Monday, November 21, 2011
I love this simple declaration of Paul the Apostle. The Apostle held to a strong belief in the sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He believed that in the Gospel was the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). The proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was his consuming passion. He told the Corinthians in 1 Cor 2:1-2, 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Paul knew something that we, in our generation, are apt to forget: the sufficiency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Nothing else can transform lives. Yet, we tend to underestimate this gospel at the very least, or worse, we tend to deny its power by our actions.
I read a story this week of a small English village that had a small chapel. The chapel was made of stone and had ivy covered walls. Over the arch when the chapel was originally built were inscribed the words "We Preach Christ Crucified" so that everybody whoever entered would know what they were there for. And there was a generation of Godly men that did precisely that. They preached Christ crucified. But times changed and the ivy grew and pretty soon it covered the last word and the sign said "We Preach Christ." And the Godly men changed. And there were other men who came and they preached Christ: Christ the example, Christ the humanitarian, Christ the ideal teacher. The years passed and the ivy grew covering the name of Christ and finally it said "We Preach." And they did, they preached politics, economics, social gospel, and whatever.
That sounds like a parable of our day and time. Today there is much preaching of Christ the republican, Christ the democrat, Christ the capitalist, Christ the socialist, Christ the humanitarian, Christ the giver of stuff, or no Christ at all. In many places it is more subtle than others. For instance, it may be that the preaching of Christ crucified has been so clouded with smoke machines and other gadgets that its lost in the chaos. For others, there is a desire to attempt to soften the sting that comes with the preaching of the gospel. Still others fall into the trap of giving the people what they want to hear. Yet Paul said, " For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles." Why would Paul make such a determination to preach Christ crucified in a cultural setting that was so opposed to the Gospel? Because Paul knew that it was the Gospel he had been commanded to preach and the Gospel was their only hope. Besides, the preaching of anything else would be to declare that the Gospel is not enough. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon put it well when he said, "I do believe that we slander Christ when we think that we are to draw the people by something else but the preaching of Christ crucified"
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Today (Sept. 20), marked the official end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), a policy implemented in 1993 as a compromise between those who wanted to allow open service by homosexuals in the military and those opposed to it. The end of DADT marked a significant victory for the Obama administration as the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by the Senator in 2008.
I guess I could spend my time here lamenting this event. Certainly it troubles me. I could spend time pointing out the biblical mandate of the one man/one woman marriage relationship and the sinfulness of homosexuality. But, as I am well aware, I am preaching (actually writing) to the choir. Therefore, let me focus on something the choir (including myself) needs to hear.
I fully support the end of a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Now that i have your attention, let me explain. I am certainly not talking about the military policy, but another, more sinister DADT policy. The one I speak of is an unwritten policy, practiced not by the government, but by the local church. I am referring to the DADT policy in regards to evangelism, lovingly sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world.
You see, such things as the end of the military's DADT policy are simply symptoms of a larger problem, the ever increasing spiritual lostness of American culture. Homosexuality is just one among a mulititude of sins for which Christ died. The answer to lostness is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But this Gospel must be proclaimed in order for the spiritual lostness to be impacted. In Romans 10, Paul wrote, (13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?...ESV). We must understand this truth, unless we preach, they will not hear. If they do not hear, they will not believe. If they do not believe, they will not call on His name. If they do not call on Christ, they will not be saved. The eternal destiny of millions is at stake. So, lets put an end to the church's DADT policy and proclaim Christ, that His name will be glorified among the nations, and multitudes will join us in praising Him for eternity. (Rev. 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen").
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I have thought about that young man’s experience many times since I first saw him. I can imagine him, in his home, on an average, ordinary day in Leogane. It was just like any other day, nothing special. That would all change at 16:53 local time as Leogane was at the epicenter of a major catastrophe. When the dust cleared, many of this young man’s friends and fellow citizens were dead, his home severely damaged, and he himself badly hurt. I can imagine the days following the quake, as it became clear that he would live the rest of his life with only one leg. Life for him would never return to normal, at least not the normal he knew. Instead, he would have to establish a new normal.
One of the things the young man loved more than anything was soccer. I can imagine him wondering if he would ever play the game again. Fast forward and there I am, along with some others, fascinated at the sight of this young man, on crutches kicking his ball. The ball was an e-ball, a soccer ball with various colors on it, each color representing a different point in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Someone, on a previous mission team, had given the young man the ball. Everyday, there he would be kicking that ball against the wall.
