Repenting of My Goodness

Recently I did something really, really nice for someone in town. I wanted this amazing act of kindness to be anonymous so I made sure I did it at a time when they wouldn't notice. I was super careful not to draw attention to myself when I was doing it because my desire was simply to serve this person and give some unsolicited help. And it was something that really needed to be done ... something that was truly beneficial to them. This was obviously going to bring some relief and peace to a weary soul.  I couldn't wait to see this person overcome with gratitude, appreciation, and joy.

Want to guess what happened? I honestly don't think the person even noticed that anything had been done. There was no surprise, no gratitude, no sense of joy, no recognition of a "good Samaritan" who offered this service. Life just carried on as before, no relief or peace seemed to be experienced, and the weariness continued.

I was crushed ... I inwardly wrestled with how I felt about this. There were at least two things that bothered me. First was the thought that maybe my good deeds were fruitless, that I couldn't fix this person's problems, that perhaps doing such acts of service and kindness are ultimately a royal waste of time.

But there was actually something much deeper that troubled me. It was the truth that I didn't get any recognition or satisfaction from doing this thing. Even though I said I wanted to do it anonymously, the truth is that I wanted to be able to know and feel some appreciation and gratitude for what a good person I am.  Sure, I said my desire was for this other person to feel some peace and joy and move beyond the weariness of life, but deep down I was the one who wanted those feelings. Though I said I was doing this most wonderful deed for someone else, honestly I was merely doing it all for myself ... for self-gratification, for self-promotion, for self-happiness, and for self-righteousness. Maybe the other person benefited from my action but that didn't satisfy me at all. How did I benefit? where was my joy?

This battle raged on in my heart for far too long before I concluded that good deeds are good deeds. A person's response to what I do isn't the thing that gives value to my actions ... rather I must simply consider whether or not I'm doing what's in line with the Gospel and most definitely sacrificial acts of service meet this standard. So I had to be content to do the good deed and leave the person's response in the hand of God.

Repentance is something we all have to do constantly, daily, throughout the day. And while we know we must repent of the wicked, sinful, evil actions and thoughts in our lives we also must often repent of those good things we do. If your motives are like mine we have a lot of repenting to do!

The Ideal of My Ideal

Over a decade ago Community Church was in need of a music leader for our church. Ideally we were hoping to find someone who could do music and youth. Steve Morgan, on staff here at the time, and I went to meet with a B'ham area PCA worship leader who we liked and trusted (Brian T. Murphy at Red Mountain) to ask if he knew of any potential candidates for us to consider. After hearing what we were looking for, he mentioned someone who had sung for him on the "Depth of Mercy" album. I remembered and could hear in my mind the song he mentioned (Wedding Dress) and knew right then this was a guy we had to get ... sight unseen. That voice was ideal for anything I could hope for and dream of for CPC.  Then Brian gave us even more exciting news ... he said this guy's wife's voice would make us "want to take your shirt off and dance."  How could we go wrong with that advice?!?!

Stokes and Connie are still here, now 12 years later, despite having taken a fairly recent brief sabbatical. I still consider Stokes' voice and style my ideal and I still want to dance when I hear Connie sing (but I promise I'll keep my shirt on).

So I found it interesting yesterday when Stokes asked me to watch a video of a worship song that he considers his "ideal" of what he'd like to be able to do some day. So how do you process and evaluate the ideal of what you consider to be the ideal? The music video that Stokes asked me to watch was exceptionally good; the music was great, the voices were powerful, etc. ... but nothing better than what he is capable of doing or has even previously done. I truly do admire Stokes' humility and non-stop willingness to point to others greater than himself, but there are times when I wish he would recognize and better utilize the freakish talent God has given him. (or maybe not ... some large church may come along and snatch him up by offering some insane salary!)

Do you ever wonder who God considers as His "ideal"? It's really not a difficult answer - Himself. He considers Himself to be the most ideal, perfect, glorious, magnificent, fantastic, awesome, etc. Yes, it does sound a bit egotistical, but who or what else is higher than God? To whom or what else could He give His glory? Think about it ... if God gave glory to someone / something else then it would mean there was something higher and greater than God. It would mean He is being a jerk in requiring us to settle for something lesser and inferior (Him) while He enjoys something greater and superior (whatever it is He worships). But the truth is rather simple - God deserves all the glory, honor, worship, and praise for there is nothing or nobody that is more marvelous than Him. And to be honest, that's what I really appreciate about Stokes and his ministry here at CPC ... he helps me embrace the supreme ideal of God's holiness and glory.

