Don’t Ask Dumb Questions

Have you ever asked God, like the Israelites did in Malachi’s time, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2). Even if you have not verbally spoken those words to God, surely you have at least thought them. We all have our moments of weakness, discouragement, selfishness, and foolishness. And, in those moments, we tend to lose sight of the big picture, if not lose sight of the truth itself.

THERE ARE STUPID QUESTIONS

We have all heard people say that there are no stupid questions, but that is not true. There are stupid questions – questions of foolishness. “God, how have you loved us?” is an example of a stupid question. In fact, is there a more foolish question than this?

Stupid questions are questions that, by intention, fail to recognize and/or remember Truth and rather attempt to justify our own shortcomings. Israel, for example, was an ungrateful people in Malachi’s time, often failing to remember God’s amazing love for them and instead, complaining about their circumstances. They forgot what God delivered them from, and they were instead focused on always wanting more.

Their question was filled with foolishness, much like a child who might ask his mother after not getting what he wants, “Don’t you love me?” Stupid question, whether we want to use such descriptives or not.

GOD’S LOVE IS UNDENIABLE

We would run out of time – run out of physical life – trying name all the ways God has proven His love for us. I will not even try to accomplish such a huge task. Instead, I want to briefly talk about one such proof – Vacation Bible School (VBS).

Our church had our annual VBS a couple weeks ago, and there are few pictures of God’s great love that are clearer than VBS. There are several reasons why VBS is so special, but I will stick to three… three reasons VBS is a great example of God’s undeniable love.

1. VOLUNTEERS SERVING

VBS is impossible without volunteers, and our church had more than 40 volunteers who served this year. Wow! Many of these volunteers showed up to our church facilities after a full day of work to then work for three more hours at VBS. And, let us be clear – VBS is work! VBS is hard work. VBS is exhausting and often overwhelming, but VBS is worth it. That is why so many volunteers serve.

God loves us and loves our children through volunteers who sacrifice their time, their energy, their resources, and even, at times, their happiness for the sake of serving others during VBS. God loves us through His church, and His church does amazing things during VBS.

2. CHILDREN RESPONDING

Children are a blessing from the Lord, even when they do not behave like blessings from the Lord. Oh, what a joy it is, though, when children respond to the gospel message during VBS (or any time)! If we know and follow Jesus, surely we must agree with the Apostle John: “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

That joy is true of our biological children and our spiritual children – those with whom we have the privilege of discipling and encouraging in “the truth.” What a great picture of God’s love when children respond to Him.

In their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for their sake – that they get to know and follow God. In their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for our sake – that we get to be a part of their journey. And, in their response, God’s undeniable love is clear for His sake – that He loves people enough to draw them to Himself.

Praise the Lord! God loves us by loving our children and opening their hearts to the truth about Jesus.

3. JESUS SAVING

None of this would matter – VBS, volunteers serving, or children responding – if not for the ultimate picture of God’s love: Jesus saving (saving people from sin and eternal death). We have VBS because Jesus saves. We prioritize VBS because Jesus saves. We exist as a church only because Jesus saves. Volunteers serve but not in vain because Jesus saves. And, children would have no reason to respond if not for the truth that Jesus saves.

How has God loved us?

God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8) If you have yet to experience this love, would you surrender your life to Jesus today?

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series – The Greatness of God – through the book of Malachi. And, as is the point of this post, I will be talking about our “Great God of Love” (Malachi 1:1-5). Do you realize and rejoice in God’s great love for you?

VBS Children Performing One of the VBS Songs during Our Sunday Morning Service on July 28th
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Your Reputation Matters

We had Vacation Bible School with our church family this week, and dozens of parents and grandparents dropped off their children or grandchildren for three hours each evening, trusting that the children would be cared for and loved. Why such trust? In most cases, the trust was a result of relationships with one, if not many, of our volunteers working with the children. In other cases, there was a general trust in the church and the proven VBS program.

Simply put, reputation matters. This is true for us as individuals, and this is true for the church. This is true for everyone.

If our church or individuals in our church had a bad reputation in our community, who would trust us to teach and serve their children? Rightly so, most would not.

On Sunday morning during our VBS family celebration and worship service, Lord willing, I will be preaching through the short letter of 3 John and talking about the “Proof from Reputation” for genuine Christian faith. I hope to challenge people to ask themselves three questions for self-examination regarding personal character and reputation. The message, along with others in the series, will be available Sunday afternoon HERE.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to consider three requirements of a godly reputation.

1. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES TRUTH

Truth is essential when it comes to reputation. By this, I do not mean that everyone knows the truth about you, although that certainly affects your reputation. What I mean, and what John made clear in his letter, is that your understanding and commitment to the Truth are critical.

We must be “faithful to the truth” and “walk in the truth” (3 John 3-4) in order to be people of godly character, resulting in godly reputations. How? Well, only by God’s help “because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). That “truth that remains in us” is the Spirit of Truth when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, resulting in faithfulness to the Word of Truth.

