Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Drinking from a Fire Hydrant

One of my goals is to read through the entire Bible each year. This year I am reading in the New International Version again. I pick up a new Bible each year because I like to highlight as I read. This year, I am trying something different in my “through the Bible” plan. It is something I have done to lesser degrees before.

Some students of spiritual disciplines have referred to it as “gorging” on God’s word. The idea is to read large sections of the Bible in a sitting. This is separate from my quiet time reading which involves shorter passages of Scripture and more time for meditation and application for the day.

This approach to Bible reading relates well to the letters that make up the New Testament. A guy like the Apostle Paul would write a letter and send it to some location like Corinth or Philippi. It was intended to be read to the believers that made up the church there. The people would gather and the entire letter would be read to the congregation.

We are used to breaking a Bible passage down in to words and phrases and carefully analyzing it from historical, theological, cultural, and linguistic viewpoints. The people who first encountered the books that made up our Bible sat and listened while the whole letter was read out loud. The idea of “gorging” on God’s word explores the experience of some of the original hearers.

SO…last night I read and highlighted Romans in a one sitting. I had never read Romans like that before. Romans is a letter the moves quickly into deep waters. Reading Romans in this fashion was like standing under a waterfall or trying to drink from a fire hydrant. The themes of the righteousness of God, the sinfulness of man, justification, sanctification, and the amazing grace of God in providing for salvation through Jesus Christ…came sweeping over me in wave after wave of God’s glorious revelation of Himself to us in these amazing sixteen chapters of God’s Word.

Like the first believers who experienced Paul’s letter, I felt overwhelmed, blessed, pinned to the wall, breathless, and ever so thankful for my Savior. The words echo in my heart and mind today, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, NIV). If you dare, lash yourself to a chair, put on safety goggles and a crash helmet, and jump into the deep end of the pool. The water’s fine.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Christian Music

There really isn't such a thing as "Christian music". There are songs with Christian lyrics and they come in a wide variety of genres. I have been fascinated for some time by the Christian groups through the years and have developed a collection of unique album covers to some of these folks. A good marketing team might have helped them along the way.

A friend sent me this link today to one of these groups from several years ago. It is a YouTube video of them performing live. The song doesn't have much depth but it sticks with you once you've heard it. Enjoy if you dare.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

The sermon Sunday focused on "extravagant" expressions of love. John 12:1-8 provided a beautiful example as Mary went "extreme" in showing her love, gratitude, and commitment to Jesus. We tend to show our love and kindness to others in carefully measured spoonfuls as opposed to being generous and doing the unexpected.

We might consider taking up the challenge to perform "random acts of kindness." If you have experienced the grace, love, and kindness of God...it's time to begin sharing it with others as freely has God has shared it with you. What might that look like? Here are some suggestions for such "random acts of kindness."

  • Visit or call a lonely neighbor.
  • Rake someone's yard.
  • Give an unexpected gift.
  • Financially encourage someone going on a mission trip.
  • Buy someone's meal at a restaurant (anonymously).
  • Pay for the person's order behind you in the drive-through.
  • Leave a "Thank You" note.
  • Give a compliment.
  • Drive courteously.
  • Forgive a mistake.
  • Listen with your heart.
  • Provide a scholarship for a kid to go to camp.
  • Leave a surprise note for someone you love.
  • Tell someone about Jesus.

Extreme Love - Forgiveness

Sunday we talked about extravagant love...love beyond the expected, the oridinary, the minimum requirement. In that context, we offered an extreme example of love - forgiveness. Whom do you need to forgive? Is there someone you need to let off the hook?

There are a great many misunderstandings regarding forgiveness. Let me explain what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not making excuses for that person who hurt you. They hurt you and it was real. Forgiveness is not minimizing the hurt. It hurt. Forgiveness is not justifying it, saying it was no big deal. It was a big deal. Forgiveness is not saying it wasn’t wrong. It was wrong.

So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is letting go of the pain and letting go of my right to get even. Why would anybody do that? Do it for your own sake. Do it because you are living in misery the longer you hold it on. Forgiveness is a gift you bring to your own life.
Some folks are still allowing people from their past to hurt them. Every time you hold onto resentment or a grudge, you are perpetuating your own pain. The past is past. Those past hurts only hurt you if you refuse to let them go. You hold onto it as resentment and you are hurting yourself, and God says, “You’ve got to let it go.” Forgiveness is the only way to get on with your life. Did they deserve it? No. Do you deserve to be forgiven by God? No. But God did it anyway out of his grace and kindness. The Lord provides our example.