Someone Else

Have you recently wondered what happened to someone else? Funny thing is that someone else is probably the most popular and thought about person in the life of the church. You've probably noticed that someone else hasn't done what they committed to. Someone else was supposed to take care of that very important thing that didn't get done. Surely you've noticed how someone else hasn't been very faithful in their membership vows. Typically someone else steps up to take care of that situation but this time was obviously just lazy. And why hasn't someone else offered to teach that class that has a need? Someone else always greets the guests who worship with us on Sunday morning but this week we had some new folks who looked lost. Someone else needs to take on some leadership responsibility. Surely someone else will give sufficient funds to the church to support the budget. And why hasn't someone else volunteered to serve in that ministry? Recently I saw someone else walk by trash in the church parking lot and they made no effort to pick it up. Someone else knows about that struggling family who needs a meal taken to them but they just refuse to do it. Someone else has proven to be very undependable and irresponsible.

Well, here's an update on someone else. Someone else actually died a few years ago. Someone else moved away a while back. Someone else simply isn't here anymore. The only people at Community Presbyterian Church are us ... not someone else. So if the ministry of the Lord's church is to proceed it's not going to be done by someone else, it'll have to be done by us.

Are we still looking and waiting for someone else to serve, to support the church in its worship and work, to give, to encourage others, to lead, etc? The sooner we stop waiting for someone else to be active and involved the better. We're in this together and are in covenant with one another. Let's get after it.

Who Am I and What am I Worth?

Few names in modern American history carry the fame, glory, and prestige of this one – Elvis Presley. As a singer, musician, and actor he became one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. Although his style was somewhat controversial in his day, he quickly rose through the ranks of the music industry and made it to the top ... eventually becoming known as “The King of Rock and Roll” or for some, simply “The King.”

Elvis had a rough beginning. He entered the world in relative poverty, born in very small house in Tupelo, MS in 1935. His twin brother, coming 35 minutes after him, was stillborn. The family attended a local Assembly of God church and this is where Elvis apparently gained his love for music. Though the early years were rough, he rose from obscurity and became “The King.”

In 1958 while serving in the Army and stationed in Germany, Elvis met 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu. After a 7 ½ year courtship they got married and in 1968 had a daughter – Lisa Marie. However, they got divorced in 1973 and Elvis’ health, though already somewhat bad, starting spiraling downhill. Though he continued to tour, his list of health problems was long and likely due to serious drug abuse. His physical appearance and behavior became increasingly odd and in 1977 he died. Though he had generated a billion dollars through his recording, movies, franchising, concerts, tours, promotions, etc. he died with a relatively meager five to ten million dollars.  Lisa Marie was only 9 when her dad died, and her inheritance was put into a trust that would become available to her when she turned 25 in 1993.  At that time, it was worth 100 million.

So how’s Lisa Marie doing today some 25 years later? Well, she’s blown the inheritance, says she’s 16 million in debt, has been in and out of numerous substance abuse treatments, and is now in a bitter divorce case with her 4th husband.

Though we associate the name Presley with American royalty, their lives have been far from anything that resembles lasting peace, joy, contentment, and fulfillment. They had it all, any and everything a human could possibly want in this life, yet their stories are tragic and unsettling. I know, you’re probably like me and would be willing to give that $100,000,000 thing a shot, but the truth is that it would probably ruin me (and you) just like it did Lisa Marie.

Perhaps I need to be more like Moses.

Hebrews 11:24-26 – “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

Perhaps I need to put more focus on an inheritance that far exceeds 100 million dollars.

Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

I may not be a Presley by name, but I’m privileged to be in the family of God, known as a Christian, named after my Savior, the true King, Jesus Christ who has earned for me an eternal inheritance that can never rust, spoil, fade, diminish in value, or be stolen. Those of us who know Him are immeasurably wealthy so let’s act rich and rest in that assurance, stop working so hard to build up our own wealth and fame, be generous in our lifestyles and in relationships with others, and continually give thanks to the One who has given us this inheritance.

