Friday, December 30, 2011

My Favorite Things . . .

As I look back upon 2011, here are a few of my favorite things!

Favorite (Serious) Books I Read

1. A Nation Like No Other by Newt Gingrich

2. Second Guessing God: Hanging on When You Can't See His Plan by Brian Jones

3. One in a Million by Priscilla Shirer

4. Tell Your Heart to Beat Again by Dutch Sheets

5. The Church Awakening by Charles Swindoll

7. Courage and Consequence by Karl Rove

8. Original Intent: The Courts, The Constitution, and The Law by David Barton

9. Seeking Daily the Heart of God by Boyd Bailey

Favorite (Just for Fun) Books

The Summons by John Grisham

The Broker by Grisham

The Last Juror by Grisham

The Appeal by Grisham

Favorite New Movies of 2011

Cars 2

The Muppets

Favorite Family Entertainment at Home

Anne of Green Gables

The Road to Avonlea

Favorite Thing to Follow in the News

Newt Gingrich's campaign

Favorite Family Fun

1. Playing at home in our yard and with our yard toys (treehouse, swings, playhouse, barn, and trampoline).

2. Dollywood

3. Playing at the beach.

Favorite Purchases of 2011

1. Treehouse and swings for the kids
2. Deck for Tracey

Favorite Moments with Church

1. Praying with friends while planning and preparing for the new church.
2. Wednesday morning breakfasts with friends.
3. Our covenant-signing service in September.

Favorite Music I Enjoyed this Year

Wintley Phipps

Hillsong Live

The St. Olaf Choir

Dolly Parton


Randy Travis

Larnelle Harris

Sandi Patty

Favorite Things that Fill Me When I am not Working!

1. Spending time with my family.
2. Writing and working on a book proposal.
3. Reading about law, politics, and the judiciary.
4. Following the political road to 2012.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Poem for Christmas

I came across this magnificent poem by Rod Jellema today . . .

Take a Chance

If you cancel the trip to Innesfree
because it's raining, you may miss the quick
red rage of a torn leaf
before it gentles itself onto the quiet pool.

The tests warned him that his exceptional mind
was weakest for doing math, so math
is what he took up with holy awe,
forcing his dazzled way to insight.

If you always leave a nightlight burning
because as a child you got fearfully lost,
turn it off. The lights far out in the dark
are sending lifelines you never imagined.

The New Age seers, tracking the fates, may tell you
no - but take a chance. Just maybe that old
unbelievalble Yahweh really did imprint you
with enough God Image to make you free to leap.

- in his book A Slender Grace

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Black Robe Regiment

Did you know that the British saw the clergy in the USA as being largely responsible for the ideas behind American independence and that the clergy for two decades had preached the main ideas that led to the Declaration of Independence? So much so that the British gave the American clergy a backhanded name - The Black Robe Regiment.

Ministers were at the forefront of social and political issues of the day. David Barton says, "If it was in the news it was covered in the pulpit. They gave a biblical viewpoint of every issue of the day."

How different today when so many people want to keep the clergy and the church from speaking to social-political issues. I wonder today how many in the clergy would deserve the title The Black Robe Regiment?

Barton writes, "In short, history demonstrates that America's elective governments, her educational system, and many other positive aspects of American life and culture were the product of Biblical-thinking Christian clergy and leaders. Today, however, as the influence of the clergy has waned, many of these institutions have come under unprecedented attack and many of our traditional freedoms have been significantly eroded. It is time for America's clergy to understand and reclaim the important position of influence they have been given. As the Rev. Charles Finney - a leader of the Second Great Awakening - reminded ministers in his day:

Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation. [100]

America once again needs the type of courageous ministers described by Bishop Galloway:

Mighty men they were, of iron nerve and strong hand and unblanched cheek and heart of flame. God needed not reeds shaken by the wind, not men clothed in soft raiment [Matthew 11:7-8], but heroes of hardihood and lofty courage. . . .And such were the sons of the mighty who responded to the Divine call. [101]

It is time to reinvigorate the Black Robed Regiment!"

You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where's the Spirit and Guts?

It is in the Newt Gingrich campaign. Read these comebacks he has given in his debates, and make sure and watch the last video clip when he puts it right back to Scott Pelley. One thing I admire of Newt in the debates is that he is not intimidated. He speaks with the great calm confidence of a seasoned statesman.

No Attacks, Please!

I signed the petition. We need a positive Republican campaign, not one filled with negative attacks. View it here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Characters of Christmas

The Characters of Christmas
Luke 2:21-40

Joseph and Mary (21-24,39)
• They knew and obeyed the revealed, written law of the Lord.
• They desired their child to be consecrated.
• Their worship cost them something.

Simeon (25-35)

The adoration and prophecy of Simeon is rich in spiritual suggestion. This spectator kept the lamp of prophecy burning when religion was at a low ebb in Israel. Simeon means “one who hears and obeys” and this saintly Simeon knew the voice speaking in the prophets of old and obeyed the light he saw.
- All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer

Verse 25 shows us four qualities of Simeon’s life:

1. He was a righteous man.
2. He was a devout man.
3. He expected the Lord; He was waiting on the Lord.
4. He was a man of the Holy Spirit.

A person of the Holy Spirit will be marked by the following:

- The Spirit will be on/in him (Ro. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 12:13);.
- He will walk in the spirit of revelation (Ep. 3:5; Da. 2:28-30; Mt. 11:25; 1 Cor, 2:7-10; Ac. 13:2).
- He will be moved by the Spirit (Ac. 6:3; 11:24; 16:6; 2 Pe. 1:21; Gal. 5:16- 18; Ro. 7:6; 8:14).

5. Simeon experiences the Providence of God (27).
6. Simeon experiences the Keeper of promises (29).
7. Simeon moves in the spirit of prophecy (29-32).

The spiritual gift of prophecy is the divine ability to read, hear, and understand what God says and communicate that truth in a clear, compelling, and convicting way under God’s anointing. They speak for a particular time, situation, or circumstance for they know they have a timely message from God. The prophet stays on his knees before God, God burdens them, and, sometimes spontaneously, they speak according to what God gives them by His Spirit and according to His Word.

A prophet is one who knows his time and what God is trying to say to the people of his time. Today we need prophetic preachers; not preachers of prophecy merely, but preachers with a gift of prophecy. The word of wisdom is missing. We need the gift of discernment again in our pulpits. It is not ability to predict that we need, but the anointed eye, the power of spiritual penetration and interpretation, the ability to appraise the religious scene as viewed from God's position, and to tell us what is actually going on. Where is the man who can see through the ticker tape and confetti to discover which way the parade is headed, why it started in the first place and, particularly, who is riding up front in the seat of honor? If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation it must be by other means than any now being used. If the church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of preacher. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many) he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. We need to have the gifts of the Spirit restored again to the church, and it is my belief that the one gift we need most now is the gift of prophecy.
– A. W. Tozer in The Gift of Prophetic Insight

How we need in this day of shaky values and shady ethics those who will bring a genuine message from God that will call for turning from sin and finding purpose for living according to the will and Word of the Lord.
- Charles Swindoll

3 common manifestations of the gift of prophecy:
1. Preaching and teaching
2. Speaking (warnings, exhortations, instructions, consolations)
3. In and through the ministry of intercession

Anna (36-38)
• Anna’s life is marked by hardship (36).
• Anna’s life is marked by worship (37).
• Anna’s life is marked by intercession (37).

