Friday, September 30, 2011

True colors

Tonight is the opening of "Courageous," the next movie from the church in Albany, GA that made "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants." Christians will crowd restaurants and theaters. I hope we show our true colors.

In fact, we will. We will be polite or we will be jerks. Either way, the true color will come out. I guess what I'm hoping is that what we claim on the outside is really what's on the inside. Our actions must validate our claims.

Not too many years ago I acted pretty ugly to a waitress. Then I realized I was wearing a Christian t-shirt with our church's logo on it. I felt ashamed. I should have felt ashamed even without the visual prompting of a t-shirt.

Christians should act like Christians even if we wouldn't get caught acting otherwise. Our normal behavior and first response should honor God. When the heat is turned up or nobody's watching, we should display godly character.

I'm getting better at it but still have a way to go. But God is working on my. He uses lots of tools to make me what I ought to be. Like embarrassment and shame and guilt. He also uses good friends and his Word.

My true colors will show. I want my true colors to be true to God.

Middle of the Night

I'm not a heavy sleeper. In fact, I toss and turn a lot. Last night was particularly restless. At one point I was wide awake so I prayed some, thought about today's schedule, thought about my boys.

A passage of scripture came to mind. Not the actual words but the passage reference. For the life of me I couldn't think what the passage says. The same verses in a different chapter in the same book - that I could remember. But I couldn't convince myself that this more familiar passage was what I was really thinking. Should of grabbed my iPhone (it was on the nightstand) and looked up the passage on my Bible app. But I didn't.

This morning I read the passage. I was surprised that I remembered it. I can't tell you how many sermons and songs have gone unwritten because I woke up with only a vague memory of the thought that came in the middle of the night. But I clearly remembered this passage this morning.

Ephesian 3:8-13. That's not a full paragraph in the version I like to read from but it was close. Most importantly, the message in the text was something I really needed to hear.

Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. (Ephesians 3:8-13 NIV)

God speaks to us in many ways and at all times of the day and night. He impressed upon my mind these verses. I suppose he had a reason. That reason was probably to encourage me - that's just what it did. And to teach me to always listen for his voice, even in the middle of the night.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The One True God

Ever felt alone? With seven billion people living on the planet, facing problems alone seems like an impossibility. But you and I both know that having seven of those seven billion really caring about us and being there for us in our most difficult times would be refreshing. I want to be someone more people can count on.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could count on each other. When the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar ordered all the government officials (a group to which they belonged) to fall down and worship the statue he built, they were the only three who did not. They were the Hebrew Holdouts who would not bow to a pagan god. I wonder if they would have been so bold one-on-one. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of others fell to the ground as soon as the band began to play its version of "Just As I Am." Was there an urge to get prostrate before the idol? Maybe but when Meshach checked to his left and saw Shadrach looking back at him, and when he looked right and saw Abednego looking back at him, they all knew they could do what they had to do. They wouldn't bow.

The king gave them a second chance but their resolve was strong. He became more angry and had them bound and thrown into a blazing furnace. That was the end of the defiance, he must have thought.

It wasn't. In a little while the king looked into the furnace and saw four men - not three - in the fire. They weren't burning. They weren't in agony. They weren't tied up. And the three Hebrew Holdouts weren't alone. Nebuchadnezzar's description of the fourth man indicates that a deity was in the furnace. The king knew the fourth man was a god. The Hebrew Holdouts knew the fourth man was God - the one true God.

Nebuchadnezzar didn't understand that. He was willing to give credit to God but only included him among his pantheon. To him, God was just one of many gods. Yes, God could do this thing or that thing better than any other god, but he was still just a god.

But God is not a god, he is the one true God.

That means he is there for you when life heats up and the pressure becomes unbearable. He loves you and cares for you just as he did the Hebrew Holdouts so stand up for him.

And stand with one another. God stands with us and also stands through us. I hope you can look to your right and left and see Christians standing with you. And I hope when Christians look to their right or left they see you along with and representing the one true God.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Every Monday morning, without fail, I look at my Facebook and Twitter pages and see all the whining about it being Monday morning. Kids don't want to go back to school. Adults don't want to go back to work. The weekend was too short, some say. The work load is too heavy, others complain.

I really don't hear many preachers talking about the hangover from a rough Sunday. That's a standard preacher joke propagated by famous preachers, I guess. The guys I know keep on plugging knowing another Sunday is just around the corner and Wednesday night is even closer. My thoughts of quitting never wait until Monday anyway. About 12:15 on Sunday afternoon is my whining time if I'm going to have one.

My high school friend Jim Freeman posted several months ago that Mondays make up one-seventh of the week. You'll spend 15% of your life on Mondays so why waste it with a bad attitude? Great point, Jim.

