Zeal

I am beginning a personal word study on “Zeal”.

Dictionary.com defines Zeal as “fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor;enthusiastic diligence; ardor.”

Lately, I have been so captivated by this Biblical idea and thought.

Romans 12:11 says “Do not be slothful in zeal.”

I will continue writing and posting more on this later.

Ecuador Trip update

Our Ecuador Mission Team this summer has been having a great time serving the Lord.

I have not been able to be online much at all. I will write more and post more pictures later.

Here are a few to give you a taste of this great trip.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

I have a hero  (I originally wrote this for my dad on March 28, 2012)

I have a hero. Actually, I have several heroes from many different walks of life. But there is one that really, really stands out from the others. There is one that is bigger and brighter in my eyes. One that has left a much, much larger and stronger impact and impression on my mind and heart, deeply upon my life and soul.

My hero is my dad, Morris Greene.

  • My dad is my hero because he loves me. I know he does. I can count on my hand how many times he has ever told me that, but its ok. I know he does. We don’t talk often, but when we do he is happy. When he introduces me to people, he is proud of me. “This is my boy, Josh.” I have heard him say many times. That lets me know. We have spent countless days on ball fields. He coached my little league teams growing up. And he thought I was the best player, even when I wasn’t. He loves me. He loves to hear from me. (My eyes tear up typing this because of how humbled I am to have a good dad that loves me.)  He loves to help me when I need it. He always gladly does. I want JJ, Eli and Noah to feel love from their dad the way I feel love from mine.
  • My dad is my hero because he loves my mom. I realize there are ways that he is not the best husband. But I know he loves her. I’ve seen him kiss her. I’ve seen him take me with him to buy her gifts. I’ve seen him sacrifice for her. I’ve seen him cry (I only recall ever seeing him cry twice) when mom was in the hospital and not doing well. I know he loves her. He has been married to her for 34 years. That’s a long time. That’s love. He takes care of her. He has always, always done whatever needed to be done to see that my mom was taken care of. And I especially remember my childhood when my mom was able to stay home and raise Ginger and I because my dad worked so hard. He loves my mom. I want my sons to know that I love their mom the way that I know my dad loves my mom.
  • My dad is my hero because he married my mom. Apart from my dear Valeria, my mom is the best woman God ever made (in my opinion). Everything I am, I owe to her. Dad worked so much and it was mom that taught us so much. She gave us such fine childhoods and lives. Picking a spouse is not easy. Looks, personalities, intelligence, religion, family, etc. affect this decision. My dad chose Sherry Reed. That’s incredible. How did he know? How did he get her? She is the best choice he could have ever found in a hundred lifetimes. She is perfect for him. And she is the perfect mom for us. My dad is my hero for his taste and his wisdom to know who to marry. Marrying badly is so tragic. My dad sure didn’t. I am confident in saying the best thing that ever happened to my dad is marrying my mom. She is that great. I want my sons to know that Valeria was such a gift from God to me and them.
  • My dad is my hero because he loves his mom. I love this. If you ever want to see my dad get emotional, see him dealing with his mom. Man, he loves her. He inconveniences himself often to care for her. He has done what people should do and has taken full responsibility for his mother’s care in her old age. He will not let someone speak, think or act wrongly toward her or about her. This is Biblical. God tells us to love, honor, obey and praise our mothers. My dad certainly does that.
  • My dad is my hero because he loves my sister, Ginger. I know he is not, and has not, been the best at this. But I know he loves her. And I know Ginger knows this. He will do anything for her. He has done so much for her. We live in a day when so many daughters don’t have loving, involved dads. He is very present in Ginger’s life. One of the reasons Ginger is such a great lady and sister and mother is because her dad loves her. I will never forget him speaking and dancing with Ginger at her wedding. I have heard him tell her so many times that she is beautiful. I love it when dads love their daughters. My dad is my hero because he loves his.
  • My dad is my hero because he loves his grandchildren. This especially gets me because his grandkids are mine and Ginger’s kids. Ginger and I love our children. We really do. And my dad does too. He gives them Skittles every time he sees them. And they love that. It is one of my happiest moments when I get to see my dad being a loving grandfather to my sons. Its truly special.