A Covenant Celebration

Though I will greatly miss worshiping with my Community Church family this Sunday I am very excited about being at North Shore Fellowship, PCA to celebrate the covenant baptism of my first grandchild, Ella Francis Boykin. 

There will be all sorts of thoughts and emotions bouncing around in my head and heart this Sunday. I'll certainly think back upon my own covenant baptism on Easter Sunday of 1960 ... when my parents publicly declared that they believed God's promises to be their God and a God to me, their child. I constantly stand amazed at the abundance of God's grace in my life, that He brought me to Himself and has now even chosen to use me in the ministry of His church. I would have lost all sorts of bets as a kid on how this has turned out!  I'll also think upon the covenant baptisms of my own children and how, once again, God has been faithful to bless Anita and me with boys and three daughters-in-law who profess Christ. I'll be thinking of the very first baptism I performed. On the night of my ordination in 1989 I had the utter joy and privilege of baptizing Seth ... and though he may have Down Syndrome he may have the closest relationship with the Lord of anyone in our family! 

I imagine this Sunday I'll tear up a bit (and those tears will likely be running down my cheeks) as I'm a part of the congregation where my granddaughter will receive the sign and seal of God's covenant of grace.  This obviously doesn't guarantee her salvation any more than it did for me or any of my children, but the promise from God is real, the grace of God is real, what the baptism signs and seals is real, the blood of Christ that was shed is real, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts is real, and the blessings of being a part of God's family is real. Though not a member of the North Shore congregation, I'll be making a commitment to do everything I can to make sure that one day Ella stands before God's people and professes Jesus Christ as her Savior, Redeemer, Lord.  My hope won't be in my ability to keep my commitments, nor in the ability of her parents to keep the commitments they'll be making, but rather in the ability of a God who loved Ella so much that He sent His Son Jesus for her. My hope is that God will not only draw her to Himself but will continue this covenant blessing in our family through her children for generations to come.

Just so happens the following week, the first Sunday in March (Mar 4), we will be baptizing some folks here at CPC. These won't be infants or babies, but rather some who are old enough to publicly profess their faith. However, it's the same covenant God and saving grace we'll celebrate. Again, I'll miss you this Sunday but will return with a renewed hope in the grace of our covenant God.

Today is a Special Day

Today, Wednesday, February 14, is a very special day. Why? Well, first of all it’s another Wednesday where many of us will gather together for a meal and then deepen our walk with Christ in various small groups. That, in and of itself, is good enough reason to be excited about today.

Of course, today is also Valentine’s Day ... the day we celebrate love. This celebration may  involve candy, flowers, cards, food, etc. but hopefully much more than these token gifts. True love is best expressed in both words and sacrificial actions.  I trust today you will extend your love toward a special person in your life and also enjoy the love that is given to you. 

Today also marks the beginning of Lent. While I know most of us probably didn’t grow up in traditions that made much of Lent … except to wonder why the Catholics and Episcopals were so weird … it is nevertheless a special time on the church calendar. Lent is calculated to begin 40 days prior to Easter (but not including Sundays). While it’s generally considered a time of repentance and mourning over our sin, it’s also a time of great joy and hope in the new life we receive as a result of Christ’s death. It’s also joyous in that it anticipates its conclusion in the glorious resurrection of Christ.  Lent begins on what is called Ash Wednesday (that’s today). Today we remember our sinfulness, repent, ask for God’s forgiveness, and remember that it comes only at the infinite cost of Jesus’ death on the cross. Historically some churches have held services to recognize this time of repentance by applying ashes on their foreheads in the shape of the cross (several Scriptural passages speak of ashes and sackcloth). Sometimes during Lent believers give up a normal part of their daily routine to remind them of the sacrifice that Christ made – maybe a food item, particular entertainment, etc. The idea is that when you feel that hunger pain or desire to have or do whatever it is you've given up it will remind you of the even greater need you have of Jesus Christ.  Some may even take the money that was saved by making this sacrifice and use it for some sort of ministry to the poor. But whatever a believer does or doesn’t do, it’s still the season of the year that leads us to Easter.

There is a danger here … Lent is not a time for false humility or prideful self-sacrifice. It’s not a time to draw attention to yourself and/or whatever it is you are doing to show how spiritual you are. It’s not to display your amazing self-discipline. It’s not to boast in your superior faith as compared to others. It’s not a time to try out a new diet plan and expect God to bless it since you're "doing it for Jesus."  Rather, Lent is a time for humility, for contemplation of and mourning over your sinfulness, for repentance, for remembering the horrific death of Jesus that was required to pay for your sin. Yet it is not a time of despair because Lent culminates in Easter, the grand and glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the first-fruit and guarantee of your own resurrection unto eternal life.

