Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Should the Lord give us this Thursday, it will be the first Thanksgiving that my wife and I will celebrate without our grandmothers. My grandmother, Mary, and her grandmother, Lucile, both are experiencing the "far better" with Christ (Phil. 1:23). On top of my grandmother's absence this year is the selling of her home. While I'm thankful for a buyer, I realize that as the ink dries on the purchase agreement, I will not step foot in my grandmother's home again. A chapter that has been so sweet is swiftly drawing to a close. I will not bore you with all of my memories, but I'm thankful for each one of them. I'm thankful for the year she let my family live with her when we were transitioning back to Louisiana. I'm thankful for every Saturday lunch she made through the years. I'm thankful for all of the Thanksgiving breakfasts, lunches, afternoon snacks, and dinners. I'm thankful for the gumbo lunches on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for all the Christmas Eve gatherings, the finger foods & sherbet punch, and opening presents with my cousins. I'm thankful for the memories of watching football games together. I'm thankful for the hall closet full of jellies and pickles she had canned. I'm thankful for all the long nights of laughing and playing games with my cousins around Maw-Maw's dining room table. I'm thankful for every morning that I woke up to the smell of bacon, biscuits, and scrambled eggs (and for the secret place she kept the kind of syrup that I liked). I'm thankful for all of the 3:00pm coffee conversations that happened around her kitchen table and the intense games of dominoes. I'm thankful for the memories of playing Uno, Rummy, and Hungry Hippos together. I'm thankful for her proud displaying of all of her grandchildren's art projects (including the cow I painted blue in the nativity scene). I'm thankful for all the kind words I heard her share. I'm thankful for all of the food I watched her prepare and then take to others who did not have any. I'm thankful for every time she said "Let's pray together before you leave." Yes, the selling of my grandmother's home will be bitter sweet. A chapter that is full of more memories than I can record will be closed. But new chapters begin. New memories are to be shared with our 3 little ones and the little one on the way. There has never been a day in my life that I was not grateful to be placed in the family of Mary Graham. I'm so thankful for the Lord's providence and graciousness. I'm also thankful for the resurrection of Christ. For even now, my grandmother lives. And One Day, we will share a place that will never be sold and make memories that will never end.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Word for Elders

I read this verse yesterday:
Acts 20:28 "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

There is a sermon in this one verse.
Don't miss the charge: "pay careful attention to yourselves and the flock"
Don't forget how you became an elder: "the Holy Spirit has made you overseers"
Don't neglect our duty: "to care for the church"
Don't forget who the church belongs to: "church of God"
Don't forget what He paid: "which he obtained with his own blood"

To be an elder is both sobering and rewarding. It is both joyous and sorrowful. May we be those like Paul who do "not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears" (Acts 20:31). May we never take lightly the calling we have received. May we never forget the reckoning that is coming for our stewardship.

Heb. 13:17 "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account."

Heb. 13:7 "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mountain Dew Mess

Today for lunch, Barton and I decided to visit Papa V's. For those of you not in Tupelo, this is one of the coolest gas stations in town. I know, I know! You should never feed your face where you feed you car, but you've never seen Papa V's. Their lunch line is busy everyday because of their bbq and downhome cooking. Arriving earlier than Barton, I picked out my food and then picked out a place for us to sit. It was a high-top for two. In the course of taking my first bite, I knocked over my 32 oz. cup of Mountain Dew. Some may see this as God saving me from my own stupid choices, but nevertheless, a waterfall of yellow drink cascaded off the table onto the chair in front of me and all over the floor. Two men close-by immediately looked at me, so I quickly offered the ancient expression: "My bad!" As I surveyed the mess, I reached for the container of "tiny napkins" on the table. While I love Papa V's food, I do not love Papa V's napkins. They would be perfect if I was a Smurf, but they are far from the lumber jack Brawny man. It was evident the resources I had would not be sufficient to clean up this mess. Fortunately, one of the Papa V's workers was close by and wiping down tables. I tapped him on the shoulder and offered the astute phrase: "I spilled my drink." He immediately used the towel in his hands and began the first phase of clean-up. By the time all was said and done, he made four trips to the table with towels, a bucket, and a mop. When he was finished, the table was restored to its original condition and I had a cap on my new drink (which I would later drop again next to Barton's foot - but the cap held!!)

