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