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Posts from December 2008

Cruising Into a New Year

Hard to believe another year is almost gone.  Tomorrow, we embark on our cruise to the Bahamas. I've been to Europe, Asia and Latin America, but never on a cruise so this is new to me.  I have been told over and over that we'll be eating very well and that I am to relax.  I'm not too sure why everyone tells me I need to rest.  Do I look overworked?

So, we'll float around on the Carnival Fascination and I'll take in my forced relaxation.  I'm looking forward to this. 

What I have to do is try not to think about what needs to be done when I get home.  This will be a good experiment to see if I can do this. 

What I am sure of is this - the church will be just fine in my absence.  We have a great team of pastors and deacons who serve the Lord and the people well.  So, have fun while I'm gone.

The Star Wars Christmas Special

Back when the first Star Wars movie came out (which was really the fourth movie, I guess) the hype of all things space and Star Wars was high.  I remember the excitement all of us had when we heard the Star Wars Christmas Special was coming out. This was definitely one of the worst Christmas specials I've ever seen.  It didn't come close to Charlie Brown's Christmas, Rudolph or any of the other stop-motion specials.

This one had something to do with Chewbacca getting back home for their Wookie "Christmas" holiday.  Weird.  The stars were all in it, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and even the droids, but they must have been made to do it.  Even Bea Arthur was in this.  One of the less than memorable scenes was Carrie Fisher singing about "Life Day." 

Do any of you remember this show?  There's a reason this one is not repeated every Christmas.

We All Need CB Radios

My TiVo recorded Smokey and the Bandit as a suggestion the other day.  I remember seeing this movie with my folks back in 1977.  After viewing the edited version on TV, it's pretty clear the language wasn't the most appropriate.  However, there's something kind of nostalgic about the CB radios.  I remember my dad getting a CB after seeing this movie.  I had a handle.  It was "Hammerhead". 

I know that with cell phones, there's really no need for the CB for most folks and it was pretty much a fad, but watching this movie was fun.

Did any of you get into the CB craze?

Still love Jerry Reed's song "East Bound and Down" (even though it's about bootlegging Coor's beer from Texarkana to Atlanta - still a fun song.)

Fifteen Years at First Baptist

As many know, I am celebrating fifteen years of pastoral service here at First Baptist.  The church just announced that they are giving my family a trip to the Bahamas over the Christmas break.  This is pretty overwhelming, yet greatly appreciated. 

I've shared with many of you that truly, we as a family, have only been on one vacation.  That was to Orlando with family from Arkansas.  It was probably a bigger deal to the other family members in that we can drive down to Disney any time we want.  All other vacation days are used to travel and spend time with family in Tennessee and Arkansas.  Now, don't get me wrong, those are restful, fun times, but not the type of vacation we're going to experience in a few weeks.  I'm sure it's going to be a blast and hopefully a time of rest for us.

So, thank you church for this wonderful gift.

It doesn't seem that we have been in Orange Park that long, but truly fifteen years is a good while.  A lot has changed in fifteen years in our family and in the community.

When we came here in 1993, our daughter Ashley was only 4 months old.  Now, she's driving.  Daniel was born in 1995 so Orange Park is the only home he's ever known.

When I came to the church, Dr. Allen Harrod was pastor, Steve Griffith was Minister of Education, and Rick Hunt was our Minister of Music.  Those were great days and a fun team to work with.

Over the years, we have had others serve on staff.  I'll try to remember them in order:

  • Robert Rumfelt, Minister of Singles
  • Art Hooker, Minster of Singles & Evangelism
  • Shelvin Lamb, Worship Pastor
  • Jack Partridge, Associate Pastor
  • Stanley Puckett, Education & Adminsitration Pastor
  • Skipper Rodgers, Children's Pastor
  • Lyle Bobo, Single Adult Pastor
  • Kip Hutto, Student Pastor
  • Ryan Rouse, Student Pastor
  • Josh Dryer, Community Missions Pastor
  • Brandon Phillips, Single Adult Pastor & Worship Leader

There have also been numerous administrative and church & music staff over the years:

  • Bert Gates
  • Debra (Mathis) Zumbro
  • Gail Osborn
  • Judy Pulliam
  • Shari Barbaro
  • Mickie Dowdy
  • Larry Huff
  • Johnna McKinnon
  • Misty Harris
  • Janice Backer
  • Connie Helmer
  • Bob Phipps
  • Mary Smith
  • Al Williams
  • Von Swiger
  • Diego Jaramillo
  • Leon Lopez
  • Lucy Lopez
  • Fred Gottshalk
  • Ed Hill
  • David McGuffin
  • Linda Liechty
  • Edith Murray
  • Joe Ganci

I'm sure I've missed some, but it shows how many people have served at First Baptist over the past decade and a half.  These are the ones who were on the payroll.  The volunteer list is even larger.

When we came to Orange Park, the present worship center was not built.  Construction began in October 1993.  I remember meeting in "A13" for student ministry.  Then, when we opened the new worship center, the excitement of moving the youth ministry to it's current building.

