Friday, June 04, 2010

Restore the Sparkle to My Eye

This is the transcript from Ken’s message on Sunday night, April 18, 2010.

Lord, Restore the Sparkle to My Eye or Let Me Die

Since I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I have deeply desired nothing less than a growing, abiding and sanctifying relationship with Him. I can truthfully say that some of my early mentors modeled this type of Christianity for me. It really is no different than any other lasting relationship in that in order for it to be enduring, encouraging and healthy it cannot remain static or still it must be growing and thriving if, indeed, there is life and love in that relationship. From the very moment I placed my faith in Christ at 27 years of age I have never doubted my salvation, not even a hint of doubt. And that remains so to this very moment. So you can imagine my inner struggle when certain un-Christlike actions and attitudes began to creep into my inner man and then began to surface. Outbursts of anger, irresolvable frustration, no patience with my family, indifference toward people that were spiritually wayward, cutting cynicism and condescending sarcasm that exposed a lack of faith, these were just a few of the negative outward manifestations.
There was also sleeplessness, mornings that I did not want to get out of bed, chest-aching anxiety when walking into the worship services, a desire to be totally alone, I read my Bible as a cold practice, prayers were few and superficial at best. My fellowship was with no challenges. Carrying out often repeated tasks such as planning for a retreat or Wed night bible study became such a monumental burden that I could not even consider it without wanting to run and hide. All of this was intermingled with overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, loneliness and pessimism. I have never been a pessimistic person, a realist but not pessimistic. I am 46 years old. My children are growing up moving out and moving on. There are some things that I had planned to have accomplished by this time in my life and they remain untouched still. There are some things that I wish I would have done different but the unforgiving nature of time will not allow me to go back and give it another go. Also over my 13+ years here at Blaise, I have seen Blaise go through mind-bending transitions. I have grown close to people such as Dave Desnoyers, Charlie Angell, Jerry Patterson, David Blackburn and many others that have been promoted to heaven and then there are others such as Dean and Jerri Ann Sain, Alex and Lindsay Sain, the Ried family, Chris and Susan Varnier and Rod and Janice Petroff and many more that have moved through Blaise to serve the wonderful cause of Christ which certainly makes us happy but another sense there is a loss, a void that is difficult for our flesh to overcome even if all is for good reasons. ……..During the months leading up to my white-flag surrender on Feb. 14 I consoled myself occasionally with the thought that this will soon pass. I know many others that have had similar situations and they made it through. In November of last year, unbeknownst to my wife or anyone else I went to my doctor. When he asked what was wrong I simply stated, “I am mad. All the time….anxious and weary---I just want to run and hide.” He said this is not unusual for a male in his mid-40’s and yada yada yada and prescribed an anti-depressant, Wellbutrin. It did take the edge off after a while and my family says there was a difference. I really could not tell. All the other drugs I had experienced prior to my salvation evidenced their effect much quicker! But the inner burning rage was still there----though I was more able to contain it. However, when someone would tell me about Fred and Wilma have marital problems, or one of our youth compromising their testimony, my chest would hurt and the anger would rise and I would feel like saying, “I don’t care.” I felt as though people expected me to fix everything… marriages, children, schedules, pick up the trash, unlock the doors and provide the food for it as well. Now please understand, I am being brutally and uncomfortably honest with you, this is how it all seemed, it was not the way it really was, it is only how it seemed through my pride, insecurities and fearful disposition. All this time I am not really communicating with anyone. On Sunday Feb. 14 in the afternoon, I reached my limit. I could not stand what I believed to be the hypocrisy of it and the damage that I was doing to my wife, children and our church. I cannot help but wonder how much my pride has hindered the effectiveness of the ministry of Blaise Baptist over the past 18 months. So I called Jeremy and Pastor Timothy and told them what was happening. They along with the deacons understood and offered guidance and support that made it possible for me to Fairhaven, a retreat center that caters to vocational ministers. I really did not care if I got fired. All I knew is that I needed some help and I could not get it in this environment. I equated it to drowning. And a drowning man doesn’t ask for permission to breathe.

At Fairhaven, I found the conditions I needed to regain my balance and strength.

1. Quiet
2. Counseling
3. Rest

Now this pretty well sums it up. I used the quiet to pray, read, sing, exercise and imbibe God’s Word in a different manner than before. I used the counseling to help me see God’s perspective on my condition and to help me restore what I had damaged in my marriage and other relationships and the rest helped me regain my strength and stamina to stay in the good fight.

This is where I stayed for 5 weeks. With the support of my wife, children, co-laborers and friends I was able to just simply focus on my relationship with Jesus Christ. There were some painful moments, some restless nights, some doubts, some fears and some moments of sorrow but I feel as though I was able to get my spiritual feet back under me, though I must admit that I haven’t as of yet been able to find my stride since returning.

