Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm a Christian...I Just Don't Go to Church

Good blog post from my son. This is his response to those who claim to be a Christian but refuse to go to church. Read it here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

While You Were Sleeping

A powerful song by Casting Crowns off of their Christmas CD, "Peace on Earth". Can America and Bethlehem be so much alike? Listen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to Answer When a Child Asks, "Is Santa Real?"

Many Christian parents struggle with Santa Clause. Do you know how to answer your child when he or she asks, "Is Santa Clause real?" Here is an excellent article, by Rebecca Powell, to help parents know how to respond and keep the focus on Christ.

Rebecca also has some thought provoking insights and warnings on attempting to motivate your child to good behavior by telling them that Santa will not come if they are not good.

Read the article http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=164392

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Christian Leaders Should Avoid Sexual Sin


John Piper wrote a paper years ago (1995) on how Christian leaders should avoid sexual sin. Piper lists ten potential pitfalls and proposes ten protections against them:


PITFALL: Falling in love with the present world.

PROTECTION: Think long and hard about the deadly poison of world-love and ponder the never-ending delights of the mountain spring of God’s approval and fellowship and beauty.


PITFALL: Loss of horror at offending the majesty of God’s holiness through sin.

PROTECTION: Meditate on the Biblical truth that all our acts are acts toward God and not just toward man, and that God is so holy and pure that he will not countenace the slightest sin, but hates it with omnipotent hatred, and that the holiness of God is the most valuable treasure in the universe and the very deepest of delights to those whose way is pure.


PITFALL: A sense of immunity from accountability and authority.

PROTECTION: Submit yourself to a council of Biblically minded, spiritually wise advisers.


PITFALL: Succumbing to itching ears as love of truth evaporates.

PROTECTION: Cultivate a love for truth, even in its smallest details, and turn a deaf ear to the desires of men to have their ears scratched with vague moralisms that massage them in their sin.


PITFALL: A vanishing attention to Scripture.

PROTECTION: Give yourself untiringly to the study, meditation and memorization of Holy Scripture.


PITFALL: A growing disregard for the spiritual good of his followers.

PROTECTION: Labor in praying and caring to stir up your heart to love all your people.


PITFALL: Disregard for the Biblical mystery of marriage.

PROTECTION: Remind yourself repeatedly that your marriage is a living drama of Christ’s relationship to the church.


PITFALL: Compartmentalizing of the leader’s life.

PROTECTION: View everything—absolutely everything—as woven together by its relationship to the value of the glory of God.


PITFALL: A sense of being above the necessity of suffering and self-denial.

PROTECTION: Never forget the promise: "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). And never forget that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). And develop a Biblical theology of futility and suffering, especially from Romans 8:17-30.


PITFALL: Giving in to self-pity under the pressures and loneliness of leadership.

PROTECTION: Embrace the essence of the doctrine that no one who suffers the loss of any earthly blessing in the service of Christ will fail to be repaid a hundred-fold now and in the age to come eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Excellent Congregations

Excellent Protestant Congregations, by Paul Wilkes, identified the following 26 common traits among the "excellent" protestant congregations.

  1. A vibrancy about living a Christian life...living on the creative and holy edge of the New Testament...being a Christian is not a leisure activity but an adventure.
  2. Entrepreneurial...risk-takers, self-starters, use what works and put aside that which does not.
  3. Draws philosophically, rather than geographically or denominationally, by the spirit of a living and present God.
  4. Reach beyond their comfort zone...not afraid of being uncomfortable and ask tough questions of themselves.
  5. Regularly evaluate themselves...for effectiveness.
  6. Have a clear, yet changing, sense of mission...a vision of where they want to be and willingness to redirect energies to be effective in their community and people’s lives.
  7. Willingness to break up and reassemble...put aside old structures and coalitions when necessary to move forward.
  8. Unafraid of being vulnerable and making mistakes.
  9. Laity are integral in leadership...competence and a desire to serve, the ability to learn, the humility to admit mistakes and the courage to continue despite setbacks are more important prerequisites for leadership than formal training and ordination.
  10. Preach and practice forgiveness and acceptance.
  11. Relationship evangelism...personal contact is the key...most new people come to the church through word of mouth...friend, co-worker and neighbor.
  12. See themselves as a unique community...not as a franchise of their denomination or even Christianity.
  13. In transforming the culture, hold government, agencies and institutions accountable...see their work as not only serving their constituency but also transforming the world around them.
  14. Believe in partnerships with other churches, agencies and interest groups.
  15. Offer an ascent to God, a relationship...provide the tools and support to forge a real, living and enduring relationship with God.
  16. Traditional without being traditionalist...their tradition is a beginning, a springboard, not a wall, not a barrier.
  17. The Bible is at their core.
  18. Innovative about different spiritual approaches.
  19. Tailor liturgies and programs to various constituencies...reject one-size-fits-all approach.
  20. Powerful, life-situation preaching...pastors may be biblical scholars, but are everyday-life scholars even more.
  21. Pastors have been in place for years.
  22. Training, training, training...use local possibilities but will create their own if necessary...see church as a seminary...serve the needs of the church and their area.
  23. Bring new members to full membership and participation...just joining is not enough.
  24. Call leaders, don’t fill slots...deliberate about leadership and claim untapped talent for the Lord.
  25. Break out of their walls and into the world...have no walls, property lines...are in the marketplace, civic meetings, the boardroom and around the water cooler.
  26. Utilize media well...aware that glitz is not substance...know there is no substitute for real substance and individual care.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Discipleship Methods of Jesus

Rick Warren has a good article on how Jesus discipled His followers from John 17. Read below. This article can also be found on his blog here.

We measure maturity a lot of different ways in our churches. Sometimes it’s measured by church attendance. Other times it’s measured by Bible knowledge. But the biblical evidence of maturity is fruit. In Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus says, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit […], thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” Maturity is all about fruit.

How many times have you heard (or said) that “God doesn’t expect success. He just expects us to be faithful.” Pastor, that’s only half true. The Bible makes it very clear that God expects far more than faithfulness. He also expects fruitfulness. This is taught all throughout the New Testament. Many people will be surprised when they get to heaven and God says, “You didn’t bear any fruit?” Remember, Jesus cursed the fig tree because it didn’t bear fruit!

God expects fruitfulness in our lives as well. And he says it over and over and over again. But how do we help people bear spiritual fruit in their lives? How do we turn them into mature, mission-minded believers who minister to others? Let’s not answer that question with any buzzwords. I’m not interested in the modern way, the postmodern way, the emergent way, the missional way, the seeker way, the charasmatic way – or even the purpose driven way. I’m interested in how Jesus helped people become fruitful.

