Monthly Archives: June 2013

Five @ Free Flow Friday!

YES! It’s Friday!images

Notice the title change?

Same idea on Fridays – different name.

Why? To narrow my focus and (hopefully) not bog you down, I will select five articles I came across from the week that will (hopefully) benefit you.

Due to the sweeping decision made by the Supreme Court on gay marriage Wednesday, what follows are five articles to help you think through this as carefully as possible.

#1. How Should Same-Sex Marriage Change the Church’s Witness by Russell Moore

Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’

#2. How Should You Explain the Same-Sex Marriage Debate to Your Children? by Russell Moore

Some parents believe that teaching their children the controversies about same-sex marriage will promote homosexuality. Christians and non-Christians can agree that sexual orientation doesn’t work that way. Moreover, the exact opposite is true. If you don’t teach your children about a Christian way of viewing the challenges to a Christian sexual ethic, the ambient culture will fill in your silence with answers of its own.

#3. The Gospel is Not a Behavior Control Program by Margot Starbuck

To receive an ‘other’ as they are, without first mandating behavior changes, requires us to tolerate a bit of anxiety or discomfort. It demands that we release, or at least relax, our natural impulse to announce our opinions. To receive another as they are, and not as we wish them to be, is to agree with the apostle Paul’s conviction that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.

#4. Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for Your Church by Trevin Wax

If we truly believe Romans 8:28, that somehow, in some way, God is working all things for the good of those who love Him, then even when the culture swerves in an opposing direction, we ought to expect both benefits and challenges.”

#5. Propostion 8, DOMA, and the Christian Response by Ed Stetzer

I know it feels like many are reeling from this announcement. As I wrote in November, Christians are increasingly considering the reality that we might be on the losing side of the culture war. In truth, it will take weeks—and possibly months—for us to understand the full weight of this Supreme Court decision.

But we should not panic. It does not help to speak in ways that do not honor Christ. The sky is not falling. Jesus is still King and God is still sovereign.”

What are your thoughts on all this?

How should Christians respond?

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Leave and Cleave, Or. . .

Stay and Disobey.images

When the Lord officiated the first wedding, He made it very clear about one thing: Leave your father and your mother and cleave to your spouse.

Over the past week to 10 days I have had a bunch (many more than usual) of conversations with a variety of couples about this very thing. Throughout my brief 12 years of pastoring I have seen it time and time again. Though not true for every couple, by and large, when newly married lovebirds live close to ‘mommy and daddy,’ tensions get high quick.

Why?

Simply because it is VERY, VERY hard to obey the Lord’s command to ‘leave and cleave’ when ‘maw and paw’ are near. Not impossible. It CAN be done. But it is hard.

Why so hard?

Couples who live down the street to ‘mommer and dem’ are not forced to depend on each other. Rather, they continue to depend on their folks.

Why?

It’s simple. Mom and Dad have taken care of ‘Precious’ for 20+ years and ‘Precious’ has relied on Mom and Dad for help. And, by the way, this is what is SUPPOSED to happen between parents and children. But roles are SUPPOSED to change once the rings are on. Hard to automatically switch to total dependence on ‘Mr. Can’t Remember to Put the Seat Down’ when  SuperDad is just a half mile down the road.

So, what’s a couple to do if the tensions are high thanks to Maw-In-Lawzilla who gets ticky if Junior won’t come eat her famous fried chicken livers for dinner for the 5th night in a row?

5 Suggestions:

1. Move at least an hour away if at all possible.

I know, I know. This is simply not possible for many. I get that. But think about it for just a second. Though moving away to find different jobs may be tough, would it not be much easier to obey the Lord’s command to leave and cleave? Though moving away would remove the ‘easy and cheap’ childcare, would it not be best for your children – in the long run – if their mommy and daddy stayed together? Before you rule this first suggestion out, think about it: Ultimately, what do you want more?

