Thirty-nine Years Ago

I was baptized December 16, 1979. Thirty-nine years ago this year.

The days of month happen this year to fall on the same days of the week that they did back in 1979.

It was either this week, or next, back in 1979, that I attended the services of an Independent Baptist Church for the very first time.

I made my made a profession of faith that day and presented myself for believer’s baptism. Pastor Scudder came to my house to visit me the following Thursday to confirm my salvation and to plan my baptism.

Cornerstone Baptist Church in Kennewick had only had its first service the Sunday before I attended. They did not have a baptistery so arrangements had to be made at another Independent Baptist Church, Riverview Baptist in Pasco.

That took a couple of weeks[1]and was, as I said, performed December 16, 1979.

I had gotten saved April of 1977 but had not gone to church since then
When Mike Riggs invited me to go to church with him in 1979, I was serious about going to church, but I am not sure how serious I really was about being dedicated to the Lord.

I do remember I wasn’t thinking church would consume my life.
  • I was interested in a girl who lived 35 miles away[2]and the weekends were my chance to spend lots of time with her
  • I had parents who lived 60 miles away and I still wanted to see them as much as I could
  • I had a job as an apprentice ironworker and I LOVED it

It just never worked out that way for me.
As soon as I attended that church, it pulled me tighter and tighter in.

When I got baptized, it was on the birthday of that girl I was interested in. I skipped being with her on her birthday so I could be baptized.

Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesdays – they all got taken over by church.

Even Christmas that year was on a Sunday.
I worked an overtime shutdown on my job, drove up to see my parents Christmas Eve, and then drove back home to be in church Sunday morning.

Once Anita and I were married, we dedicated ourselves quickly to serve the Lord and have never looked back.

Marvin McKenzie
In the fields

[1]Explaining why I can’t remember if my first service was November 25 or December 2. I know I was baptized December 16thbut I do not recall for sure how many weeks it took pastor to make those arrangements.
[2]We celebrated our 38thanniversary back in September.


Charles Spurgeon said that there are three components to a call from God:
  1. A burden for the work
  2. An obvious, observable gift from God
  3. An opportunity for ministry

Every Christian ought to have some sort of burden for the work of the ministry. 
But the burden alone is not evidence of a call into the work of pastoring or planting a church.

The problem with planting a church is that the need is so great that 
a person, if not disciplined by his church, can find a place without a Gospel witness. But a town without a church is not evidence of a call to ministry

Therefore the deciding factor has to be that other Christians SEE the gifts of the ministry in the candidate
not only that they are doctrinally sound and talented enough to deliver it but that they are stable enough spiritually, emotionally and with health to do the work without creating a excessive burden upon their marriage, their children or those they minister among.

I would illustrate it like this…
  1. In a healthy marriage both the husband and the wife have all their needs met in their relationship with Jesus Christ. They do not  marry because they have need of the love of the spouse. They get married so they can give of themselves to their spouse. It is a great relationship because both give freely without ever feeling like they are being taken from.
  2. In a healthy church the members have all of their needs met in in Christ before they ever make it to the church house. They do not come to church because they need the others. They will receive what they need from God. They can therefore give fellowship at church rather than taking fellowship.
  3. In a healthy pastorate the preacher is gifted of the Spirit so that he can give to his community. He has temporal needs of course, but he is not consumed by them. Because he has his needs met in Christ He is in a position to gratefully receive as blessings those means that are: provided by the church he pastors, the people of his community and the pastors with whom he fellowships. He can live in good conscience that his ministry among them has earned his compensation.
I am afraid men often enter a ministry in such need that they are almost incapable of giving to their church or their community. They go to a town insisting God has called them there but, not being properly gifted, they almost immediately become an emergency situation. Their marriage is strained, their children are strained, the fellowship of pastors is strained because of the obligation (imposed upon them by an unprepared man) to help repeatedly rescue this family. And the people of the community/church become strained by the bad experience of a professed preacher who should never have come, is now forced to leave and in doing so gives a bad testimony for Christ.

I do not mean that everyone should have their finances raised and be self sufficient before they come to a town to plant a new church or to pastor one. What I mean is they need to be sufficiently gifted, spiritually, emotionally and with health so that they can truly offer Christ freely.

