Monday, December 17, 2012

Perpetual Disappointment

Is God perpetually disappointed in me?

What an odd question. Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever think that God is always disappointed in you?

I have and do sometimes. Maybe it's because there are times that I am acutely aware of how sinful I am. There are so many clear scriptures about the horror that is my sin and rebellion against the Lord. I begin to think to myself that my failures and shortcoming must disappoint and displease the Lord. My remedy for that is too try harder not to sin. Some days I do pretty good and think, "God must be pleased with me today." Other days, far too many, I fail to live up to my His expectations. Honestly, it feels like there are many more days like that, than the first example.

It can become a vicious cycle of deep introspection, discouragement and the thinking that God must always be disappointed in me.

And that is completely false.

In fact, the opposite is true. God is not disappointed in me. God is not displeased with me. God does not disapprove of me. Why? It is not on the basis of what I do, or what I don't do. It is on the basis of what Jesus has already done for me.

Hebrews 11:6 says that "without faith it is impossible to please God

. The converse of that is faith pleases God. God is pleased with me on the basis of faith. Faith in what? The gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel is the lens through which God sees me. That gospel proclaims this: there is nothing good in me, and yet God still loved me enough to send Jesus who died for my sins, by faith in Jesus I am justified before God. My approval is based on the cross, not on my successes or failures.

Really, what I am doing when I feel like "God is perpetually disappointed in me" is taking my eyes off of the cross and becoming a bit narcissistic and self focused. That always leads to a negative view, and a wrong view.

I've heard this truth many times, "You can't do anything to make God love you more, or do anything to make Him love you less."

God is not perpetually disappointed in me, He loves me...the cross proves it.

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mission Greece Reflection

It's been about a week since I got back from mission trip Greece and I wanted to write a post-trip recap and review.

First, I was a bit bummed that I didn't have the capability or time to do more blogging, photos, and videos while in Greece. It just was what it was.

This was truly an incredible trip! I think we saw God do some things that were huge and not always what we had planned on.

Main task: seed sowing and gospel distribution.
We weren't the first team to go to Greece. Other teams had gone in previous years and we were truly building upon the foundation and ground that they had plowed up in previous years. Our strategy was mass distribution of an evangelistic website via cards, fliers, and wrist bands. We had about 7000 total pieces to get out. Based on previous trips, that amount would take about 5 days to distribute because people are very reluctant to take anything.
This year was different. We distributed our supplies in about a day and half! God was really opening people up. The cards and bracelets had a message about "hope" and people were literally chasing us down to get a hold of these things. It was amazing! Now, not everyone took one, we got rejected plenty, but the fact that we saw the whole supply disappear so soon was truly remarkable.
The evangelistic website was tracked. After we returned we learned that there were 1050 unique households that visited the website. That is an amazing return! I pray that God will water that seed that was sown and that lives would be changed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Second task: sports ministry/clinics
The afternoons were planned to do a basketball clinic. Well, that didn't work out the way we planned, but God had another plan. We ended up getting to do some pic-up basketball games, teach american football, and play soccer with a bunch of people. We rotated between two main courts playing and sharing Christ until it was too dark to do it anymore.
This was another incredible thing God did. Team members got to meet and build relationships with many Greeks--younger and older. We got to share Christ with a bunch of people. I was trying to figure out how many, but we didn't keep tabs -- it was a bunch.
One of our team members got to share Christ with a guy after playing some hoops. The guy asked, "Why are yall here from America?" Nick says, "to tell you about hope." The guy says, "I don't have any hope, tell me more." After going through the gospel, Andrew respond by placing his faith in Christ. Incredible!

After we had passed out all of our supplies we were wondering what to do next. How can we maximize the impact of the seed sown. Well, God supplied an answer. It wasn't what we had expected or planned, but something happened in that community and the entire neighborhood was buzzing about us and the bracelets. It was truly God ordained.

That is just a snap shot of the week. I barely scratched the surface and didn't even go in detail about visiting ancient Thessalonika, the ruins of Philippi were Paul was beaten and imprisoned, and the actual site of the baptism of Lydia. (read Acts 16-17)

What an incredible week! I praise God that I was able to be a part of His mission to reach people with the love of Christ. I ask that you please pray for the people of Greece--they are in desperate need of the hope that only the true gospel of Jesus can bring.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Team Greece

It's been a great week! I haven't had the opportunity or capability to do more blogging or post videos-just the way it is.

We spent several days working long days. Some things we planned, some we did not- but everything was orchestrated by The Lord.

