One of the worst short comings of our society today is a lack of faithfulness. I’m not just talking about within the church. A casual look at how many kids start college and how many finish will easily prove this to be true. Employment records tell of many people who lost their jobs for simply not showing up or consistent tardiness. Marriages all to often end because of the unfaithfulness of a spouse. The kids also suffer from their parents lack of faithfulness and the next generation is raised to see it as an acceptable practice that everyone does. While their are legitimate reasons to quit school, miss work, arrive late and even divorce. This should never happen simply because of a lack of effort on our part.

Now I want to look at an underlying cause of unfaithfulness. I think it can be traced directly back to selfishness. Allow me to demonstrate, selfishness occurs when what we want becomes more important than what we have already committed ourselves to do. I’ll grant you that we wouldn’t word it that way ourselves, we’ll say something like this: “It’s to nice of a day to spend it at work.” “I’m going to enjoy tonight and pay for it at work tomorrow.” “Right now I want to ____, because I can finish school anytime.” “Nobody should have to endure what I’m dealing with in my marriage.” Did you notice how in each sentence the justification for breaking a commitment came from their personal feelings at the time? We can’t call ourselves faithful when we are only faithful when we feel like it. Faithfulness requires a commitment that exceeds all other desires old and new.

Time was when a man worked his entire life for one company, completed his commitments or died trying, and divorce was a rarity instead of a common occurrence. During this time people borrowed money on a hand shake and children were taught that a man’s word was his bond. What has happened to us?

Our current state of emotions have prevailed over commitments we’ve made with a clear head and a sound mind. We as a society have traded rational decisions for the fleeting moment. As if we might miss something if we continue in the drudgery of a promise we made in the past. The grass ain’t greener, and we aren’t missing anything. By keeping our word, we are demonstrating integrity, modeling true character, and carrying on an almost lost trait from the past.

As a Christian we are showing others to some degree the faithfulness that Christ has shown us. He never quit on us when we were not all that we should’ve been. He never yielded to emotions in his commitment to us. Of all the people on the planet to demonstrate faithfulness, shouldn’t Christians be the best at it? We are the recipients of His faithfulness and the world deserves to see it lived out in our lives.

Biblical Answers To Honest Questions

One morning as I was drinking coffee an acquaintance said “Reverend, I’ve got a question…” I guess I need to give a little background here, I’m the only preacher many of the coffee shop guys have a personal relationship with so they save their “preacher questions” for me and it’s not uncommon for a conversation to start this way. What made this conversation so unique was in being around him off and on for 5-6 years he had never asked me a preacher question before.

Now about his question(s), “How can God be so good and allow what happened to Adam, when ate the apple, to effect us all?” “I mean because of what Adam did we have cancer, suffering, pain and death. Now if God controls everything and he allowed this to happen and now spread to us, how is He good?” My immediate reply was that God provided a solution to the problem in the person of Jesus Christ. We can escape the sin nature of Adam. There, problem solved! Or so I thought…

“Well preacher, why did God put us through all this?” For starters, God didn’t, Adam did. Now because Adam got us in this mess, God can show his goodness by getting us out. “Why did He let Satan loose on the earth, if your God is so good?” I would say to be merciful to Satan. Satan is out on parole, he wasn’t immediately cast in to Hell as he deserved. God mercifully allowed him to roam the Earth.

“So God was merciful to Satan at our expense, now were all going to die!” Yes, but we only have to die once. Those who embrace the solution to Adam’s problem (Christ) will live again. Satan doesn’t have that option, his fate is sure. “Satan caused the deaths of a lot of innocent children who had nothing to do with it!” Yes, but those who die innocent will live for ever with God. Isn’t heaven better than Earth? And hasn’t God provided a way for us to be with Him and them forever?

“Yeah, yeah, Jesus… If you believe in him.” Well, if you believe in Adam and the “apple” why do you struggle with believing in Christ? “That’s just it, only parts of the Bible are true, and parts ain’t. It was written by men and some were smart and some weren’t.” So by what standard do we judge the accuracy of the Scriptures? How do we know which parts to believe and which parts to reject? “By our own personal experiences. I’ve been dealing with people for years and I know how they are and I know what parts of the Bible are right about that.” So you have set your self up as the judge of God’s Word. To be perfectly honest with you, you’re more upset with the Cure than your own condition. “Prove the Bible is all true and I’ll believe it.” I can’t, and you won’t. The bible is a spiritual book and only spiritual people believe it. I cant force you to be spiritual. “No you can’t.” But God can, and until then our conversation is futile? “I believe that!” We still friends? “Of course.”

