The Front Porch

The front porch was the “chat room” of years gone by. The front porch usually had a porch swing and a couple of rocking chairs. The front porch was where family and friends gathered to chat in person. They would play the guitar and sing on the front porch. 

When I was a child, not every family had air conditioning in their house. In the summer, it was cooler outside on the front porch than it was inside the house.

On the front porch, people would wave and greet those who passed by.  Folks would sit and talk, snap beans, shuck corn, peel potatoes, crochet, and darn socks. Young people would court on the front porch. Haircuts were given on the front porch. Deals were made with a handshake on the front porch. The preacher would visit on the front porch. People gossiped on the front porch. Great ideas and plans for the future were made on the front porch. You name it, it probably happened on the front porch.

Sometimes, the front porch was a place you could go to be alone, or a place to go to be with friends. It was a place of talking, laughing, singing, praying, crying, and smooching.  It was a peaceful place where many memories were made.

People don’t sit on the front porch much anymore.  Most of the houses now have air conditioning, televisions, computers, and game systems. I don’t care too much for the TV or game systems. I would rather sit on the front porch.

As a man in my sixties, I still like to sit on the porch swing and read and think and pray.  I enjoy sitting with my wife on the front porch as we discuss the past, plan for the future, and maybe even smooch a bit.  It’s a quiet place of solitude to get away from the noise of the 21st century.

I imagine that front porches will be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future.  Most people today don’t want to sit where there’s no air conditioning or heat 24/7.  They want their electronic toys/smartphones 24/7.

I want to encourage you to not allow the front porch of your house to be just an entrance to your house.  Stop awhile. Read, drink a cup of coffee, pray, meditate, and slow down a bit.  I know that you have a lot to do, and that you have a busy life.  But your aging parents and grandparents are wishing and praying that you would stop and chat awhile with them on the front porch.

Pull up a rocking chair, grab a tall glass of cold, sweet tea, and sit a spell.  I’ll be glad you did, and I hope you will, too.

Sowing and Reaping

My in-law’s house has four raised garden boxes in their back yard.  When they moved in a few months ago, they decided to plant some vegetables in those garden boxes.  My mother-in-law planted tomatoes, okra, and watermelon.  Later, we saw what looked to be two small corn stalks by the back patio, so I dug them up and planted them in the garden.  Not everything came up, and so there were some bare spaces in the garden.

This past Wednesday, my in-laws needed to go to Georgia for a two-day meeting, so Becky and I decided to go and buy a few more plants to put in the garden.  We bought some squash, lettuce, yellow pepper, sweet potato, and a packet of corn seeds since there were two small, lone stalks. 

As my wife was planting the corn seeds, I noticed on the seed packet that it read, “Days to Harvest 88.”  I thought, “Really?  Eighty-eight days?  I won’t even be here.”  I leave for Brazil in 46 days for our fifth term of missionary service, so someone else will be eating and enjoying those sweet, tender, hot-buttered, succulent corn-on-the-cob, and WE planted them!

And then it hit me: that’s the way it is sometimes regarding the spiritual harvest.  As Christians, we should be sowing the Seed of the Gospel, because you never know who will come after you to be able to “reap the harvest.”  It’s not important who reaps the harvest, but the one who plants the Seed is crucial.  If no Seed is planted, no fruit will be harvested.  If you sow little, a small crop will be harvested.  But if much Seed is planted, the crop will be greater.

Although I said that it’s not important “who” reaps the harvest, it is important that someone reaps it!  The sower may not even know the reaper, but both are necessary for the harvest to be gathered.  If there’s no sowing, there will be no harvest.  If there are no harvesters, the fruit will fall to destruction.

Jesus told His disciples some 2,000 years ago that the fields are white already to harvest (v. 35).  I won’t be here in 88 days to harvest corn, but it would be sad if no one went to harvest and eat the corn.

Christian friend, be faithful to plant the Seed, and keep your eyes open for “fruit” that is ready to be harvested.

