Ripe For Picking!

As I came down my driveway this week I noticed the blackberry briars by the pond were covered in berries. My mind began to reminisce of blackberry cobbler, blackberry jelly, blackberry syrup, blackberry… Oh I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, as I looked at them from the truck it appeared that there were so many ripe berries that I could easily pick a gallon after supper. That would be enough for a cobbler and two pints of jelly.

After supper reality set in as I began picking. The ripe berries I saw from the road were not as plentiful upon closer inspection. I would carefully begin picking only the best berries and then realize that there were more ripe berries just out of my reach. So I carefully moved through the thorns to the “better” location only to find that were not as many berries as I had thought. As I moved around this patch of briars looking for the best I saw the mother load of blackberries! It was right where I first began picking. I thought, How could I have missed all those perfectly ripe berries? Did they ripen after I left? I went back an stood right where I started and looked for them but I couldn’t see them until I pulled back the leaves.

You see, if you are going to get all the best berries you’re going to have to pull back some leaves and branches. Blackberries don’t move, they just stay right where God put them. The outer berries are easy to see and pick, but that’s just the beginning of the harvest. The sweetest grow in the shade.

And so it is with the Bible. The truth is right there in front of us, and much of it visible and easily accessible. How ever there is much that goes unseen because we don’t study for a fuller understanding. Much like blackberries the sweeter fruit grows in the shade of the leaves. Sometimes its not until we are reading another passage that a previous verse is brought into light.

Many people take one verse or one phrase and thank they have all God has to offer. This is just laziness seeking low hanging fruit. One passage will never fill your berry bucket up and feed you a cobbler. We must carefully study all the Bible in context. God has blessed us with a bountiful harvest, but it will not be enjoyed by the lazy.

VBS Treason

It is clearly Vacation Bible School season in the south. Social media is filled with invites and accounts of each church’s VBS program. I have always been amazed at the time, energy and cold hard cash churches invest in this one week affair. It seems to be a contest to see which church is first, has the biggest or the most unique VBS.

I am not anti VBS, I think it can be a healthy program for the church in the summer months. The problem with VBS is that is has become a sacred right that is required in Evangelical churches. Over the years VBS has become big business and churches will spare no expense to have the latest greatest. Or they will spend countless hours making the decor by hand.

Let me ask you few a questions about VBS, Could it be we majored on the minor and minor on the major? Are crafts and games needed every night to teach kids the Bible? Or are they only needed to draw a crowd?

Allow me to illustrate, the 12×8 inch match stick cross that I made in VBS when I was 8 years old still hangs in my moms kitchen. It consist of about 150 burnt match sticks that some adult struck and blew out and not for me only but for 100 other kids as well. That was a cheap craft but how long did they spend preparing those 1500 matches? To be honest, I don’t remember a single VBS lesson. I remember a few water balloon fights, starfish sandwiches, and making a bead bracelet. VBS was just a fun time.

Churches tout every kind of stat on VBS to justify the expense of it. Stats like enrollment, average each night, workers present, commencement attendance, who gave the most spare change, who did and didn’t get a pie in the face, and how many got saved. Why do we still call this a Bible School?

Those who benefit most from VBS are the publishers, Oriental Trading Co, and parents who just want a free babysitter. I know this is Baptist treason and I run the risk of being classified as the VBS Nazi but VBS is out of control. When a church spends more time decorating, crafting, gaming, snacking and teaching sign language to songs than they do teaching the Bible, it’s not a Bible School, it’s just a Vacation. Vacations are great and everybody needs one, but a church shouldn’t pay for it.

The Ups and Downs Of Ministry

The office of pastor carries with it a number of joys and sorrows that are not typically experienced in any other walk of life. This is uniquely seen in the regular preaching two or three times each week to the same people. This sustained ministry of the Word forces the minister to live with the results of his ministry. In other words, he has to live among those he has taught.

The sorrow comes when warnings are proclaimed from Scripture but not heeded by the congregation. Sometimes his counsel or a message is even despised, and some people ultimately leave the church over it. The pastor has no option but to watch the out come and offer to help pick up the broken pieces if their life choice doesn’t work out. What makes this so saddening is the fact that many personal, family, and church problems are preventable if we will simply pray and seek to mold our lives to Scripture.

The joy comes from delivering God’s Word on a regular basis and then hearing someone tell of how that teaching or counsel helped them. On any given Sunday even the worst of preachers are told “that was a good message” or “great sermon today” by many good folks in the church. Real lasting joy never comes from preaching a good message or getting a lot of compliments. It comes from seeing lives changed by God’s Word.

Let me explain, Jeremiah was an excellent preacher and faithful to declare all that God had told him. He even acted it out and painted a crystal clear picture for Israel. But no one responded to God’s commands. They hated him and he wanted to quit. You all know the story, he couldn’t stop, the Word was in his heart and it was like a fire in his bones. So he went on preaching but remained weary and sad.

With out giving you all the details, I’ll just say, I’ve carried a lot of this kind of sorrow of late. But it is not all doom and gloom. I have personally heard of quite a few accounts lately where a sermon was brought to someone’s mind in a time of need. Actions were altered, eyes were opened, troubles were avoided, and answers were found. In other words, God is changing lives at Lee Creek. That has been a wonderful source of encouragement to me. I praise God for it and pray that it will continue.