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Posts from October 2014

THE 2014 VOTE: Motivation by Guilt Is Rarely Life-Changing or Effective

It's election time in our nation. Every two years (and in local communities, often more than that) it's time for the registered electorate to exercise their right to vote for those who will respresent the public in office.

In our state, the primary election is that for Governor. As of today, after some pretty lousy debates and the typical fare of negative advertising, the two front-runners (Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist) are in a dead-heat with virtually the same polling numbers.  There are also elections for Congress throughout our state. These are vital as we select those who will represent the people in Washington DC. There are also votes for representation in Tallahassee for our districts. 

There are local elections that drive most of the electorate in my community. This year the focus is on the county school board seats. Once again, it is another less than positive campaign.

In order to do whatever it takes to get people to vote, phone calls are made, mailboxes are full of flyers and promotional material, sign wavers stand on every major intersection and a proliferation of colorful signs have cropped up throughout the region. 

Ultimately, people around here are strongly evangelistic about their politics. If only the Christ-followers were as adament, but that's a posting for another day.

Still, it seems that many will not participate in the voting process this year. This is not news. It is this way at every election.

However, there are groups that now use guilt and public shaming as their motivational tactic to "get out the vote." This has happened in the past, but this year the guilt card arrived in the mail.

Yesterday, my daughter (21 years old) received a card in the mail that stated "Don't Throw Away Your Vote." I get it and actually agree. If you're registered (which, if you're of age, you should be) don't miss the opportunity to vote and let your voice be heard. As we know in Florida. . .every vote counts. Remember "hanging chads?"

Vote

The odd thing about this mailer was the wording at the bottom on the front. It says "Your neighbors will know."

On the back, there's a listing of those registered voters in our household, as well as our neighbors on either side and down the road. By each name is a designation showing the voting record of each listed. Now, a listing of who we voted for is not listed, but the fact that we voted is there. Under 2014 are blanks signifying that no one has voted this year (which, isn't true since we voted in the primary and just participated in early voting for this election) with the clear statement that if you do not vote, your neighbors will know and look down upon you.

That may be true, but it's a strange mailer.

This flyer comes from an organization called "Citizens for a Better Florida" and perhaps it will work, but motivation by guilt is rarely life changing or effective.

I know this is the case based on comments from young adults I talk with who are registered to vote, but are telling me they probably will not. There are various reasons why people do not vote. In the case of some of these millenials, they tell me that they just do not see that it matters. They state that those running for office are not likeable and are basically the same people (which makes those in the Republican and Democrat camps cringe.) These young adults are jaded and frustrated and want to make a difference, but often do not see the purpose of participating.

Then, when a guilt-trip is thrown at them, they push back even further.

Now, not every young adult is abandoning the vote. My daughter and many others have voted in the past and will fulfill their civic duty. Yet, people of all ages and generations find themselves perplexed as to how to vote, frustrated over those who serve now and are cynical about anything being different in the future.

To those friends, I ask you to not abandon your right. It is a duty. It is a right. More than that, it is an honor and privilege. 

With early voting sites open in many areas every day, the stress of making it to the polls on Tuesday is eliminated for the most part. 

DOES YOUR VOTE MATTER?

Yes! It matters. It should matter to you, if no one else. It matters that those with the rights and privileges to vote exercise those rights. Why? Various reasons, but ultimately because of the responsibility allotted through our nation's Constitution and the privilege to participate in the process.

I don't think voting to avoid embarrassment because your neighbors received a postcard is a good reason, so forget that. Vote because you can.

DOES IT MATTER HOW YOU VOTE?

Yes! Individuals, political parties, judge retention, amendment options, etc. are all impactful to the citizenship of our county, state and nation. When it comes to values, the battle between parties and individuals rage, as it always has. 

Vote your values. Know your values. Seek to elect men and women who reflect those. Study the details of proposed amendments. Receive insight from those who are older, wiser and understand the intricacies of the wordings of such. When it comes to judges and others with little information available, do your best to discover information about them, perhaps their community involvement? Google their names and if taken to a reputable website, use that information in your preparation.

Finally, and most important, PRAY before you vote. You are not just voting your preference. You are not just voting your party. You are voting not only as a citizen of this nation, but ultimately, if you are a Christ-follower, as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Trust Him. He will lead you to vote well. Rest assured, it is my conviction that He will lead you to vote, so don't abdicate that privilege.


Providing Parents the Tools Needed In This Ever-Changing Culture

Years ago, as I met with a new student pastor who was struggling to grow a healthy ministry, I shared something that took me a few years to figure out. It wasn't that others hadn't already been doing this. It was more that I was young and thought a strong student ministry was determined by how many students arrived at mid-week worship and events. 

