Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Baseball is Back

If you know me or we are connected through social media or you just read my blog for the great insight, you know that I love baseball. I would have been a MLB star had I not taken a ground ball in the nose when I was about 10 years old. And if I hadn't been hit in the back by a wild pitch in Little League. And if I hadn't mis-judged the fly ball and had it hit me in the forehead. Just a little more speed, power, and coordination and I'd be the "Face of MLB."

To fill the void I've coached a little, played a little softball, gone to MLB and MiLB games, cheered from the stands of Tee-ball and Cal Ripken League and now Babe Ruth games, and logged thousands upon thousands of hours watching games on TV.

With all that baseball, I still get giddy when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in early February; I still set aside time to read and watch games or highlights of the first game in Spring Training; I still consider Opening Day of the season one of the greatest days of the year; I still get a little sad when the final out of the last game of the World Series is recorded each year.

So strike up the band to play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and update the iScore app on the iPad. It's time for baseball!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's the Economy, Stupid!

Remember those words? James Carville reminded Bill Clinton's election team to focus on the economy leading up to the 1992 Presidential election.

Bush 41 had a 90% approval rating following the ground invasion of Iraq. But economic troubles turned the tide. He soon would have a 64% disapproval rating. The Clinton Campaign won the election in part by constantly resounding, "It's the economy, stupid." The banter deflected the discussion of Bill Clinton's morality (or immorality).

I'm reading articles today of a skirmish in Arizona between those who claim a bill awaiting the governor's signature is protecting religious liberty or encouraging oppression of homosexuals. The bill narrowly passed both chambers of the state legislature; the governor has until Saturday to sign it into law, veto the bill, or let it become law without her signature.

Homosexual America is weighing in. Corporate America is, too, as entities like Microsoft and the NFL hint or outright threaten not to do business in the state if the bill becomes law.

Conservatives are weighing in, too. Rush Limbaugh said the the governor is being "bullied" to allow the homosexual agenda to advance. But not all conservatives agree. John McCain (is he really a conservative?) is urging the governor to veto the bill.

"It's the economy, stupid." I'm concerned that the governor and many others in the state (like three state senators who voted FOR the bill but now oppose it since the economic threats began) will put the economy above religious liberty.

Remember when Southern Baptists boycotted just about everything they (we) considered immoral? Remember the beating administered by the media?

Those who side with the homosexual agenda are, in effect, threatening to boycott the state of Arizona if this bill passes. But where it the outrage?

There is no outrage because the media long ago stopped reporting and turned to social engineering. Admittedly, the conservative media does the same thing.

There is no outrage because the economic boycott furthers the agenda the media supports.

I have no way of knowing what the governor will do but my gut feeling is that she will bow to the economic pressure to support the homosexual agenda. If so, mark it up as another win for the advancement of homosexuality in our culture. That certainly has been the trend lately.

If the threat of economic boycott works in Arizona, expect it to be used more and more.

"It's the economy, stupid!" That seems to be a good argument to deflect attention away from morality.

Getting It Right

I'm trying to wrap my head around some opportunities that face churches. While the big churches continue to get bigger, many small churches continue to shrink.

An easy answer (and complaint) is that church members are just moving to churches that offer more activities for their families. If that's the case, then it comes down to budgets, leadership, and innovation. Some of us are definitely at a disadvantage.

The 21st century church may function under a model like this, but the 1st century did not. I know, times are different; I get that. Still, is there something about the early church that works. They accelerated the gospel faster than any other generation. Ever.

I think it goes back to what I call "The Ten Most Important Days in the Life of the Church." In Acts 1 Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witness all around the world when the Spirit came upon them. In Acts 2 the Spirit came upon them and the church exploded onto the pages of history.

Here's what happened during the ten days between Jesus' ascension (Acts 1) and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). (Here's the post where I talk about this a little more. The 10 Most Important Days in the History of the Church)

They were obedient. Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem and they did not. Today's church must be obedient to do everything the Lord says.

They prayed. The Bible tells us that after Jesus ascended the disciples were constantly in prayer. Today's church must make prayer a central part of our existence.

They were focused. During the ten days between the ascension and Pentecost, the disciples chose a replacement for Judas, the betrayer. They knew what their task was and they did not neglect it. Today's church must make the mission of God the priority in everything we do.

They were unified. Preachers like the joke about them being "in one (Honda) Accord," but the truth is that they were together physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc. The Holy Spirit gives the church unity and today's church must eliminate anything that can destroy unity.

They took action. They waited, they prayed, they kept their eye on the mission, and they loved each other. Then when the Holy Spirit came upon them they immediately left the Upper Room and took the gospel to the streets. Today's church must act immediately upon the Holy Spirit's leading.

It doesn't matter what size church you attend. What matters is that you join with other believers to faithfully join God in his mission to seek and save those who are lost in sin.

I'm glad so many of the folks at Cross Road Baptist Church get this. We'd love to have a few more who want to join God's mission with  us.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Leadership In A Small Membership Church

In an article about leadership in a small membership church, Lovett H. Weems, Jr. offers this principle:

Leading "in the middle." To be a leader is to live in the middle – in the tension between a future vision and the current reality. This tension is inherent if a leader becomes the steward of God's vision for the congregation. One cannot give in to the current reality and abandon the vision to which God is calling the church. Nor can one simply lift up the vision and ignore the realities. To be a leader means to stay with the tension. It also means to stay with the people. Remember, people in the small membership church often are people who are living on the edge – geographically, economically, theologically, and culturally. They know whether you are living with them or not.