Have you ever met someone who is faithful to God’s Word but does not have a godly reputation? No such person exists because someone who faithfully obeys the Word of Truth will be proven to be a person of character and integrity. A godly reputation requires Truth.

2. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES LOVE

John wrote a lot about love in his three letters. He was certainly an expert, or as close to an expert as a human can be, for he was, after all, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” John experienced God’s love in and through Jesus Christ, and he embraced Jesus’ command that we love God and love others. John knew love was essential for genuine Christian faith and likewise essential for a godly reputation.

Specifically in 3 John, there is an emphasis on the commitment to the mission of the church that demonstrates sincere love for God and others. If you truly love God, you will be committed to His mission. And, if you are committed to His mission, you will love and serve others; you will love and serve His church; you will long for others to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus.

Gaius and Demetrius are great examples of this in 3 John. Gaius, for example, was showing his faith by supporting Christian missionaries, including those he did not even know (verse 5). In other words, Gaius’s love for God was proven in his commitment to God’s mission, and his commitment to God’s mission was proven in his love for others in God’s church.

What was the result? A godly reputation. Have you ever heard of someone known to not be loving and yet known for a godly reputation? Of course not. A godly reputation requires love.

3. A GODLY REPUTATION REQUIRES GOODNESS

Are you known for your kindness and goodness toward others? This goes along with the love John mentioned earlier in the letter but is more about the visibility of love. Whereas the love is ultimately an issue of the heart, the goodness is about your actions, particularly those actions seen by others.

John shared a few contrasting examples in the letter, and in all three examples, it was each individual’s reputation that was proof of his goodness. Furthermore, goodness is proof of faith.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

While people can “fake it” for a while and sadly deceive others, the truth eventually comes to light. And, most importantly, God knows the truth. He knows our real reputations because He knows our hearts. He knows if we are doing what is good or doing what is evil. Others will know and see this, too, though, which is why there is ultimately proof from reputation of genuine Christian faith.

If you were to sincerely examine your own heart and life right now, can you see faithfulness to the Truth of God’s Word, a love for God’s mission, and a desire for good, not evil? If not (if any of those three proofs are missing, would you humbly ask God for His help? Would you willingly surrender everything to Him? Only a new life can bring about such radical change.

The amazing volunteers of Richland Baptist Church exemplified godly character and sacrificial service this week, and I praise God for them! They are the reason so many parents and grandparents gladly dropped off so many kids each night and why those kids wanted to keep coming back. Thank you, Richland Baptist Family!

These are most of the kindergartners Marsha and my mom had the pleasure of teaching and leading this week in VBS.

Guatemala Highlights

Noah and Levi had the great privilege of going on a mission trip to Guatemala earlier this month with Marsha’s parents and eleven other members of our church family. Below are some of their highlights.

NOAH’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

You can also listen to Noah’s quick testimony about the trip that he shared with our church family by clicking HERE.

LEVI’S TESTIMONY OF FAITH

PICTURE MEMORIES

NOTE: Some of the pictures are cropped below but can be seen fully by clicking on the image.

THANK YOU

A huge thank you to our church family and others who supported Noah and Levi through prayer, encouragement and financial assistance! This mission trip was obviously a life-changing experience of which they are beyond grateful to have been a part. Thanks be to God!

To WHOM is your thanksgiving?

No doubt the vast majority of Americans are, in some way or another, celebrating Thanksgiving today. We are giving thanks for various people and various blessings, whether we talk about them while we sit around the table together, share about them through social media, or remind ourselves of them in our own hearts and minds.

When you “give thanks,” though, to whom is your thanksgiving? Sure, you might be thankful for your spouse, for your family, for your friends, etc., but to whom are you thankful?

Generally, we give thanks to someone who has done something beneficial for us. For example, on a typical evening I certainly ought to give thanks to my wife for a delicious supper, for a clean house, and for the seemingly constant care she provides for our children. All of us ought to be able to think of people not only for whom we are thankful but also to whom we give thanks.

Most importantly for followers of Jesus Christ, of course, is our thanksgiving to God. Everything good we have is from Him and for His glory.

On Thanksgiving (and always) we ought not only to say, “I am thankful for ________.” We also ought to be saying, “Thanks be to God for ________.” And, at the top of that list should be resurrection life.

Lord willing, during our worship service with Richland Baptist Church Sunday morning, I will be preaching on “The Victory of Discipleship” from Mark 16:1-8. As I have been studying this passage of Scripture this week, I cannot help but think we do not rejoice and give thanks to God nearly enough for the victory that was and is won by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

If not for this victory of discipleship, my grief over the physical death of my dad (seen in the picture above teaching my sister Steph how to cut the turkey in 2013) would be too much to bear. If not for this victory, our lives would be hopeless. If not for this victory, we would ultimately have nothing for which to be thankful.

