Reflections, part three: Larry

Most people don't think of Jamaicans when they think of Ethiopia.  That is unless they know a little something about Rastafarianism.

Rastafari's believe that Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie (Born 1892, Emperoro1930-1974) was the second advent of Jesus Christ.  As such, Ethiopia is somewhat of a holy place for them.  As a matter of fact, the city we stayed in all week, Shashamene, was home to probably the most famous Rastafarian, Bob Marley, for several years.

All of this is to introduce you to Larry.  Dreadlocked, beard wearing, song-singing, Bible-carrying Larry.  Larry is the owner of the hotel where we stayed and, though he is not from Jamaica (He is from Trinidad and Tobago), Larry is a Rastafarian.

From the start, we all greatly enjoyed being around Larry.  One of our interpreters began conversing with him about Christ.  This lead to a heated discussion with some of the funniest one-liners of our entire trip.  Larry is one funny Rastifarian!

The next night, several of us sat down with Larry, opened our Bibles, and began using the Scriptures to discuss the person of Christ.  Larry had several passages he believed pointed to Haile Selassie being Christ (Acts 2:30, Psalm 87:4, Psalm 2:12, and others) and even where marijuana was a gift from God (Ezekiel 34:29)!  He only used the King James Version Scofield Study Bible, so the translation we had was pretty different.

Needless to say, this made for an interesting conversation.  The hardest part was that he would agree with us about everything we said about Jesus, but applied them all to Haile Selassie as well.  Even when we would point to something in the Bible that went against what he believed, he would move to something else.  Or just stare at us.

Larry was fun to be around.  Larry was also very hard to share the Gospel with.  It was a great exercise in relational evangelism.  It was also a great way to make a new friend. We must never stop being or becoming friends with someone just because they don't accept the Gospel.  I truly enjoyed being around Larry and he seemed to enjoy being around us. I am praying for Larry and hope you will too.  I hope I get to go back to Ethiopia and I hope I get to see Larry.  Most of all, I hope Larry meets Jesus. Of course...Larry says he has.

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments

Grace and football

You may or may not know that I am an Auburn fan.  Pretty big one, I think.  And this year they are doing really well.  Living in the land of the Bulldogs and Jackets, I proudly display as much Auburn paraphernalia on my desk as possible.

One of the reasons Auburn has done well this year is because of the transfer of an extremely talented player, Cam Newton.  Cam chose the University of Florida over Auburn.  However, after an off-the-field incident involving a stolen computer, he transfered to Binn Junior College where he led his team to a national championship.  Having now transfered to Auburn and having a stellar year, he is now on the top of many lists for the Heisman trophy.

He was actually the subject of conversation between me and a good friend of mine, who just happens to pull for "the other school."  His ribbing on Cam is not on his play, (there is nothing he can say about that) but rather his past.  And my friend is not the only one.  I saw this article the other night which describes the incident in Florida and questions whether or not he is worthy of the Heisman because of those events.

I don't know Cam.  I don't know anyone that does know Cam.  I have cheered for him and am extremely thankful he plays for Auburn and not some other SEC school!  But can a person make a mistake and change?  Can they be in the wrong place, do something less than stellar, and pay the consequences, coming out on the other side more mature and different?  I am not saying he has or hasn't.  I just want to ask the question.  I am not the only one.

A couple of things I do know.  I do know someone very well who was the head coach at a large Division 1 NCAA football program.  I heard him talk numerous times about the opportunity he had as a coach to invest in the young men in their program.  And not just help them do better.  This man is a firm believer in Christ and he saw it as an opportunity to live and speak the Gospel to these guys.  I know as well that Mark Richt, head coach at the University of Georgia, is a devoted follower of Christ whose faith has had an impact on numerous players.  And I spoke to someone this summer who had recently heard coach Gene Chizik speak at a summer F.C.A. camp and share his faith in Christ.

I am not saying that having a Christian coach means that your players are all saints.  Unfortunately, coach Richt has had that splashed all over the place this season.  In fact, I am not even so much thinking about football any more.  I am thinking about grace.

I am reminded of Paul's words:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis added)

And such were some of you.  That's the ever present reminder of grace.  Because of our sinfulness, we all have things in our past that disqualify us for more than a mere trophy.  We have rebellion that sets us at odds with God.  We all are guilty.  And yet, in steps Christ who bears God's wrath and showers us with His grace.  We are not worthy, but His sacrifice makes us worthy.

