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Posts from March 2013

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

The Paschal greeting has been used by various Christian groups for centuries on Easter morning. Rather than saying "hello," one greets another believer with "Christ is Risen!" The response is "He is Risen Indeed!"

Empty_tombFor my brothers and sisters celebrating throughout the world:

ICELANDIC: Kristur er upprisinn! Hann er sannarlega upprisinn!

FRENCH: Christ est ressuscité! Il est vraiment ressuscité!

SPANISH: ¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡En verdad ha resucitado!

OLD IRISH: Asréracht Críst! Asréracht Hé-som co dearb!

IRISH: Tá Críost éirithe! Go deimhin, tá sé éirithe!

MANX: Taw Creest Ereen! Taw Shay Ereen Guhdyne!

SCOTTISH: Tha Crìosd air èiridh! Gu dearbh, tha e air èiridh!

BRETON: Dassoret eo Krist! E wirionez dassoret eo!

CORNISH: Thew Creest dassorez! En weer thewa dassorez!

WELSH: Atgyfododd Crist! Yn wir atgyfododd!

HAWAIIAN: Ua ala aʻe nei ʻo Kristo! Ua ala ʻiʻo nō ʻo Ia!

KOREAN: 그리스도께서 부활하셨네! 참으로 부활하셨네!

HEBREW: המשיח קם! באמת קם!

MANDARIN: 基督復活了 他確實復活了

KLINGON: Hu'ta' QISt! Hu'bejta'!


Waking Up in a World Without Jesus

I've been thinking about today - in the liturgical world, it's called "Holy Saturday." Simply put, it is the day wedged between "Good Friday" and "Resurrection Day" (or Easter.) Many Catholic churches go quiet on this day. Following the mass on Maundy Thursday, the chancel is totally bare with the administration of the sacraments being very limited.

The American Episcopal church and other Anglican churches often have a solemn reading of the Liturgy of the Word.

Other churches hold simple gatherings as a close to Holy Week.

Holy-SaturdayMany evangelical churches do nothing official. Some, due to expanded crowds and in attempts to reach more in the community will add additional Easter services on Saturday evening.

I'm not saying any of these things are necessarily bad. In fact, what churches do with this day is really not the point of this posting.

As I sit here this morning, reading my Bible, drinking my coffee and thinking about the day, a question crosses my mind, "What was it like to wake up in in a world without Jesus?" That is what the group of disciples and followers of Christ were experiencing in Jerusalem almost two-thousand years ago.

Hindsight is 20/20 and we know that as we celebrate Easter tomorrow, Jesus was rising again. For the disciples in Jerusalem, the resurrection was less that 24 hours away and would become the greatest celebration in Christendom for centuries to come.

But, for them. . .it's still Saturday.

While we know what was to come, the disciples who huddled together in hiding do not. Oh, they were told by Jesus that he would rise again, but it wasn't until after the fact those parables and direct statements were fully understood.

So, on this day, almost two-thousand years ago a group of frightened followers of Christ, men and women who had walked away from their jobs, families, religious legalism, and comfort zones gathered in a quiet room, feeling hopeless.

Jesus was dead. He was crucified yesterday. They saw (well, those who didn't run away) his body, beaten, bruised and bloody, hanging from the Roman cross over a garbage dump in an area known as "the Skull." Some were there when his lifeless body was removed and placed in the borrowed tomb of a wealthy disciple from Arimathea.

Now what?

The previous three years of their lives were running through their minds like a movie on rewind. Some were wondering if they could get their previous jobs back. Would they be able to go back home?

Good Friday may have been the darkest day in the history of the world, but I wonder what the disciples gathered together on Saturday would say? I'm just speculating, but I would say that some, if not all may affirm that after the crucifixion was almost unbearable - perhaps even worse?

They woke up (in their understanding) in a world without Jesus.

I'll be speaking on this subject tomorrow morning. I fear that by choice, too many people are living their lives today like it's the Saturday before Easter.

Just remember, we have an advantage over those disciples in hiding. We have turned the page and we see what the next day holds.