A wise student ministry professor had told me years prior (and I guess I didn't listen too well, at first) that a healthy student ministry is built upon a strong ministry with parents of students.

This frightens many new, young, student pastors. In many cases, these pastors do not have children and since many are young themselves, they are closer in age to the students in their ministry than to the parents of their students. Therefore, a sense of fear and lack of expertise often leaves parents feeling as if they're on the outside.

Consequently, many student ministries end up being built on the personality of the leader and parents are unintentionally led to "outsource" disciple-making to pastors, small group leaders and others in the church.

As First Orange Park, the church I am honored to pastor, enters into 2015 soon, we are excited about the changes on the horizon and the steps to be taken that will result in what we believe will be a healthy church with healthy families and all (preschoolers, children, students, young adults, married adults, single adults and senior adults) actively serving in a framework that honors God and provides natural growth and opportunities for parents to be the primary disciple-makers in their homes.

THE NEED FOR PARENT MINISTRY

Ministering with parents of children and teenagers is essential. As many of our senior adults can attest, there is no manual for culture changes and parenting helps presented when a baby is born. Biblical principles are present, and vital, but often the church has been ineffective in giving moms and dads (and grandparents, foster parents, uncles, aunts, etc.) handles to hold as they embark and live out the journey of parenting.

As one aspect of our new family emphasis, we (our ministry leaders) are making available to parents of preschoolers, children (K - Grade 6) and students (Grades 7-12*) resources that are practical, helpful and needed through ParentMinistry.net.

The ROPE - Rites of Passage Experiences are vital in the life of a child. 

So, whether you have a child or grandchild or a young person in your family in need of these helps, we are proud to be your encouragers along the way.

We're putting the "Magic Button" on our website soon, but in the meantime, click here or the image below to view resources that can get you started.

The "Magic Button" leads to information for parents of teenagers. Other resources will become available soon.

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Our strategic framework for family discipleship will lead all areas of ministry within First Baptist to change over the next few years. This is a needed step and we believe God is leading clearly in this direction to be biblically sound in our discipling strategy. BTW - the resources are just the beginning. More info to come.

*6th Grade is actually in the "Youth" section of ParentMinistry.net, though at First, as in our community's schools, 6th Grade is in our Children's Ministry.


Redeeming the Four "B"s in the Western Church (Bodies In the Pews) - Part 4

The original "B" was for "Butts in the pews" but I figured that would upset someone, so I changed it to "Bodies." Nevertheless, you get the point. It's about counting the number of people who are in the building for scheduled worship services.

BODIES IN THE PEWS (or folding chairs) – The church is simply the people of God gathered. We wear the name of Christ and as a living organism, growth is natural. An attractional model may gather people in the room, but does that necessarily equate to health for the church?

The old scorecard counts event attenders (whether that be small groups, worship services, concerts, etc.) and gives points when there are more in the room. The incarnational church recognizes that church does not happen within a building during a two-hour period. When a missional theology is lived out, the church cannot remain within the building. Life change happens relationally, whether at the local coffee shop, dry cleaners, or gym. The missional church will engage in narrative mapping of the community to discover where the crowds are gathering. The art of “hanging out” is given validity.

Many western churches seek to create crowds. Often these are perceived as Christian “bait and switch” events. They are often designed by Christians sitting in churches trying to think like lost people.

This is the challenge. How do you count these people? There’s no box on the old scorecard for this. This must be understood and accepted. The pastor who wishes to free his people to be the church must learn this phrase, “That counts!”

In the past, only those who attended authorized church functions would get a point on the “scorecard.” No longer. Attendance at church events is not bad. Worshipping collectively as the church is vital. However, the missional church recognizes the power in releasing the church within the community, one Christ-follower at a time.

Church members must be instructed in the art of domain engagement. Every society in the world has pre-defined domains (transportation, education, medical, etc.) However, it must be noted that there is no such thing as the church domain. This is difficult for western believers to grasp because we function as if there is. God created all the domains that exist and then called the church to go engage each domain. This is revolutionary. God has placed within our churches men and women who live and function regularly in these pre-defined domains. Rather than pull them out and guilt them into disengaging and living solely in the created “church domain,” the missional church releases its members to be the church and engage the domains of the culture for the sake of the Gospel. That is being the church.

That counts!

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Redeeming the Four "B"s in the Western Church (Baptisms) - Part 3

Redeeming the four "B"s to ensure that false scorecards of church success no longer reign is a challenge. Especially, when one of the "B"s is something that is as vital as this for the church. . . 

