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Posts from June 2012

Insights from the Fishing Hole

I am no fisherman. I readily admit that. 

However, while writing this post, I am sitting in a rented RV parked in Bull Shoals State Park in Arkansas. It's beautiful here and apparently, this park and the White River that runs around it are popular destinations for vacationers, fishermen and women and retired people who tour the country in their RVs. 

It's a beautiful place.

My wife has been desiring to come back here for a weekend just like this for years. As a girl, her family would come here regularly and this place holds many fond memories for her. So, for the first time in a long time, we were able to join her parents and other family members for the annual camping trip at Bull Shoals.

Though I am not a fisherman, my father-in-law is and we have spent some time this weekend on the river. It's been fun fishing with my wife and children and in-laws. We have even caught our share of rainbow trout.

Jesus said to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, the professional fishermen, when He called them to follow Him. . .

Matthew 4:19(ESV)
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 

Jesus used their profession as a way of introducing them to a higher calling. 

Jesus called men from many different professions, but you don't hear him telling Matthew, "Follow me and I will make you tax collectors of men." So there must be an intentionality about this fish analogy.

After a full couple of days of fishing, with at least one more ahead of me, here are some simple observations about fishing for fish and how it relates to fishing for men. I'm sure none of this is original, but it's what's coming to mind right now.

  • I DON'T HAVE THE GIFT OF FISHING. Being a non-fisherman is not a good excuse for not fishing. I could have stayed in the RV while everyone else fished, but then I would have missed out on the fun and the stories of the day. I've heard many believers say "I don't have the gift of evangelism." Interesting how that one line can keep many believers from ever sharing the Gospel.
  • I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO DO NEXT. It's good to go fishing with someone who has done it before. The value of a mentor is clear here. My father-in-law is a great fisherman, but he's a better teacher. He is patient and allows for mistakes, but if you listen well, you can learn to fish. A new believer can fish for men immediately, but it is good to have a mentor as well. God always seems to provide an older, wiser believer to walk along side us on our journey.
  • THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT SEEMS SMALL. I cast the line many, many times and only had two bites (well, two that stayed on the hook.) Since the daily limit is five, it appears that very few fishermen catch a fish every time they cast the line. Perspective shows us the value of every casting of the line. I had no idea which casting would result in a fish. However, if I had not cast the line I am certain I would have caught nothing. It's amazing how valueable those two fish seem right now. When sharing the Gospel, all too often we become discouraged. Many stop. The truth is if you stop sharing, you will lead no one to Christ.
  • JUST ONE CATCH ENERGIZES YOU TO KEEP FISHING. It's amazing how catching one fish can energize you to try to catch more. I caught one early this morning. Before catching that trout, I had convinced myself that if I didn't catch any, it would be OK. Then, I had convinced myself that if I could just catch one, that would be enough. Once I caught one. . .well, I wanted another.
  • 06-30-2012 - Ashley fishing Bull ShoalsTHERE IS GREAT JOY IN SEEING OTHERS CATCH AS WELL. Unless you're in a competition (and many times, especially with family and siblings, it is a competetion) there is joy when others catch fish. My wife, Tracy caught four today. My daughter, Ashley caught three. My son, Daniel caught two. Each time, we celebrated. I also noticed something else. Whenever another boat would come by or another fishermen would arrive on the bank, the question "How many have you caught?" would come up. There are apparently enough fish in this river for every fisherman and then some. Therefore, we weren't jealous when others were successful catching fish and we even celebrated when others found success. 
  • THERE IS MUCH WORKING AGAINST US. There are forces that work against the fisherman easily catching a fish. The flow of the river, the tangling of hooks on the bottom, the continual distractions from other boats on the river, and the fish seemingly not wanting to be caught all work against us. Consequently, fishing, though worth it, is not easy.
  • RESULTS VARY. Some days you will catch the limit. Other days, you won't have a nibble. It will seem that nothing has changed, but apparently things have. There is value in using what works as bait, but there are times the bait needs to be upgraded, the timing must be different and the seasons must be observed. In other words, what works one day in catching fish may not work the next.
  • THE LAW STILL MATTERS. As we were on our boat bringing in the trout a couple of nice guys boated up to us. They were congenial and easy to talk with. However, they each had badges on and were visiting with us on official business. The Fish & Wildlife Game Wardens (or Water Police as my wife called them) came to check our licenses and to see if we were over our limit. Everything was good. They went along their way. We live under grace, but the law was not thrown out. In fact, Christ said he came to fulfill, not abolish the law. So. . .we learned today there was a right (legal) way to fish and a wrong (illegal) way to fish. 
  • IT'S BETTER WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER. I caught my first fish while on the shore alone this morning. The rest of the family had taken the boat to the other side of the river. However, being the non-fisherman, I had no tools but my rod and reel. That was enough to hook the fish, but he (the fish) had swallowed the hook and my fat fingers couldn't fit in his mouth deep enough to get the hook out. I needed some pliers or trout scissors to remove this hook. I worked on him for about fifteen minutes to no avail. My father-in-law and nephews with tools were on the other side of the river, so I just sat there wondering how I could fix this. I tried using the stringer to no avail. Finally, I asked the dear lady fishing downstream from me if she had any trout scissors I could borrow. She did and of course, we began to talk. I met a new friend, removed the hook from my fish and was able to continue fishing. 
  • 06-30-2012 - David Bull ShoalsOTHERS MAY NOT UNDERSTAND HOW BIG OF A DEAL YOUR FISH IS. Not everyone may be as excited about your catch as you are. Don't worry about other's perceptions. That fish is a big deal. Believe me, that fish realizes how big a deal it was that he was hooked. The Bible states that angels rejoice in heaven each time a soul is saved. Sometimes Christians dumb down salvations to just numbers. Remember, each number is a person. Each person is a soul. Each soul is a big deal.

