Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thailand Mission Trip

I will be leaving November 4th for a 10-day Mission Trip in Bangkok, Thailand. Below is a message I sent to my support team. If you are interested in joining my support team, go here
update #2
We are about 25 days from leaving for Thailand! I am so excited about the trip! Here are a few things you can be praying for:

Team -
1.) We've been asked to coordinate a Rally for youth and students. Please pray that the details for this rally will come together. This Rally can be a great boost to the already established ministry in Thailand.

2.) Our team will be presenting the gospel message in Thai prisons. Pray that God will begin TODAY to soften the hearts of those who will hear.

3.) Pray for our team. Pray that God will unite our hearts to His plan for this trip. We can plan and coordinate all these details and still miss what God wants to accomplish. Pray for unity, clarity and for our hearts to be fixed on God's plan for this trip, not ours.

Personal -
1.) I am traveling a lot over the next 30 days. Please pray for me and my family to cherish the "home time." As of this past Wednesday, I will spend 22 out of 40 days away from home. Pray for protection both physically and spiritually as I'm away from home.

2.) God is working on deep things in my heart. I am processing a lot of spiritual information. Please pray that God will grant clarity and discernment as to His plans and will in these days.

3.) Pray for finances. I have raised about $1050 of the $1600 needed for the trip. Pray that God will provide the funds to get me over this last hurdle. He is faithful and I know He'll provide!

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, donations, and support as we get ready to leave for Thailand!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Our Study on Eternal Security

Here is a recent study we did on Eternal Security or the idea of "once saved, always saved."

Eternal Security
“Once saved, always saved” or Eternal Security is the belief that once a person experiences true conversion, he or she cannot lose their salvation.

This assumes 3 facts:
1.) The person must experience a true conversion from unbelief to belief in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior;
2.) The existence of false converts is prevalent and true;
3.) God’s promise of salvation is powerful and able to keep true believers throughout eternity.

Fact #1 – The person must experience a true conversion

Elements of a True Conversion

1.) Drawn by God – A true conversion is not a response to man’s request (i.e. praying a prayer, walking an aisle, etc) but a response to God’s conviction laid upon your heart by the active work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
• Jeremiah 31:10-14
• Hosea 2:14-20
• John 6:44-59
• Acts 2:37
• Romans 8:28-30
• Ephesians 2:8-9

2.) True Belief in Christ – a belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world and the object of our faith and affection
• Isaiah 9:2-7
• Micah 5:2-5
• John 1:11-12
• John 3:16-18
• 1 John 5:10-15

3.) Repentance – a continued response of hatred toward the flesh and of love toward God; A daily dying to self and living for Christ. Hebrew word “teshuvah” – “to turn”. Greek word “metanoia” – “to change the mind.”
• 2 Chronicles 7:11-22
• Deuteronomy 30:1-10
• Luke 3:7-14
• Acts 2:38-39
• 2 Corinthians 7:10

Fact #2 – The evidence of false conversion is prevalent and true. A person can experience the fellowship of the church, teaching of the world and understand spiritual things yet not experience true conversion.
The evidence of bearing spiritual fruit consistently, hatred toward things of the flesh (especially in one’s own life) and a desire to rid life of anything that hinders worship of God are exhibitions of a true convert.
• Isaiah 29:13-16
• Matthew 7:21-23
• Mark 4:5-6; 16-17
• John 15:1-17
• Romans 8:9-17
• Galatians 5:1; 16-26
• Hebrews 6:4-8

Fact #3 – God’s promise of salvation is powerful and able to secure believers unto eternity.
• Isaiah 44:6-8
• Jeremiah 4:1-2
• Jeremiah 31:31-34
• Micah 7:18-20
• Zephaniah 3:14-20
• Zechariah 9:14-17
• John 10:7-18
• John 15:4

3 Questions about your salvation –

1.) Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation?
• Is your faith in Christ active today, not relying on good deeds or past deeds?
• Colossians 1:23
• Hebrews 3:14; 6:12

2.) Is there evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?
• Romans 8:15-16
• 1 John 4:13
• The Holy Spirit bears witness in your heart that you are a child of God and you are led to obedience of God.
• Galatians 5:19-24 – Test your life against the deeds of the flesh or the deeds of the Spirit. Which ones are more prevalent? That should give evidence of your faith and salvation.

