Friday, August 1, 2014

Preserving Life

Since resigning my pastorate last year, I have taken on the task and job at the Pregnancy Care Center to advance it's ministry.  I am the Advancement Manager. Ha ha, the title sounds real important, but I am only one of four part-time staff, and there is no one there that I manage. I handle church relations, donor relations, volunteers, events, and expansion into areas that we don't have good exposure. Even as I write, the task seems daunting. However if you compare it to the plight of the unborn striving to live, or the persecuted believers in Nigeria, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and China (just to name the ones in the news currently), my work is easy.

One thing that I didn't anticipate in going to work at the Pregnancy Care Center was the heart that I would gain for the unborn. It didn't take graphic photos of the horrors of abortion, all it took was the numbers on the praise board of the lives saved, the faces of women who have been helped, media, and the tirelessness of those here that would give their last breath to save a woman and a child. Together For Life is one of the best pro-life videos ever. It speaks about the historical perspective of Christianity, and its love for babies, women, and the unborn (and the guy has a cool accent, British I think). Below is another great one from another pregnancy care center. It's called Sanctity of Life 2014. Both of these are very encouraging, and bring about cause for rejoicing that believers are out there working to end  the atrocity of abortion.

Another thing that I gained was a realization of the apathy of most churches compared to the enormity and gravity, and urgency of the atrocity of abortion; especially in light of the history the Christian community has always had for children, born and unborn. I think part of the reason that we are that way is that we cannot fathom 55 million babies.  We can't fathom 55 million of anything. Once I heard a demonstration that helped me understand it, that crushed a lot of apathy for me. The Sound of Abortion is much more difficult and heart-wrenching to watch/hear. But take a minute and listen to it. Every believer should.

I enjoy working here at the PCC. It takes up precious time, but I believe that God will save many babies and mothers through this ministry. And of course, when God saves a baby and his/her mother, God is saving a generation, as that child would have produced children, who would have produced children, and so on. One abortion actually kills a life, maims another, and removes the potential for maybe hundreds more, if the Lord tarries His coming.

Find your closest PCC, and volunteer, give, and pray for it's success. Twenty-nine women who came here determined to abort so far in 2014 have chosen life! There will be women with fearful minds, facing one of the most difficult decisions in their lives, laying their heads down on pillows in your community, maybe in your neighborhood, awaiting decision day--tomorrow. How will you help them?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stay-At-Home Moms Value Undercut

Now, let me start with a disclaimer: this is not supposed to engender envy, strive, pride, or agitation with the body of Christ between moms who work outside the home and those that work inside the home.  Both are biblically permissible. And I believe that each couple has to work out their faith in fear and trembling, for this is an issue of liberty, not prescription. Neither group is supposed to flaunt its liberty.  My idealistic thinking makes me wonder how the two options could work together in beautiful harmony within a loving community of genuine followers of Christ who are committed to laying down their lives. What would that look like? So, to moms working outside the home, no condemnation, in fact, I need your help. I need you to fight against the culture and their values, not against your practice.

Anyway, the genesis of this post was two newspaper articles (I still read one, behind the times, I know...) that demonstrate the culture's view of women and their role in parenting and in society and life in general. I know that I am also biased because my wife stays home. It is our choice, we are good with it. But the culture cheapens it, so I guess this bothers me. One article was titled something to the effect of 'Stay-At-Home Mom Takes a Stand' and the other talked about how women in leadership were making a difference and truly changing the world. I am not here to wish things were the way they used to be in the 50's, or preach that they should be that way.

I am simply saying one thing: our culture does not see the role of the stay at home mom as valuable, game-changing, or at least as much as getting out there and "doing something with your life."

