From the great poetic duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards:

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need”

Time Collection of Alarm ClockThese words rang true in my heart as the alarm went off at 4:00AM this morning. What I wanted was to sleep in, it is Saturday after all. Not only that, but it’s been a very tiring week. It’s been a good week spent at one of my favorite places in the whole world, Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. I was there with 53 other leaders, children, and teenagers from my church. Kids got saved, a few surrendered their lives to ministry, and we all drew closer to Christ and each other. It was a good week, but a tiring one all the same. So yeah, I wanted to sleep in. The thing is, Sunday rolls around every week without fail. Regardless of what happened the week before, you can be sure Sunday’s coming and when you pastor a church, that’s kind of a big deal.

You see, people will show up to churches all across the land on Sunday morning expecting to hear a word from God. And they sholud get it. After all, they’ve had a busy week too. They may or may not have spent that week trying to keep up with kids while the July heat saps all of their strength and will from them, but they have worked hard. They got up early each day and went to their jobs. They may have faced trials and disappointments and have certainly struggled with decisions and responsibility. That’s all part of life. On Sunday they come to church looking for hope from God. They want reassurance that God is there, that He cares, that there’s more than the daily struggle.

That’s why I got out of bed at 4:00AM this morning even though I wanted to sleep in. God has called me to be a pastor. What I wanted and what I needed most were two different things, and I got what I needed. I needed some time alone with God. I needed to know that there is hope, that God is there and that He cares, and that there is more than the craziness of the daily struggle of life. I found time to study and prepare this week while I was at camp but I needed more. What I needed most was to simply get alone with God and His Word, with no distractions, and let Him speak. After all, apart from God I don’t have anything to say to my congregation on Sunday that’s worth hearing. I can’t have a word for them from God unless I first have a word from God myself. So I got up early, even though my body didn’t want to, and as always God delivered. He’s good like that, always giving us what we need, despite what we sometimes want. I don’t think that’s quite what the Rolling Stones had in my mind, but I have found it to be true.

Thank you, God, for giving me what I need.

“Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5, ESV)

american-flagWhat do you love most about America? We have so much it’s difficult for me to pinpoint the one thing that I love most about my country. We also have much that we take for granted. If you’ve ever traveled outside of the US (and I don’t mean vacation spots geared towards rich Americans but the places where the people live) then you know what I mean. We have had so much for so long that we think we’re entitled to it and that it will always be there. We’ve had so much for so long that we don’t often take the time to thing about what we have or to be thankful for it. So, what do you love most about America? I think what I love most is the determination of the people.

As I think about our history over the last 237 years I think of the determination of a people to be free and to fight for freedom, not just ours but for other nations as well. As I think about more recent events like terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or a failing economy I see the same determination. Whatever may happen, whatever our differences may be, we always seem pull together. If we are anything, we are determined.

I hope that determination will continue. In my opinion there is much to be concerned about, as much within as without our borders. I don’t have the time or space here to address all of the things that concern me about the current condition of this great country. I don’t pretend to have all the answers either but as an American, a Christian, and a pastor I would like to encourage other followers of Christ to continue to pray and to pursue one thing above all others. Holiness.

The forefathers of our country wrote in The Declaration of Independence that all men have been endowed by their Creator with certain rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Amen, these are ours from God and I’m thankful for a country that recognizes that. I think those of us who are Christians should also understand that this right of ours to pursue happiness includes an obligation to pursue holiness first. 1Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV) Christians should understand that true happiness only comes from knowing God through Jesus Christ and making Him known.

holinessThe best thing we can do for our country is to pursue holiness first. I don’t mean pointing a self-righteous finger at everyone who believes differently or disagrees with us. I mean pursuing holiness in our own character and letting the light of Christ shine in and through us for those around us to see. In our pursuit of holiness we’ll find happiness and in that pursuit God will use us to draw others to Himself. Jesus says in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from earth, will draw all men unto me.” (ESV)

What I’m trying to say is this: If Christians in America will be determined to pursue holiness above all else then we will see God’s hand at work in and through our great nation.

truth-and-grace-300x300Are you a grace person or a truth person? Have you ever even thought about it before? You may be wondering what that even means. Let me explain. This is a question that was asked during a Bible study that we’re going through at my church. You see, people tend to be one or the other, or at least lean more towards one or the other. So what is a truth person or a grace person?

A truth person tends to see the world as black and white. There is right and wrong; dark and light , good and evil. There are rules and there are those who keep them and those who break them. Truth people want to keep the rules and they want others to keep the rules too. That is what’s right after all.

A grace person tends to see the world more in shades of gray. It’s not that they don’t believe there’s a right and a wrong, it’s just that the lines between the two may not always be clear. A grace person doesn’t want to break the rules but if one gets bent every once in a while it’s okay. We are all human after all and nobody’s perfect, right?

So which are you, a grace person or a truth person?

I’m definitely a truth person. I think right and wrong are clearly spelled out for us in Scripture. Even if you don’t hold to the same belief in Scripture that
I do it’s clearly spelled out in our own conscience. We know when we’ve done wrong. Therefore, we should do right, right?

