Archive for July, 2012

July 6, 2012

Youth Gone Wild

by pastortimfowler

Today I saw our church youth and their leaders off for their first ever retreat and mission trip. Because our church is a young church, only 6 years old, missions has been slow to develop and certainly youth missions have lagged. But God has been doing some incredible stuff this past few months and is preparing our church to be a mission minded church. For those of you who aren’t “churchy”, missions is the command from Jesus that says to go into all the world and preach the gospel. It includes helping those in need and sharing a message of hope.
In the last year our church has had the opportunity to help several missionaries as well as take a few trips, including our recent trip to Cuba. Our youth are going to the beach to have a time of bonding and growing spiritually and to serve at a campground in the area as the missions part of the trip. I know it sounds minor, but before you can walk you must first crawl.
At last count there are 13 youth and 7 adults who are gone. I worry about the adults, especially those who are taking their first trip of this type. I can only imagine the fun that they are going to have. We had prayer with them before they left and I told the youth to behave, but I feel like perhaps I should pray for angels to surround the adults. When all is said and done, they will return with many stories of jokes and pranks and good times that will cause them all to be closer with each other and hopefully, closer to God.
So to end this very short blog, please pray for our youth and the leaders who took them. If you don’t believe in prayer, then buy the upcoming video, Youth Gone Wild, featuring youth from our church duct taping youth leaders from our church to various utility poles all around the Myrtle Beach area.

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July 5, 2012

Freedom Fading

by pastortimfowler

US Flag

I love our country. As yesterday celebrated the birth of our freedom, I couldn’t help but get a bit nostalgic. I served in the US Navy for nine years and come from a family where my dad was a twenty year Navy vet. From the time I was a child, I was taught to love our country and its freedoms. Standing at a baseball game while the National Anthem played, removing my hat and placing it over my heart was a regular event in my childhood. We would go to cemeteries and place American flags on the graves of veterans for patriotic holidays like the 4th of July. In elementary school I got to be the one to raise and lower the flag and was selected because my dad had taught me the proper way to fold it.
The freedom that we have here was earned and won on the battlefields through the years. Freedom does not come without a price and that price is a high one. But men and women from the beginning of our country’s founding have thought it worth paying whatever price needed to secure it. Every generation has those who question the times and fear that freedom is fading. Our founding fathers put many layers of protection into the documents of our government to help protect what had been won and to remind each generation of the fragile nature of freedom.
Today we are experiencing many things that threaten our freedom. People who use this freedom to fight against free markets and religion don’t realize that if they are successful, they could lose the very freedom of speech that they are using to fight what they disagree about. The attack on our free market society is one that scares me. The demonizing of people who own companies that hire good, hard-working Americans is counter-productive to our freedom. The idea that if you work hard and achieve the American dream of owning a business and having it be successful is somehow made to seem wrong. Instead, we are being force-fed that our country is about fairness rather than freedom. And, somehow we are supposed to think that fairness means taking what someone worked for and giving it to someone who does not work? I am confused.
I also worry about how our schools and local government make anti-American laws and policies. I am always hearing about cities and communities who won’t allow the flag to be displayed, even on the graves of veterans. Or schools that don’t allow the pledge of allegiance or patriotic shirts because they might offend those who are here illegally. That flag represents a country that loves those who come here for help and offer opportunity for all who are willing to work hard and legally to make a better life. Our schools are a place to teach children how to read and do math and science and to grow up to be productive members of a society of free people. Nothing is offensive about that and pledging to support our country and our freedom is not a bad thing. If we quit supporting what this country stands for, we won’t have people coming here for freedom…duh!
Religion is another place that I feel our freedom is being threatened. Yes, I am a Christian. I am a pastor and I have a personal attachment to this part of freedom. I guess the two areas that I feel most threatened from freedom of religion standpoint it the way we are being told that separation of church and state is a constitutional issue. It is not. That phrase is not in the constitution; read it for yourself. This is what the constitution says about religion and government: The constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Separation of church and state was a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, talking about the intrusion of government into church business and how unconstitutional it was. Government is not to intrude in religion, not vice-versa. All legal citizens are free to participate in whatever level they chose in our government, no matter their religious beliefs.
Secondly, I feel freedom threatened by the bending over backward of our government to accommodate the Muslim religion and even to allow a perverted part of that belief, Sharia law, to override our countries laws, in some cases. Nothing against that faith, but that perversion of that faith allows for the killing of many people, including Christians. How can our government work so hard to suppress Christianity, which is responsible for more charity work all over the world than any other organization, and promote, often through silence, or making of special exceptions, a religion that kills those who don’t believe their way? I know these are isolated cases, but this is a serious issue that must be watched.
I am not in a panic mode, but I think that we should take a hard look at how some are attacking freedom. No, it is not a perfect country that we live in, but it is the best country and the most generous country in the world. I was happy to celebrate its independence yesterday and look forward to continuing the annual celebration. Freedom can only fade if we let it. Let freedom shine brightly for the world to see!