Must forgiving be tied to forgetting to be real? When we come to God in repentance, He readily forgives our sin. Does that mean God forgets our sin? God's forgiveness does not cause Him to have a bad memory. His forgiveness means that our past sin has no bearing how He relates to us today. When we forgive someone who has hurt us, it doesn't mean we have blocked it from memory. It just means that the previous hurt has no bearing on our relationship with the forgiven person today.

Forgiveness doesn't come easily and for the big hurts that may come our way it may take a while to get there. Finally, one day, you hear the offender mentioned. You see them at the mall. You cross paths at a school event. It is then that you realize that you aren't angry anymore. You don't turn red in the face and your pulse doesn't quicken. You have peace from God and with them. Forgiveness has become a reality. It's worth the effort.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kenya Adventures

This morning I have been preparing some things for our mission trip to Kenya the end of April. A few days ago there was a meeting in Kenya of the pastors and church leaders of the 36 churches we will be working with. Our focus will be on outreach and evangelism as well as church strengthening. The churches there are preparing now with Operation Andrew - identifying lost friends and family. We will be going on evangelistic visits with them during our stay as well as leading revival-type services in the churches at night.

We will be in the Makindu area of Kenya, on the road from Niarobi to Mombassa. The Tsavo Game Park is nearby. They tell us now that the bus ride from Niarobi is like a safari because of seeing animals all along the way.

One of the stories from the pastor's meeting was interesting, "One pastor was complaining about the baboons ruining his garden and the elephants eating his bananas." We are definitely not going to be in North Dallas anymore. It should be an adventure and especially an adventure of faith.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Overloaded - Where is the Margin?

Our church family is doing this series called One Month To Live - 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life. We’re challenging folks to live the next 30 days as if it was their last...NOT because we are going to die in a month, but because, Lord willing, we're going to live many more years. We believe that if you live this way for the next 30 days at the end of the month we'll know how to really live. We'll learn to discard the things that are not important and focus on the things that shoudl always be our priorities - relationship to God and meaningful relationships with the people around us. If you really live your life as though you only had one month to live you would rediscover our passion.

We're praying that in this One Month To Live campaign we will take steps to help create margin in our crowded lives that so often rob us from living passionately. Dr. Richard Swenson in his landmark book Margin says margin is the difference between your load and you limit. The less margin you have in life the more stress you’ll experience in your life. It’s like trying to read a book with no spaces between the words and no margins on the page. Without margin, without space, sentences are chaotic and incomprehensible and a life without margin is chaotic and incomprehensible. When I put a little margin and space in my life it all makes sense again. There’s the problem…most of us live our lives without any margin at all.

We have no margin physically. We don’t get enough rest. We don’t eat right and exercise. We have no margin in our schedules. Our calendars are crowded. We have no margin in our finances. We just live from paycheck to paycheck. We have absolutely no margin in our lives and we wonder why we feel so stressed and lose our passion in life. We get so busy in the details that we miss the most important things in life.

What could you do to create some margin in your life this week? In the middle of our crowded, over-scheduled lives we have to create a space intentionally to meet with Jesus. Most of us fall into this thing we call when-then thinking. That’s when we say, "When things settle down then we’ll get around to that. When I’m not so busy I’ll take care of those important things." LISTEN…This is our life. If we’re not doing the important things now they are never going to get done.

We can learn a great lesson from Jesus. Look at how He handled this problem of making space in His life. In Mark it says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for You!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else….’ ” (Mark 1:35-38, NIV).

Even Jesus had to create space in His life, in His schedule, so He could meet and talk alone with His Father. Even Jesus had to do that so we know we are going to have to do that. Create some "God room" in your life this week and you'll find room for the rest of those important, eternal things that have been sitting on your "to do" list.

Twelve Years At First Baptist Church

Yesterday was my twelve year anniversary as pastor of First Baptist Church of Allen, Texas. It has been a privilege to pastor such a church family. They are a loving, growing, supportive, faith-filled body of believers. They laugh easily as we go through life together and care deeply when needs arise. They are quick to say “yes” when we call on them to serve. They are prayerful and positive and reflect a genuine love for Christ and desire to be more like Him. They readily embrace change and keep looking for their next steps. Their fellowship and followship give testimony to their vision and heart for the Lord. I love my church family and will be forever grateful for the love they have shown our family.

The first Sunday I preached in Allen I preached from Esther 4:14. I believed it then and I believe with even greater conviction today and as we look to the future – God has placed our church in this community, in this strategic city, at this period in the history of world “for such a time as this.” I believe there has never been a greater time to be a Christ-follower. I look forward to the future in our ministry together. I love the church and will give my life to the church…and I love our church.

The Wikipedia Battle Over Evolution

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone has had an ongoing battle of the "evolution" entry. The article about the changes in the Wikipedia entry include an interesting graphic on the changes.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What Could You Buy with 1 Trillion Dollars?

