Friday, April 27, 2012

Weekly Devotional - April 27, 2012

"...because you know that the testing
of your faith develops perseverance."

James 1:3 NIV
I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me that they would not pray for perseverance or patience because you end up with tribulations, troubles, trials, and tests. My response is always, "You are guaranteed to have tribulations, troubles, trials, and tests so you better pray for perseverance and patience!" They just misunderstand what the Bible says about these two godly traits.
The two words are similar but not exactly the same. Patience is to refrain from taking action you might later regret. Did your mother ever tell you to count to ten before responding to something someone did to you? That's patience.
Perseverance is putting up with the circumstances without acting negatively. A co-worker might get the promotion but you continue being a good employee. The road ahead may seem to be all uphill and marked with potholes but you stay the course and complete the task. That's perseverance.
And we need both perseverance and patience if we are to live a life of faithful testimony that will draw others to Christ. People are watching believers and they notice how we respond. Are you patient or hot-headed? Do you persevere or give up easily?
Surely perseverance comes from God. Job endured his trials because he was faithful to God. His relationship with God brought about the perseverance Job would need when Satan attacked him. And patience is also from God. Paul says it is a fruit of the Spirit - those qualities that grow in your life as you cultivate a strong relationship with Christ.
Since trials will certainly come and since perseverance and patience are products of walking with the Lord, doesn't it make sense to desire these traits? Pray that God will help you develop perseverance and patience so that you will be a faithful witness when trials come your way.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

I completed a series of lessons on prayer last night. I spent several weeks looking at different prayers in the Bible and providing principles of "Praying the ____________ Way." The different "ways" were Jericho, Mount Carmel, Babylon, Gethsemane, Jerusalem, Philippi, and Patmos. I hope to one day write the studies in a good format for other churches and individuals to use.

Last night's "way" was the Patmos way. Among other things, we talked about the last words of Jesus in the Bible and John's response.

Jesus said, "I am coming soon."

John replied, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

Jesus made a promise. John prayed based on the promise.

Are your prayers based on God's promises? Where will you find them? You can't remember them all so you'll have to pray with your Bible open (eyes, too!). Try praying that way for a few days. Read God's word and pray based upon the promises you find.

The Bible says that God will never leave you or forsake you. You can pray claiming that promise as you face a difficult situation or are going through a lonely time.

The Bible says that God will forgive your sins when you confess them. You can pray claiming that promise when you feel guilty of sins you've committed.

The Bible says that you can cast your cares on God and he will sustain you. You can pray claiming that promise when you are feeling anxious.

Think about this: prayers based on God's promises is the same as praying according to God's will. And if you ask anything - according to his will - he answers. God will always keep his promises and prayers based on those promises are powerful prayers.

Take notes during Bible studies and sermons so you can pray those promises back to God. Read God's word each day and pause to pray the promises back to him.

Prayer should echo God's promises.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Aches and Pains

It's been almost four months since I started walking three days a week. Those walks are now runs. I can't express fully how much I appreciate those who have taken the journey with me. I've never stayed with it this long and I know it's because of them.

I have a metal plate and five pins in my left leg just below the knee. That's from a snow skiing accident twelve years ago. Up until now the knee has not been giving me problems. But I hope the pains are just the typical aches that go along with using body parts you haven't used in a while. My knee has more stress on it now than anytime in a long time.

I've had muscle aches along the way. Not worried about that. Didn't even know I had some of those muscles! But watching the knee to make sure I'm not doing damage there.

I gotta go to bed now because 4:30 will be here in just a little while! If you pray, please add me and my knee to your prayer list. I want to do all I can and not damage my knee.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weekly Devotion - April 20, 2012

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago."
Psalm 77:11 NIV
I was first introduced to Henry Blackaby in the mid-90s. The Experiencing God Bible study greatly influenced my life. In fact, I believe that a particular church and its pastor, along with Experiencing God and MasterLife, were the catalysts God used to bring me back to my calling to preach and pastor.

One of the most memorable aspects of Blackaby's Bible study was what he said about spiritual markers. Every Christian should be able to look back and see specific times when God was working in their lives in dramatic and memorable ways. Here are a few of my spiritual markers.

I was saved on the first Thursday of August in 1972. I realized I needed Jesus as my Savior during revival services at New Hope Baptist Church in Dardanelle. But I didn't do anything during church. My Dad talked with me at home later that night. I came to saving faith in Jesus that night.

