Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Love that Never Dies

Today I visited an elderly member of our church at the assisted living home nearby.  As we sat in her living room, she told me a story about how she likes to kiss the picture of her late husband and tell him all about her day.  She asked me if this was alright, fishing to know if I thought her behavior was odd.  Although she never said, I am sure somewhere along the line she has shared this with someone who thought that in was in fact an odd thing to do.  All I could do was smile while she told me about the conversations that she has had with the photograph.  I assured her that this didn't seem odd to me, but that some people find me odd anyway.

She also told me about how she had passed her ring down to the oldest daughter and one day she realized she missed wearing it on her finger. Her husband had been long gone from this world, but she desired to let everyone know that she was still married. Although she could have married someone else, she told me that her late husband, Alvin, was the only man who could truly hold her heart. She struck me as being as madly in love with him today as she has ever been, probably even more.  The picture above is actually her hand and ring, taken at the end of my visit.   Her daughters bought her this wedding band as a reminder of a love that never died. She gave me permission to tell this story and use their names.

Ms. Betty Wheeler met Alvin the same way many of us did, riding his bus.  For some of us, he was a school bus driver, for her, he was the driver of a passenger travel bus.  Ms. Betty longs for the day that she will embrace him once again and tell him everything that has happened since he left, but until then, she will talk to his picture, give it a kiss, and smile knowing that her man still holds her heart, long after going Home.

As I processed the story, sitting in her living room, it made me think of conversations that I have had with many young couples over the years. This conversation has even become one that I have had in my own home.  What would someone do, if their spouse died?  For some, they get remarried and there isn't anything wrong with that.  For others, they choose to go it alone, spending the rest of their days experiencing life with the memories of their best friend close to their heart.

The love that Ms. Betty has for Mr. Alvin is something that I think I have only seen in the romantic movie The Notebook.  Listening to her share was to hear something out of a well-written love story, suitable only for the big screen.  But not so, in fact, it is the true story of a love that will never die.  The rest of us can only hope to be so madly in love as we reach those later years of life.  Some of us have work to do.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

From the Pastor's Heart - August Edition

Start Strong

Well, we have officially made it through the summer and this year the slump wasn't that bad. My first year, we never slumped, then the last two, we slumped bad.  This summer we rose and fell like the tides, but all in all it was a pretty good summer. School is scheduled to start and families will be joining us. Some of you have been gone all summer and you may be shocked to see how things have changed since you've been away. Others have been here and may be wishing for a break!  Whatever the case, I want to encourage you to start off this school year with the students by developing good study habits of God's Word. Here are some tips:

1) Set a time daily - just like students who have a structured homework schedule, we all need a set time to study God's Word whether it is by reading the Bible or a devotion. Time spent doing this will only benefit us. So go ahead and schedule it now.

2) Meet with the Teacher - Jesus is the greatest teacher the world has ever seen (or ever will see).  Having an excellent teacher, however, isn't enough. We need to meet with the teacher, get some extra help, and spend time learning from them. Plan on meeting regularly with Jesus to have Him point out some areas of learning in your life.

3) Go for Perfect Attendance - there is no doubt, students who attend classes do much better than students who don't. The same can be said for church goers. The more we attend Sunday School and Church, the better apt we are to be prepared for the tests coming up.  I don't really expect anyone to have perfect attendance at church, but when you think about it, why not?  It is still less time than spent at work or school!

4) Make Friends in Class - one of the greatest experiences in school can involve friends. Friends are people we are close to and we end up "doing life" with them.  We need this in church as well and we are created to be a community together.  So why not make some new friends at church this month? Who knows what interesting things behold you?! 

5) Plan for Recess - if the saying is true, All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy then I want to warn you not to be like Jack....by the way, this is in no way related to Jack Clifton who loves to play!  If we are serving the Lord and working our "you know what's off" but not enjoying the recess time he has given us together, we will burnout before Christmas.  Find ways to enjoy being at church. Start with not taking life too seriously.

I am looking forward to a great School Year and an even better Church Year!  I hope you are as well!

Pastor Chester

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Is the idea that Opposites Attract unbiblical?

Is the idea that Opposites Attract unbiblical?

