Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned in the Past 5 Years

I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed and so it won’t surprise anyone to know that I just figured out that the First Commandment of the Big Ten is First for a reason. If you obey the first commandment, then everything else in life works. If you break the first commandment, keeping the other nine won’t help much.

Soren Kierkegaard taught that every person seeks a way to justify their existence. What they choose to define them will be what they worship. If it is not God, your life won’t work they way God created it to.

Tim Keller in the chapter ten notes section on page 275 of his best selling book The Reason for God provides a list of God-substitutes and their impact on a life. A God-substitute is something or someone a person would use to center their life around to worship and be defined by other than God.

Here’s the list:
· If you center your life and identity on your spouse or partner, you will be emotionally dependent, jealous, and controlling. The other person’s problems will be overwhelming to you.
· If you center your life and identity on your family and children, you will try to live your life through your children until they resent you or have no self of their own. At worst, you may abuse them when they displease you.
· If you center your life and identity on your work and career, you will be a driven workaholic and a boring, shallow person. At worst you will lose family and friends and, if your career goes poorly, develop deep depression.
· If you center your life and identity on money and possessions, you’ll be eaten up by worry or jealousy about money. You’ll be willing to do unethical things to maintain your lifestyle, which will eventually blow up your life.
· If you center your life and identity on pleasure, gratification, and comfort, you will find yourself getting addicted to something. You will become chained to the “escape strategies” by which you avoid the hardness of life.
· If you center your life and identity on relationships and approval, you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and thus always losing friends. You will fear confronting others and therefore be a useless friend.
· If you center your life and identity on a “noble cause,” you will divide the world into “good” and “bad” and demonize your opponents. Ironically, you will be controlled by your enemies. Without them, you have no purpose.
· If you center your life and identity on religion and morality, you will, if you are living up to your moral standards, be proud, self-righteous, and cruel. If you don’t live up to your standards, your guilt will be utterly devastating.

So, how can we keep the First Commandment? Love Jesus with all you are. Keep Him first in all you do. Obey Him no matter what because you love Him. Remember, you love Him because He first loved you – don’t get arrogant. Be defined by His love for you, His grace and the cost He paid for you and nothing else.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Almost Did It Again

WKU Men's Basketball team almost did it again. With seven minutes left in the game the guys had overcome a 21 point deficit at half time to be within 3 points of taking the lead.

They just couldn't squeeze out another victory.

Thank you players and coaches for an outstanding season. Thank you for being men of integrity with the 100% graduation rate you post.

It has been a joy for me to journey with these players this year. I began meeting with them for a weekly Bible study back in October. We had almost 100% participation at each study.

I am excited about the future of each of these men. Pray for them and ask God's blessing on their lives. Pray for those who are on their journey with Christ that they will stay close to Him and fulfill their destiny in Him. Pray for those who have not yet started that journey that they will.

You can find a list of players and coaches by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What I'm Reading and Listening To

I was just at another pastor's blog and he had a list of the books he is reading right now. I think that's a good idea to let people know what the leader is reading and listening to.

So here's what I'm reading right now:

The Reason for God
Tim Keller

The Theology of the Book of Revelation
by Richard Bauckham

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses
by Richard Bauckham

Made to Stick
by Chip and Dan Heath

I'm also listening/watching a pastor's conference that was offered by Resurgence in February, 2008. Some of the speakers include Mark Driscoll and John Piper. You can watch it by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Outstanding Insight Concerning Barack Obama's Pastor

This was written by Dr. Russell Moore. He is one of the treasures at Southern Seminary.

What is disturbing to me is that too many Christians have been diagnosing the particular political aims of Reverend Wright and his church as though this were the preeminent problem.

But what is the root? Liberation theology has been with us since the 1960s, in too many incarnations to count, always offering a version of the same message. The liberation theologians see the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected, the message of deliverance from the reign of sin and death through repentance and faith, as too "pie in the sky." In contrast, liberation theology offers economic and political salvation in the here-and-now, sometimes through pulpit rhetoric and sometimes at the point of a gun.

