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Posts from September 2011

Can You Believe What These School Employees Did?

The stories continue to pop up every year or so. It seems that teachers, principals, school employees and coaches are doing things that literally threaten to destroy western civilization as we know it. It's hard to believe that all around our nation, parents willingly allow their children to be taught by these heinous people. How could a sane mother or father even consider putting their child under the tutelage of someone such as this.

That's right.

It's happening all over.

Teachers, coaches and sometimes even principals are daring to . . .are you ready for this? They are bowing their heads.

What!?!

I know, I know, you're upset. You cannot believe this is happening. Thoughts like "What is this world coming to?" run through your mind. It's a travesty.

The latest evil culprits were football coaches in Sumner County, Tennessee. This is the county where my brother lives, so he alerted me to this story last night. Apparently, the players on this local public middle school team gathered for a student-originated, student-led prayer time. The coaches were there as well, not leading, but they dared to bow their heads while the students prayed.

That's right. Bowed their heads.

That's it.

And that's what started the fire.

Channel 4 (WSMV) in Nashville covered the story. Here's a portion of their coverage. . .

During a student-originated, student-led prayer, four coaches bowed their heads. They didn't say a word.

But the principal and the district found out.

"We've been telling our principals to kind of be looking for those things, because that is kind of a shift in how things have been done," Sumner County Schools spokesperson Jeremy Johnson said. "It can in no way appear like it's endorsed by Sumner County Schools personnel."

Channel 4 asked if bowing one's head qualified as endorsing.

"It depends on what it looks like," he said. "That's where you kind of get into the gray area that we're having to deal with."

Each coach had to sign a letter stating he understood the district's revised policy.

Staff can be there when students pray but can not appear to take part, even outside school hours.

Of course, people in the community were shocked. Some are angry. Some who haven't stepped foot in a church for decades will claim to be Christians just to have something to argue about, no less.

2007_02_04_prayer_large This is just the most recent story. There are high-profile stories similar to this every year. Now, public school employees and legal advisors, even in our county, are instructing coaches and teachers to step back, not close their eyes and not to bow their heads for fear of being sued. The Sumner County policy was put in place following a lawsuit brought to the district alleging violations of the "separation of church and state" by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.) 

I am a supporter of our local schools. I support our teachers, administrators, coaches and all in our community committed to serve and lead our children. Our church has been supportive for years and connected with our local schools strategically as a "business partner."

The initial reaction when I read stories like this is to get angry and to focus too much on the politics of the battle. The focus I must have, and we must have as children of God is the Gospel. 

David Landrith is the Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, located in Sumner County. On his blog this morning, he shares some solid truths regarding this story.

Regarding the ACLU lawsuit, I believe the school system is headed in the wrong direction.  In my opinion, they have made two serious mistakes:

First, they have over-reacted out of the fear of a lawsuit.  Because of this fear, they are instituting policies that are unnecessary and that I believe are unconstitutional.  The irony is that in responding to the ACLU’s claims in an excessive way, they may actually be violating the First Amendment rights of teachers and students.

The idea that a coach or teacher cannot bow their head out of respect for student-led prayer is, quite frankly, ridiculous.  Additionally, to tell the teachers that they cannot attend “See You At The Pole,” which occurs before school hours, just doesn’t seem to be constitutional.  Maybe the ACLU should represent the teachers!

Secondly, there is a lack of clarity in what the actual policies are.  As the rules are handed down the line, there have been all kinds of prohibitions communicated. The student pastors of our county were told one thing in a meeting that is not always the practice at schools in the county.

I don’t know if these are official policies or not,  but teachers have expressed to me that it is being communicated to them that they cannot do certain things; things like to wear or display a cross, have a Bible on their desk in their office, have scripture verses displayed in their personal work space, listen to Christian music in their office, or participate in a prayer at a Christian organization such as FCA or Bible study.

Maybe this is official policy and maybe it is not.  If it is, again it seems to be a violation of the teachers’ First Amendment rights on the free exercise of religion.  If it is not, someone should make clear to the teachers and the community what teachers can and cannot do.

This the United States of America!  You can’t ban people from practicing their faith in the marketplace – whether it’s a Muslim, Buddhist, or a Christian.  Christianity should not be favored over other religions. However, Christians should have the same rights as everyone else.

