Thursday, November 06, 2008
Anyway, I stopped by 1 John 2:15-17 this morning. I thought a Word for me might be a good Word for you as well.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Two things came to mind. The first was when I asked myself the question, "What is it I love about the world?"
The second was the connection I noticed between doing the will of God and "abiding" forever. I understand doing the will of God and I suspect you do to. What I found interesting was the use of the word "abide". The word is used 61 times in the New Testament, almost always by John aka "The Disciple whom Jesus loved". He uses it as a replacement word for "live" but think about how it means so much more. It is to stay with Jesus, to dwell, to belong, to experience everything there is in Jesus and with Jesus.
May you do the will of God today and may you abide with Him forever.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Having so much fun we skipped lunch, a dangerous precedent indeed!
Afternoon labs were all good. We start out with an hour of worship. Yes, you really can stand that long, even with a bad back. Then Robin and I split up for most of the afternoon. We went to one lab together and did the other three separately. The first lab I went to was with Scot McKnight, author of The Blue Parakeet. He did a great job pushing for the idea that we quit reading the Bible in several limited ways (looking for laws we like to follow while ignoring the rest, just counting promises and blessings, magical code schemes, etc...). Instead we need to become part of the story. Immerse ourselves in it and let it jump out in 3D. Probably not going to read the book unless they send it to me free but the "Blue Parakeet" story is funny and cool at the same time.
Robin and I joined up again on the second afternoon lab. This was my favorite. John Burke is Pastor of Gateway Community Church in Austin. He has written a book on one of the major themes of his church, "No Perfect People Allowed". The ministry he describes is phenominal! They are reaching people many would consider unreachable. One of his biggest points was that real ministry is messy. The lost people who come to his church or into one of their small groups are not just rough around the edges they are the edges! Many churches would be very uncomfortable ministering to people who may not accept Christ for several years (if ever) and who may not change overnight.
He looked at 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 and pointed out how easy it is to forget that God causes the growth, not us. Three points:
1) Create a church culture of grace giving acceptance. (He pointed out that the "tolerance mantra" of today is a cheap substitute for Biblical grace)
2)Create a culture of authenticity.
3) Create a culture of intentional growth. The other motto at their church is "Come as you are but don't stay that way".
Something about the way the Spirit spoke to me made that time worth the trip to Atlanta.
Third session I went to hear Reggie McNeal. He is awesome but if you want to get his full message you better buy his books. He had 7 points under the theme of "Being a Great Leader". He took the first 45 minutes covering the first one and listed the other six in the final five minutes. I do not believe you could fall asleep with Reggie at the helm even with the aid of anesthesia. Awesome communicator but he needs to be his own conference!
Last afternoon session I went to hear Mark Batterton of National Community Church in Washington D.C. I just finished his book, "Wild Goose Chase" and his presentation was from part of the book. Good stuff.
We did dinner with some church planters then on to the evening session. We both went to hear Jud Wilhite and Matt Foster. Jud is Pastor of Central Christian in Las Vegas NV. 12,000 people attend their campuses every weekend. Wow! Together they have written a book called "Deadly Viper Character Assasins". Robin read it and it was very good.
Tomorrow the main event starts. Todays meetings typically have several hundred people each and a total attendance of about 2ooo or more. Tomorrow we move to the Arena and there will be about 12,000 in there. Great music and a fantastic lineup of speakers.
Planning on lunch with Missional Network and then dinner with blog idol Kevin Bussey. He will hate that title!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Why do "well intentioned?" people try to pull stuff like this? Don't they realize that when the truth comes out their cause, and the cause of Christ, will be damaged more than any liquor store could do. What would Jesus do? I suspect if the liqour store got built he would be there establishing a relationship with lost people who needed Him.
This also brings to mind the real challenge Christ Followers face. Much of the time I think we tend to be fake in living out our Christian faith. Just be the real deal, honest in your convictions, quick to admit your failures, always putting the focus on Jesus and His cross rather than ourselves. That kind of authenticity draws people to the Master.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This week it appeared in the form of glee. Let me explain. It probably started with an attitude of frustration. After three days of minor inconveniences from hurricane Ike I had let myself fall in the pit of self pity. Ok, I did not fall in; I jumped in. That attitude put me in the mood to be set up big time.
