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Archive for December, 2011

Oh boy…now she’s gone and done it! She? Who’s she? And what’s she “gone and done?” Well, it’s Pam of course!

She’s the beautiful young lady to the far right (beside of the old, bald guy :)).

Yep…she’s gone and done it! She’s entered the fabulous and fantastic world of blogging! Yippee! I’ve told her for months that she needs to blog. Her insights and wisdom are wonderful! She has a way of seeing life from the perspective of a wife (a Pastor’s wife at that), mom (homeschool mom at that) and as a believer in Jesus Christ that will bring hope and encouragement to many.

Want to see?

Take a look at her first couple of posts and stay tuned for more from Pam at Silver Linings and Such.

I love you, Honey! Thanks for being an inspiration to many…especially ME!! 🙂

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2012 is bearing down on us! We’ve got less than three days left in 2011. The ball is being prepared in Times Square as we speak…

Jeff Straus (R) President of Countdown E

Workers prepare the number 2 for the 201

How’s it been? What was 2011 like for you? A year to remember or year to forget? What was your focus in 2011? What did you really want to accomplish? Did you get it done? Were you successful? Did you fail? Is the “jury still out?”

There is much I could say in answer to all of these questions…but, I’ll keep them to myself, because I would prefer for you to think as I’m thinking now. In light of these questions, I’ll ask one more question:

What’s going to be your focus in 2012?

Could it be to :

Make more money?

Get a promotion?

Get a new job?

Lose weight?

Ultimately, I’ve made up my mind on what my focus will be. It’s simply this:

Adding people to the Kingdom of God. Making more Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

That’s it! That’s the overriding them and goal for my life in 2012. And here’s the deal…it’s got to start in my home. I’ve got to make disciples of my children while I’m making disciples of others. Many get this messed up. They either ONLY make disciples of their children and couldn’t care less about discipling anyone else or getting involved in anyone else’s life OR they seek make disciples of everyone EXCEPT their children.

So, I believe that the balance is to make disciples of others while I’m making disciples of my own children. It’s both. Now please don’t misunderstand me…the first priority must be to the home and the children that comprise the home…but, we can’t be isolationists and mutually exclusive.

In this post I’ll briefly discuss what the Bible teaches about making disciples in the home. In the first verse of Psalm 127, we are told: Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

The Lord God must build the house and Jesus Christ must be the rock foundation on which we build that house. A house is not built overnight. It takes months and in some cases, years to build a home and that’s why we must not think that we can “complete the job” and then move on to discipling others. It must be done simultaneously or in essence we are very selfish people and just care about “our own.”

So, we realize that our children are built and developed over many years of teaching and training. So, just how are we building the lives of our children? What are we building into their lives? Fathers, particularly, must answer these questions and with prayerful introspection. Why? Because it’s our job to lead in the home in the spiritual discipline and nurturing of our children (Ephesians 6:4).

Philip Lancaster in his book, Family Man, Family Leader, says:

Those of us who live in modern America (and similar lands) live in a giant slum, speaking in terms of the condition of our family life. The physical houses are, for the most part, structurally sound and reasonably attractive on the outside, but the families that inhabit them have deteriorated over the years to the point where they are barely holding together, if they are at all. Even the best of them are only a shell of what families once were, since the members of the household have little meaningful life together, and they are not fulfilling the callings God has given fathers, mothers, and children. They are badly in need of restoration.

These are sobering words, yet true. We must honestly look at our lives and our schedules as we enter a new year (2012) and ask ourselves what our houses look like from a foundational level. Are we trying to cover and hide cracks with a façade of religion or are they strongly built on the Word of God? Will we make the necessary repairs that lead to strength and growth in our families.

As a pastor, I sometimes look at the world and ask myself, “How can we fix our churches and ultimately this nation and repair all of these families?” Lancaster shares an encouraging answer to this daunting question:

The need is utterly overwhelming when viewed overall. But the solution is well within reach when viewed from the standpoint of each household. A father doesn’t have to fix the whole society; he just has to fix his own family. And here is the amazing and hopeful thing about God’s national rebuilding plan: the renewal strategy that is within the reach of each father—making changes in his own home—is the strategy that will have the greatest overall effect for the kingdom of God. As each of us sees to our own little sphere of dominion, our own families, the combined effect will be renewed communities, churches, and nations. (Emphasis his)

My heart almost skips a beat when I read those words because of what could happen if we decide to get serious and make the necessary changes in our homes. The great puritan churchman, Richard Baxter preached reformation in the 1600’s. Still today, his words ring true. Baxter wrote:

You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise future increase.

