Friday, January 31, 2014

Providential Provision

Check out the January 2014 edition of HomeLife magazine by Lifeway Christian Resources.  This month's magazine includes a feature article by me entitled   "Providential Provision."

Forgiving a Wayward Parent

I know all the objections to forgiving a parent who hurt you deeply. For decades, I didn’t want anything to do with my father, a difficult man who harmed our family significantly. But finally, like Jonah, I ran out of escapes and excuses. That’s when I started on a path of forgiveness and reconciliation—and you can do the same. Here’s why:
• Forgiveness does not excuse the misdeeds of others.
Many people have the misconception that forgiving means forgetting someone’s sins against you. But our omniscient God doesn’t “forget” our sins. Instead, He remembered them at the cross. He received the punishment for them through death and chooses to remember them no more (Heb. 8:12). No one is asking you to forget the past. In fact, remembrance and confession are the first essential steps toward forgiveness.
Your parents will give an account to God (and maybe even to authorities) for their actions toward you. But the good news is it’s not your job to be their judge and jury. That’s God’s job. And unlike us, He’ll administer both justice and mercy perfectly.

Forgiving Others, Ourselves, and the Lord

Life throws curve balls to everyone.  We all go through hard times, disappointments, and changed expectations.  Journeying through those things, we most often are faced with lessons of forgiveness.

Sometimes we have to forgive other people, sometimes ourselves, and sometimes it feels like even the Lord.  R. T. Kendall, pastor and author, wrote an excellent trilogy of books on those subjects.  I highly recommend them to anyone wading through those tests!
Kendall shares his own experiences of being hurt and betrayed in pastoral ministry
as well as the lessons learned on his own journey to forgiveness and freedom.

Click here for more information.

Kendall shares tremendous insights to experience sweet deliverance and freedom
to let ourselves off of the hook from yesterday's failures and mistakes.

Click here for more information.

Anyone who seriously walks with God can go through seasons of disappointment and disillusionment when it feels like God has let you down.  Kendall brilliantly explains
how to free ourselves from these bitter chains.  This book has been called
the most important one that Kendall has ever written.

Click here for more information.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mandisa wary of Grammys' 'allure of pleasure'

Mandisa, winner of this year's Grammy for best contemporary Christian music album, explained on Facebook why she chose not to attend the event that was replete with expressions of immorality.

Mandisa, honored for her "Overcomer" release, cited "the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things and the pompous sense of superiority," words from a translation of 1 John 2:15-16 warning believers not to fall in love with the world's ways or worship the things it offers.

Beyond Mandisa, this year's Grammys sparked an array of social media reaction among Christians. Ed Stetzer, on a blog, noted that the Grammys "are not representative of our culture, but in some ways they are indicative of its shifts."

Read the entire article by Erin Roach here.

The Grammys, Grace, and The Gospel

"The cultural highlight of the Grammys would certainly be Queen Latifah overseeing a mass marriage ceremony.

It was not solely a gay marriage ceremony, but the ceremony was during the gay marriage anthem "Same Love," so the intent and focus was clear. There were outward differences among the couples on the floor—different races, different gender combinations, etc.—but the central message of the moment was that the "sameness" is in the love—hence the song, "Same Love."

Cultural Shifts

Now, the Grammy Awards presentation is not the show you watch for high-brow cultural commentary or family-friendly entertainment. News reports indicate that many parents were shocked by Beyoncé (among others). I honestly have to wonder if these parents have heard of Beyoncé before now, and why were they expecting the Grammys to be family friendly. (J. Lo's dress from 2000 is easy to recall from the dark recess of our memories.)"

A Child's Thoughts

"Daddy, you know how people make wishes on the first star they see?  And you know how the North Star is the brightest?  I bet the North Star has a lot of wishes to deliver."

Snow Fun January 2014

Boys Will be Boys

This is why it is not a good idea to sled down a snowy hill while you are standing up!!!  (Yes, he was fine.)

And The Race is On!


This is why 200+ pound men should not race 13-year old boys on small blue snow-discs.

Get Up and Pray!

We all need encouragement in our praying.  We need reminders that God does indeed hear us and that prayer matters.  Leonard Ravenhill offers some great testimonies about the Lord using prayer to change people's lives.  Read them here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fasting and Praying

Alice Smith offers the following helps about fasting in The Journey of Faith . . .

Perhaps no Christian discipline is as neglected today as is fasting.  And yet, fasting carries with it a great potential for spiritual power and answered prayer.  For a believer, fasting is voluntary abstinence from something to accomplish a specific, God-directed purpose.