Don’t Be A Quitter

If you went to your school or job and had a problem with a classmate or co-worker, would you give up on your education or quit your job, or would you try to resolve the problem and do what is necessary to make things right?

I hope that you would be mature enough to try and resolve the conflicts that you are having with another person, and not quit your education or employment.

The same thing goes for church.  Too many Christians will overlook the faults of a lost person at school or work, but refuse to try and resolve interpersonal conflicts with another believer.  Look in the mirror and you will see a Christian that isn’t perfect.

If you are having a problem with a fellow church member, don’t quit going to church over it.  Instead, pray for that person, and keep going to church to do everything possible to restore fellowship with that person.

Christians make up the family of God, and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  We’re in the same family, and we’re on the same team.  We should all be striving for the same goal, not striving against members of our own family.

Fellow believer, I don’t know everything that is going on in your life, but I do know that God wants you to be faithful to church.  I also know that the devil does NOT want you to go to church, and he is working hard to keep you out of church.

Are you doing what God wants you to do, or are you doing what the devil wants?

“Let Not The Sun Go Down Upon Your Wrath”

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”  We often hear this taught or preached in regards to married couples, that they should resolve any and all “issues” before going to bed at night.  While I agree that a couple should not go to sleep if there are any unresolved problems, this verse goes way beyond a husband and wife relationship.

Without writing out a whole message to preach right now, I just want to add one point to this.  I believe that, “let not the sun go down upon your wrath” can also apply to your relationship with your children.  If you have had some harsh words with your children that left them discouraged, you need to resolve those hateful, hurtful words before sending your kids off to bed.  Let the last words they hear at the end of the day be these kind, loving, tender words: “I love you.”  (However, they may need to be preceded with, “I lost my temper.  Please forgive me.”)  I would rather for my children not to have hurt feelings when they go to sleep at night, but with peace in their hearts.  If you make peace with your children, you will sleep better, too.

Be A Missionary Right Where You Live

Corrie Ten Boom is attributed to saying, “a person is either a missionary or a mission field.”  We understand that every person on planet Earth is either saved or lost.  If you are a Christian, the Great Commission is telling YOU to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).  This verse is not directed solely to full-time missionaries that live in a foreign country.  It doesn’t matter where one may live, or the occupation from which one receives a paycheck, every Christian has the duty and responsibility to share the Gospel with those that are lost and without Christ.

With today being January 1st, I want to challenge you, not to make a New Year’s Resolution, but to make a commitment to try and win (at least) one soul to Christ this year.  That’s not expecting or asking a lot.  Look back over the past year and see if you can remember when the last time was that you handed someone a Gospel tract, or even shared the Gospel with someone.  If you did not share the Gospel with anyone last year, never handed out one tract, or didn’t invite anyone to church last year, then shame on you!

Church growth should be more of a result of evangelism than by receiving people by letter from another church.  If every Christian in your church would win someone to the Lord this year, your church could double in size in 365 days.  Determine that in this new year that you are going to be a missionary right where you live, and stop acting like a “mission field.”

Christmas Time

The Christmas season is upon us.

You don’t have to exchange presents.

You don’t have to put up a Christmas tree.

You don’t have to listen to Christmas music.

You don’t have to decorate or put up lights.

You don’t have to wish people, “Merry Christmas.”

You don’t have to celebrate with family and friends.

You don’t have to go caroling with the other church members.

You don’t have to make Christmas cookies, or have a Christmas dinner.

You don’t have to wear Christmas sweatshirts, ties, earrings or necklaces.

You don’t have to watch Santa Claus, Frosty, or the other Christmas specials.

But, if you are a Christian, you should celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  No, Jesus was not born on December 25, but Jesus WAS born, and He DID live, died on a cross, was buried, and rose from the dead!  If it wasn’t for the BIRTH of the Savior, there would be no death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior.