In Jesus’ prayer in John 17 he says, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” He hasn’t gone to the cross yet, so what work has he completed? It’s the finished work of Christ that most churches never understand – making disciples. How did he finish the task? His prayer in John 17 tells us.
He led them to salvation. Jesus prayed, “For you granted him authority over all men that he might give eternal life to all those you have given to him.” This should be obvious. Discipleship begins with evangelism. Of course, we want to disciple people who are already Christians. But remember, Jesus started with pagans. We’ve got to win people to Christ before we can train them. The spiritual birth always precedes spiritual growth.
He taught them the Word. Jesus taught his disciples the Word of God. There is no spiritual growth that’s not based on God’s Holy Scripture. In verse eight Jesus prays, “For I gave them the words that you gave me and they accepted them.” And in verse 14 he says, “I have given them your word.” The Word of God is the foundation for all discipleship. Want people to grow spiritually and be fruitful? Get them in the Word every day. Just listening to your sermons – no matter how good they are – won’t help your people be as fruitful as getting them into the Word for themselves.
He prayed for them. To see your people grow spiritually, you need to pray for them. That’s part of pastoring. You don’t just pray for your sermons or yourself; you pray for your people as well. Jesus said, “I pray for them. I’m not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9). We need to pray with them and pray for them. Paul followed this example of Christ as well. In fact, he starts almost every letter in the New Testament he wrote with a prayer for the church.

He checked up on them. Jesus says, “While I was with them…” You can’t disciple somebody that you’re not with. Pastor, you’ve got to be with your people if you want them to grow spiritually. You’re not going to be able to personally check up and mentor everyone. But somehow your church needs a system for coaching in your church. You need small group leaders or others who will follow up on your people. Jesus protected his disciples from false teaching and kept them from backsliding. He guarded them. At the end of his ministry on earth, he says I haven’t lost a single one of them – except Judas to fulfill Scripture. If you want your people to grow, you need some sort of accountability in your ministry.

He sent them on mission. Then Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world I have sent them into the world.” Who do you think are the most mature people at our church? The thousands of people who’ve gone overseas on mission. It changes them. When they come back, they’re not thinking about diamond-crusted tennis bracelets anymore. Once you’ve served around the world, it changes your value system. You care more about people overseas, and you care about people in your own community, too. These short-term missionaries have come back and loved the poor, ministered to the addicts, and battled the sex trade right here in Orange County. That’s maturity.The goal of discipleship in any church must be ministry and mission. Maturity is never an end in itself. In fact, you can’t be mature until you’re ministering and living on mission. Jesus said “I didn’t come to be served. I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom.” The words give and serve define the Christian life. You want your people to be like Christ? Teach them to give and serve.

He expected reproduction. We know he expected reproduction because in verse 20 of this priestly prayer he says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” He not only sent the disciples out into the world, but he implied that he’s expecting reproduction. Did it work? Obviously. There are nearly two billion people who claim the name of Christ around the world.

He focused on character. Jesus didn’t simply expand the knowledge, perspective, skills, or conviction of the disciples. He focused on their character. Spiritual maturity is about character and conduct – not just content. We don’t want to just fill up people’s minds with facts and figures. Paul says, “I want to present every man perfect in Christ.” If, in the final analysis, the people I’m training aren’t more like Jesus after we’ve worked together, I’ve missed the point.

He loved them. Jesus said, “You sent me and I have loved them as you have loved me.” This is so typical of Jesus. All that Jesus did for his disciples was in a spirit of love. You must love those you train. If you don’t love them, it doesn’t count. If you don’t have a sincere abiding love for the people in your church, then do you know what discipleship is? It’s manipulation. You’re just manipulating them toward a goal.

Sometimes we forget that Jesus is the best model we have when it comes to ministry. No one in the history of the world discipled people more effectively. Jesus was able to say at the end of his ministry that he had finished his work. Pastor, I hope we can say that as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Memorize Scripture

Good thought from pastor Ted Traylor on why we should memorize Scripture.

Recently God called me to memorize the book of Jude. It is work. It takes time and discipline. In this day of quick reference on our computers and easy access to any passage, is it still important to commit the Word to memory? The answer is yes! Defending the faith and witnessing to unbelievers are two main purposes for this. The book of Psalms gives additional reasons why this is crucial in our Christian walk.
Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word is treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” In times of temptation scriptures will return to our minds. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to defend our hearts and strengthen resistance to sin.
Psalm 18:30 tells us, “As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” His word is proven to be perfect. Our thinking is often full of opinion and flaws. Decision making should be based on His truths. It is imperative to know those words to be wise.
Psalm 56:4 reminds us, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Ever been in an anxious situation and scripture has brought you comfort? His word acts as a calming force and helps His children focus on Him and not the problem.
I challenge you to ask the Lord what passage of His word you should memorize. It makes a difference!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

8 Ways to Improve Your People Skills


From http://www.lifeway.com/, this article is abridged from Twenty Time-Tested Tactics for Improving Your People Skills by Michael Zigarelli.


Interpersonal skills are critical at work, in your home, at church, and around your neighborhood. Practice these time-honored and battle-tested skills to improve your effectiveness as you relate to people at home, work, and church.


1. Don’t complain

People tend to react negatively to toxic talk. Instead, offer potential solutions when you identify problems. Or, say nothing at all.
"Do everything without grumbling and arguing." Phil 2:14 (HCSB)

2. Smile

Does your expression tell the world to leave you alone or that you’re friendly and approachable? Practice smiling and watch how others respond.
"Render service with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men." Eph. 6:7 (HCSB)

3. Listen closely and actively

Make an effort to listen to everything that’s being said to you. Concentrate on the person’s words rather than your response. If there is the potential for disagreement or misunderstanding, paraphrase what you think was said. Be patient and briefly summarize his or her concerns, points, or ramblings before you share your opinion.
"A wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance." Prov. 1:5 (HCSB)

4. Praise others

Acknowledge when people are working hard, doing a great job, and contributing. Express that who they are and what they do has genuine value. Practice this with your spouse, employees, friends, pastor, and the adults you lead. Be an encourager and an affirmer.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…" 1 Thess 5:11a (HCSB)

5. Show gratitude

When you benefit from someone’s effort or work let them know that you appreciate it. Make a habit of expressing gratitude to the people around you.
"Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess. 5:18 (HCSB)

6. Talk about others’ interests

Rather than hoping for opportunities to tell people how great you are, set yourself aside and become interested in those around you. People love to talk about their interests, so give them the opportunity to do so.
"Let another praise you, and not your own mouth - a stranger, and not your own lips." Prov. 27:2 (HCSB)

7. Remember names

We find creative ways to hide the fact that we’ve forgotten names. Dale Carnegie said, "Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." Do whatever it takes to make that sweet sound. You will make them feel special and memorable.
"Your name is perfume poured out…" Song 1:3 (HCSB)

8. Make a sacrifice

Words are powerful, but more treasured than words are a sincere sacrifice of time or money on your part. So get in the habit of identifying and meeting people’s needs and putting them ahead of your own.
"No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (HCSB)


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Violent Pre-Dawn Attack

From Voice of the Martyrs

At 3 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13, a mass of 400 people in police suits and red armbands rushed the Good News Cloth Shoes Factory located on the land of the Fushan Church's building in Linfin City, Shanxi Province, China, according to a ChinaAid report.

The power, water and telephone lines to the factory were cut off. Two shovel loaders tore at the factory and new church building foundations while the mob, with bricks and other blunt instruments, beat Fushan church members who were sleeping at the church construction site. Within an hour, more than 10 church members lay bleeding heavily. Some were severely injured and taken to the emergency room. Several people lost consciousness and were hospitalized.According to ChinaAid, anonymous authorities instructed local emergency room personnel to withhold treatment and prohibit blood transfusions for the injured church members. On Sunday night, two seriously injured patients had to be transferred to another hospital.Photo: ChinaAid

Take Action!

