I’m 60 Today. Yikes!

Lamar Austin, November 8, 2018

Most birthdays come and go without much fanfare.  Thank God!  But this year I was reminded time and time again that I would be turning 60 today.  That’s because my wonderful church, Grace Bible Church, threw a church-wide 60th birthday party for me on October 28 and it was amazing.

Every quarter our Fellowship Committee comes up with creative and entertaining events and activities which help us laugh with and love one another.  This Fall they chose to celebrate my birthday.

I thought for the sake of some who weren’t able to attend, I would share some pictures and videos to give you a taste of that night.

Around the room, were 11 x 17 photos of me from infancy to high school graduation.  People gathered around tables and were able to watch a slide show of other pictures throughout my life.

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A life-sized Lamar the Sequel was made for people to take pictures with, if they wanted to.  Wigs, hats and other paraphernalia were available to “dress up.”

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After we ate pie and chili, the Lamarettes got up and sang this song:

GBC Lamar song 2018

Then we had a video, A Day in the Life of Pastor Lamar, which was hilarious. You can also find this on YouTube.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the sharing time.  People stood up and said some nice things about me, but the one that meant the most was from my daughter Allison.

Thanks to everyone who attended, for the kindness and affection shown throughout the evening and the work that went into making this an fantastic birthday.

Psalm 133:1 (ESV)

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

The Book of Hosea

Hosea is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  Of course, so is Isaiah, Psalms, Genesis…

Hosea is a love story, a tragic love story between God and Israel.  God is the faithful and sacrificial lover, while Israel is the adulterer.  God uses Hosea, the author, to symbolize His faithful love, and Gomer, Hosea’s faithless wife, to illustrate Israel’s adultery.

Hosea had a difficult job (as most prophets did).  God told Hosea to marry Gomer and he hoped, like any husband, that they would be able to have a joyful, intimate marriage.  But his wife wouldn’t give up her profession (prostitution) and thus we have the tragic love story (so beautifully pictured in Francine River’s book Redeeming Love).

This narrative has application on two levels for us:  First, Jesus Christ is our bridegroom.  He has been nothing but a faithful and sacrificial lover towards us.  What about our love for Him?  Surely, like the Psalmist, we need to pray for an “undivided heart” (Psalm 86:11b).  Second, this story stresses for us, as married couples, our need to remain faithful and sacrificial in our love for one another.  This is what Paul calls us to in Ephesians 5:22-33.

Below is a video from The Bible Project, which will enable you to get the big picture overview of Hosea.  All their videos are excellent, as well as their curriculum.

Here is Chuck Swindoll’s book chart on the book of Hosea

Book Chart of Hosea, Swindoll

Hosea prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel in the latter half of the eighth century B.C. (c. 753–722 B.C.), immediately before the fall of Israel to Assyria in 722 B.C.  This map is from the ESV Study Bible.

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Pastoral Appreciation

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  Most pastors know that and I hope every congregation does as well.  It is important to honor those who work hard in the ministry.

This past month I as Senior Pastor and Jeff Neufeld as our worship pastor, were overwhelmed by the love and kindness and generosity shown to us through the loving people of Grace Bible Church in Mena, Arkansas.

It started out with a candy gram, presented to each of us by the youth group.  Here is a picture of Jeff with his candy gram.  Unfortunately, I gave my candy away to our Sunday night group before I took a picture.

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During the next couple of weeks, almost every day we received gift baskets with breads, s’mores, soup and chocolates (I’m especially fond of dark chocolate) to eat as well as gift certificates for restaurants here in Mena.

The next Sunday Souled Out, our children’s ministry, presented a video they had put together.  These wonderful children said some pretty cute and funny things, answering questions like, “What is our pastor’s name?” “How old is he?” “How tall is he?” “What is his wife’s name?”  and “What does he like to eat.”  You can see in the video below how they answered, and no, I’m not a polygamist!

[That video will be in tomorrow’s post.]

Plus, they gave us some cards.  Here are two of them..

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This past Sunday two men got up in front of the congregation and gave a tribute to each of us pastors.  While we were at church, some of the youth planted signs in our yard that said…

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Someone also waxed poetic and came up with this little ditty and put it in our newsletter:

Just think, my friends how blessed we are

To have two good men like Jeff and Lamar.

God gave them to us to shepherd our souls

Through music and teaching and setting of goals.

And you’ve gotta admit, folks, they each did a great job

Finding sweet precious wives [amen to that!] to help manage our mob.

In some previous years money was collected throughout the month and given to us in early November, and one year the children gave me this special card…

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There are many ways that you can say “thank you” and “we appreciate you” to your pastor.  One thing I realized this year, that all the love that was poured out upon us, was spearheaded by one person who did the lion’s share of planning and making sure things happened, my sister, Lauren Herod.  Probably someone in your church will have to take charge to cause this to happen.

For several years I have asked our church, “What kind of church do we want to be?” And the answer is, “An I love you church.”  My hope is that we’ve grown to the point where I can ask, “What kind of church are we?”  And the answer will be the same.  Hopefully we’ve moved beyond aspiration to action.  I believe this past month has proven that.  And I’ve heard stories that love is not only being shown to us pastors, but there is love being shown throughout the congregation.

As I said last Sunday, we are truly blessed to have a congregation that is unified and loves one another deeply from the heart.  Not every congregation is blessed so.  But my hope is that more and more gospel-preaching, life-giving churches will.