Fasting isn’t about changing God – it is about changing ourselves.  At the outset, fasting seems impossible, but with God’s grace, fasting can accomplish multiple victories.  Let’s look at a few:

·       To control appetite.  You exercise authority over your appetite.  It trains us to not obey every imagination that comes into our minds (2 Cor. 10:4-5).  Our appetites must be controlled or they will continually overrule our spirit.

·       To clear the mind.  See 1 Peter 4:7.  Fasting helps us be clear-minded and self-controlled.  The inability to focus on the Lord will cripple us.

·       To establish priorities.  Fasting helps us get a fresh glimpse of things from God’s point of view.  It helps us to establish godly priorities.

·       To empower praying.  Some situations require fasting (Matthew 17:21).  Fasting will empower prayer and increase the anointing against evil forces.  Fasting will touch things that prayer alone will not affect.  We don’t seek spiritual power.  We seek the Lord.  Jesus was empowered by the Spirit after his 40-day fast.

·       To increase spiritual discernment.  Our ability to discern spiritual reality is sharpened.  Like a ship without a rudder, praying without the direction of the Holy Spirit is ineffective.  Fasting enhances our ability to hear God’s voice and tune into His frequency (Acts 13:2).

·       To build faith.  Bishop William McDowell said, The great sin of the modern church is its lack of expectancy.  We pray, but we don’t expect anything to happen.  Fasting will enlarge our faith to believe God for extraordinary breakthroughs.

·       To increase humility.  Bill Bright said that fasting is the most appropriate way for us to experience God’s prescription for revival found in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Intellectual Discipleship: Faithful Thinking for Faithful Living

"The biblical master narrative serves as a framework for the cognitive principles that allow the formation of an authentically Christian worldview. Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all; but it is not enough.

A robust and rich model of Christian thinking—the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview—requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the systematic wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth. Christianity is not a set of doctrines in the sense that a mechanic operates with a set of tools. Instead, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the Bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures.

A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals, and it frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God. This task of bringing every thought captive to Christ requires more than episodic Christian thinking and is to be understood as the task of the church, and not merely the concern of individual believers. The recovery of the Christian mind and the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview will require the deepest theological reflection, the most consecrated application of scholarship, the most sensitive commitment to compassion, and the courage to face all questions without fear."

Read the entire article by Albert Mohler here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

God Will Take Care of You

Frances Hendrix walked down the aisle to acknowledge the Lord’s calling her into vocational ministry while the hymn “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go” played at a Training Union Assembly in 1947.  She had no idea the many places she would go.  God had big plans for this young woman from south Georgia.

The fifth of seven children, Frances grew up during the Great Depression in Columbus, Georgia.  She remembers her family as a place of love and laughter.  She shared, “My parents instilled a love for the Bible, the church, and God in me.  Honesty, integrity, faith and love were taught by example as well as word.  Our home was filled with music which made it easy to memorize a lot of hymns.”  The worst spanking she ever received came from her father when he discovered her tearing up a hymnal.   She remembered walking to school on dirt roads and through cow pastures holding hands with her cousin Verna while singing “God Will Take Care of You.”

Her sister Edna came home from a revival meeting one night and asked her younger nine-year old sister if she had ever considered giving her heart to Jesus.  Frances said yes, and together they knelt by the bedside where she opened her heart to Christ.  Soon after she was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church.  Frances said, “I have never doubted that I was saved at that time and have never regretted that important decision.  God implanted in my heart a deep desire to serve Him.”

After graduating in 1939 from Bessie Tift College, a Georgia Baptist School, Frances taught Junior High School for nine years.  During that time, while serving in Wynnton Baptist Church in Columbus as the director of the Church Training Union, she began to sense that the Lord had other plans for her.

Her life verse became Matthew 6:33, and she chose to believe that as she followed God’s call that He would indeed take care of her.  She began seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1947.  Two years later, after graduating from the school, she received a call that would change her life.  Dr. Homer Lindsay, Sr., pastor of First Baptist Jacksonville, Florida, asked Frances to come and serve as the Director of Youth for their downtown church.  Frances wrote, “I came, I saw, and I liked what I heard.  I prayed and felt that First Baptist was the place where God wanted me to serve.”  She joined the staff in September of 1949, having no idea that she would work there until she retired thirty-five years later.

Frances was the first of three single women that Dr. Lindsay, Sr. would hire.  Later would come Guinell Freeman and Fran Hawk.  For more than three decades these three women would work together behind the scenes as the church experienced incredible growth, becoming one of the nation's largest churches.  At the funeral of Frances Hendrix on January 6, Dr. Bill Yeldell shared, “The pulpit at First Jacksonville was filled by Dr. Lindsay, Sr., Dr. Lindsay, Jr., and later by Dr. Jerry Vines.  However, these three ladies were the unsung heroes of First Baptist.  They were the juice behind the pulpit.” 

