Monthly Archives: January 2014

Five @ Free Flow Friday!

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I hope you don’t have anything to do this weekend, because you are gonna want to read ALL FIVE articles posted here.

Seriously. Read ’em. In my opinion, there is some important and helpful and challenging stuff written by some smart and godly people.

Feel free to interact in the comments section. Which article challenged you? What did you disagree with? Why? What do you need to personally take away from what you read? What articles have you come across recently that would challenge and add value to me?

Ready, set,  go. . .

#1. Christ Called Me Off the Minaret by Nabeel Qureshi

Overwhelmed and confused by the evidence for Christianity and the weakness of the Islamic case, I began seeking Allah for help. Or was he Jesus? I didn’t know any longer. I needed to hear from God himself who he was. Thankfully, growing up in a Muslim community, I had seen others implore Allah for guidance. The way that Muslims expect to hear from God is through dreams and visions.

If you don’t read anything else this entire weekend – READ THIS! This article will inspire, challenge, and bless you.

 

#2. Cynicism Doesn’t Reach a Lost World by Ed Stetzer

So, perhaps the next time you’re driving through rural Pennsylvania and you see a billboard that says ‘Trust Jesus,’ or when you walk by a street preacher who is preaching the gospel with great fervor—even if you would prefer a different avenue, you might just take a moment and be thankful that somebody loves Jesus enough to want to tell a whole lot of people about Him.

It’s worth remembering that your (and my) cynicism about certain evangelism methods is not actually evangelizing a lost world. In that regard, cheesy does indeed trump unengaged cynicism. Yes, there might be better ways to share Christ, but too many cynics complain about how others evangelize while not sharing Christ themselves.

Perhaps hokey is better than hypocritical.”

OUCH. Stetzer nails it. . . and me. Strong and convicting article on evangelism. 

 

#3. How to Keep Your ‘I Do’ in the Present Tense by Even Welcher

I said ‘I do’, and I still do.  The ‘I do’ of marriage is always in the present tense until The Lord Jesus says otherwise.  ‘I do’ is never ‘I did at the time’.  ‘I do’ is always present tense. ‘I do’ travels through space and time to whatever condition the married couple finds themself in and says, ‘I still do, I always do, and when the enemy burns down these battlements, I shall remain’.

Married or not – READ THIS ARTICLE! Whoah. 

 

#4. Your Grammy’s Church by Peter Jones

As if by magic, the stage morphed into a massive cathedral with imposing stained-glass windows and a marriage archway. High Priestesses ‘Material Girl’ Madonna and pure ‘royalty,’ Queen Latifah, then appeared on stage to join in marriage 33 couples of numerous sexual permutations, thereby sealing the new religion’s Oneist creed: all religions and all sexualities are One—to the thunderous applause of the thousands present, and to the approbation of millions of television viewers.

The vacuous marriage sacrament of the ‘Grammys religion’ and its further trivialization as an entertainment stunt, only underlines the spiritually empty gospel that Tinsel Town and its beautiful people were pushing, unopposed, into the homes of people who pay these artists their inflated salaries. There is no competing message, no other opinion allowed from other artists, no apparent way for so many to hear the truth. This is a formula for cultural collapse.”

This article makes me sad, yet hopeful. . . come, Lord Jesus. Come!

 

#5. Missions: Rescuing from Hell and Renewing the World by John Piper

The point is this: Conversion to faith in Christ by the Spirit through faith accomplishes two things — rescue from the wrath of God, and transformation of life. This is ultimately why Robert Woodberry found what he found. ‘Conversionary Protestants’ changed the world, because they didn’t focus first on changing the world, but on faith in Christ.

This means that the missionaries that will do the most good for eternity and for time — for eternal salvation and temporal transformation — are the missionaries who focus on converting the nations to faith in Christ. And then on that basis, and from that root, teach them to bear the fruit of all that Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:20).”

 This is a truly fascinating article about how the Gospel transforms lives AND ultimately cultures. Well, duh. 
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Throw It Out There Thursday!

Today I want to ‘Throw Something Out There!’ the entire church needs to know about.

It is something  we have prayed would happen.

It is something we have been longing to see.

It is something that is happening – by God’s good grace to us – and I pray we continue to see happen for many years to come.

