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Lakeside’s most prayed for Easter ever

26 Feb

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?”” (Luke 24:1–7, HCSB)

This great account of the first Easter morning is glorious. This will be my preaching text on March 27 – Easter Sunday 2016.  I cannot wait for Easter 2016 at Lakeside! Please let me share three thoughts about this coming Easter Sunday for our Lakeside family (and any other readers).

1)  We are having a special schedule on Easter Sunday in order to reach more people. I will be sharing more details Sunday and on this blog, but we will have worship services at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday in order to maximize people being able to attend.

2)  We will be giving our Lakeside family tangible ways to invite someone for Easter services.

3)  We will be planning our Easter services and all that happens to give people the opportunity to come to Christ and have a great experience in church that day.

I am praying for people to come to Christ on Easter Sunday. I am praying for record numbers of people who have never set foot in our building to come on Easter Sunday. To our Lakeside church family, I am asking you to help me make this Easter the most prayed for Easter in the history of our church.  Easter clothes and Easter pictures are fine in their place, but let’s make sure we let the heart of Easter and the message of Easter be foremost at Lakeside.

What a great opportunity for our great Lord to receive honor and glory!

 

 

 

Pray for the Persecuted

19 Feb

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” (John 15:18–21, NASB95)

This week, my heart has been moved to pray for persecuted believers in a greater way due to two events in my own life.  First, my youngest son, Daniel, had a group project at school dealing with a foreign country. His group chose North Korea and Daniel was tasked to study how Christians live in that country and how the gospel is shared there. As I helped Daniel with the research aspects of this project, my heart was broken to read of the horrendous circumstances believers live under there. By just about every account, North Korea is the most hostile nation on earth to the Christian faith.  Yet, there are an estimated 100,000 believers there who meet in secret and share the gospel faithfully.

The second event involves my preaching ministry. One of the great advantages of preaching verse by verse through scripture is that it forces you to deal with subjects that would not come to mind otherwise. For instance, in all the years I have preached, I have never preached a message about persecution of Christians.  However, in my preaching, the passage above is where we will be this Sunday. In studying this passage, I was brought face to face with a Biblical truth that Christians in America do not like to think about: the Bible teaches that persecution is to be expected.

The environment that Christians in America have enjoyed has not been “the norm” for most Christians who have ever lived. We have enjoyed unprecedented freedom, prosperity, and cultural affirmation of our beliefs. That is changing before our eyes, but I would never describe what is happening to Christians in America as persecution. Not when you look at what is happening to Christians in other places. Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com is a great ministry and great resource to learn more and pray specifically for persecuted believers. It is estimated that 100,000,000 Christians are living in persecution RIGHT NOW.  Let that reality sink it. Then pray.

 

Pastor, what about Christians and politics?

19 Jan

2016 is shaping up to be an interesting year for sure.  It’s a presidential election year, and the primary races in both major parties have been filled with surprises already.  As a pastor, I am already getting hit with “Pastor, can a Christian vote for….” followed by the name of a particular candidate.  Now that social media is such a pervasive part of our culture, the political fight never ends with Facebook comments and “Twitter wars” flying all hours of the day and night.

Today my mind went back to a young adult who dropped into the Wednesday night service of a church I was serving several years ago. When I approached that young college student after the service I asked if someone had invited them. The reply is still etched in my mind: “No, I don’t know anyone here. I want to know God, and this is the closest church to my house.”  Although I briefly shared the gospel and how they could know God through personal faith in Jesus Christ, it was apparent this young adult was a spiritual “blank slate” who was hearing all of this for the first time. To make a long story short, I told them to keep attending our church, listen to what we had to say, and I believed with all my heart they would come to know God.

That young adult came back for the next several Sundays before surprising me once again. After a service, they asked to speak with me. In my mind, I was thinking, “This is it! They are going to get saved right now!”  Instead, this seeking young adult opened up to me about a struggle they were having…”You and everyone here has been so nice to me. But after being around here for a few weeks, it looks like you and your church don’t believe anything that I believe.”  Stunned, I asked them to help me understand. They replied that they were very “liberal”, always voted Democrat, and then proceeded to list a host of issues that they were in favor of…abortion, gay rights, etc.  In short, they saw politics as a barrier between them and faith in Christ.