I agree with David and he spells this out more in his blog post here

While I read this stories and think "Wow! That's unbelievable!" the realization comes to me that it will just be a matter of time when we are facing the very same thing here in our county. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Bartram Trail High School in St. Johns County was in the news for similar reasons. There was also the story out of Pensacola regarding the athletic director and school principal.

Now, I'm not hoping this happens. I know our school district leaders are praying, oops. . . hoping it never happens. I'm no prophet, but . . . it will happen. This is more than a political battle. It's more than a Constitutional issue (BTW - the separation of church and state is not in the Constitution.) It's a spiritual issue. 

Pray for our schools, our teachers, administrators, coaches and all employees in the school district. Those who are believers in Christ cannot just "turn that belief off" when they go to work. Pray for them.

Makes you wonder if men like Tony Dungy or Joe Gibbs would have been able to coach high school football, doesn't it? The photo above is of Dungy and his Indianapolis Colts praying together in the locker room.


The Legacy of the Church

 

01 Legacy of the Church

 

I have shared how moms and dads have such great responsibility to leave a legacy of faith for their children. This message focuses on the fact that the church, meaning every born-again believer, has the responsibility to leave a legacy for the next generation.

 

As our pastors and ministry leaders have discussed over the past few weeks, to impact the lives of people in our fellowship for eternity and to live missionally means that just “doing church” as we know it is not enough.

It’s OK. . . but as many of us heard at the Engage Jax Conference last weekend, being OK just isn’t OK.

 

Kids If part of what we are called to do and be as Christ followers is to make disciples, which it is – just check out Matthew 28:19-20, then we have to ask why?

Beyond just being obedient to this command, which is enough, there is an underlying truth in this command to reach and grow others in the faith. To extend the reach of the church not just physically around the globe but from generation to generation until Christ returns – all for the glory of God.

There are numerous passages relating to our responsibility as a community of faith for the next generation. The primary role and responsibility is for mom and dad, but beyond parents and other relatives, others in the faith community are also held to account. As we look back at how we have organized and created ministries in the church for the past century or so, we can smile at the fact that many have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Many have grown into disciples of Christ and have been powerfully used in the Kingdom of God.

It’s been pretty OK overall. I don’t know how you score this. I’m not sure what our batting average would be relating to the number of people we have had opportunity to reach, serve and disciple and the actual number that have come to Christ, invested in the Kingdom and have been made into disciples. What’s a good batting average? .300? Not bad in baseball. However, even in baseball, that means that 7 out of 10 times the batter did not get a hit.

OK for baseball. Not OK for what really matters.

I’ve heard it said that churches are perfectly positioned and organized to get the results we get. 

That's not very encouraging.

When we think of disciple-making, we must think cross-generationally. We must look at where we’ve been, live where we are now and continue to till the ground, plant seed and water these seeds for the future.

First Baptist has always been a church interested and focused on preschoolers, children and teenagers as well as all ages. Yet, we have fallen into the same mindset as just about every other church in the west. We have, as a whole, deemphasized or forgotten that we have a great responsibility to disciple the next generation. Consequently, in most churches, the preschool and children ministries (and youth, too) have been relegated to the mindset of “provide something for the kids so the adults can do ministry.”

When this occurs, our opportunities for disciple-making become little more than child-care.

Check out these statistics regarding children and faith:

  • More than half of the people who will ever accept Jesus as Savior do so by age 12
  • By the time a child is 9, their basic moral foundation has been formed
  • By age 13, a person irrevocably forms the majority of their beliefs about
  •     the nature of God
  •     the existence of Satan
  •     the reliability of the Bible
  •     the importance of the Holy Spirit in their life
  •     whether or not one can be saved from sin
  • There is a 10 year window between the ages of 4 and 14 where people are most open to the message of the Gospel.
  • Only 13% of churches in 2005 listed “Ministry to Children” as one of their top three priorities.

This is daunting. 

Unfortunately, the church culture in America has so drifted to a place of selfishness that events and missional opportunities cannot be planned without the question “Is there child-care available?” being asked.

If the biggest opportunity for life-change and potential for spiritual foundational growth and development occurs when a person is a child, why does it seem the church has divorced itself from the responsibility of making disciples within this age group? Why must we hide in our ministry silos to serve with those only in our own generation or life-stage?

You may be thinking this is a recruitment message to guilt you into signing up to serve in preschool or children’s ministry. Well, it’s not. Why? Because guilt-driven ministry leaders never see the bigger picture and don’t last.