The idea that opposites attract is not a new one. In fact, who really knows how long it has been around? Anyone who knows us knows that my wife and I are total opposites.  I’m loud, she’s soft.  I talk a lot, she’s doesn’t.  I like action movies, she likes foreign films.  I like playing video games, she does not. I hate yard work, she loves it. I am messy, she is clean. There are some different theories in the world today that suggest opposites in a relationship may not be so good after all., however Dr. Gary Chapman disagrees. In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Chapman suggests that there are five different languages that each individual speaks and often times it is not the same one. Additionally, Dr. Chapman believes that “your emotional love language and the language of your spouse may be as different as Chinese from English” (Chapman, 15, 2017). If this is the case, it is not the opposites that cause the problem, they are merely symptoms. In actuality, it is the lack of communication or the ability to communicate that causes trouble.

It has been suggested that the verse in 2 Corinthians 6:14 which reads, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness” (NASB), gives couples reason to pause if they notice differences in themselves. This, however, is a poor hermeneutical understanding of the text. The idea of being bound together with unbelievers or unequally yoked (KJV) is not an issue of opposites it is an issue of salvation.  The image used by the Apostle Paul in this letter to the Corinthians is one that is borrowed from earlier texts, specifically Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:10, which both warn about intermarriage or close alliances with nonbelievers. If the couple is not made up of two believers in Christ, the Bible clearly contains warnings for the union to be ended and not continue on.

When it comes to a couple, such as my wife (Heather) and I, opposites must be clearly defined and understood prior to marriage as well as navigational/communicational techniques learned for such times when disagreements or misunderstandings occur.  Opposites are not inherently bad, but a couple that is not prepared for how opposites will affect their marriage can suffer greatly.  I believe, while “opposites attract” should not be reason alone to date or marry someone, when opposites appear they can be used to highlight the special differences and individuality.   In today’s society it seems as if the term opposite is negative.  For example, if you have a different opinion than I do, you are wrong.  However, that is not how opposites should be seen and good communication in and out of marital relationships is the key to success.

Chapman, G. D., & Green, J. (2017). The 5 love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.

Photo credit: By Geek3 - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40403559

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Should We Marry for Love, Only?

The idea of falling in love and getting married is a novel one. In fact, for many, marriage to one that they do not love seems unfathomable.  But recent psychologists and self-proclaimed experts have offered their opinions on the matter.  For example, Matchmaker Hellen Chen says, "if you really want to get married, you should simply commit to marriage and let romance happen...later" (Trespicio, 2015). Her reasoning is that, in her opinion, dating is a recipe for heartbreak and that marriage must come first.  In other words, "successful marriages don't start with love, they end with it"  (Trespicio, 2015).

Conversely, Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker argues that when a couple is in love, their motivation should not be anything else (Hartwell-Walker, 2016). One specific reason Hartwell-Walker cited as a reason to not get married was to legitimize sex.  A seemingly good statement by most standards as I suspect that most Christian parents would discourage their kids from marrying for sex.   There is no doubt that the Bible clearly offers support for marriage between a man and woman of whom God has united in love. For example, Colossians 3:14 says “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Ecclesiastes 4:9 records, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” And the Apostle Paul made clear in Ephesians 5:25 that a man is supposed to love his wife in a special way by writing, “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her."

These are just a few verses and if left here seem to be reason enough to argue that marrying for any reason other than love is unbiblical. But then there’s that one verse that the same Paul wrote when addressing the church at Corinth which says, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (I Cor 7:8-9).  While somewhat out of context, even in the entire context of the I Corinthian letter, and more specifically in the context of chapter 7, Paul clearly states that it is better for a man and woman to marry than to be given to lustful desires. It is important to note, however, that this man or woman Paul is addressing is one that is not like him, i.e. gifted for singleness. God has given some the ability not to burn or lust and such people are considered as gifted for singleness.

Some might find reason to ask, “so if I want to have sex with that person, we can go ahead and get married and all is well?” However, to ask such a question with intent to follow through shows immaturity and a lack of understanding for the purpose of marriage.  For a man and woman burring with desire for one another, one might hope that there is love between them as well. However, it is possible for a person to burn with lust while love is absent. For the Christian, this desire must not be the driving factor of decision making in their life. While love is certainly a part of most marriages, in the beginning anyway, and lust may be present as well, the only true cause for marriage is the bringing together of that one man and one woman by the very God that created them, one for another. For each believer, discovering God’s Will for their lives must be first and foremost.  Marriage for any other reason, be it financial benefits, unexpected pregnancy, familial pressure or even love on its own, does not carry with it the blessings of marriage anointed and ordained by God. It can work, but it isn’t the same.

What say you? Please comment below.

