Archive | September 2013

The Half-Hearted Kamikaze

I love the story of the kamikaze pilot, who flew in World War II for the Japanese air force.  He was interviewed by a newspaper reporter after returning from his fiftieth mission.  The reporter asked the pilot if he was actually a contradiction.  How can someone be a kamikaze pilot–whose mission is to fly into military bases and give up his life in the process—and still be alive after fifty missions?
“Well, its like this,” the pilot responded. “I was very involved.  Not ever committed, but very involved.”
I always smile when I think of this story.  A true kamikaze pilot only flies on ONE mission.  He gives his life for that one mission.  He cannot be involved without being committed.  There is NO SUCH THING as a half-hearted kamikaze.  Commitment goes with the territory.  And so it is with US!  If we have any hope of being a successful person, much less an effective leader in our church, we must be committed.  Leaders possess commitment.  They cannot be involved without being committed.  The rest of the world may enjoy involvement without commitment, but WE CAN NOT!
So, what’s the difference between involvement and commitment?  Just think of  a pig and a chicken after eating a ham and egg breakfast.  The chicken was involved.  The pig was committed.
The word “mediocre” was first used to describe rock (or mountain) climbers who were involved but not committed.  The word literally means “middle of the rock”.  It was used to describe climbers who didn’t finish the climb but stopped halfway.  OUCH!
Our schools are filled with students who want to be involved but not really committed.  They want to keep all of their options open, and often don’t make a decision until the last minute because a better opportunity may arise at the eleventh hour.  In fact, because our world offers us so many options, we tend not to commit ourselves because we prefer a wide focus.  We want to do it all!  The problem is—we can’t do it all.  Leaders can do SOMETHING but they can’t do EVERYTHING.  Nearly every great leader in history accomplished something memorable because of a narrow focus and a great commitment to the cause.  Even young leaders have figured this out and make their mark because they are committed.
Joan of Arc knew her life mission by the time she was fifteen years old.  At seventeen, she led 3,000 French knights in battle.  On one occasion, she told a military general: “I will lead the way over the wall.”  The general replied, “Not a man will follow you.”  Joan replied, “I won’t be looking back to see if they’re following me.”
At nineteen she was burned alive because she would not recant on her commitment to France.  The British gave her a chance to regain her liberty if she would only change her allegiance, but she would not.  In choosing to die at the stake, she said, “Everyone gives their life for what they believe.  Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and yet they give their life to that little or nothing.  One life is all we have, and we like it, and then it’s gone.  But to give up what you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying, even more terrible than dying young.”
John Wesley founded the organization that later became the Methodist Church when he was seventeen.  He could have done many other things.  He was educated at Oxford and enjoyed horticulture, medicine, journalism, and politics.  But he saw the great spiritual need of England during the 18th century and committed himself to spiritual renewal.  He traveled over 250,000 miles on horseback, teaching and organizing churches more than fifty years.  Unlike Joan of Arc, Wesley died of old age, but not until his movement had impacted Great Britain.  One history book reported that John Wesley almost single-handedly saved England from bloody revolution.
So…how does this relate to you?
Today, people talk about commitments they’re going to make, but often fail to keep them.  New Year’s resolutions last until February or March, at best.  We say we believe in something or make a promise—then we drift from it.  Half-hearted kamikazes are a dime a dozen.  The reason other folks live such quality lives and possess such great influence is that they do more than make promises.  They’re committed to some ideals and values, and they live them out.  They move from a “wish” to a “lifestyle” by surrendering to a cause along the way.
Your commitment will mean something when you act on it for an extended period of time.  When you become committed, you will notice something wonderful.  The moment you make a commitment you will find all kinds of wisdom, energy, and resources at your disposal that weren’t necessarily there before you made the commitment.
Many people want to see everything in place before they get committed.  Unfortunately, they will never act if they are waiting for the perfect conditions.  They are half-hearted kamikazes, waiting for a feeling before they act.  They want to “feel” led to do something.  Once again, they may be waiting for a while.  We are much more likely to act our way into a feeling, then we are to feel our way into action.  Get committed long enough, and eventually that commitment will become a conviction you’ll be willing to die for.
Matthew 16:24  – If any one wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.


I spent the first half of this week with a wonderful group of volunteers cleaning out a long neglected resource room. Over the years, more and more stuff had piled up…to the point that what had once been a useful space became the exact opposite–a room that was of no use to anyone.  It was no longer fulfilling its purpose.

