Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 4 and Done

After a great week with the youth we are all finally home and licking our wounds. Thankfully these aren't spiritual wounds or bad wounds at all... just tired and sore from increased muscle activity! When we weren't exploring caves, swimming in the lake, or spotting Zebras at the ranch we studied the doctrine of salvation from Ephesians 2:1-10. I'm praying now that all that information and explanation is bearing fruit as the kids get settled back into their homes. One of the more difficult things as a pastor (or any Christian for that matter) is sitting back and trusting God to bring the growth. It isn't hard to trust God-- He has completely proved His trustworthiness and is completely deserving of our trust... but it is hard to be patient and not try to coerce growth. You can stifle a garden by over watering. So my head will hit the pillow tonight thinking of the good fellowship and bonding I shared with our youth but it will also hit the pillow with a clear conscience knowing that the gospel seed has been sown and God will accomplish with it what He wills. May the Lord bring a harvest for His glory!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day two behind us... day three ahead!

Yesterday we explored the Longhorn Caverns. The kids learned a lot of Texas history and some cool things geologically. Now I know if they can retain all THAT they can take in some good Biblical theology! We also toured an exotic ranch- thanks to my father-in-law, Steve Savoy who guides hunts at the ranch and led our tour. It was a great day of enjoying God's creation and fellowship. We wrapped up the day by studying in detail Ephesians 2:1-3 and Genesis 3 to look at the doctrines of original sin and the wrath of God. Today we're off to Ink's Lake State Park for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, etc etc. Then we'll study Ephesians 2:4-9 tonight to see how God rescues sinners. Be in prayer for our students (Franklin, Kevin, Betsy, Jackie, Caitlyn, Jessica, Daryanne, Kira, Brandon, Christian, Rommell, and my nephew Cooper who's tagging along with us). Our brave adult sponsors are all a little more tired today so pray for renewed legs and hearts!

Monday, July 26, 2010

MBC Youth Retreat Day 1

I can't promise I'll have the time to post about our youth retreat daily but here goes for day one. This morning we loaded up with 11 teenagers (some church members, some guests), 4 adults (Heather W., Peggy K. my wife, and me), my 8-month old son, and my two dogs... well it was almost one less dog as Chewy, the rat terrier slipped from his collar and leash to make a run down the reservoir behind our church property. A half-hour later I was able to catch him and we got on the road. We had a safe, smooth ride to Burnet, TX and picnicked along the way for lunch. After unloading and settling into the hotel around 3pm we all made our way to my in-laws who have graciously opened their home for evening supper, swimming, and Bible study. On Tuesday we'll be going to the exotic ranch where my father-in-law guides for hunting trips and then over to Longhorn Caverns to hike and explore caves. On Wednesday we'll spend the day at Ink's Lake State Park for all sorts of lakeside activities. Every evening it will be back to my in-laws' home for a meal and to study God's Word.

I must say the day began with frustration over chasing down my dog and getting a late start but the Lord brought me in a spirit of prayer quickly. I've been asking all day that we would share sweet fellowship and enjoy the good things He's provided but that we would also grow richly from the study of Ephesians 2:1-10 (our focal text for the week). Tonight in Bible study it was as though every ear was tuned in and hungry to hear about how good the news is of our God's grace through the work of His Son Jesus to rescue sinners. There were actually comments afterwards about how much they enjoyed reading and learning about the Biblical doctrine of salvation. The Lord had watched over our travels, preserved our attitudes to be gracious toward each other, and now kindled an excitement for Bible study... and we're only on day one! I'm about to hit the pillow after a long day but I can hardly wait for what the Lord will do tomorrow! Keep the prayers flowing that the Word will bring forth fruit this week!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Label #7: HEALTHY

Back to my "labels" series... by the way, if you search the word labels you can probably pull all the posts up on this series. Now we've come to the label "healthy" as in healthy Christian or healthy church member or healthy church. What is a healthy church? OK, well I doubt any pastor or congregation would say, "Nah, we don't want to be a healthy church." It sounds like an ambiguous adjective but I mean it in a more proper noun sense.

The guys over at 9 Marks have helped defined some characteristics of a healthy church. They do not mean to provide an exhaustive list but point out some things that are noticeably absent from many local churches who as a result are unhealthy. Mainly a local church is not healthy when they are not faithful to the New Testament teachings regarding the church.

The "nine marks of a healthy church" are 1) Biblical (expository) Preaching; 2) Commitment to teaching Biblical theology; 3) A Biblical view and faithful proclamation of the Gospel; 4) A Biblical understanding of conversion; 5) A Biblical understanding and practice of evangelism; 6) A Biblical understanding and practice of church membership; 7) A Biblical understanding and practice of church discipline; 8) A Biblical understanding and practice of discipleship (I'd add, healthy churches contain disciples who make disciples.); and 9) A Biblical understanding of church leadership... namely two Biblical offices, elder and deacon.