It's been a good day. Everyone is tired right now and very thankful the RV has air conditioning. It's only 106 degrees outside.

Oh, and the picture of my fish. . .well, in real life, it was larger than it appears here. You believe that, don't you?


Time for a Reboot?

Sometimes, it's just better to reboot.

SpidermenThis summer the film "The Amazing Spider-Man" opens starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The trailer has been out for months and it appears the film will be good. At a minimum, it will make millions on merchandising. However, it appears this film is confusing for some fans.

For those who watched and were fans of the previous Spider-Man films with Tobey Maguire as the web slinger, this film is creating some questions, especially for the casual fan. Questions such as:

  • Is this a prequel?
  • What happened to Mary Jane?
  • How does this fit into the other three movies?
  • What about Harry Osborn?

The same type of questions were asked by movie fans when "X-Men: First Class" came out. Most fanboys are so frustrated with all X-Men sequels and spin-offs since X-2, they're hoping for another reboot.

I'm sure similar questions and frustrations will come when "Man of Steel" opens in 2013. The new Superman film is the latest attempt to reclaim some of the excitement of the original "Superman: The Movie" starring Christopher Reeve.

It's just a matter of time before most of the superhero movies being made will be rebooted. There are varied reasons for rebotting such as poor initial outing (anyone remember Hulk?) or weak writing (Fantastic Four), or less than stellar sequels (Batman & Robin). Most often, the decisions to reboot have to do with money. Go figure. In the case of some, it's related to ownership of the characters and the forfeiture of such if new projects were to cease. 

Sometimes, the reboot is a great idea. In the best case scenerio, the reboot doesn't take away from the original at all.

Take the Batman series for example. I'm not referencing the campy Batman film starring Adam West of the 1960s, but the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton film of 1989. While at the time, many were wondering if this Burton vehicle would be watchable, mainly because of the Keaton casting at the Caped Crusader, the box office results were incredible. It's artistic noir take was a hit and Jack Nicholson's Joker stole the show. The first sequel "Batman Returns" was successful as well. The remaining ones were. . .well, not up to par, but when Christopher Nolan rebooted the stories with "Batman Begins" in 2005, it proved that rebooting popular franchises, when done well, are worth the effort.

SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CHURCH?

I tend to see everything through the lens of the church. That even includes superhero movies. Maybe that's a holdover from my childhood love of comic books.

Nevertheless, as I see how the film studios continue to reboot classic characters and stories, I begin asking questions about rebooting and new beginnings as it relates to the local church.

Businesses understand the need for change. Those who do not, soon find themselves fighting for survival and market share. 

Change is not an option when it comes to the message. The Gospel is the message and not up for change. The methods of sharing this message, however, have changed numerous times throughout the years.

The way churches are organized, staffed, scheduled, etc. often have more to do with tradition and historical expectations rather than biblical instruction or cultural impact. Consequently, we hire pastors to fill positions based upon task or people group. We staff small groups based on a structure that has worked well for years. In some cases we continue to replicate a strategy that was successful decades ago.

I have heard church strategists and godly missional thinkers speak on this for years. It's strange. I go to conferences where "Change the methods but not the message" is proclaimed and the crowd says "AMEN!" but when back home, nothing happens.

We continue to just do what has been done for years, even when the results (i.e. salvations, community impact, mission engagement) show that it's time to reevaluate.  

And the world we have been called to reach for the Gospel continues to be unreached.

I heard one leader say (I think it was Ed Stetzer) that most Baptist churches are perfectly structured to reach the culture of the 1950s. Wow!

We wonder why churches are not as effective in impacting our communities for the Gospel.

We are perfectly organized to get the results we are getting.

