40 Days (003)

Today marks the first day of our 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting.  I am so excited to focus our hearts and minds upon the radiance and beauty of Jesus.  One of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer, has written a beautiful prayer:

“God, I have tasted Thy goodness and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed at my lack of desire; I want to want Thee, I long to be filled with longing.  I thirst to be made more thirsty.  Show me thy glory.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. In Jesus name, Amen.”

As you begin this magnificent journey of knowing Christ more, Tozer’s prayer is my prayer for you and me.  I have no greater desire than to see the people of FSBC thirstier for Jesus.  I pray God will have favor upon us and show us His glory. Take time to walk this 40-day journey with me.  If you did not pick up a 40 Day Guide on Sunday, remember, you can find it on our website at fsbcsalina.com.

One of my favorite prayer passages is found in Luke 11.  As you begin this 40-Day journey with me, take a moment to look at Luke 11:5-13.  In April of 2017, I asked the church to pray an audacious prayer.  We began to pray, asking God to help us pay off the remaining debt on our building by the end of 2018.  At the time, it was well over $200,000.  In 2018, we paid off over $170,000 which brought our debt load to zero.  As we approach Easter, ask God what our next audacious prayer will be.  A church should always be doing something that stretches them, something that scares them, something they genuinely believe could not be done unless God intervened.  That is an audacious prayer.  I like verse 8 of Luke 11 in the 2011 NIV: “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” Here’s the lesson: If a tired and stubborn neighbor is willing to meet his friend’s need, how much more is our loving heavenly Father willing to meet the needs of his children? Therefore, pray and don’t give up!

 

What are the traits of praying with shameless audacity?

 

  1. Be Bold – Ask of God great things. Remember, He is able “to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Eph 3:20).  How dare we not ask God to do great and mighty things for His glory. What are we doing that only God could accomplish?  What should we attempt that will bring great glory to God?
  2. Be Expectant – When you pray, do you pray with doubt or in great faith? When you pray, expect God to answer. Pray as if you believe He can answer you. Pray as if you believe He cares enough about you to answer and pray as if He is wise enough to give you what you need. Throughout the Luke 11 text, it says things like, “the door will be opened,” and “everyone who asks receives…”  God does answer prayer.  Expect Him to answer.  Do we pray so little because we expect so little?
  3. Be Persistent – Why do you give up so easily in prayer? The text says to ask, seek and knock. It has the idea of keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. Don’t give up.
  4. Be Filled – Notice, Jesus talks about His Father giving the Holy Spirit. Spirit-filled praying is the key in audacious prayer.  Why are our prayers so feeble?  Could it be that we do all the talking in our prayers? Romans 8 reminds us when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us (See Romans 8:26-27).  Could it be we never pray with Spirit-filled power because we always know what to pray for and never stop talking in prayer? One of the great aspects of an audacious prayer is listening.  Stop talking. Admit you don’t know the heart of God as you desire.  Beg the Spirit to pray for you.

For many Christians, our prayers are too small, too few, and too selfish.  During these forty days, begin again to pray audacious prayers.  Seek the face of God.  Ask Him during this time what our next audacious prayer should be.  The audacious prayer will stretch FSBC.  It will make us uncomfortable, make us feel overwhelmed and weak. But the audacious prayer will also bring much glory to God. Pray as if we believe the God of the universe is ready to answer our prayer for His glory and the good of others.

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Response to the Chronicle Report

My Response

On Sunday, Southern Baptists were rocked to the core as they read the Houston Chronicle and learned about the report of over 700 individuals being sexually abused within the supposed safety of Southern Baptist Churches.  As Baptists read the article and the news spread around social media, we were grieved, angered and mourned those who had been victimized but such evil people.  I wept as I read the reports of sexual abuse. We are well beyond the point of asking, “How can people do this?” and to the reality, that evil men and women are hurting our children, and adults,  in untold evil and horrific ways within the supposed safety of our church walls.  As a Convention, we can not stand idly by.  This report must grieve us, but we also must go beyond feeling to action. Sexual abuse cannot be allowed to continue in any fashion within the ministry of the local church.  As a church, I am pleased to say First Southern Baptist of Salina has already taken many steps to assure our children can learn, play and worship in a safe environment.

