What is the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

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Veterans Day honors all veterans who have ever served honorably in any branch of the military, including the Merchant Marine. This day celebrates the living as much as anything. This day allows all of us who are also living to thank them for their personal sacrifice and contribution toward our national security, regardless of their job (MOS, AFSC, ratings), rank, or longevity of service. Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11th.

Memorial Day remembers and honors all military personnel who died while in service of their country. Memorial Day especially emphasizes those who died as a result of battle. Often Memorial Day is marked by ceremonies in various national cemeteries and memorials. Many times volunteers place American flags on each grave site. Memorial Day is celebrated annually on the last Monday of May, with a national moment of remembrance at 3:00 pm local time.

Why is this important? There are men and women in your community who have sacrificed for your freedom. Take a moment or two to thank them. We need to tell them “Thank you!” while we have the opportunity. Once they are gone, we missed our opportunity.

Want to thank a veteran, here is a Thank You Veterans post from the archive.

Join the Conversation

For whose service are you grateful this Veterans Day?

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

Lessons from the Cow Pasture

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When is the last time you were ever in a cow pasture? Are there any distinct features that you remember? Was there anything that stood out to you?

Enjoy the Beauty but Watch Your Step

From my most recent foray into a cow pasture with several of my children, multiple observations stand out in my mind.

First, the beauty. There is something sweet about going outside and enjoying the countryside. The rolling hills, the variations of color, the wildlife, and the cows with their calves create a wonderful environment in which to rejoice in the goodness of God. As we make our observations, we allow Psalm 19:1-6 to roll through our minds. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” On a recent trip, watching the cows, I reminded my children of Asaph’s Psalm 50 which states, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountain, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine” (Psalm 50:10-11). Pausing just a few moments to think together created a valuable opportunity to enjoy all the good gifts that God gives us, as well as a moment to consider God’s character too.

In addition to those things, there were two other striking observations: the smell and the cow patties. Whenever you get close to a cow pasture, you smell it. If there are cattle, there is also the smell of manure. No complaints here, God made it that way. The smell and cattle go together naturally. The overwhelming sense of the smell of course rises and falls on many other conditions; nevertheless, the smell to one extent or another remains.

Is that a bad thing? Certainly not. Without the smell, walking carelessly would be more likely. Possibly you, the reader, did not grow up in the country or around cattle. But, the smell heightens your awareness of the necessity to watch every step, unless you step in manure. Why do you not want to step in manure? Not because manure is bad per se. Manure represents a functioning digestive system in the cows. Without manure, you have no cattle. Furthermore, when collected and processed, manure provides great fertilizer. However, even with those things in mind, it is still manure. It is excrement, refuse, dung, cow chips, cow-pies, cow patties, cow flops, or may be known by other synonyms as well. For sure, it does not belong on the shoe or on the body. Again, it is manure.

Apply These Observations to Life

The Bible talks about excrement / refuse / dung as well. Paul writes, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung that I may gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:7-9a).

What is the context of Paul’s comments? He referred to his list of accomplishments in life. He lists eight. He introduced his list of life’s accomplishment with this statement, “If anyone else things he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so” (Philippians 3:4). In other words, his list trumps all the others. His pedigree? Remarkable. His accomplishments? Impressive. If anyone in his day had a right to brag, Paul did. He was highly educated, accomplished, recognized, and successful. But when he compares all these things to the value of his relationship to Christ, he considers all those accomplishments dung.

Is Paul saying that all those things are bad? No. In a similar way to the cow manure earlier, there are things about the manure that are beneficial and good. Likewise, these accomplishments of Paul were helpful in their rightful place.

However, when Paul compared his status, accomplishments, and successes to knowing Christ, he said these were dung. On the ledger sheet of life, no matter how many or how impressive his facts and stats were, they equaled nothing as compared to knowing Christ.

What should we do?

Although there are many implications to be explored, let me highlight two responses.

First, pray in light of this truth. Let me suggest a few prayer requests for you as you consider this helpful word picture from Paul.

  • Pray God gives you a spiritual nose to smell your accomplishments for what they truly are in comparison to Christ. Ask God to grant you discernment to see how the best this world has to offer and the best you can offer the world are both nothing compared to the privilege and grace of knowing Christ. Just as the smell in a cow pasture helps you walk carefully, may God grant us the spiritual insight to smell our successes, accomplishments, and status in similar ways.
  • Pray God helps you value your relationship with Christ with the true significance it deserves. The joy, honor, pleasure, and grace of having a relationship with Jesus, being found in Him, and knowing Him is infinitely more valuable than anything else in this life or even eternity.