Lessons Learned from the Characters of Christmas

1. We must be obedient to the Word of God.

2. We must develop faithfulness in the mundane.

3. We must walk in the reality of the Holy Spirit.

4. We must wait for the Lord to fulfill His purposes and His promises.

Though Dead, He Still Speaks

A. W. Tozer . . .

The Gift of Prophetic Insight

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Very Good Article

Why is the Tea Party lining up with Newt Gingrich?

Laurens County Tea Party

I was very glad this week to hear that the Laurens County Tea Party (I live in Laurens County) has now endorsed Newt Gingrich. Actually, this week both the LCTP and the Myrtle Beach Tea Parties made national news with their endorsements. Our friend Dianne Belsom, the leader of the LCTP, received calls from reporters all over the country.

Read their endorsement here.

White Paper on Restoring the Judicial Branch to its Rightful Role

See Fox debate clip when Newt slams activist judges.

Read Newt's white paper on "Bringing the Courts Back Under the Constitution."

Not a Judicial Dictatorship!

Newt on Hannity after the Iowa debate. Go Newt!

Newt on Constitutional History

The place of the judiciary in American history.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quotation of the Day

Prayer is foundational; prayer is not supplemental. God’s people need to learn to pray. We miss so many things necessary for the spiritual victory that God would gladly provide if we would come to Him in prayer. If the church wants to succeed in its God-given mission, its leadership must realize that one of its greatest needs is more prayer meetings, not more planning meetings. If the monthly leadership meetings would give more time to praying than to planning, leaders would soon find changes in attitude, in perspective in ministry, and in results.

– Donald McDougall, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Open Letter to My Mother on My Parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary

November 18, 2011

Dear Ma-Ma,

I am thankful today as I reflect that 50 years ago you and Dad were married. I looked on the internet and found that in 1961 postage stamps cost 4 cents, JFK was inaugurated, Carry Back won the Kentucky Derby, West Side Story was adapted for the big screen, and Patsy Cline released her song Crazy!

I think of a lot of people who would have been at your wedding – Mom-ee and Pa-Pa, Frances and Emily, Dad’s parents, and high school and college friends.

Lots of good memories come to my mind. Many more than can be penned. I am thankful for the security of my childhood home that gave me the foundational grace and strength to stand through the storms of life as an adult. You all instilled in me that family was very important. I never doubted if you and Dad loved and cared for me. You took time to develop a relationship with me and eventually with my friends. I knew that I was a vital part of your lives – not just someone passing through. You and Dad both took time to spend with me and let me know that I was important. And you both communicated your love for me, of which I am grateful. As I became a pastor and began working with men, it surprised me to discover how many grown men have never been hugged by their father nor ever been told the ever-important words from their father, I love you. I cannot recall one night I lived with you and Dad that you both did not touch me and tell me that you loved me.

You all instilled in me the need to love and respect God, to believe His Word, and to be involved with the church. We talked about the Lord, the Bible, and church so often around our supper table. I distinctly remember you and I sitting one dark night at our kitchen table in Henderson with a children’s story Bible while you told me the story of Old Testament Joseph. The lesson from his life, that God is always with us, has carried me through many highs and lows in my adulthood. I have so many pleasant memories related to church and our friends from church. Those were great, happy times for me that I enjoy recalling and reliving in my thoughts. I remember your impacting my friends in high school as you taught the girls in Sunday School.

I remember so many wonderful holiday memories – Easters, birthdays, anniversaries, Halloweens, Thanksgivings, and Christmases. The house was always ablaze with Christmas decorations in December. I remember enjoying our advent season, particularly when school got out and we were home.

You also modeled for me to have a lifestyle of showing compassion to other people and to use your life to serve your fellow man. I saw in you that life was not just about making self happy but about reflecting God and giving to others. Many times I can recall your taking time to share what you had with others and get involved in their needs.

You worked so hard to provide for me. I know that was very difficult at times, and it did not go unnoticed. Thank you for the sacrifices you made in order to give me a good start on life. In part it gave me a great sense of responsibility to make good choices and invest my life wisely. According to the Gallup organization’s StrengthsFinder, one of my top five natural strengths is “responsibility.” I know you modeled that well for me.

You all embraced Tracey when she won my heart, and you both showed interest and love for her. And when our children came along, you exhibited great love and joy for them. It has brought me much pleasure through the years to see the joy that you all had in our children. I distinctly remember all of us being together at the hospital when Hendrix was born. A snapshot in my memory is walking out of the operating room holding Hendrix with you, Dad, Karen, and Ray looking on. Anna-Frances has so enjoyed spending time with Amma. Moose Keller told me a few years ago that Dad’s daily topic of conversation at breakfast was “Dawson.”

Finally, you specifically exhibited two qualities worth remembering. One, you prayed so consistently for my life, my friends, and eventually my own family. Thank you for your labor of love and ministry of intercession. I have no doubt that your prayers enabled me to make many good choices and have a relatively smooth voyage into adulthood. I value your prayers for my children as they grow up in a culture hostile to the Judeo-Christian value system. And two, you modeled for me perseverance in the midst of trials and disappointments. You were often like the Energizer Bunny that took a licking but kept on ticking! As Twila Paris sang, the warrior is a child who keeps running back when she falls down. You showed me how to cope with difficulty, trust God in the face of heartache, and hang on when your world is shaken. Those are very important qualities worth remembering.

Happy Anniversary! I am glad that you all were my parents.

Much love,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Since last fall, Newt Gingrich has been my choice for the Republican nominee for President. I wonder if he has not been prepared by the Almighty his entire life to lead our country for such a time as this. Currently, Newt leads the polls.


Don't know where this started, but it is so funny!!! A letter from a Boy Scout at camp to his mother . . .

Dear Mom,

Our scout master told us all write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and worried. We are OK. Only 1 of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away. Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountain looking for Chad when it happened. Oh yes, please call Chad's mother and tell her he is OK. He can't write because of the cast. I got to ride in one of the search & rescue jeeps. It was neat. We never would have found him in the dark if it hadn't been for the lightning.

Scoutmaster Webb got mad at Chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Chad said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn't hear him. Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas can will blow up? The wet wood still didn't burn, but one of our tents did. Also some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.

We will be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster Webb gets the car fixed. It wasn't his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked OK when we left. Scoutmaster Webb said that a car that old you have to expect something to break down; that's probably why he can't get insurance on it. We think it's a neat car. He doesn't care if we get it dirty, and if it's hot, sometimes he lets us ride on the tailgate. It gets pretty hot with 10 people in a car. He let us take turns riding in the trailer until the highway patrolman stopped and talked to us.

Scoutmaster Webb is a neat guy. Don't worry, he is a good driver. In fact, he is teaching Terry how to drive. But he only lets him drive on the mountain roads where there isn't any traffic. All we ever see up there are logging trucks.

