Monthly Archives: December 2005

Ten Years Ago This New Year's Eve

Few memories stick out more than ten years ago this New Year’s Eve. By God’s divine providence, I found myself on a missions trip to the country of Trinidad and Tobago. I went with the Seminary Vocal Ensemble of Southern Seminary to do some music education workshops with the Trinidadian peoples.

As part of the New Year’s Eve festivities, the churches conduct an “Old Year’s Night” Service. Turns out, it was like one of our New Year’s Eve services, but it began at 10:00 p.m. and ended around 3:00 a.m. There was praising, singing, preaching, some more praising and singing, some more preaching … it was a festival to end all festivals. What better way to enter into the New Year!

I’ll be returning to Trinidad in about a week and a half to conduct a leadership workshop among the Trinidadian pastors. I would appreciate your prayers.

Happy New Year.

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"New Year's commitments for church growth" by Chuck Lawless

So basic, yet so needed! Whatever happened to these as church growth principles? Solomon was right: “There is nothing new under the sun.”

http://www.churchcentral.com/nw/s/id/23981/template/Article.html.

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Such a simple thing

As you may know, I have three month old twin boys who are unbelievable blessings to our household. And they have acquired a habit, though, that indeed brightens up the house even more.

They have learned to smile!

No, really. These are legitimate responses to whatever ridiculous mannerisms we send their way — and it amazes me how it helps our moods. For instance, I have battled the flu for the last two days and found myself in bed trying to sleep that foul filth off! When I finally emerged from my quarantine, I was needed to hold one of the twins. I noticed that he had seemed to grow in the past two days and had even changed some facial features. Now, when I told him this in that baby talk we parents tend to do, he did it! He smiled — grinning from ear to ear!!!

Now, let’s take the simple principle of a smile and put it to, say, church! When someone new comes to visit, do you greet them with a smile? When your pastor preaches a strong word, do you smile? When you sing a song that blesses your heart or even convicts you, do you smile at God’s working in your life?

Sadly, many of our churches have folks who sit in the pews with such dour looks on their faces, often times we have to check in front of the pulpit to see if there is a coffin!! When we lose the joy in worship and in hearing the Word and in singing His songs and fellowshipping with His people, I fear for our spiritual condition!

Acts 2:42-47
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. [43] And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. [44] And all who believed were together and had all things in common. [45] And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. [46] And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

There is an unspoken joy detailed in the early church of Acts 2. They couldn’t get enough of the Lord nor of helping each other! Their praise was such that it made a racket to all those in the surrounding area — so much so that the authorities tried to stop them! They did not grumble having to come week to week, for they met “day by day!” And God did mighty works among them and “awe came upon every soul.”

But the main issue was that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). All the other things happened as a result of these things. They listened to the Word, they encouraged one another in fellowship, and they communed with God in prayer! When these things are in place, God moves!

Are they in place in amongst your people? Let us pray that this be the case in 2006!

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Are You Afraid of Christmas? (Part I)

(Preached on Christmas morning 2005 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. You can listen to this sermon at http://www.boonescreekchurch.com/sermons — it will be up until Sunday, January 8.)

There seems to be an inordinate emotion that comes with the Christmas season. Joy? Hope? Peace? you may ask. Sadly, the emotion that wracks so many hearts and minds is the emotion of fear. And it’s on so many fronts. From Christmas shoppers shopping in fear of not getting that perfect present, not getting it shipped out on time, wondering if it’s the right size and shape, terrorized by traffic and crazy crowds.

And then there’s the news — and this is most concerning. With all the items in the news about our society wanting to cross out Christ from Christmas, you have to wonder about their rationale. You have advertisers wishing everyone a “Happy Holidays” rather than a Merry Christmas for fear of offending someone not of the Christian faith. You have teachers chastising students for drawing crosses and manger scenes and even disallowing candy canes for fear of offending someone not of the Christian faith — all the while, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and a host of other religious practices are allowed. You have the ACLU on the warpath against those dreaded Christmas stars and wise men displays and manger scenes on public property — showing that everyone else has civil liberties in this country except for groups who have any sort of Christian faith.

