Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It is time for "MORE" in 2017!!!

“MORE”…This is the word I challenged the FBC Lexington, TN congregation with this past Sunday. We celebrated our 175th Anniversary as a church. It is truly amazing to think that the church where I pastor every Sunday has ministered to and been an influence in its city and community for 175 years. This is quite an accomplishment. This church was leading people to faith in Jesus during the Civil War even though the Union army had taken over the then meager facilities. During the Great Depression, God’s people at FBC still gave their tithes and offerings, did ministry, fed people, and met needs. During both World Wars, men from FBC went to battle and many never came home, but all the while the church continued to do ministry. Through the turbulent 1960s, the affluence of the 1980s, and through the housing market crash in 2008-2009, FBC members showed the love of Jesus to a lost city and community. The same God who was present in 1842 is the same God who is present to day. Much has happened, both good things and bad things, in the church’s 175 year history. Still, FBC is alive, active and growing in 2017! 

Back to the word “MORE.” What I know is this fact: If FBC is to be effective in the future and if we are to fulfill our mission of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ “across the street, across the states, and across the seas,” then what we are going to need from the church members at FBC is “MORE!” The Biblical principle is found in the words of Jesus from Luke 12:48, when Jesus says, Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.” 

The principle of “MORE” is a principle that most believers had rather avoid. Far too many “followers of Jesus” come into the church not seeking to do “more” or give “more” or minister “more” or love “more.” Many come into the church seeking to do all of these things “less” and not “more.” On average across our nation and denomination, people are giving the Lord less money, less time, less ministry, and sharing our faith is at an all-time low. As Southern Baptists we are winning “less” people to faith in Jesus, baptizing, and discipling them. How can it be that we are winning less people to Jesus, baptizing less people, and how can our discipleship ministries impact less people each year? Our impact and influence in the life of our cities, families, and country are less. My good friend and former Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist Convention always said that the purpose of the church and church people is to make sure “More people go to heaven and less people go to hell.” I am afraid this is not the focus of the average Baptist church member in America.

What is the answer? Well not to simplify this too much, but the answer is quite simple “MORE.” We need to spend “more” time in prayer seeking God’s face, sharing with Him the names of the lost, and discerning His will. We need “more” effort and energy spent to sharing the gospel with the lost, teaching them the truth of God’s Word, and teaching them how to live out their faith in Jesus. We need “more” people who will faithfully give of their resources so that needs might be met, ministries might be expanded, and the gospel might go forth. We need “more” people involved in ministry and meeting the needs of their neighbors, friends, associates, co-workers, and family members in an intentional, relevant way. We need “more” people who will start telling the Lord “yes” and start telling the world “no.”

“MORE”…I need to offer “more” to the Lord in 2017! You need to offer the Lord “more” in 2017! Jesus asks us this very pointed question in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” At the end of the day, real obedience to Jesus calls for “MORE!”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Stress or the Savior? Your choice!!!

Typical of last minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store purchasing last minute gifts with her son before the stores closed. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her 3-year-old son was no longer clutched to hers. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found the little guy standing with his nose pressed flatly against a store front window. He was looking at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s frantic calls, he turned and with great enthusiasm shouted to his mother, “Look mommy! Come quick! It's Jesus…baby Jesus is laying there in they hay!” With obvious indifference to her little boy’s wonder and joy over Jesus, she impatiently jerked him away from the window and started dragging him down the hall of the mall saying, “What were you thinking! We don’t have time for that! Don’t you know it is Christmas and there are lots of more important things to do today!”
I am afraid that this story relates to many people at Christmas. Do you realize that it is easy to get so caught up in shopping for gifts, preparing for food or travel, going to parties, feeling the pressure to make a memory, putting up decorations and lights, and rushing around that you can completely miss Jesus at Christmas? We can become so stressed out with Christmas that we miss the Savior. The Christmas season is all about preparing for the coming to Jesus into this world to save us from our sins! How can you choose the Savior over holiday stress this year?
In Luke 10:38-42, we read the story of Martha preparing for the arrival of Jesus.  When you read the story you will see that Martha was busy getting everything ready for Jesus’ arrival. Her actions speak volumes to our rushing around preparing for Christmas. I can just imagine what she was thinking and doing when Jesus arrived. She was thinking, “Doesn’t anyone care how busy I am? How can Mary just sit at Jesus’ feet like that when there is so much to do. She is wasting precious time when she could be helping me make preparations for Jesus!” Martha was so busy making preparations for the arrival of Jesus that she forgot to enjoy being in His presence. Are we not the same way ourselves?
What can we do about the stresses of Christmas so we can enjoy the Savior this year? Let me mention two practical suggestions for you. First, you should choose the “needed thing” this Christmas! Jesus told Martha in Luke 10:42, “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…”.  Mary understood that spending time with Jesus was much more important that the preparations for His arrival. Martha’s preparations were good, but they were not what was best. She had substituted spending time in the presence of Jesus to prepare for Jesus’ arrival. Many of the things we do at Christmas are good, but only one thing is needed…We must spend time with Jesus!  Second, cross out the unnecessary this Christmas! Make a list of all you think you must do or need to do to make Christmas special in your life and in your home this year. Once you have the list completed, cross out EVERYTHING that takes away from the real meaning of Christmas! For example, do you really have to spend all afternoon making those “special” cookies when you could spend time with your family? Do you have to go to every party, spend that much money on meaningless gifts, or put up all the lights?
On the night Jesus was born, angels from heaven announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests (Lk. 2:14).” Don’t let the celebration of the most peace filled event in history (Christ’s birth) turn into the most stressful time of the year for you! Remember the words of the Christmas carol:
Silent night, Holy Night; All is calm, All is bright!
Round yon virgin, mother and child;
Holy Infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Whacked out Worldview!!!