I'd add that a healthy church is a congregation committed to prayer, a congregation committed to each other, and a congregation committed to global missions. You might add some characteristics but you get the point. Healthy churches are churches that recognize the Bible as the rule of faith, order, and life practice without compromise. Healthy Christians or healthy church members are those who live out these qualities in their local church and help to see their church to be rightly labeled as a healthy church.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Video Monday- James MacDonald

Yesterday while my wife napped I took Asher for a drive because he needed a nap (the car ride puts him fast to sleep). So we set off with my iPod in hand and I listened to a sermon by James MacDonald. It was a short one on the will of God. I'd heard a bit of him recently and wanted to hear more. Some of you may be more familiar but I'd only heard the name. So this sermon was, well... it raised some questions. I'm not sure if we are on the same page with some things but other things really edified me. Here are a couple videos I came across a couple weeks ago that I really liked. So I put this out there not with a full recommendation to the man's ministry because I'm still investigating, but these clips are worthwhile.






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P.S. I've been having a lot of problems with spam in the comments and cannot block single posters. So I've enabled the feature wherein I have to approve the comment by email. I may not have much email access this week so don't be offended if you don't see your comment up.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Off to the Beach!

"Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach..." -Acts 27:40

This week my family and I will be spending some rest and leisure time at the beach. It will be a sort of working vacation because I have a lot of advance sermon and study planning to do not to mention two sermons to prepare for next Sunday. Still, it will be some much appreciated getaway time. I am going to ask you to be praying for us this week in some specific ways.

1. Pray that my wife and I would have some quality time together (we'll have extended family there to watch the baby). I really want to be an encouragement for her.

2. Pray that this week will jumpstart our family devotion time... something I've dropped the ball on lately and want to start again daily.

3. Pray that Asher will be cooperative and comfortable even though his routine will be changing a bit for a few days.

4. Pray that I make the most of the time I set aside for study so not to bleed into family time.

5. Pray that I finish three sessions of the "Attributes of God" study series I'm writing and make some headway into some marriage counseling material I'm putting together.

6. Pray that I'm able to begin outlining the series on Jonah I'll be preaching through beginning in October.

7. Pray that I'm able to thoroughly prepare for my sermon on Matthew 27:1-10 and one that will give an overview of Job 22-31 (for Sunday).

8. Pray that we all stay healthy and safe on the road.

9. Pray that I be extra sensitive and helpful to my wife with the baby (it is easy to "check out" when you are on vacation but parent work never stops).

10. Pray the Lord give me open doors to be a gospel witness and a giver of grace to those in our path during the week.

Friday, July 9, 2010

On this DATE in history...

Five years ago on this day Blair and I went to dinner at Cheddars (she had the catfish, I had the New Orleans pasta), played a round of Putt-Putt Golf (she won... barely), and then enjoyed ice cream at Marble Slab. It was our first date. We've had many more since not to mention getting married, buying a house, beginning a new ministry at a new church, and having a baby.

Thinking about that first date makes me all the more thankful of the Lord's kindness and grace to bring Blair into my life. Not every day has been as fun as that first date. We've had our challenges and will I'm sure have many more but I would not want to enjoy the peaks or struggle through the valleys with anyone else. Blair makes our home my most favorite place on earth. She adorns our home with warmth and love. When I think of how the Lord has used her to be a blessing I remember Ecclesiastes 9:9, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."

First dates can often go really bad. Ours was great (I even brought her home 30 minutes before her dad told me to)... the beginning of a relationship that gets stronger and richer by the day. Needless to say, I'm well rewarded.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Video Monday- John Piper in London!

As many of you know, John Piper is on sabbatical because as he said, "the precious garden of my home needs tending". While he's stepped away from his pulpit through December he did commit to honor the few preaching commitments overseas. Here is the message he recently delivered at Jubilee Church in London on "The Gospel and Racial Harmony". Since John Piper is a gift to the many churches and his preaching is rare these days I thought it would be edifying to post this.

The Gospel and racial harmony from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Creeds, Confessions, and Catechism... the Baptist way... really it is!

Recited any ancient creeds lately? Read through any historic confessions of faith over the last week? Dare I ask if any has worked through a catechism with their family recently?? At this point I'm imagining that those non-Catholics reading my blog are thinking I've become Father Jeremy rather than Brother Jeremy... or perhaps you think Out-of-his-Mind Jeremy is more fitting.

Here is the reality- creeds, confessions, and catechisms are not a distinctly Catholic tradition. The use of catechisms to train young Christians and one's children in the faith was actually recovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century! This is our Baptist heritage as well. If I stopped brushing my teeth for a month I suspect those of you who speak with me regularly when our church meets would stage an intervention. That is a tradition of such importance it is essential to recover even after extensive inactivity. The use of creeds, confessions, and catechisms is essential to recover after many years of inactivity.

