Jan 26, 2011

RESOLVED: To be a steward of God's resources

Several weeks ago I blogged that we have started a new sermon series at Sixth Street called "RESOLVED" in which we are looking at 4 resolutions that we as Christ-followers can make that will have a significant impact on our spiritual lives as well as our church and our families.  The second resolution that we looked at was resolving to be a steward of the resources that God has provided us.  We talked about the need to flip the lens by which we look at our money and possessions. 

The problem is that from an early age we have been programmed to look at our world from the lens of consumers and consumption.  We also see things through a scarcity mentality that says there is only so much available and we need to get all we can right now. We learn this as infants.  We learn there are only so many cookies so we better eat them now.  As we grow up, our desires get bigger.  We begin to measure our lives by our consumption and our value is measured by the size of our flat screen or the cost of our SUV.  We want the Super-Size meal and the 20" laptop.  To top it off, we see the things in other people's houses add to our discontent.  We also talked about the fact that the gravitational pull of our flesh is not towards godliness, but towards selfish fulfillment.

The answer to this is that we need to change from being consumers to being stewards.  We need to see our resources the way that God does.  We need to understand that all our resources have their beginning and belonging with God.  He has placed us as managers over them and made us accountable to him for our management.  This is why stewardship is such an important topic in the church.  Without a biblical understanding of stewardship, our resources will eventually become idols that rob us of truly worshiping God.

We saw that our lives are to be marked by four significant changes:
  • They should be marked by contentment over consumption
  • They should be marked by righteousness over resources.
  • They should be marked by purity over possessions.
  • They should be marked by generosity over greed.
We closed with the following resolution:
WHEREAS, life and everything that accompianies it is a gift from the Heavenly Father; and
WHEREAS, every resource in the life of an individual has its ultimate origin from the hand of Almighty God; and
WHEREAS, God has graciously provided from His sovereign hand every resource in the life of a believer including but not limited to financial resources, life and breath, the dawning of each day, and all the possessions accumulated in life; and
WHEREAS, the life and attitude of the Christian is to be marked by responsibility and thanksgiving to God Almighty; and
WHEREAS, the Christians is accountable to God for not only the accumulation of these resources, but also their management; be it now
RESOLVED, that as a Christian I will be a steward of God's resources; and
RESOLVED, that I will measure the value of my resources by my accountability to God and not by my personal consumption; and
RESOLVED, that whether I eat or whether I drink or whatever I do I will do it all to the glory of God; and
RESOLVED, that I will generously and gladly support the ministry of my local church and the kingdom of God as a first priority; and
RESOLVED, that I will live a life marked by contentment, responsibility, generosity, righteousness, and purity with the resources God has given me.

Jan 21, 2011

Welcome to the world Joshua Lee

Yesterday was a historic day in the Haines' household.  We were honored and excited about the birth of our fourth son - Joshua Lee Haines.  To God's glory, he is healthy and measures in at 8 lbs, 8 oz.  He was born at 7:56 am.  This was Alison's third c-section so his arrival was a little better scheduled.  We were surrounded by our family.  Josh had lots of arms to hold him throughout the day.  We were especially surprised by how excited and helpful Josh's oldest brother Nathan has been.  Nathan spent all day watching over him, changed a diaper, and held him a lot.  Drew and John David are also very excited that their little brother is here.

We believe that Josh is going to be a special baby in a lot of ways.  First of all, his announcement was certainly a surprise.  Alison and I had finally gotten into the routine of having all our kids in public school.  Our days were to be filled with baseball and legos and not diapers and poop.  Our house is usually very loud, but now that volume will be filled with the cries of an infant.  Alison and I talked the other day that beginning with my first-born until my third, John David, was finally potty-trained, we had over 8 years where we had diaper duties.  Our monthly budget had some freedom without the added $40/month expense for diapers.  Not so now.

We also find humor in the age difference now in the kids in the house.  Our other kids are 11, 10, and 6.  When this son graduates from high school, his dad will be 60 years old.  My friend Jason said yesterday that is classmates will say, "Why is your grandad always bringing you here?"  When Josh is my oldest son's age (11), Nathan will be graduated from college.  Our hopes for an empty nest with some personal time have been delayed for some time.  However, we also know and affirm that our first calling here as parents is not to get the kids out of the house ASAP, but to raise our sons as ambassadors of the gospel.  God has given us another chance to model the gospel through our words and actions. 