3.) Do I see a long-term pattern of growth in my Christian life?
• 1 Peter 1:13-23
• 2 Peter 1:3-11 – particularly focus on verses 5-9
• As your faith grows, you become more secure in what you believe on the basis of Biblical proof, not judgmental bias.
• Christian growth is growth in fruit of the Spirit, those fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

From Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, page 806:

“But here we see why the phrase “eternal security” can be quite misleading. In some evangelical churches, instead of teaching the full and blanced presentation of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (eternal security), pastors have sometimes taught a watered-down version, which in effect tells people that all who have once made a profession of faith and been baptized are “eternally secure.” The result is that some people who are not genuinely converted at all may “come forward” at the end of an evangelistic sermon to profess faith in Christ, and may be baptized shortly after that, but then they leave the fellowship of the church and live a life no different from the one they lived before they gained this “eternal security.” In this way people are given false assurance and are being cruelly deceived into thinking they are going to heaven when in fact they are not. Of course, not all who use the phrase “eternal security” make mistakes of this sort, but the phrase is certainly open to such misunderstanding.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As Good as Dead...

I preached this past Sunday from Mark 11. Jesus, on his way back to Jerusalem, sees a fig tree off in the distance in full bloom. Being hungry, he walks toward the tree in the hopes of finding figs to eat. When he comes to the tree, he finds only leaves and no fruit and curses the tree. This simple passage contains a very sobering truth.

Everyone and everything is created for a purpose. For the fig tree, its purpose is not just to appear beautiful. It is to bear figs. The Scriptures say the tree had no fruit, "...for it was not the season for figs." The idea is that the fruit was not quite ready to be harvested, or the fruit had already been harvested and there remained no more viable fruit (in violation of Hebrew law: to leave some of the crop/fruit for the sojourner or alien). Nevertheless, the purpose of the fig tree is to bear fruit. When Jesus sees no fruit, he curses the tree and, in a subsequent passage, we know the tree withered to the roots.

When we don't serve our purpose, we are as good as dead. That is, we are ineffective and inefficient. You remember the old adage, "Dead men tell no tales." In the same way, "Dead trees bear no fruit." Here are some points to ponder about serving your purpose and bearing fruit in life -

1.) God created you and gave you a specific purpose in this life. Your purpose is to know God through a relationship with Christ. Your responsibility is discover how to use your time, talents and abilities to glorify Him.

2.) When you discover how to use your time, talents and abilities in bringing glory to God, you are getting past appearances (the fig tree - only leaves) and bearing fruit. These fruit will come as a result of your relationship to God through Christ. Without Christ and His Lordship over your life, all your works will only contribute to appearances, not real fruit.

3.) The "fruit" of your life can be summed up like this - When you use your time, talents and abilities, are you pointing people toward Christ or bringing attention to yourself? Does God get the glory for the spiritual "fruit" or are you bringing glory to yourself and your service?

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but He made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure."
-Eric Liddell "Chariots of Fire"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dear God, I'm Sorry...

This morning's prayer time was one of those that began, "Dear God, I'm sorry..." I continually wrestle with my pride. God continually reminds me to be humble and I resist until He breaks through. Usually some profound thought or idea comes into my head and I realize that God is trying to get my attention. This morning the idea was what is going on at our church. God has called us to be a marker for the Gospel in our community. The more I think about leading a dynamic, growing family of faith, I tend to think that it has something to do with me. Then, I realize that without the Lord's leadership and direction, we'll perish (read Exodus 33:15). My desire is that we will not attempt anything without the Lord's approval and guidance. If we go anywhere or do anything, it has to be at His command.

So, my prayer this morning was, "Dear God, I'm sorry for getting ahead of you. I'm sorry for thinking that I have any kind of ingenuity that demands your attention. My life is yours. Our church is yours." My mind goes back to words like Isaiah 55:6-9 - "Seek the Lord because He is worthy. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways. (my paraphrase)."

Even though I begin prayer that way sometime, I realize even more that God is faithful and gracious. He hears my penitent prayers and yet is patient with me, knowing that my battle is not finished. I will continually battle pride. However, I find comfort in the Scriptures.

"If you live by the flesh, you will die but if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live." - Romans 8:13

What deeds are you putting to death in your life? When was the last time your prayer started, "Dear God, I'm sorry..."?

Friday, July 10, 2009

My email to our SBC Executive Committee

Last week, I emailed our Executive Committee and asked a few questions about Morris Chapman's "Presidential Report" at the Annual Convention. Below is my email and the response from the Office of Convention Relations.