Second, recognize good things as gifts and blessings to use and enjoy, not for which to live. Good things abound in life as part of God’s good gifts or common grace. Do people tend to give you status or respect you? Can people appreciate your accomplishments? Has God blessed you with an impressive pedigree from which you came? Possibly the answer is, “Yes” to all these things. If so, see them for what they are. Any good things comes from God and should be used for His glory and the benefit of others.

Join the Conversation

How much do you value Christ? How much do you value the world? How impressed are you with your own résumé?

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

 

Why do we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation today? (even as Baptists)

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Blog-Why-do-we-celebrate-the-reformation-10.31.17Happy Reformation 500 Day!

Five hundred years ago today Martin Luther (1483-1546) started whats known as the Reformation on October 31, 1517, when he posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. I’ve written more about Luther and the Reformation here and here.

Why should Baptist care?

Over this past month several people have asked me why they should care about or celebrate the reformation since many Baptists would say that they were not part of the reformation. Great question.

Historical Context

Luther was not the first one to protest against the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Many preceded him in this protest and were also persecuted.[1] However, Luther started a reformation that would sweep through the entire continent by God’s grace.

Could he have done more? Sure.
Was some of his theology much different than Baptist theology? Yes.
Did he and other Reformers stand by when some Anabaptist were persecuted both verbally and physically?  Sadly yes.
In fact, many of the Reformers had incredible character flaws.

In what do we celebrate?

We must be clear though in what we celebrate. We do not celebrate a man or a group of men, although we may certainly appreciate their place in history. The only man we celebrate is the God-man Jesus Christ.  However, we rejoice in the outcome by God’s grace of this man, Luther, and many others including the Anabaptists who moved us closer to the faithful proclamation of God’s Word.  Whereas they were not the only voices in their day, beginning with Luther and following with many other Reformers, the voices became much louder for the faith.

I agree with Scott Hubbard who wrote, “Through these Reformers, God opposed proud rulers, unmasked depraved priests, and recovered for the world the happy news that God justifies sinners by grace alone, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone, through faith alone, for the glory of God alone, as taught with decisive authority in Scripture alone.”

Enjoy the 500th Anniversary Celebration!

We celebrate the person and gospel of Jesus Christ.
We celebrate the power of the Scriptures to engage hearts in the past and today.
We celebrate the Word of God is for the people.
We celebrate the faithfulness of men and women over the centuries.
We celebrate that grace alone is at the heart of the Christian life.
We celebrate that faith alone saves.
We celebrate that Scripture alone exclusively maintains authority.
We celebrate that Jesus Christ alone provides salvation.
We celebrate that God deserves the glory alone.

[1] The Anabaptist Story by W.R. Estep

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

How Do We Respond? Hailey Owens’ Murder Trial

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Today is the first day of the Hailey Owens’ murder trial for Craig Wood, a day for which many have waited. Wood is accused of abducting, assaulting, raping, and ultimately shooting Hailey on February 18, 2014. In today’s court proceedings, Wood’s attorney said they would stipulate that he did all those things. The prosecuting attorney pushes for the death penalty; Wood seeks life in prison. Hailey’s parents have asked for life in prison. The trial is expected to last two weeks, one week for the judgment and a second week for the sentencing.

As a community, how do we respond to this trial?

Pray.

First, please pray for the family, police officers, witnesses, school teachers, and so many others who knew and loved ten-year-old Hailey. The next two weeks will be rough for all of them. As the family hears the gruesome details, as police officers revisit past memories, as witnesses tell their stories, and as the entire community remembers those hours and days in February 2014, many emotions will be revisited, raw, and real. Pray for them to sense God’s presence, to see the love the community has for them, and to trust the system of justice.

Pray for the jurors as they are forced to make Hailey’s story part of their story. They have a solemn responsibility to listen, evaluate, and make a judgment. Pray for them to have wisdom, sensitivity, and courage.

Pray for Judge Thomas Mountjoy as he presides over the trial. Pray that he will have wisdom as he directs the courtroom proceedings.

Pray for Craig Woods and his parents. Wood explained this past summer that he was high on meth at the time of the abduction. Pray that Wood would recognize his sins, repent, and seek the forgiveness of God, the family, and the community. Pray for Wood’s family as they have to hear the details as they are explained in court.

Pray for the community. Pray that we also would trust the system, that we would honor God in our attitudes toward all those involved, and that we would consider our own personal lives. Pray that we would balance our desire for justice with an awareness of the ugliness of sin in all our lives.

Consider.

How can you get involved in the lives of people around you?
What can you do to encourage others?
How can you become a better citizen?
What can you do to serve your hurting neighbors better?
How can you warn others about the tragedy of meth use?
What can you do to help serve those in our community that are vulnerable?
How can you encourage our community heroes that deal with tragedies regularly?