Joshua is also a reminder to us that our sovereign God gives us the gift of children.  While we do a lot with family planning, God is the one who provides for us.  Psalm 127 reads, "Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward."  We know that the immediate future will be filled with sleep-deprived nights, diaper duties, and the constant question "Who missed the toilet when they were peeing?"  We also know that God has rewarded us with great opportunities.  There are great challenges every day to parenting 4 boys.  Their rooms are never clean.  They crunch chips all over the couch. 

Psalm 127 also reads, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them."  God has given me another arrow in the arsenal of the gospel.  I am humbled that he considers me a warrior trustworthy enough for another arrow.  There were many days of my youth where I wondered if I would have a family or sons as my heritage.  God has provided to his glory!  One of my goals and challenges as a pastor and Christ-follower is to help men to understand the weight and privilege of their gospel responsibility as dads.  The epidemic of detached dads in the church has weakened our effectiveness.  I love throwing catch or shooting hoops with my boys.  However, my first responsibility is not to make sure they bat .400 or can throw a perfect spiral.  My first priority is not teaching them how to land a trophy buck.  My first priority is to nurture these arrows until they are ready to fight in the battle and then carefully aim and release them into the world as agents of the gospel.  It is a heavy task and one that almost every man feels inadequate at.  However, an arrow that misses its target and lies shattered on the battlefield has missed it's purpose.  I take pride in the fact that the heavenly Father has now handed me another arrow.  It will take some time to nurture Josh.  I have to remember these facts when I reach down for another diaper.  I have to constantly quote these verses when I am cleaning food off the floor.  But, I am grateful...

Jan 17, 2011

Slave by John MacArthur: A Book Review

I was excited to get my hands on John MacArthur's new book "Slave" to review.  Dr. MacArthur and his writings have had a profound effect on my Christian walk as well as my ministry.  I have been privileged to receive dozens of books from his ministry, Grace to You, that have shaped much of my theology and ministry practice.  This book quickly went into the top three that I have read by him and will effect me much like The Gospel According to Jesus did. 

The premise of the book is that for many centuries Bible translators have often translated the greek word "doulos" as servant or bond-servant instead of the more accurate translation "slave".  This has been primarily to the negative reaction in the western world to the atrocities that occurred in both the English and the American slave trades.  In the process of translating such, a major theological flaw has occurred.  We have created a system of Christianity that places a lot of sovereignty in the life of the believer.  We have looked at the relationship of Christ-follower and Jesus as a partnership.  "Jesus has a wonderful plan for your life", "Jesus is for you", and "Jesus wants to do abundant things in your life" are some of the popular notions in today's church.  They all miss the point that what Christ calls us too in the gospel is complete allegiance, total surrender, and abandonment of self in order to find the treasure of the gospel - Christ himself.  MacArthur does a masterful job of taking the reader back to understanding the Roman system of slavery against the more modern understandings of it.  He shows the reader that to accurately understand "doulos" we must look at the perspective of the culture in which the New Testament was written.  He explains that while slaves had no inherent rights, many of them also benefited greatly from benevolent masters who took care of them. 

While some might think on the surface that the ideas that MacArthur expounds sound restrictive, a closer examination shows that they are the pathway to true biblical freedom.  No longer do we need to be bound to a system where Jesus is our "friend" and we "try our best to be like him."  Instead, through complete submission to Christ, we discover greater intimacy with him, a pathway to obedience, and release from the systems of this world.  I would highly recommend every pastor, church leader, and most Christians to pick up a copy of Slave.  Find the freedom of slavery to Christ.

Jan 7, 2011

What if there's a bigger picture?

I love this video I just saw this week from Matthew West.  Great song, great message.

Jan 3, 2011

RESOLVED: To Be a Student of God's Word

I started a new sermon series at Sixth Street yesterday called "Resolved: Commitments that Count".  In this 4 week series we will be looking at 4 key resolutions that if we undertake them will have dramatic effects on our lives, families, and church in 2011.  I talked about how most of us have become disillusioned with making New Year's resolutions because we confuse resolutions with goals.  A goal is a preferred outcome.  However, if we don't make it, no big deal because it was a goal.  Resolutions require resolve.  "Resolve" is defined as "to come to a definite or earnest decision about; a determination to do something."  Resolve requires determination.  Determined to not be content any longer and determined to do whatever it takes to make necessary changes.  For instance, I may have a goal to lose weight and eat better.  However, when my doctor tells me that if I don't exercise and lose weight that I may have a heart-attack and leave my wife a widow and my kids fatherless, now I have determination.