I then heard about the arrest of a man I know. He has for many years been a dramatic example of the life lived in opposition to God. He is angry and mean spirited. He is very outspoken in his anti-Christian beliefs. He started his own misguided religion. He is an all around trouble maker. This time his actions were also illegal and he got arrested. My first response? Glee.
Please don’t try to rationalize this for me. Yes, he got what he deserved. Yes, he had it coming. Yes, it is good to see justice done. Yet I know in my heart I did not have a righteous anger but a mean spirited glee over this man’s misfortune. From the outside my satisfaction may have looked righteous but on the inside I knew it was rotten.
You know what else? It was hard for me to repent. Sure, the words of repentance came easy but the conviction of repentance was more difficult to find. This kind of repentance requires that special honesty of the heart that reveals to a man just how wicked and dark his own heart can be. Then I found my way to Psalm 32.
Psalm 32 has always been a favorite. I was reminded of the joy found in God’s forgiveness. I was reminded that the life filled with unconfessed sin is in fact a life where all the joy and vitality is sucked right out of us. I chose the confession and forgiveness route.
Maybe you are struggling today with unconfessed sin. It’s not worth it. It is especially not worth it if that sin is a bitterness, anger or disappointment over another person. You are more likely hurting yourself more than them and I can assure you that any satisfaction you get from striking back will be short lived and leave you feeling emptier than before.
Pull to the side of the path this morning and spend a moment at the rock called 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins God is faithful to cleanse us and forgive us of all unrighteousness.”
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
This church was in trouble because of divisions yet Paul did not start there. He first confirmed that they were a people who had been gifted and blessed by God (chapter 1 verse 7). Sometimes I wonder if there is a connection between giftedness and division, like, the more gifted someone is the more likely there will be a temptation to be divided, or divisive. Then he pointed out the problem: divisions among believers. Verse 10 is the key verse. Paul gives three quick commands:
Speak the same thing
Let no divisions exist
Be completely joined together
To speak the same thing is tough for us because we sometimes think the Constitution is more important than the Bible. Freedom of speech may be a good idea for government but it is a foreign concept to the Bible's description of obedience. To say the same thing honestly requires us to mentally acknowledge it, the first step to making it the true pattern of our hearts.
Now the second two have two important things in common. First, they are both very clear. Second, they both are possible to do even though they may seem impossible to imagine. In other words I don't believe God puts commands in the Bible that we cannot obey through the power of His Holy Spirit. That means both of these require us to make a willful choice.
It is then possible for us to CHOOSE not to be divided. I noticed as I read on that the divisions they experienced were at least in part because they lined up under different "spiritual banners". In this case they seemed to be trying to "one up" one another by claiming their way or their teacher was the spiritually superior way. Like many of us they were running a spiritual fake, hiding behind a spiritual shell in order to pursue a simple thing: their own will.
This brings us to the last command. "Have no divisions" is the negative command while "be completely joined together" is the positive. This idea is something hard for us to understand. Be completely joined together. Speak together, think together, stay together, work together, be together. Can we really CHOOSE to be united? I have to trust that it would not be in Scripture if God did not intend for us to do it. So here is our crisis of belief. We must choose one way or another whether we believe God and whether we will obey His command to be united. Choosing God and unity will require we drop our own selfish desires, no matter how "spiritual" they sound, and simply yield to the will of the Master. His will is for us to be one.
Friday, September 05, 2008
The Lord reminds me today that words mean things, choose them and use them carefully. If I am correct God tells us in Scripture to reign in our speech, tell the truth and put away gossip, slander and grumbling much more often than he has to tell us to put off murder and adultery. I find it interesting that God's frustration with the people of Israel during the Exodus seems to have been over their lack of faith and their grumbling. It was so bad God wanted to let them die and start over.
Today would be a good day for all of us to watch our speech. Take care in what you say and how you say it as you go to work, relate to your family and interact with your brother and sister Christ Followers at church. I am praying for God to cleanse my tongue today. How about you?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Proverbs 10:28 The hope of the righteous will be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked will perish.
Hope is something firm, expectations are more shifting, more dangerous and more prone to being misplaced. The natural pull is for us to have certain expectations. We expect our mate to do or be something, we expect our jobs to be fulfilling and financially rewarding. We expect our church to be a place where we can "be fed". We may even have expectations of God. I notice that more often than not my expectations are prone to being just that, MY expectations.