A Unique Mission

On February 23rd I preached in the annual missions conference at Indian Baptist Church in Smithville, OK. I have preached in this meeting for the last 4-5 years and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of missionaries during this time. This year was no different, but as I began to visit Cecil Fayard from Ocean Springs, MS I soon discovered that his mission was very different. Cecil ministers to sailors from around the world on ships that dock in the ports around Mobile, AL.

What makes his ministry so unique is that the people he’s trying to reach actually come to him. They stay anywhere from a day to a month depending on the the cargo they are loading and if their ship needs any repairs. Cecil told me the ships carry anywhere from thirteen to one hundred and fifty seafarers in the crew. These guys spend up to 6 months at a time away from home working 12 hour shifts seven day a week. So they are always ready to see a new face. If they have a US visa they can leave the ship and Cecil drives them wherever they need to go in his old church van. In the back of this van he hauls Bibles, Christian literature, and tracts in forty one different languages to give the guys aboard the ships. To date he has shared the gospel with people from over 50 different countries while never leaving the United States. His slogan is “The best export America can have is the gospel.”

Cecil does travel around the southern coast to other ports from Pensacola to New Orleans as time permits. About once a year he flies to the Dominican Republic to train pastors there in a ship to shore port ministry. Unlike many missionaries, most of the people he engages want reading material and have time to read it. After five years in this work he has begun to encounter people he met years earlier. Many still have the Bible he gave them. Others will ask questions they’ve thought of since their previous conversation. Many times Cecil is the only Christian they know and they may only see him once or twice a year at most.

After hearing of his work, I knew we needed to support this worthy cause. Missions are expensive, flying a family around the world, visas and passports, training them in language and culture, and securing a home or meeting space can cost a fortune. The port ministry is relatively cheap in comparison. Cecil has all his US Customs credentials to board ships in the port, which is only 10 minutes from his home. Since English is the language of the seas, he only needs transportation and tons of literature on top of his normal living expenses to reach thousands of people around the globe. He said if we are ever around Mobile, AL to give him a call and he would be glad to take us with him any day as he shares the gospel with these sailors. Please pray for him and consider giving to his ministry this month.

A Better Way To Do Mission Trips

Although I have been critical of the modern idea called short term mission trips, I would like to offer some better alternatives that accomplish the same purpose. I am not saying that it is wrong for you take a short trip to do mission work, I am saying it is wrong for you to take a vacation and call it a mission trip. So why not be honest about it? “We are taking a vacation and while we are there we’re going to spend a day or two helping a missionary with his work.” This is better than asking other Christians to pay for your vacation, but it means you’ll have to pay your own way. If this is something that would be of interest to you, let me know. I know of men and churches in almost every state that might need a hand.

Another alternative is to acquaint yourself with some individual missionaries. Get to know them on a personal level and keep up to date with them thru social media, email, and letters. By doing this you will be informed of their needs and accomplishments. This will allow you to pray more specifically for them and will make you aware of how you can be of help to them. Many times these ministries don’t need a team from another part of the world to come and help them. They need someone who can proof read literature before printing, do graphic designs or letter heads, stuff envelopes, gather books and ship them, research new demographics and resources. All of this can be done from your living room or over the internet.

Let us not forget the most important need, money. No one likes to talk about it and most missionaries hate to ask for it. But they can’t live on love and coconuts. I have never met an honest missionary that was well funded for the work he was called to to do. Most of these men make great sacrifices to to go to the places God has called them. So rather than spending the equivalent of a month of their household income on your 5 day trip, send them the cost of the trip. O, I know it ain’t as fun to give away money as it is to go on an adventure. But, is it about your adventure or missions? Refer to paragraph one. If that is your motive call it a vacation and be honest about it.