The reality is unless we radically change the way we view the role of the family in the church and the home, we will not see an end to the systematic decimation of both institutions. We will either win the culture back one family at a time or we will lose the culture one family at a time. It is that simple. Either way you look at it, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the key.

What will be your focus in 2012? Let’s work for the kingdom and let it begin in our homes and stretch throughout the world, as we go and make disciples of all nations. Let’s begin seeing our jobs and income…our money…our time…our talents as simply tools the Lord Jesus has given us to use for His kingdom…not ours. Amen?

Amen.

Happy New Year!

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The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Man, do I love Christmas! As Andy Williams sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

In fact, the older I get the more I find I like those old “traditional” Christmas carols sung by Williams, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby and the like. We crank up the music right after Thanksgiving and enjoy it all the way through New Year’s.

Getting the Christmas tree is blast for our family…Katy located the “perfect” tree for us this year…

I thoroughly enjoy the parties… Here’s a shot of our Bible Study class at the home of Dan and Melanie Parrish playing a game…

I enjoy the food and the extra time with family.

Christmas Eve we were at Pam’s mom and dad’s. George loves it when the girls and Pam’s brother Mike play music together…

Clara got her a cute little bear…

We had a blast last night at my mom and dad’s…

Good looking family, huh? 🙂

What a joy! And then…

Bang…

It’s all over. I mean Christmas comes like lightning and then BANG…it’s over. Today is December 26th and we’re back to reality and well…it’s kind of a downer isn’t it? What a tremendous build-up to a single day of the year and then it comes and it’s gone as quickly as you can say, well: “Merry Christmas.” So, do you know what I’ve learned with 43 Christmases now come and gone?

Enjoy every day like it’s Christmas.

Sound trite? I’m sure it is…but, even more than ever I see the importance of enjoying each day for what it is…”a day that the Lord has made and we are to rejoice and be glad in it.” Why can’t December 26th be just as joyful and delightful as December 25th?

I believe it can be if we see Christmas Day for what it is. It’s the day we celebrate the birth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It’s when God chose to come in the flesh in the second person of His Godhead. It’s when Emmanuel (God with us) came to become one of us.

You may ask, “Why did Jesus have to come?” Simple…because of sin. We have a sin problem that dates back to the Garden of Eden. Because of man’s choice to sin, we are all born “fallen,” and sinful. We are hopelessly lost. So, in the fullness of time…God sent Jesus, born of woman…

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  Galatians 4:4-5

Only a man could be “born under the law.” No animal or angelic being is “under the law.” Only humans are born under the law and only a human being could redeem other human beings born under the same law. Born under the law of God, all humans are guilty of transgressing that law. Only a perfect human—Jesus Christ—could perfectly keep the law and perfectly fulfill the law. So, we can be delivered from the guilt of sin, which Jesus accomplished on the cross, exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Only by the shedding of blood is sin forgiven (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The blood of animals, (although acceptable on a temporary basis as a foreshadowing of the blood of the perfect God-Man), was not sufficient for the permanent remission of sin because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus Christ, the perfect man, Whom we often call the “Lamb of God,” sacrificed His human life and shed His human blood to cover the sins of all who would ever believe and put their trust, faith and lives in Him. If He were not human, this would have been impossible. His payment would have been unacceptable.

Jesus took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). He took off His robe of deity in Heaven and laid it aside to come to earth. This laying aside was not a change of nature, but a putting aside of his position. It means while possessing all the nature and attributes of God, He did not use those attributes for His own personal use but only for His Father’s will and pleasure. He did this for you and for me.

So on this December 26th I can still have just as much joy as I had on December 25th? Why? Because the Christ-child grew to be a man and paid the price of my sin by becoming obedient to death…even death on a cross.

Yesterday most Americans chose to celebrate Christmas in a living room floor with presents galore. Few went to church to honor the Christ…the Christ of Christmas. In fact, the thought struck me as I was driving to church yesterday morning on a mostly empty 4-lane highway…

Most people don’t even get it…Christmas that is…

It’s the most wonderful time of year because of Jesus…and that’s why we give gifts… We give gifts to celebrate the greatest gift ever given to man…

For God so loved that world, He gave…

His only Son…

Why is it the most wonderful time of year? Is it because folks spend more money than at any time of year and load up their kids with more “stuff” that they’ll simply throw under the beds in a few weeks (I’m guilty here too)… Is it because of all the food and overeating (again…I’m guilty)… Or will we truly understand that what’s really so wonderful about this season, or any day of the year for that matter, is the fact that Jesus came to give us life if we would choose to receive Him by faith and make Him Lord. Now that is wonderful indeed…every single day of the year!