Even in this simple experience, I was reminded of the Gospel. More than a physical mess, I've made a spiritual mess but do not have the sufficient resources to clean up the problem. I need Another who is both willing and able to help me. I need One who will deal with the mess and who is not afraid of the necessary clean up work. I need One who will one day restore everything as it was originally intended. Thankfully, there is One. One who saw the most wretched aspects of my mess but was willing to have them charged to His account. One who in the clean up process experienced forsakenness, wrath, and abandonment. One who had all the required resources of holiness and righteousness. One who has removed the penalty of my sin, broken the power of sin, and will one day remove the presence of sin. Maybe you didn't spill your drink today friend, but if you've disobeyed the Good Words of our Good King you are in a mess. Good News! The King has taken your place in the mess that you might set your feet on solid ground. Look to Him. Yield your life to Him. If you do not, you will find your "tiny napkins of righteousness" will not be enough to clean up your mess on the day the Great King returns.

Thank you God for reminding me of the Gospel today in the spilling of my mountain dew. Thank you for reminding me that I do not have the resources necessary to clean up my mistakes. Thank you for reminding me that I need Christ to clean what I cannot. Thank you for rescue, regeneration, and reconciliation. Thanks for cleaning up my mess. Thanks also for giving someone wisdom to create tops for drinks...and straws.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I'm guessing that one of the most disappointing sentences for Paul to write was 2 Timothy 4:10. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes this: "Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." Demas had been a fellow worker of Paul's (Col. 4:2; Philemon 24), but the final word spoken of him in Scripture is "Deserter." John's counsel could have been very timely to Demas: "Do not love the world or the things in the world . . . For all that is in the world . . . is not from the Father . . . and is passing away" (1 John 2:15-17). I have often wondered what it was about the world that was so alluring to Demas. What caught his eye? What appeared more beautiful than the Gospel? What was more attractive than a sinless savior taking on the sins of His people? Regardless, whatever it was he took none of it with him when he died. John Owen aptly exhorted: Do not have living affections for dying objects. Like the Rich Young Ruler, Demas and those like him gain "stuff" but also sorrow. Jesus tried to warn us "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his soul?"

When any of us follow the world it's bad, but when one who is serving in ministry chooses the way of the world, then it's really bad. It's devastating for the minister, for his family, for the congregation, for those who hear of the matter, and for the Kingdom. Sure, redeeming factors will come (Rom. 8:28), but the consequences can be brutal. I'm burdened this week because of 3 ministers who have made poor choices and have caused a riptide of painful consequences in their wake. My immediate thought is "but for the grace of God there go I." But on a deeper level, I'm burdened. How did they get to the places they were in their walks with Christ? How did hope become replaced with hopelessness? Did they not feel they could tell anyone about what was really going on? How did sin become more alluring than obedience? (I know this answer. I battle it every day in various forms). Fundamentally what has happened with them is true of all us. At some point, eyes were taken off of Christ and placed squarely on sin. When we aim at sin there is a strong chance we will hit it, but when we set our eyes on Christ then we will not aim at sin. When we are satisfied in Christ, nothing the world offers is as alluring as it seemed before. As Paul says, when I saw Christ, then I realized all the rest of the stuff was dung.

Ministers are not immune from the need for accountability, transparency, and to be reminded repeatedly of the Gospel themselves. Please pray for your pastor and his family. Pray for his eyes to be completely set on Christ. Pray that in the Gospel he finds freedom, peace, hope, contentment, strength and relief from the feeling of having to be perfect. Pray for these brothers who have made poor choices, their families, their congregations, their healing. Pray for the grace that they faithfully have proclaimed to wash afresh in their own journey and in mine.

Pray for all of us to walk like Paul and forsake the world rather than walk like Demas and embrace it. Gal. 5:16, 24 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. . . . And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Gal. 6:14 "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Gospel Centered Pastor

Col. 1:24-29

A Gospel Centered Pastor is:
• God’s man called to God’s ministry to proclaim God’s message for the maturity of God’s people through God’s means.

GOD’S MAN (1:21-23)
i. Paul (I became a minister) - Acts 26:9-11; 1 Tim. 1: 13-15

i. A Call (Acts 26:12-18; 1 Tim. 1:12)
ii. A Call to Stewardship (1 Pet. 5:2; Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 9:16-17)
iii. A Call to Service (2 Cor. 4:5)
iv. A Call to Suffering (Phil. 2:30; Acts 14:19-23; 2 Cor. 11:24-28; Gal. 6:17)
v. A Call to Struggling (Gal. 4:19)

i. Proclaim Christ (2 Cor. 4:5; 1 Cor. 18-31; Lk. 24:27)
ii. Warning Everyone (Acts 20:31)
iii. Teaching everyone (Col. 1:9, 2:7, 3:16)
iv. We make the word of God fully known so that the people of God might be fully mature.

