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,

Allan

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,

Allan

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!!