As we worked to clear and reorganize the room, I was reminded of how cluttered we allow our lives to become. So often we fill our lives and the lives of our families with things that, while useful and good for us, cause us to become too busy and our lives to become messy, keeping us from fulfilling the purpose God has for us. We, like that resource room, are no longer able to serve our purpose.

Take a look at your life today.  Has it become cluttered? Do you find that you are so busy that you aren’t spending time with God each day as you should? Have you allowed other activities to take the place of spending time with the family of faith in discipleship and fellowship? Does it feel like serving God is just one more thing on your ever-growing to-do list?
Spend some time in prayer.  Ask God to show you the things in your life that are keeping you from fulfilling His purpose.



Jesus + Nothing…

For years, Christianity was this journey toward self-righteousness for me.  I don’t know when this cycle began, but I know I’ve wrestled with the notion that I can somehow attain favor with God on my own accord. When I would attend church, I was waiting for a “three-step plan” to fix my problems and discover God’s will for my life (like there’s some miraculous formula). 

I was eager, at least on the surface, to do whatever it took for God to be pleased with me, regardless of the measure suggested from the platform at my home church. Time and time again, I would sit in my chair waiting for that one message that would revolutionize my life and catapult me forward in my pursuit for self-fulfillment and right standing with God. 

The problem? My theology (what I knew about God) was all wrong, as well as my motivation. 

What I became over the years was a Pharisee. Instead of truly understanding the fullness of salvation and pursuing the God who freely offered it through Jesus Christ, I wished to supplement His work for my works. Somewhere along the line, I had belittled the costly sacrifice of His one and only Son on the cross by believing that I could merit anything at all from him by my “good deeds” apart from faith.  I failed to internalize that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV).  (In case you don’t catch the severity of this passage, do some research on it to understand the reference.)

Nothing I do can ever be enough to take the place of Christ’s substitution for me at Calvary. No deed could ever change my eternal fate. In fact, my greatest achievement is worthless as it pertains to my salvation because Christ alone can fill the gap between my pitiful, sinful state and God’s holy perfection. 

All my work over the years to “be good with God” had been (and will ever continue to be) misplaced. I wished to take my life in my own hands and venture forward in my own strength. Fortunately, God got a hold of me and corrected my misguided belief system. He reminded me that “there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). And, although there are times when I drift back into this sinful way of thinking, I know where I stand with God, thanks to Jesus. 

He’s still working on me to understand the depths of His grace a little more clearly each day so that I can further comprehend that it is only because of His loving initiative that I stand forgiven; and, if you are in Christ, the same goes for you!


Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 

(Romans 6:12-14, ESV)


Jesus + Nothing = Everything (I stole this from a book title)

As you go throughout your day, remember this equation. Tell yourself throughout the day, “Christ is everything.” 

My prayer is that God will constantly remind us of this truth, so that our deeds are merely a result of our salvation (not vice versa). 



First Official Entry!

When Paul is writing the Ephesian church, he calls the body of Christ to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”  This word “walk” is used many times in scripture and is almost always synonymous with “how we live.”  In other words, “as you are walking” is the same as “as you are living.”  Paul was so serious about this that he risked and suffered being thrown into prison because of it.  So he challenges each of us to live in a manner that is “worthy” of this calling, this adoption, this holiness.
One of the cornerstone scriptures that we use at Immanuel is Ephesians 4:3 – we are “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Unity is a very serious issue here.  Not that we all have the same feelings or the same opinions, but what we have is room for healthy debate and accountability.  There are two words in this passage that we many times overlook.  The first one is “maintain.”  Do you realize that we do not create unity?  We are commanded to preserve the unity that God has already established.  So, if we do not protect that, we have ruined what He has created.  The second one is “peace.”  This is the glue that holds us together because it is so intertwined with love.  A peaceful spirit/attitude is one that is anchored in the love of Jesus Christ.  Not weak, but strong love that expresses and demonstrates how we live.

Welcome to the New Blog!

Welcome to the new blog for Immanuel Baptist Church! This is where we’ll be posting articles and other news related to the events, sermons, and programs at the church. You can easily subscribe to the blog, or check the website anytime you want the see the latest. We look forward to seeing how God will use this new and exciting media of communication to bless our congregation.