Sunday, May 21, 2006

If You Can't Say Something Good...

Don't say anything at all. Your mom's advice is good advice. More people should heed it.

We're doing "Discussing the DaVinci Code" in our Discipleship Training class. Attendance is very good but there are a few who refuse to come. It's not that they don't like the DaVinci Code, it's that they don't think they need apologetics.

"It's just fiction." I agree. And I know the fact from the fiction. But with so few people actually knowing what the Bible says these days it is important that Christians hone up on the truth. We need to prepare to give an account for what we believe.

"It's just fiction." Yes but millions don't know that. They don't know that Dan Brown is taking enormous license with the facts. They don't know how and why the Gospels in the New Testament came to be accepted as "scripture." They don't know historical facts regarding Mary Magdelene, Constantine, and others. Because they don't know they could believe anything.

"It's just fiction." That means it is a lie. And if people believe the lie the spend eternity in Hell. It's a huge statement of selfishness to avoid learning all you can about heretical works under the excuse that it's not real. IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU! It's about lost people becoming hardened to the gospel because they believe the lies about the church and our Savior.

"It's just fiction." That's a cop-out and Christians who use these words as an excuse to avoid learning about the DaVinci Code and how to refute it should be ashamed.

I guess every church has one or two people who can't say anything good but constantly run down what you're trying to accomplish. We have as much to overcome in the church as outside.

I guess I shouldn't have said all that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Seeing Reds

The Big Red Machine. I was just a kid. That's why I love baseball.

Lately, the Cincinnati Reds play pretty good in April. May is weak. June is enough to do them in for the season.

This year could be different. April was great! But May has been so-so. They need to continue like they start. Baseball is a long season: 162 games over 6 months. The challenge in the Major Leagues is to be consistent over the long haul.

Some teams start out weak then finish strong...last year's Houston Astros. The Florida Marlins a couple of years ago. That's a lot of work and stress.

Almost as stressful as watching your team fade into or below mediocrity before the All Star break.

Why can't the Reds just win 16 or 17 games a month? That would be about 100 wins and would put them in the playoffs almost every year.

I wonder if God asks similar questions. "Why can't Bob just be steady? Why does he live an ebb and flow existence?"

The ups and downs of baseball resemble those of life, don't they? It's an easy solution - just win 16 or 17 games a month. It's not that easy, really. And winning in life is not simple. The answer is not so hard - trust consistently in Jesus - but the application is.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lame Lincoln

Did you hear Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln on KARN radio this morning? Host Neil Gladdner's question was, "What's so bad about a military person heading the CIA?"

She rambled on and on about how in this new era of warfare we needed a source of intelligence from the civilian side. Will Gen. Hayden actually DO the gathering of intelligence? Will he actually make every decision at the CIA? The director obviously is the head of the organization but certainly will not make every surveillance and every decision. He's not much of a leader if he does not have a network in place to make decisions at lower levels. Leaders who demand all decisions pass through themselves won't be leaders very long.

Both sides of the aisle are going nuts about this. I don't get it. Do we not trust the military so much that we have to gather intelligence at their exclusion in order to verify what they provide?

If Hayden DOES gather intelligence he should distribute some to Lincoln.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Actual Job Descriptions

These are from actual job descriptions for pastoral positions.

INDIANA "Our church needs a pastor with a strong constitution (a backbone!) to deal with some strong personalities in the church and bring unity among the membership."

MISSOURI "Preach, lead in outreach, resuscitate the church."

TEXAS "Full time, 6+ hours"

Live at the Improv!

A girl from our GA class told this to me tonight.

The Sunday School teacher was quizzing the young children and asked, "Is there anything God cannot do?"

Only one child dared to answer. A little 5-year old boy raised his hand and said, "God can't clap his hands."

"Why do you think God cannot clap his hands?" the teacher asked him.

"Because Jesus ascended to Heaven and sat down on the Father's right hand!"