As I watched the young man, day after day, I was reminded of some great Gospel truths. First of all, we often face affliction in this fallen world. Life can be very difficult and we often find ourselves flat on our face. Our circumstances can even seem impossible. But, glory to God, greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Our God is a God who specializes in demonstrating His sovereign power over things that appear impossible to us. In fact, those situations can even serve as Gospel reminders that we can’t, but God can and will and already has in Jesus Christ!!
Second, I was reminded that by the grace of God, I will be lifted up when knocked down. I cannot do it on my own strength, but by the strength that God provides. It may take a while, as God may have some lessons I need to learn while on the ground, but eventually He lifts me up. My job is to simply trust Him by faith. Tozer wrote, "What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God. Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain."
Third, the sight of the young man reminded me that I too am on crutches. Thankfully, my crutches are not physical, but certainly in the spiritual sense. Greg Koukl wrote, “When people ask me, ‘Isn’t Christ just a crutch?’ I have a simple reply. I tell them, ‘You’re right. Christ is a crutch. But you’ve asked the wrong question.’ The real question is, ‘Am I lame; am I crippled?’ because crippled people need crutches. The fact is, everybody leans on something. As a Christian I lean on Jesus, because He’s a crutch that can hold me. What about you?”
Monday, July 11, 2011
I am a blessed man. God has blessed me so very greatly. He has blessed me first of all by saving me by His loving grace. I have the best pastor’s wife any man could ever pray for. Together, Kristie and I have been blessed with three awesome boys and have opened our hearts and our home for another child at God’s leading. On top of that, we have been blessed with the privilege to serve the Lord at a most awesome church, Walker Baptist Church.
The last several months have been especially trying. Being a pastor is one of the most fulfilling and yet painful jobs a person can have. As believers, we are commanded to love one another (John 15:12). In our Box family devotion time, we have been reading 1 John and one of the themes we have been looking at is how our love for one another, as believers, is directly connected to our love for Him. In fact, our love for one another is actually a witness to a watching world. Jesus Himself said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35, ESV). Love for God and love for one another are inseparable.
Over these past several months, God has been doing some great things in my heart and has even used the unkind and unloving expressions of others in this process of purifying my heart. For instance, my love for people has been tested. Thankfully, through prayer, I can honestly say, by God’s grace, I love everybody, even those who are not loving toward me. In fact, I can honestly say I would get up right now and go to the aid of any person, regardless of their love for me, or lack thereof. It is quite easy to have compassion on individuals who are kind and loving toward you, but what about those who are not? Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:43-45, ESV). So, its not just our love for one another as believers that demonstrates our love for God, but also our love for our enemies.
Our Lord has also been gracious to show me issues of pride in my heart. I believe C.J. Mahaney described it best when he said, “I am a prideful man, seeking to be humble by the grace of God.” I am not sure that I would have seen those things had it not been for the circumstances I have endured recently. Its not easy to have individuals tear you down and at the same time point to something or someone else they declare to be superior to you. Perhaps, as you read this, you know something of this feeling. Perhaps, you have people tell you or make you feel as if you are not good enough. We can either respond to such things with anger, or we can allow those cruel and painful things to be used by God to bring humility in our lives. Only God can take such things that are intended for evil and bring good out of it. Thankfully, He has reminded me that He didn’t call me to be anybody other than who He makes me by His Sovereign Grace. That is why Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor 15:10, ESV).
Finally, the Lord has taught me a lesson in patience. I have been reminded to wait on Him and to trust Him, not only with my situations, but also with the outcomes. He will take care of me. In the mean time, I will cling to Him. I will stay in His Word. The Psalmist wrote, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts” (Ps 119:92-94, ESV). I will not return evil for evil, but will give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all (Romans 12:14-21). I will seek to love everyone, to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. I do this to bring glory to my Father, who saved me by His loving grace. And I do this in the hope that the world might see the love of Christ in me and they too would glorify the Father. I love you all. God bless each of you.