Maybe it's time for a reboot. Not a reboot of the message. Never. But a reboot of the things that we have added and created over the decades that may be keeping the message from being communicated and the mission field from being engaged.

Have you ever noticed how churches tend to add more and more things that are seemingly "good ideas" and over time become so fully calendared with "events" and "good things" that sometimes the "God things" aren't being done.

More is not always better. Just look at those superhero movies. In the original Batman and Spider-Man series of films the writers kept adding more and more characters. By the end run, there were so many costumed people on the screen, the story was muddied. Of course, I said more is not always better. Sometimes more works well ("The Avengers") but it's rare.

Rather than just hire staff for functions that have existed for decades, maybe it's time to relook at how we're organized to impact and engage the culture for the sake of Gospel and staff accordingly?

Rather than just fill a calendar with events that are "just like last year's" we need to look once again at how and when we do things through the church.

It's not so much that we need something new. In fact, there's nothing new under the sun anyway, so it's not about new.

It's about the Gospel. 

It's a constant challenge, but I'm just wondering. . .is it time for a reboot?


Preach the Word

01 08 - Preach the Word


2 Timothy 4:1-5(ESV) 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Preach_the_wordPaul is charging Timothy – he is speaking into his life as a father-figure, a mentor, a spiritual leader and a friend. It’s a powerful statement, held until the closing of Paul’s letter to the young pastor. A charge is something not to be made flippantly. In fact, just using the term gives a sense of seriousness to the occasion.

A charge is never something that can be done easily. Yet, it is something that is possible, if the hearer stays focused.

This charge was given with a pretty powerful wrapping “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.”

This challenge before you is possible. You have what it takes, but you need to know this isn’t just me saying “Do this.” This is stated under the power and vision of God almighty. A challenge cloaked in the sovereignty and power of God. You’d better listen.

This is a message to Timothy, to the pastor, yet goes deeper than that. This is the message for every Christian, every believer that has been called to minister in God’s name. That, by the way, is every believer because all have been called.

The charge is summed up in three words: PREACH THE WORD

Now when we hear the word preach, we think about Sunday mornings, especially in our church culture. The preaching is what happens after we sing a few songs.

Preaching is not always sought by people. Other than church folks, how many people in our community, in your workplace, in your family, seek to be preached to? In fact, the concept of “preaching” to someone comes across as pretty negative.

People see preaching as simply a monologue, and we like dialogue.

The problem with this has been seen in many churches in how they build their small groups or Bible study classes. Even house churches fall into this trap at times. People sit in little groups and says “What do you think?”

A topic is thrown in the middle and the next hour is everyone saying “Well, what do you think? What do you think? I think this. Well, I think this.”

There’s no proclamation. There’s no instruction. It’s just an opinion sharing group.

Now, it’s not bad for people to have these opportunities to share their thoughts or beliefs. It’s not bad for a congregation to respond to the preached word, but how can that happen unless the Word is first preached? Otherwise, you’re opinionating on sandy foundations. 

Another thing about preaching is that people have really short attention spans, especially in Western culture. We hear of churches in Asia that meet for six or seven hours straight. Some have done this here in the States at times, but for the most part , we like our sermons short.

I’ve never heard anyone ever complain that a sermon was too short.   

Be ready in season and out of season

 Did you know there was a preaching season? 

What does this mean to us today about being ready to preach the Word in season and out of season? It’s not that there’s a “season” to proclaim the Word like there’s a baseball or football season or even a weather related season like summer or winter. In fact, “season” here does not refer to a time of year.

The “season” has to do with the readiness of the believer. It’s pretty clear here that the disciple of Christ is to be prepared at all times to proclaim the Word. Therefore, the child of God must know the Word. Otherwise, how will you be ready?

Do you feel ready?

What do you do when you are ready?

Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, 

The fact is that there are many who wear the title “Christian” who only love the first two – reprove and rebuke. While not to minimize these two vital aspects of preaching and sharing the Gospel, there seem to be many who read just part of the verse, park on these two and allow themselves to rise to a Pharisaical legalism that becomes a “holier than thou” mentality.

Reprove means to correct and make right.

Rebuke means to express sharp disapproval of actions

Exhort means to encourage

These are all facets of public ministry.

  • Preach – proclamation
  • Reprove – correction
  • Rebuke – identification
  • Exhort – communication

These are pretty severe instructions, but look at the guidelines.

With complete patience and teaching.

Neither the aspect of complete patience or using moments as teachable are optional.

Our culture has developed to a place where the “correction, rebuking and preaching” can happen seemingly apart from patience and teaching. Unfortunately, many believers live like this is OK.

It is not.

It has infected the evangelism strategy of many churches. This type of evangelism is a waste.

Reggie McNeal calls it “drive by evangelism.”