2. Set agreed upon boundaries.

If #1 simply is NOT an option (and again – I get it – It’s just not for some), you and ‘Mr. Loves His Mommy Too Much’ or you and ‘Mrs. Can’t Go to the Bathroom without Calling Her Mom’ need to sit down and have a talk. You need to decide and agree how the two of you can best obey the Lord’s command to leave and cleave. You need to set up agreed upon boundaries about finances, family meals, church membership, childcare, child discipline, etc. Decide – TOGETHER – how you can obey the Lord when the parents are down the street.

3. Appropriately express frustrations to all involved.

You’re gonna get frustrated. It’s going to happen. Expect it. But don’t suppress it. When you are calm, when you aren’t raging, when you have stopped plotting your maw-in-laws murder – talk to your spouse. Tell him/her. Get it off your chest. Let them know. For the sake of your marriage and the health of your family – get it out. Why? If you let that frustration build and build and build . . . you will explode. Kaboom.

4. Have fun together.

Yep. You read that right. Have fun with your spouse. As a matter of fact, consider this a demand from Pastor Matt to set up a time on your calendar where you and your spouse go do something where you can just laugh and enjoy life and each other. Quit trying to relive memories you had with mom and dad when you were six. Start making memories of your own with YOUR family. I’m not kidding. Go. Have. Fun. With. Your. Spouse.

5. Intentionally cultivate friendships with other couples.

Why? The more you spend time with friends in similar circumstances, the more you will learn how to depend on each other. The more fun you will have. The more ‘normal’ your marriage will feel. The more you will be able to vent frustrations to someone besides dear ole’ mom. Think about it: how many friends – real friends – do you have besides your folks?

When God said to leave and cleave He knew what He was doing. Heck, He invented the whole thing. HE LOVES YOU AND YOUR MARRIAGE AND WANTS WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU. Do whatever it takes to do what He says here. You’ll be glad you did.

What have I missed? What other suggestions can you think of? Moms and Dads who have married children – how can YOU best help your married kid obey God’s command to ‘leave and cleave’? You wouldn’t be a factor in helping them disobey God would you? Of course not . . . 🙂

Now THAT’s a Good Question!

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I once had a church member (when I pastored in Louisiana) refuse the brownies and home made ice cream I offered him at a potluck. It wasn’t because he didn’t like brownies and ice cream (duh. . . who doesn’t?). Rather, and I quote: “I don’t even like to integrate my stomach.”

Yes he did.

So I proceeded to punch him the stomach among other places throughout his frail body.

Okay, so I didn’t do that – but I wanted to.

What I really did was work up a 10 year sermon series on racism where each sermon would last an hour and a half.

Okay, so I didn’t do that either – but I wanted to.

Today’s question has to do with this sort of thing.

Some questions are difficult simply due to the subject matter. Others are hard due to the culture.

This question is one of the culture ones.

Here goes:

“Is there anything in the Bible about interracial relationships? I’ve been wondering.”

(Sent to me via text message late one afternoon last week.)

I get this question a lot. Adopt a child of a different race and you will too. 🙂 Due to where I live (the South) and the history of my surroundings (ever wondered why the SBC started?), this is an important question.

Here was my text back (There was no way I was going to type on my phone what I am going to lay out here):

“The brief version: No, the Bible is NOT against interracial relationships. The Bible IS against a Christian being married to a non-Christian. My advice? Be wise in your relationships and find someone who loves Jesus and helps you love and obey Him more.”

That’s my answer in a nutshell. I assumed (due to the volume of similar questions) the person asking wanted to know if it was biblically wrong.

Here’s a more extended explanation. . .

The idea that God opposes interracial marriage (which is VERY prevalent in the South) probably comes from passages that demand God’s people (Israel) to marry within their own tribe and people. Why? In order to ensure they didn’t go follow after other gods. Deuteronomy 7:1-6 spells it out clearly.

The purpose, of course, is NOT because “birds of a feather flock together” (which is not in the Bible, by the way). Rather, the purpose is to protect God’s people from being tempted to worship and serve other (false) gods. During this time in history the ONLY people who worshipped the LORD were Israelites.

The Bible’s emphasis on marriage and relationships is to befriend, date, marry, and stay married to one who knows, loves, worships, and eagerly serves the God of the Bible!!!! For those living on this side of the cross of Christ – this means we are to marry other Jesus followers.

