Previous month:
September 2012
Next month:
November 2012

Posts from October 2012

Prostitute Christians

There are some passages in Scripture that are confounding, and likely would be received with cringes if read aloud on a Sunday morning during worship.

There are numerous passages that sound, at first, a little racy and tend to go into subject matter that would make grandma blush. One such passage is in Ezekiel 16. God is speaking to Jerusalem (and to believers throughout the ages.)

When I  passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.  Ezekiel 16:8(ESV)

Not exactly "G" rated, huh?

God is speaking of his intimate relationship with Israel and I believe alluding to the church as well. This is a poetic foreshadowing of Christ's relationship with His bride, the church. . .us. The spreading of the corner of his garment is symbolic of betrothal and protection. This is seen in the book of Ruth as well.

God continues by telling of his faithfulness and fidelity to Israel, and to us.

Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.  I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.  And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.  And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.  Ezekiel 16:9-14(ESV)

The simple story here is that when we enter into a personal relationship with God, through Christ, He covers us with His grace and fills us with His beauty. His love for us is evident throughout this passage.

Then, we did this:

But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.  You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore.  And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. Ezekiel 16:15-18(ESV)

Wow!

We read this and immediately think "Those people were terrible! How could they not love God. Look at what He did for them."

Then we realize. . .we are those people.

You may be saying, "What? A whore? Really?!? I haven't cheated. A prostitute? Seriously?" and you feel offended.

We get offended easily don't we?

I was talking about a mutual friend today with another guy. He told me that he can tell when this friend is struggling spiritually. He says that when he asks spiritual questions such as "What are you reading lately? How's your prayer life? etc." this friend gets offended. He's never offended when he is reading the Word, praying and seeking to be filled with the Spirit.

So, like our friend. . .we often get offended when our sin is uncovered.

Here's the reality. We (Christ-followers) are all guilty of having things in our lives we pursue more than God. We don't call it sin initially because, well, it's just not, right? In some cases, the thing that is pursued is a "bad" thing like drugs or alcohol or pornography or infidelity. However, in most cases, these thnigs are items that are morally permissable and neutral when we think of spiritual things and temptation, until. . .

Until that thing becomes an idol.

Do you know what you worship? Louie Giglio explains in his book "The Air I Breathe" the discovery process of knowing what we follow. He suggests we have to follow the trails of our lives. Follow the trail of your. . .

  • Time. How do you spend your time? How is most of your time covered (work, school, home, church, hobbies, TV, sleeping, playing on the web, updating Facebook and Twitter, etc.)?
  • Affections. What do you care most about? What relationships are you nurturing?
  • Energy. What do you work and play hardest at?
  • Money. Where do you spend your (well, God's) money? It's been said that to determine a person's heart, check their calendar and bank statement. Where you spend your time and money tells what really matters.
  • Allegiance. Where do your deep loyalties lie? Your church? Political party? Family? Sports teams? Yourself.

Just-follow-the-trailFollow the trail of these things. At the end of the trail you'll find a throne; and whatever - or whomever - is on that throne is what's of highest value to you. It's your ultimate. . .your ideol. . . your adulterous lover.

To chase after idols is to prostitute the grace we have been given.

Here's God's response.

And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare.  They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.  And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more.  So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. Ezekiel 16:39-42(ESV)

Again. . .not "G" rated, but rooted in love. The love of a God who is jealous and cannot watch his children continually prostitute themselves with worthless idols. He is simply saying, "If it is these other lovers (idols) you really desire, then I'll allow you to chase after them. I'll hand you over to them, but you need to know they will hurt and damage you."

And yet, it doesn't have to be this way.

Our God is a loving God. He is a grace giving God. He is a God who desires intimacy with His followers at a deep level. The Enemy says "You cannot trust Him." We often believe this lie and consequently, fall away (not losing salvation, but in rebellion, losing intimacy.)

Let's follow the trails in our lives and repent when we discover that we have allowed "things" to steal that which we owe only to God.

