The Greatest

In Matthew 18:1, the disciples asked Jesus, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?”. It may seem odd that Jesus placed a little child in the middle of this group and said, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 18:4)”. A child the greatest? Yes. Not a sports figure or a war hero or a movie star? How can that be? Because the teachings of Jesus are contrary to the thinking of this world.

A man asked Jesus an important question, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” There’s that word great again. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40). The greatest commandment? Now, is this contrary to the way the world thinks? You bet it is.

In Luke 22:24, the question arose again, “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” Jesus answered by talking about how the people of this world want to be the boss of everyone else. But he staggers their minds by saying that the servant who waits on tables, and not the privileged guest eating at the table, is the greatest. Isn’t that backwards to how our world thinks? Then Jesus added, by the way, that he is that servant.

The Apostle Paul compared love to anything else a person can do. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, he wrote poetically, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.” Then he concludes with that word again – greatest. “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

So what are we missing? What is the world missing? What do both sides of our political system miss when they blame, accuse, and bicker among themselves continually. We all miss the greatest. Since the world’s thinking is contrary to God’s thinking, we settle for the least when we strive to be the greatest. Not only in politics, but in families, in churches, sports, and in all areas of our lives the world wants to look like the greatest and put everyone else down to make ourselves look better. We settle for less, for the easy way, for the immediately gratifying. No wonder our world is in a mess.

There is an answer. In 1 John 4:4, we are told, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Jesus himself, speaking ultimately about himself said, “… behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” and “I have greater witness than that of John (the Baptist)”. But a greater statement comes in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down His life for this world.

So, why are we constantly seeking to live like the world? There seems to be little difference in how a believer lives and how the world lives. Isn’t it time to stop settling for less? Isn’t it time to stop living like this world is all there is? Isn’t it time for believers to turn their thinking around? The Apostle Paul pretty well sums it all up in 1 Corinthians 1.

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness… Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brothers, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

Yes, the mind of this world is totally opposite the mind of God. Then why do we, as believers, keep thinking like the world? I think I’ll change my mind. Will you?





Buried Treasure

Recently I read about a treasure of old Roman coins that were found buried inside a coffin. They had been there for nearly two-thousand years. We usually think of things we bury as dead things, like our pet dog Rover we buried in the front yard after loving him for almost sixteen years. But dead things are not the only things we bury.

We can bury treasure. We bury our talents. We bury our guilt and hurt real deep. People have been known to say thinks like, “I am completely buried under with work.” But there is something else we bury, something we must bury to bring it to life – a seed. Unlike everything else we bury, a seed does not stay buried. It grows. In Mark’s Gospel, 4:26-27, we are told that the growth of a seed is a mystery to us. We neither know how it grows, nor do we have an active role in making it grow. All we can do is scatter the seeds. The rest is left up to God.

It is astounding hearing the testimonies of people who heard the seed of the Gospel and were born again. Maybe a Bible tract, a word from a friend, an old family Bible, a drama at church, a song on the radio, a sermon… all seeds of the Gospel. Those seeds somehow took root and they grew. They grew step by step and produced a great harvest. Only God knows how. People like the Apostle Paul, whose heart was hard, who called himself the chief of all sinners, who was the least likely person to get saved; yet, there at the stoning of Stephen, the seed was sown. And look what became of him. Millions of stories like that abound in Christianity.

I have learned some hard lessons during my ministry. One lesson is that though I cannot save anyone, I can sow the seed. I cannot cause it to grow, but I can certainly sow the seed – everyday – everywhere I go . Now, if I keep the seeds in a little jar and pour them out once in a while to look at them, I may find them beautiful sitting up there on the shelf (like the big family Bible) but they will not grow. They will never be more than just seeds until I scatter them. They must be buried in order to grow. They must be buried in order to bear fruit and produce a harvest.

By the way, those coins found buried in the coffin for almost 2000 years, did not grow. They did not increase or reproduce, despite being buried for so long. But the seeds of the Gospel when sown… they grow. I don’t know how, but they do. Some grow in a short time. Some take years. But they do grow. God gives the increase. So, let’s scatter the seeds of the Gospel everywhere we go. One thing is for sure, though, if we don’t scatter the seeds, it is certain they cannot grow. Get out that seed bag and start scattering.

Let Me Tell You About Willy

As my wife and son and I got up from our table at a restaurant in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., the man at the table beside us nodded and spoke to me. “How are you doing?” he asked. “Better now,” I replied, patting my stomach, “Since I just ate.” My wife and son had already headed for the door and probably wondered where I was, because, for the next thirty minutes while they sat on a bench outside, I talked to Willy and his wife, Mary.

Willy and Mary lived on the coast further downstate. They were African-American, probably retired. They were visiting a daughter and grandchildren in the area. We seemed to hit it off and become friends very quickly. Both of them said they could tell I was a pastor from my conversation. I could certainly tell they were believers from their warm greetings and conversation too. They talked about their church and even gave details of the times of services and Bible studies. I could tell they were involved.

