Is God Calling You to Deal With a Problem?

David Livingston, the legendary missionary to Africa, was a man who understood that some jobs God asks us to do aren’t for the faint of heart. On the subject of Livingstone’s work in Africa, one man wrote him, “I would like to join you. Is there an easy way to get to where you are?” Livingston wrote back, “I don’t want a man to join me who is looking for an easy way. I want a man to join me who will make his own way if he has to.”

When Christians discuss problems that need to be handled, the conversations often end with something along the lines of, “Let’s just pray about it and ask God to take care of it.” While I am in no way downplaying the importance of prayer or the possibility of God getting personally involved in a situation, it has been my experience that He usually solves a problem by raising up a man or a woman to do the solving. Even better than my experience, scripture teaches this same truth. For every Bible story in which God takes matters into His own hands to personally solve a problem, there are dozens of stories in which He works through human beings to solve one.

But how do you know when God is singling you out to be the human vessel through which He solves a problem? Allow me to offer a basic list of how the process works. At least this is how it has worked in my life.

  1. You are brought face to face with the problem. The fact is, there are problems here, there, and everywhere but you don’t think about them because they don’t affect you. Only when one gets in your personal wheelhouse do you start searching for the solution to it.
  2. You realize that no one else is going to do anything about the problem. Your first indicator that God is wading you into the battle is when you find yourself admitting that no one else is going to do anything.
  3. You begin to feel a growing burden deep down inside you that calls you to duty. If that burden is truly from God, it will only increase with the passing of time and the continuation of the problem.
  4. You hatch out a plan of action, at least the first step of one. Since your second step will probably be dependent upon how others react to your first step, you might not be able to hatch out the entire plan all at once. But rest assured that God will give you a unique, specific battle plan.
  5. You get personally involved with solving the problem by taking the first step of your plan of action. Now you are in the arena, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself fighting in there alone. Remember, the problem wouldn’t still be there for you to encounter if a slew of people had taken it on before you.

Of course, it should be assumed that you are praying, staying humble, and continuing to seek God’s will throughout this entire process. You don’t envision yourself as the fast-draw sheriff who is riding into town to clean up the mess. Instead, you envision yourself as the humble (even reluctant) servant of God who is simply trying to be the vessel through which God gets the necessary work done. The moment you start getting puffed up about what you are doing, you run the risk of acting from your own logic and fleshly instincts.

And will the job that God is calling you to do be hard? Yes! Again, if it was easy, someone would have done it before you got there. As David Livingston so graphically pointed out, you will most likely have to make your own way by hacking out a new trail through the thick underbrush. But rest assured that God will help you with that hacking as long as you are hacking out the trail that is pleasing to Him. So, don’t be afraid to take on the problem, and don’t shy away from allowing Him to do a much needed worked through you.

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What the Bible Teaches About Money

Several years ago, I wrote an outline on the subject “What the Bible Teaches About Money” and used the outline as a study guide in one of my churches.  So, I thought I’d share that outline in this post. The outline is designed to function as a Bible study in which you (the reader) look up and read each reference in your Bible. Ready? Here we go.

I. The Perspective Concerning Money: (All money belongs to God.): Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:10-12; Deuteronomy 10:14; Job 41:11; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians  10:26

II. The Power Behind Earning Money: (God gives individuals the power to earn money.) Deuteronomy 8:10-20; 1 Samuel 2:7; Psalm 75:6-7; Proverbs 10:22

III. The Plans For Making Money & Keeping It

  1. inheriting: Genesis 25:5-8; Proverbs 13:22; Ecclesiastes 7:11 (Be careful that the inheritance doesn’t become more important to you than the one who will bestow it.): Proverbs 20:21; Luke 15:11-13
  2. working: Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4-5; 12:24; 13:4,11; 14:23; 20:4,13; 23:21;                                    Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; 1 Timothy 5:8
  3. giving back to God: Proverbs 3:9-10; Matthew 22:21; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
  4. being a good steward with your possessions: Proverbs 27:23-24
  5. saving: Proverbs 21:20
  6. being cautious concerning debt: Proverbs 22:7
  7. being cautious concerning cosigning a loan: Proverbs 6:1-2; 17:18
  8. doing business: Proverbs 31:16-18; Matthew 25:14-29; Luke 19:11-26 (Be sure that all your business ventures are honest.): Leviticus 6:1-7; 19:13,35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:4-8; Proverbs 10:9; 11:1; 13:11; 20:10,14,17,23; Jeremiah 22:13; Micah 6:9-11; James 5:1-4
  9. being generous: Proverbs 11:24-26; 22:9; Ecclesiastes 5:13-14; Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35;  2 Corinthians 9:6-7
  10. giving to charity: Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 28:27

