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Where Are All the Men?

November 30, 2017

Where are all the men?

Where are all the men who have integrity, character, resolve, compassion, decency, respect, perseverance, guts, and fortitude?

After hearing about all the sexual assault accusations, and a few childish fisticuffs in the sports world over the last few days, it dawned on me that the last few weeks have been a bad period of time for the men. Monday morning I sat down in my office and wrote down at least 10 names of males that have made the headlines for their foolish, immature, or overtly sick, evil behavior just in the last week. This is becoming too much of the norm.

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But I know where the real men are. I could write another list of 10 names of men. I have a host of them in my church. They serve at every level, seeking no recognition, and wanting no fanfare. They go about their tasks as men—with zeal, compassion, self-control, and steely resolve. These men serve in the shadows of the spotlight of Jesus, faithful to their families, faithful to their church.

I could list off their names, and maybe I will one day so that the world can know that there are still men, godly men, around. But I know those men wouldn’t want that. They would just rather remain in the shadows and echo John the Baptist’s words, Jesus “must increase, and I must decrease.”

Are you looking for real men in your community? Look in your church. Look at the men who are working in the shadows of the spotlight of Christ, who are faithful week in and week out their wives and family. Yes, you will find some duds and scoundrels. But you will also find men worth learning from as they follow Jesus.

But let me add one more paragraph for just the men to read. Men, if you are one of these John the Baptist’s types, who are devoted to Jesus and living your life in submission to his rule, it is now time to speak up. Let the other young men in your church and in your life know that you are willing to be a mentor/leader for them as you follow Christ. This is not about creating a following for yourself, but rather helping other men follow Christ. And now, more than ever, we need men doing just that.

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OH THE DEPTH OF THE RICHES OF CHIASTIC STRUCTURES!

September 27, 2017

This past Sunday I did something bold and risky when I preached. I broke a cardinal rule in preaching by showing people the sweat of my labor instead of just the fruit. Here is the preaching sin I committed—I showed our church a chiastic structure in the passage I was preaching.
“WHAT? How could you? Don’t you know you could get fired for doing that?”

Okay, okay. Pipe down, will ya?

A chiastic structure is a literary device used way back in the day. A typical chiastic structure would look something like this:

Statement #1

Statement #2

Statement #3

Statement parallel to #3

Statement parallel to #2

Statement parallel to #1

 

Sometimes the arrangement may be slightly altered, but this presents the basic idea. Several purposes exist for a writer to use a chiastic structure. In oral traditions, chiastic structures made the text or story a little easier to remember. Chiastic structures sometimes also carried the same purpose as when you highlight something in your Bible. When you do that, you are saying about the text you highlighted, “LOOK AT ME! I AM REALLY IMPORTANT!” Well, in the first century, they didn’t have highlighters, or the italics button, so writers had to be poetically creative in helping readers see the really important stuff. Another purpose of chiastic structures serve could be to present an idea, and in its parallel statement, expand on the idea.

But the real question is, “Why would you show this to your church during a sermon?” I don’t do this every time a chiastic structure shows up in the text, but I want our people to be aware of these literary devices because it helps them understand the main point of a text, and that is the priority in studying the bible.

After the service, I actually had people express their appreciation to me for showing them that “chiasty thing.”

Don’t be afraid to “give your people understanding, that they may keep God’s word” (Psalm 119:34, paraphrased). Beauty and depth and skill were utilized in the inspired-writings of God’s word. Oh, how we should appreciate and treasure them.

P.S.

The passage I preached this past Sunday was John 1:1-18. See if you can discern the chiasim.

Take Me Out to the BALL GAME!

September 22, 2017

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I must admit, I turn into a kid when I walk up to a major league baseball stadium. I love everything about it—the smells, the sights, the announcer, the crowds, the lights. All of it gives me goosebumps, because all of it points to the baseball game.

This past week my family and I were able to watch two games. We attended Nationals’ Park in D.C. and watched the Nationals play the Dodgers. We also scurried over to Philly to see the Phillies play the Oakland Athletics. After watching both of those games, I am concerned. Very concerned.

My concern is not with the game or the players. My concern is with the fans. While sitting there engrossed in each game, at each park I was surrounded by people who were concerned about other things. At the Nationals’ game two guys behind me talked incessantly–about their hardships at work, with their family or girlfriend. Not all of it was negative. They talked about positive things going on in their lives as well. But they rarely paid attention to what was going on in front of them on the field—the very reason they supposedly paid big bucks to sit in a stadium with lights pointing down on the green grass.

