Sunday, March 16, 2014

Louisiana Gumbo - A SBC Crisis!

Having lived 10 years in the state of Louisiana I know about gumbo. It took me about 6 months to understand the variations. And once I did, it took less than one second to dig in and enjoy a well done pot of this succulent cuisine. Seafood, Chicken and Sausage, and 1000 other variations can be found to fit your tastes. But the gumbo in Louisiana is more than food. Just about every organization known to man in this state has a gumbo. From politics to church. From PTA to Baptist Convention work. There are times that make you scratch your head and wonder how many ingredients have been added to the roux. And you for sure will ask if it is safe to eat?

Today we find a gumbo of a mess in the state of Louisiana that has the pot boiling over. Louisiana College has been a focus for some time. This article is not about the specifics of either side of that gumbo. I personally think there are too many outsiders flame throwing at this pot already. Instead this article will deal with a few ingredients that are popping out of this gumbo that should cause every Southern Baptist Pastor and member to take notice. The ingredients to follow show how the situation is now beyond the state of Louisiana and the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Convention Employees going after each other in secular media!
We now have a SBC Seminary professor publicly going after a state convention employee in a  secular press news outlet. Even a quick glance of the article highlights that Dr. Quarles, formerly of Louisiana College (LC) and now Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls into question the integrity of Dr. David Hankins, Executive Director of Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC). And for the sake of this article again I remind the readers that I am not picking a side in the gumbo at LC. As a 26 year veteran of Pastoral leadership in SBC churches I cannot help but speak out to the complete and total inappropriateness of Cooperative Program paid employee attacking another in secular media. No doubt a problem exists. But there is nothing in this gumbo that justifies the neglect of Biblical conflict resolution methods in lieu of having a "he said" argument using secular media to do so.

NOTHING!

A seminary professor should know this. Pastors should know this.  All of those in SBC leadership should be busy this next week making sure this type of unbiblical behavior ceases and that it is clear that we in the SBC will not tolerate this. 

I applaud Dr. Hankins for refusing to respond in the secular media. 

The Calvinism issue is more heated than some thought!
I have heard from several Pastors that the issues at LC were not over Calvinism. I have heard from others that the issues at LC are indeed all about Calvinism. Even Dr. Quarles in the linked article above shows the duplicity of this ingredient. We have an SBC seminary professor state that Calvinism was not the issue and then proceed to attack Dr. Hankins and every person who participated in the writing of and who signed the Traditional Statement. Dr. Quarles attempts to make an apologetic case for his position by maligning the Traditional Statement as being "extra" and more restrictive than the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.  Why? I thought he said Calvinism was not the issue? And yet as you read the article you can see that this is all he speaks of. So which is it?

I am one of the signers of the statement. As such I have been appalled at other SBC leaders who have in days past called it (us) Semi Palagian. The committee selected to study the issue of Calvinism in the SBC called for unity and the end of labels being tossed around. Yet it is clear in this article that a SBC Cooperative Program employee feels the freedom to take a shot at Dr. Hankins and the rest of us. And in taking this shot he claims that the Traditional Statement goes beyond the BFM 2000. He is clearly misrepresenting the truth and should recant this at once. Name calling and misrepresentation must end! Will Dr. Quarles say the same about the Abstract of Principles? Dr. Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, served on the Calvinism Study Committee and was one issuing the call for peace and unity. Are his professors now allowed to go against his own charge to the SBC as a whole? Is Dr. Quarles insubordinate or is Dr. Akin now in support of such behavior? One can only wonder.