This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming out in the lake. Scoutmaster Webb wouldn't let me because I can't swim and Chad was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so he let us take the canoe across the lake. It was great. You can still see some of the trees under the water from the flood. Scoutmaster Webb isn't crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn't even get mad about the life jackets.

He has to spend a lot of time working on the car so we are trying not to cause him any trouble. Guess what? We have all passed our first aid merit badges. When Dave dove in the lake and cut his arm, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Also Wade and I threw up. Scoutmaster Webb said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken, he said they got sick that way with the food they ate in prison. I'm so glad he got out and become our scoutmaster. He said he sure figured out how to get things done better while he was doing his time.

I have to go now. We are going into town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don't worry about anything. We are fine.

Love, Cole

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Don't Believe the Lie!

Many folks believe the lie that pastors are not allowed to endorse or oppose political candidates.

Matthew Staver, attorney, writes, "Liberal groups seek to silence pastors and churches. I would encourage pastors to throw off their muzzle and pick up a megaphone. It's time pastors and churches became the moral conscience of the community."

Read the Political and Legislative Guidelines for Pastors and Churches.

Read the article, Pastors, Churches, and Politics to learn more about our freedoms!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Newt's 21st Century Contract with America

Since the beginning of this year, Newt Gingrich has been my choice for the Republican nominee. Read about his 21st Century Contract with America.

Quotation of the Day

If when God said "Go," you stayed because you were so concerned about your people at home, you robbed them of the teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all the consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach; as long as you would not obey, you were in the way. Watch where you begin to debate and to put what you call duty in competetion with your Lord's commands.

- Oswald Chambers

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spiritual Heroes

Hebrews 6:12; 12:1; 2 Tim. 3:14

We need our spiritual heroes; we need our spiritual examples; we need those who encourage us in the hope that a consistent discipleship is possible; we need those whose own spiritual consistency is commended to us by the testimony of history.
- John Calwell, The Communion of the Saints

In the seventh century, the Church created a holiday to honor God and all His saints. The church chose November 1 for this holiday hoping to replace pagan festivals that took place on that date and involved the spirits of the dead. This celebration is known as the feast of All Saints or All Hallows. On All Hallows, the church remembers the "great cloud of witnesses" described in Hebrews 12 who have gone before us and are now with the Lord. In 1484, November 1 was declared a holy day of obligation: The faithful were required to attend Mass, in addition to fasting the night before. That is, they fasted on the Eve of All Hallows, from which we get the word Halloween. The Feast of All Hallows provides a link between what is known as the church triumphant--that is, those who are with Christ, and the church militant--members of the church still struggling on earth. Christians remember that God has been faithful to His promise to preserve His Church in the midst of even the most trying circumstances. Christians could also use All Hallows Eve to reacquaint their kids with Halloween's Christian origins.
Bump in the Night by Charles Colson

I. The Inspiration of Godly Encouragers (1)

a) Noah ran against popularity (11:7)

Noah was called to preach and to build. Preaching was probably more difficult than the building. Hard jobs are always easier to deal with than hard people. – Johnny Hunt

b) Abraham ran against security and uncertainty (11:8-10)

Hebrews 11:1-2 is faith’s definition; Hebrews 11:8-10 is faith’s demonstration

c) Moses ran against prosperity (11:24-27)

Moses chose the imperishable, saw the invisible, and did the impossible. – V. Havner

If ever there was a generation of people sorely in need of spiritual role models, we are it. No matter how we choose to observe Halloween, those of us attending non-liturgical churches can take a modest step toward telling ourselves a different kind of story this Sunday. Pastors might include the story of a saint in their sermons. Parents could make a point to share the story of a saint or two. All Saints' Day is not about remembering just the saints with brand recognition. It's designed to thank God for the gift of a praying great-grandma in our family tree, a friend who sacrificially provided for his family by working two jobs before he died of cancer at age 42, and an anonymous old woman who quietly fed the poor in Jesus’ name when she thought no one was watching. – The Best Christian Halloween Party by Michelle Van Loon

Saints here and there both remembered

1) The lives of saints of the past. In addition to the saints depicted in Scripture, we have nearly 2,000 years of history that can and should be used as challenges to piety and faith. We Protestants have been so concerned about avoiding the veneration of saints that we often have bypassed a rich heritage of faith. Just as the Book of Hebrews gives a roll call of believers, so we can look to countless examples of equally courageous lovers of God.

2) "The life of the blessed in paradise." Most of us have been completely unaware that All Saints' Day is a celebration of all the saints. It is a day when Christians can remember not only those great believers of the past but also loved ones and friends who have served Christ and are now in heaven. True, it is a day to remember the lives of well-known saints and "to follow them in all virtuous and godly living." But it is also a day to remember our own "blessed dead." - Harold Myra

II. The Motivation of Godly Exhortation (1)

a) Recognize encumbrances.
b) Recognize entanglements.
c) Run with persistence.

Five Types of Spiritual Heroes Worth Remembering:

1) Those who shared God’s truth (like William Tyndale).

2) Those who extended mercy (like William and Catherine Booth).

3) Those who walked by faith (like Watchman Nee).

4) Those who took a stand (like William Wilberforce).

5) Those who practiced endurance (like Charles Simeon).

6) Those who loved, trained, and shaped us.

Redeem Hallowe’en as an exercise in being a transforming influence. Set October 31as a day when stories are retold regarding how our family came to know Jesus.
- Jack Hayford, Redeeming Hallowe’en

Why allow Halloween to be a pagan holiday in commemoration of the powers of darkness? Fill the house or church with light; sing and celebrate the victory of Christ over darkness. – Richard Foster in The Celebration of Discipline

For more information, search for these articles:

Harold Myra’s article Is Halloween a Witch’s Brew at

Charles Colsons’ commentary Bump in the Night at

Jack Hayford’s Redeeming Hallowe’en at

Redeeming Hallowe'en

For years I have appreciated Pastor Jack Hayford's spiritual and practical teaching and responses to a lot of questions in society. One of those is the much-disagreed subject of what a Christian should do with Halloween. Hayford offers his advice, with which I agree, in his article, Redeeming Hallowe'en.

Richard Foster writes, Why allow Halloween to be a pagan holiday in commemoration of the powers of darkness? Fill the house or church with light; sing and celebrate the victory of Christ over darkness.

Remember Our Heroes

I have so enjoyed the fall weather this week. The colors around Laurens have been beautiful and probably at their peak.

Am preaching a message tomorrow morning entitled Spiritual Heroes in recognition of this time of year. For me, this week always officially starts off the Novemember-December preparation for and celebration of the holidays. November 1 is the day set aside by the church as All Saints Day, a day to remember our heroes in the faith. It is actually a sort of Christian memorial day. Then, October 31 was recognized as All Hallowe's Eve, a day to prepare for All Saints Day. And it was on October 31 of 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Witttenburg chapel door - the spark that ignited the great Protestant Reformation.