How did I respond?  I explained to them clearly that our church did certainly have some very specific and clear convictions about many issues, but they were not Democratic or Republican issues – they were Biblical issues. Our convictions come from the Bible, the Word of God, therefore they do not change with the party in power or the opinion polls. I explained to them that our Christian beliefs and convictions have been offensive to some people throughout the history of the church.  I explained that there was another “side” to these issues they had likely never heard because they had only been exposed to teachers who held a liberal/secular worldview. I urged them not to believe much of what they had been told about Christians and the Bible – take a fresh look for yourself and form your own opinions. Then I made sure to explain that our having Biblical convictions meant that we loved people – even people like them who disagreed with us about everything!  Finally, I urged them to look to Jesus and pointed them to a key verse….

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6, HCSB)

I urged them to consider Jesus and to keep examining Jesus and reading the Bible because the Bible brings people to faith in Jesus.  I explained that once they truly came to faith in Christ, then they could sort out many of these political “issues” in light of their faith in Him.  I explained to them that faith was not a Democratic or Republican issue, but rather a Jesus issue. It was an issue that impacted eternity.

Today Twitter and the internet are ablaze about Trump’s appearance Liberty University and Bernie Sanders coming to our own city last night. I couldn’t help going back to that conversation I had years ago.  Please allow me to share some of my personal guiding principles regarding how I deal with politics as a Christian and a pastor of local church.

1.  We must never compromise our steadfast, Biblical convictions even if it means we are marginalized or even persecuted for having them.  Let me be very clear right here: I am a deeply conservative, Bible believing Southern Baptist pastor. My beliefs are not for sale. They have remained the same through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

2.  Scripture is clear that Christians are to be good citizens, so we should vote and bring our Biblical convictions with us to the ballot box.  I am in favor of Christians being involved in the political process on every level. Rest assured, those who hold very different convictions certainly will be. Every Christian should get out and vote in this election. Personally, I am very politically conservative. There are some candidates running that I feel I can vote for in good conscience, while there are others that I will not vote for under any circumstances. You don’t need me to tell you who to vote for. Let the Bible and the Holy Spirit do that. Then go vote.

3.  We must take great care never to equate the Christian faith with any political party. Political parties exist to win elections and gain political power. Their objectives are vastly different from that of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t ever forget that. The minute a political party believes it can get more votes to be for everything we are against, Christians will be cast aside in the blink of an eye. Once Christians become only identified as a constituency of a particular party, we begin to lose our prophetic voice to speak to the culture. This is why many Millennials now simply view us a Republican constituency group.

4.   If we faithfully preach the Bible, pastors will speak to many of the moral issues of our day and s0me will accuse us of being “political” when we do.  When that happens, preach on!  The truth has always been hated. Don’t look for that to change even if an election goes your way.

5.   We must recognize that there is not an explicitly “Christian” position on every single political issue and leave room for respectful disagreement on non-essential issues.  Let me give some examples of what I mean. Scripture is absolutely clear regarding the sanctity of human life. Scripture is absolutely clear about marriage being the union of one man and one woman for life. Scripture is absolutely clear that all religions are not equally true and that personal faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. However, I do not believe there is the same scriptural clarity regarding the immigration issue or health care.  Those are complex issues with strong arguments to be made from different points of view.

6.    In the age of social media, we must be mindful that everything we post will be seen by unbelievers.  More than once in the last few weeks, I have gotten “fired up” and typed up a “tweet” or Facebook post in response to some political news only to delete it.  Why?  Because every Sunday there are people who do not know Christ who walk through the doors of the church I pastor, and I don’t want to let my hot headed social media posts create a barrier.  If the gospel or Biblical convictions are a barrier, then so be it. However, the fact that I do not support the current administration should not be.  We must remember that unbelievers are not “the enemy” but rather they are the mission field.

7.   The message, mission, and activities of the church should be the same regardless of the political climate. Sometimes we forget that the gospel and the church are built for all cultures and all political climates. The gospel and the church of the Lord Jesus are not American institutions – therefore they do not depend on any American institutions. The gospel, the Word of God, and the Great Commission are the same in Sudan, Thailand, London, and Birmingham, Alabama. Our Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea or Iraq are not debating who won the last debate.

