Archive | June, 2013

Come and be inspired!!

27 Jun

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I would like to invite all readers of this blog to a very special event we are having at Whitesburg Baptist Church this weekend. It’s the renewal of
“I Love America.”  The picture above was made at Wednesday evening’s dress rehearsal.  Yes, that is a huge flag that has been built in our worship center with 100+ singers and hundreds of lights!  It’s spectacular!  “I Love America” was a yearly tradition for many years at Whitesburg and saw thousands of people attend each year.  However, it’s been five full years since the last “I Love America” and it’s important to get the word out in every way possible.

Why don’t you come?  Better yet, why don’t you come with many of your friends?  Yes, “I Love America” is unapologetically patriotic and fun.  However, there is also a serious call for repentance and revival in our nation. It is our desire that you will be inspired by the love of our country, but it is our foremost desire that you will be inspired to love Christ more deeply and become burdened to pray daily for revival in our nation. No tickets are required. Just come!

Friday, June 28           7:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 29      3:00 p.m.

Sunday, June 30         10:30 a.m.

Whitesburg Baptist Church

6806 Whitesburg Drive
Huntsville, Alabama 35802

Why every Christian should go on a mission trip

24 Jun

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, NASB95)

The word “GO” in the Great Commission is unavoidable. Over the years I have observed various preachers and Bible teachers point out the Greek word translated “go” is poreuthentes. It is an aorist participle which some might translate “as you go” or “having gone.”  They observe that what Jesus seems to have in mind here is a lifestyle of making disciples. We are to be making disciples all along the way in life. Certainly, it would be hypocritical to be a soul winner thousands of miles from home and yet never share Christ in the community where we live.  However, we must be careful not to let this interpretation of the Great Commission minimize the importance of going beyond where we live and frequent.  In fact, I consulted no less than 13 Greek lexicons and every single one of them pointed out that poreuthentes refers to travel.  Yes, we are absolutely supposed to make disciples at home, but we are also to travel and make them as well! It’s not “either or” but rather “both and.”

It is my conviction that every Christian who is physically able should go on some type of mission trip. Please allow me to share with you several reasons why I feel this way…

1)  Going on a mission trip shows that you desire to obey the Lord.  The Lord has said to go, and actually going shows that you take God at His word and His command.

2)  Going on a mission trip gets us out of our routine and our comfort zone.  There is power in getting away and solely concentrating on doing something for the Lord Jesus. We have so many distractions and pulls on our time during our “normal” life that living on mission for Christ can get crowded out. Going on a mission trip reminds us of what it is like to focus and look for opportunities.  Also, since we are out of our routine and away from home, we are more likely to stretch ourselves and try new things. I have been on mission trips with people who had never made a visit or never worked with children before going on a mission trip. In fact, the one and only time in my life that I have ever done puppets was on a mission trip to Memphis years ago!  Now THAT got me out of my comfort zone!

3)  Going on a mission trip actually challenges us to do more at home.  Years ago, I had a pastor friend who went on a mission trip and they were helping a mission church do Vacation Bible School. Since the mission church had few children, the mission team spent their days going door to door inviting children and families to come. As that pastor walked up to knock on yet another door, he said a startling realization came to him: “I had been the pastor of my church for twenty years and never once knocked on a door to invite kids to Vacation Bible School.”  When that pastor arrived home from that mission trip, he led the church to make hundreds of contacts in advance of their own Vacation Bible School and the result was record attendance and record numbers of children coming to faith in Christ.

4)  Going on a mission trip broadens our vision and enriches us.  It is a wonderful experience to meet people from different cultures. It enriches us to make new friends and see new sites.  Most of all, we are reminded that it’s a big world and there are many times more people who live outside the United States than who live in it. Our heart for the nations grows when we actually go to the nations.

5)  Going on a mission trip grows us spiritually.  You will pray more on a mission trip, guaranteed!  You will feel more dependent on the Lord than normal, and that is a very good thing.  In fact, some of the most spiritually enriching times of my life have come when I was away from home out of my comfort zone and God spoke to me. He had more of my attention.