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It’s a move of the Spirit of God among our teenagers.

How do I know that?

I dare you to walk in the ‘2Fifty2’ building on a Wednesday night anytime between 7-8 PM. Not only will you  see over a hundred students, but you will see them authentically worshipping Jesus through music AND through the teaching of the Word. I’m not kidding. I saw it with my own eyes last night. Not only were they singing loud about and to Jesus, but they were locked in to Brady as he taught them from the Sermon on the Mount.

But get this – our recent Reality Check weekend saw students from all over El Do be challenged and changed, while several unchurched families came to worship that Sunday morning.

Still need more evidence of a move of God? Teenage boys – BOYS – are meeting on their own initiative, by themselves  at the ‘2Fifty2′ building, to study the Word and hold each other accountable. Yeah, girls are too – but guys – that’s sayin’ something. What could be better for the future state of manhood in our society than for teenage guys to be getting together – on their own volition – to study the Word? Boom.

This is not to mention the fact that we have seen several teenagers baptized in recent weeks. Others are joining FBC – some with, and some without, mom and dad. Seriously – they are. Go check out the ‘New Members’ board outside the sanctuary. Teenagers are peppered throughout the pictures.

Eager to join God in where He is working? Have I got some recommendations for you!

  • Find, call, or message Brady and ask him how you can help.
  • Pray for Brady and the adult volunteers who help week in and week out.
  • Pray for the Spirit of God to do far more than we could ever ask, imagine, or think in the lives of our teenagers.
  • Give a huge chunk of change to renovate the ‘2Fifty2’ building. [Okay, so I know I kind of ‘snuck’ this in here, but it’s a real need. And, hey, it’s my blog and ‘Throw It Out There Thursday!” The students are currently operating with a practically non-functioning sound system; stage lights that don’t work; 1 screen on one half of the platform that is often out of focus and off kilter – yes, the other screen is unusable; outdated television screens; and basically everything else that could be declared “I AM FROM THE 1980’s!!!!!” In short – it desperately needs a facelift . . . especially since we are packing out the joint weekly.]
  • Cook a meal for the students on a Wednesday night.
  • And, oh yeah, pray for Jesus to come back before my kids are teenagers!

Seriously – God is doing a work in the lives of many of our teenagers. I couldn’t be more excited.

What have you seen God do among our students? “Throw It Back At Me!” because it’s “Throw It Out There Thursday!”

Really, what are other things you have heard or noticed that is evidence of God moving?

Wisdom for Your Wednesday

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Proverbs 29:25

It sure is ironic, isn’t it?

If you’re like me – oftentimes I fear man precisely because I want to be kept ‘safe.’

I don’t speak up when I should because I want to be ‘safe.’Unknown

I don’t take action when I should because I want to stay ‘safe.’

I don’t offer my opinion when it matters because it is ‘safer’ to be quiet.

I don’t step up and lead aggressively because I want to maintain ‘safety.’

I don’t say truthful things because I don’t want to rock the ‘safety’ boat.

Know what I mean?

According to wisdom – at the end of the day – that kind of thinking will ultimately rob me of safety. It actually proves to be a snare. When I reject what I know to be right or true or ‘of the Lord,’ in order to stay ‘safe’ from the ‘snares of man,’ I actually step right out of the ‘safety zone’ and fall into a snare.

Does that make sense? Trying to maintain safety with man actually ends up riding you through the danger zone.(Anyone else hearing Kenny Loggins in your mind right now?).

Wisdom says if you are looking to maintain safety – you trust the LORD.

Ironic.

The reason we fear man is to keep ‘safe.’ What happens, however, is we fall into a trap.

We fear man to avoid an awkward ‘snare.’ But the opposite ends up happening. We lose our safety and get stuck.

I don’t know of one single person who – ultimately – doesn’t want guaranteed safety. Wisdom says there is only one way to get it: Trust the LORD.

Want to be set free from being ensnared? Survey your actions and behaviors and words. Search your heart. Where are you currently fearing man? Do your fears have a face? I bet you are doing so to maintain safety. But I also bet it’s trapping you. Step out of the trap and into real safety. Trust the LORD – do what He says and leads you to do – and leave the results to him.