8.  We should be more passionate about sharing the gospel than we are about sharing our politics. Let’s say I convince all of my friends to vote my way in this election, but I do not win one soul to Christ. Have I been a faithful Christian?  I don’t think so.

If you have read this far, perhaps you are wondering, “What happened to that young adult who came to your church?”  After a period of several months, they came to faith in Christ and I had the privilege of baptizing them. The power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit overcame all of the barriers.  I did not baptize that young adult as a Republican. I baptized them as a fellow believer – in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Yes, I will closely keep up with the 2016 elections, and I am praying for God to move in the hearts of people to turn our country in a better direction. However, I am also praying that I will talk to more people about Jesus this year than about the elections. I am praying that I will see another young liberal is who for everything that I am against come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am also praying I will be more excited about that occasion than the outcome of any election.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facing Fear – new series

8 Jan

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)

Years ago I heard a preacher quote this verse and say, “Fear never comes from God!”  I believe that statement is true, but I have also found that many people who genuinely love God struggle with fear and anxiety. If we are honest, all of us struggle with it to some degree. Some of us struggle mightily.

There are frightening things going on in our world. The stock market has recently lost a chunk of its value, and there are new economic uncertainties. The Fall of 2015 saw a great deal of tragedy take place with mass shootings, terrorist attacks, etc. In this age of smart phones and social media, when events like this happen we are now bombarded by the images in real time. We don’t have to wait for the evening news or tomorrow’s paper.  It’s right there for us to see, and that magnifies our fear and anxiety.

Furthermore, some personal fears are common to many.  For instance, some people live with a constant fear of rejection.  Others fear failure above all else. When these personal fears are combined with the fears the news brings us, it can get overwhelming.

Can we find hope when we are afraid?  All of us want to be wise and realistic, but how do we keep that from paralyzing us?  How can we enjoy life when we control so little of it?

As I prayed about a new message series to begin 2016, I was drawn to three chapters in the Gospel of John – specifically John 14-16.  If you begin reading the Gospel of John at chapter 1 you see a beautiful presentation of Christ the Savior.  For twelve chapters, Christ is revealed as Savior and Lord. There are famous miracles and the seven “I AM” statements. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

Then Jesus begins to instruct and equip His disciples for what they were facing. In a matter of hours, they would see the one they had left all to follow crucified and buried. They would be filled with doubt, anxiety, and fear until they were at a breaking point.  Jesus knew this.  So Jesus spoke some of the most comforting, yet powerful words in all of the Bible…

“Do not let your heart be troubled…” 

Even though those words are quoted by a popular television host, they have nothing to do with Fox News and everything to do with Jesus. If you are reading this blog post, you either have recently come through a time of fear & trouble, are in the middle of a time of fear & trouble, or you soon will face such a time. When your heart is troubled…turn your heart to Jesus.

Join me as we begin walking verse by verse through John 14-16 this Sunday at Lakeside.  FACING FEAR is the theme of this important message series. I preach the same message at both 8:00 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. service.  Bring a friend and I will see you Sunday!

 

Life between two advents

4 Dec

Many Christian churches observe what is called Advent on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. The term “advent” has Latin roots and simply means “coming.” It refers to the coming of Christ. As early as the fourth century, Christian churches were designating a period of time leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. It began as a time of fasting, but by the Middle Ages, the Advent season had become largely standardized into four Sundays. This is why we refer to “the second Sunday of Advent,” etc. In addition to the Advent emphasis in the Sunday worship services, many Christians prepare an Advent wreath at their home or follow some type of Advent devotional.

The churches I have served in have been Southern Baptist churches, and many Baptists traditionally haven’t emphasized the Advent season nearly as much as their Methodist or Presbyterian friends. However, I do believe it is healthy this time of year to look forward to celebrating Christ’s birth. Advent can be a great way to cut through the busyness and materialism of this time of year and focus on Christ.

Advent helps us look forward to our celebration of the birth of Christ. That’s the first advent. However, there will be a second advent on a day in the future when Christ returns. Christ’s first advent came in a manger in Bethlehem, but His second advent will come in power and glory as He splits the eastern sky and stands on the Mount of Olives. Christ’s first advent brought our salvation, and His second advent will bring it to its eternal conclusion. Christ’s first advent broke the penalty of sin over all who will place their faith in Christ, but Christ’s second advent will break the power and presence of sin – ridding the world of all its effects.

