Aug 24, 2010

Sterling Davis Update

I asked yesterday that you intercede today for Sterling Davis.  Here is a blog on his progress and some things specifically you can intercede in his behalf today.

Aug 23, 2010

Lift up prayers for Sterling Davis

Saints of God, please lift up prayers of intercession for a great young kid named Sterling Davis.  Sterling will be having brain surgery tomorrow, August 24th for a tumor in his brain.  This will be Sterling's second such surgery in the last few years.  He is the son of Roger and Becca Davis.  I have had the awesome privilege of knowing Roger for many years now.  He is the guru behind the success of Student Life summer camps.  I am grateful to be able to call Roger my friend.  I have known and watched Roger as he and Becca began to date, get married, and eventually started having a boatload of kids.  Like Alison and me, the Lord has given them many blessings.  They are awesome parents.  More importantly, they are awesome servants of the Lord Jesus.  As long as I have known Roger, he has been a man who brings encouragement to others, especially those who are suffering. In their first episode with Sterling, Roger often let us know of other families they had met with similar suffering and asking his friends on Twitter and Facebook to pray for these families.  It's amazing that in the midst of watching your child suffering and recovering to see someone who still minister to others.  That is the peace and comfort that God's sovereignty can bring.

Sterling has a tumor that causes him to frequently have difficult seizures.  I know as a parent that this has to tear at their hearts.  However, Roger and Becca continue to walk through these events with Sterling and still say "Blessed be the name of the Lord."  Tomorrow's surgery will be a difficult one.  Pray for the doctors to have clarity, accuracy, and success in removing the tumor.  Pray that God will strengthen Sterling's body to handle the trauma of surgery.  Pray for God to hold Roger and Becca in his righteous right hand as they trust Sterling to God's sovereignty and the surgeon's skill.  Pray for the recovery.  Above all, pray that God will continue to glorify himself in his servants and in Sterling's body. 

Aug 20, 2010

The Dad Life

Someone showed me this funny video today that was produced by Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  It is so close to accurate that it hurts.  Hope you enjoy...

Dad Life from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Aug 19, 2010

Coach Mullen on ESPN

It's nice to see so much excitement building for a team that went 5-7 last season and plays one of the toughest schedules in the toughest conference in college football, but that is Dan Mullen brings to the table.  Here is the video from his appearance on College Football Live yesterday.


Aug 18, 2010

Beyond Opinion - A Book Review

Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We DefendRecently I received a copy of "Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend" from Thomas Nelson Publishers to review.  This is a weighty volume of essays designed to equip Christians to understand the biggest objections to the Christian faith and equip them to accurately defend and live our faith and apologetic in Jesus Christ.  Zacharias possesses one of the greatest minds in the Christian faith.  He is the main author and editor of this volume of essays.  He has also compiled some of the most brilliant scholars to contribute to this volume including Alister McGrath, John Lennox, and Sam Solomon.
If you are looking for light, easy reading about how faith is like a butterfly or how to have "your best life now", stay away from this book.  This is a book about apologetics.  It is a book designed to address the real and hard issues about Christianity in the current culture.  The first section of the book is designed to give the reader and in-depth perspective of the challenges presented by postmodernism, Atheism, Islam, Science, the growth in Eastern Religions, and the cultural divide with today's younger generation.  Issues such as the authority and accuracy of Scripture, the Bible and naturalism, and the rise in atheism since 9/11 are tackled on deeper levels.  The second section seeks to address "the questions behind the questions" which are the real issues that underlay many objections to the Christian faith.  Zacharias does an excellent job of addressing the age-old issue of the gospel and evil and suffering.  Michael Ramsden does a thorough job of addressing the objection that personal faith has nothing to do with truth or reality.  His chapter equips the reader to engage in "conversational apologetics" by presenting some of the often asked questions about faith and Christian experience.