In front of us at the Nationals’ game were people who spent more time going back and forth to the concession stand to spend boo coos of money on drinks, nachos, and hot dogs. Now I love a good concession stand, and there is nothing quite as delicious as nacho cheese at the ballpark. But once again, why spend all the money and miss the main attraction of the game?

In Philadelphia we attended a day game. The sun was out in full force. A mom and dad were behind me with their two young children in tow. “Alright! They are going to teach them early about the game!” Yeah right. Those kids sat on the ground play on their tablets the whole time.

About five rows in front of us, which was down the first base line, a fan got smacked in the cranium with a line drive foul ball because he wasn’t paying attention to the game!

WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING?! The baseball game is out there! Everything around you points to the game—the organ, the scoreboard, the lights! Why are you here if you won’t watch the game?!

Every time I hollered at the umps or cheered for the home team, people around me looked up from their phones as if I was the odd one.

It kinda reminded of how some approach the corporate worship service. Why do you go to the corporate worship service? To network? Socialize? Talk about everything going on in your life? The coffee bar?

Please don’t miss the main attraction. The main attraction is God, revealed to us in Jesus. If you go for any other reason, you are missing it. God has made himself known to us. God, in all of His glory and grace, has come down to us to accomplish and secure redemption on behalf of the believer. He is the show. His glory is the spotlight and it falls upon Himself. He takes center stage!

So this weekend, go to a bible-preaching, Jesus-exalting church service. Focus your mind and heart upon Him. Be ready to hear from His word and be stirred by His Spirit. But don’t look away. You may end up like the guy five rows in front of me the other day.

Two Steps Forward, and Now My Door Won’t Open.

September 7, 2017

On the way home from church last Sunday, my oldest son made it known to me that the driver’s side rear window would not roll up. In fact, with each little bump, the window fell further and further down into the door. By the time we pulled into our driveway, the window had completely disappeared into the door panel.

No problem. Maybe a fuse was blown? I checked. Fuses were functioning just fine. So my next Google search suggested that maybe the “regulator” was worn out and needed replacing. First, all you have to do is remove the doormaxresdefault panel. Then you take out the old regulator and slide in the new one, bolt it down, and your finished. The guy on YouTube took all of ten minutes to do the job (granted, they did speed him up while he was unscrewing and screwing bolts in). Shouldn’t be too terribly difficult.

So after going to the auto parts store and purchasing a new regulator assembly kit, gathering up all the needed tools, I began my handyman project. It took me a little longer than ten minutes (more like forty-five), but I completed the task! For those that know me, they know that this is quite a feat.

So the rest of that day, when I was in the truck, I drove around town sliding that window up and down like a boss.

That night I needed to run my sons to the sports store to pick up a mouthpiece since they are playing football this fall. I pulled into the parking lot, put the truck into park and proceeded to exit the truck, waiting on my sons to get out as well. Problem was, the door that I worked on that morning wouldn’t open from the inside.

Isn’t that just the way things go, sometimes? You think you are making progress, and then your door won’t open. Apparently, in the reassembling process, I did something, or didn’t do something, correctly.

I find the sanctification process very similar. The Lord pinpoints an area that He wants to refine, and we make progress in that area with His strength and help. And just when we think we have arrived spiritually, the door won’t open.

So we have at least two options. We can get mad at ourselves, or we can look to Jesus. The first option is pretty silly for the Christian. Why would we get mad at ourselves, as if we could ever “arrive” spiritually while still in this body? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be sorry and repentant of our sin. I am saying that we should never trust in ourselves to succeed.

I find encouragement from Paul, who, after years of ministry, said, “I want to know Him.”

“Wait a minute, Paul! What do you mean ‘You want to know Him?’ Out of all people, you should know Him!”

 

Nope! Even Paul’s sanctification process wasn’t complete until he drew his last breath, and neither will yours be complete. There will always be a door that won’t open, or a crack in the windshield, or a squeaky door. We will always have rough spots in our lives that need to re-created or sanded down.

 

The second option is the best option. We look to Jesus. He is the great physician—or to keep the metaphor going—the great mechanic.

 

So the next time you replace a leaky faucet only to realize later that you mixed up the temperature control nozzles, let it be a reminder that we are a work in progress, and that the Spirit within us never tires of doing His work for us.

 

Your Preacher Wants to Improve.

August 28, 2017

20622178_10154959174173022_4014520920840357150_nRaise your hand if you know a preacher. Most of us know a preacher to some degree, as an acquaintance, a public figure in the community, or even as your own pastor. Here are two things, however, you may not realize about most preachers.

 

  • They get nervous before preaching every sermon.