It won’t feel safe. But it is.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Timothy Tuesdays

The purpose of this blog is to – in another very small way – ‘Intentionally Pastor’ the flock God has entrusted to my care known as the First Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas.

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Up until this point of my blogging journey – I have done my best to provide thoughts and information that I think would add value to your life on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. But a glaring deficiency of this site is there is NOTHING posted on Tuesdays! Gasp.
I am quite sure that the 3 or 4 readers I have dread Tuesdays because there is nothing to read.

I’m kidding.

I am not sure if any of you even noticed. For those of you who have, however, the dread of Tuesdays can now dissipate. (Again, I am kidding – humor me by playing along, okay?) Starting today I want to add a Tuesday focused post to the blog.

What might that be, you ask? (Now THAT’s a Good Question – but let’s save those for Mondays.)

It’s what I want to call “Timothy Tuesdays.”

What? Why in the world?

By Timothy I mean the 2 books of the Bible in the New Testament that bear this name. Why? Because ‘Timothy’ and ‘Tuesday’ start with ‘T.’  . . . Duh.

Again, just kidding.

I want to apply and meditate with you on insights from 1st and 2nd Timothy because the church Timothy pastored is much like the one I do.
First, we know the church was multi-generational. How do I know? Well, how would you interpret 1 Timothy 5:1-2??
Second, we know the church had members with a lot of wealth. How do I know? Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

I don’t know about you, but I really want to know how God would want a multi-generational church with wealthy members to operate. Don’t you? Like it or not, that’s who we are and how God assembled us here in good ole downtown El Dorado.

So, starting next Tuesday – the first Tuesday of February 2014 – we’ll begin taking a look at what God says to a church a lot like ours. Until then, go celebrate the glorious reality that a weekday will no longer go by without you having something to read.

I’m kidding.

See you tomorrow for some Wisdom for our Wednesday.

Now THAT’s a Good Question!

What Are We to Make of the Details in Parables?

This is the gist of a host of questions I was asked recently regarding the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16.

Some of the particulars were:

  • “Why did the rich man go to Hades?”images
  • “Does ignoring the poor send you to Hades?”
  • “Where/How do we conclude the man didn’t trust in Jesus?”
  • “Was it really a parable since Jesus called him Lazarus – a proper name?”
  • “Does this parable teach that people in hell can see up into heaven?”
  • “If we are spiritual beings, how can we be recognized?”

For the purpose of this post, I have decided to bunch the questions together. Why? Because understanding the purpose of parables will answer and/or eliminate some of the questions posed above.

Whenever you and I read/study the parables of Jesus, we must keep in mind 2 things:

#1. Look for the POINT.

#2. Don’t haggle over the DETAILS.

Parables are intended by Jesus to make a POINT. Always ask, when reading the parables: “What’s the POINT?” That’s the purpose of parables. Jesus never intends to teach doctrines when giving a parable. Jesus intends to make a POINT. That being that case – it is POINT-LESS to spend tons of time trying to interpret the details. This isn’t to say the details of Jesus’ parables are pointless. But it is to say that if we look for the primary POINT – then we see the details don’t always intend to have deep, theological significance. Rather, the details serve to make the POINT.

For instance, read the parable in Luke 16 several times.

If you will notice, the parable ends with Abraham telling the rich man that his family has the Bible – probably sitting on the coffee table at home. The rich man doesn’t want his family joining him in Hades. Abraham tries to comfort the man by reminding him that they have a copy of the Scriptures. The man knows better. He knows that his family is doing the same things he did – IGNORE THE BIBLE. He looked for something more. He looked for something ‘dramatic.’ He ignored the Bible that he had constant access to. When the man begs Abraham to send someone to them who has risen from the dead – he thinks they will then believe. Abraham declares that if they don’t read their Bible – it wouldn’t matter if someone did rise from the dead – they won’t change.

If you ignore your Bible, you won’t know what God says. If you don’t know what God says, you won’t do what He says do. If you don’t do what He says do – you spend eternity in Hades.

The POINT? Give heed to the Word of God!!!!!

If you’ll notice, the verses leading up to this deal with the religious leaders refusal to submit to God’s Word. In dealing with the Pharisees, Jesus makes a POINT by telling a parable. The POINT is very, very strong – Don’t ignore the Bible.

