I've started a new blog! I know... I know... I never update this one, why start another one? The new blog is specifically designed for our church. It's a way for me to communicate thoughts about the Christian life or about sermons between Sundays. Since preachers are constantly thinking about church life, this new one should be updated with more frequency. Check it out:
This evening in our time of family worship, we read Nehemiah 13 and some devotional remarks on it (found in this book). I wanted to share these powerful words:
One of the most striking evidences of sinful human nature lies in the universal propensity for downward drift. In other words, it takes thought, resolve, energy and effort to bring about reform.
People do not drift toward holiness. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith.
Reformation is something I've been thinking on a lot recently. As we read from Nehemiah, there were two thoughts going through my head: 1) I need to obey God's Word & 2) Our church needs to obey God's Word. In my own life I know that I will (and do) move in the wrong direction when I'm not purposefully striving for holiness and pursuing God. We sinful men & women are never treading water spiritually. We're either swimming upstream or we're being pushed downstream. So fight for it! Take the kingdom of heaven by force (Matt. 11:12)!
All this is true for the church, too. A church that is not purposeful in watching over its doctrine, holiness and practices will inevitably drift, and I'm afraid that many Southern Baptist churches have drifted. This is a drift that will take more than a 'revival' service to undo. This is a drift that demands nothing short of a full-fledged reformation.
I long for an Ezra/Nehemiah-like, God-sent, Spirit-led reformation! We need our membership rolls reformed. We need our preaching reformed. We need our worship reformed. We need our local church leadership reformed. We need our youth ministries reformed. We need our lack of prayer, lack of passion, lack of evangelism, lack of accountability reformed!
When I look at the biblical standards and then look at the average church, I see an enormous gap between the two. My generation has inherited a mess, which is why many of us are opting to just start new churches. Clean slate; no mess. I see the benefits. But before I walk away from the established church, I want to fight for reformation.
I'm encouraged to fight for at least two reasons. First, God is patient. He is looooongsuffering. Hallelujah! He knows that we're prone to wander, and He is faithful to bring us back. Second, reformation is what God does. The Christian life is reformation. Because sin is constantly attacking, a Spirit-led church is constantly reforming. And get this... if God gives us the grace to see our need, and if God gives us the grace to care about it, then why wouldn't God give us the grace to make it happen?
Last night President Bush said his final goodbye to the nation he has served for the past eight years. In the speech, he remained strong and steady, continuing to warn against the evils of terrorism and promote his belief that, if given the choice, all people will choose freedom. He defended his media-tarnished record, admiting some wrong decisions but reminding us that he was willing to make the tough decisions. Ever the optimist, President Bush used words of hope when speaking of the future of our country and our new president. He said,
"President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, 'I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.' As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead."
I haven't agreed with every decision of the Bush administration. He got some things wrong. But as he leaves office, if I had the chance to tell him one thing, it would be "Thank you."
Thank you, Mr. President for holding your office with honor and dignity. Thank you for the tears that always come to your eyes as you speak of our troops and their families. Thank you for making the hard decisions. Thank you for your courage and steady leadership in the face of mounting pressure and criticism. Thank you for your commitment and your success in keeping my family safe for the past seven years. Thank you for using the most powerful office in the world to aid the most powerless people in the world -- the unborn.
Thank you for being a good president and a great man. May God bless you and may God bless our country.
Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, there were three names associated with Christmas: Jesus, Lottie Moon, & Santa -- and in that order! As I think on it, those three names and all that they represent aren't a bad way to keep Christmas in its proper perspective.
Christmas (like every other time of year) in our home centers around our Savior -- we sing hymns, read Scripture, talk about Him, etc. Just think of all Jesus gave up when He humbled Himself by leaving Heaven and coming to live among us.
There, He eternally existed; here, He was born among livestock.
There, He dwelt in splendor and majesty; here, He had no home.
There, He enjoyed sweet fellowship with the Father & Holy Spirit; here, He was despised & rejected.
There, He sat upon a throne; here, He hung upon a tree.
"Oh, the love the drew salvation's plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!"
LOTTIE: Missions! Christmas is perhaps the greatest motivation for world missions. Just as Jesus left the glories, perfections, and comforts of heaven to dwell among sinful men and women, so Christians must be willing to sacrifice money, home, family, and friends in order to tell others the good news. This Christmas season, pray for the missionaries as they share the Gospel and as they are away from family. Give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering (or any missions fund) this Sunday! And consider how the Lord might be calling you to personally go to the nations -- full-time or even short-term. Remember Jesus came to bring good news of great joy to sinful people. What are you personally doing to continue that mission?
SANTA: Childhood Memories! Last (and least!), is the fun tradition of Santa. The jury is still out for us on what exactly to do with Ol' Saint Nick, but we both really enjoyed the thought of him bringing gifts on Christmas Eve. It seems like an innocent childhood imagination (like playing pretend and having imaginary friends), so he makes the list.
Those three names and all that they represent sum up Christmas for our family. So I give you these three names, encouraging you to remember that Jesus is the name that is above every name!