I read an article by Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council. He was noting that the CBO estimates that the Senate version of the so-called stimulus plan will top at least $1.1 trillion. Like most of us, he was looking for a way to get his mind around that sum of money. Here are some of his interesting perspectives:

Some examples:

  • If you stack up $1,000 bills, $1 trillion would need a pile that is 80 miles high.

  • $ 1 trillion is more than the combined gross revenues of Wal Mart, Exxon, General Motors and Ford Motors.

  • Assuming the United States consumes about 17 billion barrels of oil a year and assuming the cost of a barrel of oil is about $65, a trillion dollars will buy an entire year's worth of oil for the USA.

  • You could buy a thousand Queen Mary 2 with accommodations for 2,620 passengers

  • With a population of approximately 300 million people, you could give away $1 trillion by giving every man, woman and child in the U.S. $ 3,400 each.

  • We could buy everyone on Earth an iPod.

  • We could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with 23.5-karat gold leaf.

  • We could buy 16.6 million Habitat for Humanity houses

  • We could hire 1.9 million additional teachers

  • He also came up with this combined shopping list:

You could buy:8,700 Porsche 911 Turbos ($126,000 each): $1,097,940,000New York Yankees: $1,200,000,000New York Mets: $482,000,000Every NFL Franchise: $8,600,000,000Dracula's Romanian castle: $140,000,0001,000 60SE Lear jets ($11,595,000 each): $11,595,000,000Denver International Airport: $4,822,000,00010 Picasso's (113,400,000 each): $1,134,000,000Hard Rock Casino in Vegas: $770,000,000Hong Kong Disneyland: $3,500,000,000South Pacific Island of Katafanga: $38,900,000Buy the whole world 100 cans of Coke: $650,000,000,000Buy 50 Super bowl ads ($2,600,000 each): $130,000,000 Build 1,001 Habitat for Humanity houses (at $60,000 each): $600,060,000Build 2,000 miles of Metro rail ($150,000,000 per a mile of track): $300,000,000,000Build 250 hospitals in Third World nations ($41,300,000 each): $10,325,000,000Produce your own Hollywood movie: $150,000,000Buy the Maltese Falcon, the world's most expensive yacht: $100,000,000Buy 2 Napa Valley wineries ($34,000,000 each): $68,000,000Buy 26 McDonalds' franchises ($1,000,000 each): $26,000,000

Total: $1,000,000,000,000

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2009 Persecution List

The Bible says, "For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son..." (John 3:16). As we seek to follow the Lord's example, we must grow in our heart for the world He "so loved." In this world are believers in Christ. They committed their lives to their Savior. As a result of that commitment, they suffer terrible persecution in many parts of the world. In your prayer times, remember brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of the persecuted church.

American Christians are largely disconnected from the real persecutions taking place daily in our world. In order to focus your praying and care for the persecuted church and God's work in the darkest places on earth, go to the Voice of the Martyrs website - http://www.persecution.com/

Here is a list of the ten nations where Christians face the most severe persecution.

Changing Times

The following article gives an interesting perspective on how American life has changed since the 1950s. It's a simple comparison with interesting pictures from the last few decades. It should inspire some "I remember when" thoughts and some "is this really progress?" questions.

Monday, February 2, 2009

That's Life

We opened the worship hours Sunday with a video titled "That's Life." This link will take you to a free preview. Enjoy it again. http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/index.cfm?hndl=details&tab=MM&id=8915

Sense of Urgency

Sunday we began our new series - "One Month To Live - Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life". Our challenge is to live the next 30 days as if it’s our last. It’s not because we're going to die in a month, but because, Lord willing, we're going to live many more years. I believe that if you live this way for the next 30 days at the end of the month you’ll know how to really live. We need a sense of urgency about pursuing the things that are really important in life and in eternity. We are finding that relationship to God and to other people are the important things.

Maybe the most dangerous word in the English language (when it comes to addressing urgency) is the word “someday.” Many of us suffer from the “someday syndrome.” Someday I’ll make things right with my mom. Someday I’ll take that trip. Someday I’ll have more time for the kids. Someday I’ll talk to my friend about Jesus. Someday I’ll go back to school. In fact, why don’t you fill in the blank? If you can’t think of something to put in the blank, ask your spouse or a good friend. Just ask the “what have I been saying that SOMEDAY I would do, but have never gotten around to?” Maybe for years you have been living with the illusion of “someday.” You sincerely plan to get around to it. The problem with “some day” is that it can rob us of “this day.”

In talking about urgency we shared this link. http://www.biblehelp.org/mortality.htm It is a mortality counter. It tabulates how many people have died somewhere in the world since the time you started the counter. Each number represents a human life that enters eternity. Some are ready and most are not. What would it take for you to be fully ready? What are you waiting for?