Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
To the Church at Hickory Grove,
I can’t believe that 2009 is already gone. It doesn’t seem like enough time has passed for another year to be over, but it is and as you are reading this, it is 2010. It’s a new year, and many people approach this time with a sense of renewal and hope. We make New Year’s resolutions, we plan and we dream about how the New Year will be a different year. The sad part is that those many people seldom implement a strategy that will help them accomplish their dreams and plans for that year.
Tim, Jeth and I have been dreaming big for HGBC for 2010. We have been praying, talking and listening to the Lord and you, the body, concerning our church and we feel like we have something that will bring excitement, joy, worship and ministry to our church in the coming year. We have a theme for 2010. I mentioned it on December 13 in the morning service. The theme for 2010 at HGBC is “Being the Church.”
It is time we change the way we think about and approach church. Church is not somewhere we go; it is WHO WE ARE! We are the church. When a Christian approaches church as a place to go he is able to set aside and compartmentalize “church” into a specific place and time. Scripture tells us that we are the church, always. There is never a time when we set it aside or take it off. As a staff we are excited about the potential of this time of change in the life of the church.
I am going to be preaching a series of sermons on “Being the Church” in January and February. The series will take Acts 2:42-47 and examine the five purposes of the church. And we will, hopefully, see how we can incorporate these ministries more effectively into the life and ministry of our lives as the church. We have also settled on theme verse for 2010, I Corinthians 10:31, and even a theme song. I am so excited.
We have also begun planning four (4) days during the year where we will gather to do servant evangelism ministry projects. We will do one each quarter throughout 2010, and we will do this so that we can “Share the love of Jesus in a practical way.” I know God will bless us as we live out this year “Being the Church.”
We are also going to make a slight schedule change on Sunday evenings. Beginning in February we will be having a regular Sunday evening worship time every Sunday night. I know that this will be a welcome return to the familiar for some. In conjunction with that worship time we will also be adjusting GROW to function as it was originally intended. Each Sunday night during the worship time we will offer GROW to those who wish to participate. We will have one team each Sunday night worshipping the Lord through outreach and ministry. The staff believes that this will bring excitement and continuity to our Sunday evening worship experience. We will be putting a schedule of which GROW team will be ministering on any given Sunday night. I can’t wait to see how God blesses us as we seek out new ways to glorify Him through our acts of obedience to His word.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
You might have a lot. You might have a little. If you are driving a beater, be thankful for that beater. You would rather drive that than walk, wouldn't you? There is always something to be thankful for.
That's what contentment is all about. When you understand and really grasp contentment, it becomes easier to save money and invest. Stress slowly disappears. Budgeting is easier. Relationships improve.
Be happy with what you have. More than three billion people, almost half the world, live on $2.50 a day. Sometimes we need a little perspective to become content with our current situation.
Without contentment, it's easy to be bitter and apathetic. Happiness is sold to us, especially during this time of year. We think if we can just get one more piece of stuff that "true" happiness will be right around the corner.
We say things like, "I'll be happy when I get that house!" or "I'll be happy when I get that new car!" But happiness cannot be bought. Sure fun—in the form of a house, a car, a new LCD television—can be bought, but fun is temporary. True happiness, or contentment, is lasting.
You can get out of debt, save money, and get on a budget, but until you realize that stuff doesn’t bring contentment, you will always feel stressed and unhappy. Contentment brings peace. And isn’t this time of year about bringing "peace on earth and good will toward men"?
Remember what this deal is all about. It's not about trees, lights, gifts, baked hams, and shopping malls. It’s about a little child who was born in a manger and grew up to die on a cross. It’s about peace on earth and good will toward men.
So if the Christmas frenzy is wearing you out, you've missed the point of Christmas. Make a plan with your money, and make a plan to get back in touch with the true meaning of this special day.
You are invited to Dave's Give Like No One Else Christmas at DaveRamsey.com. Daily giveaways and great articles will make you want to check back every day to see what's new.
Friday, October 30, 2009
To the Church at Hickory Grove,
I am writing to you for the last time in 2009. I can’t believe 2009 is almost gone. What a year it has been! But I love this time of year; fall is here and winter is coming. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and right on it’s heals is Christmas. It’s a busy time of year, but it is such a special time as well. We have a lot of things going on, so make sure you hang on to the calendar inside so you don’t miss out on anything going on during the holiday season.
As I think of this holiday season I am draw to the realization of how thankful I am. I am thankful for the blessings God has given me in my family. Melissa is like a rock for me, and I am so thankful she has chosen to take this journey with me. There is no one I would rather walk this road with than you honey! I love you. I am also thankful for the blessings God has given me in my children. It’s hard to remember Morgan not being in our lives. She was only four months old when we came to HGBC and my how she has grown. As I write this article today, Mya turns nine months old. Time flies! She has five teeth and I’m expecting her to start running across the house any time now. I am truly a blessed man. I am thankful for the opportunity God has given me to be your pastor. He has taught me so many things, and I thank you for your patience as God continues to work on me making me into the man he wants me to be.
I am thankful for all these things and so many more, but I have saved the best for last. As this time of year quickly approaches, I am most thankful for Immanuel. I am thankful that God is not some aloof, transcendent God that can’t be known or approached. I am thankful that God is Immanuel; He is with us. But there is even something better than that. He was God among us during the time of the Old Testament. He dwelt among his people in the Tabernacle and later the Temple. While Jesus walked this earth he was Immanuel, meaning God with us. Now He is God IN US! As the old song goes, “What a difference you made in my life. What a difference you made in my life. You’re my sunshine day and night. Oh, what a difference you made in my life.”
Thank you Lord Jesus! May we never forget.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Excellence: An inside jobSeptember 24th, 2009
…He overlaid (the ark) with pure gold, both inside and out, and made a gold molding around it…-Exodus 37:1-2
The ark of the covenant represented the presence of God. It served as the storage center for the Ten Commandments, and was Israel’s most sacred possession. It makes perfect sense to overlay the ark with gold on the outside. Everybody’s going to see that part every time it makes a public appearance. Obviously, we want to do everything we can to make God look good, and to represent him well in front of others.
But why bother overlaying the inside of the ark with gold? Wouldn’t silver suffice? Is that really necessary? Isn’t it a bit opulent? Extravagant? Wasteful? Secondary? Unproductive?
Not for a purpose as important as the presence of God. Only the best is acceptable.
I recently challenged our staff to find as many ways as possible to overlay the inside of the ark-the part of our ministry that no one sees-with gold. To give great effort to the hidden details. This doesn’t come naturally.
We’re good at getting our crap together in the high traffic areas of our ministry:Music, lighting, production, videos.But do we overlay the ark with gold in the places no one sees?Are we prompt? Do we keep our spaces clean and organized? Is our communication timely and clear?
