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Mentioning my mentors, J.W. Long Jr.

This is my second blog in a series regarding the mentors God has placed in my life over the years.  There have actually been many, but I’m mentioning just the ones that happen to be or have been in vocational ministry.  My last blog was devoted to my first pastor, Worley G. Hawthorne.  This one is devoted to my second pastor, J. W. Long Jr.

My first memory of pastor Long was when I was still a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church where Rev. Hawthorne was the pastor.  Several Independent Baptist churches in the Wilmington area had an “Attendance contest” which lasted several months.  Rev. Long’s church won.  That’s not surprising now, after later observing his competitive spirit and “can’t quit” attitude.   After being declared the winner pastor Long and his church, Community Baptist in Carolina Beach, along with all the other churches involved in the contest gathered at Park Avenue Baptist to enjoy a celebration dinner.

As young boys do, my brothers and I were in the church yard playing when Pastor Long and his family arrived.  He had a large family, 8 including himself!  I watched, intrigued as they all quickly yet with the precision of a military unit exited their station wagon.  When Pastor Long got out of the car and started towards the tables where the food was, he glanced over at us, stuck his index finger high in the air and said, “We’re number one!!”  In response, and not knowing any better I barked, “We’re number two!!”  That was my first memory of many.  Sometime later, after some internal problems at Park Avenue Church, my Mom decided to start attending Community Baptist church; Rev. Long had become my pastor.
    
I loved Pastor Long’s family, and still do…they all were very gracious and friendly to me…more than they will ever know!  It was clear that they had been raised with a high view of God and His Word, which speaks highly of their Father…and their incredible mother! 

I’ve tried to think of one word that describes this man best…some that have crossed my mind are, passionate, zealous, fervent, enthusiastic, animated, faithful, hardcore, even fanatical… None of those fully encompass the personality and passions of this man, although he epitomizes each of them at times.  He loves God’s Word.  That’s one thing that was evident from the beginning and remains with him today.  He instilled in me a passion for the Word of God and a desire to hide it in my heart.  That was huge with Pastor Long!!  He pushed us to memorize Scripture…to know it by heart…to be able to recall it whether we had a copy of it in our hands or not.  That was priceless.  His compassion for people drove him to be a passionate evangelist.

His preaching style was unlike anything I had ever heard…loud, passionate, and unreserved.  He certainly wasn’t worried about what people had to say about him.  He seemed, at times to invite controversy; but through it all he was faithful. 

I suppose the greatest influence he had on me was his emphasis on Scripture.  He consistently and constantly spoke of the importance of Scripture and why we should take it not only literally, but seriously.  I will forever be grateful for that!  His passion for the Word of God was infectious indeed!  That is a huge reason why I love expository preaching now…I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and since it’s God’s Word we should certainly consider it priceless and handle it properly.

Pastor Long is in his twilight years now; he still preaches on the radio, and I suppose other places when he can.  His family still carries on his charismatic personality (that’s a good thing), and I still have an extremely high view of God’s Word because of J. W. Long.  There’s so much more I could say, but for now I simply want to say…Thanks Dr. Long, you made a difference in my life…

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Grace years

Last Friday I spent a few minutes at the Wilmington area “Relay for Life” with my daughter Blair and some close friends who are survivors of cancer.  At this venue were thousands of luminaries, each one representing someone who died due to the blight of cancer.  To say the least, it was a sobering experience; an experience which tends to make you re-evaluate priorities, desires, etc. 

I am approaching 48 years old; that can be sobering as well.  I didn’t say depressing…I said sobering.  Getting older doesn’t scare me or depress me at all…as a matter of fact, the older I get the more excited I get, knowing that this sin laden life will be gone…forever…no longer will I struggle with the flesh.  More than that, I will be in the very presence of Jesus.  I’m sure that that sounds trite and unoriginal to many, but I could not be more thoughtful in saying it.  The thought of being with the one I treasure makes all other things pale in comparison…seriously. 

Even though I’m not freaked out over the thought of nearing fifty, I am a bit burdened by it.  I am burdened, thinking of all the self-absorption, disobedience, and wasted time over those 47 plus years.   How much time have I wasted…how much have I focused on myself?  I know better.
 If God sees fit to allow me to live the average life span then I have about another 20-25 years.  In the grand scheme of things that’s not very long.  My overwhelming desire is to live every moment of the time I have left for the glory of my gracious God… I want to be consumed with Jesus.  God has stripped away things from me, even spiritual seeming things, to the point where there’s nothing left but Him…it’s taken nearly 50 years…

I don’t want to spend the years I have left pleasing the flesh…the thought of that sickens me.  I am completely satisfied in Christ; nothing else can satisfy like my Savior.  So if that means working as a bi-vocational pastor…so be it.

I will pour my efforts into glorifying God in that job and introducing people to Him through that job.  If that means being the pastor to a handful of people then so be it.  I will love those people and thank God that He has allowed me the overwhelming privilege to minister to them.  If He takes that away so be it.  I will love my incredible family and strive to model Christ’s love for His church.  I want my mind to be set on Jesus at every moment… I will not allow other things; temporal things to capture me.

Every second of life is a gift from the giver of life…to be used to give Him glory and enjoy Him.  God grant me a few more years to do that…better than the past.

Therefore…  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. 
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Thanksgiving to Who??

Psalm 100 is such an amazing song and so very appropriate for this time of year, but one thing stood out to me as I read it again recently; the Psalm is not about merely giving thanks, it’s about giving thanks to our Creator, the one whose grace is far greater than any man could ever imagine. Notice how God is the center-piece in this beautiful tapestry…

(1) Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! (2) Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (3)Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his;[a] we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (4) Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (5) For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
(ESV)

I am saddened when I think of how general and pointless my thanksgiving has been at times. Upon reading Psalm 100 it’s clear that our thanksgiving should be directed to one in particular; that being the sovereign, gracious God! Cornelius Plantinga Jr. was unerringly correct when he said,

 “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular. Christians in public institutions often see this odd thing happening on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone in the institution seems to be thankful “in general.” It is very strange. It’s a little like being married in general.”

Of course, we are not, nor can we be “married in general”; that perverts the meaning and purpose of marriage entirely, as does giving thanks in general on Thanksgiving Day! So while I am so “thankful” to have a day set aside for giving thanks, may I direct all my thanks and gratitude to the only deserving One whose faithfulness endures through all generations!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Valley of Vision

I love “The Valley of Vision”, a collection of puritan prayers and devotions. If you do not have a copy you should! In place of mindless musings on my part I’ve chosen to add a prayer from “The Valley of Vision” which focuses on the new year. This is my prayer as well!


YEAR’S END

O LOVE BEYOND COMPARE,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.

Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;

Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.

Thy goodness has been with me during
another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.

Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed Pilot of my future
as of my past.

I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes
to the waters ahead.

If thou hast appointed storms and tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution
and temptation,
I shall not drown;

If I am to die,
I shall see thy face sooner;

If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;

If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort
or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always
for thy use.

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Who cares what I think anyway????!!!!

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