I trust you can enjoy this very special day - a day to celebrate, even with others tonight, the ultimate love expressed and demonstrated to us sinners by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let's spend these next 40 days in a posture of humility and repentance as we remember that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior ... and that we have the perfect, and only, One in Jesus Christ.

A Convenient Dump Site

I suppose I see this more than many because I work at the church. But my observation is that the little stretch on Oak Blvd between Hwy 411 and the stop sign at Pinecrest Lane (which mostly belongs to our church) is a major dumping ground for trash … the favorite of which seems to be liquor and beer cans/bottles. I have a theory about this! I’m guessing that many folks as they make that turn into 100 Oaks subdivision on their way home realize they need to dispose of any incriminating evidence that may expose their drinking habits. It’s not uncommon to find cans or bottles that are full or nearly full … again, the evidence must be dumped before they have to face their family, spouse, parents, etc. These folks are afraid to show their true selves to their loved ones, they hide their struggles and fears and weaknesses, they live in shame and guilt, and pretend that everything is fine. Admittedly, this is just a theory, but I doubt I’m wrong!

I have another theory about dumping trash.  If there were some way to peer into the soul of people as they approach and get ready to enter our church buildings, I believe we’d see folks throwing a whole lot of emotional and spiritual garbage out on the ground or parking lot right before they have to actually speak to someone at the church. Most Christians are just like the families that live in 100 Oaks subdivision … we have struggles, fears, weaknesses, addictions, problems, etc. and try to hide them from one another. We’re afraid of being exposed … we want to come across as in control of our lives … we pretend everything is okay when in reality things are incredibly difficult.

I would think most families up the street from the church would like to know about their loved ones passion for liquor consumption and why they choose to live in denial. I feel pretty certain most of them would still be loved and accepted and help would be offered. I know that the Community Church family would still love and accept and help others in our family who are seriously struggling with sin, whatever it may be.

I realize it may be a tough decision to make, but next time you approach the church (and I’m not just talking about our buildings, but rather any time and place you meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ), please don’t throw out your emotional and spiritual garbage and pretend that everything is okay. Rather, bring it with you into the relationship and allow those who love you to help carry that burden. I believe you’ll find them needing help with their own bag of trash!

And by the way, we have the perfect place to take all that sin, fear, struggle, weakness, impurity, etc. – the Cross of Jesus Christ. Let’s go there together … not just to take our garbage, but to find complete forgiveness and cleansing.


Today had an interesting start ... had to clean up some cat poop on our sofa!  Some critical questions here ... how did the cat get in the house? why did the cat think the sofa was an appropriate place? why is that smell still with me now 4 hours later?  Regardless, the sofa required some cleaning but it's all taken care of now.

Yesterday involved some cleaning as well.  Due to the cold I picked up a rather heavy coat that I was going to wear but noticed it was dirty and smelled bad. To be honest that wasn't the first time I noticed this about the coat but I had routinely just ignored it because I didn't want the inconvenience and expense of taking it to the cleaners. Not sure why, maybe it was by mistake or perhaps a move of God's Spirit, but I actually thought to look at the label on the coat. And, of course, it read "machine wash - tumble dry."  I had longed assumed this coat required some sort of complex dry cleaning, that there was no way it could be sufficiently cleaned by just throwing it in the washer. I was wrong, so I washed it and now it looks and smells great!

Often I neglect to read the label about what's involved in cleansing for my heart. By default I assume that a lengthy, expensive, difficult, complex process is involved and perhaps, if I do everything just right, my heart may be okay. But in reality the label actually says, "repent - believe." This very simple process of acknowledging my sin to God and turning once again to the cross of Jesus Christ to find complete forgiveness is absolutely sufficient for daily cleansing. Too often I think of the Gospel as merely an additive I must add to my efforts to scrub myself clean. But the truth is that the Gospel is the whole deal that cleans and restores my heart. Of course, I must do this every day ... several times a day ... due to the extensive and continual sin in my life. But each time I do it, the cross is sufficient.