This is spelled out clearly in 2 Corinthians 6:14 . . .

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (See also 2 Corinthians 6:15-18)

This is the same principle from Deuteronomy 7. In the Old Testament, God’s people (Israel) were to only marry each other. In the New Testament, God’s people (Christians) are to only marry each other. Why? Well, “what fellowship does light have with darkness?” In fact, regarding ‘types’ of people to marry, the Bible only speaks in terms of Christian and non-Christian.

When it comes to dating and marriage, the Christ follower should first and foremost ask: “Will this person help me know and love and value and obey Jesus more?” 

If the answer is yes – use wisdom, discretion, and some common sense if you decide move forward.

If the answer is no . . . end of discussion.

I am often asked about Birti. “What if she wants to date/marry a white man?” Or, “What if she wants to date/marry a black man?” It’s a fair question that I have thought alot about.

I would much rather her date and marry a man who passionately loves Jesus than date and marry a man who is ‘all things NOT Jesus’ – regardless of what color he is. I don’t care what the man looks like as long as he loves her and desires to make her a better follower of Jesus! The same is true of my boys. Now, is there a part of me that secretly hopes they will all date and marry within their own race? Sure. Our culture can be a killer on those who don’t and I don’t want them to get hurt. I am not advocating here that interracial dating and marriage is or isn’t the way to go. But at the end of the day – being as biblical as I can possibly be – I would MUCH rather them date and marry someone who makes them look more like Jesus than date and marry someone simply to fit into our culture’s mold.

What about you?

Agree?

Disagree?

Any wisdom or advice you want to share?

Free Flow Friday!

Summertime is HERE!!!images

Today is officially the first day of summer AND the longest day of the year.

Know what that means? You’ll have extra time to read these articles!

Get out the hammock, the box fan, and the mosquito spray. Today’s FFF! will help you laugh at typos, plan an affordable wedding, intentionally ‘vacate’, and more.

Have fun and happy Friday everybody!

#1. The Top 16 Worship Music Typos by Jon Acuff. 

2. Easter. The line was supposed to read ‘We were naked and poor’ but instead it read ‘We were naked and poop.’ Quite possibly the best typo of all time. I could not stop laughing for the rest of the song. It was epic.

Hilarious.

#2. How to Keep Your Wedding Affordable by Candice Watters

Planning the wedding is a good test of your willingness and ability to become one. . .   Are you willing to respectfully leave your parents and their expectations and demands, in order to cleave to one another? 

There’s a lot at stake. Now for some practical, on-the-ground help. Good news: honoring your parents while following your fiancé’s lead and sticking to a budget are not mutually exclusive. There are some things you can change, as well as some things you shouldn’t.

[Editor’s Note: I’ve officiated 3 weddings in 4 weeks. Let me just say at one point I had this thought (forgive me, Lord): “we should have adopted a boy!”]

#3. Three Ways to Really Put the ‘Vacate’ into Vacation by Drake Baer

Befriend airplane mode: Even if you’re off the tarmac, switching your phone into airplane mode lets you be guided by GPS and not guided by a tweet barrage. It’s the moderate’s way of unplugging.

What have you found that worked?

#4. Perspectives on our Children’s Education: Going Public by Jen Wilkin

For our family, public school means our children get an affordable, sound education. It means our family crosses paths with people of all backgrounds and faiths. It means we get to invest in the neighborhood in which we live. Our choice of public school in no ways indicts private schools or homeschooling. Public school is not for everyone, but it is a good fit for our family. Education is a highly personal choice, demanding consideration of factors unique to each student and family. I offer here just one perspective in the hope of enriching the dialogue.

[Editor’s Note: This is part one of a three part series. Part two (Private School) is here. To my knowledge, the other part (Homeschool) has not posted yet, but is sure to be interesting. Go here to look for its publication.]

Why do you send your child to public/private/home school?

