May 19th, 2013
The trouble with preaching a sermon is that when one message has been delivered, you have to begin moving on to another. This morning I delivered the message “TRUTH ON TRIAL”. I used the text in John 18:37 where Pilate asks the question “What is truth?” One of the points that I made in the message was that the existence of universities can be traced back to the Christian pursuit of learning in the churches. Universities sprang from churches as plants spring up from seed. I pointed out that in America all of our first universities were founded as Christian institutions. In particular, I mentioned that the oldest university in the English speaking world is Oxford which was founded around 1096 A. D. The motto of Oxford for hundreds of years until this very hour is “The Lord is My light!” That is a direct quote from Psalm 27:1. In our cynical age there are no doubt professors and students who are annoyed by that fact, but it stands nonetheless. God is light and He brings light to every subject under heaven. A primary premise of my sermon was that Christian faith does not close the mind as some have suggested, but it opens the mind to truth on a deeper and more lasting level than those who reject Jesus Christ will ever know or understand. True intellectualism and true faith are friends. The Lord is my light. Without Him the whole world walks in darkness.
May 16th, 2013
A famous forerunner to Baptists was a man named Balthasar Hubmaier. He often signed his name with the quote at the heading of this blog. Truth can’t be kept concealed forever. It has a way of rising to the top. Without question the truth about everything can be revealed at the feet of Jesus. In the meantime, those who love the one who is Truth should be a truthful people. Ask yourself honestly. Am I truthful about who I am and what I believe? Does my walk match my talk? Can I be trusted? It is increasingly clear that America needs a bath in Truth. Right now we are awash in political lies, social lies, financial lies, moral lies, and interpersonal lies. Remember that Jesus said “the truth shall set you free.” You either believe it, or you don’t. Your actions will speak much louder than your words.
May 14th, 2013
That may be a puzzling title to many who read this. No, I am not talking about the Dallas Cowboys. I am talking about Dallas Willard. Last week while I was speaking in a revival near Bastrop, Texas. I heard that Dallas Willard had passed away after a short battle with cancer. He was seventy seven in earth years, but he now lives in the full experience of the Kingdom of God about which he taught me so very much. I discovered Dallas Willard while I was a pastor in Baird, Texas. One of my young staff members had gone to Ft. Worth to further his education at Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary. While there he had picked up a copy of THE SPIRIT OF THE DISCIPLINES in one of his courses. He wrote a note inside the cover and sent me my first book by Dallas Willard. I must confess that I had never read any Christian author quite like him. He was a layman who did a great deal of speaking before churches. For years I thought he was a pastor. In actual fact he was a professor of philosophy at the Universtity of Southern California. He also had taught at numerous other universities. He was one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. He was an instructor of pastors to those who had sense enough to listen. He was one man that no atheist in his right mind would want to debate. The amount of bible, theology, history, ethics, and countless other disciplines at his disposal were amazing. All of that mental acumen was clothed in humility that made one think of Jesus. He was once introduced as the C. S. Lewis of our day. When he came to the podium with great humility he deflected that idea as not being accurate in a very gracious way. I am not sure he understood the intent of his introduction. Though I had never conferred with Rick Davis who had the privilege of introducing him, the accolade fit exactly with my own feeling about Dallas. No, he was not a writer of literature. No, he did not construct fiction as a way of illustrating truth as did Lewis. The comparison lies in the fact that here was a humble layman who was standing head and shoulders above countless preachers and theologians and calling us all to a deeper life and a more keen awareness of the God who is speaking if we only have ears to hear. Dallas wrote great books. They are not easy to read, but they are the kind that one reading will never be enough. If you want to check them out try these: HEARING GOD, THE SPIRIT OF THE DISCIPLINES, THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY, THE RENOVATION OF THE HEART. There are also many essays, lectures, and videos to be examined. I had only one conversation with Dallas Willard. It was about the Trinity. I showed him some prepared remarks for a manuscript that I was writing and ask if he thought those remarks were true to the message of the Word of God. After reading them he said, “I think you are right. Keeping working on this. We need help to grasp the message of the Trinity.” Dallas lives because of his faith in Jesus, the one who said that those who believe in Him would never die. Dallas lives because of his amazing books and lectures. Dallas lives because his teachings live on in those who understood and embraced his truths from the one who is Truth. Dallas lives because of his magnificent example of a supreme intellect wrapped in Christ loving and humble flesh. Thanks Dallas. Well done.