____________________________

Information in this posting taken from Louie Giglio's book The Air I Breathe: Worship As a Way of Life and Pete Wilson's book Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would.


REAL Manhood: The Story of Booker T. Washington

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7(ESV) 

A young man born into slavery in 1856 would impact the world for good. He was a slave. His mother was a slave. The political storm that erupted upon Abraham Lincoln’s election as President led to a time in United States’ history forever known by a war that pitted brother against brother and American against American. At age nine, this young slave would experience freedom for the first time in his life.

This young former slave had been working in the salt mines, but grasped an opportunity to upgrade to the coal mines. It was during this time, he sought out a former soldier who would teach him to read. Education and work became things he held as vital for success in life.

Throughout the age of Reconstruction, this young man continued his studies and continued to work hard. He refused to allow his circumstances to define him and at a much deeper level, refused to become a victim of the society he knew.

Booker T WashingtonHe finally made his way to the Hampton Institute where he was given the job of working as a janitor. His job provided the funds needed for school and food. He eventually graduated and was offered the opportunity to move to Alabama to be the founder, developer and first headmaster of a new school.

He was a man of integrity who stressed hard work and practical knowledge. He preached the value of providing for one’s family. He emphasized the importance of avoiding even the appearance of evil.

This young man, Booker T. Washington became one of the greatest educators in the history of the United States. His Tuskegee Institute emphasized practical as well as classical education.

Washington led his fellow ex-slaves not just out of slavery as a mindset, but up to economical self-reliance. He was a humble man who refused to play the victim. He was not passive and his life has become an inspiration for many.

While all men carry wounds, those wounds do not have to define a man. The passive man allows himself to fall into “victim” mode and blames his circumstances and past for present actions. The real man rejects passivity.


We Have No Excuse for Missing the Mission

Many times people will hear of our mission trips here at First Baptist Church that take us to cities and regions throughout the world. We are blessed to have a number of people committed to make these regular trips in order to minister to our missionaries and church planters in the regions as well provide feet on the ground for projects and events as needed.

However, there are always some who say "I just cannot go on a trip like that." In many cases, there are legitimate reasons, such as health, finances, travel restrictions due to work, etc.

Christ-child-logo2With our partnership with Samaritan's Purse and the Operation Christmas Child ministry, those excuses are no longer valid. Everyone can participate in international missions through providing a shoebox gift for children in other parts of the world.

It's more than a box full of toys. It's a tangible gift to a child in a region of the world where much is not available. This gift shows grace. It shows love. Most of all, due to the way the gifts are distributed and the gospel booklet provided, it shows a way to receive the greatest gift of all - life through Jesus Christ.

We are collecting shoebox gifts at our church through November 18. Our goal is to provide over 600 shoebox gifts from our fellowship. Together, we can do this. We may never know this side of heaven what happens with the gifts provided, but rest assured God will use them. Perhaps a child and maybe even more in his or her family will come to know Christ through the message of the Gospel provided.

 

 


Blessing Church Planters & Missionaries

Once again God has blessed First Baptist Church of Orange Park with a "surplus" of giving. There are expenses that have come up, but even after unbudgeted expenses and funding needed things, we are able to bless three church planters/missionaries with gifts this month. So, after meeting with our Finance & Stewardship Committee, we are proud to share the following.

When opportunities come to help increase the Kingdom, we must step into that story. These three men and their families have sacrificed much to ensure more people hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

Pray for them please.

Pray regularly.

Here is who we have blessed this month:

Allan Covington
Pastor Allan Covington and RiverEdge Church in Baldwinsville, New York (near Syracuse) with a gift of $1,500. Allan is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. RiverEdge is a Southern Baptist Church using the NorthPoint Church model that Andy Stanley has developed in Alpharetta, Georgia. There are no strategically evangelical churches in the area where RiverEdge is being planted. The SBC shows that only five to six percent of the population considers themselves evangelical Christian. RiverEdge is focused on the other 94-95 percent.

