Pastor's Blog
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May 2, 2011, 10:55 AM

Responding to Bin Laden

   Sitting in chapel at First Baptist Church in Waco during my first semester of seminary. That’s where I was 9 years 7 months and 20 days ago when I first heard the news about the twin towers. At that point only one plane had hit, and as we got on our knees and prayed, the second plane hit. The rest of the day I alternated between feeling completely numb and crying as my heart broke over the scenes of my countrymen and women dying bravely. I will never forget those feelings or that day for the rest of my life.

   Sitting in my living room on a Sunday night about to turn off the TV and go to bed. That’s where I was when word came out that Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind those cowardly attacks on 911, was pronounced dead at the hands of some Navy SEALS. He had been shot in the head and was going to be buried at sea. And when I heard the news, I didn’t know how to feel.

   Part of my soul screamed in primal joy at this scene. Finally, justice has been done to the mass murder, this psychotic lunatic whose actions have led to thousands of American deaths over the last decade. Part of me rejoiced in the fact that he got what he had coming and that we would never again have to be concerned with his schemes and plans. I was proud that our president had authorized this action and that our troops had done a superb job going in and accomplishing the mission, finally holding Bin Laden responsible for the punishment he had run from for the last decade.  I watched as people gathered at ground zero and held up American flags and chanted “USA, USA” like we had just won a gold medal at the Olympics…and part of me screamed in sorrow.

   Part of me wept over the fact that we were celebrating the death of a man like we celebrate the Super Bowl. That we were so full of rage and anger that it seemed not only right but proper to celebrate and rejoice in the killing of a man. That there was a difference between being satisfied that justice had been done, and a hunger and thirst for vengeance that could only be satisfied in this death. Part of me cried when I got on facebook and saw a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding Bin Laden’s head instead of the torch of liberty. As I read status updates the rejoicing was palpable, and a friend from high school wrote, “The wicked witch of the middle east is dead!!! Just imagine his judgment with our Lord. Wish I was there to see it.” It made my heart hurt, and I couldn’t help but reflect on what I had preached only hours before…

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:17-21

   It makes me stop and wonder, what is the response of believers to the death of this man? What is correct and right in God’s sight to think and feel about this? Let me share with you another status update from another friend, “Though Osama hated us and killed those that are like us, our Father loves him and hurts deeply over the eternal separation between them. Let us be quick to thank God for His available forgiveness and grace toward our souls, while not rejoicing over the death of a lost one. Our God is of justice AND mercy.”

   The reality is Bin Laden was a guilty man, and his death was justified, but I do not believe we rejoice in his death, but we mourn. We mourn the fact that he never realized how broken he was, and the desperate need he had of a loving God to forgive and save him. We mourn the fact that he ended up glorifying God by his destruction instead of glorifying God by receiving God’s grace. We mourn that he never tasted repentance, never knew forgiveness, never met the Father who can change hearts that have been corrupted by sin. We mourn that he died forever separated from God…and it is not appropriate for us to rejoice in that.

   If you are going to rejoice, do it in the fact that you too were broken and separated from God, marred by sin and just as guilty in God’s sight, yet were showered with grace at the cross. That you have gone from a rebel against God to His child, and that your life is no longer yours, but is lived for Him and according to His desires. And God’s desires? Love our enemies. That may not taste good or feel like you want it to feel especially in regards to Bin Laden, but it really isn’t about what we like or want. Either God is our Lord and we obey, or we have some serious issues in our understanding of what it means to be a disciple.

   So think before you respond to Bin Laden’s death. Yes justice was served, but we never rejoice in the death of one lost from God instead we mourn that soul. We rejoice that evil was stopped, but we do not take glee in the death of one made in God’s image. We breathe easier because terror has taken a hit, but we rest in the fact that our God is bigger than terror and that through Him we love even those who try to bring us harm. Vengeance is the Lord’s, we are commanded to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”



