Chain of Love

I turned thirty yesterday. My uncle Steve would have turned fifty.

As a child I shared a birthday with Uncle Steve. Our parties always had two cakes. A little one for me and a big one for him. It was great. Steve was my mother's brother and only sibling. He taught school and was a really amazing guy. He would take me on outings with women I think he was trying to impress. I remember one time we went to Dunn's Falls with Sissy Jones and his little car broke down. We hitch-hiked to the horror of the more cautious adults in my life. It was a little boy's paradise - a hero uncle, a beautiful woman, and adventure.

Uncle Steve got leukemia (did I spell the d---- word correctly?) and died when I was in elementary school. My first experience of loss. God - couldn't it have been a fish or even a puppy. My next birthday and every one since has had only one cake. A lot of us still notice.

Uncle Steve wanted the chorus O How He Loves You and Me sung at his funeral. Maybe it was because of Kurt Kaiser's line, "O how He loves you and me; He gave His life, what more could He give?" He wanted everyone there to know his God of love. The love he reflected during his short but well-lived life.

I have a photograph on my fridge. It is a picture of me sitting in a hugh pile of construction paper rings. These rings were sold for a dime at Meridian High School twenty some years ago and the funds raised went to help Uncle Steve with medical expenses. It was called The Chain of Love. Students carried it from the High School to my grandmother's house because Uncle Steve was spending his last days there. The photo is a living sermon for me. As one of Truman Capote's characters said, "Love is a chain." I was loved before I entered this world by a great cloud of witnesses. Uncle Steve is now among them. Molly Katherine will hear their stories and know the strength of the chain of love. Our son to born will wear the name Steven. He will know the love of the chain as well.

God Bless.

Gautreaux and the Gospel

I love the short stories of Tim Gautreaux. His collection, Welding with Children, is increadible. One of the stories is about a minister who went to a writing conference to see if he had the talent to become a "real" writer. He found out that most people go to writing conferences to get drunk and sleep with writers. He was an exception. Here is a conversation between the minister and one of his instructors -

"Why do you want to write, anyway?"
He stared over at a child sticking his fingers into the Jell-O of the salad bar. "I want to find out if I can do it well, if it's what I do best."
She wiped her mouth and looked at him. "And then what?"
"Then it'll be as though I have a good voice. I guess I should sing."
"A sense of duty to your talent," she mused, looking up at a dusty vinyl plant hanging from the ceiling. "My old preacher used to talk about that."
Brad took a drink of iced tea and looked away. "Yeah?"
"He said that those who could do good work but wouldn't created a vacuum in the world that would be filled by those who could do bad things and would."

The story ends with the minister creating just such a vacuum. He created it completely without effort. I think that most of the terror we inflict in the world is effortless. As I think about turning 30 tomorrow and about the new year I am resolved no longer to linger. I guess I should sing. How about you?

Strengthen the Things That Remain or The Gift of a Short Illness

I once had a Boy Scout leader that worked at a wood processing mill outside of Meridian, MS. One thursday night he took a bunch of us on a field trip to the place. I can still remember one part of it vividly. The mill had a machine the size of Northwest Jr. High School's gym. It was a long tube-like thing with iron teeth on the inside. We watched the workers drop huge pine logs and roll them with impressive violence. We looked with delight as the big tumbler spit out skinned pine. The logs were gritty, naked, and more useful than before. I feel like one of those logs.

We went to New Orleans last weekend for a wedding and came home with the nastiest stomach bug I have ever known. It hit like a train on Sunday. For the last few days we have been rolling in the tumbler. I'm feeling better today and will be leading an Advent Vespers service later tonight. I'm back but the time apart was not all bad. Our unplanned two-day sabbatical from the "real" world has given me the chance to focus clearly on the things that matter most. I feel raw and gritty and more useful. Chalk it up to the odd ways of God.

#1 - Happy Birthday Molly Katherine

On second thought...

