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Showing posts from May, 2009

Reaching the lost

As I said several months ago, the mission of our church is to "to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love people, by reaching and teaching everyone."

I have already examined the overarching mission of the church (to make disciples) and have seen what a disciple should be (one who loves God and loves people). Now it's time to consider the process by which a disciple is made.

Matthew 28:19-20 breaks discipleship down into two stages. First, Jesus tells the apostles to preach and evangelize, which culminates in some hearers believing and new converts being "baptized." Second, the apostles were to train these new disciples through a life-long process of "teaching them to obey." This two-step process that Jesus outlined two thousand years ago still continues in His church today. At First Southern Baptist, we call these two steps "reaching and teaching."

For the sake of strategic planning in the church, I've found Peter Bolt's li…

Glorifying God in the Golden Years

Last Sunday, we studied the prayer of an old man in Psalm 71, and learned how we can "Glorify God in the Golden Years." There were three points to our outline:
The Protection of the Elderly (Ps. 71:1-13). The psalmist senses that he is in danger as his enemies encircle and plot against him. Though his strength is diminishing, his faith remains strong as he runs to God for refuge. It may seem, at times, that God has forsaken us, but we know that those who have trusted Christ are secure. God already forsook His Son on the cross so that we would never have to be forsaken (Matt. 27:46).The Purpose of the Elderly (Ps. 71:14-18). The psalmist knows that his many years and life experiences are intended by God to be the source for unending hope and praise, while teaching the next generation about God's character and salvation. As long as God keeps us on the earth, He has an important mission for us to fulfill. Whatever faculties we have left should be used for God's glory.

1 million stories of compassion

Compassion International in Colorado Springs made an exciting announcement on Wednesday:
Compassion International, a leading child development and sponsorship organization, reached a major milestone today as they celebrate the sponsorship of their 1 millionth child, an 8-year-old boy from the country of Togo in West Africa.The newly sponsored child lives with his father outside Togo's capital city of Lomé. Togo, a country whose population is seriously affected by the devastation of AIDS, is the most recent country to join the growing list of nations where Compassion works. The child's sponsor is from South Korea, the country in which Compassion began its mission 57 years earlier. The sponsor is most recently noted for a gold medal she won at last year's Beijing Olympics.Each sponsorship typically includes education, spiritual instruction, a nourishing meal, and basic health care. This millionth sponsorship was specially timed to coincide with the one million mark. But whil…

Keller on ministry idolatry

Tim Keller was recently interviewed by Towers Online, the news service for Southern Seminary. I really appreciated his warning about the idolatry of success in ministry.
Question: What safeguards should 20-something pastors have in place to avoid the idolatry of ministry fame and the attitude of big numbers equals success?

Tim Keller: If you know it is a danger, that is a very important start. Additionally, when you find yourself unusually discouraged because things aren't growing or people aren't listening to you -- you have to catch yourself. You have to realize "This is an inordinate amount of discouragement, which reveals the idolatry of justification by ministry." Meaning, you say you believe in justification by grace, but you feel like and are acting like you believe in justification by ministry. You have to recognize you are making something of an idol out of ministry. When you do experience inordinate discouragement because things aren't going well, you nee…

Principles for Giving

Last Sunday's sermon came from 2 Corinthians 9. As we listened to Paul's appeal for the Corinthians to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem, we found three life-changing principles of "giving for the harvest":
We are to give humbly (2 Cor. 9:10). All our money - indeed, everything in life - belongs to God. He is the One who gives us life, breath, time, strength, family, jobs, possessions, etc. Thus, when we give, we should have a heart of humility, thanking Him for the honor of giving back a portion of what is already His.We are to give generously (2 Cor. 9:5-6, 8, 10-11). God expects us to give bountifully and sacrificially. He makes us rich so we can in turn be generous toward others. But since few of us feel rich and able to give generously, we must learn to see giving as an act of faith, taking a step of obedience, even though we may not know how God will provide. If we wait to give until we have the money, we will never give.We are to give joyfully (2 Cor. 9:7)…

Pastors: the key to a great commission resurgence

No doubt about it, there are some exciting things going on in our Southern Baptist Convention.

I'm very pleased with the recent Great Commission Resurgence document drafted by Johnny Hunt and certain leading members of the SBC. I read through it carefully and finally signed it this morning. I believe it gives a healthy wake-up call to our convention and lays a sound philosophy of ministry for the future of our convention beyond the doctrine articulated in the Baptist Faith & Message.

I appreciate that leaders recognize a true Great Commission Resurgence will not happen merely through a top-down approach from our seminaries, the executive office, or Lifeway, but through a grassroots movement among local churches, and particularly among local pastors.

Thus, the Annual Meeting will focus this year on pastors, local church, and denominational health rather than a reaction to national politics. In a recent interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, Johnny Hunt said:
...the annual meet…

Optical illusions

Check out these illusions that were voted the "best optical illusions of the world" for 2009. I especially like the curve ball and the colored dove.

Tabloid archaeology

Gordon Franz writes,
One day a friend sent me an invitation to a church meeting and asked me if I knew anything about the subject. On the flyer was a picture of a human skeleton with crooked teeth and a rock embedded in his forehead. The title above the skull read: “They’ve Found Goliath’s Skull!”
Has Goliath's skull really been discovered? To find out, you'll have to read rest of the story here.