We have perfected it in modern evangelicalism. The “drive by evangelists” work off a scorecard that determines “wins” simply by how many doors have been knocked upon, how many tracts have been distributed, how many people attended an event, how many Evangicubes have been shown, etc.

While each and every one of those tools are good, they have been corrupted.

Paul is saying to Timothy and therefore through the inspired Word, God is saying to us that we are to be wise and active. Preach the word – YES! Speak truth – YES! Give correction – YES! But do so in love for the sake of the Gospel. Be patient.

Last week we held Vacation Bible School. Hundreds of children were on this campus playing games, doing crafts, learning songs and most importantly being taught the truths of the Gospel.

Can you imagine being in a craft room working with a young child, trying to help them put together the project of the day? Some of you can, because you did.

What if you showed the child the project and after they worked at it for about, oh say, 30 seconds, you became so frustrated with their inability to stick the stickers or glue the pieces or thread the yarn or whatever the craft entailed that you quickly took it from them and said “Oh let me have this. I’ll do it. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

You’d be wrong on so many levels and many of you would be appalled that something like that would happen.

Yet, that’s often how we present the Gospel.

"Here, pray this prayer. Repeat after me. Hurry up you lousy sinner."

There’s an urgency. I understand that. The urgency is that of the Gospel. However, I fear that many who have been counted on scorecards as “wins” for Jesus simply prayed a prayer without knowing what they were doing, who they were praying to and what it means to be a disciple.

Now, why is this so vital? Because, as Paul said in verses 3 and 4 . . .

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 Paul said the time is coming. I say the time is here.

The sound teaching of the Truth is not always welcomed. People want sound bytes, quick feel-good statements that are good, but not enough. One of the great things we talked about last week was the introduction of chapters and verses in Scripture back about 600 years ago. However, though chapter and verse makes it easy to find the desired verses, it also leads us to ignore context and “the rest of the story.”

People have “itching ears” which leads to becoming disciples of teachers who refuse to go to the hard portions of the Bible. Many of these teachers aren’t believers but nevertheless have large followings. It may be from the pulpit of a talk show or a book or website. Motivational thoughts and feel good fluff that are only good for a season, but not all seasons.  People love to gain affirmation from others. In fact, I know some who will get “advice” on life from many different people until they find someone who says what they already want to do.

When truth is presented – and though the truth will set you free, the truth sometimes is painful to recognize – people run.

People will believe lies and myths before acknowledging truth.

Why? Because we don’t like to be preached to.

Understand this, whomever is teaching, advising, leading, encouraging or affirming you that doesn’t have a firm foundation on the Word of God, that person is evil and so is their advice.

Apart from the Gospel, we are all evil.

As for you. . .

Christian, disciple, as for you. . .

  • Be sober minded
  • Endure suffering
  • Do the work of an evangelist
  • Fulfill your ministry

This is the Christ-followers calling, not just the preacher’s.

  • We must renew our minds regularly. We must be in the Word. The Word must be in us. We must not let the media, the world, our neighbors, our relatives, talk show hosts or anyone else who is separated from the Gospel and is not living filled with the Spirit of God determine how we view things. Be smart. Be sober minded. Clear.
  • We will be persecuted. All who desire to be godly will. Most of us have never faced this, but if we step into this story deeply we will. For some that is scary and will keep them from discovering the joy of real life. For the rest of us, it’s dangerous and painful and terrible, but so very worth it. Don't waste your suffering.
  • This one gets us. We must ALL do the work of an evangelist. It’s not a calling for a few. It’s the calling for all Christ followers. This is not a drive by or a program or a visitation strategy. This is about believers living with a Kingdom mindset. It’s not about growing a church. It’s not about increasing attendance. It’s not about getting that kid to pray a prayer. It’s about doing the work of an evangelist, a true disciple of Christ, hearing, obeying and what we’ve been told is to PREACH THE WORD, REPROVE, REBUKE, EXHORT WITH PATIENCE AND TEACHING.

But we cannot teach what we do not know. 

So. . .do you know this Jesus?

 


Historic Day for Southern Baptists

Today will go down in Southern Baptist history as one of the most important in our history. Believe me, it has nothing to do with removing DVDs from our Lifeway bookstores. Today, Dr. Fred Luter, Jr., Pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans was elected as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. What makes this historic is that Dr. Luter is the first African-American to ever hold the position. 

LuterIt's an important day for Southern Baptists. Our denomination, which was founded 167 years ago for the purpose of furthering the Gospel, but with an overt commitment to segregation, made a long overdue shift. Some in our tribe bristled at the 1995 public apology for our historic race stances. I heard from some who wondered why we would need to apologize for the sins of our fathers, especially when many in the founding generations never realized nor acknowledged their stance on race to be sinful. 