BAPTISMS – Now this is a sticky subject. On one hand some pastors would declare that it is wrong to count baptisms. The premise is to “leave the numbers to God.” The other end of the spectrum says that to not count those who are being baptized is to de-emphasize the step of biblical obedience. As one pastor has said, “If you don’t count them, you can count on not having many.”

There’s wisdom in that statement.

So, when does numbering, or counting, one’s baptisms become wrong? It is wrong, and dangerous, when the numbers are what drives a church. When baptisms become little more than “notches on our spiritual gun belts” and the role of discipling is ignored. When a church forgets, or ignores, that each person is valuable and that the baptism is more important in the life of the Christ-follower than for the church as a point of braggadocio.

Baptisms are the outgrowth of a missional theology. The missional church is evangelistic. It is a discipling church. It is a church built on the foundation of Scripture.

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Redeeming the Four "B"s in the Western Church (Budgets) - Part 2

This is part 2 of a four part series focusing on the four "B"s that at times become idols in the western church. If not idols, these are often used as elements to determine success in church (often comparatively.) These elements have created a false scorecard for many. It's time to redeem them.

BUDGETS – Finances and budgeting are essential for established churches and church plants. When speaking of missional theology, the concept of finances often is foolishly ignored. Funding is needed in ministry and God always provides all that is needed.

Unfortunately, many churches develop their budgets based solely on the previous year’s spending. In some cases, the budgets are built around concepts of events that the church hopes to do in the next twelve months.

Over time, personnel expenses tend to take up the majority of funding within a church. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in that the staff provided by God to the church is a valuable resource and should be able to serve without constant fear of financial support.

When there is financial stress within the church, it adversely affects the health of the pastor and his family. This, in turn negatively affects the health of the church. Whether full-time or intentionally employed, the pastor will stress over the workings of the church, the ministry funding and programming. If married, the pastor’s wife will carry the very same load of stress in addition to the personal frustrations and stressors that come with managing a home (i.e. bills to pay, children, school, etc.) If not handled wisely, budgeting and finances can do damage to the church and to the marriage of the pastor.

The concept of missional theology and action cannot be limited to programming and community involvement. The budget of the church must also reflect this. To determine the values of the church, just as with individuals, see where the most time and money is spent.

A MISSIONAL CHURCH BUDGET

How can a church budget missionally? If the budget is built to just redo all the previous year’s events without consideration of how those events and programs reflect the missional makeup of the church, the church will never fully be missional. It will be held back by the budget and retreaded evenets.

While giving to missions is essential in any church budget, a strong look at other ministries and entities within the community must be made. Over the past eight years, our church has intentionally increased giving to denominational missions (CP and Associational Missions.) However, increased giving to these areas alone does not necessarily equate to missional giving.

While there are varied ways churches can give missionally, God has revealed some strategic areas for our congregation over the past couple of years. In our case, the foci have been three specific areas – orphan care, church planting and global missions.

Picjumbo.com_IMG_7460Like most churches, First Baptist has often been one that systematically has worked in the red for the majority of each year with hopes for increased giving in December to pull us back to the black. It has been a crazy strategy and, honestly, one of poor stewardship.

When we began to recognize our three areas of missional living as revealed by God, through prayer we decided to give any funds over and above expenses twice a year to ministries and groups serving in these areas. As God has blessed, we have been able to give away thousands of dollars.

Is that missional? We believe so. The funding of such ministries and churches allows for a larger Kingdom picture to become clear. Our mission is not really our mission. It’s God’s mission and we are just getting in on it, by invitation of course.

Therefore, the budget of the church needs to reflect His mission. Otherwise, as is the case in many places, the budget will simply reflect siloed ministries that feel as is they're the most important at the time.

As we have shifted to this model (it's a continual shift - we're not fully here, yet) we have been able to create an atmosphere of generosity among the people. As the church models good stewardship and missional focus, it becomes natural for those who are the church to do so as well.


Redeeming the Four "B"s in the Western Church (or "Why We Must Stop the Idolatry of Perceived Success in Ministry") - Part 1

REDEEMING THE FOUR B’S

BUILDINGS – In the western church, the size and modernity of church facilities often become elements for grading a church’s success. In full disclosure, I pastor a church with a nice facility, though dated. We have education space, a gymnasium and a worship center large enough to hold at least 1,200 people. However, I cannot claim any “points” for these facilities in that they existed before I became pastor. I have been to church facilities that cause me to repent of envy and jealousy. The truth is there are always bigger buildings, more high tech facilities and nicer spaces. I know church planters who long for a permanent facility, if for no other reason than to be able to cease the weekly set up and tear down necessary for services.