Yes, going on a mission trip requires sacrifice. Depending on where you go, it can be expensive.  At the very least, it will cost us time and energy to go on a mission trip. However, a mission trip is one of the greatest investments you will ever make.  Isn’t it worth sacrificing to do something for our great Savior?  Isn’t it worth sacrificing to be obedient?  If you are able, step out on faith and GO.  You’ll be glad you did!

No unconfessed sin

21 Jun

 

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His Holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully.”   Psalm 24:3-4  (New American Standard Version)

 

 

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9  (New American Standard Version)

 

 

People who run businesses must diligently keep track of their inventory. May times businesses succeed or fail depending on what is or is not on their shelves.  Our spiritual life is the same way, it will succeed or fail depending on what is on our shelves. How long has it been since you took inventory of your heart and life?

 

In the passage from Psalm 24, God’s Word makes it clear that we need to focus on Godly living (clean hands) and Godly longing (pure heart).  Have you done things lately that you know a Christian should not do?  Remember that ungodly living results from ungodly longings in our heart.  If you have ungodly longings in your heart, it is probably because you have “lifted up your soul to falsehood.”  Think about that.

The good news is that, even though every Christian still struggles with sin to some degree, there is forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 is a great comfort to the Christian who has sinned. Your fellowship and joy in God can be restored. However, that will not happen as long as you refuse to get honest about the sin in your own life. Take a few minutes and take inventory of your heart and life; then deal with what’s in there.

 

What might happen this Sunday if every member of our church determined in their heart to come to church with no unconfessed sin in their life?

 

He is always on my mind!

14 Jun

I will praise the Lord who counsels me — even at night my conscience instructs me. I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:7–8, HCSB)

I read these words this morning in my Bible reading and prayer time. As I read them, I thought about all of the times that the Lord’s “still small voice” has spoken to my heart at night before I drifted off to sleep.  Praise Him for the times that He has counseled me at night!  In addition, verse 8 refers to the fact that the Lord is with us and that fact sustains us and helps us not be shaken with the circumstances of life.

However, the key to all of this is found right in the middle of these verses: “…I keep the Lord in mind always.”   Most versions of the Bible say something like, “I have set the Lord before me always.”  That translation does not mean that the Lord is subject to us; it means that we choose to focus on the Lord. That is why the HCSB states it the way it does. Don’t miss the point.  David is saying here that the reason the Lord counsels him in the night and sustains him is because he keeps the Lord on his mind constantly. It’s amazing – the more we focus on Him the more we hear from Him!

I once read that someone famously asked Charles Spurgeon how long he prayed at a time.  Spurgeon replied that he rarely prayed for very long at one time, but he tried to never go very long between praying.  In other words, Spurgeon kept the Lord on his mind always. Certainly, all of us have lots of things on our minds. Our families, careers, financial obligations, and the mundane affairs of life such as haircuts and dry cleaning all combine to consume large hunks of our thought life.  We must meet those obligations, no question.  However, we must consciously choose to keep the Lord Jesus always on our mind, or else “life” will keep our minds off of Him.

Why don’t you take a few moments right now and focus on the Lord Jesus. Praise Him. Thank Him. Cry out to Him.  Ask Him. Then, in a few minutes, do it again!  Maybe you are in a place right now where you can openly and loudly praise Him, or maybe you are at work and the quiet meditation of the heart and mind is more appropriate.  Either way, the key is the same: to keep Jesus always on your mind!  If Jesus is on your mind, two things will happen.  First of all, if Jesus is always on your mind, then you will hear from Him more often.  Second, if Jesus is on your mind, He will come out of your mouth!  You will be a witness for Him to others.

Let’s all determine to have the Lord Jesus on our mind far more in coming days!

