Sunday, September 26, 2010

We Shoot our Wounded:

I was told this by my Associate Pastor several years ago. “Southern Baptist have the reputation of shooting their wounded.” For years I have tried to deny this statement. Yet, I cannot deny what I have seen within my own church in the past three years. I personally have seen members of our church who have been led by God to serve at another church be literally crucified by other members of our church. Rumors and untrue accusations fly like rice at a wedding. Hate mail sent to them who's handwriting is obvious but refuse to sign their own letters of cowardice. The only way I can describe it is taking the Book of James and tearing it right out of your Bible and setting it on fire. Then taking the rest of your Bible throwing it on the ground and stomping on it. There is no doubt in my mind that Christians are the worst in persecuting Christians.

I count myself blessed to have been able to be part of a men's ministry of another church that I am not a member of. My brothers there have treated me with love and respect. I cannot say the same for some of the members of my own church who have gone out of their way to block any development or return of a men's ministry within our own church.

These atrocities within my church are rooted in personal pride and individual quests for control and power within the church. That's right I said church. On the outside seen as a fortress of safety but what lays within is an entirely different story. Not once looked upon with reverence to our Lord.

These situations and instances are normally ignored as disgruntle church members and those who remain just want to say, “Good riddance.” Funny the word “riddance” means “the act of forcing someone out.”

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. James 1:14-16 (NLT)

No wonder more and more people will tell you they are looking for God and not a church. God and the word, “church” no longer seem to mean the same thing. After experiencing what I have written above you certainly cannot blame them. We as Christians have taken God's Word and ignored it. We have taken God's house and used it to isolate us from the world. Making us no different from any other religions and that is exactly how the world sees Christianity today.

Does this mean we should just give up? No, but we need to admit the corporate church model so associated in America today does not work. If a pastor is preaching to 300 to a 1,000 or more there is no way that one pastor can serve the spiritual needs of his flock. Even with two or three associate pastors the need cannot be fulfilled.

The only future I see for Christianity is a return to What Did Jesus Do. A one-on-one relationship. Tossing pride and self-absorbed out the door and focusing on putting the Great Commission to work as we have been commanded to do.

I am sure I will have more to write on this subject in the near future. Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Radical: Chapter 5

Today's morning study focuses on chapter 5 in David Platt's book, RADICAL. In my opinion, this is the heart of the book. This is when the author tasks us with taking the Great Commission seriously.

If we were left to ourselves with the task of taking the gospel to the world, we would immediately begin planning innovative strategies and plotting elaborate schemes. We would organize conventions, develop programs, and create foundations. We would get the biggest names to draw the biggest crowds to the biggest events. We would start mega-churches and host mega-conferences. We would do...well, we would do what we are doing today. ~ David Platt

Jesus focused his time on teaching a small group of 12 men. Discipleship training was a relationship with the Master. A slow committed process. Not a lecture type class.

What would be the most effective way for a new follower of Christ to learn to pray? To sign them up for a one-hour-a-week class on prayer? Or to invite them personally into your quiet time with God to teach them how to pray? What would be the most effective way for this new follower of Christ to learn to study the Bible? To register them in the next available course on Bible study? Or to sit down with them and walk them through the steps of how you have learned to study the Bible? ~ David Platt

The author points out we have created the American Dream version for Christianity. In essence we have disinfected ourselves from the realities of the world. Turning church into a spiritual safe-deposit box for us. We have become decent church members with little more impact on the world than we had before we were saved.

This without a doubt is a very tough chapter. Discipleship training is a matter of obeying Christ's commands spelled out in the Great Commission.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matt 28:18-20 (NLT)

Discipleship is duplication. First you become a disciple of Christ. We receive the Word in an effort to reproduce and teach others. Preachers looking to reproduce more preachers within their churches. Sunday School teachers looking to reproduce more Sunday School teachers within their churches. Christians going out into the world to witness to seek and save the lost. Look at the Great Commission again. It says “GO.” That means all of us, not a selected few. It says, “GO” and not wait until we feel better equipped. There is no mention about building giant buildings and monuments, programs or events. No argument of music and entertainment. The Word says, “GO.”

Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Monday, September 13, 2010

Christian Gambler:

The Alabama Baptist newspaper is running an eight part series on “Gambling in Alabama.” I guess the past year of Casino Bingo articles just have not been enough. First off what is my definition of “Gambling?” In my humble opinion gambling is investing something of personal value for the intent of personal gain. So do I have a problem with casinos being built-in our state? No. That is not very Christian of you D.C!