We live our lives between two advents – two “comings” of Christ. On December 25, we celebrate the first advent, and we live faithfully and hopefully looking forward to the second advent. Glory to God in the highest! Praise Him! Maranatha!

I am thankful for…

23 Nov

1 Thessalonians 5:18 commands Christians to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Think about it. As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, we may not know God’s will regarding any number of issues going on in our lives, but we know for sure that God’s will is for us to give thanks. Give thanks if life is good. Give thanks if life is hard. Give thanks.

I decided to share a list of things that I am thankful for this week.

I am thankful for the Lord Jesus and salvation by grace through faith in Him. He is my redeemer, my strength, my joy, and my hope.

I am thankful for the Word of God.  I never get tired of reading the Bible and studying the Bible.

I am thankful for my family. I was blessed with parents (and grandparents) who taught to me to love Christ and live for Him. 22 years ago (almost) the Lord blessed me with a beautiful wife to share life with. Our two sons continue to bring Becky and I great joy.

I am thankful for my church family.  The people of Lakeside Baptist Church are a great blessing to me. They are loving, faithful followers of Christ.

I am thankful for friends.  Some friends came into my life and God used for a season. Others became “friends for life” that I remain in touch with. Some friends are new friends.

I am thankful for health and strength to serve Christ. God has been gracious to allow me both spiritual and physical strength.

I am thankful for our country. For all of our problems, America is still the greatest country in the world. I am proud to be an American, and I am thankful to be a citizen of this great country.

I am thankful for financial and material blessings. Are we wealthy?  Not compared to many in our area, but we are compared to most of the people in the world.

Perhaps you read my list and think “well, no surprises there.”  That’s true. However, I have made my list and made it public. The fact that my list surprises no one isn’t the point. The point is to be thankful in obedience to scripture and for our spiritual good.  I am thankful. To God be the glory!

 

Reminders on September 11

11 Sep

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fourteen years since that terrible day: September 11, 2001.  Each year on this day, my mind goes back to that day and its horrors.  Time marches on.  Only the students who are in high school now have any memory of that day. The vast majority of those in school now only know of September 11 from the internet, history classes, and television. Please allow me to share some personal reminders on this day…

1)  The Lord is our only true security.  So many people were absolutely stunned that an attack could happen on American soil. The truth is that any of our lives can be turned upside down on any given day. In a country of over 300 million people if a person or group of people decide to commit an act of terrorism every instance of that cannot be stopped. Our security in Christ is the only true security we have.

2)  There is evil in this world that must be confronted. The September 11 attacks brought Americans face to face with the fact that there are people in the world who are willing to ruthlessly slaughter innocent people in the name of their religion or their cause.

3)  Pray for and honor those who serve our country. Certainly, this includes our military men and women, but let’s not forget our law enforcement and fire departments.  These men and women are literally on the front lines of keeping us all safe, and their pay often doesn’t reflect the danger and stress of what they do.

4)  Pray for revival to come in America.  Back in 2001, there were many Christians praying for a spiritual awakening to happen in our nation.  September 16, 2001 saw the largest church attendance possibly in our nation’s history.  That Sunday remains the largest attendance many churches have seen in their history.  Many were hopeful that September 11 would be the beginning of a great turning back to the Lord.  Sadly, that was not the case. Keep praying.

5)  Love America and be thankful for it. September 11 is a great reminder that we are all Americans. Certainly, our country is hurting in many ways and so many are concerned about the direction we are headed. However, America is still the greatest country in the world, and I am thankful to be born and raised in the USA!  The school my children attend encouraged the students to wear red, white, and blue today as well as for the football game tonight. I applaud that emphasis. We must raise this generation to love our country because there are many who do not.