Fbcop frontHowever, it should be noted that a permanent facility does not necessarily equate to a healthy, missional church. There are numerous church facilities in my city and others throughout the nation that stand as monuments to by-gone days of effective ministry. The buildings are now fully paid, and yet the church is far from healthy. In some areas, most notably in Western Europe, but even here in the United States and Canada, church facilities are closing. Buildings, even fully paid off facilities, are not necessarily a sign of health.

The natural tendency of churches is to protect their facilities. Since it is the church who decided to build and fund the facilities, it’s expected that a sense of ownership would develop. The downside of this is the fact that a church that owns it’s buildings will have great difficulty living missionally.

A number of years ago, we began looking at our facilities differently. The understanding that the facilities we own belong first to God became the missional underpinning for redeeming this area. Without compromising the Gospel or our function as God’s church, we began to offer our facilities, free of charge, to community groups in need of space. Over the years we have allowed children's and youth organizations, cancer support groups, fishing clubs, chess clubs, ESL classes, school groups, choirs, bands, sports teams, cheerleaders, and many others use of space. This is an administrator’s nightmare, but it soon became obvious we could do no less.

RESPONDING TO A CRISIS

It was in October 2009 when crisis hit our community. A young, seven year old girl was kidnapped and brutally murdered. Our community was in shock. Hundreds of people volunteered to search for her when her abduction was first announced. Our sheriff’s office contacted the church to ask if we could loan them our bus and van in order to transport volunteers as we combed the area in search of clues. We did so without question. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that this little girl, Somer Thompson had been murdered. Her body was soon located. After meeting with the family members, we offered our services as a church. Since they had no church home our offer was simply “If you will let us be your church during this time, we will. No strings attached.” Through this offer a friendship developed between Somer’s mother, grandparents and members of our church. We were able to minister to this family and the community during this time. Our facilities were offered to house the community visitation and the funeral for the little girl who immediately became family to all in our community.[i]

First Baptist Church of Orange Park was not the first church placed in a position to minister to a community in crisis. It will not be the last either. Crises will come. The response of the missional church in such a time will open doors for Kingdom work. John Ortberg gives wise counsel in the Winter 2011 issue of Leadership Journal relating a church’s response to community crisis. Crisis is a temporary opportunity for a permanent gift. A crisis can be an opportunity for growth, but only if the church responds correctly. Ultimately, numerical growth is not even on the radar, nor should it be a goal when responding to a crisis. However, personal spiritual growth of the church is natural through these times. When a crisis occurs, the spiritual antennae of people go up. People are praying. Even people who never pray, begin to pray. They hold and attend vigils. When 9/11 happened, churches were full. People were united and seeking spiritual connections. Then, as in every case, the crisis fades (at least for those not directly affected) and spiritual urgency fades along with it. The church's role during the crisis is to, through love, help people discover how to make changes that will outlast the crisis.[ii]

As I was walking from my office to the worship center in preparation for Somer’s funeral, one of our deacons came along side of me. Looking at the parking lot filled with dozens of sheriff’s deputies and city police officers, news trucks from around the state, reporters seeking interviews, hundreds of citizens in our community lined up to attend the service, teachers from Somer’s school being bussed in on our church bus and the family coming in seeking answers, he said to me, “So, this is what missional looks like?”

He was right. The question of building use and facility availability was never in question. We had answered that question years prior. Our buidlings, our vehicles, our property is not ours. We are just stewards of God’s resources.

This is a difficult shift for many church members. For church planters, it is wise to begin with this presupposition. Even when there are few resources “owned” by a new church, it is healthy to understand that none of it belongs to the church. Resources (i.e. chairs, sound equipment, lighting, nursery equipment, etc.) are not items to own in order to grade health, but items on loan for the sake of the Gospel.

 


[i] Murphy, Bridget. "Flowers, Balloons Mark Somer Thompson's Funeral." Jacksonville.com. Florida Times-Union, 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.

[ii] Ortberg, John. "Don't Waste a Crisis." Don't Waste a Crisis. Leadership Journal, Winter 2011. Web. 27 Dec. 2012.


The Constitutional Battle In Houston - The Camel's Nose Is Under the Tent

It's interesting to note what gains a "trending" arrow or notification in the news via Facebook or Twitter. 

Earlier this week when this story hit, Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston (TX) City Council became trending items in the world of Twitter, Facebook and internet news.

 

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Headline from Todd Starnes article on the FoxNews Opinion site.

 

 

Todd Starnes was just one to write of this on his FoxNews Opinion site. It soon was being covered throughout the news media nationwide, albeit with perspectives unique to each news agency. 

I shared the story via my Twitter and Facebook accounts and interesting comments resulted from followers. One follower commented "Saw this happening, but a little weirded [sic] out by the fact that it's in the Bible Belt."