 

Jessups
Missionary and church planter Bill Jessup is serving as missionary in Reykjavik, Iceland through the Iceland Project. Bill is pastoring a small gathering now with intent of helping them plant numerous churches throughout the city and nation. Bill is also working to help them become self-sufficient with prayers that an Icelandic pastor would rise up and be called to lead the congregation. We were able to gift them with $1,200.

 

Tim Larson
Pastor Tim Larson of WaterMark Church here in Clay County. They meet weekly at Tynes Elementary School. We offer Tim an office here at First Baptist and the WMC staff meets here weekly. The financial gift of $1,200 will give them some flexibility financially as they continue to connect with people who have no church home and most likely will not connect with a traditional church.


Why Church Planting Is Key To Winning the Future

I began reading Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray this morning. I've really only read the Prologue. OK, I've read a portion of the Prologue - that's about three pages.

However, after reading this portion, even though Murray is not writing about Christianity or the state of the American church, I found myself wondering if his description of 1963 America and the vast changes that have taken place in the last fifty years may give insight as to why the church in America is systematically dying.

Kennedy carNovember 22, 1963, became the symbolic first day of what would be known as the Sixties and of the cultural transformation that wound its course through the subsequent decades.

Walter Cronkite was in the anchor chair for The CBS Evening News. Just a year and a half into his job, Cronkite was not yet the nation's Uncle Walter. He wasn't even the nation's leading anchorman.

CBS might have been number two in evening news, but it was number one in prime-time programming. The Neilsen ratings that week placed eight CBS programs in the top ten, let by The Beverly Hillbillies with a rating of 34.9, meaning that 34.9 percent of all American homes with a television set were watching it. Since 93 percent of American homes had a television set by 1963, the upshot was that the same program was being watched in almost a third of all the homes in the United States. Those same staggering numbers went deep into the lineup. All of the top thirty-one shows had ratings of at least 20. By way of comparison, the number one show in the 2009-2010 season, American Idol, considered to be a gigantic hit, had a rating of 9.1.

The explanationfor the ratings of 1963 is simple: There wasn't much choice. Most major cities had only four channels (CBS, NBC, ABC and a nonprofit station of some sort) at most. People in some markets had access to just one channel - the monopoly in Austin, Texas, where the lone station was owned by Lady Bird Johnson, was the most notorious example.

Popular music consisted of a single Top 40 list, with rock, country, folk, and a fair number of Fifties-style ballads lumped together. No separate stations specializing in different genres, except for country music stations in a few parts of the nation. Except in university towns and the very largest cities, bookstores were small and scarce, usually carrying only a few hundred titles. No Amazon. If you didn't see a movie during the week or two it was showing in your town, you would probably never see it. No DVDs. With television, you either saw a show the night it played or waited until it was repeated once during the summer. No TiVo.

The typical American city of 1963 had appallingly little choice in things to eat. In a large city, you would be able to find a few restaurants serving Americanized Chinese food, a few Italian restaurants serving spaghetti and pizza, and a few restaurants with a French name, which probably meant that they had French onion soup on the menu.1

To say our culture has changed in the last fifty years is an understatement. Yet, many churches in America today who are plateaued or dying are organized and functioning as if The Beverly Hillbillies are still the number one show in the nation and that 35 percent of the nation is watching it.

America has prided itself on being a melting pot for generations. However, that melting pot of cultures most often, especially in the early twentieth century, was comprised of mostly European immigrants who may have spoken a different language, but culturally integrated well.

80 percentAs America has grown more diverse racially and culturally, the American church has declined. Many people actually believe, especially here in the Bible Belt of the deep South, that there are more than enough churches for the people. The opposite is actually the case. Not only are there not enough churches to reach and respond to the field that is our community, churches that do exist, by and large, are in decline.2

New methods are needed to reach the people God has placed in our communities. These people may be more ethnically diverse than in the past. Economically, they are all over the board. While we (the North American church) is perfectly structured to reach the people of the 1950s and early 1960s, the people who live near us now are being overlooked.