This is a good example of what Franz calls "Tabloid Archaeology," and unfortunately, many Christians buy into this stuff hook, line, and sinker. If it sounds good and seems to give credibility to the Bible, then no matter its source (email, blog, tabloid, video) or level of scholarship, we assume it must be true and with great excitement pass it on to our friends.

To avoid future embarassment, we can all be grateful for a new website Franz has developed called Life and Land Seminars. It has a lot of material on Bible backgrounds, but some articles deal specifically with sensat…

The High Calling of a Mother & Grandmother

In honor of Mother's Day last Sunday morning, we considered the "High Calling of a Mother & Grandmother." Here was my sermon outline:
Four people in a family - 2 Timothy 1:5 and Acts 16:1-2 introduced us to a family of four: Lois, a believing grandma; Eunice, a believing mom; Timothy, a believing son; and Timothy's father, an unbelieving dad. We were encouraged to see how God used a mother's and grandmother's faith to be instrumental in saving young Timothy.Four areas of training children - From the description of Jesus' development in Luke 2:52, we saw four areas that every mother should train her child: mental, physical, spiritual, and social.Four kinds of people in our church - We concluded by considering how these truths would apply to four groups of people in our church: moms, grandmas, women without children, and men.
Thought & Discussion Questions:
Are there any similarities between Timothy's spiritually "mixed family" and mine?…

Praying for our leaders

Today is the National Day of Prayer, a special day set aside each year to gather publicly and intercede for our nation and leaders. Our local ministerial sponsored a community prayer service this morning at the local park to honor the occasion and lift up our praises and requests to God.

Not sure how to pray for the nation? Why not begin with 1 Timothy 2:2, which says to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

If God guides and blesses our leaders, it will result in peaceful life where the gospel can spread more freely. John MacArthur writes on this passage, "When it manifests love and goodness to all and prays passionately for the lost, including rulers, the church may experience a certain amount of religious freedom. Persecution should only be the result of righteous living, not civil disobedience" (MacArthur Study Bible, note on 1 Timothy 2:2)

Gary Bergel shares 30 ways to pray for …

Virgin lips

Here's something radically counter-cultural. A new movement is on the rise to encourage Christians to abstain from kissing until marriage.

It's obvious our culture has become hyper-sexualized in a very short time. Al Mohler writes,
In the space of little more than a single generation, we have seen the breaking down of virtually every social and cultural support for sexual abstinence. Arousal and intimacy come with the romantic longing that marks the deepening relationship between a man and a woman. Young couples no longer court on the porch swing with the girl's parents sitting inside and very close at hand. Now, most young couples face the temptation of romantic contexts in which intimacy--and this means sexual intimacy--is a likely outcome. The Virgin Lips Movement represents a serious effort to push back against this expectation and to create boundaries that will protect virtue and honor marriage.What do you think? Is the Virgin Lips Movement putting Matthew 5:29-30 in…

The Need for Church Unity

Last Sunday morning, we looked at John 17:20-26, the final part of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In these verses, He prayed for “all who would believe,” including you and me! We saw Him pray for the church’s unity in two areas:
Our present unity – Jesus prayed that our unity would reflect the unity within the Holy Trinity (v. 21). We can expect both unity and diversity in the Body of Christ. The basis of this unity is the very indwelling presence of God in us, His “glory.”
Our future unity – Jesus is delighted as His closing request in the prayer to ask for us to be together with Him, forever and ever, and to see His glory (v. 24).
Thought & Discussion Questions:
Have I truly believed in Christ through the word of His apostles? (v. 20)In what ways should a church show unity? Diversity?How would I rate the unity in my home? (Excellent? Fair? Poor?)How would I rate the unity in our church? (Excellent? Fair? Poor?)Is our church’s unity providing a good witness to the co…

How to live in the world

Jonathan Dodson gives some great practical ideas on how we should be living "in the world, but not of the world" (John 17:15-18), aka living missionally, or engaging our culture:
Eat with non-ChristiansWalk, don't driveBe a regularHobby with non-ChristiansTalk to your co-workersVolunteer with non-profitsParticipate in city eventsServe your neighbors
You can read the whole article here.

Some related posts I've written on this topic:
We are called to "Go"Why we don't obey Christ's call to "Go"

Swine flu and the church

We’ve been hearing a lot about swine flu lately and you may be wondering if the church is a safe place for you and your children to attend.

First of all, this is an opportunity to keep a sound mind and put our trust in God. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We never have reason to grow anxious or paranoid. “Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:25-26). God has already numbered our days and determined our health. Swine flu cannot thwart God’s sovereign schedule for our lives.

As far as local health risk, our county Department of Public Health issued an advisory on April 28 reporting that “No cases of this virus have been identified in San Bernardino County at this time.” They simply encourage people to take normal, common-sense precautions to minimize the spread of germs:
Cover you…

Interview, pt. 3

On Wednesday and Thursday, I shared parts one and two of a recent interview I had with a member of our church who was completing a school project on church leadership. Here's the conclusion to the interview...

5. Are you leading consistently and biblically?

a. Is your leadership based on biblical principals?

Yes, as much as possible, I try to base my leadership on biblical principles. I do not support an executive model, where a pastor rules from the top down, with an attitude of intimidation and condescension toward others. Nor do I support a marketing model, where a pastor is checking opinions, taking polls, and forming focus groups of current or potential churchgoers to see what is trendy. Nor do I not support a purely democratic model, where everyone has an equal voice in every decision.

God has given leadership to the church so all things can be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Spiritual leadership is best pictured by a shepherd, who must lead from the front. I must …