The Voice of the Martyrs joins ChinaAid in calling on the international community to voice their protests to the Chinese government against the brutal treatment of Christians, and to pray for justice and healing for the victims of the attack. We further pray for the souls of the participants in the crime, that they will be internally convicted of their inhumane treatment of others and blatant disregard for human life. Go to ChinaAid.org to read more about this story and find out how you can contact Chinese officials to voice your outrage over this brutal attack on the Christians of Fushan Church.

VOM assists Chinese Christians by providing Bibles, Christian literature, scholarships for training and emergency aid to families of prisoners.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why I am Southern Baptist

Ed Stetzer posted a great blog at Between the Times, a blog sight of Southeastern Seminary entitled "Why I am Southern Baptist." Here are a couple of quotes from his blog.

"I am proud to stand on a history of cooperating churches that constantly renew their commitment to Christ, the Great Commission, and finding new ways to care for the needy of our world. It is a system where you can find what you need and give as much as you want. Because, the key to cooperation is to both give and take."

"By being in the SBC, I can give away resources to people whom I will never meet to reach places I will never go and give the Gospel to the lost who are beyond my reach. The Cooperative Program is a genius invention."

I encourage you to read the whole article here.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

School Officials Cleared of Criminal Contempt Charges in Case Involving Prayer!

Santa Rosa County, FL – Today Liberty Counsel successfully cleared Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Athletic Director Robert Freeman of criminal contempt charges that arose out of a simple blessing of a meal. The criminal contempt hearing began when the ACLU asked that Lay and Freeman be held in contempt for offering a prayer over a meal at a luncheon where they honored donors to the athletic Field House project.

The federal courtroom in Pensacola, Florida, was packed with people supporting Lay and Freeman. The Pace High School students made T-shirts with the image of a potato chip that read: “Lay’s Supportive Patriots.” Busloads of people jammed the steps of the courthouse to cheer and show their support.
Read whole story here.

Everyday Evangelism

I came across this article on Lifeway.com written by Dawn Pick Benson on sharing your faith.
Following is an abbreviated version. You can read the whole article here.


When I was growing up, my dad was a farmer, not a Christian. He had little interest in faith, having been told by his father that the Bible was a fairy tale. But then a local pastor took an interest in my dad, asking if he could help plow the fields on the weekend.

That one act of service spoke louder than words ever could to my dad. By his actions, the pastor made my dad feel loved, and that did more than any preaching could have. He didn’t need convincing about the theological correctness of the Bible; he needed to feel God’s love for him. This pastor met that need in a practical way. And that’s evangelism.

It sounds simple enough, but many of us still struggle with how evangelism fits into our everyday lives. Maybe that’s because we think evangelism is something better left to “professionals,” like the preachers and missionaries of the world. Or maybe we cringe at the idea, associating evangelism with hard-sell, high-haired televangelists and want nothing to do with those phonies.

Here are ideas for sharing God’s good news as you go:

1. Spend time deepening your relationship with God, allowing Him to form you into the image of Christ. When we’re walking with God, spending time in prayer and Scripture reading, we have a full well from which we can offer Christ’s living water to others.

2. Become a creature of habit. Frequent the same coffee shop, gas station, restaurant, and so on, and build relationships with people there.

3. Go out of your way to assist a co-worker at your job.

4. Pray for friends who aren’t followers of Christ by name, as a family, asking God to draw them to Himself.

5. Practice intentional acts of kindness. Try returning carts in grocery store parking lots or picking up trash in a community park.

6. Shop at neighborhood garage sales. Get to know your neighbors’ names — and remember them.

7. Join a friend in an activity or hobby.

8. Allow God to use your uniqueness. Be creative and think about how you can use your unique gifts and talents to show His love to others. If you like to cook, deliver meals to those in need; if you like to knit, make scarves to hand out to homeless individuals you meet on the street; and so on.

9. Get to know your neighbors and their needs. Volunteer to help with yard work, childcare, or decorating a home. Helping with small things can help you earn the right to speak with neighbors about more serious issues.

10. Get to know the parents of your children’s friends. Strike up conversations at sporting or school events. This will help you learn more about them and their needs.

11. Form a playgroup for stay-at-home parents.

12. Volunteer with community organizations. You’d be surprised how many non-Christians are serving.

God wants to use us — no matter who we are or what we know — to change lives. He only asks that we open our eyes to everyday opportunities around us and remain faithful to respond with love. For many people, drawing closer to God is a process that takes months, even years. But if we are willing to be used by God, we can take an active role in the ordinary ways He chooses to share good news.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview

Here is a new website I highly recommend. See the video below.






The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview is unique portal that is the first of its kind – a place to reclaim Biblical truth and grow in faith. Use the library to conduct research, join classes to experience soul-stretching education, and subscribe to daily columns for inspiration and spiritual guidance.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Missionary Tim Miller witnesses modern-day martyrdom

The following story was the front page story of the September 3 edition of The Alabama Baptist. After reading the story, I was moved to invite Tim Miller to speak at First Baptist Church. I have been leading my church on Wednesday evenings to be more deliberate in praying for the persecuted church. Tim is going to be speaking to our congregation on Sunday, October 4 during our morning worship services.

The Cost: Missionary to Philippines witnesses modern-day martyrdom
By Jennifer Davis Rash
The Alabama Baptist

Tim Miller knows the Bible well. He’s spent the majority of his 46 years dissecting, memorizing and sharing it, but he’s not sure he ever thought he would find himself severely beaten and his friend murdered because of its message. But that is now part of his faith journey, and it is this eye-witness account of this modern-day martyrdom that leaves Miller confident in the foundation of his faith.

"We have a foundation with Christ and my little fortress is more secure now. I am more confident in the things I am doing and the ways I am doing those things that need to be done," said Miller, who recently returned to Alabama following the May attack.

While Miller’s experiences teaching in various seminary classrooms, embracing cultures around the world and even working with Britain’s prime minister and wife on medical ethics offer infinite copy for unwritten books, it is his nearly 10 years of work in the Philippines as an educator and missionary that has defined the latest chapters in his life.

Planting a church in a city of 40,000 that grew from zero to 450 in about five years, Miller worked strategically to train and equip Bible study leaders who could disciple new believers and prepare them to do the same.

"God is amazing in that a person like me can take a bunch of people coasting through life and create an evangelism explosion," said Miller, who was holding three worship services at the church every Sunday, each in a different language — Tagalog (most widely spoken Filipino language), German and English.

Originally from Nebraska and the son of well-known preacher and author Calvin Miller, Tim Miller holds degrees from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and the University of Oxford in England.

Professing his faith in Jesus Christ at age 7 and growing up in a strong Christian home and church environment, Miller said talking about his faith has always come easily. Combine that with an adventurous spirit, a deep interest in people and a well-traveled resumé and he can typically interact easily with individuals from any part of the world. Christ most certainly comes into the conversation fairly quickly when Miller is involved.

In the Philippines, that was no different. Outside of his classes at Baguio Bible College (associated with the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary) in Baguio and his eight years of developing a food kitchen that feeds about 1,000 people a week, Miller turned to a kind of fishing.

Fishing for fishermen, that is. He loves a good tuna steak, and what better place to find one than fresh off a boat as a local fisherman comes ashore?

