Sending a Piece of Home Overseas

Pray for our TroopsThanksgiving was wonderful again this year. I enjoyed the privilege of a Thanksgiving meal with all my family.

Sunday, November 20, I enjoyed eating a meal with my church family. It was great to get to talk with so many people. Our Fellowship Hall was buzzing with many conversations as people of all ages were sitting together sharing all about their lives. There was talk about the BSC rankings and if OU has a prayer of making the championship game and debates about whether LSU and Alabama should have a rematch or if someone else should get a shot at knocking off the number one team in the nation. It was just a time of enjoying one another’s company.

My second Thanksgiving meal last week was with my family. It was the first time to have Thanksgiving at my parent’s house since my brother died last year. It was weird to see one of my nephews in my brother’s traditional seat; however, he is so ornery that it was rather appropriate for him to take that chair. My son loved getting to spend several hours with his cousins. My dad and I enjoyed watching a couple of football games while mom, Shirley, and my sister sat and talked together. It was a good day!

As Christmas is rapidly approaching, we are making plans to get together with other family members who we haven’t seen in years. As a pastor I am normally in attendance of a Christmas Eve service so I am not able to go to these family parties. This year looks to be different and I am hopeful that I will be able to see aunts, uncles, and cousins I haven’t seen in years. The holidays are a wonderful time when you’re able to get together, talk, laugh, and remember days gone by.

There are many who are a part of our American family who won’t be home for the holidays.  Yesterday at church, one of our members was in attendance for the first time since March. He is on a two-week leave from Afghanistan and had just arrived home on Thanksgiving Day. He agreed to come down to the front of the sanctuary so the church family could pray for him and all our soldiers who are serving around the world. Before we gathered around him and his family to pray, I asked him a few questions about how we could best pray for our soldiers living and serving in harm’s way. He didn’t ask for a speedy end to the war, he didn’t ask for protection or assurance of a safe return home, nor did he ask for any special kind of treatment. His answer was more down to earth than I had expected. His reply was simple: “Over the last several months we have lost fourteen soldiers from the state of Oklahoma. What we could use more than anything is encouragement.”

Our soldiers know that we love them, are praying for them, support them, and are eagerly awaiting their return home to family and friends. In spite of these facts, they still need encouragement from home. They don’t want a pat on the back for doing their duty; they want word that we are lifting them up; they want pictures of the leaves changing colors; they want to know we are all still connect regardless of the miles between us.

There are many ways to get in contact with our soldiers who are serving all around the world. I would challenge you to write them a card, send them a picture of a multicolored tree in your neighborhood, give them an email address to write back and turn them into a twenty-first century pen pal, but most of all, tell them “Thank you” for their service and sacrifice. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Let them be a part of your extended family. Most of our military servants will be away from home this holiday, so let’s send a small part of home to them!

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart (Part 4)

Yesterday I shared that I began praying for my wife when I was sixteen years old.  At that same time I began praying for my future son. I remember my prayers were for a healthy child that would grow to love the Lord and become a Christian at an early age.  As time went on I began to pray for a young man who wouldn’t make the same mistakes I had.  I prayed that he wouldn’t shipwreck his faith, abandon the church, or live a life caring only for himself.

In 1985 Christian artist Wayne Watson recorded a song that forever changed the way I prayed for my future wife and son.  The song was “Somewhere in World,” and talked about a father praying for a godly wife for his son.  As I listened to the song, my prayers for William grew to include his future wife.  Even though I was only twenty, I knew that I needed to keep praying for my son. 

In 2001 Shirley and I were told we wouldn’t be able to have children without God’s intervention. We never experienced a miscarriage or the loss of a child, but I remember hurting more that day than any other in my life. As word spread through the church, many of our friends stopped by to pray with us, cry with us, and encourage us.  My parents came over that evening and I will never forget what my mom said, “Bobby, you have been praying for your kids for over twenty years.  God knows what is best and His timing is perfect. You trust Him and everything will work out just fine.” Those words of faith continued to ring in my ears for the days, weeks, months, and even years to come. Then came June 2004 when they rang loud and clear as the nurse said to us, “Mr. and Mrs. Pittenger, you have a healthy baby boy!”  After twenty-four years, God answered my prayer.

Now over seven years later, I still find myself not only praying for my son but also thanking God for blessing me with a child.  I am so grateful for God’s wonderful gift. There are so many things I never understood about God’s love me until after William was born. I never knew watching a child grow could teach me about God’s love for His creation. I am over-joyed when he is so excited that I have come home from work.  I am broken when we’ve spent the whole day together, he looks up at me and says, “Dad, wasn’t this a great day getting to be together without any interruptions!” I am humbled when I see him trying so hard to be “just like daddy.” And I am thankful that he has a hunger to learn about Jesus and His Word.  When I think how my boy energizes my heart I wonder how my longing for a loving relationship with God affects His heart.

