Monday, December 31, 2012

Limping into 2013?

This morning I was reading in 1 Kings 18:20-20. It is the story of Elijah and his confrontation with King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Elijah had called the King to assemble all the people of Israel at Mount Carmel for a decisive showdown with the false prophets and ultimately with the King and his treacherous wife Jezabel. Ahab is recorded as doing more "evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him"(16:30). That was a grand statement seeing that most of the Kings of Israel and Judah (except for Asa) had sinned against the Lord and followed the false gods of Baal and Asherah. And so the showdown was set.... Ahab gathered the people and the false prophets on Mt. Carmel.

In vs. 21, Elijah asked the people a question. And I think it is an appropriate question for all of us as we enter the new year. In the ESV translation, Elijah's question reads...

     "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow Him." 

The NIV and NLT translate the word "limping" (Hebrew- pasakh) as "waver". The Holman Christian Standard Bible and the New American Standard Bible as "hesitate". The New King James as "falter". All the English translations give the same implication: Following any other god except the God of the Bible leads to a improperly lived life. Just as the prophets of Baal were unable to move properly around the alter of Baal (vs. 26), so we to limp, hesitate, waver, and falter through life if we serve any god other than the Lord.

So, what gods are you serving? Are you "limping" along in your opinion of who you will worship? Do you claim Christ with your lips and deny Him with your lifestyle? Admittedly, I find myself, from time to time, in this position. As I allow the things of the world (selfishness, greed, pride, shame, etc...) to drive my attention inward, I find myself worshiping things that are convenient, breakable, and fleeting. I claim to be a follower of Christ, but chase after lesser things. And I find myself on Mt. Carmel again.

Elijah's question, therefore, throws in sharp relief the idea of a true disciple and those who are only such by name. May I paraphrase the prophet's words in the declarative? I think he was simply saying this: "Make up your mind! If you say you are serving either the Lord or these false gods, fine! Just do it! Stop limping along trying to please everyone! Choose who you will follow!"

So, we are confronted with a choice. Who will we serve in the new year? If you claim to be a Christ-follower, will you be just that? Will you strive to live as Jesus lived and obey what He asks you to do? Will you make up your mind (which is the essence of repentance) and choose to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33)? Will you make the declaration of Joshua (24:15 ESV) as he proclaimed, "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Will you cry out with the people of Israel, "The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God" (vs. 39)?

That is my declaration this New Year's Eve! Is it yours? If not, fine. But stop limping about. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hope of Christmas


This past weekend, the Worship Ministries of Fayetteville First Baptist Church presented the dramatic musical experience“The Hope of Christmas”.  Several months ago I was approached by the drama team of our church asking if I would be willing to play one of the parts in this presentation. I was to play the part of the Pastor of an urban church attempting to reach those in a large metropolitan area. Honestly, this role has stretched me, both artistically and spiritually. It has caused me to see the gospel, and the story of Christmas, again in a new light.

After repeated attempts to share the hope of Christmas with those around him, my character begins to show a little wear. Having just tried to share the gospel with a runaway teenage boy, my character is encouraged by a church member.

Church member: “You okay, Pastor?’

Pastor: “I’m okay. I just wish I could get through to the people around here.”

Church member: “We will. Don’t give up hope.”

Pastor: “Hope. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

If you are a Christ-follower, and have attempted to share the good news of Jesus with others (which is what Christ-followers do!), you have probably found yourself feeling the same way. Tired, frustrated, and maybe even ready to give up hope. But let the words of this anonymous church member encourage us all this Christmas season. We shouldn’t give up hope! Why? Because there is a great need right at our front door. A need for the hope that only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We, as God’s people, have been given the great privilege, content, and context in which to share this hope. Now, by the power of His Spirit, He has called us to share.

Whether you are a Pastor in a local church, or you are a layperson running errands in your community, serving in your child’s school, or living out your faith in the marketplace, God has placed you in critical areas of influence for His Kingdom’s sake. He has called you as His missionary to your specific “field” of service. He has equipped you with the good news of Jesus. And He has given you the message of hope that a hopeless world desperately needs. Now all you have to do is share and watch God move!