May 9th, 2013
I did not hear until today about the passing of Lindi McCartney. She passed away in March. Lindi is the wife of Bill McCartney who coached the Colorado Golden Buffaloes to their only national championship. Bill retired young from coaching with a vision for addressing what he perceived to be an appalling loss of character among young men in our nation. He, along with others, founded Promise Keepers. The need for organized efforts to spiritually impact men is still great. Our God is a covenant keeping God. He desires people who understand the value of covenants. The greatest mother’s day gift any son could give his mother and any husband could give his wife is to honor his covenants. To be a man of integrity and honor is to cast a long shadow. To fail to honor covenants and live with integrity casts a dark shadow of sorrow across many generations. The primary difference in the two choices is found in the choice to live for others rather than for yourself. Be an example. Set an example. Follow the example of our Lord. He kept his covenant of love with us and sealed it with his blood shed on a rugged cross. If you ever waver in honoring your covenants remember Jesus.
May 6th, 2013
Last week three leaders from our church went to a Momentum conference. We were looking carefully at a strategy to help set people free from the things that bind them from being on mission with God in our community and our world. More about that will come later. What I have on my mind is the meaning of the word “momentum”. If ever there was a church that had gained momentum, it is Crestview. I was meditating on the things that we do that we no longer have to push. Our Monday night outreach has been sustained for eighteen years. The last eight years have been rich in enthusiasm and involvement. Many who join Crestview tell me that they kept meeting people who invited them to attend or shared encouraging words of faith with them. Camp Crestview has great momentum. At the worker’s meeting the other night our Event Center was filled to overflowing with an army of volunteers ready to make it happen again as we work with around 1200 children in a two week period in June. Other pastors and leaders look at this in amazement as they try desperately to staff a half day program for one week. Our men’s events such as the steak supper have momentum. Our deacons are gaining great momentum. Our women’s events have enjoyed momentum.
Our missions events have gained great momentum. I could go on forever. There are areas that we need to gain some momentum however. It would be a shame to enjoy so much excitement and progress and neglect some very important areas. I am spending time right now looking at those areas. Pray.
Focused intensity over time multiplied by God equals momentum.
April 30th, 2013
Part of the problem in church life is the idea that revival is a week of meetings. Revival is a church coming to life. Revival for the church resembles the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Sadly, I am constantly hearing about churches who are experiencing deadness. They are like your arm feels when you accidentally sleep on top of it, a slight tingle and no strength. The key to coming alive is really not complicated. You simply have to focus on Jesus. When you focus on Jesus, you have a strong desire to “walk even as he walked.” (1 John 2:6 KJV) That means that you get over yourself and you begin to look outward to the fields and start touching lives in his name and in the power of the Spirit. Any church, anywhere can experience revival by an intensive focus on Jesus Christ. They need to do it corporately and individually. In fact, revival in one word is “Jesus.” From time to time people have asked me how our church came to be such a great church. I usually answer that we are still on our journey toward where the Lord wants to take us, but that we have cultivated an outward focus rather than an inward focus. Jesus did not spend all his time in the synagogue or the Temple. Jesus went to the streets, the highways, and the wilderness. He even went through Samaria. Churches that come alive must do likewise. Salt is no good to anyone in the shaker. It needs to be spread out. It also needs to be salty wherever it is spread.
How I long to see Texas churches come alive! Once again this next week I will be speaking in another revival near Bastrop. I know that I cannot bring revival to that church. Pray that I can point to Jesus, the only one who can bring people and churches to life. I know that all churches believe they are focused on Christ, but the reality is that they leave him at the building when they head home from worship. Revival cannot happen until you take him with you wherever you go. I will close with the words of an old hymn.
Take the name of Jesus with you, child of sorrow and of woe.
