Tuesday, August 27, 2013
For years Southern Baptists used The Survival Kit to disciple young believers. I well remember a man in my home church taking me through TSK when I was in elementary school. Well, for today's world they have retired TSK and introduced IACNW?
This devotional gives children something to do for 90 days. I field-tested it on my two youngest children this summer. It was a joy to see the youngest one putting the book and his Bible by his bed many nights and not getting out of bed in the morning until he had completed his work.
Topics include What is a Quiet Time?, How Do I Know the Bible is True?, How Do I Hear God Speak to Me?, How to Prepare Your Child for Worship, and many others.
I have challenged the children to go through the workbook this fall, and we will follow-up with a party in December.
Remember, disciples are made one person at a time. Dads and moms, this is a great tool for you to use with your children. If you are not in the habit of leading family worship, this is a great tool to help you start!
Yesterday was a satisfying glance back, but only that, a glance. Harriet, The Chester, my brother Mike, his wife Sally, and a crowd of like-minded seekers worshiped with our fast- forward on pause so we could look back. It was the fiftieth anniversary of Edwards Rd. Baptist Church, Greenville, SC. Hundreds of us relished the sight. But, it was a glance, no more. Mature people know we can't go back.
Scripture leans us distinctly forward. When angels with flaming swords were assigned to guard the gates of the Garden of Eden the message was clear: one, perfection is no longer possible; and two, there's no going back. During the Exodus, the children of Israel often wished to return to the relative comforts of Egypt but were consistently moved forward by the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. The prophets moved the nation to covenant renewal with the promise of redemption. Jesus would not be detoured away from the finishing business of the cross. And, the Apostle Paul wrote to forget the past and press on toward the prize of the high calling of Christ. As much and as often as we'd like, there's no going back.
But, there is the glance back, the quick reference point of the rear-view mirror to see where we've been. That's what the fiftieth homecoming of ERBC was for me, a momentary cessation of motion to permit moments with important touch-stones of the past. So, Sunday, Pastor Aaron Rayburn, the wise leader of ERBC now, invited people from the past to speak, challenge, and inspire those in attendance with the Word of God, and remembrances from the epochs of the church. We laughed and cried, reflected on valued friends and events, and thanked God for a precious past. The anecdote's and stories previous pastors Bill Palmer and Earl Crumpler told were a blessing. H.S. Yarborough and Jerry Brown, both previous music ministers at ERBC, both sang, surprising everyone with the strength and beauty of voices given to Him many years ago. Alistair Walker, a previous interim pastor, brought a great Bible message. The ERBC Choir sang, as did Turning Point, led by previous music minister Danny Whipple. It was a blessing in every way.
Read the entire article here.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
My parents joined ERBC in the 1960’s when the church was young and met in the old chapel. Mom and Dad were members there for 25 years (spanning 35 years – with about ten years in North Carolina!). For years I heard the old stories of that
small group of charter members, including Jake and Frances Matthews, Billie Burns, and Chester and Esther Holmes. They had a vision for an evangelical church on that side of Greenville. While visiting Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary once and staying in the guest house, I opened a book of photographs by the bed and found pictures of the early years of ERBC! The guest room was named after Bill Palmer, who I believe was the church’s first pastor.
When we moved back to Greenville in 1980, we soon joined ERBC. I spent many happy days in the fellowship of that church, including several milestones of my life – all the way from my baptism in 1982 to my ordination in 1998. I expect that most if not all of the foundational lessons and shaping that I needed for life were first given to me by my family and then reinforced by the people of ERBC in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
The church was our family’s primary social outlet, and Mom and Dad both served for years in a number of capacities. Dad stood at the front door and greeted almost every Sunday for more than a decade with his friend Jerry Fowler. Mom served in numerous areas, teaching the Bible and serving through prayer ministry. She still hears occasionally from young ladies that she taught in Sunday School in late high school, as she hoped to instill in them qualities to help them walk with God long-term.
Many people, more numerous to name, impacted our lives from ERBC. So many wonderful people, some in the grandstands of heaven now, intersected our lives: Earl and Louise Crumpler, H. S. and Linda Yarborough, David Bennett, Allie and Ann McNider, Bob and Kay Gray, Steve and Gloria Taylor, Danny and Freida Cole, Ben and Billie Burns, Mickey and Barbara Massey, Janice and Marty Clark, and countless others. I recall listening to Henry Kluizenar (not sure of that spelling!) singing songs to God with his beautiful voice. And H. S. sharing Sweet Little Jesus Boy close to Christmas.
Memories abound: Christmas parties, Easter musicals, Royal Ambassadors with Tony Brown, Children’s Bible Drill, children’s choirs, youth trips to Williamsburg, Virginia, choir and mission trips to New York, Kentucky, and Myrtle Beach, Bible studies and Sunday School. And lots and lots of fun with the youth group! I can’t remember my youth without recalling Edwards Road and her people. Numerous members of that youth group from the late ‘80’s and ‘90’s are now serving the Lord vocationally and in their churches scattered many places.
