Church is hard.
Church is hard for the person walking through the doors, afraid of judgement.
Church is hard for the pastor's family, under the microscope of an entire body.
Church is hard for the prodigal son returning home, broken and battered by the world.
Church is hard for the girl who looks like she has it all together, but she doesn't.
Church is hard for the couple who fought the entire ride to church.
Church is hard for the single mom, surrounded by couples holding hands, and seemingly perfect familes.
Church is hard for the widow and widower with no invitation to lunch after service.
Church is hard for the deacon with an estranged child.
Church is hard for the person singing worship songs, overwhelmed by the weight of the lyrics.
Church is hard for the man insecure in his role as a leader.
Church is hard for the wife who longs to be led by a righteous man.
Church is hard for the nursery volunteer who desperately longs for a baby to love.
Church is hard for the single woman and single man, praying that God will bring them a mate.
Church is hard for sinners.
Church is hard for me.
It's hard because on the outside it looks all shiny and perfect. Sunday best in behavior and dress.
However, underneath those layers, you find a body of imperfect people, carnal souls, selfish motives, but, here is the beauty of church -
Church isn't a building, mentality or expectation, Church is a body.
Church is a group of sinners, saved by grace and living in fellowship as saints.
Church is a body of believers bound as brothers and sisters by an eternal love.
Church is a holy ground where sinners stand as equals before the Throne of Grace.
Church is a refuge for broken hearts and a training ground for mighty warriors.
Church is a converging of confrontation and invitation where sin is confronted and hearts are invited to seek restoration.
Church is a lesson of faith and trust.
Church is a bearer of burdens and a giver of hope.
Church is a family. A family coming together, setting aside differences, forgetting past mistakes, rejoicing in the smallest of victories.
Church, the body, and the circle of sinners turned saints, is where HE resides, and if we ask, HE is faithful to come.
So even on the hard days at church - the days when I am at odds with a friend, when I've fought with my husband because we are late once again. When I've walked in bearing burdens heavier than my heart can handle, yet masking the pain with a smile on my face. When I've worn a scarlet letter, under the microscope. When I've longed for a baby to hold, or fought tears as the lyrics were sung. When I've walked back in, afraid and broken after walking away. I'll remember HE has never failed to meet me there.
We are going through some of the most difficult days in American history. The COVID crisis is enough in itself to cause our nation to be in an uproar. Life as we knew it is far from us as we social distance, wear masks, wash our hands and are kept from visiting loved ones when they are sick in the hospital or in nursing facilities. When you add to this the political turmoil of a divided nation it is almost too much to take.
As a pastor I try very hard to stay out of the political arena. One reason is that it doesn't matter what I say someone is going to disagree with me. Most people knew that whoever won the presidential election there would be almost 50% of the voters who would be disappointed. What I can't understand to save my life is why the side that lost can't accept the results. While there were many questions about the election apparently there is not enough proof to make a difference.
My suggestion is that we do what the Bible says when it comes to our leaders. We need to continue to pray for Donald Trump and Mike Pence and we should add to our daily prayer list Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Violence is not the answer and will not bring peace. We need to pray for our nation to get right with God. Will you join me in praying that God will once again bless America?
Praying for you,
Novenber 1, 2020
From the Pastor’s Corner:
What is a Christian to think or do when it comes to an election like we are facing in America? If you are anything like me you will be glad when it is finally over and the results are in. I’ve already voted and feel confident about my choices. How about you? Will you get out and voted thereby letting your conviction count? It is our distinct privilege in America to vote our conscience and conviction.
Let me remind you of some basic reasons that everyone who can should vote. Psalms 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people HE chose for his inheritance.” While I’m confident this is talking about the nation of Israel it certainly can apply to our great nation. The United States of America was founded so that people could worship God in a way that they chose. There is no state religion or church in America. We are a nation that still has many churches which preach and teach the Bible as God’s holy and inspired word. A vast majority of Americans would say that they believe in God and go to HIM in prayer on a regular basis.
