Don’t worry. Be Faithful.

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25–34, HCSB)

Today as I was doing my daily Bible reading, I found myself struggling to focus and concentrate.  To be very honest, even while I was reading my Bible, my mind was dwelling on a couple of issues that I am dealing with.  It was like the Holy Spirit reminded me of the verses above. After finishing my daily Bible reading, I hurredly turned to the Sermon on the Mount and read these famous words. Most Christians struggle with worry from time to time – some more than others. It was a blessing to revisit this passage I have read so many times. I was reminded of the great truths it teaches….

1.  God is concerned with every need in our lives – not just the “spiritual” stuff.

2.  God knows our needs better than we do.

3.   God is faithful to supply our needs, not our greeds.

4.   Worry accomplishes nothing and leads us away from faithful trust in the Lord.

5.    We must chose to seek the Lord rather than worry.

6.    We do not have any need so great that the Lord cannot meet it.

Don’t worry.  Be faithful.

Why I have a picture of Spurgeon in my office

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Not long ago, a pastor friend of mine was surprised to see a portrait of the great English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the wall of my office near my desk. “You’re not a Calvinist, why do you have a picture of Spurgeon?”  It was a good question. It was also my joy to explain to him why I have his picture in my office even though I am not a Calvinist. Spurgeon was a famous pastor in London who died in 1892. His sermons and books are still in print today and influencing hundreds of thousands of people around the world. While pursuing my doctoral studies, I was required to do an academic paper on an evangelism and revival leader. The professor distributed a list of famous names like Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, W.A. Criswell, and Bill Bright – urging us to choose one.  I chose Spurgeon because he was the one on the list I knew the least about even though I saw him quoted constantly.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I read five biographies of Spurgeon and wrote a thirty page paper on his life and ministry. To say that was transformative in my life and ministry would be an understatement. Every time I look at the picture of Spurgeon in my office, I am reminded of the reasons why I so admire him and why he has impacted my life and ministry so greatly.

1.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for Christ and exalting Christ in preaching. That is the one characteristic that stands out most to me about Spurgeon; if anyone has ever loved Christ, it was Charles Spurgeon. His love for Christ bleeds through in every sermon. I don’t believe I have read a Spurgeon sermon that did not explicitly and clearly call people to place their faith in Christ.  He once described his preaching style as “starting at any text and running to the cross.”

2.  Spurgeon is a great example of faithful Bible preaching. Week after week from the pulpit of his church, Spurgeon opened his Bible and preached. As he grew older, his sermons grew in Biblical and theological depth.

3.  Spurgeon is a great example of soul winning and evangelism. He literally wept for souls and was not satisfied if people weren’t coming to Christ. He was willing to lead his church to change in order to reach people. For instance, when the original facility of his church became inadequate, he lead the church to move its services to a theater – a very controversial decision at that time.

4.  Spurgeon is a great example of pastoral leadership and hard work. He visited his flock. He organized ministries. He met needs. He led the leaders. He answered inquirers. He traveled and preached extensively. He invested in young preachers. He lead his church to send out missionaries. He read six books per week. Yet, he never neglected the pulpit ministry at his church.

5.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for people and encouragement. He loved his church. He loved the people in the city of London. He loved fellow Christians and pastors even if they didn’t agree on every issue.

6.  Spurgeon is a great example of being willing to stand for truth at great personal cost. In his early years, Spurgeon was a phenomenon. In his latter years, he was an outcast among many.  His warnings of theological drift during what became known as the Downgrade Controversy proved prophetic, but they largely fell on deaf ears and earned him the scorn of many. When it came to his convictions, Spurgeon would not bend.

7.  Spurgeon is a great example of perseverance during great personal stress. At the height of his popularity, his ministry endured a great tragedy that Spurgeon never completely got over. After the birth of their twin sons, his wife was largely homebound and was never well again. Yet, by all accounts Spurgeon remained a faithful husband and father. Spurgeon developed health problems himself and suffered greatly during the last two decades of his life. The only thing worse than his physical suffering was his emotional suffering. Spurgeon struggled with depression for many years and spent many days in the depths of despair even though he had an undeniably strong faith in Christ.

On June 7, 1891 the mighty preacher took to the pulpit for the last time. Wracked with physical pain and the weakest he had ever been, Spurgeon ended his last sermon with these words. These are the last words Spurgeon spoke from a pulpit. They capture his heart….

Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains.

“There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These 40 years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another 40 years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.”

For more information about Spurgeon visit http://www.spurgeoncenter.com

It’s well worth your time to watch this great film about his life…http://www.throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com/

 

“Small churches” = BIG IMPACT

Recently, well known Pastor Andy Stanley made news with comments he made regarding parents who take their children to small churches. To Andy’s credit, he apologized in a very heartfelt way, and my intent here is not to rehash that issue.  However, this recent dust up did cause me to begin thinking about the impact small churches have made on my own life and the impact they are making every single day.