Not sure why some people have great attitudes and others don't. Proclaiming to be a Christian must not be the difference because some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are as bad or worse than those who do not profess Christ. You'd think Jesus would make a difference. He probably does; our attitudes aren't his fault.

I think Jesus could change a bad attitude, brighten a ho-hum day, and put you on a better path for a Monday. Or any other day. So today I'm looking up. Will you join me?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Argenta Prayer Walk

For several months I have been part of a group of Arkansas pastors gathering to discuss church planting. Tim Wicker (Arkansas Baptist State Convention) called us together with the hope of letting us connect with one another. That has happened and I'm grateful for it. Church planting has been a burden for many years; I just haven't known how to get involved.

At first, our talks were brainstorming sessions but soon became vision meetings and prayer meetings. One way CRBC and other churches are connecting is in the Argenta area of North Little Rock. Several years ago the community developed plans to reclaim and restore the area. It is now a vibrant place where culture, business, and life blend. We believe a Baptist church would be welcomed, useful, and successful there. But it probably won't look like my church.

And that's a good thing. The people in my community are unique and our church must be uniquely fitted to reach them. Likewise, a church in Argenta must be able to reach its community. What my church and the Argenta church will have in common is that both are places where people can meet Jesus, experience Christian community, and express Christian faithfulness. I want to be part of that!

CRBC will be in Argenta Saturday morning (9/24) to prayer walk. We want to sense God at work there. We want to sense the spiritual needs there. And we want to ask God for great things. Join us if you can. Pray for us if you can't join us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three Standing

The familiar story of three Hebrew teenagers defying the king's decree was the topic of our Bible study last night in Daniel 3. Although I've heard it over and over, I still learn principles that will help me live out my faith in Jesus Christ.

A running theme throughout the book of Daniel is the sovereignty of God. He is absolutely in charge. Nothing happens that he does not either cause or allow. Even choices we freely make fall within his sovereignty. If you think about that very much it could drive you crazy trying to figure it out. But it's true and the Hebrew boys believed.

King Nebuchadnezzar built an imposing statue and ordered all the government officials to bow down and worship it. It was a false god. No Hebrew serious about God would do it. Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego didn't. Imagine a sea of people crowded around the ninety-foot high statue. When the first note of music begins they all fall to the ground. Except three Hebrew Holdouts.

If you have weeds in your yard like I do you may be able to picture the scene. Just a few days after I cut the grass the weeds begin to pop up. Weeds grow so much quicker and easier than grass. Sticking up from the neatly manicured lawn are sprigs at least a foot higher than the grass. You can't see them from the porch but you can't miss them as you walk through the yard.

The Hebrew Holdouts couldn't hide what they had done. They were busted. Nebuchadnezzar gave them another chance. I think he was shocked that three young men would go against his orders. "Don't you realize who I am and the power I have?' must have run through his mind. "Don't you remember how I added your God to my list of gods just a few days ago? Reciprocate?" was surely in his thoughts.

But they held their ground even when the king reminded them of the penalty for disobedience: the fiery furnace.

The Hebrew Holdouts believed God was able to save them although they realized he might not do it.

If God is not able and therefore does not act for you, then he is not really God.

If God is able and does act for you, then he is the God everybody loves.

If God is able but does not act for you, then he is still God. Sovereignty means that although he is able he may not choose to rescue you.

How does that make you feel? Don't give up on him. Not only is he sovereign, he is also all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving.

Here's what that means. God is able to do all things. God knows all things; past, present, and future. God loves you with an amazing love beyond imagination. God is free to act as he wishes and he wishes the best for you.

You may think God has abandoned you or mistreated you. In fact, that can never be the case. Instead, he is acting not based on who you are or what you need but based on who he is and what he knows is best.

If that doesn't describe the god you worship, I'd like to introduce you to him.


My grandparents are the greatest. You can debate if you want to, but you'd be wrong! Mom and Dado are the best.

They were married a good long time. I guess I don't really know how long. Until the day he died, that's how long. What's so hard about that, you ask? Lots of couples do it. Well, fewer and fewer actually. Easy divorce has replaced the forever commitment of marriage.

I know. I'm divorced. It wasn't the easy kind. Actually, divorce isn't easy. Doing something that leads to divorce apparently is the easy part. Filing papers is apparently the easy part.

Mom and Dado probably had disagreements, arguments, or problems. But they valued marriage faithfulness so they stayed married and provided a wonderful family atmosphere for four daughters, four sons-in-law, ten grandchildren...

Dado was very sick for a decade before he died. He eventually had Alzheimer's the last several years. This week, a public religious figure condoned divorce when a spouse has this disease. Part of what makes my grandparents the greatest is that they stayed married. Credit Mom with that. Thank God for Mom for that.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reaching the Unchurched and De-churched

One of the members of CRBC sent me a message yesterday. She had talked with a person who had once attended our church but has not in quite a while. Not sure how long she's been away. I've been here five years and haven't seen her. We have no guest or membership records of her. I've learned that this person has been in three churches over the past five years.