I still struggle with confidence------- a healthy confidence that comes from knowing that you are doing God’s will not the confidence that comes from not caring or arrogance. This is a most frustrating condition because in the past I have never lacked confidence. Once convinced of God’s will I could forge onward over any obstacle or opposition with little to know reservations. If I was convinced that I was doing God’s will in a matter whether planning an event or confronting a youth, if someone got offended or it did not seem to go as planned I just resigned it all to being God’s will. I still believe this to be a valid and necessary practical theology in order for the kingdom to advance. I am just struggling with confidence concerning my knowledge of God’s will for me specifically.

I still have bouts of anxiety. Not fearful anxiety but the kind that comes from feeling as though everything is out my control. God has shown me that pride is the source of my anxiety. I must be in control or at least feel as though the person in control thinks like I do. Because if I think that is the way it should be, it must be right, right?

And you will forgive me if I seem distant or detached for a season. I am still trying to make some serious decisions about how to best distribute my personal and internal resources. I cannot be all things to all people. I would love to be but I can’t so at present I am trying to learn to say “no” to things that are outside of my realm and “yes” to what is within my capabilities and what the church should expect of me based on my job description. What may seem clear to you is not so clear to me at times. On our staff we each handle many things outside of our expertise or reasonable expectation at times. I am not a multi-tasker. I have a one-track mind. I make a check list then start plowing through it in order, one thing at a time. That is who I am----when I keep trying to spin several plates at a time inevitably they all hit the ground. However, I do not consider this a weakness but a strength that must be cultivated and rightly understood. Most people can only do one thing very well and a couple of things well. I am not seeking to do less labor but more spiritually productive labor.

All the while my wife and daughters are by my side but shouldering a heavy load. I had become so emotionally detached that I could not sense there frustrations, hurts and needs. I had to get all these things headed in the right direction or resign from ministry.

During my time at Fairhaven, I dug into Scripture as well many other rich writings. The Practice of His Presence by Bro. Lawrence, The Rest of God by Mark Buchannon, Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the cross, Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray, and the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis from the early 1400’s are only a few of the extra-biblical writings that I gave good attention to while away.

But I mostly endeavored to memorize scripture, scripture that seemed to speak to my particular situation. I was struck by how many of the Psalms were written from or for a situation like unto mine. Psalm 4 and Psalm 13 particularly. So I committed them to memory and willed myself to meditate upon them day and night. I found a structure within them that helped me to make sense of my inner turmoil. Turn with me to the Psalm 13 and let me walk you through how God uses His Word to address our needs in such matters.

Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
I. Grief, sorrow and anxiety are a natural part of the human experience. V1-2
Jesus in the garden, Jeremiah in a well, Daniel in a lion’s den, Hebrew children in a furnace, David in the shadow of the valley of death, Moses’ 40 years in the wilderness, Elijah by the brook Cherith, and on and on the Bible is filled with accounts of those that found no solace here in this world. I am convinced that this stage of life depression is a God-given mechanism to deepen our love for Him by heightening our desire for Him. In our grief we learn to respond to God according to His promises and not according to our feelings. There were some days that I simply cried all day long, it was pitiful but I clung to His promise that He has a good purpose for my life and He will be glorified through it. David was missing the feeling that God was present with him. He longed for the fellowship of God that he had known through the years prior. He yearned earnestly for God’s favor to shine upon him. All his spiritual senses were heightened and anxious for God. We live in a world of pain, sorrow, grief, despair, violence and hostility. We are foolish to think that we can be happy all the day. But we try to make ourselves happy by fulfilling the lust of the flesh for things or money or sex or drugs or some escape that takes our mind temporarily off the problems. These negative situations will always exist in this world but it is OK. God has a plan. A good plan. Jesus stated in John 16:33, “That in this world we wil have trouble and tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We need not dodge the heavy, burdensome and painful part of life but rather cast them upon One that is altogether sufficient to carry the load.
Psalm 13:3-4
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
II. Good theology is absolutely necessary to enduring and overcoming in the difficult times. V3-4
David states, “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God.” There is no indication that David looked in any other direction for help in his despair. “Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” David knew where life came from. And he knew where true, real and lasting joy came from. This became my prayer. “Lord, put the sparkle back in my eye or let me die.” David knew that if there is any life anywhere, whether in the cosmos or our universe or in me, it is because God had issued it. If we do not take time to know what God teaches about His nature, our condition, His presence, our hope, where He is and what He is doing and how we can attain to him by faith through the cross of Jesus Christ and 1000’s of other heart consoling truths we will never have anymore faith than our feelings will allow us to have. Which is why many so-called believers have turn to walk with Him no longer . (Jn 6:66) Our feelings say, watch TV and relax and forget about it for a while. Don’t talk about it and it will go away eventually. Feelings lead people into adultress relationships and other immoralities that offer no real solutions rather they complicate the spiritual drift. In other words David called out to God-----to whom or to what do you call out to, alcohol, drugs, movies or sex. Our modern media culture has hindered our minds in unfathomable ways; shortened attention spans, diminished grasp of language and vocabulary, ability to comprehend abstractions and blurring of the line between childhood and adulthood are the effect modern media has on our minds. As a result, no one reads anymore. As a result, no one can sit still long enough to really learn, Teachers and preachers are compelled to work harder at keeping peoples attention than communicating a truth in a clear fashion. You can only be an over-comer in spiritually dark and dismal periods if you are grounded in good practical theology. Jesus says be of good cheer I have overcome the world…………If you believe this then it means you learned it, if you learned it, it means you read or heard it. If you heard it or read it, this means that you gave attention to what God says about your human condition and you are willing to practice it in spite of your feelings to the contrary. This is moving from the milk of the word to the meat.
Psalm 13:5-6
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
III. Deeper gratitude and overwhelming grace can be the product of these dark nights of the soul.
I could not help but be overwhelmed with gratitude after I realized where God was this whole time. He was and is right here with me. I did not feel it so I became anxious. But he is growing me into a person that need not feel it, only believe it. I cannot sing a lick but God doesn’t know that…….He hears my feeble broken songs…….I am the product of His GRACE. I have done nothing worthy to merit any of God’s favor but I have trusted in Jesus for salvation and thereby am privy to all that is His as the Son of God.
Gratitude springs out of our faith. We can only be grateful when we know that we do not deserve our blessings and we did not create them. And to some degree, gratitude is a suspension of cynicism—a faith in the person doing the good deed. As gratitude relates to our relationship to the Lord, it is a faith that God is good—that He is in control—and what He is doing in our life is good.
How might God use this feeble, broken state to glorify His name? This story from Spurgeon’s treatise on grace may help us to understand.
A certain man placed a fountain by the wayside, and he hung up a cup near to it by a little chain. He was told some time after that a great art-critic had found much fault with its design. “But,” said he, “do many thirsty persons drink at it?” Then they told him that thousands of poor people, men, women, and children, slaked their thirst at this fountain; and he smiled and said, that he was little troubled by the critic’s observation, only he hoped that on some sultry summer’s day the critic himself might fill the cup, and he refreshed, and praise the name of the Lord.
Here is my fountain, here is my cup: find fault if you please; but do not deny yourself a drink of the water of life.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