Imagine for a moment that you are in a room filled with people who are, you included, starving to death. Suddenly, by no merit of your own, you are chosen out of the crowd, given food to eat and then commanded to begin distributing food to all the others who are starving. Immediately, you go to work. You take a basket filled with bread and you go to the first row of people and give them bread, some take it, some refuse it. You keep distributing the bread regardless of the response. After some time, you have offered bread to the first ten rows of people and yet ten rows of people remain. So, you get more bread and instead of going to the back ten rows, you return to the first ten rows and begin to distribute bread again. After you have completed a second distribution of the first ten rows, you do it again. You begin to think of what a great job you have done in distributing bread to the first ten rows and how you have been faithful to offer the bread even when refused. Yet, what you are missing is that among the back ten rows, there are people dying of starvation, and as the bread distributor, you have neglected the commander’s orders to distribute bread to all of the people.
Prior to our Lord’s ascension, he said that we are to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). He said that we are to make disciples of ALL nations (Matthew 28:19). That means we are to spread the gospel here in our town and state, but we are also to spread this gospel to the ends of the earth, that the glory of God may be known among all the nations of the world.
Our International Mission Board has identified 3800 people groups remaining in the world that have been classified as untouched and unreached, meaning they have never heard the name of Christ, have no current access to the Gospel, and there is no current strategy to reach them. Left alone they will die in their sins apart from Christ. I don’t know about you, but I cannot be satisfied with continuing to give bread to the first ten rows while neglecting the back ten who are starving. And the reality is, this is a problem for which we cannot hire enough missionaries. This will take every church getting involved. As the pastor of Walker Baptist Church, I do not plan to stand around and do nothing. My plan is for our church to be involved. The goal of the Southern Baptist Convention is to have at least 3800 churches adopt one of these people groups. I am asking you to join me now in prayer as we seek God’s plan for our involvement. I will also be attending a conference on September 7 in Marietta. I would invite as many of you as would like to go with me. The conference will better inform us of ways we can be involved in this global effort. Let me know as soon as possible if you will join me for this event. The cost is $20.
Brothers and sisters, this is a very serious matter. We have been commanded by our Lord to spread the gospel. Will you join me and the rest of our fellow SBC churches as we together embrace the ends of the earth and do our part to finish the Great Commission. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14, ESV). I love you all.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a very challenging statement. He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a ESV). Let those words sink in for a moment. Read it again.
For the most part, we do not have a problem loving our family, friends, and our neighbors who are kind to us. But, what about the folks who are not kind to us? What about folks who choose to be rude and even malicious? Jesus gives us two things here that we are to do. Let’s take a moment and examine those things.
First of all, He says that we are to love them. We are to love even those who are unloving to us. That act is essentially living out the Gospel. God loved us, even while we were sinners, enemies of God. Thus Christ essentially tells us to live out the Gospel toward our enemies. This is not a suggestion. It is a mandate. As followers of Christ, we are to live out the love that was demonstrated at the cross and is extravagantly poured out on us every moment by our Loving Father. It is not easy. In fact, sometimes it is very hard. But, by His grace we love anyway.
Secondly, Jesus said that we are to pray for them. Prayer is powerful. One of the powerful outcomes of prayer is the work that is done in your own heart as you pray for those who are not being loving towards you. It is hard to hold hard feelings toward someone you are honestly taking before the throne of grace in prayer.
Jesus modeled both of these great principles ultimately at the cross. He loved His enemies so much that he died for them (us) at the cross. Furthermore, on the cross he prayed for those persecuting Him as He cried out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” While He was on the cross they were mocking and ridiculing Him (imagine if they had had a facebook)....and yet He loved and prayed for them.
But the most challenging words of Christ come after those two challenging actions. Notice that after He commanded us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors He said, ‘so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’ The fact is, those who have been saved by grace will also be those who demonstrate forgiveness and grace toward others. How can one who has been the recipient of so great a love, be himself unforgiving and unloving? It is unheard of in Scripture. John MacArthur wrote, “If love is the greatest thing, then loving your enemies is the greatest thing that love can do.” I love you ALL.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
This morning I was reading Psalm 138 and from that I would like to share an encouraging word with you. This is a Psalm of David, written when he was surrounded by enemies. Yet, in the midst of trouble he wrote, “6 Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. 8 The Lord will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands” (Ps 138:6-8).
David knew that God was the Almighty, Sovereign Ruler of the universe. He described God as being on high. And when he saw Himself in light of who God is, David saw himself as he really was, lowly. Yet, David knew that it is the lowly, to whom God looks upon and showers with grace. Therefore, in his trouble he had confidence, not in himself, but in God who promises to be our shelter in times of trouble.