With that in mind, as Christians we usually make a new year's goal to "read the Bible more."  However, the weakness of that statement is what usually leads to our failure. If you only read the Bible 10-12 times last year outside of attending a worship service or small group, then if you read it 20-25 times this year you would technically accomplish the goal, but still fall far short of your intention.  Instead, we should me a "resolution" to become a student of God's word.  That statement carries with it greater weight, accountability, and action.  When I phrase it in that manner, then I must make some hard changes in my life and time management to accomplish it.

We looked at Hebrews 4:12 and the Prosperous, Powerful, Piercing, Probing, and Productive word of God.  We saw that God uses Scripture to transform our desires, attitudes, thoughts, values, and priorities.  Here is the resolution I have adopted and gave our church as a challenge yesterday:

WHEREAS, the natural course of our personal human nature is to trust in our own wisdom in all matters of life; and
WHEREAS, the wisdom of the world is foolishness in the sight of the living God; and
WHEREAS, the life of the believer is to be one of deep devotion to God and personal transformation by the renewing of one's mind; and
WHEREAS, the Bible is the authoritative, life-giving, inspired, inerrant word of the living God; and
WHEREAS, the mind of the believer is transformed through devotion to and interaction with Scripture; be it now
RESOLVED, that as a follower of Jesus Christ that I will become a student of God's word; and
RESOLVED, that I will no longer be content with a shallow relationship with holy Scripture; and
RESOLVED, that I will intentionally and purposefully manage my time to create opportunities to regularly read and study; and
RESOLVED, that whenever I find something in my life that is incompatible with God's word that I am to change and not it.

I also gave some suggestions for Bible reading plans for 2011.  Here are some of them:
The ESV Bible Plan
The One Year Bible Chronological Plan - read the events of the Bible in the timeline as they happened.
Discipleship Journal plans - The 5x5x5 plan and the regular through the Bible plan.

Jan 2, 2011

My 2011 Reading Plan

I love books. Sometimes I think I love collecting books more than I love reading books.  Usually Christmas is a time for my family to get me books that I really want but haven't broken down and bought yet.  Whenever I get the latest copy of Christian Book Distributors catalog my fingers begin to shake and my breathing gets erratic.  I find myself browsing Amazon.com several times a day doing random searches.  My wish list and shopping cart are full of books that I think would be neat to own, but I don't feel compelled to spend money on right now.  It's a sickness that usually is only reserved for those of us in ministry who spend our lives in the arena of words and ideas.  The end of the year is usually reserved to spend the last few hundreds of dollars of unclaimed business expense money on all kinds of commentaries and books that we saw in someone else's library. 

All that being said, I do try to be intentional about what I read.  I try to vary the offerings in areas covering ministry, leadership, preaching, biographies, sports, and popular fiction.  I will be doing a lot of doctoral work in the first three months of the year.  Much of my reading will be confined to research in the area of servant leadership.  However, here is a list of the books I plan to read this year. 

Slave by John MacArthur
The Confession by John Grisham
Decision Points by George W. Bush
Generous Justice by Tim Keller
Text Driven Preaching by Danny Akin
Spiritual Warfare and Missions by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer
The Grace of God by Andy Stanley
Mint Condition by Dave Jamieson
The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons
Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin
For the Fame of God's Name by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor
Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
The Millenials by Thom and Jess Rainer
Don't Call It a Comeback by Kevin DeYoung

The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson
Why I Am Not an Arminian by Robert Peterson and Michael Williams
Church + Home by Mark Holmen

I know there will be lots of books that will come out this year I do not know about and others that are already out that will cross my path sometime soon.  These will be added to the plan when possible.

Jan 1, 2011

Thoughts on new year and 2010 memories

2011 has arrived.  Seems like 2010 went by much faster than usual.  However, I think that is what everyone says when they get older to avoid the reality that time on this earth is getting shorter.  My Bulldogs gave me a great start to 2011 by putting a beat-down on the Michigan Wolverines in the Gator Bowl.  Michigan is actually my second favorite team so it was a bittersweet win, but still pretty sweet.  Like most of the MSU family, I am proud of the accomplishments of this team this year.  Going into the season most of my friends asked me what I thought the Dawgs would do.  I said I believed it was going to be much better than most thought.  I believed a 6-6 season was within reach, 7-5 even possible.  It's nice to have an offseason to be excited and ponder what awaits in September.