Let’s make it more personal. Do I overlay the inside parts of my personal life with gold? Do I speak well of others at all times? Do I monitor my private thoughts…even though they aren’t projected on the big screen? Do I wear the SuperPastor cape on weekends only, or am I a loving, kind, thoughtful husband and father Monday through Friday?
It’s important to give our best to the seen and unseen places in our lives and ministries. Here’s an axiom for reflection:
When we honor God in the places no one seesHe will honor us in the places everyone sees.
Excellence is an inside job.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
HGBC is participating with Faith Comes By Hearing beginning Monday, September 14. That Monday we will begin listening to the New Testament in 40 days. We will be handing out FCBH audio versions of the NT in the KJV and NIV for adults, along with a kids version as well. All it takes to get through the whole NT in 40 days is 28 minutes a day. I have been sampling some of the work over the last few days and I love it. The listening time is made very enjoyable because it is dramatized. It's very moving to hear the Scriptures in this format, and I can say that the time flies by. I can't wait to do this with my family at home along with my church family beginning in just a few days.
I encourage you to get your audio copy of the NT and take the 40 day challenge. I believe we will all be changed as we listen to God speaking to us through his word this way. If you want to get a preview go to http://www.faithcomesbyhearing.com/. You can find a live stream of the entire NT there. I am also looking forward to demonstrating for you the "proclaimer" which is the device FCBH uses in the jungles, etc... to share the Scriptures with those in need of the Savior. It is solar powered and up to 300 people can listen at a time. We will be taking several love offerings in participating with FCBH. It costs $25,596.00 to produce the whole NT in a language or $948 for each book of the NT. I would love for us as a church to be able to help with at least 2 books of the NT.
I pray that as God blesses you through this time in his word that he will place within you a great desire to help with this magnificent endeavor. God bless you.
Monday, August 31, 2009
A teacher asked her 6th grade class how many of them were Obama fans. Not really knowing what an Obama fan is, but wanting to be liked by the teacher, all the kids raised their hands except for little Johnny. The teacher asked Little Johnny why he has decided to be different. Little Johnny said, ‘Because I’m not an Obama fan.’ The teacher asked, ‘Why aren’t you an Obama fan?’Johnny said , ‘Because I’m a Republican.’ The teacher asked him why he’s a Republican. Little Johnny answered, ‘Well, my Mom’s a Republican and my Dad’s a Republican, so I’m a Republican.’ Annoyed by this answer, the teacher asked, ‘If your mom was a moron and your dad was an idiot, what would that make you?’ With a big smile, Little Johnny replied, ‘That would make me an Obama fan.'
Thanks for the laugh Chanda.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Have you heard Him lately?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"Diffusiveness Of Life"
"Rivers of living water." John 7:38
A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of His fullness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth. We have nothing to do with the outflow- "This is the work of God that ye believe..." God rarely allows a soul to see how great a blessing he is.
A river is victoriously persistent, it overcomes all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, then it comes to an obstacle and for a while baulked, but it soon makes a pathway round the obstacle. Or a river will drop out of sight for miles, and presently emerge again broader and grander than ever. You can see God using some lives, but into your life an obstacle has come and you do not seem to be of any use. Keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you round the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never get your eyes on the obstacle or on the difficulty. The obstacle us a matter of indifference to the river which will flow steadily through you if you remember to keep right at the Source. Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion, or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.
Think of the healing and far-flung rivers nursing themselves in our souls! God has been opening up marvellous truths to our minds, and every point He has opened up is an indication of the wider power of the river He will flow through us. If you believe in Jesus, you will find that God has nourished in you mighty torrents of blessing for others. -Oswald Chambers
Saturday, August 08, 2009
I have needed him for many things over the last few months, and he has always honored his word. I have needed him for direction, and he has given it to me. I have needed him for strength, and he has supplied it. I have needed him for encouragement, and he has blessed me with it. I have needed it for power, and there has been an abundance.
Two weeks ago now I was particularly low and was searching for the Lord, and did I ever find him. I was weak and lonely; I was struggling in almost every area of my life, and I was wondering where God was in all of this. I went on FaceBook, of all places, and one of my friends had posted a single verse from the Old Testament. The verse was II Chronicles 20:17, "'You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you." I immediately got my sword out and went to the chapter because I had to know the context of the verse, although God my Father had already used it mightily in my heart.
The context is that King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah are about to be attacked by the enemy of God: Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir (the people of). The king seeks God's face and calls for the people to fast and pray. They respond, positively, to the kings request, and because they seek God's face God answers their prayer. (See verse 17 above). They go out the next day just as God told them and see God fight the battle for them. The enemies of God are destroyed completely, and God allows the people to gather the spoils of battle. God blesses them so much that it takes them three (3) days to gather all that God has blessed them with because the obeyed the Lord their God.
God has given me a great peace in the middle of all the turmoil of my life. Once again God has reminded me that he will be my defender; he will fight the fight for me if I will obey him and seek his face. I will trust in the Lord God my defender! I will trust him with my life. I will lead his people to follow his path, but I will not force them to follow him. And in the end I am at peace knowing that I have done what he has called me to do.
Serving Him and no other,
Friday, July 10, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
1) I have a friend and his family who are hurting in a terrible way, God knows who they are; please pray for them.
2) Please pray for the financial situation at our church, we are trusting our Head, but we must also make some very difficult decisions.
3)Please pray that God will raise up prayer support (7 teams) for our church:
a. Pray for all the leadership of HGBC along with their families.
b. Pray for our outreach strategy GROW.
c. Pray Matthew 9:37-38 for HGBC.
d. Pray that HGBC will have a John 4:35 urgency.
4) Pray for VBS June 21-26
a. We still need workers.
b. We still need teachers.
c. Pray for the children and families who will be touched and eternally changed.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I have read close to 2700 pages for this seminar since the second week in April. I have written three book reviews and will write the 4th tonight (hopefully). I have completed my research for a 10-12 page paper analyzing the evangelism and missions effectiveness of HGBC, and developing a strategy for improvement in these areas. Needless to say, "my eyes have been opened" to some great possibilities if the Lord allows.
I am hoping to have some company for most of the journey Sunday afternoon, and I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my family and me during this next week and a half. God bless you.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
My girls are doing great. They went over to the World Golf Village yesterday, without me!!, to go swimming for a while. They had a great time. I missed it. So sad!
Melissa and I are "enjoying" working out together. We are doing Power90, and it seems to be pretty good. I know I'm sore, so it must be working. I can't imagine how it would be if I hadn't been working out already since Christmas. At day 30 I will post some before and after pictures as proof (Hopefully).
Friday, May 08, 2009
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
I believe it would be a good idea and a step towards better stewardship of what God has given us as Southern Baptist.
Friday, May 01, 2009
The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out, by Mark Driscoll.
