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Archive for March, 2007

Recently, a friend of mine posed the
question:  "What are valid expectations to have for a church
home?"

In trying to further describe her
situation, she went on to say:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I
love this little body of believers.  I love to pray for them.  They
are precious people.  I love the pastor who is a wonderful expositional
teacher and preacher.  But, there is no vision, no drive, no
passion.  While we love the proximity of this church, love the sweet
spirit of the congregation and the teaching of the pastor, there just seems to
be something missing.  I feel quite shallow in describing our little
church this way.  I keep telling myself that sound teaching should really
be enough.  Shouldn’t it?  Are my expectations out of whack?


Coming from a pastor’s family’s perspective, Spencer and I have never been through the
process of just "joining a church."  We always come to a church with the
mindset that we’ll "meet them where they’re at…help them change what needs changing…and help them fix
what needs fixing–  even if it takes years.  But "What if…"  I
wonder.  What if we were allowed to be as choosy as the typical lay
person.  What would be our “deal breakers?” 

So, in an effort to offer a little
advice for my friend, here is the list I’ve come up with:

1.  A Sound Pulpit–   For Spencer and me, this means expositional preaching and sound doctrine. Expositional preaching is
preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage,
carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation.  It is preaching that takes the point of the text as the point of the sermon. I could never bear to sit under a pastor who jumped from topic to topic each week. And Heaven forbid I had to sit under a pastor who read a passage of Scripture and then promptly closed his Bible to share humorous and touching anecdotes from his own life in twenty minutes or less. (Yes, I really read that last sentence as an advertisement for a nearby church!!)

2.  A church that believes in Lordship Salvation–
(rather than "Easy Believism.")   Praying “the Sinner’s Prayer” has become the Southern Baptist mantra. Salvation is not the result of a magic prayer— it is a transformation that takes place in the life of a repentant sinner who commits to following Jesus Christ. True salvation is evidenced in FRUIT. If you bear oranges, you are not an apple tree. You are an orange tree. In
the same way, a truly born again believer will bear good works. (James 2:18-19)

3.  A church with a heart for
REAL evangelism– 
For us, that means that
people (by and large) have a burning heart to win the lost. However, it does not mean they are to try and
cater to the culture to do so. As somebody
once says, “What you win them by is what you win them to.” Seeker methods such as fire-engine
baptistries
and “If you get 1,000 people here this Sunday, we’ll bring a horse
down the aisle!” are the sad result of a wrong view of evangelism and we would probably think twice before joining any church that used those kinds of methods. On the other hand, we are saddened by a cold hearted church where no one is doing anything to reach the lost! When no one in the church is willing to join the pastor for mid-week
visitation to share the Gospel– that
would be a red flag that we didn’t belong at that church. When the people of the church are not opening
their homes and sharing meals with their lost neighbors and friends, that would be a sure sign of a cold church too and we would think twice before joining.

4.  A Biblical Understanding of
Church Membership–
Over the years, we
have realized that many, many, many people view church membership as a privilege
or a status symbol rather than a responsibility. This is evidenced by little Bertha Mae who
has lived in Texas for the last twenty years but kept her church membership at her home church back in Arkansas.  (I guess she didn’t realize that  she was supposed to transfer her letter and plug into  a local body for the kingdom of God!)   

5.  A Church that practices
Church Discipline–
As John MacArthur
said, “A church that doesn’t practice church discipline isn’t a true church.” How can you say that a church loves it’s
sheep if it’s not willing to chase after the straying ones?  Love demands discipline.  (Matthew 18)

6.  A Church that is Committed
to Discipleship and Spiritual Growth–
My husband grew up in a church and the only sermon he heard, week after
week after week was “Get Saved, Get Saved, Get Saved.” As a result, by the time he reached the University of Arkansas, he was a weak and struggling Christian.  It wasn’t until he met up
with the Navigators and came under one-on-one discipleship that he started
flourishing as a Christian. Spencer and
I are committed to this practice and are committed to always having at least
one or two couples we are personally discipling. If we were lay people looking for a church,
we would want to see this kind of commitment from the leadership of the church
and hopefully, the entire congregation!

7.  A Plurality of Elders– I’ve been a Baptist all of my life, so I’m allowed to pick on them.  🙂  The Baptists suffer because they have
discarded this teaching on Biblical church leadership and expect one man (the pastor) to
lead the church all by himself. (Well,
actually, most don’t expect him to really "lead" at all. They expect the congregation to lead through a majority vote, at the
monthly business meeting.)  This kind of thinking has paralyzed many a Baptist church.  We are very thankful for groups like the Baptist Founders who are encouraging Southern Baptists to return to their historic, Biblical roots.