For readers of this post who do not know me personally, it’s important to point out that I have a pretty good vantage point from which to speak on this issue.  I was raised in a very small rural Baptist church that averaged around 30 people in attendance each week, and the first church I served as pastor averaged 75 in attendance. For the last decade, I have served in larger churches in metropolitan areas.  My perspective comes from roots and experience in smaller attendance churches and experience in larger attendance churches. Here are my thoughts….

1)  The church that impacts your life is a big church. The Baptist church I grew up in had only three Sunday school classes, did not operate with a budget, and had no paid staff.  However, it was at that church where I went to Sunday school, came to know Christ, followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, announced my call to ministry, and preached my first sermon. That church loved me, nurtured me, encouraged me, and helped me begin to walk with Christ. That church is BIG to me.  Ask the kid who rides the church van each week if that church is big. Ask the young couple who had a child in ICU and never had to worry about having their other child cared for if their church is big.  Ask the lady who was baptized last week in front of 50 people if her church is big.

2)  The Biblical pattern seems to be churches of various sizes. There are examples in the New Testament churches in major cities. There are also examples of churches that met in homes.  In the book of Revelation the Lord gives His evaluation of the seven churches of Asia. The issue isn’t their size, but rather their faithfulness.  You can’t take the New Testament and find the argument that a certain size church is any “better” than another.

3)  The headquarters of the SBC (and other denominations) is the smaller church. According to the North American Mission Board website, of the 45,000 some odd Southern Baptist churches, the median church size is 80 in attendance.  This fact means that there are as many SBC churches who have below 80 in attendance as there are SBC churches who have above 80 in attendance.  A handful of large well-known churches and their pastors command most of the attention, but the reality is that most Southern Baptist work is done by smaller attendance churches.  Most pastors who participate in all levels of SBC life serve in smaller attendance churches.  We might be astonished if we knew how many millions of dollars are given to the Cooperative Program and mission offerings each year from churches who average less than 100 in attendance.

4)  It’s important to have leaders who understand the smaller attendance churches. I came of age in SBC life during the days when great men of God like W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, and Jerry Vines were the dominate personalities and role models in our denomination. While they were very different men, they were beloved by pastors of all size churches.  Each of these men started out in small churches in small places. They knew what it was like to serve as the pastor, the youth minister, the janitor, the chaplain, and the administrator all on the same Sunday. They knew what it was like, and they never outgrew their roots.  This fact shined through in their ministry and helped thousands of pastors and church leaders identify with them and have confidence in them. There is a great danger when a denomination is increasingly shaped by those who do not understand and cannot relate to the overwhelming majority of its churches and their leaders.

5)   “Every church is a great church if it’s God’s church.” Dr. Bill Purvis (who pastors a large church) said those words several years ago. I couldn’t agree more. If we only define a “great” church as one with lots of people, lots of buildings, and lots of prestige then we have missed the Biblical definition of church. The truth is that many churches in small places have a great impact in their communities – far greater than the impact of many large churches in large cities.  Would anyone make the argument that a church that averages 1000 in attendance and baptizes 30 people in a year is doing “better” work than a church that averages 100 in attendance and baptizes 10?   Bigger isn’t necessarily better or more effective – it’s just bigger.  It’s been my experience that many smaller churches are more connected to their community than many larger churches. It’s easy for a large church to become an entity unto itself where its staff and members spend all of their time within its walls.  Just because a church is small doesn’t mean it isn’t doing big things.  Every church is a great church if it’s God’s church.

Count me as one who loves and appreciates churches of all sizes.  I have served in them and preached in them!  Some of the greatest pastors, the greatest people, and the greatest stories of life change that I have known come from small churches.  Personally, I am praying that each of us seeks to make the church we are part of larger at least by one this week – larger because we lead someone to Christ.

 

 

 

 

Our God never forsakes us

This morning I stood and prayed at a hospital bedside with a family facing a very serious health crisis. As I prayed with them, one verse echoed in my mind…

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV)

It’s the last phrase of that verse that really spoke to me today. Certainly, we can be content with what we have because we know we have the Lord. However, the fact that He never leaves us or forsakes us is relevant to our hearts in so many situations. Actually Hebrews 13:5 is quoted from four different occurrences in the Old Testament.  If you look at the verse in the original language, the emphasis is even more clear. The Holy Spirit inspired the writer of Hebrews to stack the negatives in order to make the point. Basically, Hebrews 13:5 says something like “I will never, no never, no never, under any circumstances leave you or forsake you.”

Our God hasn’t left us. No matter how you feel in this moment, He has not forsaken you. He has not forsaken your finances. He has not forsaken your marriage. He has not forsaken your family.  Hold tight to this great promise from scripture, even if you cannot see how God is at work in your situation. He has not left you, and He will not leave you under any circumstances.

Lakeside’s most prayed for Easter ever

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

“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.

 

To everything there is a season…

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For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)

That Bible verse echoed in my mind last night in the gymnasium of Homewood High School as a season in my son’s life and the life of our family ended.  Our Briarwood Lions lost to Pelham in the area tournament, ending our season and the high school basketball career of our oldest son, David.  It was not the easiest of nights for our family.  You cannot understand it until you have a night like that one.