Here is the painful truth for me: just because I expect it does not mean God has to do it. When our expectations are not met we become disappointed. A good way to avoid that might just be to ground ourselves in what God says we can hope in rather than in what we think we have a right to expect. What can we "hope" in? Only in what the Bible tells us and in the dreams God gives us. And of course "in Christ who is our hope" (1 Tim. 1:1).
May your hope bring gladness your way today.
Blessings in Christ alone
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A few Sunday afternoons ago several of us went to Red's house to shoot clays. At one point Lane Wilson set the targets so that they would come two at a time, one low and fast and the other high and slow. I fire an over and under so I only have two shots. The temptation for me was that if I missed the lower clay, the harder of the two for me to hit, I would waste my second shot on a target that was now even harder to hit. When I would do that I would almost always miss and then I would be left empty watching the second clay come to a gentle landing right in front of me. I needed to forget thr first failure, look up and see the new thing I needed to do.
Two things come to mind. The first is that I often expend my time and energy chasing the last failure rather than focusing on the priority at hand. I have to sit down and actually write out the priorities in order to remind myself of what is truly important. If I have ten things to do and time for only five someone is going to be disappointed. Life somehow works out where the five least important will disappoint the greatest number of people! The right thing to do is to focus on the five that are most important and deal with the consequences as they come.
The other teaching is the one straight from Scripture. As a Christ Follower I am to set myself up to focus on a different set of priorities, His. My focus, like yours, is to be on Him and His Kingdom. How easy it is to let our focus be on the obstacles rather than the goal. I find I have to empty myself daily in order to see what the King has for me.
Blessings in Christ Alone
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I find it easy to get confused. In the journey of serving the Lord I sometimes get off track by focusing on my needs, my will, my agenda, basically, on what I want. If others don't do things my way and on my time schedule I get frustrated. That's usually when I get so frustrated I want to say "I'm done!" or to use a C.S. Lewis line, "Hang it all!" I have to realize when my focus is not on Him and what He wants then I am confused. Actually, I am more than confused; I am willfully disobedient.
Perhaps you are like me. Jesus has a simple answer for our confusion: deny self or die to self (drop what we want), take up our cross (His will for us) and follow Him (live as He lived). By the way, dropping what we want does not mean that we don't ever get what we want; He gives us dreams for a reason. It just means we hold more tightly to Him than we do the dream.
Blessed day; stand in Christ alone.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Just so you will know we are on vacation this week in Gulf Shores Alabama. This used to be called the “Redneck Riviera” but it is now a photocopy of Pensacola or Destin but without as much traffic. I may be wrong about the traffic as we are here at the end of the summer and I suspect most vacationers have already returned home to prepare for the onslaught of the beginning of school. In addition some people are staying away as Tropical Storm/Hurricane/Tropical Storm Faye decides whether she is coming here or not.
Our condo is on the “Little Lagoon” here so we have our own fishing pier. There is also a small pool right downstairs from us. The main attraction, however, is the Gulf right across the street. There is a vacant lot right in front of us so we can see the ocean clearly.
Fun for us has consisted of lots of swimming and even more reading. The kids have all begged for more trips to the local bookstore for more supplies. It’s hard to tell a kid they are reading too much so off we go.
We have also golfed once and are about to go again. There are a lot of expensive highly rated courses in the area and if we come back we might try one of those but we played the muni course at Gulf Shores State Park. Forty four bucks including cart is a great deal. It is a wide open course with little water. It’s a great vacation course for the high handicappers (like us!). We lost 5 balls between the three of us. I shot 95 and happened to come out the winner.
I learned an important lesson while here; iphones can’t swim. Thanks to the good folk at the ATT store I am now back up and running on the new 16gig 3g model. I hated the destruction of the old one, especially since I was going to try to sell it on Ebay but that’s what I get for being greedy.
Another lesson: Quiet Times with God seem much more real when overlooking a beautiful sunrise over water. It’s either that or the lack of pressure to quit and get to work on time.
Anyway, we are off to golf, more swimming and reading. We are going to keep an eye on the weather as we may have to bug out a day early thanks to Faye.
Update: We just received word of the passing of Robin’s Uncle, K.T. “Junior” Mize. He has struggled against cancer for the last two years.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Waking up tired from late nights watching the Olympics is worth it.
Excited about several opportunities for change. Please pray for us as we face potential decisions at work.
Our Youth are having a retreat this weekend. They will be learning and pursuing Holiness.
I'm not a fan of the health and wealth positive thinking gospel but I am glad that Mega-Church Co-Pastor Victoria Osteen has been cleared of assault accusations and holds no bitterness toward the accuser.