  • My dad is my hero because he is humble. Don’t get me wrong, he is prideful in some areas. I know he is. But here is where he is humble. I have never heard him brag. I have never heard him tell me anything that he is good at. I can tell you so many things he is good at. Other people can too. But he doesn’t. He won’t. I love it. What a hero! Don’t talk about, be about it. That’s my dad.
  • My dad is my hero because he doesn’t complain. I cannot recall a time that my dad was complaining. I have never heard him grumble that he “has to work tomorrow.” Or that “the yard needs mowing or the car needs repair.” My dad doesn’t complain. God tells us to do all things without complaining (Phil. 2:14) and so my Dad does.
  • My dad is my hero because he provides. My mother, my sister and I have never been without anything. That is for certain on things we need and almost for certain on everything we want. And this is not because my dad is wealthy. He isn’t.  It is because he provides. He works hard. He saves money. He always, always spends less than he makes. And he knows how to make sure that we all are provided for. He is a provider. The older and older I get, the more I am seeing that he not only provides for us but also for so many others who need help too. I know so many unfortunate people who did not have parents who provide. My dad is my hero because he provides. I want my sons to say the same about me someday.
  • My dad is my hero because he works hard. My dad works so hard that being a man and being a hard-worker are synonymous to me. He eats a lot and yet stays thin because he works so hard. He is and has been “early to bed, early to rise” for as long as I can remember because that’s what hard workers do. They go to bed early because they are so tired from hard work. Trouble happens at night in the dark. If you work hard enough, you won’t be able to stay awake at night. And you need your rest to work hard again the next day. I learned this from my dad. Also, My dad’s hands are so remarkable. If you have seen them you will never forget them. They clearly portray hard-work. I can only wish my dad has passed onto me his work ethic. While my career choice isn’t the same as my dad’s, I still hope to possess his work ethic. When I played sports, I sought to work hard like my dad. My dad is my hero for not being lazy. He works hard.
  • My dad is my hero because his priorities are in order. They are so much in order! He never ever splurges his money. He has never just called-in to work. I have never seen him lay on the couch lazy and neglect a duty. Never! Never has he forgotten the trash. Never has he missed work or overslept on accident. He never wastes time. Never. I cannot tell you how many times a movie or ball game has been on TV and dad still went to bed instead of staying up. Or how many times guests were over and one would think that staying up would be important. But not my dad, he has to provide; therefore he has to work; therefore he has to be on time; therefore he has to go to bed on time. Almost everyone has hobbies or interests that they do, that other people would see as a waste of time. Not my dad. He is always being productive. His money and his time and his duties at home and work are prioritized. It is remarkable. My dad is my hero for the way he prioritizes.
  • My dad is my hero because he knows who he is. He isn’t my superhero. Jesus is that- my King, Lord and Savior. My dad is not perfect. I know that and he knows that. There is only one who is perfect. We only need one to be perfect. We need examples, mentors, teachers = heroes. Many men are too busy trying to be something they are not. Or many men are too busy trying to figure out who they are. Not my dad. My dad knows who he is. He knows what works for him. And he does it well. Now if you get him off his track or path, then he is really out-of-sync or thrown off. But if you let him be him, he is great at it. I admire that.  I also want to be good at being me.

My dad is my hero because he is a hero. I need a hero. I need a man that I can look to and say I want to be like him. I need a father to look at and say I want to father like that. I need a husband that I can look at and say I want to be a husband like that. I need a hard-working example that I can look at and say I want to be hard-working like that. I need a provider who can show me what it looks like to provide. I need a hero. I realize my dad is not the perfect man. He is not to be modeled after in every way. I know that. But he’s my dad. And my dad is my hero. May God give me grace and strength to be like my dad.

claiming your people – what an awesome pastor!