As I wrote earlier, this is not light Christian reading.  However, it may well be one of the most important books in print.  History will eventually record the impact that Ravi Zacharias and his ministry have had on expanding the gospel into the difficult areas of the world and culture.  Many Christians will never read a book like this because "It's too hard to read" and that is to our shame.  Ultimately, we must be able to articulate a faith to the culture around us that is "beyond" our opinions and personal experiences and actually addresses the intellectual concerns that philosophy, atheism, and pain have actually brought.  I believe that if more Christians were to pick up this book and push through the challenges addressed that we would see more opportunities for the gospel around us.  Apologetics is not an issue that we as Christians should push to the periphery to be addressed by scholars and philosophers only.  It is being obedient to Peter's admonition to "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect."  How can we defend with respect if we don't know the real questions people are asking?  Pick up a copy of Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend, find a quiet place to read it, and buckle your seat-belt.

I received this book free from the publisher through the <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Aug 16, 2010

Thoughts from a younger SBC pastor (part 1)

I just got through reading two great posts by Ed Stetzer over at Between the Times.  His two articles were about his reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando.  I would highly encourage you to read them here and here.  I think Stetzer is right on target with his observations about the growing loss of presence at the SBC among younger leaders.  His points accurately reflect much of what I have felt and have observed talking to other young leaders I know, some of whom have come through my ministry or I have met in my doctoral work at NOBTS.

I attended this year's SBC in Orlando. It was my first time at the SBC since 1996 when it was in Atlanta.  I have watched with interest some the past years to the online streams, but until I became a senior pastor last summer, I had no real compelling interest in going.  I think that statement describes a lot of the people my age and younger - no compelling interest.  This year's compelling interest that motivated my attendance and many others was the debate over the Great Commission Resurgence.  I had my own feelings about the GCR and had trusted leaders on both sides of the debate.  Many of the pastors in my own state and association were not in favor of it.  There were many reasons given, much of which I thought sounded like "old school politics" rather than New Testament practices.  I was torn even on my way to Orlando because I saw the pros and cons on both sides of the aisle.  In the weeks leading up to the SBC, I told many of my friends and mentors that one of my biggest concerns if the GCR didn't pass was that we would lose many of the rising young leaders in the SBC.  As I attended the convention, that concern was even more validated. 

I have been a Southern Baptist since I was saved at age 17.  I have attended a SBC church since I was in cradle roll. I listened to my pastor growing up inform me about the conservative resurgence and the battles that were being fought to get liberalism out of the SBC.  I attended an SBC seminary and benefited from the support of the Cooperative Program.  I have a strong personal fondness for men like Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, and many others who have handed me a conservatively sound SBC. 

However, the more I grew, the more I became concerned that much of the denomination I love seemed out of touch with what I saw being the relevant issues of the day.  I was tired of seeing the SBC known only as the "cranky people who are boycotting Disney" even if the reason for the Disney boycott was a valid one.  In recent years, it seemed like the SBC was becoming more known for self-preserving the "good ol' boys club" than really listening to the young leaders that were coming up.  I have also been concerned because of the divide over the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" crowd.  It seemed like those who had been a part of the SBC for so many years were so quick to dismiss this growing group of young leaders like they were over-caffeinated teenagers "who will learn someday."  I was troubled that some of those who had gained power seemed to be using that power to quell tertiary issues instead of listening to some of these young leaders passion for real missional change.  I am saddened when someone from the floor of the SBC will make a recommendation to ban Mark Dricoll's books from Lifeway as though he were Richard Dawkins  or Madelyn Murray O'Hair.  I understand that you may not agree with some of his theology, his occasional tendency to push the envelope of crassness, or the fact that he's become the poster-child for the young, reformed, missional movement.  The fact is - ACTS 29 has done as much if not more to be a church planting machine in the last decade than the politically engorged machine of the North American Mission Board.  That statement is not meant to denigrate NAMB, but to point out that while our mission agency has been mired in leadership turmoil, others have found successful ways to plant New Testament churches.  Stetzer and many others have said often the last few years how many times they have seen sharp, young pastors with a heart to plant a church who have tried to work with NAMB and the State Associations only to be bogged down and turned away.  As a result, they have turned to or founded other organizations that are now setting the trends in church planting while the SBC is now "resurging" to focus more on it.

