A Husband’s Vision For His Marriage…

marriage vision

Below is my vision for my marriage. This vision statement represents what could be and should be in my marriage to Heather Cotner. This is my dream, my longing, my vision…

I want to be your man, your husband, your head. I want to lovingly lead you as I am led by my Head, even Christ. I dream of the day when we are truly one flesh in mind, as well as in body; and I desire to stand by your side, through every season of life. Communicating graciously, loving unselfishly, and cultivating an environment of tenderness for you to grow, thrive, and flourish in is truly one of my greatest ambitions as your husband. As for our children, may they grow in the fear and discipline of the Lord, our little man becoming a man, and our little ladies growing to be strong, fierce and, one day, dressed all in white. I want to grow old with you…like really, really old…and at the end of our time here on earth, when people ask what’s our secret sauce, we’ll say, as one, grace…God’s glorious grace…and nothing more.

Sand, Stars, and Our Schizophrenic Pursuit of Satisfaction

Sand Stars

Like Sand Through Our Fingers

My wife and I are originally from Pensacola, Florida. When we have time and opportunity, we like to visit our hometown and stroll through the downtown area and walk, barefoot of course, on the very famous Pensacola Beach. The sand there is white. Indeed, if you’re originally from up north, the very first time you encounter white sand, your mind interprets such an oddity as snow…at least that’s what my brain did. But this sand is white, beautiful, and on a hot Florida day, will burn your feet.

When I encounter such white sand, I always do the same thing…I’ll bend down and pick up the biggest handful I can muster of this precious sand. Do you know what happens when I do this? Inevitably, the sand will begin to run through the cracks of my fist; and as I slowly release this clump of sand, the rest of it will quickly and decisively throw itself back down to the ground.

I’m convinced that our attempts at finding ultimate beauty, satisfaction, and happiness in this world are a lot like my attempts to hold this white Florida sand in my hands. Inevitably, all that we try to grab in this life for ultimate satisfaction runs through the cracks of our fist and leaves us empty and dry. Do you know what I mean? Perhaps this describes you right now. Are you desperately clinging to this life (family, work, education, travel) hoping for ultimate happiness? Like sand through your fingers, such attempts will leave you with nothing.

Stars In the Night Sky

So, like fools starring in our own parade, we look for bigger and bigger thrills. Indeed, I am convinced that mankind is in an unending pursuit of one powerful drug…wonder! We want to be amazed, inspired, and wowed by something that is so far beyond us, yet easily obtainable by us. We are creatures desperate for wonder…for amazement. We look to the stars on a chilly, clear evening and we make our wishes for happiness, treasure, or love. But even if we got these dreams to come true, would it ever be enough? I think not…

Satan’s Stunning Offer of Everything

One of the most amazing events recorded in the Sacred Text centers around the person and offer of Satan. You’ll remember the story… “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4:1). Remember the three temptations of Satan towards Jesus? The third and final temptation blows my mind the most… “Again, the Devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me'” (Matthew 4:8-9).

Do you realize what Satan was offering Jesus?! One word: Everything. Jesus was offered “all the kingdoms of the world AND their glory.” Jesus was offered it all…Jesus was offered all that this world has to offer in terms of beauty, satisfaction, happiness, and glory. And how did Jesus respond… “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” What?! Why?! How would you have responded if Satan legitimately offered you everything your heart so desperately craves?

Jesus and His Humble Forfeiture

Jesus once said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” It’s a fair question. But think about the direct implication of this question. Jesus was and is forcing people to choose: This world OR me. Jesus is essentially asking, “Do you want ‘all the kingdoms of this world and their glory’ OR do you want me?”

“Isn’t this a false dichotomy?” “Can’t I have both?” “Can’t I have sand and stars and all the happiness that this world has to offer AND my Jesus too?” “Do I really have to choose?”

Yes, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” You can’t have this world and Jesus too. You just can’t. You must make a decision. Unfair? Too much pressure to decide? Maybe, but that’s the reality we all face.

The Curious Case of Solomon

The wisest man to ever live (besides Jesus) can also vouch for the need to choose between this world and its glory and God and His glory. In his book entitled, “Ecclesiastes”, Solomon describes his pursuit of beauty, satisfaction, and happiness via the highway of sand and stars. He said, “So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after the wind…” (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11).

What is Solomon saying here? Simply put, at the end of the highway of sand and stars is mere emptiness that will leave you thirsty for more. Laughter, wine, houses, gardens, cattle, sex, and song were not enough to satisfy the longing and aching of Solomon’s heart. Indeed, he had it all…and it still wasn’t enough…

Our Schizophrenic Pursuit of Satisfaction

As a local church pastor, I meet so many people who are on this quest for ultimate satisfaction. They try to fill a Gospel-sized hole with anything and everything except Jesus. But it’s Jesus alone that will satisfy. Do you believe that? Will you choose to believe it again?