The fact of the matter is that over the years believers are still realizing how to view and live in community with others. When sinful behaviors and beliefs are exposed, it is then the child of God's responsibility to "own" that sin, take responsibility and deal with it rightly (i.e. through repentance.) A public apology for the sins of our fathers allowed us to collectively state that we affirm equality under God for all people, regardless of skin tone, race or cultural heritage.

If not for that statment in 1995, in my opinion, today's election may not have happened.

This year Dr. Luter ran unopposed. His election was not a statement about race, but he is who he is -  an African-American pastor placed by God as the face of the Southern Baptist Convention for such a time as this. When his election was announced, he was greeted with a standing ovation. 

Dr. Luter is going to be a great  president. This is not due to the color of his skin (wasn't this part of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream?) but due to his character and his heart for God and desire to see the Gospel proclaimed throughout the world. God has used him to grow a community impacting church in New Orleans (B.K. and A.K - Before Katrina and After Katrina.) He has led his church to increase giving to the Cooperative Program as well as other Great Commission missions endeavors. 

Perhaps Dr. Luter's election, just as with Dr. Johnny Hunt's a few years ago (Dr. Hunt is of Native American heritage) will be used by God to express to the church and the world alike that in His eyes, skin tone is irrelevant (1 Samuel 16:7).

I am proud Dr. Luter will be serving in this role for the next year (and most likely the following.) Since he has stepped into this part of the story, I urge all believers to pray for him on a regular basis. He will be the target of attacks, spiritually as well as physically. The Southern Baptist Convention is a unique denominational expression, so Dr. Luter is not our pastor, bishop, pope or leader in the conventional denominational sense. He is our lead servant and strategist. Oh, and he still is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. Pray for him, his family and others who have been elected to serve in vital positions for the SBC during this year's convention.


A Lifetime of Learning in Three Days

I will not be re-posting here on my blog every update about young Drew Wood, the four year old in our church battling leukemia (with strength from God and some really cool Batman pajamas.) His mom and dad (Mandi & Jon) are giving us updates via Facebook and personal conversations, so there's no need for me to repeat them here.

Drew BatmanHowever, Jon did post something on Facebook this morning that has really struck a chord. I will post it here because I want to be able to find it later when it scrolls off everyone's Facebook Timeline. 

Here's Jon's post:

5 Things I Learned in 3 Days:

  1. Mandi Wood is stronger spiritually and emotionally than I could have ever imagined. I am so thankful to be married to her. God is her anchor and right now she is Drew's. 
  2. Our faith family at First Baptist Church of Orange Park is truly a family. 
  3. Drew's doctor and other doctors like my brother-in-law Jason Baggett are a unique gift of grace from God. Thank you Lord for their oversized brains and unwavering dedication. 
  4. Suffering is not abnormal. My thirty years of health, wealth and prosperity was abnormal. On Friday, we stepped into the world of suffering only to find that the rest of the world had been there the entire time. 
  5. Songs and Bible verses about suffering make a whole lot more sense when you're actually experiencing some.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for Drew. As I laid Drew in his hospital bed tonight, I asked him if he wanted to go home. He said "No, I like it here more." :-)

You're wise beyond your years Jon Wood. 


When God Interrupts Our "Worship" Services

 

01 Ever Present

 

Byt he time the 10:45am worship service began yesterday (June 17,) I felt something would be different on this day. Granted the first two services of the day were good. Attendance was up at both 8am and 9:15am (though I fully acknowledge that attendance is not the determining factor of whether or not a worship service was good.) The spirit of our people was positive and strong and the worship was sweet.

768x560However, something was changing.

Maybe it was a sense of holy discontent.

I felt that we were entering a potentially dangerous hour. It was dangerous because the ability to totally miss what God was doing was evident. As the church began to sing together and once we had moved through the obligatory "Welcome to First Baptist. . .now go shake someone's hand" portion of the gathering, I sensed the Spirit of God beginning to move.

There have no doubt been some challenges and difficult days among our church family. We have experienced three funerals within the past month, with another coming this weekend. We have numerous people on our prayer list battling life threatening disease. A number of our married couples are struggling in their marriages. Some are newly single, and not by their own choice. Parents are heartbroken over their children. 

These are some hard times.

Yet, they're not unique. This is the challenge of humanity.

As the praise team was singing the song "Made Me Glad" it became apparent.

This would not be a normally scripted Sunday morning.

This morning we sang, read Psalm 61 and fell on our faces before our Holy God.

The audio of the service is attached. However, be aware that much of the service was spent listening to the music and praying on our faces.

God stepped in and reminded us that He is our Strong Tower, our Shield, and our Ever Present Help in time of need.

Oh, do we need Him now.

Since some of the music is not on the link, here's a version of Made Me Glad for you. . .