 

Catch up on the PRAY message series

1 Sep

The feedback from people regarding the PRAY message series has been a great blessing and encouragement to me. To be honest, it has probably challenged me personally as much as any series I have preached in some time.  Here are the links to the individual messages in the series…

“How to Pray:  When Prayer Comes to Life”    Luke 11:1-4

http://lakesidebaptist.com/media/media-player.htm?2015_08_16AM

 

“How to Pray:  Praying for What Matters Most”   Luke 11:1-4

http://lakesidebaptist.com/media/media-player.htm?2015_08_23AM

 

“Powerful Prayer”  Luke 11:5-13   

http://lakesidebaptist.com/media/media-player.htm?2015_08_30AM

This Time is Our Time

22 Jul

Recently I was talking with a pastor friend about church life in the south back in the 70’s and 80’s. In those days, the cultural trends that we see today were in their infancy and there was still a fairly widespread cultural agreement on right and wrong, the Bible, and a host of other issues. In those days, people who were far from Christ often sought out the church. You could announce revival services and people who needed Christ would come and be saved. In those days, many families ordered their lives around faithfulness to the church. There was no little league sports on Sundays, very little travel ball, and movie theaters even had limited showings on Sundays.  In those days, many churches even had very robust Sunday evening services with a full house and decisions made on Sunday nights. In those days, people were receptive to home visits and it wasn’t uncommon for churches to have huge numbers of their members on a weeknight for “outreach” to make visits in the homes of their community.

As we were having that conversation, I jokingly said, “I would have loved to have been a pastor during those days.”  We both laughed and then moved on in our talk. However, the Lord brought conviction to me about that statement recently as I read the book of Esther in my personal devotion.

The book of Esther is about God’s people at a perilous time in their history. It was written after what is known as the Babylonian captivity during the early 400’s B.C. before what is called the second return under Ezra. You can study the background of the book on your own, but suffice it to say that God’s people were in great danger due to the plotting of a man named Haman. He sought nothing less than the extermination of God’s people and it looked like it was going to happen.

However, there was a lady there named Esther.  She was an orphan who grew up among the Jewish exiles in Persia. In His providence, God had moved her into a strategic position; King Ahasuerus had made her queen.  That’s right, Esther went from an orphan slave girl to queen. However, it was no accident that she was there. During this time of great danger for God’s people, Esther had a conversation with her uncle, Mordecai, about the situation they were facing. It was then that Mordecai made one of the most famous statements in the Bible…

“…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Es 4:14).

Mordecai was saying to Esther, “God has you at this place at this time to use you greatly.”  And he was exactly right! God used Esther to save the Jewish people and the promises of God kept right on being fulfilled. Even though I had read this passage many times over the years, it took on fresh relevance for me – indeed for every pastor and every Christian alive today.  God has us where we are at this time in history to serve His purpose and plan.

Yes, most of us can remember easier, more pleasant days. However, our Lord has seen fit to give us life in these days. Therefore, we are called to serve His purpose and His plan in these days. God has us here for a reason. This time is our time. We can spend our time and energy pining for easier days or we can put our hand to the plow and go forward in faithfulness.

This time is our time. Now is the time to make disciples.   Now is the time to share the Gospel.  Now is the time to model Biblical marriage. Now is the time pray. Now is the time to have a church. Now is the time to disciple our children.  Now is the time to be salt and light. Now is the time to lead.

This time is our time. Let’s not wish for another time.

Remembering a most special Memorial Day

25 May

Memorial Day is a day that America has set aside to remember those who died while serving our country in the armed forces. From what I have read, Memorial Day originated after the Civil War as an effort to remember those who had fallen in that way, and by the turn of the 20th century had become a time for our nation to remember all of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  On this Memorial Day 2015, I am spending a relaxing day off with my family.  However, on Memorial Day 2012, my family had an awesome privilege that we will never forget.  On this day three years ago, we were here…

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Yes, we had the privilege of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. If you have never been there, pictures and words cannot describe it. If you have been there, you know what I am talking about!  All of the ceremonies had taken place earlier in the day, and we arrived in the late afternoon and enjoyed a couple of wonderful hours there with light crowds.

Later on our trip to Washington D.C. we visited the Vietnam Memorial.  I had always wanted to see it particularly because I have a family member whose name is one of 50,000+ inscribed on that wall.  My mom’s brother, Royce Hall, was drafted during the Vietnam War and died there.  My mom was pregnant with me when that happened, so I never had the privilege of meeting my uncle Royce. It was a great privilege to take my boys there, find his name, and spend a few minutes remembering him.  Below is a photo of Daniel tracing his name on the wall.

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On this day, Americans often say that “our freedom isn’t free” but three years ago today my family was reminded of that in a very tangible way. On this (and every) Memorial Day, we remember and we say, “Thank you” and “May God bless America.”