Later this morning I’ll be preaching the annual message at the BMA of the Ozarks meeting. I was looking forward to hearing our elected speaker, Gary Brewer from Cave Springs Baptist Church, but Gary is headed to Little Rock to be at a family’s side through an intense surgery (so say a prayer for them). I was elected the alternate, so I’m now meditating over the message. Preaching primarily to preachers brings about the special challenge of speaking to the struggles of Pastors and churches. Here’s what I’m sharing…
I’ve just gotten back to my room after the final session of the 59th annual meeting of the BMA of America. I expressed my concerns in my last post, and I do think there are plenty of weaknesses to be addressed. But I really want to focus on the positives. I really am excited to be a part of this association of Baptists. Why? Let me share some of what God is doing around the world through the BMA… [Read more…]
I’m writing this article in Waco, Texas where I’m attending the annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. This is a Baptist association that has taken many stands for the Scriptures and the gospel, and I’m proud to be a part of it. The BMA has invested much into my life and ministry, for which I’m eternally grateful. But I also feel that it’s an association in crisis. [Read more…]
At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.
Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?
There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?
My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.
Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.
Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.
Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.
Yesterday I had the privilege of talking with Donny Parrish, Director of Church Ministries for the BMA of America about church ministry today. My heart and eyes were opened to some great principles concerning reaching the lost today. I was also reminded to lay down my own preferences in ministry so that I might be as effective and flexible as possible to see what the Holy Spirit wants to do next.
This morning, I preached from Romans 8:1-4 in which Paul talks about some of our great freedoms “in Christ.” The phrase the Scriptures use is a thrilling one – “now no condemnation.” When I arrived home, I flipped on the television to a Calvary Chapel pastor from Florida who just happened to be preaching on the same theme. I had tuned in at just the right moment to hear his closing prayer thanking God that there is “now no condemnation to them who are in Christ.”
Amazingly, this pastor’s approach to ministry was obviously different from my own. His church practiced a very contemporary form of worship, he was dressed in casual clothing, and the background of the stage created a much different atmosphere than my stained glass background in my home pulpit. Nevertheless, the content of our messages was essentially the same message – “now no condemnation to them which are in Christ.”
I want to thank God for the freedom we enjoy to differ slightly and yet remain true to the Scriptures. They will always provide our content in preaching and our context for ministry, but our methodology, within reasonable and biblical limits, must remain flexible if we are to reach each new generation of people with the life-changing message of the gospel. More on this generational shift in our ministry later…