Give.

As we consider the tragedy of Hailey’s death, we must look past ourselves to determine how we can make our community better. Can you give of your time, your expertise, your creativity, or your other acts of support for a local agency that helps the less fortunate? Can you give your money?

Reflect.

As this trial drags on, this provides each of us the opportunity to reflect. The days following Hailey’s death tens of thousands of people responded as one. From the memorial downtown to the porch lights, we coalesced as a community to make a statement against evil, wickedness, and hatred, and for good, righteousness, and love. Four years later, what has changed in us? Are you the doing anything to make our community better? Are you personally doing anything that will help the little Hailey’s in the world? Are you doing anything to help prevent childhood abduction, pornography, and other abuse?

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

© 2017 PASTORKEVINSBLOG.COM

The Passion of Luther and the Reformation

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Blog-The-Passion-of-Luther-and-the-Reformation-10.29.17The Beginning of the Reformation

This week we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483-1546) posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This act led to a tumultuous time for Luther, ultimately appearing before Charles V on behalf of Pope Leo X at the Diet of Worms where he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Sheltered by Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, Luther went into hiding at Wartburg Castle from May 1521 to March 1522, where he translated the New Testament from Greek into German.

Luther’s Passion

At this time in history, the Catholic Church sold indulgences to people in order to gain merit with God with hope of going to heaven. Essentially, Catholic dogma requires people to earn their way to heaven through good works. However, the Church taught that it was impossible to do it on your own works. So the Church offered indulgences for purchase.

An indulgence was basically a receipt that said you had purchased good works from a past saint through the Church. Catholics taught that various saints had done a super-abundance of good works when alive, which created a treasury of merits and graces that could be drawn from when purchased. People would purchase indulgences for self-gain in order to pay for their own past sins, for loved ones who had died, and even for their own future sins.

As Bob Kellemen chronicles Luther’s internal battle, he quotes Luther:

“I bewail the gross misunderstanding among the people which comes from these preachers and which they spread everywhere among common men. Evidently the poor souls believe that when they have bought indulgence letters they are then assured of their salvation.”

The Reformer then directly addresses the Cardinal, “0 great God! The souls committed to your care, excellent Father, are thus directed to death. For all these souls you have the heaviest and a constantly increasing responsibility. Therefore, I can no longer be silent on this subject.”[1]

Luther objected to the practice of selling indulgences because he understood the crooked practice was for financial gain to the Catholic Church and did nothing to get someone to heaven. There are two errors here. First, no one can gain heaven through good works. Second, the Church was robbing the people while giving them false hope of eternity.

Luther’s Understanding

Luther correctly understood what the Bible teaches regarding going to heaven. The Bible unequivocally denies any person the option of earning his or her way into heaven.

Jesus made it clear that the only way to heaven was through Him, not through personal merit or good works. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:7). It is Jesus’ work on the cross that enables us to go to heaven, not our work on earth.

Paul also taught this same truth. It is impossible to earn your way to heaven. He wrote, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Here Paul teaches that God only saves people through faith. There is no amount of good works that can save a person. Heaven is only possible through God’s grace, unearned favor from God to man.

Paul explained that the just (those who are saved and on their way to heaven) shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11), not by works. There were those teaching that through works a person could go to heaven. Paul called this type of teaching foolish. In reference to those who try to work their way to heaven, he declares those individuals cursed (Galatians 3:10).

Likewise, Paul shared his own personal testimony in Philippians 3. Here he rehearsed all the good works that he had done – works that, if possible, would earn him heaven. He declared all his good works as useless. Describing his relationship with God, he wrote, “…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). In other words, righteousness is only possible through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross where God poured His wrath upon Jesus as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. 1 John 2:2).

Luther’s Invitation: How do you get to Heaven then?

Clearly the answer begins with this simple truth: nothing that you can do or can be done for you through a church can earn you a relationship with God or a way into heaven.

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It requires belief in the person and sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross. In other words, you must trust Jesus’ work to get you to heaven and not your own merit or the church’s.

In Romans, Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified (declared righteous) by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8-9).

He further clarified, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Luther’s Personal Responsibility

Luther was driven by the simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He lamented that the Catholic Church perverted the Gospel and that the Church taught what could only send people to hell not heaven. He understood his personal responsibility in light of the forgiveness of sin.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Luther faithfully proclaimed this truth 500 years ago.

I faithfully proclaim this truth to you today.

Be reconciled to God.
Turn to God, recognizing your sin and the fact that you deserve hell.
Ask Him for forgiveness of your sin based upon the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
God promises to forgive your sins and to begin a new relationship with you.

[1] Kellemen, p. 6.

Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey

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