One of the great strengths of a minister is when he unashamedly claims his people. He is proud to be connected and associated with them. So much so that the bond between the church and its minister grows and grows and becomes so tight and strong.  The minister loves them, identifies with them, connects with them, and becomes like them. And vice versa. A lot of this is seen in the Biblical analogy of a Shepherd and his sheep.

This past week I had my heart stirred in such a great way around this concept.  I was studying the book of Titus.

Titus is a small book. Its only 3 chapters long. Only 46 verses. It many Bibles it all fits on to one page. It is short and simple.

The Apostle Paul wrote Titus this short letter to encourage him as to why Titus is still remaining on the island of Crete.  Paul had recently been there doing mission work. Many people had gotten saved. Churches were set up in each town on the island, and those churches now needed good leadership. So Paul left Titus there to put what remained into order. He was to appoint elders in every town to lead the churches. And Titus’s large task was to go and correct the false teachers who were already in these churches.

The book is short yet so profound on what a church is to be like = How the people who make up the church are to believe the right things according to the truth and then also have faithful consistent godly lives that go in accordance with the truth they so strongly believe. It really is a rich little book of the Bible!

So the setting is that Titus is currently living in Crete. He was not born and raised there. Paul left him there. But he was living and ministering there at the time. Paul however was not. Paul no longer lived there. He used to live there. He used to work and serve there, but he does not live there any longer during the time he was writing this letter to Titus.

This is where my heart was so stirred. So challenged. So convicted. So blessed.

At the very end of Titus, Paul is closing his letter with his final instructions and greetings. There are 15 verses in chapter 3, the final chapter. In verse 14, Paul writes this to Titus:

“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”

This is a great verse for so many reasons. But what really got me was that phrase “our people.”

Whose people? Now maybe he was referring to all Christians everywhere. That certainly makes sense too. It works. It applies. But I don’t think so. I think Paul is an awesome pastor and he wants Titus to be an awesome pastor too. After all, Titus is his “true child in a common faith.” So Paul refers to the believers in Crete as “our people.” Paul is identifying himself with the Cretans.

Yes, the Apostle Paul is identifying himself with the Cretan believers. This is remarkable. Those of us who call ourselves ministers today have a lot to learn from this idea. Here are a few comments:

  1. Paul is not a Cretan. He wasn’t born one. He doesn’t live there. He doesn’t work there anymore. How are they “his people?” Perhaps Pastoring & Shepherding people is more deep than we realize. Its more than just a job. Its a life calling to love and serve and pray and sacrifice for these people. Quitting, transferring, moving, being “Called to somewhere else” should not change the fact that these people are still “your people.” It sure didn’t change Paul. Even though Paul lived somewhere else & worked somewhere else those Cretans who he once lived amongst, worked for, and loved were still precious to him. They were still “his people.”
  2. Cretans were not easy to claim. Perhaps many pastors feel this way. It is so easy to be proud of your all-star church members. The ones who will serve anywhere and do anything. The ones who are always leading people to Christ. The ones who are always giving money to various needs. The ones who play in the NCAA Final Four. What Pastor doesn’t want to claim them. Thats easy. But what about the church members who are messed up? What about the ones that sin a lot? What about the ones that make Jesus and the church look bad and hypocritical? Who is claiming them? Well, Paul was. In chapter 1 verse 12 Paul quotes an influential Cretan who is describing the way Cretans are. Here is what he says “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Paul said that quoting someone else who knew first hand. Crete was a rough place. And rough places have rough people. And the churches in rough places are made up of rough people. It did not stop Paul from being all-out unashamedly committed to them. He still claimed them. Those Cretans were “his people.”
  3. We live in a day where ministers move around a lot. It is very common for a minister with years of experience to have been involved in many churches. I wonder if they still claim their old churches? I wonder if they are still concerned for those people who they used to be concerned about? I wonder if they would even now call them “their people”? Our church is 96 years old. I am the 28th pastor of our church in those 96 years. With the exception of our great former pastor who served here right before me, Josh Powell who regularly calls to check up on our church, I have never heard anything from any of the former pastors who were concerned about “their people.” Why is that?
  4. The fact that Paul is claiming the believers in Crete as “his people” is so convicting and encouraging. I am so fired up right now to go and identify with the people of Fairdale. I cannot imagine being younger Titus and hearing Paul speak so proudly of these people.  Perhaps Titus was struggling with how “differently” they did things in Crete compared to the town he was from. And when he hears Paul who had relatively little connection with Crete claiming the Cretans, I am sure that Titus was refreshed & blessed to be committed to the calling of serving in Crete. After all, Paul did not call them “his people,” he called them “our people.” Paul was such a good leader. He includes Titus in on the sacrificial high calling of being a minister in Crete.