However, this is a wake up call. It’s a reminder that being OK is not OK. It’s a reminder that we cannot continue to convince ourselves that we are impacting the world to our fullest potential if we continue to ignore the present and future God has placed before us.

It’s missional – it’s about leaving a legacy of faith. Just think about all the children here this morning. What about the hundreds that participate in Upward Basketball or Cheerleading? What about those we interact with at community missional events? Those who mentor in the local schools? Kids you coach? Kids down the street from you?You say “I don’t have any kids” or “I

don’t like kids.” Be careful, Jesus modeled the love for children we as believers are to have. He made it clear that the little ones are valuable and needed. We cannot ignore them.

Some way “What about our group? What about single adults? What about seniors? What about median adults?”

You see, we have so segmented the church in our culture that you don’t even categorize yourselves as “the church” but as “the _____ ministry of the church.”

At some point, cross-generational ministry, missions, and missional expressions must occur. We’ve seen glimpses, but it’s been the exception, not the norm.

That’s not to say you can’t have small groups with people in your age group or life stage. That’s healthy, but remember, that’s not a complete expression of “the church.” 

 

Psalms 145:10-13(ESV) 

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.]

 


Better Together

Two weeks ago our network of churches in Jacksonville (the Jacksonville Baptist Association - JBA) launched a new strategy for collectively reaching the city of Jacksonville and surrounding areas. A new website was launched as well - www.engagejax.com. The announcement of "EngageJax" was done at our annual meeting of churches and leaders. Dr. Rick Wheeler, our Missional Strategist for the JBA presented the concept and challenged every church and small group within our churches to strategically and purposefully seek to engage Jacksonville for the Kingdom of God within the next year. 

It's a simple concept and truthfully, nothing new. Engaging Jacksonville with the Gospel is simply a strategy for God's church to "be the church" in the local mission field. 

The reality is that there are currently over 200 Southern Baptist churches networked together through the JBA. While we as Baptists hold onto our autonomy, which we should, I cannot help but wonder what would happen in the city if God's people locked arms and strategically sought to bless God by blessing a city.

At our EngageJax Annual Meeting, Dr. Wheeler illustrated this concept of working together by showing us the news clip below.

Earlier this month, Brandon Wright, 21, a student at Utah State University was riding his motorcycle when he collided with an automobile. He slid off his bike and underneath the car. The car then caught on fire. 

Watch this clip and note the following:

  • Brandon is trapped under the burning car
  • Brandon is not conscious
  • People notice the situation and come to see what can be done.
  • There is one person who takes charge. It's the woman in the dark, knee-length shorts. She rallies the people and directs them to start lifting the car.
  • It took many people to lift the car.
  • The people lifting the car stopped what they were doing to come help.
  • The people lifing the car were of different walks of life and race.
  • Once the car was lifted, someone was able to pull Brandon to safety.
  • They had to work together.

 

Brandon survived and was interviewed in the hospital the next day. He was thankful the people worked to rescue him. He understood that if not for the rescuers, he would have died. 

Wright-crash In fact, he would have died a terrible, burning death.

This is the picture of our community and city. There are people all throughout the city headed toward a fiery death - a separation from God for eternity in a very real place called Hell.

The church has been placed here strategically, by God's design.

What if we worked together to engage the "lostness" of our community?

What if we decided that small stories and small kingdoms weren't that important?

What if we Engaged Jacksonville and our own communities?


To Hibernia Baptist & First Baptist Middleburg - "Please Forgive Me"

Last night one of our deacons came up to me to apologize and repent of some sin he was carrying. Honestly, what he was repenting of surprised me. In fact, I had held no ill will toward him. I did not even recognize what he was talking about at first as being a sin.

Forgive He shared that God revealed to him that something he said the week before was arrogant and ill-placed. I didn't recognize it as such at the time, so I said so to him. He replied "God recognized it." Wow. I accepted his apology and was so inspired by his willingness to confess, repent and seek forgiveness from me. 

This morning I was meeting with some pastor friends in Jacksonville and we were discussing the journey of faith that God has had us on the past few years and it became evident as I shared my story that a number of years ago as Hibernia Baptist Church in Fleming Island and First Baptist Church in Middleburg were growing and building and seeing some really incredible things happen under the leadership of their respective pastors (Scott Yirka at Hibernia and Alan Floyd at FBC Middleburg) that a spirit of jealousy and competitiveness grew within me.