These are just a few of my thoughts about the SBC I love and the time it is in.  I don't believe that all the younger pastors are right.  I think many of the younger pastors would do well to remember that we do stand on some significant shoulders.  I heard someone I admire say recently "all the heroes of the younger pastors are themselves" meaning that maybe we don't have the affinity or have taken to time to show the respect for those who have gone before us.  The impulsiveness of youth always makes us think we can do it better.  Right now, I am in a transitional phase.  I am about to turn 42.  I am no longer a younger evangelical.  I am not in the old guard yet.  But, I will be closely watching both groups and trying to be a bridge-builder as much as possible. 

Aug 11, 2010

Pray for Dr. Johnny Hunt

As a young pastor, I have several men in ministry who have gone before me who are "ministry heroes" of mine.  I believe it's vitally important for young pastors to have an affinity and connection to men who have gone before us.  We need to devoted to the "old dead guys" like Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, Edwards, Whitfield, and many others who have left such a strong theological heritage.  Many of my young pastors love to read and quote these guys.  However, we also need to build on the firm ministry foundation and legacy that has been handed off to us by more modern "heroes" whose impact cannot be fully measured yet.  Some of my the men in modern time who have had a spiritual and ministry impact on me include men like Adrian Rogers, John MacArthur, John Piper, John Stott, Charles Swindoll, and more recently, Johnny Hunt. 

Many of you know about Dr. Johnny Hunt. He has a powerful testimony of being radically saved from a life of deep depravity.  During my early years, he was a bright, rising star in Southern Baptist life.  Many looked to First Baptist, Woodstock, GA because of it's explosive numerical growth in the 1990's and because of it's energetic and fiery pastor in the pulpit.  Dr. Hunt has been a regular speaker at Pastor's Conferences and the SBC platform for many year.  In more recent years, Dr. Hunt has led FBC Woodstock to have one of the largest missional impact on global missions of any church in our convention.  FBC Woodstock regularly sends mission teams to every continent on the globe.  Many innovative mission organizations have been started from members of that church and hundreds of people from Woodstock have left full-time vocations to go "make disciples of all nations."  That missional vision modeled and led by Dr. Hunt has been an inspiration to me and many young pastors who are fanning missional flames in their churches.

Dr. Hunt has been a fiery leader in the Southern Baptist Convention culminated by his last two years of service as SBC president.  He poured all his energy into leading our convention to the Great Commission Resurgence.  No matter what your feeling was about the GCR, no one can challenge that Dr. Hunt has a huge vision for Southern Baptists to do more.  

In addition, Johnny Hunt has always been about pouring out of himself into the lives of others.  He and FBC Woodstock host a phenomenal men's conference every year.  Our church this past February took 20+ of our guys who came back fired up.  For almost 20 years now, Johnny Hunt has set aside time through his "Timothy Barnabas" conferences to personally mentor young pastors and spend significant time with them and their wives.  I went to one of these about 8 years ago and was tremendously blessed.  I was scheduled to go to my first one since coming to Sixth Street on September 22-24. 

However, today I received a call from the conference letting me know that it had been postponed until March.  The reason is that his leadership as SBC president and full-time pastor of one of the largest churches in the convention has left him spiritually and physically drained.  Earlier this year, Dr. Hunt underwent successful prostate cancer surgery and recovery.  However, it didn't keep him from fulfilling his commitment to the men's conference or to his leadership of the SBC.  When he finished his service in June, he and his wife prepared for their sabbatical in July.  That leave of absence has been extended.  It appears that the hectic schedule and burden that he has carried for the SBC and for global evangelization combined with the physical toll of cancer surgery and radiation has drained this powerful man of God.  My heart is burdened for Dr. Hunt.  I certainly understand the postponing of the Timothy Barnabas Conference.  More so, I think this great man of God deserves the proper "well done" from his SBC counterparts and for all of us who are so indebted to his leadership to take a few moments to hit our knees and intercede on behalf of him and Janet.  Study the heroes of the Bible and you will see how great service was often coupled with deep need for refreshing and encouragement.