July 3, 2012

Third Option Men

by pastortimfowler

 

I want to tell you about an organization that is worth checking out. It is called Third Option Men. The founder is a guy named Evan, and him and his dad were the ones who made our trip to Cuba possible. I encourage you to check out the website and/or Facebook page. The website is www.thirdoptionmen.org and just type in the name to find them on Facebook. The purpose of this group is to encourage guys to develop relationships that allow for accountability and more than just a Sunday morning type relationship that is far to common in the church today. It is about the type of relationship that Jesus had with his disciples, close and personal.
Far too often men tend to take their Christianity way too casually. We want the type of relationship that does not allow another man to get close enough to ask the hard questions or hear the brutal truth about how we are struggling in our relationships at work, home, and with God. Evan describes this beginning and often only type of man to man relationship of Christian males as the ‘awkward handshake’. The kind of relationship where we know your name and your favorite football team but never know that your marriage is falling apart and you might be struggling with an addiction. He encourages us to develop relationships that are real, relevant and reliable, just like Jesus and His relationship with others.
Basically, men have only three options in life. We can live for self, live for worldly gain, or live for God. Christian men need to choose the third option…get it? Third Option Men?
Living for self is easy. Looking out for number one is the way we are taught through most of life and the media. This is much like the “if it feels good do it” mentality. I saw a commercial the other day about a company that does cosmetic surgery and one of the women made the statement that if there was something that someone could do to make them feel better about themselves that they should do it at any cost. So if you think the way God made you is not good enough and that He made a mistake, a doctor can fix it and you will feel good about yourself. Sadly, surgery does nothing for that God shaped hole we are all trying to fill. So self-indulgence is not the answer.
Living for worldly gain sounds good. If we could only have more money, a bigger house, or a nicer car, we would feel better. Even if we could have bigger breasts (not men, but our wives) and less wrinkles, that would help, but you need to have the money for that. After all, we see how happy all the Hollywood crowd is with their plastic surgery and successful marriages and lack of drug and alcohol abuse, (Sarcasm). I actually saw more satisfied people in Cuba making $20 a month than I see in Hollywood making millions. Before you disagree, think about the number of famous people who are divorced, in rehab, gone broke, or even killed themselves. Jesus said it best about this option; Matthew 16:26, What good will it do for people to win the whole world and lose their lives? Or what will a person give in exchange for life?
The third option, to live for God, requires one to deny self and think of others. It requires you to build a relationship with someone who cares enough to invest time in you or vice versa. It requires you to give and to love and to get involved with someone to the point that you know what is really important and what can really help. It is what Jesus did with the men that He decided to hang out with. It is what we need to do as Christian men.
We took this message into Cuba and found that men there have the same reservations as we do in America. But when laid out in plain and biblical truths, it is undeniable that it works and is needed. Not the program or the book, or even the title, but the lifestyle. Third Option Men has a heart for those who are hurting and is going into churches and communities and countries to help men get over that macho attitude of self-reliance and teaching them to live for God.
I chose the third option. It is not easy and I fail often, but I have some friends who know how to help and care when I struggle. They too have chosen to follow God. God does not want men to be loners, but to have vital relationships to help us through that many paths that He may lead us.
Check it out…Third Option Men.

July 2, 2012

Back From Cuba

by pastortimfowler

I am back and wow, do I have a lot to tell you. Cuba is a place that is full of beautiful people and scenery and yet my heart breaks every time I go. Socialism and Communism have made it one of the poorest places in this hemisphere. The average monthly wage is around $20 per month and because the government has taken everything from those who were rich, now everyone is poor. The old saying that it takes money to make money is true. There is no way to equally distribute what I make in order to lift others out of poverty, it only makes me poor too. That taxation in Cuba assures that the government only has money and the people get “free” healthcare from doctors who are lucky to make $45 per month and would make more money if they drove a horse-drawn cart around for the public transportation system, which is how we got around in the city of 140,000 people.
But the church is alive and well and serving those in need like you would not believe. Their hearts are filled with hope and appreciation for God’s provisions, even if it means they can’t afford to eat anything more than rice and beans and plantains. But they share and help and love, even with those occasional American Christians who come to help. I truly believe that I learned more from them than I was able to teach the Cuban church. Humble takes on a new meaning for me now.
We are fooled by pictures of classic cars and beautiful facades on buildings that have been touched up to make them look good. The cars are not owned by collectors, but rather by people who bought them the last time that they had any money to spend on such a luxury. Most cars are only painted over rust buckets and few have any original working parts. The buildings are weathered and termite infested and crumbling. Not even the locals can drink the water from the public water supply because it is such poor quality.
But this does not stop the people of Cuba from taking pride in what they have and sharing it with others. They have little from the government to share but have found ways to make ends meet and share what they get through an undercover free market that shows hope of letting entrepreneurs make a little more that they can keep to provide for their own and those who need help just to survive on what the socialist way has taken away. I love the heart of these people. They know more than most, that government is not the answer and never will be when it comes to providing the needs of family. Hard work and free markets are the only reason that they were the once a thriving resort and leading producers of sugar and entertainers of years gone by. That is a fading memory now.
People in Cuba cringe when you mention the name Castro. They lower their voices and do not say his name themselves. The do not speak out against the oppressive socialist system that has plunged them into poverty like we in the USA have never seen. But they know the answer is freedom and free markets where people can achieve a level of prosperity that allows others to be employed and purchase goods produced by individually owned companies who can provide jobs to others instead of money to the government.
I cannot wait to go back. I will be sharing more about the things we did and saw, but I wanted to get this out first. So many people in America are thinking that the government is the answer and that socialism works. It is a failure everywhere it is tried and Cuba is a direct and devastating example of its results. Taking everything from the rich so that the poor have more only results in the rich becoming poor and no one able to provide jobs to those who need it. Handouts are only a temporary fix. The old saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime is true. But if you can’t even afford to buy a net or a fishing pole and there is no one now making them because no one can afford to buy them, what happens? People starve and suffer and no one is better off except the elite few who dictate oppression to the people who need a job.
Thanks for your prayers and support. God, please bless Cuba again. And God bless America!