As I shared this, the other pastors in the room agreed that they had had experiences like this with other churches in their journey as well.

At that point, it was as if God said to me, "And this honors Me?"

I had felt conviction a number of years ago and prayed for God to forgive me. I sincerely repented and experienced God's forgiveness.

However, today God's still small voice reminded me that I had never repented to these other two churches and their pastors.

I felt led to apologize publicly for this sinful attitude of competitiveness. That's why I'm posting it here on this blog. I'm going to make sure that Scott and Alan get the video link. In fact, brothers, if you feel led to show it to your church, feel free.

To Scott and the membership of Hibernia and to Alan and the membership of First Baptist Middleburg: I am sorry for the attitude I carried. Please forgive me.

I truly believe that God has set up His church in this city and surrounding areas for a bigger story than any one fellowship could orchestrate. I just don't want to miss what God is doing.

There are over 200 churches in our Jacksonville Baptist Association. There are many more in the Black Creek Baptist Association and surrounding areas, not to mention all the Gospel-centric churches that are not Baptist, but teach the Word. 

Brothers and sisters, we may be able run faster alone, but we can run farther together. 

To God be the glory.

James 5:16



Why We're Giving Away Over $50,000

For the past few months we have watched something amazing happen here at First Baptist. In a time when many churches and ministries are suffering economically, as are the members of the fellowship, God has provided over and above for our needs.

This is in stark contrast to where we were as a church in 2010. If you remember, we came to a place of shutting down the church facilities for the final two weeks of the year and telling all staff members that pay would be cut accordingly. In simple terms, we were in the red by thousands of dollars and some very hard decisions were to be made. Just to refresh your memory, you can read my blog post here from October 27, 2010.

This year has been much different.

We now find ourselves in a position, that in my tenure here (17 years) we have never experienced. In fact, some of our longer-tenured staff and church members say it has never been like this - even when the economy was booming.

What's happening?

We're believing.

We're giving.

We're beginning to live sacrificially and from generous hearts.

Some fear that by sharing this many will say "Well, if the church is doing so well, they don't need my money." I'm sure some will say that, but that's a statement about the individual's spiritual immaturity and lack of understanding of stewardship and generosity.

Our Finance & Stewardship Committee has been monitoring the giving and expenses this year and we now find ourselves as of today about $190,000 in the black. Expenses have been pared down and giving has increased. We truly are seeking to be the very best stewards with all that God has blessed us.

Many say "What a blessing!" That's true, but there's another aspect that we must address. Not only is this a blessing, but it is also a great test.

I believe that we as a church are being tested by God at this moment. The test has to do with practicing what we preach. We preach that giving and generosity and stewardship and planning ahead, and blessing others are all good and biblical. Now, we get to model this.

The Finance & Stewardship Committee has developed a very wise plan, in my estimation, of how to use the funds accrued over our expenses. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction, this team of men and women, along with me, have been praying for godly wisdom regarding this money. In simple terms, we dare not fail this test.

Seeking God's direction for our church is always our desire. It's been interesting sitting in meetings where the discussion has been centered around "What do we do with this money?"

After much prayer and discussion, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our Finance & Stewardship Committee has developed a great plan for these funds, which will become the template for future instances. I thank God for these men and women you have chosen to lead out in this area of financial stewardship.

Simply put, extra monies accrued throughout the year will be placed into three (and eventually two) areas twice a year (End of September and end of March):

  1. 40% will be used to pay off debt and for facility/property enhancements and upgrades.
  2. 30% will be placed in savings to be used for emergencies, with a maximum amount determined. At this time the maximum amount will be approximately $300,000. (Basically, this money is to keep the lights on and the ministries functioning for at least 3 months in the event of dire straits.)

  3. 30% will be given away. Seriously - given away!

Under this plan, the following things will happen here in the next week or so:

  1. Approximately $76,000 will be used in this area for debt reduction and  facility/property enhancements. That means we will pay off the note on the church bus this month. That's approximately $60,000. The remaining $16,000 will be used for either carpet replacement in the balcony foyer of the Worship Center, roof for the Music Suite and Azalea Street home or other immediate needs. This will be determined soon.

  2. Approximately $57,000 will be added to our current $150,000 money market account in savings to be used for emergencies.