Friend, I know it sounds cliché, and perhaps some nut jobs out there have tainted this message with their presentation of it, but the truth remains, Jesus (and a dynamic, deep relationship with Him) is the ONLY thing that will satisfy the cravings of your heart. Nothing else will satisfy. Not food, drink, pills, sex, education, children, houses, vacations, chocolate, movies, songs, power, fame, money, or any other experience this world has to offer will satisfy your longings.

I beg of you, quit the schizophrenic pursuit of satisfaction by looking to the “kingdoms of this world and their glory.” Look instead to your Savior, Jesus Christ, and with bold faith say to Him, “I can’t see you now. I can’t hold you now. But I’ll worship you and serve you with love and passion.” And in the end, such a life won’t be sand running through your fingers, or some shooting star in the night sky, no, it will be life, joy, blessing, and glory forevermore.

Feed My Sheep: The 2018 IARBC State Conference Reflections

curious_sheep.jpg

On March 26-27, messengers from the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches descended upon Calvary Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant, IA. The purpose of the convergence? To be fed from the Word, strengthened for local church ministry, and to contemplate the business of our association. As a conference messenger and attendee, I can attest to the value and blessing of this year’s state meeting.

The conference highlight, and main speaker for this year’s meeting, was Dr. Dean Taylor from the Pastoral Training Department at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, IA. His theme was “Feed My Sheep”, and as such, he took us on a well-planned, well-exegeted journey through John 21, Acts 20, and 1 Peter 4. As he walked us through these sections of the Sacred Text, he encouraged the messengers, specifically pastors, with words like this: “Recognize the futility of our efforts without Him…Give of yourself regardless of what you get in return…and [preaching] is a gift of God’s grace.” At the end of the day, Dr. Taylor’s words to us were simple: “Love Jesus. Feed His Sheep. Follow Him.” Indeed, every pastor walked away from this conference with these clear marching orders, not from Dr. Taylor per se, but from our precious Lord and Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

In addition to Dr. Taylor’s preaching, multiple workshops were offered, to include: “The Ministry of the Associate Pastor” by Pastor Danny Capon, “Preaching from Old Testament Narrative” by Dr. Dean Taylor, and “It’s Time to Grow Up” by Mrs. Sandy Capon. These workshops were helpful, practical, and blessed the messengers of the conference in a special way. If interested in the notes from any one of these workshops, please contact the workshop leader and they would be glad to give you these notes.

Another valuable aspect of this year’s state meeting was the different business meetings that took place over these two days. Indeed, the Council of Ten was able to meet during this year’s conference and pour over different details that affect our state association. Also, our Annual Business Meeting was conducted, in which (among other things) our State Representative and his wife, Tim and Sandy Capon, gave their report concerning the different ministry opportunities and projects they are currently involved in…and boy are they involved in many things! How we praise God for the precious gift of the leadership of Tim and Sandy Capon to our state association. Also, during the Annual Business Meeting, messengers were able to vote on new Council of Ten members. In fact, your new Council of Ten includes: Will Hatfield (Chairman), Dave Peters (Vice Chairman), Bruce Thompson (Secretary), Shon Lundberg (Treasurer), David Strope, Tim Moore, John Woodford, Doug Farrell, Daniel Hartwig, and David Cotner. Please pray for these men as they advise and counsel our State Representative, Tim Capon.

Another highlight of this year’s conference was a time of discussion on a somewhat long-time concern in our association, namely, what do we do with and how do we interact with churches, in our association, who decide to drop the identifier “Baptist” from their church name. A paper was read, a new policy was presented, and a gentlemanly discussion ensued. Indeed, it was refreshing to see so many different opinions and thoughts being discussed and explained. From my perspective, as one conference attendee, this is a real strength of our association, namely, there is such a wide spectrum of thoughts and opinions on this issue (and others), but, at the end of the day, we desire the same things: unity, the good of our Association, and God’s great glory. A vote concerning our new policy about “Baptist in the Church Name” will be voted upon at next year’s conference. Below is the suggested policy:

“Churches in affiliation with the IARBC shall be Baptist Churches. A Baptist Church shall be identified by the following criteria:

  1. Identification as a Baptist Church in legal documentation;
  2. The statement of a recognized council of sister Baptist churches;
  3. Agreement with the Statement of Faith of the IARBC;
  4. An open desire to be known as a Baptist church and to seek fellowship with other Baptist churches in the IARBC;
  5. The practice of the doctrines presented in the Statement of Faith;
  6. Identification as a Baptist church made readily apparent to its membership and community (e.g. the church’s website, practice, membership classes, publicity materials, etc.).

If churches alter their publicly communicated identity as Baptist, the Council of Ten shall review documents and converse with these churches to ascertain the rationale for these changes.”

All in all, this year’s state conference was helpful and strengthening to all who participated. It sounds cliché, but it was truly a time of good preaching, good singing, good food, and good fellowship. How grateful I am for our state association. It’s serving our needs well and representing the Gospel well; and I know that many of you feel the same way.