Liberation theology is seeker sensitive. The first waves of this movement, in Latin America, were designed to make Christianity appealing to the people by addressing their felt needs, the desire for armed revolution and Marxist economics. Liberation theology only works if one can connect with real or perceived oppression and then make the Scripture illustrative of how to navigate out of that situation. The Kingdom of God is a means to a social, economic, or political end.

This is not the Gospel as proclaimed by the prophets and apostles, a Gospel that centers on Jesus Christ and Him alone. We should be outraged by the clips of the Wright sermons. But we should be outraged first as Christians, not first as Americans. The most egregious aspect of the Wright sermons is not what he is saying about America, but what he is not saying about the Gospel.

Read this in its entirety by clicking here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Wonder Which Church We’ll Be

I am already getting excited and preparing for 2009. In 2009 I will be preaching through the book of Acts and our focus will be on “Sharing the Word – Missional Living.”

As I read through Acts each week, I see two models of church. There are certainly more of course, but there are two that are striking to me. There is the church at Jerusalem and the church at Antioch.

The church at Jerusalem started with a bang, but then got comfortable. They got into an institutional mode. They stopped living as an organic body and settled into an immobile structure. The church got off of the ground great, but then lost its sense for urgency. The people got used to grace and stopped sharing it. They got satisfied with the fact that they were saved, but lost interest in those that had not yet heard of Jesus. God had to bring a Saul into their world to persecute them (Acts 8:1) to stir the church to go as God commanded them to in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8.

The church at Antioch got started and kept their organic urgent attitude. This church was living as a missional community. They didn’t seek mere stability. They sought to honor Christ and the mission He’d given them. They were the ones who first sent out Paul and Barnabas on their mission journey (Acts 11). This church understood that their church didn’t exist to make the converted comfortable. They understood that the church exists to make Christ known. They understood that the only time a church should be comfortable is when each member is living as a missionary and are sacrificing and surrendering their lives so that those around them might know Christ.

So, what about us? Is Living Hope a Jerusalem church or an Antioch church? We need to be like Antioch - on mission. The only way that will happen is if each member of our church realizes they are on mission for God and that their primary role in life is helping people Get to God. After we share Christ and baptize them, each member is to help the person they led to Christ to Grow in Christ and get them involved in a small group or ABF and participating in personal devotions. At the same time each member must help the person they led to Christ Give to Others and share their faith and serve the church. That is our process. Our mission is the discipleship process. This process is what we need every member involved in.

Fortunately, some of our people are living on mission. But we need all of our members to live as missionaries. This is more than a core value. This is a must for us.

The days of people coming to Living Hope only because of good preaching, a relaxed atmosphere, and upbeat blended worship are over. We need to get busy living on mission or get busy becoming irrelevant and unnecessary to the Kingdom of God, our city, nation, and world. The choice is ours.

Get on mission and help someone Get to God, Grow in Christ, and Give to Others this week!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Baby Knows The Easter Bunny Is Bogus

Easter is the Super Bowl of the Christian faith. On this day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having died to take the punishment for sin for all who believe, Jesus was placed in a tomb. Many thought that was the end of Him. They were wrong!

Jesus is alive! We will celebrate this victory tomorrow.

To prepare for it (and other Lord's Days) here are some things you can do:

1. DON'T WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT TO WEAR. Dress nice, but remember this is not about you. This is the day we celebrate the ultimate victory of Jesus and praise Him. Jesus has won the victory over death and sin.

2. Pray for those who will be presenting the message from Scripture. This is not just the pastor. This includes the worship leaders and the classroom teachers for all ages.

3. Prepare your heart by reading from Scripture and praying. Pray that God will reveal Himself to you in a fresh way.

4. Recontact the person you are bringing to church with you tomorrow and confirm that they are coming and let them know how excited you are that they will be celebrating with you tomorrow.