The Radical Reformission is written by Mark Driscoll, a seemingly controversial pastor in Southern Baptist life. I chose to write a review of this book because of this controversy and the little information I had concerning Mark and his thoughts, ideas, and methods of ministry.
Driscoll is the founding pastor of
Driscoll begins the Radical Reformission by giving the reader his personal salvation testimony and subsequent call to ministry. As he tells his story the reader begins to catch a glimpse of where the journey is headed. He states that he is “presenting this book as a contribution toward the furtherance of the emerging church in the emerging culture” (17). He goes on to say that this offering is made up of the insights he has gleaned from his experiences and the people he has come into contact with.
This “reformission” Driscoll calls for is a call for the church of today to be “faithful to the scriptural texts and to the cultural contexts of
The theme of being missional is a recurring theme in many books today written about the church. It is not a new idea by any means, but it is a long forgot theme and strategy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Driscoll makes some excellent points concerning this missional theme: it was the strategy of Jesus during his earthly ministry, it was the strategy of the Apostles and the early church in the book of Acts. But Driscoll takes this theme and doesn’t just slide down a slippery slope; he seemingly jumps off a ledge of no return.
He uses pictures at the beginning of each chapter to give the reader a visual of where he is going as he writes, and the first picture he uses is a picture of a beer mug full of beer. Keep in mind this is the chapter in which he begins with the very first word being “Jesus.” He states, “The first word of this book must be Jesus, because everything, reformission included, begins and ends with him” (27). It is easy to agree with this concept and his statement, but it is difficult, in my opinion, to see how the visual and the statement work in cooperation with each other.
The consumption of alcohol and the “biblical” basis for it by Christ followers is a thread which runs throughout the entirety of The Radical Reformission, and it is a very radical idea indeed. He in no way takes away from the authority of Christ or Scripture, he in no way attempts to undermine the message and power of the gospel, he is theologically accurate in his correlation of Scripture with practical application in a ministry setting. But the issue of alcohol consumption is a point of discussion and interest throughout the entire book.
Sex is another issue that is referenced quite frequently by Driscoll. He connects the issue of alcohol and sex, for the most part, with the same argument. His argument is that today’s church has the hang-ups it does concerning these two “hot topics” because of misunderstandings of Scripture and church history. His basic conclusion concerning these two issues is that if the church would get its history and theology correct, it would release Christians to enjoy and “feast” and worship God as He intended His children to do from the beginning. I will state that Driscoll does hold to a very strict theological position on sexual intercourse being for married couples only.
One issue that Driscoll handles excellently is the sin of self-righteousness. “The bottom line is we are all self-righteous. We are all prone to secretly believe that we are somehow better than others because of the things we do or do not do” (77-78). The reader will appreciate his biblical approach to this rebellious attitude toward God and others. He calls for Christians to repent of the sin of self-righteousness. He argues that as long as the church refuses to repent of this sin she will never be able to effectively present the gospel to all those Jesus gave life for. He states it in this manner, “As long as Christians fail to repent of self-righteousness, we will continue to speak of evangelism in terms such as ‘outreach,’ which implies we will not embrace lost people but will keep them at least an arm’s length away” (78). This attitude prevails in the church because the membership has come to see themselves as “clean” and those outside the church as “dirty,” and church members do not want to get “dirty.”
Another issue which Driscoll handles biblically is his discussion throughout the book with culture, especially contemporary culture. He and others like him call the church be culturally relevant. To Driscoll this means that the church should study the culture to grasp the “language” being spoken, and then present the timeless truths of Scripture in that cultural language. He acknowledges that this will look very different in
Driscoll makes an attention getting statement in dealing with the idea of redeeming culture when he says, “The Bible clearly teaches that we do what we are. It also repeated teaches that our sin comes from our hearts, the center of who we are. Our hearts are a rock band, and culture is a loudspeaker, and if we don’t like the music, spending lots of money to fund organizations to ‘fix’ the speakers won’t change the tune” (109). Another way of saying this is “the heart of the problem is a problem with the heart,” and until the heart of the culture is changed through a radical relationship with Jesus, the same old music will continue to be heard.
One of the best arguments made by Driscoll is found in chapter five when he deals with “connecting with culture in reformission.” He does an excellent job of demonstrating the biblical mandate of immersing oneself in the surrounding culture while remaining in a state of Christian purity. This idea is most easily understood from the perspective of the biblical principle “be in the world but not of the world.” I John 2:15 says “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (NKJV). And Jesus said, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18, NKJV).
Driscoll highlights Paul’s ministry in
Driscoll does a good job of furthering his position of “cultural reformission” by using Daniel as an example of being culturally relevant while remaining spiritually pure. The story does not need to be retold, but the principle is definitely present. Daniel and his friends are praised for their faithful stance and honor of God, but most do not at the same time see how these young men influenced their culture by faithfully performing the tasks assigned them by the Babylonian government. They did their jobs to the best of their ability while remaining faithful to God until such time as the two came into conflict, at which time they continued to honor God no matter the consequence. This is what is needed in our local culture, our nation and our world today. Christ followers who are willing to stand for Christ no matter the consequence.
There are many quality ideas found within the pages of The Radical Reformission. Driscoll does an excellent job of presenting the biblical mandate to transform our culture and redeem the time. It is impossible to argue against these principles. But the linking of these things with the idea of the Christian consumption of alcohol is a detriment to the
He takes the time to present the biblical argument against drunkenness (147); he gives twenty problems caused by drunkenness (148); he states that there are three positions being taking in Christendom concerning alcohol (149-150). He then lists six times or “occasions to drink alcohol in moderation” (150), and promotes the consumption of alcohol among believers. In my opinion these do not add up. This is a debate that will never die in Christian circles. There will always be those who want to walk as close to “the cliff” as they can trying not to fall off, and in doing so will always lead others to do the same thing. The point which seems to be missed is that some have better “balance” than others. It is not that Christians cannot drink alcohol, but should they, in light of those who are watching.
I would recommend this book to those seeking to make a difference in the Kingdom by making a difference in their community, but I do have some reservations because of the almost constant discussion and approval of alcohol consumption. God help us.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
As most of you know I have begun working on my Doctor of Ministry degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. My first seminar is at the end of May so I would appreciate your prayers as I attempt to get all my reading and writing done. I am studying in the field of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, and I have been blessed already by the books I have read and am reading.
One of the major themes in this field of study today is focused around the word “missional.” You might be asking what is “missional?” I’m glad you asked. Missional is the adjective form of the noun mission or missionary. The concept that is being discussed and promoted is that of every Christ follower looking at his own neighborhood, community and church as a missionary. “What does this mean?” you might be asking. Well, let me ask you a question, “What do you think a missionary does?”