IV. The Purposes For Spending Money:

  1. provide for your family: 1 Timothy 5:8
  2. pay your debts: Psalm 37:21; Romans 13:8 (make your payments on time)
  3. pay your taxes: Matthew 22:15-22; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17
  4. fund the Lord’s workers and work: Matthew 10:1-15; Luke 10:1-12; 1 Corinthians 9:1-14; Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:13-18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15; 9:6-15; Galatians 6:10
  5. give to charity: Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 28:27; 31:20; Luke 6:32-38; Galatians 2:10; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; 1 John 3:17; Hebrews 13:16
  6. loan to those in need: Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Psalm 112:1-5
  7. purchase certain nice things: Proverbs 15:6; 24:3-4

V. The Problems Associated With Money (or a lack of it):

  1. discontentment: Philippians 4:10-12; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5
  2. covetousness: Exodus 20:17; Psalm 119:36; Proverbs 28:16; Micah 2:1-2; Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 2:15
  3. greed: Proverbs 1:17-19; 23:4-5; 28:20,22; Ecclesiastes 5:10
  4. dishonest gain: Psalm 37:16; Proverbs 16:8; 19:22; 21:6; 22:16, 28:8; Jeremiah 17:11; James 5:1-6
  5. pride: Proverbs 11:28; 28:11; 1 Timothy 6:17
  6. worry: Matthew 6:24-34
  7. wrongly trusting in money: Proverbs 11:28; 30:7-9; Job 31:24-28; Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 12:13-21; 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  8. trouble: Proverbs 15:6,16; Ecclesiastes 4:6; 5:12
  9. the showing of favoritism: James 2:1-4
  10. the accumulating of treasure in the wrong place: Matthew 6:19-21; 16:26;    Colossians 3:2
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“Christian Verses” Podcast: 1 Corinthians 9:22

The apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some” (H.C.S.B.). Perhaps Paul had Jesus in mind when he wrote those words because Jesus certainly modeled that incredible adaptability in his one-on-one ministering to others. In this week’s podcast, Malcolm and I discuss how the modern church faces the tall challenge of reaching a younger generation that lives and breathes with smart phones in hand and isn’t particularly enamored with any religion, particularly Christianity. How do we reach such a generation with the gospel? Unfortunately, judging by recent polling trends in church attendance, we aren’t doing a very good job of answering that question. You can play the podcast by clicking on the link below:

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New Seasons

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1, N.K.J.V.)

It’s been quite a while since I provided any kind of update as to what’s going on with me and my family. So, I thought I’d use this post to do that. I’m calling the post “New Seasons” because our little family has certainly moved into some new seasons in recent days.

First, I am now the pastor of Roan Mountain Baptist Church in Bakersville, NC. My final Sunday at Oak Grove Baptist in Nebo, NC was the last Sunday in June, and my first Sunday at Roan Mountain Baptist was the first Sunday in July. The drive to church is a lot shorter, 15 minutes as compared to the 40 minutes I was doing to Oak Grove. Roan Mountain is also the largest church, in regards to not only the size of the building but also the number of people, that I have ever had the privilege to pastor. It’s the oldest church in Mitchell county, having been established in 1813. That’s pre-Civil War.

Second, Malcolm Woody and I have started doing the “Christian Verses” podcast again. For those of you who don’t know what a podcast is, it’s just Malcolm and I having a conversation about a chosen subject. Each subject comes out of a singular focal verse — hence the title “Christian Verses” — that Malcolm reads to get the conversation started. Some of you might recall that we did about 25 of these podcasts last year and then went on a long hiatus. We weren’t sure we would ever pick back up with the ministry, but that’s the direction in which the Lord has recently burdened us. The only difference this time around is the fact that we are going to keep each podcast to around 10 minutes in length. (Some of our earlier ones clocked in at upwards of 30 minutes.) If you are interested in listening to the podcasts, you can access them through this blog site. Just click on the “Categories” section and then click on the heading “Christian Verses” podcast. There you will find the links to all of them.

