HEY! EVERYBODY LOOK AT ME!

look at meOk, I am about to go on a tangent, however, that is alright because I own the website. I will try to  spiritualize my tangent and give us  all some practical application for life. The book of James is an in your face letter. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem, penned this letter. If you are looking for the warm fuzzy stuff that makes you feel warm and gooey you are going to have a hard time finding it in James. James tells us again and again our faith in Jesus will result in the believer doing good works. Verse after verse he describes what this will look like. In James 4 he writes on submitting to God. In verse 14 we read a very familiar verse, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” Pride vs. Humility! Our society has a problem with pride. I have had a problem with pride in my life. It was once said of me that I autograph my own Bible when I get through preaching. It’s amazing what years and sin will do to a prideful person. Time and recognizing one’s own sin will humble a person. Let me say, today I love grace more than ever. Over the past few days I have noticed just how much some people desire to be recognized and deplore not being the center of attention. Allow me to share a few examples from the last few days of some people who had to be center of attention. I apologize in advance if this hits home.

I. HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION.

As a pastor I know I am going to attend at least one high school graduation  every year, sometimes as many as three. This is supposed to be a ceremony filled with dignity and honor. The graduates have fulfilled one of the most demanding goals in their lives. High school graduation requires a commitment of 13 years for most students. Our graduates wear academic dress. This practice dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries when many, if not most, of the graduates were clergy who had taken certain vows and wore clerical robes. I have read in several places that with no sufficient heating systems during this time all scholars began wearing the robes for warmth. Academic regalia was practical in the beginning. It kept the graduate warm. However, graduations chocked full of regalia and pomp and circumstance are meant to be dignified and classy occasions today. There is great shame when a student accomplishes a goal, has his/her name called and as they walk across the stage someone or several someones stand and yell, “Whooooooooooooohooooooooooo, Bubba! Way to go. Good job.” What this person is saying to everyone who is sitting quietly is: “Hey, everybody look at me.”

II. THE WAFFLE HOUSE.

One day this week I was traveling north on Highway 49 toward my home and a pastor friend was traveling south on Highway 49 toward his home. We happened to call each other and decided to stop at the Waffle House in Florence, MS for a cup of coffee and a visit. It was a great visit. I love Mike Grenn and for an hour and a half we visited, drank coffee and had a glorious time – EXCEPT FOR A FEW MINUTES. As we made our way into this famous house of waffles a gentleman was standing in front of the restaurant near an old motorcycle. After a few minutes in the parking lot he came inside and sat down behind Mike and myself. One of the servers made the terrible mistake of asking him what kind of motorcycle was he riding. This server just lost his tip from me. With a voice so loud people were hitting their brakes on Highway 49 he told everyone it was a 1976 Honda CB 400. It had an inline four stroke. It was just an updated version of the 350 from 1975. It had a six speed transmission.  Something called the compression ratio was 9.4.1. It had 37 horsepower and could generate 8500 rpm. As our conversation turned to our graduate services the motorcycle man’s voice went up a few octaves declaring that the CB 400 was the predecessor to many of the rocket bikes on the road today and that he had ridden his in 36 of the states in the Continental United States. I prayed as earnestly as I have ever prayed he would not begin to name the states. This man should have just walked in and said, “Hey! Everybody look at me.” By the way, I kicked a Honda over at a gas station later because of this annoying man.

III. THE MEXICAN RESTAURANT.

If any of you make a comment about seeing a pattern of restaurants in my life I will not forgive you. Last week I ate at a Mexican restaurant with my family. As I approached the check out I could tell there was an aggravated man coming through the door. Don’t be impressed with my discernment it was easy to see he was aggravated. Evidently he had picked up a to-go order and had gotten home and the order was not correct. Let me simply say once I traveled 26 miles to my house with a box of Popeye’s fried chicken only to discover it was spicy and not regular. To everyone’s amazement I got back in my vehicle and went back to Popeye’s for the correct chicken. It’s that important. I felt his pain. Anyway this man started barking demands at a young lady behind the counter. He was mad, rude and ugly about the situation. I would have said something but I am quite convinced the young lady couldn’t understand English so it wasn’t upsetting her too much. This man was at the front of the restaurant, in the largest dining room in the building, throwing a hissy. He did not want his problem solved; He wanted everyone to see him. He could have just as easily walked in and said, “Hey! Everyone look at me.”

The next time any of us who are believers are tempted to draw attention to ourselves remember the words of some of the Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast of Passover in John 12:20, 21, “And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.”

Hey! Everybody look at Jesus. I hope they can see our Lord in our lives.