First look at who has to loose if casinos were to be built-in our town. The first ones to loose would be other casinos in the state. Second, other casinos in neighboring states would loose business. Why travel there if you can get it here? Local stores especially Wal-mart and other major retail chains would be the first to see a drop in consumer spending. Small local shops would suffer the most. On top of that the business model for such small casinos experience a revenue plateau within 3 to 5 years. About the same time the break even point of initial investors' investment is achieved. To continue an increasing revenue stream such casinos will need to again make new investments in entertainment, food and yes, new and more gaming machines.

City and county governments will see a short-lived increase in tax revenue for the first 3 to 5 years. After making countless building permit and other concessions the over-all benefit will be lucky to break even. Now that is gambling.

So why is gambling such a big issue in Alabama. Greed and moral decay are at the heart of the matter. The facts are that we as Christians have no intentions of funding such an expensive legal fight with casinos. Casinos have what appears on the surface as an endless revenue stream to funnel cash into the fight. If we are really concerned with the moral decay of society we would focus our efforts on witnessing for Christ and not throwing money at a losing battle.

“I never gamble.” I hear that a lot from fellow Christians. Strange when I was younger I actually got to meet a professional gambler. He told me that a professional gambler never gambles. They only invest when the odds are in their favor. Sounds a lot like the banking industry. They invested heavily into real estate mortgages and even when their investments went South they still received billions of dollars in bail out money. It was overall a safe gamble you have to admit. One made entirely in their favor.

Have you ever driven a car? You are gambling thinking that 6 inch wide yellow line will prevent that multi-ton car coming at you will stay in their lane. The fact is you are gambling with your life every time you drive in a car. In other words you are investing your life in exchange for getting from point “A” to point “B.” What is the definition of gambling?

D. C. get on board. We are talking about putting a casino in our own backyard here. With that comes drug trafficking, prostitution, increasing crime and violent assaults too. You are absolutely right. When we hear the word casino we think big luxury hotels like in Vegas or Atlantic City. They will never be coming to our town. The high rollers who can afford to spend the money needed to fund the dreams of local politicians and our community will never come. These are not casinos. They are the diet Coke of casinos. Just one calorie, not casino enough. What we are really seeing coming to town are gambling joints bent on only one thing. To strip away as much money from the local community as possible. The business model for a Vegas type casino is to build it. Open the doors and collect the cash in as many buckets as you can. That is in Vegas not Alabama. In Vegas people are under the illusion that gambling is entertainment. They entertain as much money as possible right out from under you without you even thinking twice about it. We see people coming back from Vegas with nothing but lint in their pockets and smiles on their faces. That is Vegas. Here a gambling joint will need to swindle your money away from you. That leads to corruption, heartache, and social destruction.

If we really want to control this we first must realize it is coming. Therefore we should pass laws requiring a true casino establishment must be on the huge scale of Vegas. Requiring the investment of 100's of millions of dollars and nothing less. In other words make it OK to build if you build the biggest and the best. Top dollar in will result in top dollar out. If they want to build a casino here then make them go all-in not just a few coins down. Make them invest in building an airport. Minimum room development of 500 to 1,000 's of units. Tax each room whether occupied or not. Only those who can really afford it will build. Why should they? If you are going to spend money like that then spend it in Vegas like they should. Reduce the odds of success and you reduce the odds of building it in our backyard.

From the Christian point of view we need to start negotiating the right to minister to people on casino property. Start gambling counseling facilities before they even open up for business. Funded by the casinos themselves. They would have too just for the PR value.

Well that is my story. It is just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think? Are you willing to put it on the line and leave a comment? Yes, leaving your opinion for someone else to see is a gamble. Is it worth the risk? Make a choice.

Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Debt to the Lost: Radical, Chapter Four

This morning we continued with our study of David Platt's book entitled: RADICAL. Special thanks to Brother Troy for opening his home to us to study God's Word. Speaking for all the men within the study we would like to especially thank Sister Becky for cooking and preparing the wonderful breakfast for all of us. They are servants of the Lord.

This lesson was one of the hardest. We owe a great debt to the lost. That is correct. We as Christians have a debt to the lost. Think about it. We are Christians, we are saved, we have eternal life through Jesus Christ. We have the cure for death. We have this greatest gift and we are commanded to share that with others. Not just those immediately around us, but world-wide.

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Matt 28:19 (NLT)

I do not know how many times during seminary and during everyday walks of life I have been asked, “Have you been called?” We seem to think that we must be “Called” first before we can serve. As David Platt points out we are not called to do the same tasks nor are we given the same skills and abilities. We are though commanded to share the Gospel. We are commanded. Whatever skills, abilities or other gifts we have been given become useless if we fail to respond to the Great Commission.

