Saturday, April 28, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Ramblings from the life and times of Gideon
"Then the Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us, you as well as your sons and your grandsons, for you delivered us from the power of Midian." Judges 8:22, HCSB
How quickly they forgot---how quickly we forget! It was not Gideon, it was God that delivered. They advocated making Gideon king, when they should have bowed down to the King of Kings. In fact, this was just another time they rejected God to be more like the unfaithful men around them who did have kings. Why are we so willing to reject God and His ways for the ways of man.
Gideon must have really struggled with his crises. First, he had to send 31,700 soldiers home and keep only 300. Then after victory he had to send the people home without the king they wanted. Gideon's love relationship with God was so firm that he followed God's ways even when human ways were far more attractive. What human glory do you surrender to do it God's way?
There was 40 years of peace, BUT in Judges 8: 32 - 35, we see that AS SOON AS GIDEON DIED, "as soon as Gideon was dead, that the sons of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-berith their god." (8:33). They "forgot" the deliverance God had given them--they did not show kindness to the household of Gideon. Before I am too critical of them, I must examine mmy own life. How quickly I forget. How quickly I "play the harlot." I (we) are guilty of spiritual adultery when we fail to surrender all and FOLLOW Christ daily.
That hymn at the end of the service, "I surrender ALL," (have you noticed) is generally sung quietly and mumbled through. Our hearts are literally singing--"I surrender SOME----." May we surrender ALL to Him this day and experience the JOY nad fulfillment that only comes through faithful and COMPLETE obedience/following of the LIVING Lord Jesus Christ!
Friday, December 30, 2011
Happy New Year
Not just posts, but posts "with purpose." Some of you understand that term. It is not my desire to fill up my time with useless info. Rather, I want my posts to have some value to the reader. So, whether it be an actual blog, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or TRBA's website, it is my prayer you will find information useful that I post in 2012.
As I have thought of what to post in 2012, I have prayed and then examined what I am "hearing" from various sources in denominational life. To that end, I have determined to focus on the purpose of the association, as well as issues related to overall church health. I will be looking a LOT to Transformational Church and Transitional Pastor as I am working with both LifeWay and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in those areas. Truthfully, I think there are things we can glean to strengthen the church and impact lostness (our purpose as an association of churches).
In a conversation with a Sunday School director today we began to discuss some information we had obtained during a Josh Hunt conference several years back. In fact, I bought a book by Hunt today that reiterated the idea of "how to double your Sunday School in two years or less."
The gist of the conversation centered on the fact that the classes seemed content with where they were and had not grown in several years. Basically, we talked about the lack of evidence in many area churches (from conversations the two of us have had with other church leaders in neighboring churches from three associations) that churches want to grow.
I think that is perhaps the first thing we need to honestly look at as we begin the new year. Do we have a genuine desire to grow closer to Christ personally and to grow both spiritually and numerically in our churches. Or are we content with where we are. I would invite you to pray and search with me this simple fact over the next couple of days. After the first of the year I will examine the idea of doubling Sunday School attendance in less than two years. I am pretty confident I will address it from the standpoint of IF we REALLY want to see growth.
I have become convinced that we have all the tools we need to advance the kingdom. We have attended conference after conference. In the YEARS we have attended, there has been little kingdom advance and virtually no SUSTAINED evidence of growth in many of our churches. Yet - we have the tools sitting idly beside us as we moan about our lack of advance.
What do we have:
1. The authority of Christ who commanded that we make disciples.
2. His Word.
3. His presence to instruct, lead, guide, empower.
5. His promise to hear, answer, empower as we walk in obedience to Him.
Then we have other tools to assist. Among the ones I have emphasized in TRBA are Link2Lead, The Mapping Center, continued training of church leadership, Transformational Church, Transitional Pastor, etc. etc. etc. Over the next few weeks, expect much info to be shared. As it is shared, pray about your participation individually and as a church.
Do you want to see kingdom advance in 2012? If you do, please join me and the other TRBA staff members as we answer the call to prayer by our denominational leaders. Pray with us daily for kingdom advance. Join us on Monday, January 23rd at 7 PM for a corporate time of prayer.
Again, I wish you the best for 2012. I look forward to walking alongside you as we set out together to strengthen His church and impact the lostness of THIS generation!
