Dec 27, 2009

The Gospel in One Minute

Great clip from one of my heroes in the faith, Dr. John MacArthur

Dec 25, 2009

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

From our family to yours, wishing you the blessings of the Lord Jesus and the hope of his coming this Christmas season.

Dec 23, 2009

Christmas Week Clarity

It's Incarnation Week - my first here at Sixth Street. We have one more Sunday to go and we'll close out 2009. Hope to blog some thoughts about Christmas this week. I'm at my Mom's house today so this is the Road Show edition of the blog.
  • The crowd was a little better than I anticipated Sunday morning. The weeks of Christmas are usually hard on attendance with people travelling to see family. I knew of several families that were going to be out, but I was surprised that the crowd was still a good size.
  • I thought the music really accented the theme of Emmanuel Sunday morning. It was a great mix of a couple of Christmas carols with some new songs like Glory to God Forever and Mighty to Save. It was a reminder that the Incarnation message is a message of salvation come and God's glory revealed.
  • Alison and I have really felt welcomed by all the Christmas parties we have been invited to. The food has been awesome and the fellowship even better. Seems like everyone loves to play Dirty Santa but me. It's a personal thing. I know every time I get something really good, I am probably not going to keep it. However, it's fun to see everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. We need much more of that in the world today.
  • Remember to pray for Myles Palmer. He came home Monday to some pain in his chest and found out he has a collapsed lung. The doctors inserted a chest tube in him Tuesday morning and said he would be there at least 3 days. Looks like it might be a Christmas in the hospital for Myles, Matt, Mel, and Melinda. Keep them in your prayers.
  • I was really struck with the enormity of my message this past Sunday. I spent most of last week thinking and meditating on the implications of "Emmanuel: God with us". I think most of the world misses out not just on the meaning of Christmas but also of salvation because they do not understand the Incarnation. If you really believe that the baby in the manger is not just a human, but also the very incarnate Son of God, then everything changes. If God came not just because he wanted to be a human, but because he had to bring an answer to our sin virus and change the course of human destiny, then everything changes. This Christmas, don't just focus on the baby in the manger, but also on the meaning of "God with us".
  • Don't forget out Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We've collected just under $7000 towards our goal of $10,000. Be a part of supporting our missionaries around the globe. If each family at Sixth Street makes one small sacrifice for missions, we'll hit our target.
  • I'll be in town most of the next couple of weeks. I am travelling to my Mom's this week, but will be back Wednesday night. Alison and I will be at her families for a couple of days beginning next Tuesday. The office will be closed on December 23-25 and Dec 31-Jan 1. If you need anything or have an emergency during this time, please give me a call.

Dec 21, 2009

Matt Chandler Update

Here is a video that Matt Chandler recorded for his congregation that was shown this past Sunday. What an incredible amount of grace and faith in such a difficult time. I pray that I can have this type of faith. Matt is getting his consultation on treatments today. It will be a tough road for him, but I know he will continue to face this by deflecting it to the glory of God. Keep Matt in your prayers.

Matt Chandler - Update #2 from Josh Viveros on Vimeo.

Dec 18, 2009

Another Matt Chandler Fix

Here is another great clip from Matt Chandler. Matt's quickly becoming one of my top 5 communicators of the gospel. Love his passion and his heart. Continue to pray for him. He had surgery to remove a brain tumor a few weeks ago and the pathology report confirmed it was malignant. He's going over treatment options with his doctors. He has faced this so far with such incredible, God-centered, faith. You can follow more on his progress here.


Dec 17, 2009

Primal: A Book Review

Several weeks ago I received an invitation to review Mark Batterson's new book Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. I was eager to get a copy of Batterson's book. If you don't know him, Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC is a unique ministry that meets in movie theaters in strategic metro stops around the DC area. Batterson is a creative thinker, communicator, and writer. His previous books are In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase. He also writes a very popular blog called

I have not read Batterson's prior books, but knew some friends that enjoy them very much. I have read Batterson's blog occasionally and also have been very encouraged by his creativity in ministry and missions. As a writer, he shows an incredible passion for missions and helping NCC to be active in giving to missions. The church opened a coffeehouse named Ebeneezers in DC that donates all it's profits to missions causes.