You Gotta Serve Somebody

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
James 1:22

The pond was green and scummy. I tried to cast my bait into a part that looked clean, but when I reeled the bait in it had green slime all over it. I asked my dad, “Why does this pond have so much slimy, green scum and why does it stink so bad?” “Well,” dad replied, “When the water is not flowing through a pond it begins to grow all kinds of stuff that keep it from being clean, the water may be flowing in but it also has to flow out to keep the pond healthy.”
Spiritually speaking, I believe there are a few of us who have a scummy, green, slime growing on us. We may even have a little stench about us. Like the pond, we have a source but no outlet. The Bible, Sunday School, preaching, fellowship, convictions from the Holy Spirit, and years of church life are our source. Witnessing, service and ministry are our spiritual outlets. There are many outlets in our church. There are many places to minister in our community. When we receive but never give it leads to spiritual stagnation. This condition can be treated, not by good works alone, but works that are a fruit of our faith in Christ. If we are a hearer, James says that we should become a doer. (My spellcheck says that scummy is not a word but I believe you know what I mean.)

“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Merely A Whipser

“These are just the beginning of all the He does, merely a whisper of His power. Who then can comprehend the thunder of His power?” Job 26:14


I have been suffering quite a bit lately. Not the persecuted type of suffering but the oppressed type that is self-inflicted to a degree. I have grown complacent and run-of-the-mill concerning my faith and following of the Lord Jesus. When one finds themselves in such straits, Job is a great book to read. Misery loves company! But as John Piper points out in, “Let the Nations Be Glad,” Job is not about misery. He is acknowledging the absolute necessity of real worship of the One true God. When there is pain, struggles, suffering and strife in a person’s life these tend to consume the thoughts, motives and actions of that individual. True worship means that even these things must be subordinate to the exaltation of God in our lives. That does not mean that we ignore the pain and struggles, it simply means that we acknowledge a greater purpose for the events in our lives. Worship is doing everything for God’s glory, even suffering. When we see the painful, confusing and contentious events of our lives as God’s work in our lives then our response can be true worship, submitting of our life to God’s will so that He is glorified in it. He alone is worthy. This whole matter, the matter of life, the universe, existence, service and destiny is about God, not about us at all. God is working all things to the end that He is exalted and glorified. Our best course is to praise, honor and adore Him who alone is worthy even in the midst of sorrow, suffering and hurt. The alternative is become more self-centered than I already am and bitter of heart. Arrogantly, we begin to think that we deserve better or we have gone through quite enough. We can rest assured that we are going through nothing that has not been sifted through God’s good hand as it concerns His glory. And His glory is the one thing that is needful and beneficial for all. Just prior to Job 26:14, Job acknowledges God's sovereignty over His creation by pointing out a few of the things that God has done and is doing. “He hangs the earth on nothing, wraps the rain in His clouds and they float in the air though they are heavier than the air, set the boundary between day and night, the underworld stands naked before Him, the sea becomes still at His command, the dead tremble before Him, He has given wisdom to the ignorant, saved the weak in their distress, enforces peace in the heavens and ………….” “And these are only the beginning of all that He does, merely a whisper!” Job states. Job was getting a sense of perspective on His situation. Yes, he was in pain and sorrow. Yes, he could be bitter and obstinate toward God but he chose rather to acknowledge that God’s glory was greater than his pain and that put things right where they belong. It may not have changed the situation but it changed the person and that is what God is all about. Helping us regain our focus on Him because that is what is most important and most beneficial. Everything else is a means to that end.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