And one would question the ethical conduct of secretly recording conversations (though legal in Louisiana) without consent. Christian character calls us to a higher standard than even the law. Why not get consent? And yes I have been in hostile work environments before. There have been times when I thought about recording conversations. I can tell you today that I am more than glad I made the decision to not go that route. With each situation God took me back to Matthew 18 and His path for bringing about truth and clarity. It is mind blowing how God can work things out when we leave it to Him and follow His plan in our actions and our spirit! Do we have seminary professors who have forgotten the Biblical mandates? Are the examples for our young men teaching that which is contrary to God's Word? Is this the culture we desire to create in SBC life? Is this the type of activity we condone at our colleges and seminaries. Is this the new norm for faculty and staff, Pastors and Director of Missions?

Ponder this! The GCR tapes have been locked up. Is it now ethical for someone to release them?

Dr. Quarles might also do well to remember that it is the giving of churches like mine that assist in paying his salary via the Cooperative Program. He works for us! Taking a cheap shot at Pastors and other convention staff is beneath the trust that has been given to him in his employment. Continued acts by convention employees will be a disaster for cooperative program giving.

And what about the flame throwers?
It is time for the SBC to speak loud and clear that we will not tolerate those who abuse social media in their meddling with the affairs that are out of their sphere of influence. Life today in the SBC is similar to the preschool playground. The punk bullies are going around and using intimidation and worldly methods to bring about their desires. The arrogance has reached a level so disgusting that one struggles to even describe it. Do we not realize that the Bible states specifically that we are not to take up an offense for a brother? There are a few that need to mind their own business!

As a father with a son now in the ministry (SBC church) it is getting more difficult to encourage him in SBC life with this type of gumbo that keeps spewing over. How long will we tolerate such?

If convention employees and Pastors are free to violate the Biblical model of spiritual fruit then how in the world can we expect God to bless us in reaching the lost who are dying and destined for hell without Jesus? If it is within their worldview that Christian matters are to be fought with secular means in relation to our convention, then why not do the same in our churches? And some are!

We need SBC Leadership NOW!
I am asking our SBC leaders to step up and lead! Use your influence to resolve this issue quickly. The precedent being set for our churches will lead to our destruction. It is time our leaders call an end to the attacks of Pastors on Pastors, Evangelists, and Convention Employees. It is time we hold our employees to the Biblical mandates. If we cannot do that, then we deserve the wrath of God.

This is one Pastor who is saying loud and clear ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

Please Lord, send us REVIVAL!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

At all cost! A dangerous game!

I can remember when people with passion and zeal were still controlled. I have often said (and I know someone else beat me to it) that I would rather cool down someone on fire for God than try to ignite a fire in someone walking like a dead corpse. Personally, I try to live passionately about my Lord, my family, and my place of ministry. Passion can be good.

But passion can be bad!

When someone allows their passion to lead them down a path of narcissistic behavior, passion can do more than harm the person - it can destroy others.

Disciplined passion allows God to stay in charge of our priorities and our ethics. Our spiritual life is built upon a foundation that inherently places God as the one controlling. When passion is undisciplined, sin abounds and ethics become a tangled mess of contradictions.

It is wise for each of us to step back from our passion and examine our behavior in light of God's Word. If we are not building up, we are not serving the Lord. If even in tough love for another christian, destructive behavior and rants of rage labeled as passion are more commonly found, we should immediately know we are missing our calling.

This modern age of arrogance and simultaneous ignorance is dangerous. 

And when passion is combined with a motive of "at all cost" - our danger zone actually becomes our own deep pit.  To think that we as humans can do the work of God while violating the Word of God is absurd. But this is exactly where uncontrolled and undisciplined passion lead.

I love the verse that God brings to my mind in moments when my passion begins to run a muck:

"Be still and know that I am God!" Psalm 46:10

And when lay Christians along with Pastors begin to think that they are more than God says they are, passion will blindly lead us into performing the works of Satan instead of the work of God.

It is a dangerous game some are playing these days! A game that we are not called to nor are we to engage.

Instead of "at all cost" we should be living in the reality of being still and knowing that God has not forfeited His role nor judgement to us. God is God and only God knows and sees all - even the deep things of the heart! No man can see in another all that God sees.