Primal is a unique book. Batteson writes that he got the inspiration for the book by walking through the catacombs under the Church of San Clemente in Rome. His experience going through this ancient place gave him an appreciation and a passion to see Christianity return to its more "primal" roots. One great quote he said was "as I tried to absorb the significance of where I was, I couldn't help but wonder if our generation has conveniently fogotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ." He believes that we have become adept at adding layers to what it means to be a Christian and that much of modern-day Christianity resembles little what the early church lived and faced. I can certainly appreciate his feeling. Very few of us today have truly counted the cost or paid a significance price to follow Jesus. As a result, we have adopted a cheap grace and a costless religion.

Batterson structures his book around the Great Commandment. He believes the essence of Christianity is found in learning to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Batteson says that "my aim in this book is to take you to new places intellectually and spiritually so that you discover new ways of loving God." It's an admirable aim. His writing is certainly encouraging. His style is full of inspirational stories. There are many moments where I was personally challenged to have a much deeper faith. Batterson's faith is contagious and his words are challenging. The best section in the book is the last one on "The Strength of Christianity." He encourages readers to dare to dream big dreams and do big things for God. He claims that "most church problems don't come from the abundance of sin but rather from the lack of vision." He also does a good job of helping Christians to think with an "abundance mentality" and to focus on the great things that God may be calling us to do.

Overall, the book is a positive read. However, there is little doctrinal depth to the book. Few references to God's Word are employed. Batterson is one of the latest Christian authors to call us to downplay doctrine and spend more time doing stuff. Part of this probably comes from his admission that "our family went to half a dozen different churches when I was growing up, and here is what I learned: all of them get some things right, and all of them get some things wrong." While this statement is certainly true, it leaves the reader with the impression that doctrine isn't important. It's a revamping of the philosophy that "It doesn't matter what you know, it only matters what you do." However, I believe it does matter what you know. It is possible to be doctrinally sound and culturally relevant. As a matter of fact, sound doctrine doesn't downplay missions, it gives it real meaning. Right actions come from right belief. However, many of the popular pastors of our modern-day church (Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Brian McClaren) have espoused a philosophy that shuns doctrine in favor of a lighter brand of Christianity that is more appealing to the culture. However, does this really help accomplish Batterson's goal of reminding us how we've "conveniently fogotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ"? Batterson attempts to tell the reader that he isn't suggesting backing off of doctrine. He says we should be passionate about the "nonnegotionables" which to him are the Diety of Christ, Christ's sinlessness, His substitutionary death, and His resurrection. Are these the only nonnegtionables? What about the exclusivity of Christ (John 14:6), or justification by faith alone (Romans 1:17)? He admits in a footnote that there are some disagreements on this. However, I believe that we have to be very careful about watering down doctrine in order to gain a hearing in the culture. After all, when you publish in writing what you believe are the nonnegtionables, you better be sure to be clear about that.

In conclusion, I was very encouraged by Batterson's book. He's an ultra-creative and vivid thinker. He has a great passion to take the gospel to the lost and to build bridges of cultural relevancy. He's put together an extremely creative church model that has taken the church to the marketplace. I hope that the longer he serves as pastor, the more he will become passionate about the whole truth of the gospel. I hope he becomes more like Mark Driscoll or Mark Dever in his approach and less like Bill Hybels or Robert Schuller. Batterson is an emerging church leader on the evangelical landscape. I look forward to see what he comes up with next.

This book was provided for review by Multinomah Publishers. You can find more about the author and other books at the Random House website.