 

As I am thinking through all of this, I am wondering if the inability to call your old church folks “your people” says anything about whether they were ever truly your people. Maybe they never were. Maybe ministers sometimes just have jobs and never connect. Maybe once you move “your people” are out-of-sight out-of-mind. I hope not. Praise God that surely wasn’t the case for Paul.

Maybe Paul was just so gripped by that stunning truth at the end of Hebrews. Verse 13:17 that says leaders are keeping watch over souls and will have to give an account for “the people.” Surely, surely, surely if they are “our people” we will proudly, boldy, sacrificially claim them!

 

repentance

This past Sunday I preached from Luke 13:1-9. Verses 3 and 5 both say

“No I tell you, unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

You can listen to the whole sermon here.

Here is an excellent quote from J.C. Ryle on the nature of true repentance:

“The nature of true repentance is clearly and unmistakably laid down in holy Scripture. It begins with knowledge of sin. It goes on to work sorrow for sin. It leads to confession of sin before God. It shows itself before man by a thorough breaking off from sin. It results in producing a habit of deep hatred for all sin. Above all, it is inseparably connected with lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance like this is the characteristic of all true Christians.”

“Sound” Check

One of the simplest ways to study the Bible is to see which words are repeated the most often.

In our Men’s & Women’s Bible Studies (Wednesday & Thursday mornings respectively) we are going through the book of TITUS.

Titus is a short book of the Bible. It is only 3 short chapters, only 46 verses total.

But in this brief letter written by the Apostle Paul to a younger fellow minister named Titus, the word Sound is used 5 times.

Titus 1:9“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in SOUND doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

Titus 1:13 “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be SOUND in the faith.”

Titus 2:1 “But as for you, teach what accords with SOUND doctrine.”

Titus 2:2 “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, SOUND in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”

Titus 2:8 “and SOUND speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

Being “Sound” means being “healthy.” It is as simple as that. Are you healthy in life? Are you healthy in your faith? Is your Faith a sound faith?

Studying the Bible this way is so simple yet so impactful. Try it out.

Biblical Theology of a 4 year old

We recently started reading the through the Jesus-Storybook Bible again with our boys.

I was curious to see how much J.J. knew, or remembered, from the previous times we have read through it. He is four years old now and beginning to process a lot of the deep truths of the Gospel.

On our 2nd day of reading the Bible, it covered the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden when they disobeyed God and ate the fruit. The JSB (Jesus Storybook Bible) does an excellent job clarifying that God told them what to do and what NOT to do.

As we all know, Adam & Eve did not listen to God. They did not obey God. Instead, they listened to the serpent and disobeyed God. This is wrong and bad.

To a 4 year old, direct disobedience is really wrong and bad. I was encouraged as we were reading as I could see sadness and disappointment on the face of JJ that Adam and Eve did not listen to God.

I asked a few questions to make sure that JJ was understanding what they did; why it was wrong; why it happened; etc. He then asked me some questions about the serpent. Why would the serpent do that? Why did he trick (deceive) them? Why does he oppose God?

After that small discussion, we concluded that the Devil is evil and he hates God and he wants to get other people to hate God. This discussion was a tough one for my 4 year old son. As he was sad & puzzled that anyone would not love God. Because God is great!