To this day I enjoy remembering gathering with the church to worship, most often led by Earl and H. S., and being together as God’s family. Those were blessed days, and I am thankful to have been a part of the church’s life.
Life contains difficult choices. When my parents left ERBC in 2000, it was the most difficult decision of their entire life. In 40 years, I have never seen my parents grieve like they did during that time. That was a testimony to the love they had enjoyed with ERBC for 35 years.
Though I can’t attend the celebration tomorrow, I thank God for the church. I do remember attending the 25th anniversary celebration!
Wishing Edwards Road well on her 50th anniversary, and may the Lord use them for His glory until He comes! Thank God for that small group of people who stepped out in faith 50 years ago and started a small church!
Friday, August 23, 2013
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Many evangelicals are seduced by the proponents of topical and narrative preaching. The declarative force of Scripture is blunted by a demand for story, and the textual shape of the Bible is supplanted by topical considerations. In many pulpits, the Bible, if referenced at all, becomes merely a source for pithy aphorisms or convenient narratives.
The therapeutic concerns of the culture too often set the agenda for evangelical preaching. Issues of the self predominate, and the congregation expects to hear simple answers to complex problems. Furthermore, postmodernism claims intellectual primacy in the culture, and even if they do not surrender entirely to doctrinal relativism, the average congregant expects to make his or her own final decisions about all important issues of life, from worldview to lifestyle.
Read the entire excellent article by Albert Mohler here.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
To clarify, I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes. Rather, I'm concerned about replacing the physical Bible with a tablet in the pulpit. As the pastor enters the pulpit to bring the Word of God to the people of God, no hard copy of the Bible is to be found in his hand, gracing the top of the podium, visible to the entire congregation as the book at the center of attention. Instead, the congregation sees a tablet. While this may seem harmless enough, I believe there are several potential dangers this subtle shift generates.
This is a great article by Matthew Barrett, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University. Read the entire article here.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
The loss of the fear of Holy God – is nearly always at the root of all sin, even in our own day. When God’s people lose their fear of God, they lose their fear of sin. When they lose their fear of sin, they depart from God and become of little use to God. Then God sets out, in mercy, to discipline them so they will return to their covenant with Him. Once Israel agreed to this covenant, God held them accountable to their promise. Theirs now was a life of faith. This has always been God’s way. – Henry Blackaby
* We no longer hear Him.
* We no longer experience His manifest presence.
* We no longer obey Him.
* We listen to other voices and follow them.
* We become hardened.
* We may still continue our outward allegiance to God through religious activity.
The Bible never talks of "rededication." It speaks of repentance. The basic message of Jesus, John the Baptizer, and the early apostles was "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand."
Repentance brings us back to the covenant relationship where we can once again honor God and be honored by Him, minister to God and receive His manifest presence, bless od and be blessed.
Repent is a positive - not a negative - word.
Sources Used: Chosen to Be God's Prophet by Henry Blackaby
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
. . . continued from Ouch! Pitfalls that will Keep us from the Promise - Part One.
As they traveled, the Bible says that the people grew impatient on the way (Numbers 21:4). OUCH!!! Is that talking about me? They got tired of their journeying. They wearied from wandering when they could not see clearly where they were going. They were tired of not seeing enough happen to satisfy them. And they got impatient.
Not only that, but in their impatience the Bible says they spoke against God and against Moses (5). God nor Moses met their expectations. They failed to trust God. They questioned the goodness and faithfulness of the One leading them through the wilderness. They failed to respect and trust Him as their Shepherd, Provider, Protector, and Source. I heard Jack Hayford say that when "difficult days come, the natural temptation is to question the trustworthiness, the goodness, and the faithfulness of God, and to just want to return to Egypt."
The tangible problem in Numbers 21 was the lack of water and the lack of preferred food. They were tired of the manna! Domino's did not deliver in the desert. Before we get too critical of the Israelites, we are often tempted to do the same. We have legitimate needs and wants in our lives that seem to go unmet. We never seem to meet "Mr." or "Mrs." Right and stay single. We see our friends blessed in areas where we feel dry. We wonder why some of the dreams of youth never materialized. Our parents are sick instead of well. Or our parents are dead and we wish they were alive. Your children live far away but your neighbor's children live in the same town. The air conditioner breaks in my van - again. We see more bills than income. Maybe you longed for a house-full of children and the house has none. Whatever the need or want, we all have them that go unfulfilled. And, like the Israelites, we can either stop trusting God - or we can lean in and trust Him more through our lack and disappointment.
I've been through dry and difficult days in different seasons of life. And so have you. I remember how dry and lonely was my first year of seminary. Alone in a state where initially I knew no one, leaving the comfort of home and the familiarity of a lot of friends from college, it was a hard first year. I remember many times that year being tempted to question whether God was good and faithful. And many times wanting to quit the journey.