May God bless you as you share the good news of the hope of Jesus with all who need Him this Christmas season. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Give Thanks"

My two favorite holidays of the year are Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think this is the case for several reasons. 

1. They are designated times of rest from work, school, and the routine of daily life. 
2. They are time spent with extended family that we don't get to see often enough. 
3. They are both in the fall/winter, which is my favorite time of year. 
4. We are traveling on at least one of these holidays and I love to travel!
5. Thanksgiving/Christmas Dinner! 'nough said!
6. Football!
7. Most importantly, they are designated times for all of us to reflect and celebrate on the goodness and provision of God in our lives. 

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for many things. 

1. God's goodness, love, and faithfulness as He displays His character and love through the blessings given in my life. 
2. My wonderful wife and children. 
3. My extended family. 
4. My church family. How thankful I am to God for His call on our lives to come to Fayetteville First Baptist Church this year and for all that He is doing for His Name and Kingdom's sake through this local body. 
5. For God's provision of a new house and new community. 
6. For friends new and old. 
7. For the blessing and opportunity to weekly serve Him through this local Body and to preach the gospel. 


What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving week? How has God blessed you this year? What are those things that you take for granted that should be cause for an offering of thanksgiving to God? 

My challenge for you this week is to intentionally give thanks to God through Jesus Christ for everything He has given you and for his goodness, love, and faithfulness in your life. 

"Give thanks to the LORDfor he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Frankenweek!


What a crazy week! In the midst of the closest Presidential race in over a decade, Fall Festivals and Holiday events, and the over $4 billion dollar sale of LucasFilm (The Star Wars dynasty, for the uninformed!) to Disney, the U.S. also experienced one of the biggest and most destructive storms on record.

This past week seemed like some scene out of "The Day After Tomorrow" or some other apocalyptic movie. The world is spinning at such a fast pace that many of us can't seem to keep up. Fear and anxiety are the rule of the day, and, depending on who wins the Presidential election, how the Stock Market is affected by the hurricane, or some other determiner, our futures hang in the balance.....

Or do they?

Though I agree that the issues of national leadership, cataclysmic events, and a continuous sinking economy are critical issues, and need to be addressed as we learn to navigate life in the second decade of the 21st Century, I also believe that we can too easily allow a sense of fatalism to take over.

I was meeting with a group of pastors from our area a few weeks ago and one of the things we talked about as we discussed the issues of the day was the sense of fear that exists in society--even in the church. Fear of the future. Fear of a lack of financial security. Fear that we won't be provided for in our old age. Fear of the uncertain.

Though fear is a natural, and a very human, reaction to the circumstances of our lives, we as believers in Jesus are called to a different response. Trust.

Hear the Word of the Lord....

Psalms 99:1-3 (ESV)- "The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!

Colossians 1-3 (ESV)- "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Proverbs 3:5-6- (ESV)- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

May we not allow the fear of the circumstances of this life to supersede the reality that God is sovereign, He still cares, and He still moves on behalf of those who love Him. May we find our hope, trust, and peace in Him alone. And, as a result, may we engage this world and its problems with the faith that comes from someone who is walking in trust with the Savior of the World. 

Navigating life with you. 

Pastor Jim


2

Friday, September 28, 2012

Replacement Christians

Many of you have been following the debacle that has been the replacement referees in the NFL. Last Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers brought this issue to a head. A last second call was botched giving Seattle the win over Green Bay when it should have clearly gone the other way.

As a result of this incident, NFL owners moved quickly to settle the lock-out dispute to recall the "real" NFL referees. Last night, on Thursday Night Football, the real refs returned to thunderous applause.

In some ways you have to feel a little sorry for the "replacement refs". They were pulled into a situation they weren't prepared for. They were given expectations they couldn't meet. They were constantly criticized. They, at times, and especially last Monday, were vilified.

