Handling conflict like Christians

12 Jul

We tend to think of conflict in terms of warfare – when it’s REALLY bad.  The truth is that conflict comes in many forms and there are levels of conflict.  Has someone said something that “rubbed you the wrong way?”  That is a conflict.  Is there someone that you believe isn’t doing their job in your organization?  That’s a conflict.  Was there miscommunication that created frustration?  That’s a conflict.  Is someone talking about someone else?  That’s a conflict. Did you find out that someone is talking about you?  That’s a conflict. The truth is that every one of us deals with conflict every single day in various forms.  The real question is “How will we deal with it?”

How do we deal with conflict like Christians should?  Before I go further, I want to make a point crystal clear:  WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY DOES NOT APPLY TO INSTANCES OF ABUSE. Call the police in cases of sexual or physical abuse. Abuse isn’t a conflict; abuse is abuse.  Furthermore, I understand that we often operate where there are many people who aren’t believers and who aren’t the least bit interested in handling conflict like a Christian i.e. the workplace, the country club, the school.  What I am about to say applies first to conflict between Christians both in the church and as we interact with fellow Christians in a variety of settings.

How do we deal with conflict like Christians?

I CAN CONFRONT YOU.

It is Biblical to confront a conflict.  Scripture gives us the blueprint for dealing with a conflict among believers….

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15–17, NASB95)

Notice the three fold process outlined here.  First, there is an individual one-on-one face-to-face meeting.  If this doesn’t resolve the issue, then the offended party takes another person or two with them so that the issues can be made clear and worked through as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Finally, if these first steps fail, the issue is taken to the leadership of the church.  Please note, at every point along the way, the goal is reconciliation with our fellow Christian.  The point is never to be “right” or to “win.”

I CAN FORGIVE YOU.

It is just as Biblical to choose to forgive the person without a confrontation…

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NASB95)

Probably in the majority of instances, this is the best decision. Choose to forgive and move on.  Don’t confuse a lack of confrontation with forgiveness. Most of the time, we don’t confront AND we don’t forgive – resulting in unspoken bitterness, division, and anger.  Think of it this way:  If I choose not to confront, then I am making the decision to forgive and move on.

I CAN BEAR WITH YOU.

Sometimes a conflict happens and we say, “I guess they were having a bad day” or “They are a wonderful person but this happens sometimes.”  That communicates bearing with another person.  It’s Biblical to do that too.

bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:13, NASB95)

Bearing with a person means that we simply recognize they are a broken human being like we are and we give them some grace.  After all, each of us has been given much grace on many occasions by many people.  Bearing with a person says, “I give grace because I have been given much grace.”

I MUST LOVE YOU AND PRAY FOR YOU.

This is maybe the most difficult one, but it is absolutely necessary….

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43–44, NASB95)

Don’t tell everyone else, tell Jesus on them!  If there is a conflict between us, I don’t have to be your best friend, but I do have to love you and pray for you.  Over the years, I have found that it is extremely difficult to talk badly about someone I am praying for. Think about it.

Let me conclude this post with several observations and exhortations…

1.  As a Pastor, one of the greatest needs I see among Christians is to learn to handle conflict as Christians should. Conflict is inevitable in all churches. The difference in churches is how they handle their conflicts.  When a church member comes to me and they are offended at a staff member or another church member, I always ask “Have you talked with them before you came to me?”  In 25 years as a pastor, the answer to this question in 95% of the instances has been “No.”  Think about that statement and let it sink in.

2.  As Christian parents, we have an obligation to model for our children how to handle conflict. Our kids are learning from us. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who works at a Christian school.  She said, “When their kids are unhappy, people don’t act like Christians.”  Sad but true. When there is the inevitable teenage drama, many parents get involved and act worse than the kids. Make no mistake, our kids are learning from us. The question is what they are learning.

3.   Have a big “so what” box and use it every day.  You know what goes in the “so what” box? The stuff that’s not worth fighting over. The stuff that is not worth being upset over. By the way, that’s a lot of stuff. When something comes up, just learn to say “so what” because it really isn’t the end of the world.  A big “so what” box is a big key to a healthy home and healthy church.

4.  “It’s a mighty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides.”  Adrian Rogers said that one time, and I’ve never forgotten it. There are almost always two sides to every situation and that friend of yours only gave you one of them.  Be careful when engaging in conflict based on information from only one person or one side.

Finally, writing this blog post has been a reminder for me. Certainly, I have not always handled conflict in the best way. We have all made mistakes. We cannot go back and change how we have handled anything in the past. We can decide right now how we will handle the inevitable next conflict that will soon come. May each of us determine in our hearts that we will handle it according to scripture and in the spirit of Christ.

 

 

 

Which version of the Bible is best?

21 Jun

This question is one that pastors still get asked frequently.  At the risk of starting an argument, I want to give my personal answer to this question.