I can think of a few people who might benefit from being still and knowing that God is God. Their passion is blindly leading them down the path of contradiction. Their "at all cost" is going to cost them indeed!

It is a dangerous game!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A very special thank you to MANY!

Living in a Pastors home is often decried as one of the most difficult ways for children to grow up. Church people tend to place high expectations on those PK's! At least that is what I have always heard people say. Everyone knows ministry can be tough and church people can be extremely ugly at times. 

But this letter is written to a special group of people that have been the exact opposite of the norm described above.

Hearing the words over the phone from my son stating that he had just accepted his first ministry position was more than exciting. I could hear the excitement in his voice. The calling from God on his life which he had nailed down several years ago was actually beginning. As his father, my excitement was surrounded with awe.

But as a PK wasn't he suppose to hate the idea of being in the ministry?

Not T!

He had an advantage for which Heidi and I are incredibly thankful!

T grew up in churches with church people that loved on him and helped him to grow. No stigmas were placed on him. He, along with Nathan have lived among church people who adopted them and joined with Heidi and me, doing the best we could, to help them become whatever it was that God desired.

Our boys have been loved and supported in EVERY church we have served!

The names are far too many to name here. Yet you know who you are and we are grateful for each one of you! You have made a difference in T's life that will bear much fruit in the years to come.

You have exhibited a biblical picture of how things ought to be in ministry and church. You have helped Heidi and I raise him and prepare him.

As T begins his new ministry this coming Sunday I know you will also be joining with us as we pray for him and his new church family.  I am already excited to hear of his first days and weeks.  I am curious about what questions he will ask and how he will handle his first challenges.

And as all of this begins, Heidi and I will be saying over and over again a special thank you to so many special people that God allowed us to serve, who served us back, being real and allowing our boy to be the same! You are not forgotten. We are thinking of you daily!

So to all of our current and former church families - who are still family - THANK YOU! Your ministry is bearing fruit in T's life!

And this is how it should be!




Praying for IMB and Search Process

As announced today Dr. Tom Elliff has asked that a search team be appointed to seek his replacement to lead the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Elliff has served the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention with dignity and honor. His passion for reaching the people of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been contagious. He is going to be missed. I wish him well in the next assignment of his mission!

In his announcement no date was set to serve as a timetable for his departure. Dr. Elliff did plead for a speedy process bathed in prayer! There seemed to be a hint of urgency in his words. No Interim will be required as Dr. Elliff has committed to leading the IMB until a replacement is chosen. And this is just another example of his commitment to the SBC and her mission vision.

The timing of this search and the needs of the hour cannot be underestimated. We should daily pray for this search team and the entire scope of the process.

I am certain that many names will be offered to the team. I can think of one myself - Dr. Johnny Hunt! And I know there are others who were considered when Dr. Elliff was chosen.

I am certain that some may even raise the question of merging NAMB and IMB into one massive organization. The speculations of the benefits of this approach have been mentioned in the past. I would not be surprised if discussions were held in the GCR study committee on this as well. Only those who know for sure know the substance if any.

Regardless of ones thoughts or desires the IMB, and the missionaries collectively who make it such a great organization, is the heart beat of everything Southern Baptist.

And every SBC Pastor and lay person should feel the urgency to get on our knees and lift up this process like never before.

This is why I have already prayed today and will continue to do so every day until the Will of God is revealed!

Will you join me in praying for the search team and the process?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Biblical Repentance in the midst of religious arrogance!

One of the most powerful hymns ever written is the song "It Is Well". The words cut deep into the trials and struggles of life; bringing the refreshing from God to our lives found only in the work and life of Jesus!
"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"

 Refrain:
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Many of you probably did I as do every time I read those words - I begin to sing!

The song speaks to the care of God for His children and to the awesome work of Jesus in making repentance possible for us.

How does one repent? How do we know if one has repented? Who determines who needs to repent and how?