Dec 15, 2009

Monday Morning Clarity (one day late)

Christmas is fastly approaching. I know that many of you have already finished your Christmas shopping while many others haven't bought anything yet. My dad announced to my wife and I at Thanksgiving that he had one more present to buy and he would be finished. That's dedication! My wife and I went this past week to the Galleria Mall in Birmingham for our annual trip to get the mall Santa picture. I was reminded once again how hectic Christmas has become. Toys R Us resembled a battle zone with armored carts bumping into each other and people lining isles to get those Legos and video games. I was glad to be back in God's house Sunday morning for some sanity and the chance to refocus on the worship of our Savior.
  • The Christmas season has affected our attendance with lots of families having to take the weekend to go and visit extended family. Crowd was down a little this past Sunday. However, the spirit of the crowd was strong. Sixth Street is a special place because of the people who love the Lord and love their church.
  • Elisa Bowles did an awesome job Sunday morning on "O Holy Night"! That's one of my favorite Christmas songs. It's also not an easy one to sing, but Elisa knocked it out of the park.
  • It's great to have some of our college students like Kendall Graveman and Morgan Jones back home. Some of our students will be going to Passion Conference in Atlanta in January. I'm stoked! Passion has long been one of my favorite events.
  • Speaking of Morgan Jones, she is going to Honduras after Christmas on a mission trip with our old pal Dan Moran. I am trying to give Morgan a crash course in "How to Survive a Dan Moran Mission Trip." Please be praying for her and the people of Honduras. I am thankful for any church member who has a heart for missions.
  • The Children's Choirs did a great job Sunday night on their musicals! These are by far one of my favorite things. One of the reasons I love them is because they are messy. Kids forget their lines, the motions to the songs are never in sync, they speak their lines too fast and without any inflection, and usually someone is picking their nose or putting their hands down their pants. However, in all this, these children present the gospel in such a simple way. And they really believe what they are singing! I wish we all had a little more childlikeness in us from time to time.
  • Thanks to Carrie Keel and her team for their leadership so far in our Children's Choir! We've had record enrollment and the kids are having a good time.
  • Don't forget the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering! I know that the economy is down and times are tough. However, let's be sure to be faithful to the task of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ above and beyond spreading the commercialism of Wal-Mart and Amazon. We have hundreds of missionaries that were denied appointment this year because of the lack of funds. The Lottie Moon Offering helps Southern Baptists to be the most dominant missional force among all denominations. Please consider making adjustments to your Christmas list this year and be generous to this important cause. Sixth Street has a goal of $10,000 and we've already collected $6,200! Let's close it out Sixth Street!
  • I'm working on my sermon plan for 2010. This is the first time I have been responsible for setting out a long-term sermon plan for a church. It's an adventure. Pray for clarity and that I stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit as I go through the planning process.
  • I want to challenge all of Sixth Street to be faithful in God's Word in 2010. Perhaps you can dedicate yourself to read through the Bible this year. Perhaps that's too ambitious and you can just work through the New Testament. Find a good Bible reading plan. Some good plans can be found on the ESV Bible website. Also check out Another great online site is Here you can not only select a plan, but you can jot down notes and interact with others who use youversion. I will be using youversion quite frequently during 2010 and would love to interact with you. Find something and let's dive into God's Word in a deeper, more faithful way in 2010.
Wow. That's a lot of stuff to get out of my head! See you Sunday!

Dec 8, 2009

Remember This?

Maybe they were right after all. As much as I hate to admit it, I have to give props to the Tide and especially Nick Saban. They have done everything they need to and deserve to play in Pasadena. Good luck Bama.

Dec 7, 2009

Jesus Wants the Rose by Matt Chandler

This past year, my friend Jason introduced me to the teachings of a young pastor in Texas named Matt Chandler. He's 35 and a passionate teacher of the gospel and one of the most doctrinally and practically grounded pastors I have ever seen.

He's also recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from his brain last Friday. All seems to have gone well, but continue to pray for a smooth and complete recovery.

This is a short video from the Desiring God conference and a snipet of the kind of incredible teaching Matt has. We need more men like this, young and old, to declare the gospel. Pray for me that I can be as faithful as him.