First of all, there are two equally bad extremes when it comes to the issue of Bible translations:

1.  Believing that only one translation is “the” one

2.  Believing that any translation is fine

Why do I say this?   For many readers of this blog, we grew up in churches where the King James Version was the only accepted version.  Some of us were taught that the KJV was the ONLY true translation and therefore the KJV alone was the Word of God.  The purpose of this post is not to debate that issue, but I will say that the first King James Bible was printed in 1611. I have seen a copy of that true 1611 version.  You would be hard pressed to read it due to the changes in the English language since then.  It is certainly much different than the KJV you can buy at your local LifeWay store today.  My point is that there are “versions” of the King James Version.  On the other hand, some religious groups have printed their own versions of the Bible that change key passages to suit their own heretical theology.  Just look up the history of the New World Translation to see an example of what I am talking about.  So, we want to avoid the two equally bad extremes. Our favorite translation isn’t the only good one, but every translation isn’t a good one either.

With the rise of computers and technology there are more Bible translations available today than ever before.  Why are there different versions of the Bible anyway? How do we sort through the maze of Bible translations today?   Let me help you.

When translating from one language to another there are two basic issues:   1.  Literally expressing the words of the original language in the new language.  2. Making the new translation readable and understandable.   There are always choices to make.  For instance, an absolutely literal translation of John 1:1 would read “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and God was the Word.”   However, if you look at your favorite Bible version, it will read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”   Why is that? Because translators made the choice there to express the clear meaning of the language in a more understandable way in English.  Choices like this are made in almost every verse of the Bible in every version. Sometimes there isn’t an exact correlation between a Greek or Hebrew word and any word in the English language.

What does all of this have to do with versions of the Bible?  Some versions lean more toward being literal (meaning they aren’t as easy to read) and other versions place a greater emphasis on being readable (meaning they can’t be as much word for word).  It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong; it’s just that the translators made different choices for different reasons.  In my opinion, this is why it’s healthy to read from multiple versions of the Bible.

In light of this discussion, what are some good versions of the Bible on the market today?

The King James (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV)  Many of us were raised with the KJV and learned most of the Bible verses we know in the old KJV. If the KJV is your favorite, don’t feel bad. It is an excellent translation that is very literal in its approach.  Unfortunately, it is not the easiest to read. The NKJV attempted to smooth out much of this difficulty while keeping the distinctive voice of the KJV.   As a matter of fact, I preach from the NKJV for two reasons:  It is an excellent translation and it is still familiar to so many who have the KJV.

The 2011 New International Version (NIV)  A revision of the original 1984 NIV, this version favors readability over being literal.  As a result, it has received some criticism. The Southern Baptist Convention even convened a task force of SBC scholars to evaluate whether or not LifeWay stores should sell this translation. Their recommendation was unanimous that it should.  The very conservative and well known pastor/Bible teacher Dr. John MacArthur even offers the MacArthur Study Bible in this version.  I have read through it in its entirety. Bottom line for me:  it’s a good translation but far from the best.

The New American Standard 1995 (NASB) Long considered the “gold standard” in terms of being the most literal of the major translations.  However, it is not the easiest to read, which is likely one of the reasons why it never became the most popular. The NASB remains a favorite of many scholars, pastors, and serious Bible students – including yours truly.

The English Standard Version (ESV)  Published in 2001, the ESV is just as literal as the NASB but is somewhat easier to read. As a result, it has quickly earned a very large following across the board – both in the pews and in academia.

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Published in 2017, the CSB is the newest major translation, and it is an extremely good one that you should consider.  I personally know two of the scholars who led the translation oversight committee on this version and they are deeply conservative, faithful scholars.  I am reading through the CSB this year in my personal devotional time and I find it to be extremely strong and perhaps even on pace to supplant the NASB as my personal favorite.

So, there you have six good versions of the Bible that I personally have read and recommend to people. Are there other good versions out there? Yes, but these are six that I have the most personal experience with and use every week in my own study.  In fact, when I am preparing to preach on a passage, I usually read it in these six versions early on in the study process.

Drum roll please…now for the moment you have all been reading for!  The answer to my original question:  Which version of the Bible is best?

Within the parameters of these six versions I have listed, THE BEST VERSION OF THE BIBLE IS THE ONE YOU WILL READ.

 

 

 

 

Southern Baptist Convention 2018 – an honest evaluation.

16 Jun

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It was a blessing to be able to attend the 2018 SBC in Dallas.  Considering the well publicized issues and conflicts that were in the air heading into the convention, I am grateful that the convention ended with a minimum of open conflict and with a good deal of unity as we move forward. For those interested, here is my evaluation of what happened and where things stand now that the convention is over.

1.   J.D. Greear is our president and we should pray for and support him. J.D. won the election with 68% of the vote. At age 45 he is one of the youngest SBC presidents in history and his election certainly represents a new generation of SBC leadership. His election is the culmination of trends in SBC life that have occurred over the last 10 years. He represents a new style and new vision of SBC leadership. Personally, I don’t think this  is a bad thing. I believe J.D. Greear is sound theologically. His church baptizes hundreds and plants dozens of churches each year. Count me as one who will pray for him and give him a chance to lead.

2.   The SBC is becoming more diverse.  Each year at the convention, I am blessed to see evidence of this fact. As a denomination, we cannot reach a rapidly diversifying country if this isn’t a priority.  Recently, I read that 20% of our SBC churches are now predominately ethnic churches. Praise the Lord for progress in this area and may it continue.  The SBC is now leading the way in calling for churches and church leaders to make more tangible steps toward racial unity. It isn’t enough just “not to be racist.”  Count me as one who is grateful for this trend.