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Pray That God Will Bring Lost Into Your Daily Path: And That You Will Share His Hope
15% of those that leave an Islamic nation and come to the United States come to know Christ personally. I want to ponder and pray about this a while and post something later. Pray with me about that and share your ideas. Truthfully, we should understand that it is our responsibility to share Christ - with all people.
Christ has commanded us; Christ has equipped us; Christ has empowered us to BE that good and faithful witness to ALL people. When was the last time you invited an unchurched neighbor? the last time you shared your belief in Christ with an atheist? stopped and talked with a Muslim about a relationship with Christ?
Are you afraid to share your faith? You should not be afraid. Go out and share His good news. His Word will not come back void.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Developing A Spiritual Vision for 2011 - Part Three
I have been writing about the need for us to develop a spiritual vision for our lives in 2011. Today I want to deal with a fact we need to realize - With a spiritual vision for your life, you will discover the good life God intends for you. Perhaps we need to focus on that as "reality # 2." You and I can begin to live and discover the good life God intends for us! Now that we have dwelt with the scripture (Proverbs 29: 18) for two days, let's "launch" from the text and allow it to serve as the "legs" that carries us into developing a spiritual plan for our lives.
The key term for developing a spiritual vision for our lives in 2011 is the word DEVELOP. I want to dwell on that for the remainder of our time today! Using some points from Ronnie Floyd, I want to challenge you today to develop 7 elements of your life that will help you have a spiritual vision for your life. Taking today's date (January 10th) you need to give yourself until the middle off February or so as a target date, but the sooner in 2011 the better.
So what are these things? Can we do them? I'm trying to give you something that all of us ought to be doing. It's simply a part of disciple making. It's a part of, of just being what God wants us to be. So here they are:
(1) Ask God to give you a verse for 2011. I have already written to you about this but now I want to more fully explain what I mean by this. Go to God between now and mid-February and pray, "Lord! I want You to give me one verse in my life that will help me through 2011." It was long into my journey with Christ that I heard people talking about a "life verse." What is your life verse? I have discovered through my daily journey that my life verse, though it may never fully change, has others added on at different times. When my father died in 1981 the "life verse" that jumped from the preacher's lips at the funeral was Matthew 11:28 - "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." That verse not only helped me to deal with the circumstances of my life at the time, it better equipped me to minister to others as I more fully realized what it meant to truly "come unto" Jesus! Through the years, other verses have been added to Matthew 11: 28.
The verse the Lord gave me for 2010 was 2 Corinthians 11: 28 "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." I even placed it as the footer on my personal stationary. As you know, I encountered a LOT in 2010 with my physical ailments. Yes, I still clung to Matthew 11:28, but I was reminded that it is not all about me. God had called me to a task and I firmly believe His calling for my life during this season is a calling to strengthen the local church. Therefore, God giving me this verse, served as a true help to me as I recovered from my infection and surgery. It enabled me to continually visualize the reason I needed to get healthier - my calling was to strengthen the church and my energy was necessary to be obedient to that call.
I believe 2 Corinthians 11: 28 also led me to call the TRBA staff to a time of prayer in September and now the member churches of Tar River Baptist Association to a season this season of prayer. For us to be effective in the responsibilities of the church (the five functions of the church are evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship), we must undergird those responsibilities with the firm foundation of prayer.
God has not yet given me my scripture for 2011. I am praying fervently for that word from the Lord!
(2) Establish a daily Bible reading plan. The busy-ness of our lives often interferes with the time we set aside to study God's Word. We need to develop the habit of studying God's Word daily. Perhaps you start with a chapter a day - that is fine if that's all the time you can give for the present. Maybe you can go 3 chapters a day; 5 Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs each day; the call in the book RADICAL to read 86 verses a day; read through the New Testament every month. WHATEVER plan you determine is fine - just do it. Failure to develop a plan/strategy lends itself towards failure to study the Word! Ronnie Floyd stated, "You can't go forward just hearing the world's opinion. You need God's opinion to bring balance."
In short, I am asking you to be very intentional about this than you have in past years. I believe God is calling us to become more fully grounded in His Word so that we can be used in mighty ways to accomplish His Will!
(3) Target a personal spiritual focus week for 2011. Set aside a week in 2011 to FOCUS on your personal walk with the Living Lord Jesus Christ! Choose a book you have been intending to read on the spiritual disciplines; a Bible-study you had some interest in but have never been able to get to; listen to those sermon series you've downloaded on your ipod and never listened to; go to a prayer conference, spiritual retreat. It really doesn't matter what you do - just FOCUS on your walk with the Lord and seek His Will for your life in 2011. Take time to CONCENTRAT on God.