Is it okay to ask questions of the details in parables? Sure. But be careful. The purpose of parables is to make a POINT, not define doctrines with ‘made up’ details.

Remember, when it comes to parables – always ask, “What’s the POINT?”

Now THAT’s a Good Question! 🙂

‘Take-Aways’ from South Asia – Part 2

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Continued from yesterday – and again – in no particular order:

#7. Communicating Details with Katie Fuels My Marriage

One night while we were at the village, one of the missionaries we were with called to talk to his wife. All the lights were out. Everyone was trying to sleep. Yet he was blabbing on and on about the details of the day with his wife. What’s more – HE was going to see his wife the next day! We had to wait several more days, while he would get to hug his spouse in the morning! Yet he talked to her and told her EVERYTHING!

At first I was major annoyed. That quickly turned into conviction. I had already made a mental note, earlier in the week, that this missionary couple had a GREAT marriage. There in the dark – under this guy’s bunk – while I was trying to sleep, their ‘secret’ hit me: constant communication. I cannot tell you how many times Katie has asked me to give her details and I discount it as not being a big deal. Wrong! They are a big deal . . . to HER! This missionary couple was both happy and healthy – on the other side of the world, serving Jesus in one of the hardest places on the planet! Why? One reason is that this guy was making the small sacrifice of giving his wife what she needs: DETAILS.

 

#8. Spiritual Growth is Guaranteed When Stretched and Pushed

Wanna grow spiritually? Do something uncomfortable. Seriously. That’s how you grow. Don’t believe me? Just ask the guys who accompanied me to India. They didn’t consider themselves teachers before they left El Dorado. Before they returned, not only had they taught – but they taught PASTORS. Yep. They did. Just ask ’em. And they did an incredible job too.

Do you think they grew spiritually?

When was the last time you spiritually matured to another level? I have a pretty good feeling it was the last time you did something uncomfortable that stretched you.

 

#9. Conquer Fear By Facing It

I’ll be honest – for a variety of reasons, I don’t like to travel internationally. Especially without Katie. There are a lot of things that just cause anxiety in my mind and heart. The anxiety level intensified the week before the trip and several times during. I didn’t want to go a couple of days beforehand and wanted to come home right in the middle of it. But you know what? I’m fine. You know what I learned? Fear is just that: Fear. There was nothing to it. Fear didn’t want me to go. Fear wanted me not to enjoy my time there. Fear wanted me to be miserable. By God’s grace I pushed through. The fears I had? Conquered. Want to conquer yours? Face ’em. Go ahead. They’re just fears.

 

#10. God Answers Prayer When on the Front Lines of Disciple-Making 

Does God answer prayer all the time? Yes.

Does God always hear us? Yes.

But is there a different level of intensity and clarity in His answers when His children are doing what He said specifically to do? I think so.

I can’t explain it. I don’t have chapter and verse. But I know that when I am on the front lines making disciples of all nations – He answers prayer in a more revealed and focused way than when I am just randomly living life.

The ‘Take-Away’? When I feel far from the Lord, or feel I haven’t heard from Him in a while, I need to ask myself whether or not I am specifically doing what He called His followers to do?

 

#11. I Love to Laugh AND Make Others Laugh

Call it annoying. Call it ridiculous. Call me an idiot. But I can’t help it. I love to laugh and really love to make others laugh with me. I will spare you the details (due to the fact that I would like Ryan and Chris and Craig to still be my friends), but trust me: we laughed from the time we left El Dorado until the time we met up with our wives. There were times we laughed so hard it hurt. (The picture above? I have no idea who the guy was – but I took a selfie with him. We both enjoyed it!)

Words cannot convey what laughter did to my soul. God wired me to love laughter and to constantly look how to make others laugh with (or at!) me.

Speaking of which, “Craig, how is your rash doing?”

 

#12. God Hasn’t Called Me to Live Overseas Yet

I asked Him. I think every Christian should ask the Lord if He wants them to go to the nations at least once a year. I do not feel the Lord calling me to go at this point in my life. That could change tomorrow. I better be open to it. But right now, He wants me to stay here. To be sure – it’s not sit here and NOT impact the nations. It’s stay here to equip and train and mobilize and motivate others to impact the nations. He wants me to play the role on this side of the pond for now.