I'll still do most of my posting at Broken Steeple. It will be given to culture, the gospel, and Christian spirituality. Bricks and Sabers will be reserved for denominational and other intramural concerns.

Bricks and Sabers

I've just started a new blog so that I can post in BETA. I may yet swith from Blogger. Until that time I'll post @ Bricks and Sabers. The title comes from the story of Nehemiah's construction project in the OT. The men worked with bricks in one hand and a saber in the other. Those gritty construction workers must have been something. I look up to them and hope to place a few bricks on the wall during my lifetime. It may take a dagger to get it done.

Slash and Saint Paul

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfuits - we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved... The Apostle Paul

Curt Cloninger (not to be confused with the Christian one-man-show) wrote and essay in Paste titled, "How a bunch of long-haired, strung - out guys in leather pants taught me about humanhind's struggle to make sense of existence in a meaning-starved corner of the postmodern here-and-now or: a 2.305-word essay on "sweet child o' mine". I couldn't help but read it. I didn't know it would dovetail with my reading of Romans 8.

Cloninger wrote a serious essay on the philosophical importance of Guns N' Roses' classic rock song. He asserts that Slash's guitar playing is a form of human longing for the Real beyond our eyes. The crashing of modern optimism (embodied in the song's beginning) gives way to a cry for something/someone more. If you remember the song then you will remember Axl asking, "Where do we go now?" while Slash grinds away on the the ax.

Cloinger believes that Slash's guitar playing is a type of creational groaning. The same type Paul writes about in Romans 8. He further states:

"Slash's solo is our voice - 2,000 years after a resurrection we never witnessed, facing a future that seems more or less insoluble. We're not deluded into believing we can return to the idealized modernism of the '50s. And still were not willing to throw in the towel and succumb to nihilistic despair. We still hope beyond hope. We groan. We struggle. And we cry out - not defiantly into the void and not to some man-diluted, manufactured god who can't satisfy. We cry out to the God we hope is actually there."

If Cloninger speaks truly (I believe he does), where do we, as followers of Jesus, go now in reaching our communities with the hope that saved us?

God's Hard Edge

My friend Don called my attendtion to Johnny Cash's new release, God's Gonna Cut You Down. I love just about everything Cash has ever done. His music is amazing and most of the time his gonzo theology is on target. He did not miss with this one. The song deals with the lively truth that we all stand responsible before the Son of Man. We won't always be able to run unfettered away from God's holy will.

As I watched the video online I thought of a story recorded in I Kings 13. The young prophet disobeyed God and became dinner for God's lion. God cut him down. We spend our lives ignoring this hard edge of God. We domesticate the Lion of Judah in an effort to worship a neutered Garfield. Maybe we should heed the call of Orthodox writer Frederica Matthews-Green, We must stop thinking of God as infinitely indulgent. We must begin to grapple with the scary and exhilarating truth that he is infinitely holy, and that he wants the same for us.

What do you think?

How Far to Mar's Hill?: Pastors and Culture

LifeWay recently released a body of research that reveals pastors are less informed than people in their churches about the culture in which they live. Researcher Ron Sellers gave the following analysis in The Baptist Record:

The data show ministers are, generally speaking, not all that informed about the culture in which they seek to minister. The people in the pews feel much more informed about the Internet, movies, videogames, and other expressions of popular culture than do their pastors.

It is clear that Chrisitian leaders are doing a very poor job of reading the culture. How can we reach a world we don't care to understand? Instead of building a massive sub-culture for evangelicals maybe we should revisit the missional passion of the apostles. I know the agrument, "We'll become worldly." I submit that there is another danger. Ed Stetzer notes, "Every missionary path has to find the way between these two dangers: irrelevance and syncretism."

I think we may have done the amazing work of embracing irrelevance AND syncretism. In an effort to be "Christian" in the world we have our own stuff. As we went shopping this past weekend I saw a board game based on a book by a popular television preacher. I saw Christian t-shirts that looked like the Starbuck's logo. I saw Christian breath mints. We have both embraced and rejected the culture and we look goofy doing it.