THERE IS NO BIBLE BELT

At one time, the deep South and even some surrounding areas were considered the "Bible Belt" but my response to this statement was that "The Bible Belt is a myth. It's been unbuckled for years."

Nevertheless, to see this occur first in Houston, Texas was a bit of a surprise for many.

I shared with my church family yesterday about the need to pray for what is happening in Houston. There were the typical remarks by many ranging from "I can't believe this is happening" to "We've been told that persecution will increase." 

The debate today now is being waged as to the nature of the subpoenas and the rights of pastors and religious leaders. There is a Snopes page that states that it's not fully a story about anti-homosexual teaching. However, it seems to be the overarching factor in the story, though it is couched in rhetoric regarding the HERO law in the city. 

 

I appreciate Dr. Russell Moore's clear article about the incident. You can read it here.

TODAY IS ABOUT BACKTRACKING

As I predicted in my Bible study group yesterday, today would be about backtracking on the part of the mayor and the city leadership. Someone will be blamed for misstating or wrongly accusing pastors. The idea of subpoening sermons will be stated as "never our intention" by someone in authority.

 

Now, as you most likely know, the mayor and others are doing exactly that. 

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Headline from 10-16-2014 article by Sarah Rumpf on Brietbart.com

Since there are other headline-grabbing stories (and rightfully so) out there such as those regarding ebola, ISIS, fall elections, the stock market, etc., this story will fade away. . .and many will forget it.

BE CAREFUL, THE CAMEL'S NOSE IS UNDER THE TENT

Camel_-Head-Under-Tent-largeAs I stated yesterday in our Bible study group. . .this constitutional afront will end. The city of Houston will not win in this instance. Pastors will not have to hand over their sermons. They will not  be hamstrung to preach only feel-good, politically correct, "ear tickling" messages that gain governmental approval. . .yet.

But, as the old saying goes, once the camel's nose is under the tent, it won't be long before it's standing inside.

There will be another court case.

There will be another city ordinance or state law.

There will likely be judges who reinterpret the Constitution to attempt to keep pastors from preaching the fullness of Scripture (all under the banner of "hate speech.")

The shift is already taking place. The movement is happening. It should not surprise us because it didn't just begin on Tuesday of this week. It has been happening for generations. Unfortunately, many churches have been afraid to address the issue and have continued to believe that "it could never happen here."

YOU CAN'T DROWN OUT THE NOISE JUST BY TURNING UP THE RADIO

I used to have a car that would make strange noises in the engine. One way to fix that is to turn that little knob on the interior of the car to the right. That knob increases the volume of music from the radio in the car and if the music is loud enough, I couldn't hear the noise any longer.

The problem is that by drowning out the engine noise, I was doing nothing to fix the problem, or even address it. Eventually, the noise stops and so does the engine. 

Problems cannot be ignored. They don't just go away.

For generations the "trumpet" has been sounding regarding the role of church in American culture. As Christians dutifully wrapped their flags around their crosses, the reality of culture shift was being ignored. Now, it's as if many are looking up for the first time and lamenting "How did we get here?"

This story in Houston is more than a call to arms for pastors to fight politically. It's a wake up call for a generation lost. We can no longer just "turn up the radio" and pretend that everything's okay. 

WHAT'S THE RESPONSE?

Well, first, we must wake up to the fact that prayer is not a passive response, but an active one. So, prior to "just doing something" we must pray, seek the face of God, repent for just doing church while a generation disappears, and realize that persecution will come, and it's something to celebrate. 

We must remember that love fuels our churches, not hate. I loathe that some have ignored this reality in their reactions to the Houston story. However, love does not mean affirmation, nor does it result in capitulation or the ignoring of the mission.

So, pastors. . .preach the Gospel, unapologetically. Don't edit the Word of God to present pleasing messages to the unsaved. Realize that while this week's story will fade, the next one will come sooner than later. This will not be an isolated event.

WHAT IF YOU END UP BEING ARRESTED?

Well, when did pastoring a church fall under the "safe job" banner? I seem to remember a number of pretty godly men who ended up in jail simply due to their faith and their messages.

I shared with my family that there will come a day when preaching the Gospel will get me in trouble. I explained that I will not back down, nor will I change the message preached or taught to appease those who hate the Gospel. I cannot do that without disavowing my Lord, His calling and the mandate to the church.

Fortunately, my daughter and wife told me they'd visit me in jail when that happens. 

In the meantime, be like the men if Issachar. Know the times. Stand firm.

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. . . 1 Chronicles 12:32a (ESV)


Ever Wonder If You're Really a Christian?

You can download the audio from yesterday's sermon from the previous post or listen to it online at our Podsnack site here.

