Good morning, or afternoon, or evening. Whenever this letter finds you, I hope it finds you well. I am writing this to you the day after the election. It’s a day I look forward to every four years. Not because we get a new president per say, but because it’s the day when all of the political ads end. I guess the ads wouldn’t bother me as much if they would just talk about what each candidate would do, but instead each ad is full of hate speech toward their opponent. Whatever happened to building each other up or don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth? I think I’ve read that somewhere. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
In his book “Good Call”, Jase Robertson tells a story about cleaning out a duck blind one spring and the difficulty they had getting it clean. I found the story fitting to all of the political junk being spewed about. He said, “The strangest thing we’ve found in our blinds during our annual cleanings was a female buzzard, which had built a nest and laid an egg in the middle of one of four tree blinds. The smell was indescribable and produced an immediate gag reflex. In an effort to relocate the buzzard, I discovered the hard way that an angry buzzard’s best defense is projectile vomiting…The incident with the buzzard reminds me so much of our spiritual well-being. As a Christian, there are some situations you can’t reside in and stay faithful to Christ. 2 Peter 2:22 describes the problem of not breaking free from you past lifestyle and declaring Jesus Christ as Lord: “Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” Real buzzards were made by God for the specific purpose of feeding on rotten things, but from a spiritual perspective, who wants a buzzard-type lifestyle? As a human, if you feed on evil, rotten things, your spiritual lifestyle will stink. And just like the buzzard defends its domain with projectile vomiting, people spew filth from their mouth toward Christians when their evil behavior is threatened. 1 Peter 4:3-4 says, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”
This election may have gone how you wanted it, or maybe it didn’t. Either way what things are overflowing out of your heart? Are we spreading the good news of the Gospel, or are we contributing to the filth that is being spewed about?
Jase concludes the chapter with this thought. He says, “Evaluate your life and determine if you are influencing others for good or being influenced by evil. There is no middle ground.
Matthew 24:28 states: “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” Who are you running with? What does your lifestyle smell like?”
I am suffering from separation anxiety. I have missed you terribly. I have also come to realize that I have also been suffering
separation anxiety from God. I had been praying, reading the Bible, preparing lessons and sermons, making hospital visits and pastoral calls, all the while slipping further from God with each passing event. The time off allowed the opportunity for my body to catch up to my spirit. As badly as I hate to admit it, I needed this to happen. I once again cannot wait to get into the reading of scripture each day. I have read numerous books (four up to this point). I have been challenged and directed by both Ben Merold and Bob Russell. I have had days when all I did was read and pray and contemplate onministry at Sterling. God has been refreshing my spirit and my will. I have shed tears as I read the letters that the leadership team sent with us. I have cried over the littlest thought of Billy’s death. I have cried over nothing, just started crying. I’m still very emotional about life in general. I am a weak and sinful person and I know that, oh, how I know that. God has used this time to bring me back to that reality.
While going to a time share in North Carolina not far from Charlotte. We were using our GPS on the phone to guide us. We
pulled off the interstate onto a side road; it was dark and we were dependent on our GPS map. It started to rain and we were directed to turn down a dirt road and at the same moment our GPS lost connection. We had no idea where to go, what roads to look for; it was dark and stormy and no one was in sight. We managed to get back to the interstate where we had reception. We pulled up the GPS map, made notes and began again. Guess what? That dirt road was the correct road. After a short time on that road it became a paved road again and after several turns on to other roads, we arrived. That is how life was for me...I was heading in the direction I understood God wanted me/us to go. We hit some struggles, storms if you will, and signal was lost and my heart panicked. This sabbatical has been my “regaining signal from God”, finding my way as a Christian and as a preacher. And then helping us get on the right track to our destination. I hated both moments but desperately needed them.
God was in the process of breaking me down and has now started the process to build me up. Not to be like I was before, rather to be more like Him. I am reading the book “The Pursuit Of God” by A.W. Tozer. I am personally destroyed by the contents of this book. I am beyond challenged by the insight into my soul. It is opening new understanding into my walk with God. I want to seek God’s presence in my life and in the church I serve in a deeper, more insightful, more obvious, more practical and expanding way. I’m not sure what this will look like in action, but know that I/we will do our best to show Jesus to the community we live in. We will exemplify the life Christ wants us to live personally and as a church. I don’t want to come across in the wrong way. I don’t want you to think that I am becoming a religious fanatic or a “Holy Joe”, but I am convinced that I am to turn my heart and yours to focus on Jesus first and foremost. That means to put people in a position to make them contemplate their relationship to Jesus. Most people will not appreciate that level of inner evaluation. I am convinced that is what we need, no, must do. The church as a whole is losing the battle in America and hence in Fountain County. We must change that. We must become the special forces unit that acts and does beyond the norm.
One of the actions I’m going to take is to remove my Kentucky wall from my office. I do not think it’s sinful to be a Kentucky fan, in spite of what some of you think. But I realize that for me, at this time in my walk with God, I need to put the attention on Jesus and His bride, the church. I’m not sure what I will replace it with. I have not come to that understanding as of yet. Come by and check it out when you get a chance. Another action that I will be putting into place is to read more. Certainly the Bible but also books that will stretch my mind and heart. Maybe even change my perspective on things within the church. Another emphasis will be on prayer. I challenged you to fast and pray for revival. I will also be calling you to pray about specific things. For example: the outreach we have in our community. We have begun to emphasize that with the Back Pack Attack and meals for the teachers in our county schools during parent-teacher conferences. We also do “trunk or treat” which is a great outreach to our community. We will look at doing more of those kind of things in the future. Remember, they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Final count...I read seven books, almost eight. In addition to Ben Merold and Bob Russell, I also met with Phil LaMaster. We
attended a conference by Chip Ingram and also visited the Billy Graham Ministry Center. More about those things at a later
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