Confusion exists over this simple act called repentance.

Repentance unto salvation:
Each individual must reach a place in their life where the reality of our sin grips us.

"For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God!"  Rom 3:23. 

Every one of us are guilty. Only the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ pays the price for our sins.

The Bible says "for by grace are you saved through faith, not of yourselves lest any man should boast." Eph 2: 8-9

Paul said "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death." 2 Cor 7:10

And we know that when we confess our sins, God hears, and God is the only one faithful and just enough to forgive us - 1 John 1:9

This is the only way to salvation. This is the only way to heaven. Have you received it? God offers this free gift to all who will receive. I pray that everyone who reads this has Jesus or will receive this gift today!

Repentance as a saved person:
But even Christians sin! Yes, even after our salvation we do things that displease God. This act of sinning does not forfeit our salvation. But if left UN-repentant, will lead to further sin and bondage. Our way out is found in daily repenting of our sins.

Asking God to reveal our sins to us according to His standard is the beginning point.

And it is hear that we need to be reminded today that once we hear from Him, our Godly sorrow (knowing that our sin hurts God) leads to our confessing to Him, we then turn from our sin, and HE forgives!

It is that simple! At that point our sins are nailed to the cross and we bear them NO MORE!

Repentance when we sin against another person:
It happens. It happens often! We harm others. What then?

Psalm 51:17, “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” We go to the one we sin against, and we seek their forgiveness. Our humility before a Holy God brings about the contrite heart.

Again, Godly sorrow leads to this humility!

Who determines who needs to repent? And how?
The super spiritual will always claim to know the answer. Even some preachers trump the repentance call on anyone who they think needs to repent.

Only God calls people to repentance. Only God knows the heart of our life. Only God knows when one has truly repented. Only God!

Matthew 7: 5 is a reminder to me every time I stand to preach or teach:
"You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother's eye."

I am also reminded of the reality that only God knows and dictates the consequences of my sin or yours. I for one am more than thankful that I am not God. I would have ended the world a long time ago. I would have hurt many people. I would have certainly become as Satan, arrogant and prideful.

God has called me and God has called each Christian to love people to Jesus. We speak truth into their lives. We edify and we exhort. But only God can determine repentance. And only God knows if it is present in one's life.

So if you find yourself wondering about your own life, read the above again. What is God speaking to you? If you find someone else banging you on the head to repent, remember you only need to ask God what He is calling you to do. Look to His word. If you will read and listen, He will speak.

 Christians far to often get the whole repentance thing out of whack. We love calling others to repent but seldom realize the need and focus that is to be on our own lives. We would much rather try to assist God. He does not need our help!

And if someone refuses to repent when they have sinned against you, wipe the dust off your feet and move on. God can handle them. Arrogance and bitterness will develop quickly should you chose to try and play the role of God.

So I exhort you today, ignore the peanut gallery in today's messed up religious circles. Keep it simple with God and His Word.

And this I can assure you - you will sing in freedom more than you ever dreamed praising God:

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"





Saturday, February 1, 2014

People to people interaction - man are we failing!

The following paragraph is taken from an article written by Molly Ball published in The Atlantic. The article presents the agony of Frank Luntz, a political consultant and Fox News fixture, in the days following the last Presidential election

As you read this one paragraph taken from the article, I urge you to do so slowly and repetively.

"It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn't listen to each other as they once had. They weren't interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. "They want to impose their opinions rather than express them," is the way he describes what he saw. "And they're picking up their leads from here in Washington." Haven't political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? "Not like this," he says. "Not like this."

Though the effects of politics on the citizens of this great nation is the topic of the article, this paragraph describes the depth of dysfunction every level of American society is experiencing today. No group nor organization can escape the words and their revealed reality in our culture today. 

From social clubs to religious affiliations we see the contentious and argumentative trend of people to people interaction grow by the day. 

