Category Archives: Just a Thought

The Day a Church Burned

By now, the video of mourners has captivated the eyes of many. As they stood around the Notre Dame Cathedral, their voices united singing Ave Maria and the world mourned as flames engulfed the historical monument. There are critical moments in history recorded in the annals of scholars and culture – April 15, 2019, will be one of those moments.

As I watched the video of those singing, I could not help but wonder if the cathedral was an active part of their lives. Yes, the words they were singing contain a prayer of the Catholic Church. Yes, they passed the cathedral daily. It was a sight, though majestic and powerful, they probably took for granted until the light of flames drew their attention to gaze upon it.

From the events in France, my mind moved to our church as I sat in my office. This year marks 140 years of ministry for Oak Ridge Baptist Church. Many have seen the church as a staple in the community, and for most of the residents, it is a consistent landmark they expect to see daily. There would be many that would mourn if the church building was lost – but why?

Active vs. Passive

The Notre Dame Cathedral is no doubt a passive object in the lives of most people. They pass it every day, but there is no essential role the building or the Catholic Church has in their lives. However, there are those for whom the church played an active role; it was a part of their current spiritual lives.

The church you attend would have the same two groups of people come together if something tragic were to occur. There are people in your community that see the church building but have nothing to do with it. Even though they may have precious memories of days gone by, the church building is only a monument to the endeared past – it has a passive role in their lives. They are more attached to the building than they are to the church that meets within its walls. Their regular absence in worship services is a testimony of the church’s passivity in their lives.

However, there are those that would mourn differently. Yes, the building would be gone, and with it, a saddened heart from all the memories that took place would arise. On the other hand, there is also the realization that the build is not the church and the absence of a building does not limit worship or the spiritual health of the members.

Be Active

Of these two groups of people, which one resonates with you? Has church become a passive part of your life, or does it hold an active role in your life?

What role does the church – not the building, but the people – have in your life? God redeemed the church to be an active part of a believer’s life. Are you reminiscent of things that happened at the church or are you actively celebrating the movement of God in the church?

Why would you mourn if the church building burned? I pray you will choose to be active in the church.

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Posted by on April 16, 2019 in Just a Thought


A Reflection on the Valley of Elah

The stage was set long before a shepherd boy set foot in this valley with a sling, a staff, and five smooth stones from the stream bed (1 Sam 17). Israel stood before an enemy that defied the people of God and thereby defied God himself. It was Israel’s disobedience that brought them to this place – their lack of faith when it came to driving out the inhabitants of the land during the period of the conquest. However, the disobedience did not start with Israel. It was a result of a heart stained by iniquity that has plagued man since the time of Genesis 3.

The Philistines were a thorn in Israel’s side. Saul failed in his attempts to subdue this enemy just as Adam and Eve failed in their encounter with the Serpent. However, at the battle in this valley, David would have victory over the external enemy. Though the success would lead to victory over the Philistines, iniquity would still reign in the heart of man – sinfulness as seen in David’s adulterous pursuit of Bathsheba and the murder of her husband.

As the Israelites stood listening to the condemnation and blasphemy of Goliath, there was one who would battle for their freedom. However, this battle was not the end. This fight was not the moment when the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. The shepherd boy born in Bethlehem that would become king was but a foreshadow of the Eternal King that would become flesh as a baby in the town of Bethlehem.

It was Jesus, God incarnate, that would not only crush the head of the serpent, but also remove the iniquity of his people through the blood he shed on the cross. Christ would defeat death through death, and grant his people freedom from guilt and condemnation.

The battle at Elah was not the beginning of the fight, and it was not the end of the war. The account of David and Goliath point forward to the victory of Jesus Christ.

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Posted by on March 8, 2019 in Israel 2019, Just a Thought


Mid-Trip Reflection on Israel

I remember the first Paint by Numbers set that I received. For those of you that have never seen this type of craft, I placed an example below. It is a canvas with different sections labeled with numbers. Each number corresponds to a color and when you finish, it reveals a picture. When looking at the canvas, you could tell it was a picture of a deer (I do not know what this canvas is), but there were areas less clear because they lacked colored that provided distinction. A vague image was visible but so many details alluded the eye.

I love Scripture – reading and studying. I spend a lot of time digging in God’s Word, looking for the lines and colors that complete the big picture. I love the Old Testament. In many ways it is like the canvas that came in that painting kit; it provides structure and direction. There are things that you see vaguely, but they are not clear. The New Testament is like the color added to the canvas. Through the presentation of the Gospel and the things you read, color is added and the picture becomes clear.

You need both. Without the Old Testament, there are so many ideas that can be formulated, but not have the intricate structure and design that God intended. You also need the New Testament, the part that colors the picture and reveals God’s design in a clearer manner.

