Showing posts from 2016

What about the cross?

I wrote the following for the Killeen Daily Herald with the theme of total surrender in mind. And then I read over Christmas an aggravating book by a man reportedly to be heir of C.S. Lewis's legacy (undoubtedly coined by his publisher but not undenied by the author). But his book (which will remain nameless since I don't endorse his rationale) while arrogant and wrong-directional, did put me in mind of the question for the title of this blog entry.
What about the cross?
     Christianity without the cross is unconscionable, but is not undoable. Many who profess the faith have become quite capable of practicing a cross-less Christianity.
     The cross is a stark reminder that we follow a crucified Savior who of course literally died to purchase our salvation. And yet, Christianity often seems oblivious to the repeated calls by Christ Himself for us to take up the cross and follow Him.
     No, we are not blind to the imagery of the cross. The cross dons our steeples and dec…

14. The arch enemy of single mindedness

I’m sure my life is not that much different than everyone else’s. All this week, I’ve had a lot of distractions away from the office and at home. My wedding anniversary, my son’s birthday, my family is coming down, Hannah came back from England, we are celebrating Christmas early, different things breaking down at the house, plus my time in the office.      Most translations don’t have the word single-mindedness in the Bible, but there are two uses of the word “double-mindedness” in the book of James, which is more of the opposite of being single-minded in its use this week in BELIEVE.      Since our reading doesn’t include the passages from James, I thought I would write on those today. James 1:8 and James 4:8 both speak of the consequences of doublemindedness.      James 1:8 says, “he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”      …

Believe Chapter 14. Keep Christ in...Christianity

Killeen schools made the news this week because a teacher was told to take Christ out of the Charlie Brown Christmas. I loved how much Christ was in our Christmas programs at church this week and also at the Mother’s Day Out program last night. I am impressed with how our doors down the preschool halls are decorated with Christ. But even the church must be diligent to keep our focus on Christ.      Last week, I had not read far enough ahead to notice that BELIEVE was going to go back to the first parts of Deuteronomy 6 to include the command that it is the parents who are charged to teach their children about the Lord. But it doesn’t hurt to again say to parents as well as principals and public officials that Christians cannot deny, ignore or omit Christ. Parents, read the Christmas story to your kids this holiday, and not the Clement Clarke Moore one. No, the one from Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-12. And while you are at it, read it from the good ole King James…there is only one …

Day 14: Single-Mindedness

As we approach the mid-point of our study on BELIEVE at FBC Killeen and also the mid-point of the second act of the Think, Act and Be Like Jesus theme, I cannot think of a single lesson in all of BELIEVE that would be more appropriate for the weekend before Christmas than “Single-Mindedness.” Just look at the key question:

How do I keep my focus on Jesus amid distractions?

     No, the readings from BELIEVE this week may not be from the Christmas story, but it is a hard thing to focus on Christ at Christmas, despite the frequent reminders of Him being the “Purpose for the Period” (just go with it, you know how to use a thesaurus too).
     But it is not just the trappings of (dare I use another cliché?) the hustle and bustle of the shopping, the terrible traffic that exists everywhere even in places nowhere near a mall, the intense pressure of buying things we can’t afford with money we don’t have to impress people who won’t remember what they got and from whom they got th…

13. Bible Study Assimilates the Vitality of the Word of God

Psalm 119 teaches us to value God’s Word, even though it was written when really all that the psalmist and the people had was Genesis through Job, if that much. What’s more, the Bible was nowhere nearly available like it is today; it was in limited supply in scrolls and only at the places of worship, if even there. No wonder they had to hide and treasure it in their hearts!
     Because the Bible is so available today, there is no excuse for us not to study it and then assimilate it into our lives.
     For the past few days, I’ve quoted one of my favorite preachers and perhaps one of the greatest proclaimers of God’s word in the late 20thCentury, Adrian Rogers. In his Legacy Bible (page 672), he lists five key ways that we can assimilate the vitality of the Word of God to make our Bibles come alive. Using Psalm 119 as his text, read the following and if you are familiar with Rogers’ great preaching voice, imagine him saying out loud his “recipe” for assimilating the God’s Word:

13. Apply the Virtues in Bible Study

In Psalm 119 (see BELIEVE pages 216-218), we see in almost every one of the 176 verses something that we can gain from studying the Word of God. But it is not enough to read the virtues of God’s word, or even to hear them taught, as we see in the two foundations of rock and sand, found in the Sermon on the Mount. No, we must not only hear but also do what the word of God says.
     Adrian Rogers illustrates how we need to apply the virtues of the Word of God: Imagine a person who says, “Oh, pastor, I’m just so physically weak, I can hardly get out of bed. I’m so worn out.” After the pastor asks a few questions, he finds out that the man only eats one day a week, but only when it’s good weather and only when he feels like going to the restaurant. He doesn’t eat again until the next Sunday afternoon. No wonder he is physically weak.
     In the same way, some only eat spiritual food on Sundays. They not only don’t read or study the Word of God the rest of the week, they also do not …

13. Appreciate the Value of the Treasured, Timeless Truths of God's Word

I just watched one of my favorite movies from 1990s, called Blast from the Past. It is a story about a guy who was raised in isolation in a fallout shelter, only to come out 35 years later to a very different world. He has with him baseball cards and stocks from companies that he has no idea how valuable they are. I guess the reason I like it is also because the values like honesty, trusting and innocence, which the main character clings to, are no longer valued in the society into which he emerges. Bible Study is a value that is often unappreciated by the world and unfortunately many Christians. Adrian Rogers in a sermon about Psalm 119, the longest psalm and longest chapter in the Bible, quoted a wise old saying, “These hath God married and no man shall part: dust on the Bible and drought in the heart.” We must appreciate the value of the Word of God. One of the first long sections of the Bible I memorized while in college was the first 16 verses of Psalm 119 (see BELIEVE pg. 2…

13. Bible Study and Daily Direction

The passage in Nehemiah 8-9 is probably the closest we see in Scripture to our modern-day worship services on Sunday morning. It starts early in the morning and goes to about mid-day. The leaders read and explained the Scriptures. The people listened, understood and responded. If they didn’t understand, someone else was there who explained it to them.  Neh. 8:6 even says that the people responded with saying “amen,” raising their hands and bowing their heads. Some wept; others rejoiced. They confessed their sins; they prayed. They brought casseroles. Okay, maybe not casseroles, but they did eat and drink and shared their meals which is pretty close to a pot-luck meal (Neh. 8:12). Most of all, they studied the word of God and responded accordingly.  Like the society was in Nehemiah’s day, our society has drifted far from God’s word and obeying the lessons clearly proclaimed in the Bible. If there is anything that is shown from the Bible and in our personal lives, it is that we do not grow…

13. Bible Study Begins At Home

Attention parents: Bible Study does not begin at church. It begins in the home.
As we study about "Bible Study" this week, the BELIEVE passage begins in Deuteronomy 6:13-25, but it would be good to get out your “real” Bible and begin in Deut. 6:1.      Of all the weeks that we have studied BELIEVE, I hope this week that families will get together and study the Bible at home. Read the following excerpts from Deuteronomy 6
“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”Deut. 6:7 “In the future, when your son asks you (the parents), ‘What is the meaning of (the Bible)?’”Deut. 6:21 The answer is that the PARENTS should teach their children not only what the Bible says, but also how God has delivered us personally in our own lives (See Deut. 6:22-25). Ephesians 6:4 instructs that parents should bring their children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” One of the most compelling…

Chapter 13, Bible Study: Is God's Word alive and active in you?

The following was originally published on Aug. 25 in preparation for BELIEVE
      I keep thinking about Randy's illustration of the 12th man in our congregation and making our church relevant. I love studying the Bible but as the following devotional asks, does our Bible studying make a difference in our lives? If it does, our behavior and our being should be becoming more and more like Christ.

     And if we are becoming more like Christ, we will not be merely cheering in the stands, waiting for the coach to put us on the field.