We not only have a responsibility to vote we have the mandate from the Bible to be salt and light in a dark and tasteless world. The problem is that many who claim to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are not making a difference by the way they live their lives. Their manner of life is not any different than their neighbors who don’t even pretend to be believers. They are living like God is not even a part of their life. They are not shining the light of Christ so that others can see that God really does make a difference. We need to live our lives in such a way that our neighbors, friends and family have no doubt about our faith.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:27 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” What is it about your lifestyle that your friends, neighbors and family would say makes them want to know the God that you know and serve? Can they look at you as someone who lives out their faith?
When it comes down to who will serve as our next President, I’m reminded of what God said to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone HE wishes.” Daniel 5:32c. We may not agree with who wins the presidency and may not have voted for them but we need to realize that God has a plan and doesn’t consult with us about it. So while it probably matters to us we need to acknowledge that God is ultimately in charge and we need to trust HIM to do what is right.
Our responsibility is to exercise our right to vote, pray about making the right choice and then leave the results to God. Whether we vote or not the persons who are elected as President and Vice-President are there because the sovereign God has allowed them to be. We also have the privilege and opportunity to pray for those who are in authority. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 2:1-5 “I urge, then, first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those who are in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…” I hope that you have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and redeemer and that you are striving in his grace and power to live your life in a way that is pleasing to HIM. Whatever happens in this coming election locally and across our nation let’s pledge to put aside differences and work together to make our country a better place by being better people.
It’s Time to Come Together
What’s wrong with America today? That could make for a long disagreeable discussion. As I watch the news (perhaps a mistake) and read various viewpoints it’s easy to get confused. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Regarding politics it is difficult at times to see the other side. I’m not planning on sharing my views in the column because frankly they are my views and you may not even be interested. I do want to share some principles from the Bible, which could help us with our differences.
In 1991 a black man named Rodney King’s beating during his arrest by the LAPD was filmed and broadcast by news media around the world. This triggered the Los Angeles riots of that era. A quote became famous from Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?” That is a very good question. While some may think they have all the answers I honestly don’t think anyone but God knows. In our families, our churches and our society we must learn to prioritize what is most important. I’m not talking about our preferences but instead those things that are genuinely going to bring us together.
I’ve had a great deal of time to think and meditate the past three weeks as my wife has been ill with COVID-19 which caused us to quarantine. She is getting better every day even though she spent six days in the hospital with pneumonia, God is gracious and is indeed the Great Physician. After she went into the hospital I tested positive as well. Thankfully I’ve been completely asymptomatic, haven’t been ill at all. I’ve discovered what it means to be cared for as well as to be judged. Nobody should ever be blamed for contracting the virus, NOBODY. While this experience has been difficult, especially seeing my wife suffer, I have learned a few things.
We need to look out for each other. These past weeks would have been much more difficult without a loving, caring church family taking care of their pastor and his wife. Thank you Calvary Baptist. We have the greatest family of believers and I’m so thankful for that. The necessary ingredient is love and kindness. In our churches and society as a whole we need to look out for each other.
We need to come together again. Church on the couch just doesn’t compare with gathering with the body of believers on a consistent basis. I realize there are risks and that the church is not a physical building but the people need to be together. Maybe it’s time for you to get back to in person church? I certainly know that I’m ready to gather with the saints and be back behind the sacred desk October 18th. Hebrews 9:25 exhorts us “not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
We need to place faith before fear. I read an interesting quote on this topic. “You can’t be afraid to put out a fire if you are a fire fighter. You can’t be afraid to be a police officer and carry a gun if you are afraid to get up and go out there. So you’ve got to put your fear aside and go out in faith to overcome that fear.” This reminds me of the verse in II Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind.” Ask God to help you to wisely turn your fear into faith. There are significant dangers and we should take appropriate precautions.
Finally we must depend on God to bring us together. A popular song from the sixties, said it well, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, that’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Psalms 85:9 & 10, “Surely HIS salvation is near those who fear HIM, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” We need love, compassion and mercy to come together. Then we will all be able to win in a troubled and divided world.
May God bless you with peace and protection. Look for ways to show compassion. Be a giver and not a taker, one who loves, not one who hates. Pray for me and I’ll pray for you. We can choose to be better rather than being bitter. AMEN!