3.   The SBC is committed to solid, Biblical theology.  With the well publicized issues regarding handling of abuse, moral failure, and treatment of women, the SBC entities and churches are asking hard questions and taking a hard look in the mirror. It’s one thing to come to the convention and talk about the sins of people outside the church, but it is quite another thing when judgment begins at the house of God. As painful as this may be, it is much needed and healthy. However, some have attempted to link a Biblical, complementarian view of gender roles, marriage, and church leadership with abuse, misogyny, and poor attitudes toward women.  Many secular news outlets view our convictions on these issues as outdated and even dangerous.  It was good to see several of our entity heads reiterate a commitment to complementarian teaching on these issues – even in the face of great cultural pressure.  For those concerned, I don’t see any sign of compromise on these issues among our SBC leaders.

4.   Southwestern Seminary is hurting now, but better days are coming. The controversial firing of Paige Patterson was the most heated issue to come to the floor of the convention.  Bart Barber’s point of personal privilege and his remarks might just be the most dramatic moment I have personally ever witnessed at an SBC convention. Regardless of how anyone feels about Patterson’s firing, the seminary is hurting and new leadership is coming.  I believe that new leadership can help the seminary community heal and see better days.  The SBC needs a strong Southwestern for so many reasons.  Even though I am not a graduate, I have friends who attend and teach there. Count me as one who is believing God for a great turnaround at Southwestern.

5.  The generational divide in the SBC is real and its leaders need to make great efforts to avoid being out of touch with the majority of pastors and churches.
In my opinion, the points of division in the SBC aren’t theological as much as generational and methodological.  Nowhere was this more evident than the newly elected SBC president J.D. Greear on stage with outgoing president Steve Gaines. Gaines was wearing a nice suit and tie.  Greear was wearing jeans and sneakers with a jacket.  I am not being critical of J.D. on this point.  He dresses in keeping with who he is and his ministry context.  My point is the juxtaposition of that moment and what it represents. A new generation of Southern Baptist young leaders has risen – which is a very good thing for the future. They tend to lean more Reformed in their theology than previous generations. They tend to dress more casually in almost every setting. They came of age with social media and use it constantly and effectively.  They are extremely smart and theologically astute.  They bring a fresh (and needed) perspective to so many issues.  They are not content with the status quo. Beards and baby strollers are everywhere. The Millennials have come to faith in Christ and they have come to the SBC annual meeting!

However, SBC leaders would do well to realize that the majority of the room at the SBC annual meeting is a totally different thing than the majority of our SBC churches. For instance, I recently read that the majority of our SBC pastors are over 50 years of age. The average SBC church is a small church in a small place with a small budget, but it is doing BIG work by faithfully sharing the gospel and seeking to reach people each week. Its pastor isn’t writing books or speaking at conferences. He is preaching Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night at the church he pastors.  He makes visits almost daily to hospitals and nursing homes. He conducts multiple funerals each month. He counsels hurting people both within his church and in the community. He deals with benevolence needs. He relates to every age group in the church. He attends deacons meetings and committee meetings. His phone rings all the time. He seeks to win people to Jesus regularly.  This average SBC church gives almost 10% of its budget to the Cooperative Program (although that isn’t a lot of money) and faithfully collects both Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings in addition to CP.  For every Summit Church and City Church Tallahassee, there are literally hundreds of churches and pastors like I described. They don’t have a “brand” and they are not on the cutting edge, but they are on the front lines. They are the grassroots heart and soul of the SBC. Many of them feel that the national SBC is increasingly out of touch with them.

If we truly want to have a strong SBC going forward, then our leadership would be wise to put as much effort into including these largely forgotten churches and pastors as they have the younger leaders and new churches.  If they do, I truly believe that the next decade of SBC life can truly be characterized by unity and gospel advance across America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Legacy of Love

29 May

This week my good friend and a man I have long looked up to is celebrating 40 years of ministry and retiring as Senior Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville.

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“Bro. Jimmy” as most of us call him has been woven into the fabric of my life for many years.  The first time I knew of him was in the early 80’s on the rare occasions when my family was not at church on Sunday morning. We would watch the service of Whitesburg on one of the local Huntsville television channels. The first time I met him was in 1992, when a young pastor friend talked me into going with him to a service at one of Whitesburg’s Winter Bible Conferences.  Two young “preacher boys” evidently stood out to him from the platform and Jimmy made a beeline for us after the service.  He took a few minutes and greatly encouraged us when he did not have to.  In the years to come, as I served in ministry, I would make an appointment with him and he would graciously give me an hour of his time as I navigated life as a young husband, father, and pastor.  So, he was a mentor to me for a number of years. Then from 2007-2013, I had the privilege of serving on staff with him as Associate Pastor at Whitesburg.  After serving “up close and personal” with him for almost seven years, I had more respect for Jimmy Jackson than I did the day I started.  I make no apologies, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for Jimmy Jackson. In many ways, he is still my pastor.

He is one of the wisest people I know.  Etched in my mind and heart are many things I heard him say repeatedly. Here are a few examples…

  • “God blesses what is right; He does not bless what is wrong.”
  • “The Bible says to forgive people, and there are some people I have had to forgive lots of times.”
  • “Bloom where you’re planted.”
  • “Stay steady.”
  • “Nothing builds people up like love.”