In the paths of discipleship, God at times takes us through the valley, when our needs are getting met in ways different than what we prefer and when many of our wants may not be met. When those needs arise, we can doubt God and run to Egypt (getting our needs met in illegitimate ways) - or we can stick through the difficulty and trust God. Instead of trusting and thanking God, they turned to doubting and complaining.
The punishment from the Lord this time was an invasion of venomous snakes that killed a number of people. The remaining people, afraid of their own deaths, run to Moses pleading, We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us (7). The ongoing ingratitude to God and criticism of their leaders were foundational issues to the Lord.
Pitfalls one and two have to do with outward actions involving our bodies. Pitfalls three and four have to do with attitudes and words that reflect our spirits. Pitfall four specifically has to do with their grumbling spirits.
The reference is most likely Number 16, when an organized opposition to Moses and Aaron arises. Korah, a man with tabernacle duties, was not satisfied with his part and he wanted more. He spearheads a group who complain that they are just as important as Moses: Why then do you set yourselves [Moses and Aaron] above the Lord's assembly? (3). It is a clear challenge to the authority of the God-appointed leadership. The other men want recognition and authority as well.
It is a long account in chapter 16 that ends with Korah's family dramatically being killed by the Lord as the earth opens up and swallows them whole. An amazing note that highlights how quick the flesh often is to rise up in complaining is found in verse 41. The very next morning, it says that the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying "you have killed the Lord's people."
Amazing! Had I been one of the Jews who the previous day witnessed the earth open up and absorb an entire group of people who had opposed God's leaders, I think I would have kept my mouth shut! But the stubbornness of the flesh prevailed and the entire group is still complaining. Again, God sends a plague through the midst of the assembly. The Bible says that 14,700 die on that die before God uses Aaron to stop the punishment.
God takes a sourness of soul and ceaseless complaining very seriously. So seriously that when referring to them in 1 Corinthians 10, the Bible says that these sins kept the people from entering their Land of Promise. It is so easy to do because of our flesh. God provided manna, and the people didn't quite like the taste, so they complained. They tolerated a sourness in their soul. The sourness grew and manifested itself in ceaseless complaining. First, they complained about God. Why has he left us here? Why has he not provided more? Is he still aware of us? And then their sourness manifested itself in a ceaseless complaining against their leaders.
What a contrast to the type of spirit Paul exhorts us to have: Let your gentleness [or your sweet reasonableness] be evident to all. The Lord is near (Phil. 4:5). The apostle goes on to say that in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (6). How different would these accounts be had the people traded their sinful indulgences for worship - if they had replaced their sour spirits with prayer and thanksgiving - if their complaining were replaced with praise and trust? The cure for a sour spirit is a life of prayer and thanksgiving.
They forgot in the wilderness that life was not mainly about them. It was about God forming a people who would worship and follow Him. That formation included hard times when they learned to trust Him in new ways. Sadly, they failed the test. They missed God's best because they tolerated the wrong things during the in-between.
A tremendous beginning ended miserably. An incredible deliverance through the Red Sea, perhaps the greatest moment in Old Testament history, led to a refusal to trust God and enter Canaan. Their children stepped over their bleached bones in the desert – a memorial to unbelief. Their massive failures warn us to not follow their example.
However, there is also something nice and needed about the structure of the fall - of getting back into a routine that helps us be productive and timely. One thing on my mind as I look to the fall is how am I going to disciple my family this fall? From September through December is four months - that is 1/3 of a year! How will I capitalize on that time to help lead my family closer to the Lord?
Spontaneity is great, and some great moments of teaching our children come unexpectedly. However, most things worth building are worth planning to build. I have learned, as with preaching, that the better prepared I am, the more likely I will be ready for those spontaneous moments when they do come.
Dad (or Mom if Dad is not around or won't), sit down the next week for an hour or so and ask the Holy Spirit to help you map out a plan for how you will lead your family in the coming months in family worship. You might take them through a book of the Bible. Or a character study of a Bible hero. Or a topical study of some character traits. I have heard of several families before taking one character trait a month and studying passages that speak to that quality. One year we took a few months and went through the eleventh chapter of Hebrews verse by verse. We had many discussions about the Bible characters in the great "Hall of Faith" and the lessons God was teaching each one.
I have found much help using the Family Night Toolchests from Focus on the Family. They provide simple, interactive family devotions and games around certain topics: the 10 commandments, basic Christian beliefs, the Proverbs, etc. I have purchased all of mine used from Amazon. One example is the 10 Commandments Family Night Tool Chest.
I know how easy it is to let our schedules get full and let too many opportunities slip by when I had nothing planned to share with my family. Prepare now, dads! It doesn't have to be perfect. Just start somewhere and do something.
Shaping their spirit, mind, and character from God's Word is one of our most important tasks. The Bible says to take God's commandments and teach them diligently to our children (Deut. 6:7). Let's give it our best this fall.