Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sharing Life's Burdens

Do you know that many of the burdens we face in our lives should not be faced alone? Many of life's burdens were meant to be shared! 
At any given time we are surrounded by people on every side attempting to carry around life's burdens. For many, this burden can be a heavy load of grief, sorrow, disappointment, failure, or sin. Often times we may not even know who that person is around us or even the things they are facing in their lives that cause such sorrow, hurt or grief. Here is what I know to be 100% fact: Tragedy, sorrow, disappointment, depression, and grief will eventually visit the house of every person. 

Let me ask you two questions: Whom have you comforted recently? Who has comforted you? These questions are of vital importance in the work of the Kingdom of God in and through the lives of Christian people.  

Why does God allow sorrow and life's burdens to come into our lives? Well for one thing we live in a fallen, sinful world. This fallen state of our world negatively affects ALL people, both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore, no one is immune from life's burdens. Secondly, the reason God allows sorrows to come to us is so we can be comforted by Him, and then in turn, comfort others in need. Our experience with life's burdens can actually make us stronger in character and in our faith. Our experience can also be shared with others to be a blessing in the midst of their burdens.

Paul teaches us this truth in 2 Corinthians 1:4, when he says, He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” You must understand that we all face days of tragedy, disappointments, sorry, grief, and heartache. We must also understand that each of these experiences are different and unique. 

As a pastor, I do all I can to minister to and meet the needs of the members of my church and community, but often times there are situations that I am in where I am simply inadequate to fully meet needs or do effective ministry. Do you know why I am so inadequate? It is because I may have not personally gone through the experience another person is facing.

Time to get really practical: Because we all face this same inadequacy, we as Christian people should not ever be found wallowing in self-pity and allow our tragedies, sorrows, and burdens to be wasted. God wants ALL of us to stop wasting the experiences of our lives. He was us to use them for good in others. Many of you have been through things that uniquely qualify you to help others I cannot help!

Think about it this way...who better can minister to a person going through a divorce than a Godly Christian person who has already gone through the experience of divorce and has come out on the other side healed and serving God? Who can better help a couple who cannot have a child than a couple who has already been through the trials of not having a child? Who can better walk through the difficulties of having a parent battling Alzheimer’s than a person who has had a parent who has battled Alzheimer’s? Why not get involved in doing ministry to those who need today? Why not stop wasting the experiences of your own life where God has proven Himself faithful to you? Why not take the lessons you have learned firsthand and share those with people who need to know how to deal with real life burdens? 
Do you see my point? We are to share one anothers burdens. We are to walk with one another through life’s burdens with patience, understand, and love. Church...Christian friends, let’s be intentional about this! Make it a priority to lift a burden with a kind word or note today. Pray with someone. Make a visit to them and show them love. Take the negative experiences of your life where God proved faithful and beat Satan to death with them by ministering to others. Why? Because some burdens are meant to be shared.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Are we thinking too SMALL?

WE THINK TOO SMALL! I am really not sure when it all started or even why it started, but somewhere down in line or through the years, God’s people starting thinking too small. I have seen this small thinking mindset to be a reality in the number of years I have been a pastor and church leader. When I was President of the Arkansas Baptist Convention I traveled, and I preached in many churches. What I discovered was that as believers we were thinking way too small. In the some of the churches I have been in over the past number of years, the biggest things on the mind of church members were these:

* What will we put on the front of the bulletin Sunday?
* Why are we singing all these “new songs” when we have a hymnal full of songs already?
* Why is the pastor and Sunday School literature not using the KJV?
* How can we increase our giving while reaching no new people and not being “preached to” about tithing?
* Why will these “young people” in our church or community not show up or do anything?
* How much are we paying that preacher?
* Somebody better start turning off the lights in those classrooms or we are not going to be able to pay the preacher next month.
* Why should we give to the Cooperative Program when we can use that money right here?

I could go on, but I think you see my point. Not only is the mindset of so many churches wrong, but it is really small minded.

Jesus never thought small! Jesus always thought BIG! Jesus didn’t sit around like a group of Baptists bemoaning the fact that He only had 12 Disciples. Jesus thought BIG! He decided that He could take 12 unlearned, common men and transform the world, not just while He was with them, but after He had ascended into Heaven and left them alone! Think about it…Jesus told them this in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (HCSB).”