We live in a society that has what I like to call a "whacked out worldview." When I was a kid in elementary school we had a day called "opposite day" where every kid in the school did everything backwards. We wore our clothing backwards, had fun walking backwards down the hall, we flip flopped our daily schedule, and we had breakfast for school lunch. It was a lot of fun to spend the day doing the opposite all day long. However, the fun and excitement would have gone away quickly if we had chosen to do the "opposite" of what was normal every day.

In America it seems as if we now live in a time where everyday is "opposite day." It appears the things people should be doing are not the things they are doing and the things I never thought people would be doing all over our country are the very things they do with regularity, popularity, and with great fanfare. Again, we now have a "whacked out worldview."

A worldview is the lens through which you see the world. Everyone sees the world through some lens of their own choosing. Some people see the world through the lens of politics. That is a a scary thought! Some people see the world only through the lens of possessions and seeking to acquire more and more things. Some people see the world through the lens of control or position. However, for a follower of Jesus, we are to see our world through the lens of God's Word. This worldview of God's Word is in no way "whacked out", but still it is frowned upon in almost every arena of life. No wonder everything all around us is so backward and opposite.

The Bible says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world..."  Paul is talking about the world’s value systems of things such as "me-ism", materialism, hedonism, relativism, individualism, pragmatism, and secularism. Paul then tells followers of Jesus the following command: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Paul wants us to understand that as a follower of Jesus you must pay attention to and if necessary you must changing your worldview or belief system to make sure it is lined up with God's Word. Too many people in our churches spend their time trying to adjust God's Word to their chosen lifestyle. When you do that you will never experience God's blessings and the fullness of life Jesus promises us (John 10:10). What Paul is teaching is that we must allow God's Word to transform our lives in that we must adjust our lifestyles to line up with God's God. Paul then tells what the results are of when we transform our worldview. He says,  "Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will."  God’s will for your life is good, it’s pleasing, and it’s perfect. Wow! None of these things are found for your life by living our a "whacked out worldview." Today, you can change how you see the world around you. Why not put on the lens of God's Word and see how your life starts to be transformed?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Backyard!!!

Recently I moved! It is sometimes hard to fathom, but I made a major move from a place I love to a place I have known for many years and know I will grow to love. For 15 years I lived in the small town of Marion, Arkansas in Eastern Arkansas just across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. This is right in the middle of Mississippi River Delta. I had the privilege of pastoring for 15 years at the First Baptist Church of Marion, Arkansas where we saw God do some amazing things!

One of the constants for me over all these years was one home! Right there on Apperson Drive in the RiverTrace Subdivision my family and I spent many days and nights of life. We lived there surrounded by our best friends and many acquaintances. When we first found that house it was under construction. We were able to provide input into all its finishes and colors. Then, before moving into the house, I got a call that the house had burned to the ground during the night. This was not the auspicious start to a new life in Marion we were expecting. Still, we loved where the house was located and we rebuilt the house from the foundation up and made that place our home for all those years.

Most recently we sold our house to prepare for the move of my wife, my daughter, and all of our belongings to Lexington, Tennessee where I am now the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Lexington. When you are preparing to sell a house there is a lot of preparation that must take place.

About two weekends ago I went back to Marion to do many of the chores needed to prepare to move. I was cutting the grass at the house like I had done for many years. If you know me then you know that I am not the most emotional of people, but something happened to me that day cutting grass. Maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe it was the pollen and grass clippings flying through the air, but as I cut grass in that backyard tears started streaming down my face. I started remembering....

I started remembering when we bought that house and the great pride and joy we had to own such a nice house in such a great neighborhood where God had called us. I remembered laying the sod in that backyard and just hoping it would grow. I remember my best friend Rob coming over with an tractor to dig holes and put up that old fence (I have no idea how it is still standing). I remembered seeing houses being built behind us where once there was nothing but an open field. Memories flooded my mind. The tears didn't come from those things, but something much greater.