Third, my wife Tonya has begun another year of teaching math at Bowman Middle School in Bakersville, NC. These days she’s teaching 7th graders. Since this is either her 28th or 29th year at the school (we’ve been debating the exact number), it’s hard to call it a new season for her. I guess you could say that her new season is being the pastor’s wife at Roan Mountain Baptist Church. Any new church always brings different opportunities and challenges for not only the pastor but also his wife.

Fourth, Ryan, our oldest, has been hired as the Physical Education teacher at Harris Middle School in Spruce Pine, NC. He graduated from Johnson University (Knoxville, Tenn.) this past May with a B.S. degree in Physical Education (K-12) and spent the summer working at The Bark House, a tree-bark processing place in Spruce Pine. He was scheduled to return to Johnson this fall and do the five months of student teaching required to earn his state teaching license in Tennessee, but the job came open at Harris Middle and he was fortunate enough to get it. So now he’s working full time, helping coach the middle school football team, and working toward earning his bus driver’s license. As for his teacher’s license, he’s going to start in East Carolina University’s residency program this coming spring and earn his license that way. That program takes about a year to complete and requires six online classes, but it will get him officially licensed to teach in North Carolina. Also, he gets to keep working his new job without missing a beat.

Fifth, Royce, our youngest, has begun his freshman year at Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine, NC. His plan is to get all of his General Education courses completed at Mayland and then transfer to a four-year school to finish out his Bachelor’s degree. Right now he’s working on the assumption that he will ultimately major in Criminal Justice, but I wouldn’t call that written in stone yet. He also isn’t sure which four-year school he will enroll in when he’s through at Mayland, but there’s no rush on these decisions. Oh, and he also just recently started working as a bagger/cashier at the Ingles Supermarket less than a mile from our house. You might say that he’s entering into not one but two new seasons.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now. (That’s enough anyway, right?) Please accept my personal thanks for reading this blog, and I trust the site is a blessing and a help to you. If our family ever comes to your mind, prayers are always appreciated. I’m convinced that we are currently where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to be doing, but it takes constant discernment and obedience to stay in God’s will. After all, life keeps coming, doesn’t it? And it keeps changing, too. For our family, the past couple of months have brought a lot of those changes, but each change has been God’s way of opening a door to a good place. Now it’s up to us to make the most of the opportunities that He has given us.

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Wandering Around

In his daily devotional book, The Believer’s Code, O.S. Hawkins offers an excellent word about sheep. He writes:

Have you ever been to a circus? If so, you probably saw an array of trained animals. Huge elephants can be trained to stand on their back legs atop tiny stools. Monkeys can be trained to ride bicycles. Lions can be trained to jump through rings of fire. But have you ever seen a trained sheep? No. Why? Because sheep are not that smart. Sheep cannot be trained to do anything. They tend to just wander around. Focused as they are on the ground — on food — they walk with their heads down and frequently get lost. No wonder the prophet says, “All we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6).

I especially agree with the assessment that we, like sheep, tend to just wander around. Are there truly evil people in this world? Absolutely. But there are far more people who are just out there wandering around. When it comes time for work, they wander to their place of employment. When the workday is finished, they wander back home. When they need groceries, they wander to the grocery store. When they need clothes, they wander to the mall. When they want to eat out, they wander to the restaurant. When they have an off day or some spare time, they wander to the site of something they like to do. When it is time for a vacation, they wander to the beach or the mountains.

No praying goes into any of these wanderings. God’s will isn’t sought concerning anything. The only “afterlife” these folks think about is retirement, which consists of all the imagined things they will do when they don’t have to work anymore. Ask any one of these people, “What is your purpose in being on this earth?” and you won’t get much of an answer. They just go about their business, day in and day out, like sheep with their heads down, each of them focusing only upon the next blade of grass.

The contrast to such a life is a life like David lived. In Acts 13:36, the Bible says that he “served his own generation by the will of God” (N.K.J.V.). Wow, what a concept, serving your generation, and doing it according to God’s will! Some people want to serve, but they want to pick their own area of service. Other people claim to want God’s will done, but those claims never translate into genuine commitment. David, however, had both sides of the issue covered. Not only did he serve his generation, he did it in the places and in the ways that God had planned for him.

Of course we know that David wasn’t perfect. His affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah prove that conclusively. Still, though, when it came time for God to write the epitaph on David’s scriptural tombstone, He wrote, “He served his own generation by the will of God.”

