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Showing posts from 2009

Astral Phenomena

On Sunday night a few of us stood together gazing at the stars. We noticed flashes of light across the sky, and we all became amateur astronomers as we wondered at the phenomena. What we saw Sunday night was the Geminid meteor shower that produced as many as 140 meteor bursts every hour and was visible to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere who simply looked up at the sky and waited. This Christmas we celebrate the birth of our King through worship. Over two thousand years ago magi from the east journeyed to Bethlehem to worship this same King. According to Matthew’s Gospel, they were led to Jesus by following a star. Magi in ancient Media and Persia spent most of their lives studying the stars and the planets. They believed that future events could be foretold by signs in the sky. In particular, Persian documents from the period of Jesus speak of the birth of a king in Judea who would rule the whole earth. We do not know exactly what the magi saw, but there is historical eviden

Desiring a Better Country

From the poem, IN 1492 , we learn that “In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Prior to 1492 the European world was unaware that the American continents existed. Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in an attempt to find an improved trading route from Spain to India. His discovery of the Americas sparked a European conquest, which led many people to search for a better country. Those brave souls who wanted a better country laid the groundwork for much that we know and love about our country today. Many great churches have been founded in the last five hundred years. I have been invited to preach during a homecoming service in the church where I grew up. Spring Hill Baptist Church is the church where I was nurtured in the faith, baptized, licensed to preach, married, and ordained as a minister. Last year, I preached part of my grandmother’s funeral in the church. Spring Hill is a grassroots, country church with a special place in my heart. As I prepa

Don’t Stare at Markers

Color markers can provide kids with hours of fun. I remember coloring with markers when I was a kid. I loved using a ruler to draw futuristic cars. I say the cars were “futuristic” because they didn’t look much like any cars that anyone had seen before, and I sometimes had to explain that they were, in fact, cars and not dinosaurs or clouds. My sister was a much better artist, and she had a strong desire to make her art more permanent. One day she decided to take her art off the paper and onto the walls. She drew a nice little house right on the bedroom wall. Today, markers come in a variety of designs. Some markers are washable, and other markers only write on specially designed surfaces. When we were kids, we only had one type of marker – permanent. Now, they are called “classic” markers. My sister’s artwork is still on the walls of our parent’s house. I’m fairly certain that mom keeps it there so that she can remind us of our depravity lest we forget. Giving a toddler a marker and

Church Growth

One of the objectives that I have been given from the start of my tenure here at Oakland has been church growth. It is a challenge that I accept humbly and with great excitement. I have found that there are a number of misconceptions about what it takes to grow a church. Let’s be honest. The methods we have been using are no longer effective. Our focus has been much like the movie, Field of Dreams . We have assumed that if we build it, people will come. We have hoped that if we put more energy into what we are already doing, things would improve. We are frustrated when we work harder and see fewer results. We have tried to attract people with programs and wondered why they have not stayed for the Cross. Let me offer some encouragement and remind you of where we are headed. We are not here to offer people the same things they can get somewhere else. We offer hope. The following excerpt is from The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren, page 48: “Attendance campaigns and advertising m

What’s in it for me?

This blog is a reprint of a story I wrote for our church newsletter. I thought it might be a nice quiz for everyone. Any good business leader knows that marketing is essential to success. Customers must know that a product is going to meet a need or desire in their life. One of the ways companies attempt to convince people that their product is essential is through slogans. Let’s take a look at some slogans and see if you can guess the product. The answers are at the end of this article. 1921 – A car for every purse and purpose 1969 – It's the real thing 1971 – You deserve a break today 1984 – Where’s the beef 1988 – It’s everywhere you want to be 2001 – 1,000 songs in your pocket 2009 – Trust me – I’m a doctor We all want to know what’s in it for us. We are driven by our consumer mindset, and we can be easily offended when our church does not meet our felt needs. So, why do we want you to be part of this church fa

What We Want

In the book and subsequent movies titled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt knew how to get what she wanted; Veruca simply demanded it. When Veruca wanted a Golden Ticket she demanded one from her father. Her father stopped production in his factory and had all of his workers unwrap Wonka bars in search of a Golden Ticket. Veruca made it to the Chocolate Factory, but she was later rejected by Willy Wonka because she was a “bad egg.” Perhaps you can sing Veruca’s song “I Want It Now.” I want the works I want the whole works Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises Of all shapes and sizes And now Don't care how I want it now Don't care how I want it now Veruca is an extreme example of wanting everything in the world, but all of the kids in the book wanted something. The truth is we all want something. Wants can be a wonderful thing. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” So, what do you want? I will t

Top Five Holidays

Holidays can be loads of fun, but some holidays are simply more exciting than others. Here’s a countdown of the top five holidays with a few reminders of why we love them so much. Hope you have a wonderful Easter, and feel free to make your own top five list. I hope I don’t get in trouble for leaving out Mother’s Day! 5. New Years Day: Resolutions, fresh starts, ham and black-eyed peas (no cabbage please), the ball drop and Dick Clark. 4. Thanksgiving: Stuff a bird, stuff yourself, watch football. Oh, and we should mention that whole thankfulness thing. 3. 4th of July: Fireworks, American flags, celebrating our freedom in the greatest nation on earth, watermelon and barbecue, baseball, Harold and Fred in patriotic shirts. 2. Christmas: Snow, Christmas trees and lights, caroling, shepherds and wise men, a whole month of parties, Brenda’s church decorations, God with us. 1. Easter: The greatest demonstration of power and love the world has ever known, forgiveness, the Cros

Fred Winters

I received a message from a friend of mine a little while ago about a mutual friend of ours. This morning Fred Winters was shot during their first worship service in Maryville, Illinois. Details are still sketchy, but it appears that Fred died because of his faith. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters. In 2000 I took a class with Fred at SBTS. Fred was not a person who was easily forgotten. I remember Fred as a passionate pastor with a fervent love for lost people. I also remember a prolonged debate I had with Fred about preaching styles. Fred was right, and I have since changed my preaching style. Fred leaves a wonderful legacy of faithfulness and tenacity. He was not afraid to do church differently, and thousands of people came to Christ through his witness. Fred’s death reminds me of the need to make the days count. His death reminds me of the new world we have entered. Times are certainly changing.

Just Say No

Just Say No! Let your mind drift back to the classic, anti-drug commercials of the eighties and nineties when we discovered that eggs were bad for us. Of course, true to of our cultural loss of absolutes, we are not entirely sure if eggs are good or bad for us. But, I digress. Do you remember the commercials? A frying pan with bubbling oil invited a whole, fresh egg for a dance. The egg quickly surrendered to the frying pan producing the incredible, edible egg that we all love. In the commercials, the frying pan represents drugs and the egg represents our collective brains. The analogy is poignant and pointed. Most of us would agree with the basic premise of the commercial – illegal drugs are bad for us. We would also endorse the refrain, “Just say no”! We try to drill into our children and youth that it is okay to say no to the things that will destroy us. Yet, some of us have great difficulty saying no. Many of us realize that