FSBC, Salina, has taken a proactive approach to church safety.  For many years the church has vetted potential child workers through a deep screening process.  If you want to work with children, you must complete the screening. There are no exceptions. Last year we even expanded the net wider to include screening everyone who would like to be a part of any ministry in our church. If you want to volunteer at the Coffee Bar, we ask you to be screened.   A couple of years ago we established a “Safe Church” team whose primary job is to evaluate and implement safe church strategies continually.    We also have cameras strategically placed around the church.  We have a strong safety protocol within our church, including a two-adult rule in our rooms. We try extremely hard to make sure an adult alone in the room with a minor.  If they are for some reason, we have a mandatory “door open” policy.  Finally, we have a zero tolerance for sexual sin.  If there is an accusation of sexual abuse in our church, rather staff or volunteer, we immediately contact the police, remove the person from serving, and allow the issue to be taken through the proper external and legal investigation. We treat all sexual abuse as a criminal act and allow the authorities to get to the truth.  At First Southern Baptist, Salina, we believe very strongly in the safety and well-being of our children (birth – 18 years of age) and adults, of any age,  and have taken many steps to create a safe environment. We hope to make our environment extremely difficult for a sexual predator to commit these acts of evil while on our campus.

For many years, churches across America have covered up sexual abuse.  We must stop this immediately.  God in His mercy, has exposed the sin.  Now exposed, we can deal with sin.  As a Convention, we must take proper actions to assure sexual abuse is eradicated in all churches everywhere. As a Baptist, I’m so sorry for those who were abused and hurt through the evil of these people. It angers me and grieves me.  Thankfully, sin has been exposed.  Pastors, please use this exposure of sin as a catalyst to act.  Evaluate your safety plan.  If you need help or ideas, please let me know. Our church would be more than happy to help you and your church. We don’t live in fear, but we do implement and plan for the good of others and the glory of God.  Parents, you and your children are as safe as possible at First Southern Baptist Church, Salina.  We will continue to strive to make FSBC, Salina,  a safe church.  If you have questions, please contact me.  I would always welcome questions and suggestions on how we can make our church even safer. Finally, please remember, people fail but God never fails.

One of the great Southern Baptist voices is Russell Moore.  I trust him and have often found he and I think along the same lines about many issues.  He is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  Here is his response.  Russell Moore

Here is the original article: Houston Chronicle 

Jonah: Fact or Fiction

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It is one of the earliest stories I remember learning.  While running from God, Jonah was swallowed by a whale, or was it a fish?  Either way, it was dark and slimy.  As a 50 some odd adult male, do I still believe in Jonah and his encounter inside a giant fish?   Surely I don’t believe in something so outrageous as that?  Before proceeding, there’s something you need to know about me.  I believe in something even crazier.  I believe a man died for my sin, was buried, and on the third day, He was raised to life.  That’s not all; I also believe He is coming back, now get this, riding a white flying horse (See Revelation 19:11-16). If I believe in the works of Jesus, it’s not hard for me to believe a man was swallowed by a fish.  Is the story of Jonah real and historical?  For me, this is at the heart of inspiration.  Jonah is historical and authentic.  Despite what I believe, there are some who believe Jonah is a myth or an allegory about a prophet swallowed by a fish.  Is Jonah a real and historical character?  Does it even matter?  As you read, you will find the historical reference in scripture confirms it’s historicity, the inspiration of Scripture demands Jonah’s authenticity and the “Sign of Jonah” in Matthew 12 seals the deal.

First, Scripture treats Jonah as a historical figure.  In 2 Kings 14:25, we find this phrase, “in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through the servant Jonah, son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.”  As you can see, the Jonah we find in the book bearing his name, is the same Jonah, son of Amittai, we see in 2 Kings.  Scripture treats Jonah as a real historical prophet just as it does with Elijah and Elisha. The historicity of Jonah is not in question.

Secondly, this is a matter of biblical inspiration.  Can I trust the Bible?  Did God inspire men to write the Bible or was it simply words put down in writing?  When Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed …”(2 Timothy 3:16) “All” means all.  If Scripture talks about a man named Noah who built an ark, it means a man named Noah built an ark.  If a crowd of over 5000 men was fed with five loaves and two fish, a large crowd was filled to the brim with fives loaves and two fish.  If Jonah is simply a legendary tale like King Arthur or Robin Hood, what other parts of scripture might be legendary or fictitious? If all of scripture is trustworthy and accurate, then I can read believing every word as it is, the inspired and infallible word of God.