5. Pray that everyone in attendance will draw closer to God.

6. Pray that the end result of the service will be the glory of God and the passion of believers to seek to help others know Christ.

Enjoy the day. There are special meals and events that take place around this once a year celebration. But train your children in the truth and remind yourself regularly that Easter is about Jesus and not the candy or that rather large and strange bunny at the mall.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Missional Church Training

On Thursday the staff and I headed to First Baptist Hendersonville where we spent a special day with a couple of buddies of mine and made some new buddies.

We had the opportunity to sit under the missional guru, Ed Stetzer. Ed is a dear trusted friend to me and I was excited for our team to get to glean from his knowledge. My friend Brady Cooper, who serves as pastor of New Vision Baptist Church, met us with his staff at First Hendersonville to enjoy the training as well. Ed is currently the interim pastor at First and so they hosted us and we got the chance to meet them and learn from this as well.

It was a great day of learning and discussion. After getting to hear Ed teach from 9-12, we gathered around tables with our counterparts from the other two churches and discussed what God was doing in our church and how we hoped to live out the missional mandate given to us by Jesus.

You can read some thoughts on our missional mandate and our need to get over our doubts about it at our church prayer blog, where I provided my bimonthly post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Get Peace

This past Sunday I spoke on peace. You can get the notes and hear the message by clicking here.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend and we discussed peace and he shared an interesting insight. He said, “Peace only comes when there is power.” I had to have him explain what he meant by that and discovered the amazing truth of this statement.

In order for a life, a marriage, a family, or an organization of any sort to have peace there must be a source of power that is responsible for and providing leadership.

A life that this left to itself can have no peace. A person can only have peace, when their life is under someone of power who can take responsibility for them and lead them with authority. The greatest leader and most responsible Being is Jesus Christ. He is willing to take responsibility for our lives: the good and the bad. He will be responsible to lead us to do good. He can take responsibility for our sin and the punishment that comes with sin by what He’s accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection.

A person can give their life to any number of authorities. They can surrender to a relational authority, a substance or drug, a company, an image or way of life, or even a government system. But nothing can do what Jesus has done and will do.

The best thing a person can do is align their life under the power and authority of Jesus by placing their faith in Him and be saved by His grace.

The same is true for a marriage, a family, or an organization. They need a leader, and in the case of a marriage or a family - a man, who will take responsibility and lead. Until there is a person of authority in power, there can be no peace.

The remainder of our lunch was spent discussing how men must step up at home and in their marriage to provide peace in the fundamental institutions of a healthy society. Then and only then can there be in real peace or health in our society.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Evangelism & St. Patrick’s Day

When I think of St. Patrick’s Day, I think of evangelism. He is one of the greatest outreach ambassadors the church has ever had.

As the story goes, Patrick was raised in Britain in the fourth century. His uncle was a deacon and his grandfather a priest. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by raiding marauders and was sold as a slave to an Irish farmer. While serving as a slave, Patrick was redeemed by the grace of Jesus Christ and saved through faith in Him.

At the age of 22 he escaped captivity and returned home. He received a theological education and compelled by a vision he returned to Ireland to share the Gospel.

George G. Hunter provides an outstanding explanation of how God used Patrick to start over 200 churches and baptize over 100,000 people in his book The Celtic Way of Evangelism. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in evangelism, missional history, or Christian social impact on culture. Patrick was used by God to do all three and change a nation.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

So Sad It’s Not Sad

Former New York, Governor Eliot Spitzer, had his entire life come crumbling down on him this week as his sin was made public. It was discovered that he had been a participant in a prostitution ring and had made some illegal financial moves to cover his tracks. He is now facing legal and familial challenges.