God's Good Wheel

For the black cummin is not threshed with a threshing sledge, Nor is a cartwheel rolled over the cummin; But the black cummin is beaten out with a stick, And the cummin with a rod. Bread flour must be ground; Therefore he does not thresh it forever, Break it with his cartwheel, Or crush it with his horsemen. This also comes from the Lord of hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.
Isa 28:27-29

We should never accuse God of excess or overkill. He has a plan and it shall be accomplished to the utmost with no waste of effort of resources. Each hammer blow, strike with the rod or lap of the grinding wheel is lovingly calculated to achieve some state in the servant upon whom they fall. As we walk in this temporal realm with its pain, sorrow, suffering, humiliation and frustrations it is a great comfort for us to know that our good and gracious God not only orchestrated the events but gives oversight to the whole process and will not let it endure one moment longer than is necessary. He will be glorified in you, in me, in all things and that is all that really matters. Is it possible to achieve a state of no self-interest? It is not only possible but inevitable for the child of God who is destined to be made into the image of the glorious Lord Jesus. Your Father’s love for you demands that He do what is necessary to accomplish His purpose for you. The love of things, self and temporal pleasures must be purged. At times it is evident where God is working in one of His children’s lives but much of the time it is born in secret, deep in the soul, where no one but the interested parties are aware. As the Great Shepherd told Much-Afraid in Hinds Feet on High Place, “All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at. Every inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest of self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.” We have learned to medicate ourselves with media saturation, medicines and temporal pleasures in such a way that we have no realization of the grinding wheel of God. Our will must be broken under the wheel of God. This will only happen if remain cognizant of God’s work in us and submit ourselves to His work. An German proverb states, “The grinding wheel of God grinds slow but it grinds fine.” This is only so if it is necessary. Our part is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices and trust that God will do what is right, good and best because He will.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Gospel: Exlcusive but Effective

“If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than the one we have preached then let them be accursed.”
Gal. 1:8

Warning: The next few lines are not necessarily seeker-friendly. Not that churches shouldn’t be seeker-friendly but they need to place a priority on being God-fearing and Christ-honoring. We cannot sacrifice truth for the sake of unity. There is only one Jesus, only one cross, only one acceptable sacrifice for our sin. There is no other way to obtain salvation, the hope of heaven and help in this life. A cursory glance at this old world will tell you that much of what you and I counted on in the past is in a state flux at present. We are living in times that could be compared to the “days of Noah.” Homosexuality, abortion, soaring divorce rates, rising debt-loads, wars and rumors of war, famines, mutating strains of diseases, all sorts of immorality, chaos abounds around the world and it seems that we can only watch it unfold around us and pray that we are not the next victim. But Christ is more than prevention, He is the cure as well.
It is not unusual for us to see or hear of people that are hailed for their spiritual, religious or tolerant views. But what we need is to hear the truth. Not what assuages the fear and anxiety for a moment but for eternity. If we, the body of Christ, shun our privilege to live, preach and teach the gospel then what hope do those around us have as a hope? And what pleasure does God derive from our disobedience? Furthermore, what is sure, established and steadfast in this world? What news resonates more with broken, hurting and hardened hearts than that of God coming in the flesh to not only show the way but to be the way for all those that would believe on Him.
Andrae Crouch said it well with these lyrics:
Jesus is the answer
For the world today
Above Him there’s no other
Jesus is the way

Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, came to earth, died on the cross, was buried and rose again. This is the Gospel (Good News), there is no other.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Called and Chosen!

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Matthew 22:14

Now that I look back it, I am forced to admit that it was a great boost to my confidence and self-worth. But at the time, it simply brought joy. I’m talking about being on Gray’s team. Gray was my neighbor. He was 14 yrs. old when I was 10 yrs. old and a pretty good athlete. We had unspeakable fun playing with worn out or waterlogged baseballs, wooden bats, oversize gloves, cardboard bases, no helmets, fastpitch with a catcher. I still have trouble explaining to some of the youth what a “ghost man on second” is, but I’m sure it tells more about the recreation of youth today than my age.
If you were on Gray’s team, you won. That’s all there was to it. He could hit the ball farther, throw harder, catch better and run faster than any of the kids that played with us., including some high school baseball players that played with us at that time. He was the best. Just having him for a neighbor was a claim to fame. But what made me feel so confident and capable was the fact that anytime there was a ballgame in the works, Gray called and invited me. “Why?” I do not know. I was much younger and more of nuisance than anything else. But he would call me to come over for the game. And moreover there were several times when Gray was a team captain that he chose me to be on his team. O’ the joy of knowing that I was not just one the many that were called to be at the game but I was one of the few chosen to be on Gray’s winning team. Not only called but chosen. That should evoke a healthy sense of self-worth and confidence that is born out of overwhelming humility. Undeserving, yet, God chose us.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Come Unto Me

