A Visit to Mount Airy, NC

This past weekend, we had the chance to take my mom and dad to Mount Airy, NC. Mount Airy is the hometown of Andy Griffith. It is the basis for the fictional town of Mayberry. We had a great time as we visited the various shops around town. We even took a long walk, instead of driving to a mock-up of the old courhouse from the television show. It looks like they caught me in jail! You can see my son the sheriff in the next picture.

One of the things that surprised me was how much Mt. Airy has grown since the last time we were here in 1994. We visited here as part of an eight day/eight state youth choir tour (that’s a story for another day.) I remember being there on a Saturday morning before and the place was practically deserted.

Since moving here to Virginia, we have gotten reaquainted with this classic television series. It’s amazing that after all these years, The Andy Griffith show is still popular. Our teen Sunday School class even had a bible study a few months back based on the show. Perhaps people still long for the a bit of the “good old days.” People are longing for “small-town values.” When was the last time you heard someone say, “Wow! I like his big city values.” No, people desire a place where people are real and authentic. They desire a place of real community. Perhaps this is the fasination with Mayberry. People identify with the values they find there.

We Must Not Forget

This morning we read of the origins of our Memorial Day in The United States. I want to take you back to another memorial day. About 4000 years ago, there was a nation waiting to cross in to the land that we now know as Israel. The area that they were staying was known as the Trans-Jordan. They were waiting to enter the land that God had promised them when the left Egypt. When it comes to those who have given their lives for the sake of our country, we never want to forget, however there are other things, especially spiritual things that we don’t want to forget.

Most of us remember the story of Moses and the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians, but were you aware that there was another crossing. This is when the Hebrews were crossing into the land of Canaan. This one, however, required a step of faith. They had to make a conscious decision to cross.

Joshua 3:1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out…and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But
keep a distance of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” 6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”…14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam…while the water flowing down to the Dead Sea was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Joshua 4:1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant had stood. And they are there to this day…14 That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.

15 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 16 “Command the priests carrying the ark of the Testimony to come up out of the Jordan.”

17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”

18 And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.

19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Joshua had the Israelites set up stones in two places; one at the camp at Gilgal and another in the Jordan River. He did this to remind the people of what God had done for them. Why did they need a reminder? Perhaps it was so they wouldn’t grumble to Joshua as they had grumbled to Moses after he led them across the Red Sea. As we had learned this morning, memorials are important to us. In our own country, we take this time each year to remember those who have died in service to our country. Another memorial day is on Thanksgiving. We give thanks to God for what he has done. Why do we do these things? Because we are forgetful. What happens in our regular life also happens in our spiritual life. It is important to remember what God has done for us on a regular basis. Part of that is done through the sacrament of communion. That is one reason we have increased the amount of times we take communion each year. Another way that we remember and memorialize what God has done is through baptism. We are planning a baptism service for the last Sunday of June in the evening. If you are a believer and have never been baptized, I encourage you to see me, so that you can take part in this important sacrament.

May I ask you a question? Can you tell me when you were converted? Converted to what you ask? Converted to faith in Jesus Christ. Not by what you’ve done, but through the work of Jesus Christ in you. Keith Drury is a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University. During the school year, he writes a weekly column that provokes thought. Several years ago, he wrote a column describing three different models of conversion of a Christian. He writes, “I see three different models of conversion widely accepted among my students.” He goes on to tell us of the three models. They are:

A. Instantaneous Conversion – This is the traditional revivalist model of conversion. A person feels guilt for their sin, comes to a point of confession and repentance, and in a single moment “receives Christ.” The instantaneous model proposes a person might move from darkness to light in a single transaction on a single day or moment in time. One moment they are an “unsaved person” on their way to hell. A moment later they are “saved and on their way to heaven.” A person converted like this knows both how and when they were converted–they remember the experience and the place. This “Damascus Road” model has been the prevailing model among revivalist-evangelicals for at least a century.

B. Gradual Conversion – Many of my students have a more gradual mode of conversion. This model admits that some people might be saved in a single “hour of decision” but believes that most folk come to Christ through series of decisions over a longer period of time and it is hard to know which decision is the actual moment of conversion. This increasingly popular model of conversion takes a “faith development” approach to evangelism–nurturing a person along in their faith development “fanning the sparks that are there” until that person develops a fully mature faith. People with this model approach evangelism as if it were discipleship. “Journey” is an important metaphor for those with this model. They are quicker to talk about a person’s “faith journey” than their “conversion story.”…The gradual conversion model sees conversion as a long term process, not a one time event.