We are heading for an end of Summer vacation at Gulf Shores AL this coming week. Aaaahhh. It's been a long Summer with a lot of seemingly endless hard work. I am not sure how we would have made it if not for a Sabbatical from the church in July.
I am reading George Barna's Revolution, or rather listening to it on my iPhone. It is well worth the purchase price...at almost any price.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Dr. T. W. Hunt is the main speaker. He spoke on Spiritual Blindness. He likes to chase rabbits and confesses as much. Nevertheless he is spot on in his teachings. He identified much of the worlds systems of thought that we wrestle against. His answers were very poignant and powerful from Scriptures.
More later as I especially had a great experience in a break out session with Jay Johnston of Lifeway.
Monday, August 04, 2008
It was the first time I have heard Mark Estep and he delivered a very straightforward Biblical message on Brokenness To Become One With Christ from 2 Corinthians 12:5-10. Several major points stood out to me. One was the idea that brokenness is a process to bring brokenness to our lives more than an event. We tend to focus on the major event (death, illness, divorce, etc...) while ignoring the process of what God is doing in our lives.
The second point as I heard it was an assurance that brokenness will be accompanied by pain. While that may seem like telling someone day is light and dark is night I think it is important to remind of the truth that there is not a shortcut to brokenness.
Third, God always has a purpose in brokenness. I think that IS the point.
Last (at least that I wrote down) was the result of brokenness will be a closer walk with God. That after all, is the ultimate purpose we should aim for in discipleship. It was a good word.
Frank Page followed with his usual brand of homespun self deprecating humor. It's hard to find a prominent Pastor who is more authentic than Frank. His message was powerful and practical answering the question, "Why do we need to be persistent in prayer?" His texts were from Luke 11 and Luke 18, both teachings of Jesus about the importance of being persistent in prayer.
His first point carried a two fist punch: Persistence assures us of an answer to prayer and puts us in the position to hear. Ouch. It's not just begging God again and again but perhaps, at least in my life, praying again and again until I am ready to hear. Ouch.
Second, persistence unlocks the storehouse of God's blessing. This was a very encouraging reminder that sought to convey the idea that we often leave much of God's true blessings on the table because we do not continue to seek Him and His will.
Third, persistence in prayer brings us what we need. Both passages speak of meeting a need, not a want. It brought to mind the time as a teenage Christian that a Bible Study Leader convinced me that if I would go march around a new truck seven times and claim it I would receive it. I marched and I claimed and I did not get it and I also did not need it. I thank God I was cured of the "name it claim it" mentality early on in my walk.
Four and five were that persistence will make us strong and enable us to overcome our adversaries. (My addition: remember who the real adversaries are!)
Last and second in emphasis only to his first point was that persistence will ensure our faith in the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hmmm, interesting concept. Obedience in prayer reinforcing solid hope and Biblical theology. Good idea.
Robin went with me and we had a good discussion on the way home. I think the first result for me was the way I returned to prayer about a specific subject this morning that I had previously dropped either due to laziness or discouragement. My advice. Set aside a few extra moments today and spend it in honest, authentic prayer with The Father.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
I had a good time. The host church, Wood's Edge, has a coffee shop at the front. One of the men writes Christian Westerns so I sat down with a ten dollar Western and a three dollar cup of coffee. (You get to keep the mug.)
It was time to go before I knew it and I had made it about a third of the way through the novel. Since I did not have my reading glasses I thought that was pretty good. I also made an additional observation about men versus women and coffee shop tables. They had those little tables in the foyer that are about the size of the platter we use for the Thanksgiving turkey. They had four chairs around each table. Now, I was sitting by myself and it was just perfect. If another man had come in and sat across the table from me that would have been ok too as long as we just kept our cups on the table. If you get up it would be ok to put your book on the table but no laying the book on the table while reading allowed. That's just sort of unwritten man rule in this kind of situation. If a third man had come in it would be cups only and we would have to move a chair out of the way and make sure we were forming a perfect three point triangle. If another guy showed up he could sit by himself.
I observed what was happening at another table. Same size table. Six women. Every single one had at least one elbow if not two on the table. They were cramped in like sardines in a can. They were happy. Go figure.