Only a two- to three-mile walk from Miller’s house in the Philippine province of Zambales was a fishing community. He spent many hours there buying fish, sharing stories and building relationships. The fishermen happened to all be Muslim.

Through the years, he led scores of Muslims to Christ, but it was one particular new Christian — Ali Manalo — who would change everything for Miller. Manalo would pay the ultimate sacrifice for his decision. And Miller would find himself under 24-hour police protection — the target of an Islamic militant group — following an intense beating by this group known as the Abu Sayyef.

It was late May and Manalo, just a year into his new faith, was making good progress in Scripture memorization and his understanding of the basic foundational truths, Miller explained.
Distant relatives unhappy with Manalo’s move to Christianity contacted the Abu Sayyef. Representatives from this group and a few others they picked up in the area invited themselves to the next Bible study at Manalo’s house. After being spit on and verbally abused, Miller attempted to calm the men down.

But all he got in return was a barrage of bamboo clubs coming at him as the other Bible study attendees fled.

It was Miller and Manalo against 10 militants in what would be Miller’s first and Manalo’s last
Arnese (Philippine stick fight).

At 6 feet 3 inches and with military defense skills he learned 25 years ago, Miller managed to fend off several men as he ushered Manalo’s wife, Fatema, and two young daughters to safety.
But before he could save Manalo, Miller was struck from behind.

He awoke in the hospital and entered a two-month journey of saying goodbye to close friends and church members. For about two months, he remained homebound, healing and staying clear of the Abu Sayyef, who threatened to take revenge on Miller for the local government’s hanging of the two militants leading the attack. "(Friends) came by every day to cook, clean, do whatever I needed," Miller said. "They were there for me."

Even Fatema.

"She thanked me for getting them out," he said, noting he still thinks about that day and wonders if there had been an option, would he have given his life so Manalo could have lived and taken care of his family? "Yeah, I would have," Miller said, noting Fatema hung a photo of Manalo on her wall with the inscription John 15:13 — "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

"She sees her husband as a martyr, as do I," Miller said. "She is intent that her daughters know that commitment to Christ costs."

At 3 and 4 years old, Manalo’s daughters will carry that fateful day’s events with them throughout their lives, but Miller believes their mother will never let them forget how their father stood for his faith.

Miller — who still favors his right elbow and ribs a little and can finally talk after having his jaw wired shut for six weeks — knows he won’t forget. And for the first time in his theology-filled life, Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26 about "hating" one’s family and oneself finally made sense. "I never quite understood that," he said, "until you see it cost people something."

A member of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, in Birmingham Baptist Association, Miller is currently teaching hermeneutics at the Birmingham extension of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is working on securing a new teaching assignment in Central or South America, which should begin in early 2010.


 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Needed: Men and Women Who Are True to their Families

Following is an excellent comment by Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA concerning the extramarital affair and subsequent murder of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair.

This is everyday life. It happens.

Those of the words of former all-pro NFL running back Eddie George, commenting to NBCs Lester Holt this week on the extramarital affair and subsequent murder of his onetime teammate Steve McNair.
Mr. Holt added that many husbands, seeing the McNair story unfold in the headlines, were surely saying to themselves, There but for the grace of God go I.

I have no doubt that hes right.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us there is nothing new under the sun (NKJV) and certainly people have been falling into the tragic sin of adultery since soon after the original fall. But it seems that there is an increase in this problem in modern times. From politicians to pastors, we have seen a disturbing number of people in the spotlight because they could not stay true to their marital promises. In the aftermath, we see the spouses and children of these individuals left to face the humiliation that these infidelities brought about.

Infidelity is something that can happen to anyone who is not constantly on guard to prevent it from happening. There is no place for carelessness when our marriages, our children and our Christian testimonies are at stake. For the Christian, being on guard also means being constantly attuned to the faultless God who lives within us, allowing Him to be our strength against any temptation we might face.

Further, as Christians, we must allow Gods love to shine in us so that we can effectively love our spouses and families. Jeremiah 31:3 says, The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you. By experiencing the matchless love that God affords us, we can then properly love in return.

In 2005, my father brought a sermon titled, Faith, Family and Traditions, wherein he listed five daily duties of a successful Christian father. They are:

1. He must openly and obviously love his childrens mother;
2. He must have a personal and intimate relationship with his children;
3. He must build self worth in his children;
4. He must encourage vision, hope and purity. He must be verbal and positive;
5. He must guarantee perpetual endowment.

This is such a pertinent inventory for Christian men who desire to be a godly leader at home while remaining true to the promises they made to their wife on their wedding day. Note that these five items should be at the forefront of our efforts on a daily basis; they should be atop our list of priorities without fail. I can personally attestas can my mom, brother and my sisterthat my Dad lived out this list every day of his life and by doing so he inspires all three of us to do the same today.

I fear that too many men, and women, are playing a hope-for-the-best game with their families. There just doesnt seem to be a commitment to their families beyond the superficial. This is a dangerous routine and I see the consequences of this type of lifestyle on a regular basis. I imagine most pastors could bear out this scenario.

Christian husbands, we must be persistently investing ourselves into the lives of our families, while also spending much time in prayer, Bible study and positive Christian fellowship in order to strengthen ourselves in this essential effort. It is the role God intends for us to take on heroically for the sake of our families. Failing to do so should not be an option.

Christian wives, you too must be fully invested in the lives of your family. And, likewise, fully invested in your own spiritual growth. Your commitment of growing closer to God each and every day is vital to the success of your family.

I want to close by pointing out that most people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18, with many of them doing so in the home. Christian fathers (and mothers), honor God in all you do so that your children will see the Spirit of Jesus Christ as a living example through your lives.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do We Lack Respect for God?

In his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper quotes Charles Misner, a scientific specialist in general relativity theory, who expressed Albert Einstein’s skepticism of religion.

"The design of the universe ... is very magnificient and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as a basically very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had ever imagined, and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt that religions he’d run across did not have the proper respect... for the author of the universe."


I highly recommend "Let the Nations Be Glad" by John Piper.




Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indescribable Conference



The Indescribable Conference was, well, Indescribable. God moved in a mighty way. Here is a video from youtube of "Who Can Satisfy My Soul" from the final night of the conference.




Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rejecting Apathy



Received the following from a friend by email. Thought provoking comment from Chuck Colson. You can see more from Chuck Colson at http://www.breakpoint.org/





Many Christians, once motivated by protecting the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and traditional marriage, seem inconsolable—as if the fight is over and there’s nothing we can do about it.

But embracing this attitude is a certain prescription for disaster.

I received last month a newsletter by Don Reeverts of the Denver Leadership Foundation. In it he gives the following quote, often attributed to an 18th-century Scottish writer:

The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence...from bondage to spiritual faith...from spiritual faith to courage...from courage to liberty...from liberty to abundance...from abundance to selfishness...from selfishness to complacency…from complacency to apathy...from apathy to dependency...from dependency back to bondage.

These are sobering words. This question of where America is in the cycle should be extremely important for Christians. That’s because I firmly believe that culture is nothing but religion incarnate—that when we see a culture losing its moral footing, it’s because believers have failed to bring Christian truth to bear in society. We haven’t been, as Calvin put it, making the invisible kingdom visible.