Monday Morning Clarity

The Christmas holiday season is underway in a powerful way at Sixth Street. What a great Sunday yesterday! Great music, hopefully inspiring message, and the gospel presented through music.
  • Big thanks to Marie Tidwell and her team for the awesome job they did decorating the church campus last week. They spent many late evenings putting up wreaths, spraying snow, and decorating the trees. It looked awesome and created a very festive spirit allowing us to worship the gift that God has sent.
  • The adult choir hit a home run last night with their Christmas musical. I heard several comments from attendees that this was the best program that Sixth Street has ever put on. It was awesome to see the name of Jesus lifted up and the gospel so clearly declared through music. Not only did it sound good, it was biblical and evangelistic too. Thanks to Kevin, Angela and the tech crew, and all the choir for giving Jesus your best.
  • Yesterday, we looked at the character of Joseph and what happens when God's plan interrupts your plans. Ultimately, we saw that 1) Our present circumstances do not always tell the whole story. 2) My reactions to divine interruptions expose what's in my heart. 3) God's plan usually seems impossible, at first. 4) God will work through our faith to bring glory to himself. The summary was "What we may view as an interruption, God may view as our destiny."
  • Last minute preparations are underway this week for our Children's Christmas musical Sunday night at 6 PM. Please make plans to join us. I know the kids have worked real hard and will do a super job!
  • Don't forget our emphasis on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. There are as many as 600 SBC missionaries that may not get to go to the field this year because of budget shortfalls. Our church goal is $10,000. It's ambitious, but I believe extremely achievable. Please take some money you might spend on another Christmas present that might not get used and give it instead to support the mission of making disciples around the world. As of today, we have collected $6,261. Help us reach the goal!
  • I had some wonderful gifts yesterday from some church members. Reminds me that being a pastor does have it's privileges. I am humbled and honored to serve alongside some great people.
  • Our church council met last week for the first of several meetings to formulate our vision and strategy to make disciples at Sixth Street. I hope that soon in the new year, we will have a vision and plan to help us turn the corner.
  • I have seen a lot of new visitors the last few weeks. Some of this is due to the holidays, but I hope we will continue to be a church that lovingly welcomes all people with the life-transforming truth of the gospel.

Verse of the week - "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Dec 2, 2009

Why We Love the Church - A Review

Recently I saw this book in the bookstore and couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I read it in about a week and was encouraged and strengthened by it. The book is written by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, two young evangelicals that are definitely not the norm among today's younger evangelicals. These two guys wrote the book Why We Are Not Emergent by Two Guys Who Should Be which won a Christianity Today Book of the Year award. DeYoung is a rising influence in the evangelical world. He is the pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He has a solid Reformed background and is passionate about providing sound, biblical teaching to a congregation made up mostly of college students and young professionals. Kluck is a member of DeYoung's church and an award-winning sportswriter. He's written for ESPN The Magazine, Sports Spectrum, and Page 2. Both of these guys provide a fresh, authentic voice in their writing that is doctrinally solid, culturally relevant, and refreshingly honest.

Why We Love the Church is exactly what it sounds like - an attempt by two young evangelicals to present their case for the local church despite all it's flaws and failures. They reveal their frustration with the popular trend among evangelicals, especially the emergent crowd, to publish their manifestos on all of the reasons why the church is broken, where the church has failed, and how to fix it to make it more relevant and missional. The Christian book market has been flooded in recent years with books by George Barna (Revolution and Pagan Christianity), Jim Palmer (Divine Nobodies and Wide Open Spaces), Dan Kimball (They Like Jesus but Not the Church), and the constantly off-beat Brian McClaren (A New Kind of Christian, A Generous Orthodoxy, and The Secret Message of Jesus). These guys are full of all kind of advice about how the local church is too concerned with self-preservation, blind to social justice issues, and not good on helping people find real answers to real questions. They propose a new brand of Christianity that unfortunately lacks any theological depth, is open to a gospel without the language of sin and repentance, and measures success more by our attempts to save the planet or eradicate AIDS than it does on lives transformed by the gospel and growing through the faith "once for all delivered to the saints."