Judgement Free Zone
If there is one thing this pandemic has done it has turned a lot of people into highly opinionated and judgmental people. So many people seem to think they know the answer to every problem and think that are right and others are wrong. A popular gym has had the slogan for a while, “Judgement Free Zone”. That’s what the church of Jesus Christ ought to be. The truth of the matter is that a great deal of judgement comes out of the church.
Why should the church be judgement free? First and fore most because of the words of Jesus. The first verse that comes to my mind is Matthew 7:1 where Jesus said “Judge not or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus promises in this passage that when we judge others, we will in turn be judged by others.
A parallel passage in Luke 6:37 & 38 also says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
I find in these passages that it would much better for all concerned that we not be in the habit of judging each other. When we set ourselves up as the judge, we are making ourselves better than anyone else. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to set myself up as better than others. I know myself too well. The Bible says in Proverbs 27:2, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips.”. We need to make sure that we examine our own hearts and minds to discover whether we are right with God.
What should we be doing regarding our relationship with friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors and church family members? I believe that the only law that will really help us to navigate the pandemic is what is known as the “law of love”. Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-40 when asked by the young lawyer, “Rabbi, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied; “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What Jesus was saying was that if we love God with every fiber of our being then we will have no problem obeying what HE says. When we truly love God, we will then live like we love HIM. The second commandment is a little more difficult because we are then having to overlook others faults and inconsistencies in order to love them. They aren't perfect and neither are we. Can you just imagine what our world would be like if everyone was to follow the law of love? We would never want to do anything to hurt someone else, so that would affect our behavior.
In the Old Testament book of Micah, the prophet shares these words of wisdom which are still applicable today. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This can be boiled down to doing the right thing, that’s what it means to act justly. It’s not always easy but it can be done. Obey the laws of the land even when you disagree with them. Loving mercy means that you appreciate the mercy that has been shown to you and you in turn will show mercy to others. I’ve discovered in my life that the longer I live, the more mercy I’m willing to show. When I err, it is almost always on the side of grace and mercy. The final ingredient of this passage is that of walking humbly with my God. I’m thankful that God allows me to walk with Him and that is only by the grace of God. It’s my desire to live out the song that I sing, “Just a closer walk with thee, grant it Jesus if you please. Daily walking close to thee, let it be dear Lord, let it be.”
Praying for you,
From the Pastor’s Heart:
What does it really mean to celebrate our freedom in America? This past weekend we celebrated that we are a nation that was liberated from tyranny. Our forefathers had enough of empty promises and taxation without representation. The United States of America is not perfect but our constitution was written to guarantee our freedoms. Freedoms like living where we please and working to support our families. The freedom to worship as we see fit without the government mandating which church, synagogue or other house of worship we choose to attend. We have the freedom not to worship, which close to two thirds of Americans seem to choose as church attendance is at an all time low.
For the first time in my 48 years of public ministry the government had to mandate that we were not allowed to gather as communities of faith. In our case from March 22, 2020 through May 10th we could not have any more than ten people in our sanctuary. This was for our benefit to slow the spread of Covid19. Then we gradually had more attend and on May 31st we opened up with two services at 8:15 & 10:00 am with only part of our sanctuary full so that we could social distance. Many of our people longed to return to the Calvary’s sanctuary and worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. We have had about two thirds of our congregation return for public worship. During this time we have provided online worship has continued through FaceBook live on Calvary Baptist Sedalia’s page and on YouTube and will continue to do so for those not ready to return. It is for the protection of those who are most vulnerable to getting the virus that we surrendered our right to gather. I want to unequivocally say that everyone who can needs to return to their respective houses of worship as soon as they possibly can. Worshipping from home in your pajamas with a bowl of cereal is not the same as being with God’s people in the house of God. What we miss most is the sense of community with the family of God. I for one hope that we are never again asked to give up the freedom that we have to gather and worship with our family of faith. These freedoms were purchased with the blood of patriots who died in our place. Let me encourage all who previously worshipped in person every Sunday to get back to being the gathered church.