05-04-2011 at 9:40 AM
Kevin Cornelius
Matt, thanks so much for your interaction. I agree that the evil in Bin Laden was a horrible thing and that it is good that it is stopped. I would notice however that there is a huge difference between pigs and people in God's eyes. In the passage you noted, the demons were in man but God did not cast that man into to the sea. Instead He set him free from the evil that was in him. Indeed the message of that story is the fact that Jesus has authority over evil and can save even those who have been consumed by evil.
05-04-2011 at 2:43 AM
Matt Gotthardt
Kevin , I feel honored to a member of your congregation. I may not agree with you but I am not a this is not a denomination that says that our minister inteprets God's will or meaning in the actions that take place in our lives. I read the gospels and I know what Jesus spoke about in the passages that you quoted. This is the same Lord that directed demons to a herd of hogs and they ran off the side of a cliff into the sea. The evil that possessed this person does not impress me as any different. He ended up in the sea as did the swine. Some people are no different than serpents or animals consumed by rabies and need to be disposed of for the good of civilised society. God bless you and our church as we consider the choice of hiring a youth minister. I breathe easier for the safety of my family now that this evil man is confronting our father in heaven.
05-03-2011 at 9:37 PM
"We rejoice that evil was stopped, but we do not take glee in the death of one made in Godís image. We breathe easier because terror has taken a hit, but we rest in the fact that our God is bigger than terror and that through Him we love even those who try to bring us harm." THANK YOU for verbalizing and explaining what I was feeling. Now I understand.
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May 2, 2011, 10:20 AM

Watching For A Wreck

 This morning as I drove my two oldest girls into school, we went through our normal routine. About halfway to school, I pray out loud for the girls and how their day will go. I pray that they will be sweet and kind and that they will find people who need to be loved and that they will love them like God loves them, that they will learn a lot and be safe, and have good days. I feel like these prayers are important and really stress to my kids the importance of putting God first and letting Him be Lord of every aspect of our lives. With that in mind, you can imagine my disappointment when I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Jentri writing in her “book” (a short story she’s been working on in her journal) and catch Landri looking around like nothing is going on. At this point I decide I need to address their lack on concern and involvement with this important way we are starting our day. So I say in my best Daddy/Preacher voice, “Look girls, when Daddy prays for us at the start of the day, we don’t need to be writing in our books or just looking around to see what is going on. You need to pay more attention.” I then waited to see the reaction from my two passengers. Jentri abashedly closes her book and responds with a somewhat subdued, “Yes sir.” I expected the same from Landri, and I should have know better. In a very confident and self-assured voice, she proclaims to me quite loudly, “Well I was just making sure that we didn’t get in a wreck.” My response? I burst out laughing and Jentri quickly explained to Landri that when Daddy prays while he drives he keeps his eyes open. Landri thought about this for a moment and retorts, “Oh. Well, still…”

                As I thought about this encounter with two of my biggest blessings, it made me reflect on two things. The first is how ridiculously wonderful God has been in giving me four wonderful little girls, and that although there is a severe overflow of estrogen at my house I would not have it any other way. God has made me richer in life through my children! The second thought is how like Landri we are in our faith with God. God is driving the car, and instead of resting in that thought, we look around all the time trying to avoid the wreck that we are sure will come if God has total control of our life. We get nervous just thinking about the change He might demand in our life. The thoughts He wants to take over and change to be more like His. The habits He desires to break in us and then instill in us new ones. The very possibility that total surrender to Him means, “losing our lives in order that we might find them,” frightens so many believers so badly they never really experience what it is to walk with God. At church yesterday I was encouraged and felt led to pray when a woman shared her prayer request that she desires to give God all of herself, yet it scares her to death to do so because of what God might demand and change in her. At the end of her request she looked around the room and said, “Maybe you all can’t relate to that.” The words were barely out of her mouth before a guy across the room quickly said, “I understand exactly what you’re saying. It’s frightening.”  
                I know that from our perspective, it definitely seems like giving God every bit of ourselves is like getting into a car that we know is going to end up wrecked. The reality however, is quite the opposite. If God is really sovereign, the creator and designer of the universe, could there be anyone else who it would be wiser to let drive our lives? We must at some point come to the conclusion that God who knows not only how to drive our lives, but where each road will take us can lead our lives so much better than we can from the backseat where we can’t even see where we’re going. The writer of Proverbs put it this way, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path,” (italics are mine). God might have plans to drive your life in ways and areas that seem very scary and out of control to you, that might make no sense to you. And that’s ok! We’re not God and we’re not going to understand all of what He does and why. However we can trust Him, and the fact that He loves us and has plans for us that in the end will lead us right to Him, even though the road may be hard. Makes me think of Rascal Flatt’s song “God Bless The Broken Road,” except the road doesn’t lead us to a person but to God Himself. Yes it will be a bumpy ride, no it won’t always feel safe and you most definitely will not be in control. You will be called to let go of things, to trust when it doesn’t make sense and to ruthlessly abandon yourself to God. But it leads you right to God.
                So let me encourage you to quit worrying about the wreck. I mean when you consider our lives, don’t they wreck enough with us at the wheel? But instead let us take a step of faith and let God take the wheel and to go any road He pleases at any speed He pleases, knowing He loves us and has plans for us  that end with us in His arms (see Jeremiah 29:11). As for me, I’m going to quit white-knuckling the seat and throw my arms up and enjoy the ride, after all Landri is watching to make sure we don’t get into a wreck! 
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May 2, 2011, 10:18 AM