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

We parked the truck and dispersed the poles, tackle boxes, cooler, and chairs. At eight years old, an afternoon fishing was my equivalent of a day at Carowinds. Dad and I began the long walk to our favorite fishing hole. It wasn’t very long until the cooler that I had eagerly volunteered to carry to prove my manliness started gaining weight or at least it seemed that way. My arms were becoming tired and I was losing my grip, which caused me to stop every few minutes. But something wouldn’t let me tell dad that I was struggling with this 200 lb. cooler. I watched forlornly as he walked effortlessly ahead with fishing poles and tackle box in one hand and lawn chairs in the other. I wanted to tell him I needed help so that I could keep up with him so I called out to him. Dad turned around and came back. He gave me the tackle boxes and fishing poles and took the cooler and lawn chairs. I followed close behind him and shortly we arrived at the pond. “Son, I knew that was too heavy for you when you picked that thing up,” dad said, “But I wanted to see how far you would go before you would ask for help.” I am confident that many of us are carrying far more than we can handle. Our heavenly Father awaits our cry for help so that we can walk together.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blaise Time Capsule Letter

To be read on or about April 4, 2060 concerning the assembly that is known as Blaise Baptist Church.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am not at all confident that it is even legal for you to assemble and read this note today. But some one hundred years ago on the property that was a portion of the Frost Family Farm, a people of God began to assemble on a week to week basis. This was an unashamed, visible assembly of baptized believers that met for the purposes of worship, fellowship, teaching, ministry and reaching their community, county, state, country and the world with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. This assembly followed the dictates of the Holy Bible, which is the very Word of God without error and right in all that it teaches.

The story of Blaise Baptist is not a story of buildings and land acquisitions but about a body of believers that took God at His Word. It is not a story of programs but rather a story of people. It is the story of the likes of men of God such as Rev. Alvis Cheshire who served Blaise Baptist faithfully in her early years as a humble, bi-vocational pastor who preached the Word of God and saw the need to make preaching a central component of Blaise. It is the story of the Angell family and the Whitaker family that provided many of the people of integrity, hard work and faith that caused Blaise to emerge from being a God-sized vision to a powerful reality. The history book in this box tells the story of many that gave of themselves then of their resources as an act of faith believing the establishment of this assembly to be the very will of God for their lives. Blaise’s story is the story of people like Rev. Eddie Driver, David Harris, Dave Desnoyers and Loyd Rollins that we’re loved, pursued and prayed for by the Blaise Baptist family and eventually traded dope for hope turning from sin to serve Jesus Christ without shame. Due largely to the faithful effort of Verious Angell , it has been true for many years that the grass is always greener at Blaise Baptist. He does this task as unto the Lord and there are many more like him who plod along in faith doing some much needed task that contributes to the whole of Blaise Baptist. Time will not allow me to expound upon the music ministry of Blaise’s own Regina Chandler, whose beautiful, meek and gentle spirit permeates the air of worship as she goes about the task of working with people who are off key and pre-occupied at times to bring glory to God and she does it. What could I say of Russell Angell (grease on the axle), Mark and Gwyn Jones (Davie Pregnancy Care Center), Larry Bailey (first face you see) and I have yet to find a human or machine that can keep up with Van Fagan (Good Life ministry).

It is no stretch for me to state that Blaise Baptist is becoming better known for who she sends than for who attends. This is the evidence that though Blaise is not perfect, God has honored her efforts to follow Him and to make His name known. Mike and Debbie Drayton and Serving Him Ministries, Martha Rollins and Lori Hayes and First Love Ministries, Rev. David Childress and Carmen, Rev. Tim King and Wendy who serve among us now, Rev. Steve Angell, Rev. Alex Sain and Lindsey in Wyoming and Dean and Jerri Sain in Montana, David Boone currently in Brazil, Scott and Julia Whittaker currently preparing to go to Sudan. There are many others that are serving whether lay leaders in our church such as Paul Stapf and Disaster Relief or David Monsees serving with Campus Crusade for Christ at NC State and the Lord knows they need all the help they can get at NC State! Though Blaise Baptist has always had a seed of emphasis on world missions her sending heart was powerfully nurtured under the effective teaching and pastoral ministry of Rev. Glenn Sellers in his 17 + year tenure as Sr. pastor of Blaise Baptist. It is with great satisfaction of spirit that I can say that Blaise’s tradition of standing firm on the authority of Scripture and all that it calls us to do and be is continuing through the capable preaching and pastoral ministry of Rev. Timothy Wolf and his handsome and wise assistants, Jeremy Amick and Ken Furches.