Has Cam changed?  I hope so.  Has Cam changed because of Jesus is King of his life?  I really, really hope so.  Is coach Chizik pouring a Jesus-saturated example into Cam's life and the lives of the other men on the team?  I pray so.

Nonetheless, let's remember that grace is the only hope we have.  I don't want to be a Pharisee that takes grace and gives wrath.  Life's more than football.  Our convictions must carry over in every facet of our lives.  Even when it means giving a guy the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by Jack | at 10:38 AM | 0 comments

My Lu

I am a blessed man.  In more ways than I can count.  Next to my salvation, my biggest blessing is my wife.  She is loving, kind, challenging, and very dear to me.  I have no better friend and could ask for no better mother to my boys.

One day while we were in seminary, I wrote a verse on her mirror:

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD."
Proverbs 18:22

I understand the depths of that verse more and more every day.  Lu, I love you and you are the greatest source of joy in my life outside of Christ.  Happy birthday!

Posted by Jack | at 11:56 AM | 0 comments

Reflections, part two: the shepherds

One thing that strikes many Americans when they land in Ethiopia is the fact that animals are almost everywhere. Any patch of grass, even in the city, may have horses, cows, and sheep grazing freely.  And have no doubt, someone owns them and knows exactly where they are.

There was another type of shepherd I encountered while in Ethiopia.  These shepherds tended God's sheep.  Pastors who loved Jesus and wanted to see people come to know him.  As I looked into their faces, heard their stories, and watched their leadership, I saw men that had something powerful.  No they weren't perfect nor were they more spiritual because they lived in a difficult place, surrounded by hostility.  Yet in their lack of material possession, there was somewhat of a freedom and a love for Christ that is compelling.

There were the two church leaders from a church that was a three hour walk away.  They came that far to receive a Proclaimer, a unit containing the Bible, recorded in their language, that can be charged by an outlet, the built-in solar panel, or even the small hand crank.  They came this far because they want people to hear about Jesus.

Then there was the pastor in Arsi who was constantly with us, serving us even when we wanted to serve him and his church.  Worshiping and singing with gusto.  Praying fervently.  Counseling those who made a decision for Christ.

And there was the pastor from Kofele.  This young pastor with a beautiful family has a small bed in the back of his church.  I had seen pastors in Ethiopia give part of their home to be used as a church.  I asked if this was the case and was told that this was not his, but the bed for the guard they had to hire to stay in the church because they were in an area that is ninety-nine percent Muslim.  To say that those matter-of-fact words were sobering would be a gargantuan understatement.

No, these men are not perfect.  They have flaws and weaknesses.  But being in their presence caused a great sense of unworthiness to come over me.  They wanted us to teach them. I wanted them to teach me.  I pray that we accomplished both.

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments

When its good to be Hulk Hogan

This morning I had a great time sharing Psalm 119:57-64 with a group of students at the middle school located next to our church.  When I was done, they began asking me questions about the Bible and I am not just talking about the easy ones, either.  They wanted to understand some hard things.

I love to read.  I love to think.  I love it when those two things collide in God's revelation to us in the written word. Yet I sense in myself and in others a reluctance to wrestle with things that are difficult, unnerving, or challenging in the text.  When I have been tempted to gloss over these things in the past, I have been reminded of the story of Jacob and his midnight wrestling match with God.

Jacob didn't stand a chance. The wrestling match wasn't so that God could show His power or superiority.  No, the wrestling match was for Jacob, and in some ways, more importantly for us.  We and Jacob both learn from the struggle.

I am not suggesting that this passage, Genesis 32:22-32, is telling us that we have to struggle with Scripture. However, I believe that the experience Jacob had is in a small way our experience as we wrestle with difficult and challenging texts of Scripture.  We must be diligent to grab hold and not let go until God reveals Himself through the word.

We are finite beings seeking to know, love, and understand an infinite being. The very reality of the situation should cause us to expect some difficulty.  Yet it is when the match is over and our eyes have been opened that we find our faith strengthened, our joy bolstered, and our perseverance enhanced.

So I ask, do you wrestle with the word?