Creepy...and cool

I am tired today. I’m not sleepy, I think I’m finally getting used to little to no sleep with little Kenlee (my 1 month old daughter) still trying to figure out that is meant to be slept through. But I am just tired emotionally, and I’d like to talk to you about it. As many of you know, last Thursday evening a terrible tragedy struck the Karnes City community. Majestic Balderamos, a beautiful and vivacious little second grader was running on her driveway next to her mother’s car when she slipped and fell under the tires. She was life-flighted to Methodist in San Antonio, but the damage was too severe and she died.
The first I heard about this was Friday morning when Jolee called me to say that the school had called on their automated system to inform all the parents about what had happened. Within minutes Will (a police lieutenant) came in and filled me in with what he knew about what had happened. Right after that the pastor of FBC Kenedy, John Wheat, called and asked what was going on and if the school wanted to make use of the ministerial alliance for counseling. I called the school, but they were swamped and had already set their own programs into motion and they said they would call if they needed us. Literally seconds after I hung up with the school Kimberley Wright called me because her daughter had been a reading partner with Majestic.  The school had called her so she could know to talk to her daughter. In the course of our conversation, Kimberley told me how just a couple of days previously the subject of death had come up and she’d discussed it with her daughter. I remarked that God was good to help prepare her daughter by letting the conversation happen. When I hung up with Kimberley, in walked David (a sheriff’s deputy) who has a daughter one year younger than Majestic. In our conversation he too said death had just come up in a conversation with his daughter, and I again remarked on God preparing us. You’d think I would have paid better attention to my own words.
At this point it was lunchtime, and my secretary Kayla was done for the day, but we sat and talked about Majestic for 20 or so minutes, both agreeing how horrible it was. Then Kayla left, and I got back to work. Thirty minutes pass, and the phone rang. It was the funeral home, and the family had asked if I could do the funeral. I automatically said yes, got some contact info and hung up. Immediately I felt sick to my stomach, and thought, “I wish I had said no…I don’t want to do this.’’ Suddenly, all the distance I had between myself and this wonderful girl was ripped violently away, and the rawness of the glaring horror of her death slapped me full in my soul. I called Jolee, told her I had been asked to do the funeral, and then broke down sobbing. Oh, my soul ached, my heart hurt, and this wasn’t even my child. I remember telling Jolee, “This is the most horrible thing I’ve ever been asked to do.” Who wants to do the funeral of a seven year old?
I started to write her funeral service, and erased it soon after I started.  I pulled out some funeral sermons other people had written for children, thinking I would just use one and not have to write my own, and deal with the feelings that would accompany that. But the more I looked, the more I felt pressure from God, and it felt like He was saying, “Kevin, why are you looking here? Why are you going to these other ministers when you could come to me?” So I stopped, spent some time in prayer, and then sat to write. In five minutes God gave me three things to say and the Scriptures to go with them, and in an hour the sermon was written.
I dreaded the day of the funeral. And I was very worried that I would not be able to get through the service without breaking down. Now I don’t have a problem with crying at a funeral, but as a pastor I feel like God puts me at funerals to serve as His hands and feet.  If I am sobbing, then not only do I struggle to bring comfort, but I cannot share what God has given me to speak. So I asked for prayer, and God’s people responded. The morning of the funeral, texts, e-mails, and phone calls came in letting me that I was being taken to the throne of grace for strength to be able to minister in this setting.
The funeral went fine, and I only choked up once and was able to share what God had given me for the family. Throughout the service I had an eerie peace, and I knew that God was allowing me to feel without being overcome with emotion. After the service everyone left, leaving only myself and the family in the room as they said their final goodbyes to Majestic. As I watched and hurt for these people something else filled my awareness, it was my faith. It felt stronger, renewed, grown. I was puzzled and wondered why it felt that way, when God impressed on me again that it was Him. The words I had spoken about Him to the family was truth, and that truth was a person-Jesus.  Since I knew Jesus, I also knew that I was not alone. Regardless of what this crooked and broken world brews up in its foul interiors, I am not alone but serve a good and righteous God who can take even the worst and use it to bring glory to His name. Majestic’s death was a terrible wrong, and yet God could even be glorified in that. So in the presence of death and mourning, my faith was encouraged and I felt close to Him and loved. God was good, even at a time like that.