Sowing and Reaping

9 Jun

For some reason, all this week, I have had a message on my heart that I shared last year during an evening service at Whitesburg.  I want to share it with the readers of this blog. Below are the basic preaching notes that I used in this message…


“Sowing and Reaping”

Galatians 6:6-10

 

You’ve probably heard the expression “the laws of nature.” These are laws that operate the physical world we live in. For instance, there is the law of gravity. If it were not for the law of gravity, we would have had trouble getting to church tonight!  Then there is law of nature that says when water is cooled to 32 degrees it freezes into ice. Laws of nature operate the world we live in.

Did you know that there are spiritual laws that operate in the spiritual realm.  Perhaps the most famous one is the law of sowing and reaping given here in Galatians 6.  Now, the Bible is using farming imagery here. Sowing refers to sowing seed – to planting seed.  Reaping refers to the harvest. The time when the seed we have planted yields a crop. From this text, I want us to see four Biblical laws of sowing and reaping…

 

I.          We reap WHAT we sow

 Look at verse 7.  Now this is really common sense. When I grew up, my family had forty acres and my grandfather would do a little farming on the side. And I learned very early on in my life that if you wanted to grow a field of potatoes, that you didn’t plant corn. If you want potatoes, you plant potatoes!  If you want watermelons, then you go buy some watermelon seed and you sow watermelon seed and then you reap watermelons – not tomatoes.  Whatever you put into the ground is what comes up – every time.  It’s the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”” (Luke 6:37–38, HCSB)

This is true in all areas of life as well. People who sow seeds of anger what do they receive in return?  Anger.  If you sow seeds of dishonesty, what do you reap?  Dishonesty.  If you sow distrust, then distrust grows. However, there is a positive side to it as well.  If you sow seeds of love – what grows up?  Love.  If you sow forgiveness, you reap forgiveness.

 

 Life is like a boomerang. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy.

                                       -Grant M. Bright

 

Did you notice that it says, “God is not mocked…”  You don’t outsmart God. You don’t fool God. It’s absolute. You are going to get what you have sown. It might look good on the outside. You might have everyone fooled. But you will not fool the Lord. That’s the idea. That’s a sobering thought. No smoke and mirrors. No spin. No excuses. There it is – you reap what you sow.

Now, there is good news in the law of the harvest: If we sow good seed, we reap good things. Listen, whatever you and I want to reap more of in our lives, then we should begin to sow more of it.  Because the Bible says that we do reap what we sow.  Now, I want us to see a second law of sowing and reaping…

 

II.         We reap WHERE we sow

 Look at v. 8   Here Paul makes a tremendous application to our spiritual lives. He says that we not only chose what we sow, but we choose where we sow.  He says that we can choose to sow into our flesh or we can choose to sow to the Spirit. Now let’s think about that a minute.

 Remember that in the New Testament, our flesh does not refer to our skin, but rather it refers to the seat of sin in our lives. Let’s think about so much of the popular entertainment in our world today. Most of it is simply sowing to the flesh.  

 I don’t have to do a lot of explanation there do I?  Most popular television and movies, not all but most, cater to the base and sinful parts of the human experience. In addition, everything that sows to the flesh is not necessarily wrong.  Entertainment and leisure are not wrong in and of themselves. For instance, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with a good football game, but that is not a spiritual experience either. Nothing wrong with football in its place. Nothing wrong with a good movie – in its place.  Nothing wrong with good food and good friends in their place.  Our flesh needs food, fun, and friendship. So, don’t think that sowing to the flesh is ALL bad stuff. It’s not. However, because our flesh is the seat of sin in our lives, even something that is OK can become bad for us. Think about it. Nothing wrong with having fun with our friends, but if that is all we live for and all we do, then we won’t do anything productive and worthwhile. Nothing wrong with a good movie, but if all we do in our spare time is watch movies and never read our Bible or pray – then we’ve got a problem.  If we sow to our flesh, we will get corruption.    

 My point is this. Just by living in this world, our flesh will get taken care of!   Our flesh will be stimulated for good and bad plenty just by living in this world.  If we want to grow as Christians, we have to CHOOSE to sow seeds in our spiritual field.  That time of prayer and Bible reading that you start your day with – that’s sowing to the spirit.  That music you listen to in your car that exalts the Lord Jesus – that’s sowing to the Spirit. Worshiping with other believers, that men’s prayer group, praying with your spouse before you go to bed, praying with your kids before you go to bed.  Helping someone in need and telling them Jesus loves them. Sharing the gospel with someone. Those things are sowing to the spirit.