This morning pictures of the woman, Ashley, that served as his prostitute came out. I cannot bring myself to call Ashley a prostitute even though she obviously has lived and may continue to live that life. Calling her that is difficult for me because in reality Ashley is a woman who bears the image of God. She is someone’s daughter. Her value is of no less than that of my own wife or daughter even though her life decisions have degraded her integrity and character.

As the pictures came out, so did the jokes and the undignified responses of the so called conservative radio personalities. Not all of them I heard this morning were conservative. Dan Patrick is certainly not a stated conservative. Both local and national radio conversationalist are making jokes about Ashely and Spitzer’s family.

This bothers me. This is not a joke. This is sad. It is so sad that this isn’t sad. The Spitzer family is not a joke. Despite the fact that Eliot Spitzer did not live out his vows or care for his family, they are still a family. They are still people. He is still in a God-ordained institution called marriage that should be valued. We should weep.

This is not a time for political positioning. This is not a time for jokes. This is a time of mourning. Please pray for the Spitzer family and for Ashley. Pray for their salvation. Pray for God’s resurrection power to give them new life. Pray that this would cause our nation to weep and seek to honor God’s gift of marriage.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clear & Present Danger

As believers in Christ, we have two visible vicious enemies. They each provide a different approach to destroy us, but they have the same goal – annihilate the Christian faith and replace it with their own.

The first one is secular humanism. This is the faith in human ability and potential. Adherents to this religion believe in will power, self-sufficiency, and individualism. Their hope is to remove all followers of Christ from the public square and shame or intimidate them into silence.

The second one is Islam. Muslims are a cultural, spiritual, and physical threat. Where secular humanists pose only a cultural threat, Muslims are also a spiritual and physical threat.

The secularists only want Christians to be quiet and stay out of the way of their self-indulgent mockery of divinity.

Muslims want to force Christians to abandon their faith and/or be destroyed by the hands of Muslims. The Muslim faith is a path of hatred for anyone who does not believe as they do. Christ teaches those who follow Him to love their enemies. Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Here are some verses from the Qur’an (the authoritative book of the Muslims) that reveals the evil violent nature of this destructive religion.
2:190–193 “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you … And slay them wherever ye catch them … And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression and there prevail justice and faith in God … ”

2:216 “Fighting is prescribed for you and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth and ye know not.”

2:224 “Then fight in the cause of God and know that God heareth and knoweth all things.”

3:157–158 “And if ye are slain or die in the way of God, forgiveness and mercy from God are far better than all they could amass. And if ye die, or are slain, Lo! It is unto God that ye are brought together.”

3:169 “Think not of those who are slain in God’s way as dead. Nay, they live finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord.”

3:195 “ … Those who have … fought or been slain, verily I will blot out from them their iniquities and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; a reward from the presence of God … ”

4:101 “ … For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.”

4:74, 75 “Let those fight in the cause of God who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. To him who fighteth in the cause of God whether he is slain or gets victory, soon shall we give him a reward of great (value). Those who believe fight in the cause of God and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil, so fight ye against the friends of Satan, feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan.”

4:89 “They but wish that ye should reject faith as they do, and thus be on the same footing as they. But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of God. But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them … ”

4:95 “Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt and those who strive and fight in the cause of God with their goods and their persons. God hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than those who sit (at home).”

5:36 “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. That is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”

5:54 “O ye who believe. Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust.”

8:12–17 “Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): ‘I am with you. Give firmness to the believers. I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips off them. This because they contend against God and his apostle. If any contend against God and his apostle, God is strict in punishment … O ye who believe. When ye meet the unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them. If any do turn his back to them on such a day, unless it be a stratagem of war … he draws on himself the wrath of God and his abode is Hell, an evil refuge (indeed).’”

8:59–60 “Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better (of the godly). They will never frustrate (them). Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of God and your enemies and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom God doth know …”

8:65 “O apostle! Rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred. If a hundred they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers, for these are a people without understanding.”

