Monday, October 20, 2014

Surrender = Victory

Leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention is calling for prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. I've been convicted about the need for a stirring among God's people and particularly within our church so I am preaching a series of messages based upon the model demonstrated within the convention. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, President of the SBC, leads prayer gatherings around the country. I participated in Little Rock a few months ago and it was a powerful time.

Yesterday was the third Sunday of preaching about praying for revival. The first sermon challenged us to cry out to God to open the heavens and pour out his blessings upon us. Last week we talked about confession and repentance. Then yesterday the topic was surrender.

Jesus is a great example of surrender. He prayed just minutes before he was arrested that God would allow the subsequent events to be different. Jesus would be arrested, beaten, falsely convicted, and crucified. I would have asked for another plan, too! But the crucifixion was necessary because of sin, and Jesus could be the only perfect sacrifice to die for our sins. There could be no other plan.

Despite knowing what would happen over the next few hours, Jesus surrendered his desires for the Father's will. He did this because he trusted the Father's plan for redeeming the lost and he agreed that the lost were worth redeeming.

Do I trust God's plans? Do I agree with God's purpose? If not, I won't surrender to him. I will continue to follow my desires, my will, my plans. I'll continue to cater to me!

In surrender, I am saying that I trust God's plans and I agree with God's purpose. Are you willing to say this? Are you willing to follow Jesus (and Jesus' example)?

The passage in Luke 22 that tells us of Jesus praying in the garden teaches us that surrendering to God's will brings about great victory. After the crucifixion, Jesus arose to live again, he fellowshipped with his friends, he ascended to his rightful place in heaven, and he will return gloriously to establish his eternal kingdom. That's all victory!

Even his death is a victory because in death Jesus secures forgiveness for all who will turn to him.

We don't usually equate surrender and victory. One army surrenders to the victor. But in God's design, surrender equals victory. Will you surrender to God's will? If you do you will gain victory in this life and in eternity.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Love, Dad

My three sons - the Loyd Boys - are 30, 28, and 13. Jim, Caleb, and Riley have sure made this Dad a proud and happy man. I haven't produced clones and wouldn't want to but sometimes I wish they were more like me. And sometimes I wish they were less like me. In his infinite wisdom, God chose to pass along to them from me as he did. I don't understand. I'm not supposed to.

A person who had never met me told me last night that she knew I was Caleb's Dad because he and Jim and I look alike. Maybe she was exaggerating but it made me feel good.

Caleb is getting married today to Keegan. It's a happy and exciting day. Caleb asked me to officiate. Keegan let him ask me. For that, I am very thankful.

So to Caleb and Keegan I say...

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 10:6-9)

I pledge to pray daily for you. I pledge to always give you my love and support. I pledge to be an example of a godly man, father, and husband.

Love,
Dad

Friday, October 10, 2014

Things That Last

I love taking pictures. My Dad and sister are much better at it than I am. My Dad bought a Minolta 35mm SLR when I was a kid. I never used it much but thought that kind of camera was so cool! My sister was on the Annual Staff and roamed the halls and sidelines recording memories for our high school. That was before digital cameras so she learned to develop the film in the school's darkroom.

I bought my first Canon SLR in the film days then replaced it with the first digital SLR Canon produced. And I still have it. Its 6.3 megapixels don't come close to what cheaper and smaller cameras produce these days. My iPhone's camera has more megapixels than that. But the camera phones and the point-and-shoots don't take pictures like an SLR.

I'd love to upgrade but that will have to wait for another day. I have a philosophy about cameras and golf clubs: Why pay more money for new ones when you don't really know how to use the ones you have? I have a lot to learn about photography...golf, too.

Some things are obsolete almost as soon as you buy them. Some things wear out over time with use. Some things last forever but get replaced by the latest and greatest.

Computers, running shoes, and cast iron skillets.

But one thing never becomes obsolete, never wears out, and can never be replaced. God's Word - the Bible - is God's expression to us of all we need to know to make sense of this life and make it to eternal life. Times change, people change, and circumstances change but God's Word is the ultimate guide to knowing Jesus. Whether a person lived before my lifetime, lives during my lifetime, or will live after my lifetime, nobody will ever discover God, forgiveness, love, and redemption outside his Word.

Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (Luke 21:33).

The psalmist wrote, "Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens" (Psalms 119:89).