 


The Treasure That's Often Taken for Granted

 02 07- The Treasure Taken For Grante

 Yesterday, during the 8am and 9:15am services, I preached a messaged titled "The Treasure That's Taken for Granted." This message is part of our "Finish Well" series looking at Paul's second letter to Timothy.

I believe the value of the words here are deep. The treasure that is so often ignored is the Word of God made available to us. I post this here with more details of the written sermon than usual. 

Yesterday was a unique Sunday. At the 10:45am service, I truly felt the Holy Spirit leading us to a different portion of Scripture and a time of prayer. I will be posting the audio for that service as well very soon. However, most of the audio is just music playing in the background in that a large number of our people were spending the service on their knees praying and crying out to God. 

BibleWe open our Bibles each week as we gather or read the verses together as they’re projected on the screen. Yet, I fear that many times we take for granted that we even have the Bible.

The word "Bible" means book. The word "Scripture" means writing. We refer to our holy writings as both at times. "Get your Bible. Take your copy of the Scriptures. Etc."

When we are talking about the Bible, we’re referring to the one book that is comprised of many smaller books. The one book – the Bible, is comprised of 66 smaller books, from Genesis to Revelation. Of the 66 books, 39 are classified as the Old Testament. 27 are called the New Testament. These smaller books were written over a time period of about 1500 years by around 40 different authors. The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew while the New Testament was mostly penned in Greek with some Aramaic and Hebrew as well.

Authors included people who were wealthy and poor, young and old, highly educated and uneducated, single, married and other descriptors.

Regardless how many other books make the NY Times Best Seller List, the Bible remains and will remain the bestselling book in the history of the world.

Though there are 66 different books, they all point to one subject – the glory of God. Jesus Christ is the central character, as well as the true author, as God inspired each of the human writers to pen what they did. Jesus is also the hero of the story.

Events within the Bible are the facts upon which even our calendar is based today. The Old Testament is before Jesus Christ. The New Testament begins with Christ’s birth and gives us the narrative of his life, death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven and continues with the stories of the first century church with an emphasis that even though the book is complete, God is still at work, in that there are chapters written, but yet to be played out (that would be Revelation and the prophecies of the second coming of Christ.)

Something we take for granted about the Bible is the process that occurred to enable us to have a copy. When I asked how many in attendance owned a Bible, 99% of hands went up. I asked how many have more than one copy, the response was still overwhelming. Most of us have numerous Bibles, not counting the editions on our smartphones or computers.

Those who have gone before us, claiming to follow Christ, desired that people be able to have a copies of the Bible in their own language. The fact that common people like you and I have Bibles today is owed to the many who gave their lives throughout history so that we could have this.

At some point in history, the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic was translated into Latin. The first translation was done by a man named Jerome. He translated the Bible into the common language of the day – Latin. That’s known as the Vulgate translation.

In the late 1300s and early 1400s a man named John Wycliffe desired to translate the Latin into English so the common people could read it. Sounds good, but he was faced with fierce opposition in the church. His translation never made it to publishing because before he could publish it, the people of his land captured him and burned him alive for attempting such a thing.

The Word of God is not be sequestered for just a “holy few” but is intended for every man, woman, boy and girl to read and understand.

Years after Wycliffe was matyred, others worked to get copies of the Word to the people. However, even the Bibles that were available were hard to come by. Before the invention of the printing press, there were no stacks of Bibles in stores to purchase. If you wanted a copy of the Bible, you would need to purchase one, but because they were all hand-copied, most people couldn’t afford them. It could take a life savings to buy one Bible.

If we knew someone who had a Bible and we wanted one, we’d have to learn Latin, translate it into our language and then copy it page by page by hand.

Then Johannes Guttenberg came along. He invented this thing called a printing press. It was revolutionary. It literally changed the world. The reality is that the printing press was invented so that the Bible would become widely available to a larger group of people. Guttenberg died penniless, but leaves a legacy we still celebrate.

Around the same time a man in Switzerland who was working with the Jews came along. His name was Ulrich Zwingli. His desire was to make the Bible available to the Swiss and German people in their languages.

He was hated because of this. He died in battle. When the enemy discovered it was him, they chopped up his body and burned the remains. Why? Because they didn’t want people reading the Bible.

The first man to provide a copy of the Bible in our language was William Tyndale. It was the late 1400s and early 1500s. He translated the Bible on the run. Why? Because there was a bounty on his head. So, as he’s running for his life, he’s translating the bible into English.

He was finally captured. He was chained to a pole for public execution. He was strangled. They knew if they didn’t do this, he’d keep preaching to them while they set the fire below him. They didn’t want to hear it. He was martyred.

In later years there was group known as the Pilgrims. They desired to be able to read the Bible freely. They boarded some ships and headed over the ocean to this continent to find a place to worship and read the Bible freely.

