“ Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Isn’t this a great picture? The Russell and Dahlberg boys were recently baptized at Aliceville FBC after their decision for Christ and their public profession of faith. You can see the gleam and excitement in their eyes as they begin this new life in Him. It reminds me of my beginnings as a believer at 12 years old. I accepted Christ at our church’s annual youth revival. I didn’t necessarily understand much regarding this new faith, but I began to grow and walk in Him. I joined the afterschool Bible study, carried a small Bible with me everywhere, and even led a morning devotion in our home room before classes each day. Although we didn’t have a discipleship class as such in our youth group, we had younger Christian couples who guided and taught us how to live for Christ. All of these things helped me to grow in my understanding of this “walk in newness of life”.
What about you? Can you remember those early times of your new faith? Did you grow? Did you have a deep abiding love for Christ more than anything else? OR Have you lost your joy, your peace, and your love for Jesus? Has your “walk in newness of life” become your “walk in oldness of death”? Peter wrote, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and, ‘A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.’” (2 Peter 2:21 – 22)
These are difficult and harsh words written by Peter, but ones that are true. Watch and observe the life of someone who has walked away from his/her faith or has lost his/her passion for the Lord. There is an “oldness of death”. It is as if this person is living as a non-believer rather than a person being transformed by Christ. I have experienced it in my life, and thankfully, Christ kept calling me back to Him.
Recently, we’ve come through the Easter season and now we are moving toward Pentecost. The disciples found themselves in an “oldness of death” when Christ died, but they were made to “walk in newness of life” when they saw Him resurrected and even more so when they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. May the presence of the Holy Spirit be renewed in us, and may these five boys continue to grow in their “walk in newness of life”.
Until Next Month,
“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.”
Recently, a few of our Sr. Adults were recognized for their faithfulness of service in Pickens Baptist Association. The pictures on this page show some of those folks. They have been and continue being “good and faithful servants” to our Lord. Their faithful service started me thinking about this topic of being a senior adult. Although I may not consider myself one, I am by some who do the statistics. By others, I am not. Either way, I’m not a “spring chicken anymore”.
There are many phrases which are used to describe this age of life. Unfortunately, most of the terms used are derogatory like declining years, golden age, winter of life, retirement age, and elderly. These descriptions creep into the life of the local church and even into our own minds. We, senior adults, begin feeling useless or “past our prime”. Seriously, who are the folks making those designations? Usually, some young person who hasn’t experienced life and doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.
Honestly, as I look at these people who were honored, they have endured and been constant, persistent, and stable in their Christian life. These are the proper words that we should use for those of us who are aging well.
God inspired King Solomon to write that “gray hair is a crown of splendor…attained in the way of righteousness”. He observed that older people who walked in the way of the Lord gained a crown through their faithfulness to Him. Also, the Bible teaches that the seniors need to continue living out their lives to the full by training younger believers to learn from them. It is not a time of retirement. It is not a time to slow down. It is not a time “to put up one’s feet and rest.” There is still much to be done in our churches and our communities.
Just as these brothers and sisters of Pickens Baptist Association received recognition on earth we, seniors, are striving for a heavenly reward from our Lord Jesus Christ. In Pickens County, there are about 3000 experienced folks who must NOT stop, but must KEEP going forward. May we allow God to use us until our time here is finished!
Until next month,
“This is Love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10)
At this time of celebrating love of relationships through Valentine’s Day, I believe we, as humans, leave God out of the equation. Recently, Claren and I watched a movie that featured the following song lyrics,
“Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheatfields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…”
Notice the words, “Oh listen, Lord, if you want to know”, as though God doesn’t know, as though He needs to be informed about the mess we’ve made of the world. It’s “love, sweet love” that will solve the problem. How arrogant was the composer of this song!
CS Lewis wrote, “What are you(we) asking God to do? To wipe out their(our) past sins and, at all costs, to give them(us) a fresh start, … But He has done so, on Calvary.” John clearly tell us that God loves us and has done everything necessary for us to experience His love through His Son, Jesus Christ. However, we continue seeking other ways to find this type of self-less love.
As you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your spouse, your special someone, and/or your family, don’t forget that it is only through God’s great love for us in Christ that we even know what love is.
“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
In 2021, everyone is desiring a fresh start and a new beginning. Usually, we want a fresh start after we’ve made a mess of a situation or as we begin a new chapter in our lives. Claren and I have started afresh several times. We’ve gone from Mobile to New Orleans to Central Pennsylvania to Costa Rica to Uruguay and now to Carrollton, Alabama. Each fresh start has had its own challenges and opportunities. However, as God has guided us through each of them, we’ve seen Him work.