For all I know you are reading this note with malice or contempt. As it may well be that the buildings that Blaise once assembled in have been torn down and attempts to suppress the name of Jesus Christ have brought persecution upon His people in our once great country. If that be the case then so be it, it is as God has said. But let it be known, dear friend that you have not destroyed Blaise Baptist Church for she was not established by the work or wisdom of mortal men but by the will and the Word of an all-powerful and eternal God that the wonderful name of His son Jesus Christ might be glorified through her for all eternity. And it shall be. If the buildings are gone then she has simply relocated possibly into the very presence of the Lord that sustained her and loved her and will present her spotless one day without wrinkle or blemish before the throne of God…………..Friend, there is a book in this box, it is known to God’s people as the Holy Bible (Blaise Baptist loved and believed this book) ……take this wonderful book in your hand and peruse its pages, sense it’s transcendent truth and power, inform yourself of its teaching. You will find that it has assessed well the dark human condition and the brokenness of this world but you will also find that it holds out hope to all that find themselves despairing, comfort to those that are hurting, help to those that falter and strength to those that are weak amid all the chaos-corruption-suffering and darkness there is a forever burning light and a help………read well the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and make yourself very aware of the beauty of Jesus' cross, the finality of His burial and victory of His resurrection from the dead…..Jesus died and rose again because He loves you! Read Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23 and Romans 10:9-10. This is the story of Blaise Baptist Church-------a people redeemed by the precious blood of the holy Lamb of God. I am not sure about all that goes on in heaven……..but I know that it is entirely possible for you and I to spend eternity together in a glorious state with Jesus Christ. I’ll be looking for you………If I have anything at all to do with my clothing….I will be wearing a worn and frayed Florida State hat and a Youth 4 Jesus t-shirt with blue jeans and tennis shoes. I’ll be hugging my family, facing the throne singing loudly---you’re welcome come on over and join us. And if it is appropriate, there are many more stories about the beautiful people that were Blaise Baptist Church I would love to tell you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lord, Restore the Sparkle to My Eye or Let Me Die

This is the transcript from Ken’s message on Sunday night, April 18, 2010.


Since I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I have deeply desired nothing less than a growing, abiding and sanctifying relationship with Him. I can truthfully say that some of my early mentors modeled this type of Christianity for me. It really is no different than any other lasting relationship in that in order for it to be enduring, encouraging and healthy it cannot remain static or still it must be growing and thriving if, indeed, there is life and love in that relationship. From the very moment I placed my faith in Christ at 27 years of age I have never doubted my salvation, not even a hint of doubt. And that remains so to this very moment. So you can imagine my inner struggle when certain un-Christlike actions and attitudes began to creep into my inner man and then began to surface. Outbursts of anger, irresolvable frustration, no patience with my family, indifference toward people that were spiritually wayward, cutting cynicism and condescending sarcasm that exposed a lack of faith, these were just a few of the negative outward manifestations.
There was also sleeplessness, mornings that I did not want to get out of bed, chest-aching anxiety when walking into the worship services, a desire to be totally alone, I read my Bible as a cold practice, prayers were few and superficial at best. My fellowship was with no challenges. Carrying out often repeated tasks such as planning for a retreat or Wed night bible study became such a monumental burden that I could not even consider it without wanting to run and hide. All of this was intermingled with overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, loneliness and pessimism. I have never been a pessimistic person, a realist but not pessimistic. I am 46 years old. My children are growing up moving out and moving on. There are some things that I had planned to have accomplished by this time in my life and they remain untouched still. There are some things that I wish I would have done different but the unforgiving nature of time will not allow me to go back and give it another go. Also over my 13+ years here at Blaise, I have grown close to people such as Dave Desnoyers, Charlie Angell, Jerry Patterson, David Blackburn and many others that have been promoted to heaven and then there are others such as Dean and Jerri Ann Sain, Alex and Lindsay Sain, the Ried family, Chris and Susan Varnier and Rod and Janice Petroff and many more that have moved through Blaise to serve the wonderful cause of Christ which certainly makes us happy but another sense there is a loss, a void that is difficult for our flesh to overcome even if all is for good reasons. ……..During the months leading up to my white-flag surrender on Feb. 14 I consoled myself occasionally with the thought that this will soon pass. I know many others that have had similar situations and they made it through. In November of last year, unbeknownst to my wife or anyone else I went to my doctor. When he asked what was wrong I simply stated, “I am mad. All the time….anxious and weary---I just want to run and hide.” He said this is not unusual for a male in his mid-40’s and yada yada yada and prescribed an anti-depressant, Wellbutrin. It did take the edge off after a while and my family says there was a difference. I really could not tell. All the other drugs I had experienced prior to my salvation evidenced their effect much quicker! But the inner burning rage was still there----though I was more able to contain it. However, when someone would tell me about Fred and Wilma have marital problems, or one of our youth compromising their testimony, my chest would hurt and the anger would rise and I would feel like saying, “I don’t care.” I felt as though people expected me to fix everything… marriages, children, schedules, pick up the trash, unlock the doors and provide the food for it as well. Now please understand, I am being brutally and uncomfortably honest with you, this is how it all seemed, it was not the way it really was, it is only how it seemed through my pride, insecurities and fearful disposition. All this time I am not really communicating with anyone. On Sunday Feb. 14 in the afternoon, I reached my limit. I could not stand what I believed to be the hypocrisy of it and the damage that I was doing to my wife, children and our church. I cannot help but wonder how much my pride has hindered the effectiveness of the ministry of Blaise Baptist over the past 18 months. So I called Jeremy and Pastor Timothy and told them what was happening. They along with the deacons understood and offered guidance and support that made it possible for me to Fairhaven, a retreat center that caters to vocational ministers. I really did not care if I got fired. All I knew is that I needed some help and I could not get it in this environment. I equated it to drowning. And a drowning man doesn’t ask for permission to breathe.