From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in less that 24 hours. The next day is the day where it all becomes clear. Death was defeated. Jesus lives.

You just have to get through Saturday.

Remember. . .Sunday's coming!

Celebrating the Darkest Day in History

It's Good Friday. The darkest day in history is called "good." It is the day that Jesus Christ - the Son of God - God the Son - second person of the Trinity, died a horrible, gruesome death apparently at the hands of legalistic religious leaders and an occupying government.

The-crucifixion-of-christHowever, if you know the story, you understand that this was the plan from the very beginning. Jesus came and lived a life of purpose - all to bring glory to the Father. He died as payment for the sins of the world. This act, just like His words, was inspired and fully true. This was no accident. This was no afterthought. This was all part of the plan.

It often seems that God really loves paradoxes. You know - to be rich, you must be poor, to have you must give away, to be mature, you must be like a little child, a "Good Friday" is in celebration of a horrendous event,  and to live. . .you must die.

Christ died to bring glory to the Father and to pay for the sins of us all. Because He died (and rose again in defeat of death) you and I can live. 

Today, milliions of people know it's Good Friday, but fewer understand the meaning or the significance of it. May we, as Christ-followers, never forget the sacrifice given for us and may we live intentionally and strategically today and every day so that many more may come to have life through the One who is the Way, Truth and the Life.


What the Gay Marriage Debate Is Really About

Everyone's talking about it. Facebook and Twitter are being inundated with status updates relating to it. The pink and red equal sign is showing up everywhere. Late night talk show hosts are using the story as fodder for their monologues. I cannot open a newsfeed, news app, turn on the news or listen on the radio without hearing debates about it.

GaymarriageAdults and teenagers are marching and defending this "right." Students have shifted from spending their spring break on the beach to joining others in Washington DC for this "momentous occasion." Some from our own schools are in DC for this today.

In fact, if you speak against the topic of the week, you are immediately demonized and labeled a bigot or hater.

Gay marriage is the topic of the week . . . and regardless what the Supreme Court says, it will remain the topic for years to come. The gay marriage debate has been destined to happen in this country for decades.

It is an orchestrated battle, and not one developed by a group of LGBT lawyers and advocates. This is a spiritual battle and it's become apparent that we (the church) may not know how to fight it. We have fought a spiritual battle with physical means. . .and we're losing.

The battle for gay rights and gay marriage has been strategically wrapped in terms such as "love," "equality," "rights," etc. This strategy is so well thought out that anyone opposed to the lifestyle is then labeled as close-minded and a bigot since they're against love, equality, rights, etc.

To acknowledge the reality that homosexuality, for example, is a sin puts Christ-followers on the defensive. Most Christ-followers do not play defense very well.

However, it's not really about gay marriage. In fact, it's not really about rights or the Constitution.

Pastor Dean Inserra of City Church, Tallahassee recently blogged about the real issue. I echo what he is saying here:

Throughout Scripture God gives us visible portraits of invisible realities. When a father runs to and throws his arms around his rebellious son, we see the visible portrait of the invisible reality of the love that our heavenly father has for his children. When one forgives another their debt, it is a visible portrait of the invisible reality of how Christ has paid our debt through his death, that we could never repay ourselves.

The greatest example of this that we see in Scripture is the visible portrait of marriage, a covenant between a husband and a wife. This points us to the invisible reality of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

God’s commands always relate to his purposes.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:31-33 HCSB)

When God created Adam and Eve, male and female, husband and wife, the gospel was not just on His mind, it was fully in play. Gender, and marriage are about the gospel. This is why we must be courageous in talking about divorce, adultery, and any sex outside of marriage. Anything that is not God’s design of a husband and a wife, in a life-long, monogamous relationship, is a gospel issue. The sexual union between a husband and a wife points us to the ultimate union between Christ and the Church. I officiate a lot of weddings, and I always make it very clear to the bride and groom that their specific gender roles and responsibilities are not cultural, they are designed by God, to point us to the gospel. (Read the full posting here.)

The issue is the gospel.