Creeds are short expressions of what we believe about the Bible. Confessions are more detailed outlines of specific doctrinal/ Biblical convictions. Catechisms (from the Greek word meaning 'to teach') are are series of questions and answers to teach theological truths from the Bible.

  • Try this creed out for memory... Apostles' Creed (really old, really time-tested, really helpful)
  • Try this confession out for study... Philadelphia Confession (published by our Baptists forefathers in colonial American in 1742)
  • Try the catechism out for teaching... Catechism for Little Children (published by the Sunday School Board of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in 1864)

P.S. Go back and read the articles linked to in this post!!

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Friday, July 2, 2010

What's going on with those crazy Baptists?

"Look out honey, the Baptists are coming!"

That is what I always assume is said when I go to make a prospect visit and the TV is blaring, the lights are on, the dogs are barking, but no one ever answers the door. I usually shrug my shoulders, pray for those inside (Lord knows after 6pm I'm tempted never to answer the door either), and move on. Baptists are always on the mood--being the evangelical and evangelistic group we are. The Southern Baptist Convention has shown through their annual meetings the last two years that our cooperative convention of local churches is still on the move in a more determined and "Great Commission"-motivated way. Below are the video feeds to the B21 meeting and the Nine Marks @ Nine meeting during the most recent convention in Orlando. The B21 or (Baptists in the 21st century) is a group representing the "next generation" of Baptist pastors and leaders who seek to link Baptist heritage with continual gospel fidelity. The Nine Marks outfit exists to promote healthy churches and healthy church leadership.

B21 Panel at 2010 SBC Annual Meeting from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.



IX Marks at 9 Panel from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Label #6: EVANGELISTIC

Note that this is not a repeat of the "Evangelical" post. Being labeled an Evangelical implicitly means you hold to the conviction that the gospel is to be shared. By wearing the "evangelistic" label I am taking some implicit and making it explicit. I sincerely want to be known (and want our church to be known) for spreading the gospel. In other words, when people are around me for any length of time or if people are around our church family for any length of time the goood news of God's redemptive plan through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be made evident.

What does this mean practically? Well typically when you think of an evangelistic church you go to a program- G.R.O.W., F.A.I.T.H., W.O.J.T., E.E., N.O.T.A.N.O.T.H.E.R.A.C.R.O.N.Y.M... you get the idea. These programs can be good and effective tools for motivating and training people for evangelism but just having a program or a designated "outreach night" does not earn the label "evangelistic". Being an evangelistic person means the gospel permeates every area of your life. God has predestined to place us in jobs and neighborhoods and other social situations around people who are watching our lives closely. We need to build relationships and invest time in people so that we can share the love and truth of God with them.

Knocking on doors and going through a gospel tract is fine but it is not enough. It may be fearful but it requires us to invest very little. If you want to be an evangelistic person begin at home with your children and work your way out as far as you can go (Acts 1:8) to weave the good news in every conversation. That is not to say you awkwardly and abrubtly shift every casual conversation to your four-point sermonette on escaping the fires of hell. There are always open opportunities to draw attention to the grace of God in your life, the consequences of sin, and the hope found in the Lord Jesus. Season, as with salt, every conversation with good news.

Now how about being an evangelistic church? Again, it is more than a program. In fact we have to stop thinking in "program" or event language and think in "the gospel through community" language. If you look around and see that visitors are attending the Sunday worship and you think that the church needs to do a better job welcoming those visitors the solution is not to start a hospitality program led by a hospitality committee. That lets the majority of the church off the hook and burdens what should be a shared responsibility on only a few select people. Instead every member ought to see their responsibility to make "first contact", befriend a guest, invest time and pew space (maybe even lunch after worship) in that person, exchange contact information, and make a point to follow-up that week. Well what if five people contact the same person?? You'll have five people doing the same job??!! Yep, and that visitors will be inundated with the love of the God through the arms of the gospel community.

Evangelism works the same way. Don't wait for a committee to be elected and an event to be scheduled for people to hear the gospel. Open your home to neighbors or co-workers and invite other church members to you (those who can't join you can be asked to earnestly pray for your outreach). Your witness to these people must obviously reach a point where words are shared for "faith comes by hearing" but along the way those who you are witnessing to get to see how the gospel unites people in community as the family of God. You can also get with another family or a few church members and go ask for the stack of visitor info cards the pastor has (yes, that's me) call or write them and invite them to a get-together. They expect this from the pastor- "he's paid to be nice to me"- but what a witness when the community extends its arms to one of these. That is how I hope we wear the label, Evangelistic Church.
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