There are occasions when a group is needed for a short time to accomplish a certain task, usually for construction. These trips are needed but they are not the norm and carpenters would be high on the list of those who need to go.

To sum up this issue let me say there is more to missions than fun trips in the summer. Most mission work is tiring and often boring. It’s not glamorous or fun. Most of a missionary’s supporting needs can be met by people who work a regular job and never leave their home town. You just have to take an interest mission. So I encourage you to get involved with a missionary and help him wherever you can.

More On Mission Trips

Last week I wrote about modern mission trips and I really didn’t have the space to cover all that I felt needed to be said on this topic. So want to touch on a few of the other issues with this relatively modern idea of missions.

First off let us think of who’s going on these trips. Most churches plan mission trips for the youth group. We get flyers in the mail all the time advertising preplanned mission trips for our church’s youth group. This may shock you but I am not a fan of sending teenagers to do mission work. I know a thing or two about youth group mission trips because I took a couple trips to Mexico in my youth. I regularly see youth during the summer eating at McDonald’s or Wendy’s on their way to a “mission field.” They are raucous, loud and very inconsiderate of everyone in the restaurant. Boyfriend and girlfriend are all snuggled up together eating as the youth leader’s little boy is throwing a temper tantrum wanting the prize from his happy meal while all the rest run wild. Does this look like the face of Christianity? Should churches sacrificially give to send these kids out with our message? Are teenagers the best heralds of the gospel? Maybe I’m too judgmental?

In Act 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas split up over taking John Mark on a second mission trip because he went home early on the last trip. This should give us some idea of the seriousness of who goes on a mission trip. Couple this with the length of the modern mission trip only being 5-9 days. How much impact can one truly have in a week? Oh and I forgot to mention part of that “week of missions” will be spent sight seeing with a full day at Six Flags. Can you imagine any missionary from past generations wanting this kind of help? What church of yesteryear would send people on a vacation/mission trip? None of them would. But this is the standard operating procedure of churches in our day.

Now the argument against my position is that these trips are good for the kids and they really grow while away from the church and home. You know? Being away from home with other kids makes them more mature when they come back. Bologna! The Bible tells us the youth are to grow and learn by being in the home and church. How can taking them away from those God given institutions be to their benefit? To be honest, it only makes a boring church more fun to go on trips with your friends once or twice a year. I never cared for Scouts but I loved going to Camp Orr every year so I stayed in just for that. Many young people are only interested in church for the fun activities. When they out grow the fun, they out grow the church. Missions are not intended to be fun for kids, they are for the spreading of the gospel! Pray that churches would take missions seriously. ~HWS

Modern Mission Trips

I normally write this little article on Thursday of each week. During the week an issue will come up and I use this space to shed a little light on the topic. This week I was rolling some issues around and couldn’t decide on just one so I put it off till Sunday morning. My mind was settled when I checked the mail this morning. I was invited to go on a mission trip to a country half way around the world!

Yeah, and it will only cost me $3000 plus shots, a passport and visas. I would be joining a team from Arkansas and working with a team from that country to: run a medical clinic, train church leaders, lead in singing/worship and prayer walk. Well, I’m no doctor and I’m a terrible nurse so that’s out. I can’t sing or play an instrument and they all speak a different language anyway so that’s out. Prayer walking… Now that needs it’s own paragraph.

What in the world is that? Where do we find it in Scripture? The walls of Jericho? I’m not an expert on all things Bible but I had never heard of this until about ten years ago and now every mission trip is doing it. I observed it a few times at church camp, a group of people walking to all the dorms stopping and praying at each one before marching around the tabernacle in prayer. Isn’t this the exact same thing the Pharisees did on the street corners? “Oh no, we pray quietly as we walk, they prayed out loud.” Then why don’t you pray in private at home and send your $3000 to a needy missionary. If our prayers are truly aimed at heaven, then they will have no trouble reaching any part of the globe. This is just a modern idea to make everyone “qualified” for missions. I also firmly believe it has it’s roots in Pentecostalism and the need to touch and rebuke things in person.