So what stage are we in? Reeverts thinks we are entering the stage of apathy. And I hate to say it, but I agree. I am finding growing apathy among believers.

Apathy manifests itself in how people dress, how they talk, how they care for each other—and how concerned they are about the great issues of the day. It resembles what the Greeks called acedia, a languidness, a torpor, in which we stop caring about anything.

Apathy inevitably leads to dependency. And once we become dependent on Big Brother, we are back in bondage. Can anybody really watch the dramatic growth of governmental power and not be alarmed? For the fact of the matter is that the more government acts as God, the less people depend on the one true God.

Your congressmen and senators are home now for summer recess. Have you contacted them?Are you angry about what’s happening in this country today? Things like the elimination of the conscience clause for medical professionals, or embryonic stem cell research, or the advance of gay “marriage,” or threats to religious liberties, or government making life-and-death decisions in health care?If you’re not upset about those things, you’ve succumbed to apathy already.

I can’t imagine anybody sitting at home, comfortably watching us slip into a state of dependency without getting outraged, and then without expressing that outrage.

If we value our liberties, if we believe in the most fundamental principles upon which our civilization is based, then we owe it to our God and to future generations to speak out.
Institutions aren’t going to change the course of America; but great movements have changed the course of the nation and will again. And what better network to fuel a movement than the Church? Rejecting apathy and trusting in God, firm in our belief in human dignity and our God-given liberties, the Church can ignite a fire in this country.

Do we get it? I pray that we do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What We Were Made For


What were we made for? To know God.
What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God.
What is the "eternal life" that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "This is etenal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3).
What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. "This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast on his wisdom or the stong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me'" (Jer 9:23-24).
What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. "I desired . . . the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings," says God (Hos 6:6).

Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life's problems fall into place of their own accord.

Excerpt from a book I highly recommend, Knowing God by J.I. Packer.

It is just a little over two weeks away. The Indescribable: Encounter God conference. Check it out at http://www.indescribableconference.com/





Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Listen to Advice

Peanuts

Proverbs 19:20
"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Knowledge of God - A Tragedy in the Church

One of the most tragic trends I have noticed in our churches today is the way believers view God. Renowned author A.W. Tozer writes in his book The Knowledge of the Holy:


The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. With our loss of the sense of the majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and the consciousness of the divine presence ... It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is errouneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.
If the majority of believers do not have the right view of God, how can our society even begin to see Him as He is? Because of the wrong view of God that predominates in all areas of our culture today, our society is in moral turmoil, and we are in danger of losing our moral soul.

Bill Bright, God: Discover His Character




Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson and Jesus are "about even"

My son has made a very accurate and excellent assessment of the Michael Jackson memorial on his blog. Read it below.

Michael Jackson and Jesus are "about even"

Wow. In the few minutes I caught of the Michael Jackson memorial, I could not help but notice several things:

1. In our post-modern culture words apparently no longer have meaning, but are spoken for effect. The highly emotional words that appeared to move many were often empty words, contradictory words, or untrue words. That didn't seem to bother anybody.

2. The kind of glory that was being given to the "King of Pop" should only be given to the "King of Kings". To say that Michael Jackson will be remembered and loved forever is probably a bit of a stretch. To say that his life touched every person on earth is just plain false. To say that he will be with us to bring us joy forever is going too far and saying something that is only true of Jesus.

3. The climactic musical finale was a two-song combination: We are the World & Heal the World. These songs were accompanied by images of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other world religions coming together to say that we are all one. The lyrics talked about how we are all a part of God's family. If the theology of that song was true, we should call back every missionary from the mission field immediately - they are wasting their time.

This isn't meant to disrespect MJ (though, didn't MJ used to refer to Michael Jordan? And have we completely forgotten how a young boy was able to stand in court and give an accurate descriptions of splotches on MJ's private parts? Does that not matter now because his music "touched" a lot of people? I think the mass media and the millions paying adulation to Jackson today would do well to remember that other part of his life before lifting him up as a great american hero. [BTW, on the subject of idolatry, this book may be worth your consideration.)

But the point of this post was just to remind ourselves of culture's perspective of truth. Truth simply doesn't exist. Or if it does, it doesn't matter. Words no longer have substance. Its the effect - the way they make us feel - that matters. Hasn't our President proven that again and again already?

As Christians, we certainly know better. Our souls rest on the hope that such ideas are not true. We are resting our very eternities on the belief that words do mean something. If gospel words do not turn out to be true, we are the biggest bunch of fools ever. And of course, that's exactly what some think of us.

Of course, even more than the memorial service, I think this brief CNN video sums up well the state of our culture at this time:




"Amen" to Justin's comments. I want to add that the media's infatuation with and coverage of Michael Jackson's death and funeral is a sad commentary on how far America has sunk into idolatry. Americans give more glory to the emotionally troubled and morally tarnished "king of pop" than we do to the King of kings.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention

This year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky was one of the most exciting and encouraging meetings I have been to in my 23 years of attending Southern Baptist Conventions. I left Louisville with great optimism for the future of our convention. Let me share some reasons why.

1. The Great Commission Resurgence.
This was one of the leading motivators for my attending the convention. The Great Commission Resurgence is the vision of Dr. Danny Akin (President of Southeastern Seminary) and Dr. Johnny Hunt. The Great Commission Resurgence calls on Southern Baptists to unite around the foundational truths of the gospel for the sake of cooperating together to fulfill the Great Commission. It is a call for the convention to seriously examine itself to make sure that the Great Commission is the driving force behind all that we do. Dr. Al Mohler (President of Southern Seminary) brought the motion to the floor that President Hunt appoint a Great Commission Resurgence task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” While there was some opposition to the motion, it passed with a 95% vote for the measure. To God be the glory.

2. The Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference
I was greatly blessed to hear tremendous preaching from Dr. Johnny Hunt, Dr. David Platt, Mike Huckabee, Ed Stetzer, and others. Their messages were not only well delivered but were challenging and encouraging. One of the best I've attended. I left with a deep conviction that I need to seriously look at my life and ministry to see what more I can do for the glory of God and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

3. Young Pastor's
For years, when one attended the SBC there was something noticably missing - young pastors. I felt young compared to the majority of those in attendance. The SBC was losing the next generation of SBC leaders. This year, the convention was full of young pastors (those in their 20's and 30's). One reason for this is their support of the GCR. Another reason for their attendance was the leadership of President Johnny Hunt. He led the drive to unite Southern Baptists around the Great Commission Resurgence. I also learned that it was he who bought lunch for the hundreds who showed up at the Baptist 21 event. As one young pastor put it, "There is a whole new constituency of younger Southern Baptists who are now looking to Johnny Hunt as one whom they can trust and whose leadership they can follow." This excites me.

4. Auxilliary Events.
Justin and I attended three auxillary events that not only encouraged me but taught me some things as well. The first event was called “9Marks at 9.” There were two of these meetings but the meeting I attended was held Monday evening and didn't start until about 9:15pm. Several hundred young pastors showed up after an already full day. It was led by Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. and founder of 9Marks Ministries. The second meeting I attended was the Founders Breakfast at 6:30am on Tuesday morning. I was really blessed by Dr. Danny Akin's message. At lunch on Tuesday, I attended the Baptist21 event, mentioned above, that featured a panel discussion with Al Mohler, Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Ed Stetzer, David Platt, and Daniel Montgomery. Finally, I attended the Liberty University alumni meeting. By the way, one of the best things about all of these meetings was the number of free books that were distributed.