Posted by Jack | at 11:18 AM | 1 comments

Reflections, part one "the preacher boy"

He couldn't have been more than seven years old.  And yet his "amen!" was just as loud as anyone in the church.  and his singing just as passionate.  He sat across from us every night in worship.  It wasn't just cute or adorable.  There was something about it.  Something I had to feel was more than a child emulating the adults around him.  This little guy seemed to display a genuine joy in what he was doing.  And when I preached at night he was focused.  And it seemed more than just wanting to look at the "feringe" on stage.  He seemed eager to listen

Later in the week, I grabbed one of our translators and talked with him.  I asked him if he wanted to be a preacher one day.  He said he hoped so.  I do to.  I prayed with him, asking God to raise him up as a godly man who is bold and filled with a love for Christ.

This little guy and the believers who gather around him live in a village that is predominantly Muslim.  Every evening during worship, the call to pray at the local mosque penetrated the air as we spoke of the one true hope of every person on earth.  Though ninety percent of their village do not worship Jesus, they do.  And they do it with a passion.  We didn't understand the words or know the songs.  We mostly stood and watched.  Yet what I saw was a people who love Jesus even though so many around them do not.

Sunday morning I shared with them from Philippians chapter one about the joy we have in Christ.  I quickly found I wasn't telling them anything new.  We weren't learning; we were celebrating together.  All of us.  Even my little preacher boy.

Posted by Jack | at 9:00 AM | 0 comments

Reflections, the beginning

Thirty two hours on a plane. That's a lot of time to think.  Half of it in eager anticipation and the other half in mind-blown exhaustion.  Yet that's neither enough time to prepare or absorb the seven days we spent in a place I have grown to love.  I have spent the past several days trying to reflect on what transpired over the course of our journey.  My wife has begun to recount the various events and encounters we had on each day.  Because of that, I almost pointed any readers to her site without writing anything. (She is doing an outstanding job!  You can read it here.)  Yet you can't go somewhere this powerful and not at least reflect on what happened.  And that is what I decided to do.

I hope to reflect on what I learned, the people I met, and the experiences I had.  I hope you like them.

Posted by Jack | at 2:12 PM | 0 comments

Sovereignty and Missions in Daniel, part 2

In my last post, I reflected on the theme of God's sovereignty in the first four chapters of Daniel.  This is one of the concepts I think we often know, but the implications escape us. Yet as we seek to understand scripture we must seek both meaning and application.  Application in many cases may be understanding how a bedrock truth should effect the way we think about common areas of our lives as followers of Christ. For example, as I was reading these chapters, I felt that there are some powerful implications for missions found in Daniel's presentation of God's sovereignty.

The fact that God is sovereign over every nation, means that He is the rightful King of all peoples.  He is the King of those who recognize Him and He is King of those who have never heard of Him.  As I have heard it said, He is not merely a tribal deity.  He is the one and only God of the Universe.  The proper response of His subjects is humble and joyful submission to His loving and gracious rule.  In fact, this is what Daniel pleaded with Nebuchadnezzar to do:

"Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity." Daniel 4:27

True missions is not a mere making of converts.  Missions is calling rebellious citizens to the King's palace that they might experience and live in the fullness of life and joy found in Him.

This same idea hit me this summer as I attended the World Changers project in Savannah.  I was praying with Carrie and the summer staff one night when Keyla, who is from Puerto Rico, began to pray in Spanish.  As she was praying, God showed me a blindness I didn't realize I had.  I knew He was God over the earth.  At that time, He reminded me that when I go on mission, I am not introducing them to a foreign King, I am telling them of their God.  He already is God of the nations whether they know Him or serve Him.  My role is to be an ambassador of the King and call them to recognize Him.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments

Sovereignty and Missions in Daniel, part 1

In my personal study time, I have been reading the book of Daniel.  I have finished the first four chapters and there is a powerful recurring theme I have noticed: the sovereignty of God in all things.  After reading chapter four, I went back and looked over the previous chapters and reflected on how God's sovereignty is seen up to that point.  Here is what I found:

  • He is the one who gave Israel into the hands of the Babylonians (1:2)
  • He is the one who moved people into government positions (1:9, 17, 2:36)
  • He knows all thoughts and dreams (2:19)
  • He is the one who brings about the future (2:28, 45)
  • He is sovereign over human plots and designs (3:28)
Chapter four has a statement that is repeated, with slight variation, three times (v. 17, 25, 32) "till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will."  This is important in that it reminds us that God's sovereignty is not limited to the nation of Israel or the Church.  God is the rightful and sovereign King of all the earth.