I have no doubt he will be back and as fiery as ever.  The church announced Sunday that he is scheduled to come back in mid-late September.  Please pray for God to strengthen him, encourage him, empower him, and refresh him.  Pray also that the time he and Janet are spending alone will draw them closer than they have ever been.  I pray that when my service to the church is evaluated, that my wife and I can still have the same love and devotion to one another that Dr. Johnny and Janet hunt display. 

For more info on Dr. Hunt, you can see the Baptist Press article here.

Aug 10, 2010

What's In My Backpack

If you know me, you know that I claim that I like to read.  Actually, I just see a lot of books that I think would be great to read and usually carry them around in my backpack intending to find time to read them.  I have gotten better lately and made it a matter to read more consistently.  With all that being said, here is what is currently in my backpack that I am trying to read:

1.  Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer.  Great read so far on what churches that are really making a missional difference are doing differently. 
2.  The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith by Mark Noll.  Picked this up on my Kindle Sunday night after hearing John Piper quote some from it.  Fascinating read about the changing face of Christianity globally.
3.  The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? The Answer that Changed my Life and Might Just Change the World by Richard Stearns.  Got this free from my latest Aqua Box from Catalyst.  It was the 2009 Christianity Today Book of the Year.  I really want to dig into this soon especially after reading Radical by David Platt.
4.  The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-shift that Changes Everything by Collin Marshall and Tony Payne. Started this one several weeks ago, but got diverted to some other ones.  Looks like a great read though.
5.  Firstborn Advantage, The: Making Your Birth Order Work for You by Kevin Leman. Like the stuff by this guy. 
6.  The Masculine Mandate: God's Calling to Men by Richard Phillips. Also started this a few weeks ago.  Really different by biblically balanced look at God's role for men.

Pick up some of these.  They would make great reads.

Aug 5, 2010

I Am True Maroon!

Just found this video release from my 1st true love in sports.  Excuse the self-serving, nothing-to-do-with Jesus or the church moment.  This is just for my fellow Bulldog fans as we head into a fall where optimism is high and we have nowhere else to go but up.  Times have been tough at MSU the last few years.  However, I believe that MSU fans have proven over and again that we are the most loyal and devoted fans in the SEC.  It's not hard to be loyal and excited when your teams when national championships and your Athletic Department coffers are full, when your stadium holds 85,000 to 100,000 and sells out every game.  It's much harder when your consistently in the bottom in athletic budget and are trying to build a program to compete in the toughest conference in most sports - specifically Football, Baseball, and Track.

Where my Bulldogs at?

On a mission from God...

This Saturday my wife Alison and one of our college students, Morgan Jones, leave with a team from our former church for a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa.  They will be working with Children's Hope Chest and Adventures in Mission to minister to orphans in this nation.  AIDS has had a terrible effect in the nation of Swaziland wiping out almost an entire generation of young adults.  The missionaries they will be working with have set up "care points" which is usually a big tree in the bush where children come from several miles away to receive food, love, and very small medical care.  It is a dire place but team like this are holding out the hope of the gospel and the love of Christ to these orphans.  Here are some things you can pray for:
  1. Obviously, they covet your prayers for travel mercy and grace.  It will be a long flight.  It will also encompass a long drive over paths that really can't be called roads.  
  2. Most of you know that my wife is pregnant.  This pregnancy has been more difficult on her physically than our others.  She has been sick most of the time.  It has gotten better, but she still has difficult days.  Pray for God's strength to undergird her and allow her to do more than she physically think she can.  
  3. Pray for emotional stability.  This is the toughest part of most any mission trip - especially one involving caring for orphans with such dire circumstances.  When my wife went to Russia, the emotional toll on her for the next few weeks was tremendous.  In addition, most of the team going with her are young ladies under 21 years of age.  This will no doubt be a shock to their system.  Pray for the emotional stability of the adults on the team as they do their work and also support these young ladies.
  4. Pray for the gospel to have an obedience effect in the nation of Swaziland.  This is a heavily evangelized country.  However, their "faith" in God has not been followed up by the kind of discipleship necessary to overcome they cultural obstacles.  Subsequently, while many profess to believe in Jesus, they haven't been taught how following Jesus means glorifying God in your sexual life.  The AIDS pandemic in Africa is a spiritual problem.  Pray for these mission teams, missionaries, and the natives that the gospel will take root deeply in these children.
  5. Pray for the "go-go's.  This is not the all-ladies group from the 80's.  These are the grandmothers and elderly ladies that are the fabric of this society.  
I will try to give you an update on the trip if I get any or post some things when my wife gets back.