Let me ask you a question. Do you sometimes feel like a "replacement Christian"? Maybe you feel ill equipped to respond to spiritual need. Maybe you feel like "real" ministry is reserved for "real" or "professional" Christians. Or maybe you have purposefully neglected the issue of spiritual growth in your life and find yourself "uneasy" with making spiritual calls when they matter.

The Apostle Peter challenged that we would never be in the position of being considered "replacement Christians" if we are true followers of Christ.

1 Peter 3:14b-16 (ESV)- "Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."

God's purpose for our lives is not to have a secondary or tertiary knowledge of Him and His ways, but to grow to full maturity in Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks to this in Colossians 2:6-7 (ESV). 

          "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up                   
            in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving."

Are you growing in Christ this week? Are you spending time in His word and in prayer seeking Him and knowing Him more? My challenge to you, and to myself, this week is to be who God has called us to be, His sons and daughters, consistently growing toward Christlikeness so that we may be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you"

Blessings as you grow in Him.

Pastor Jim


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

11 Years Ago Today!

Where were you 11 years ago on this Tuesday morning? I was sitting at a breakfast table eating and reading when the phone rang. My wife, Laura, had already gone to work, and I was left alone to spend time in the Word and prayer. I immediately recognized Laura's voice on the other end of the line as she simply said, "Are you watching TV?" I responded that I wasn't, and she said to turn the set on immediately. As I turned to one of the network stations, I saw a building burning. I immediately recognized it as one of the World Trade Center Towers in NYC. I was filled with confusion, horror, wonder, and fear. As I watched and listened to the commentary an object caught my attention from the side of the screen. As I watched in disbelief, a plane flew into the second tower. As you know, over the next horrifying minutes and hours both towers fell, a plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington and there was a reported crash somewhere in Pennsylvania. And our world changed forever......

The events of that day play fresh in my mind today as I sat at that same kitchen table eating and reading this morning. I thought about how our world has changed over the past 11 years. My oldest daughter, now 13 and in 8th grade, was 2 at the time. My youngest, not born for another year. I lived in Fayetteville at the time, as I do now, but in two different states. The world seemed a little more naive then, much more cautious and cynical now. But one thing has not changed......

I was reminded of this scripture this morning.

Psalm 2:1-6 (NIV)- "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.

Though the nations rage, God is still sovereign. He is in control of all things. His anointed, Jesus, is "the same yesterday and today and forever". (Hebrews 13:8) He has not and will not change. Even in the mist of events such as that of 11 years ago, our God is constant, present, and powerful!

So, as you think back on that day today, let us remember...

Psalm 99:2 (ESV)- "Great is the Lord in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations."

Amen and Amen!

Pastor Jim

Thursday, September 6, 2012

House Hunters

This past week, Laura and I filmed an episode of the HGTV show House Hunters. (Before any of you ask, it looks like it will air some time in Dec. 2012) We had a great experience learning the ins and outs of filming a TV show, getting to know the wonderful crew, and learning better how to "Invest and Invite". Some observations.....

1. Filming a TV show is long, non-glamorous work. We spent 10 hours a day on our feet, and, in the end, over 10 hours of footage will be shot to get a 30 min. show.
2. Getting it right really means "do it again". Our favorite joke last week was when the producer said, "That was excellent. Do it again." I remember one shot where I was simply opening a door for Laura at a restaurant that we had to re-film 7 times so that we had the perfect shot.
3. What we hear and see is not necessarily what others hear and see. I had mic problems the first day. The sound tech, Mike (ironic name, huh?), kept hearing something that we couldn't hear. (He told me that the mics were so sensitive that on previous shoots he had even heard the actor's heartbeat at times.) After a few wardrobe changes and some strategically placed tape, the situation was solved.
4. Distractions can stall production. In the course of filming we had to deal with AC units, cars, trucks, and motorcycles, planes, secadas, and lawnmowers (Though our producer Cilia had a gift for getting lawn crews to take 10 min. breaks!).

This morning I was reminded of some verses as I thought back on our experience.

Psalm 127:1-2 (ESV)- "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."