Frances wrote, “Both Guinell and Fran became dear friends and we worked as co-laborers for many years.  Others have come and gone, but we stayed and God has richly rewarded us.”  And together those three women helped make Southern Baptist history.

Frances recalled, “Fran Hawk came in 1956 as Youth Director.  Her name was Frances, the same as mine, and Dr. Lindsay said we couldn’t have two Franceses.  I told her that I was there first and she would have to change her name.  So she has been Fran ever since.”

After several years, Frances Hendrix became the Educational Director of the Training Program for Sunday School and later became the Director of the Church Training Union Program for Sunday nights.  At the time First Baptist had the largest Standard Training Union in the Southern Baptist Convention.  During these years the church experienced tremendous growth, becoming one of the leaders in the nation for outreach, Sunday School, and pulpit ministry.  Thousands of people came to know the Lord Jesus Christ.  First Baptist Jacksonville became known as “the miracle of downtown Jacksonville.” 

Though Frances retired in 1984, she continued teaching a women’s Sunday School class for many years at First Baptist.  Her extended family tried to convince her to move closer to them in her senior years, but she refused because she would not leave First Baptist Jacksonville.   (Frances along with her good friend Emily Mehaffey had a very strong stubborn streak!  We sometimes called them The Baldwin Sisters from The Waltons television series - except that they did not make The Recipe!)

Frances took much joy in keeping up with her many extended family members.  For years she planned annual Hendrix family reunions that kept her brothers and sisters and many nieces and nephews connected.

This year on January 2, Frances breathed her last on this earth.  The little girl from Georgia who had trusted God to care for her entered her final rest.  Many old-time church members, including Fran Hawk, said goodbye to her at a funeral at First Church Jacksonville on January 6.  The next day her body was returned to Columbus, Georgia, for burial next to her parents, and on her tombstone includes the inscription of her life verse: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).  Her plot is adjacent to that of her cousin Verna - the one with whom she would hold hands and sing "God Will Take Care of You."
Frances lived her life to please the Lord.  She believed the Bible was the Word of God.  She believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins, rose from the dead, and is seated with God the Father.  She believed that without Christ a person has no eternal hope.  She regularly tried to trust and obey the Lord, and she loved to sing praises and hymns to Him.  She prayed for her many family members regularly.  She loved her Lord, her family, and her church and friends.

Frances wrote, “I hope that my life has been a stepping stone to the glory of God.  I have a daily quiet time including Bible study and prayer and I practice lifestyle witnessing.  My obituary will not list a number of clubs, civic organizations, volunteer programs and secular accomplishments, because I have invested my life in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am a part of His Body and a servant of the Lord.  I believe that Jesus is coming soon and I want Him to find me faithful.  I hope that you are ready to meet Him.”

The Most Neglected Discipline

Here is a good, basic article on the spiritual discipline of fasting . . .

"Of all the spiritual disciplines, fasting is probably the least understood. The discipline is rarely taught or explained in most churches today, and few Christians know why they should do it or what it accomplishes. In a culture that promotes indulgence, not self-denial, fasting seems out of place. But Jesus calls us to a level of devotion that goes beyond convenience and comfort.

Despite our current unfamiliarity, fasting was commonly practiced in both the Old and New Testaments. Moses fasted for 40 days when he was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex. 34:28). Queen Esther asked the Jews to fast before she approached the Persian king on behalf of her people (Est. 4:16). Even Jesus fasted for 40 days before beginning His official ministry (Matt. 4:1-2). And the early church relied on this practice in asking the Lord’s guidance for important decisions (Acts 13:2; Acts 14:23).

This scriptural evidence should cause us to give serious consideration to the importance of fasting, but Jesus offers even more incentive—His teaching on this subject (Matt. 6:16-18). He begins by saying, “Whenever you fast,” not “If you fast.” This implies that fasting should be a vital part of our Christian life. In fact, the context of His teaching also includes instructions on giving (Matt. 6:1-4) and prayer (Matt. 6:5-15). None of us would exclude either of those practices from our lives, yet too often we consider fasting irrelevant or unnecessary."

To read the entire article by Charles Stanley, click here.

Seeking God through Fasting

As much as I love the fall and December, I have also grown to like the month of January for the opportunities for discipline it offers as we prepare for the new year.  In my own life, the past two weeks I have given special attention to asking for the Lord to direct my life in this new year.