The mornings were spent canvassing the neighborhoods passing out fliers and bracelets that had a message of hope and a web address that people could go to. That website had the gospel of hope in Jesus.

We had about 6 thousands pieces to get out. Past teams had not been able to get it all out. We were able to in record time. Why? Your prayers, Gods grace, previous work here, who knows? The bracelets became a huge hit. Everyone wanted one.

The afternoons we went to some courts and parks to play sports. We encountered lots of kids, teens, and adults. We taught them American football, played basketball and soccer, and shared with them. This took us all the way till dinner around 9 pm.

It's hard to describe the incredible things The Lord did. This will sound vague, but it was truly a work of God. Lives were changed, seed was sown, the gospel lived out and shared, the enemy reared up, God was victorious, and hope was delivered.

What a privilege to be called a child of God and see His kingdom advance.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Made It

I just arrived at my hotel in Athens. I am tired, but glad to be here. The hotel is walking distance from the ancient Athens acropolis-look it up. I also got to share the gospel with another cab driver.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Leaving For Greece: Take 2

My flight yesterday got cancelled due to some mechanical problem. That puts me a day behind, but no big problem. I did spend 5 hours at the DFW airport and went no where. I ended up taking a taxi home. On the ride I got to share the gospel with the Muslim cab driver. Pray for Ali.

I am now scheduled to fly out of dfw at 6pm, stop in London, and then to Athens. I'll get there, Lord willing, at 5:40 pm Athens time on Saturday.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Leaving For Greece-Kinda

Well, I'm pumped about heading to Greece to share Christ. I got to the airport to start the first leg of the journey. The flight was a bit delayed, then we boarded, pulled out from the gate and then pulled back in to the gate. They called the mechanics and now I'm just sitting here waiting. Oh we'll, you never know what these trips might bring. At least I get some good Bible reading time in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Should Pastors Make Political Endorsements

This is an election year. This year, as every election year, will determine the President of the USA and the direction our country will be heading. Should a pastor, should I, be political? Should a pastor make a political endorsement of certain candidates?

This year on Oct. 7th several hundred pastors are going to make a political endorsement from the pulpit of their church in defiance of the IRS code that specifically forbids non-profit organizations from making a political endorsement(read here). The supposed penalty for making that political statement will be a loss of non-profit status. This means that contributions made will not be tax-deductible for those making the contribution.

I think this is wrong. Even if it is allowed and was legal, I don’t think a pastor should go so far as to endorse particular candidates.
I think this is an issue of wisdom and priorities. Let me break this down into a few different lines of thought: offense of the gospel, Biblical issues inform political ones, and shepherding people from all parties.

#1 The offense of the gospel.
A pastor and church should never shy away from the offense of the gospel. The gospel will offend. That is a non-negotiable. But, we must be careful not to offend with things that are optional. My making an endorsement of one political candidate or party, we run the risk of offending those people who are for the other guy or other party. A pastor needs to make sure that the gospel is the first priority, not an election. The good news of Jesus is the primary proclamation that should come from the pulpit of a pastor. Everything a pastor chooses to say is also excluding something else he could be saying. To be overly political runs the risk of lessening the gospel of Jesus Christ.

#2 Biblical issue inform political ones
Don’t get ahead of me yet. While I think it is unwise of a pastor to endorse a particular political party or candidate from the pulpit this does not mean that he should not address issues and values. A pastor absolutely has a responsibility to preach the whole counsel of the Word of God. The Bible gives believers many mandates that are relevant to modern social issues. A pastor should never shy away from faithful proclamation of the Biblical view of these social positions.
For example, it is critical necessary for a pastor to preach sound Biblical messages on the horror that is abortion. The Bible is unequivocal on this issue. We can’t let politics hijack our courage from preaching the Biblical truth that abortion is wrong. Obviously, that Biblical position should be used by the wise Christian to guide us in who to vote for.
I think the wise course of action would be for a pastor to defend the sanctity of life without saying, “Don’t vote for Obama, you must vote for Romney.” Preach the Biblical truth unashamedly, but don’t mandate a particular vote. This is true for other important issues of the day that are addressed by scripture: the sin of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the sin of abortion, and many others.

#3 Shepherding All
The pastor must shepherd, minister, and teach all different types of sheep and church members. Some are more mature in their faith, some are not. Some are from one political party, some from another, some from no party affiliation at all. The church is not an arm of the Republican National Convention. It is the body of Christ. As a pastor I lessen my leadership ability by being overly political from the pulpit. Teach the Biblical issues and lead the people no matter what party that they might prefer. It is my opinion that this philosophy is the wisest course for a pastor.
I do not think that this means a pastor cannot have a personal opinion. He does, and he does have a vote. I will not endorse a candidate from the pulpit, but if it comes up on a personal level I have no problem voicing my political opinions.