The question about personal salvation is one that gives many people issues. Even the rich, young ruler in the Gospels made his way to Jesus to inquire how to gain eternal life. There are various reasons why some struggle to believe their eternity is secure.  Here are some I covered in yesterday's message.

WHY PEOPLE WONDER IF THEY'RE TRULY A CHRISTIAN?

  • Because they're not. This is a reality. More people on the planet than not are unbelievers. Just attending church, going to Sunday School, being baptized or going through confirmation does not secure a relationship with God through Christ essential for salvation. So, at a very base level there's a chance that doubt is there because there is no relationship. This is God's Holy Spirit working to draw people to Himself.
  • Because of habitual sin in one's life. Many people fall into habitual sin and whether it be viewing pornography, sexual sin, or another "can't stop" scenerio, the reality is that just promising to do better is not enough. Often pride must be swallowed and accountability with another believer is needed. There's a reason God puts so many "one anothers" in the New Testament for the church. Only God can heal and only God can rescue, but He uses His church in the process of santification at times. Therefore, no believer is meant to live as a "Lone Ranger" believer. We need each other.
  • Because their baptism and salvation moments are out of order. Baptism is a symbol of the moment of new birth. Many times people are baptized without ever surrenduring to Christ. Then, later in life, they receive God's gift and never follow through with the step of obedience through believer's baptism. Baptism prior to salvation is nothing more than a bath with your clothes on.
  • Because they have put their faith in an event they cannot remember. Some people base their new birth experience on what others have told them, unable to remember the moment themselves. It's not about remembering the day and time, but there is value in knowing the decision to surrender to Christ was made willingly and not by a parent or friend.
  • Because they don't "feel" like a Christian. What does a Christian feel like? Feelings are not the determining factor of reality.
  • Because they were dedicated (or baptized) as a baby in a church are fear that isn't enough. Infant baptism is more a dedication by the parents than anything else. Regarding personal salvation and believer's baptism, an infant doesn't make the choice on either, so this often causes internal struggles based on familial religion and personal relationship.
  • Because they repeated a prayer someone told them to repeat and even while doing so, they didn't know why. Just because you have the capacity to repeat a "prayer" does not mean you have surrendured to the Lordship of Christ. It just means you have the capacity to parrot another person. Perhaps many in our churches are basing their salvation on their capacity to say a "repeat after me" prayer without ever truly repenting and surrenduring to Christ ?

What you do with Jesus is the most important decision you will make in your life. 

It's not so much that you know Jesus. It's more of "Does Jesus know you?"

That invitation is clear. 

The wonderful thing is that you do not have to live your life wondering if you've done enough. Let God remove that fear and settle it for good today.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV)

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Vote "NO" on the Florida Pot Amendment

This prayer guide has been provided to pastors in the Florida Baptist Convention to share with our congregations. I share it via this posting in its entirety. I have great concern over Amendment 2 (Florida election) being passed (the "Marijuana Amendment".) Please vote NO on 2 and encourage others to do so as well.

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, Florida Baptists will have a unique opportunity to exercise their responsibility as Christian citizens to make their collective voice heard on the issues and candidates.  Fortunately our hope and trust is not in the results of elections! And the reality is that the spiritual and moral issues facing this nation will not be resolved in the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court or even in the state Legislature. What the United States desperately needs is another Great Awakening!

“The Church must experience a revival that awakens her to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ in her midst,” declares David Butts, chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee.  “Such a spiritual awakening within the people of God has the power to bring about true cultural transformation in this nation.”

Of great concern is the proposed Amendment 2 on the November general election ballot which seeks to bring about is unnecessary cultural change to Florida.  It is the so-called “Florida Right to Medical Marijuana”  This proposed “Medical Marijuana” law is a proverbial “smoke screen” which seeks to legalize marijuana by making it available to anyone and everyone who does not have medical needs. 

It is imperative that Florida Baptists vote to defeat Amendment 2!

Check out additional resources available on the website: www.DontLetFlGoToPot.com 

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Also share with your church members the highlights of the following

2014 Election Prayer Guide

  • The Church must experience a revival that awakens her to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ in her midst. Such a spiritual awakening within the people of God has the power to bring about true cultural transformation in this nation. So why pray for the elections? There are a number of compelling reasons:
  • The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership. This includes those who are vying to become leaders.
  • Godly leaders can help slow the erosion of religious liberties in our land. This can provide an increased window of opportunity for the Church to pray and evangelize.
  • According to Scripture, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34). The selection of leaders who understand and lead according to God’s righteous standards can bring great blessing to a nation.
  • Scripture also says in Proverbs 11:14, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisors make victory sure.” The determination of who leads our nation will also determine who advises that leader and how we are guided.