Though there is a healthy theology of work in Scripture, not only as a result of the fall, but also as an ethical response to following Jesus (James 2:14), any labor is in vain if it is not directed by the Lord. (Proverbs 20:24) As followers of Jesus we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9:23) We are called to a life of obedience as we keep in step with the direction and guidance of God's Spirit every day. (Galatians 5:16, 25) 

So, who is building your house? The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:22 proclaimed, "In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Peter, likewise, declares in 1 Peter 2:5, "You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Again Paul entreats us in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

The purpose of House Hunters is to look at three houses and then choose one to purchase (we can talk about the illusion of Hollywood sometime later). The purpose of God is that you and I be built into a spiritual house where God dwells by His Spirit and where He accomplishes His will as we daily surrender to His promptings and leadership in our lives. As we do, He forms in us the character of His Son as we offer Him the sacrifices of a life lived for His worship, praise, and glory. (Romans 8:28-30; 12:1-2) 

Will you allow God to build your house today? Will you allow Him to form in you the character of Jesus through the power of His Spirit? Will you be obedient to His calling to "keep in step with the Spirit" today asking Him to give you "eyes to see and ears to hear" as He directs your steps ? Will you be obedient to follow Him as He directs your work for His glory and other's good? 

Blessings as you serve. 

Pastor Jim


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Morgan Almighty!


This week Dr. Jim Denison, one of my professors at DBU and a friend, posted an account of an interview with actor Morgan Freeman in his daily e-mail called the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. 

Morgan Freeman is one of my favorite actors. Movies like Shawshank Redemption, Invictus, and Driving Ms. Daisy are some of my favorite movies. He currently hosts Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman on Sci-Fi Channel. His iconic voice is recognizable in film, TV, and commercials. I have always thought if there could be a narrator for my life as I walked down the street, it would be the voice of Morgan Freeman (a close second would be James Earl Jones). 

All said, Mr. Freeman's recent comments disturbed me....

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Denison's post..... 

In a recent interview, Freeman was asked, "Do you think there is a God?"  His answer: "Do I think there's a God?  Um (pause) yeah."  "You paused," the interviewer noted.  "I paused because I am God."  "Because every man is created in God's image," the interviewer replied.  Freeman: "Yes or God's created in my image."

In an earlier conversation, he explained that God was created by man: "Has anybody ever seen hard evidence?  What we get is theories from our earlier prophets.  Now, people who think that God invented us think that the Earth can't be more than 6,000 years old.  So I guess it's a question of belief.  My belief system doesn't support a creator as such, as we can call God, who created us in His/Her/Its image."  He concluded: "So if I believe in God, and I do, it's because I think I'm God." 

(http://www.denisonforum.org/cultural-commentary/480-morgan-freeman-says-hes-god)
(http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/07/06/fox411-qa-morgan-freeman-on-why-believes-is-god-and-which-succesful-film-hated/)

As I pondered Mr. Freeman's words the other day, I thought about how sad it is for someone to exist outside of a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. To Mr. Freeman's credit, though, (and I still love him as an actor, BTW) he is a man of faith, as are all people. We will all place our faith in something or someone. He has chosen to declare his faith in himself as "God". 

There are a multitude of problems with this, of course. If God is a creation of the human mind and will and Godhood is therefore superimposed upon each individual person based on their ability to govern and direct their own lives, as Mr. Freeman contends, then a whole bucketful of relativistic arguments ensue. Does simply our existence make us worthy of such a moral and ethical position? If everyone is their own "God", then any moral absolute is thrown out the window and the most evil of actions of history from Nazi Germany to Aurora, Colorado are justified on the basis of our own"Godhood". 

Secondly, does belief alone dictate the existence or non-existence of God? Or does God's revelation of Himself supercede any of man's preconceptions of who or what God might be? 

Finally, if we created God, such as Mr. Freeman contends, then what does that say about the state of humanity? Are we truly left to our own devices? Is eternity something of dreams instead of reality? Do we exist simply for this short 80-90 years and then that is it? 