Fifteen years ago we had the "Lemon Tree".  This little building that housed the church kitchen was located where our current gym is.  It's not fondly remembered by many, but it served it's purpose for years.

When we came here, we rented a home off Plainfield.  After about a year, we purchased our current home in Fleming Island.  This was before Eagle Harbor opened and the only stores out on the island were Burger King and the Lil' Champ gas station.  We thought we were moving so far away from everything.  In just a little while, everything moved out to Fleming Island.

There were only three high schools in our community - Clay, Middleburg and Orange Park.  The vast majority of students in our church went to Orange Park.  Now, we have Clay, Middleburg, Orange Park, Ridgeview and Fleming Island and the soon to open Oak Leaf.  How things have changed.

There have been many changes over the years.  Some good, some not so good.  Some exciting, some challenging.  This is true in the church as well.  How exciting to be in a church that doesn't fear change, but embraces the opportunity to do "whatever it takes" to transform lives and a community.

Apparently Being A Fat Dog is a Good Thing

Saw this article on the AP wire today.  Weird.

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – A dog weighing more than 120 pounds survived being frozen to a sidewalk overnight, probably because he was insulated by layers of fat, authorities said. The Sheboygan County Humane Society says the "morbidly obese" dog, an aging border collie mix named Jiffy, froze to the sidewalk when he was left out overnight Wednesday. Shelter manager Carey Payne says few dogs could survive the single-digit temperatures, and it was probably the fat that made the difference.

Jiffy's 59-year-old owner was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of animal neglect, Sheboygan Police Lt. Tim Eirich said. She told police she tried to get the dog inside but couldn't, and instead checked on him every few hours.

The dog is 11 or 12 years old, Eirich said. Shelter workers poured warm water over Jiffy's back end to unstick him from the sidewalk, Payne said, and it was too soon to say whether he suffered any long-term effects.

Pass the Plate, Just Don't Expect Me To Put Anything In It

Though American believers give more to the church than any other group in the world, the sad truth is that the vast majority of believers do not give as the Bible instructs and therefore, have truly shortchanged kingdom work.

Authors Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell have apparently broken down the "why" to this phenomena pretty well in their new book "Passing the Plate."  I have not yet read the book, but one of our church members just forwarded me the review from Christianity Today's website.  Looks very interesting, sad, but interesting.

Here are some highlights of the review by Ron Sider:

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money is a powerful study about the pitifully small charitable donations of the richest Christians in history. In spite of the fact that most Christian denominations support tithing (see Appendix A), only a tiny fraction of American Christians actually tithe. Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell set out to discover why. Using a number of the best currently available data sets plus a survey and personal interviews of their own, the authors offer the best available information on what American Christians actually give to charitable causes and then try to figure out why such rich Christians give so little.
Chapter 1 hits the reader like a ton of bricks, spelling out in detail what American Christians could accomplish if they would tithe. If just the "committed Christians" (defined as those who attend church at least a few times a month or profess to be "strong" or "very strong" Christians) would tithe, there would be an extra 46 billion dollars a year available for kingdom work. To make that figure more concrete, the authors suggest dozens of different things that $46 billion would fund each year: for example, 150,000 new indigenous missionaries; 50,000 additional theological students in the developing world; 5 million more micro loans to poor entrepreneurs; the food, clothing and shelter for all 6,500,000 current refugees in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; all the money for a global campaign to prevent and treat malaria; resources to sponsor 20 million needy children worldwide. Their conclusion is surely right: "Reasonably generous financial giving of ordinary American Christians would generate staggering amounts of money that could literally change the world."

In their concluding chapter, the authors summarize their findings. They think there are five primary reasons for the fact that "the wealthiest national body of Christian believers at any time in all of church history end up spending most of their money on themselves." The most important is our society's "institutionalized mass consumerism." The second is the failure of pastors to deal with the issue. The third is that many Christians seem to be confused about the meanings, expectations, and purposes of faithful Christian giving. Fourth, some have distrust about whether their donations will be used wisely. Finally, the near total privatization of the topic means that almost no American Christians discuss their giving with anyone else.


The level of self-centered materialism systematically described here is truly staggering. The publisher should have used an earlier title that was considered: Stingy Believers. The book should drive us to our knees. A good deal of the problem is that pastors are not leading their congregations to think clearly about this issue. I have often said (without any hard data) that I do not think one American pastor in fifty is talking about God's concern for the poor as much as the Bible does. Perhaps that is changing a little thanks to Rick Warren's recent significant leadership in this area. But overall, our pastors, seminary professors, and denominational leaders are simply unbiblical in their failure to lead their people into persistent, honest wrestling with faithful Christian stewardship of resources and the way that generosity could advance Christ's kingdom.


I'll have to get the book to give an honest take on it, but from the review, it seems to hit the nail on the head.  This goes back to our series on personal financial freedom - the key is having a generous heart.  That's just not that easy in America.