Peter quoted Isaiah 40 when he wrote, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever" (1 Peter 1:24-25).

I have bookshelves laden with books. I have electronic devices loaded with digital books. None compare with the Bible. Yes, I have different translations and a favorite translation, but it is what God says to me in his Word that is so precious.

I still have my Letterman's jacket from high school...but it doesn't fit anymore. I have photos from my childhood...but they are faded. I have memories of special events...but some of the details may be missing.

I have God's Word. It will always fit. It will never fade. It will always be complete.

I hope to have enough money someday to buy a new camera. Then I'll put my old one on EBay or give it away to someone. But I'll never outgrow God's Word or get too smart for it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Consider

This thought crossed my mind today. It was jaywalking because it was not in the regular traffic pattern of my thoughts at the time. Rather than demanding the thought pay attention to my thinking pattern, I decided to go with it. I chased a rabbit. I'm a preacher, I can do that.

The word "consider" popped into my mind; I'm not sure why. Then I began to think about the times it is used in the Bible. Logos Bible software gave me hundreds of hits of the word in English. After a little clicking here and there I found that many Hebrew and Greek words are translated "consider" in our English Bibles.

Since I was chasing a rabbit and needed to get back to the task at hand I decided to just consider a few verses...in English.

Job 1:1 says, Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?"

Luke 12:24, 27 say, "Consider the ravens" and "Consider how the lilies grow."

Acts 15 tells of the Jerusalem council considering the question of circumcision.

Consider this... Each of these passages calls us to consider someone or some object or some issue. What is common about them? Each invitation to consider is an invitation to learn something about God.

The story of Job is not about his success, loss, and regained success. God is the center of the story. When we consider Job we see how God impacts a person's character in both good and bad times. We see God at work with complete authority over all things. We see God having no equal. We see God being merciful and gracious. We see how God's ways and thoughts are so much different that the way we think. Considering Job teaches us so much about God.

Ravens and lilies are not simply parts of creation for which God cares and to which God tends. Ravens and lilies show us God's dominion over creation so we can be confident he has dominion over our lives and problems, too. Considering God's activity in the least of creation causes us to realize he will be actively involved caring and providing for us. We do not live in a world of Deism where God created but no longer attends to the world; God is ever-present and ever-active in our lives. Considering the ravens and lilies teaches us so much about God.

The Jerusalem Council convened to discuss what it meant to be a Christian. Was Christianity an advanced stage of Judaism? If so, then circumcision must be part of the Christian experience. The council rightly determined that circumcision was not necessary to be a Christian. In other words, the trappings of religion may get in the way of truly knowing God. The circumcision given to Abraham's descendants was an act of obedience marking the people as God's chosen ones. Paul referred to the true faith-descendants of Abraham being marked by a changed heart, not a changed physique. The Jerusalem Council agreed that God is looking not on outward appearance but upon the heart. Considering how a Christian lives teaches us so much about God.

Consider this... God created you to be in a love relationship with him that brings honor to him as your worship him. Your sin stands in the way of that relationship but Jesus - God in the flesh - gave his own life as the penalty for your sin so that the relationship can be restored as God desires. Will you turn from your sin and toward God's purpose of relationship and praise? Will you follow him? Will you serve him? Will you consider following Jesus?

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Am a Champion!

I have the trophy to prove it. I am a champion golfer.

Last weekend I was part of a 4-Man Scamble Tournament of Arkansas Baptist Men. And we won our flight. By two strokes. We shot 4-under par.

I am a champion. But I'm a terrible golfer. There is no way I could be a champion on my own.

Here's the story...

My Dad called and asked if I wanted to play in the tournament. Sure I did so I asked what it cost. He said he'd pay my entry fee so I could be on his team.

The way a scramble works is that all team-members tee off. Then the team decides whose ball they want to play next. You usually choose the ball that's in the best position for the next shot. Then three players pick up their balls and play from the best position. I picked up my ball a lot! I can't remember choosing my ball more than a couple of times.

My Dad invited me. He paid the entry fee. We played his ball all day long. I picked mine up, put it in my pocket, and am a champion. All I did was accept the invitation; someone else did all the work. But on my bookshelf sits a trophy that says, "Champion."

Here's another story...