I was called to ministry on the last Thursday of June in 1982. Having just graduated high school, I was attending summer camp as a counselor for the first time. The Lord impressed upon me clearly that I was to be a minister. I wasn't sure what kind, but I knew I would be doing something for the church.

The last Thursday in May of 1992 was the lowest and darkest day I had ever experienced. I walked into an empty house after work that day but I prayed for peace and strength to deal with what was happening. Just like when he calmed the storms, Jesus calmed my life and I am forever thankful.

Asaph was a musician in the temple and wrote some of the Psalms. Psalm 77 is a song of hope. You might not think that when you begin reading. The words show anguish and desperation. But at the halfway point he recalls the spiritual markers in the life of Israel. Pray that God will help you identify spiritual markers and recall them when you need encouragement and strength.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Red and Yellow, Black and White

A crowd of high school students just dropped in the Chick-fil-A where I'm spending the morning. They were on field trip to the Little Rock Zoo. Must've been 50 of them.

I watched as they began to group together in booths and tables in the dining area. Some body language clearly said that some kids were welcome to sit with them and some weren't. I began to wonder how it was in my high school. We didn't have cell phones. We didn't drive $30,000 cars. But we were probably just as clique-ish as today's students.

Nowhere are divisions more noticeable than in the typical Baptist church in the south. I've read articles recently about white churches firing pastors for baptizing people of another color. I've read articles of churches requiring members to hold to particular forms of racism or discrimination. That's really sad.

If a person should feel accepted anywhere it should be in the church. If that "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" statement (Ephesians 4:5) is really true, then one Church is also true. Who is there to follow besides Christ? Sure, there are local expressions called churches that are uniquely fit for carrying out the Great Commission and Great Commandment, but that doesn't mean a local church can exclude anybody. We (Christians) are all on the same team. We ought to act like it.

I'm assistant coach for the Red Roc Rockets baseball team. We don't let the boys talk down to one another. They are on the same team. They are to encourage and help each other. That's how a church should be and how churches should interact with one another. What's at stake for the church is much more important than a baseball game. A vast majority of people alive today are headed for eternal separation from God if they don't hear the gospel and accept the gospel.

We have a huge task and we have no time to waste. So quit saving seats for the people you like and join with all Christians to win all kinds of people to Christ. Eternity depends upon it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Ran My Mother Off Today

Let me explain before you jump to conclusions about the title of this post. I love my mother but I had to run her off today.

When I was a senior in high school at Dardanelle, playing for the Sand Lizards' football team, Coach Richie Mathis would run us hard every Monday. He said he was running the poison out out of us. I never had that kind of poison in me and the running was bad. I can't imagine how bad it might have been had I boozed it up over the weekend! Coach Mathis felt that by the end of Monday's practice he would have our bodies back in shape for the rest of the week's practices.

My mother (Tuti) and step-father spent the weekend with us. She likes to cook, he likes to pay when we go out, and I like to eat. That combination probably has something to do with my current physical condition. They arrived on Friday. We ate out Friday night. She got up early and cooked a big breakfast Saturday. We stopped for a quick bite for lunch on the way to a ballgame. After a band concert Saturday night, we ate out again. She got up Sunday morning and fixed sausage and biscuits. We ate out after church.

They went home Sunday afternoon so when I say I ran my mother off today, it's not what you think.

The alarm went off at 4:30 A.M. I jumped up and started the routine that has become habit on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I meet my walking/jogging crew at 5:00 A.M. Tuesdays are running days. We started out in January walking each of the three days. I've gradually gotten to the point that I can run. So Tuesdays and Thursdays hold at least a 2-mile run on the schedule.

I gained some weight over the weekend. Thanks, Tuti! I ran it off today.