This has many powerful implications, especially in the area of missions.  For that, you will have to wait for my next post.

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments

Nine great years

Today marks nine years that my precious wife and I have been married.  I could ask for no better helpmate, encourager, friend, partner, and mother for my children.  I am blessed in more ways than I can count.  I thank God for Carrie.  Love you Lu!

Posted by Jack | at 9:33 AM | 0 comments

World Changers Savannah made the news!

During World Changers we made the news in Savannah.

Posted by Jack | at 9:43 PM | 0 comments

I preached

Yesterday morning I preached.  I preached about missions for God's glory because of God's glory.  It is one of the few times that I actually felt spent after preaching.  My prayer was that God would grant me the grace to lay it out wholeheartedly and not hinder the movement of His Spirit.  I pray that I did just that.

It seems that I very seldom finish a sermon thinking how great it was.  But isn't that the point.  I don't want people (myself included!) thinking about how great the sermon was but how overwhelmingly amazing God is and how our lives should be dedicated to exaltation of His name.

Maybe God will use this sermon in some way to spur a greater passion for His name among the nations. I know there a couple of you are interested in the sermon.  It is available through my xml or itunes feed or you can listen here.

Posted by Jack | at 3:40 PM | 0 comments

Hanging on to the church

A good friend of mine sent me an article about the church.  Many in my generation are often disenfranchised with what they view as an antiquated shell that needs to be trashed.  I find that the author speaks clearly and biblically to this type of thinking.  It's a good read.  You can find the article here.

Posted by Jack | at 3:46 PM | 0 comments

Back to Africa

This Sunday, I have an opportunity to do be a part of two things I love.  The first is preaching.  I am grateful to have the the opportunity to open the God's word with our church family.  The second is missions.  Our pastor, Michael Stovall, has asked me to preach on missions.  I must say that this is a wonderful intersection for me.  

The more I prepare, the more I think about Ethiopia.  This place has a large place in my heart.  Seeing the people and knowing the work that God is doing there, I can not wait to return.  What's best, is that Lord willing, this September I will have the opportunity to go with representatives of Ewing Road Baptist Church and see them take part in global disciplemaking.  I LOVE seeing people catch and understand missions.  It changes your daily living.  The only thing that is going to make this better is that I get to do it with my bride.  We met doing missions with World Changers.  We hope to take our children on mission with us in the future.
I am reminded that there is great lostness in Ethiopia.  The dots on the map to the left indicate groups of people who are unreached and unengaged.  There are 5,800 groups like this all over the world.  We have been given the amazing privilege of representing Christ to a world that is estranged from Him. May we do it with boldness, tenacity, and the joy of our King.
I hope you will be with us Sunday as we look together at the fact that, "Missions is Non-negotiable."  Would you pray with me that God would open our hearts and eyes to how we can become and even greater part of His mission of redemption?

Preaching in Ethiopia in 2009

Posted by Jack | at 11:37 AM | 0 comments

My next iTunes purchase

Posted by Jack | at 4:22 PM | 0 comments

Water Bottle Collection

Last September, our community was hit very hard by flooding.  We were blessed as a church to suffer no physical damage and to have the opportunity to serve our community.  One of the ways that we did this was by distributing over 15,000 bottles of water in the course of two weeks. We found this to be a dire need.  And now another area of the country has some of the same needs. This event is even a little more personal to me since my sister is a victim of the Nashville floods.  She and her family are fine, but are still waiting to get back to their neighborhood to inspect the damage to her home.

Our church will be collecting bottled water for the flood victims in Tennessee  this Sunday, May 9th from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the church. The bottled water will be delivered to Crosspoint Church in Nashville, TN on Monday, May 10th. At this point we are collecting ONLY BOTTLED WATER. Many people helped us with this same need and we want to pursue this opportunity to serve God by serving others.

How can you get involved?

1. Pray for the flood victims in Tennessee.

2. Purchase cases of bottled water and bring to Ewing Road Baptist Church this Sunday, May 9th between 9am and 1pm.

3. Share this event information with those in your network to increase our ability to collect as much water as possible.

Posted by Jack | at 9:49 AM | 0 comments

It's been a while

It has been almost a month since I last posted.  I have been working through a couple of series of posts in my head that I hope to work on through the summer months.  Until then, I felt like this video by pastor John Piper does a great job in leading us to think about how we move into Gospel conversations with people we know or come to know.