  3. Approximately $57,000 will be given to Gospel-centric ministries seeking to grow God's Kingdom globally. The ministries being blessed this month are listed below. This portion of funds seems to be God's test of our church regarding living generously. We could certainly hoard this money and save it all for "a rainy day." We could use it to enhance our buildings and things here on campus. We could even donate it to ministries locally that benefit us. However, I just don't see those options as "passing the test" in this instance. After hearing from the members of our Finance & Stewardship Committee, neither do they.

We have been talking about leaving a legacy as men and women for the next generation. What about leaving a legacy as a church? What about leaving a legacy not just in Clay County, but globally?

China kids That's what God is leading us to do. This is so powerful and based upon the teaching in the Word related to stewardship, taking care of widows and orphans, sowing Gospel seed and living out the Great Commission.

Therefore, the following ministries will receive a financial gift from First Baptist Church in the next week or so. Each one is Gospel-centric and lives are being transformed through their respective ministries. Two are church plants in areas of the country where evangelical witnesses are not plentiful. The soil is being tilled now, and seed is being planted. We want to be a part of this. Two center around the rescue and help of children and orphans. One is a global-impacting ministry based in Jacksonville that impacts people from dramatically different cultural and religious backgrounds with the Gospel.

  1. Legacy Church of Tucson, Arizona. This church plant led by Pastor Chase Delperdang and sponsored by the North American Mission Board is reaching people in one of the most highly humanistic and liberal areas in our nation. Tucson is a difficult place to minister, but seed is being planted and fruit is developing. Go towww.tucsonlegacy.com to read more about Legacy. You can follow Chase on Facebook here.
  2. River City Church of Dubuque, Iowa. This church plant is led by Pastor Josh Dryer. Josh served on staff here at First Baptist a few years ago as our Community Missions Pastor. He has since served as the Interim Pastor at Ancient City Baptist Church in St. Augustine and was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Josh has followed God's call back home to Dubuque in order to plant a Baptist church there. Josh shares of the hardship of planting in an area where many do not attend church, most classify themselves as Catholic (yet, are not active,) and lostness prevails. You can read about the plant here and follow Josh on Facebook here.

  3. "A Ministry" in Jacksonville, FL. (For security reasons, I am not naming this ministry in this posting. Those who attend First Baptist know the ministry and why it is not being named.) The leaders of this teaching and outreach ministry came to our church not too long ago to share of their work. I will not share details here of all they do, but as many of you know because you volunteer there and you were here when their stories where shared, this ministry impacts entire unreached cultures for Christ.

  4. China Nest of Hope in China. This foundation provides orphan care for unwanted children in China. Their mission is deeper than just caring for orphans physically. They have educational programs as well for those who need training. Many in our church have traveled to assist with the orphans and to train adults. They do so much more than orphan care. You can read more about them here.

  5. As Our Own Ministries in India. This ministry, based in Chicago, but working in India rescues girls sold into sex slavery. We are donating funds through "Do Something Now," an initiative through Choice Ministries (also known as the Passion Conferences with Louie Giglio.) Click this link to see the goal and progress of this initiative as well as a description of the rescue. Also, I challenge you to watch this three minute video of what happens to these young girls in India. Click here.

We talk about leaving a legacy. This is part of it. Some will read of these gifts and ask "What do we get out of this?" That's the point! We don't get anything this side of heaven out of this. There is absolutely no tangible return on investment this side of eternity! That's what we, the church, have been telling members of our fellowship for years. Now, we together will model this.

That's radical! And, it should be considered normal.

To God be the glory!

Our desire is to bless other ministries in March 2012. Continue in your faithful giving. Live sacrificially. Live generously. Outlive your life.


The Church Cannot Remain Silent

It's the dirty little secret that we don't talk about in church. It doesn't fit into any of our "ministry boxes" and seems so foreign and unreal.

But. . .it is real.

It is horrific.

And. . .the church cannot ignore it.

It has to do with children.

It has to do with slavery.

It's not the feel-good mission story that we desire to hear.

It's uncomfortable.

It's wretched.

It's sickening.

There are stories reported all too often of young girls who have been kidnapped in our nation. In many cases, the stories continue with reports of sexual abuse, torture and even death.  On rare occasions, there are happy endings, as with Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard. These two young ladies survived their kidnappings, though they still carry the scars from their ordeals.

Unfortunately, not every story ends like Elizabeth's and Jaycee's.

In many cases, there is no rescue or escape.