The challenges and opportunities of 2020 have been difficult to see and understand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been tainted everything…work, school, family, friends, church, etc… There is nothing that hasn’t been affected. Now with the promise of a vaccine, some are hopeful while others are doubters.
In our focal passage, Paul’s experience with Christ gave him a new perspective about life and about himself. He could not remain the same person who watched Stephen being stoned and persecuting the Christian church. Paul knew that in Christ his old life was gone. Christ had made him a new creature, a new man. Is this not what Christ has done in each of us who are His followers? We are new men and women. We are not who we were before knowing Him.
This new relationship in Christ gives me hope because I see the world through His eyes and His perspective and not my own. If I were to dwell on how terrible things are now, then I wouldn’t want to continue in this life either. However, my life and my perspective has been transformed by seeing people, seeing situations, and seeing life from Christ’s way of thinking. Do we not understand that we have a new set of standards by which we are living?
As I start fresh the 2021 calendar year, I do so knowing that Christ is walking with me through these new challenges and opportunities because I am a new person in Him. As you begin 2021, may you see this new year from Christ’s perspective? If you do not know Christ, then He offers you that opportunity to accept Him and become a new creation. Desire a fresh start and a new beginning!
Mind of the Missionary
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (Philippians 4.11)
As we begin the Christmas season(although many websites and stores started way before Halloween), the stress seems to build. Every commercial is tempting us to buy this or that. Even Hallmark has bought into the idea…there is that “perfect gift” for everyone. That’s just a lot of pressure. No wonder there’s so much depression and desiring for the Christmas season to end. Folks are trying to please family and friends with “the perfect gift”. Now, am I a Scrooge? NO!! But, there is a simpler way.
All of chapter 4 of Philippians is Paul’s plea for the Philippians to “stay true to the Lord” (v.1). Now, that’s a tough one to fulfill. However, Paul showed us that contentment in whatever situation we live is the secret to life. Of course, you can’t be content if you don’t know Christ, or if you’re caught up in the rat race of this world.
Envy is a powerful persuader. When you see what someone else has, it can be easy to desire what he has received. Envy even causes resentment of another person’s possessions, qualities, or life-style. For some, this envy may lead to actions which can put not only one’s life in danger but also the life of one’s family and friends.
In this fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul states “Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.”(4.6b) Now, this brings contentment. It takes the worry, the fretting, and the running around out of our hands, and puts it in the hands of the One who can handle it much better than we can or ever will.
May your Christmas season be one of contentment and joy as you seek first the Lord and allow Him to meet your needs!
Until next month,
Mind of the Missionary
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (I Peter 4:10)
How many times in our lives have we said, “I can’t do that!” Probably, a couple of hundred. I sometimes count myself short and didn’t do something because I thought I couldn’t do it. Peter in his letter urges the followers of Christ to use “whatever gift”, he or she has been given to serve others. As a young believer in Christ, I had no idea what “spiritual gifts” were. In the New Testament, there are several lists of gifts from hospitality to encourager to evangelist to apostle(missionary), and so on. Eventually, God did show me what gift or gifts I had to serve others. Maybe, you’re in the same situation…seeking your spiritual gift(s).
During my time with the Pickens Baptist Association Disaster Relief team in Baldwin County, I saw many of these gifts being used to serve others. In the pictures of the last couple of weeks, it’s obvious the physical skills and abilities of our team as it cut down trees and tarped houses, but there were specific spiritual gifts being used, too. For instance, there was evangelism. At each house tarped and/or trees cut down, one if not several of our team members shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each owner. Another gift was service. Each of these men and women went with a servant attitude. They did not expect anything in return for their time and effort to help these families. It was done with the attitude of Christ…”I did not come to the world to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45)
Another gift was encouragement. Many of these owners were physically handicapped and could not do very much for themselves. Our team, especially the chaplaincy team, sat, talked, and prayed to encourage the owners during their time of discouragement and hopelessness. Finally, I saw the gift of mercy put into practice. When you go to the house of a needy person, you never know what type of person you’ll meet. Even in his/her need, you don’t know how he will respond to the Disaster Relief team. Will he be a very poor person, or a rich one, or a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or an atheist, or a fellow believer? Despite the situation, our team showed compassion and openness to the individual and/or the family living in the house or trailer.
As I reflect on Jesus’ ministry, it covered the gambit from the sick, to the needy, to the rich, the poor, to the religious, and to the irreligious. In each situation, Jesus showed mercy…compassion. One time, He even cried because He saw the devastation of the death of a friend upon his family and community.