Posted by Jack | at 4:00 PM | 0 comments

Some good news for me...and maybe you too!

For a guy like me, this is good news. This Thursday, Starbucks is giving a free brewed coffee to everyone who brings in a travel mug.   Like I told my wife, "I wish I had a bigger mug!"

Posted by Jack | at 1:54 PM | 0 comments

A funny for my wife

My wife makes me smile. Often.  Someone posted this video about ketchup and it made me laugh.  She is a fan of Heinz ketchup (not Hunts!) and I thought it would make her smile.  Maybe you will get a kick out of it too!

Posted by Jack | at 9:42 AM | 1 comments

To go or not to go, part three...

Picking up where we left off yesterday in our discussion of questions about serving in missions when others caution you against going, there are a couple more questions to ask...

3. Is this naivete or a calling?

In Paul's speech to the Ephesian elders, he states, "And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me." (20:22-23)  Paul was not naive about his mission.  He was going, knowing that there were assured dangers ahead.

We are most often not going to find ourselves in this situation.  We may know that there is the possibility of danger in our mission, but the assurance Paul had is rare.  Yet we must not blindly ignore the calls of someone who tells us of the inherent danger in a situation.

When we hear of the powerful works of God and the great destinations offered, we can be really excited about the opportunity to go to a far away state or land.  And yet our desire must be proclaiming the greatness of Christ to those who haven't heard and not just a sanctified vacation.  Missions may very well take us places we find are beyond words and to people who have an awe inspiring effect on us.  However, the allure of the opportunity must not close our eyes and cause us to make an unwise decision.  God's call is of primary importance, the place will be beautiful, whether it is across the street or across the globe.

4. Why don't they want you to go?

We must not make the assumption that those who do not want us to go are against God's call in your life.  At the same time, they are not necessarily a prophet, speaking God's direction for you.  A good question for us to ask is their motive for telling you not to go.

Those who loved Paul did not want him to go because they knew he was in danger.  Their concern was for his life.  He as dear to them and losing him would cause them great pain.  And yet they also had a genuine desire to see the Kingdom of God advanced and the work of the Spirit to continue. Through their tears they sent Paul to fulfill God's call on his life.

Not everyone is able to put their personal feelings secondary to a desire to see Christ's name proclaimed.  It may be for many reasons.  If we know this, then we may have insight as to why they may not want us to go.  We find Christ's command in coming to bear here: ""If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."  A love for His glory is primary.

I in no way believe that asking these questions will be easy or enable us to make a quick decision.  I do however believe that when they are discussed and prayed over earnestly, God will direct, Christ will be honored, and the Spirit will move through us to reach our neighborhoods and the nations.

Posted by Jack | at 8:00 AM | 0 comments

To go or not to go...part two

In last week's post, I looked at the struggle found in making the decision as to whether or not you should go on mission (read either short-term or long term) when you are being counseled not to go by people who genuinely care about you.  Serving as a student pastor, I have face this on several occasions. Parents who are committed to Christ are faced with a difficult decision when their child wants to go and serve in a distant place.  Some places that even brought somewhat of a danger.

All believers are called to be on mission in the context in which God has placed them (Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Corinthians 7:21-24). Not everyone is called to go and be a part of every opportunity (3 John 5-8).  We must see to make our decisions based on direction from Scripture and from much prayer.  In that light there are a few questions that I believe are good for us to ask if we find ourselves in this kind of situation.

1. Are you under your parent's authority?

Our four-year old has memorized three verses of scripture.  One of them is "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right."  Paul goes on to instruct children that honoring their father and mother was the first commandment with a promise.  Parents have been given the responsibility and privilege by God to teach and raise their children in a way that they would know and love God with all they are. This would include being faithful to the call He has placed on their lives.

The key to this passage, especially as it relates to our topic, is the phrase "in the Lord." Parents must not stop their children from being faith out of sheer worry or fear. To do so is to ignore Paul's admonition to fathers in to "not provoke their children to anger." At the same time, those under their parent's authority must not ignore their parents direction simply because they "really, really, really want to go!"

When this type of situation comes, parents and child should spend time together talking through concerns and desires and praying earnestly together.  Both sides must be willing and open to God changing their perspective and be willing to submit to his leadership.  In the end, parents must seek God's leadership and make the decision they believe is what God would have them do, even if this is unpopular.  If a parent has made that decision, trust that God will honor your desire to serve and open a door that both you and your parents will see as a prefect opportunity.