I rode around in circles in that backyard and the tears came when I thought of little little girls playing in that backyard. Those little girls played on a swing set and slide that has long since been removed. Little girls who stomped around in boots in the mud in that backyard. As I drove in circles around its rusted remains I thought of little girls who jumped on that trampoline with their friends and American girl dolls as they squealed, laughed and giggled together. Little girls who played in their play house called "Kaylaville" that was painted all white and purple with purple butterflies all around it and flowers planted out front. I remembered the time the cat went missing for several days only to be found locked up inside the Kaylaville playhouse starved to death and wondering what she was doing in this family with little girls. Little girls who grew up and played with their friends out back with a makeshift volleyball net while their mom and dad cooked them and all their friends hot dogs and hamburgers just because its fun to have a house full of little girls. That backyard that hid a new blue Mustang for when one of the little girls turned 16 and walked into that yard to find it with a huge red bow on top. You see...Happy memories bring happy tears when you ride in circles on your mower in your backyard one more time.

Now I am going to have a new backyard behind another new house in another new place. I don't know how big it will be and I am not sure what it is going to look like, but I pray to my Lord that my new backyard will be filled with memories, love, happy times, and maybe even more little girls one day.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Attempting Something Great for God!

            Let me ask all of you this important question. Warning: This question could be life-changing for you. Are you ready? Ok…here is the question: What would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew that you could not or would not fail?
            Now that is a life-changing question for you life and for my life. Some of you who are reading this really have no clue as to how to answer it. I hope that you would at least give this important question some serious thought some time today and come to some kind of an answer. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us that God created each of us to do something great for Him. Sadly, most of the people I know never even attempt something mediocre for God, much less something great! The result is that we miss out on the “abundant life” promised to us by Jesus in John 10:10. We are always settling for good when God wants us to have great.
            Some of you read that question and you know exactly what you would attempt! The problem for you is that you just lack the courage to take the first step of faith. You get all spiritual and say, “I’m just waiting on God’s timing”, but the truth is that you are just afraid to fail and you are making excuses. You are not waiting on God; God is waiting on you! Some of you won’t take the first step of faith because you do not have all the answers in advance. Well God doesn’t work like that. If you had all the answers you might not even move forward. This is a test of our faith and trust in God and it is a matter of personal obedience.
            So let’s ask the question again: What would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew that you could not or would not fail? What is the one thing in your life that you cannot shake…the thing that consumes you…the thing you want to attempt for God so bad, but you are afraid you’ll end up looking stupid or you will fail? Paul reminded Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7 that God does not give us the spirit of fear. Satan brings fear in our lives.
            * Maybe God is leading you to start a new business.
            * Maybe you know you need to get involved in a ministry in your church or start a new ministry in your church.
            * Maybe God is calling you to go on a mission trip this year.
            * Maybe the Lord wants you to begin to put Him first in your finances.
            * Maybe you need to change your major in school.
            * Perhaps you need to quit that job and stay home with your children.
            * Just maybe you need to seek someone’s forgiveness and let the past be the past.
There are many things God could be calling you to do, to stop, or to consider today. Remember, God isn’t working on your time schedule or according to your budget, nor is He limited by your skills, resources, or knowledge. He just wants you to be obedient to Him starting right now.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Things from God!

One of my favorite television shows is American Pickers. This show airs each week on the History Channel. It is a show where Mike and Frank travel the country looking for treasurers hidden in people's old barns, houses, storage sheds, and businesses. I am always fascinated at what they "pick" at these locations as something that is valuable. On one recent episode Frank picked a tin robot toy from the 1960's. The toy was rusted, the knob that once was used to wind the toy up to walk was broken, and the paint was faded. That vintage toy which had been sitting in an old barn for years collecting dust was considered valuable because of its rarity. Apparently the creator was a famous toy manufacturer in Japan who had made only a few of these children's toys in the 1960's and today it is a major collector's item. Think about it...Frank found this treasure in a box full of junk, made a deal with the owner and paid him $60.00 for something that once sold for $1.75 in the 1960's. Why? because of the toy's creator, value, and rarity.

As we enter a New Year I know of many people whose lives feel like the old tin toy collecting dust in an old barn. There may have been a time when you once felt useful, valuable, or cared for, but as 2016 begins you feel none of those things. Maybe 2015 was just a bad year for you. Perhaps you are going through some personal struggles. It could be that you have some strained relationships in your life right now, or you could be battling a major health challenge. Just today I have talked to people who have told me, "Pastor my life is going no where fast. I feel useless and worthless. I trust in God, but I just do not know what is going to happen next. What can I do? How can things be different in my life?" It could be that today you are asking the same kinds of questions yourself.

Listen to the words of the Lord for your life today. These words come from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 43:18-19, "18 Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. 19 Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." One of the best principles I have ever learned in my life is this: The past is past so let it go! Is this principle not true? You cannot do a thing about your past except confess it to the Lord, find His forgiveness, and move forward. The Lord wants to forgive you of your past sins, mistakes, and failures. He wants you to forgive yourself and others as well. It is time to let the past determine the direction of your life today and into the future. The Lord looks at your life and today and He wants to pick you up, dust off your life from the sins and mistakes, and remind you and everyone around you that you are valuable and precious to Him! You are His valuable creation! He made you to love you, not leave you. He made you to care for you, not condemn you.

Today you need to change your focus away from your problems and challenges and start focusing on God's love and purpose in your life. Let God do something new in your life in 2016! He is ready and willing if you will allow Him to do His work in your life.