Aug 4, 2010

In Case You Missed It...

This past Sunday was an awesome time of worship at Sixth Street.  The highlight of the day had to be the commissioning of my wife Alison and Morgan Jones who leave this Saturday for a mission trip to Swaziland, Africa.  It was awesome to see God's people flood the aisles to come and pray for them. 

The sermon was the latest in our series through James called "According to Jim".  We looked at the topic of "Battling My Pride" from James 4:11-17.  Here are the highlights:
  • Pride can be a great danger to our spiritual health and vitality because it says that "I am the center of the story."  
  • Pride itself is not necessarily evil.  There is nothing wrong with taking pride in a job well done, showing pride in your children when they do well, or having a strong sense of nationalistic or patriotic pride.
  • Pride is something that is easy to see in others and hard to see in the mirror.  Most of us don't think we have a problem with pride.  However, there is an insipid form of pride that is very self-focused.
  • James 4:6 says that "God opposes the proud."  The picture of opposition is someone who takes up full battle armor.  He's completely at war with our pride.  (See Leviticus 26:14-19; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 8:13)

Pride's Destructive Power

1.  Pride can ruin our relationships.  James 4:11-12
  • When God says do not speak evil of each other, he is speaking of several forms of speech - slander, gossip, and fault-finding.
  • James says when we judge others, we are judging the law - specifically the 2nd Great Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Judging and fault-finding come from a prideful heart that doesn't love others.
  • James is not condemning all judgment - just self-righteous, prideful judgment.  We are told to judge teachers according to sound doctrine.  Jesus said to stop judging my mere appearances and make a right judgment. John 7:24
  • The point of judging is Matthew 7:3-5 where we are commanded to remove the log from our own eye before trying to see and remove the speck in our brothers.
2.  Pride can lead to dangerous assumptions. James 4:13-17
  • It feeds our unredeemed ambition
    • Ambition can be a very productive and powerful thing making us capable of great accomplishments.  However, when not sanctified and surrendered to God, our ambition can make us very susceptable to pride.
  • It gives an unrealistic perspective.
    • The merchants were under the impression that their prosperiity was completely a product of their own effort and planning. 
  • It blinds us to our own frailty.
    • James says our life is nothing more than a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  
    • We can make great plans, but we are dependent on the Lord for our very life - however brief.
  • It prods us to boast in our arrogance.
    • Pride not only causes us to make plans without an awareness of God's will, but to arrogantly boast in our own assumed sovereignty.
  • It creates a self-centered agenda
    • Ultimately, these merchants plans were not evil, but the fact that they planned with no concern for God and his sovereign purpose in their lives.
    • James is not against good planning - he is just concerned with where are starting point is.  Is it on our prideful agenda or surrendered to God's will.

Aug 3, 2010

Now that is just wrong...

From time to time, my demented mind finds humor when I come across things that just shouldn't be.  Call it the proof of the doctrine of Total Depravity.  I saw this picture the other day and my response is that this is just plain wrong in so many ways.  First of all, this can't be the first time these people have done this.  You know they had to have said "This will make a great picture."  Secondly, these cats don't look very happy.  Can you blame them?