9:5 “ … fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war) … ”

9:14 “Fight them, and God will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame.… ”

9:29 “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and his apostle nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth (even if they are) of the people of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [religious tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

47:4 “Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers, smite at their necks, at length when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them).… but if it had been God’s will, he could certainly have exacted retribution from them (himself), but (he lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of God, he will never let their deeds be lost.”

61:4 “Truly God loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.”

“A simple reading of such Qur’anic passages makes it obvious how easy it is for many Muslims to feel hatred and enmity against Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims.”[1]

So what should we do as Christians?

With the secular humanists we must be subversive. We must work from the inside out. Sharing our hope in Jesus with love and authenticity we must help them see the light of Jesus, as their friends and not as their judges. This means we do not need to boycott, intimidate, talk down to, or separate from them.

With the Muslims I recommend we be subversive and separated from them. I believe we must seek to share Christ with them as we would anyone. At the same time we must not be accepting of them in public life. This is a barbaric faith and should not be welcomed by anyone who loves Jesus. 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?”

I am not advocating violence, as they do. Nor am I suggesting that we be spiteful. I am suggesting that we be honest with ourselves and with them about what their faith teaches them to do and why. We must call evil what is evil and not receive it as though it were good.

[1]Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam : The Crescent in Light of the Cross, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2002), 320.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My Son’s First Sermon Series

I received an amazing gift from my eight year old son, Jackson, on Wednesday night as we were heading home from church. My message that night was on marriage and he wasn’t very much interested in it, so he wrote his own.

I share this with you to honor our children’s ministry. Cindy Starr and all of the volunteers in the children’s ministry at Living Hope have done an amazing job in equipping my son with the truth of God’s Word. Carrie and I pray with our children each morning and evening and make sure they do their daily Bible reading, but believe it or not I don’t wander around our house babbling about penal substitutiary atonement, sanctification, ecclesiology or eschatology. And yet, my son has a firm grasp of these concepts and I honor our ministers, Cindy Starr and all those who have taught my son, by sharing with you his first sermon series.

The title of the series is “Ladder to Heaven” – not to be confused with “Stairway to Heaven.” It has nine messages that build on each others.

The metaphor of the series, Jackson says, "is a ladder and each message is a rung of the ladder. Each Sunday a new rung would be added."

The first rung and message is “Mercy.” Mercy, according to Jackson, is not getting what you deserve. He says that Jesus died on the cross in our place so that we would not have to. He got what we should have gotten – death and separation from God.

The second rung and message is “Faith.” It is by believing in what Christ did by faith that a person is saved.

The third rung and message is “Grace.” It is by grace through faith that we are saved. Grace, according to Jackson, is getting what you don’t deserve. And when we have faith in Jesus, we get to know God and have Him live in and through us.

The fourth rung and message is “Connection.” After a person is saved and baptized, they join a church and get together regularly with other people who believe in Jesus. Christians serve each other and guests at church.

The fifth rung and message is “Savior.” Christians need to tell non-Christians that Jesus is the savior so they can believe too.

The sixth rung and message is “Love.” When we know Jesus, we love Him and we love other people.

The seventh rung and message is “Praise.” Because of who Jesus is and what He has done, we worship Him all of the time. We sing to Him at church on Sunday, but we praise Him all week long too.

The eighth rung and message is “Follow.” Jesus is our leader and it’s our job to follow Him so we can do His plan and not ours.

The ninth and final rung and message is “Obey.” The Christian life comes down to either obeying God or yourself. Jesus has bought us, so He is in charge and we are to obey Him.

I am so thankful that he understands this. I know you might think that it is because he is being raised in a pastor’s home and I cannot deny that he hasn’t heard, seen developed, and been around a ton of sermons. But I can tell you for sure that he has been in church every Sunday of his life, except when sick, and it is showing.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Seeing Without Seeing It

I wrote today's prayerblog devotion for our church.

To read Blackeby's devotion click here.

To read my prayer blog click here.