The Parable of the Fax machine

Here’s a trivia question for you. Which device do you think is older? In
other words, which one was invented first? Was it (a) the telephone (b) the
radio or (c) the fax machine. If you’re like most people, you probably
struggled between (a) and (b). The telephone had its’ beginnings as far
back as 1870 while the first radio was invented in the 1890’s. But neither
of these inventions is as old as the fax machine, That’s right, the correct
answer is (c) the fax machine! As hard as it may be to believe, messages
were being faxed from one place to another more than thirty years before
the telephone was invented and as much as fifty years before the first
radio transmission! Patents for the first fax machine date back to 1843.
The fax machine was invented by an Italian priest. Emperor Napoleon III was
so impressed with this contraption that he established fax service between
Paris and Lyons. It worked so well that the French made it available to the
public and it was used extensively by the press and stock brokers. But the
invention was virtually ignored and rejected by the general population.
They just didn’t see the need for it. By 1870, France went to war and the
momentum of the fax machine was almost permanently interrupted and for over
a hundred years the fax machine was forgotten. There were a few attempts to
revive the technology during this time but it didn’t take off until 1980
when some companies began exploring ways to instantly send documents from
one place to another. The technology that lay dormant for a century was
revived, renewed and adapted for the times. You see, the fax machine never
caught on until people needed it. But when people finally found a use for
it, they were willing to give it a try. You see, until technology meets a
need in peoples’ lives, it is useless.

The gospel of Jesus Christ has much in common with the fax machine in our
story. Martin Luther once said, “the recognition of sin is the beginning of
salvation”. Until a person realizes that they are a sinner in need of
salvation, they see no need to seek God’s forgiveness. Unless a person
understands that their sin has separated them from God, they will not see
the importance of the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s
why Jesus commanded us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to
all creation.” (Mark 16:17 NIV). Not only do we need to preach, teach and
share how to be saved, but also why salvation is so important. Are we doing
all we can to show the world that they need the gospel?

“Who Loves Ya, Baby?”

I’m not particularly fond of many of the current television shows offered
by the major broadcast networks. There’s simply too much senseless
violence, profanity, and immorality. And don’t even get me started on
those reality and “talent” shows! Lately, I’ve been delighted to discover
that some classic T.V. series are now available through cable and the
internet. The other day, I watched part of a “Kojak” episode. That show
was a few years before my time but I’m sure many of you remember the
series. The title character was a bald New York police detective with a
fondness for lollipops. Like many T.V. characters of that era, Kojak had
a “catch phrase” that he said in almost every episode. His catch phrase
was a simple, four-word question … “who loves ya, baby?”

As I reminisced about that catch phrase, I realized that there are
probably many people in our world who wonder if anybody loves them.
Certainly we can think about those who live under oppression in countries
like North Korea, Iran, and Cuba. Our minds may also turn to orphans or
victims of abuse and violent crimes. But there are people in our own
communities and neighborhoods who wonder if anybody loves them. They may
seem to have everything under control. They have jobs, nice homes and food
to eat. They drive cars, wear nice clothes and have money in the bank.
They even take vacations, enjoy shopping and dining out in restaurants.
But those things can’t take the place of love and they wonder if anybody
really loves them.

We know that God loves them. He tells us so in the Bible. We know that
Jesus loves them and demonstrated that love when He died on the cross. But
there’s another group of people who should love them … all of us. Eight
times in God’s Word we are told to love our neighbor. It’s one of the
Bible’s most repeated commands. Loving your neighbor is the opposite of
selfishness. Whether they appreciate you, or respond to your love, Jesus’s
command is still valid: You must show love to your neighbor in a practical
way. When Jesus was asked by someone who His neighbor was (Luke 10:29), He
responded by telling the story of the good Samaritan — who helped a
stranger in need by the roadside. Then, in verse 37, Jesus told the man to
go and do like the good Samaritan.

A neighbor is someone who is near-by wherever you are. When is the last
time you reached out in love to someone in your community? When is the last
time you made a point to let a neighbor know that you love them? If we
were to ask them, “who loves you, baby?” would they know that we love them
and more importantly that God loves them enough to offer salvation through
His son Jesus!