As an association, that is what we are doing by calling us to both the time of fasting and prayer as well as the corporate time of prayer on January 24th. We recognize not all will participate, but the deliberate effort of more and more people to become involved in times of prayer daily is POWERFUL. Imagine what could happen if every member of every church were focused on prayer and seeking God's Will for 21 days the first of each year. We could not describe the movement of God we would begin to experience in the member churches of Tar River Baptist Association. Likewise in our personal lives!
(4) Formulate a daily prayer list. Some people might think this not important. I have discovered two things that God is using to teach me that I need to prepare a daily prayer list. First - I am a BUSY person. If I fail to write things down, in the busy-ness of my day I OFTEN simply forget and fail to pray specifically for God to show Himself to His people through answered prayer in their lives.
There is a second reason that I had never thought of before this writing - I can more quickly share my prayer concerns with others when it is written down. I guess that's the motivation of our putting a prayer list in our bulletins each week. I PRAY I will not deal with my daily prayer list the way I often deal with the prayer lists in my church bulletin - use it for a book mark as opposed to pulling it out daily and using it as a prayer guide,
Let me tell you one thing I have learned about prayer, if you don't organize prayer, it's not going to be done right. You're never going to do it - or , at best, be haphazard or aimless with it. You need to organize it. Formulate a daily prayer list. Start somewhere and be more intentional in your times of daily prayer!
(5) Write down your Goals for 2011. Ronnie Floyd referred to it as "BHAG - big, hairy, audacious goals" for your life in 2011 - a goal that only God can help you reach. If we get to live through all of 2011, don't you want to experience some things that can not be "explained away" in human terms? My prayer - to be a part of some things that can ONLY be described as being a "God-thing"in 2011!
(6) Initiate a more intentional and greater commitment to your church. What does that mean? It means that you go beyond where you are right now. One of the blessings of being sick in 2010 was the privilege of being able to attend my church on a regular basis. Generally, I am visiting one of our member churches or speaking in them - and I love that! That means I am able to attend my church on Sunday mornings and attend Sunday School about once a quarter at best, but during 2010 I feel that I had the blessing of spiritual growth because I could more regularly be a part of the Ephesus Church family! From February through October I was rarely out of Ephesus as I could not drive while on medications, etc. That was indeed an added blessing. Here in 2011 I am scheduled already to be out of Ephesus for the next 6 - 8 Sundays and I am already missing it!
You say well is that important? Absolutely that's important. Some of us need to be a little more intentional about being in church; some of us need a greater commitment of simply coming to church; some of us need a greater commitment towards ministry in the church and through the church; some of us need to get our theological understanding of the church right. The Bible says the church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the Head of the body.
I tell you it breaks my heart when I see people being so flippant about their responsibility to God's church. Make it a higher priority in 2011. And while I'm challenging you - PARENTS, make sure church is a higher priority to our kids than we seem to be teaching them right now!
(7) Answer this question: What am I trusting God to do in my life in 2011? When I read this question I hesitated. I am planning a lot for 2011. I have a strategy for 2011. I have goals for 2011. BUT-what am I TRUSTING GOD to do in my life in 2011?
Maybe you have an issue financially. Maybe you have an issue with your job. Maybe there are severed relationships with your spouse, children, friends, co-workers, etc. Maybe you have an attitude issue about your boss or your situation. Maybe God is calling you to missions or ministry - or simply to share Christ with a lost neighbor. I don't know what you're dealing with today. But I'm going to tell you something - discover what God wants you to trust Him for, and trust Him. Write it down and then pray it everyday.
I plan to "finish up" with this series in my next writing. I just challenge you - and myself - to develop a spiritual vision for 2011. I believe it will help us in our daily walk to accomplish more for the cause of Christ.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Developing A Spiritual Vision For 2011 - Part Two
Reality # 1: Without Spiritual vision for your life, you will run wild. That's a reality. That's what the Bible tells us. Without a spiritual vision for your life, you're going to run wild. I'm telling you we've got a lot of wild-eyed Christians right now. You will run on your own. You'll run loosely, you will run freely, you will run unrestrained. You will run shamelessly. You will run naked (Young's Literal Translation puts it), and you know one of the real tragedies of running naked? Is you don't even know you're naked. That's what John wrote about in Revelation 3, of the lukewarm church, you don't even know your own condition, that you're blind, and naked, and weak, and in need because you don't have the Word of God pouring into you.