8.  God-Centered, Affectionate,
Lavish, Charismatic Worship–
 We would
desire a worship service led by a worship pastor who led us to worship in this
way. Christ shed his blood for us. How can people not be lavish in their
praise?  CLAP YOUR HANDS, all you peoples!  SHOUT TO GOD with a voice of triumph! 
(Psalm 47:1),   LIFT UP YOUR HANDS in the sanctuary and bless the Lord.  (Psalm 134:2) 

Well, I’m sure I’ve left something out.  But there they are–  eight deal breakers that would play into the decision making process of joining a church if we were lay people searching for a church.  After all of that, I know we would approach the pastor and say, "What is your vision?  How could we help you fulfill that vision?"  The answers to those questions would be considered somewhat diagnostic and would help us determine whether or not God was leading us to join that church.

Deal breakers.  I’ve listed a few.  What are yours?

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Yesterday I spoke to a small gathering of ladies in our church.  Christians and Books–  the Importance of the Written Word.  (And then I did book reviews on the four books I mentioned in my last post.)  I shared a few  ideas and tried to make the case for reading over other less worthy uses of our time.    One of which was that if a person would spend only fifteen minutes per day reading, that would calculate into twenty books per year or one-thousand books in a lifetime.  If we could only tear ourselves away from the darn television.

We are now living in a generation who would like a fit body,
but are quite content with a fat mind.

~Paul Guiness

Still–young moms, myself included, sometimes have trouble eeking out even a scant fifteen minutes a day.   One mom said to me, "The only books I get to read each are Dr. Seuss."  And I can relate to that.  I’m pretty sure that I have I am a Bunny memorized.  Seriously.  (Hi.  I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree.  Would you like for me to continue??) 

So, the number one question that I got hit with after I gave my talk yesterday was:  "How do you find time to read so many books?"    Mostly at night, in the ten minutes between the time my head hits the pillow and before I fall asleep.  But when I got home, I really got to thinking about my reading habits and how I plow through books like I do.  I came up with a little list and here it is.  Don’t laugh at some of my suggestions.  After all, a mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do.

1.  At night before I fall asleep.  But I already told you that.
2.  For at least 10 minutes while I’m in the bathtub each morning.  Everyone assumes I’m bathing and no one interrupts me.
3.  I keep a book on the back of the toilet.  Again–  everyone assumes…
4.  I always take a book in the car with me.  If I am picking a child up from an activity, I inevitably have to wait for him or her for at least five minutes.   If we’re driving into the city, sometimes Spencer will ask for me to read aloud to him.  Then we get the double blessing of being able to discuss what I’m reading!  (Sometimes it’s one of his books I read to him.)  Family trips are a great time to take along a book.  We will often read fiction on a family trip.
5.  Doctor’s offices.  Enough said.

Basically, as you can see from the list, nearly all of my reading time is "stolen time."  I don’t ever sit around during the day and read.  Destructo-baby leaves no time for sitting on one’s haunches.  Besides, there’s homeschooling and laundry to do.  You know the routine.  But even in this busy season of life, I desire to grow and stretch my mind.  And so I take what I can get.  And you should too.

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Sick

I don’t get sick too often, but when I finally decide to do it, I do it all the way.  What started on Wednesday as a stuffy head and watery eyes, has developed into a full blown sinus infection.  I knew it was bad when my young friend Jonathan came by this afternoon to sing his contest piece for me but decided to come back another day.  He looked at me and said, "I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve never seen you looking quite so bad."  Uh, thanks, Jonathan.  Seriously, I am rum. dum.

But somehow this week, by God’s grace, I’ve managed to finish the four books I’m supposed to be reviewing for our Ladies’ Spring Fellowship tomorrow and prepare a power point presentation.  My 13 year old son is trying to rig up the power point projector right now and having trouble with the VGA cord.  His dad drove him out to a friend’s house to snag another cord and hopefully, this time, it will work.  I’m speaking  on the subject of  The Importance of Books in the Lives of Christians and then I’ll review four of my recent favorites:  The Hospitality Commands, Feminine Appeal, Parenting in the Pew and Girl Talk.  (See side bar for book links.)  I’ve got tons to blog about, but I don’t want to put any of it up until I’ve first shared with our church.   So you’ll just have to wait.

And there you have it.  I haven’t disappeared again–  I’ve just been swamped with sinus fluid and a pile of books!  Hopefully, I’ll have lots to say next week.   Until then, ah… ah… ah… CHOO!!!!!!!

(I heard that "Bless you!"  Thanks.)

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Better than a Birthday

Here’s the letter inside a card that I found on the kitchen table this morning from my 8 year old:

Dear Mom,

I know I’m ungrateful sometimes and I have been thinking.  I love my school and it is better than booles [sic] and homework.  I would like friends, but when I think– I have many friends.  I hope you injoy [sic] me as one easy child.