So I ran my mother off today and I feel good about it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weekly Devotion - April 13, 2012

"Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?"
1 Samuel 15:22 NIV
Saul was king of Israel. Samuel was the Lord's prophet. The Amalekites had fought against and beaten the Israelites during the years of wandering between Egypt and the Promised Land. God was ready to settle the score.
Through Samuel, God told Saul to attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belonged to them: all the people and all the animals. So Saul went to battle with his army of 210,000 men. The Israelites completely destroyed the Amalekites but they did not completely destroy the animals. They kept the best of the cattle, calves, and lambs.
Samuel heard about it from the Lord as soon as it happened. God was displeased that Saul had not carried out his orders completely. So Samuel set out to meet Saul.
When confronted with the reality of not fully obeying God, Saul said he had kept the best animals to make sacrifices to God. He believed he had obeyed God enough since he was going to honor God with the sacrifices.
Samuel's response rings through the ages: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice."
Which are you trying to be better at, obedience or sacrifice? You may give up your time on Sunday morning to attend church but do you try to obey the Ten Commandments? You may give up a portion of your money in tithes and offerings but do you honor God with the rest of your money? You may go on mission trips away from home but do you share your faith as you go along your daily routine.
Obedience to God's commands is more important that sacrifices you might make. Pray that God will help you obey so that your sacrifice is meaningful.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Love God

The Great Commandment (as it is known) is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). I've been thinking about that lately and plan to preach a series of messages throughout May and June on how to live the crucified life. I think the Great Commandment is the key.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." We do not live for ourselves nor do we live apart from others. We live to glorify God and achieve his purposes. We live to impact the lives of those around us - to impact them for Christ.

I began the pastorate at Cross Road Baptist Church in November 2006. Immediately, I began to promote the theme of "Impacting Eternity at the Cross Road of Life." This series of messages will bring us back to that emphasis in a very practical way. Check back for weekly updates and thoughts on this blog. Sermon audio will be posted promptly here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Series of Lessons on Prayer

I'm enjoying the series of Bible studies we've had on Wednesday nights. Is it OK for the pastor to say that about his own teaching? Anyway, I'm liking it!

We are looking at principles of prayer throughout the Bible. The first lesson was "Praying the Jericho Way" and we talked about the prayers that the Hebrews must have prayed as they prepared for and marched around the city of Jericho.

The second lesson was "Praying the Babylon Way." We looked at several of the prayers found in the book of Daniel and drew some pointers form them.

The third was "Praying the Gethsemane Way." The contrast between Jesus' prayer and the disciples lack of prayer made the difference in the trials they were all about to face.

The fourth lesson was tonight. We looked at "Praying the Jerusalem Way." Peter and John had stirred up a commotion in the temple when they healed a crippled man. The religious leaders didn't like that at all so they called the disciples in to punish them. "Don't speak in the name of Jesus again!" they were told. But the followers of Christ answered, "We can't help it. We can do nothing but speak of what we have seen and heard." Then they went to where the other believers were gathered and told them what had happened. The church began to pray for boldness to speak the name of Jesus. The house shook and they proclaimed his name throughout the city! Oh, that we would pray like that and experience God's power like that and obey his command like that!

Next week we'll look at a fifth perspective of prayer, "Praying the Philippi Way." Paul and Silas were jailed. But they were singing and praying at midnight. And something mighty happened. We'll uncovered some prayer principles to help us in our midnight hours.

The final installment of the series is "Praying the Patmos Way." From the Revelation, we'll find principles of praying from John's prayer on the Isle of Patmos.

Then I hope to write up the lessons in a format that I can share with other pastors and teachers. The series is doing me a lot of good! And I hope my church benefits, too.

Monday, April 09, 2012


I celebrated Easter several ways yesterday.

My family and I got up early to attend the Community Sunrise Service hosted at Martindale Baptist Church. The sky was cloudy so I'm not sure the sun got up that early but we had a good time. Christians from Martindale Baptist Church, Holly Springs Baptist Church, and Cross Road Baptist Church get together every year for worship, fellowship, and a good breakfast! Sunrise Services may be a thing of the past for many churches, but I'm glad we take part in this one.

Cross Road kept the regular schedule for Sunday morning. We had Bible study at 9:45 and worship at 11:00. CRBC is different that other churches I've served and attended. We rarely have big crowds on special Sundays. I'm not exactly sure why and that is frustrating. Some of our members attend other churches with family on Christmas and Easter - they get a "hall pass" for that. And a few families gather at Cross Road. But a lot of people who would consider themselves to part of the CRBC family just don't come to church on these special days. Too much cooking to do. Too much family to enjoy. Too much of __________. I just don't get it.