I believe it is the task of the missionary to study his “new” environment and culture, learn it, and seek to present the gospel of Christ in a way that those in this “new” culture will hear, understand and receive the message. It means the missionary must learn the language. It means the missionary must adapt himself and his method’s to them rather than asking them to adapt themselves to him. In other words, the missionary’s job is not to make them look, dress, talk and act like Americans, but he is to adapt to their way of living. Be very careful at this point, this is NOT a call to compromise the teaching of Scripture. A Christ follower should never compromise his beliefs or his behavior, according to the clear teaching of Scripture, for any reason at all, even to the point of death.
With this in mind let me ask you a few questions. The first question is “Are you a ‘missional’ Christian?” I believe being “missional” is exactly what the Great Commission calls you and me to be. Mark 16:15 tells us “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.” It is not their responsibility to come to us, we are to go to them. We are not to attempt to make them like us, we are to make ourselves and teach them to be like Jesus. Being “missional” is exactly what Jesus did for you and me according to Philippians 2:5-8, “5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in THE LIKENESS OF MEN. 8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (NKJV). If this is the method/mode of operation for Jesus Christ in dealing with us, shouldn’t it be the M/O of every one of us as well? I believe the answer is yes.
The second question is “Are you willing to make the necessary changes in your own life so that you can become a ‘missional’ Christ follower?” This is a very important question that each of us answers on a daily basis. May the decisions we make bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 10:31).
The last question is “Are you willing to make the necessary changes so that HGBC can become a ‘missional’ church?” You might be asking, “Aren’t we a ‘missional’ church already?” I encourage you to look back over what we have defined as “missional” already as you ponder whether or not HGBC is a “missional” church. I ask you, “Are we willing to do what ever is necessary to reach out to the lost in our community or do we want them to change to look and be like us?” “Are we willing to lay down our personal preferences so that we can present the message of the Savior to those who don’t share our “taste” for things, whether it is music, times for worship, dress, or anything else?” I believe that these are the things that we are being called to do by our Commander-in-Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray that we all are willing to reach the unreached whatever the cost. May God bless us as we seek to serve Him, not ourselves, in Green Cove Springs and around this world.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson has been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time, almost a year now. It is one of those books that a pastor buys with the best of intentions but never gets around to reading. I chose to write a review of this book because it addresses the very circumstance I find myself in as a pastor. It will be an asset to any pastor or leader who is seeking to bring about significant change in his church.
Ed Stetzer is an author, educator, church planter and pastor. He holds two masters and two doctoral degrees, and is currently employed by the North American Mission Board where he is the senior director of the Center for Missional Research. He lives in Nashville, TN. with his wife and three daughters.
Mike Dodson is a pastor and has been a church strategist for more than ten years. He holds a Doctor of Missiology degree, and lives with his wife and children in Meadville, PA.
Stetzer and Dodson lead the reader on very exciting and difficult journey. It is a journey of transition and change. Change is difficult and scary for any person in any context, but the stakes are exponentially increased when the context is church. Stetzer and Dodson demonstrate this throughout the book, and their point is highlighted by the statistical fact that most churches are plateaued or declining. Comeback Churches was written from the researching of three hundred and twenty-four churches from ten denominations that made a “comeback.” They state that they wrote the book to be a practical, applicable inspiration for those leading churches in need of a “comeback.” “We celebrate those comebacks because they inspire us to believe that seemingly impossible things really are possible. That’s why we wrote this book” (ix). They want to help churches make the “comeback” after being in a state of plateau or decline. “This is not a book of statistics. It is ultimately a book of practical advice-advice from more than three hundred churches and advice from your two authors” (xiv).
Stetzer and Dodson begin Comeback Churches by “examining what a church should be. That is the goal, as we see it…” (1). They immediately launch into the biblical idea of church, looking at passages of Scripture from Ephesians, Matthew, Acts and Revelation. This was a very important step in the writing of this book because to lay a false foundation would negate the concepts of the book completely. Their desire in writing Comeback Churches is developed from their belief that churches should be biblical in nature, character and context.
In reading this book one will come to the determination quickly that following Scripture is a priority for the authors and it is their opinion that the church should follow Scripture also. They give the reader six biblical criteria for the church: 1) Scriptural authority, 2) Biblical leadership, 3) Preaching and teaching, 4) Ordinances, 5) Covenant community, and 6) Mission. These are the biblical foundation of the church, and these criteria were a vital part of each of these “comeback churches.” It would be quite difficult to find anything to critique at this point.
There is a great deal of material covered and many ideas given to the reader concerning leading a church through the transitions needed in making a “comeback.” Of the three hundred and twenty-four churches participating, the vast majority said leadership was the most critical piece of the puzzle in making the changes necessary to produce a “comeback.” They suggest that “Being a good leader means being a godly person of influence. Comeback leaders influence their churches to strive for something more than the present stagnation” (29).
Someone once said that everything rises and falls on leadership and most have come to realize that this is true. It is good to know, at this point, that Stetzer and Dodson make a distinction between influence and manipulation. Quoting Erwin McManus they argue that manipulation is evil, while “influence is the best way to lead and move others toward what is good” (29). The concept of influence is not new in terms of leadership, but in reading some authors it is difficult to determine whether they are discussing manipulation or influence. Stetzer and Dodson do an excellent job of differentiating between the two and defending the use of influence over manipulation.
Another point made by Stetzer and Dodson is the fact that for a church to make a “comeback” those who make up the church must be involved in the process. The pastor/leader must cast the vision to the church in such a way that the members take ownership of the vision and take the steps necessary to bring about the needed change. Every pastor should know that it is impossible to bring about change in the church without the support of the “native” leaders. It is at this point that Stetzer and Dodson deal with the subject of communication in the church (30).
Communication is a very vital aspect of the ideas surrounding Comeback Churches. “Churches wanting change must discuss, discuss, discuss” (30). The majority of the church must acknowledge its current state before it will be ready to move forward. Communication should in the end lead to decisions, strategy and action. It is not enough to know change is needed, one must take action that will bring about the desired results.
One of the most critical concepts dealt with in Comeback Churches is found in dealing with what Stetzer and Dodson refer to as the “Three Faith Factors.” It is impossible to bring about the changes needed to make a plateaued or declining church a “comeback” church without faith. The three faith factors are: 1) “a renewed belief in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church, 2) a renewed attitude for servanthood, and 3) a more strategic prayer effort” (55). One of the things most readers will appreciate about this book is its “common sense” perspective. Stetzer and Dodson are not trying to “reinvent the wheel,” they are just taking solid biblical principles and reintroducing them in light of the current condition of the church in North America, especially the United States. The discussion of the faith factors is essential in keeping with the expressed desires of the authors for the book, keeping in mind that “without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Heb. 11:6, NKJV).
Prayer is the other key essential taken from the book if one desires to lead his church to be a “comeback church.” Stetzer and Dodson do more than discuss prayer from a theological perspective, but they give the reader some practical ideas for cultivating a desire in the people of God to pray. The ideas are helpful, and adequate examples of their effectiveness are given. They use I Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray constantly” and quote John Ortberg who says “Prayer is a learned behavior. Nobody is born an expert at it. No one ever masters prayer” (69). This is a difficult concept to remember and master, but Christians are encouraged to continue praying through the difficult times because of the results of prayer.