i. This is our aim: (Eph. 4:11-13, 15; Rom. 15:14)
ii. Epaphras’ prayers – 4:12 (Is this our aim and prayer?)

i. All God expects from us He provides for us in Christ Jesus
ii. God gets all the Glory: God reconciled Paul, God gave Paul the ministry, God gave Paul the message, God gave Paul the motivation, God gave Paul the means

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Gospel Saturated Church

My prayer for Trace Crossing is that we will be a Gospel Saturated Church. On my first Sunday as lead pastor at Trace Crossing, I shared the following outline from Colossians 1:21-23:

As a Gospel-saturated church . . .

I. We want to be a church that always remembers what we were like without Christ (1:21)
a. Without Christ we were alienated.
b. Without Christ we were hostile in mind.
c. Without Christ we were doing evil deeds.

II. We want to be a church that always remembers who we are in Christ (1:22)
a. With Christ we are holy
b. With Christ we are blameless
c. With Christ we are beyond reproach

III. We want to be a church that always remembers what our reconciliation cost Christ (1:20, 22)
a. Reconciliation
b. Via Propitiation
c. For the Purpose of Glorification

IV. We want to be a church that always perseveres in and proclaims Christ (1:23)
a. Persevering in the Gospel
b. Proclaiming the Gospel

If we are going to be a Gospel-saturated church then we must think often on the cross. If we are going to love God passionately and others rightly then we must meditate on the cross constantly.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Trinity and the Atonement

Sinclair Ferguson: The atonement is not a form of inner-trinitarian blackmail. No: the Father loved us and did not spare his own Son for our salvation (Rom. 8:32); the Son loved us, and ‘did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped . . .’ (Phil. 2:6); the Spirit loved us (Rom. 15:30) and is not ashamed to indwell and sanctify us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Psalm 56:3

As a child, I was involved in the Bible Drill program sponsored by First Baptist Church in Leesville. With regard to scripture memory and Bible familiarity no other program has had as profound of an impact on me as Bible Drill. I'm thankful my mother not only wanted me involved with the program but also took the time to help me memorize each year's verses. Looking back, it's not the competition part that was beneficial but the treasuring of the Word in my heart. Many of the verses I learned as a child are still with me today.

One verse the Spirit has used repeatedly in my journey is Psalm 56:3. It was easy to memorize because of the rhyme with "thee" and "three." The psalmist says: What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee (Psalm 56:3). I can still remember our leader emphasizing the rhyme and from that moment the Spirit sealed it in my heart. Countless times, the Spirit has used Ps. 56:3 to crush fear and move me to trust in God. Some examples include: when I was in junior high and had to visit my father every other weekend and every other Wednesday night. There were some nights where I was honestly scared to go to sleep because I did not know what my father might do to me or those I loved. The Spirit would use Ps. 56:3 to bring me peace and push me to rely on Christ. Other times the Spirit has used Ps. 56:3 in my life include: the day my father died, the day we learned that Arabella had a hole in her heart, and just about every time when I have check the "bump" in the middle of the night. Most importantly, the Spirit uses Ps. 56:3 to crush fears I have in stepping out in obedience to something Christ is calling me to or even to crush fears that I have in being a father. I'm learning that being a man does not mean that you are never afraid, but rather when you are afraid that you place your complete trust in the Lord and not yourself.

I'm thankful to have Scripture in my language. I'm thankful to have had a mother and others in my life that saw the value in children memorizing the Word. I'm thankful God has spoken and continues to speak through His Word.

"What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." (Psalm 56:3)

Friday, September 9, 2011

2 Helpful Thoughts on Discipleship from Capitol Hill Baptist Church

In one of their core seminars on discipleship, Capitol Hill Baptist Church offers the following 2 thoughts:


Why might it be easy to think of discipleship as a program instead of a process? Many programs have been developed to “grow” disciples. But because every person is different and has different struggles and temptations, discipleship cannot be so easily packaged. Hebrews 10:14 says that Christ “has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” What an interesting statement. On the one hand, Christ has made us perfect. On the other, though, we are continually being made holy! With his death on the cross, Christ stood as our substitute before God and we were justified in God’s sight. In regard to His justice, then, we are already perfect. But another process is taking place throughout our lives – the putting to death of our flesh so that our body of sin will be destroyed. Read Philippians 1:3-6. Paul is confident that as Christ has begun this process of sanctification, so He will carry it on to completion. As disciplers, though, we must remember that the process is not complete yet. Our prayer should be that of Paul a few verses later in Philippians 1:9-11.