I try to take some time in my family beginning this week and during the month of November to teach my children about some of the great spiritual heroes of Christianity - and also to take time to remember some of our own heroes in our lives. Don't just let these days float by as missed opportunities when the secular world dresses up like gouls and glorifies death and destruction. Redeem this time and use it as a stepping stone into the holiday season. Spend the month of November leading up to Thanksgiving learning some new spiritual heroes - and being thankful for some familiar ones.

I have found that the years that I intentionally do that throughout the month of Novemember - beginning on October 31 - it makes me sense that the whole month is a spiritual preparation to be truly thankful by the time we get to Thanksgiving - and then ready to move forward worshipfully into the December holiday season.

The following link is a tremendous resource from Chrisitan History Institute linking us to dozens of stories of Christian heroes through the centuries. Click on it here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jim Demint

The last 3 years I have been extremely impressed by South Carolina's Senator, Jim Demint. Today I read that Demint scored a 100% in supporting conservative, family-related legislation on the Family Research Council's Congressional Scorecard.

Three years ago, I read Demint's excellent book Saving Freedom, in which he gives a clear and impassioned call to make choices in America that will keep freedom alive, unlike many of the choices that are coming out of Washington. I encourage you to get his book and read it.

Demint just came out with another one called The Great American Awakening: Two Years that Changed America.

Demint is a genuine Christian, a Southern Baptist, and is the real deal. He did not go into politics until his late 40's, when God stirred in him to help take a stand in a declining world. (You may remember that he was the most vocal opponent to President Obama's bailouts.)

Interestingly, his books are published by Broadman and Holman, the publishing house of the Southern Baptist Convention. Many Southern Baptist pastors endorsed his Saving America.

I encourage you to familiarize yourself with Demint. Many folks hope he will run for the Republican nominee one day. He is a godly statesman among many thorns. We need God to raise men like him up to change the course of our nation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Don't Have to Get Together

During the liberal-moderate-conservative controversy that engulfed the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 20th-century, Adrian Rogers (who became probably the key spokesperson for the Conservative Resurgence), was in a peace meeting when people on different sides of the table were supposed to be working things out and coming together. One man kept challenging Rogers to compromise. The exasperated man exhorted something like, "Adrian, if you don't compromise, we will never come together!"

The following was Rogers' response:

I’m willing to compromise about many things, but not the Word of God. So far as getting together is concerned, we don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention as it is does not have to survive. I don’t have to be the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. I don’t have to be loved; I don’t even have to live. But I will not compromise the Word of God. – Adrian Rogers

We Are In Trouble

Truth is a basis for society to survive, relationships to endure, and churches to prosper. In the very beginning, in the third chapter of Genesis, the serpent attacks truth: Did God really say?

Al Mohler shares how the serpent is still asking the same question today. Read it here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Family-Equipping Ministry

Timothy Paul Jones coined the term family-equipping ministry to describe the family ministry paradigm that he and Randy Stinson developed for the School of Church Ministries at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Soon afterward, Randy Stinson located and brought together an informal coalition of ministers who were doing in practice precisely what he and Jones had sketched out in theory. Leading early practitioners of the family-equipping model included Jay Strother at Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee, Brian Haynes at Kingsland Baptist Church in Texas, and Steve Wright at Providence Baptist Church in North Carolina (1).

In many ways the family-equipping model represents a middle route between the family-integrated and family-based models (2). Semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact in family-equipping contexts. Many family-equipping churches even retain youth ministers and children’s ministers. Yet every practice at every level of ministry is reworked to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. Because parents are primary disciple-makers and vital partners in family-equipping ministry, every activity for children or youth must resource, train, or directly involve parents (3).

Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational activities within existing segmented-programmatic structures and add family activities to current calendars, family-equipping churches redevelops the congregation’s structure to cultivate a renewed culture wherein parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as the primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives. As in family-integrated churches, children whose parents are unbelievers are connected with mature believers in the types of relationships that Paul described in his letter to Titus (Titus 2:1-8). Every level of the congregation’s life is consciously recultured to “co-champion” the church’s ministry and the parent’s responsibility.

To envision the family-equipping model in action, imagine a river with large stones jutting through the surface of the water. The river represents the Christian growth and development of children in the church. One riverbank signifies the church, and the other riverbank connotes the family. Both banks are necessary for the river to flow forward with focus and power. Unless both riverbanks support the child’s development, you are likely to end up with the destructive power of a deluge instead of the constructive possibilities of a river. The stones that guide and redirect the river currents represent milestones or rites of passage that mark the passing of key points of development that the church and families celebrate together.

Most of the authors whose contributions appear on these pages view family-equipping ministry as the ideal. At the same time, the principles that they present will be useful far beyond family-equipping churches, particularly in family-integrated and family-based contexts. Even segmented-programmatic and educational-programmatic ministries may find this text helpful as they seek to develop theological foundations for their ministries to families.

(1) For the model as practiced by these ministers, see Jay Strother, “Family-Equipping Ministry: Co-champions with a Single Goal,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville: B&H, 2009); Brian Haynes, Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2009); Steve Wright with Chris Graves, reThink: Is Student Ministry Working? (Raleigh: InQuest, 2007).

(2) Much that is found in Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2009) fits in the overlap between the family-based and family-equipping paradigms, at least from an organizational and programmatic perspective; many of the associated publications may be helpful in resourcing the development of family-based and family-equipping ministries. The content and approach of materials from The reThink Group seem in many cases to be driven more by ecclesial pragmatism than by substantive theological or biblical considerations.

(3) For the “resource, train, involve” principle as well as the term “co-champion,” see Steve Wright with Chris Graves, reThink: Is Student Ministry Working? (Raleigh: InQuest, 2007).
[Editor's Note: This article was adapted from the book Trained in the Fear of God, edited by Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones. Used by permission.]

Tuning Out by Turning it On

Charles Colson shares a great commentary on our culture - the culture of sloth. Read it here.

Wisdom is Justified by Time

I have been enjoying slowly reading Dick Cheney’s autobiography In My Time. It fascinates me to review the lives of those who have shaped America the past several decades. Cheney rubbed shoulders with many of Washington’s elites in the Republican party.

One lesson was gleaned from observing the leadership of Gerald Ford: some actions are only justified by time.

Cheney shares the surprise he, and many Americans, experienced when President Ford announced on September 8, 1974, that he was issuing a full, free, and absolute pardon to Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Cheney writes, He described his actions as a way to ‘shut and seal’ the matter of Watergate and to mitigate the suffering of Richard Nixon and his family.

At the time, this action cost Ford – some speculate that it cost him the reelection. There was immediately a firestorm of controversy and criticism. Ford’s approval rating dropped from 71% to 49%. The press condemned Ford, and he endured much negative criticism as a result.

However, more than thirty years later, Cheney writes, the wisdom and generosity of Gerald Ford’s instincts have been recognized for their courage and honored for their rightness. But at the time the pardon was controversial and unpopular.

Wisdom beckons that at times the right choice is the unpopular choice. The right choice may be greatly misunderstood and even condemned. It takes courage to make the right choice. And in time, even those who criticize that person may see years later that it was the right choice.