Little two-letter prepositions make a big difference, don't they?

The DaVinci Code

Have you read the book? I don't think it's a sin to read it or even go to the movie. It's probably a riveting story. But it's a sin to believe it.

Post-modernity rejects the idea of objective truth so Christianity rubs them the wrong way. The exclusivity of the Gospel just isn't politically correct. But it's right.

What's wrong with being black and white? If there is a definite right and wrong then I have no choice but to be black and white about it. Someone once told me, "We can be no more dogmatic than scripture but no less." Most Christians (even preachers) don't mind the first half of that statement but are timid implementing the second half.

Do you know what gray is? Gray is just black's attempt at being white. (Please don't make anything racial out of that.)

I'm not the greatest scholar of biblical documents, etc., but I have no problem accepting the authenticity of the Christian scriptures and accepting its message. Jesus is the son of God. He was born to a virgin. He was tempted like any of us yet was sinless. He died on a cross as the only sufficient sacrifice for sin. He arose from the dead on the third day and ascended to Heaven after 40 days. He sits at the right hand of God this very moment (remind me to tell you a joke later) and will return in glory to establish his eternal kindgom.

Dan Brown missed it. I hope he sees the truth and turns to Christ for eternal salvation. Have you?

First Peter

I'm reading through the Bible this year. I've done it only once before. I've read most of the Bible many times but there are parts I just avoid. But I read a blog telling how she read the Bible through last year but didn't handcuff herself to reading a certain amount each day or even reading the lists verbatim. She said it freed her to really read the Bible. I like that idea so I'm trying it. I've started many times but failed in frustration and guilt. Not this year, baby! I read Nehemiah today. Esther tomorrow and then on to Job.

A couple of books in the NT I've avoided over the years are the epistles of First and Second Peter. I'm not sure why. I've read them a few times; I don't think I have ever preached from them. I do have a few memory verses from them, though. But I am using First Peter as the text for the Wednesday night Bible study. I've wanted to do that a few times but never really got into it. That's a terrible confession for a preacher.

On Wednesday night I usually give a devotional message for about 20-30 minutes. But I'm doing First Peter verse by verse and I'm excited about the studies. Week 1 was 1 Peter 1:1-2. Week 2 was 1 Peter 1:3-5. Tonight was Week 3: 1 Peter 1:6-9. At this rate, I'll be here for a while but I'm loving it. The Week 1 "main thing" was that we are God's chosen strangers in this world. God chose us to be aliens. He initiated our salvation, the Holy Spirit drew us to salvation, and the blood of Jesus washed away our sins. What a trinitarian statement!

Last week's main thing was that salvation is an inheritance, a gift, that culminates in glorification when Christ returns. What great hope there is in Christianity! No other religion provides it.

Tonight's main thing was about joy/rejoicing even in the hardships and sufferings of life because God uses these things to strengthen our faith. The joy is in knowing that God is at work in our lives even in the down periods and that Christ is coming again to complete our salvation. All other religions ask, "What did you do to deserve this?" while Christianity asks, "What is God doing through all this?"

That'll preach! It has...the last three Wednesday nights.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Are We There Yet?

Riley is getting so big. He's playing T-ball. He can do the monkey bars. He asks several times on any trip if we are there yet. He's so cute.

I've been asking God that question for quite a while. My job away from the church continues to grind on me. I'm tired of it. I believe God has a place of ministry in mind for me that will fully support the needs of my family. We just haven't gotten there yet.

I know he's saying to me what I say to Riley: "Not yet. And don't ask me again." Well, maybe he's a little more patient with me than I am with Riley. Riley has a DVD about two caterpillars who question God about why they are not like the other bugs. God's reply is simply to just wait because he's not finished with them yet. In the end, the caterpillars become beautiful butterflies; more beautiful than they could imagine.

Blackaby says that until you hear the direction to act you should just continue acting according to the last word you heard from God. He says that the reason God waits to move or do is that he is growing some aspect of your character in preparation for that next step.