However, after this was when JJ really showed me that he is learning a lot and understanding the message of the Bible. As I closed the Bible to begin to pray, JJ said with excitement “Wait, now lets read the passage where Jesus kills the snake!”

I paused for a moment and thought to myself “How do you know about that?” (After all, most adult believers are unfamiliar with the protoevangelion of Genesis 3:15)

I then said, “what are you talking about?” JJ replied “Lets read the story where Jesus kills the snake. The snake is bad. He doesn’t like God, and now I want to read the story where Jesus kills the snake.”

I had forgotten that the JSB covered that part of the Bible. So I let him show me. He turned me to the page that recalls Jesus’ death on the cross as the defeat of sin and death and satan. The JSB has a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross with the crushed snake under his feet. It is a powerful picture of the redemptive history in the Bible. What God promised to Eve in Genesis 3:15 about her offspring crushing the serpent’s head came to fulillment in Jesus when He died on the cross for sin.

Thats incredible! The whole Bible beginning to end is about God’s plan to redeem people from their sins through Jesus. Many adult Christians today still do not understand this.

Praise God that because of the writing and illustrating of the Jesus Storybook Bible my 4 year old already has a healthy Biblical Theology!

We read that part and celebrated together that sin and satan do not have the final say!

FBCF reads at Hazelwood Elementary School

This past Tuesday a small group from our church went to read at Hazelwood Elementary School. We were invited as a part of the “Annual Community Reader Week.”

Mrs. Annette Darnell is the Family Resource Director at Hazelwood, and she is also a member of our church. It was great to see her in her work environment.

Jettie Haines, Tish Hardin, Gail Deaton, T.J. Krages, and I went and spent the afternoon reading to various grade-level classes.

I read three different Dr. Suess books to the Mrs. Chapin’s 2nd Grade class. We had a great time participating in this event.

Thank you to Mrs. Darnell and Hazelwood Elementary for having us!

 

 

“Would it be ok to bend over and kiss her?”

With his right hand leaning on his walking cane and his left hand holding his wife’s hand, he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said with a shaky voice – “would it be ok to bend over and kiss her?”

I answered, “Absolutely!”

Forty-two years ago this gentleman had stood before his wife, a minister, and a small crowd of people and verbally spoke a vow to love his wife “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse.”

Loving your wife is what the Bible says Husbands are supposed to do (Ephesians 5:25).

Today I was the minister at her funeral. This was a funeral I was called to do without knowing the family. For the record, I did not know a single person in the entire chapel. But that did not at all keep God from blessing me so greatly.

The dear lady that passed away was 65 years old and had been married to her husband for 42 years. He got choked up speaking with me about his wife prior to the service. I could sense then that he really loved her.

We live in a day when deeply loving your wife and expressing it is rare. So when I get a chance to observe it, I really watch and learn. I have only been married 7 years. But I love Valeria, and I often tell her that I cannot wait until we are 70 together. I love her so much now and can hardly imagine how deep our love will be then after 45 years together.

But today as the funeral service concluded and the congregation filed out, I was eager to see how this faithful & simple husband would handle saying his “final words” to his wife before the casket was closed.

I was so impacted.

He slowly walked to the casket all by himself. With his right hand he was gripping his walking cane and with his left hand he reached down and grabbed his deceased wife’s hand (like he had done that countless times before). It was then with tears in his eyes, he turned to me and asked “Would it be ok to bend over and kiss her?” My eyes immediately teared up. I quickly responded “Absolutely.”

The gentleman bent over, kissed his bride, and then wept as he slowly exited the chapel.

He loved her! He loved his wife. That is what he was supposed to do. That is what he had vowed to do 42 years ago. And that is what he did. Even as she lay there in the casket with a few people standing around, as a farewell, he wanted to kiss her. awesome!

That moment blessed me so very much today.

As I got in my car to drive to the cemetery, I sent this text to my wife Valeria:

“mi amor, Vale,  I love you so very much. Im yours forever. I mean it. Im never letting go. You are so so so special to me.”