This was large thinking! This was a huge, unproven idea. This was a major paradigm shift in the way people thought. Why? Because Jesus was thinking Big! He was challenging His followers to expand their own thinking and their faith in Him. This was the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission from Luke 19:10, when Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.” Big thinking!

What would happen if right now in our own lives and in our church we starting thinking BIG? What if we stepped out on faith and started attempting to do some BIG things for the glory of God? What if we decided we were going to make it really hard for a person in our city to die and go to Hell from this city because of the BIG influence, ministry, and gospel message being shared? What would happen if we as followers of Jesus got serious about making the Lord THE priority of our lives? What if we stopped getting distracted by the temporary things of this world and genuinely started living out our faith with boldness? What if we starting thinking BIG? Are you thinking big enough? Is our church thinking big enough?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Our Enemy- Complacency!

One of the biggest temptations leaders of successful organizations and ministries face is to stop thinking with big vision. Here is what happens to us: After a taste of success, even the best and brightest leaders become complacent. They suddenly start to think complacently. We see this in the church with momentum. When a church gets on a roll and the momentum is building, they see God move in a mighty way. The church can begin to see new people join, baptisms increase, giving go up, lots of new Sunday guests, and higher participation. Unfortunately, what often happens without warning is a general sense of complacency and satisfaction overtakes the momentum and growth. What we do is we relax, take a breath, and slow our efforts. Why? Where in the Bible do we ever see this? Jesus told us His mission in Luke 19:10, when He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” Jesus did not add, “for a short time” or “until I got bored.” 

We see this sense of complacency take place after church revivals, attendance or giving campaigns, or mission endeavors. It could even be said that some church leaders get overwhelmed by the changes and the growth, so they tighten up and start playing it safe. They were inspired weeks early to think big thoughts, implement a big vision, make sacrifices, and to participate at a higher level. Leaders who follow a great vision and who think big thoughts have people who follow them. This is when the momentum starts to build and things get really exciting, but too often the leaders shrink back just on the edge of major breakthroughs.

This temptation is a reality with a lot of sports teams. How many times have we seen teams lose their momentum and then lose the game because instead of playing to win, they began to play not to lose? They get ahead, but then they pull back and stop playing with the intensity that earned them the lead. This is also why in sports it is rare to see teams repeat a championship because they relax, become complacent the next year, and the stop working as hard as they once did.

In the 2013 National Championship game the Auburn Tigers were administering a pretty sound beating of the Florida State Seminoles. At the half, Auburn was winning 21-10, but the score did not indicate the dominance the Auburn team had in the first half. In the second half, it all changed. The Auburn coaching staff made a critical leadership mistake. Rather than playing to win, they started playing not to lose. The big, risk-taking, visionary game plan that had built a dominant half-time lead was scrapped for a more conservative, small minded, incremental second half game plan. What happened? The momentum shifted, and with only 13 seconds left, Florida State beat Auburn to win the national championship.

The leadership lesson for all of us, including churches, is this: When things are on a roll, don't sit on the ball—run up the score! In other words, when you've got momentum going for you, put the pedal to the metal. Take off! Ignite your momentum and build on it. Ride the wave of momentum and continue to cast the vision. In church and in the work of God’s Kingdom, there is never a time to be complacent or to slow up.

Right now, at the church where I am pastor (First Baptist Church, Lexington, TN), God is moving in a mighty way. We have seen many people give their life to Jesus. We have been overwhelmed with Sunday guests and new people. Giving is growing each month so that new ministries can be started. The mindset and the attitude of God’s people are turning to an outward focus on the community and the world. We have adopted a new mission statement to “take the gospel of Jesus Christ across the street, across the states, and across the seas.”  The BIG MO is on our side right now and my greatest fear as pastor is the complacency of people. Complacency is an unwelcome attitude at FBC Lexington, TN. We need to continue moving forward. We are not going to take our foot of the pedal. We are going to continue to challenge ourselves, make changes, and move forward!

When leaders stop thinking big and dwell upon protecting past successes, the progress will slow and then stop. New ground will not be taken. Opportunities of a lifetime will be lost. God will not be honored and complacency will invade like an enemy streaming over the walls of the city. We must not forget that if we are not careful, the big thoughts and the big vision that gave us a big year can be replaced by complacency, boredom, and conservative thoughts which will give us a mediocre year or bad year. Let’s be challenged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”