Finally, in Matthew 12 Jesus clearly and convincingly confirms the historicity of Jonah.  In verses 39-42, Jesus used the men of Nineveh has a group of changed men who would one day stand in judgment of the generation of Jesus’ day. Consider J Silow Baxter’s words, “Will anyone dare to maintain that the Son of God was here teaching that ‘imaginary persons who at the imaginary preaching of an imaginary prophet repented in imagination, shall rise up in that day and condemn the actual impenitence of those, his actual hearers, that the fictitious characters of a parable shall be arraigned at the same bar with the living men of that generation?’” (Explore the Bible Vol 4 page 150).  The words of Christ confirm the story of Jonah is both true and historical.

If Jonah is historical and factual, there is woven through the story of the Bible a beautiful thread of God’s wonderful grace expressed toward humanity. If it is true, God’s grace can reach even me; there is no one beyond the reach of our relentless God.  If it is a mere fable, it is a nice story too fanciful to believe and having about as much significance in my life as Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”  Furthermore, if the book is fiction, the very integrity of inspired Scripture is compromised.  However, the true answer to the authenticity and historicity of the Book of Jonah is both clear and convincing to the thinking mind. Jonah was a true historical figure who was miraculously swallowed by a giant fish and preached the good news to a difficult and dangerous people to the glory of God. So, is it important that Jonah is a real historical figure?  Yes, it is! In fact, it is imperative to my faith.

Miracle on Magnolia

mortgage burning serviceLuke 11:8 “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”

We still serve a miracle working God.  On May 21, 2017, I stood before the church challenging them to pray a prayer with “shameless audacity.”  I thought I should give them an example of a shameless audacious prayer, so I said, “Let’s pray to have the building paid off by the end of 2018.”  I had just looked to see where our building fund was at the time.  We owed $242,103.18.  Could the church honestly pay off nearly a quarter million dollars in less than two years?  There was no way.  I know since 2007, the church had never paid off that much of the debt in 20 months.  Undaunted, I and others began to pray daily with shameless audacity for God to pay off the building debt by the end of 2018. I knew what was impossible for man was possible for God.

By July, God offered us an opportunity to refinance our loan through the Foundation of the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists.  Refinancing immediately took a year off of our five remaining years, thus saving us thousands of dollars.  God began working quickly in this prayer. At the start of 2018, we owed $178,209.22.  I was not too confident but knew if we focused on it we would pay off more in 2018 than we did in 2017. Many faithful prayer warriors persevered in praying with shameless audacity.  Throughout 2018, we saw God do amazing things through His people.  There were many times I simply stood back and laughed.  We continued to see the total shrinking month to month.  You could feel the excitement in our church when we were below $100,000. God was at work.

We continued to pray with shameless audacity.  In our December business meeting, we voted to take General Offering funds at the end of the year to make up any difference.  Oh my goodness, God is going to do this, I thought.   However, deep in my heart, I wanted us to make the final loan payment without having to take any general funds. On December 1, 2018, our balance was $44,369,03.  Could God do this through our church?   We also set a challenging Lottie Moon Christmas Goal of $10,000 (For more about Lottie Moon).  I had told people if they could only give to one or the other, always choose to give to missions.

God worked a miracle through His people.  His people gave over $45,000 to the Building Fund, over $10,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and over $40,000 to our General Fund. I don’t think there are many churches our size that could accomplish that feat on their own.  Only God could do accomplish this.   We serve a gloriously great God.  In two years, God paid off $266,091.21 through our people.  He alone deserves all the credit. This proves there is nothing God can not do through his people when they are obedient to His call.  

As of January 2, our Building Loan with the Foundation is paid in full. We must now ask, “What’s next?’  Why would God answer such a shameless audacious prayer?  Being debt-free will free up countless resources to help our church have a global gospel impact.  I can’t wait to see what God will do during our next chapter.  Our purpose is not to pay off a building, our purpose as a church is to “Know Christ and Make Him Known.”  God is about to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can imagine.  And like I often tell our church, “I can imagine a lot.”

Join us this Sunday, January 13, 2019, as we celebrate and have a Mortgage Burning Service.  I know many people have faithfully been giving over these 15 years.  Join our celebration. We will begin at 10:30 am.  Stay for our barbecue luncheon after our service.