In Hebrews 10:24-25, it is the church who is charged with encouraging believers, not just one person. This class will deal mainly with one-on-one discipling, but we must remember that Christ intends for His disciples to be brought to full maturity through the ministry of the church. No one of us has the full arsenal of spiritual gifts that is necessary to bring a person to full maturity in Christ. Even in your own life, there are areas where you will probably need more to be discipled yourself rather than to be a discipler! Each person in the church is able to contribute to the growth and development of a Christian. We are not to make clones of ourselves, but disciples of Christ, so we should not assume that we can personally provide everything a person needs. One person in the church may be gifted in one area, while another person is gifted in another. Both of those people are needed to bring a disciple to full maturity.

What/Who is a Disciple?

Mark 1:16-20
* Called by Christ (this is where discipleship starts)
* Respond to Christ

John 8:31-32
* Disciples abide in His Word, know the Truth, and are set free

Matthew 10:24-25/Luke 6:40 (fully trained)
* Not above sharing the sufferings of Christ

Luke 14:26-27, 33
* A disciple loves Jesus more than anything or anyone else
* A disciple bears his cross and follows Jesus
* A disciple renounces all that he has.

John 15:8-17 – Disciples . . .
* Glorify the Father by bearing fruit and proving they are disciples
* Abide in His love by keeping His commandments
* Possess full joy
* Love one another – laying down our lives for one another

Acts 9:36
* A disciple is full of good works and acts of charity

Other marks of a disciple (From Mark Dever)
1. A desire to know what God says. (Job 23:12; Jer. 15:16; Deut. 6:5-7; Rom. 10:17; I Pet. 2:2)
2. A break from the world’s standards. (I Cor. 10:13; II Cor. 5:17)
3. Self-discipline. (Gal. 5:22-23; Matt. 16:24; Luke 3:11; I Cor. 9:25-27)
4. A desire to seek other disciples. (Rom. 15:5-6; Acts 2:42; Eph. 3:17-19; Heb. 10:25; I Pet. 1:22; I John 1:2, 7)
5. Evangelism. (I John 3:16-24; I Pet. 2:21; II Cor. 9:6-7; Philip. 1:21; Matt. 10:32; John 14:12)
6. Perseverance. (Philip. 3:13-14; I John 1-4; Ps. 37:23-24; Rom. 6:1-14; II Pet. 1:1-10; John 5:37-39)

Making Disciples Course

During my time at CrossPoint, I became burdened by the "pace" of discipleship. It seemed to be moving slowly, which we all know the meager strivings of our sanctification and our ultimate hope in glorification. For the purposes of multiplication, I wanted to train our folks in the "basics" and then send them to train others. As a result, I designed a course called "Making Disciples." For a year I walked together with two different groups of folks at CrossPoint and followed this schedule:

Fall Semester
* Knowing Christ (Bible Study)
* Pursuing Christ (Spiritual Formation)
* Sharing Christ (Evangelism)

Spring Semester
* What do I teach? (Theology)
* Where do I teach? (Missions)
* How do I teach? (Mentoring)

God used that course beyond what I could have imagined and is still bearing fruit through some of those that were in the classes. I share the outline above in the hopes it might be helpful to some of you who are thinking through "how" to make disciples.

Discipleship Resources

Besides walking through verse by verse studies of the Word, below is a list of resources I would walk through with someone I was mentoring. I hope to walk through each of these with the folks at Trace Crossing:

1. Lord Teach Me to Study the Bible in 28 days – Kay Arthur
2. God's Big Picture - Vaughan Roberts
3. Prodigal God - Tim Keller
4. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church or What is a Healthy Church – Mark Dever
5. What is a Healthy Church Member - Thabiti Anyabwile
6. When Sinners Say I do – Harvey
7. Christian Beliefs or Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem
8. Gospel in Life – Tim Keller
9. Promises Made – Mark Dever
10. Promises Kept - Mark Dever
11. Bill Wallace of China - Fletcher
12. The Pursuit of Holiness - Jerry Bridges
13. Tell the Truth - Will Metzger
14. Knowing God – J. I. Packer
15. The Valley of Vision
16. Desiring God – John Piper
17. The Unquenchable Flame - Reeves
18. Chinese Whispers: The Gladys Aylward Story - by Carol Purves
19. The Story of Christianity – Justo Gonzalez
20. Let the Nations Be Glad – John Piper
21. Reason for God – Tim Keller