     I told our LifeGroup teachers in preparing for Believe that the goal of a good teacher is not to merely teach information, but to teach to transform individuals. Read today’s devotional and ask yourself “Am I studying the Bible for information or transformation?”
     When Jesus finished His Teaching on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), He concluded with two foundations: a foolish man built his house upon the sand and a wise man built his house upon the rock.” …

12. Praying beyond merely "Our Father..."

We should observe how Jesus prayed. 1)   Privately–Luke 11:1, Matt. 6:5-8, 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18 “As He was praying” / “Go into your closet” Jesus prayed like, as they say, “no one was watching.” A century ago, these were called “secret devotions”. Now we say “Quiet Times” or devotionals with the Lord alone, preferably early in the morning. 2)   Personally–Luke 11:2-4, Mark 14:36   “Our Father” (only 59 words in the Lord’s prayer) / “Abba, Father” There is an intimacy that Jesus prayed with God and that He encouraged us to pray intimately as well. 3)   Persistently–Luke 11:5-8, 18:1-8; Matt. 7:7-11; 15:21-28; 26:41-44   “because of his persistence” Our Lord instructed us to pray with diligence and persistence. 4)   Purposefully–Matt. 6:7-8; Mark 11:34   “vain repetitions” / “whatever things you ask when you pray,” In our persistence, it is also with purpose. Repetitions is not what Jesus spoke against but mindless, purposeless rote prayers. 5)   Powerfully–Luke 11:9-10; Matt. 21:21-22, J…

12. Prayer: Do this before you pray

So much has been written on about prayer that it is almost pointless for me to write (or you to read) another 500 words today about prayer. Would it not be far better for you to simply stop reading and me to stop writing and for us to go and pray?
      If so, then why are you reading this and why am I writing?
      Namely this: I hope that at the end of the week you will have been inspired to talk and listen to the God of the universe more than you did last week.
      And I believe there is something we should all do before we pray.
      Our memory verse for this week says that if you are not morally pure, then don’t expect God to answer your prayers. It is a waste of time. Commit yourself this week to keep yourself clean and pure. And if you are not, then pray, but do not pray for anything else except your moral and spiritual purity before God.
      Read and memorize Psalm 66:18. 18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; 19 but God has surely lis…

Chapter 12, Prayer: Making Prayer Personal

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a little over a year since War Room came out (the picture above is when we rented out a movie theater on Aug. 30, 2015) and then the DVD was released on Dec. 22, 2015. So much has happened in the past year. Since then, we’ve taught “The Battle Plan of Prayer Bible Study” several times with nearly one hundred who have gone through the course. I have sensed a growth in our church in regards to prayer: our Wednesday night prayer attendance is up, as is our men’s prayer time on Thursday. There is a sense of spiritual strength in our church and I believe it is because of prayer.
     But we can always grow in our prayers, not as a duty, not to get what we want, not to even seek God’s blessings...We need to pray because prayer is a personal communication with our God who loves us. This Sunday we will study Prayer and in the Spring, I plan to have five different Discipleship  tracks for us to study what I believe are the five essentials to Christian mi…

11. Worshiping God includes many ways to praise

Transitioning between worship (this week in BELIEVE) to prayer (next week) leads us to the final study this week on worship. When we study praise and thanksgiving, which are both a part of worship and a part of prayer, we should recall what we have studied this week about worship:
Worthy of our worship
Obeisance to God
Reason and rationale of worship
Sincerity of my spirit worship
Honesty and truth in worship
Intimacy in our worship
Praise and Thanksgiving
    When I was first in ministry our senior pastor would lead our prayer time by asking, “Does anyone have any praise or thanksgiving tonight?” and made very little distinction between the two. Later on, when I took the youth to a conference, the speaker made a huge distinction between praise and thanksgiving. “Praise is for who God is. Thanksgiving is for what He has done.”
    One of our youth’s parents became very upset about the conference leader’s teacher. “That’s not the way our pastor teaches,” she later complained to me. I thoug…