2. Is this a good idea or God's idea?

A desire to share the Gospel is a good thing.  Period.  Yet there are times when we desire to go one direction when God would have us to go in another direction.  In Acts 16:6-7, Paul and his companions are stopped from going into two different regions by the Spirit.  Upon first reading, this may seem somewhat strange to us.  Why did God stop them from going and spreading the Good News?  We find the answer in verses 9-10.  God wanted them to go to Macedonia, so he sent Paul a vision.

Most of the time, God does not speak to us in visions.  Yet he does use His Word and His church.  It may be that God is using those who are urging you not to go as a means of redirecting your focus and energy.  If their counsel is both biblical and saturated with a desire for the glory of Christ among the nations, we would be fools to pay no attention.  Wisdom would lead us to at least consider if their counsel is God's way of moving us from a good idea to His idea.  It may actually be God's way of confirming the call in our lives as we hear their counsel, pray passionately, and still feel compelled to go.

Tomorrow I will post two more questions and some brief closing thoughts

Posted by Jack | at 8:30 AM | 1 comments

To go or not to go...that's the real question

Missions have always been important to me. Some of my earliest memories are sitting at church in a group known as "Mission Friends." I started taking mission trips as soon as I was able and haven't looked back.

In my role as a pastor, I have tried to pass this passion on to those God has given me the priveledge to serve. By God's grace there have been several who have developed a heart for missions. It is exciting to see their enthusiasm grow and their faces shine as they return, eager for the next opportunity.

This morning, my heart was stirred as I read my Bible. I usually post my thoughts about my readings on Twitter. However, this morning I needed more than 140 characters.
I am reading through the New Testament with our students. This mornings reading was in . To be honest, this thought actually began in chapter 20. Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit has testified to him that he faces "imprisonment and afflictions." (Acts 20:20) As he moves closer to Jerusalem, more and more people testify that this is the case. Finally a prophet named Agabus demonstrates with Paul's belt the way he would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul's friends respond the way we would expect:

"When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem." (Acts 21:12)

This is one of those "we" passages in Acts where Luke, the writer of the book, places himself in the narrative. Even he desired for Paul to stop his trip to Jerusalem. All of those who loved Paul dearly did not want him to go because of the great danger involved. And here is Paul's reply:

"Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13)

Their love was dear to him. Their concern overwhelming. And yet all of their concern was not enough to make him turn back from the path God had placed before him. And so Paul went and by the end of chapter 21 he has been beaten and is in the custody of the Romans.

God does not call us to go on vacation. He calls us to go on mission. To be on mission is to go to those who are hostile to the Gospel. This hostility may be civilized (a polite, "no thanks") or it may even be physically violent. It also means quite often leaving our comfort zone and place of perceived safety. When we contemplate this, those who love us are rightly concerned about us. If they weren't, we would have to question their love. Sometimes they are like Paul's companions and beg us not to go.

This can place us in a very precarious situation. Are they God's way of telling us that we may not need to go? Are they voices that love us greatly yet stand with Paul's companions, "breaking our hearts" but not in-line with God's call?

Though I do not believe that there are easy answers to these questions, I think that if we think Biblicaly, we can find a direction that is Christ-honoring and at least somewhat comforting to our loved ones. Tomorrow I will present some of my thoughts on this.

Posted by Jack | at 7:57 AM | 1 comments

Mike bought my milk

Today I had to run some errands to nail down some details on an even we are going to have through our student ministry this Saturday.  One of those errands involved heading to Wal-mart.  While there, I told my wife that I would pick up some milk.

I chose what I hoped to be the shortest line.  When I did, I noticed that the guy in front of me was talking to everyone around.  To be honest, I thought he was a little off-center.  Then I realized that He was talking about Jesus.  I wasn't sure where this was going to go, but I began nodding in agreement with some of what he was saying.  I was counting out some change to pay for my milk, and he looked at me and said, "God loves you on a Monday morning when you don't have the money to buy milk."  He then looked at the cashier and said he was going to buy my milk.  I told him that I truly appreciated it, that I was a brother in Christ, and that he really didn't need to buy my milk.  He simply smiled and said that whether I had the money or not, he wanted to buy my milk.  Somebody brought him groceries one time and he just wanted to do the same.  We talked for a few moments, and then parted ways.