So, this Thanksgiving season I am thankful to Almighty God who gave to me the wonderful gift of a son.  I pray that I will be equal to the task to raise him in the ways of the Lord and that he will never turn from those ways as I once did.  I pray that the little girl who will one day become his bride will come to know Jesus and pursue Him with all her heart.

First Fruits

I have never had much of a green thumb, so planting a garden has never been at the top of my list.  As you can guess, my knowledge of horticulture is very limited; however, I am well aware that when you sow a certain type of seed, that is what you can expect to reap.  If you plant lettuce, you’re not going to get cucumbers, and if you plant carrots, you’re not going to get peas.

It is just common sense that you will reap what you sow.

This same truth applies to that which we plant within our hearts. In Galatians 6.7-8 the Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  Whenever we place our faith in Jesus, He sends His Spirit to lead and guide us into a new life.  If fact, the Bible says that we are a new creation in Jesus.

This Sunday, we will be examining the First Fruits of Salvation as found in Acts 3.1-11.  This will be a wonderful study of some of the fruit that will sprout up within those who commit their lives to Jesus.  After the morning service, we will have our annual Thanksgiving meal.  This is always a wonderful time for our church family and special guests to sit down together.  I hope you will honor us with your presence Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. for our worship service and then stay for our Thanksgiving meal.

I hope to see you this Sunday at Living Oaks Baptist Church.

What Abortion?

Tullian Tchividjian is the grandson of Billy Graham.  Over the last few months I have read several of his blogs that have touched my heart.  I hope you enjoy this link to his article, “What Abortion?”  It is a wonderful reminder about God’s amazing grace!

“What Abortion?” by Tullian Tchividjian (click here)

What Are You Excited About?

For those that are unaware, my son is seven years old and in the second grade.  He is a huge fan of the movies “Cars” and “Cars 2.”  As soon as he gets out of school today, he is going to buy a copy of the DVD “Cars 2.”  He has been marking days off the calendar, counting down to the release of the DVD.  He found out that some of his friends had not seen the movie, so he is going to have them over to watch it with him.

Now, having several seven-year-old boys at my house to watch a movie really isn’t that big of a deal; however, William decided they all need to stay the night.  He and mom have planned out the whole evening: make homemade pizzas, play games out in the backyard, and then the main event–WATCH THE MOVIE!  He is so excited about his friends getting to see his favorite movie.  I keep waiting for him to ask me if we can buy a copy for everyone that will be attending (at last count there are a total of eight boys from ages five to seven).

It is energizing to see his excitement to share something so important to him with his friends.  It is also a bit convicting when I compare it to my lack of communicating to my friends, family, or acquaintances those things which are so important to me.  What would happen if I spent as much time telling others of what is the most important thing in my life.  What if I invited them over to watch a movie that changed my life?  What if I bought them a copy of my favorite book? What if I told them the story of a man who saved my life? What would happen if I was as excited about Jesus as my son is about the movie “Cars 2?”

I am a pastor, and I spend a great deal of time studying, sharing, and imitating Jesus; however, I often wonder is this a job or a passion?  I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.  I love standing before people on Sundays and sharing from the overflow of what Jesus has taught me that week from the Bible.  I enjoying sitting down with someone and listening to their trials, troubles, and tribulations in order to help them find the right direction or just give them a comforting word from God’s Word.  I am thrilled to go door-to-door sharing the good news of Jesus with those who will listen.  I enjoy using the resources God has given me to help others in need.  Never-the-less, I never want people to get the impression that I am only doing this because it is my job.

Over the last few months I have been addressing this concern, to make sure that I am preaching, teaching, praying, sharing, and ministering from a heart that is overflowing with a love for Jesus–a heart that cannot wait to tell others of what Jesus has done in my life today.  A heart that wants everyone to experience a life-changing relationship with Jesus!  A heart consumed with the belief that there is no other away to the Father in heaven but by Jesus (the Jesus of the Holy Bible).  I want my excitement to be seen and heard.

Grieving Is Part of Your Calling

As a pastor, grief is part of your calling but how you deal with it determines your ability to continue on in ministry despite sadness of the heart.  In his article, “Grace for Our Grieving,” Paul Tripp uses the Biblical story of Saul and Samuel to give some great advice for ministers in dealing with grief.  If you are not a pastor, go ahead and read this wonderful message on grief.  I believe the scope of these biblical truths are wide enough to apply to everyone.

Click here for Paul Tripp’s article “Grace for Our Grieving.”