5. Resolutions
Two significant resolutions were brought to the floor and passed. The first was Russell Moore’s resolution on adoption and orphan-care. While this resolution was being presented by the Committee on Resolutions Russell Moore stood on the platform with his two adopted sons. The second significant resolution was regarding the presidency of Barack Obama.

6. A Convention with My Son.
My greatest joy of the week was spending this blessed time with Justin. We attended all of the meetings together and had great conversation concerning what God was doing in our lives, our churches, and in the convention. We also spent Wednesday afternoon on the campus of Southern Seminary touring and seeing our convention's oldest seminary. Southern Seminary was celebrating its 150 anniversary on Wednesday. We had the opportunity to tour the library, the chapels, and went to the book store. I really enjoyed attending this convention with my son. I am so proud of Justin and what God is doing in and through his life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Southern Baptist Convention and Pastor's Conference

I am really looking forward to the Southern Baptist Convention and Pastor's Conference this year. Here is some of what I am looking forward to.

PASTOR'S CONFERENCE

Sunday Evening, June 21
Message by Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship

Monday Morning, June 22
Message by Ed Stetzer, president, LifeWay Research
Message -- Francis Chan, Pastor of Cornerstone Church, Simi Valley, Calif.

Monday Afternoon, June 22
Message by Fred Luter Jr., Pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, La.
Message by Mike Huckabee, host of "Huckabee" on Fox News Channel

Monday Evening, June 22
Message by Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism, Southeastern Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
Message by Johnny Hunt, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
Message by David Platt, Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Ala.

9 Marks at 9, with Mark Dever (Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC) 9pm

SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

Tuesday, June 23
Founders' Breakfast featuring Danny Akin - 6:30 am
President's Address, Johnny Hunt - 10:50am
Panel Discussion w/ Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Al Mohler - Lunch Meeting
Message by Danny Akin - 3:30 pm

Wednesday, June 24
Message by David Platt - 10:00am

I am especially interested in hearing the recommendations and discussion concerning "The Great Commission Resurgence" vision set forth by Johnny Hunt. For more information on "The Great Commission Resurgence" go to http://www.greatcommissionresurgence.com/.

Of course, there will be a lot of other items of business, presentations, and resolutions to be presented as well.

However, what I am most looking forward to this year is spending time with my son.

Monday, June 8, 2009

President on Dangerous Ground

President Obama proclaimed June as "LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH." You can see his official proclamation here.

While President Obama is not the first to issue such a proclamation, (President Clinton did while he was in the White House), he is the first to include bisexual and transgender in the proclamation.

President Obama is treading on dangerous ground. He claims to be Christian yet has obviously forgotten or is blantantly rejecting God's Word. I would call on him to read Romans 1:24-32. I especially would emphasize verse 32:

"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

God Is Never Unsure

Another thought from A. W. Tozer

"All of God’s acts are consistent with all of his attributes. No attribute contradicts any other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the infinite abyss of the Godhead. All that God does agrees with all that God is, and being and doing are one in him. The familiar picture of God as often torn between his justice and his mercy is altogether false to the facts. To think of God as inclining first toward one and then toward another of his attributes is to imagine a God who is unsure of himself, frustrated and emotionally unstable, which of course is to say that the one of whom we are thinking is not the true God at all but a weak, mental reflection of him badly out of focus."

From The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer

Friday, May 22, 2009

Is Your Conception of God Right?

A.W. Tozer rightly said, "What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us?"

Only a correct, biblical perception of God will provide us with the foundation we need to truly worship Him for who He really is. Anything less is idolatry. John MacArthur says in his book, The Love of God, "A proper conception of God provides the foundation of all that is absolutely essential to spiritual life and health."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Smart Preachers Help Propagate Dumb Ideas

While I don't whole heartedly agree with everything that Larry Osborne, Pastor of North Coast Church, says in this article, I must admit that he has caused me to rethink my practice of putting Scripture verses up on the screen or even in the sermon outline. While many of First Baptist members tell me how much they appreciate the outline with the Scripture verses in it, I have recognized lately that many members do not bring their Bibles to church. There is much more to the article, however. Although I edited the article for length, it is still rather lengthy but worth taking the time to read. You can read the whole article here.

SOME DUMB THINGS SMART PEOPLE BELIEVE – AND THINK I'VE TAUGHT THEM
Life is nuanced, and so are the scriptures. They can't be reduced to sound bites and tag lines. Yet the sad truth is that many people in our churches base their faith almost entirely upon clichés and sound bites rather than the totality of scripture. In other words, some awfully smart Christians believe some really dumb things.

For instance, in my travels around the country, I've come to believe that a majority of Christians would agree with most, if not all, of the following statements.

Faith Can Fix Anything
Forgiving Means Forgetting
A Godly Home Guarantees Godly Kids
God Has A Blueprint For My Life
Christians Shouldn't Judge
Everything Happens For A Reason
Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
God Brings Good Luck
A Valley Means A Wrong Turn
Dead People Go To A Better Place

And these are just a few of the clichés, myths, and spiritual urban legends that permeate our churches. They sound plausible. They make for nice tag lines on posters, T-shirts, and Jesus junk. But if depended upon, they ultimately produce disappointment and disillusionment when God fails to come through on a promise he never made.

Frankly, as pastors and preachers, we're partly to blame. We do a number of things in the design of our worship services and the delivery of our sermons that unintentionally give life to these kinds of empty promises and clichés. We don't do it on purpose. But we do it just the same.

HOW DID IT GET THIS WAY?
How do these (and other) spiritual urban legends work their way into our sermons and churches? A variety of things come into play.

First, many of them align with the dominate beliefs and values of our culture. The more widely believed something is, the less likely we are to question it. Just like everyone else, Christians tend to trust the wisdom of the majority – even though the Bible makes a good case for taking a poll and then heading in the opposite direction.

Second, most of these goofy ideas match up with what we'd like to believe. For instance, the confidence that faith can fix anything or the comfort that comes from believing that dead people always go to a better place fits nicely with what we'd all like to believe. So any time a pastor says anything even remotely close, that's what people tend to hear, even if it's not what we said.

Third, these ideas are usually passed on by reputable sources. Christian friends, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders often offer them as well-meaning encouragement or advice. And since the source is reputable, people tend to believe what they say and pass it on in much the same way that computer viruses, Internet rumors, and secular urban legends are passed on. We don't bother to double-check them before hitting the Send button because the source is reputable.

Frankly, there's not much a pastor can do to completely kill off these dumb ideas and happy-talk clichés. But there are some things we can do in our services and preaching to undercut their credibility and to make it less likely that our people will buy into them or pass them on to others.
Here are four of the things that I've found to be most helpful in my own ministry and preaching.

MAKE PEOPLE BRING A BIBLE
Many of us unintentionally designed our worship services and sermons so that no one needs to bring (or even own) a Bible. The biggest culprit is the pattern of putting Bible verses and texts up on a screen.