Keeping sights on both the heritage and the future can be hard. You may know of churches (of any size) who are so much the same church they were a generation ago that they aren't reaching their potential for this or the next generation. Rarely is the cutting edge technology or methodology of one generation sufficient for the next. The same is true for the church.

Our church is barely over 40 years old - just a generation or so. But church style and methodology of the early '70s is not too effective these days. So the leaders must look forward. That's vision. God is leading his church forward to accomplish the ageless mission of making disciples of all nations. Leaders look to God and his vision. They point the church in that direction.

Even though we aren't an "old" church we still have lots of heritage that is important to who we are. Cross Road has served the Lord's mission in our community and around the world. At one time, all those accomplishments were part of a vision of the future. We can and should honor the past and celebrate what God has done.

We just can't cling to the past. But we can't ignore it, either. So my challenge and that of our leaders is to lead in the middle - honoring the past, reaching the future.

That's part of what it means to impact eternity at the cross road of life.

Find the full article from Weems here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Found Faithful

Abraham had great faith. You don't have to be a Bible scholar to know that. The Bible tells us that in Hebrews 11.

The best-known example of his faith is found in Genesis 22. God had promised Abraham that he would bless all nations through Abraham's descendants. Isaac was a young teenager and was, in Abraham's estimation, the answer to the promise.

But God told Abraham to sacrifice his own son. And Abraham was willing to obey God completely. But with Isaac dead, how would God keep his promise? Abraham might have thought that answers to such questions were above his pay scale. Instead of question God, Abraham trusted God.

Faith and obedience and trust always go together. When braided like a cord, these three become the fiber of which godly men and women are made.

Isaac and the promise. Those thoughts must have filled Abraham's mind as he hiked to Mt. Moriah with his son, some wood, and fire.

But no lamb for the sacrifice. Even Isaac noticed. Rarely will you know what's waiting at the top of the test while you are still on the path.

God provided a ram for the sacrifice. Isaac was spared. Abraham proved faithful. God revealed himself as Jehovah Jireh - "The LORD Will Provide."

It is likely that God will call you to some task that will require faith. How will you respond? Faithful? or Faithless?

If you respond with obedience and trust, you will be found faithful just like Abraham. Let's pray for each other so that when the test comes we will be found faithful.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Who's Left Behind

Today would have been Terry McCallister's 56th birthday. But Terry passed away suddenly, unexpectedly on February 1. I would guess that every birthday, anniversary, and holiday will be hard for his family, but the "firsts" seem to be hardest. And this comes so quickly on the heels of his death and burial.

I'm praying today Terry's family.

Can you imagine a family not missing their loved one? A lot of reasons go into this, including love, memories, and responsibilities. Terry loved his family and they love him. They have terrific memories of hunting and fishing, traveling, and generations. And Terry was one of the most responsible men I've known. At home, work, church, or community, we could count on Terry.

There's no doubt about missing him.

I also like to think about Terry's legacy. What did he leave behind? Or better, who did he leave behind? Terry let behind a family of hard-working, fun-loving folks who are committed to each other and to the Lord. I can't think of a better legacy.

Billionaires are giving away fortunes to endow philanthropic activities. Terry's legacy is greater.

Athletes are winning gold medals and announcing retirement to the roar of the crowds. Terry's legacy is greater.

A movie star passed away this week and the celeb-shows tout her on- and off-screen achievements. Terry's legacy is greater.

What are you doing regarding a legacy? You'll leave one whether you try or not. People will look at your life after you're gone. We'll talk about you, too. What will we say?

May it be said, like it is of Terry McCallister, that I loved my family and my Lord.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Atheists and Jesus Statues

When I walk through a shopping center and see a store display that exposes a morality that makes me uncomfortable, I just walk on by. I guess I could protest and picket. I could scream at the manager. I could try to keep customers out of the store. I could vandalize the place. But I just walk on by.

I'm not typical of most Christians, though. Some will want to do all those things (except the walking by part) to raise awareness and to condemn the "heathen." Others think even less of it than I do. While I have a problem with the public display of immorality, not all Christians do. So I'm not typical.

Maybe there's no such thing as a typical atheist either. I read a story today from The Christian Post about a group of atheists who "filed an appeal against a ruling that allowed the 'Big Mountain Jesus' statue at Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort to stay in place." You can read the article here if you are interested.

The atheists don't want a statue of Jesus at the ski lodge. I understand that. I don't want live lingerie models in the windows of stores in the mall. But I walk on by. They file a lawsuit and then appeal the court's decision.

Many of my friends are in the "can't we all just get along" camp. I think getting along is fine. I think imposing beliefs on someone is wrong. I think keeping someone from believing what they want is wrong.

We live in a society where a high premium is placed on the freedom to choose. We just don't want to live with the consequences.

Getting along means that I don't carry cans of black spray paint with me when I go to the malls so I can black out the windows and cover the displays I don't like.

Getting along means that I don't refuse someone the opportunity to worship (or not) as they please.

I can get along with someone who doesn't agree with my beliefs about God. And I should. But that doesn't mean I give up my beliefs or tone them down or hold them in. I am free to express my beliefs and so are they. I am free to share my beliefs and so are they. But none of us are free to impose our beliefs on someone else.

When confronted with beliefs you don't believe, you can express your beliefs but you shouldn't be able to suppress someone else's beliefs.

Don't get me wrong: I think I'm right about God and Jesus and heaven and hell and sin and forgiveness. You have the freedom to choose to believe or not believe. But you have to live with the consequences of your choices.