Jesus invited me to be part of his family. That's an impossibility because I am a sinner. But Jesus paid the penalty for my sins since I could do nothing about it. I've never been able to live up the expectation of being in his family (expectations I set), but he always forgives me and let's me live in his righteousness.

All I did was accept the invitation to be part of his family, my sins are forgiven, and now I am a Christian.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hypocrisy Exposed

Jesus said, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:1 niv).

Do you know people whose lives are full of religious acts? They appear to be doing the right things, good things. And maybe they are. Any help given to an orphan is a good thing. It's always right to give to meet needs of the poor.

But a religious act is more than the act. Anybody can do the acts but only a Christian can do a religious act. By that, I mean actions that align with "true religion." James wrote that true religion is displayed in actions that help the helpless (James 1:27). Yet in the same breath he says that hypocritical religion is worthless (James 1:26). So why we do what we do makes a difference.

Christians must do helpful acts in the name of Jesus. Let's call that "religious heroism." The attitude with which we do religious heroism matters; let's call this attitude "godly humility." When the two are together, we get a beautiful picture of the body of Christ in action. Absent of godly humility, religious heroism is hypocritical.

Religious heroism without godly humility leads to self-righteous hypocrisy.

Is it possible for religion to be bad? When the action is not coupled with the right attitude, it stinks like soured mile or a junior high boy's gym locker! Paul challenges believers to "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2).

Most of the time when I walk through the fresh meat section of the grocery store I move quickly because the smell of the fresh meat...well, it stinks. I can't imagine being a butcher! But take a piece of that fresh meat and put it on the grill, add a little seasoning and the aroma is delightful! I can stand over the grill and breathe it in.

Our acts of righteousness have a stench when not coupled with humility. Hypocrisy morphs the best acts into something that God will not tolerate.

Christians honor God by serving others with no expectation of personal gain. People in your community need God-honoring believers to help them. Orphans need God-honoring believers to love them. The broken ones, the hurting ones, the forgotten ones need God-honoring believers to touch their lives. Will that be you? Will that be your church?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Information Overload

On my desk is a stack of magazines that most preachers probably see each month. All of them have articles claiming to hold the key to revitalizing the church, reaching the community, or increasing offerings. You can't implement every idea for every facet of ministry, so what do you do?

On the counter at home is a stack of sales flyers that most of you probably see each month. All of them claim to have unbeatable prices on stuff I have to buy in order to have fashion in my closet, safety in my garage, or comfort in my living room. I can't afford all of it. I don't want much of it. So what's a guy to do?

On the table next to my chair is a Bible similar to one most of you have read. The Bible claims to have answers to problems I have with relationships, troubles I perceive in our culture, and forgiveness for  the sins I've committed that weigh me down and strip life away from me. Unlike the magazines and sales flyers, it IS possible to apply everything the Bible says. I can't implement everything the magazines suggest for my church. I can't purchase everything the flyers say I need. But I can apply biblical teachings without conflicting one another or overloading my life.

And I should. So should you.

Dr. Al Mohler recently spoke at a conference in Conway, Arkansas. His topic was "The Battle for the Christian Mind" and he said that the Christian mind can only be developed with scripture. The Bible must be central to our lives if we hope to think and act like faithful followers of Christ.

I kinda hate to comment about dust on Bibles because I have stacks on my bookshelves that don't get opened very often. I have some that were given as gifts. I have others that I now also have in digital form. I have a few that I go to for the great study notes in them.

So I won't ask if your Bible has dust on it because I might be guilty. Better questions are these: Is the Bible central in your life? Do you read it every day? Do you study the Bible to learn what God says about your situation? Do you try to apply biblical principles on a regular basis?

Better than "dusty" we might use the word "rusty." I visited my grandmother last week. While there I strolled around the barns that have sat empty and unused for years. My grandfather passed away years ago. My uncle who worked with him passed away just a few years later.

I found some pieces of farm equipment that had sat idle for a long time. The lack of use has given rise to rust on the moving parts. Some of those parts wouldn't move even if you took a sledge hammer to them.

Some of us  have Bible skills that are rusty from lack of use. The best lubricant for rusty Bible skills is simply using the Bible. Pick it up. Read it. Think on it. Share ideas with others. Put it into practice.

If you need a faith-community in which to do this, check out Cross Road Baptist Church. We'd love to have you join us as we try to live faithfully with God's Word in the center of our lives. We're finding that life has meaning and purpose when we live like this.