We Need to Pray Now

As you pray through this brief guide to the elections, there are several ways you can maximize its usage:

  1. Let others know about it. Distribute it widely to your friends and to your church.
  2. Pray with others about its content. Perhaps a weekly prayer meeting held in your home or your church could focus completely on what God desires to do in this upcoming election.
  3. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you beyond the content of the prayer guide. There will be many times in which this guide simply jump-starts your prayer time. The Holy Spirit will take this beginning point and lead you into deeper times of intercession for our nation.

Seven Ways to Pray for America

1. The Church—The Church is often relegated to the sidelines, considered irrelevant and out of touch. Though we sometimes deserve that critique, God has a completely different perspective on what His people are to be and how we are to function. In Ephesians 3:10, the Apostle Paul writes, “His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known….”

Though seemingly powerless in the eyes of the world, the Church—through righteousness, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit—releases the wisdom of God into any and every culture. Pray today for the Church in America, that:

    • Our eyes will be opened to see the hope to which we are called (Eph.1:18).
    • We will experience in a fresh, new way the Presence of Christ in revival.
    • Believers will be given the faith to believe that their votes will make a difference.
    • A spirit of repentance and humility will be poured out upon the people of God.
    • [Believers enter open doors to share the Gospel and how Jesus impacts every level of living.]

2. The Voters—The Great American Experiment in representative government for more than 200 years has depended upon voter involvement. From the very beginning of our nation there has been debate on who should be allowed the privilege of casting a vote to select our governmental leaders. The weight of history has increasingly opened the ballot box to more and more individuals.

This requires an educated electorate who will examine the issues and the candidates and vote in a way that is best for the nation, not just their own well-being. Much prayer is needed for this critical process. Pray today for voters in the United States, that:

    • Wisdom will be sought from God (James 1:5).
    • Self-interest will be laid aside for the common good.
    • Discernment between truth and falsehood will be clear.

3. The Candidates—In the early years of our nation, it was thought to be in bad taste to even be seen wanting an office, much less actually campaigning. Oh, how things have changed! Now candidates for public office, especially at higher levels, put themselves and their families through a rigorous process that brings every aspect of their lives into public view. It has become so intense that many good individuals have chosen not to endure the sort of public scrutiny that is an integral part of the campaigning process today.  Praying for candidates does not mean praying just for those you agree with or support. All are leaders and potential leaders in our nation—and as such, all need our prayers. Pray today for candidates for office in the United States, that:

    • They will take brave stands for righteousness, even when it may not be well received.
    • Their families will be protected from harm and unnecessary scrutiny.
    • They will surround themselves with godly advisors.
    • They will focus on the issues we face as a nation and not on personal attacks on other candidates.

4. The Media—In our day of 24-hour news coverage, the media have taken on a huge role in our election process. Handling media correctly sometimes seems to take precedence in a campaign over actually dealing with issues. The media themselves often forget their role of informing and reporting and have become endorsers and supporters, even while they try to deny that role. Increased prayer for the media is an essential way for Christians to impact an election. Pray today for the media in America, that:

    • Truth in reporting and election coverage will become a high value.
    • Media bias will disappear.
    • Christianity will receive fair coverage in all reports.
    • Hope will become a part of the message of the media.

5. The Impact on the Nations—In our rapidly shrinking world, what happens in one country has an effect on others. This is especially true for the United States. The individuals who hold the presidency and Senate and Congressional seats will make decisions that impact the rest of the world. Whether those decisions help or harm the people of the world is largely determined by the choices that Americans make at the polls. We need to pray that our choices will serve to bless the world. Pray today for the election and its impact on the world, that:

    • Voters will consider the foreign policies of candidates and how they fit with biblical principles.
    • The activities of other nations will not have an undue influence on our elections.
    • The result of U.S. elections will serve to spread the gospel around the globe.
    • The U.S. will stand firm in its commitment to Israel’s right to exist as a nation.

6. Spiritual Warfare Surrounding the Elections—Nothing is achieved in the Kingdom of God without warfare. That includes the election of righteous individuals to the leadership of one of the key nations on the planet. As we pray, we must expect the enemy to attack in many ways. There will be attacks on candidates and their families, on the media, the Church, and perhaps the nation itself. Some will be clearly spiritual, while other attacks may have physical manifestations. Our call is to have great discernment as we pray and stand in the strength of Christ’s victory. Pray today around the spiritual warfare issues involved in the election, such as:

    • Great awareness and discernment for the Lord’s praying people as they pray over the election.
    • Physical protection for all candidates and their families throughout this campaign season.
    • A strong hedge of protection around the nation itself during this time of decision.
    • The unleashing of the sword of the Spirit throughout the nation, judging the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

7. The Purposes of God—Ultimately, whatever the area of prayer emphasis, we must always come back to the purposes of God. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). As we pray for something as important as national elections, we must lay down our own desires and take up the desires of God. What we really desire is for the Lord’s purposes to be achieved in and through our nation. All of our requests must be couched in words and thoughts that focus our hearts on the Kingdom of God. Pray today for the purposes of God to be accomplished in the U.S. elections:

    • Pray that the U.S. will turn and seek first the Kingdom of God.
    • Pray that God will be honored in the midst of this election campaign.
    • Pray for opportunities for Christians to share their faith and their values in the midst of this election process.
    • Pray that the results of the 2014 elections will please the Lord and release His blessing over this nation.