That’s a pretty lofty word of praise, certainly not one that a dumb sheep could achieve by just wandering its way through life. And the great news is that you can have that same epitaph written on your tombstone, little sheep, if you will come under the shepherding of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and seek His will in all matters. Why keep wandering aimlessly through life when Jesus offers you direction, guidance, and purpose (to say nothing of rewards in eternity)? So if you have never embraced Him as Savior and Shepherd, let me encourage you to do so right now. And if you have, take a moment to lift up your head and ask, “Jesus, am I truly serving my generation by your will?”

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Identifying Your Spiritual Gift (Gifts)

Series: “Spiritual Gifts” (post #4)

Just about every time I preach on the subject of spiritual gifts, some sincere Christian will ask me, “But how can I know what my spiritual gift is?” Each time I hear that question I find myself wishing there was a Bible passage to which I could point the person and say, “Just study that chapter and you’ll find your answer.” The reality is, though, there is no such chapter. Truth be told, identifying which spiritual gift (gifts) you have isn’t so much an examination of the Bible as it is an examination of yourself. It is with this in mind that I’d like to offer five practical suggestions that will help you with the process.

#1: You should begin by learning which spiritual gifts the Bible names and which ones are still offered to Christians today. While it’s true that identifying your spiritual gift (gifts) is more an examination of yourself than an examination of the Bible, this doesn’t mean that you should leave the Bible out of the equation. To the contrary, you won’t have a clue which spiritual gifts are even potentially available to you as a Christian unless you consult the Bible and learn what it has to say on the subject. To help you with that, I would encourage you to read the previous two posts from this series if you haven’t already done so.

#2: You should make a list of the spiritual gifts that you KNOW you DON’T have and let that be a starting point for your self discovery. As you read over the Bible’s list of potential spiritual gifts, there will be some that will stand out as red flags to you. For example, if the very thought of you having to put together a plan to bring organization to a chaotic situation causes you to recoil, you can bank on the fact that you don’t have the spiritual gift of administrations/governments. You see, the gifts upon which you need to focus your attention are the ones for which you have an interest or at least a possible interest.

#3: You should try different areas of service to Christ and see which ones you do well. Do you have the gift of evangelism? The way to find out is to try your hand at evangelizing and see if you win anybody to Christ. Do you have the gift of leading/ruling? The way to find out is to try your hand at leading and see if anybody follows you. Do you have the spiritual gift of giving? The way to find out is to contribute abundantly to a church offering and see how losing that money makes you feel. You get the idea. A good way to identify your spiritual gift (gifts) is to employ the trial-and-error approach. Take a chance. Step out of your comfort zone. Try something new, and see how it goes. You never know what you’ll find out about yourself.

#4: You should ask other Christians who know you best what they feel your spiritual gift (gifts) might be. Fellow Christians can be invaluable resources in helping you identify which spiritual gift (gifts) you have. Because they’ve already seen not only your strengths but also your weaknesses on display, they can provide an accurate assessment of you. All you need from them is blunt honesty regarding your abilities.

#5: You should keep in mind that your spiritual gift will ring your “inner bell.” When you find yourself doing something that requires your spiritual gift to be put into operation, you’ll instinctively sense it deep down inside you. Even if the work itself is difficult in its requirements, it won’t be drudgery to you. Instead, it will produce a sense of joy, happiness, and contentment. You’ll feel like you are doing something you were put on this earth to do, and you’ll do it well. Those are God’s ways of ringing your “inner bell.”

Well, I hope these five simple tips help. Please don’t think that you identifying your spiritual gift (gifts) is some insurmountable task that you’ll never achieve. Just know that God will surely help you as you make your way through the process. Why wouldn’t He? It is, after all, to His benefit that you put your spiritual gift (gifts) into action. Since we’ve got far too many gifted Christians sitting on the sidelines already, there’s certainly nothing to be gained from God keeping you in the dark about your gift (gifts).

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“Christian Verses” Podcast: Isaiah 46:4

Malcolm Woody and I stepped away from doing our “Christian Verses” podcast for a while, but recently we’ve been in prayer and discussion about picking back up with the endeavor. So, we recorded one this past Friday as something of a promotion for Malcolm’s upcoming devotional series, “Tracks.” This podcast is a short one (under 8 minutes long), and the focal verse for it is Isaiah 46:4. That’s a verse in which God promises to carry His people even through our gray hair and our old age. Here’s the link:

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