Love, Ava

Now that’s the best card I think I’ve ever received.  And yes, I did cry.

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Cooking for Seven

A busy week is staring at me this Monday, with lots of school work to complete with Ava and lots of Spring Cleaning chores that need to be done.  I have a goal to clean out all of my gritty kitchen cabinets this week in between all of the regular chores.  In the midst of all of this, Baby has developed some sort of mystery allergy and I can’t seem to pinpoint it at all, so that will necessitate a doctor’s trip this week as well.  I pray for the strength to faithful in the small things and ask for God to graciously allow me to see a little fruit from my labor.

With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  Matthew 16:26

Monday, March 12
Mexican Cornbread, Salad, Beans, Tortillas

Tuesday, March 13
Italian Porkchops, Salad, Rolls

Wednesday, March 14
Hot Wing Nuggets, Butter Noodles

Thursday, March 15
Chili, Fritos, Cinnamon Rolls

Friday, March 16
Chicken Joes, Sauteed Onions, Green Beans

Saturday, March 17
French Onion Soup for Ladies’ Fellowship
Hot Dogs, Chips, Fruit for the crowd at home

Sunday, March 18
Eating Main Meal at someone else’s house!
Frozen Toquitos for supper

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Inspired

Our family went on a little overnight excursion this weekend. We had parent-teacher conferences up at the school on Thursday and then school was let out for
Friday– so we surprised the kids by having the van all packed up and whisking them away right after meeting with their teachers and picking up their grade cards. Nothing does the heart good like a little family bonding over an indoor pool and Domino’s pizza delivered to your hotel room.

And, of course, a history lesson. No field trip family trip would be complete
without a little education. It’s just the Ray Way.

Recently, Spencer heard that Winston Churchill’s library was being housed at the nearby Westminster College.   Since he had just finished the second volume
of The Last Lion, (a Christmas gift purchased for him by his darling wife,) it
seemed only fitting to follow up on the reading with a little visit to his library. We didn’t know what a treat we were in for. When we got there today, we
discovered not only a library, but a 4-million dollar museum on his life and
accomplishments
.  What was meant to be a little one hour stint, turned into a three hour perusal of rooms and rooms of letters, memoirs and videos they had on file there.

 I loved learning more about the life of Winston Churchill.  He lived his life with such purpose and devotion for the good of Britain and for the world. I don’t even know if he was a Christian or not– (I read today that he rarely went to church.  When he was approached about this, he said he was not a “pillar of the church”
but a “buttress.”  He supported it from the outside.)
But his life story is amazing and it inspired me to work as hard for the Kingdom of God as Churchill did for Britain
and for freedom around the world.

Lately, our family has been viewing the Don’t Waste Your Life videos for our family devotions and as I was thinking on Churchill today,
I kept hearing Piper’s voice saying:

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Although I am just the wife of small-town, Baptist preacher, and not the wife of a world famous Prime Minister who helped defeat a tyrannical monster– I felt privileged today to be working for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. With the cross of Christ before me and the world behind me, I will continue to engage in the battle against Satan, the ultimate tyrannical monster.

And hopefully, by God’s grace,  I won’t WASTE MY LIFE.

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Shannon’s asking for kitchen tips this week and so I was wracking my brain to think of something I haven’t already shared.   Let’s see–  I’ve already shared with you that I keep my spices in alphabetical order.  Some might say that’s a little OCD– but it really does make my life a whole lot easier.     I think I’ve already told you that I only go grocery shopping once a month– with a monthly menu and a grocery list that is made in the same order as the aisles at the grocery store.  I think I remember telling you that I add baking soda to my famous Cajun Bean recipe–  to make everyone’s tummies rest a little easier.  And I’ve actually had several of you comment on my sock-mopping ploy.  What else could there be? 

I was about to give it up and tell you that I had already exhausted my wealth of kitchen tricks when I remembered THE COOKBOOK.  Of course, like any other housewife in America, I keep a recipe box.  All of the cool recipes that I snag off of all of your blogs…the ones that I cut out of Southern Living…those all go in the box.  But if I cook it a few times and it actually makes it into my cooking repertoire, then it goes into THE COOKBOOK.  I also photocopy any recipe from my plethora of cookbooks that I use on a regular basis and those go into THE COOKBOOK as well. 

THE COOKBOOK is a photo album with magnetic pages that I’ve made subject dividers for.  (Appetizers, Chicken, Beef, Soups, Cookies, Pies, etc…)   All of my regularly used recipes go into the COOKBOOK.  It makes is super easy to find my recipes and I figure it will be nice for my daughters to go through it one day before they get married.

Alright–  there it is Shannon.  But I think that’s it for kitchen tips for me.  Hope this one works for someone…it sure works for me.  🙂

(more…)

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