God’s blessings

I find myself thinking about the many blessings God gives to us to help us in our walk, in our life, as we go through things we would not otherwise go through unscathed.

Just as 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

(and my initial thought to posting that verse here is “boy, I sure do goof that up sometimes”)

We can be assured that God is with us and sends those blessings to help us along the way.

I’ve done some belief-flopping in my life. I used to believe things which I adamantly oppose now, doctrinally speaking. My intent is not to speak as if I have my act together or that my belief system has reached some sort of “belief enlightenment” – so please don’t read this presuming arrogance on my part.

I did used to believe such a self-centered belief system, that I look back upon it in shame. It was all about what God would do for me, would deliver me from, would bless me with, would cause me to prosper and be promoted, etc. etc. I believed that I would get the first parking spot, would not suffer financially, etc. I was caught up in many beliefs like that.

Why did I substitute things that were temporary for things that were eternal?

What is eternal in nature?

I believe:

People

Worship

The Kingdom of God (this covers many things which could be expounded upon, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to be blasphemous and include it all on this one line)

As I was able to spend time with the *wonderful* people in Zimbabwe, I realized that it was time well spent. Certainly much, much better time than what I invest into sometimes over here in the states.

I was reminded yesterday of the many blessings that God has put in my life over the years. I was able to spend time with a friend I haven’t seen since I was in my early 20s. We were able to reminisce and I came to the realization (if I had not already arrived at it) that God puts people in our lives for seasons. It’s not that they are no longer friends when geography or life situations separate the closeness. In fact, that’s what we kept saying yesterday – a friend is someone who you could not see for 10 or 20 years, and could pick up right where you left off.

I was blessed to have one of those in Bay Minette. I was blessed to have 1 in Mobile. I was blessed beyond blessed to have 2 of those in Ohio, if not 3. I am related to many people, but I consider a few on both sides to be much more than a blood or marriage relative. I’m married to one of those people. It takes time to discover these folks. I haven’t found one yet here in Florida, but I’m sure there’s one. A friendship like that doesn’t form overnight, but it never ends. And my life has been deeply and richly blessed by the time and influence these half-a-dozen or so people have had upon my life. They have profoundly influenced my choices, my thinking, and my reactions during struggles. And so today, after spending time with one of those folks yesterday, I am thankful all-over-again for the way God puts people in our lives to help us through life – and again, I refer to the Corinthians passage as an example of how people can help others.

These folks aren’t all my age, my gender, or as good-looking as I am (haha!). But they all share the common fact that they know me – I mean, they truly know me. And instead of counting my flaws as something to criticize, they seem to love me more because of the intimacy of our friendship (NOT romantic intimacy).

I always say about my friends in Ohio – if I drove up there and asked for a hamburger you could only get a few hours away, they’d crank up the vehicle, and they’d take me to go get it. I don’t know why food comes as my obvious example. That’s another posting. Haha again.

Who do you have in your life? Do you take them for granted? I look back at how I may have taken some friends for granted, and even now do so. Let us recognize them for who they are – God-sent humans in angel disguises sent to help us through life, and to have a mutual effect upon each other to draw us close to the Giver of such blessings.

As this was a sappy post, I’m going to talk about something that has to do with violence, conflict, war, or American politics next time so that I can restore the correct testosterone balance in my system.

-Pastor Harvey

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Hurricanes I’ve survived

With a weak tropical system lurking out in the gulf, I though I’d recount some of the notable storms I’ve been through! Since I’m a closet storm chaser/meteorologist and many folks chuckle at my passion for weather, it just reminds me how big and awesome God is and how creation can attest to Him. So rather than try to hide it, I’m going to embrace my inner weather nerd now.

So, my TOP 5!

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Hurricane Frederic, 1979

Probably the most destructive of the hurricanes I’ve endured. I was 3 and our family evacuated to Montgomery. Our house was ok but the church Dad pastored was totally destroyed. Our house/church were at the center of this storm. We lived in Daphne, AL.

 

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Hurricane Gloria, 1985

Even though I lived many years in L.A., we were in a church in Edenton, NC on the Albemarle sound from ’84 – ’87. During that time, this was one of several storms we had, but by far the worst. I remember staying in our church all night long and it was scary!