In the Message, Proverbs 29: 18 reads, "If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed." In this case, I think we can learn from this translation as well! There seems to be a LOT of times that we are stumbling all over ourselves and accomplishing nothing for the Kingdom. Conversely, when we attend to that which God reveals to us/calls us to do in His Word, we are indeed blessed!
With a spiritual vision for your life, you will discover the good life God intends for you. I believe Jesus stated He came to give us "life more abundantly (John 10: 10)." That's a pretty exciting statement. If I can develop a spiritual vision for my life, I can begin to live and discover the good life that God intends for me. And that is true for all! Don't you want the good life God intends for you in your life? Then follow the counsel of God's Word and discover life to the fullest.
Many churches today (and we as an association) have established vision statements or purpose statements. If they set out to achieve their purpose as a church, then they are likely to achieve their goals. If they wander aimlessly - doing a little of this and a little of that - doing what "feels good for the moment" or just that which is popular to the masses - then they may last for a season but they will not achieve the life more abundantly that God has in store for those that devote themselves to following the precepts of God's Word.
As an association, Tar River has established it's primary purpose many years ago. It's purpose is to strengthen the local church. It is our aim to walk alongside our member churches and assist them/resource them/equip them through training and modeling so that the church, the Bride of Christ, will prosper as God directs. If we fail to live by that purpose, we may do a lot of things - even things that are good - but if not in accordance with what God would have us to do, then we will just stumble all over ourselves doing a lot of busy-ness stuff, but we will NOT experience the blessedness of operating in God's Will.
Some of you have heard my story of serving on the Mental Health Board many years ago. I had been appointed to represent the needs of those addicted to drugs and alcohol - a noble cause. I was honored. I set out to do the best job that I could. After a while, they asked me to serve as chair of the board and then politics entered the picture. My life became consumed with meeting after meeting; working lunched with directors and committee chairs from other public service agencies; lobbied state legislators for services to meet the needs of the people I represented and all the others with mental health needs. There were even times the regular meeting went LONG we would go into what the press reported as an "executive session (the press was released and our purpose was SUPPOSED to be dealing with issues of a confidential nature). Reality - the other members of the board ate supper while I rushed out a side door and drove to the church and conducted prayer meeting at the church. I would return and call the press back into the meeting and report, "there is no public action necessary for any items discussed while the board was in executive session.
I became so busy with the work of the board, my life was consumed! When I was not in a meeting, I was meeting with people to prepare for the meeting or talking with a reporter about what was determined at the meeting, etc. etc.
The church I served sent me on a spiritual retreat. There I went to my first session. The leader is well known NOW, but I had never heard of him. His name was Greg Laurie. He made this statement, "This was not what I had planned to say but someone in here needs to hear this; 'Noble causes do not replace God's call for your life.'" I thought - what a great saying and wrote it down.
I went to my second session. I do not remember the name of the individual that was leading the session but he began by saying: "I did not have this in my plans, but someone here needs to hear this statement - noble causes do not replace God's call for your life." I quickly looked around the room to see what individual was in my first session and needed to hear this word - which I was beginning to realize was indeed a word from the Lord.
Now it was time for my third session. I know the presenter was a member of Billy Graham's family, but I can not recall the name. You guessed it - again I heard the words - "noble causes do not replace God's call for your life." I fully realized, that word was for me and as the presenter continued to present, I wrote out my letter of resignation as Chairman of the Mental Health Board and a letter to the County Commissioners stating that I would not accept reappointment to the board. I realized I had allowed a noble cause to replace God's call on my life at that time. He had called me as pastor of Massey Hill Baptist Church, not Chairman of the Board."
Today I strive to be where God wants me to be and not allow noble causes to crowd Him out. Problem is, I still get distracted. That's why I believe we need to continually review our purpose for the cause of Christ and attempt to live in obedience to His call. If we are not careful we get super-busy with lots of good stuff - even noble stuff - yet we are operating outside of God's calling upon our lives. We need to HEAR God - that's why we really need to be in His Word. Again, I challenge you to pray and asking God to reveal a scripture to help you throughout 2011.
We will look at this more throughout our days of prayer as member churches. Until then, pray that all of us will really HEAR God and do those things that He is calling us to do as His disciples.