The motive backing all of this is a fear of offending someone not of the Christian faith — even though 96% of all Americans celebrate Christmas. Some have gotten very proactive in trying to put Christmas back in the public realm. Paul Ponder has a plan for everyone in the stores who wish him a Happy Holidays. He asks, “Now, what holiday is it? Is it Valentine’s Day? St. Patrick’s Day? Which one?” He makes them say “It’s Christmas!” then encourages them to say so up-front.

Now, truth be told, I expect our secular society to be that way, but I want them to be honest. Too many are afraid of Christmas not because it may offend someone, but because they will have to come face-to-face with everything that Christmas means! They will have to look at the significance of that Baby born in that manger in backwoods Bethlehem 2,000 years ago and ask, “Why is this so important and so special? Does this event have anything to do with why there seems to be such a wonderful spirit in the air this time of year?

Indeed it does. Why? I submit to you it is not about bows and candles and wreaths and trees. This season is so special because of one person — God Almighty! Christmas reminds us of all that He is and all that He has done. It must not be missed. And since Christmas Day is here, let’s take a look at God, shall we?

(Tomorrow: Part II — God Over Us!)

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It's OVER!!!

Lynn Johnston, the creator of For Better or For Worse has captured the Blues that hit so many — the end of the Christmas season. I confess, as I shopped at Lifeway Christian Stores this morning in Lexington and saw all the Christmas merchandise be sold at 95% off (give or take a few percentiles), I felt a bit saddened as well. Mix 94.5 was a radio station here in Lexington that carried Christmas music 24 hours a day from the Friday after Thanksgiving until midnight on December 26th.

But if Christmas is about music and lights and bows and wreaths and candles and trees and presents, then YES — it’s over. But if Christmas is about the Incarnation of Christ — that is, God made flesh — and our rejoicing that the Savior of the world came to redeem sinners from their sins (Matthew 1:21-22), then Christmas is NOT over by any stretch!

Take down the trees and the wreaths and all the other decorations, but don’t take down the truth of Christ from your hearts. So even on December 26th, I wish you a “Merry Christmas!”

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Have a Christ-filled Christmas!

As a pastor, I have a special joy and excitement about today — not only is it Christmas, but it’s the Lord’s Day for our worship time. As I write this, I have no idea how many to expect at my church. We normally have around 150, but we could have 50, we could have 200! But no matter — we celebrate the Incarnation as a people of God. We sing, preach the Word, then partake of the Lord’s Supper to signify why Christ ultimately came — what a blessing it is to worship our Savior on the day commemorating His birth!

You see, I’m convinced that church is not primarily about the people, but about Christ — for the Church is His body, yes (Colossians 1:18)? Our primary concern is about Christ and His truth — for the church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). That is why Boone’s Creek Baptist Church is open today — it is for Christ’s sake!

So on this day, have an exceedingly joyous Christmas and a blessed 2006!

P.S. Those of you who regularly read this blog (thank you, btw), what did you do over the Christmas holidays? Share your stories!

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The Ultimate Conclusion of Political Correctness on Christmas

I wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday and happy new year – and in today’s “politically correct” way… so I thought I’d speak to a lawyer about the appropriate way to do this, so here goes…(if you are offended please see my attorney):

From me (“the wishor”) to you (“the wishee”), please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

We wish you a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2004, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or choice of computer platform of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that:

This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal.

1) This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.

2) This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement the inferences contained in this correspondence.

3) This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain geographical locations.

4) This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably as may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

5) The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

Happy Holidays and be safe
(Author Unknown)

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Joy Has Dawned Upon the Earth

(Thanks to Bill Pershing — persh5@earthlink.net — for contributing this wonderful Christmas hymn!)

Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation:
God’s salvation now unfurled,
Hope for every nation.
Not with fanfares from above,
Not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love-
Jesus, born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky
With the songs of angels,
As the mighty Prince of Life
Shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place,
Shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now to a mother’s breast,
Vulnerable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb,
Gazing at the glory;
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story:
Gold-a King is born today;
Incense-God is with us;
Myrrh-His death will make a way,
And by His blood He’ll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven,
Given as a ransom,
Reconciling God and man,
Christ our mighty Champion!
What a Savior! What a Friend!
What a glorious mystery!
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of history.

-Stuart Townend & Keith Getty © 2004 Thankyou Music.