At Fairhaven, I found the conditions I needed to regain my balance and strength.

1. Quiet
2. Counseling
3. Rest

Now this pretty well sums it up. I used the quiet to pray, read, sing, exercise and imbibe God’s Word in a different manner than before. I used the counseling to help me see God’s perspective on my condition and to help me restore what I had damaged in my marriage and other relationships and the rest helped me regain my strength and stamina to stay in the good fight.

This is where I stayed for 5 weeks. With the support of my wife, children, co-laborers and friends I was able to just simply focus on my relationship with Jesus Christ. There were some painful moments, some restless nights, some doubts, some fears and some moments of sorrow but I feel as though I was able to get my spiritual feet back under me, though I must admit that I haven’t as of yet been able to find my stride since returning.

I still struggle with confidence------- a healthy confidence that comes from knowing that you are doing God’s will not the confidence that comes from not caring or arrogance. This is a most frustrating condition because in the past I have never lacked confidence. Once convinced of God’s will I could forge onward over any obstacle or opposition with little to know reservations. If I was convinced that I was doing God’s will in a matter whether planning an event or confronting a youth, if someone got offended or it did not seem to go as planned I just resigned it all to being God’s will. I still believe this to be a valid and necessary practical theology in order for the kingdom to advance. I am just struggling with confidence concerning my knowledge of God’s will for me specifically.

I still have bouts of anxiety. Not fearful anxiety but the kind that comes from feeling as though everything is out my control. God has shown me that pride is the source of my anxiety. I must be in control or at least feel as though the person in control thinks like I do. Because if I think that is the way it should be, it must be right, right?

And you will forgive me if I seem distant or detached for a season. I am still trying to make some serious decisions about how to best distribute my personal and internal resources. I cannot be all things to all people. I would love to be but I can’t so at present I am trying to learn to say “no” to things that are outside of my realm and “yes” to what is within my capabilities and what the church should expect of me based on my job description. What may seem clear to you is not so clear to me at times. On our staff we each handle many things outside of our expertise or reasonable expectation at times. I am not a multi-tasker. I have a one-track mind. I make a check list then start plowing through it in order, one thing at a time. That is who I am----when I keep trying to spin several plates at a time inevitably they all hit the ground. However, I do not consider this a weakness but a strength that must be cultivated and rightly understood. Most people can only do one thing very well and a couple of things well. I am not seeking to do less labor but more spiritually productive labor.

All the while my wife and daughters are by my side but shouldering a heavy load. I had become so emotionally detached that I could not sense there frustrations, hurts and needs. I had to get all these things headed in the right direction or resign from ministry.

During my time at Fairhaven, I dug into Scripture as well many other rich writings. The Practice of His Presence, The Rest of God, Dark Night of the Soul, Absolute Surrender, and the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis from the early 1400’s are only a few of the extra-biblical writings that I gave good attention to while away.

But I mostly endeavored to memorize scripture, scripture that seemed to speak to my particular situation. I was struck by how many of the Psalms were written from or for a situation like unto mine. Psalm 4 and Psalm 13 particularly. So I committed them to memory and willed myself to meditate upon them day and night. I found a structure within them that helped me to make sense of my inner turmoil. Turn with me to the Psalm 13 and let me walk you through how God uses His Word to address our needs in such matters.