More than a decade ago, my parents left a church situation that had become abusive. Before they left, she warned some persons of the unwise and ungodly path that the senior pastor was taking. Mom and Dad received an incredible amount of criticism and ostracism for their stance. The staff was even told to not have conversations with them. Several years later, however, (after several hundred people had left the church), a staff member commented in retrospect, Mrs. Wilson was right.

One of the traits of a godly man or woman is this: a godly person does not play to the crowd. A wise person does not make his judgments solely based on public opinion. King Saul in the Old Testament lived most of his reign working to make himself look good in front of others. The fruit of his character revealed a pitiful life, not so different than the lives of some Hollywood favorites or political figures who woo the crowds but lead miserable lives of shallow character.

Be willing to make the hard decisions when necessary. God will be pleased, and time will tell.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quotation of the Day

I have been enjoying reading a sermon by the great expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his studies on John 4 called Living Water. He writes in his sermon, The Possibilities of the Christian Life . . .

Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. This may be one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services, and they are orderly, they are nice - we come, we go - and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are even facing this glorious possibility?

Or let me put it like this: You may feel and say, as many do, "I was converted and became a Christian. I've grown - I've grown in knowledge, I've been reading some books, I've been listening to sermons - but I've arrived now at a sort of peak, and all I do is maintain that."

My friend, you muyst get rid of that attitude; you must get rid of it once and forever. That is religion - not Christianity. This is Christianity - the Lord appears! Suddenly, in the midst of the drudgery and the routine and the sameness and the dullness and the drabness, unexpectedly, surprisingly, he meets with you, and he says something to you that changes the whole of your life and your outlook and lifts you. Do not let the devil persuade you that you have all your are going to get. That has been a popular teaching among evanglicals. You get everything at your conversion. Oh, do not believe it; it is not true. It is not true to the teaching of the Scriptures, it is not true in the experience of the saints running down the centuries. There is always this glorious possibility of meeting with him in a new and dynamic way.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quotation of the Day

The ultimate goal of spiritual leadership is not to achieve numerical results, to accomplish tasks with perfection, or to grow for growth's sake. It is to take people from where they are to where God wants them to be. God's primary concern for people is not results but relationship.

Leaders cannot take their people into a relationship with Christ that goes any deeper than where they have gone themselves. Thus, spiritual leaders must continually be growing themselves if they are to take the people into a more mature relationship with Christ.

- Henry and Richard Blackaby

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quotation of the Day

Waiting time is not wasted time for anyone in whose heart God has placed a vision. Difficult time. Painful time. Frustrating time. But not wasted time.

– Andy Stanley

Quotation of the Day

I have always found that the writing out of a pain makes it at least bearable.

- L.M. Montgomery

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Attacking Dissenters - How Outcasts are Treated

Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton share in their book Toxic Faith about the five roles that occur in a faith community that has turned unhealthy.

The fifth role is that of the outcast who refuses to play the dysfunctional games, becoming one of the lone voices crying out for change – change that “will not come as long as the co-conspirators manipulate the system, the enablers allow it to continue, and the victims fall in line with blind faith. When outcasts surface, they are identified as troublemakers and pushed out of the system as soon as possible.” The outcasts are unimpressed by position or title; they see through the delusion and are willing to suffer great personal loss in order to make a stand and leave the system. Unfortunately, these outcasts will be discredited by the leadership immediately through the process called labeling. Even if they are long-time supporters of the church, the leadership will be glad to see them leave.

One mark of an unhealthy faith community is that it attacks these "dissenters." Anyone who continues to disagree, particularly after initial pressure, becomes the enemy. The pastor and his key supporters will secretly but effectively spread the word that he or she is a trouble maker. Members who speak out with genuine concerns about the leadership are considered rebellious and will be scapegoated. References to the dissenter may be that she is sinful, selfish, and unstable and that she is going to hinder the work of God in that place. The opposite of Christian fellowship occurs; the leadership will consistently discredit and discount the persons they view as the enemy.

If necessary in an abusive system the leadership will destroy the reputation of the persons with whom they disagree. Arterburn and Felton call this process labeling: “Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment. . . . Disqualification by labeling hurts the victims and allows persecutors to continue in their toxic faith. It is sheer poison.” Unhealthy systems will even aim their venom at their sub-leaders and get rid of them quickly if they pose a threat in his mind to their continued success. This divisive practice illustrates the destructive nature of an abusive system. Political processes replace biblical community, leaving excessive carnage.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Refirgerator Door Stuff for Leaders

1. Adopt para-church resourcefulness.

2. Move from scarcity to abundant thinking.

3. Be a pioneer, not just a problem-solver.

4. Don’t get work done through people; get people done through work.

5. Cultivate right-brain leadership.

6. Feed champions.

7. Model what you want/expect.

8. Listen more than tell.

9. Think hard.

10. Lead from strengths.

11. Quit doing something today.

12. Hunt down bureaucracy.

13. Ask, who will be my congregant in 2, 5, 10 years?

14. Create temporary, ad-hoc strategic alliances.

15. Get outside more.

16. Invest in people.

17. Remember, people belong to people, not organizations.

- Reggie McNeal

Camping Out in Unexpected Places

Camping Out in Unexpected Places
Exodus 19

Life Lesson: God invites us to prepare to experience Him in unexpected places.

I. The Encampment Before the Covenant (19:1-2)

1. God controls the times and the seasons (19:1).

2. The Israelites broke camp in one place to join God in another (19:1).

3. The Israelites planned to stay in a less-than desirable place (19:2).

This part of the journey would be the farthest point of their travel away from the Promised Land. In this place they most likely felt the most lost, the most desperate, the most frustrated, and the most disappointed since leaving Egypt. –Priscilla Shirer

Sinai – (Horeb – Ex. 3:1; Dt. 5:2; 7363 feet at highest point; plain at foot was 2.5 mi. x ½ mile wide. It would be the focal point for the next eleven months. It would witness the zenith of the entire book of Exodus. If Canaan represents a life of external blessings and abundance, Sinai represents a life of internal blessings and abundance.

So the timing of the Israelite’s arrival in Sinai was not accidental. Being in this place on this day was carefully calculated by God. This wasn’t their ultimate destination, and they knew it. This wasn’t what they had left Egypt to find, and yet under the covering of God’s guiding cloud, they chose to open the divine invitation. They decided to settle in, pitch their tent, camp out – questions and all – and turn their attention to God’s mountain. - Shirer

II. The Benefits of the Covenant (19:3-6)

1. God speaks to His people (19:3).
2. God teaches His people faith (19:4).
3. God expects his people to obey (19:5).
4. God values his people immensely (19:5-6).

III. The Preparations for the Covenant (19:7-25)

1. Observations about leaders who experience God.

a. The primary leader must involve others (19:7).
b. The secondary leaders must agree to follow God (19:8).
c. God confirms His shepherd to His people (19:9).
d. The leaders must carefully involve other people (19:24-25).

Three primary marks of a spiritual leader:

1) His life reflects a habit of prayer.
2) He regularly experiences God.
3) He speaks God’s Word to God’s people and others.