We are done, but we are not finished.  We have only just begun.  We have freed up thousands of dollars per year for Kingdom growth and gospel impact.  God will do great things.

Many people say God is no longer in the business of doing miracles.  As for me, I’ll choose to disagree with you.  First Southern Baptist Church is a testimony that God is still in the business of making miracles happen. To God be the glory from whom all blessings flow.

Election Ideas of 2018

Final ballot box

I’ll be out of pocket on election day, so I thought I’d remind you of a few simple things as election day draws near.  First, I’m not a big political activist.  In fact, I am very disenchanted with both political parties and our political leaders.  There are so many things in my life that hold more eternal importance to me.  However, I know the importance of Christians being involved in this process, praying for God’s wisdom, and voting accordingly.  Nonetheless, I wish most Christians would have the same passion for sharing Jesus with people as they do in sharing their political views.

I’ve never been more discouraged with how I see so many Christians treating politics these days. Too many Christians are responding, with what I feel, is hate and fear.  If I feel this way, how much more would a lost person feel?  If I did not know better, I would think Christians believed our eternal hope is somehow tied to our political systems.

As we approach Tuesday, here are 10 things to simply keep in mind.  (I think you will agree with these  they are simply here to remind us as the Election Day approaches.)

  1. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God first and citizens of America second.
  2. The United States is not the Kingdom of God.
  3. Our loyalty is to King Jesus first and foremost. Our allegiance is never to a political party or a candidate.
  4. Party affiliation is not a test of eternal security.  I have many “liberal” friends who stand securely in the righteousness of Jesus, just like me.
  5. Our hope is in the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary not the final ballot box on Tuesday.
  6. “Win or Lose” God will continue to sovereignly reign on His throne. We will never give the impression to a lost world that our hope is somehow tied to a political outcome. God will not be waiting with wringing hands to see the outcome of Tuesday’s election. He already knows.  His man or woman will win on Tuesday.
  7. “Win or Lose” we will never allow our responses to be motivated by fear or hate but always by love and compassion.
  8. Facebook will not be the avenue Christians will use to launder their political thoughts and positions.
  9. We will faithfully pray for whichever candidate wins.
  10. People, illegal or legal, are not political pawns but people God has given us to love and reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On Wednesday, November 7th, our greatest concern, as it is every day, will be to shine brightly for Jesus Christ and represent Him well in a crooked and depraved generation.  I know this is a very hot-button issue.  Go to the polls and vote for whomever God’s leads you to vote. Don’t be afraid if the “other” candidate wins; by all means, don’t let the world think, even for a moment, our eternal hope is tied to the election. One other thing, unless it’s kind and to affirm the winning candidate, don’t say anything on Facebook for a few days. Remember, there will be a lot of scared and hurt people on Wednesday.  Let’s not add to their pain.

Finally, no matter the outcome, BE KIND, CHURCH.

So what do you think?  Let me know your thoughts.

Silence in Prayer

silence

Have you ever noticed how we have an aversion to silence?  We sit trying to meditate and pray. But the silence of the moment quickly invades our space in a way that overwhelms our soul.  Immediately we reach for the nearest source of noise and turn it on and turn it up so we can cancel out and overcome the silence.  Admit it, we hate silence.  It is such an enemy to us we keep the TV on in the background and worry if we think our children are “too quiet.”  We are accustomed to noise and conditioned to clamor for any sound at all.  We can’t stand silence.

I have found this to be especially true in prayer.  Most of us find it hard to keep silent in prayer.  We immediately jump into our prayer with request after request.  Instead, slow down and add these two practices to your prayer life and you will pray with power and confidence.

The first practice is silence.  We are commanded to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).  Could it be mos

t of us pray so little in the Spirit because we pray too much with our own words, our own strength and never give the Spirit an opportunity to pray? In Romans, Paul tells us “we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes” (Romans 8:26).  What would happen if we began praying in silence while begging the Spirit to intercede for us?  Ask Him to pray the will of the Father. After you ask, sit in meditative silence. Could this be part of what the Psalmist meant in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know I am God?”  I think one of the keys to praying in the Spirit is silence before God and allowing the Spirit to pray.