C. Christian Nurture Conversion – This model proposes that one can be a Christian without ever becoming one. It is most common among students raised in Christian homes, who have faithfully attended Sunday School, VBS, youth camps and every youth convention since they were in the 7th grade. Those with this model of conversion say, “I’ve always been a Christian – I was raised a Christian.” When asked. “Was there ever a day in your life when you would have gone to hell?” they usually answer promptly, “Not one day.” They argue that they are Christian because they have never rejected Christ.

Which story do you have? Were you saved in an instant, gradually or “brought up Christian?” What do you think? Is it important to be able to “pinpoint” your conversion? Can you be a Christian simply because you have never rejected Jesus?

Let’s take a look at the story of Joshua. Why did the Lord command Joshua to build the memorial?

First, let’s look at vs. 3:9-17.
This is how you will know that the living God is among you…God gave the priests the command to get into the water to stop the flow of the river, so that the nation of Israel could cross the river.

Now, let’s take a look at Joshua 4:4-7

“What do these stones mean?” When your children ask you, tell them this is when the Lord helped us. Why is it important to have a “date”? The “date” stands as a memorial. There’s a story of a young boy who lived on a farm. He was one of those boys who went to church every time it was open. By and by, he accepted Jesus as Savior. But you know how it goes. The devil convinced him that he wasn’t saved. So, he went to the altar ‘again and again and again’. Finally, one time when he went to the altar, his father came along side of the boy. His father said, “When we get home we’re going to go out behind the barn and find a stake and drive it into the ground with today’s date on it. The next time you get to feeling like you’re not saved, you can go out and look at the stake. The stake will serve as a reminder of the decision you have made.”

What did the stake do? It was a weapon against the enemy. It helps us remember what has happened. Just like Memorial Day helps us remember what has happened in the life of our country. The stake reminds us what God has done in our life.

Conclusion: Have you ever set up a memorial to God? In America we use flowers on graves to remember what men did to keep us free. The ancient Hebrews used stones piled up to remind
them what God has done in their lives.

This morning could be your Memorial Day. Have you accepted Christ either instantaneously or maybe in a gradual method. Maybe you have you “never rejected Christ.” This is a dangerous position indeed. The position gives us no ground against the enemy. We need to remember that we face an enemy who battles against us and he is deceptive.

If you think that you are a Christian simply because you have never rejected Christ, I want to challenge you. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and come short of God’s glorious standard. Sin stands in our way of ever being a Christian on our own. The only way we can become a Christian is through Christ’s glorious work in us. I challenge you to let Christ do his work in you.

There may also be some of you who think that you need to clean up your act before God can use you. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of my favorite invitation songs is one that Billy Graham has used for years. “Just as I am…” If we repent and confess our sins and receive Jesus, he will accept us just the way we are. Does that mean change won’t happen? No, it simply means let Christ work in you and through you to let the change happen. Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. If you do that he will work in and through you…
I challenge you this morning, if you have accepted Jesus, do you know the date, or could you pick one? If not today could be your Memorial Day the day that you accept Christ and drive the stake into the ground behind the barn.


Mark Wilson got me thinking about SPAM a few weeks ago. No, not the processed food or emails, but about what the letters mean. Here, take a look:

Small Places Are Magnificent
Small-town Pastors Are Mighty
Small-town Pastors Are Mobilized
Small-town Partnerships Are Missional
Small Place As Mission

God has been teaching me that He can use us right where we are. The Good News needs to be told and people in rural/small towns need the good news just as much as large towns/cities/urban areas. I have been praying for the community around our church. I know our church is excited about the things God has planned for us in the future. Small Places are Marvelous! Thanks, Mark!


For several weeks now, the Casting Crowns’ song “I Will Praise You in the Storm” has been playing on the radio. While I was away at FLAME, I heard about the song “While You Were Sleeping.” In addition, my wife was starting to ask me about this CD, so as a belated Mother’s Day gift, we traveled to Danville, VA and picked up the Lifesong CD. It has gotten almost continuous play since we bought it. My oldest daughter didn’t like it because she said it was melancholy. The CD addresses “worship” in a whole new light. It calls for more listening so that the lyrics can get under my skin and make a difference. Lifesong is a reminder that “worship” is so much more than music, singing, and raising our hands. As Paul says in Romans 12, “And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

Serving at FLAME

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to serve at FLAME. This is sponsored by the Department of Education and the Ministry of The Wesleyan Church. I had the opportunity to lead worship, which by the way was awesome as usual. In addition, I was able to help in other areas as needed. It was a great week not only of service, but encouragement as I talked with the students. The highlight of the week was praying with future pastors one on one. It made my whole week. Here are a few pictures from the week.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Today has been a good day. Our church had its Homecoming celebration, which means we celebrated 57 years of ministry to our community. We had our former District Superintendent speak and we also had a great childrens ensemble sing for us. After church we had a great dinner made by the ladies of our church and then this evening we had a hymn sing. It’s been good. Thanks to all who participated and helped.