 This is a very important principle here. We choose WHERE we sow. And every single day, we are either sowing to please our flesh or we are sowing to the spirit. Remember, this is the law of the harvest, so if we are struggling with our flesh – struggling with a  particular sin – then do you know what we need to do?  Sow to the spirit. Remember how the Bible said that we won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh?  

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16, HCSB)

 So, how do we walk in the Spirit?  We chose to sow to the spirit.  Now, back to the farming analogy. When we planted corn, we not only reaped corn, but we reaped corn in the field where we planted it

 Listen, you have the harvest in the field where you sow your seed.  No wonder so many Christian’s today come to church and say they don’t get much out of it.  They’ve sown their seed all week long in the flesh’s field and then come to church for an hour on Sunday morning and expect to reap a spiritual harvest!  It doesn’t work that way. We reap WHERE we sow in addition to what we sow.

 Before we move on, let’s make sure we connect the dots here. The law of the harvest says that I reap what I sow where I sow.  So, there is good news in that.  If I want more love in my home, then what do I need to do?  Sow love in my home.  If I want integrity in the life of my children, then I sow integrity into their lives. If I want my church to be more friendly, then I sow friendliness in my church. If I want my Sunday school class to reach out, then I sow outreach in my Sunday school class.  The Law of the harvest gives hope. 

 Now, I want us to see a third law of sowing and reaping…

 

III.        We reap WHEN we sow 

 

-Verse 9 teaches us this principle.  Now, this does not mean that we will necessarily reap at the moment we sow, but we are assured that we eventually will reap. If we sow, we will reap eventually. Don’t ever forget that. 

Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, HCSB)

You know, we live in an age of instant, fast everything. Have you noticed that?  Fast food, high-speed internet, express check-out. That’s why it’s hard for us to really let the impact of the scriptures sink in because the Bible was written in an agrarian society.  They understood sowing and reaping because it was their livelihood year in and year out.  Today, our idea of sowing and reaping is getting paid and going out to eat and then to Publix. It’s hard for us. American’s don’t do well with patiently waiting. 

We are like a farmer who planted a field of corn one day and then quit farming two days later because he didn’t have a field of corn!  Remember, v. 9 speaks of reaping in “due season.”  When it’s time. When God is ready. Sometimes we don’t reap because it is not the season. Maybe you are in one of those seasons. Money is low and your blood pressure is high. Everything you do is hard. You are seeing no results. It feels like your prayers are not getting above the ceiling. KEEP SOWING.  That’s what v. 9 says. Keep sowing and you can rest assured that the harvest will eventually come. On the other hand, seasons change and there are seasons of reaping in life. Ecclesiastes says that to everything there is a season!   Have you ever had a season of reaping?  I have.

 

IV.       We reap IN WHOM we sow

 V. 10 At first this almost seems out of place. Like it starts another section. And then one day it hit me. It’s like the Apostle Paul, after all of this talk about sowing and reaping, tells us to look around and find someone to sow into their lives. It’s not just about your life. Make a difference in someone else.  Really, the longer I am in ministry, I learn that what truly lasts in the changed lives. What truly lasts is the difference that you make in the lives of others.

 

What am I sowing?

 

Where am I sowing?

 

In whom am I sowing? 

 

 

 

A simple reminder from a familiar place

3 Jun

This Monday morning I was up early and praying. It’s a big and busy week of ministry.  Even though my daily Bible reading finds me in another section of the Bible, I could not get the 23rd Psalm off my mind today. It really spoke to me in a fresh way…

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23, NASB95)

No matter where you are in life this morning, I will guarantee you that a section of this Psalm speaks to you. No wonder it is so beloved!  As many times as I have read it and preached from it, Psalm 23 was a fresh source of encouragement, strength, and guidance for me this morning.  As we enter this work week, may we drink deep from this famous Psalm and draw a simple reminder from a familiar place.