There is another freedom that was purchased with the blood of the ONE who was sacrificed for all men for all sin. Hebrews 10:10 & 14 says, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” The sacrifice by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary paid for all sin for all men. All that we can do is place our faith in Christ alone who shed his precious blood for all sin. If you have never done so before this is the only way to be free from the penalty of paying for your own sin, trust Jesus Christ as your sacrifice. The Bible clearly says in John 1:12, “but as many as receive Him (Jesus Christ) to them HE gives the power and authority to become the children of God, to those who believe on his name.” When you do this the verse from John 8:32 comes true for you. “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
With freedom comes responsibility. While we are free to do as we please we are not free to harm others in that process. God reminds us in Proverbs 14:34 that “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people. My heart has been saddened in the last six weeks as what were to be peaceful protests turned into very ugly rioting, arson and looting. We do not have the freedom to express ourselves in such a way that others property and lives are in danger. It is never right to do wrong to do right. Let’s pray together that we will follow the words of Jesus when he said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples that you love one another.” My recommendation is that we live by this law of love. Let’s do this and gather together to worship, we will be stronger and more unified if we do.
Happy Father’s Day. It is a good day to reflect on and give thanks for our fathers, those who are still with us as well as those who have gone on. If you had a good father then you were indeed blessed. Over one third of children today have grown up without their biological father in the home. A large percentage of children have neither a father or a father figure. Some have grown up or grew up with an abusive father and for them it might have been better if there was no father in their home.
I’m so thankful for my father. He has now been gone for 24 years but I still miss him greatly. He taught me the importance of faith, family and hard work. From the time I was seven years old I worked an early morning paper route (Tampa Tribune) with my dad. He had over a thousand customers and it was a lot of work to deliver those papers every day. Dad also had a fulltime job selling insurance on a debit route. He taught me the importance of hard work and honesty. He also taught me something important about taking time away and going on vacation. I can count on one hand the number of vacations my family took together while I was growing up. It is for that reason that vacations with my family are so important to me. Finally, and most importantly my dad taught me the value of faith and modeled that by making sure his family was in church. There has never been a season of my life when I wasn’t involved in serving Jesus Christ through His church. I can thank my father for that.
If you didn’t have a good father growing up or never really had a father, I want to remind you that God has promised to be a father to the fatherless. As the current song says, “You’re a good Father, it’s who you, it’s who you are. And I’m loved by you, it’s who I am it’s who I am.” I’m also thankful for my heavenly Father who has always been there for me. He can and will be there for you as well.
Thankful for Godly Fathers,
From the Pastor’s Heart:
A New Year is a great opportunity to have a fresh start in so many ways. Some people start an exercise program, join a gym or get active in some way. That’s a great idea but we must remember the Apostle Paul told his son in the faith, Timothy that bodily exercise profits little but that which builds up the spirit lasts forever. So how is your spirit going to be built up in 2020? To have a greater future spiritually then we need to do something to be strengthened spiritually.
The first and most important thing we can do is spend time in God’s presence. We do that through allowing God to speak to us through His word and speaking to Him in prayer. Do you have a daily time when you read God’s Word and communicate with Him through prayer? If not then why not begin a daily habit of getting into the Word of God and prayer every day. I’ve made a practice of this for years and if I miss my time with God then I am attacked by our adversary, the devil. If you read the Bible every day fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in a year. One method I have used is the “One Year Bible” and more recently I’ve used www.youversion.com. It is a free Bible App that you can get on your phone, tablet or computer. There are a number of choices for translations and plans. Will you join me in reading the Bible through in 2020?
Spending time in God’s presence includes corporate worship. How faithful have you been to the fellowship of believers at Calvary Baptist Sedalia? A nationwide poll recently discovered that many people who consider themselves to be faithful church members only attend and average of two Sundays a month. Besides being present, which is vitally important, how are you doing at serving in our church? There are some critical needs right now for bus drivers on Wednesday nights. We have many children and youth that want to come to Calvary Crew and AWANA but they need transportation. Please let Pastor Jonathan know if you can help. These two ministries also need additional workers.