Those who understand the purpose of preaching God’s word, along with the grave responsibility of it, can, in no way, take lightly what they do. Because of this, the preacher’s heartbeat speeds up as he approaches the pulpit. It has been said that Charles Spurgeon would whisper, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” with every step as he walked up to the pulpit. He knew that he must be dependent on God’s Spirit because in his own strength and wisdom, he himself would make a poor preacher.

 

  • They want to improve as preachers.

Whether a preacher spent time in school to learn how to preach, or if he did not have the opportunity to go through formal training, every preacher I know of wants to get better at the craft of preaching. They want to know their weaknesses in order to improve. They want to know how to handle a passage of scripture correctly. They desire to be clearer, along with more powerful in their delivery. They long to present the word of God in compelling and relevant ways.

This second reason troubled me in the past. I have been out of formal education for the last two years. I have no desire to get any more formal training, but I do not want to stop trying to improve as a preacher. Yet, I found no place or mechanism to help me improve. Books, of course, were available, but books are pretty silent when you ask them to critique you after a sermon. Thus, I started The Preaching Lab.

Right now, The Preaching Lab is a collection of guys on a Facebook group that share insights, tips, weaknesses, questions, etc. about preaching. However, on October 28, 2017 we will be having our first ever Preaching Lab Conference in Hope, Arkansas, at Garrett Memorial Baptist Church.

This is not your normal preaching conference where people flock in to hear the big names preach. I love those types of settings, but this is not that. Instead, at Preaching Lab conferences, we will focus on a particular aspect of preaching, hearing from regular, non-famous, preachers, and offering needed encouragement and critique. For this upcoming conference in October, we are focusing on preaching gospel-centered messages from Old Testament narratives. After each sermon that is preached, the conference attendees will give encouragement, insight, and critique, and then they will gather in small groups to look at another OT narrative together. They will be led by a table leader who will help them walk through the passage, employing the principles of interpreting Old Testament narratives in a gospel-centered way.

This is not a “come and sit” conference. This is a “ come and learn and do” conference. This is for the preachers who still get nervous, which is a good thing. This is for preachers who love God’s word and God’s church and desire to serve them both.

Below you will see some of our table leaders’ meeting that was held last Friday. These guys are ready to serve pastors–full-time pastors, bi-vocational pastors, itinerant pastors, evangelists, youth pastors–if you preach, this conference is for you.

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Here is the schedule for October 28.

 

Intro—9:00am

Sermon 1, Genesis 37 by pastor Keith Brown—9:15am
Interview/encouragement—10:00am
Table time, Genesis 38—10:15am

Break—11:15am

Sermon 2, Genesis 39 by Bivocational Pastor Petie Ward—11:30am
Interview/encouragement—12:15pm

Lunch—12:30pm

Table Time, Genesis 40-41—1:00pm

Sermon 3, Genesis 42 by Youth Pastor Dustin Wisely—2:10pm
Interview/encouragement—2:55pm
Table time, Genesis 43-45—3:10pm

Conclusion—4:00

Our table leaders for this conference include: Brent Summerhill, pastor FBC Magnolia, AR.; Dr. Charlie Holmes, BMAA Seminary President; Mike Goodwin, evangelist and President of Evangelistic International Ministries; Daniel Bramlett, pastor FBC Hope, AR.; Dr. Scott Attebery, Executive Director of DisciplGuide Church Resources; Anthony Crocker, pastor, Immanuel in Greenbrier, AR.; and Brian Rickett, BMAA Seminary professor.

As you can see, once the day is finished, you will have head start on a great sermon series covering Genesis 37-45. In addition, you will receive lunch, sponsored by DiscipleGuide, and a free book provided by the BMA Seminary. So if you know a preacher, tell him about this conference. If you are a preacher, join us!

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The Strategist of Creation

April 24, 2017

The apostle Paul wrote that all things were created by/in Jesus.

Do you daily ponder the power of prepositions? I didn’t think you did. But I would like for you to consider how much glory is in the phrase, “all things were created IN HIM.” Two words. Five letters. So. Much. Glory.

In this prepositional phrase we learn that creation was accomplished by means of Jesus. It was within his realm of influence and responsibility to create. Even more, the details and intricacies of creation were Jesus’ idea because creation was “in him.”

Just this last week, a friend brought the kids several caterpillars. We watched those caterpillars eat some leaves, and then later, climb to the top of that little cage, and just hang there perfectly still. It fullsizeoutput_e9aseemed like they hung there forever. We thought they had died! And then, without even noticing, a green shell had formed around them. They had shed their skin and formed what is called a chrysalis. Inside that chrysalis, an amazing feat takes place. The caterpillar recycles its body. The best way I can describe it is to say that the caterpillar melts its body down into some kind of soupy goop and reforms itself into a butterfly. You know who thought it would be cool to have a worm shed its skin, create an outward shell of protection while it ate its own body and then come back as a flying creature filled with a beautiful design? Jesus did. Jesus brought these plans to God and said, what do you think of this, and God said, “Let’s do it!” and in combination with the Holy Spirit, they created the world.