Before we proceed, consider two important things:

  1. We don’t always know the will of God. Case in point. A missionary is going to the 10/40 corridor (https://joshuaproject.net/resources/articles/10_40_window) to be a witness for God.  What is the Father’s will?  What if it’s martyrdom?  We always pray for safety for our missionaries (I do too).  How often do you see the early church pray for safety?  I’m sure they did, but their focus was boldness to speak the Gospel fervently and with great power.  As you pray for missionaries, begin with silence.  Ask God’s Spirit to intercede.  Then pray for all the “normal” things we pray.  But give time for the Spirit to intercede.
  2. The Spirit always knows the Father’s will. Who would you rather have interceded for you? A person who could only know the will of the Father partially, or fully?

Let’s continue.  Silence is not only needed in prayer; it allows you to implement the second strategy for powerful prayer: Listening.  Richard Foster has stated well, “Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening” (Celebration of Discipline page 86). How can you hear a Word from God much less understand Him if you are always talking during prayer?  Jesus warns us not to use too many words in prayer (Matthew 6:7).  One of the greatest virtues in prayer is listening in silence.

Two practices to implement in the closet of your prayer life are the art of silence and listening.  To implement these practices, you will have to practice the discipline of solitude.  You must be willing to be alone.  When you are away from the everyday distractions and as you start your time of prayer and fellowship with the Father, begin on your knees in silence.  Give the Spirit of God a chance to pray and then listen. You will know when it is time for you to speak.  It is then when you begin to pray over your list with confidence that God hears your prayers and He can meet every request.

Get off alone; turn off Facebook and the TV.  Be quiet, listen, and then pray.

 

 

Monday Night Football

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My dad died on August 14th of this year.  There’s not a day I don’t think about him and miss him in some way. I have found it interesting the things that bring waves of grief.  It could be something as simple as reading a commentary he gave me or listening to an old phone message.  Today it’s Monday Night Football.

One of my early memories of my relationship with dad and football surrounds a Monday Night Football game many years ago. It had to be in the late 70s. We were big Houston Oilers football fans.  If my memory serves me correctly, Houston was playing the Miami Dolphins.  I had to go to bed with the game in the balance. I couldn’t believe I had to go to bed and I’m sure I threw a fit or two trying to stay up past my bedtime.  But to no avail. I had to go to bed and miss what I was sure to be a great game.  As it turns out, it was a classic game.  During the second half, my dad came into my room to wake me up and watch the rest of the game.  Earl Campbell had a career game and dad wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the epic comeback and win. I’m sure it would have to be one of the most famous MNF games ever, and I got to see the ending with my dad.  It was a good day. It’s a great memory.

Tonight the Denver Broncos play the Kansas City Chiefs.  Most of the time I would have called dad to see what he thought about the game.  We would both talk about how good Mahomes looks and would wonder together if Von Miller could do anything to slow him down.  He would probably say how crazy it would be to kick to Terek Hill and I would agree and say something about Denver better be smart enough to kick away from him.  I would say our only hope is how porous Kansas City’s defense is and dad would say something about how feeble Denver’s offense has been.  In a year like this one, we would not spark a lot of hope between the two of us. We wouldn’t talk long and would leave our conversation open to the possibility of a great Bronco win but also resigned to the fact that they would probably get beat by 30.  I would tell him about a bet I made with one of our high school kids, and he would laugh and tell me to send pictures when I had to pay up.  We would tell each other how much we loved each other and that we would talk after the game.  I am sure missing that phone call today.

My grief is a great reminder of how blessed I am and how much I love dad.  Grief is an indicator of love.  We never grieve what we don’t love.  The more one grieves, the more one loved.  Don’t despise grief.  Though extremely hard, embrace your grief as a gauge of God’s immense love for you.  I realize there are millions of people who would give anything to have a dad as great as mine for even a day. God gave me my dad for nearly 53 years.  I wish it would have been a few more years.  To know he’s with Christ and I’ll see him again is enough for me today.  I think that is part of what Paul means when tells us to grieve with hope (1 Thes 4:13).  I’ll miss him like crazy. Win or lose tonight, I’ll miss our phone conversations. Dad was starting to text.  It would have been fun to text during tonight’s game.

Grief is a process. But I sure don’t want to stop grieving dad.  It is a great reminder of how much he loved me, and how much I loved him, and even more of how exceedingly good and gracious God is to my family and me.  I’ll talk to you later, Dad.  Go Broncos!!