Friday, September 26, 2014


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 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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What's A Follower To Do?

The more I study the Bible the more I've become aware of God's mission in the world and my place - the church's place - in the mission. I believe God is a sending God and that believers are sent just as Jesus was sent.

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you!
As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
(John 20:21)

Our Lord spoke these words to his followers, his disciples. Often Jesus addressed a specific group but a larger group also heard. It was as if Jesus wanted the others to hear what he said. (In fact, he did!) But these words were spoken to the disciples, not the crowds, not the opposers.

Jesus was sending his disciples on the same mission the Father had sent him to accomplish. So what was Jesus' mission? He came to redeem lost people by taking the punishment for their sins through his death on the cross.

He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

He came to give his life to set sinners free from sin (Mark 10:45.)

Obviously, his disciples can die on a cross to absorb the penalty of sins for someone else. We aren't even an acceptable sacrifice for our own sins. We are sinners in need of a Savior and that's who Jesus is and that's why Jesus did what he did.

So what is our role in the mission of God? We are sent just as Jesus was sent but we can't do what Jesus has done. But we can point people to Jesus. We can show others who are lost in and bound by sin that Jesus has died to reclaim them and set them free.

The details of the disciples' mission is not just the same as Jesus' mission but the purpose and desired result is the same. Jesus died for sinners' sins; we proclaim this truth to them. Jesus died and rose again to gain victory over sin and death; we proclaim this truth.

The last words of Jesus that Matthew recorded in the Gospel are these:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the earth."

This Great Commission, like the sending passage in John 20, is intended for Jesus' followers. Whether that numbers in the dozens, hundreds, or millions, followers of Jesus are to make disciples - or other followers of Jesus.

We do that by joining the mission of God.

We do that by proclaiming Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

We do that by proclaiming truths found in Scripture that guide the way we are to live.

And really, aren't disciples supposed to live out their beliefs? Shouldn't what's in our mind be exposed in our actions? I think that is true. I think it does happen. Our actions do reveal what we really believe. I can't really judge if a person has trusted Jesus for salvation but often it's obvious whether or not that person is truly a follower or disciple of Jesus.

Professing believers ought to live by the instructions of the one they claim to follow. The Bible has plenty of passages that describe how a disciple ought to live, but just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. Our worship, our relationships, our finances, our priorities all fall under the authority of Jesus Christ. Our entire lives are to reflect him.

I don't measure up to well with these passages, do you? What's a follower to do when you realize you aren't following very well?
  1. Repent or turn away from your sins and seek forgiveness.
  2. Turn toward God's word for help knowing how to live.
  3. Yield to the Holy Spirit as He guides you.
  4. Huddle with other believers to encourage and equip each other to live for Christ's glory.
  5. Go and make disciples of all nations because that's God's mission.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Facing Mistakes

I'm excited about heading to Pottsville tonight for Riley's first Junior High football game. The Arkansas Baptist Eagles face the Pottsville Apaches at 7:00. I have no idea what to expect!

Heading to Pottsville brings to mind a couple or three mistakes I've made. Pottsville itself is not a mistake. We lived there for a couple of years. Riley's first home was in Pottsville. A couple of different decisions and, who knows, Riley could be on the Pottsville sideline tonight.

Without going into detail about the mistakes, I'll just say that one had to do with relationships, one had to do with stewardship, and one had to do with calling.

I believe God has a plan for each of us. If we are able to seek and understand and follow the Holy Spirit's guidance in every situation we would follow that plan without deviation. The truth is that we sometimes follow our own guidance or the guidance of others who may not be speaking on behalf of the Lord.

So we get of the path the Lord has planned for us.

I do not believe that even our mistakes are God's will or plan for us. My mistakes have led me into sin and that certainly cannot be God's desire. God's desire will bring me away from sinfulness and toward Christ-likeness.

My desires often lead me the other way. "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). The key to this verse unfolding in my life is to delight myself in the Lord. Then my desires will match his desires and he'll give me those things. I really don't think God will give me the desires of my heart if my heart doesn't match his heart - especially when those desires are result in sin and straying.

I want to do better. I want to honor God with my relationships, stewardship, and calling. A friend recently taught me that most of us want to do better, we just don't have the courage or faith to carry out that desire. The first few verses of the Book of Joshua remind me to be courageous based on God's promises and his word. My courage doesn't come from within me but from God and my faith in him to do what only he can do and to help me do what he wants me to do.

By grace God had a plan for me. He handed it to me. I messed it up and handed it back. He took it and, in grace, worked all things for good. He handed a revised plan back to me. That cycle has occurred several times in my life but grace has always answered failure. I praise God for that!

There are some reminders in Pottsville. They don't serve to keep me regretting the past. They challenge me to be courageous today and in the future so I can better achieve God's desires (which are becoming my desires, too).

...but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Go Eagles!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I'm Learning to Be Less Selfish

Deana and I (I'm not accusing her of being selfish, she's just part of the story) spent a few hours this weekend cleaning out closets. We both have way too much stuff so we are donating clothes to the Little Rock Compassion Center.

I filled two big black trash bags and stopped bcause I was tired of doing it. I'll finish some other time.

Have you ever put on a jacket you had not worn since last winter and found money in the pocket? That's a pleasant surprise. It can be a blessing, if you know what I mean.

We decided not to have a garage sale because we just wanted to bless others without a price tag. I'm not saying that is how everyone should do it. That's just our decision this time. Maybe we'll have a garage sale next time, who knows?

So I'm stuffing these bags through the small hole in the "donation hut" in the KMart parking lot. And I'm thinking, "Did I check the pockets?"

I do a lot of laundry at the house because we have a rule: Money found in the laundry belongs to the person doing the laundry. So you can imagine my dilema knowing that as soon as the bag goes through the hole I'll never have another chance to check the pockets because I'm too big to fit though that hole!

I didn't check the pockets. I figure that the next hand that reaches in those pockets belongs to a person who needs the blessing. God has blessed me in abundance. The least I can do is not be so selfish.