2. Observations about the congregation that experiences God.

a. The people must consecrate themselves in order to experience God (19:10-11).
b. The people must observe God’s boundaries in order to experience God (19:12-13 , 21-22).
c. The people must deny self in order to experience God (19:14-15).
d. The people must walk in holiness in order to experience God (19:23).

3. Observations about the God whom we experience (19:16-20).

a. God demands our attention (19:16,20).
b. God desires to meet and speak with us (19:17,19).
c. God deserves to be respected and feared (19:18).
d. God directs us from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion (He. 12:18-29).


Sinai teaches us about God’s immanence, His presence and sustaining involvement in our lives. And it teaches us about God’s transcendence, His otherness, being above and separate from us. In one chapter of the Bible, we see two very real, very important sides of the same God. He gives us close, intimate times to show us His immanence. Then, he takes us through the wilderness times to show us His transcendence. We learn there to trust Him in new ways. Keep these ongoing realities of God in a healthy balance.

Six observations from today’s text . . .

1.Get engaged in what God is doing right now – not just what you wish He were doing.

2.We should desire God more than his benefits.

3.Spiritual leaders must guide their people to hear from God, thus giving priority to the Word of God and prayer.

4Spiritual leadership is authenticated and validated by the Lord and His presence.

5.The fear of the Lord is essential to a congregation’s experiencing God.

6.Experiencing God requires careful preparation, holiness, and obedience.

Don’t waste what God is doing out here. Don’t leave your bags packed and keep working out of your travel kit. Don’t sleep with your clothes on. Nail your tent pegs deep. Press into Him. Engage fully in every season you spend at Sinai. And turn your eyes to the mountain.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Leaders Pray

Henry and Richard Blackaby share in their updated book Spiritual Leadership why spiritual leaders must pray:

1) Spiritual leaders place their faith in God. Little of eternal consequence occurs in a prayerless leader. Biblical praying can be the most challenging, exhausting, laborious, and yet rewarding thing leaders do.

2) Prayer is fundamental because to be a spiritual leader, one must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit's activity, people are not spiritual leaders.

3) God's wisdom is a third reward. God sees the future. He knows the needs. (Jer. 33:3)

4) God is all-powerful. He can do far more than the most resourceful leaders.

5) Prayer is the leader's foolproof remedy for stress. There is one who stands ready to carry their burden.

6) Finally, God reveals His agenda through prayer. (Mark 1:30-39) Jesus was in regular communion with his Father, so he was not sidetracked from his assignment.

More than any other single thing leaders do, their prayer life determines their effectiveness. If leaders spend enough time communing with God, the people they encounter will notice the difference. When pastors preach sermons, their people can soon tell whether or not they are speaking out of the overflow of their relationship with God. When leaders or organizations conduct planning meetings with their staff, their people will recognize if the opening prayer is perfunctory or if it is a genuine plea for God to guide the planning process. The holiness of leaders' lives is a direct reflection of the time they spend with God. When spiritual leaders take their task of leading people seriously, they will be driven to their knees in prayer.

Robert E. Lee

"However hot the blood in the chase and in the fight, Lee remained the Christian solider." - Robert E. Lee on Leadership, H. W. Crocker

What is Family Ministry?

The process of intentionally and persistently realigning a congregation's proclamation and practices so that parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as the persons primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children.

- from Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views, ed. Timothy Jones

Quotation of the Day

We have a generation of parents who were not discipled by their parents, so they have had no model for that. Their parents took them to church. That was the goal of the parents. It was well-intentioned, but it was not grounded in the biblical truth that parents are called to be the disciple-makers of their own children.

- Timothy Jones

What's Wrong with Current Church Structures?

Insightful fourteen-minute video from leaders of the School of Church Ministries at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. What's Wrong With Current Church Structures?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quotation of the Day

A bell’s not a bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.

- A note Oscar Hammerstein wrote on his deathbed to Mary Martin in 1960

Quotation of the Day

Every step of faith can be criticized as presumption by someone else. - Henry Blackaby

Quotation of the Day

Union has an application with others but no common bond that makes them one in heart. Uniformity has everyone looking and thinking alike. Unanimity is complete agreement across the board. Unity, however, refers to a oneness of heart, a similarity of purpose, and an agreement on major points of doctrine.
- Charles Swindoll, Hope Again

God's New Thing

Sermon preached on October 2, 2011, at The Spring

God’s New Thing
Isaiah 43:14-26

Life Lesson: God promises to do a new thing in our lives as we trust Him.

I. The Preparation of God’s New Thing (43:14-17)

1. God reminds them of who He is (43:14-15).

a. Redeemer (14)
b. Creator (15)
c. King (15)

2. God reminds them of what He did (43:16-17).

II. The Promise of God’s New Thing (43:18–19)

1. God promises to transcend the things that are past (43:18–19).

God is the Healer of broken dreams and the Restorer of stolen years. – Adrian Rogers

Trust God to work something good out of that abusive situation or experience you endured. Turn immediately to Him, and trust Him to be your defender, healer, and restorer. Trust Him to cause something good to happen in your life as a result – that you will grow and not wither, become stronger and not weaker. That you will grow in your faith.

God’s plan is to take ordinary people with ordinary talents, do extraordinary things through them, and give the glory to Himself. – A. Rogers

2. God promises to transform the things that are present (43:14–17).

Through God’s marvelous working there can be spontaneity (I will do a new thing . . . it shall spring forth); creativity (I will make a way in the wilderness); and productivity (I will give waters in the wilderness).

The suffering that you now have is just the black velvet upon which the diamond of God’s glory is going to be revealed. – Charles Spurgeon

III. The Purpose of God’s New Thing (43:19–21)

When God redeems us it is for a purpose, and that purpose is the goal of our lives.

1. God’s purpose is to satisfy His own people (43:20).

David’s life in Psalm 37:3-7,25,37; Matthew 5:6

2. God’s purpose is to magnify His own Person (43:21).

From Genesis to Revelation this truth shines forth with increasing brilliance. – Stephen Olford

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. – Westminster Catechism

IV. The Prospect of God’s New Thing (43:22–26)

If we are going to enter into the promise and purpose of God’s new thing in our lives then we must recognize certain facts. There is no way to realize the Lord’s new thing without perceiving two things of importance:

1. The failure of man to cope (43:22,24)

Failures in intercession – they had not called upon God. Failures in dedications – they had mocked Him. Failures in ministrations – caring for and pleasing the Lord.

2. The nature of God to care (43:25–26)

Conclusion: With God, the best is yet to be.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Is Boredome OK?

The founder of Young Life once commented, "It's a sin to bore a kid with the gospel."

In response to this attitude, Mark DeVries says, "It might be more of a sin to suggest to young people that the Christian life is always fun and never boring. Keeping teenagers from ever being bored in their faith can actually deprive them of opportunities to develop the discipline and perseverance needed to live the Christian life. It is precisely in those experiences that teenagers might describe as 'boring' that Christian character is often formed."

- Taken from Timothy Jones' Perspectives on Family Ministry

I say amen, and amen!