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Slow down…

I want to take a moment to tell all of you, my faithful readers, “Merry Christmas!” I pray you have a most wonderful and blessed Christmas… And I also encourage you in the days leading up to Christmas to SLOW DOWN! Why? Because if we aren’t careful, we’ll miss Jesus in all the hustle and bustle.

Now, I’m the chief of sinners here, so I’m going to do my dead-level best to practice what I preach. I’m going to try to slow down. I may even do something crazy like not work or type something for a couple of days. It seems I never take a break at home. I go on vacation a couple of times per year and I try not to work and I try not to work on mission trips…but, it seems that as long as I’m home, I’m constantly working. I want to stop that for a day or two beginning on Thursday.

Why Thursday? Because that’s this wonderful couple’s 21st wedding anniversary. Do you know them?

I don’t know who the guy is…but, that lady…Wow! What a knock out!! That’s one blessed man!

Amen to that!

I’m so grateful for a wife who sacrifices and gives so much. I can never tell you how much Pam does as my wife…the bride of a Pastor. I tell people all the time, that Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church has “two for the price of one.” They not only have me…but, they have Pam to help counsel, work and provide hospitality to the flock. Thanks so much my dear!

In the meantime…I thought I’d clue you in on my favorite researchers…Barna Research for some interesting stats to close the year. (Can you tell I love numbers and statistics? I do!)

Take a look…and click on the link just below…

www.barna.org

headerYear in Review: Barna’s Top Trends for 2011    header

Bible

Changing Role of Christianity

Bible

Downsized American Dreams

Bible

Millennials Rethink Christianity

Bible

The Digital Family

Bible

Maximizing Spiritual Change

Bible

Women Making it Alone

Merry Christmas to all!

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I’ve been saying it for the last 7 years and people looked at me like I had 9 heads. I’ve brought in speakers at the church, such as David Alan Black to speak about it and I’ve written a book on the topic myself. What am I rattling on about this morning?

I’m saying, “Well, it’s about time that the mainstream of the Baptist denomination is finally understanding that youth ministry as we know it today does NOT work.” If you don’t believe it, just ask yourself…”Over the last 10 years name all the young adults in your church who have graduated and where are they now ‘spiritually?'” The answer is: most are NOT in church or involved in the things of God.

Take a look at this article just released in the Biblical Recorder:

“Making Fruitful Disciples of the Next Generation”
 
December 8 2011 by  Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

A recent study by the Barna Group found that nearly 60 percent of young people leave the church either permanently or for extended periods of time after age 15. A 2006 Barna study (http://tinyurl.com/3ao3q7p) found that 61 percent of young adults involved in church as teenagers no longer attend church, read the Bible or spend time in prayer.
Brain Upshaw, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) church ministry team leader, and Steve Wright, pastor of Family Discipleship at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, believe there is a way to reverse the trends. During a breakout session Nov. 8 at the BSC annual meeting they shared how the church and parents can partner together to make fruitful disciples of the next generation. Upshaw and Wright said the root of the problem is that many parents and churches fail to embrace the biblical mandate that requires the participation of both the faith community and parents in the discipleship of children. In recent decades too much responsibility has been placed on the church.

“We have unintentionally communicated to parents that if you will bring your children to church we will disciple them and give them back to you as informed disciples,” Upshaw said. Wright suggested the next generation will be reached if parents and churches each do their part. He told parents to share with their children the glorious truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to follow the example of how families in the Bible lived on mission for God.