Want some proof? How many young ladies graduating high school stand up in their churches or at civic organizations and say that their plans for the future are to be a wife and mother. What would be the reaction of the audience? Will they burst out in applause? Standing ovation? Cheers and shouts of affirmation? They should, but the culture says that path is inferior. How many valedictorians tell their class they have focused on studying home economics (is that class even offered anymore?) so they can better make the home a wonderful refuge, and be a better wife to her husband?  Do you think that anyone will EVER stand at a commencement ceremony at any university and tell the new graduates to stay at home and be great moms? What would the conversation go life if you daughter told a neighbor that her goal was to be a wife and mother? "But no, honey, what do you want to do?" says the neighbor. Just today I saw a county official who gradulated all the graduates on their accomplishments and on entering a new phase of life, either continuing their education or entering the workforce...whichever you choose... they continued. Case and point.

I know this example is from the 1700's, but it shows the value of a godly stay-at-home mother and wife: The legacy left by the Edwards family demonstrates the effect of a gospel-centered home. Over four hundred descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards have been traced. Of these, fourteen became college presidents, roughly one hundred became professors, another one hundred ministers, and about the same number became lawyers or judges. Nearly sixty became doctors, and others were authors or editors.

There is an unwritten cultural bias against being a stay at home mom. It shouldn't be so. At the very least we can work to change that mindset in the body of Christ. Let us lift up her value, not over and against those who work, but just because it is so.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Overlooking Deeper Rationale

I haven't pushed my last three blogs on FB, Twitter, etc, because I know that they have potential to offend, but maybe we can all be mature about it.

I had a discussion the other day with a man who had been the pastor at a church that was wrought with power brokers who desired to keep it just the way it was forever. He related to me the situation that led the church to a brighter future, even though it led to his departure from that ministry.

So I asked him how the church was doing now. He said it was doing really well. Then he continued with a big "although the current pastor and I would disagree on some things." The old saying goes, curiosity killed the cat, but now mine was aroused and I had to asked him "in what way?" Having only met him briefly one other time, and not knowing where I stood on any of this stuff, he commented about the way this young guy came out of seminary and follows guys like John Piper down to the "T". I just nodded, and continued asking about the church.

Ten years ago, Voddie Baucham once said how he had three beliefs that he held to which were not completely in line with typical SBC churches. The family integrated church model and his absolute advocacy for homeschooling did not cause him any true rejection in Southern Baptist life. However, he said, when he "came out" as a Calvinist, it cost him any respect and opportunity for service to the SBC.

"No… I’m not gay. It’s far worse than that.  I’m a Calvinist!  That’s right, I’m a fire-breathing, TULIP believing, five-point Calvinist.  That, my friends, is the unpardonable sin in contemporary Southern Baptist life (unless your name is Al Mohler and you've been President of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since you were in your early thirties and happen to be the most intelligent, articulate, winsome public face the Convention has)."

But that was ten years ago. Even though there are no true Calvinists among Southern Baptists (those who would hold to infant baptism or the marriage of the church and the state), there has been a trend among Southern Baptists to lean that way, some further than others. In fact, there has been talk of a growing rift between those among us who are more reformed in our doctrine of salvation, and those who cling to a more General Baptist position (both of which are part of the heritage of baptists going back to the 1600's). And I am thankful for the ministry of wonderful presidents of the SBC and EC who have in the last few years been successful (in my opinion) at avoiding the rift and helping to keep extremism and name-calling and arrogance minimal. Seems like both groups have really refocused upon the gospel and the calling to spread it, rather than on us.

I do want to take a second and speak toward an often overlooked reason that SBC churches and pastors, seminary students, missionaries, etc, are moving to be more Calvinistic. And let me preview this: I am not a five-point Calvinist. Sorry to my five-point friends. But I only have a problem with a limited atonement, all the other points are good with me. Sorry to my non-Calvinistic friends. Obviously, I don't have time to get into an overview of the differences. On one side we be careful not to equate Calvinism with the gospel, and on the other side not to become anti-Calvinists. But I do think a reason that there is reason under the surface, not just in simple exegesis. It is the fact of the great big God that the Calvinistic baptists present.

It's not that the general baptists don't believe in that same big God, they do, it's just that they don't seem to express it as much or as well or as often. I think that people are drawn by the glory that they are helped to see by current more reformed speakers and writers, and only confirmed by the text of scripture. As far as the scripture goes, we all come with different preconceived notions which are hard to separate in our exegetical work.  But there is in all of us a longing for greatness, gloriousness, wonder, and awe in our God.