Over the past four days, I have seen the lines of the Old Testament and the colors of the New Testament become more precise and more vibrant. It is an experience that is illuminating years of study in a way that I never realized. As we walk through the places mentioned in Scripture, the intricate details of God’s Word and the nuances of its cultural illustrations have made my heart accelerate and mind connect dots that I didn’t realize were related.

In all the excitement and intrigue, my heart has also been broken. As our guide shares the number of believers and unbelievers in each city and area, I realize the vast amount of people that have the entire kit in front of them but do not recognize the miraculous picture of the Gospel that lies in before of them.

My immediate desire is to invest and begin building relationships to share the Gospel and encourage the small churches in this region. It creates a burning desire to pray for these people and their salvation. I have received a burden for these people.

Israel, Palestine, and the surrounding areas are beautiful and they are filled with precious lives created in the image of God. As the vibrant, distinct lines of the Old Testament sharpen and the colors of the New Testament gain vibrancy, I mourn for a people saturated by an image they do not recognize.

I look forward to the last half of the trip that begins this morning. I will continue to learn as we walk through this land, but I will also continue to pray for the people that do not see the beatiful canvas that is before their eyes.

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Posted by on March 3, 2019 in Israel 2019, Just a Thought


The Reason Why

Have you ever asked God why something is happening? We tend to question God’s goodness and his justice when we see the evil in the world around us. There are even times in our lives when we look at our circumstances and ask, “Why is this happening to me?” I wish there was a simple answer to this question, but there’s not. Now, let’s clear up one thing. Sometimes bad things are happening to us, and it is because we have made bad decisions. That does not seem to be the case when we look at Job.

Most of the time, when we face suffering, people turn to the book of Job. You probably know the story well. Job loses everything dear to him: 7 sons, 3 daughters, and much of his property. His own wife turns against him in 2:9. Job’s friends wanted to know why this was happening. Surely, he had done something wrong to have all this happen.

As we read the words of his friends, we see there was a prominent idea that good things happened to good people and bad things happened to bad people. It was taking the concept of “you reap what you sow” to a whole different level. This left them in a perplexing situation. They knew Job was a righteous and devout man, but since all this was happening to him, there must be something he had done wrong. We even see his friends suggest that he confess sins he didn’t commit just to appease God, but Job never did this.

What do we see in this story? What do we learn about suffering? First, sometimes we never know the reason why the suffering takes place. Job was never told about God’s conversation with the Adversary. He was never given an explanation by God. However, we do learn that God is good and just. Therefore, whatever is happening, we can trust God. Second, we learn that God sees what we cannot. It takes a big picture of faith to understand that our current trials are only temporary. We have this big picture faith because we know that we serve a “big picture” God. He sees what we cannot, and he knows what we cannot. He sees the beginning, the end, and everything in between.

I do not know what you are struggling with or if you are watching something unfold in the lives of those you love. I cannot give you a specific reason why these things are happening, but I know that when we lean into God, he will build our faith.

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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in Just a Thought


Is It Sin?

We often like to push the limits.  There are storylines that have made millions in the box office from this idea.  We have all pushed the limits at times and when we reflect on those moments they are met with a “What was I thinking?!?”  Though we can all chuckle, this attitude often invades our spiritual lives.  Let’s face it, we often like to see how close we can get to sin without sinning; we like to push the limits.   We justify our actions by thinking as long as we do not cross some arbitrary line, we are still in a safe zone.  What if there is a mental shift that needs to take place?  

I often get asked if various actions are sinful.  Sometimes this question is birthed out of a new experience or an encounter with a new idea. Other times, a problem comes because they have began to question an action in which they enjoy participating. Within the period of questioning there is often a desire to do right, but also a battle with the flesh. Is there a way we can evaluate these actions?

2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” What does the verse tell us to do?  Yes, we are to flee youthful passions, but we are to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  Paul gives Timothy a place to run towards, not just something to flee.  Instead of asking whether it is a youthful passion, sometimes we should ask if it helps us pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  Related to the struggle mentioned above, we ought to ask whether the action helps us to seek the righteousness, faith, love, and peace Paul challenged Timothy to seek.

To live a life of avoidance is an option we might try, but it does not mean we will be pursuing what is right. However, if we will seek the things taught in Scripture and learned in fellowship with other believers, the things from which we need to flee will be revealed.  We need to focus on what or who we are pursuing.  So, instead of pushing the limits of sin, we pursue the righteous life God desires.  Pursue him in everythin.  This pursuit will naturally lead to the fleeing from sin.

So, is an action sinful? Maybe we need to rethink the question. We ought to ask if the action allows us to pursue the righteous life GOd desires.

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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in Just a Thought