Admittedly, our intentions are admirable (a desire to make the Bible accessible to those who are unfamiliar with scripture or don't yet have a Bible). But the unintended consequences are not so admirable. Whether it's in a youth group or a church service, once we start putting the text up on a screen or in the bulletin, it won't be long until most people stop bringing a Bible. Why should they? They don't need it.

As a result, it starts a vicious cycle. When new Christians (and lots of other Christians) don't see anyone else carrying a Bible, they don't either. It's not long until the mark of a visitor is someone with a Bible in hand.

But that's nowhere near as harmful as the next result. Newer Christians and immature Christians start to put their trust in the spiritual guru who stands up each weekend and authoritatively unpacks the deep truths and life-wisdom found in an ancient and cryptic book called the Bible. Once that happens, they're wide open to clichés, platitudes, and anything else that has a nice ring to it. They have nothing to test them against.

That's one reason that at North Coast Church, I've refused to put our sermon text or even cross-references up on a screen. I want to literally force people to get and use a Bible if they want to follow along. The result has been lots of people bringing Bibles – and new Christians who quickly assume that they'd better get one to fit in with everyone else.

When it comes to ministry, my goals are simple. They're probably a lot like yours. I want to help non-Christians come to Christ (John 14:6). I want to help new Christians grow to maturity (Colossians 1:28-29). And I want to help all Christians learn to spiritually feed themselves and think Biblically (Acts 17:11). Yet the third step is hard to pull off when no one brings (or even owns) a Bible. It's difficult to move people beyond sound bites and sermon notes if they don't have a Bible to check them against.

TEACH THE CONTEXT – NOT JUST THE PROOF TEXTS
Another way I try to undercut simplistic clichés and half-truths is by making sure my sermons include the context of a passage and not just the proof texts that support whatever points I'm trying to make.

At North Coast Church we use a combination of book studies and topical series in our preaching. We work very hard to be practical and relevant. In so doing, it can be tempting to give people principles and life applications supported by a laundry list of verses – some of which are taken way out of context. (I known none of you have ever done this, but I'll admit I have.)

While supplying verses that support a principle or life application is important, I've found that it's also essential to get people to actually turn to the passages and see them in context. Doing so helps them grasp that the Bible is not just a collection of pithy sayings mined by a clever pastor. It drives home the subtle message that some verses don't mean what they seem to mean in isolation – and this goes a long way toward undercutting the happy-talk and clichés that are so often built upon a favorite text or even a single sentence taken out of context.

As an added benefit, it also pulls the rug out from under the false teaching of many cults. Many of their most bizarre doctrines are built on a phrase or verse taken completely out of context.

ENCOURAGE AND ANSWER THE "YEAH BUTs"
Another thing I try to do when preaching is to make sure that I acknowledge and address as many of the "yeah buts" that I can imagine my listeners asking. For instance if I'm preaching from a passage that deals with God's sovereignty, I know that some folks out there are asking, "Yeah, but does that mean God is responsible for . . .?" or "Yeah, but does that mean God actually caused Adam and Eve to sin?" plus a host of other questions.

Acknowledging the "Yeah buts," and especially questions for which I have no answer, makes a big difference. It doesn't undercut their trust in the Bible, but it does undercut their blind trust in me. And that's a good thing. It helps my congregation understand that the scriptures are nuanced, complex, and don't always hold an easy cliché or simple answer for every situation. It sends a strong message that the Bible is more than a collection of Zen-like sayings to be cataloged and then pulled out and applied when needed.

The fact is, smart people will always believe some dumb things. Blind spots are nothing new; they will always be with us. But the way we structure our sermons, worship services, and ministry can go a long way toward either fostering or exposing these spiritual urban legends and empty clichés for the baloney they are.

Monday, May 11, 2009

God Has Not Called You to Be Tolerant

Great thought from Jason Cruise at www.bethemanministries.com

It is amazing thing to live in the day in which we do. A truly amazing time period in our nation's history as we live out what looks to be the slippery slope headed toward our becoming a nation that has lost it's ability to possess any level of common sense. We now blame "crime" on guns - which is the equivalent of blaming arson on matches. Our nation is working hard to celebrate same sex marriage - yet if that were God's plan for marriage then the human race would literally self-destruct out of simple inability to procreate.

One issue that so deeply permeates our present culture is the idea of tolerance.

Tolerance, by definition, is that you and I can peacefully coexist though we are two different people with polar opposite value systems. Yet that is not how tolerance is being practiced today.

Tolerance has now shifted in it's practical definition in that it has come to mean that you must fully embrace and totally endorse any form of value system, and if you do not, then you are a hateful, anti-intellect who lives in the squalor of bigotry. We are now raising future generations to believe that they have the right never to be offended. Here's the funny thing about this idea of tolerance ... those who preach it are the most intolerant group walking the planet! Those who preach tolerance demand that you be completely tolerant of their way of life, for if you are not, then you are boycotted and treated as if you are not worthy of the name "human being."

Here's the truth friend: God has never called you to be tolerant.

He has called you to be graceful. He has called you to be patient. He has called you to be loving. He has never, nor will He ever, call you to tolerate any belief system that seeks to destroy the very concepts of His identity and holiness. You do not have to be tolerant of any other "gospel" than that of Jesus Christ. You do not have to be tolerant of any form of alternative lifestyle that feeds on selfish sexual depravity. You do not have to be tolerant of any thing, in any form, that contradicts the absolute holy character of Holy God.

"... be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!" 2 Peter 3:17-18

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Great Commission Resurgence

Dr. Danny Akin, President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, North Carolina), recently delivered a powerful and visionary message to Southeastern students during chapel. It is worth your time to listen to this message and consider fervently supporting Dr. Akins vision for a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. In his message he presents eleven axioms Southern Baptists need to commit to for such a resurgence.

I believe Dr. Akin’s vision is the right one for our convention for such a time as this. You can read and hear his message and the 11 axioms at http://www.greatcommissionresurgence.com/. You can also add your name to the already more than 900 who signed in support of his vision for the SBC. I have already signed.

I am looking forward to the Great Commission Resurgence report that will be shared at the Southern Baptist Convention in June. I am praying this will be the match that lights a much needed fire under Southern Baptists.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Americans Open to being Invited to Church

A recent study by the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Research found that 67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit church. A personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be effective for 63 percent. In other words, nearly two-thirds of Americans are willing to return an inivitation to church from a family member or friend with a favorable response.

This is great news for Believers because this goes hand in hand with what I believe is the most Biblical method of evangelism - simply inviting family and friends to hear the claims of Jesus and to be touched by Him.

While advertising campaigns and evangelistic events do have their place, these are not the most effective methods for reaching people. Yet far too many churches are relying too much on these non-personal forms of evangelism and neglecting the most of effective method of soul-winning - the personal invitation.

Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, famous evangelist, said that the New Testament records tell of forty people, each suffering from the same disease, who were healed by Jesus. Of this number, thirty-four were either brought to Jesus by friends, or He was taken to them. In only six cases out of forty did the sufferers find the way to Jesus without assistance. Of the vast number of people who find their way to Jesus today, most of them reach Him because the friends of Jesus are concerned about the welfare of their souls.