Reflections from FLAME

This morning I want to celebrate the call to ministry. Some of you may wonder what this has to do with Mother’s Day, but we will get to that.

Immediately following last Sunday’s morning service, I began the journey to Stroudsburg, PA. I had arraignments to meet Charles Thomas (a current FLAME student) in Roanoke and ride with him to Stroudsburg. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and sharing as we made the long trip to FLAME. There were several long stops not of our making (traffic backed up). We finally arrived in Stroudsburg at 10:00 PM.

Some of you this morning are wondering what FLAME is. FLAME is an acronym for Fellowship of Leaders Acquiring Ministerial Education. The program is headed up by Rev. Wayne Richards and is sponsored by the Department of Education and the Ministry of the Wesleyan Church. Most of you know I have a degree in Church Music from Indiana Wesleyan University. I really felt God was calling me into a worship/music ministry position. It was only after I had left IWU that God called me into a preaching/pastoral position. The degree at IWU left me lacking in these areas of education. FLAME filled in the gaps. FLAME is designed for non-traditional ministerial students (over the age of 28 ) whom God has called into the ministry. Many times these men and women are called into the ministry at their local church. Sometimes once they finished the requirements, they are called to another church. FLAME is not designed to give academic credit, but is a way to educate men and women and then ordain them for ministry in the Wesleyan Church.

FLAME has made a great impact on my ministry. I have felt called of God to invest back into the ministry that deeply affected who I am today. Part of that calling involves you releasing me to go and serve at the FLAME conferences like I did this past week. I go strictly as a volunteer. This past week I led worship with a great worship band and then served tables and all kinds of little tasks. We wear nametags so everyone gets to know us. Those who served on staff got special titles. Wayne’s was Commander-in-“cheese.” Dave and Mary Lou Stevens serve as our cooks. Dave’s title was Prime Minister of Extreme Cuisine. And Mary Lou’s was Vice President of Hospitality and Drinks. My title for the past week was Bishop of Worship and Salads.

We had a great week serving those men and women whom God is calling into Christian service. God moved in a mighty way, especially on Wednesday night and Friday morning. One of the things that God taught me over this week is that in my weakness, he will make me strong. On Wednesday, I had lost my voice, because I wasn’t used to the amount of singing we had done. In my weakness, God provided. I want to share with you this morning a couple of thoughts from FLAME.

The first has to do with this carabineer. What is carabineer, you may ask. It is a device that is used in mountain climbing and looks like this. Many people use them to attach their keys to their belt or purse. The real purpose of a carabineer is to attach the mountain climber to the safety rope, just in case they misstep. This way instead of a tragic end, falling to their death, it is only a small mishap. This morning, I have this carabineer and first I can attach it to God. I encourage you this morning to attach yourself to God. This is the vertical relationship. Second there is a horizontal relationship. This is also part of the FLAME strategy. Not only do we need to attach to God, but we need to attach to each other. There is no room in this life for lone-ranger Christians. We need each other. The carabineer that was passed out at this year’s conference also has an attachment on it. It is a reminder to each of us that our family is attached to our ministry. So this serves as a visual reminder to attach ourselves to God, to each other and our family.

One of the neat things about FLAME is to see how God is raising up an army of men and women

What does all of that have to do with us? So what? Some of you are wondering what any of this has to do with Mother’s Day. It is my belief that on this day, we not only honor mothers, but all women. For some this can be a very difficult day. Some women would like to be mothers but can’t. Some of you may be spending the first year without your mother on this day. Some have had a bad relationship with their mother. This is a day that we celebrate women. One of the ways that we can do that is see how God is using women to spread the gospel.

I have a question for you this morning. Is God calling you to the ministry? This question is for both men and women. What is God calling you to do? Perhaps you’ve been running away from God. Perhaps, if you’re a woman, you never though it was possible for you to be called into the ministry and do anything but be a missionary or a children’s pastor. There are several women pastors in the Wesleyan Church that I count as friends in the ministry. Dawn and Renee are now ordained and their ministry to me at FLAME was incredible. Dawn played and sang with me several times in the FLAME bands. She was always an encourager.

So what is God calling you to? Perhaps this morning God is calling you into full-time ministry. It’s never too late. One of the men I met this week was already retired from a secular job and was finishing up his ordination requirements, because he felt God was calling him to the ministry at age 67. Believe it or not he even slept on a air mattress for three nights as he attended classes. God is calling even now, men and women to serve Him in the ministry. Is God calling you? Are you willing to follow Him?