It’s true, I could give some advice to church leaders over there. Truth is I already do, via the world wide web. I regularly correspond with missionaries discussing any number of issues they have. Our church has sent books and care packets to a number of native pastors for training and encouragement. While many have expressed a desire to see me face to face, if given the option, $3000 dollars would be of better use to them than seeing my ugly mug.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti mission trips. But mission trips are for missionaries. Missionaries don’t travel the world and risk their lives to play music, sing or prayer walk. They go to preach the gospel and aid the people. Paul would never use this kind of money to spend 4-5 days with someone. But we will, because we spend it on vacations every year. And that’s what it is, a religious vacation. I’m not judging all who go on these trips, but I am condemning the whole “mission trip” system. Christians have lost sight of real missions and we need to get it back.

Cash For Con Artist

If you live or work on the north side of Van Buren you can’t help but notice a guy standing at the intersection of I 40 and Hwy 59 holding a cardboard sign asking for help. This used to be an occasional sighting but for the past two or three weeks it has been a regular occurrence morning and evening. I’ve tried to take a good long look at them every time I go by. I have yet to see the same guy twice but I’ve seen the same car 3 times.

I saw a big suv parked across hwy 59, the beggar ran up to the car and gave the guy inside a big wad of cash. The suv drove off to Oklahoma and he went back to the corner with his sign. Later that week I saw the same car parked by the bulk ice machine right around the corner from where the guy was holding the sign. Then to top if off, Wednesday there was a guy sitting on the corner in a wheelchair with crutches and a sign asking for money. I thought to myself, how did he get to the I 40 exit ramp in that wheelchair? Later, as I was leaving Mcdonalds, I saw him pushing the wheelchair across the gravel parking lot up hill by the ice machine, fold up the chair and get in the same suv and leave. Was he miraculously healed?

No, he wasn’t healed, he’s a fake. They are all fake and they are part of a team that are scamming people by playing on our emotions. They have a sad story on their sign and many people feel sorry for them and want to help them. Friday evening there was a young couple in their early 20′s holding a baby and a cardboard sign asking for gas money in front of the gas station. Now ask yourself this, what mom would hold her baby on the side of hwy 59 where everyone could see it in January? What husband and father would ask his wife and newborn to come stand out here by the highway with him while he panhandles? If you or I were in that predicament, our wife and baby would be in the car or in the station. But then again we are honest people who don’t make a living cheating others out of their hard earned money with a fake story to prey on their emotions.

Why does this bother me? #1 Truly needy people can’t get help because of all these phonies. #2 I hate to see honest people cheated. #3 I have a low tolerance for liars. #4 The longer they make a living scamming people, the longer it will be before they learn to make an honest living. #5 People feel good about helping the poor but all they’ve really done is buy cigarettes and a bottle for a lying con man.

In a country with “now hiring” signs in the windows of businesses and financial assistance available to anyone who can’t work, who still has to stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign? Here’s a better question, who in their right mind gives money to these crooks? Be smart with your money, don’t fund a con artist.

Can I get a little help… every week?

This past week while in my office I answered 5-6 phone calls form random people wanting to know if our church helped with groceries, paid electric bills, or just gave money to people in need. Four of theses calls began with a long stories about all their problems and why they needed money from Lee Creek. I told them that we didn’t have the finances to give money out to everyone who called asking for help. Then I suggested that they check with the local government agencies that have funds to help folks in their situation. The response was the same every single time “We’ve already called them and they can’t help us anymore so we are calling around to different churches.”

That is the problem I want to talk about: “They can’t help us anymore.” Webster says the noun “help” means: the action of helping someone to do something; assistance. The problem is too many people are relying on short term help to overcome a long term problem. Quite simply, there’s more going out than coming in. When their “assistance” drys up they have no plan to overcome it. The easiest solution is to call on someone else to replace the assistance they lost. That’s where the church comes in. The government will no longer pay my bills, so lets see if the churches will. The local food bank cut back on our free groceries so let find a church to get free groceries. The electric company will no longer wait to be paid so lets ask a church for the money to pay this bill. Now let us assume the church pays the bill, gives the groceries, and hands out money to those that ask, where do they get the money for next month’s groceries and bills? None of these people lost jobs, they only lost assistance. Without someone else’s help they can’t make it.