How do you describe that? How do you share that? I wasn’t sure and almost didn’t write this blog, but wanted to share my heart with my family and friends here at FBCKC.  Then I had a conversation that helped put a cap on all I had experienced. As I put my oldest daughter Jentri to bed, we were talking about what happens after death.  We talked about how we will be remade and be on a new earth that is perfect and not broken like this world, and that we too will be new and not broken. Jentri looked at me with a half grin, and then said the deepest theological statement I’ve heard in awhile, “Wow…God is creepy, and cool.” And I thought about all I’d experienced over the past days, and I slowly nodded and grinned myself and said, “Yeah, God is creepy, and cool.” Amen.   

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May 2, 2011, 10:16 AM

Life From Dirt

We just had some concrete poured at our house. Turns out there is one area next to our porch where when it rains, it makes like Niagara Falls and was carving a hole in the ground. We looked into gutters, but would you believe it was actually cheaper to put in a small concrete patio (we also needed a little sidewalk so this seemed like a good idea). So we went through the church since it is actually their house, and we had money in the budget earmarked for this so we set the process in motion. We got it framed up, we had rebar put in, and then finally the day came when we got the concrete. Now we had talked with our contractor who had told us how he would wheelbarrow the concrete in from the truck. So when the concrete arrived I signed for it, and went inside to deal with Kenlee, who at the time was 2 days old. When I came back outside 15 minutes later, I noticed a large concrete truck in my backyard…with rear wheels sunk 18 inches into the ground, and a front wheel literally 30 inches in the ground. My first thought was…building and grounds is going to kill me!!!! Not only was our nice lawn with carpet grass now resembling small mountain ranges, but I dreaded what the truck had done to the sprinkler lines.
After the truck and contractors left, I turned on the system to assess the damage. I’m no genius, but when you turn the water on and it bubbles up from the ground nowhere near a sprinkler head, you got problems. I called Bill Pyle to come and look, and let’s just say seeing the yard did not make his day. But he is a spiritually mature man and instead of beating me about the head and shoulders for letting this happen, he simply sighed and said he’d be back with some help the next day and his new little John Deere© tractor which can pretty much do anything as we found out when we landscaped in front of the sanctuary (Johnny, if you’re reading this you’re welcome for the free publicity!).   
Well, long story short, that 1 day project turned into 2, and involved fixing no less than 2 breaks at junctions, relocating 2 heads that had been cemented over by the contractor, and multiple trips to Jauer’s for pvc supplies. However, we finally got the sprinkler’s fixed and the ruts filled in. But to make the ground level, we had to till up a large portion of the yard, which is now just dirt. Bryan Camber kept swearing to me that if I watered that dirt daily, the grass would come back like gangbusters, so I did for the next three weeks, and nothing!! All I got was wet dirt that I had to keep telling the girls not to play in.
But a funny thing happened yesterday. As I was leaving for work, I noticed that there was something in my dirt. So I got closer and realized, that all over the dirt new little sprigs of grass were popping up, filling in my man made desert with the much nicer carpet grass. All that watering had been worth it! So last night I poured it on again, and this time I was more excited because I knew I was giving that grass what it needed to take bare dirt and make it come alive with new life. And that’s when it hit me.
Right now in FBC University we’re doing Experiencing God. The people in my class have amazed me, and made my heart hurt. Many of them are just like my lawn! Things were ok, then some cement truck ran over them, and they are broken and tore up. And sure there’s been some work done, but now there are these huge dead patches in their lives, and it makes them question if God cares or likes them much less love them, and makes them wonder if it is worth the effort to even try and have relationship with Him. And as I watered the grass, God just whispered to me that those people are spiritually just like my yard. And my heart broke and I teared up…but that’s when God said something even better! He said that just like I was watering and giving the grass hidden beneath the dirt the water it needed to grow, that He was also raining down the Holy Spirit on the lives of His people, giving them what they needed. And they might not see it now, or understand what was happening, but that He was setting the stage for them to one day bring new life into those dead areas. And to have faith, and to keep encouraging them, because He was very much involved in their lives, He very much loved them, and He was in no way done with them but had great plans for them, REGARDLESS OF WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE NOW!!!
I know many of you out there right now have areas in your life just like my yard, where it is dead and broken and feels like nothing will ever live there again, but know that the God who loves you and made you and who calls you by name is not done with you yet. And while you might not be able to perceive or understand what He's doing in your life, know He is pouring into you, and cultiviating the new life that will one day take root there. And in the meantime...just hold onto Him with all you've got, and know that when you lose the strength to even hold onto Him, He'll be holding onto you, because He loves you that much! 
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May 2, 2011, 10:15 AM