"Dear Sirs -
In regard to Morris Chapman's "President's Report" for the Annual Meeting. After hearing about the Great Commission Resurgence and its call for accountability to the Scriptures, the Great Commission and the best use of SBC CP funds, I am appalled at Chapman's lack of support of this initiative. There is nothing subversive about Johnny Hunt's movement as President of the SBC and yet Chapman's "report" essentially called Hunt's initiative nothing short of heretical. What is his fear of the GCR? Could it be that Chapman is afraid that the GCR will call into question his leadership of the Executive Committee and in turn, the SBC as a whole? Could it be that Chapman is avoiding accountability because he knows that more CP dollars are being spent on the Executive Committee and their funding than on the IMB and sending missionaries around the world. I am 28 years old and a pastor of an SBC church in Texas. As a member of the SBC and a supporter of the GCR, I want Chapman to issue his thoughts forwardly, not veiled behind theological jargon and rhetoric. If he doesn't like the GCR, just say so. Don't attempt to be a hero for a lack of accountability. The bureaucracy is big enough and it's time to trim the fat. If Chapman is leading effectively, he has nothing to worry about. An animosity toward accountability just proves that he is not effectively utilizing my church's CP contributions. Morris Chapman needs accountability just like the rest of us. Johnny Hunt is asking for a reckoning all across our denomination, starting at the top. No one is beyond accounting for their work. Please explain the lunacy behind refusing to report the work of Southern Baptists over the past year in favor of a slam on a proposed move in the SBC (which is exactly what Chapman did in his so-called "Presidential Report)?"

Dear Stan:

We have received your email and have conveyed its sentiments to Dr. Chapman.

While we are glad to respond to this question, our primary mission is to tell the "Good News" about Jesus. Scripture teaches that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. It is our hope and prayer that you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said it this way, "For by grace you are saved through faith." If you have already received Jesus Christ as your Lord, we rejoice with you. If, however, you do not know Jesus, we invite you to turn from your sinful past and turn to God through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord. When we are saved from the penalty of our sins, we experience His cleansing from sin and His transforming power in our lives. A hymn writer has said it well, "Only Jesus can satisfy your soul." How true!

Office of Convention Relations
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 244-2355


Friday, June 19, 2009

5 Years

My wife and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary today. Words fail to express my gratitude to the Lord for the gift I received in marriage. Below is a letter I sent to Lauren a few days before our wedding. It's a bit long, but every word is true. I could add many words to this, but this captures my heart still today.

My girl,
I sit here right now, 8 days from you and I becoming us. It is amazing to think that in just 8 days something you and I have asked of God will finally come true. I cannot tell you how overwhelmingly excited I am about becoming your husband. I do not deserve the title ‘husband’ but I will hold it as the highest honor of my life!

It is difficult for me to put into words exactly what is on my heart. I cannot believe that the Lord has blessed me with you! I could be thankful for you for a thousand lifetimes and it still would not be enough to express my gratefulness to Him! The blessing that you are and have become is, next to my salvation, the epitome of my life. I realize that God has given you to me as a responsibility, but I know that He has placed you in my life to show me exactly how much He loves me. I hope and pray that our life together will be a picture to you of how much Jesus loves you. I pray that everyday could be just a snapshot of His love and grace for you. It is absolutely the greatest feeling inside humanity to know that God has given us one another to show His love for us; that we have the privilege of speaking to the world, through our union, God’s thoughts for them. What an awesome thought!

“You are altogether beautiful my darling, and in you there is no blemish.” – SOS 4:7
I found this verse the night that I picked up your wedding ring. I began to think about the meaning of that ring and what you would think every time you look at it. I know that we will hear this on our wedding day but I’ll say it again. That ring is a picture of an unending, unbroken, pure and unblemished commitment that I make to you; to covenant with you and Jesus that our marriage is His from the very beginning. I promise that I will honor, cherish, and most importantly love you regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I pray that the first thought in your mind each time you see the ring on your finger is the covenant that we have made to one another to rely on Christ as our strength, peace and joy; the covenant of our marriage to one another and the devoted promise that we have made to love one another only. Even more than that ring, I thought about this verse and you. You are altogether beautiful! You are God’s creation and His gift to me! I pray that God gives me keen eyes to see you as He sees you, not just physically beautiful, but emotionally, spiritually and mentally beautiful. That is altogether! Every part of you is beautiful and I am so undeserving!

I cannot wait for the doors to open and our eyes to meet as you come down the aisle! I can only imagine the emotions and thoughts that will flood my soul at that moment. My beautiful bride, coming down the aisle, dressed in white…your day has finally arrived! I cannot wait!!!!

“An excellent wife, who can find? Her worth is far more than jewels.” Proverbs 31:10
I have found an excellent wife! I cannot express how awesome it is to know that God has made provision for us to be husband and wife! We owe Him a lifetime of worship and devotion to show our gratitude for His movement in our lives! I pray that we can worship Him in Spirit and truth for all of our days together! I pray we can rear our children for His glory and service and for His namesake. May every movement and action of our lives be for the honor of our Savior and Lord Jesus!