But those of us who were in church at CRBC yesterday had a great time. The Bible study I'm part of talked about sin, judgment, and grace and how God balances all that. We had a good, spirited discussion. Then our worship service included music that pointed us to the cross, the empty tomb, and beyond as we focused upon our Savior Jesus Christ. The choir sang a beautiful song. I'm thankful for those who love to sing and are glad to lead in worship. My message was based on Mark 16:1-8 and was entitled "The Difference the Empty Tomb Makes." The empty tomb - the resurrection of Jesus - turns our perspective from death to life, from despair to hope, from desolation to relationship, and from doubt to belief. The resurrection is real and really makes a difference!

We had lunch with Deana's family then headed to North Little Rock to talk with the folks at the Church at Argenta. This is a church plant just getting underway. Michael and Amanda Carpenter moved into the Argenta district last fall. They now have another couple and individual who have moved there to help staff the church. They plan to open a coffee shop and Argenta's third place and the plans are coming together. Michael told us about space on Main Street that is available. All they need to do is a little remodel and they'll be ready to go. He is aiming for an opening date of September 2012. A group of believers are already meeting in the Carpenters' home and they have been taking a van load of neighborhood children to a supporting church in North Little Rock for several months. We met a 10-yr old girl yesterday who is getting baptized soon! We are glad to be associated with the Church at Argenta.

Then we were off to Dickey-Stephens Park to watch the Arkansas Travelers take on the Frisco Rough Riders. That was a great way to end a great day. Just with the Travs would've won the game!

Jesus, church, and family. It was a great Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Weekly Devotion - April 6, 2012

 "Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13 NIV
Jesus taught his disciples that the greatest love gives up everything for the object of that love. He said those words just hours before he was crucified. And his crucifixion was the sacrifice necessary to satisfy God's righteous demands for punishment of sin. All sin. My sin. Your sin.
Sin's a big deal. No matter how small because any sin is enough to break the relationship God wants to have with you. It happened in the Garden of Eden. It happened to King David. It happened to Peter. It happens to us. Nobody is exempt.
That's a big problem because to be separated from God leaves you no place to be for eternity but in hell.
Many people try to overcome the negatives of sin by the positives of good works. They must think that God keeps a ledger with sins on one side and works on the other. "Do my good works offset and outweigh my sins?" they must ask. And the answer is "No!" With all that the Bible says about good works, it never says that we are saved from sin by our good works. We are saved from our sin so that we may do good works. There's a big difference in those two statements.
The Bible says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. It's not good works that atones for your sins but blood. To be specific, the blood of Jesus atones for your sins.
And he must have had the greatest degree of love for you - for us - in order to lay down his life. That's just what he did to demonstrate his love for us while we were still sinners.
Take comfort in the love Jesus has for you. You should be grieved by the sin you commit but relieved by the grace given you. Pray that God will help you realize the depth of his love and the breadth of his grace.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

What Does It Take To Be An Encourager?

All of us need encouragement. Otherwise, we feel alone or even worse - we feel beat down.

Some people aren't good at encouraging others. Either all they want to talk about is themselves or they are just so negative. Who needs that!

One of the great encouragers in the Bible was Barnabas. We meet him in the story of Paul's conversion in the book of Acts.

Paul is a new convert. He's been persecuting Christians so everybody is shying away from him. They aren't sure his conversion is real. Maybe he's just laying a trap for them.

But Barnabas comes to Paul. And then he introduces Paul to the disciples. Then he travels with Paul to spread the gospel.

Barnabas didn't call Paul on the phone and say, "Next time you're in town let's do lunch." No, he went out of his way to go to Paul.

Barnabas didn't expect Paul to be anything other than a new convert to Christianity. New believers aren't as wise and mature as those who have been following Jesus for a while.

Here's a principle of encouragement: An encourager comes alongside you rather than demanding you come alongside him.

Forrest Grimmett is my encourager in this fitness thing I'm doing. Forrest is in great shape and can run circles around me...backwards. Instead of constantly telling me to do like he does, he walks and jogs alongside me. Sometimes he picks up the pace and I do too. He hears me breathing hard and he slows down.

That's how we encourage others. Come alongside them and slowly lead them to where you are. That's a good principle for both physical fitness and spiritual fitness.

Paul didn't learn the lesson quickly. He gave up on Mark because Mark didn't finish a mission trip. But Paul eventually got it. He mentored Timothy like a pro - like Barnabas. And he came back around with Mark, requesting that Mark be with him near the end of Paul's life.

Who are you trying to encourage? Take time to come alongside them. You will be more help to them there than from where you are now.