“In scripture, family would be engaged in the mission of God whereby eternity would be weighed in the balance,” he said. For example, parents can model missional living by devoting family time to studying God’s Word, praying with their children for the lost people in their neighborhoods, and by sharing their testimony with their children.
In doing so, parents will teach their children how to live boldly for Jesus Christ. Wright said that churches using the attraction model for youth ministry need to rethink this strategy. The attraction model calls for the youth pastor to build the youth group around numerous fun activities and to organize exciting outreach events in an effort to get young people involved in church. During the past three or four decades, the attraction model has been a mainstay of youth ministry in many churches.
According to Wright, the problem is that the attraction model can send the wrong message to children because it often appeals to the flesh rather than placing an emphasis on the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Appeals to the flesh set kids up for disaster, especially when they go off to college,” Wright said. “If there is any hope of reaching the next generation, they must know and understand the gospel. Only that message will endure [for] eternity.”
In addition, Wright told the audience that young adults are leaving the church in part because too many of them have been involved in youth groups that are segregated from the rest of the faith community. As a result, many teenagers do not have a basic understanding of the church’s role in the life of a believer and as the bride of Christ. “Our kids graduate from those types of youth groups and they go off to college having never been incorporated into the life of the church,” Wright said. “The last place they want to be on Sunday morning is in a boring, dull church.” Wright said the solution to reclaiming the next generation for Jesus Christ is to approach youth and children’s ministry from a biblical perspective. “The church and parents are not barriers. They are part of the God-given solution.”
To learn more about how churches and family can partner together, listen to the Church and Family Connect Podcast. Visit ncbaptist.org; click Resources and under Audio, choose “NC Church & Family Podcast.”

Well, there you have it! If we want to raise Christ-centered young adults, we are going to have to begin the process in our homes. Can the church help? Sure…but, Dads particularly are going to have to take the reins of discipleship back and begin doing the job. And if you have young adults in your church with no father, then you and I are going to need to “adopt” them into our families and show them what a “family” looks like…nurture, love and mentor them.

This is why I wrote my book…

Rite of Passage for the Home and Church: Raising Christ-Centered Young AdultsBuy a copy here…

I have a passion to transfer our faith in Jesus Christ to the next generation. I pray that our churches and church leaders will see that we must point to the Scriptures and the role of the family in imparting Jesus to the next generation.

This is why the recent “Courageous” movie was such a hit…

Courageous: Exclusive Collector's Edition, DVD

This is why we had 46 men step up and say they want to lead their homes and signed a “Resolution” to prove it…

It’s time…it really is…it’s time that we prioritize our lives to make certain we impart Jesus to our children so that the next generation will know Him. I’m pumped! Now the leading news disseminator of the North Carolina Baptists…The Biblical Recorder sees this too! Woohoo!! Maybe now we’ll quit wasting so much time and money on pizza blasts, putt putt and ski trips and do the work of empowering families (particularly dads) to disciple their children.

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Politics

I’m sitting here watching the Republican debate…

During the commercial breaks I’m typing this blog. Honestly, I sit here and I shake my head. Not at the Republicans or at the Democrats (Obama) or Independents.

PHOTO The president is starting to put together his 2012 campaign for re-election.

I shake my head for what our political system has become.

It takes money and plenty of it to get placed on the national stage and it takes a lot of promises to a lot of people to get that money. We have a broken political system that is in my opinion irreparably damaged. Yet, it’s all we’ve got. As a citizen, I can’t give up and stop being involved in the political process. Am I frustrated? Yes…absolutely…but, to stop caring and not vote and not watch debates, listen, learn and be “studied up” on the issues would show I’m a dilatory and negligent citizen.

I still believe our founding fathers had it right when they wrote our constitution and subsequently our Bill of Rights.

What did they have right? They had it right when they wrote…

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Unfortunately, most Americans haven’t read these words since they were in High School and perhaps don’t remember them. So, it’s good for us to see them again. I love the first three words of our Constitution: “We the People…”

We are a nation of people who are obligated to follow the rule of law in our country. The Apostle Paul commands us to submit to governing authorities and so did the Apostle Peter. Here’s Paul’s words in Romans 13:

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

God ordained marriage, government and the church. So, I, as a citizen of this nation must live in submission and subjection to the governing authorities. Therefore, I’m going to continue…(even in my frustration with our broken political system) to learn, grow and be good citizen of this nation. But, I must tell you…the next President of the United States…be it Obama or a Republican is NOT going to be the Savior of this nation. Only Jesus can be our Savior. We must have a spiritual awakening in this nation or we are doomed.

The only way to change a person is on the inside. We can’t change a person by just feeding him or her and giving them a home or helping them in some other socio-economic way. The Government can attempt to do these things (even though I personally believe it’s not the Government’s role to do these things…I believe the Church has dropped the ball in many of these areas), but the major problem in America is SIN. It is overt sin that is the problem in this country. This is why we have the problem in our government. Our government is run by people…many of whom who are struggling with sin. There is so much greed and corruption in our political system. Where does this greed and corruption come from? It simply comes from our innate sin.