The destructive nature of this present day ill is seeking to undermine groups, corporations, churches, and denominations. Add the self inflicted damage to the political process and a mere habit presents more the symptoms of a infectous terminal disease. Just look at the broken family dynamics in this country.

Where will it lead? Will it end?

Weather forecastors missed the Southern Snow storm this past week. Not even the greatest computers in the world can get it right everytime. Thus I will not even begin to make predictions as to the end nor timing of the end.

Important for each of us is the continued seeking to lead by example in the Biblical model presented for communications and relationships. Perhaps dwelling at length on what Jesus Himself would say, tweet, or write about before we do the same.

We as Christians are to point people to Jesus in every aspect of our life. Our disagreements are futile when one even glimpses the Glory that is His. 

It is at this point that we see the clearly lit path out of the destructive behavior. We see the grace that Jesus can give. We see the reality of being controlled by His Holy Spirit in every thought and word; spoken, tweeted or written. His love covers us beyond the ill and His wisdom leads if we submit to His perfect will and live under His authority. Taking every thought captive is more than a Sunday School phrase. And since judgement begins at the house of Lord, we Christians should be living examples of how to communicate rightly - person to person. Today, we see the reverse. As one man said to me the other day: "I am treated better by my lost friends than "Christians"! And I am still praying he one day accepts Christ inspite of Christians.

Titus 3: 9-11 clearly instructs:
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

The following passage seems to be the perfect conclusion/starting point for each of us. We actually sang this in a song years ago. Maybe we need to sing it today and everyday!

I John 4:6-11
6    We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
7    Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8    He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9    In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
10    In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11    Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
(NKJ)









Sunday, January 26, 2014

A spiritual picture from the big show - the Grammys

I write this as one who did not watch the show. I cannot remember a time I have watched a Grammys.  From Twitter and Facebook it is clear as promoted, the Grammys was a show that did not interest me. Nor should it have spawned my interest. 

I admire talented people. I applaud them for making the most of their talents. I do not worship nor do I idolize the talented. I applaud those Christians who were honered! I appreciate their stand and their accomplishments. I pray many more will follow their examples. We need many many more!  But still, that is the extent of my small connection. It was just as I described it - a show!

Last nights show highlighted a great picture for those of us who live in Christ. It is a picture that we need not soon forget. The show was a picture of the state of humanity. A state that should result in simple response from us Christians. 

No sermon is needed! No long Bible thumping about days gone by will change any of last night nor prevent future spectacles. Plastering social media with self righteous indignation will not a changed person nor statement make. 

Last night should lead us Christians to our knees in brokenness for the lostness we see in our country. We should respond with our crying out to God for power and love to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those we saw act as one would living without Jesus. 

Last night is one more reminder that we lack the intensity of passion for our life in Christ compared to those who live life without Christ. 

The Christian life is being protrayed not as God designed it. I do not blame the media and entertainment industries. I think it is clear that this re-defining has been allowed by Christian selfishness and apathy.  Is it not God who said "judgement begins at the house of the Lord?"

We should not be shocked about the events of last night - they were fully advertised in advance. Yet many Christians turned to the show in indifference or curiousity. Some Christians chose to ignore the mocking of God. Some chose to start stumping and judging. Self righteous fits were easy to spot all over the internet.

I write this wondering what it will take for each of us Christians to get desperate enough to begin living the reality of Christ in us daily.  I ponder when we will arrange our schedules to make sure our corporate times of worship are not missed. I dwell on the money we spend feeding the lifestyles and industries that promote such mocking of God while robbing God and His church with no remorse. I cannot but question how long our altars will remain empty absent tears being shed for those lost without Jesus whether they be a celebrity, a neighbor, or friend at work or school.

It was a simple awards show with talented people and social indoctrination from what I have read.  But I think it may have been so much more for us Christians if we will just pause, falling to our knees, seeking Gods perspective. We might actually learn a great and needed spiritual reality from such a simple show.