Psalm 13:1-2
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
I. Grief, sorrow and anxiety are a natural part of the human experience. V1-2
Jesus in the garden, Jeremiah in a well, Daniel in a lion’s den, Hebrew children in a furnace, David in the shadow of the valley of death, Moses’ 40 years in the wilderness, Elijah by the brook Cherith, and on and on the Bible is filled with accounts of those that found no solace here in this world. I am convinced that this stage of life depression is a God-given mechanism to deepen our love for Him by heightening our desire for Him. In our grief we learn to respond to God according to His promises and not according to our feelings. There were some days that I simply cried all day long, it was pitiful but I clung to His promise that He has a good purpose for my life and He will be glorified through it. David was missing the feeling that God was present with him. He longed for the fellowship of God that he had known through the years prior. He yearned earnestly for God’s favor to shine upon him. All his spiritual senses were heightened and anxious for God. We live in a world of pain, sorrow, grief, despair, violence and hostility. We are foolish to think that we can be happy all the day. But we try to make ourselves happy by fulfilling the lust of the flesh for things or money or sex or drugs or some escape that takes our mind temporarily off the problems. These negative situations will always exist in this world but it is OK. God has a plan. A good plan. Jesus stated in John 16:33, “That in this world we wil have trouble and tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We need not dodge the heavy, burdensome and painful part of life but rather cast them upon One that is altogether sufficient to carry the load.
Psalm 13:3-4
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
II. Good theology is absolutely necessary to enduring and overcoming in the difficult times. V3-4
David states, “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God.” There is no indication that David looked in any other direction for help in his despair. “Enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” David knew where life came from. And he knew where true, real and lasting joy came from. This became my prayer. “Lord, put the sparkle back in my eye or let me die.” David knew that if there is any life anywhere, whether in the cosmos or our universe or in me, it is because God had issued it. If we do not take time to know what God teaches about His nature, our condition, His presence, our hope, where He is and what He is doing and how we can attain to him by faith through the cross of Jesus Christ and 1000’s of other heart consoling truths we will never have anymore faith than our feelings will allow us to have. Which is why many so-called believers have turn to walk with Him no longer . (Jn 6:66) Our feelings say, watch TV and relax and forget about it for a while. Don’t talk about it and it will go away eventually. Feelings lead people into adultress relationships and other immoralities that offer no real solutions rather they complicate the spiritual drift. In other words David called out to God-----to whom or to what do you call out to, alcohol, drugs, movies or sex. Our modern media culture has hindered our minds in unfathomable ways; shortened attention spans, diminished grasp of language and vocabulary, ability to comprehend abstractions and blurring of the line between childhood and adulthood are the effect modern media has on our minds. As a result, no one reads anymore. As a result, no one can sit still long enough to really learn, Teachers and preachers are compelled to work harder at keeping peoples attention than communicating a truth in a clear fashion. You can only be an over-comer in spiritually dark and dismal periods if you are grounded in good practical theology. Jesus says be of good cheer I have overcome the world…………If you believe this then it means you learned it, if you learned it, it means you read or heard it. If you heard it or read it, this means that you gave attention to what God says about your human condition and you are willing to practice it in spite of your feelings to the contrary. This is moving from the milk of the word to the meat.
Psalm 13:5-6
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
III. Deeper gratitude and overwhelming grace can be the product of these dark nights of the soul.
I could not help but be overwhelmed with gratitude after I realized where God was this whole time. He was and is right here with me. I did not feel it so I became anxious. But he is growing me into a person that need not feel it, only believe it. I cannot sing a lick but God doesn’t know that…….He hears my feeble broken songs…….I am the product of His GRACE. I have done nothing worthy to merit any of God’s favor but I have trusted in Jesus for salvation and thereby am privy to all that is His as the Son of God.
Gratitude springs out of our faith. We can only be grateful when we know that we do not deserve our blessings and we did not create them. And to some degree, gratitude is a suspension of cynicism—a faith in the person doing the good deed. As gratitude relates to our relationship to the Lord, it is a faith that God is good—that He is in control—and what He is doing in our life is good.
How might God use this feeble, broken state to glorify His name? This story from Spurgeon’s treatise on grace may help us to understand.
A certain man placed a fountain by the wayside, and he hung up a cup near to it by a little chain. He was told some time after that a great art-critic had found much fault with its design. “But,” said he, “do many thirsty persons drink at it?” Then they told him that thousands of poor people, men, women, and children, slaked their thirst at this fountain; and he smiled and said, that he was little troubled by the critic’s observation, only he hoped that on some sultry summer’s day the critic himself might fill the cup, and he refreshed, and praise the name of the Lord.
Here is my fountain, here is my cup: find fault if you please; but do not deny yourself a drink of the water of life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Great King of Grace!

"The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah! Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death." Psalms 68:17-20 (ESV)

Of this passage Spurgeon writes:

"Great King of grace, my heart subdue
I would be led in triumph too;
As a willing captive to my LORD
That I may own the conquests of His Word."


Have you thought about the great need that we have day upon day for grace? It is no small matter that the Lord daily bears us up. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, it is a fact. I have been stricken in my soul recently with a seriously weakening malady. It is difficult to describe. My best effort is that I am absolutely discontent with the state of my inner man. I have been vexed night after night with thoughts of missed opportunities, spiritual barrenness, spinning anxiety and emotional confusion. It is burdensome after a long period. Real rest will not come in this state. I needed to hear His still small voice, somehow amidst the crashing surf. After some determined rest and vital "cave" time with God, I heard it. It was in His Word. He had never left me, rather He is the One that set my course toward this storm of the soul. If God removes His protective hand but for a moment from our lives we shall spin out of control, despairing, cast down in our souls. It is the Lord that lifts us up, moment to moment. Now I know, better than ever, Who it is that bears us up daily. Oh to know Him more, this Great King of Grace!