I hope we can all see this. The human race is fallen. It doesn’t matter if you are an American, Iranian, Chinese, you fill in the “nationality” blank________. We’re all sinners. Every world power that’s ever existed has crumbled within 200 years. We are past due. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can break the mold. We can be a people and a nation that survives. But, it will only come by way of Jesus Christ. Why? Because there is no life and there is no liberty except through Him. All things were created by Him and for Him. Sound too simple? Perhaps…but, I believe it’s that simple.

If we want to see this nation return to her greatness…we must return to the faith and the resolute belief that our founding fathers had in the Creator, God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We were blessed as a nation (not because we are God’s chosen people, because we aren’t…that would be Israel), but because we were following the tenets, principles and precepts of His Holy Word.

So, it won’t be Romney, Gingrich, Paul, Santorum, Perry or Obama who will fix this nation. Yet, I will vote for one of these men or perhaps another one in 2012, because it’s my duty. But, a President cannot fix our problem…because our problem is not political…it’s spiritual. So, please, please pray with me for a spiritual awakening in this nation. It’s our only hope. Or I should I say…

Jesus is our only hope!

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I sure do love my children. What father doesn’t? But, I’m here to tell you that I REALLY love my children! I sincerely do! I’m very blessed to be the Father of four wonderful children. Here’s a cool picture of them a few weeks ago when we were making our Christmas picture. They were having fun “picking with each other.”

What a crew! Just looking at that picture makes me laugh.

As children get older in their teenage years and become more and more grounded in Christ…we should expand their sphere of influence. If they hang out with just their peer group all the time, then they will get “smaller” in their ability to process life. I see this a lot. Let me give you an example by asking a question.

Can your child(ren) carry on a conversation with an adult? Many children can’t. They totally clam up around adults and they would rather text on their phone than talk to someone older. We live in such a peer driven society where our young people are basically only around people their own age the majority of the time. Therefore, when placed in a position where they have to interact with adutls…they struggle mightily.

For this reason, I’ve purposely tried to place Katy and Kandace in positions where they MUST interact with adults. This has mainly been at church. The girls are involved with mission work with adults…some old enough to be their grandparents and certainly in their work with the Praise Teams. With that said, I must hasten to say that they aren’t perfect. But, overall, they have no problem interacting with adults. Am I bragging? I don’t mean to be…again…there is much room for improvement on many fronts in my family. I say this simply to say that “We’re trying.”

Let me go back to the mission trip again and talk about some difficult things that I wanted my girls to experience…yes, I said, I “wanted” them to experience “difficult things.” How will they be tested and grow if they don’t have to do some hard things in life.

Take a look…

Our "Bathroom"

Here’s a shot of our bedroom, office, den, etc.

What do you think?

Like that “all in one” room? You know the majority of the world lives in ONE room. You know that don’t you? When Jesus said in John 14, “In my Father’s house are many ROOMS…” that now resonates with me. When we spend eternity with the Father, we are going to get a room in his house. A room. Not a mansion. That’s a mistranslation. The old song says, “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop, in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.” That’s bad theology. We will NOT have a mansion. That’s a westernized or Americanized view of heaven. We will have a ROOM in the Father’s house. Isn’t that enough? Isn’t it enough to have a room in the house of God? It should be. The majority of the world lives in a room.

In China, they live in a room (apartment) in the city or a shack in the country-side. In Ethiopia they mainly live in…

If you are rich, you might live in a house like this…

We are blessed dear friends. We are so blessed and we should be content with our bounty. Do you agree? Paul says be content. Godliness with contentment is great gain says the Word of God.

I’m so grateful to have watched my daughters dig deep and draw strength from the Lord while being pressured and yes…even struggling. Is that hard to watch? Yes…but, there is a confidence in Katy and Kandace’s spirit now. Kandace said the other day, “I’ve been to Ethiopia…I can do anything!” I laughed and said, “Yes, ma’am! You saw the hand of the Lord upon your life and you can truly say: I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” If they don’t struggle…how will they know they can do all things?

Kandace teaching on Mount Goliah…

Katy with a blind girl, who she meet two years ago…

Kandace preparing to climb Mount Goliah…Katy took the picture…

Moms and Dads, mission work with your children is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give them…

I look forward to the day that I can introduce Clara and Andrew to “hard things” and to be able to challenge them in the Lord.

Until then…we laugh, love and live…

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