Developed by: By David Butts, chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee and founder/president of Harvest Prayer Ministries. © 2011 Harvest Prayer Ministries, PRAYERCONNECT magazine. Used by permission.

[Bracketed material [--] added by Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team, Florida Baptist Convention


"Reverend Camden" Falls and It Will Impact Real Lives

The news blew up yesterday with reports of actor Stephen Collins' alleged admission to child sexual abuse. The recording, said to be made secretly by his ex-wife, actress Faye Grant, during a therapy session years ago has gone viral over the web and has elicited numerous reactions and responses.

Many who grew up watching the family-focused television show, 7th Heaven have responded with  despair, frustration, anger and confusion. Some state that their childhood has been ruined. Some have found this an opportunity to state that no "pastors" should ever be trusted.

 

It's unfortunate, especially since Reverend Camden is a fictional character played by an actor in a television show. More unfortunate is that there are enough real pastors in the real world who have fallen into the same sinful situations.

Collins' is a dreadful story and is leading to numerous reactions and false follow-up stories.

  • 7th Heaven has been removed from syndicated view by numerous television stations.
  • Collins has resigned from the SAG Board.
  • He has been removed from the cast of Ted 2.
  • Neighbors haver erroneously tweeted that he committed suicide earlier today.

Sadly, in the midst of this story, regardless the reason for the leaked audio tape, there is indication that at least three children were sexually molested. The NYPD is continuing to investigate, so at this point everything is alleged.

Yet, in this story of depravity is a marriage that was lost and a skewed identity of manhood. As prognosticators and entertainment analysts attempt to create fodder for conversation along with explanations and justifications for such behavior, the root of all such behavior continues to be ignored.

SIN.

Yeah, it's now a term that is not politically correct and in a culture that has excised absolute truth from its vocabulary, the term seems to be relegated to a small sub-group known as the church. It has become offensive to refer to anyone else's actions as sinful, especially in a world where "what's true for you may not be true for me."

In the strange version of church presented in 7th Heaven, I'm not sure the biblical view of sin, justification, redemption and repentance was every clearly shown. Those seeking their theology from such a show will always be sadly lacking. A liberal, feel-good, tickle-the-ears, message was often presented in an imaginary church that was always way too full to be an accurate representation.

As for Stephen Collins, people are irate that their imaginary pastor has apparently fallen.

Personally, I never viewed Collins as a pastor. He was the adventurer from "Tales of the Gold Monkey" and Commander Decker from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Ultimately, he was none of these characters and perhaps that's a revelation of a deeper problem in our culture.

Behind these false worlds and imaginary characters in film and television is a man. A real man. A man named Stephen who at this juncture must feel as if his world is falling apart. This is a man who seems to be caught in a sin that cannot just be "personal" because it impacts others (the three alleged victims) and a multitude of fans.

What should happen? 

Justice. There's no debate on this matter here. Accountability for such heinous acts is not something to be ignored. At this point, the police and legal system is involved and must do their jobs. The court of public opinion has already spoken, but, as always, there's most likely more to the story than has been made known.

In the midst of this, the young girls need healing as do their families. The girls are unknown to the public (and should remain so) and yet, they need to know the healing touch of a loving God who is true and pure. This is my prayer for them. Sadly, as the story cycle ends and everyone has forgotten this instance, these girls will not have, so join me in praying for their hearts.

Stephen needs help as well (in the midst of his consequences.) I pray that he will encounter the true God (not the imaginary one who plays a character on a television show) in a very real way. May he gain identity not in characters, roles, titles or even accusations (even if true) but in Jesus Christ.

While some would say this is just an "entertainment" story and does not impact the church, I beg to differ. For some, the imaginary "Reverend Camden" was the father they always wanted, the pastor they always desired and the image of hope and right. Now that this story has come to light, these images are gone and many have been fooled by the Enemy to believe that all is hopeless and that no one offers Truth.

May we offer clear images of Christ, not skewed ones. 

May we offer true church, not imaginary ones.

May we be obedient to God as we wear His name. We are his ambassadors.