Very often when facing a situation in my own leadership, I quote one of these to myself or to others. His impact on me and my leadership is profound.

In today’s world, it is almost unheard of for a man to lead the same church for forty years, yet Jimmy Jackson has done just that at Whitesburg.  He has been faithful. He has been faithful through years when the church grew and prospered in astounding ways. He has been faithful through years when the church faced challenges and hardships. He has been faithful through personal tragedy and set backs that would have made most men quit. Through it all, week after week, he stepped to the pulpit of Whitesburg, opened his Bible, and preached from it. Week after week, he shepherded people and walked with them through their own valleys. Week after week, he consistently shared the gospel and sought to win souls. He is an example of Godly, steady faithfulness over decades. This past Sunday in his final message before becoming Pastor Emeritus, Bro. Jimmy told the church “Stay in the battle, no matter what comes. Be a sticker!”  That’s Jimmy Jackson in his own words.

At his side every step of the way has been Bobbi Jackson, a faithful pastor’s wife.  Many times, I saw Bobbi meet needs in the church family in her behind the scenes way.  Only another pastor’s wife has any idea of the burdens and blessings involved in being the wife of the pastor. Maybe that is why my wife, Becky, loves Bobbi Jackson so much!  Like her husband, Bobbi Jackson has a legacy of faithfulness. I honor her as I honor him.

It’s hard to put into words what the Jacksons mean to the Corbin family.  Since leaving Whitesburg in the Fall of 2013, every time I have seen Jimmy or Bobbi Jackson each of them has asked about Becky and our boys. Every single time. They know our boys names. They love us and we love them. Literally thousands of people have the same story.  It’s no wonder that Whitesburg chose “A Legacy of Love” as the theme for the Jacksons’ 40th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday. It’s a fitting description.

Certainly, in forty years as pastor of Whitesburg, Jimmy Jackson has left a legacy of love in the lives of so many people. However, this legacy of love is only possible because of his own legacy of love. He has loved the Lord faithfully. He has loved his wife faithfully. He has loved his children and grandchildren faithfully. He has loved his church faithfully. He has loved his city faithfully. He has loved the Word of God faithfully. In a day when so many have fallen, he has stood. In a day when so many have quit, he has kept going.  In a day when so many are filled with anger, he is filled with love. He is a pastor I want to be like because he is a Christian I want to be like.

Unfortunately, Becky and I won’t be at the special service and reception on Sunday due to ministry responsibilities at the church we serve now. No doubt there will be a huge number there to express their love.  It’s a privilege to use this platform to express in a small way the love, respect, and appreciation we have for Jimmy and Bobbi Jackson.  “Bro. Jimmy and Bobbi” we love you, honor you, and celebrate with you. Congratulations. Well done. You are the best!

 

 

 

 

 

30 years ago – always an Ider Hornet

25 May

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As I saw social media posts from families who had graduates this week, I was reminded that it was 30 years ago this week when my classmates and I walked across the field at Wayne C. Hardman Stadium.  It’s hard to believe. Yes, I was part of the class of 1988 at Ider High School. There were 72 of us in our graduating class. As I look at this picture of my alma mater, I am filled with great memories and joy. I don’t remember the buildings; I remember the people. I remember my friends and classmates. I won’t even attempt to name them because I will leave someone out. There is a special sense of belonging among those you went to high school with. Occasionally, I run into one of my classmates and it’s always a joy. We are old enough now that it doesn’t matter who was in what group or who was popular. We are just glad to see one another – no matter who it is. Unfortunately some members of our class have passed away – some due to illness and some due to tragedy. The class of ’88 has been reminded to be thankful for every day of life.

As I look at this picture, I am reminded of just how much Ider High School has meant to my life. It was there that learned to do math and acquired critical thinking skills. It was there that I was taught to love writing. It was there that I played sports and learned the value of hard work and being on a team. It was there that I learned to respect authority – even if I didn’t understand or agree with it. It was there that I was taught to do my best and never settle for average. It was there that I learned to get along with people and function with others. It was there that I learned to type (yes they actually taught that!) It was there that I learned to be self-disciplined and study. In short, it was there that I grew up and came of age.

I will never forget Mr. Adams’ biology class or Mr. Fuller’s science class. History with Mr. Williams, drivers ed with Coach Allday and science with Coach Daniel will be forever etched in my mind. I can still see Mr. Hardman coming down the hall. I can still smell the locker room of the Gordon Scott Gymnasium, hear the cheers of the pep rallies, and feel the Fall breeze as I walked up to Hardman Stadium for Friday night football. I remember yearbook staff and AP English. I remember homecoming parades, scholars bowl, and 2nd in the state drama team! I remember the Hamricks and the Brooks families who opened their home (and their kitchen) to our entire class because they knew that teenagers needed a safe place to gather and hang out – but with adult supervision!

Were there negative things about high school. I am sure there were, but I choose to remember the best and forget the rest. I have often said that I am thankful I grew up on Sand Mountain. However, I want specifically and publicly to say that I am thankful I grew up in Ider, Alabama and went to Ider High School. I will always be an Ider Hornet. To any members of the class of ’88 who read this blog, I love each and every one of you, and I would love to hear from any and all of you!