The victory over sin and death is the most important thing that has ever happened, and so God is the most important One to whom we need to give thanks.

Is your mind set on truly seeking and thanking Him, or are you more set on yourself? Are you intent about honoring Him, or are you more concerned about getting honored?

Seems like I have heard multiple people say (and I agree completely): the more life is all about you, the more miserable you are. May the Lord help us have the right focus and the right thanksgiving!

Understanding: Essential but Limited

Although Silas learned how to ride a bike a few years ago, he did something new a couple weeks ago – he rode an adult-sized bike. Clearly, Silas already understood how to ride a bike. And, with a little explanation and demonstration, he was able to understand how to use those same skills to ride a much bigger bike than the one which he is accustomed to riding.

In order for Silas to actually successfully ride that bigger bike, though, he had to not only understand that it was possible; he had to embrace the task.

Similarly but in a much more important way, we must both understand and embrace the message of the gospel. We must understand who Jesus is and what it means to be His disciple, and we must choose to follow Him (to embrace who He is and what He has called us to be and do).

During our worship service this morning with Richland Baptist Church, I preached on “The Message of Discipleship” from Mark 8:27 – 9:1. Will you consider both seeking to understand and choosing to embrace the message? It all begins HERE.

Below is a one-minute video of Silas riding Grandma Jo’s bike (and Micah trying to tag along on a trike).

Off to Guatemala

Tomorrow morning, Noah and I, along with 15 other followers of Jesus, will be heading to Guatemala for a one-week mission trip. While there, we will be serving the children of Casa De Mi Padre, an orphanage ministry of Child Rescue. Also, we will be serving alongside a couple churches to do street evangelism, outreach in the local schools, ministry in a local hospital, and more.

Will you please be in prayer for our team? Lord willing, we will be gone June 1-8. Please pray that God will receive all the glory and use us for the sake of honoring His name, blessing those we are going to serve, growing in our faith and advancing His gospel. Thank you!

Casa De Mi Padre kids and staff

Thankless Heroes

Richland Baptist Church TeamKID Preschool
Richland Baptist Church
TeamKID Preschool

Churches often recognize a sermon that is preached, a meal that is served, a baptism that is performed, a Bible study that is led and other visible ministries. What often goes overlooked, though, is the ministry that so many faithful servants have with children, particularly preschool children. Children that age obviously don’t think to thank their teachers and leaders. Most of the church never knows what goes on in the nursery and preschool room – how thankless the ministry can be, how exhausting it is, how few people volunteer to help, and how much time leaders spend preparing while knowing that most of the kids will pay little attention to the teacher’s efforts.

I believe, though, that volunteers who work with our children and youth are the unsung heroes of the church. They are in the basement (both literally in our church building and figuratively), but their ministry is of a critically high calling. Praise God for them! They are more superheroes than I as a pastor will ever be.

I am particularly thankful for Marsha and Katie – the two women who are with our church’s preschoolers every single Sunday morning during Family Groups, at least one Sunday morning each month during worship, every Wednesday evening during adult prayer meeting and Bible study, and even many Sunday evenings during Life on Mission. In fact, not only do they do this as a ministry for the church, but they are also mothers to preschoolers.

My wife, Marsha, is a stay-at-home mother. That means she’s used to all this, right? “It should be easy for her to spend most of her church ministry time with her two youngest children and other children their age.”

Sadly, I’ve heard comments like that before. I can’t recall a time, though, when I’ve heard people thanking my wife for serving the preschoolers or serving in the nursery. Now, in fairness, I trust there are people who do thank her, as we have the privilege of being part of an amazing church family that is very gracious and loving. Because I don’t hear appreciation for those serving “in the basement,” though, I’m honestly afraid to ask my wife if she feels appreciated. I know I appreciate her and tell her that, but I don’t tell her nearly enough. Do I thank her each time she leaves the edifying adult conversations in the foyer or fellowship hall in order to go downstairs with sometimes unruly children? No. Instead, I take her for granted.

I fear there are many more who take her and the other unsung heroes in our church for granted, too. This is probably the case in most churches. Next time you drop your kids off in the nursery, in a Sunday School room, or in the youth area, be sure to thank the leader(s). Then, when you go to pick up your children, be sure to thank the leader(s) again. Write them notes of encouragement. Make sure they realize how much you appreciate their sacrifice.

Of course, there are many thankless ministries in our church and in every church. We as Christians need to do a better job of showing our appreciation and encouraging those who serve the Lord by serving His church. “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26).

While I and many like me do not show our appreciation like we should, God will reward these faithful servants for their sacrifice and faithfulness. Let’s do better, though. Let’s be thankful and show our appreciation. Not sure if you’ve shown enough appreciation? Then show some more. Let’s err on the side of being abundantly appreciative, not secretly thankful.