Monday, July 28, 2008
At some point I decided to divide my life up like a football game. A friend reminded me of this on his blog as he talked about reorienting his gameplan to adjust for changes. For me I am looking at four quarters and overtime if necessary. When I first thought of this I started to base it off of a lifespan of 80 years, twenty years per quarter. Now I have decided to make the lifespan 100 years and thereby give each quarter 25 years. I did this because I figure eighty is attainable for me and 100 is probably out of my reach so the optimistic path is to shoot for the 100 mark. Please do not take time to stop and analyse this line of thinking. It's my birthday; please allow me my delusions. Besides modern meds may keep me going and going and going.
My first quarter was pretty easy. Get born, have fun, grow up. Cool deal. There may have been some traumatic experiences along the way but I choose to look at the wonderful things of life instead. I think I was able to do that since I came equipped with the best Mother on the face of the earth! I managed to finish University and then a three year Masters degree in theology. Better than that I got married to Robin (Woman 2.0!) and then was blessed with child number one, Jonathan, otherwise know as the "test child". The first quarter ended pretty well as I started my first full time Pastorate after Seminary. This was actually my second Pastorate as I had served the Lord in a small church during my last year of college at East Texas Baptist.
The second quarter started rough. A little over two years of what I was not expecting to be a cross cultural experience. Don't get me wrong. There were some wonderful people there but it was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced. There had been severe division and only a short interim between the previous Pastor and my arrival. Still, the church grew. Perhaps it got better because I did over thirty funerals in a little over two years.
The second quarter really began to pick up when we went to Pastor Emmanuel Baptist Church in Henderson, TX. For me it was the best thing that could possibly happenned in ministry. The Lord blessed that time greatly. However after three years all was turned to dust as I self destructed, revealing both wounds and weaknesses I had harbored and hidden for years. In addition to my fall I lost my natural Father immediately preceding this time. Honestly, I was ticked off because he died before I could tell him how utterly disgusted I was with him for ruining his life and beating my Mother and I down. I pause here to thank God for my Step-Father who is my real Dad. Dad, if you are reading this you did a great job!
It is miraculous to me that you can get your tail kicked so fiercly at the beginning of the second quarter and come back so strong halfway through. I am not saying I am strong though I hope that I am. I am talking about the way God works things for His glory to pick us up and "set our feet on solid ground". I have worked for Bank of America almost thirteen years. I have Pastored Dacus Baptist Church for eight. I have been incredibly blessed with a wife who stayed with when she did not have to and has grown to be a Godly teacher and influencer of women all over. As soon as her book is published I will be glad to be known as "Robin's husband". Additionally I managed to squirrel my way into having the three greatest kids in the world. Jonathan is called to lead and is musically gifted. Christa may start getting calls any day from comedians Chonda Pierce or Mark Lowery (sp?) as they look for new material. Then the caboose is Charissa, my Lil' Hunting Buddy and dangerous sidekick.
What does the future hold? I have no idea. Robin and I sense God's leading in a certain direction. God has put a burden on our hearts. An old dream has been dusted off and is being refitted for the 21st Century. Will it come to pass? Only the Father knows. The whole thing could end in a moments notice; not everyone gets to play all four quarters. Until that happens my desire is a passion for Jesus and a desire to keep running, passing, tackling and blocking until He pulls me from the game. This one thing I know; I have complete confidence in His game plan.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
For those of you not familiar with Southern Baptists it is important to remember that we are a "bottom up" organization. In other words we have no "governing authority" as far as a denomination goes. Each local church is a seperate entity and governs itself. Each church calls it's own ministry staff, each minister is ordained by a local church, not the denomination. Each church sets it's own budget and gives to the work of the SBC as it sees fit. The denomination of "Southern Baptists" is made up of those churches who wish to cooperate with each other. Churches can join or remove themselves and the Convention itself can vote to "dis-fellowship" a church.
This "Convention" is merely a gathering together for the purpose of joining in and doing such things as mission work, evangelism and education. To make a long story short when the "Convention" meets it has no authority to force any church to do anything. Most of the meeting is built around three or four main business functions. First, reports from various "Boards" and "Agencies" of the SBC like the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board and six Seminaries just to name a few. The SBC exercises oversight of these entities by electing the Trustees for each one.
As an example of how this works well consider that the International Mission Board is the sending agency that deploys over 5,000 SBC Missionaries across the world. My church and the one down the street could hardly be able to send one. Together we fund a massive force.