It seems that many churches and believers are silent on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage in particular. Those that do speak out often do so in anger and frustration and perpetuate an image that does more to harm the cause of Christ than push it forward.

I have read numerous articles and books as well as listened to many pastors and leaders speak on the defense of traditional marriage. I believe in the fidelity of the marriage relationship as defined in Scripture being between one man (born a man) and one woman (born a woman) for life. I believe that a cultural redefinition of marriage (which, by the way, has already happened in our culture, regardless what SCOTUS determines) is dangerous and a significant mistake. To use a simpler term, it is a sin. It's just that I believe to build the debate on the defense of traditional marriage is like having cancer and taking an aspirin to defeat it. There's a bigger issue at hand.

God is God and could have used any institution or portrait He desired to point us to the invisible reality of His plan for redemption. In His sovereign and creative power, He intentionally chose the relationship between a man and a woman, as husband and wife. God did not point to a brother and sister, mother and child, best friends, or boss and employee. He gave us marriage, male and female He created them. If we cave in on this, we cave in on the entire message of God’s redemption. This is not about America, or family values. The homosexual conversation is one about the gospel. Thankfully, this gospel is available to all of us, and the marriage institution is the model God has given us to understand it. We will be more compassionate when the gospel is our motivation, not political advancement or winning a debate.

When we discuss marriage, let’s discuss Christ. That was the whole point from the beginning. (Dean Inserra)

Remember, it's about the gospel.

The Problem with a Good Idea

I remember hearing Andy Stanley speak about decision making in his church. He used the terms "good idea" and "God idea."

Idea_bulb"Good ideas" are those things that come up in a church, or any organization for that matter, that are just that - good. They offer a service or provide for a need. They are good and they not only help others, but allow those doing the work or service feel good about themselves. They feel accomplished.

There is nothing wrong with a good idea.

Then, there are "God ideas." These are good as well. Well. . .because God is good. Yet, there's something deeper about a God idea. There's a story behind the story. There's a purpose beneath the visible. God ideas are often impossible. They appear challenging. This is because they are. Sometimes God ideas do not make a lot of sense at first. In many cases, there will be difficulty in articulating the "why" and the "what" of the God idea clearly at first.

Over time, however, it becomes clear.

I struggle differentiating between good ideas and God ideas at times.

Our church has a hard time with this as well. This is evidenced by projects that come up by small groups, ministries and even individuals within the church.

Sometimes our calendar gets so full of good ideas that there is no time left for the God ideas.

The result is a church that is busy, but not really about the Lord's business.

Maybe this is the meaning behind the phrase, "Good is the enemy of best."

It's a constant challenge. Every church faces this. Every believer faces this. We live in a culture that celebrates full calendars and busy-ness. I think we often live life like it's a sprint when we should be running as if it's a marathon.

Now, here's the challenge - being able to discern between time-stealing good ideas and Kingdom expanding God ideas.

As we focus on what it means to be Kingdom expanders, we will hear the voice of God more clearly. The hard question will be asked more frequently - "Does this expand the Kingdom of God?"

What will happen when the church embraces this and answers the question honestly? What happens when God's people say "no" to good ideas to focus on the God ideas?

  • Individuals and small groups live more intentionally
  • The church will not have to promote and plead that people "be missional"
  • The church celebrates where the individuals and small groups are living missionally
  • God stories increase and are shared more regularly
  • Living as a missionary of God to the culture will become the norm
  • Selflessness becomes common among God's people
  • Lost people are strategically sought
  • Evangelistic opportunities are not missed
  • Baptism celebrations increase
  • Disciples are made
  • God's Kingdom is increased

This is what I believe happens. In fact, it's been happening for centuries. It just doesn't happen on a foundation of "good ideas." No one is good enough to manufacture Kingdom growth. Only God does that.

May we discover where God is working and join him there. (Thanks, Henry Blackaby)

Live and Learn: The Lesson of the Church Logo

You know, hindsight is 20-20. It always has been. It's when you are able to look back and see things so much more clearly, you wonder why you couldn't then.

