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Showing posts from February, 2010

Life Groups

"I like the discussion, the fellowship, working together to think through a passage of the Bible." 
"I like the give and take...pushing the study in a direction."
"Life Groups teach us to watch what we say - to be more compassionate to others - Christian or other people."
"Rotating teachers give a different perspective each week. Sitting around a table was good."
These are some of the comments people are making about our Sunday Morning Life Groups. We encourage you to join us this Sunday at 9:15 to get into the Word and build deeper relationships with others in the church. You're already coming for the worship service. Why not arrive just one hour earlier and get some great life-on-life discipleship?
Here's a new promo video on why you should be attending one of our Life Groups at First Southern. Hope to see you Sunday!

The Stony Soil

While reading through the Gospel of Mark recently, I was stunned by two parables Jesus told.

The Parable of the Seed (Mk. 4:26-29) reminded me that gospel ministry is entirely a work of God. It is a mysterious delight to watch God take my feeble efforts and produce something holy and supernatural.

The Parable of the Soils (Mk. 4:1-20) reminded me that there may be some in our very church who think they are saved when in reality they are not. This is one of the longest parables delivered by Jesus, and it is unique because it is more of a true "allegory," i.e. multiple elements of the story have a spiritual meaning. The seed represents the Word of God; the soils represent different hearts; the birds represent Satan. And as we discovered last Sunday in our second week of exposition in this passage, the sun represents the scorching heat of affliction. Together we discovered three lessons from the stony soil:
Be careful of your emotions. Jesus says that stony-soiled people "i…

Initial thoughts on the GCR progress report

As promised, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force delivered their Progress Report to the SBC Executive Committee last night in Nashville. You can now watch chairman Ronnie Floyd's report for yourself, or read the transcript here.

Currently, there are six major components to their report to the SBC:

Component #1: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to rally towards a clear and compelling missional vision and begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Component #2: We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that our North American Mission Board needs to be reinvented and released. Therefore, in order to do this, we will ask Southern Baptists that the North American Mission Board prioritize efforts t…

GCR report to be unveiled tonight

On June 24, 2009, the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to form a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Their job: to evaluate the state and structure of our convention, and to find ways we can more effectively cooperate around the gospel. (Here's a picture I took of the historic vote on my camera phone while in Louisville).

Tonight, we will find out the first details of the Task Force's report to the convention. Chairman Ronnie Floyd made this announcement late last week.
I am most thankful for the ever growing number of you who are joining us as GCR Prayer Partners. I do not know of any time in our process where we need prayer any more than for our presentation on Monday night in Nashville, Tennessee. Please encourage others to join us as Prayer Partners at Again, we need prayer support. On Monday night, I will be giving a Progress Report to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as to the representative leadersh…

The Hard Soil

Last Sunday, we began to study the Parable of the Soils from Mark chapter 4. We had some interesting sound issues during the sermon, but I hope it didn’t detract from the privilege of hearing God’s Word.

Jesus did not always speak in parables. In fact, for quite a while in his ministry, he was very straightforward, teaching lessons and commands and stories and illustrations, but not parables. As Mark 3:23 and 4:11 tells us, Jesus deliberately began speaking in parables to conceal truth to those who rejected Jesus and were guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the parables were a way to continue to reveal truth about the kingdom of God to those who were genuine believers

The Parable of the Soils is the first parable recorded in the Gospel of Mark. It has four parts, and we studied just the first part together last Sunday. There were three points:

1. The seed. Living in an agrarian society, many of Jesus’ audience were either farmers themselves or walked by f…

Semper Gumby

This past week, after hearing from several missionary friends on the field, I've been reminded how challenging missions can be. Three things necessary in missions work are flexibility, faithfulness, and a big sense of humor. In short, the motto of a missionary must be semper gumby -- always flexible.