I can think of plenty of character points he may be working on. Are we there yet?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The best thing, from a nuts-n-bolts perspective, I learned at the National Conference on Preaching was to plan ahead. I learn this at every conference I attend. I learned it more than once in seminary. I just don't do it!

I guess maybe I haven't really learned it.

I'm planning a series of sermons on the family beginning Sunday and going throug Fathers Day. In July I'll be preaching a series entitled "In God We Trust" with sermons on citizenship, abortion, alcohol, gambling, and homosexuality.

On Wednesday nights I'll be going verse by verse through First Peter. That will take several weeks. I just need to get a plan for Sunday nights and I'll be set.

I like the idea of planning ahead because it takes the pressure off of me to come up with something every week. I believe in letting the Holy Spirit lead; and he can lead me to plan just as easliy as he can bail me out when I don't plan.

Planning will give some incubation time. A sermon needs time to stew or brew. The preacher needs time to find better illustrations. Things hastily thrown together seldom meet the quality of things created over time. Think about pianos or hardwood flooring or garments. (I'm Baptist so I won't mention wine or whiskey.)

I've preached some pretty good sermons hastily prepared. But I've preached some pretty bad ones hastily prepared, too. I prefer to preach good sermons so I'm planning more. Hopefully, I'll get to the point that I'll be planning 6 months in advance. Until then, I'll be working on tonight's Bible study in 1st Peter.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not My Nature

I didn't want to do it. I wanted to hold my ground and force them to do what I wanted. Turns out, it's not a hill to die on.

Have you ever had a tense moment when you were nose to nose or toe to toe or, in this case, email to email with your antagonist? Sometimes you just don't want to give in just because it's your antagonist you're giving in to! Sometimes you just don't want to give in just because YOU'RE RIGHT!!! It's not my fault that they aren't prepared and organized. It's not my responsibility to do their jobs for them.

But it's not a hill to die on. So I changed my plan and covered a need for them. But it's not my nature.

Yet. The Holy Spirit is working on me. He has his hands full, too. This time he prevailed. He is slowly but surely changing my nature; I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Monday, May 01, 2006

What Sins Are You Talking About?

It seems that Christians still can't get past ranking sins. Since we can't deny we are sinners we must then rank sins so that we aren't as bad as others. "Well, yes, I am a sinner, but I've never..."

Amazing. Not amazing grace but amazing arrogance. It is true that you'll always find someone worse than you; but it's also true that someone else will find you to be the one worse than them. I don't understand the arrogance.

What sins are YOU talking about? Murder? Divorce? Lying? Adultery? Pornography? Child abuse? Stealing? Cheating? The list could go on and on but the truth lies in scripture: if you are guilty of one offense you are guilty of all of them.

The greatest sermon ever preached had to be the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus declares that the thoughts associated with the sin are as bad as the sin. OK - anyone still think they haven't committed one of the BIGGIES?

They say the ground is level at Calvary. It's not because the insignificant need boosted toward significance but because the proud need knocked down a notch or two. The ground is level at the cross to remind us that we are all just as guilty as the next guy. But remember, you are standing at Calvary!

Since the sin is equal at Calvary, so is the forgiveness! It's easy to think that God can easily forgive a person who hasn't run up too big a tab. But the truth is that it is just as easy for him to forgive the vilest of sinners.

Actually, it is hard for God to forgive. Imagine how hard it was to give his son to die on the cross so I could be forgiven. Not very easy. But forgiving one person is no more or less hard than forgiving another...for God.

For us, it's easier to forgive someone who has committed fewer and/or similar sins in comparison to ours. It's harder to forgive someone who has sinned greater than we have sinned. What sins are YOU talking about?

What sins are you talking about?
I don't remember them anymore.
From the Book of Life they've all been torn out;
I don't remember them anymore.

That chorus reminds me of the completeness and simplicity of God's forgiveness. I wish people could be like God.