Trespicio, T. (2015, April 09). 3 Reasons Why You Should Marry FIRST And Fall In Love Later. Retrieved July 19, 2018, from https://www.yourtango.com/2014212217/case-getting-married-first-falling-love-later  

Hartwell-Walker, M., Ed.D. (2016, July 17). 5 Reasons Not To Marry the One You Love. Retrieved July 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/5-reasons-not-to-marry-the-one-you-love/ 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Most Dangerous Body Part

Proverbs 18:21 KJV
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
     I remember a friend of mine from many years ago quoting Proverbs 18:21 to me. It was not a Bible drill nor was he showing me how good he was at reciting Bible verses.  He was actually rebuking me with the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17)
     He may not remember doing this, but I hope to always remember his strength and courage when he told me simply to watch my mouth because I had the ability to either speak good into people's lives or speak bad, and at the time, I was speaking bad. 
    In the church I have often seen this issue arise because of familiarity.  People spend so much time together and become so close that before long they begin sharing their deep feelings with each other.  If used wisely, this is both productive and beneficial for believers. However, used unwisely, it can undo the work that God has been doing. It can hurt the testimony of believers as they strive to reach the lost and unchurched community around them. And it can split a church in a fraction of the time that it took to bring the church together. 
    Proverbs 12:18 says, The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Likewise, James wrote in James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

   The tamed tongue is not just about "not hurting people," it is also about honoring the very God who plucked the believer out of the pit through Jesus Christ. It is about recognizing the evil that the Devil wants to use our tongue for (James 3:8) and resisting his evil plan to use us against the body of Christ.

    Knowing how the enemy works is knowing that as people grow closer together and begin sharing their lives with each other, the enemy is watching, ready to use these growing relationships to cause division.  As believers, we must be ready for this and know what the tactic of the enemy is.  We must commit to speaking life into everyone and not death. We must live to honor God and his Son with our words, thoughts and deeds.  For if we choose not to, plainly put, we cross the line from supporting God's work to supporting the work of the enemy. 

   In the modern church, which many local assemblies total less that 100 on a given Sunday, it does not take long for the tongues of a few to tear down the work of the Holy Spirit.  That is why I want to encourage everyone to repent of things they have said. Extend grace and forgiveness to those who have said things about them. And honor the Lord with a mission to seek the Lost and share Christ with them.  That's the mission of the church and that's the life that should be flowing from our tongues. 

Chester Proctor, Pastor
Smith Street Baptist Church, Vidalia, Georgia


Thursday, December 15, 2016

5 Reasons Pastors (or anyone else) Should Not Threaten to Quit

"I quit!"
"I'm not doing this anymore."
"You can find someone else to take care of this!"

We've all been there.  We have either been so stressed, frustrated or both and we just wanted to scream at the top of our lungs the old song title, "Take this job and shove it!"  Perhaps quitting is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is done with a lot of prayer, preparation and in a loving a graceful way.  But, for those of you (and me!) who have been frustrated enough to say it, without meaning it, here are 5 reasons you might want to rethink letting those words leave your mouth.

5) People Resent It
           Depending on how close you are with someone, and whether or not that person is your boss, you may be able to get away with it once or twice. But eventually, those working with you are going to resent your continued threats.  You may not mean it. You may simply be venting, but eventually those you continue to threaten with this, will grow weary of hearing you complain. Be a fixer, not a griper.  Don't be that person who gives off the appearance of one who throws in the towel when things get tough.  If you're not a quitter, don't make yourself sound like one. 

4) Others Aren't Doing It
          Those people you keep saying this to are struggling as well. No one is always happy with their job. No one is always happy in their volunteer situation.  Face it, no one is always happy, period.  However, for those that hear you "quit" every time things get tough, they might be growing tired of hearing it because while they feel the same way at times, they are working to overcome that feeling. If you're not careful, someone might tell you to either "grow up" or "go ahead and quit."

3) It is the Wrong Response
           If you are a Christian, you are by definition, an overcomer.  You are one who rises up on the wings of eagles. You stand tall above the mountains and you face those giants with nothing more than a sling and a stone.  Because of Christ in you, there is nothing that can defeat you permanently.  Not even your difficult circumstances. However, if quitting is always your first response (even if you don't really mean it when you say it) it takes the place of where your thoughts should be, and that is on the way Jesus would handle it.  Getting mad, frustrated, or upset are normal and often times righteous emotions.  Threatening to take your ball and go home because you didn't get your way, is not. If you continue to do this, you might need to invest in a "crying room," that is, if you are not on a campus that offers them already.