One missionary family learned this week that after selling all their possessions, doing a year of language training, going through many trials, and finally settling in a South American country for the past two years to begin church planting, they have been notified by their missions agency they will be reassigned in the next three years to a new, unreached people group, relocate to a new culture, and probably have to learn an entirely new language. As Solomon once said, "the mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps." (Prov. 16:9)

Another missionary family, in a completely different corner of the globe, shared some of the quirky realities of living in a diff…

Zondervan titles on Logos

Logos Blog has just announced that the pre-pub prices on Zondervan titles have been reduced, and that an additional 40% discount is available for Zondervan customers who had previously bought products in Pradis format. For more information, go to the full article here.

Beware the Sirens

Breaking Free blog has an outstanding article today on the Siren Song of Greek mythology and what it teaches us about fighting pornography. It's one of the best things I've ever read on the subject.

Here's an excerpt.
I believe the Bible has both Odysseus- and Orpheus-mentalities, but more of the latter. In one sense Odysseus is commendable. He knows the danger of the siren song, so he makes diligent precautions to avoid making a deadly decision. We all need men like Odysseus’ shipmates, men who are willing to see through our mental fog caused by temptation, men who bind us fast and keep us from sinful choices, men who are willing to sit up with us at the midnight hour if we feel the draw of lust.

But the Bible promises God will not only change our outward behavior, but He will change our desires. We are promised that though we are not now delivered from the presence of our fleshly desires, we can be delivered from their power.
I highly recommend reading the whole article

How long do you study?

In April, I'll be teaching a seminar at the Equipped for Excellence teacher training conference in Riverside. The theme of my seminar is "How to Study and Interpret the Bible."

As part of my research, I thought I'd find out how long the average person prepares for their Sunday School or small group lesson. The length obviously will obviously vary depending on age group, curriculum, etc. But a ballpark idea would be helpful.

Would you mind taking this brief poll? Your answer will help me craft a suggested schedule for how to study and prepare a lesson from start to finish. Thanks.

The five points of calvinism

Pastor and hymn writer John Newton once said, "I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar." Taking a lump, and putting it into his tea-cup, and stirring it, he added, "I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed and diluted."

That seems to be a pretty healthy view of Calvinism in my opinion. The doctrines of grace are delightful, and if we are to be faithful to the Scriptures we must preach them. But like sugar they can come across too strong if served undiluted to God's people.

While I don't make Calvinism a hobby horse, I did decide recently to preach a 5-part series on the Five Points of Calvinism. But I decided not to couch it in those terms. I approached it instead as an inductive, "behind the scenes" look at our salvation. In this way, I hoped to elevate God's sovereign grace in salvation and challenge some common Arminian assumptions without using labels or ar…

Taking care of the pastors wife

This post isn't an attempt to be self-serving. But as a pastor, I can testify how valuable my wife is in my ministry. She may not stand behind the pulpit on Sundays, but my ministry, my sanity, our family, and our church would simply not be what they are without her constant help, counsel, and comfort. Whatever church you belong to, and whoever your pastor's wife is, consider doing something special this month to say "thank you" for her important behind-the-scenes role in your church.

Here's a list by Becky Badry of 18 ways church members can care for their pastor's wife...
The ministers' wives in your church are special ladies in your women's ministry with a set of needs unique to ministers' families. Make special efforts to take care of a minister's wife and family by trying a few practical ministry ideas:
1. First and foremost, pray for her. Ask for her prayer requests, and check back for answered prayers. If she shares with you, confidenti…


An elderly man had hearing problems for a number of years. His family tried over and over to convince him to get hearing aids, so finally he relented. He went to the doctor and was fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed him to hear perfectly once again. A month later he went back to the doctor. The doctor said with a smile, "Your hearing is great. Your family must be really glad you can hear again." The old man replied, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I've changed my will three times!"

I wonder if we would change how we talk about others if we knew they could hear our conversation. Whenever we speak of others in a way that is hurtful or unsubstantiated, we’re engaging in what the Bible calls gossip.