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Mary, Did You Know? — Part IV

We see her humility. Her servant’s heart in responding to God’s angel by simply saying, “May it be according to your word” stands as a classic example and reflects greatly on where we should be. When we find ourselves so discouraged over trivial issues like burning our toast, getting stuck in traffic, our office buildings being too hot or cold — we look to how God worked in Mary’s heart for her to say, “Lord, this will seem like a scandal on the surface, some will shun me, Joseph may leave me — but I’ll follow you if this is your will!” What a great example!

We see her obedience to the Word of God. Psalm 119:14-15 says:

In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.

Whatever God said, she did. Why? Because she was His servant and she loved Him with all her heart.

We see her as a woman of prayer and praise! Psalm 73:24-25 sums up her attitude and I pray it sums up ours as well:

[24] You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
[25] Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

Psalm 34:2-3 says:

My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

We see that God is not partial to the rich and the powerful, but also brings mercy and favor to all who call on Him! In Isaiah 55:6-7, we read:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Who is He speaking to? “Everyone who thirsts … and he who has no money” (Isaiah 55:1). And who is that? That is all of us. All of us are thirsty and hungry. The rich and the powerful seem to neglect this because they see themselves satisfied by material trinkets rather than the riches and glory of Christ Jesus. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of God.” Blessed are you when you see yourself in your true condition — spiritually bankrupt! But Jesus goes on, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Note Mary’s words in Luke 1:51-53:

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

God has scattered the proud, the rich, the powerful — all those who set themselves up against a holy God. Those who are hungry (spiritually) are filled — those who try to fill that hunger out of their own resources are sent away empty.

What about you? Do you think you have things under control without God’s help? You’ll be sent away from His presence and provision empty! But once you empty yourself, you will receive good things — God things! What a blessing!

Conclusion

Sure, some take Mary too far in their devotion to her! But let us make sure we do not dismiss her in reaction! She is the most blessed among women and her example endures. What about you? Will you learn the lesson that Mary teaches about humility, obedience, prayer, praise, and the fact that God looks upon all of us for salvation? That is something that Mary would say, “Yes, I did know — and to God alone be the glory!”

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The Sands of Christmas


THE SANDS OF CHRISTMAS
by Michael Marks
Serviceman in Iraq

I had no Christmas spirit when I breathed a weary sigh,
And looked across the table where the bills were piled too high.
The laundry wasn’t finished and the car I had to fix,
My stocks were down another point, the Chargers lost by six.

And so with only minutes till my son got home from school
I gave up on the drudgery and grabbed a wooden stool.
The burdens that I carried were about all I could take,
And so I flipped the TV on to catch a little break.

I came upon a desert scene in shades of tan and rust,
No snowflakes hung upon the wind, just clouds of swirling dust.
And where the reindeer should have stood before a laden sleigh,
Eight Humvees ran a column right behind an M1A.

A group of boys walked past the tank, not one was past his teens
Their eyes were hard as polished flint, their faces drawn and lean.
They walked the street in armor with their rifles shouldered tight,
Their dearest wish for Christmas, just to have a silent night.

Other soldiers gathered, hunkered down against the wind,
To share a scrap of mail and dreams of going home again.
There wasn’t much at all to put their lonely hearts at ease,
They had no Christmas turkey, just a pack of MREs.

They didn’t have a garland or a stocking I could see,
They didn’t need an ornament–they lacked a Christmas tree.
They didn’t have a present even though it was tradition,
The only boxes I could see were labeled “ammunition.”

I felt a little tug and found my son now by my side,
He asked me what it was I feared, and why it was I cried.
I swept him up into my arms and held him oh so near
And kissed him on the forehead as I whispered in his ear.

“There’s nothing wrong, my little son, for safe we sleep tonight
Our heroes stand on foreign land to give us all the right,
To worry on the things in life that mean nothing at all,
Instead of wondering if we will be the next to fall.”

He looked at me as children do and said, “it’s always right,
To thank the ones who help us and perhaps that we should write.”
And so we pushed aside the bills and sat to draft a note,
To thank the many far from home, and this is what we wrote:

“God bless you all and keep you safe, and speed your way back home.
Remember that we love you so, and that you’re not alone.
The gift you give you share with all, a present every day,
You give the gift of liberty and that we can’t repay.”

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