Maybe I am just completely wrong. Maybe it's just that the current Calvinistic Baptist speakers are the most persuasive. Maybe is the passion they exude. Maybe the pendulum will swing the other way in a few years. I don't claim to have all the answers, but this conversation the other day just made me think, because he was down on the pastor who followed him, not ever asking his story. I, for one, was very anti-Calvinistic all through seminary and into my first pastorate. I read several books by Piper and had a MacArthur study bible that I recommended people to get, but to be on guard against his Calvinism. But one book (The Pleasures of God by Piper) described God in such a way, expanded my brain and soul on His being, that I was overcome.  And he also, in the footnotes (praise the Lord, I HATE end notes, they are of the devil), and rationale for a more reformed understanding of God. It was strange. I wanted to embrace more of a position that I had warned against. It was (and is) a journey of understanding, and I definitely leave room for my error, but that's why I argue, not just to argue. I know that I don't have God figured out. None of us do. If we did, He wouldn't be much of a God, and we definitely couldn't speak of His immensity, His limitlessness, or His incomprehensibility. Don't think that simple exegesis, simple experience, or even simple logic is the end all, or the winning reason. Ask.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Best Laid Plans

"The best laid plans of mice and men..." was one of the last lines in Scotsman Robert Byrnes' poem from 1785. Now we use it, as he did, to speak of things of great dreams and meticulous planning going awry. And so it is with us.

I write this time under personal conviction.  Maybe it is too soon to write them. Maybe I am overstating. Maybe I shouldn't. I am definitely not singling out any particular person, except for me. And this could definitely apply to many groups. But here is where I have failed:

My hope and plan was to make disciples. To make disciples differently. To use my time differently, with more of a kingdom intentionallity. After seeing writing on the wall, I abandoned hope in a group. And here is the convicting part for me: I could have gone out and started doing exactly what I said I wanted to do. And this is not to say that I never will, but I have moved to a neighborhood...tons of people. I can hit their houses with rocks. I can't even practice hitting softballs with my daughter, because we can't find a place to hit where we won't hit a house or a car. But I haven't invited my new neighbors into my home. We have spoken to a few, but never extended hospitality to any other than the ones we already knew. I know of others who have been in the same boat, and not been able to connect, but it's no excuse for my lack of trying.

Time escapes us. Doors isolate us. TV and cell phones entertain us. "Going to church" soothes us. But our great plans have gone awry. May this only be a short diversion, then a fresh beginning into a new life of making disciples everywhere we go.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thank You For Moms

I love the Olympics! Certain events grab my attention more than others, but there are only a few that are totally a bore.  I love to watch the snowboarding, and the downhill skiing.  Can't imagine flying so high and turning flips or flying down hills at 80 mph covering 2500 of elevation. It's a little like NASCAR (which I don't watch), I like to see the crashes, as long as they don't get hurt.  The slow motion is cool. I also love figure skating! Don't like the falls in this one. In fact, my heart skips a beat, I hold my breath, and I worry every time everyone jumps on the ice. Watching that 15 yr-old phenom from Russia skate by herself, wow. She was awesome, and made it look so effortless. The pairs is my favorite, though.  I love it when it looks like they are in love; guess I'm a romantic. And I read a post the other day about how the pairs figure skating is such a display of God's design for roles in marriage.

If you have been watching, you have surely seen the ads sponsored by Proctor and Gamble about the investments of moms into the lives of Olympians. Nothing wrong with thanking moms and giving them the praise they deserve. And they do deserve it! But along with the culture, the liberal media intentionally choose to avoid the role of fathers.  Even in the camera pictures, they always show the moms anxiously waiting outcomes, and watching their precious children compete.