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lingering Consequences

Each week the Lord give us, it's been my privilege over the past year to equip the Sunday morning teachers at CrossPoint Baptist Church in the upcoming lesson. We typically offer one meeting on Wednesday at noon and one on Friday at 12:30. I've enjoyed our time together immensely and take seriously my responsibility as an elder to keep a close watch on the doctrine. Our passage for today was Joshua 9. As the chapter opens, a coalition of Canaanite kings is forming to make war on Israel and Joshua. The more I studied the passage, however, the more I found myself wondering if this coalition was a lingering consequence of Achan's sin back in Joshua 6-7. Here's what I mean: Prior to Achan’s sin, this is what is said of the kings of the Canaanites: “their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel.” (5:1) But after Achan’s sin and Israel’s initial loss at Ai, this is what is said of the kings of the Canaanites: “they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel” (9:1) and “all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight with Israel” (11:5). My point is that prior to Achan’s sin, Israel experienced nothing but success and all of the Canaanites melted in fear. After Achan’s sin and Israel’s initial defeat at Ai, the Canaanite kings joined forces to fight Israel and Joshua. Though Achan was gone and his guilt removed from Israel, I believe there were still some lingering consequences to His sin, which chapter 9 captures in the opening 2 verses. Obviously, this led me to ask the question, "After I am gone, will my family and my faith community and my town have lingering consequences of my sin or lingering blessings because of my obedience?" Disobedience always has consequences some of which might linger long after we are gone.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

From CrossPoint to Trace

Friends: I have not broadcast this news via social media yet, but have shared with all parties involved. Should the Lord give us July 10th, I will preach my last sermon at CrossPoint (www.crosspointchurch.org) . Should the Lord give us August 14th, I will preach my first sermon as lead pastor of The Church at Trace Crossing (www.tracecrossing.org). Please pray for us as we close our time at CrossPoint and begin our time at Trace. I will also be preaching 2 Fuge camps and 1 Student Life camp in June. At some point, I will post a lengthier entry on our time at CrossPoint. I will just say briefly that I lack the words to express my gratitude for the Lord's good Providence in leading us to CP and in seeing the good fruit He has produced through His Word. There are a lot of details to be worked out between now and August. Please pray for the Lord's gracious provision in every way for both congregations and our family.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gospel Fuel

If you have never memorized Colossians 1:9-14, I want to encourage you to do so. As a matter of fact, I want to encourage you to memorize all of Colossians. Don't tell me you can't do it. For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37). The reason I am exhorting you to memorize Col. 1:9-14 is that it is packed with Gospel Fuel (particularly vv. 12-14). In these verses, Paul is praying that the Colossians will be grateful because:

God has QUALIFIED them to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
God has DELIVERED them from the domain of darkness.
God has TRANSFERRED them to the Kingdom of His beloved Son.
God has REDEEMED them in Christ.
God has FORGIVEN their sins.

As I noted above, this passage is Gospel fuel. What I mean by Gospel fuel is that the more you meditate on the truth of the Gospel, the more God will fuel worship, love, and joyful obedience in your heart. When I meditate on Col. 1:12-14, I do not have to "pump" myself up to worship God, no, instead, I cannot help but worship the ONE who has qualified, delivered, transferred, redeemed, and forgiven me. As I meditate on the Gospel, I am empowered by the Spirit to live the Gospel. And as I live the Gospel, not only am I being transformed, but so is my home, my workplace, my city, and beyond. Colossians 1:3-14 captures Paul's thankfulness for the Gospel in the lives of the Colossians, in the entire world, and in Epaphras. The more we think on the Gospel the more our prayers will be saturated in gratitude.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


We should never go past the cross but deeper into it. For the past several years, I've made it a goal not to just think about the cross at Easter, but meditate on the cross daily. I've read Matthew 26-28 countless times, but what I love about Scripture is that God continues to teach us more and more as we pray and read. One of the aspects of the crucifixion that caught my eye this year is recorded in Matthew 27:39-44. Matthew records that those passing by the crucifixion "derided" Jesus, he records that the religious leaders "mocked" Jesus, and he records that the robbers crucified on either side of Jesus "also reviled him in the same way." As I said, I've read these verses too many times to count. What gripped my heart this year was how Jesus refused to let their comments tempt Him away from living in submission to the Father's plan. At any point, He could have come down and vindicated Himself, but we would have all perished in our sin. The religious leaders were trying to tempt Jesus with the same thing the Devil did: worship without a cross. Too often when I am wronged, my "fleshly" desire is to vindicate myself. When someone speaks disparagingly of me, there is a desire to prove them wrong. I'm so thankful that Christ understood His substitutionary atonement and resurrection would be vindication enough. His exaltation to the right hand of the Father is unquestionable vindication. As I meditate on these verses this year, I ponder anew how the Gospel sets me free from self vindication. Because of Christ in me, self can (and needs to) decrease. I'm so thankful for Christ's obedience and Christ is my only hope for obedience and denial of self.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Babe of the Day