#5. Six Ways to Get Rid of Emotional Baggage BEFORE a Challenging Conversation by John Hester

If you can travel lightly, emotionally speaking, a challenging conversation will take a lot less effort. But how do you unload that excess emotional baggage?

Here are a few creative ways to get the emotions out. Any number of these may work for you—so pick one you like, or try them all.

Lot of wisdom here. What helps you prepare for a hard talk?

#6. What Do Non-Christians Really Think of Us? by Thom Rainer

“The reason the world hates Christians is because they behave badly, they’re rude, boorish, arrogant, conceited, full of themselves, ignorant, and judgmental. Go ahead – accuse me of being judgmental now. Doesn’t matter – I don’t claim to follow a belief system that has actual rules AGAINST being judgmental, so it’s *fine* for me to be!”

What are some ways Christians and churches can remove this earned stigma?

#7. How to Wake Up Immediately in the Morning by Jennifer Smith

The struggle to wake up and get out of bed in the mornings can have a negative impact on your whole day and if the problem persists can start getting you down. There are changes you can make that will help resolve the difficulties you have rising in the morning and make getting up easier.

What works best for you?

What are some helpful articles you have come across this week?

Kids These Days

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Yesterday I helped drive around 30 Senior High students to camp, then turned around and helped drive around 30 Junior High students home from camp. All total, I got to spend between 5-6 hours with teenagers. It’s been a while since I had that much concentrated time with that many students. As a pastor who leads a church and a parent who will probably have teens soon (Come Lord Jesus!), I made a couple of observations and offer a couple of challenges:

1. Brady and Katy have it goin’ on. 

For those of you who aren’t members of FBC, I am referring to the Canright’s. Brady is our Associate Pastor of Students and Katy is – you guessed it – his lovely wife. We are a better and healthier church because they are here. I could not do what they do. I am not that tough, don’t like to stay up late at night, and sure don’t like to be punched in weird places or pranked at weird times by Junior Highers. In fact, the reality that God called me out of youth ministry and into the pastorate causes me to well up with a spirit of unquenchable gratefulness.

Brady and Katy love the students, are a GREAT team, and are deeply burdened for the students to love and follow Jesus. Last I checked – students need to be loved, need to see a husband and wife team modeled, and need Jesus. Win.

Challenge: Thank, pray for, encourage, and volunteer to serve alongside the Canright’s. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Teenagers don’t like change either. 

On the way to the camp – I drove the van carrying Juniors and Seniors. Most (if not all) of ’em had been going to the same camp since they started the youth group. They weren’t going because they had to either. They were going because they didn’t even want to think about doing something else OR considering another camp. This camp has been doing basically the same format every year and these students LOVE it. They liked the familiar. They liked . . . same.

Challenge: NOBODY likes change. Before changing anything – do your homework and make sure it’s the right thing to do. When change is necessary, proceed carefully.

3. If it’s worth it, they will come. 

I mentioned in #2 that the 11th and 12th graders keep coming back to this camp. Three students were seniors who had already graduated – BUT WANTED TO GO ONE LAST TIME!!! Are you kidding? No, I’m not.

Why? Because it was worth it to them. It was done well. It was done right. It added value to their lives. It was a win for them.

Challenge: As a church leader, providing an atmosphere of excellence with a goal of adding value to people’s lives is a must. Halfheartedly throwing something together won’t last. People – especially teenagers – can smell halfhearted efforts a mile away. People appreciate excellence and care and will reward it with their fully engaged presence.

As a parent, what kind of atmosphere are you providing it home? Is it worth it to them to come back?

4. I’m gonna buy major stock in Axe

I was nervous about the ride home. Junior High guys who hadn’t been forced by mommy to take a shower in 3 days. I was thinkin’ windows down all the way home. Wrong. The guys told me they showered 3 times a day. They smelt like the toiletry section at Wal-Mart. I was pleased. . . and convicted that I don’t take that many showers per day.

Challenge: Save up some cash to buy stock in Junior High boy ‘smell good’ products. If the ‘3 shower a day’ trend continues, I could be a millionaire.