A second portion of the meeting is the election of officers for the SBC. They serve one year terms and have fairly innocuous authority. The one exception is the President who leads in selecting the Committee which nominates Trustees for each entity. These nominations are rarely if ever opposed so the President effectively picks the people who will pick the Trustees.
The third important activity that makes up the meeting is the introduction of motions and resolutions from the floor. Motions are typically referred to one or more of the agencies to which they apply. In reality this means that we hardly ever actually get to vote on anything. One could get up and make a motion that we call day "day" and night "night" and it would be referred to some Board of Trustees. Every single motion this year was either ruled out of order or referred to one of the entities. Even if a motion is referred to the Trustees they are under no legal or constitutional duty to respond to it. Go figure.
Resolutions are different. They are statements of position or attitude that reflect the will of the Messengers at the Annual Meeting of the SBC. For example there is always a Resolution commending the host city for allowing us to meet and bring millions of dollars of revenue to local businesses. Most of the Resolutions, however, deal with matters of greater importance than thanking the city. For example this year we passed a motion condemning the California Supreme Court ruling allowing recognition of same sex marriage. Two years ago a motion was passed to condemn the use of alcohol. These resolutions represent the feeling of the people at the Convention at that time. It is important to understand that they have absolutely no binding authority on any individual church. If the SBC passed a resolution saying that all carpet in church should be blue it would have no authority over our church. We could have yellow carpet or stone tile or bare concrete.
I know it may sound convoluted but it is similar to the old saying about democracy, "It's the worst form of government in the world...except for all the others!"
I guess one way to describe all this is that Southern Baptists practice "freedom of church" and cooperation for missions and ministry. More to follow...
Monday, May 26, 2008
To those families who are grieving the loss of a loved one today may we say thank you for your tremendous sacrifice. We bear you pain as ours and we acclaim honor to your fallen hero.
To those whose sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters are serving at this moment we pray for their safety and security this day and in the days to come.
To those who serve this day. Thank you for your service to our country. We are both proud of and thankful for you.
May God bless you, may God bless America and may a revival of the King of Kings sweep our land.
PS to Rich: Go Air Force!
Monday, May 19, 2008
What disaster you say? 14 TONS of Oreo cookies spilled onto an Illinois highway. Read about the tragedy here.
Names of the cookies are not being release pending notification of their respective packaging.
Sorry for trying to MILK this story for all it's worth!
As I read the book I found myself agreeing that most of the challenges he face are issues that have been a struggle for me as well. Reading all ten will definitely remove any Pastor from the pedestal. Most spiritual leaders could benefit from this book as an example of the tremendous power of taking off the mask and being real with people.
At one point he tells the story of a Seminary Professor who told him that he should NOT drop his guard with people but should seek to maintain the "Pastoral Mystique". If that is your plan then let me know how it works out for you. While no one ever said that to me I can definitely identify with the spirit of that comment.
I am not going to tell you what all ten are; you will have to check that out for yourself. Here is my word of warning. If you are under someone else's spiritual leadership, your Pastor for example, you have a choice to make. You can either read the book or not read it. If you choose to read it be prepared to understand more about that leader. Therein lies the danger. If you are not a person of grace I suggest you skip the book. It will lower your opinion of your spiritual leader and you will be even more miserable than you already are right now.
If, however, you choose to read the book with an open and grace filled heart I believe you will finish with an understanding of your leader and an appreciation for them as well.I add a tip for spiritual leaders who read this book. I breezed through several chapters as I would most books. Suddenly I came to a chapter that literally took me over a week to read. The chapter wasn't too long; the subject was too close to home. That's when you know Craig is in your mailbox.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
So why do we wrestle with God? We know Him to be full of grace and mercy and love for His people. We know He loves us better than we can love ourselves. Yet we wrestle.
I know the answer is simple: we are frail creatures of dust, following in the footsteps of Adam and even the Apostle Paul..."the good that I know to do I do not do...". The problem is that answer is not good enough.
Chalking it up to my weakness and a sin nature sounds and feels like a cop out. Rather, I need to see that it is a grievous sin before God to be puffed up with pride and pursue my own agenda while he waits for me to quit squirming and do the right thing.
Wrestling with man is often the same exercise in futility. I have been reading the blogs of several prominent Southern Baptist bloggers. For several years there has been a running war of words over the direction/policies/actions related to our Convention, especially our International Mission Board. I know that many things we do in life could stand the scrutiny of a little more light but I tire of the time and energy that is being spent dickering with each other. I feel some of it is necessary but overall it seems to be dirtying up our witness to planet earth.