Satan is a master of distraction. He hates God. He hates the church. He hates Christ-followers. Therefore, anything and everything he can do to keep God's people from pushing forward the Kingdom of God has been and will be his strategy.

A few weeks ago I introduced a new logo for our church. Now, I'm sure churches didn't have logos in the New Testament times, but today, especially in America, it seems to be popular. Logos identify brands and when it comes to churches, they signify much. The cross is emblematic of the sacrifice Christ gave to allow us to know Him. Other things like the Christian fish or multiple crosses, crowns of thorns and the like are all emblems that identify faith factors.

Sometimes a logo will incorporate things specific to a community or area (i.e. rolling hills, water, palm trees, etc.)

Our logo was in need for an upgrade. The old logo was something I designed about 15 years ago and over the years touched up, morphed and modernized as needed.

The new logo would incorporate color and rectangles with a cross evident in the negative space. It's emblematic of the four classes we offer annually as well as the four personal connections we encourage members to engage. It also shows the seeming randomness of life and how the cross at the center puts everything in order.

However. . . and here's where the issue was, I changed the wording on the logo (please note that I did NOT change the name of the church) to say "First Orange Park: A Southern Baptist Church" rather than "First Baptist Church of Orange Park."

While many applauded the new look, it did not set well with everyone. The intent was not to create frustration, but to create clarity. In retrospect, I did not lead into this well. Yep, I messed up. The result was a huge distraction to the mission and the potential of derailing what God is doing here.

The issue at hand was that as an autonomous church body, we did not discuss (or vote) on the change of the wording. That is an issue for many. The other issue was that we seemingly removed "Baptist" from the name. We really didn't. Though I tried to explain that by putting "A Southern Baptist Church" on the logo we better identified ourselves as conservative, Bible believing Baptists that adhere to our confessional statement, The Baptist Faith & Message, it was not being heard as a valid response.

Nevertheless, the damage had been done.

So, I've adjusted the wording. The cross and rectangles logo - well, that's very strategic and will remain. It will be defined throughout the year. Some things have already been printed with the older logo, but rather than throw all the business cards and offering envelopes out, we'll run through them and put the "new" new logo on any upcoming orders.

Fbcop copyDon't get me wrong. There really isn't an uprising in the church. People are still attending and serving. Attendance at 9:15 is growing quickly. Numerous folks are surrendering their lives to full time service and we're baptizing.

There have been some who have shown frustration, not many, but some. Yet, it's just enough to give the Enemy a foothold.

Here's the bottom line. There's too much at stake for the Kingdom of God to allow disunity and dissension over something like this to grow.

So, to my church, I repent. I repent for not being clear and for not protecting you from the Enemy's lies and attacks. His strategy is predictable. I should have seen this coming.

I'm excited as we move forward with intentionality and a strategic purpose to push back the darkness and grow the Kingdom of God.

Remember, at First Baptist Church. . .the Kingdom of God is first.

A Generation Hungry for "Friends"

I have noticed a trend in recent years with this generation of BFFs and "friends." The concept of friendship has morphed. Perhaps this is due to the growth of social media and the dumbing down of the term "friend."

Best_Friends_at_the_BeachThe reality is that "friend" has become a verb, and a weak one at that. People are "friended" on Facebook. No longer is there a deep relationship of love and concern attributed to the term. The Bible states that Abraham was considered to be a "friend of God" (James 2:23). Not too long ago, the reading of this passage evoked feelings of kinship and closeness that since have become little more than an affirmation of acknowledgement.

Unfortunately, many now "friend" God like they do others on Facebook. There's no relationship, just a click of a button.

It is most evident among adolescents. As a child moves through puberty and matures physically, emotinoally, spiritually and mentally, the desire for deep seated friendships arise. This is due to relational maturation.

Psychologist Erik Erickson postulated that human beings have eight stages of life development. His stage for adolescense is based on the ages 12-18. During this stage, a teenager's primary goal is to learn who they are an dwhat they want to be as a person and in a profession. They also seek to understand how to be themselves and how to share themselves with others. This is a crucial time of development and transition into adulthood.