Just a couple of thoughts from my soapbox. 1) I have been watching with my children.  And I wonder if the subtle message is being injected into their minds.  I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the culture affects our worldviews.  Do our kids think: Mom is a hero, and dad is there too, somewhere. What a great picture of the biblical family for them to see. Whatever. Even if it is not your children, the major network choices reinforce this concept in a way that does women no favors (nor their families). Other media outlets do the same, sitcoms and dramas for instance.  Most feature bumbling fathers, or absentee dads whose lives are in trouble because the are stupid, or because they are out with their buds or other women. News shows and documentary types are always highlighting the new intentionally stay-at-home dads or so-called (and oxymoronic) gay marriage. OK, now I am being a sexist, right?  Equality before God, yes.  Role distinction, yes! Where are the ads about dads?

2) I do think that men have contributed to our own portrayal. What is manhood?  When does it begin? The Jews knew. But our culture has created a time called "adolescence" which gives our sons the time to "sow their wild oats" and be irresponsible till they graduate college.  And some go on past that living in the basement till their 30's. We have not taken our place as leaders and role models. We need to stand up and be the heroes and the protectors. We need to be the spiritual leaders of our homes. How many men I've seen led by their wives and children to go to church here, or lead the family in making them go at all.  We don't disciple our children and we don't lay down our lives for our wives as Christ did for His.  In the church, most of the workers are women, with men standing idly by.

Come on, men! The gauntlet is laid before us through the life of Jesus and through the lives of the saints and martyrs who have gone before.  Strong and powerful at times.  Willing to die at times. Willing to comfort and still broken hearts at times. Willing to confront sin within and mortify it without. Walking closely and humbly with their God all the time.  We need men to be men, not men like our culture defines it, but real men, who love Jesus, and strive with all their heart not to waste their lives, but demonstrating Christ to the world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Day

No, I'm not going to give you the "real" history of St. Valentine, or just argue why we should or shouldn't celebrate or enjoy the day. I just want to think about something that I heard this morning related to it.

I was listening to the radio and they were talking about V-D.  They gave a statistic that said the average person spends $100 on V-D cards, gifts, or dinners. I guess I'm not average at my house.  So anyway, one of the female hosts asked the male hosts: other than gifts, what is the number thing that a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend can say to them feel special" (I think some research had be done, missed the very first of the conversation).

So the guys thought a little, and decided it had to be some words of affirmation, but they never really gave any guesses that were specific. So, she revealed that according to the study, the words, "You make me happy," were the best and highest on the list. So, then they began to analyze why that would make their wives feel special. "Do I so certain things to make her happy?" Or "do I say things that make her happy."  Or, "is it just being there." And the female host said that they were getting closer with the last one.  But the deepest answer is not simply being there, but just being.  Telling your wife that she makes you happy just because she is, and she is in your life. She exists. God made her. She is special all on her own. She just is.

Then I thought, we should be like that with God. Usually we aren't. We say that we enjoy Him because He has done so much for us. Or we say we enjoy Him because He loves us, or because He listens to us or answers prayer or saves us from sin or hell. But again, the deepest level is that He just is! We enjoy God because He is. He exists, has always and will always. He is faithful, just, true, sovereign, holy, infinite, zealous, glorious, immeasurable, eternal, wonderful, satisfying, awesome, marvelous, independent, loving, merciful, righteous, all-knowing, omnipotent, and the list could go on. He is, and He is in our lives, for those who are born again to the living hope He provides.

So, this V-D, and every day for that matter, tell your spouse they make you happy (if you really mean it); it will bless them. And more importantly, tell your God that you love Him with passion affection because He is!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


"For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice..." -Zechariah 4:10

In the last couple of weeks I have been reminded of how small I think. When I think of success, I think about winning. When I think about church growth, I think about adding people and baptisms. When I think about ministry, I think about maintaining what we've got, and maybe adding a couple of more good ideas sprinkled in the mix. When I think about missions, I think about one place or a few mission trips to an area.  When I think about devotional life, I think about sitting down and once a day and having a few moments of prayer, and checking off my bible reading for the day. When I think about discipling my family, I think about reading the bible and having a 5-10 minute discussion with my girls at night before they go to sleep and praying over meals.

So minimal. So small. I used to pray that God would not let me be sucked into complacency and a maintenance mindset. God has not failed, but I am sure that I have failed Him. So three times now challenged, and I want to summarize those challenges to you, so that your vision may increase in size and depth and length (and so I can write it down, lest I forget myself).