All of that to say that we can apply some simple concepts to reach those who are not in church. This will work for the person who is lost and for someone who has become frustrated or uninterested in church.

First, pray for them. A person who is not actively involved in a church family cannot have a close walk with the Lord. The person may not be a Christian so praying is a great idea. At best the person is a Christian who is living away from the Lord. Prayer is the answer for this problem, too.

Second, we have to invest our time in their lives. Stay in touch with them. Be a friend. Share life with them. This may be the hardest step because it takes more commitment. But if you are serious about reaching them you will make the investment.

Third, invite them to everything. Let them know what's going on at the church. You must be consistent - don't invite them only to a worship service; invite them to Bible study, class parties, special events. And you must be persistent. Invite, invite, invite. You'll have to invite them several times before they'll give real consideration to attend. So if you just invite them a few times you aren't really doing much.

Remember that the goal is not just to get them into your church. Really that's not even the first thing we want. If we bypass the importance of reaching people for Christ (and his church, not MY church) we lose sight of the significant while trying to build our kingdom instead of his. Stay kingdom-focused and you'll reach more people for the kingdom.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Praise of Men

If you accomplish much at all somebody will praise you. You may sing a pretty song or make a good deal on a new car. You may cause a fumble or hit a home run. You may write an encouraging note or call at just the right time.

Some of us yearn for the praise of men and others of us feel very uncomfortable when it comes. How do you think a Christian ought to respond when they receive praise from others?

The Bible tells us about a young man named Daniel who God had given the ability to interpret dreams. He put his skill to use one day after King Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream. Daniel was able to tell the king what the dream was and what it meant. While the interpretation was not the best case scenario for the king, is wasn't the worst either. So the relieved king heaped praise upon Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar actually worshiped the young man.

As you read the last few verses of the second chapter of the book of Daniel you won't find anything that describes Daniel's response. But earlier in the chapter and in chapter 1 Daniel shows a characteristic that ought to be common among all Christians. He credits God with any ability to do great things. Reading through the book we clearly see his character so we can rightly predict what actions he would take in this situation.

Our character drives our actions. And our actions expose our character. Although the author did not include specifics about Daniel's reaction to Nebuchadnezzar's response, I believe something must have happened between 2:46 and 2:47. In the first verse the king is heaping praise on Daniel. In the next verse the king is giving praise to God. I'm not sure what Daniel may have said or done but I think something happened. Maybe Daniel reminded the king that only God could have given the interpretation to the dream. Maybe Daniel didn't say anything but just raised an eyebrow when he eyes met the king's.

Something caused Nebuchadnezzar to shift from praising Daniel to praising God. Does your character seek to draw praise or to redirect it toward God? Like Daniel, we can do nothing outside God's power and anointing. If I accomplish anything, it is only because God did it through me.

If I am a Christian I should want God to get the praise and I will make sure everyone around me knows it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Catching a Glimpse

Where do you look when you want or need to see what God has in store for you? I've been in places where I just couldn't imagine anything good coming my way. Then I've had times when I absolutely expected something phenomenal to happen. I've been wrong and I've been right.

I've been wrong when I tried to apply the template of my desires onto the situation. I wanted the new job. I wanted to go there. I wanted something for my family. When the focus is on me, I am usually wrong.

I've been right when I eagerly awaited God's will to unfold. Along the way I've had to understand that some undesirable situation could come my way but that in God's grand plan this would be OK. I can learn from those times. And I appreciate the mountaintop experiences even better.

So you can look into God's Word for a peek at the future. I'm not talking about a prophetic word but a view of God that will set you on his course.

You can also look at your current setting. God is working in the lives of people around you. Maybe you should join him. That opportunity to serve someone else may be the immediate future God has planned for you. And doors may open to plans that will take you farther down the road.

We get a glimpse of the future by seeking God and joining in his work.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Faith is confidence in God that he will do what only he can do. It is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith got Peter out of the boat and walking on water. Faith led Abraham up the mountain to sacrifice his son. Faith caused Moses to raise his arms while standing at the Red Sea with an army chasing him.

Daniel ran to King Nebuchadnezzar with the interpretation of the dream because he had confidence God had given him the right answer. If he was wrong, Nebuchadnezzar would have him executed. But Daniel didn't consider that he may have been wrong. Daniel knew God better than that!

So did Peter and Abraham and Moses.

Bob? Not so sure. Sometimes I'm more like Gideon who received God's answer but needed confirmation, twice.

I wonder how often Jesus says to me, "Bob, why do you have such little faith? Don't you trust me? Don't you know me?"

My response should be, "Forgive me. I want to trust you more. I want to know you more. Draw me closer to you, Lord."

And he will. He will for you, too.