2011 also will begin with a new arrival soon in the Haines house.  We have a tentative date of January 20th to welcome son #4 - Joshua Lee Haines.  However, Alison wouldn't mind if Josh sped things up a bit.  I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to father 4 boys.  I deeply desire to be a good dad.  I think I do well some days, but have a lot of room to improve.  I feel the deep weight of modeling the Father in heaven and showing them the gospel each day. 

I usually post an end-of-the-year post on December 31.  However, things were a little hectic to give me ample time to reflect and write.  This past year was my first full year as pastor at Sixth Street.  We have seen some progress as a church, but it has been much slower than I would have liked.  I am blessed to serve the Lord amongst a body of great believers.  Many of my church members want to bless their pastor and do so in many ways.  We saw our church take some great steps in missions this year with people attending mission trips to Kentucky, Swaziland, Nigeria, and Dominican Republic.  We have seen several new families join this year. 

I also jumped back into my doctoral work this year.  I attended a workshop in September and subsequently spent 3 months doing little work on it.  However, I hope to have a proposal to turn in by mid-late January.  My postings may continue to be sporadic until I finish my writing and research.

2010 was a pretty good year for my family.  The boys made a couple of new friends in our new neighborhood this year.  They like occasionally walking around in the woods behind the house exploring trails and inventing games.  All three of them had a good year in school and are excellent students.  Nathan played baseball again this year, but had some early struggles in a new league with all new kids.  Their team didn't do very well, but Nathan improved throughout the year and finished as one of the leaders on the team.  John David played t-ball for the first time.  His team lost only 1 game all year.  He really seemed to like wearing the uniform and mostly the snacks afterwards.  He was a target for the ball sometimes and got knocked down a couple of times by line drives or by colliding with kids at the base.  There were some tears, but usually after a powerade he was all good.

In October we went with my brother's family to DisneyWorld for a week.  It was an awesome vacation! (Except that Mom was pregnant, couldn't ride anything, and had a hard time walking around)  Mom was a trooper though.  Disney is one of our favorite things.  The boys loved riding the coasters and eating the big meals.  It was special to spend time with my brother, sister-in-law and niece.  The boys love their cousin Marlee and had a great time walking around with her.  We also went to Orlando in June for the Southern Baptist Convention and an extended vacation.  We went to Wet-n-Wild one afternoon and took in a day at Universal Studios. 

Another thing I like to do at year end is reflect on all the people who left this world.  Each year has its own unique collection of deaths.  Here are some of this year's:
Sparky Anderson - My childhood was spent rooting for the Cincinnatti Reds and the Detroit Tigers.  One thing they had in common was Sparky.  He was the greatest manager I had the privilege of following.
George Steinbrenner - even as a lifelong Yankee hater, I regreted the Boss' passing. 
Nick Bell - defensive lineman from MS State who died of cancer.  Gator Bowl was for you Nick!
Bob Feller - legendary pitcher for Cleveland Indians
John Wooden - greatest basketball coach ever
Ernie Harwell - legendary voice of the Detroit Tigers
Others: Don Merideth, Merlin Olsen, Ron Santo, Bobby Thomson, Manute Bol, Jose Lima

Barbara Billingsley - June Cleaver, Mom of the Beav (watched this show a lot as a kid)
Dennis Hopper - great actor, especially in Hoosiers and Speed (Pop Quiz Jack)
Gary Coleman - What'cha talkin about Willis?
Leslie Neilsen - Airplane and Naked Gun movies
Captain Phil Harris from Deadliest Catch
Corey Haim - 80's teen movie star
Dixie Carter - great Southern actress
John Forsythe - Voice of Charlie from Charlie's Angels
Tom Bosley - Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days
Other Celebs: Peter Graves, Rue McClannahan, Tony Curtis, Blake Edwards, Fess Parker (Davy Crockett), Karl Malden,

Others of Note
Elizabeth Edwards - wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards
Robert Byrd - U.S. Senator
J.D. Salinger - author of Catcher in the Rye
Jimmy Dean - country singer and maker of great sausage
Ted Stephens - U.S. Senator

All in all, I feel blessed by all the Lord has done in 2010.  God is faithful and true.  His gospel is still the greatest story ever and his glory is still worth pursuing.  Hope you and yours have a wonderful year in 2011.