Stetzer and Dodson discuss relevant issues in leading churches to make a “comeback” like preaching and worship which seem to be somewhat easy changes to make if necessary,
preaching being a much easier transition than worship. But one of the most difficult transitions to make in the church is in the area of evangelism and missions. One of the words that is used over and over again in the book is strategy. The reader is encouraged to develop a new strategy in the area of evangelism and mission. They give examples of churches that were able to make great strides in reaching out to their lost communities, but they failed to give examples of what types of strategies these churches used. It is stated on several different occasions that this is not a “cookie cutter” presentation, but it would be an added bonus to look at the exact process some of these “comeback churches” used that worked and did not work. This is one of the few faults that I have with this book and others like it. It is practical but too general at times. It would have been more helpful if, in only an instance or two, they presented explicit detail of the strategies, etc… which led to the turn around of these churches.
Stetzer and Dodson make some very simple and yet profound arguments in the chapter dealing with the top factors and the biggest challenges facing a church looking to make a change, looking to reach their community for Christ, looking to make a “comeback.” It is not surprising that churches looking to make the change need to focus on prayer, evangelism and preaching, but what was shocking were obstacles that must be overcome by churches looking to reassert themselves into their culture and world.
According to Stetzer and Dodson the three biggest obstacles to overcome are attitudes, finances and facilities. It is easy to see that the facilities of church might keep them from making a greater impact on their community, and every church deals with the financial pressures of maintaining and growing a church budget in a godly way. But there is tremendous spiritual insight exhibited in their discussion of attitude. At this point the authors are dealing with the attitude of whole church, and to demonstrate the different attitudes Gary McIntosh’s book One Size Doesn’t Fit All is quoted.
The attitude of small and medium size churches that might keep them from being successful in God’s eyes is presented. This is a very helpful section of the book in that it highlights the different thought processes that are underlying in the local church culture. McIntosh goes on to demonstrate that each church must be studied and worked in individually although there are some general characteristics that make up each type of church.
I am glad I read Comeback Churches. It has given me, as a pastor, some great ideas and direction as I seek to lead my church to become missional in her mindset and behavior. Stetzer and Dodson do an excellent job of presenting their ideas and research. I believe every church, leader and pastor should keep it in front of them as a reminder of where he is and where he should be headed.
It is hard to critique a book that you find little wrong with. Stetzer and Dodson do an excellent job of keeping the teachings of Scripture concerning the church, not as an afterthought, but at the forefront of all they say. They used the information they received from the participating churches in a way that is beneficial and encouraging. They accomplish what they set out to do. They inspire the reader to step up and lead. They encourage the reader to do what is necessary to lead their church to be a “comeback church.”
My one regret with the book is that I believe it could have given more detail as to the strategies used by those churches that have already made the “comeback” and have maintained and exceeded the growth. At times Comeback Churches was too general in content. I would have liked for them to say “We began to pray, these are the obstacles we faced, and this is how we overcame them. We implemented FAITH evangelism, but it took us this long to see any results because of this opposition.” This type of information is part of what I am looking for when I read books like Comeback Churches.
Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community, by
Ed Stetzer and David Putnam. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006. 240 pages. Reviewed by Michael T. Madaris.
Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer and David Putnam is a book I have had on my shelf for quite some time now, but had never gotten around to reading. I chose to write a review of this book because, in the end, what is meant by “breaking the code” is an issue close to my heart and ministry.
Ed Stetzer is an author, educator, church planter and pastor. He holds a Ph.D. and is, at the time of the writing of this book, employed by the North American Mission Board. He is also currently the co-pastor of Lake Ridge Church, and resides in Cumming, Georgia with his wife and three daughters. David Putnam is the cofounder of ChurchPlanters.com. He is a sought after leader/coach and consultant with “new and emerging churches across North America.” He is one of the pastors at Mountain Lake Church, and resides with his wife and two children in Cumming, Georgia.
Stetzer and Putnam embark on and lead a discussion of the great journey of transition for the local church in the context of North America, especially in the United States. Many churches are being successful in fulfilling the Great Commission while other, seemingly similar, churches are having little to no success at all. They state that the reason for this success or lack thereof is determined by whether the church “breaks the code” or not. The purpose in writing is to assist the reader in being able to come to terms with the “glocal” context of his ministry, put into practice the universal principles of “breaking the code,” and determine what strategies and methods will most greatly be received in one’s cultural context. This is necessary because of the transitions taking place all around us. Change is coming and has come, while many churches have failed to recognize the change and adapt its ministry to continue making an impact in the culture.
According to Stetzer and Putnam for the church to make the difference needed in our culture, the church must change its way of thinking concerning the philosophy and methodology of ministry. The church must begin to approach ministry from the perspective of “foreign missions.” They argue that the church is no longer just part of a local culture seeking to impact local and distant cultures, but the church is now part of the “glocal” culture. There is no distinction or separation. The church must approach its “local” context just as a person living on foreign soil seeking to impact that culture, people group and context. The church must do more than develop an understanding of “missional thinking,” it must cultivate and develop a “commitment to apply ‘missional’ thinking as well” (3).
Stetzer and Putnam begin by discussing their idea of the “glocal” context. They argue that it is the responsibility of the believer and the church to determine the culture barriers keeping people from becoming disciples of Christ, and strategically breaking those barriers down. They use the word “glocal” to “refer to the convergence of the global reality with our local reality” (5). The church must adapt to this new cultural change. At one time in the history of the church in North America all that was required of the church was to be there because many in the community had some type of connection with or to the church, but this is no longer the case. The church must be proactive in going to where the people are if she is to impact the people, the culture and the world.
This is a very good point in the discussion of the church and fulfilling her marching orders left by her commander and head, Christ Jesus. This is a great, difficult but much needed change in the life of the local church. It is sad to know that this change needs to take place at all. If the church had been led to follow the Great Commission all along, she would already be involved in cultural revolution for Christ rather than seeing the necessity for it now. A good question to ask now to prevent a relapse to her former ways would be “What decisions and practices led to the current condition of the average church, and more specifically, in Southern Baptist life?”
Stetzer and Putnam spend a great deal of time introducing, defining and detailing the dilemma the church faces in dealing with and reaching the Unchurched. This is a group in our culture that has no affiliation with the body of Christ at all. They have no understanding of the church, why she exists or what her purpose is. The modern church, for the most part, still operates under the assumption of “If we build it they will come.” But that is not the case in this “glocal” context. If they are to be reached, the church must leave its seats, walls, buildings and comfort and go to where the people are. The church must take Christ to them. She must learn the “heart language” of the culture surrounding her. She must speak the message of Christ to them in the language they understand. This does not imply that the message needs to be changed, but if the church is to reach the unchurched, she must “speak” the language.