I was extremely encouraged by DeYoung and Kluck. DeYoung writes with a theological depth well beyond his years. He is still young enough to know the issues that this generation struggles with. He is honest that the church has not done a good job of answering the questions that this younger generation is asking. He paints a broad picture of how most young adults see church:
"In their experience, church is where a lot of people show up and don't do anything, where evangelism and the seeker are all that matter, where every Sunday must be a celebration, where suburbia is king, where pastors are godlike CEO's, where another building is always under construction and another capital campaign is coming soon."
He also is honest to show the reasons why people are leaving the church. The church has become inauthentic, outdated, and in some cases abusive of authority. However, DeYoung's answer is not to leave the local church in favor of a discussion group at Starbucks. He actually suggests that some of the angst with the church may be self-induced by a group of people that have lacked real discipleship, have never heard the truth of the gospel that calls for self-denial and mortification of sin, and have always been the center of attention. Perhaps the problem is a combination of the misguided mission of the local church and the spiritual immaturity of a younger generation that has never truly understood the gospel. Perhaps the answer is not less doctrine, but true doctrine. Perhaps the answer is not to rewrite the gospel of redemption, but to preach the truth of biblical redemption.

DeYoung's co-author Kluck has a satirical wit and candor combined with a passion for the local church. He uses illustrations from today's movies and television to point out that what people are really looking for is the local church and what it provides.

DeYoung and Kluck have written a brilliant book that many church leaders should read. Before we jump off the emergent diving board with McClaren, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, and George Barna, we should possibly make sure that pool has enough water to catch us and keep us from sustaining permanent damage. If you are a pastor or church leader, get a copy of this book and read it now.

Kevin DeYoung's blog is also an excellent read and can be found here.

Dec 1, 2009

Monday Morning Clarity

Hoping you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. My family and I went to MS to spend 4 days with my extended family in Columbus. We had a great Thanksgiving day at my grandmother's house. It was our first Thanksgiving without my grandmother and I think she was in our thoughts throughout the day - as we made the food, while we ate without her there, as we cleaned up. We truly miss her.

On another note, we had a great holiday weekend watching MS State blow away the Rebels from "that school up North" in the Egg Bowl. Go Dawgs! I couldn't score tickets to the game, but watched it with my brother, my dad, my wife, and my sister-in-law. It was a great game and awesome to see the job that Coach Dan Mullen has been doing finally pay off.

Here are some other random thoughts from the weekend:
  • We started our emphasis on the Advent season. Thanks Myron and Holly for kicking us off! Advent means "coming" and is a recognition of the coming of the Messiah. As believers we celebrate Advent as we remember his coming as Savior and his future coming as Lord. Each week we will have a family do a selected reading on Advent and light the appropriate candle. My hope is that this will be a reminder to us all about the anticipation for the real reason for the holiday seaon.
  • We also started our "Characters of Christmas" series by looking at Simeon and what we do while we wait on the promise of God to be fulfilled. My hope is that each week we will look at a character and see what their life teaches us about God's plan. I hope it is an encouraging and practical look at Christmas.
  • Don't forget that this week is the Week of Prayer for Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Our SBC missionaries need our financial support, but more importantly, our prayer support. God can work around any limit we may have on resources, but he allows us to be part of the process through our prayers.
  • Speaking of the SBC, be praying for the Great Commisssion Resurgence Task Force that is meeting this week in Atlanta to help set the tone for much of Southern Baptist life in the next few years. Pray for wisdom and insight for these godly leaders. Go to for more info.
  • The Sixth Street Adult and Children's choirs are putting on the finishing touches for their Christmas musicals. The adult choir will be this Sunday night at 6 PM and the children's choir will be next Sunday at 6 PM. Thanks to Kevin and these awesome leaders for their hard work.
Verse of the week - Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58