God Bless You,
Bro. Joe


Mayday! Mayday! How many of you remember hearing those words in a war
movie or television program? Often times the pilot of a plane would shout
mayday into the radio as his damaged plane was falling from the sky. Ships
at sea might send out a mayday if they are in trouble.
Have you ever wondered where the term “mayday” comes from? Back in the
1920’s, a senior airport radio operator in London was asked to develop a
word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by pilots
and ground staff around the world in an emergency. Since much of the air
traffic at the time was between England and France, he proposed the word
“Mayday” from the French phrase “venez m’aider” which means “come help me.”

Most people know that signaling “mayday” when you’re really not in trouble
is against the law. But did you know that it is also a crime to ignore a
“mayday” call? Think about it. If the U.S. Coast Guard or even a private
craft heard someone’s mayday and did nothing, what would happen? There
have even been cases where emergency responders weren’t listening to their
radios like they should have been and missed a “mayday” call. They were
distracted and people died because they didn’t hear the “mayday”.

People all around us are sending out “mayday” calls. No, I’m not talking
about those whose homes may be on fire or who need an ambulance or a police
officer. There are millions of people who are crying out for help that
only Jesus can provide. Some are crying out, “come help me” with words,
others in more subtle ways. We see them every day. They are the people we
work with. They are our neighbors. They go to school with our children.
They may even be members of our own families. We see them enduring
emotional pain, heartache, disappointments, and discouragement. We can see
from their lives that they have probably never trusted Jesus as their Lord
and Savior. They need the joy that comes from knowing their sins are
forgiven. They need the hope that only Christ can offer.

I would offer that our failure to answer a spiritual “mayday” call is just
as serious if not more serious than someone who ignores a call from a plane
or ship in distress. Is there somebody calling out, “come help me” that we
can answer today? If we can’t hear them, maybe we’re not listening.

“Regrets??? I’ve had a few …”

“Regrets … I’ve had a few”. That phrase is part of a song called, “My
Way”. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and
many others sang it. I suppose all of us have a few regrets in our life. We
can look back and remember times when we wish we would have done things
differently. Maybe we said something or did something we wish we could
take back. Or perhaps we regret not saying what was on our mind at the
time. This week, I read an article about a 68 year-old man who had retired
from his job and was reflecting on his life. When he was eighteen, he
joined the army. Like most young men his age, he had a high school
sweetheart. He kept in touch with her for a few months but as he moved
around in the service, the letters became fewer and farther between.
Eventually, he was sent overseas and lost track of her. When he returned
home several years later, he went back to his hometown. His sweetheart had
moved away and her parents were now deceased. He asked around but nobody
knew where she was. He took a job as a pilot with a major airline and
whenever he visited a new city he always looked through the phone book,
hoping to find her name. He never did. The man never married and now he
dreaded the lonely years which lay ahead. Returning to his hometown where
at least he still had a few old friends, he visited the cemetery where his
parents were buried. A few yards away were the tombstones of his
sweetheart’s mother and father. He had never noticed them before. As he
was about to leave he saw a figure out of the corner of his eye. A woman
carrying flowers was slowly walking through the cemetery. She stopped at
the graves of his sweetheart’s parents, gently laid down the flowers, and
dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. As she raised her head, their eyes
met. Although the years had changed her, he instantly recognized his
sweetheart. For the first time in years, he found himself running and he
stopped inches from where the lady was standing. They exchanged greetings,
found a nearby bench, and spent the next hour or so catching up. To his
surprise, he learned that she had never married either and had been a
teacher at a school in India. She recently returned to America. The man
told her that he was sorry he stopped writing and how he had spent many
years looking for her all over the country. “I wish”, he said, “that I had
told you something 50 years ago”. “What did you want to tell me?” she
asked. He replied, “I wish I had told you I loved you”. His sweetheart
took his hand and said, “I wish you had told me too!”. They’re now married
and are spending their years together in a little house just a few blocks
from their high school. That story has a happy ending but many more do
not. On judgment day, Revelation 20:11-12 says that the lost will stand
before the throne of God. I wonder if we, as Christians, will see that
sight? I wonder how many family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and
classmates we’ll see standing there?. And I wonder if we will regret not
sharing the gospel with them? Will we wish we had taken the time to invite
them to church? Will we wish we had prayed for them more? This month, I
challenge us all to reach out to the lost around us. Will you do whatever
it takes to bring a lost friend or family member to church with you?
Regrets? I’ve had a few. But I pray none of us will regret a missed
opportunity to introduce someone we care about to Jesus.
God Bless You!
Bro. Joe