I wrestled with the title of this post, but the one I've chosen gets right to the issue. One of our local sports radio stations routinely reminds their listeners: "Need a break from work? Check out the babe of the day." The announcer then provides the web address and has sometimes "teased" a little further to say they also have the "Thong of the Day." While I am thankful to live in a country where freedom of speech (and somtimes ignorance) is allowed, we would do well to remember that legality and Godliness are not always equated. Paul dealt with a similar issue in 1 Cor. 6, when the men of the church wanted to use their "freedom" to engage sexually with temple prostitutes. Paul strongly reminded the Corinthian church that just because something is permissible does not make it beneficial. For instance, you are "free" to have bad breath, but it will most likely not benefit you or those around you. You are also "free" to have a unibrow, but the majority of those around you most likely prefer two instead of one. With regard to our local radio station, we live in a country where we can "freely" look at things on the Internet, but in this case there are no benefits. Here are two particular reasons: 1. This radio station is not doing these men any favors. Looking at the "babe of the day" will not build your marriage, but destroy it. Anything that works against our marriage should be viewed as an enemy. 2. This radio station is not doing these women any favors. To display the pictures of these women, does nothing to build these ladies up, rather it promotes them as being objects to be had instead. It causes the "beauty" of the women to be the "end" rather than the means to a greater end of seeing the beauty of the One who has created all. Paul's passionate plea in 1 Cor. 6 is that the substitutionary atonement of Christ should make a difference in what we do with our bodies. Our bodies are not just molecules and moles, they are the very dwelling place of God. Paul's parting shot: So glorify God in your body. Don't be fooled by the seemingly harmless radio commercial. The "peek" is not worth what it costs. By the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh and you will live (Rom. 8:13). So maybe we could run this radio spot: "Need a break from work? Read the Word," so that you might love your wife deeply and lead your children well. You were not created just to satisfy urges, but for the glory of God.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blogging to be Known

A few years ago, a well intended blogger encouraged pastors to blog. The blogger provided 5 or 6 solid reasons for why pastors should communicate via the internet. The last reason, however, never set well with me. The final reason provided for encouragement was this, "Blog so that you can be known." I've thought about that comment often over the past few years. Once as I was walking down a steep incline in Rwanda in the middle of the night holding hands with two pastors from the Congo, I thought to myself, "Do they know they are supposed to be blogging so they can be known?" Or again as I sat in chapel at the Uganda Baptist Seminary and listened to students participate in one of their preaching classes I thought to myself, "Do these guys know they are supposed to be blogging so that they can be known?"

Obviously, the original blogger had positive intentions. He realizes there are solid pastors who never get asked to speak for a conference. He understands there are guys serving faithfully and the world (or at least the evangelical world) has yet to hear of them but could possibly benefit from their wisdom.

One of my favorite verses about being "known" is Acts 15:35 "But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also." Obviously Paul and Barnabas are the headliners, but the little phrase "many others" caught my attention one day. In the margin of my Bible I wrote the words: "known by God." Luke, under the influence, of the Holy Spirit did not include the names of the others, but they were there and they were faithful and there were many of them and they were known by God.

Very few people wake up and say to themselves, "I want to live in obscurity and be known by as few people as possible." There are some I'm sure, but probably very few. More of us are okay if others learn who we are, what we are doing, how incredible we are, etc. Both in the pulpit and out of it, pride must be crucified at the cross of Christ. Are we blogging to be known or to make Jesus known? Are we preaching to be known or to make Jesus known? I'm not saying that the "holiest" route is to make it as painful as possible for people to learn who you are or what you are doing for the cause of Christ. I am saying, however, the Lord assigns the places to sit at His table. Jesus once taught that if you sit at the humble place rather than the prominent place then you don't have to be embarrassed when the person assigning the seats asks you to move.