According to Paul, I am the creation of the most powerful, most incredible Being on all the galaxies. My design and form, my height, my color of skin, the color of my eyes, the complexity of my DNA, everything about me that makes me me was part of the blueprint strategy of Jesus Christ. Whether my body functions perfectly and completely, or whether I have been laden with a difficulty, it does not take away my inherent value or the fact that I have been created by the design of God, in the image of God, for the glory of God.

You are not a mistake. You are not an accident. You are not a byproduct of random chance. This is who you are. You have value. You have inherent worth and dignity. You were designed in the mind of Jesus Christ, created in the image of God, to bring attention to the glory of your creator.

But Paul goes on to talk about the flaw that we bring into creation. We alienated ourselves from God by attempting to demote God from being God. We wanted his crown and did what we could to cause a coup. But a peace treaty was struck. This treaty was not between God and ourselves. We didn’t go crawling to Him to come up with a plan. He came up with the plan before the world began. And this plan brought peace through violence. God sent His own son to receive the punishment for our sinfulness. But God did that so we could be forgiven when we turn from trying to be our own kings, and recognize and trust that Jesus’ work on the cross was for sufficient for us.

We can stand back and admire the process a butterfly goes through to become a butterfly, but there is something even more amazing about all things being created “in him.”

When Jesus created the world along with all of its processes and complexities, he knew that his most prized creation would rebel. He knew that the lungs he created to expel air  would one day pass over vibrating vocal chords that modulated sounds meant to curse and ridicule him. He knew that the brilliance of the brain would one day design a torture experiment called crucifixion. He knew that the creation of four fingers and a thumb would eventually grip a hammer and nail spikes in his hand. He knew that his creation of the focusing eye would zero in on him with shame and contempt.

And yet, He still created. He still created you. This is glory. This is love.

Stop Being Interested in the Church

April 3, 2017

…and start being committed.

Interests are things that you dabble with or make a hobby. But interests take a backseat to commitments. You see, believer, there are few things in life to which you should be committed. Really committkarl-fredrickson-27504.jpged.One is your family. No questions there. One other major commitment in your life should be your church. I know what you may be thinking–“What about Jesus? What about a commitment to Jesus?” That is a great insight. Here is my answer. Your commitment to Christ is demonstrated in your commitment to your church. Those who are devoted to Christ are devoted to the things to which Christ is devoted. Christ loved the church sacrificially, unconditionally, and when she was unlovely. So should you.

A lot of people are interested in church, but committed to other things. Other things like sports, weekends at the lake, relaxation, and whatever else keeps us from being committed to our local church. Church is not a good hobby. It was not designed by God as something for you to take an interest in. You don’t treat church like she is your girlfriend. You are part of the bride of Christ, and when you treat church as an interest, it’s akin to slipping the ring off your finger when you see someone else who might be interested in you.

Actually, being a member of a local church goes beyond commitment, it is a covenant. A covenant to a church is a solemn, holy agreement you enter into. A covenant is stronger than a commitment. A covenant assumes a steadfast, iron-like bond to something. When you become a member of a church, you are making a covenant with that church that she can depend upon you, and you can depend upon her.

Some say that they can be just as good a Christian without the church as they can with the church. Charles Spurgeon spoke to this when he said,

“I know there are some who say, “Well, I’ve given myself to the Lord, but I don’t    intend to give myself to any church.” I say, “Now why not?” And they answer, “Because I can be just as good a Christian without it.” I say, “Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? There’s a brick. What is the brick made for? It’s made to build a house. It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it’s just as good a brick while it’s kicking about on the ground by itself, as it would be as part of a house. Actually, it’s a good-for-nothing brick. So, you rolling stone Christians, I don’t believe that you’re answering the purpose for which Christ saved you. You’re living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live and you are much to blame for the injury you do.”

Maybe today you need to spend some time assessing your life and the things to which you are committed versus the things to which you are interested. To what are you teaching your family to be committed, and in what are you teaching them to be interested?”

I promise you, as a pastor, my concern is not for big numbers at church. My concern is for the well-being of your soul.

Dr. Daryl Cornett, my Church History professor at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, recently tackled this very thing in a blog post that captures his heart as a pastor, and perfectly represents my heart for some of my church members. I wish you would mosey on over to this link and check it out.