The Puritans were next. The proliferation of the Scriptures in this new land occurred. This became the backbone of education in the new world. The first 100 colleges in the US were Christian. There was no public education for the first 100+ years of American history. The only people involved in education and literacy were Christians.

They didn’t have to rely on an organization, apostles, a secret leader, the Pope, an elected official or an earthly king, or anyone else. They could and we can, just pick up a Bible and read it for ourselves and know God through it. The amazing thing is that the same Holy Spirit that inspired the writers thousands of years ago dwells in you, child of God. His Word reveals truth. His Word reveals Life. His Word reveals the way. His Word reveals the Word.

The Bible is God's story revealed for you and me. It has power. It comes with the authority of God. It takes down kings. It changes society. It transforms hearts and minds. It renews people. The Word of God, when it is unleashed, it goes out in the earth like Isaiah 55 says that it will and it accomplishes what God intends for it to do.

Just don't take it for granted.

 


A Strong Faith. . .One of Our Girls Having Surgery Today

Many of you know that one of the children in our church family is beginning treatment for leukemia today. Please pray for him as today is "Day One" of a journey of chemo and treatment. (Drew Wood - read more here.) I discovered yesterday afternoon that another child in our family is also at Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville and is having surgery today.

Faith DanielsonFaith Danielson, eleven-year-old daughter of Randy and Corina Danielson, is at Wolfson now. She suffers from a condition known as Chiari Malformation. Like most of you, I had no idea what Chiari Malformation was, so I looked it up. It Here is some info from the Mayo Clinic's site:

Chiari Malformation is a condition in which brain tissue protrudes into your spinal canal.  There are a number of symptoms of this condition such as deeply painful headaches, numbness in extremities, neck pain, unsteady gait and others. 

Faith arrived at Wolfson early this morning and is having the surgery today. She will be in the hospital for at least five days. 

Faith is strong, and she and her family have a strong faith. This is a needed procedure. It's an expensive one. Please pray for Faith and those working with her today. Pray for her healing. Pray for her mom and dad and her brother. Pray for relief to come in the area of finances. I don't know the details. I'm sure they have insurance. It's just that I know things like this are so very expensive, the stress and pressure of paying the debt can be gruesome, so while the priority is the health and healing of Faith, remember the other aspects of a journey such as this as well.


Yesterday Was Just a Normal Day, Until. . .

As many in our church family know, one of our families discovered some troubling news yesterday. Jon and Mandi Wood are faithful members of our family. Jon serves as a Deacon and a small group leader. Mandi has led women's studies in the past and volunteers in numerous areas, such as Vacation Bible School. They have three beautiful children, two boys and a little girl.

Drew woodAfter noticing some bruising on Drew's (the four year old) back and legs and seeing how his stomach seemed larger than normal, Mandi was encouraged to take him in to the pediatrician to have him checked out.

After looking at Drew and a giving him a basic check up, the doctor had great concerns. It was verified that these are the symptoms of leukemia and that Drew needed to be checked out further.

Then the whirlwind began.

Within just the next few hours, Drew had a room at Wolfson Children's Hospital in downtown Jacksonville. The other two children were staying with grandparents. And so the story begins. . .

I called Jon when I first heard about this. The word was that they were concerned and fairly certain it could be leukemia. However, they didn't know anything yet. They were just then on their way to the hospital.

I waited an hour or so and then drove to the hospital to check on them to see the latest.

After blood work and a meeting with the doctor, it was confirmed (well, about 99% confirmed) that Drew has leukemia. 

It's so hard to fathom at times. Here's this little boy who's sitting in a hospital room with mom and dad (and even though these are pretty cool rooms since it's the children's hospital. . .it's still a hospital room) looking tired and just not sure what it going on. We all know the days to come will be challenging for him. Oh to be able to trade places with him. I know that's the desire of any parent.

Mandi and Jon were still in shock, pretty numb, by their own admission. Mandi said, "Yesterday was just a normal day. . .and now, everything is different."

Jon shared how "The things that seemed so important yesterday just don't matter today."

I must say that in the midst of the shock, it was very apparent that God was giving this young couple strength. Oh, there are times of tears and fear of the unknown, but there was and is an overwhelming sense of knowing God is very present through this journey. 

There are so many in our family of faith who face unforeseen difficulties like this. The "prayer list" is long and the needs are so varied. Yet in the midst of all the illnesses and tragic stories, we can know that the same God we sing to and pray to during the "good days" is ever present in the "dark days." 

When Jon shared with me that while he is praying so deeply for God to heal his son, he is also praying that God would draw them (Jon & Mandi) closer to Himself during these days as well. That is our prayer as well. Healing and intimacy.