The best study Bible

11 May

Frequently, I am asked which study Bible I recommend.  If you want to dig into the Word, then a good study Bible is the best investment you can make. The best study Bibles are like a commentary on the entire Bible, along with informative maps, charts, and articles.  In a good study Bible, the cross references alone are worth the price of the Bible. Personally, even though I have a 4000 volume theological library that I use in my study, I still utilize a number of study Bibles on a regular basis.  To be fair, I haven’t tried all of the study Bibles available, but I have tried enough to be able to provide some insight. Here are my rankings of the best study Bibles.

THE BEST AVAILABLE

First of all, please know that my endorsement of any study Bible doesn’t mean I agree with everything in it. The Bible itself is the only inerrant, infallible book on earth. Study Bible’s are not inerrant or infallible. Some take a more Reformed view than I personally have, but I still get great benefit from them. There are four study Bibles that seem to be head and shoulders above the rest.  While they each have different strengths, you won’t go wrong with any of these…

The Jeremiah Study Bible – With notes personally written by iconic Bible teacher Dr. David Jeremiah, this study Bible wins my “Best in Class” award.  Most substantive study Bibles have an academic feel to them – not surprising since they tend to be written by seminary professors. The Jeremiah Study Bible feels more personal and has tremendous theological depth while being a little more succinct in key places. The special articles on key concepts are extremely well done.  If I could only have one study Bible, this would be it.

The MacArthur Study Bible – It’s hard to believe this classic is now more than twenty years old. Dr. John MacArthur has provided a great gift to the church with this work. There really isn’t a weakness – it’s solid through and through with maybe the best overall notes at the bottom of each page. Those notes have the best cross references of the bunch and frequently cover terms and verses that others skip over. Another highlight is the introductory articles that cover such subjects as “How we got the Bible” and “How to study the Bible.”

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible – This massive study Bible is one of the newest on the market. Edited by Dr. Don Carson, one of the preeminent conservative evangelical theologians of our day, this study Bible has the most academic feel of any I have used. However, the advantage of this trait is the wealth and depth of information. One of the highlights of this Bible is the articles at the end on various theological subjects such as “sin” “the kingdom of God” and “holiness.”  This study Bible is also the most visually appealing of them all with some extremely well done charts and maps integrated throughout.  One limiting factor is that this study Bible is tied to the 2011 NIV version.

The ESV Study Bible – A favorite of many, particularly those who prefer a more Reformed look at theology. Based on the excellent ESV translation, this study Bible is solid all around, but the introductions to each book of the Bible are superior to those in other study Bibles.  This Bible also does a good job of summarizing different evangelical views of key passages, such as the different interpretations of the millennium in Revelation 20.

 VERY HELPFUL

The CSB Study Bible – The newest entrant into this field is a solid choice that really has no weaknesses.  It’s just that no part of this Bible is better than all of the others.  Every aspect of it is very good, but not the best. Perhaps the best reason to purchase this study Bible is because it is based on the excellent CSB translation – a translation that I hope grows in popularity.

The Henry Morris Study Bible – I had never heard of this study Bible until some church members gave me one as a gift last year. Focusing on Dr. Henry Morris’s steadfast commitment to young earth creationism and apologetics, it doesn’t claim to be as exhaustive as the others. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of solid, unique material here for those looking to dive into those issues.

The Ryrie Study Bible – A longtime classic for four decades, Dr. Charles Ryrie was a legendary professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.  Although it isn’t as extensive as some others, this study Bible is an excellent presentation of dispensational pre-millenial theology. I am a fan!

There you have it: Corbin’s list of the best study Bibles.  From this list, which is the best study Bible for you?  The one you will read!

 

 

 

 

 

Needed: LEADERS

4 May

Psalm 78 is a type of history lesson for the people of God, recounting God’s faithful guiding of His people in spite of their consistent failure and unfaithfulness.  Then at the very end of the Psalm attention turns to how God raised up David to lead the people.  By any measure, David was a tremendously effective leader. He was a warrior, administrator, and visionary leader of a nation. One verse sums up David’s leadership…

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands.” (Psalm 78:72, NASB95)

This one verse is a tremendous summation of effective leadership. First of all, effective leadership flows from who we are – our integrity.   This statement in no way implies perfection. All of us have feet of clay. All of us have blind spots. We know David even went through a time when he fell into terrible sin. However, the “norm” of David’s leadership was integrity.  All leaders need to remember that people ultimately don’t follow our position – they ultimately follow US.  Those we lead must see our integrity.

Leadership also flows from our leadership skills and practicing effective leadership.  “His skillful hands” means that David made leadership decisions that were wise and produced results.  It isn’t enough just to be loved as a leader. It isn’t enough for people to hold us in high esteem. We must lead people somewhere. We must benefit others and our organizations because we are in the positions we hold.

There it is. The two wings of the leadership airplane:  the integrity of our heart and the skillfulness of our hands.  Everywhere we look people are suffering due to a lack of leadership.  Families are suffering. Churches are suffering.  Businesses and organizations are suffering. Government is suffering.  There is an abundance of problems and a dearth of leaders.