It will joy and comfort give you. Take it then wherever you go.
Precious name! Oh how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of heaven!
Precious name! Oh how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of heaven!
April 24th, 2013
Around July fifteenth of this year, we will have completed eighteen years as pastor and family at Crestview Baptist Church in Georgetown, Texas. That is just a little less than half of the years that we have been privileged to serve in pastoral ministry. When the Lord gave me a sense of peace in coming to Georgetown, I had no idea that I would be here this long. At this point, I am fairly confident that Crestview will be my last pastorate. Believe it or not, I still get inquiries from churches although I am sixty one. They don’t seem to know my age, and don’t back off when I tell them. None of these churches bear the marks of the kind of assignment that the Lord has typically given me, and I am inclined to think that my job for the rest of my ministry as a pastor is to do my best to see Crestview realize her purpose in the present and ready her for the future.
When friends from around the state ask me about how things are going here, I am glad to answer and say that we seem to be having our very best days since the beginning of our work here. That is an awesome reality. Through the years, I have been keenly aware of pastors who may have stayed too long in one place and saw their work decline. I am also aware of pastors whose churches waited patiently for their retirement and were quietly eager for that day. What I hear most often is people who say things like, “You are surely not going to retire for awhile are you.” People planning to join often ask me, “You aren’t going anywhere for awhile are you?” They then go on to say that they hope I will be in place for quite a few more years.
I have always said that I do not want to stay anywhere that I have ceased to be effective. Once during my time here I had a good opportunity to leave for a very important assignment. I interviewed several leaders and some of my staff and ask them to be candid with me. I asked them if they still felt I was being effective at Crestview. I also told them that if I needed to get out of the way and allow the church to move on without me that this was the opportunity for me to do so. It was not a pastorate. It was the position of Evangelism Director for our state convention. It was the third time that a position in evangelism leadership had been offered to me. I was assured by each of them that they felt our ministry together was not over. Please know that I did not believe it was either, but I recognize that there can be blind spots and we need to consider other viewpoints. I am so glad God led me to stay put. We have seen such great days since then that I would not have wanted to miss them. However, I must say that even in that choice I was tested for a time with some really difficult years in our work here. You may recall that I recently said in a message that every time a door of opportunity opens their is also a test. My exact words were, “opportunity and adversity go together.” I have learned that truth not only on the basis of 1 Corinthians 16:9, but also by many years of experience in walking through open doors.
I have always said that I want to finish strong please pray for me as I press toward the finish line that I will be clear minded and strong in my message and witness and that God will walk with Shannon and I through these coming days as we press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.
April 17th, 2013
Have you ever wondered how it might seem to the goldfish when we peer in and tap on the glass? For that matter, what about animals in the zoo when we call out for their attention and watch their every move? I was in a meeting with other ministers some time ago when I reminded them that we were all just one bad decision from being out of the ministry. It seems like every week I hear of another pastor who has either resigned, retired early, stepped down in disgrace, changed careers, or in some cases committed suicide. Some studies predict that there will be a serious shortage of pastors in the future at the current rate of attrition. The other factor is that a large number of young people who feel called to serve are not interested in being pastors. Many who are interested do not want to lead existing churches, but want to start new ones. Just ask any search committee of a smaller sized church about the candidates that are available. Recently I heard from a church that requested a recommendation from me. They had been without a pastor for quite some time and only had around five candidates, none of whom had ever been a pastor or were trained theologically. It seemed no one wanted to go to the “out of the way” place and serve the Lord. What is going on?