So what's next for Drew? Well, you can probably get the latest on Facebook from Jon and Mandi's pages or from the grandparents' updates. Today and tomorow will be "routine" days at the hospital with Monday ( June 18) being a big day.

  • Drew will have a port put in on Monday. 
  • Monday will be DAY ONE of chemo treatment for him. 
  • He will have chemo and steroids. 
  • He will also have a spinal tap as well. 
  • It will be a long, hard day for Drew and family. 

Also, the final blood results are not back and the doctor shared that we desire the results come back showing that Drew has the most common type of leukemia, known as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). It is the most easily treated.

So, in your prayer time, consider Drew and the Woods. Pray for a strong Monday! Pray boldly for healing. Pray for a deeper intimacy with God for the entire family through this. Oh, and pray that if it is leukemia, that it is ALL (and that it will be ALL gone very soon.)


The Gospel We Choose VS. the Gospel We Need

01 06 - Appearances


There's a battle within the western church today. It has little to do with style and function. It has to do with foundational elements of biblical truth.

I preached today from 2 Timothy 3. In the first few verses Paul gives descriptive terms that show characteristics and signs of what we know as the last days. The first few are unfortunately very familiar to anyone living in America today. Paul says that in the last days, people will be. . .

  • Lovers of self
  • Lovers of money
  • Proud 
  • Arrogant

Just these first four descriptors open our eyes to the reality that these are the last days. Of course, all days between the ascension and Christ's return can be considered "last days." It's just that the exponential growth and even celebration of these lifestyle characteristics show that our time is short.

The sad reality is that these four characteristics are the natural reactions and responses to what we have come to know as the "American Dream."

The “American Dream” is the national ethos of our country. It is a set of ideals seemingly built upon freedom and liberty but defined in such a way that freedom means the opportunity for personal prosperity and success and the right of upward social mobility achieved through hard work. Author James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream” in his 1931 book The Epic of America.

The root ideas may be good. As Americans, we swell with pride when referencing the "American Dream" and should feel blessed to live in this great experiment of a nation.

The only problem with the concept of the "American Dream" is that it has devolved into a godless mantra and ethos while at first seems righteous, in actuality is the polar opposite of the biblical Gospel. It’s becoming even more clear as we slide into the last days that we have traded the biblical gospel for a cultural one.

We’ve been duped, it seems.

Cross-and-flagThis isn't about patriotism or even Americanism. It's about buying into a philosophy that places self at the center of one's story. The twentieth century "American Dream" philosophy (which, by the way, does not completely equate to our nation's founding Fathers' intentions) leads to self-reliant individuality that focuses so much on self and personal rights that the natural end result can be nothing but prideful, arrogant, self worshipping, greedy individualism.

The tragic thing is that the American church, mostly, has attempted to "marry" this gospel with the biblical truth and has forsaken the latter. We wonder why the church in America is dying and not impacting the culture we have been called to engage? Seriously?

We, the church, have been called to be salt and light to a lost and dying world. Instead, we have sequestered ourselves in "churchy" silos never to fully engage with the people we have been sent as "ambassadors of Christ" to reach. 

When I drive to church on Sunday morning, I pass no less than five other churches. These are groups of varying denominations and worship styles, who claim to be preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Logically, then, with that many churches in my community preaching the Word, my community should be transformed.

Sadly, however, it is not.

This is because we have become vaccinated to Christianity. In other words, we have just enough Christianity in our culture to keep most people from ever getting or experiencing the real thing. 

Unfortunately, many who claim to be Christ followers and disciples have chosen a culturally acceptable "gospel" that affirms that which the culture says is good. Therefore, the church looks less and less like the transformed children of God and more and more like another community group espousing feel good teachings and mantras based upon a failed ethos. 

The sad reality is that many who gather weekly for church are far from God. There are many who have just enough Christianity to keep them from the real thing. The sad thing is that just enough Christianity leaves a person dead.

It's time we choose.

Will we choose the gospel of the culture or the gospel of Scripture?

One serves as a vaccination. The other gives you the fullness of grace.

When the characteristics listed by Paul in 2 Timothy 3 are just as visible within the "church" as in the world, then the reality of the last days are upon us. 

  • LOVERS OF SELF
  • LOVERS OF MONEY
  • PROUD
  • ARROGANT
  • ABUSIVE
  • DISOBEDIENT TO THEIR PARENTS
  • UNGRATEFUL
  • UNHOLY
  • HEARTLESS
  • UNAPPEASABLE
  • SLANDEROUS
  • WITHOUT SELF-CONTROL
  • BRUTAL
  • NOT LOVING GOOD
  • TREACHEROUS
  • RECKLESS
  • SWOLLEN WITH CONCEIT
  • LOVERS OF PLEASURE RATHER THAN LOVERS OF GOD


2 Timothy 3:5(ESV)
Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.