I believe He wants every follower to play some role in fulfilling the Great Commission. I know what mine is . . . FBC get ready! But what’s your role? Are you fulfilling it?

‘Take-Aways’ from South Asia – Part 1

By God’s grace and goodness, the ‘Fab Four from FBC’ returned to Little Rock in the good ole U.S. of A. last night around 5:30 PM.

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Our venture to South Asia was incredible. But man oh man, is it good to be home!

If you will allow – I am going to break from the normal ‘Throw-It-Out-There-Thursday’ and ‘Five @ Free Flow Friday’ posts this week and list some of my personal ‘Take-Aways’ from our trip. As with any international trip for the sake of the Gospel – this one also was a game changer.

In no particular order, I will list 6 today and 6 tomorrow:

#1. Authentic Discipleship Happens When Life is Shared

It has been a long time since I was with just 3 guys for every waking minute for 10 days. We did everything together. We ate together, laughed together, prayed together . . . and knew when the other one went to the bathroom during the night. You know what happens when you spend time together like that? Well, other than hearing the toilet flush a lot, you talk about what God is doing in and around your life. You talk about where you struggle. You talk about what you believe and what questions you have about God. You know what happens when you do that? You challenge and encourage each other spiritually – unintentionally. Sharing life together – as parts of the body of Christ – is essential to spiritual growth and development.

 

#2. God is at Work Among the Nations!

Seriously. He is. He is drawing men and women to Himself in unprecedented ways around the world. Just ask one of the missionaries I was with last week – on Wednesday she visited a slum in South Asia. She ‘just happened’ to start a conversation with a lady there. This lady ‘just happened’ to have had a vision of Jesus the night before. She was eager to know more about this Jesus. The missionary there ‘just happened’ to be there to tell her. What are the chances???

Wanna be where God is working? Go to some of the darkest places on the planet. It’s where the light shines the brightest. I’m telling you – if you want to be where God is at work, go to the nations!

 

#3. Not Working with Urdu Speaking Muslims in South Asia would be Disobedience. 

The Father made His will so plain to us last week, that not doing this would be sheer disobedience. I wrote about it here. If you are a member of FBC, you will be hearing LOTS about this in the days to come.

 

#4. The International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention is THE BEST Missions Organization on the Planet – Period.

Go ahead. Ask. Ask other missionaries who aren’t employed with the IMB what they think. Ask IMBers if they are taken care of. Go ahead. Ask ’em.

Is the IMB perfect? No way. Far from it. Can you think of an organization that puts 5,000 people in spots all over the world that is? Nope. But does the IMB work vigilantly to take care of its missionaries so they can focus on the task at hand? Yes sir.

 

#5. It Is Better to Fail Trying Than to Not Try.

I learned this from one of the missionaries in South Asia. He had just arrived on the field. He wasn’t waiting until he mastered the language before he made relationships. He wasn’t waiting for someone ‘higher up’ in the IMB to tell him what to do. He was getting out there and meeting people from his ‘people group’ in order to find persons of peace who would hopefully respond to the Gospel. Was everything he doing working? Nope. But you know what? He was working. This was a HUGE ‘Take-Away’ for me. Huge. I often default to ‘nothing mode’ because I don’t want to fail. But this guy defaulted into ‘do something mode’ in order to get his failures over with so to move closer to success. Failure to him would be doing nothing. May that be true of me.

 

#6. My Children Don’t Have to Do Everything.

One family we were with last week had 3 children under 7 years of age. They didn’t have basketball practice because there was no basketball team. They didn’t have art class because there were no classes offered. They didn’t have piano lessons because there was no one around who could teach them (in English, anyway!). Though at first I was tempted to feel sorry for them – it quickly vanished. Why? Because these kids – though not busy with extra-curricular activities – were inundated with their parents’ company, the works of God, and impacting lostness. These kids were going to grow up having been consumed with focused time with their parents and seeing the hand of God all around them.

What did God show me in this? It’s okay if my kids don’t participate in every activity available. At the end of the day, they need Katie and me. What’s more – at the end of the day – I want them to see, know, and experience the power and work of God all around them. For these things to happen – we have to guard and protect, and well, be intentional with their time.