“Missing in Action”

Several years ago, I returned to my hometown for the funeral of a family
member. During the visitation & prior to the service, several aunts,
uncles and other relatives I had not seen in years stopped by to pay their
respects. I commented to one of my cousins that the only time we seem to
get together is when somebody dies.
I am sure you have relatives like that as well. Families used to have
well-attended “reunions” every year but fewer and fewer people take the
time to spend even one afternoon with their “kin folk”.
Church families are no different. There was a time when the sanctuary was
always filled on Easter, Christmas Sunday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Revival services and Homecoming were well-attended. Lately, the biggest
crowds I have seen in churches are for, you guessed it, funeral services!
Most churches have several hundred, even thousands of resident members
on their roll. The pastors I know say that less than one half of their church
membership are regular attendees. I know that a few of that number are not
able to attend worship any more due to health problems. Maybe a dozen or
two are attending church somewhere else and just haven’t moved their letter.
But the vast majority of those church members who do not regularly attend
worship simply stopped attending church at some point. Perhaps some of that
number are reading this article.
The writer of Hebrews encourages church members not to forsake, “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.” As
Christians, we should desire to have fellowship with one another. It is
our responsibility to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ as we
all seek to pursue and walk according to God’s will. That is not possible
if we forsake the assembly.
I do not know when Jesus Christ is coming back, but I do know that the
hour of His return grows closer each and every day. God’s people need each
other now more than ever. To those of you who regularly attend worship, I
thank you and encourage you to keep it up. For those who have recently
become more active, I congratulate you for your desire to be faithful to
Christ and His church. Maybe someone reading this has gotten out of the
habit of attending church services. Please, don’t let anything discourage
you from worshiping in the Lord’s house. Take the time to come and worship
the Lord who loves you and wants you to serve Him through His church. Your
pastor, ministerial staff and church family care about you and look forward
to seeing you very soon!
In Christ,
Bro. Joe

“What does hope look like?”

An elementary schoolteacher was asked by a pediatrician to go by the burn
unit of the local hospital. One of her students had been seriously burned
in a tragic house fire, and was in critical condition. While she
appreciated the invitation to visit one of her pupils, the teacher was
puzzled by a specific request from the doctor. “While you’re there”, the
doctor said, “be sure to teach him the lesson he missed today in school.”
She thought that was bizarre, but the doctor felt it would help the child,
and she was willing to do anything she could if it would help him get
As she arrived at the hospital, A nurse met her in the lobby and escorted
her to the Intensive Care Unit where the boy was being treated. The child
was wrapped in bandages with only portions of his face visible. The nurse
said he had been unresponsive since he arrived. The teacher pulled up a
chair, identified herself to the boy and then said, “Your doctor asked me
to come by and talk with you about what you missed in school today.” So she
started teaching the lesson about nouns and adverbs that she had taught to
his classmates a few hours earlier. The boy never moved, never made a sound
and gave no indication that he was even aware of what was going on around
him. After she finished the lesson, the doctor met her in the hallway and
asked her to keep coming by every day and teach the boy everything he
missed in class. So she did, feeling more and more foolish each time. After
a few weeks with no response, she reluctantly made her way back to the
hospital one afternoon still feeling like each visit was a waste of time.
As she again approached the intensive care unit, a nurse met her in the
hall. “What did you talk to the boy in room 12 about yesterday?” The
teacher stammered and said, “I know it may sound silly but I just talked
with him about nouns and adverbs. I’m his teacher and those were my
instructions from the doctor.” The nurse said, “Well whatever you said
worked wonders. Come and see.” The child was still in bandages, but his
face was animated and he was speaking. Why had a little lesson like this
changed him so much? The boy said, “I knew they wouldn’t ask my teacher to
talk to me about nouns and adverbs if they thought there was no hope.”