If the Lord watches sparrows and counts hairs on head, pastors (and everyone else) can be certain the Lord knows where you are whether or not you have a RSS feed. Be faithful. Be content. Trust the Lord's Providence. Make Him known.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Lengthier Explanation of the Gospel

Four words I use to help people understand the Gospel are God, man, Christ, and response.
• First, the Gospel starts with God. More accurately the Gospel is God. If we understand the Gospel to be good news, the good news is not just that we “get” Heaven. The true good news is that we receive God Himself. The reason the Gospel starts with God is because all things are by Him, through Him, and for Him. He sustains all things yet needs nothing. The true understanding of salvation is not that God needs us, but we desperately need God. In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures evermore. In His eternal plan, God spoke the world into existence and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed both God’s presence and provision. All would have been well if the first humans had obeyed God. Unfortunately for the world, they did not.
• Second, God gave Adam and Eve specific commands. As the Sovereign Creator, He had every right to do so. One of the commands given to our first parents was to not eat from a specific tree in the Garden. Tempted by Satan with the false promise of becoming like God, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the world has never been the same since. In Romans 5, we learn that sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve and along with sin came death. Adam and Eve were banned from God’s special place and their relationship with each other, as well as, with God was quite different. Yet, in the justice and discipline the Lord gave to them He also gave a promise. There would be an offspring of Eve that would eventually crush Satan.
• Third, the beauty of the Gospel is that the One who was offended is the only One who can provide a solution and He does. God is Holy, which means He is without evil. He hates sin. Because He is just, He must punish sin. The incredible picture of the Gospel is that God provides a substitute, Himself. Because of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God, man’s greatest need is reconciliation with God. In order for man to be reconciled to God, then God’s wrath needs to be satisfied toward sin. What we learn in Romans 3 is that God put Christ forward as a propitiation for our sin. In short, God the Father provided God the Son to absorb the punishment each of us deserved for our disobedience. The Bible also reveals that this was the plan all along and not just a reactionary decision. Before God said “Let there be light” there was already a Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. God’s action in Creation was done in full knowledge of the substitution that would be necessary for man to have eternal relationship with Him. In the cross of Christ, God lays on Jesus all of our sin. In becoming our sin, Jesus also becomes a curse (Gal. 3) and God the Father pours out His wrath toward sin. In the exchange, Jesus is given full responsibility for our sin and we are given the full benefit of His righteousness. God is both just and the justifier.
• Fourth, Christ’s righteousness will not be given to all, but to those who repent and believe. To repent means more than just being sorry for our sin, but to turn away from our sin. To believe means to trust that God’s wrath has been satisfied in Christ and we stand justified before God in Christ alone. The decision to repent and believe also means submission to Christ as King. Salvation is not just for those who voice prayers but for those whose entire heart and life is yielded to Christ. Of course all that we need to repent, believe, and yield our lives daily to Christ comes through Christ. Apart from Him we can do nothing. The good news of the Gospel is that Christ is our answer for justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Be the Somebody

In most congregations, there may be one person or even a small group of people who have a very special spiritual gift. This person (or group) has the keen ability to both observe and point out needs. Meeting the need, however, falls just outside of their area of giftedness. If you are wondering if you are in this group, just think back to the number of times you have shared the phrase, "Somebody needs to . . ." with your pastor, but then didn't volunteer to be the somebody. Variations of the phrase include "something needs to be done about . . .," "someone should . . .," or my personal favorite "I know of a need that hasn't been met."

I woke up pondering this special group of people this morning. Not because we have any at CrossPoint, but more because I was thinking about Luke 10. One of the most popular children's stories of all time is recorded in Luke 10: The Good Samaritan. I found myself meditating on how the Samaritan saw the need and met the need rather than saw the need and pointed it out for someone else to meet. The story would obviously be quite different if the Samaritan had traveled all the way to Jericho and told some of the folks in town, "There's a guy beat up pretty bad on the road to Jerusalem. I'm not sure he's going to make it. Somebody ought to help him."

Jesus is trying to emphasize in the parable what it means to love one's neighbor. If we take clues from the Samaritan, it means seeing a need in front of you and being willing to sacrifice your own resources to meet the need if necessary (no matter who the person is). The Samaritan sacrificed his time. It would have been a lot quicker trip if he didn't stop to help. The Samaritan sacrificed his oil and wine. Unless there was an oil and wine stand next to a lemonade stand on the way to Jericho, then the Samaritan used his own oil and wine to care for the wounded man. The Samaritan sacrificed his energy. He placed the man on the donkey, which means the Samaritan most likely walked. The Samaritan sacrificed a good night's rest. The text clearly says that the Samaritan took care of the man once he got him to the inn. The Samaritan sacrificed his money. He gave the inn keeper 2 denarii to meet the physical needs of the injured man and he promised to meet any other bills.