This brings us to a very significant verse in Scripture. Jesus is speaking of the simple faith required to come to Him. A child-like faith is referenced. In explaining this faith, he shifts emphasis to remind us of His great love for children and consequently, the church's role for protecting them.

Matthew 18:5-6(ESV)
5“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Children are precious to our Lord. This is more than a nice little ditty put to music so our children can sing in church choir. This is a biblical truth and we, the church, the image-bearers of God, are to love and protect children as well.

When atrocious acts against children are made known, we are to stand in the gap and advocate for them. 

While the stories mentioned above and others that make news here in the States rightfully get attention and raise the ire of people in the community and the church, there is a darker part of the story that often gets ignored.

Human-trafficking-india_26 In 2008, I was visiting the International Mission Board site in Richmod, Virginia. I met some other pastors there who were attending the same conference and we had one evening with nothing scheduled to do. We drove into town to catch a movie and the Liam Neeson thriller "Taken" was playing. The movie is exciting and, as a parent, terrifying. The story is of a teenage girl who travels to Europe with her friend only to be kidnapped by sex traffickers. Of course, in this Hollywood rendition, the father of one of the teenage girls just happens to "have a certain set of skills" that most father's do not. He travels to Europe and systematically takes out the kidnappers and rescues his daughter (sorry for the spoiler.) 

What makes the story so frightening for parents is that sex trafficking of young girls throughout the world is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and occurs more than we would like to admit. It's not Hollywood fiction. It's real.

Unfortunately, in just about every case, there is no super-adventure dad with a "certain set of skills" working to rescue these young ladies. They find themselves abused, tortured, and hopeless.

That's one of the reasons we, as a church, are partnering with Do Something Now and gifting As Our Own ministries with approximately $10,000 to help rescue and redeem young girls in India sold as sex slaves. This amount of money isn't much, really, but partnered with donations from other believers, we pray that resources and encouragement will be provided. As Our Own is a Gospel-centric ministry working to rescue these young ladies and introduce them to the One who can give them life, hope and a future.

We must not ignore what is happening.

We cannot continue to sit idly by and wish someone would do something about this.

Prayer is key. Keep praying.

Support is essential. That's why we're giving.

You may not see this as a needed ministry. Perhaps you are not certain the church should even be involved. Please, take a few minutes and watch this video. I believe it will clarify some things for you. It did for me.

The Story of Seema from As Our Own on Vimeo.


The Legacy of Father

01 The Legacy of Dad

This message is one that resonates with me. I have shared it in different formats and venues over the past ten years. Sometimes, it's shared at a retreat setting. Sometimes in a small group. Most often in a one-on-one discussion with men. Today, since we are working through the series of messages on leaving a legacy, it seemed appropriate to remind dads of their great value and power in the lives of their children.

The intent of the message is not to beat men down for failing to step up, but to raise them up to be the men God has created them to be.

I showed a number of clips from the upcoming theatrical release "Courageous." The powerful music video by Casting Crowns is linked below.

  

Where are you men of courage?


Pat's Wrong: Alzheimer's Is Not a Pass to Divorce Spouse

Apparently, on yesterday's broadcast of the 700 Club, Pat Robertson made some pretty over-the-top and controversial statements. That, in and of itself, is not newsworthy or surprising.

This time he was not speaking about politics or God's judgment on nations or anything else that has pushed him to the front page of the mainstream media as in the past. In this situation, he was answering questions from viewers in the show's advice segment.

I do not watch the show but according to Tobin Grant's blog post on the Christianity Today website, Robertson was asked by a woman how she should address a friend who was dating another woman "because his wife as he knows her is gone."

Alzheimers-couple The "gone" reference had to do with the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. Apparently, the friend's wife suffers from Alzheimer's and is in an assisted living facility. She does not recognize her husband. She has no memory of their past. He is a stranger to her every time he visits.

So, he has started seeing another woman and is contemplating divorcing his ill wife in order to marry or at least, continue "guilt free" the relationship with the other woman.

Now, I readily admit that I have never been in the situation that this gentleman is in. I don't even pretend to know the anquish, frustration and heartbreak experienced when one's spouse is "gone" but still alive.

Regardless, when Robertson was asked what to do in this situation, he responded the following way:

That is a terribly hard thing. I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awrul things because here is a loved one - this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years and suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But, I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But, to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.

What?

Seriously?