“Breaking the code” is a universal principle that must be applied locally. As Stetzer and Putnam continue they highlight several churches from around the country that are “breaking the code.” But they point out that none of the churches are using a “cookie cutter” method. Each pastor, leader and church has considered their own local culture, learned the language and then launched out into their own community with the life changing message of the gospel. What works in Washington State will not necessarily work in Atlanta and visa versa. What has worked for Rick Warren will not necessarily work in Texas. The principles these “successful” churches use in reaching their culture is what needs to be studied and learned. Then the student must adapt the principles to his own environment, and seek to minister to those who live in around him.
All of this is done, all of the energy is expended, all the study time is committed for one reason and one reason only; it is exactly what Jesus Christ has commanded us to do. There are five passages of Scripture that reveal the spoken marching orders of every Christian and church. The church refers to them as the Great Commission passages. The most specific is found in Matthew 28:18-20. In this passage of Scripture Jesus tells his disciples exactly what is expected of them. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (NKJV). How does the church respond to this command and how should the church respond to this command? The point Stetzer and Putnam make at this point is that this is not optional for the church. Marching orders for the soldier never are; it is commanded of him, and the expectation is that those orders will be followed to the letter.
This is an excellent and correct observation by writer and any student of Scripture. It is the expectation of Christ that every follower or believer become a disciple and change the world. It is the pattern Christ followed in his earthly ministry, it is the pattern the twelve apostles followed, and it worked. The intention of Christ was and is the building of people into world-impacting, world-changing disciples. This is what “breaking the code” is all about. It should be the heart of every Christian and church in the world, transforming our culture one life and heart at a time.
Stetzer and Putnam argue that building relationships is the best way to “break the code.” It is done by face to face, one on one time spent with others. Eating with them, playing with them, laughing with them and crying with them, it is in letting them see Jesus in what the Christian does that draws the unchurched to Christ.
There are many quality ideas found in Breaking the Missional Code. It was refreshing to read a book that actually spent as much time with application as with theory. It discussed transitions made by churches who found “success” in the relational ministry of “code breaking.” One of the best points made by Stetzer and Putnam at this point was that you have to know your own church culture and the culture of your community. Changing your music, your look or your style will not automatically mean success. They argue that God’s calling is specific: to a specific place and to a specific people. As you sense His calling, approach it as any Christian would who is going to a foreign country. It is not about personal preference, but it is about presenting the gospel in a way that those around you will be receptive to it. The gospel is offensive enough on its own.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the chapter on process. In this chapter Stetzer and Putnam give a step-by-step process of “breaking the code.” Many of the examples given are from personal experiences while church planting. This chapter is worth the cost of the book for those who catch the vision of the Great Commission as it pertains to planting churches and leading churches that impact their culture and the world.
As I began reading the book I was somewhat frustrated. There was great emphasis placed on the concept of being “missional.” My struggle with this concept was great and to a certain extent remains so. I struggle with the concepts or terminology of Breaking the Missional Code in light of the Great Commission passages. Does the Great Commission call the Christian and the Church to make disciples or is it a call to missions? I answer that it is not a call to missions but a call to disciple-making. Upon completion of the book I believe that disciple-making is what is meant when Stetzer and Putnam write, but that was not clear in the beginning. Missions is part of the Great Commission just as evangelism and church planting are, but these are only parts of the marching orders of Christ. The command of Christ found in Scripture is to “make disciples of all the nations.” If the church focuses on missions, evangelism or church planting alone, she will never fulfill the only command of this nature in the Bible. But if she has in her view the building of people into disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, then missions, evangelism and church planting will most certainly be accomplished.
I agree that it is the call of the church to invade our culture. It is the responsibility of the church to study her environment locally and globally. She must always be prepared to give a defense of the gospel. She must not only learn the language of her “glocal” context, but speak the language, and speak it loudly, kindly, graciously and mercifully.
I am encouraged by the concept and strategy of thinking and approaching your ministry setting contextually as though you were on foreign soil. It is a necessary task, and one that is very difficult in nature. One might think that it is too difficult to transition an established church who has lost sight of being on mission into a missional church, but I believe it is no more difficult than what we ask our IMB missionaries to accomplish in their ministry context. It is the call of Christ, it is the command of Christ, and every good soldier follows orders.
Friday, April 03, 2009
We started out hunting at one of my deacons houses, Eric Rendell. We hunting until about 10:15 with no luck at all. We didn't hear anything. We walked the property hunting hard, but the wind was making it very difficult. We thought we heard some turkeys, but maybe not. Who knows? We dropped by McDonald's for some grub, and then headed out to Steve's hunting club. We were met at the gate by another member of the club who gave us a heads up that he had just seen some turkeys, so we made a b-line in their direction. After about 30 minutes of being split up, I walked back out to where Steve was set up, the wind was blowing pretty steady. As I came out of the cut-through that I had been on I looked down the road. 450 yards away was a turkey. I dropped down into the ditch and got my binoculars out of my vest. When they came into focus I saw RED on the head, and knew it was game time. Steve came up to where I was and we made a very quick game plan. I hit my Lynch's Fool Proof box call a few times, trying to cut through the wind, and it worked. We hit the Pine trees and began to cut the distance down quickly, about 200 yards. What we didn't know was the turkey had hit the trees on the other side of the road and did the same thing. I poked my head out and didn't see anything, my senses were on high alert and I was looking hard. All of a sudden, Steve said "TURKEY!" I was really looking hard, but in the wrong the direction. I was looking down the road and the turkey was in the ditch about 15 yards away from me. He saw something he didn't like and ran off down the road and back into the woods.
I tried to hide myself as best I could in the ditch and started studying the tree line across the dirt road. All of a sudden I saw his red head about 100 yards down the road. He busted out of the trees and across the road. I hit my box call a few more times. Then he appeared, on my side of the road, in the same ditch I was sitting in, and he was coming my way. Steve was on my right shoulder, and we were both very excited. As the jake came closer, my emotions got the best of me. He kept coming closer and closer. I thought he was about 30 yards away and I sent an angry swarm of number 4's his direction and cut him a flip or two. He flopped around for a minute, but my first turkey was down.
Steve and I met again on Monday morning at 6:30am for what would be a short morning of hunting. We were through the gate of the club by 6:40 and set up before first light. As the glorious morning began to break, the gobblers began to do their thing. Can I just say, "there's nothing like a gobbler sounding off at first light!" It wasn't very long and we had 4 jakes coming to our spread of decoy's. They were coming from Steve's direction, he finally saw them and dropped on of them in his tracks. As we went out to retrieve Steve's jake, I looked down the road to the same spot as Saturday, and what do you think was at the other end but a turkey. It was too foggy to see clearly even with binoculars, so we ducked back in the woods and set up for round two of the morning. We hadn't had time to grab Steve's bird.