Quotation of the Day

Family ministry is necessary and significant becuase what we have been doing is ineffective. Today's churches have more youth campes, conferences, Christian music, sophisticated technology, books, and trained leaders than ever before. Yet, for whatever reason, a significant number of children fail to make the transition from youth ministry to mature, Christiain adulthood. The sort of ministry that will address this problem can't be found by adding one more church program found on the shelf of another Christian bookstore. Seminary classes can't solve this problem. Not even a book can solve this problem. What is needed is a theological and structural reorientation spawning the church cultures that draw families together instead of pulling them apart.

- Randy Stinson, Dean of The School of Church Ministries, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Does God Cause or Allow Bad Things?

That discussion is one of the great debates and questions of theologians. Does God cause or allow bad things? People who lean very heavy towards God's sovereignty will say that ultimately God causes the bad things. People who lean heavily toward man's autonomy will say God would never cause bad things.

Theologian Wayne Grudem defines God's providence as follows:

God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and, (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes. So that definition covers three aspects: (1) preservation, (2) concurrence, and (3) government.

The idea of God's sovereignty, control, and providence flow through the entire Bible.

A few of those Scriptures are as follows:

Dan. 4:34-35; Ps. 22:28; Ps. 135:6-7; Jer. 10:23; Ps. 139:16; Gen. 50:20; Prov. 16:4

Luke 1:52; Ro. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:27

The book of Isaiah has a lot to say about God's sovereignty, written to people who have endured much suffering. In chapters 40ff, Isaiah regularly brings them back to the fact that ultimately, God rules. For example, in Isaiah 45:6-7,

6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
7 The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these.

Likewise, John takes a similar approach when He discusses Jesus as our Shepherd in John 10:1-30.

I would challenge the person who want only a "NT" Scripture. Usually that request reflects an incorrect understanding of the Scriptures as they reveal the nature of God. Instead of looking at the Scriptures as old and new, it is probably more accurate to see the lens of Scripture like different sides of a gemstone - both sides reflect the beauty and authenticity of the gem. In other words, what the Scriptures show us about God in Genesis reveals the same God that Revelation talks about. That last verse I gave you - John 10:30, speaks to this (Jesus is the God of the OT).

It is easy to believe in God's rule when good things happen (we thank God for the rain, a healthy baby born, a new job or raise, etc.). However, we don't seem to credit God for bad things (a tornado that kills people, a stillborn baby, a job lost). However, simple logic would challenge, He is either over all or not over all.

I do not believe that God causes people to sin, nor do I believe that His best will is for bad things as a result of sin to happen. However, we live in a world cursed by sin - and man was given a will to choose right or wrong. When those bad things happen (disease, death, and the consequences of other's bad choices), we still can believe that God is sovereign over them all, they did not take Him by surprise, He chose to allow them, (see God and Satan's discourse in Job 1-2), and in allowing them, He will use them for His glory. Remember, God knew those things before the foundation of the world, and He is weaving them all together for His glory and our good (in light of His purposes - not ours).

Our minds can't understand how all of that works together, but we can trust Him. Kay Arthur used to teach, we are like a ring placed in someone's palm. With fingers closed, nothing can touch the ring unless it first goes through the fingers. So, we are in the palm of God's hand, and nothing can touch us unless it first is filtered through God's sovereign fingers of love. That is why Joseph could say with confidence, Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

Thursday, September 29, 2011

John Stott on Preachers

John Stott, one of the most famous evangelical preachers of the 20th century, died this summer. His preaching and writing serve as a model for pastor-theologians all over the globe. Albert Mohler, now President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, interviewed Stott in 1987. The interview, Between Two Worlds: An Interview with John R. W. Stott, was published in Preaching magazine.

The following is one excerpt from the article. Mohler asked Stott what his advice would be to American pastors:

We Belong in a Study, Not an Office

Mohler: You are probably as well known in America as in England. Furthermore, you know America — its churches and its preachers. What would be your word to the Servants of the Word on this side of the Atlantic?

Stott: I think my main word to American preachers is, as Stephen Olford has often said, that we belong in a study, not in an office. The symbol of our ministry is a Bible — not a telephone. We are ministers of the Word, not administrators, and we need to relearn the question of priority in every generation.

The Apostles were in danger of being diverted from the ministry to which they had been called by Jesus — the ministry of Word and prayer. They were almost diverted into a social ministry for squabbling widows.

Now both are important, and both are ministries, but the Apostles had been called to the ministry of the Word and not the ministry of tables. They had to delegate the ministry of the tables to other servants. We are not Apostles, but there is the work of teaching that has come to us in the unfolding of the apostolic message of the New Testament. This is our priority as pastors and preachers.

Jesus preached to the crowds, to the group, and to the individual. He had the masses, the disciples, and individuals coming to Him. He preached to crowds, taught the disciples, and counseled individuals. We must also have this focus. It is all in the ministry of the Word.

Quotation of the Day

In many congregations a false assumption has survived. The false assumption is simply this: Parents are not the primary persons responsible for their children's Christian formation. The people perceived as being primarily responsible are specialized leaders of age-focused ministries. This model is not biblical, and the results of this approach have not consistently reflected God's intentions for His people. As this mininstry model has developed, here's what has tended to happen: Parents are not perceived as having the primary responsibility for the spiritual growth of their offspring. This ministry model is fundamentally flawed.

- Timothy Jones, Perspectives on Family Ministry

Unity, Unanimity, and Uniformity

Sunday night I preached from Ephesians chapter 4 on the subject What Does a Healthy Church Look Like? We saw that there are four essentials to a healthy church:

•ministry, and

I talked about the difference between unity, uniformity, and unanimity.

Uniformity is when everyone looks alike.

Unanimity is when everyone agrees and shares the same opinions and convictions.

Unity, however, is a blessing that God gives internally when believers are walking in grace, truth, and love.

As The Steering Team met Monday night, we prayed for God to build us a church marked by much unity of the Lord. When Jesus prayed for His disciples and His church in John 17, He prayed again and again for the Lord to grant them unity.

Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Spartanburg, has shared for years the three critical issues facing every church: the issue of absolute truth, the issues of personal convictions, and the issue of personal preferences. Elsewhere, I wrote about this subject . . . .

A congregation is wise to heed the advice of Don Wilton in what he calls the three most critical issues at the heart of the church. First is the issue of absolute truth, the most critical issue in the church today: “Absolutes are the governing principles of Christian conduct. . . . Without it the church is in deep trouble because it is left to the opinions of man, and that is a dangerous place to be!”[1] Churches must decide to be governed by the absolute truths in the Bible. Behavior, theology, ministries, programs, and church governance must be submitted to the authority of the Word of God. The second critical issue facing the church is that of personal conviction. These convictions are needed and must find their root in absolute truth. However personal conviction must never take the place of absolute truth. Wilton writes, “Many congregations are smitten with strong personalities who have strong convictions about a great number of issues and things that are important, but if they are not absolute according to the Word of God, they cannot become the foundation upon which the believer stands.”[2] Substituting personal convictions for absolute truths often occurs in spiritual abuse. The third issue of critical importance facing the church is that of person preference. Some churches are built on personal preference, leading to weak theology, poor discipleship, and layers of dysfunction.[3] In dysfunctional religious systems marked by cultic and spiritual abuse, these groups often confuse the place of absolute truth, personal conviction, and personal preference. The wise congregation and leader will agree to stand together on absolute truth and not impose their personal convictions and personal preferences on other people.