That's the pastoral, wise counsel offered?

At this point, his co-host, Terry Meeuswon asked "But isn't that the vow that we take when we marry someone? That it's for better or for worse. For richer or poorer?"

It seems that Terry was shocked at Pat's response and was trying to clarify, hoping he really didn't mean what he said. Apparently, he did.

There are numerous examples from within our own fellowship of believers of couples who have faced this scenerio. A few come to mind now who have or are living this out and their response to their loved ones are testimonies of what "for better or worse" and the sanctity of the marriage vows mean. Is it easy for them. Oh no. They would readily admit that. However, there is an understanding of the seriousness God gives to the marriage vows and the responsibility of the spouse to stand firm for a lifetime.

The article by Grant references the story of Robertson McQuilkin, who twenty years ago ended his tenure of 22 years as president of Columbia Bible College and Seminary. He was faced with this very situation and ended his tenure at the college in order to care full-time for his wife, Murial. Murial died in 2003 after suffering for 25 years with the disease. McQuilkin explained his decision in an article written about him following his resignation from the school:

When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, "in sickness and in health. . .till death do us part?" This was no grim duty to which I stoically resigned. However, it was only fair. She had, after all, cared for me for almost four decades with marvelous devotion; now it was my turn. And such a partner she was! If I took care of her for 40 years, I would never be out of her debt.

Now, that's a good answer.

Even non-believers hear this question and think "What? That's so wrong!" Why? Because they've seen the movie "The Notebook" most likely.

The bottom line is that Alzheimer's Disease is not an excuse to get married. If the question must be asked, the reality is the person already knows it's wrong. It reeks of self-centeredness and is always partnered with the question "Well, doesn't God want me to be happy?"

Simple answer - "No. He wants you to be holy."

Sorry Pat, you're wrong.


"I Hate All Muslims". . . What???

I heard a Christian man say the words in the title of this post not too long ago. I couldn't believe it. How could such a statement be made? It was stated in response to updates on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. The vitriol was strong and the sentiments were clear.

Many have expressed the same thing, I'm sure. 

When the towers and the Pentagon were attacked and United 93 was going down, such sentiments were shared. However, the question remains ten years later "How can a follower of Christ make such a statement?"

Two days ago we remembered collectively as a nation the horrors of September 11, 2001. On this tenth anniversary, memorials were unveiled, extended introductions and anthems were played at NFL games and numerous churches hosted special 9/11 Remembrance events. It was a somber, but needed time of remembrance as healing continues.

Hearing from Joe Smaha last Sunday at First Baptist Church of Middleburg (I had encouraged our church members to visit this sister church for the special service) was touching and challenging. Smaha is a pastor, but also a firefighter in New Jersey and ten years ago was a first responder with his HazMat unit to the World Trade Center in New York City. His stories of coming through the Lincoln Tunnel and arriving on the scene were horrific. This was more than hearing from a news report. This was a first hand account, and though the story was ten years old, it was fresh and powerful.

Smaha's message this evening was clear - God is in control. His sovereignty is secure. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. . .and in the midst of crisis.

He made  it clear that hope and life is built upon a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Muslim_man_at_prayer I'm reminded of the emotions I was feeling that day. There was an anger welling up inside of me. It was tinted with a fear and spilled over into my message to our students that next evening at church. I felt, as many did and do, anger at those who perpetrated such horrors.

I agreed and agree with President Bush when he referred to the acts and those who perpetrated them as "evil." 

In fact, I do hate the evil acts that were done. I hate that the Enemy has so blinded many on this planet that evil is celebrated and godliness is ignored.

I do not hide behind political correctness and believe that the teachings of radical Islam and radical Islamic leaders are foundational to the attacks and other terrorist actions in our world.

However, I cannot say "I hate all Muslims."

Why?

Is it because Islam is truly a religion of peace? No. I do not believe that and even if it were, that would not be sufficient.

Is it because we should be tolerant of all religious beliefs? No. In fact, as a born again believer in Christ, believing the Word of God to be inerrant and fully true, I'm considered pretty intolerant. I believe that there is only one way to God and heaven and life and that one way is Jesus Christ.

In truth, that is why I cannot say "I hate all Muslims." 

There are currently between 3 and 7 million Muslims in America. Many live on the First Coast. These people aren't just "over there" on the other side of the ocean. They are in our neighborhoods. They attend our schools. They are co-workers.