One factor at work is that those who lead tomorrow will be products of the culture from which they arose. If they grew up in a church filled with conflict and worldliness, they will not want to pastor existing churches. If they came from a broken home, which inevitably many will, they may bear numerous scars emotionally. If they have imbibed of the culture of success they will only be interested in serving in places that are of prominence with good prospects for success. Another factor is the lack of grace that is shown to pastors. When someone criticizes churches to me and uses that as an excuse not to follow Jesus, I often tell them that no one has seen any more of the ugly side of professing Christians than I have. Having been a pastor for forty years, I have just about seen it all. If anyone could give up on the church, I could based on the things that I have seen. It is only by keeping my eyes on Christ and striving to recreate the culture of the churches that I pastor that have kept me going. On several occasions I have followed pastors who were forced out or terminated. At least one of them had an affair with a church member which resulted in their leaving. These kind of things produce division and mistrust. The pastor who steps in inherits that mistrust from many. Respect for his position is low. Relationships are difficult because he is regarded sometimes as just another pastor passing through. Right here at Crestview in the early years of our ministry a member of my family was told by a member who is no longer here “I was here when you got here and I will be here when you are gone.” That really does wonders for family morale! I have been shouted at by deacons and verbally abused by Sunday School teachers through the years. I have been stabbed in the back by leaders who wanted to see me gone. I understand why there is an attrition of available pastors. I thank God for those who loved and accepted me as I am and for the Lord’s faithfulness in the midst of trials.
Let me say that Crestview has become a wonderful fellowship. I pray every day that neither myself or anyone on my staff will do anything to take away the marvelous blessing of the Lord that is upon this church. I am not writing this to complain, but rather to illustrate the pressure of life in the fish bowl and to ask for prayer for my fellow pastors and those whom the Lord is calling. Remember. Pastors are people like you. They have needs just like you do. When you love and accept them, you can improve their service and extend their usefulness to the Lord.
We cannot realistically pray for a national revival without praying for the Lord to raise up a new generation of leaders. They cannot lead without our support.
April 3rd, 2013
This Sunday I am bringing a message that may well turn into a series of messages throughout the month of April. God has been impressing upon my heart that His people do not have a clear awareness of His presence in the world. Jesus has become for most just another person from human history to be discussed on the basis of the written record. The message of the Resurrection is to the contrary. Jesus is on the loose in our world today. Those who know it see His work on every hand. In a world where so much information is at our fingertips. It is easy to trace his transforming activity around the globe. Breathtaking changes are at work in the world. Many choose to focus on the bad news and totally overlook the good news. The good news is that the church is growing at an unprecedented pace worldwide. The reason for this growth is the living presence of Jesus Christ in the world. The phenomenon of dead and dying churches is a peculiarity of the United States and Western Europe. Interestingly, the fastest growing churches in these place are made up of people from the third world who are immigrants to those places. There is a fundamental problem in the Western mindset. I believe that problem has much to do with the blindness of a people who simply cannot see the activity of God around them. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” That means right now; in this world.
March 18th, 2013
Sunday’s message included a list of names by which the Holy Spirit is called in Scripture. The various names for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit come from the way people have experienced God. The divinely inspired authors give us enriched glimpses of the character of God through the various names. In the case of the names for the Holy Spirit recorded in John’s gospel we are beholding something very special in that it is the sinless Son of God who is revealing these names to us through the divinely inspired memories of John the Apostle. Of these names, I think I gravitate most readily to the name, “The Spirit of Truth.” If ever there was a time in human history when we needed to know and share the truth, it is now. To watch the events around us, is to realize that mankind seeks constantly to avoid the truth. They do so by denying that truth exists. It seems hardly to occur to them that such an assertion is itself a statement intended to be a truth. In politics, it is increasingly difficult to see politicians come to common ground as to the true nature of situations. All parties cling tenaciously to a view that seems to be demanded by their need to be re-elected regardless of the consequences for the country. This is a depressing and frightening state of affairs. How one longs to see someone rise above it all and shout “The emperor has no clothes.” If you don’t recognize the phrase, it is from a famous fairytale in which a little child states the obvious while all of the adults have been in denial and playing mental games to avoid what is clearly true.
Very soon we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Untold billions in our world will dismiss the plausibility of our faith in the victory of Christ over sin, death, and the grave. They seem to think that we are somehow a fearful people who are comforted by an old fable. The fact is that we likely would never have heard of Jesus had he not risen from the dead. The Jews may have heard of him, but not the whole world. However, it is not so much the facts and arguments that allow us to see and understand the victory of Jesus Christ as it is the Spirit of Truth who opens our minds and hearts to know clearly that Christ is risen. Hallelujah!