Christ following parents struggle with this as their children move through this stage. It is a fearful and wonderful time, and often leads to increased prayer time for moms and dads.

Friends come and go and during the times of discovery and transition, they have intense influence. Life-long friendships can be developed during this time, but more often than not, these friendships wane over time. That's what leads to people going to their high school reunions and needing to wear nametags.

I recently reduced the number of my "friends" on Facebook. I went from over 2,200 to just over 40. This was intentional, and time consuming since there is no way to "unfriend" (interesting that "unfriend" is a word now. It wasn't just a few years ago) en masse.

Michael Hyatt, author and former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, blogs about his unfriending of many on his personal Facebook page here. He references the dumbing down of the term friend via Facebook and what became his defining factors of who would remain a Facebook friend here:

  • Friends: These are the people I know in real life. They are people I have met face-to-face, enjoy being around, and interact with in real life. (These three elements are key.) Frankly, a few of these relatinoships started off online through Twitter. Over time, they grew and developed. Regardless, I have a few deep and significant friendships. But if I am honest, I don't have many. I only have so much time available.

It's an interesting, intentional move with social media.

When it comes to the younger generation (older children to young adults) the concept of friendship is muddy. People still need friends, but you will see many who Tweet and post pictures of their "best friends" and these "best" change daily, if not hourly.

I asked one student how it was possible to have numerous best friends. The student looked perplexed and stared at me as if I had three heads. Was this such a hard question? How can there be numerous "best friends?"

Just the name "best" means unique and singular. Therefore, in my apparently old fashioned mind, it appears to be impossible to have more than one "best friend." What if these numerous "best friends" gathered together. Would a fight erupt? Would they battle to determine who was the "bestest" friend?

Maybe I am old fashioned. It just appears to me that words matter.

Even Jesus modeled the concept of intimacy and closeness with his followers. He had thousands of followers, dozens of disciples, twelve apostles and three very close friends within the group. Then, there's John who is self-described as the "disciple whom Jesus loved" intimating at a very close friendship.

Nevertheless, in a generation that so needs friends, the ever-changing Wikipedia definition of what a friend is seems to be prevailing.

Christ-followers would be wise to remember what the Word of God has to say about close friendships. This verse is often used to describe the marriage relationship, but it's broader than that. It speaks to those relationships with other human beings. It refers to the "best friends" that are sought and at times found.

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)

Concerns About Facebook Lead to My "Public Figure" Page

Facebook has grown immensely over the years. While some are prophesying of the social media giant's inevitable downfall (i.e. Friendster, MySpace, etc.) the fact remains that Facebook is still a big player in the social media world.

Facebook-like-buttonThe fact is that many of the original target users have now forsaken the site for other entities such as Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. However, many still check Facebook daily.

That being said, I have noticed recently some things posted on Timelines and friend's pages that just don't sound right. Knowing the "posters" as I do, I believe the comments to be tongue in cheek and attempts at humor. Nevertheless, they never quite sound that way.


Because the nuances of sarcasm and humor are not necessarily translatable in typed text (even with cute "smiley faces" and "thumbs up" icons added.)

Since often "inside jokes" are shared on Facebook that the commenter and the page owner understand and no one else, misinformation and misunderstanding are the natural result.

That being the case, I am going to use my personal Facebook page less and less and rely on a "Public Figure" page for linking my blog postings, updates and announcements. Truth be told, I'm not very fond of this option, but I am at a perplexing crossroad here. As the pastor of First Baptist Orange Park, I must do all I can to protect the integrity of the church and the mission of Kingdom growth. I don't like the "public figure" title because it seems to make more of me than I am. I wish there was another title. At least you don't become my "fan" when "liking" the page. That's even worse.

Since no one can be online all the time (though some of you make me believe you are) the potential of hurtful or at a minimum, misunderstood comments and postings on a personal page ending up on someone's News Feed is there.

So. . .if you choose to stay connected via Facebook, go to my "public figure" page. Click here for the link.