How many of you think the man who was beaten and robbed was grateful the Samaritan was not just a pointer-outer, but rather a meet-the-needer? How many of us are grateful that Christ was not just a pointer-outer? Without doubt, Christ not only saw our greatest need, but met it. How hopeless we would be if Christ only pointed out our sin, but did nothing to help us overcome it. How hopeless we would be if Christ only pointed out our need to be reconciled to God, but did nothing to help us achieve it.

Wouldn't it be cool if our congregations were full of people who not only pointed out problems, but worked to provide solutions? Wouldn't it be really cool if folks in our community sang "Like a good neighbor, (insert church name here) is there?" Don't seek "somebody" today, be the somebody. Whatever needs are brought in front of you today, be the somebody.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Kitchen Table

As I sit at my kitchen table tonight, I find myself overwhelmed. The little ones are asleep and our home group has all departed for their homes. Tara is diligently packing for a quick trip we are making this weekend. The only noises I hear are the sound of an ipod playing praise music and the washer and dryer performing their daily tasks. While I initially sat here to prepare a lesson plan for our Bible study teachers on Revelation 11 (and will still do that), I have found my heart and mind pondering many things. I find my heart full from having the privilege to walk alongside a group of people for 5+ years as their pastor. I've been blessed by the Lord to see fruit in each of those years both in our church and in my own life. I find myself thinking about how we have sent over 60 of our folks to replant a church in mid-city Baton Rouge. I rejoice in the Kingdom implications and pray other congregations will be like minded. I find myself disappointed in the Cooperative Program percentages of our state convention. I do value the work being done in Louisiana and believe it's just as important as anywhere else. I just also desire that we might be able to send more funds to more places who have never heard the name of Christ. I find myself overwhelmed that today people perished in our world without ever hearing the name of Christ, without ever holding a Bible, and without any eternal hope. I find myself burdened particularly for Pakistan. It seems that there are almost daily headlines of suicide bombers, turmoil, and persecution of Christians. The only hope for Pakistan is the Gospel. While the immediate chapter of my journey may not be in Pakistan, I find myself feeling that perhaps someday I might have the privilege of declaring the Gospel there. Should the greatest sacrifice be required of me, then may I stand with those in Rev. 12:11 who "loved not their lives even unto death." I find myself pondering the reality that life is a mist, a vapor, a wave, and then we proceed to eternity. I find myself wondering if the amount of treasure I've stored in Heaven will actually reveal that I thought more of the present world than the world to come. I find myself thinking I want to seize each day as an opportunity to love Tara as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I find myself realizing I need to do better at this. Yet in all this pondering and pontificating, I also find myself rejoicing. Rejoicing that one day a trumpet will sound and loud voices in heaven will say, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." Rejoicing that Christ was slain and by His blood He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Rejoicing that we who were dead in our trespasses have been made alive by God because the record of debt that stood against us has been cancelled as God nailed it to the cross. Rejoicing that Christ will destroy every rule and every authority and every power and even the final enemy, death. Rejoicing that the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. Rejoicing that the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Rejoicing we will always be with the Lord. Oh Father, help me to love you deeply, to live for you daily, and to lead my family and congregation diligently for the sake of Your name and renown. The washer and dryer have stopped.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Brief Explanation of the Gospel

Sovereign God says to all of us “Be holy as I am holy.” Unfortunately, the Bible informs us that we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We are also told that our righteousness is as filthy rags. At this point, we are in eternal trouble. The greatest news, however, is that God provides a substitute in Christ. Christ does two things for us. One, He receives the punishment for all of our sin. Second, He gives us His righteousness. We can indeed now “be holy” as God is holy, because He gives us His very own holiness in which to stand before Him. Jesus makes very clear, however, that this privilege of holiness comes only to those who repent and believe (Mark 1). Those who do not deny self, take up their cross, and follow Jesus will have no part of His righteousness.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Christ and His Substitutionary Atonement

Over the past week, I've had the opportunity to have several conversations about the Gospel, as well as, different theological "camps." What we always want to keep in focus is Christ and His substitutionary atonement. Christ and His work upon the cross are the height of the Gospel. Everything else is derivative of this act. Whether you believe regeneration precedes faith or you believe faith precedes regeneration neither of these is the primary belief with regard to salvation. What you believe about Christ and the atonement is and will always be most important. May we be tenacious with regard to a Christological focus as we think on and share the Gospel.