Let me share with a little known fact:  almost everyone is a leader.  Why do I say that?  Almost everyone influences someone else. You may not be a Senior Pastor or a CEO, but you are a leader if you are influencing even one person.  Be a leader in your marriage. Be a leader in your friendships. Be a leader on your team. Be a leader at your school. Be a leader at your workplace. Be a leader in your church. Be a leader your neighborhood. Remember, there is an abundance of problems and a dearth of leaders.

Lord, give us leaders who will guide people with the integrity of their hearts and the skillfulness of their hands.

 

A very real issue: STRESS among teenagers and young adults

24 Apr

Sometimes an issue hits you right between the eyes and you wonder why you haven’t seen it sooner.  This is one of those issues.  Yes, in recent months I had heard “bits and pieces” from multiple directions. I had read news reports of soaring rates of depression & suicide among teens & young adults.  I have talked with folks in the business world who talked about how managing their young adult employees is very different today.  I have heard from educators about how high school students are constantly stressed out.

To be candid, my feelings about this issue lined up with many others of my generation:  What do they have to be stressed out about?  They don’t know stress. They’ve got it easy and don’t know it.  Teenagers are always stressed out – and always have been! In short, I was pretty dismissive of most of it.  Until last week.

Listening to podcasts as I drive is one of my favorite things to do. It helps me learn and it helps me use dead time in a more productive way.  Occasionally, I listen to a leadership podcast from Carey Niewhouf, a pastor in Canada.  Here is a link to the show….

https://careynieuwhof.com/mypodcast/

I listened to episode #187 with Tim Elmore entitled “Anxiety in Young Leaders.”  Really, the episode is about the stress felt by two entire generations – the Millennials who are now in young adulthood and Generation Z, the generation presently in high school and younger – and why those feelings of stress are more intense than the stress of other generations.  One statement from this podcast rocked my world…

“The average 17 year old feels as much stress today as the average mental patient in the 1950’s.” 

That isn’t a joke. You read it right. Tim Elmore says that he has been told this by multiple physicians.  When I heard that statement, I was shaken to my core.   If you are reading this post and you are older than me, please resist the urge to begin spouting off about how hard our generation had it and how easy this generation has it.  Yes, our generation had stress.  Yes, our generation is in the throes of middle age stress – marriage, teenage kids, mortgage, career, aging parents, etc. We know stress.  That isn’t the point. The point is how our kids feel. Let that sink in.  Yes, our generation knows stress, but consider these points…

1.     We did not grow up with smartphones and social media.  Our generation gets on Facebook to keep up with old friends and post pictures of our family events, but our kids feel the WEIGHT of social media in a way that we don’t.

2.     We did not grow up feeling like our future depended on the ACT.   High schools today place a great emphasis on preparing for the ACT, scholarships, college visits, and getting ready for college.  I am not critical of this; I understand why they do it.  However, our kids get the message and feel the pressure.  Yes, I took the ACT, but I don’t remember taking the ACT feeling like the rest of my life was riding on it. That’s a fairly recent phenomenon.

3.   We did not grow up with constant pressure to perform and excel. When we grew up, you played little league baseball.  Now, you play little league baseball, your dad takes you to a hitting coach every week, and you play travel ball because you are a good player and you can become good enough to get a college scholarship one day.  Think about it. In many ways, our kids feel the pressure to perform and excel much earlier in life than we did.

4.   Everything is more complicated for our kids. Take going to the prom. When we grew up, the guy asked the girl to go to the prom. It was simple.  Now, it has to be a production. Creative. Unique.  Splashed all over social media so that everyone sees “the ask.”  If you have teenage kids, just stop and think about how much more complicated and stressful getting asked to go to the prom is today than it was a generation ago. The more I think about it, just about everything our kids navigate in their teenage and young adult years is more complicated than it was when we grew up.

5.    We did not grow up with information at our finger tips – both good and evil. We had to go to the library to do research.  Pornography was found in magazines or on video tapes. Today, people use their phones for both research and pornography.  It’s instant.  The affect of this on our culture cannot be overstated.  Our kids feel the effects of it most. We were dependent on our parents for much of our information. We had to ask our parents. Our kids don’t.

6.    We grew up with a greater understanding of failure and resilience. There were times our generation didn’t get a trophy.  We didn’t get an award on awards day. We didn’t get picked for the team at P.E. A teacher was unfair to us. A coach didn’t play us when we deserved it. Somehow our generation learned not to be crushed when things didn’t turn out the the way we hoped. Somehow our generation learned to get back up again.  For whatever reasons, many teenagers and young adults aren’t learning this same understanding of failure and resilience and they are stressed out because of it. As a result, many are emotionally crushed by the time they are in their 20’s.

There are more examples I could list.  Here is the bottom line:  our kids have grown up and are growing up in a vastly different world than we grew up in.  We must not dismiss their pain and their stress.  Yes, we could argue about why this is the case. Parenting styles have changed, and many argue that is the root cause.  Tim Elmore discusses this issue in the podcast I mentioned. He believes that today’s parenting styles are great contributors to the younger generations difficulty in handling stress.  The reasons why aren’t the real point of this blog post. Here is the point of this blog post…

Our kids and young adults are stressed and hurting far more than I realized.

