for the Pastor Appreciation gifts during October. The new iPad was wonderful!!! My Generation 1 iPad was struggling. Also, the additional financial gift was greatly appreciated as well. You are a generous people. Thank you!

Looking Forward,


Monday, November 7, 2016

No One Wants to Be A Servant

In an interview with Justin Blaney, Pastor Rick Warren stated, "For every one book you can find on being a servant, there are one-hundred to two-hundred books on being a leader. Everybody wants to be a leader. No one wants to be a servant."

Jesus said, "...on the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave, 28) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life - a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28, HCSB).

A ministry friend, who is the head of a church planting group in Seattle, Washington, has a practice of stopping to pick up trash as he walks to an appointment or from his car to a restaurant. Why? It is a reminder to him that he is a servant and must never become too full of himself.

Celebration Baptist Church has the reputation of being a church that serves. One teacher at Westbrook Elementary asked why that was the case. My reply, "It's in our spiritual DNA. Jesus did it, so should we!"

But, it is often hard to be a servant. Why? 1) Serving takes effort. Most people are too lazy to serve. 2) Serving takes humility. Most people are too proud to serve. 3) Serving is sometimes messy. Many people don't want to get their hands dirty. 4) Servants don't usually get noticed or praised. People are too self-centered to serve. 5) Serving is not always fun. Most people are to pleasure oriented to serve.

But understand, there is no greater joy than that which comes from serving another person or group and seeing a life changed. There is not greater satisfaction than knowing you are serving like Jesus. Why? When we serve, we are the hands and feet of Jesus to others. Maybe they will ask "Why?" Your answer? JESUS.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Not Everything Is Disposable

Growing up, my step-father saved everything. He saved scrap pieces of lumber, extra bolts and screws, and, yes, even bent nails pulled from used lumber. He did not throw away much, but repurposed most everything.

I remember hearing stories from my grandparents about making dresses from flour sacks and using jelly jars for drinking glasses. They wasted very little.

In contrast, modern America has become a disposable society. Last year, America produced approximately 220 million tons of garbage. We throw away a great deal of stuff.

As a disposable society, much of what we use and encounter is utilized only once and then tossed in the garbage. We have disposable razors, disposable cups, and disposable plates. We use tissues instead of handkerchiefs. We use paper towels instead of rags. We use disposable diapers instead of cloth ones. Electronics are not economical to repair, so our televisions and our computers become disposable. Instead of researching a product, some folks just buy their first option, knowing they can easily sell it to someone else if it does not satisfy.

This disposable mindset has spilled over into many areas of our lives. As a result marriages are viewed as disposable, jobs are disposable, and churches are disposable.

If a spouse becomes unhappy with or bored with another spouse, the marriage is disposed of through divorce.  If an employee decides that reporting for work is a bother, the situation is resolved through a resignation. If a church member feels distant or doesn’t like the way a children’s worker spoke to their child, the situation is solved through seeking another church.

Fortunately, God does not view Christ-followers as disposable. In spite of our failures, our weaknesses, our sin, and our dumb decisions, the Father has announced that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:35-39). God is committed to you and me. He is in a relationship with us for the long haul.

So what’s the point? Not everything is disposable!! 1) You are the object of God’s great love, invest in that relationship. While there may be ups and downs, invest in that relationship. While you may occasionally entertain thoughts of walking away, invest in that relationship. While you may feel abandoned at times, invest in that relationship. 2) Cultivate foundational relationships diligently. Key relationships like marriage relationships, mentor-mentee relationships, and family relationships are priceless. Fight for them.   3) Investment implies intentionality, commitment, and perseverance.  Let’s get to work and make these things last!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's About Perspective

Recently, the Celebration crew fulfilled their commitment to the Arkansas Highway Department's Adopt-A-Highway program. For those who may not be familiar with the program, CBC picks up trash for a one mile stretch of I-30 near the Haskell exit four times a year.

While picking up trash, we noticed a car pulled to the road shoulder with an apparent flat tire. There were three young men working to change the tire. They didn't need help, so we continued with our trash task.

At one point, I turned to Mr. Dale, a retire public school teacher, and commented "I am glad we are not changing a flat tire on the side of this busy interstate highway." To which he replied, "One of them is probably thinking 'I am glad I am not those guys picking up trash on the side of the road doing their mandatory community service!'"

Mr. Dale, always the teacher, reminded me yet again the importance of perspective. That caused me to begin thinking about the perspective of a Christ-follower.

1) A Christian's perspective on anything must be filtered through the Bible. The "assumptions we think and live by should be biblical ones, and we should build on these Biblical assumptions when approaching theology, politics, economic theory, medical science, emerging technologies, the arts, human behavior, literature, criminal justice, international relationships, or anything else," - Charles Colson. Everyone has a filter through which they view life and everything associated with it. A Christian's filter is the Word of God.