They are lost.

They do not know the Answer. They do not know the Word. They do not know Jesus. Rest assured, we do NOT all worship the same God and just call Him different names. Allah and Jesus are not the same!

Yet, they need the truth.

This same Jesus who died on a cross as payment for my filthy sins and honored the Father who "so loved the world" died for "those people" as well.

All people.

"For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16 ESV

I know some will read this and not be happy with my take here. Many have lost loved ones in the attacks and the subsequent wars. You may believe that I just don't "get it." I understand your feelings. Truly, I do.

Let me clarify some things here just in case you really don't know me, or are confused by how I have worded things. Here are some facts:

  • I am an American, and a proud one.
  • I am patriotic.
  • I love what our flag represents.
  • I am the son of a career military man, and very proud of that. (Go Air Force!)
  • I whole-heartedly support our men and women in the military and pray for them and their families.
  • I hate what occured on September 11, 2001.
  • I believe the acts of terrorism on that day and others were acts of cowardice and evil.
  • I believe that spiritual battles are more severe than even physical ones.
  • I empathize and feel for those who lost loved ones on September 11 and in the subsequent wars.
  • As I watch retrospective films and documentaries about 9/11, I still tear up and feel the anger and frustration as when these acts occurred.
  • I supported then and support now the military action against nations harboring terrorists.
  • I do not believe all religions are worshipping the same God just calling him different names.
  • I do not believe that at its core, Islam is a "religion of peace."
  • I do not believe "multi-faith" discussion panels and watered down religious gatherings that attempt to honor all religions are worth anything. (This is due to the absence of the Gospel.)
  • I do not believe I am allowed to "hate" an entire people group and remain faithful to God.

I have friends who grew up devout Muslims and have experienced torture and severe hardship once they came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Some were even thrown in prison for their beliefs and miraculously survived. They know firsthand what it means to be rescued from a dead religion. They know the lies of Islam. They also have family and friends who are still blinded by the lies of the Liar and false religion. They love these family members and friends. So much so, their hearts break knowing that their family rejects the Son of God.

To be missional. . . to be the church. . . to be Christian is to follow His commands.

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. - Matthew 22:37-39 ESV

Who is my neighbor?

That question was asked of Jesus Christ.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” - Luke 10:25-37 ESV

May we go and do likewise.


How to Avoid Having the Worst Obituary Ever

01 Godly Moms 1

What does it mean to leave a legacy?

For some that means leaving behind money and material possessions for children and grandchildren. That's honorable.

But isn't it more than?

What about the legacy of faith? The legacy of love and strength? 

Each of us will leave some form of legacy. The question is "What will it look like?"

What will be said about you at your funeral? That's a good test.

Check out this obituary from 2008 that ran in a local newspaper elsewhere:

Dolores Aguilar, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008. She will be met in the afterlife by her husband, Raymond, her son, Paul Jr., and daughter, Ruby.

She is survived by her daughters Marietta, Mitzi, Stella, Beatrice, Virginia and Ramona, and son Billy; grandchildren, Donnelle, Joe, Mitzie, Maria, Mario, Marty, Tynette, Tania, Leta, Alexandria, Tommy, Billy, Mathew, Raymond, Kenny, Javier, Lisa, Ashlie and Michael; great-grandchildren, Brendan, Joseph, Karissa, Jacob, Delaney, Shawn, Cienna, Bailey, Christian, Andre Jr., Andrea, Keith, Saeed, Nujaymah, Salma, Merissa, Emily, Jayci, Isabella, Samantha and Emily. I apologize if I missed anyone.

Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing.

Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself. As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again.

There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.

Mothers-hand_1024x768 When I started reading this last Sunday there was some laughter (at the "no hobbies" statement) and some "Wow!" statements when I listed all her children. Yet, the tone and mood of the crowd Sunday changed dramatically when I read the rest of the obituary. "Wow!" is a good response, but not as one of amazement, but one of shock.

You know there's a story there and one that is likely to be repeated in the family. That's the tragedy. There's a legacy there as well, but not one any of us would ever desire.

All of us will leave some form of legacy. This message looks to the godly examples of Lois and Eunice (Timothy's mother and grandmother) in Scripture. 

If you have the time, download the attached message in iTunes (click here for the direct link or click "Podcast" in the menu above) or listen to it from this posting. This is the start of a new series of messages titled "Legacy."