Idols Everywhere

031713_1045_Keep Calm 18

I like figuring things out. I don’t like being in the dark. I don’t like not knowing. This makes it hard for folks to enjoy watching a movie with me, I have discovered. My wife and I went to a movie on a date night a couple of weeks ago. It was a romantic thriller. Not bad. However, about 45 minutes into the film I figured out something about one of the characters that immediately made things more clear for me. However, the thing I figured out was apparently supposed to be the surprise ending of the film. I leaned over to my wife, poked her in the arm and told her what I figured out about the character. Well, she didn’t like the fact I told her that, but to me – that’s the point of a movie – figure it out early. It’s like a game, right?

Apparently not.

100_4018Nevertheless, I still like to be in the know. I like to understand, to know why things are the way they are. What’s really going on? That’s how Paul begins this chapter (1 Corinthians 10) – “I want you to know” or in some translations “I do not want you to be ignorant” or “unaware.” This is evidence that in this world, there is a cloud of confusion that covers humanity. In other words, the reality is that the entire world lives ignorant to much of what Paul is saying here. Even many believers and those in the church remain ignorant to these truths.

With the specific sins designated in chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, there is revealed a root sin from which all the others ae birthed. It is the sin of idolatry.

In Martin Luther’s study of the Ten Commandments he noted that the first two deal with idolatry while the other eight deal with stealing, murder, lying, sexual sin and the like. He surmised that if you never broke the first two commandments, you would never break the other eight.

Your sin of choice – whether violence, drugs, porn, adultery, gluttony, whatever is rooted in the sin of idolatry. It’s that simple. Those other sins are just the low hanging fruit off the tree of idolatry.

Pay attention to this thing called idolatry.

So Paul says “I don’t want you to be ignorant. You need to know this.”

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV)

That’s why John Calvin said “Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”

Everyone worships. It’s just that everyone doesn’t worship God. In fact, many times people who sing what we designate as worship songs do not even worship God. How can that be? Because we can say one thing and be devoted to another.

We serve a jealous God. The only one deserving of our love and worship and yet we make him compete.

Some people live like they’re on "The Bachelor" and they’re dating God and everything else at the same time. Then, they postulate at the end of it all, when it really matters, they’ll give their rose to God and be welcomed into heaven.

Nice try.

God is a jealous God and life is more real than a weak reality show.

Worship comes, the English word, out of a Latin derivative which means, literally, to ascribe worth to. So whoever or whatever you hold at highest regard, highest esteem, highest honor. Whatever is most important to you. Whoever is most important to you, you give your time, your energy, your money, your love, your devotion, your hopes, your dreams, your fears to that person or thing. That is your functional God.

“I love God and”. . . is idolatry.

“I’ll serve you God, but I have to” . . . is idolatry.

To what are you devoted?

When I went to China a few years ago, I traveled to a Buddhist temple in the city of Xian. It is a tourist area and since I was officially on a tour, we had to stop. It was beautiful, yet troubling. At this temple were dozens of Buddhist monks bowing and praying to a statue of the Buddha. While there may be arguments that say “They’re not worshipping the statue” the reality is they are bowing and praying before a statue.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to see idolatry in others than in ourselves

Idolatry is slavery to that which we love.

What is your idol?

Idol Indicators:

  • What fills your mind most often? Your family? Your spouse? Your children? Your job? Your stuff? Your money? Your church? Your power? Your cars? Your home? Your school?
  • What motivates you?
  • What is most important?
  • What do you long for?
  • Where do you run for comfort?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What angers you?
  • What concerns you?
  • What upsets you?
  • What do you talk about all the time?

When something takes that much energy, time or effort on your part, it may be indicative of your functional idol.

God is a jealous God.

Don't Waste the Time You Have Left

I should have seen this coming.

Back in the fall of 2012, while studying and praying for our church, God revealed that I needed to preach through the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. Of course, at first look, it became obvious that God would be speaking to us in some very pointed and strongly worded passages. As I studied through the book and began logging mental notes of what God was saying, He led me to the theme for the series:

"Keep Calm & Stay Focused"

It was a play on the old British war poster that has become somewhat of an internet meme over the past few years, not to mention all the knock-offs printed on T-shirts and coffee mugs and other such items.