2) It is Childish
            As an ambassador of Christ, we are called to react to struggles with faith and courage.  Paul clearly told us that we are not to act like children, because we are maturing Christians who must live out our faith in Christ every day.  If others are watching your example and you threaten to jump ship when things get tough or your feelings get hurt, what kind of example are you setting?

1) It's Manipulative
           I often wonder if we, as Christians, realize how many times we are being manipulative when we want to get our way.  This is a sobering thought, but any time we try to influence someone else by using guilt, threats, etc we are lowering ourselves to the tactics of the enemy. We cannot do that if we are ambassadors of Jesus.

I have struggled with this in my years and if you are struggling, it's time to make a change! What are some reasons you have for not making idle threats?

Monday, December 5, 2016

5 Things Your Pastor May Be Doing While You Sleep

Do you ever wonder "just what does my pastor do, anyway?"   It is okay, not only am I not offended by that question, I also once asked it myself.  For most of the congregation, seeing the pastor is limited to one or two hours per week and in the case of emergencies.  When this happens, it is not uncommon for people to begin questioning the role, purpose or time that the pastor spends doing, "God knows what!"

From my personal experience, and the experience of my colleagues, here are some things your pastor may be doing, while you sleep!

5) Praying

This may seem obvious, but understand that there are many times when I am up either late or early talking to God. Usually when I am up late doing this, I am doing it on behalf of someone else. Either a sick person, a suffering family, or the church as a whole.  When I am up late talking to God, it's because I can't sleep and when I can't sleep, it may be due to some issue or problem that is weighing on me, either personally or on behalf of others.

4) Visiting

You might be wondering, "who would my pastor be visiting while I am sleeping?"  I would venture to say that more often than not if your pastor is visiting someone late, it is either at a hospital, hospice, or the bed of someone who is about to die. I can't tell you the many times I have gotten up from dinner because the phone rang, kissed my wife and kids goodbye and ran off to the hospital or somebody's home in an emergency.  Your pastor's family will most likely understand this demand on him, but don't be fooled into thinking that it doesn't cost him valuable time with them.  If his family doesn't understand, it may cost him more than you would ever imagine.

3) Reading

I used to believe that being a full-time vocational pastor meant I would have countless hours to sit in my office and read. That is usually not the case.  There are times that I can shut my door and enjoy a good book that helps me become a better pastor, leader, preacher, teacher, scholar, etc.  However, I can't remember the last time I read, at the office, uninterrupted and don't try and do it a coffee shop or restaurant in a small town.  That is an invitation for interruption.  No, the majority of my seminary work (before I graduated), Bible reading, personal development, etc happens after my family has fallen asleep for the night.  Your pastor may be up for hours, enjoying the quiet time that he finally has to sit down and grow, himself.

 2) Thinking

After everyone is asleep and the house is quiet, I tend to do a lot of thinking.  I think about the day today and the day tomorrow. I think about all the things I did wrong and how I could go about them a different way. I think about what is coming in the days, weeks and even months to come. I think about sermons, illustrations, families, tragedies, celebrations, birthdays, the pile on my desk, my family, am I being a good husband, father, friend, the members who are mad with me and the members who are not, and the list goes on and on.  You see, just like many of you, there isn't time to think about all of this during the day, so it gets pushed to the night.

1) Supporting Friends

The statistics are staggeringly discouraging when you look at the number of pastors who either leave the ministry altogether.  Then there are those whose lives fall apart because they are unable to juggle and manage the expectations of their church.  Sadly, a high statistic is those who deal with severe depression and even suicide.  It is sad that among the anointed, gifted, called by God, pastors of our nation, so many are under attack from within the four walls they call their second home.  There have been many times that I've been up late either giving support to another pastor or getting it myself.  Being a pastor can be lonely. There aren't many people who will be your friends and if you've done this long enough, you put up walls to protect yourself. 

Don't get me wrong. On my worst day (although I would never admit this on my worst day), being a pastor is a wonderful and rewarding calling. I love what I do and there is no doubt in my mind that God anointed me for this very calling. I also realize that there are many other jobs out there, some of which you don't get paid well, work in horrible conditions, and never know if you're coming home or not (like our law enforcement officers).  Just remember, even though you don't always see what your pastor is doing, chances are, your pastor is carrying on with his duties as if their boss were watching them carefully, because after all, He is always watching.

What are your thoughts?