An anonymous author wrote “Man can live about 40 days without food, about
three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one
second without hope.” Paul said in Romans 8:24 “For in hope we have been
saved …” Thank God for the hope we have in Christ. Talk to someone you
know who needs the hope that can only be found through Jesus.

“The times, they are a-changing”

If your household receives The Baptist Record, our MS Baptist convention’s
weekly publication, you probably read the article “Lifeway shuttering all
locations across nation”. Lifeway is the publishing arm of our Southern
Baptist Convention and they have operated retail stores all across the U.S.
since 1891. Until about twenty years ago, the stores were known as “The
Baptist Bookstore” and the closest one to me is located in Tupelo. But by
the end of the year, all of them will close permanently.

I have mixed emotions about the closure of our Lifeway Christian Stores.
On one hand, they have provided us with not only a valuable resource for
purchasing church supplies but also a place where people can shop for
Bibles, Christian books, videos, music and gifts. I wonder how many people
came into a Lifeway Christian Store searching for answers to life’s
problems and learned about Jesus from something the saw, heard or read.

But I must admit that it has been a while since I visited a Lifeway store.
I used to go there often to purchase Bibles and books for sermon
preparation and personal study. I purchased accompaniment tracks for
worship music, videos and toys for our daughter, and countless VBS kits and
church supplies. But lately, I shop for those things online and apparently
I’m not the only one. Visits to Lifeway stores are down by 80% compared to
twenty years ago. So Lifeway is redirecting their focus on internet sales
and shuttering their physical stores because it just doesn’t make any
financial sense to keep them open.

I suppose we could have kept the Lifeway stores open out of tradition or a
reluctance to change. Our denomination could continue to lose money by
operating these unprofitable businesses simply because, “that’s the way
we’ve always done it”. But as much as I’ll miss seeing Lifeway stores in
shopping centers around the country, I believe closing them is the right

An incident like this should prompt us to ask ourselves about the things
we do in our churches. Maybe some of those programs and practices worked
twenty years ago, but how about today? Are they still effective or would we
be better served exploring new strategies? Sure, we don’t want to change
and maybe we wish for the way things used to be, but are we willing to
waste our time and resources on things that don’t work anymore simply for
the sake of nostalgia and tradition? One of the reasons why the Jewish
religious officials opposed Jesus was because He didn’t conform to their
rituals and traditions. Jesus rightly pointed out that while some of these
practices might have been beneficial in the days of Moses, now they were
actually a stumbling block for those who were sincerely seeking the Lord.
So, as we move forward and seek to be the best Christians and the best
churches we can be for the times we live in, let’s be willing to try new
things and even change some of our old ways if it means that we can better
reach the lost with the life-changing message of the gospel.

“Take the first step”

By the time this article makes it way to the internet, Easter 2019 will
have come and gone. To most people, Easter was about bunnies, eggs
and baskets full of candy & chocolate. For others, it was an excuse to
buy new clothes. I enjoy those things too, but Easter is more than that.
It is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

I enjoy reading quotations and often use them as illustrations in sermons,
devotions, and teaching. Many of the most poignant and well-known
quotations are from anonymous sources. Over time, the identity of the men
and women who left us with these keen observations and words of advice have
been lost. One anonymous quotation I read recently captured my attention.
This writer said, “the hardest part of any journey is taking that first
step”. That statement is true on so many levels. How many of us have
struggled with the decision to accept a new job, make a career move, or
pack up and move our families to a new town? Wise students spend much time
deciding where to go to school or which major to pursue. Even decisions
that involve marriage and children are difficult. But once we take that
“first step”, we can concentrate on the journey that lies ahead.

I suppose that’s true in our spiritual lives. We all know people who have
not yet trusted Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life. But as Christians
we’re confident that if they’ll only take that “first step” and seek
forgiveness from God in Jesus’ name, the obstacles and barriers often fall
Christians struggle with taking the “first steps” in serving God. I’m
confident that every believer wants to know and do God’s will. Sometimes,
though, we just don’t know where to begin. This month, I pray that this
Easter season will help each one of us to take that “first step” in serving
God where He desires us to be involved.