Marvin McKenzie
In the fields

The Difference Between Influence and Power

I recently read a piece written by A.C. Dixon, entitled, “I Kept God From Working.”[1]It read, 

“While I was pastor of the Baptist Church in a university town of North Carolina, I was made to realize that as a preacher I was a dismal failure.
Parents from all over the state wrote and requested me to look after the spiritual welfare of their sons in the university. I prepared sermons with students in mind and was glad to see that they showed their appreciation by attending our Sunday services in great numbers. We also appointed a week of prayer and preaching, with the single purpose of winning them to Christ and they attended the evening meetings.
About the middle of the week, however, their interest seemed to turn into opposition. The spirit of mischief possessed them. One night they tried to put out the lights. As I walked through the grove of trees around the university buildings I sometimes heard an imitation of my voice coming from behind a tree. A bright student had caught a part of my sermon of the night before and he was giving it in thought and tone for the benefit of his fellow students who responded by applause and laughter. As I walked before an open window I heard my voice imitated in prayer floating out. I felt defeated and seriously considered resigning from the pastorate. No one had been saved.
After a restless night I took my Bible and went into a grove of trees and remained there until three o'clock in the afternoon. As I read I asked God to show me what was the matter. The Word of God searched me through and through, giving me a deep sense of sin and helplessness such as I had never had before.
That evening the students listened reverently and at the close of the service, two rows were filled with those who responded to the invitation. The revival continued day after day until more than seventy of the students confessed Christ.
What Did It?
The practical question is, "What did it?" Certainly not I. I fear it was I who kept God from doing it for a long time. Out of that day's experience of waiting on God, there came to me a clear-cut distinction between influence and power.
Influence is made up of many things: intellect, education, money, social position, organization--all of which ought to be used for Christ. Power is God Himself at work unhindered by our unbelief and other sins. The New Testament word power holds the secret. The power from on high was no other than the power of the Holy Ghost touching the soul through the living Word and giving it a birth from above. I had been trusting and testing many other good things, only to fail. The touch of God by His Holy Spirit did what my best efforts could not do.”

After sharing the story, a member of the church asked me to explain a bit more about the power of God. I used the word conviction. Bruce Turner, who was preaching for us at the time, interjected about the difference between being convinced and convicted. A conviction is something from God and cannot be altered. God never changes. Those things that come from Him could therefore never change. 
I am convicted, for instance, that the King James Version of the Bible is without error. 
  • Academic proofs won’t change that. 
  • More popular versions won’t change that. 
  • Pressure from others won’t change that. 

I am also, for instance, convicted that the church Jesus built is a Baptist church. 
I could therefore never go to any other sort. It’s not about convenience, programs, proximity, popularity. It’s not about the personality of the pastor or the friendliness of the congregation. It is about doctrine and authority. I am so convicted of this that I could only attend a Baptist church that is equally convicted. 

My convictions come not from what a man has taught me. That would be mere convincing. My convictions come from personal study of the Word of God, an understanding of church history and the work of the Holy Spirit upon my conscience. 

A conviction comes from God and cannot change. I, however, am a man and can change. If I change from my convictions it is necessary that I rebel against them and will be in rebellion until I return to them. 



A Definition of Meddling
Proverbs 26:17 (KJV)
He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

The definition of meddling would be, taking up a strife (or offense) that is not their own – choosing sides.

As Christians we ought to love one another and pray that Christ be honored. There is no Biblical room for a believer getting offended for any reason[1]– let alone taking up someone else’s offense.

A Trap in Meddling
Proverbs 20:19 (KJV)
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

Whenever we get involved in an offense that is not our own (and remember – the thing to do when we are offended is forgive.[2]) we are blinded because we only know what the person whose offense we take up wants us to know.

A Priority in Meddling
Proverbs 24:21 (KJV)
My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:

The subject of the offense should be yielded to God first and then to those who are in authority. The rest of us should pray for all involved love all involved, seek to see the Lord glorified.[3]

A Conclusion Concerning Meddling
Proverbs 17:14 (KJV)
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.

Leave off contention.
That simply means stay out of it.

The best time for a Christian to back away from the offense is at the beginning. In the legal world they call it de-escalation. The longer the offense is carried the more damage it can potentially cause. Back out of it quickly. Apologize for anything you might have done to make things worse and step away so that you can pray for all parties involved.

[1]Psalms 119:165 (KJV)
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
[2]Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV)
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
[3]1 Corinthians 10:31 (KJV)
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Am I doing something wrong?

Recently I was asked the question, "Am I doing something wrong?" Generally when I’m asked that question what they’re really asking is, “Is God judging me for something?”