This past Sunday I preached on the subject of Seeking God through Fasting.  I challenged our church to set aside time the next two weeks to fast and pray.
The Bible includes numerous examples of people fasting and praying:

·       Ezra and his people for protection on their long journey (Ezra 8:21-23)
·       Nehemiah dealing with the burden in his heart and asking God to help him do something about it (Neh. 1:4)
·       Esther and her people asking God for deliverance from a horrible threat (Est. 4:15-16)
·       Daniel grieving for his people’s sins and asking God for revelation (Daniel 9-10)
·       Jesus fasting for spiritual empowerment (Luke 4:1-14)
·       The early church fasting and praying for direction (Acts 13:2; 14:23)
·       Jesus told his disciples that there are some serious problems that can only be fixed through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).

The Lord Jesus spoke clearly that fasting would be a normal and expected spiritual practice – or discipline – in the life of His followers.  Richard Foster, the author of the best-selling Celebration of Discipline, has remarked that he does not believe the church in the United States will survive the 21st century if she does not get back to the disciplines of fasting and solitude.  Fasting should be a habit of the Lord’s church.
In the history of our country, Presidents and Congress in previous generations called the country to fast and pray at different times, asking for divine intervention.

As I look at my own life, I see various areas where I know in 2014 I need God’s direction, His provision, His protection, His empowerment, and His hand upon my life and the life of my family.  When I look at our church, likewise, I see many areas where we need the same.  We want to be a people who walk with God and please Him.  We want Him to put His hand of favor upon us.  We desire His blessing of love and unity and His protection from the enemy.  We want Him to work through us to reach people for Christ.  We need His provision in various areas. 

Let's seek Him together these days - expectantly.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Intrigue of Downton Abbey

My wife and I have enjoyed watching the drama of Downton Abbey for a couple of years now.  Viewers have enjoyed delving into the a grand, sweeping historical drama of early twentieth-century England, intrigued by the nobility and servants of an English noble house.

If you enjoy Downton like us, you may enjoy Albert Mohler's commentary on the show . . .
"Americans by the millions tuned in to watch the premier of Downton Abbey’s fourth season, eager to enjoy the continuation of the saga of the Earl and Countess of Grantham and their household. According to press reports, 10.2 million Americans watched the first episode, catching up on developments since the end of the third season, which ended with yet another tragedy, this time the death of heir Matthew Crawley. But the heir did not leave without leaving an heir, and so the story continues.
But, do Americans have any idea what they are really watching?

The millions of Americans who are now devoted Downton fans are drawn, no doubt, to the story and all of its twists and turns. They are captivated by the historical drama and the grandeur of Highclere, the real-life estate of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and the setting for Downton Abbey. They are intrigued by the hierarchies of the noble house and its inhabitants, with the nobility upstairs and the servants downstairs. They are amazed by the lavishness of the estate, the period dress, and the class structure of the society. They enjoy the quality of the acting and the quaintness of the habits portrayed. They must appreciate the attention to historical detail, right down to the soaps used and the dishes served. Many are likely to be unrepentant Anglophiles ( I include myself amongst them) who enjoy the look into the history and drama of our English cousins."

Finish reading the entire commentary here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What I Wish I'd Known: Reflections on Nearly 40 Years of Pastoral Ministry

What follows has been adapted from a brief talk I delivered to the Oklahoma chapter of The Gospel Coalition on October 2. Here are 10 things I wish I'd known when I first started out as a pastor.

1. I wish I'd known that people who disagree with me on doctrines I hold dearly can often love God and pursue his glory with as much, and in some cases more, fervency than I do. The sort of intellectual pride that fuels such delusions can be devastating to ministry and will invariably undermine any efforts at broader Christian unity across denominational lines.

2. I wish I'd known about the inevitable frustration that comes when you put your trust in what you think are good reasons why people should remain loyal to your ministry and present in your church. I wish I'd been prepared for the feelings of betrayal and disillusionment that came when people in whom I'd personally invested so much love, time, and energy simply walked away, often with the most insubstantial and flimsiest of excuses.

3. I wish I'd known how deeply and incessantly many (most?) people suffer. Having been raised in a truly functional family in which everyone knew Christ and loved one another, I was largely oblivious to the pain endured by most people who've never known that blessing. For too many years I naively assumed that if I wasn't hurting, neither were they. I wish I'd realized the pulpit isn't a place to hide from the problems and pain of one's congregation; it's a place to address, commiserate with, and apply God's Word to them.

Read the entire excellent article by Sam Storms here.