The Jesus' Wife Fragment, or Watch Out For All The Manure

Watch Out For All The Manure
The Lost Art of Truth Detection
The Jesus' Wife Fragment

(The true scholars have weighed in. If you haven’t heard the headline, a Harvard professor has discovered and published a report on a papyri fragment that mentions Jesus had a wife.
If you want the scholarly rebuttal, read the always venerable Dr. Al Mohler.)

Here is my take:

Reason, rationale, logic, common sense…does anyone remember these things anymore? People have forgotten the importance of critical thinking skills. Even the back-wood-country-boys use logic and reason; they just call it something different… “good sense”. (among other more colorful descriptions).
Critical thinking is even more important in an information age. We are bombarded with information like never before. This makes it more necessary to employ critical thinking and reasoning than ever before. And yet, it seems, the opposite has occurred. While more and more information is spewed less and less reason is applied to evaluating that information.
Do you need some examples? How about POLITICS? I don’t care which side you are on, political information is in desperate need of a critical thinking filter.
Another example, the recent discovery of the “Jesus’ Wife Fragment”. Karen King, a liberal Harvard Divinity professor, supposedly found a fragment that mentions Jesus’ wife.
Since the news broke, serious scholars have weighed in to debunk this bit of fiction reported as fact. It seems Karen had an agenda, the fragment is from over 300 years after Christ, and it is the size of a worn out business card.
But it doesn’t take a scholar to recognize something as bogus. Let’s apply some simple country good sense to our information filters. If it smells like cow manure, looks like cow manure, it is probably cow manure. It doesn’t matter how it is packaged or described, it’s still cow manure.
We have a biblical mandate to employ the brain that our Creator has given us. There is another good biblical word for this: wisdom. We must use wisdom as a filter for the information that is ever flowing from all types of sources.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fred Luter - First Black President of Southern Baptist Convention

I was in New Orleans for a historic moment. The Southern Baptist Convention elected the first African-American to serve as president of the convention. It was an incredible moment. I stood with the close to 8,000 other messengers in an ovation to the election of Dr. Fred Luter.

The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 as a reaction to the anti-slavery sentiments being expressed in relation to missionaries and churches. For decades the SBC was associated with slavery, and racism. Attitudes of racism would continue for a long time among many in SBC churches, especially in the south.(In some backwoods, rural churches it unforun

ately still exists).

In the 1990's the Convention took a long overdue step -- a public acknowledgement of sinfulness, and a profession of repentance to God.

Since that time, diversity among Southern Baptist Churches has grown in leaps and bounds. Repentance is something that must be lived out and demonstrated over time.

The election of Dr. Fred Luter was a historic moment. It serves to demonstrate the reality of repentance. It serves to demonstrate actual faithfulness to God's Word. It shows that the convention has prioritized scripture and our common focus on the gospel and missions.

By the way, in my opinion, this was not simply electing Dr. Luter because he was black. He is extremely qualified. He has faithfully pastored Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. He has been there through Katrina, suffered with his people, and continued to hold fast to God's word. He has seen the Lord rebuild his church - physically and spiritually. He is a faithful family man, husband, father, and servant of Christ.

I am thankful to God and proud of the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For more info read Denny Burke's blog

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How To Treat Gay People

This one should be real easy. This isn't a difficult topic when it comes to scripture. The way a Christian should relate to and treat someone who is homosexual isn't that difficult to understand. Unfortunately, way too many "Christians" have acted in the exact opposite way the scriptures clearly mandate. Maybe they aren't real Christians? They clearly aren't following Christ's example.

Jesus never condoned sin. He pointed it out in people's lives and called them to turn away from their sin. He was also loving. And there it is. It's that simple to understand.

There is no biblical justification for a supposed Christian to hate or mistreat anyone, including someone who is homosexual. Calling a homosexual derogatory names, teasing them, or physically assaulting them is a sin. But, it goes beyond that. It is also a sin to ignore and avoid someone because you don't like their sin.