Christianity is not dieing. We have simply failed in doing what we have been commanded to do. The author makes a bold statement in chapter four.

Jesus didn't die for just you. “We live in a church culture that has a dangerous tendency to disconnect the grace of God from the glory of God. ….We bask in sermons, conferences, and books that exalt a grace centering on us.” - David Platt, RADICAL

He also states: “We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling—something that only a few people receive.”

The problem I see right in front of me is the fact that we do not teach witnessing. We do not practice witnessing. Therefore how as Christians can we expect to witness? Witnessing must become a habit. As natural as breathing.

Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Evil in the World

Why Does God Allow Evil in the World?

In lieu of the upcoming date of the attack of 9/11 where nearly 3,000 lost their lives in a brutal attack of evil. A question we as Christians face and must be able to answer is why if God is such a loving God would allow evil in this world?

God allows evil in the world as a demonstration of His grace and love for us. What? D. C. are you out of your mind? Only we could be so bold and so ignorant to think that we deserve to live in a world without evil when in fact we are the evil.

No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one. Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave. Their tongues are filled with lies. Snake venom drips from their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. They rush to commit murder. Destruction and misery always follow them. They don’t know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all.”
Romans 3:11-18 (NLT)

If God was to make this world without evil He would have to first start by eliminating us. Does the name Noah ring a bell? That was our second chance. What did we do with it? We blew it. Again we have taken God's own creation and turned it into a battle field. We have become very efficient in killing one-another. We have reached a point with enough nuclear weapons to kill every man, woman, child and every blade of grass around the world six times over. Six times over.

Each day that we are allowed to live is a blessing, a gift and a demonstration of God's grace and love. We do not deserve it.

Noah was our second chance. Jesus is our last chance. There again showing us God's grace and patience. Not very often do we see a fellow human being ever giving another a second chance let alone a third. It is our lack of forgiveness that demonstrates our sinful nature. I would be the first to admit that I am guilty.

...For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
Matt 5:45 (NLT)

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
Heb 13:4-6 (NLT)

Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Monday, September 6, 2010

Taking the Risk out of the Market:

My father spent thousands of dollars for my education in financial tactical analysis. Simply put, “a chartist.” Moving averages, complicated formulas and trend following investigating. Though no longer in the position I once held. I am still a daily chartist.

So what does this have to do with being a Christian?

More and more I receive advertisements with the following statement, “Take the risk out of the market.” The fact is risk is where the money is. This sounds very worldly coming from a Christian. Your right.

Jesus gives us a lesson in investing: Parable of the Three Servants (Matt 25:14-30)

The one who played it safe ended up losing everything and was left separated from the master. We see the same thing in today's churches. We play it safe. Dress nice. Go to church on Sunday. Smile, sing and put a little into the offering plate. Our work is done now let's go to lunch. This way we feel comfortable and think we have invested enough of our time and resources into God's Kingdom. As we continue to do this Christianity grows weaker with less and less baptisms. Religions like Islam continue to gain ground by growing each day. Why? They invest and put themselves in harm's way. They continue to risk and so far have succeeded.

We are always looking to take out the risk in investing. When looking for the easy way out in life there is no easy way out.

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27 (NLT)

Carry your cross can be interpreted as carrying your own electric chair for us to better understand today. Dead to self. To abandon one's own goals, ambitions, and even one's own needs for following God's will. We may preach it. We may want it. We rarely put actions to our words and do it.

Did Jesus take a risk? Yes sir. He risked everything. His life for ours. We seldom take that to heart.

Here in the South the Civil War or the “The War of Northern Aggression” still runs deep within our society. In July of 1863 General Robert E. Lee had begun his invasion of the North. Few know that Lee's plan was to draw out the Northern Army and destroy it. That was not his primary objective. His goal was to deliver a letter of peace from Jefferson Davis to the desk of Abraham Lincoln. The intent was to offer peace from a position of absolute strength. It was a risk. Lee risked all for peace. The battle came to Gettysburg which was not the intended battle ground. The risk for peace cost tens of thousands of lives during those three days of battle. Some historians estimate as many as 50,000 American lives were lost. The Battle of Gettysburg is still looked upon as the turning point of the war. It does not take a lot of head scratching to realize the Southern States are still being punished.

Some of the greatest innovations have come from the South. The worlds most powerful motor was developed and built here in the South. The Saturn Five rocket which was the key to getting Americans to the moon. Development of the ironclads changed naval warfare throughout the world overnight. Even today the South is still called “The Bible Belt.” the last strong hold of Christianity in America. Now that is a risk worth taking.

Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Radical and the American Dream:

Today we continued our study in David Platt's book, “Radical.” Chapter three entitled, Beginning at the End of Ourselves. James Truslow Adams is given credit in 1931 in coining the pharse, the American Dream. When you compare the American Dream to God's purpose for our lives the two do not meet. The goal of the American Dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God according to Platt. I agree. Here in America we live in a society that teaches and encourages us to be self-reliant. If it has to be, it is up to me attitude. Do not worry about the people you step on the way up unless you expect to see them on the way down is our American motto.

Chapter three starts out telling of how Seminary students in Indonesia must plant a church with at least 30 baptized members before they can graduate. The story continues in explaining how two classmates died at the hands of Muslim persecutors doing so. What if graduating seminary here had the same requirement?

As Brother David explains, giving up self for Christ means giving up everything. Putting your life goals and career aside for a life that God wants for you. Does this mean giving up my job, my career, my life plans and/or my business for Christ? If they are not inline with Christ then the answer is a simple YES. This hurts. I know. This morning we discussed about moving from the valley up to the top of the mountain. What if you reach the top and realized you are on the wrong mountain? Yes, the journey begins all over. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will have to make sacrifices. Yes, you are seeking God's will for you. Yes, you will have to trust God with your very life.

The author points out in today's world strategies for doing church require little if any power from God. Today the power of God is no longer needed to draw a crowd in our culture. We are looking for performances and not seeking the truth. Church competes with other social events and entertainment events. We have large auditoriums to accept crowds of people and not focusing on sitting down on the floor in a small room with others sharing and teaching God's Word. We have reached a point where we can download a sermon online. Hand it to an actor to perform along with musical entertainment. Bingo! You got church. The next step is to get rid of the church building all together and just broadcast the event over the internet, satellite, cable or TV.

I like what David Platt has to say about the New Testament Church in the Bible. “A scene where the church radically trusts in God's great power to provide unlikely people with unlimited, unforeseen, uninhibited resources to make his name known as great. I want to be part of that dream.


Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sunday School Recycled:

This week we start a brand new study lesson in Sunday School. It begins with, “God has an eternal plan.” If you have been in an Adult Sunday School class you quickly realize the subject materials tend to recycle themselves every two years or so.

The main problem is the pressure we place on our Sunday School teachers. For a half hour to forty-five minute lesson our teachers must spend several hours each week in preparing for the lesson. At least our teachers do. On top of that they must be ready to give a lesson that has something for the experienced Bible student as well as the beginner each week. An elementary to high school teacher would be the first to admit that is not possible. Yet, this is what we expect, if not demand, from our Sunday School teachers. This is also why most of the lesson materials come to the church from out-source providers.

The out-sourced materials provider cannot build a lesson plan in the traditional step-by-step and level-by-level way. Why? Our Sunday School classes are arranged by age groups and not by Bible experience levels. Such a provider can only offer so much. With the undo pressure of trying to be everything to everyone our Sunday School teachers are limited in what they can do or provide for.

I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.
1 Cor 3:2-3 (NLT)

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
Heb 5:12-14 (NLT)

I know and have spoken with those who have told me, “I've been a Sunday School teacher for thirty years.” “Wow,” I reply. “You must have hundreds of students out there teaching Sunday School?” Often the reply is, “No, the same group is still with me today.” Ooops! Does this help promote and grow God's Kingdom? Ouch!

By grouping by age group and not by experience we limit ourselves, the study materials and our ability to grow as a Christian. This teaching model has been in place for decades. Why rock the boat? We are Christians! It is our job to rock the boat.

We have this attitude of “Got Milk.” Then think that is enough. Look at the scriptures above. Milk is not enough.

Solution: Those who want more need to learn to teach. When you teach a lesson you learn more and get more out of it. Sure it takes more of your own personal time. Time spent with God. What could be better? Therefore we need a Sunday School class for new Sunday School teachers. Existing Sunday School teachers could rotate to help teach the class by sharing their personal experiences and offer guidance in a way books just cannot. Just like missionaries. They need others to come in and relieve them once in a while. This way new Sunday School teachers can gain experience without having to be appointed for life to a classroom.

Wait a minute! We do not have enough students to call for the need to train new Sunday School teachers.

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.”
Matt 9:37 (NLT)

Not training new Sunday School teachers is like telling farmers we have enough to eat this week. There is no need for you to go to all that trouble in planting another crop.

Team up, Set-up and get into the fight. <><

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