Clogged Lives

Are you enjoying spring break? I mean I know most of you are like me and don’t have the week off, but most of us are affected in some way with kids or grandkids being out of school or perhaps trying to take at least one day off to spend with the family. This Sunday, I thought my family was getting a head start on spring break, because following morning worship we had a potluck/diaper shower (can’t say enough thanks to Megan and all the ladies for their hard work and to my wonderful church family who made us feel so loved!!), and then we cancelled church for Sunday night because everyone was exhausted and so busy. So, I went home, enjoyed a brief nap, and then a quick Wal-Mart run to prepare for the birth of Kenlee which happens next month (already??!!!). On the way home Jolee says that we should invite someone over for supper, so we called the Jones family and they came over for dinner. After dinner we were sitting around watching Undercover Boss and talking about how we thought that show had an interesting premise. It was around that point that Landri (my four year old daughter) comes running around the corner telling me that there was water on the floor of the bathroom. I told her I’d look at it in a minute, but she was quite insistent that I proceed with all haste to come examine the situation. I of course assumed she and her friends had been playing in the sink and spilled some water, so imagine when I turn the corner and realize that my hallway, kitchen and living room are doing their best imitation of the flood. I immediately run into the bathroom, realize the toilet if chockfull of toilet paper and running incessantly and turn off the water supply to it.
Needless to say, anger followed, quickly surpassed by awe at the sheer amount of water in such a short time, ending in a flurried succession of calls leading to a mad dash to Bill Pyle’s house for a shop vac (big kudos for Bill being deacon on the spot helping the pastor!) and a quick rush home to rapidly dry the house! After much wringing out of towels, carrying out wet rugs, and squeegeeing (spell check insists that isn’t a word but trust me, it is) of the tile with the shop vac, I got to the source of the problem. Realizing that the toilet wasn’t going to unclog itself, and that the toilet paper had to be taken out, I dug in with both hands. My first scoop must have held at least a roll of toilet paper, which I flung into the trashcan. But imagine my surprise on the next scoop, when not only did I get toilet paper, but also a special surprise. There are some things you do as a dad that you never need to talk about…and that was one of those times. Five minutes of plunging followed and soon the house was back to a semblance of normalcy, if you don’t count me doing my best Lady MacBeth impersonation at the bathroom sink scrubbing my hands.
Turns out Landri had used the restroom, and then before flushing blew her nose (repeatedly) with toilet paper which she then threw in the toilet as well. It didn’t go down, so she decided that flushing over and over would work better, which led to the toilet tsunami. Want to see a spiritual application out of this? Here’s what I got…
We have to deal with a lot of “stuff” in our every-day life. Some brought on by ourselves, some brought on by others. Oftentimes this is too much for us to handle, especially when we add to that all the other things in life we’ve added in. Let’s put it like this: You marriage is hard, then your boss yells at you at work, your kids have so much going on you’re never at home, there’s never enough paycheck for all the bills, your friend is mad at you for something you said that was taken the wrong way…and next thing you know, you’ve got a clogged life. You try and fix it by flushing repeatedly, or by being what everyone thinks you should be, or hiding your true feelings, or just toughing it out. The problem is, you’re not superman, and pack everything down enough times, and you’re gonna blow! And when you blow, it’s not pretty…some turn to affairs, other alcohol or drugs, some just run away from a marriage or their kids, some run away from God, and some even start thinking about ending it all. But when you blow it gets all over you, your life, and anyone in range and you all get covered in nastiness.
So what’s the solution? Well, there’s a couple of steps.
1)      Unclog your life. Quit pushing more stuff into your life than any three normal people can handle. Focus on the big problem areas and deal with them instead of running away from them. This step is smelly and hard, because no one wants to deal with it. But find the clogs and get rid of them. If it’s your marriage, learn to talk. If it’s your job, change your attitude or get a new one. If it’s your kids, love them through it. Some things we just can’t pack away, and we’re better off dealing with them, even if it is uncomfortable and gross, then letting them explode.
2)      Plunge your life. Get back to the place where you can connect with what keeps you running smooth. Anyone remember Psalm 46:10?  “Be still and know I am God.” A clogged life usually means you’re connection with God is clogged too, and if that isn’t running, neither will your life. Also, the best life unclogger you’ll ever meet is God. Why don’t you ask Him what the important things in your life should be instead of deciding for yourself?
3)      Laugh at your life. The last thing I did Sunday night was laugh because Landri was not purposely ruining our house, it was all just an accident. Things happen, you clean them up and laugh and move on, or you get clogged. Often I’ve been at the point where in my life it was laugh or cry, so I laugh because it makes me feel better. Quit taking you and your life so seriously. When you’re in heaven, I guarantee you won’t look back and wish you had been more serious about your life, so don’t freak about it now.   

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a clogged life I need to work on... 

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