It doesn’t matter why. It’s how they feel. It’s where they are.  My heart goes out to them. This week, I thought of my own sons and wondered if I have failed to understand the stress they feel.  I thought of the teenagers and college students in the church I pastor and wondered if I have not taken their pain as seriously as I should have.  I thought of the young adults in my church and in my neighborhood and wondered if I lacked the empathy I should have.

I am committed to seek to understand more, have more empathy, and seek to help where I can. Our kids and young adults need us to walk with them as they navigate life. Count me as one who is determined to be there for them.

 

 

 

 

Lord, take over a worship service again.

6 Apr

Once a church reaches a certain point, the services must be planned and prepared for in a greater way.  In order to have a quality choir and orchestra, the music they share in worship must be planned and prepared ahead of time. In order to have the audio-visual elements that are now standard in many churches, all of those elements must be prepared ahead of time.  Certainly, preaching is better if it is prepared ahead of time!  None of this means that we don’t pray and ask the Lord to lead us in our worship services. We do that every week at our church.  I would hope that every church does that, no matter how many or how few they may have in worship.  However, the end result for most churches is that our services are planned and prepared in advance, many times we print an “order of service” but, even if we don’t, we know what songs we will sing.  We know when we will take up the offering, and we know what message we are going to preach. Nothing wrong with that. God is honored in excellence.  We should always have the highest quality possible in our worship services.  However, wouldn’t it be wonderful if God moved so powerfully in a service that we threw our plans out the window?

In a recent conversation with my wife, we were talking about people responding in a worship service, and I made the statement “In my entire ministry, I have seen the Lord take over a worship service on two occasions.”  Then I proceeded to share with her about those two occasions.  Since that I day, I have prayed several times, “Lord, take over a worship service again.”  Let me make it clear: I am not talking just about people responding to an invitation at the end of the service – as wonderful as that is! I am talking about occasions when the Holy Spirit of God moves so strongly that it interrupts the order of service and things happen that aren’t in the bulletin.  I am talking about occasions when people are so moved by the Spirit that they MUST respond on the spot.  In 24 years as a pastor, I have seen this happen on two occasions.  Let me share them with you.

The first happened in 2005 when I served as Senior Pastor of Cropwell Baptist Church in Pell City, Alabama. A man named Kenny and his wife had visited our church a few times and I had visited in their home. Kenny was a good man, but he was not a believer.  I shared the gospel with him in his living room, but he did not give his life to Christ.  Then came one Sunday morning I would describe as “just a normal Sunday.”  No special emphasis. No indication that God was about to move in a great way. We sang congregational songs. We took up the offering.  Andy Hadley was leading our great choir in singing the song “Bow the Knee.”  The service was going exactly as planned. I was on the front pew ready to step up when the choir finished and begin my message.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.  I looked up and saw Kenny coming down the aisle weeping – right in the middle of the choir special.  He knelt down on the steps in front of the pulpit and began crying out for the Lord to save him.  I knelt down beside Kenny to pray with him. The choir finished the song and then the church continued to sing and pray.  Finally, Kenny finished praying, looked up at me and said, “Pastor, I am sorry I messed up the service, but I couldn’t wait.”  As we embraced, I told Kenny, “You didn’t mess up the service, you made the service!”   To be very honest, I do not even remember the rest of that service. I don’t remember if I preached my planned sermon or not.  I just remember the overwhelming sense of God’s presence in that service and the visible, tangible rejoicing of God’s people.  The Lord took over that service.

The second occasion happened six years later on October 17, 2011 at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, where I was serving as Associate Pastor.  Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Jimmy Jackson, had invited an evangelist named Ron Herrod to come for what we promoted as “A Day of Prophecy.”  Like the day in Pell City six years earlier, this day was “normal” and even “average.”  Our attendance was about average.  We met with Ron Herrod before the service and had prayer with him. The worship service and the music went “as planned” with our choir and orchestra doing their customary wonderful job. It was a good, solid Sunday, but there was no special air of excitement or special feeling. Ron Herrod got up to preach and his message was from the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 – “What to Do If You Miss the Rapture.”   It was a good, solid message delivered by a good, solid man of God but his delivery and content were nothing extraordinary.  From my vantage point on the front pew, there was no hint of what was about to happen.

Those of us who have heard very many sermons know the signs when a preacher is about to move into the invitation.  I was on the front pew and sat up in my seat because I could tell that Ron Herrod was about to move into the invitation and I would be the point man down front to receive people.  As I looked up at him, I noticed a change come over his countenance. I noticed his voice strengthen as he spoke with even greater clarity and power.  It might not have been noticeable to the rest of the audience, but it was tangible from my seat. It was like the Lord took over Ron Herrod in those moments as he finished his message and extended an invitation.

The invitation music started and I stood down front along with other staff members to receive those who responded – and respond they did!  Immediately folks began coming down the aisle – most of them adults. “I want to be saved.”  “I need to be baptized.”  “We want to join this church.”  They kept coming.  The invitation was extended and people kept responding. In fact, the rooms that we normally used for decision counseling overflowed into the hallways and we eventually moved everyone who responded to the choir room in order to have room.  Our second worship service was going while we were dealing with this group who responded in the first service.  It took almost the entire time. Finally,  I realized that I needed to be back in the worship center to receive people responding in the second service and I raced back there with my eyes blurry with tears and my heart overwhelmed with joy at what I had just seen happen.  We saw a similar type of response at the end of the second service.  It was nothing short of incredible. The next Sunday we baptized a BUNCH of people, and then more in the coming Sundays – all of whom made decisions on that day. The overwhelming majority of them were adults.  The Lord took over that service on October 17, 2011.