“We love, because He first loved us.” I John 4:19
May this principle be the source of our love and strength for our commitment to one another! Regardless of how awesome or tough our circumstances may be, nothing can be more sacrificial than the love that God has shown us through Jesus. May our love be as sacrificial for one another, painting the sweetest picture of the love and grace shown to us by Christ and His atonement for us!

I love you, my bride! I cannot wait to spend the rest of our days together!

love you,

I love you, sweetheart. I praise God for you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Leadership: Work the Plan

My friend, Brett Duncan, shares his marketing prowess via his blog, Marketing in Progress. I enjoy his posts simply for their leadership value. All those in leadership major in marketing as well. Leaders gather followers via good marketing strategies. Brett shared this idea via Twitter this morning,

It's time to press pause on the idea creation and start making some of them actually happen. Plan the work, then work the plan.

I find that most leaders live somewhere between hypothetical and reality, between theory and application. Most of the time, we can develop a great idea without understanding the cost of implementation. Part of developing an idea is what it will take to see it into reality. On a fundamental level, I believe this is the "tipping point" idea; taking theory and making it "practicable".

As you develop new ideas, what are you doing to see those ideas become reality?

In your leadership, how are you getting people to embrace the plan and then "work the plan"?

Answering these questions is the difference between hosting a think-tank and breakthrough leadership.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kill the wolves?

Found this quote:
"Every church has three kinds of animals: sheep, goats, and wolves. Biblical leadership is simple: love the sheep, convert the goats and kill the wolves." - Anonymous

True words, no matter how intense they are. I want to know where you stand on this? How do we "kill the wolves"? Every church has wolves in sheep's clothing, just as Jesus warned. I believe these are the folks who, whether consciously or subconsciously, attempt to subvert the work of the church through opposition or apathy.

How do we rectify the situation and enable our churches to love the sheep and convert the goats?


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Accomplishing the Mission

I began a short preaching series this morning outlining spiritual gifts. In my intro, I emphasized "the mission." Not to be confused with the Blues Brothers, Christ-followers really are, "...on a mission from God." Jesus introduced this mission to us, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 4:17. He preached to the world that the kingdom of heaven was here, with us, in our midst. We have the responsibility to continue the mission. God has gifted us to play a part in accomplishing the mission.

So what is the mission - I believe it's 3-fold,
-Reach those who do not profess Christ as Savior - do whatever it takes
-Preach the Gospel - the message of salvation, forgiveness and redemption
-Promote unity - if the church can't get along, no one will want to be a part of it

God has given us spiritual gifts - teaching, serving, giving, mercy, exhortation, hospitality, gifts of healing, prophecy - in order to accomplish this mission. This elicits a few questions -

Do you know your gift?
If so, are you playing your role in accomplishing the mission?
How does your church community enable/empower you to play your part?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

So Thankful

I spent tonight with my 3-year-old son, Noah, at the Texas Rangers' game. I cannot even describe to you how thankful I am for those 5 hours. We had a great time. Baseball is my favorite sport. Love to watch it, terrible playing it. The Rangers annoy the crud out of me because they're the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. It's nerve-wracking. However, they're playing great right now and I got a free voucher for tickets tonight. Noah and I had a great time. He loved watching the "blue team" (Rangers) against the "grey team" (Mariners). "The blue team sets off fireworks, Daddy" mentioned every time the Rangers hit a homerun (3 times tonight). Noah got a "King Lizard" (Ian Kinsler) baseball and a Rangers' Mr. Potato Head. He was ecstatic...and so was I for totally different reasons. I had a blast taking my little guy to enjoy America's Favorite Pastime. Hope we can do it again really soon!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rest, Grace and a Tonsillectomy

My 3-year-old son, Noah had his tonsils out on Monday morning. The wild ride started about 6AM and is well into Day 4. He's doing very well considering the inside of his throat looks like raw meat. It's taught me a few things -

Rest - I've been at home this whole week (except yesterday for church and prayer meeting). I didn't realize how tired I was. I'm getting work done but I've also rested a lot. I needed this week although I hate the circumstances. I wish I could have this week without my son going through this ordeal.

Grace - My son does not comprehend pain management. It hurts to swallow but he has to take medicine. Every 5 hours is a battle of epic proportions to get him to take medicine. He doesn't understand the correlation between swallowing the liquid and the relief it will bring in 30-45 minutes. It has taught me to be patient with him. It's given me a great perspective of God's grace and patience toward us. He asks us to trust Him, even when it hurts for a moment. Knowing that the momentary hurt will produce a great relief.