5. CONNECTION

Teenagers want to connect. They need to connect. They thrive on connection. They want others in their lives – younger, same age, older – that will connect with them, relate to them, care for them, and make them laugh. How do I know that? Two words: Cell. Phone.

The oldest teenagers attending camp were born in 1995. Yeah. The year yours truly graduated high school. Guess what? They’ve never NOT known the internet. Feel old yet? Me too. 

Teenagers aren’t disengaged at all. No, no. They are fully engaged and totally connected – to more people than we can imagine. They have a HUGE need to connect and are finding the need met through social media. Is some of it bad? Sure it is. But not all of it. It can be really, really good. 

Challenge: Social media and technology ain’t goin’ nowhere. In fact, it will only become more prevalent. To stay connected, I/we must be connected in ways that connects with them. Make sense? Church leaders nor parents need to just ‘pull the covers over our heads’ and pretend it’s not happnin’. It’s happnin’ and will continue too. We have to get on board and rethink and rethink and rethink and rethink time and time again.

#6. Where the Boys at?

Yeah. Not many boys. Whole bunch of girls. That scares me. I am glad the girls are there and hope for more. But the dearth of boys is strangely similar to . . . our church buildings on Sunday. I so hope they aren’t [SOAP BOX ALERT!] sitting at home playing Playstation right now or asleep because of the movies they watched all night last night. And I really pray they aren’t doing these things because they told their mommy they just didn’t want to go to camp this year. I fear we are raising a bunch of sissies who will have NO idea what it means to be a man. [SOAP BOX OVER!]

Challenge: Biblical manhood MUST be embraced and taught and modeled and challenged over and over and over and over again at home and in our churches. It is NOT an option. 

Those are my brief observations. Where am I wrong? What observations are you making and challenges you can issue to make us pastors and parents better?

Now THAT’s a Good Question!

Warning: Today’s question is deep. Real deep. Like just learning how to swim and gettin’ scared looking at the deep end kind of deep. It’s a question I get asked a lot. It’s a question – if I am being honest – I don’t get warm fuzzies when I talk about it. But it’s a really good question that deserves and demands a very biblical answer. Here it is – an email (word for word quote) I received last week:

“Hey Dr. Matt how’s it going? I have a question I have been asking a few pastors and deacons. I know the people that accept Christ go to heaven. But what about the people that never hear about him? Like the people that live in imagesJamaica that haven’t even heard his name. Do they go to hell?” 

See what I mean? Deep. Do *people who’ve never heard of Jesus go to hell?

My answer? YES.

Some reasons:

1. Jesus doesn’t lie. 

In John 14:6 Jesus said that He is the Way and there is no other way to the Father. Either that is true, or Jesus was just blowin’ smoke.

2. People in ‘Jamaica’ aren’t innocent. 

Those who have never heard of Jesus – whether in Jamaica or Africa or El Dorado or Turkey or Siberia or Bald Knob – don’t deserve hell because they’ve ‘never heard the name.’ Rather, they – like us – deserve hell because they are sinners and have willfully rejected God.

Romans 1:20-23 and Romans 3:23 are crystal clear: Everyone knows God exists in their hearts and everyone rejects Him as God.

[For a very detailed and extensive treatment of this, see chapter 7 in David Platt’s Radical.]

3. Jesus’ last words weren’t ‘Stay and Shush.’

Jesus made it clear what His followers were to do when He ascended and sent His Spirit: make other disciples by being His witnesses. If someone could get to heaven without hearing about Jesus, He would have told us to stay home and keep our mouths shut. But that’s not what He said. He said to get out there and talk about Him. . . a lot.

4. Early Church Cues.

If we really want to know what those who actually walked and talked with Jesus thought they should do after He left, we need to observe what they did. It doesn’t take a thorough reading of Acts to see they lived with a burden to get the Gospel to as many people as possible. Why? Because no one can escape God’s wrath apart from hearing and believing it.