Here’s the truth. God doesn’t judge us like that. Our sins have already been judged in the person of Jesus Christ. When God sees the Christian He only sees Christ and in Christ, only righteousness.

God’s not up in heaven waiting to spank us for every little thing we do wrong. He does: 
  • train us 
  • chasten us 
  • discipline us 

but He does that most often through the natural system He has put into place in this world.

Most often when a person asks the question, “Am I doing something wrong?” they already have the answer. It has something to do with 
  • an attitude that they have or with 
  • an action they are involved in or with 
  • an inaction that they are responsible for 

This world has an established order; things that work and things that don’t work. Wise people learn those things that work. Wise people learn those things that don’t work. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. It’s putting into practice what we know to work successfully.

So The answer to the question, “Am I doing something wrong?” is, “Yes. and No.” If you’re having trouble in business or succeeding in life then, yes you’re not following that natural course that leads to success. 

But if you mean, "Is God judging me?" and that’s why you’re having trouble in your life, the answer is no. The judgment for the Christian is already accomplished. God’s not judging you by 
  • making your business fail or by 
  • making your marriage fail or by 
  • making your children fail 

Those are all consequences of poor choices that we’ve made or lack of knowledge that we have.

The good news is this means we can do something about those problems. We can gain the knowledge that we don’t have. We can change the behavior that we’re doing. We can adjust the attitude of our mind. We can gain the wisdom to apply what we know.

Sometimes what we’re doing is wrong in this world but right in heaven. When that’s the case we just need to suffer the consequences of our time in an unfriendly world. And in that case we know that God has a reward waiting for us in our new home in heaven. 

Hang on to that.

It’s Complicated

The other day, while on my daily visit with God, I came across David’s use of the word, integrity. He said Psalm 26, that he had walked and would walk in his integrity.

Interestingly, one of the Hebrew definitions of the word translated integrity there is “simplicity.” Integrity is, in other words, keeping things simple.

Every once in awhile I will receive a survey. It will be something like “why do I prefer this particular deodorant, or some silly thing like that. The first part of the survey is always a series of questions meant to establish a baseline and determine the demographics of their survey audience. They ask questions like general age, educational background, ethnic background, annual income and etc. one of those questions regards marital status and it is not uncommon for that question to be multiple choice:
  • Single
  • Married
  • It’s complicated
No it’s not. It is not complicated. A person is either married or single. The only thing that complicates the point is that some people don’t wish to be identified according to the obvious. 

This demonstrates a key issue in our world today. Walking in integrity, doing the right thing, is not complicated at all. It is as simple as accepting the authorities that determine right and wrong, and choosing right over wrong. What complicates the situation is that we want to reconcile what is right with what we want.

We do this with the Word of God all of the time. We know what the Bible says, we might even claim we believe what the Bible sys, but when what the Bible says doesn’t fit what we want, we call it complicated. “It’s not that simple.” will be our response to challenges about our behavior, beliefs or circumstances. Truth is, it is simple. The Bible is right. If we simply do what we understand the Bible to teach it is simple. The only complication is when we decide we think differently, we want something else or we can’t bring ourselves to comply to the Word of God.

It’s that simple. Do as God teaches regardless the consequences. That’s integrity

The idle word

Matthew 12:36  
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

An interesting thing happened to me the other day. I was in a conversation with a man I deeply admire, a preacher 26 years my senior. In the course of conversation I mentioned that I had recently turned 60, telling him the date of my birthday. The conversation carried on with little change of direction with the mention. We enjoy3d the m3al and the fellowship. I thought nothing of my mention of my birthday nd would have guessed my friend thought little of it either.

Next day was Sunday and my friend was preaching. In the course of his message he brought up our conversation, my mention of my birthday and then said, “I was up last night thinking about that. I had a son born that same month and year. He died just two months later.”

I didn’t know. I meant nothing by it. He did not make a big deal of it at the time. But just the mention of my birthdate opened the doors of a sixty year old grief for him.

It reminded me of how powerful words are. No wonder Jesus warned that we will give and account of every idle word. Words expressed with little thought and deliberation can be painful, even downright harmful.

My words were spoken in innocence and received without offense. Still they caused pain. I am not saying that what I did was wrong, I don’t think it was. But it does serve as a reminder how important it is that we consider our words.

Marvin McKenzie
In the fields

Thirty-nine Years Ago

I was baptized December 16, 1979. Thirty-nine years ago this year. The days of month happen this year to fall on the same days of the ...