In the years before and since these two days, I have certainly been part of many great worship services.  I have seen many people saved and baptized.  Many others have joined the church.  I have seen the altar filled with people praying after I preached.  It’s been wonderful to see many people respond to the Lord’s leadership over the years. However, these two occasions are different from all of the others.  It wasn’t planned. God just moved.  It was powerful.  It was convicting. It was encouraging. It was eye opening. It was joyful.  We could do nothing but weep tears of joy and give God praise because there was no question that He alone did this.  God took over the service. Period.

I told Becky that I was praying for the Lord to do it again.  Oh, how I long to see the Lord take over a service again. It’s been almost seven years.   No matter where you attend church, let’s all pray and come to church on Sunday expectant.  This Sunday might be the next time the Lord takes over the service.

 

 

What did Christ’s resurrection do?

29 Mar

As we prepare for Easter Sunday, I thought I would share some of my preaching notes from Easter Sunday 2017.  The title of the message was “What Did the Resurrection Do?” Here is a link to the video with the preaching notes below….

 

  1.  Christ’s resurrection made it possible for us to be born again.

Born again? What does that mean? How does that work? Well, really we are talking about a new kind of life that comes to us. A new kind of life that changes everything. So, it’s a new life!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Peter 1:3, NKJV)

I love what one of the great theologians of our day wrote about this fact…

In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his. We do not receive all of that new “resurrection life” when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death. But in our spirits we are made alive with new resurrection power. Thus it is through his resurrection that Christ earned for us the new kind of life we receive when we are “born again.” -Wayne Grudem

 Through His resurrection, Christ earned for us the new kind of life. Over in the book of Ephesians, the Bible speaks of this in terms of moving from death to life.

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5–6, ESV)

The resurrection of Jesus and the new life that He came forth from the grave with is the new life that we can have. Before we become a Christian, we are dead in our sins, but Christ has earned for us new life. So, Christ’s resurrection enabled us to be born again. Let’s see a 2nd result of the resurrection…

2. Christ’s resurrection ensures we will be forgiven forever.

Forgiven forever. That sounds so great doesn’t it? Do you know why? I am going to let you in on a BIG secret that everyone knows about, but no one talks about any more. It’s something that all of us carry around and we all feel but no one likes to talk about…

GUILT

People carry around guilt for all types of reasons. Guilt over things they have done – or not done. Guilt that comes from our family. Guilt that comes from…you name it. Some people say “Well it’s religion like you folks have at Lakeside that causes people to feel all of this guilt.” Well, if that were true, then guilt should be declining in America today, right? More people are not religious, more people are fine not going to church. And everywhere we turn people are told that whatever you want to do is great. However you want to live is fine and no one has the right to judge you. I mean, people SHOULD BE happier, right? And yet the counselors offices are booked solid, more people depressed, more people struggling than ever before. Do you know why? The world’s way doesn’t work.

In fact, out of all of the religions in the world, do you know how many of them have a cure for guilt? ONE. The Christian faith. Christ’s resurrection ensures we will be forgiven of all of our sin forever. THAT is a cure for guilt. How does it work?

but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:24–25, NKJV)

 Jesus was crucified “delivered up” for our offenses – not what offends us, but what offends God. The things we have done – and not done. That is why Christ died. For our offenses, our sins. But then did you notice it says that Christ was raised for our justification. That’s a big word, but there is an easy way to remember what it means…

Justification = “just as if I’d never sinned”

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5–6, ESV)

 The tenses of those verbs “raised” and “seated” show that it is immediate. When we are saved we are immediately raised spiritually. And when we are saved, we are immediately seated in the heavenly places. WAIT A MINUTE, PASTOR. I’ve got to go to work in the morning, and where I work is NOT a heavenly place. So, if I am a Christian, how am I seated in the heavenly places right now? YOU HAVE ACCESS TO EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING IN CHRIST RIGHT NOW.

So, the first result of Christ’s resurrection is that it enabled us to be born again. The 2nd result is that it ensures we will be forgiven forever. Now, I want us to see a 3rd result…

3.   Christ’s resurrection ensures our resurrection.

 Have you ever lost someone you loved? Grief can be overwhelming. The worst can be the graveside. You gather there at the cemetery. It’s excruciating for the family. However, at every graveside service, I remind people of the great truth of the resurrection.

And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14, NKJV)

knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” (2 Corinthians 4:14, NKJV)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, NKJV)

 We bury the body, but when we die our spirit goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8 to be absent from the body to is be present with the Lord). But there is a coming a great resurrection day when all of the Christians who have EVER lived will be resurrected all at once and given new glorified bodies and their spirit will be reunited with their new body and they will live forever with the Lord.

Christ’s resurrection GUARANTEES our resurrection.

Now, I want us to see one more result of the resurrection…

 4.   Christ’s resurrection is proof that the Bible is true and our faith is real.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:12–15, ESV)

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–19, ESV)