Mike, his real name, has two things I admire.  One is a heart to tell people about Jesus.  The other is a desire to be a blessing to others.  He was a blessing to me.  And he was a great challenge to this pastor as well.  May my life be one that overflows with words about Jesus and love to others.

Mike, I may never see you again and you will probably never read this, but thanks for buying my milk.  And thank you even more for stirring my soul to be more earnest in my love for others.

Posted by Jack | at 4:21 PM | 1 comments

Self-condemnation? Not exactly...

This morning, I read an interesting verse in Acts 13 . In verse 46, Paul is speaking to the Jews who were inciting people against him and Barnabas. He says:

"It was necessary that the Word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles."

It struck me that their rejection of the Gospel was an act of judgment. Yet unlike many claims against Christ-followers today, it was not Paul or Barnabas who did the judging. They judged themselves unworthy. And not in a remorseful or broken way. It seems the judgment was one of agreement. Like a judge who closes one case and moves on to the next, they were done with the message of the Gospel.

From time to time we as believers will encounter those who seem to do the same thing. We must not let it turn us to arrogance, but brokenness. We must not let it turn us to hopelessness, but prayer. After all, Paul stirred up all kinds of trouble for believers and God over-ruled his self-judgment.

Posted by Jack | at 7:38 AM | 1 comments

The chasm between study and practice

I enjoy the study of theology. I am one of those guys who would
gleefully spend hours pouring over a book written by a guy who died a
couple hundred years ago about theories of the atonement. Yet lately I
have come to realize all the more that study is nothing if it is not
lived out.

My dad once told me, somewhat tongue in cheek, that those who can, do,
and those who can't, teach. While that certainly is not a hard and
fast rule, I feel that without caution it could become the case in my
life. Knowing what to tell someone is one thing. Living theology day-
in and day-out is another.

This has become even more evident as I have walked with friends
through rough spots in their lives. It has become more evident as I
have become a husband and father. It is has become more evident as I
have served as a pastor for the past five years.
So now I press on to bridge the chasm and become more and more in
practice what I have learned in my study. (And I am starting now as my
boys eagerly ask me to come "play bugs.") May God grant me grace to
become a godly man in more than just theory.

Posted by Jack | at 7:14 PM | 0 comments

Trying something new

Last night I taught on God's transcendence.  I added a link to my podcast on the right.  I am not sure how this works, but if you subscribe, you may also get it in this post.  I guess we will check and see.

Posted by Jack | at 11:14 AM | 0 comments

Politically Uncorrect Kindness

In my previous post, I hoped to explore why the call to repentance is a good thing based upon Peter's call in Acts 3.  The first of those reasons is that we may have our sins blotted out.

Imagine for a moment that you were in a bad car accident. As a result of the trauma, your hearing is damaged.  As you stagger out of the mangled wreckage, a semi-truck is barreling towards you.  If I am standing on the side of the road, what is the kindest thing for me to do?  It's to let you know the truck is coming and to help you get out of the road!

While this analogy has its limitations, it is helpful for me to understand why calling people to repent of their sins is an act of kindness.  Without their sins forgiven, they have the holy wrath of God barreling towards them.  The only way that they escape is to "repent and believe" (Mark 1:15).

When thinking of this, there are two passages that come to mind:

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:4-5
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Our call to a person to repent of their sin is a call to escape God's wrath and live in the kindness and patience of God that lead them to Him.  Rather than condemnation, the call to repentance is a plea to have our sins removed and reconciliation be made between us and God.  We don't want them to be like us.  Rather we want them to know Christ.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Be kind to someone and call them to repent.

Posted by Jack | at 9:33 AM | 0 comments

When Tozer met my sermon

This Wednesday, I spoke on the importance of living an unwasted life.  The idea is not new to me, it is as recent as John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life and as foundational as the Scripture.  This morning while reading I came across a quote that reinforced so much of what I have been feeling.

"The cross of Jesus Christ always changes men's plans.  The cross of Christ is revolutionary, and if we are not ready to let it be revolutionary in us nor let it cost us anything or control us in any way, we are not going to like a church that takes the things of God seriously.  People want the benefits of the cross but they don't want to be under the Lordship of Christ."  A.W. Tozer, When He is Come, page 19.