So, we began.

Keep calm? About what?

Stay focused. Focused on what?

Over the past seven months, as we have systematically studied through this book, it has become clear that these seemingly innocent words would become more.


There have been numerous things occuring among individuals and families within our church over the past few months that would naturally lead to any personal response other than "calmness." Deaths, marriage issues, rebellious children, job situations, foreclosures, etc. have all been experienced among people of our fellowship. Add to that the stress of an ever changing world with all the unknowns regarding personal safety, prosperity, taxes, bills, insurance, etc. and "keeping calm" becomes even more difficult.

Then, and behind all the worry, is the realization of the intense spiritual attacks and warfare many of us (my family included) have experienced these past few months. These have seemingly come from nowhere, but we understand it's part of a spiritual attack.


Perhaps this is the most difficult part. Keeping calm may result in just slowing down, taking some deep breaths, using learned techniques to slow down one's breathing and heart rates.

Staying focused - now that's another thing entirely.

This is what I meant when I said "I should have seen this coming."

The focus God has laser-guided us toward is that of the Gospel and our role in living it out and sharing it with others.

After reading about David Landrith and watching his message to his church from last Sunday, God has affirmed that we (all of us) are only here for a short time. Even those saintly seniors who have many decades in their history, when compared to eternity, the stay on this terrestrial ball is short.

Hourglass-sandNo one is promised tomorrow.

It's more than "preacher speak" used to get people to make spiritual decisions.

It is reality.

Proverbs 27:1(ESV)
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Therefore, we must remain focused. Otherwise, we drift into stories that are small, insignificant and . . . in the big picture, don't really matter.

What a travesty!

As our staff met this morning (Tuesday morning) we discussed the importance of being on task. There are so many things that can, and often do, distract us from that which we are called to do.

How many churches find themselves in neutral because they lose focus? How many never regain that focus? Consequently, we end up with many churches starting and gathering with great intentions, but slowly drifting toward maintenance, or club mode, living out their existence as "brand expanders" while the world God has called them (i.e. us) to reach continues to slide further toward an eternity of separation and death apart from God.

No, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Therefore, we must make the best of today.

Ephesians 5:15-16(ESV)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Make the best use of the time you have left. We can know how much sand is in the bottom of the hourglass, but we just don't know how much is left in the top. No one is promised tomorrow. Don't waste today.

Some have been open with me about their struggle to be "Kingdom-minded" in all things. Yet, it's refreshing to hear that they know it's what God is calling them to be.

Here is what I sense happening at First Baptist Orange Park:

  • God is refining us for a greater work.
  • God is calling us to be strategic in our practice of making disciples.
  • God is moving us out of maintenance mode.
  • God is calling people out of comfortable "Christianity."
  • God is leading.
  • God is pruning.
  • God is gifting.
  • And more.

With that, the Enemy is working as well. This is a spiritual war.

  • The Enemy is attacking.
  • The Enemy is distracting.
  • The Enemy is accusing.
  • The Enemy is setting traps.
  • The Enemy is leading people to focus on things that do not matter.
  • The Enemy is lying.

We would be wise to know our enemy and understand his tactics, so that we would not so easily fall into his traps.

Since we know the Enemy (Satan) is at work in this way, we must be praying and worshipping and serving God more intently now than ever. There are lives at stake. There is eternity at stake.

It was exciting Sunday to see twelve people join our fellowship as members. The baptisms of Suzanne and Barbara were wonderful.

To top it off, to have three come to share publicly that God has called them into full-time service and another three seeking God in such a way to clarify the call is incredible.

Do you see this?

Do you see God expanding His Kingdom through His church?

Some cannot. They're too preoccupied in their small stories. That's unfortunate.

May we all step into the Story that matters and leave the small, petty, insignificant ones behind. We just don't have time for that. There's much to do.

Keep calm and stay focused.