Now, I have to admit, there’s something exciting about gossip. We scan the tabloids with curiosity. We strain our ears to hear that discussion across the room. We gloat as we share a bit of new dirt …

Book Review: The Outlook Answer Book

Microsoft Outlook is a powerful program that can do much more than merely send and receive emails. Even without a user manual, Outlook is pretty easy to set up and use. Its basic features are rather intuitive. But to go deeper, you may want to pick up a copy of The Outlook Answer Book: Useful Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Microsoft Outlook(R) 2003. This book will help you tap into the full potential of the program.

The authors divide their content into 16 chapters: setup and configuration, categories, address book/contacts, email, calendar, notes, journals, tasks, searches, custom forms, macros, outlook express, exchange server, web access, security, and archive/backup.

"The Outlook Answer Book" is generous with pictures and contains easy to follow instructions. As the title would suggest, the format is all Q&A. Every single heading is in the form of a question. Though helpful for a new user, I found this format annoying at times and even redundant. For example, was it r…

Saved by the Spirit

Having already looked the past couple weeks at the role of the Father and the Son in our salvation, we turned our attention last Sunday morning to the role of the Holy Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit was instrumental in the creation of the universe (Gen. 2:2), the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:21), the virgin birth of Christ (Matt. 1:18), His public ministry (Matt. 3:16), and the resurrection (Rom. Rom. 1:4). But the Holy Spirit was also deeply involved in our salvation. In fact, without His miraculous, transforming work in our hearts, none of us could have been saved. Using Titus 3:5-6 as our main text, we studied the Spirit's work from two angles:
There is a complete change. Paul's phrase in v. 5, "washing of regeneration," pictures a dramatic rebirth, a divinely wrought change in our nature that produces a spiritual "bath." Simultaneously, there was a "renewing" that took place, meaning we were completely revived and transformed. This was …

Book Review: Getting Things Done

Does your life feel disorganized? Is your inbox overflowing and office growing more and more cluttered? Do you tend to put things off until the very last minute? Do you feel like your schedule is dictated by the tyranny of the urgent? Then take the time to read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. It may literally change your life.

Early on, Allen gives a five-step process to getting control of your life. First, he says to collect every single item or ‘open loop’ in life that commands your attention and is sapping your energy. Second, begin to systematically process what each item means and what to do about it. Third, go deeper by organizing the results. Fourth, regularly review the progress you are making and re-negotiate your priorities. Fifth, go and do it!

The rest of the book unpacks these five principles with many helpful step-by-step instructions and examples. One thing can be said about David Allen: he takes nothing for granted. He doesn't just tell yo…

Sovereign Grace sale

It's time again for the big Sovereign Grace annual sale. These prices are unbeatable with lots of choices for great music and books. Here's their official announcement...

Huge sale on Sovereign Grace books, music, and more

Starting today, we’ve dropped prices on almost everything at our store. For the month of February, you’ll find these ridiculously low prices:

$5 – all downloadable albums from Sovereign Grace Music $6 – all CDs from Sovereign Grace Music Books: $4 – all our Pursuit of Godliness books (including How Can I Change? and Disciplines for Life) $5 – C.J. Mahaney’s books The Cross-Centered Life and Christ Our Mediator$7 or less – most other books—including the just-released Spanish edition of When Sinners Say “I Do”Songbooks, audiobooks, and DVDs are also on sale.

International shipping is 50% off. And as always, U.S. shipping is free for all orders over $15.

Load up at, and tell your friends.

Outreach New Testament

Justin Taylor points out a great resource to keep in mind for evangelism...

If you or your ministry or your church are looking for inexpensive copies of the NT to give away to folks for evangelistic purposes, you may want to look at the ESV Outreach New Testament. You can get 300 copies for just over $200. Or you can order them individually at $1.19 a piece.
Here are the specifics:
8.2-point typeWords of Christ in black222 pagesSize: 5.25″ x 8.25″And here’s the supplemental material included:
Short intros to each bookHow to Read the New TestamentWhere to Find Help When You Are . . .What the New Testament Says About . . .Getting Started: A 30-Day Reading PlanGod’s Plan to Save YouSix-Month New Testament Reading PlanHT: Justin Taylor