The hen came down the road in about 10 minutes time, but she wouldn't come past the dead bird laying in the road. As she walked away, I heard the distinct gobble of a mature "Tom." I whispered to Steve, "We've got to get that bird out of the road." And off he went. He got to the edge of the woods and did a very effective belly crawl to the middle of the road, grabbed the jake and slid back into the woods.
About five minutes after he got settled back in, I hit my slate call and the Tom sounded off again. He was CLOSER this time. I hot the slate for a few more yelps, and then caught movement out of my left eye. "Tom" turkey had locked on our decoys, went into a full strut, and came running. My gun was on the wrong side of the tree so I slowly moved it to the correct side, but he was moving to fast and I didn't get a shot on the left side, so now I had to move my gun back to the right side with eagle eye Tom within 25 yards and closing fast. I got it moved undetected, he kept coming. He passed the tree and was now in plane view, at a dead run in full strut. Let's just say he never knew what hit him! Those three inch magnum number 4's did their job, and in less than eight hours of combined hunting I had called in and killed my first two turkeys, and had called in another for my good friend.
The only problem is that you can only take two birds a year in Florida. But I can't wait until next year; I'm addicted.
Monday, March 16, 2009
But it started raining Thursday night and hasn't quit since then. It rained and has been so dreary. I will say this, "It's great sleeping weather."
We surprised me Dad on Saturday night for his 65th birthday, and we did a good job, even the grandkids kept quiet. He didn't know anything or suspect anything. We had about 60 or so people there, family but also many of his friends. One of the most special parts of the evening was when we allowed them to share stories, etc... about Dad. I was amazed at how many of them talked about the impact for Christ that he had on them and their families. It was very special. I pray that I have that kind of impact on others lives for the cause of Christ. I am so thankful to God for giving me and example like Tim Madaris, but even more than that I'm thankful that he is my Dad. I love you, Daddy!
We are at Melissa's parents house now, and it's still raining. We will be here through Friday or Saturday on vacation before coming home to Florida. Have a Jesus filled week.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH INdIAN TRAIL
MaRCH 11TH - MaRCH 13TH 2009
WEDNESDAY – March 11th
6:30 pm LTC Steve Russell, Bailey Smith
Music Mike Speck Trio, The Greenes
THURSDAY – March 12th
10:00 am Rick Scarbrough, Mike Whitson
1:45 pm Junior Hill, Bob Pitman
6:30 pm Bob Pitman, Johnny Hunt
Music Mike Speck Trio , Greater Vision
FRIDAY – March 13th
10:00 am Rick Coram, Junior Hill
1:45 pm Rick Coram, Stephen Rummage
6:30 pm Herb Reavis, Ergun Caner
Music Mike Speck Trio, The Triumphant Quartet
732 Indian Trail - Fairview Road • Indian Trail, NC 28079 • (704) 882-1005
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Wisdom is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with mere information or knowledge. A college degree is no proof of wisdom. Nor is wisdom primarily concerned with keeping us out of moral mud puddles, although it does have a profound moral effect on us.
Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes towards others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God.
Proverbs concentrates on these concerns more than any other book in the Bible. Attention to the here and now is everywhere present in the thousand-plus pages of the Bible. Proverbs distills it all into riveting images and sound bites that keep us connected with holy obedience to the ordinary."
(I did this post, especially, for those of you who are taking my challenge to read through the book of Proverbs once a month throughout 2009. God bless you.)
Monday, March 02, 2009
That is the title of the message I preached yesterday morning at HGBC. If you don't recognize the text, it's the story of Annanias and Sapphira and their lying to God. I want to share just a thought from yesterdays message. It is this, in the form of a question: "Why did they lie?"
The text tells us that Peter told them that they were not forced to sell what belonged to them. When they sold it, they were under no obligation to give any portion of the money they received to the church. When they gave money they were under no obligation to give it all. So, why did they lie and say they were giving it all when they were only giving some? Why, why why? Morgan's favorite word!
I believe the answer is this: they saw something that didn't belong to them that they wanted. What? They saw something they wanted, they coveted something that belonged to someone else. What did they want? They wanted the praise/attention being given to those who were giving "something" to the church. They wanted it for themselves. But what they couldn't see was the heart of those who had given already.
Take Barnabas for example. Barnabas wasn't his real name, it was his "after Christ" name. It was the name given to him by the disciples, not by his Momma. She had named him Joses/Joseph. Something changed with this man, after he met Jesus, that they gave him a new name. They called him Barnabas which means "Son of Encouragement." His heart was different. He sold some land, gave the money to the church, and he gave the GLORY to God. That's what A and S couldn't see. Barnabas was a reflector/deflector of God's glory. He wouldn't accept for himself what belonged to God.
A and S saw the recognition given to Barnabas and they wanted some of that for themselves. They came up with a plan, and set it into motion. They thought they could deceive the church, they thought they could deceive others, but they deceived themselves. God would not allow them to take what belonged to him. I Corinthians 10:31 says, "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
It's God's glory; the glory belongs to him not you and me. When we are praised or honored or recognized we should divert that attention to the only one who is worthy, namely the Lord Jesus. We should never do anything for our own recognition, we are servants and slaves of Jesus. A and S lost sight of that and it cost them their lives. Scripture tells us they "breathed their last." Severe consequences for severe sin. God help us to resist!
Friday, February 20, 2009
I guess Melissa, Morgan and I are settling in as well, making the adjustments at home with Mya. I always had the late feedings with Morgan, and I guess Melissa liked it so much she assigned it to me with Mya. I don't mind though. I get her all to myself for about 3-4 hours each night between 9pm-1am or something like that. I get to talk to her, sing to her, and tell her about Jesus. What could be better than that? Not a thing in my humble but accurate opinion.
As I sit here typing this stuff my mind goes back to three weeks ago. Three weeks ago, I was as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rockin' chairs. Everyone else had gone to sleep and I was up contemplating the coming days events. I knew that Melissa and I would be leaving the house about 6:45am heading for the hospital, and we would be coming home sometime after that with our baby girl. I didn't get much sleep that night as I prayed for Melissa and Mya, and the doctors, nurses, etc... WOW! It's been three weeks and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world. "Daddy loves his girls!" All three of them.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I am considering having another showing within the next month. I would love to know your thoughts on the movie.
Also pray for my family. As I write this I am at Lake Yale, the Florida Baptist Convention retreat center, for the State Board of Missions meeting. I came down last night and will not be back home until tomorrow afternoon. Pray for Melissa and the girls as they are home without me, and pray for me as I am here without them. I miss them so much.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Morgan is such a big helper. She wants to be apart of everything going on, and she is asking a lot of questions, some easy to answer and some not so easy. She is just to smart for her own good, at this point; later, that won't be so bad.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Mike, Melissa, Morgan, and Mya
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Eldredge's premise is basic and simple; God created you, man, for a "battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live." It seems simple enough, but before entering his thoughts on these three elements of the God intended life, he spends several chapters discussing what keeps us from living this "life of adventure," this God honoring life as men.