Maybe we should pay a visit to a real coffee house and eat a worldy mint afterward. Maybe we should read a novel, see a film. We could look for hints of spiritual hunger and the thin silence of God's grace speaking in art and culture. We could live the gospel in a world we are in but not of. What do you think?

Preaching Preview

Title: "Be Thankful. Don't be Complacent."
Text: Romans 1:17

Teaching Series: Romans
Text: Romans 6

Something to ponder -
In I Kings 18:1-4 the young King Hezekiah boldly destroys a sacred object to insure that God's people will grow "from faith to faith." The bronze snake that once brought healing was reduced, by Hezekiah, to Nehushtan (bronze thing). I'll bet he hacked a few good church folks off.

What good thing is keeping you from experiencing God's best? Is it easier for you to trust a method you can contol to the living God you can't? What is the danger of serving "the thing" and not God?

Well Said Quunndarious!

We are in Meridian, MS celebrating Thanksgiving with family. The Meridian Star is "all positive" today. They are running warm-hearted pieces written by local people. A sixth grader named Quunndarious Pettus wrote an "I'm thankful for" letter to the editor. I think the little guy nailed it -

I am thankful for the Lord waking me up every day. I am thankful for the great life I have and my loving family. I am thankful for the clothes that are on my body. I am thankful for my mom and dad because they brought me into this world.

I don't think I can improve on ole Quunndarious. He covers all the main things so all I'll do is add my genuine thanks.

Have a great thanksgiving!

Cormac McCarthy and the Bible

I was given my first Cormac McCarthy novel by my wife's writer dad. It was a gift for earning a graduate degree in divinity. I was hooked. I appreciate all of McCarthy's work but I was especially moved by his recent book The Road. I can honestly say that I experienced God as I read it.

Get the book and read it!

Here are some of my spiritual reflections on the novel:

The frailty of everyting revealed at last.
McCarthy's novel takes place in an ashen world. It is our world after we caught up with us. The glitter of the modern experience is made grey by human sin. The world is plastic and metal. In the midst of this the man and boy tote "essential things" and read old newpapers filled with "quaint concerns." Knowing the true frailty of things helps us all focus on the essential matters. When we fail to see clearly we spill blood over the trivial.

You have my whole heart.
The man and the boy illustrate the power of community. They plod along together. They are pilgrims together on the road. They are each other's world entire. Like Jonathan and his armor bearer and Ruth and Naomi we all need heart partners for the journey.

Sustained by a breath.
McCarthy makes use of the biblical image of the breath of life. The Hebrew Ruach brooded over the earth giving it life. It revived dry bones and filled the supplicants at Pentecost. Jesus breathed on his disciples and his breath continues to bring life out of death.

Are you carrying the fire?
The good men of McCarthy's world carry the fire. The fire was in Jeremiah's bones and in the upper room. The fire called Moses to free the slaves. The fire saved Pascal. The fire is the vitality of essential things. Do you carry it?

He stayed three days and then he walked out to the road and looked down the road and he looked back the way they had come. Someone was coming.
The novel ends with a type of Easter hope. Three days of deep darkness and then light. Someone was coming. Someone is coming. The fire, wind, rock, and water is coming. He is coming to reveal the frailty that is and the life that will be.

This wonderful novel is filled with many more powerful images. These are just a few that called me to some life giving passages in scripture. Read the novel. Read the bible. Leave the quaint concerns and travel the road. Give your heart to another.

Happy reading!

Preaching Preview

Title - "The Cup of Thanksgiving"
Text - I Corinthians 10:16-22; 11:17-33

The Table of the Lord commands four things essential for spiritual formation. We are called to give thanks, discern the Body of Christ, turn from sin, and announce the good news. Prepare your heart for the celebration of the Supper in the morning service. We will also collect an offering for community service.