Brothers and sisters of Pickens Baptist Association, we do not have to be members of the Disaster Relief team to use our spiritual gifts to serve others. We should use them where we are planted. In other words, we should use our gifts where we live and through our local church. God gave us His gifts to serve others. If we do not use them, they will be taken from us. May we be faithful in using our spiritual gifts to touch the lives of those around us! Jesus said it best, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds(spiritual gifts) and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Until Next Month,
Mind of the Missionary
“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the Lord. ‘You expected it to be much, but see, it turned out to be little ….’”
(Haggai 1:7 – 8)
Last week, I was reading an article by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, SBC Executive Committee President. He started his article about the “deep and increasing burden” that God placed on his heart concerning our present situation in the United States about the state of our SBC churches, the fighting among Christians, and the division in our nation. He spoke of his needing to take time to pray and fast before the Lord to know how to speak to these issues. Upon finishing his time of prayer and fasting, the Lord led him into a time of personal repentance which included humility and brokenness. It was based on his reading of Haggai especially chapter one.
As I read through these same passages, I became moved, too, but maybe in a different way. Notice, how the Lord Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” Then, the Lord gives specific instructions to the people of Israel to rebuild the temple. After the exile in Babylon and Persia, the people returned all excited about the rebuilding of the temple, but opposition from neighboring nations discouraged them from finishing the project. God sent Haggai, the prophet, to remind them to “give careful thought to your ways” because the people didn’t hesitate building their houses of luxury and comfort, but they didn’t finish the main work which was the rebuilding of God’s temple. God, Himself, said, “build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored”.
During our strange times, this is the question that we must ask ourselves, “our we taking pleasure in the Lord’s house and honoring him?” This passage speaks to the perseverance of His people. Are we persevering during the coronavirus? Have we given up? Do we feel that worshipping indoors is impossible? Have we forgotten the importance of gathering together as a body of believers? Many of our PBA pastors have told me they feel that some of their members will NEVER return to the church building. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the church is the people. I know some of you are high risk… BUT, the church is not the church unless it gathers together somewhere, sometime, and somehow. Watching worship on your TV, I-phone, or I-pad just doesn’t get it.
Brothers and Sisters, it is time to persevere. It is time to move forward and do the work of the Lord. In Haggai chapter 2, the word of the Lord came to Haggai to share with the Jewish leaders, “Be strong, all you people of the land, and WORK. For I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty”. The Lord is with us even during this pandemic of COVID-19. “Give careful thought to ways” that you can meet with your fellow believers and continue doing the WORK of the Lord!
Until next month,
Mind of the Missionary
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread of and to prayer…Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people…” (Acts 2:42, 45 – 47)
Is it possible to have a healthy church in an unhealthy environment? If there were ever an unhealthy environment, it would have been during the time of the early church. The Roman Empire hindered the church through beatings, persecutions, and crucifixions. Notice how the apostles especially Peter, Philip, and Paul carried the Gospel beyond Jerusalem. The book of Acts shows us how “boldly and without hindrance [they] preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31)
During COVID-19, have we allowed our churches to become unhealthy? What is a healthy church? A healthy church is one that worships, evangelizes, disciples, ministers, and fellowships. I heard it explained like this…imagine a 4-legged table. If you take away or shorten one of the legs, what happens? It either falls or wobbles. The same is true of an unhealthy church. When a church is not worshipping, evangelizing, discipling, ministering or fellowshipping, it is not a healthy church.
But Bro. Lyle, you don’t understand what’s happening? I do, and I don’t. It’s true that I’m not pastoring, but I do believe there are opportunities for us to experience a healthy church in this unusual time. First of all, I applaud you for using various methods for your churches’ worship. Even, some of you have been offering your Bible study in-person and online. That’s great!
However, are we still seeking opportunities to share the Gospel, to disciple new and mature believers, and to fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Yes, these may be harder to accomplish, but these purposes can be done. Of course, it may mean meeting outside our church buildings, finding times that are uncomfortable, or giving up a personal activity or two. But, isn’t having a healthy church and fulfilling God’s purposes more important than our comfort?!
Again, let’s use the early church as an example. It many times met in catacombs. Yes, catacombs, an underground cemetery! I’m not saying “Go meet in a cemetery or a mausoleum”, but let’s try something “outside the box”. Every church must decide how to fulfill its church’s purposes, but I do believe that our PBA churches can become healthy in an unhealthy environment.
Whatever we can do at PBA to help you become healthy or grow healthier, please contact us. We have trained leaders to serve YOU!
Until next month,