Having been brought up by Godly parents who taught us to love all people, I was taught not to judge people by the outward appearance. I saw Willy and Mary as people. Race has never been a criteria for me making friends. In the service I became friends with many people of different colors and religions. My good friends included an atheist, a Mormon, Catholics, Muslims, and more. I had good friends of many different colors, social status, and lifestyles. I was not “uncomfortable” around anyone. That didn’t mean I had to become like them or agree with them – just enjoy being with them as people.

But Willy brought up the subject of our differences – in a positive way. He said that at his church all people are welcome. “Black and white, rich and poor,” he said. “We love everyone.” Of course we small talked about many things. I asked several questions about their family. They bragged on their grandchildren. Willy served in the army and I thanked him for his service and told him how much I appreciated all veterans. But the subjects of God and loving people dominated his speech.

I suppose Willy shook hands with me at least ten times as we said good-bye. But we kept talking. He invited me to come to his church. I gave him my card and told him to come up to our church and we would make him and his wife feel welcome. I left the restaurant feeling good (and blessed) and couldn’t stop telling my wife and son about Willy and Mary. It was a highlight of my vacation. I wonder why everyone can’t be more like Willy and Mary. They had some good disciple-ing in their lives, no doubt from being in a good church; and they seemed to love all people genuinely. If there were more Willy’s in the world, it sure would be a better place to live.

Vertical And Horizontal Worship

There is a vertical aspect to worship that we are well aware of – Worship of God and His Son Jesus. That is not only the most important purpose of the church, but worship is the duty of all mankind. The more people who get saved the more people who worship almighty God. But there is also a horizontal aspect of worship – fellowship and serving alongside other believers. Most people believe the first aspect is important. I hear people often make excuses for not being in church.  “I pray every night.” “I watch preachers on television.” “I read my Bible.” Great. But these are only the vertical aspect of worship. Scripture tells us in Hebrews 10, “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” In Acts 2 we see the church this way, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

You can worship God anywhere and even by yourself. But you cannot be the church by yourself. You won’t be able to encourage one another, share bread, disciple each other, give to one another in need, and many more things… if you are not connected to a body of believers. Your worship will be incomplete. The word church itself mean “the called out ones”. The Great Commission tells us to “make disciples”. You won’t be able to make disciples or be discipled if you are  trying to live the Christian life apart from other believers.

This little poem I found a long time ago says it this way

I will do more than belong — I will participate

I will do more than care — I will help

I will do more than believe — I will practice

I will do more than be fair — I will be kind

I will do more than forgive — I will work

I will do more than earn — I will enrich

I will do more than teach — I will inspire

I will do more than give — I will serve

I will do more than live — I will grow

I will do more than be friendly — I will be a friend

Don’t miss assembling yourselves together as some do. Truly worship God in both vertical and horizontal directions. Connect with the Body of Christ. God made us relational creatures and we need other people all along our spiritual journey. Find a group of believers to connect with today. Remember the scripture that assures us, “Iron sharpens Iron.” Sharpen someone and be sharpened as you worship God.

Calling Down Fire

There is an interesting story in Luke 9. Jesus and his disciples were refused entrance to a Samaritan Village. Two of the disciples, the sons of thunder, got real angry.  “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?”(9:54)

Now that’s not an unusual response. That is normal today. I reckon I have not witnessed so much hatred in my lifetime as today. Our nation is divided. We call each other names. If you do not agree with someone today you have some options. (1) You destroy them on social media. (2) You call them prejudiced, discriminatory, bigots, or some other awful name. That becomes the basis of your argument. (3) You call for a boycott.

Is this how people handle disagreements today? Yes. Even though they may feel justified. James and John felt justified. Calling someone prejudice today is like the boy who cried wolf. It is so overused any time we want to add weight to our argument. That’s truth on both sides of the issue. Christians are boycotting Target stores because of their bathroom policy. Now, I’m sure Target is not prejudice against Christians. They do not hate people and do not want them to be hurt. But that is the argument. The NCAA is boycotting North Carolina over the same issue, but in the reverse. Now I am sure the people who oppose transgender bathrooms do not hate transgender people or gays, but that is the argument. People want to make the other side look bad and will say anything or do anything to prove their point. Even calling fire down from Heaven.

Who gets hurt? Not the people calling for the boycotts. Not even the people at the top who make the decisions. The people, like you and me. The employees of Target who depend on a paycheck. The people of North Carolina, even people who agree with the NCAA. They are punished. They suffer. It’s like we delight in making people suffer when we don’t get our way. We turn against our own flesh and blood, our fellow citizens. We are always right and everyone else is always wrong – on any issue. No longer can we discuss, disagree, vote differently, or even express an opinion on an issue without being called names or having fire called down on us. And In the extreme, we label people, riot, burn cities and cars. Did you hear that? Burn cities and cars. Hurt people with fire. Sounds just like James and John.