A while back, I posted my notes from a sermon I preached on this subject, Preferences, Convictions, and Absolutes.

May we at The Spring stand firm on absolute truth together to bulid a strong and healthy church!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dismay Over Church Politics

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, shares about the deep heartache that she and her husband went through several years ago. There is no burn like church burn, but as she discovered, there is no God like Jehovah!

Recently my husband, Danny, experienced inexcusable treatment at the hands of church leaders. After four years of meeting with a group of men to pray regularly for God's leadership and blessings, he joined them as they incorporated into a church body. We were part of the new church fellowship for several years, during which time he served in a leadership role as Sunday school teacher and elder.

During that time, he was dismayed as he witnessed what all too often takes place behind the closed doors of religious institutions - hypocrisy and piety, politics and pride, manipulation and meanness, control and cliques, self-promotion and status-seeking, truth-spinning and arm-twisting. His heart was shattered - and mine along with his.

While the people who attended the church were very dear, good people, they were prevented from knowing what was taking place behind those closed doors. What Danny saw and heard was so grievous, he exclaimed that if he didn't know God, he wouldn't want to know Him, and if the leadership in that church represented genuine believers, he would never want to be one.

Finally, he walked out with the young pastor the elders had humiliated and sought to drive away. For one year as a result of his experience, he and I did not attend any church. We became believers in exile.

But the interesting discovery I made during that time was that rather than hinder the magnificent obsession [desire for God] in my life, the experience totally intensified it. More than ever before, I wanted to embrace a genuine God-filled life. And I want to know Him for Himself, not for the tarnished reflection that can sometimes be seen in those who call themselves by his name.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family Ministry Today

There have been three driving convictions for me the past year as to what this church should be about:

1) An emphasis on the Bible basics of preaching-teaching, worship, fellowship, and prayer.

2) The experiencing of God in the community of small group structures.

3) A family-equipping model of ministry. (One of the seeds God planted in me last year was while Tracey and I were attending a family-equipping church and family conference.)

We began this year with a solid, initial approach to implementing #1. In January we hope to begin implementing #2.

Recently, through the reading of two different books - one by Johnny Hunt and the other Wayne Cordiero, I was face to face with the same advice. As a leader, find out what the 5% is that you alone can do for your organization, and make sure that you are giving the best time to that 5% - not to the 95% of other things that other people can be trained, equipped, and released to do.

Pondering the question, What is my 5% for The Spring?, I knew with conviction that part of that 5% is guiding the church toward a family-equipping model. As your leader, I am committed to shaping this church towards a family-equipping approach.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will educate us more as to what is meant by a family-equipping model. Right now, the Steering Team is reading a book to help us in that entitled Perspectives on Family Ministry by Timothy Jones, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

I am gladdened that SBTS' School of Church Ministry is giving leadership in this area by trying to educate, equip, and encourage churches towards a family-equipping ministry. Just yesterday I found their blog entitled Family Ministry Today: The Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:

I strongly encourage you to check out their blog, familiarize yourself with it, and begin learning for yourself about the model of family-equipping ministry. Check out the video on the front page called What is the Problem with Current Church Structures?

A family-equipping model is not just another program or fad that we may try for a while until something else comes along. It is, instead, a philosophy of how to structure a church in order to best equip families spiritually.

It is not a decoration issue. It is a blueprint issue.

I look forward to how God will lead us to become a family-equipping church. Last night we already made a solid step forward. Parents and grandparents received a Parent Handbook from Group Publishing that goes along with the lessons your children and youth are receiving on Wednesday nights. Parents and grandparents are encouraged to use that handbook to talk with your children and teens at home this week about our first lesson from our Faithweaver material. When we move to Sunday School on Sunday mornings, we will all be studying the same lessons. That is a solid, simple approach.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Trip to Intouch

On my way home from Woodstock yesterday I stopped in Atlanta by Intouch Ministries, the preaching ministry of Charles Stanley. The last several years they have built a nice facility right off of I-85 past the 285 loop. I was warmly greeted and given a tour by one of the Intouch staff. Much like visiting The Billy Graham Library, where one sees how God worked through Billy Graham, or visiting the Jerry Falwell Museum at Liberty University, the Intouch offices and mission center serve as a testimony to the faithfulness of God through the life of one of His servants. When you are there, you are reminded of how God raised up one man to take the gospel to the world. Like the design of the Grahams' Cove, it is tasteful enough to not be gaudy yet grand enough to reflect the greatness of God.

Dr. Stanley’s teaching influenced me greatly years ago. I listened to his messages 4-5 times a week as a college student. I vividly recall listening to his book on cassette, The Wonderful, Spirit-Filled Life, while driving on 385 from Greenville to Clinton. And I remember thinking I had hit the jackpot when someone from his church gave me a tub of about 100 of his sermon cassettes! His books How to Listen to God and The Source of My Strength were life-changers for me.

Dr. Stanley’s most familiar phrase, Obey God and leave all of the consequences to Him, is inscribed on one prominent wall in the building. Antonia, my Intouch guide, told me the story of their building the first building. She said something like, Dr. Stanley believed the Lord had told him to build the first Intouch building. But he said that in prayer the Lord told him that he was not allowed to ask anyone for money. So they made plans but did not make any public appeals for money. Instead, he chose to trust God. One day a man called Dr. Stanley out of the blue and asked what Intouch needed. Stanley told him, “Well, actually, we need about 2 million dollars!” The man replied, “I think I can handle that,” and the man gave Intouch the cash for the building. Then Antonia said, Everything here is a result of Dr. Stanley’s faith in God.

Around one fountain are inscribed the four phrases that Charles learned from his grandfather, George Washington Stanley. These four phrases became key guiding pillars in his life:

Obey God and leave all of the consequences up to Him.
God will move heaven and earth to reveal His will to you.
God will provide all your needs if you trust Him.
Fight your battles on your knees.

One amazing tool they are currently using is called the Intouch Messenger, a solar-powered hand-held device that holds 35 messages. The Messenger was created to give to soldiers in the Middle East to allow them to hear Dr. Stanley’s preaching. So far 125,000 have been distributed in seven languages and 105 countries.

The Intouch Ministries complex challenged and encouraged me afresh today to trust in God. When I left today, I got in my car and prayed, Lord, I don’t know what You want to do with me, but I want to trust in You and allow You to work in my life however You choose.

I think that is a good prayer for us all to pray.

As a church, let us not be like the people of Nazareth, of whom the Bible says, He [Jesus] did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith (Matthew 13:58).

On a side note - The Salvation Army invited Dr. Stanley to preach at their 9-11 remembrance service for the families of victims in New York last Sunday on the 10th anniversary of 9-11. You can listen to the message he preached to them here.