In his introduction he had my attention when he wrote that we don't need another book for men. He said, "We need something else. We need permission." My mind began to ponder that statement. Are we at a place in this world, am I at a place in my own life where I need permission to be a man, to be a man after God's own heart? Eldredge says the answer to that question is yes, an emphatic and overwhelming yes. But why?
The answer to that question seems to be that society in general and even the church today want men who are "tamed and controllable." Men need to be trained, sophisticated, and feminine. That is what the world seemingly wants from us men, but what our hearts long for is to be William Wallace of the famed movie "Braveheart." We want to be Maximus of "Gladiator." We want to fight the battles of "Saving Private Ryan." We were created by God to be warriors, to be lions, and the word wants us to be pussy cats.
What does this really mean? It means, to Eldredge, that men have, for whatever reason, lost the passion of their lives. And the scary part is that men don't know why! Why do we long for adventure and battles? Why do we long for a "beauty to rescue"? Why? Eldredge says because that is the way God made us. And we live the lives we live because we fail to live the life God intended.
There was one chapter in particular that spoke to my heart, the chapter titled "The Wound." In it Eldredge deals with the circumstances in our lives which help to hinder us from becoming who and what God intends: "the wound." This wound can come from many places, but the most dangerous wounds received by boys and men are the wounds they receive at home. He takes this idea and moves into a chapter which offers help and hope for those coming behind. He calls this chapter "The Battle for a Man's Heart."
The content of the book builds and builds, like the waves of the ocean, like the flames of the fire. They captivate your mind and grasp your heart, and you know that there is more to this life.
Read it for yourself. Let me know your thoughts. I know that I will read it again for the encouragement within to be a man of God, but also because I know there are things that I missed that I need to help me understand more of being this man.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
As most of you know Melissa and I are expecting our second little girl at any time now. I mean I'm listing for her to yell to me "It's time." After things settle down somewhat, I plan on writing a short review of Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and The Shack so check back for updates on the new baby and to see if I've been able to write those reviews.
Friday, January 23, 2009
With that says, the liberal agenda seemingly has begun with the executive orders already signed by newly inaugurated President Obama. It began with, in my opinion, the neglect of our national security with the order to close the detention center at Gitmo. And now he has continued his promise to engage and press the issues surrounding abortion and the homosexual agenda with the executive orders he signed today reversing the policies of our Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush. Only Bill Clinton has done so in the past 20 years. So now it seems that our government will begin funding abortions in foreign countries.
We must pray! We must pray for God's forgiveness and intervention in these matters. We know from Scripture that homosexuality is an abomination in His sight. We also know that God values life, from the moment of conception, as the most precious gift He gives, outside of eternal life. We must stand up against these horrors, and we must do so publicly. And we must pray!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
My initial impression or thougtht is...we as human beings always judge, first, on the outcome or result of the actions we take. God, however, first looks at the reason behind the actions we take.
Is there more to it than that? I do not know at this point, hence the title of this post: "Pondering." Any thoughts?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I would encourage any believer, male or female, to read this book, especially those who are married or about to be married. I plan on writing a review of this book in the next few days or so, depending on when Melissa goes into labor. So stick around!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I have been apart of the SBC all my life, and one thing I have noticed is that there is, seemingly, a great emphasis placed on “position” within the convention. Men of all ages scramble for “position” within the political arena of the SBC. I have noticed this even more so in the last few years of ministry. “Young” ministers are demanding their place at “the table” of the SBC.
I was at a meeting yesterday, and a former pastor in Texas was leading the discussion. During our time together he gave us two questions to ponder; one of them being, “Who am I?” He said that answering this question is one of the most important things we, as Christians and ministers, have to answer. I believe he is right.
Is our identity found in what church we pastor? Is our identity found in what position we serve our great convention? I do not believe this is where we truly find our identity although many seem to think so. I believe we find our identity in a person and a relationship with that person.
One of the keywords of the Bible and of the Christian life is the word “new.” The Bible speaks of a new heart, a new spirit, a new creature, a new covenant, a new birth, a new man, a new life, a new Jerusalem, and many other wonderful new things. The Bible paints beautiful pictures of these new things to help the reader understand what God has for us. One of those beautiful pictures is found in John 15:1-11. In the passage the reader finds Jesus sharing with his disciples the dynamics of the relationship they are in together, and in clarifying the importance he uses the illustration of the relationship between a branch and a vine.
I will not discuss here the four “new” things Jesus presents to the believer in the text, but I do want to highlight the first “new” thing. It is the “new” position the Christ follower find himself in. Six times in the first seven verses, Jesus uses the phrase, “in Me,” to describe the new position of the Christian. Herb Hodges says, “Jesus uses the word ‘in’ about thirty times in chapters 14 and 15, and it reaches its pinnacle of use when he uses the preposition with the personal pronoun ‘Me.’” They are two small words, but when combined they become the resting place of the souls of men.
The phrase “in Me” is found throughout the New Testament. Over and over again Scripture tells us of our “new” position, in fact the Apostle Paul uses this phrase 164 times in his epistles. God is trying to get a point across. The believer is to find himself in his “new” position.
Every person on earth is seen by God in one of two positions according to I Corinthians 15:22. The only two possible positions a person can be found are in Adam or in Christ. And no person can be in both positions. It is an either or proposition, and both carry extreme consequences. Herb Hodges states, “To be ‘in Adam’ means that you fell into sin when Adam fell into sin, you became lost when Adam became lost, and came under the judgment of God when Adam did. It is a matter of position.” Scripture goes on to allow us to examine what is entailed in the “new” position of being “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1; II Cor. 5:17).
The world has a standard of success. It is, seemingly, found in the clothes one wears, in the house one lives in, in the car one drives, in the place one vacations, in the salary one is paid, and so many other things. There are some within our convention who believe that to be successful you must lead a large congregation, to be respected you must serve as a trustee of some board, and the list goes on. But are these things the measure by which godly success is determined? Are these the things that are held in high esteem by our “Commander-in-Chief,” by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? I believe the answer is an overwhelming no from the throne of grace and from the pages of Scripture. Faithfulness and obedience, relationship, service and humility are the elements of success in the kingdom of God.
How does one come to be successful according to the standard of Christ? There are two significant answers in my opinion: 1) answer the question “Who am I in Christ?” and 2) obey the command of Christ in John 15:4 which says “Abide in Me…”
There is so much talk today about bringing reconciliation to the SBC, but I do not believe it will happen as long as those who make up the SBC try to “find themselves” in any other place than in Christ.