5. The essence of the Gospel.

Gospel means ‘good news.’ It means though we were dead in our sins and transgressions, God made us alive by faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross. We all – due to sin – deserve eternal punishment. Those who believe – due to grace – are made right with God because of what the Son did for the sinner. Hearing and believing this ‘Good News’ is the only power for salvation. For those who don’t believe, deserved punishment remains. If one can get to heaven without Jesus, there really is no need to tell this news.

The implication of this is so obvious I don’t even have to mention it, do I?

Been looking for a reason to go to Jamaica? I just gave you 5.

[*By ‘people’ I am referring to those who have reached the ‘Age of Accountability.’ The topic and issue of babies and young children – in my mind – a separate discussion altogether.]

3 P’s of a Healthy ‘Summer’ Church

Ronnie Floyd is exactly right: “Summertime presents challenges for every church.”

How so?

Vacations. Lake trips. Ball games. Swim meets. Fourth of July. Labor Day. Memorial Day. No School. Summertime heat. Laid back mentality. Etc.

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Summertime is easy like Su. . . Well, you get the point.

For the record, I am for all of these. I love ’em. With an 8, 6, and 5-year-old and a wife who loves the seashore more than sand crabs – I love ’em more and more and am incredibly thankful for them.

But they sure do make doing ‘church’ in the summer a challenge.

Again, to quote Floyd: “All of these matters combine to become one enormous challenge for the leaders of a church. As a pastor of a local church, this becomes a personal, spiritual challenge for me. People need refreshment. People need a vacation, as do I. Yet, the ministry of the church marches forward.”

This begs a question for us as we are nearing the middle of the summer here in El Dorado: How can FBC El Dorado most effectively ‘march forward’ in June, July and August???

We all have to remember 3 things. . .

1. Pennies.

Ministry cannot happen without money. Sound sacrilegious? Ask Jesus. He relied on it. Mind you, money can’t change hearts for God. But money does ensure more people hear the good news that does. FBC, this year we’ve taken up over $65K more than this time last year. But we’ve also spent a whole lot more. In fact, for the year, we have spent just over $78K MORE than we’ve taken in. Yikes!

Are we bringing in staff and additional ministries? You betcha. That costs money! But consider this: since this time last year we have added 81 new members and baptized 29!! Praise the Lord!

We need staff to keep up with the growth. GREAT! But to continue moving forward in a healthy fashion we MUST give accordingly. Don’t take the summer off from tithing please! Continued kingdom growth will require continued commitment to financial giving.

[Editors Note: If you would be interested in a ‘Direct Deposit’ type deal for your tithe, would you please comment below or email me at gail.beddingfield@fbceldorado.org?? Thanks.]

2. People. 

People are critical for summertime church health. And I’m not talking about warm bottoms sitting on soft pews every Sunday.

I mean we need PEOPLE to help us carry on the ministries that ARE going on this summer. I could list a host of summer ministries needing extra workers (visit the website or call the church office for other specifics going on), but for now – let me mention Vacation Bible School. VBS could function if we started it Monday. Several of you have already committed to filling spots. THANK YOU. But there are other spots needing attention that would make this year’s VBS run with excellence if you would volunteer to help. Can you change a kid’s heart? Nope. But has God chosen to use people like you to be a means of seeing a kids’ heart changed? Yep.

See Bobbi Shepherd tomorrow and tell her you want to help. VBS is July 8th – 12th.

[Editors Note: Husbands, if your wife is wanting another child, let me give you a piece of advice: MAKE HER HELP IN VBS. It will buy you at least another 10 years.]

3. Prayer.

At the end of the day what we all want to see is God move in people’s lives. We want to see lost people saved. We want to see saved people excited. We want to see hard hearts softened. We want to see our church family come to life. At the end of the day pennies and people cannot do that.

But God can. And does. And will. So often, we have not because we . . . .

Brian Trostle and crew have got the Prayer Ministry rockin’ and rollin’. Let him know you want to pray. Let him know you want to know about how you can get involved in praying more specifically.

Pennies. People. Prayer. 

Enjoy your summer. Live it up. Take some time off to get away. But please, please, please don’t take off from these areas.

If we – together – commit to these, doing ‘church’ will be easy like Su. . . Well, you get the point.