God never commanded us to celebrate HIS birth, but celebrating the birth of the Savior began on the day He was born when the angels announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, saying, “Glory to God in the highest.”  I celebrate Christmas because I celebrate Jesus. The birth of Jesus was important back when He was born more than 2,000 years ago, and it is still important today.

“Inactive Ingredients”

I woke up this morning with a muscle pain in my back, so I went to the cabinet to get some acetaminophen (generic Tylenol).  I know that some medications are not supposed to be taken on an empty stomach, so I began to look for any type of warning on the label regarding this information.

At the top of the label, printed in bold letters, were the words, “Drug Facts.”  Underneath “Drug Facts” it read, “Active ingredient (in each caplet), Acetaminophen 500 mg.”  That’s it.  There was one active ingredient.  The stated purpose was, “Pain reliever/fever reducer.”  That’s what I needed.

As I quickly read the uses stated on the label about relieving minor aches and pains, there was also a liver warning if one exceeded the recommended dosage, and an allergy alert.  The label gave strict instructions about who should not use the product, and who should consult a doctor or pharmacist before use.

However, what got my attention was at the bottom of the label.  Interestingly enough, these words were printed so that everyone could know what is in the medication, besides the acetaminophen: “Inactive ingredients.”  (I will not state them here, but you can read them for yourself on the side of the bottle the next time you go to your medicine cabinet, local pharmacy, or Wal-Mart.

“Inactive ingredients?”  Really?  Why were inactive ingredients added to the acetaminophen?  Who decided to add random components that have no medicinal purpose to the pain reliever?  I was surprised to read that in each caplet there were NINE inactive ingredients, while there was only ONE active ingredient.  Think about it: 90% of what is in each caplet is inactive, or useless, while only 10% is active, or useful.

As I thought about this, it made me think of a lot of churches that have some, “inactive ingredients.”  Many church members (90%, or even more) just show up, but are inactive and have no purpose.  They are inactive in Sunday School, the choir, visitation (more like 99% inactive for visitation), and even tithing.  An inactive member is a useless member, much like the inactive ingredients in acetaminophen that serve no purpose.   It’s probably church members like this that cause the pastor to run to his medicine cabinet for acetaminophen!

Christian friend, don’t be a random “inactive ingredient” in your church, but rather, be an “active ingredient” that actually serves a purpose, even if you are only one in ten that does.  Who knows?  You may be the one that relieves your pastor from a headache caused by 90% of the inactive members.  You can be sure that your pastor will be grateful that you are an “active ingredient” in the work of the Lord.

Pray for Laborers

It is recorded in Matthew 9:37 and 38 that Jesus said, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.”

Two thousand years have passed since Jesus said these words.  The harvest is still truly plenteous, and the laborers are still too few.  However, there’s not a lack of laborers because I haven’t prayed for them.  Are there still too few laborers because YOU are not praying to the Lord of the harvest and asking, or rather, BEGGING Him to send more laborers?

Please, pray with us that God will send more laborers in the needy harvest fields around the world.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

As a child, I was taught in my public elementary school that if you were to ever catch on fire, the three things to remember are: 1) STOP, 2) DROP, and 3) ROLL.

Unfortunately, it appears as if there are many Christians that have taken this to a spiritual level.  I know some Christians that used to be “on fire” for God.  However, they managed to put their spiritual fire out when they decided to STOP reading their Bibles and praying, DROP out of church, and started to ROLL in the mire of the world.

Christian friend, get out of the pigpen of the world, get back in church, and start having your devotions again.  Get on fire for God as you were before, and never STOP, DROP, and ROLL spiritually ever again.

Live-stream Ministry

Pastor, if you have a “live-stream” ministry in your church, praise the Lord!  You have an opportunity to preach to the world.  That’s amazing!

However, even though there may be more people watching you around the world than those sitting in your congregation, don’t forget that you have the awesome responsibility and privilege of being the pastor-shepherd of your own flock, the local church.  Don’t get distracted by the people you CAN’T see, but rather focus on the ones that you CAN see.