Since personal invitation is shown to be effective in the Bible and even today, why are we not about the business of inviting people to church? I believe it is because we have become apathetic to the plight of lost people. We have either forgotten or don't care that those who die without Christ are condemned to eternity in hell. What should be our response to the plight of the lost? Charles Spurgeon said it best:

“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that…. The saving of souls, if a man has once gained love to perishing sinners and his blessed Master, wil be an all-absorbing passion to him. It will so carry him away, that he will almost forget himself in the saving of others….. If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”

Just a Thought!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Break Down This Wall

video

Comparing Sin

"If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all." - - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter


Inside the tomb Christ lay one morn, Defeated seemed salvation’s horn, But God the Father spoke the word, And this He said, tho no man heard, “Come forth!” Inside the tomb of sin I lay, The price of sin I had to pay; But Christ the Raiser of the dead Spoke to my poor, bound soul and said, “Come forth!” And when the great and final sound Shall raise our loved ones from the ground, ‘Twill be the last time we shall hear That glorious sound upon our ear, “Come forth!” *Anon*

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday Lord's Supper

Tonight we observe the Lord's Supper. "The Lord's Supper" is the title given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:20: "When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat."

Paul also referred to it as "the Lord's table" in 1 Corinthians 10:21: "You cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons."

The Bible indicates that the Lord's Supper has its roots in the Old Testament remembrance and celebration of the Passover.

The Lord's Supper is not only historical in significance but theological for it symbolizes the sacrificial death of THE Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The bread symbolizes the broken body of Jesus while the wine symbolizes His shed blood poured out for the remission of sins.

The Lord's Supper also has about it a significance for the church, the body of Christ today. As believers come together to observe and partake of the Lord's Supper we are spiritually nourished for we are reminded of Christ's love, grace, and mercy.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 11:26 that The Lord's Supper also carries an eschatalogical significance. For Paul says, "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. " The Lord's Supper looks forward to the second coming of Christ in all His glory.

The Lord's Supper is a significant symbol of faith. It looks back to what Christ has done for us in reconciling us to God. It also looks forward to what Christ will do for us when He returns.

Let us come to the table with surrender of will and sincerity of heart. Let us come to remember.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Preach the Cross

"Although the pulpit is intended to be a pedestal for the cross, even the cross itself is sometimes used as a mere pedestal for the preacher's fame. We may roll the thunders of eloquence, we may scatter the flowers of poetry, we may diffuse the light of science, we may enforce the precepts of morality, from the pulpit. But if we do not make Christ the great subject of our preaching, we have forgotten our errand and shall do no good. Satan trembles at nothing but the cross: at this he does tremble. And if we would destroy his power and extend that holy and benevolent kingdom, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, it must be by means of the cross." - John Angell James

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I Have Pastors Prayer Partners

The following is a condensed version of the message I brought to my prayer partners at our annual banquet this week.

Why do we have a Pastors Prayer Partners Ministry at First Baptist Church? It's very simple - because I believe in the power and the necessity of prayer. Let me read some verses from the Apostle Paul and then make some observations.

1 Thes. 5:25 "Brothers, pray for us."

Col. 4:3-4 "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."

2 Thes. 3:1-2 "Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith."

At least three times in Scripture Paul asked the churches to pray for him. He said, "Pray for us." "Pray that God may open a door to preach the Gospel." "Pray that we will be delivered from wicked and evil men." Pray that my preaching will be as clear as possible." This tells me that pastors need prayer.

Paul said, "Brothers, pray for us." Paul was addressing churches that he either planted himself or that those whom he led to the Lord started. He asked these churches to pray for his ministry, his deliverance, and his preaching.

As a pastor, I look at this and I see the greatest preacher in church history, the greatest church planter in church history, and the greatest theologian in church history, and he’s saying, "I need my churches to pray for me." That says something to me as a pastor. It tells me that I need my church praying for me. I understand that I cannot do what God has called me to do without the prayers of the people God has called me to pastor.

There is something within the heart of God that when His people call on Him on behalf of their pastor, God responds. There is power in that kind of praying. Paul understood that as well. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."

Paul said, We’ve had some tough times, even to the point of death, but God delivered us because of your prayers and God will continue to deliver us because of your prayers. There is something powerful in the prayers of God’s people when they pray for their spiritual leaders.

The reason I started the Pastor’s Prayer Partners is because I know that if I’m going to be effective as a pastor, it’s going to take not only my prayers, but the prayers of the people God has called me to lead and shepherd.

Pastors Have Limits
Paul knew that there were areas in his life that if he was going to be effective, it was only going to be because of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the power of God working in him and through him. He asked the church to pray for his limitations and his weaknesses.

Prayer for Preaching
Paul specifically asked for prayer for his preaching. He had a burning desire to preach to as many people as he could. He asked for prayer in three areas concerning his preaching.

1. God would open doors for opportunities to preach.

Col. 4:3 "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains."

Paul was under house arrest in Rome when in wrote these words. He wanted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as he possibly could. He was praying that God would bring many people to him or that he would be released to continue preaching. God did both.
Preaching was Paul’s passion. Preaching is also my passion. I love to preach. My desire is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many unbelievers and believers as I possibly can. I need my church to pray that God would continually open doors for me to preach to lost people here at home and around the world.

2. That his message would be clear.

Col. 4:4 "Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should."

Why? Because if listeners can’t understand what’s being said, they won’t be sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When my prayer partners receive the monthly prayer sheet, always the first thing that I request prayer for is my sermon planning, preparation, and proclamation. I want the messages that I preach to be easily understood. I want people to understand the truth of God’s Word and it’s implication and relevance for their lives.

3. That his message would be proclaimed boldly.

Ephes. 6:19-20 "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

I need that prayer as well. I want to fearlessly and boldly proclaim the Gospel in the face of an increasingly hostile attitude toward the Gospel in our culture. I want to proclaim it boldly in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.

Pastors Need Protection and Delivering
Paul was under house arrest when he asked the church to pray for him. He needed deliverance. Paul faced opposition from outside the church - the Roman authorities, and from inside the church - those who were preaching false doctrine and making accusations against Paul and stirring up problems.

2 Thes. 3:2 "pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith."

Pastors face attack from outside the church.

1 Cor. 4:11-13 "To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world."

2 Cor. 11:24-27 "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked."

Pastors face attack from inside the church.

Philip. 1:17 "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains."

2 Cor. 10:2 "I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world."

When you pray for me, pray that God’s hand of protection will be upon me. Pray that when I am attacked, judged, and criticized that I will have a loving, forgiving spirit along with the wisdom and discernment to know how to handle it. Pray that I will be bold enough to stand up for what is right according to God’s Word and pray that I will not back down from what I know God’s will is because the devil is stirring someone up against it.

Pray that God will keep us united and together as a church and that God will keep Satan from using immature church members to stir up dissension against me, the staff, or anyone else in the church. I ask for this because if the Apostle Paul had to ask for prayers of protection from inside the church, what in the world makes me think I need prayers for this any less than Paul?

Paul told the church at Corinth,

1 Cor. 1:10-12 "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

One of the biggest problems that a pastor faces in the church is when the church is divided over an issue and people are lining up and picking sides. They did that even in Paul’s churches. This kind of attitude destroys churches. I praise God that we’ve not seen that here at First Baptist Church in my years. But I do know this - it must remain a constant prayer for us that God will keep us united, if we are to stay united.