Some people make the claim that to even call homosexuality a sin is hateful. But, that does not have to be the case. Jesus never shied away from pointing out sin. As followers of what the Bible teaches, a Christ follower should not shy away from the scriptural truth that lying is a sin, that adultery is a sin, that pornography is a sin, that greed is a sin, that gluttony is a sin, and that homosexuality is a sin. But, our goal is not just to point out sin, it is to lead sinners to the grace of God. We are sinners too. I may not have the sin of homosexuality, but that doesn't mean I am free of sin. I am no better than anyone else. Just because I don't have your particular list of sins, doesn't meant that I don't have my own list of sins. Sinners need know two things: that they are sinners, and that their is a Savior.

People who struggle with homosexuality need Christ. If we have Christ we need to lovingly share the gospel with them. That is the teaching and model we have in scripture.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Bible and Homosexuality

In-between seminary and my first pastorate I worked a couple of jobs in the secular-corporate world. One time I was working at an event with a co-worker. He knew I was a Christian and going to be a pastor. We were talking about things and he asked me what denomination I was. I told him I was a baptist. His next statement to me floored me, "Baptist, that means that you have to hate gay people."

I spent the next 10 minutes explaining to him that his perception of me was wrong. I explained to him that I have a biblical mandate, and Christ-like example to love all people. I tried to explain that while many so called Christians had "hated gay people" that is not what our faith teaches. I was also clear that the Bible clearly states that homosexual behavior is a sin. This conversation also gave me the opportunity to share the gospel with him.

There are many threads that I could chase from that incident, but I just want to address what the scriptures plainly teach about homosexuality.

This issue has gotten a lot of attention lately as President Obama publicly announced that he was in favor of gay marriages(see here). President Obama even went so far as to claim that his Christian faith led him to that decision. The problem with that is the Christians scriptures, the Bible, do not support that conclusion.

There are many advocates of homosexual rights that want the scriptures to say something other than what they clearly do. Do not be fooled by their slight of hand, and hermeneutical gymnastics. There are some issues in scripture that are a bit unclear, homosexuality is not one of them.

Here is a brief summary of some of the relevant passages of scripture that deal with homosexuality.

Genesis 2:24
In the creation, before the fall, God commends marriage as one man and one woman.

Genesis 19 – Sodom and Gomorrah
There is a lot going on in this passage, but clearly the crowds lust for homosexual experience is condemned.

Leviticus 18:22
It is an abomination

Leviticus 20:13
It is detestable

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Long list of sins that that cause people not to inherit the kingdom of God; including homosexuality

Romans 1:26-28
The condemnation of unnatural acts of homosexuality

Matthew 19:5
Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 as the normative design of God for marriage
Commends one man and one woman
Eliminates no fault divorce
Eliminates same sex marriage
Eliminates any other deviant union

The Bible does not equivocate on the issue of homosexuality. The Bible, both the OT and NT, classify homosexuality as a sin. This alone is enough to assert that the Bible condemns homosexuality and, therefore, does not condone same sex marriage.
The case cannot be made from the Bible that scripture allows acceptance of homosexuality as anything other than a sin. In order to get around this, one would have to make an argument against the scripture, since the argument cannot be made for homosexuality. Some have done this very thing. In order to accept homosexuality, some say that the Bible is not to be taken literally, or that there are errors in the Bible, or that the Bible is antiquated and must be interpreted based on modern morality. All of those arguments can be made. What cannot be reasonably stated is that the Bible says that homosexuality is not a sin. That is clearly what the Bible says.

Some other good articles can be found at the following links:
Christian Research Institute

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bible Tattoos

I have to admit, I am fascinated by tattoos. I don't have one, and don't want one. I am too old and too skinny to have a tattoo that would look good. Plus, I don't want anything that permanent. But, I am intrigued by others that have tattoos, especially one category of tatts--- Bible verses.

I also like to watch mixed martial arts. One of the best young stars is the 24 year old light heavy weight champion, Jon "Bones" Jones. This guy is the real deal. He has the entire range of skill sets necessary to be the champion he is. He can box, jiu jitsu, muay thai, wrestling, he is quick, and athletic. He is one of the youngest champions ever. He also claims to be a Christian. It is hard to judge someone just from watching on television, but from what I've seen and read, he seems to be genuine in his faith.

He also has a tattoo. In a flowing script, across the right portion of his chest is tattooed "Philippians 4:13".

When you look up the Bible reference it reads, "I can do all things through Him (Christ) who gives me strength."