I am not condemning others for in this matter I am chief of sinners. Move over Paul, I think I have outdone in my heart whatever evil you ever contemplated.
Lord, help me to be more in love with you and those who do not know you than I am with my reputation, my love for self and most especially my wicked affection for always having to be right.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I am, however, deeply grateful to be a Baptist Christian. I love the freedom and autonomy every church has and the lack of a denominational hierarchy telling us what to do. Our unity and growth in the past has been built around our mutual zeal for missions and evangelism. The problem, to quote an old seminary Professor, is that "what we are doing isn't working".
We are now baptizing fewer people, the only means I know of to measure the harvest of new believers. Our churches (people) grow older and entire generations are missing. If you believe Reggie McNeal many of our churches will not have enough money or staff to run their existing ministries within the next 1-2 decades. We might as well admit that currently we are a denomination in decline.
I once thought that God would somehow use the SBC to reach the world and usher in a revival like none ever known. Now I find myself praying for that revival with the selfish tinge of self preservation, or denominational preservation.
Ultimately it is not just about saving a denomination. God can and will raise up others. It is about missed opportunities. Opportunities not for the glory of a group of churches but for the glory of seeing those who do not know Christ come to Him for life everlasting. I feel like we have let victory slip through our hands.
How about you?
Monday, March 10, 2008
Enter Barak Obama. In speaking in support of homosexual rights this little gem made it's way from his lips, “If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which, I think, is, in my mind, more central than an obscure passage in Romans...”
Ok, I am not laughing; I am gasping in startled bewilderment. I am going to give a pass to the press' actions in this by not asking what they would be doing if he had misquoted the Koran or the New York Times in such a distorted way. I will point out that this comment was greeted in the mainstream media with the sound of a thousand crickets chirping on a moonlit night.
Let's address for a moment the two major fallacies of his assertion. The Sermon on the Mount is in fact one of the central bodies of the teachings of Jesus recorded in Scripture. A careful reading of it will find our Lord taking quite a few moral stands with no "wiggle room" for alternate interpretations.
A good portion of His message was built on a formula that goes something like this: "You have heard it said...but I say to you..." In most of these cases the "you have heard it said" part referred to a specific Old Testament teaching. The "but I say to you" part was a teaching Jesus was giving people to go beyond the ordinary standard of the law. In each case He did not water down the Old Testament teaching but strengthened it. For example, "Do not murder" became, "Don't even be angry with your brother". "Do not commit adultery" became, "Don't even look at a woman lustfully". Jesus' own statement about His view on Old Testament law was, "I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it".
Perhaps the Presidential candidate might want to actually read the Sermon on the Mount before he attempts to wield it. Note to Presidential candidates and the press: Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7. That's in the new part. Such a reading will reveal that Jesus did not change the Old Testament law, which clearly forbid homosexuality, bestiality and several other important "alitys".
Many a person has appealed to the Sermon on the Mount as an example of how Jesus was a great teacher but few have actually gone the "extra mile" and realized that Jesus was actually serious about the "thou shalts" and the "thou shalt nots". If He really is such a great teacher, and He is, then it's time for us to take His actual teachings seriously.
Now we come to that "obscure passage in Romans". Memo to Paul: apparently your greatest theological treatise has recently been downgraded from "central teachings of Christianity" category to the "obscure passages" category. One of my Seminary professors used to say, "The book of Romans has more theology per square verse than any other book in the Bible". I am inclined to agree.
The only way for Obama's statement to be true is for us to overlook the fact that Paul was perhaps the greatest missionary ever, introducing the Gospel to the Gentiles on two continents, writing thirteen letters in our New Testament including some of the earliest synopsis of the Gospel message and the theological importance of the entire book and the importance of Paul's reference to homosexuality in Romans 1 as he set the tone for the reason Christ needed to die for the salvation of mankind, namely, the sinful depravity of man. Did I mention that the reference to homosexuality was offered as evidence of the depravity of man. Kind of hard to miss that one.
The scary thing is there will me many people, perhaps millions, who would hear this statement and think nothing of it. At first look it would be easy to write Obama off as just an obscure little candidate at the beginning of the 21st Century. Yet this type of drivel is all too common in our post Christian (or post-post Christian) society. Rather than simply condemning ignorance and cursing the darkness let's pray that Obama will get a grip on another teaching of Jesus, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free".