David thus began to look at his trouble in light of his heavenly Father’s sovereign grace. Suddenly his trouble took on a new appearance. Once he began looking at his trouble in light of God’s omnipotence, he knew he had nothing to fear, nothing to worry about. So instead of despair, he erupted in worship! He began praising God for glorious reality that even though he walked in the midst of trouble, God would preserve his life. One definition of the Hebrew word that is translated “preserve” is to sustain life. Certainly David knew that God would sustain him through the trouble and would ultimately rescue Him. He was certain of this because he knew that God’s love endures forever.
For you, who are reading this, whatever is going on in your life, you can have this same confidence as David. If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, you can rest in the calm assurance that, though you walk in the midst of trouble, God will preserve you and will ultimately save you. It may not be in your timing, and it may not be the outcome you would ask for, but God will work in His perfect timing, and the result He brings about will be for your good and for His glory, as He even uses your trouble as part of the process of conforming you into the image of Jesus Christ. So, take heart and rest in His sovereign care. God bless you.
Monday, January 24, 2011
on an ultrasound machine. There he was, as clear as could be, a baby. He was not a blob of tissue
nor some sub–human cluster of insignificant cells. The Dr. did not say, “There is the fetus.” Instead,
he said, “There’s the baby.” He then carefully showed us every possible angle.
The previous months had been life–changing. Kristie and I were both lost and in need of
Jesus Christ. We were unmarried and now she was pregnant. We were both young, misled, and
uninformed, me more so on the uninformed part. The thought of having a baby at that stage of my
life seemed quite inconvenient. I could think of a million reasons why it would not be a good thing. I was too young and so was Kristie. We both had our whole lives in front of us. We both had dreams and desires and plans. Add to this, according to the world, this was an “unplanned” or “unintended” pregnancy.
I approached Kristie one day and suggested that we should consider an alternative route. I
suggested we consider having an abortion. After all, this seemed to me, to be the most logical way to go. It seemed, to me, best for everyone involved. Kristie looked at me like I was absolutely nuts. Looking back she was right. Abortion was never an option for her, even though it had been suggested by more people than me. I conceded to Kristie’s adamant conclusion that abortion was not an option.
And so, there I was now looking at an ultrasound screen weeks later. It was a day that I can
pinpoint as a moment when God began to change my heart. I knew the moment I saw that image on the screen (Kristie even before then) that I loved that child with all of my heart. It was amazing how one image destroyed all of the lies I had believed about the status of a child in the womb.
That child was born on May 10, 1994. I will never forget the first time I heard that cry or
when Dr. Beckam said, “It’s a boy.” I will never forget refusing to cut the umbilical cord because,
though excited over the baby, I was extremely nauseous over the blood and stuff. I will never forget holding him the first time, after a cleaning, of course. I will never forget looking into those eyes and wondering how in the world I could have been so ignorant as to even think of an abortion.
A couple of years later Jesus Christ radically changed my life. He used that little boy to get
my attention and to point me to my need of a Savior. Yesterday, I watched that little boy, along with his friends and fellow DV8 folks, as they led our church in worship. I am completely overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of God. I am thankful for my son and I am thankful to God for capturing me by His sovereign grace. I am thankful that part of God’s gracious work in capturing me was an ultrasound image that allowed me to my son for the first time.
Statistics show that a woman (and a man) who sees an ultrasound of her baby is most likely
to be convinced of the personhood of her child, and not follow through with an abortion. I can
certainly understand why. It is the same change of heart I had, along with Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic, who walked away from her career as an abortion provider after witnessing an ultrasound guided abortion (http://www.abbyjohnson.org).
Last week, Yvone Genest of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Walton was here with us.
She told about the clinic’s current process of being converted from a resources center to a medical clinic which will provide free ultrasounds to expecting mothers. I believe this will further aid the center in its goal to help save lives for the glory of God. Will you join me in praying for and financially supporting this great work. Many of you picked up a baby bottle for the “Baby Bottle Boomerang.” Please prayerfully consider the amount God would have you to give and return those to the church. Also, you can visit the center’s website at prcwalton.com to make a contribution and to see other ways to be involved. God bless each of you.