Let's evaluate that verse in it's context. Paul is writing to the Philippian believers. In chapter 4 Paul acknowledges that the Philippian believers had expressed concern about Paul's physical needs. The Philippians had entered into a partnership with Paul as he went about his missionary journeys for the sake of the gospel. Paul is glad that they have expressed this concern about his financial well being. But, Paul also wants them to understand that there are more important things than finances. Paul goes on to say how he has learned the secret of being content in Christ. He is satisfied with Jesus, whether he has an abundance of provision, or whether he does not have an abundance. It is in this context that Paul writes verse 13, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." So, the application of this verse is in the context of contentment. Paul is saying that he can be content in Christ no matter the situation because the Lord is always His strength.

Jon "Bones" Jones is not reflecting that context on his tattoo. Jones seems to be advocating, "I can do all things...I can fight and win and beat all of my opponents because of Jesus in my life." Wait a second...maybe my analysis is wrong. Maybe that is exactly what Paul was thinking when he wrote that verse. Maybe Paul had been schooled in mixed martial arts and was touring the world taking on all comers. Maybe Paul did write that verse because when he faces a fight Jesus helps him win. No, no--that's no it at all.

It makes me laugh!! Jon Jones has a permanent tattoo on his chest that doesn't mean what he thinks it does. Admittedly, I am making an assumption about Jones here. Maybe he does understand the context and the tattoo is his reflection on being content in Christ, but I don't think so. I am making a guess that he thinks it relates to his fighting. It's like he has a permanent statement saying, "I'm stupid and don't really know what the Bible says -- but I still love Jesus." I don't mean that in a mean spirited way, it's just funny. I applaud Jon for trying to live out his faith and honor the Lord. I wish him the best. I am a fan of his, and root for him to win. I just think that after his jiu jitsu lesson, he needs some lessons in how to read and study the Bible. By the way, he is not the only one who gets Philippians 4:13 wrong.

The lesson -- if you are going to put a permanent tattoo on your body, and it's a bible verse, please make sure you get the context and meaning right. If not, send me a pic, I like a good laugh.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Susan Komen Embraces Planned Parenthood

I learned something this week about charities that I didn't know and would be willing to bet that others didn't know either.
Last week the Susan G Komen foundation for finding a cure for breast cancer made a decision that it would no longer be giving a portion of its money to Planned Parenthood -- the largest abortion business in America. I applauded this decision. Many others did not. Under incredible pressure for pro-abortion proponents, the Susan G. Komen foundation caved and reversed its decision. It will continue to give financial support to Planned Parenthood.

Here is what I learned: I assumed that all the money that Komen raised went towards the issue of finding a cure for cancer. I had no idea that they gave money to PP. Why did they ever do that in the first place? I would be willing to bet that most people who support and give to Komen had no idea that they gave some of that money to PP.

Komen has had an incredibly good reputation as a key charity for cancer research and finding a cure. I think that reputation is going to take a big hit.

By the way, Planned Parenthood does other things besides abortions. But, everything else it might do is a shell for what it is really all about -- making money through abortion. PP does over 300,000 abortions a year and only gives about 1,000 adoption references. That makes me sick!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They Laughed At Me

Laughter is a funny thing. It is fun to tell a funny story or a joke and people respond with laughter. (It is not as much fun when you think you are telling a funny story and no one laughs, especially in a sermon). But laughter can have a darker side. It is not much fun when people are laughing AT you.

Few things are more embarrassing and hurtful than to have people laughing at you during a moment of failure. Come on, think about your own life -- this has happened to you, probably when we were younger. I have been on both sides-- the laugher, and the one laughed at. Not good, either way.

Have you ever gone out of your way to be nice, or to help someone--it goes wrong and they laugh at your expense? Imagine the pain and disgrace you might feel.

In my bible reading plan I came across this story about Jesus,

Matthew 9:23-25
"23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district. "

First of all, we should be careful projecting our emotions and experience into something similar that happens to Jesus in scripture. But, in this text Jesus is laughed at---and it's not good. The people are mocking Him with laughter. It is meant to be hurtful and to bring embarrassment. Why were they laughing at Him? He was coming to help.

Their laughter is unbelief and lack of understanding. No one can raise some from the dead? The girl had died, it was too late. But, it's not too late for the Author of Life. He has the power over life and death. He can do what seems impossible.

This text is highlighting the person and power of Christ, and the scorn He received during His life. He was laughed at.

I know that Christmas has past, but this is a Christmas text. Jesus willingly left heaven and allowed Himself to be subject to ridicule, scorn, derision. He allowed Himself to experience derisive laughter and humiliation from a people He was coming to help -- from a people He was coming to raise from the dead.

This text demonstrates the incredible depths of God's love that He would sink Himself into humanity and face being laughed at.