The last thing I want to suggest that we all improve in 2020 is in inviting others to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have heard me mention “Whose Your One”? I’ve talked about that because everyone needs to know Jesus and you probably know people that need to know Jesus. Will you pray about and then begin to cultivate a relationship with someone you can bring to Jesus? You might say, “I don’t know how”? That’s fine, we will help you know what to say. We are planning some training events early this year that will help you to be better witness.
I’m excited about the year and decade that we are entering into. It is exciting to serve the Lord at Calvary and I’m so thankful for what He continues to do in and through His people.
Yours for Kingdom Growth,
Have you given any thought lately to why you are here? I spoke in this blog last month about how life is really worth living. Don't you want to do more than stay alive? Our purpose in life needs to tie into "bringing glory to God". The best way that I know to bring glory to God is to bring people to faith in Christ.
I read a newspaper article today which stated that the number of atheists and agnostics in America are growing at an alarming rate. An atheist is a person that is absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as God. An agnostic is at least a little more honest as their belief is that they just don't know. They aren't certain that God exists so therefore they question whether or not there is a God. An honest agnostic is someone who at least is thinking. The next largest group of people who increasing in number in America are the none's. When they are asked what religious affiliation they have their answer is none. They choose to not affiliate with any religious group.
Perhaps that is not the worse thing in the world but what does it say for all of the churches that are still in business? Does the way that we live our lives and express our faith have no impact on them. Have we actually run some people off from the church by not paying any attention to them or offending them.
I want to challenge you to begin a conversation with someone who doesn't believe as you do. Invite someone who you are pretty sure is not a Christian to join you in a conversation. Invite them over for dinner or out for a meal. Ask them to join you at church for a worship service so that they can share their opinion. What does it hurt to ask?
I'm praying for you to do what you can this week with heaven in mind.
Praying for you,
I read with great sadness just a few weeks ago that a young and promising Associate Pastor of a mega-church in Riverside, California made the decision to kill himself on the evening of Suicide prevention day. This is a very sad thing to realize that depression doesn’t care who you are or what you do. Much has been written in the Christian press about how tragic this unexpected death was. This was a pastor who had committed his life to help people who were struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide. He left a wife and two small sons and he was only 30 years old.
I’ve had some battles with depression but never anything that would cause me to take my own life. This guy had so much to live for and because of this darkness that overcame him he decided he couldn’t live anymore. The problem with suicide is that it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. While it ends the immediate suffering for that one person, their family and friends will live with that fatal decision for the rest of their lives.
The question that keeps going through my mind is “why would somebody take their own life?” There are many who are the ones that are left to pick up the pieces, even clean up the mess because their loved one just couldn’t take it any more… If you truly love those who you live with as well as those who love you then you wouldn’t want to put them through such trauma dealing with such a difficult departure of someone that they love.
I’m convinced that the number one reason people resort to this type of action is that they have lost all hope. They may have lost hope in a relationship, someone they thought loved them no longer does. They may have such a great financial need, like a gambling debt where they are in over their heads and they can’t find their way out. At times it could be because of a medical condition that they don’t believe will get any better.
Let me encourage you if you are depressed and having suicidal thoughts, find someone you can talk with, your parents, your siblings, a counselor who is trained in dealing with those who find themselves in a hopeless situation. Let me challenge you to consider that there is much to live for. If you know Jesus as your Savior & Lord then you have a reason to live in telling other people about Jesus. As long as we have Jesus, we have hope.
The greatest reason to live is to live your life spending time helping somebody else. If we live like our creator God told us to live then life won’t be for us. In his letter to the church at Phillipi, the Apostle Paul wrote, “My earnest expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” These words were spoken in the context of Paul serving God in a hostile situation where Christian martyrdom was a strong possibility. He was saying whatever happens I want to magnify the Lord. His aim and purpose in life was to let others know about the grace of God that was available through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me encourage you if you are experiencing sadness or depression, in most cases you will get through this difficult time. Trials and tribulations generally only for a season. God has promised to be with us always. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah he promised in chapter 46:3-4 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you and I will rescue you.” No matter what happens when you have faith in the Lord you can be certain God will carry you through. Life and love are worth living to the glory of God. If you need to talk with someone and remain anonymous you can call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8355.
Pastor Don shares from his heart in the "Calvary Connection"