Consequently, churches are dying, surviving on the tithes from Social Security checks and gathering to sing hymns and hear Bible stories that make the faithful few feel like they have been to church.

There exists a flawed understanding that the United States an Canada are already evangelized. While there is abundant access to Christian information, many unchurched persons in North America are amazingly untouched by the evangelical subculture because the Christian subculture is largely incapable of providing a culturally relevant witness. - Ed Stetzer3

New-churches-20110127-174337
On a per capita basis, new churches are able to win mor people for Christ than older, established churches.This in no way alleviates the legacy church's responsibility to evangelize and disciple. It's just a fact. This is about recognizing that many churches get comfortable and slide into a framework that removes priority from reaching the lost to maintaining the organization.

One American denomination found that 80 percent of new believers came to Christ in churches less than two years old.5

This is why we must be leading with church planting. This is why legacy churches must shift. The "church-based" framework was designed (and yet, still flawed) to reach the people of American in the 1950s and 1960s. The Kingdom-based framework is God's design to reach people in all cultures, all times, all nations, with timeless Truth.

For more details on this, check out the original posting of this article by Imagine Church on their blog here.

_________________________________

  1. Murray, Charles. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. New York: Crown Forum, 2012. Print. Pages 2-3.
  2. Lyle Schaller, 44 Questions for Church Planters (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1991), page 43.
  3. Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003), page 9.
  4. Stetzer, Planting, page 6.
  5. Ralph Moore, Starting New Churches (Ventura, CA: Regal Book, 2002), page 3.

Never Too Late to Say "Thank You" to a Veteran

Tonight my wife and I had dinner together at the local Cracker Barrel. Our table was near a window. I noticed a car pulling in with a unique license plate on the front. It had an outline of the famous flag raising at Mt. Suribachi and the words "Iwo Jima Survivor." As the couple exited their car, I said to my wife, "There's a man who deserves our thanks. I want to shake his hand before we leave."

We finished our meal and headed to the cash register (I had forgotten about the man in the car, so I wasn't looking for him.) We didn't make it to the register, because I wanted to look around the "Country Store." Cracker Barrel is designed like the rides at Universal Studios and Disney - the gift shop catches you before you leave. Nevertheless, we stayed in the store for a little while. I was trying to find a bottle of "Frostie Root Beer" that wasn't in the $15.99 multi-pack of retro root beers. We ended up getting a bottle of Cheerwine and a Yankee Candle air freshener for the car.

Iwo jimaBy the time we made it to the register, the gentleman with the "Iwo Jima" car tag was in line behind me. I had placed my items on the counter and as the employee was ringing up my sale, I looked to the gentleman and asked "Sir, you are a survivor of Iwo Jima?"

He said, "Yes" and looked confused, obviously having no idea that I had seen him pull up in the car with the specialty tag. Then, he said, "I was just glad to get off that rock."

His receipt for dinner was in hanging out of this shirt pocket, so I grabbed it and put it on the counter. He also had the largest Hershey Bar I'd ever seen in his hand, so I laid it on the counter as well. I said "Thank you for your service," and paid for his meal (and the huge candy bar.)

He was shocked.

His wife came up and he told her that I had bought their dinner. She said, "Why?" I looked to her and said, "Because it's Saturday.

Her husband cleared it up and told her why. I thanked them both.

I'm not writing this to say, "Hey, look at me, I bought a man's meal." In fact, I wasn't going to say anything, but his response to this simple gift surprised me.

He said, "No one has ever done anything like this before."

I couldn't believe it.

You mean, this man who survived one of the bloodiest battles of World War II came home from the war and no one ever said "Thank you" and bought him a meal or something to drink?

Maybe they did, initially, but it must have been years.

So, here's why I write this.

According to the Veteran's Administration, our World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 740 per day.  These men and women deserve our recognition and thanks, as do all our military veterans. You don't have to buy dinner for them, but a simple "thank you" goes a long way.

To all our veterans - THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!