God Bless you,
Bro. Joe

Ignorance of God’s Word

A Sunday school teacher was telling her first-graders the story of the
Prodigal Son. She wanted to stress the resentful attitude of the older
brother since that was the theme of the lesson. So, as she read the
passage, she emphasized that portion of the parable. After she had
finished reading the story from the Bible, the teacher began reminding the
children about the rejoicing of the household over the return of the
wayward son and how the father had given instructions to kill the fatted
calf and prepare a banquet in his honor. She described the joy, happiness
and desire of the father to celebrate. “But”, the teacher said, “there was
one at the party who didn’t join in with the cheering and singing”. She
asked, “can anybody tell me who that was?” The class was silent and still
for a moment and the teacher began to think she had failed in her
assignment. Then, a little boy named Dexter raised his hand. “Dexter”,
the teacher asked expectantly, “who wasn’t happy to be at the feast that
day?” Of course, she expected Dexter to say, “the brother,” but instead,
the little boy sat up straight in his chair and replied, “the fatted calf”!

A child’s innocent misunderstanding of the Bible may be funny, but when
adults show a willful ignorance of God’s Word it is no laughing matter.
According to a recent Barna Research poll, only 21% of Americans believe
they have good grasp of Bible knowledge. Dr. Michael J. Vlach, professor
of theology at Master’s Seminary, notes that the most widely known Bible
verse among adult and teen believers is “God helps those who help
themselves”. That verse is not actually in the Bible and actually
conflicts with the basic message of Scripture.

I believe that the church must stress the importance of learning the Bible
and applying it to our lives. That’s why we are so blessed to have teachers
and classes in churches all over the world where both young and old can
go to learn more about God’s Word. If you’re not already attending a church
where the Bible is acknowledged as the 100% inerrant Word of God, I pray
that you diligently seek out and find one. Of course, we can learn so much from attending worship services and like most pastors, I spend many hours in Bible
study every week preparing sermons from God’s Word. But as a pastor, I’m
humble enough to admit that Sunday school, small groups, discipleship training
and the various missions and Bible study classes for our young people are some
of the best places to dig deep into Scripture. I also hope that you and your family
spend time studying the Bible every day. If you need help or suggestions regarding
how to learn more from God’s Word, talk to your pastor. I know he would be happy
to talk with you anytime and share some ideas. Please make plans to be present in every service, every class and invite others to come and be a part of these times when the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is lifted up and the Bible is affirmed as our source of truth.

Taste & See

Back in the 1970’s, a lady named Debbi decided to open a bakery shop and
sell her homemade cookies. She found a great location for her store, put
ads in the local paper, and had a display case full of cookies ready for
her grand opening. At the end of the day, Debbi hadn’t sold any cookies.
Not a single customer even came into her store. The next day, Debbi
decided to do things differently. She left the door to her bakery open so
people walking by could smell her cookies while they were still baking in
the oven. Instead of staying inside behind the counter, Debbi stood on the
sidewalk outside her shop wearing an apron and holding a tray of fresh,
warm cookies. She invited people to come inside her bakery, look at some
of the made from scratch treats and try a free sample of her cookies. That
day, Debbi sold all the cookies in her bakery and people have been eating
her cookies ever since. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably eaten one of
Debbi Field’s cookies. That’s right, Debbi started the Mrs. Field’s
cookies brand.

Churches can learn a lesson from Debbi Fields. We cannot expect the world
to come clamoring to our doorsteps until they know we value them and want
them to be part of our fellowship. Too many churches sit behind “closed
doors” and wonder, “Why do the people never come in?” We must go out to
where the people are and allow the love of Christ to flow through us. Once
they see that we really care about them, people will be more responsive
when we invite them to come and worship with us.

Jesus commanded us in Mark 16:15 to, “go into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature.” It simply is not enough to preach and teach the
Word of God inside the walls of our church buildings. We must carry that
message to where the lost people live and work. Between now and Easter,
won’t you take the love of Christ that we experience every time we gather
together and reach out to the people who need Him? I pray that every one of
us will take the time to share the love of Christ with our neighbors so they
can “taste and see” that the Lord is good!