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT CHURCHES.

old churchSunday was my first time to preach at Vaiden Baptist Church in three weeks. I have been out of my pulpit for the last three weeks participating in revival meetings. I want to interject how amazed I am at some of the evangelists I know who preach 40+ revivals a year. I do not know how they do this! I was in three different churches over three different weeks and felt like I had not been active in my home in months. As I ate, interacted and preached in these churches I noticed certain things about these churches. This has got me pondering about some of my experiences from a lifetime of being in churches. Allow me to share a few observations from my experiences and Scripture.

I. CHURCHES ARE UNIQUE.

From time to time I will read or hear a person share what is wrong with churches, or what churches need to do, or the latest trends in churches. I advise everyone not to give too much credence to such articles for every church is different. In the churches I preached in recently there were countless differences. One church ran every facet of the service off video projection. One did not have video projection or screen at all. I was not aware there were any churches without video projection left. One church had a steeple and one did not. One church had huge stain glass windows and one had small windows that were barely noticeable. One church began at 11:00, one began at 10:45 and the other began at 10:30. In one church every man in leadership wore a tie. In one church no one wore a tie. One church gave a hearty “amen” throughout the service. One church looked at me as if they were frightened and trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I read of their ministries from the bulletins. One church was intentional in attempting to impact the kids of their community. They were advertising events and ministries through the summer targeting children. One church was concerned about ministry to their members in need. They discussed various needs and problems of church members. They made plans and preparation to meet these needs. Because of the internet it is possible for laymen to read expert opinions about what their church should be doing and look like. CHURCHES ARE UNIQUE.

II. CHURCHES ARE SPECIAL.

Some practices in churches would drive me out of the ministry if they were done in the church I pastor but some of our practices would aggravate or even infuriate some. Once I preached some services for a church that sang one particular song as the call to worship every service. I need to add they also sung it poorly and without any emotion. It was a brutal experience. I have many friends that I have preached for who take prayer request in each service. I don’t think I could handle taking prayer requests at the beginning of each service. To me, it is a service killer. Imagine having a stirring call to worship filled with emotion followed by someone saying pray for …….. insert gut wrenching prayer request here. There is a time for intercessory prayer. Again, to me, this is not the time. Some churches love testimony time. I have preached many services where at the end of the service the question was asked, “Does anyone have anything to say before we go?” If I ever say that call 911; I am having a stroke. Some have greeting time. Some recognize birthdays and anniversaries. Some are formal others are casual. Some are made up of old congregation others younger people. They are all special. We have bought into the mindset that growing, large, cutting edge equals special. Wrong! That church that sings the same song as a funeral march every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night is special. She is special to God and to those precious saints who attend faithfully. They love their church and how they do church. We are to admire the strongest, fastest growing churches. However, we are to admire any church who is faithful to the Lord and His Word. Regardless of size, average age or type of ministries churches are special.

III. THE LOCAL CHURCH IS THE CHURCH.

This thought will be confusing to many today who have bought into the notion of the universal church. Today, the view of the local church is so low that some professing Christians scarce believe the local church is necessary. This is a foreign concept to the New Testament. What is done in the name of Jesus in the New Testament following the ascension is done through the local church. The local church is seen as the church in the New Testament. The common Greek word for church in the New Testament is “ekklesia.” This word means a called out assembly. This would have to be a local assembly. The majority of the time when you read the word “church” in the New Testament it is referring to a local assembly. For instance, I Thessalonians 1:1 reads, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy: To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.” Any question what Paul means? He is writing to a local assembly meeting in Thessalonica. Read I Cor. 4:17, “This is why I have sent Timothy to you. He is my dearly loved and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you about my ways in Christ Jesus, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” Paul taught in the local church. Certainly we understand there are Christians around the world who have trusted Jesus and are part of the body of Christ. However, the believer is to function and focus on the local church. The New Testament pattern is the work of the Lord is done through the local church.

One final thought on this matter, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the two ordinances of the church. They are to be administered in a local church setting. There is a real danger today of believers loving the church universal while ignoring what the New Testament describes as church – “the local called out assembly.”

IV. ALL BELIEVERS NEED TO BE PART OF A CHURCH.

We have all heard the nonsense of learning deep truths about God in nature. People use this thought to justify their golf, fishing, hunting, farming, swimming, sleeping late, etc… and dropping out of church. Romans 1 does describe that certain things about God can be realized through nature. Those attributes that can be recognized are He is God and He has eternal power. The revelation from nature is limited. You can’t learn of God’s redeeming love or His eternal plan from nature. You can’t discern the fruit of the Spirit by watching a sunrise. You can learn that God exists and is all powerful from nature. Hebrews 10:25 reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” For the believer, these unique, special, local churches are necessary. I can’t imagine not being part of a local assembly. I love preaching revivals and sharing in as many churches as I can. However, I miss something when I am absent from my local assembly. I need them and they need me. We need each other so that we can be built up and mature in Christ. This is the function of the local church.

V. VAIDEN BAPTIST CHURCH IS THE BEST!

After three weeks of being away it was awesome to be home yesterday!