Do the two have to be opposed to each other though? Couldn’t there be a balance between the two? The answer is, yes. Read the following verses from the Gospel of John:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John1:14,17 ESV)

Did you see that, both grace and truth existing together in the person of Jesus Christ? He is both. He’s not part grace and part truth. He is full of grace and truth.

woman-caught-in-adulteryJesus never once compromised truth. He never once broke any of God’s commandments, or told anyone else to ,or told anyone it was okay if and when they did. At the same time He was always ready to forgive, always ready to show love and patience to those who needed it most. He told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” There it is, the fullness of grace and truth in Jesus Christ. Go through Scripture and look at the life and words of Jesus and you will see it over and over again. We even see both in the cross. There Jesus is, meeting all the requirements of truth, paying the penalty for sin and yet He never broke one commandment. Grace and truth.

I’m a truth person. And yet I am continually overcome by grace. There’s nothing wrong with the truth, it’s a good thing, but without grace truth will always bring defeat. Grace brings victory and salvation. It’s not one or the other, it’s the fullness of both in Jesus.

My desire and prayer is that both would be seen in my life and heard in my words; that I could/would be more like Jesus.

Have you ever posted or texted something you wished you could redo? I do it all the time. I quickly type something, hit send, and then read it and immediately wish I would have read it before I hit send. Sometimes autocorrect will change a word and sometimes my fingers just don’t hit the right letters. Either way, it can certainly be embarrassing at least and/or offensive at worst. Sometimes though, it can even be insightful. Let me explain.

buildingforthefutureYesterday my wife had one of her kidneys removed as the result of a tumor. As I sat in the hospital with my wife, waiting for them to take her to the OR, the waiting room was filled with people who were there to simply show their love for us. You see, my wife and I have a wonderful family; parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, and nephews who love us and we know it. The thing is, we don’t live very close to any of them. We miss them, especially at times like this, and we know that they would be here if they could (her mom and sister were able to be here, which we are very thankful for). We are, however, extremely blessed in another way. We have a church family. All of those people I told you about in the waiting room? Yup, church family.

So, as I sat there, overwhelmed by their show of love and support for us I posted something on Facebook. It went like this, “Sitting in pre-op with my wife, getting lots of live from my church family.”

Live.

I meant love, of course. One letter changed the whole word, but in this case it added something to the meaning. A good friend of mine pointed this out after I posted a correction. He said, “To love is to live.”

I think he’s on to something. You see, my church family loves each other like we do because we truly are a family. We don’t just see each other on Sundays. Church isn’t just something we go to, it’s something we are. We experience life together. We live our lives together as a family of believers in Christ. It’s really an amazing thing and it makes an impression on others. I have heard more than one hospital worker and/or patient, on more than one occasion, make a comment about the amount of people sitting in the waiting room while one of our own is having a procedure done. I guess it’s unusual to many, but in truth it should be normal for any church. After all Jesus Himself said in John 13:34-35,

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

imagesOn his live album Where The Light Is John Mayer makes the comment that the only thing he has left to experience in life is to simply give and receive love. I have had that experience both through my blood kin and through my spritual kin. That kind of love is family love. I wish that everyone could experience this kind of love and I believe you can. It begins with knowing Christ. John wrote in 1John 4:16,

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”,

and in verse 19,

“We love because He first loved us.”

Thank you to all of my family for your love and support. It means a lot.

astroIf you could do or be anything you wanted what would it be? Remember when you were a kid and you used to talk about what you wanted to be when you grew up? When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut and own a big ranch. Then, when I became a teenager I picked up a guitar and wanted to be a rock star. Those were crazy dreams I guess, but it was sure fun to dream. In the words of John Mellencamp, “But just like everything else, those little crazy dreams just kinda came and went.”

That’s okay though, because God had something better.

I didn’t become an astronaut, a rancher, or a rock star. I get to do something better. I get to be a pastor. That may not sound fun and exciting to most people but there’s nothing else I would rather do or be. You see, when I was twenty-two I gave my heart and life to Jesus and he changed my course forever. Years later, in my late twenties God called me to serve Him as a pastor. I didn’t know what all of that meant at the time (and I’m still learning everyday) but I knew without a doubt that God was calling me.

For almost twelve years now I have served God as an associate and youth pastor at four different churches in two different states. I have been at my present church,  the First Baptist Church of Garfield, AR for half of those years and Sunday, March 10, 2013 I became the Lead Pastor. It has been a crazy ride sometimes but I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ve served with some good and godly people and pastors and have learned a lot. I can only hope that I have blessed as many people as have blessed me over the years and that I will make all of those who have invested into me and my ministry proud.

steepleTo my church family at FBC Garfield let me say thank you for believing in me. God has some good things in store for us and I look forward to continuing to serve God by serving you. As far as I’m concerned, your the best church family in the world!

This may not be what I dreamed about doing when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything now. I truly am blessed because I get to do what I love. I get to be a pastor.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1Peter 5:1-4)