Have you been waiting to take your life somewhere to get it cleaned from the noticeable dirt, stain, smell, and filth of sin? Here's the good news ... right now, take just a moment to own up to your sin and run with it to the cross. There you will find forgiveness, cleansing, purification, and the fresh aroma of God's love and grace being poured over you.

Pray for Your Pastor

I get all sorts of emails from various ministries ... some I immediately delete, some I skim, and some grab my attention and I actually read! I recently received one that most definitely caught my eye - it was from the ministry of Thom Rainer and linked an article called, "Eleven Specific Ways to Pray for Your Pastor."  I wanted to be sure and read this and see if he knew what he was talking about ... if his list was actually going to address concerns that pastors like me actually deal with in real life. As usual, I discovered that most others have a lot more wisdom than I do and that Rainer's list is really pretty good. Allow me to highlight just a few that I would ask you to include in your prayers for me.

One of the most important is to pray for the pastor's family. A common strategy of the enemy is to attack those you love and cause discouragement, despair, confusion, and pain. If the enemy can hit close enough to your heart and create enough distraction then he's effectively rendered you ineffective. And while I can honestly say that right now my wife, sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren are all in a good place, I realize that an all-out assault could come any day and great sorrow could be introduced into my life. My family wrestles with the same things as most everyone else - worry, relationships, work, finances, anger, pride, fear, faith, decision making, health, etc. and all that is somewhat compounded by having to grow up and live in a pastor's family, so I ask you to pray for the Boykins - from here to Sydney to Memphis to Chattanooga.

Another thing on Rainer's list is to pray about discouragement resulting from members leaving the church. I realized just this morning after being asked about a family who left the church several years ago, that there are still wounds from the past regarding some former CPC members who left. And while the overwhelming majority left for very legitimate reasons and we've been incredibly blessed here at Community to have never experienced any sort of church split there have still been a handful of folks over the years who left on bad terms. It's hard for me or any pastor to not take that personally. And whether or not that's a legitimate feeling is somewhat irrelevant ... it's a feeling that is real and that lingers and leaves some wounds that don't seem to heal very well.

And one more thing that I'll share - the opportunity to frequently share the Gospel. I contend that everyone I know who's entered ministry did so with the intent to be active and engaged in regular evangelism. But it's more common than not to find that same person soon so immersed in the administrative demands of church/ministry life (meetings, buildings, budgets, etc.) that involvement with the non-Christian gets bumped way down the list of priorities. The demands on a pastor's time are so huge that unless he intentionally find ways to enter the world of unbelievers it's just not going to happen. This is one reason why I've invested so much in a training opportunity with the ministry of Evangelize Today. It has forced me to engage with unbelievers on their turf and that has been such a blessing to me. So please pray that I would continue with this ministry and not allow other things to push it aside.

Thank you for your prayers!

Shelter from the Cold ... and Worse

It's really no secret among those who even casually know me that I have a strong dislike for cold weather ... and it's really cold right now! I make fun of my friend, John Potts, who lives in Minnesota when he sends me news of the temps up there. But as I wake up this morning in this frigid 8 degree weather I guess I shouldn't laugh too much at him (though it's frequently below zero in Minneapolis).

The past couple of days I've found myself giving thanks to God for my warm home and warm place to work. I'm praying a bit more for those who aren't able to pay power bills, for those who live in poor conditions, for the homeless, for those who have to find shelter somewhere. I pray for my friend who I took to a shelter a couple of weeks ago yet haven't heard from since ... and neither have his other friends I know.  I simply can't imagine living out in this kind of weather but we know many do. Of course, various shelters are open and hopefully my friend and the many others are safe and warm. 

I guess the reason I'm praying more right now for the homeless to find shelter is because the need is so acute. Wonder why I don't see the need for the lost to find shelter in Christ just as acute? As a Christian, as a child of God, I know the joy and security of what it means to "take refuge under the shelter of your wings" (Psalm 61:4). But there are myriads of people we encounter each and every day who don't have this comfort, who aren't children of God, who desperately need to find shelter in Christ.

It is impossible to survive without finding refuge in Christ; it is the only safe place from the bitter consequences of sin and death. Would you join me in praying for those who need shelter? Let's continue to pray for the homeless who need shelter from the cold ... but let's also fervently pray for those unbelievers who need to find shelter in Christ.