Join the Pursuit and let the revolutionary cross keep you from wasting it all!

Posted by Jack | at 8:38 AM | 0 comments

The Call for Repentance

The call for repentance for some conjures up images of a self-
righteous preacher type telling everyone the need to shape up and be
more like him. But this is far from the Biblical view.
In Acts 3, Peyer and John are on their way to the Temple for prayer.
Before they get in, God heals a lame man through them. When this
joyous trio gets into the Temple, they draw quite a crowd. Peter
seizes the opportunity to tell those around about Jesus. He ends by
calling them to repent. Not so that they can be like him, but so that
they will receive three things:

1. That their sins may be blotted out
2. That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord
3. That He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.

My hope is to take each of these three and explore them each in a
little more detail over the next several days. I feel there is much to
be discovered.

Posted by Jack | at 8:43 AM | 0 comments

A massive but possibly unnoticed evening

Last night held the possibility of being a pivotal night in the life of Southern Baptists.  And yet, I believe it is fair to say that a vast majority were unaware.  Over the past year, there has been a call for a Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Questions about the place, structure, and roles of state and national structures within the convention were raised and not a few feathers were ruffled.  Yet the dialogue seems to have been healthy and though there are detractors, these questions in my opinion will only serve to strengthen our churches as they seek to honor Christ and reach the nations for His fame.  The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force met last night to share their progress and recommendations to the Executive Committee of the SBC.  If you are interested in what they reported, you can find the video here and the written transcript here.

Wherever you stand and whatever your feelings may be, let us join together praying that Christ will be exalted, unity will be embraced, and that others will know Christ.

"I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!" Psalms 57:9-11

Posted by Jack | at 10:09 AM | 0 comments

Psalm 96 and Missions, part two

In my previous post, I referred to the connection between worship and missions.  Continuing in this amazing Psalm, the connection is taken to a different level:

 "For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!" Psalms 96:5-7

We are all worshipers.  Yet because of our sinful nature, we naturally seek to worship something other than the one true God (Romans 1:19-23).  Those who have not placed their faith in Christ are following a make-shift god. Yet for me, one of the key words in this verse is the word "worthless."

False gods make false promises.  Not once can they fulfill.  Millions are devoted to sham theology that will leave them empty-handed in the end.  The thought of this is overwhelming if we will simply let it sink in.

That is where verses six and seven come in.  Though the gods of the nations are worthless, the Lord is full of splendor, majesty, strength, and beauty.  He never makes a promise that will not be kept.  He can satisfy like nothing else.  He is our fullness of joy and delight.  In His hand is both safety and security.

Psalm 96 drives us to missions because we have experienced the one true God to whom none can begin to compare.  And this experience does not drive us to selfishness.  On the contrary, it compels us to go to those who are seeking the same fulfillment in a facade.  Let us go to the nations with good news!

Posted by Jack | at 9:31 AM | 0 comments

The Garage

Last night was a night we had been expecting for a long time.  After months of planning, sweat, and anticipation, the Garage was revealed!  The Garage started as a roughed in three bay storage area and has ended up as a place we think is out of this world.  Jack Griffin, one great guy, gets so much of the credit.  There were many volunteers (Van, Bill, Alex, TJ, Dennis, Jeremy, David, Chris, Nathan, and Anthony to name a few).  Most all of our students helped to clean up at least once, if not three or four times.  My amazing wife not only put up with me devoting a lot of time to getting everything finished but also painted a super-cool text mural on the wall.  Eight months of work has come and gone.  Here are the pics...(You can click on them to make them bigger)

 A shot from the hangout area.

The other end of the hang out area towards the stage.

The flat screen and Wii.  Notice the cool mailboxes and text mural on the left.

The view from the stage.

A shot of the text mural.

The logo on the bar.

We left two of the existing bay doors in the garage. We insulated them and will be able to raise them when the weather permits.  This will allow us to move in and out and even move the party outside!

Two-thirds of the ceiling we left exposed and painted black.  You can see the projector, track lighting, and big screen in the wall.  By next week, the Wii should be able to switch between the TV and the projector with a switch (thanks Chris!)

As great as this place is, it has one purpose: point people to Jesus.  If we don't do that, it is worthless.  Yet if we use it as a tool to bring the Gospel, we will be who God has called us to be.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Posted by Jack | at 11:26 PM | 3 comments