How long can the church pay someone else’s bills? How long can the church buy groceries for others? I’ll answer these questions, until the church runs out of money. That is exactly what is happening, churches are running out of money. Two of these people told me that the churches that used to help them don’t have the funds anymore. They already receive all the government help they can get and now they don’t know where else to look.

I know where to look, its in the classifieds under the heading, Help Wanted. This is not the hand out section, its the hands on section. Instead of looking for a new church to help pay your bills, find a job and pay your own. I did try to tactfully suggest they look for employment. The ones who didn’t hang up on me gave a hundred reasons why they couldn’t work. Gov Scott Walker of WI summed up my feelings this week when he said “Public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock.” If you have no plans to work for more, learn to live on what you have.

The Dangers Of Debt

I want to take this space to recap a subject we covered last Wednesday night in Bible study. This one subject, in my personal opinion, has done more to crippled our country in the last 2-3 generations than anything else I know of. The subject is debt and we discussed the dangers of it given in Scripture. The reason its such a big deal is because we have such big debts these days. Sadly we are OK with it and think it’s normal. Its not OK and its not the norm. I gave some stats on American household debt and I can personally give them to you if do not realize that families today have more debt than ever before. It’s not just bigger houses and nicer cars. It’s lawn mowers, boats, furniture, vacations, even meals bought on credit cards.

But let me jump ahead to God’s view of debt. In Proverbs 17:18 and 22:26-27 the Bible says borrowing is “foolish” and that debt could cause to loose what you already own if you can’t pay it back. The Bible also says Debt makes us a slave in Prov 22:7. Almost every American is enslaved by debt and some more so than others. Now think about this verse: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You say “Oh preacher, that’s talking about greed not debt.” But I beg to differ, you work like you do because you owe like you do. Debt has enslaved your free money and required more of your time than you really want to admit. You can work because you want more or you can work because you’ve already spent more. You probably don’t realize your condition because you think everyone is in this condition, it’s normal.

Lets deal with idea of debt being “normal” for everyone. To be honest, you sound like a kid saying “everyone else is doing it.” Debt was designed to get us out of a temporary emergency, not a lifestyle. The generations before you didn’t live this way. The Bible says we are not to live this way. But the world says: “you need it now” “don’t wait” “only $99 down and $99* a month”*till death Before to long we miss church because we need the overtime. We can’t give to missions, we live paycheck to paycheck just paying bills. The next thing you know we can’t retire because we owe to much. Sounds culturally normal but biblically abnormal.

So what made us think we are supposed to pay bills for the rest of our life? The world we live in convinced us of that. God says “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” That is true freedom, your only payment this month is to love your fellow man. That may seem impossible, but it’s not. It may take some time, but everyone of us can get out of debt if we want to. I want you to be free to serve God and not your debts. ~HWS

Wise Counsel

While I have many doubts about the ability of President Elect Donald Trump to turn our country around, I have been truly pleased with most of the people he has chosen to surround himself with. Take for example his selection for secretary of defense Gen James Mattis. Here is a well qualified proven leader with an impeccable record of integrity. The same could be said of Senator Jeff Sessions, his pick for attorney general. These men aren’t loved by everyone, but who is? However, those who personally know them will admit they are valuable sources of information and administration. These men and a few others have given me a positive outlook on the next 4 years for our country.

Why do these supporting roles give me hope? Because they will have a positive influence on his administration. The people you surround yourself with can bring you up or down to the occasion. If our next President has the wisdom to seek wise counsel, and I believe he does, he will avoid many of the mistakes he would’ve made on his own or with weak advisors.

The same is true of the Christian. The influences in our lives will shape the decisions we make. Those decisions will account for the situations we find ourselves in the coming years ahead. If we go life alone or with worldly counsel, we are sure to make many mistakes. However, if we seek godly companions, enjoy fellowship in a strong church, and spend time in the Word of God, we will have a positive outlook on the years ahead.

While no amount of preparation can grantee we will never make mistakes or find ourselves in a tight spot from time to time. We should take steps to avoid the bad influences in our life and make an effort to surround of ourselves with wise counsel. Listen to the words of wisest man that ever lived, King Solomon taken from Proverbs 19:20-21.
Hear counsel, and receive instruction,
that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
There are many devices in a man*s heart;
nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.

Surround yourself with men who know God and you’ll avoid folly.