The Bible speaks to many of these issues. First, it speaks to the nature and revelation of the God of the Bible as the only true God. 
           - Isaiah 45:18 (ESV)- "For thus says the Lordwho created the heavens (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other."
            - Isaiah 44:6 (ESV)- "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god."
            - 1 Timothy 2: 5-6 (ESV)- "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."

Secondly, belief or faith are the result of such a revelation, not the precursor to revelation. 
            - Ephesians 2: 8-9 (ESV)- "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 

Finally, what does it look like to place our faith in anything other than the God of the Bible? Well, the Bible says that our state without God is one of hopelessness and death. 
              - Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)- "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
              - Ephesians 2:12 (ESV)- "Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

So, in the midst of all this, is there good news? Absolutely!!!! Hear the following verses. Ephesians 2:13-14a (ESV)- "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace..."

How can you come to know this peace with God and begin a relationship with the God who has revealed Himself as the only real God? Simply by responding to His offer of grace by a step of faith. (remember grace comes before faith). Romans 10:9-10 gives us help in how this is made real in our lives. 

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)- "Iyou confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

Will you confess Jesus as your Lord today and believe in your heart that He died on a cross for your sins and rose from the dead to give you eternal life? If so, you will know this God who is real. I guess Mr. Freeman is right to a degree, understanding who God is is a matter of belief.....







Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Line in the Sand (or in the Parking Lot)

There is a somewhat apocryphal story surrounding the Misión San Antonio de Valero, or more commonly know as the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas. In 1836 as General Antonio López de Santa Anna's army surrounded the mission filled with nearly 200 Texans who were fighting for their independence. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel William B. Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over — all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. As you may know, the defenders of the Alamo held their position for 13 days before being overrun and defeated by the Mexican Army. Though the battle was lost, it afforded the rest of the Texas Army led by General Sam Houston to move eastward in a war of attrition until they found the best place to make their stand for independence. That place was San Jacinto and the Mexican army, divided by pride and numbers, were defeated and Texas gained its independence.
Today, I was encouraged to see those who believe in a Biblical view of marriage take a stand as well. Granted, their lives were not on the line, but many took a strong stand in support of Dan Cathy's statement of support for a traditional and Biblical view of marriage. I have seen lines wrapped around the corner of the Chick-fil-as in Fayetteville today and many Facebook posts of the same such scenes across the country. Though we as Christ-followers do not need to lead in a war of hatred, bigotry, or slander (that is not how Jesus called us to follow Him!), we are called to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) which is a sign of our maturity in Christ. We are to love all people and to share the good news with all, including those who chose to participate in a homosexual lifestyle, but we are to stand for Biblical truth and live lives that are salt and light in the world.

So, hurray for Mr. Cathy, but more importantly, hurray for those who took the challenge to make their voices known through their actions testifying to the truth of God's Word regarding His plan for marriage and His gospel to the world.

In Him,
Pastor Jim

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Get Shaped!

Several years ago, I wrote a Disciple Now curriculum called "Get Shaped!" It's purpose was to challenge teenagers to "work out spiritually" so that they might grow to maturity in Christ. It's funny, and sad, how we many times relegate spiritual growth as applying only to young people or new believers, but neglect the disciplines of growth for ourselves.

This past Sunday we began a new message series called "SHAPED". Over the next five weeks we will be looking at what it means to grow toward maturity in Christ through the Spiritual Disciplines. We defined a Spiritual Discipline as, "an intentionally directed action by which we do what we can do in order to receive from God the ability (or power) to do what we cannot do by direct effort.”- Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 36. We began with the Discipline of Study. If you missed last Sunday, let me encourage you to go to www.fayettevillefbc.org or to Fayetteville First Baptist on iTunes to watch or listen to this message. 


Also, we have provided several resources for you to grow as you read and study God's Word. You can access these resources at www.fayettevillefbc.org. Just click on the SHAPED message series logo on the front page. For quicker access to the BibleX study plan go to the following link. 


www.biblex.com

This Sunday we will continue our series in the Spiritual Disciplines by looking at the Discipline of Prayer.  See you then.

Blessings.

In Him,
Pastor Jim