"For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Up late and thinking...

So it's nearly 2AM and I can't sleep. Listened to the rain as it passed over earlier and now my mind is racing.

As a pastor, I am entrusted with the leadership of my congregation. I must lead that collective group of people according to my personal convictions along with the convictions of our congregation. I must also lead this group according to a common purpose and calling laid upon us by God. We have a God-given responsibility to reach the community around our church. All of this rests upon a healthy trust between pastor and congregation.

In your opinion, what builds that trust? For those of you seminary grads, I don't want the textbook answer. What solidifies your trust in your pastor, the man who leads the church you attend? Don't be idealistic either - I know you want Biblical truth, honesty, transparency, etc. Give me specifics, what are some specific instances where your pastor did/said something that emboldened your trust in him.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Leadership Lessons

Over the past few Sunday evenings, I've been teaching through the book of Titus. Our church is beginning a transition in our leadership structure so I took the opportunity to show our congregation this little book in the NT. I have mentioned often my affinity for leadership, but I do believe this NT letter holds the simplest leadership lessons I've encountered to date. For the sake of brevity, here's what I presented over the last 3 weeks -

Chapter 1 - The need for leadership and the qualifications for those in leadership
Chapter 2 - A succession plan for the Church - building generational relationships
Chapter 3 - What leadership does - instruction, encouragement, accountability

If you've taught this book or are in leadership, what are your thoughts on Paul's letter to his pastor friend, Titus?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Down Time

So it's been a few weeks since I've been here. I've been feeling under the weather for about a month now and yesterday, life finally came to a screeching halt. My body finally shut down and all I could do was sleep. I can usually fight through sickness, with medication and rest. Apparently, I wasn't getting as much rest as I should.

It reminds me of the Creation story in Genesis 1. After 6 days creating the universe, God rested. He exercised "shabath". It is pronounced "SHA-baht" and means, "to cease or to rest." The amazing thing is God didn't need to rest. He is self-sufficient. The Scriptures describe Him as one "who does not sleep" (Psalm 121). So, in Genesis, God did not create for 6 days and then sleep. He created for 6 days and then ceased from His work. He did not rest because He was tired.

Maybe we should take a lesson. We all need moments of rest in our lives. We need moments where we're not focused on work, life, marriage, kids, money, etc. We MUST have moments of rest - ceasing from work. Most of us only rest when our bodies finally shut down, i.e. me. We have to get better at allowing ourselves to rest in the midst of a busy schedule, not just when the busy schedule is over. Here are few points to ponder

1.) Everybody needs rest - God did it as an example for us.

2.) Don't let your schedule dictate your life. This is one of Steven Covey's 7 Habits - Put First Things First.

3.) Listen to your body - there are tell-tale signs of fatigue. When your body can't fight off everyday things like a nagging cough or sinus infection, probably a sign you're not getting enough rest.

4.) Ask your peers - Ask friends to assess your lifestyle. An outside perspective is always a more fresh one.

5.) See a doctor - if necessary, see your primary care physician. Get a physical and see what factors are present. Make sure to let the doc know you're battling symptoms of fatigue.

"Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lessons in Leadership

Those of you who know me well know that I possess an affinity for leadership studies and styles. Something about them has always fascinated me. My "book stack" has produced Nancy Ortberg's " The Power of Rubber Bands..."

I must say I am impressed with Ortberg's presentation. Her information is nothing terribly profound but she makes up for it in structure and style. She has challenged my leadership paradigm and confirmed some decisions I knew were lurking around the next bend. She has also laid to rest some of my internal struggles. I have feared stepping out into some difficult decisions. However, Ortberg's challenge is to seize the moment and lead confidently. Needless to say, my courage is still growing but is not anywhere need where I feel it should be.

Overall, I submit this book for your consideration. I believe any leader will benefit from her style and experience.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fighting "Noise"

I am in another season of busy-ness in my life. I know that I have every right to be busy. It's inherent in what I do for a living. Always someone to visit, talk to, lesson to prepare, sermon to write, etc. I'm battling though because I know busy-ness often plays the enemy of effectiveness. I've disabled several of the "noise" factors in my life. In my desire to be connected, I engaged several social networking sites. I quickly noticed those all contributed "noise" in my life. I've trimmed it down to only Facebook. I stay connected, but I can control how involved I am with it. I've begun turning my phone off at several strategic points durig the week. I don't feel any less busy, but it does seem a little quieter. I am completing more things and in less time.

How do you fight noise in your life? Have you taken an inventory on the noise factors? Anything need to be quieted in your life?