What was Jesus’ response to the sons of thunder? In Luke 9:55-56, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” I don’t think people realize what spirit they are of. If they could only realize that they are just caught up in the popular movement of the day and could truly see their spirit, they would be shocked. Some people would rather destroy lives. Isn’t that sad? They want to inflict damage on others. Of course, they always justify it. They are right. Others are wrong. I have good motives. Others are evil and prejudiced. Even sadder. We want to label people and put them in a box. Yes, some people may be inherently evil and nothing you say or do will change them. There are people at both extremes who may be filled with hate. Life will always have people like that. But most of us are in the middle somewhere. We follow our values and convictions. We don’t hate people. We simply disagree on an issue. Even if we are wrong sometimes, that does not mean we deserve fire to be called down on us.

I know many pastors who visit hospitals, nursing homes, jails, and anywhere there is a need. They do not care if the person is gay or straight, black or white. They do not ask an inmate why they are in prison. They simply love people and care about people. They want to save lives, not destroy them. If a person of any sexual orientation was lying in a hospital, who would most likely be there to minister to them? Certainly not the people calling for the boycotts. But a pastor who loves people, who knows about them because he frequently visits those places looking for an opportunity to “save lives”. They do not look for credit or payment. Often they do not receive any. They go, not for reward, but because they care about people. They don’t boycott them or call them names. They love and serve all people. These pastors may be on different sides of political issues. But they don’t spend their time bashing people on social media. I know because I see them. I know their spirit. They would rather save lives than seek to destroy them. How about today, we all stop calling fire down from heaven on our friends, coworkers, and fellow citizens – even those who disagree with us. I like Jesus’ response. Don’t you think that’s the best choice? You can disagree with people without labeling and name calling and punishing them. You can do like Jesus did. He rebuked that spirit and then just went to another village.


Master Sargent Cato

Master Sargent Cato was my close friend for about a year. We were both stationed at a remote site in eastern Turkey. I never learned his first name, as we seldom used them. We were nothing alike. He was tall, burley, brown skinned, married, and older than me. I was a young, single airman at the time. But we had one thing in common – our love for the Lord. Cato was what I observed as a strong, seasoned Christian who knew more about life than I did. We attended many Bible studies together. One day he and I ran into each other while on temporary duty at the nearby “big base”. He asked me, “What are you doing tonight?” I told him that I was free. He followed by saying, “I used to be stationed here and they had Bible studies in guys homes. If there is one for tonight, would you like to go?” I said “sure.” That night we met and he told me there was one scheduled. It was at a home off base. So, we caught a taxi and exited through the main gate. A few moments later we arrived at the house. We knocked. Who answered the door, but a few little children carrying trays of cookies. We were welcomed in. What a great night we had eating cookies and drinking punch and enjoying the Bible study, singing, and fellowship. But one thing impressed me more than anything else. I was the only Caucasian person there. Middle easterners… African Americans… and the host family was Hispanic. That night we were all one. What a mighty God to be able to bring men and women and children from different backgrounds together and unite them through His Holy Spirit! I have never forgotten that Bible study. I can’t remember what it was about, but I will never forget the sweet, Christian fellowship we enjoyed. When I recall that special time, I think of the Bible studies and times of fellowship right here in my church and community. I have held them in restaurants, library, fire department, and in church. We had people from all different denominational backgrounds and yet we enjoyed the same sweet fellowship as I did in Turkey. That’s why I like Sunday school so much. People come together to pray, study, fellowship, and reach out to those in need. Sunday school is a cluster of many different groups of people who come together united by their love for God and each other. When life gets hard and knocks you down, you have this small family of believers who love you and will care for you. When you are sick or your resources run low, they are there for you to help you and encourage you. My prayer is to see more Sunday school classes and home groups springing up all over the place. This is what comes to my mind when I read Acts 2:42-47, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers… And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Ask God to plant you in a good Bible study group and GROW!

Speak A Word In Season To The Weary

I am Pastor Tony Brown, serving the wonderful folks who make up the family of believers of the Whitesburg First Baptist Church in Whitesburg, Kentucky. They are among the most loving, caring, and giving people I have ever served. This church is a praying church too. One of my life verses is Isaiah 50:4,”The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary”. This verse pretty well states the purpose of my blog. I want to be an encourager to those who may be going through challenging seasons of their lives by sharing the words the Lord has given to me. By nature I am an encourager. Pastoral care seems to be my primary spiritual gift. I love people and I love to listen to their stories. So, from time to time I will be passing along some uplifting stories that I have heard or experienced myself while journeying through my life. In our world today, it seems like we hear very little good news. That is unfortunate since I believe the good in people I meet far exceeds the bad I hear about on news. It is my strong conviction that there is so much more good about life than we are ever told. The good things about Christianity and the church are more often ignored or forgotten than talked about. While the world insists on criticizing  Christianity and bringing up those people and events that give it a bad name, I choose to focus on the loving and self-sacrificing Christians that I know. In my ministry of serving in local churches for about forty years now, the overwhelming majority of believers I have met are kind, compassionate, and committed to the values that Jesus taught and demonstrated during His earthly life. Don’t you think it’s about time we hear the truth about real Christians and stop wallowing in the negative of the minority who fail to live like the Christ they profess to follow? I hope you will become a regular follower of “a seasoned word” and read the stories I share about real Christ like believers. I am sure that if you do you will fall in love with Christ and His people we call the church.