 

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Hurricane Erin, 1995

This was the first of 2 storms that had a major impact on southern Alabama in 1995 – yes, 2 in one year! This one particularly was rough as I remember it even though it wasn’t particularly an intense hurricane – it just went pretty much right over our head. I lived in Bay Minette, AL.

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Hurricane Opal, 1995

After Erin, everyone was pretty jumpy when Opal came around. They both ended up going into FL worse than where we were in AL (which by coincidence, I live in Ft Walton Beach now!). As I recall, the hurricane shelter was full in Bay Minette but it never got as bad as anticipated, and most folks did not stay overnight. It was still a real scary situation. We thought were were going to get a CAT 3 or 4 head on.

 

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Hurricane Ike, 2008

We lived in Waynesville, Ohio.

Seriously!

This storm came way way way inland from the gulf, did something weird, and we ended up getting sustained CAT 1 winds in the MIDDLE of the midwest for several hours! We had widespread damage and lost power for the better part of a WEEK. That’s more than any other hurricane I’d ever been in except for Frederic.

We had to keep baby milk in the neighbor’s fridge because they had a generator.

The weirdest thing? It was sunny!

This video shows the SW Ohio impact from Ike :

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a Christian?

As I mentioned earlier, there are doctrines that are considered essential to the Christian faith. There are also cases where some beliefs, if embraced, are contrary to the Christian faith.

Back in one of my seminary courses – apologetics, I believe, I was exposed to a website I’ve used over the years. It is entitled “Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry” and is from a gentleman named Matthew Slick. I have some denominational-belief-related differences with him occasionally but I’ve always found him to be solid on his core stuff. Anyways, the following is from his website at http://www.carm.org and his from an article entitled “Yes, there are essential Christian Doctrines” which can be located in its entirety here.

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Primary Essentials

  1. The Deity of Christ
    1. John 8:24, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
      1. This is where Jesus clearly taught what you cannot deny and you must affirm.
    2. Jesus is God in flesh (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). See also John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8
  2. Salvation by Grace
    1. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace,” (Gal. 5:4).
    2. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).
      1. Both these verses show salvation is by grace through faith, not by works and that to add works is to not be saved.
  3. The Resurrection of Christ
    1. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (1 Cor. 15:14). “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” (1 Cor. 15:17).
      1. These verses clearly state that if you say that Jesus did not rise from the dead in the same body He died in as he prophesied in John 2:19-21, then your faith is useless.
  4. The Gospel
    1. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV).
    2. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 defines what the gospel is: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
  5. Monotheism
    1. There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)
    2. “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments,”  (Exodus 20:3-6).
      1. We can see that God will visit iniquity on the descendents of those who do not follow the true and living God.

Secondary Essentials

Secondary essentials are likewise necessary truths, but there is no self-declared penalty for their denial — yet they are still essential to the Christian faith.  Again, by way of example, Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him, (John 14:6).  I call this a secondary essential because there’s no penalty associated with its denial.  Nevertheless, it is a statement of absolute truth and is an essential Christian teaching that cannot be denied.

  1. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    1. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me,'” (John 14:6)
      1. Jesus declared that he was the only access to God the Father.  To deny this is to deny what Jesus said.
  2. Jesus’ virgin birth
    1. “’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us,’” (Matt. 1:23).
      1. Without the virgin birth, we cannot substantiate the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus being God in flesh.  This would put at risk what Jesus said above in John 8:24, where he said, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  3. Doctrine of the Trinity
    1. Matt. 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”  (See also, Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6.)
    2. This doctrine is not represented by a single verse per se, though it is hinted at.  The doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at systematically by looking at the totality of Scripture.  It is, nevertheless, the proper representation of scriptural revelation concerning the nature of God.

Our faith is only as good as who we put it in. There are false teachers who redefine God, redefine Christ, and redefine the gospel to their own destruction. Jesus warned us about false Christs and false teachers in Matt. 24:24.  Paul clearly said in Galatians 1:8 that anyone who preaches a false gospel is to be cursed.  Therefore, we can see from Scripture that there are doctrinal/propositional truths we cannot avoid and that these truths cannot be governed by experience and/or the ambivalence of emerging “conversation”. If that were the case, we would not need the propositional truths given to us by God in the Bible.

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Of course, as a Southern Baptist, I would always encourage members of my own church and/or denomination to refer to the Baptist Faith and Message for a concise listing of core doctrines and beliefs. You can find that here.