It was an emotional night. On the way to the game, Becky and I talked about the first time David played basketball – in 2nd grade Upward Basketball. He did so well that the next year he got recruited to play on an RA basketball league team!  Every winter for the last ten years, we have been in the stands cheering for our son and his team. It’s just been part of our life. We do not know anything else. There has always been another season – “next season maybe we can…” Now it’s over. There is no next season. That’s hard.  The looks on the faces of the other senior parents (and the tears) told me they were feeling the same emotions.

It was a night to remember and celebrate our son. We remembered that undefeated RA team back in 3rd grade – with David being one of the leading scorers. We remembered that three-pointer David made at the buzzer in 8th grade against Whitesburg Middle. We remembered the night up at Skyline he was chosen All-Area as a 9th grader.  We remembered his 34 point 20 rebound game as a 10th grader at Paint Rock Valley.  We remembered his tw0-handed slam dunk in a game against Shelby County in 11th grade.

It was a night to see once more how basketball has helped my son grow up.  He learned to play on a team.  He learned to respect authority and accept instruction from his coaches. He learned that life (officiating) isn’t always fair, and you get mistreated. He learned to come back from failure after losses, and not to take success for granted after wins.  Our family moved to Birmingham after David’s 10th grade year, which meant he moved from playing 1A basketball to playing 6A basketball.  The players were bigger, stronger, and faster.  Points and rebounds were much harder to get. He wasn’t “the man” on this team. His new team played a different style, and was filled with experienced players who had been in the program for years. He struggled at first – and his playing time reflected that struggle. However, David hung in there, kept working and became a good contributor off the bench during the last few games of his junior year. This season, he started every game and was a key player at a 6A school.  Yes, David learned about basketball, but he mostly learned about life. He grew up. You can’t put a price tag on that.

It was a night to be grateful for coaches and teammates. We don’t have coach horror stories. Every coach David has had loved him and influenced him in a positive way.  David played many years with the same set of teammates up in Huntsville at Whitesburg Christian Academy. The memories made with those young men will never be forgotten. They are a treasure. Fittingly, those boys played their last game last night as well. David, Tanner, and Andrew went out together – just a few miles apart. When David walked through the doors of Briarwood Christian School his new teammates immediately accepted him even though most of them had been together for years. They let David into the circle, and their kindness to him at an awkward time will never be forgotten.  David’s teammates at Briarwood are some of the finest young men I know, and I am proud he got to go to battle with them.

It was a night to treasure friends. Parents of athletes have a special bond. You spend so many hours together in the stands. You eat so many meals together after road games.  You live and die together every time the whistle blows.  As the clock ticked down last night, I treasured the many games I sat by my great Huntsville friend Eddie Richardson as we – ahem – educated officials on some of the finer points of the game of basketball. I also treasured the looks on our wives faces! Here at Briarwood, the “pre-game analysis” with Ricky Miskelley and the detailed x’s and o’s breakdowns with Jeff Travis have been priceless.

Finally, it was a night to look ahead to the next season. It won’t be a basketball season, but the next season of life for our son and our family. It won’t be like this season that just ended, but I am praying it will be just as blessed and just as rewarding. God is good.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus: the great example in prayer

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:32–36, HCSB)

This week during my personal Bible reading time, I was blessed to have a familiar scripture speak to me in a profound way.  Jesus has just finished the last supper with his disciples. In a few short hours, he would be hanging on the cross – bearing the sins of us all. In these verses from Mark 14, we have a great window into the full humanity of Jesus. Please understand, the Bible teaches that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. He was deity clothed with humanity, but he did not cease being divine.  The Word became flesh and lived among us.

In his humanity, Jesus suffered terribly.  He knew the horror of being crucified. He knew the incalculable burden of bearing the sins of us all. He knew what was ahead, and, in his humanity, it seemed unbearable.  So Jesus prayed.  Jesus prayed an honest prayer reflective of how he felt in that moment.  Jesus asked not to have to drink the cup of suffering. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Father, if there is any way, don’t make me go through this.”  The gut wrenching honesty of that prayer is there on the pages of God’s Word for all to see.

Nevertheless, Jesus was submissive to the Father’s will. After that excruciatingly honest prayer born out of excruciating anguish of spirit, Jesus said, “I willingly accept your plan.”  Jesus would not argue or resent what was to come. He would go through it and accept it as the Father’s will.

Don’t miss the pattern of Jesus’ prayer right here.  Be honest with your feelings and requests before the Father.  Be submissive to the Father’s sovereignty, trusting that His plan is best even if it means excruciating pain.  In one single sentence, our Redeemer shows us the way to avoid both bitterness and numb fatalism…”Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”  There is no conflict between respecting God’s will and honestly praying for God to change a situation.  Jesus does both in one sentence.

What does this mean for us today who read this blog?  It means that it is perfectly OK to be honest with the Lord and pray hard in the face of tough situations.  Honesty before the Lord is not an affront to Him.  It also means we can face unbearable burdens knowing that our Heavenly Father’s plan is for our good and His glory. Honest prayer with humble submission in the end.

On the day of our worst pain, we can follow the example of our Redeemer.

 

Pastor, what about Christians and politics?

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

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!