2) The Christian's perspective must include the universal need for Jesus in all people. According to the Bible (see bullet point #1), all people are broken by sin and can not repair themselves. All people need Jesus to resolve their sin crisis.

3) The Christian's perspective must include hope. Biblical hope is not some "think so," "wish so" , positive thinking mindset. To degrade biblical hope to those terms is tragic. Biblical hope is a confident assurance that God will do what He said he would do concerning all things, especially eternity.

The question remains, "So what?" By filtering everything through the Word of God, 2) the understanding of man's universal need for Jesus, and 3) the believer's sure hope in Jesus, the Christ-follower should be compelled to live life with focus, purpose, and assurance. We learn the what, why, and how of life. We have the perspective necessary to see REAL life-change in those around us.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

So, what's the deal with Joseph?

Recently, a friend asked me why I admire the Bible personality of Joseph? You remember his story. He was the youngest of twelve boys. He was a dreamer. He was the favored son. One day, he showed up at his brothers' work place bragging that he would one day be their boss. They did not appreciate little brother's words and conspired to get rid of him.

Joseph was left to die, but was rescued by a nomadic group of people that sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph became a servant to Potiphar and became a leader among the palace servants. He was falsely accused of a crime and sent to jail. There, he rose to leadership among the prisoners. After some time, he was restored to his governmental duties only to rise to leadership and a place of high responsibility.

I like this guy! Everywhere he went, he rose to leadership. In every case, what seemed to be mistreatment by others turned out to benefit Joseph.

So, why do I admire this guy? His repeated rise to leadership? The fact that he was a dreamer? The reality that God seemed to repeatedly take something that was meant to be detrimental to Joseph and used it for good? Nope, not even close.

I admire Joseph, because at every station in life he was successful. He seemed to understand that nothing entered his life but those things that had first passed through God's sovereign hands. At every turn in life, he accepted his role, sought to obey God, and put his head down and worked. I like that about him!

There is no record of him whining about life's injustices or circumstances. They were all  opportunities. Joseph's most profound statement was "You planned evil against me; God planned it for good . . .  (Genesis 50:22).

I'm no Joseph. But I'm striving to emulate his attitude, his work ethic, and his optimism.

Read more about Joseph in Genesis 37-46.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hi. My name is Allan. I am a bi-vocational pastor.

I enjoy watching the facial expression of people when they learn I am a bi-vocational pastor. Sometimes I sense people are thinking, "so you can't get a full-time church, huh?" Currently, I am intentionally bi-vocational. That is, I choose to work in a non-church related job, in addition to serving as pastor. Originally, the bi-vocational role was necessary. Now I have fully embraced it. I remember reading about the great church-planter, Paul the apostle. He was intentionally bi-vocational at times. Was he a second-rate church planter? Certainly not!!! Read about his intentionality in Acts 18:1-4, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.
Here are the benefits of being bi-vocational that I have experienced.
1) I stay in touch with "real" world living. Some times pastors forget that their people work 40-50 hours a week, have a family, maintain a dwelling, coach their kids football (basketball, softball, baseball or all four) and sometimes work a second job to make ends meet. They are busy. Life is busy. Right or wrong, that is the way people live. Therefore, I try to have fewer, shorter, and more efficient meetings. General busyness is reduced. Responsibilities are spread over a larger people pool.
2) I have the opportunity to live incarnationally more consistently. Jesus established an incarnational model for living. Working alongside people, the opportunity to listen, serve, demonstrate compassion, and model Jesus presents itself daily.

3) I have the opportunity to live on mission more readily. Jesus made it a point to hang around people from many different walks of life. He had meaningful, spiritual conversations with many of them. When you work with or beside people daily (and do it well), you earn the privilege of speaking Jesus into their lives because they have seen you live Jesus before them during both the good and difficult times.

4) I feel like my preaching is richer. I can say phrases like, "the other day at work. . . " or "my boss did this. . . " or "I had a conversation with a co-worker. . ."  Those experiences add credibility to your preaching. Of course the names must be changed to protect the innocent guilty.

5) I have learned to plan and lead toward more reasonable goals. Most people have been exposed to the SMART acronym when setting goals. Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely to be effective. Being bi-vocational, my frame of reference is a little different. Realistic has taken on a whole new meaning.

6) I am learning to delegate more. Prior to my current ministry, I thought I delegated pretty well. Let's face it, we all think that. But as my current ministry grows, I can not take on more and more responsibility. Therefore, for the ministry to continue to grow, I must share responsibility with others that are gifted and willing to serve.

Will I finish my vocational ministry career in a bi-vocational role? I have no earthly idea. I yield to God on that one. For now, I'm still learning how to balance a ministry and a job. When I learn a couple of more lessons, I'll share them.