Series - Romans
Text - Romans 5

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississsippi Baptist Convention

Here are a couple of pieces that I found interesting in this week's Record:

Cooperative Program: Simply the Best
William Perkins' editorial was a promotion piece for the Cooperative Program. He gave a very clear and well thought out argument for the CP. His effort is appreciated.

I believe that the CP is ONE tool for funding missions and not the ONLY one. A famous Memphis preacher, of a former generation, warned us about making the CP a sacred cow. He made the argument during the heat of the resurgence/takeover. I think there was some wisdom in his words. It is the responsibility of the local church to decide how to steward the treasure God gives us. The CP is a good tool but there are others.

Art Toalston of Baptist Press wrote a guest opinion regarding the Ted Haggard story. It was a good article about biblical holiness, grace, and forgiveness. I wrote a number of posts last week about leadership that speak to these issues. Check them out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday's Word


We are participating in the Community Thanksgiving Service @ Sweet Rest Holiness Church. I hope to see you there.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention AND Preaching Preview

We have been in New York all week so I will practice a little word economics by posting the sermon previews and "Off the Record" together.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

The Baptist Record did a good job of boiling down the 2006 convention. I commend William Perkins for his editorial work. Three items will have a real impact on all Mississippi Baptists.
1. A record budget was passed. The budget committee made up for last year's freeze in a big way. There was no static over the request.
2. R.I.P G.B.A. Gulf Shore Baptist Assembly will be closed for good and a new conference center will be built in another location. I understand this move but am sad to see GBA go. Meredith and I have many wonderful memories of GBA. I think we share these memories with almost all Mississippi Baptists.
3. Dr. Cooper was re-elected as President. Dr. Cooper has an infectious passion. I think he is doing a great job as Convention President.

Preaching Preview

Morning Series: "Thanks Be To God"
Morning Text: Psalm 100

Evening Teaching Series: Romans
Text: Romans 4

The Rhino Gets the Last Word

This is my last post on leadership for the time being. This blog has helped me think through some leadership issues that are important to me. I appreciate the emails from friends and the few, but fruitful, comments on Broken Steeple. They have helped me sharpen my own thoughts on defeating the leadership monsters Luther described so vividly. I had an experience today that summed up this season of thinking about leadership.

Meredith and I went into New York today. We have been meeting and working with Bob Griner of the South Mountain Community Church in Millburn, NJ. Today we had an afternoon to hang out as a couple. It was great.

We went by F.A.O Schwarz to buy Molly Katherine a gift. While we were there, Meredith bought a little wooden rhino and gave it to me as a gift. I collect rhinos. I have a ceramic one and a stuffed one named Rusty. He talks when you squeez his belly. The rhinos in my office remind me of some advice a wise old pastor once gave me. He said, "If you are going to do anything as a pastor you've got to become a rhino. You've got to have a thick skin and a big heart."

Rhino pastors are not lazy wimps or control freaks. They are tough and tender. They are snakes and doves. Pray for me because I want to be a rhino.

Pig Pen's Cloud

I have had some wonderful emails about the leadership posts. Most of them have been from members of our congregation. These friends form part of the Christian community that makes me want to be a godly leader. I believe that our actions and attitudes touch the lives of others in profound ways - both positive and negative. This is why Paul wrote, "Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about US."

Missing the mark as a leader causes real problems for others. I found a good metaphor that spoke to this in this morning's USA Today. By quoting it I'm in no way making a political comment. I simply love the image. Former Republican national chairman Frank Fahrenkopf was asked about the Iraq war's impact on the elections. He said, "It was like the old Charlie Brown cartoon, with Pig Pen shadowed by a cloud of dust. Every Republican had that cloud over him regardless of what they did. It was pretty tough to get out from under that."

The televangelist scandals of the eighties, the priest scandals and the Ted Haggard story illustrate the power of the cloud of dust. We must strive for good leadership. The Christian US depends on it.