1) This first time was in a meeting with the president, CEO, and founder of a global milti-million dollar business that I was meeting with that day. He has invented a process of production of agricultural products never known before. And now that he has the warehouse, he is expanding the products that they make, and moving into completely new inventions and innovations on existing products totally unrelated to the current line. He is investing in our Pregnancy Care Center in a spectacular way by giving us 20% of any online order that is made; right out of his pocket, off the top, not added to the price! So I was there to update him on how the project is going. He wanted things to be marked with excellence, and some of the things we were doing to make the video part of this deal work (which by the way, he is paying for the production of), he wanted to be redone because it wasn't just right. Then he began to talk about his passion for ending abortion and saving the lives of unborn children with great zeal. He said that if he had to build a store in every shopping center in every town across the nation, he would do that. What ever it takes. I was just thinking about funding our center, he was thinking about funding all the centers in the US, and beginning PCCs all over the world. If it worked with us, he said, we can duplicate it all around the country and the world. I was embarrassed that my thinking was so small, and challenged to think bigger.

2) Second time was with a spiritual mentor of mine who had been on a recent trip to central America. He was a part of a team that helped work at an independent (not affiliated with a denomination) mission ministry. This ministry had a hospital and a school, so the team went for a week and helped out. Both ministries (hospital and school) were non-profit, pay if you can, but nobody turned away. While there, the head of the ministry told them that his goal was to be fully self-sustaining in five years. This was a ministry that had been established twenty years ago. But it had recently acquired some property, and was in the process of gaining income from agriculture and cutting expenses, to be self-sufficient. For example, he said that he currently pays $5000/mo ($60,000/year) in electricity costs. But for $120,000, he could install solar panels and eliminate that expense from there on out. Non-profit ministries usually totally rely on individual donors and churches for donations. But he says we don't always want to rely on "hand outs." Novel thought, not continually, eternally dependent on donations. Again, I am an advancement manager for a non-profit, and have never thought of being self-sustaining.

3) Third time was at a training for directors of missions of association of local baptist churches. One of the speakers gave a bunch of statistics about all the unchurched in our towns and projection to future stats. Blah, blah, blah, they always do that; and they are always depressing. But then he talked about evaluating our town and aiming to reach entire segments, or having large goals that wouldn't have been considered attainable. Specifically, he talked about prayer networking to undergird these goals. He talked about cross-denominational partnerships and prayer meetings (shhh, don't tell other baptists), and he talked about experiencing results to the level of history books that write about us as having the Third Great Awakening coming in our day. Taking our whole city! Involving all the churches.  My goal would be to have been that my churches growing (which is actually not a good indicator of church vitality) and not dying. Guess I never have dreamed to reach the city. I have thought of getting all my churches together; most recently of getting at lest 2/3 of our pastors to the retreat this weekend, rather than the normal 1/3 or less.  But gathering the whole city of churches for prayer and ministry! Again, embarrassed for having such small-minded thoughts.

As I went to the conference again yesterday, I was praying and thinking, WHY? Why do we get caught up in such small-mindedness? I believe that our thoughts about God are small--His incomprehensibility, infinitude, magnitude, power, His immeasurability, independence, holiness, and we could never stop. Tozer said it like this:  

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” -The Knowledge of the Holy 

I also believe the culture, both within and without the church has dulled our capacity to dream about the kingdom's victories and expanse. We are focused on earthly, temporary things that are small in God's sight. Television, the Super Bowl, fashion, cooking, cars, guns, even the upcoming Olympics consume and cloud our spiritual acumen. Within the church preferences, buildings, budgets, fights, quarrels, broken relationships, comfort, apathy, routine, and maintenance ruin our ability to dream big, all-encompassing dreams
God, help us to despise the days of small things, throw off the cultural influences and our capitulation to them, and fix our gaze on You, thinking thoughts that are worthy of you. Give us disciples that would explode the norm for Christianity in the south, in America, and in the world with giant impact for the kingdom because of giant dreams!

Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,

That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”  -Isaiah 49:6