35 years at one church: A salute to my pastor

2 Jun

Today is a special day at Whitesburg.  We are celebrating with our pastor, Dr. Jimmy Jackson, on the occasion of his 35th anniversary as Senior Pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church. In today’s world, such a tenure is extremely rare.  In fact, just this week, I read that the average tenure of a Southern Baptist Convention pastor is 3.5 years.  Think about that. This fact means that the average Southern Baptist church has had 10 pastors during the time Jimmy Jackson has served at Whitesburg.

JimmyJackson

“Bro. Jimmy” as Whitesburg folks (and many from the community) refer to him is certainly deserving of every accolade given him. When I decided to write a blog post about him, one Bible verse kept coming to mind…

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NASB95)

Bible scholars point out that “pastors and teachers” refers to one office. In fact, it is not wrong to write it as “pastor/teacher” in order to emphasis two aspects of the same office. There are many reasons that he has been able serve through the ups and downs of 35 years at the same church, but I believe one of the many reasons is that he is a consummate pastor/teacher.  A pastor is a shepherd who leads, cares for, and protects his flock. A teacher is one who faithfully teaches his people the Word of God. Jimmy Jackson does both of those things extremely well.  He shepherds his people and he teaches them the Word of God. He has done that for me and my family as well as thousands of others.

I first met Jimmy Jackson in March 1993. I was new in ministry and going through a discouraging time. A friend talked me into attending revival services at Whitesburg on Monday night. The music and the message from Bill Stafford were uplifting, but the most uplifting time for me occurred at the end of the service.  Bro. Jimmy saw two young preachers sitting down near the front and made a bee line for us after the service. He spent a few minutes encouraging us and asking about our ministries. It really meant a lot to me that he took the time to speak to us. I left Whitesburg that night uplifted and encouraged.  What I did not know then was that was just Jimmy Jackson. He tends to just minister to folks as he meets them.

Since 2007, I have served as Associate Pastor with him at Whitesburg.  Now that I have worked closely with him for six years, I can honestly say that I have more respect for Jimmy Jackson today than I had when I arrived six years ago.  He prays for every member of our church by name on a regular basis. He prays for me as a staff member multiple times each week. He still visits people in the hospital, counsels the confused, sits in multiple meetings each week, and officiates at dozens of weddings and funeral each year. In fact, I am amazed at how available he is to the people, even though he is a “mega church pastor.” He does all of this when faithfully preparing to preach the Word verse by verse each week. I have never heard him preach, but that I did not get a fresh insight or nugget of truth from the Word.

In spite of being the pastor of a large church, and a Southern Baptist Convention leader on many levels, Bro. Jimmy remains down to earth and humble. He is a very successful pastor of one of the largest churches in one of the most highly educated areas of the United States.  Yet, at heart, Jimmy Jackson remains a country boy from Mississippi. His background and experience enable him to connect with people from all backgrounds.  He can meet with a powerful Huntsville business leader in the afternoon and then drive to preach in a small country church that night, and be effective in both places – wearing the same suit! Not many pastors can pull that off!  That’s Bro. Jimmy.

He is still my friend. He is my pastor. He is my boss, although it really doesn’t feel that way.  His genuine love for Christ and for people comes through every single day.  I don’t believe that he has ever called me into his office and said, “Now, I am going to teach you something you need to know….”  That’s just not his way. However, I have learned very much that I needed to know just by working with him and watching him over these years. His impact on my life has been immeasurable.  I am a better Christian, a better husband, a better father, and a better pastor from having him as part of my life.

This is why I join the rest of the Whitesburg family in saluting my pastor, our pastor on his 35th anniversary at Whitesburg.  Our prayers are daily with him, his loving wife, Bobbi, and the rest of the Jackson family. I look forward to continuing to serve alongside him as we enter his 36th year of ministry at Whitesburg.

Bro. Jimmy, you are truly the best, and I thank the Lord for you and pray for you each day!