South Mountain Community Church

Meredith and I are in suburban New York meeting and working with Bob Griner of the South Mountain Community Church. Bob is a great guy and we look forward to a few days with him. Our church (Truitt Memorial Baptist Church) has adopted a church planting partnership model. We will be a cluster partner with South Mountain. It will be our third partnership.

Keep us in your prayers.

Snakes and Doves

I am still thinking about Martin Luther's challenge to kill the leadership monsters knowns as frivolity and severity. I have known these monsters as "lazy wimp" and "control freak." Both are major threats to fruitful pastoral ministry.

I have been encouraged to look at the book of Titus for guidance in dealing with these enemies of the soul. Paul instructed Titus -

"For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." Titus 2:7-9 ESV

Wow! Lazy Wimp and Control Freak are not fitting handles for the scriptural overseer. Paul said so. Jesus did as well. His word -

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16 ESV

Anymore ideas on doing this?

Luther on Leadership

Meredith and I have been talking about how easy it is to fail as a Christian leader. You can fall off the horse on both sides. You can be a lazy wimp or a control freak. Very few get it right. I was amazed to discover that Martin Luther dealt with this in one of his early lectures to students.

"Calling these two vices by name we might describe them as frivolity and severity. Of the first Zechariah says (Zech. 11:17): 'Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock!' Of the second Ezekiel writes (Ezek. 34:4): 'With force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.' These are the two chief sins from which all other pastoral offenses flow. They are the roots of all evil. It is therefore very dangerous for anyone to receive the office, before these two monsters have been slain. The more power they exercise, the greater is the harm they do." Martin Luther

How do you guys battle these beasts? I would appreciate your insights.

Preaching Preview

Morning Series: "Thanks Be To God"
Background Text: I Corinthians 15

Evening Series: Romans
Focal Text: Romans 3

A quote to ponder - "It [Romans] can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes." Martin Luther

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

The Baptist Record will deal with the convention next week. This week was a little thin but they did include a great BP piece that reminded me why I am so glad Thom Rainer is the head of LifeWay. The analysis into their recent study into the thoughts of the formerly churched was great. According to the study two-thirds of those who have left the church are open to coming back. Researcher Scott McConnell said, "Clearly we can encourage Christians to pray that the unchurched would sense God calling them back, but God works through His people. The survey showed that many would respond to an invitation from a friend." Indeed. I encourage you to read the entire piece. It is very important. Note: If you feel like you are reading hebrew it is because I can not get the paragraph function to work on blogger. Sorry.

Wednesday's Word

...but the Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the Lord thy God loved thee. Deuteronomy 23:5 KJV

God has a way of turning curses into blessings. How does He do it? Scripture reveals at least five different ways. We will explore them in detail tonight.

God turns a curse into blessings by -

1. giving us new opportunities for ministry. Genesis 45:5-8
2. giving us eternal rewards. Matthew 5:43-47
3. forming our character. Matthew 5:48; James1:2-3
4. reminding us of his love. Deuteronomy 23:5
5. giving us a spirit of glory. I Peter 4:12-19

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14 ESV

The MBC Pastor's Conference Report

Dr. Tony Lambert of Crossgates Baptist Church was elected as the 2008 Pastors' Conference President.

I think that the messages this year were among some of the best I have ever heard at the PC. Fred Luter, Fred Wolfe, James Merritt, and Steve Gaines all did a wonderful job preaching to preachers. Everyone seemed to be challenged and encouraged by them.

Fred Wolfe's message was awesome. He talked about the tradegy of the "offended spirit." The fictional older brother of Luke 15 had an offended spirit as did the flesh and blood Pharisees in the same chapter. They were angry, isolated, full of self-pity and quick to accuse. They were barren and joyless. Pastor Fred said that the cure for the offended spirit was spending time in God's presence. He illustrated his sermon with confessional stories about his struggles with the offended spirit and the healing he found in God's presence. I think we all needed what Fred Wolfe gave yesterday.

The conference was almost free of Baptist politics. The only exception was a few comments from Johnny Hunt who gave an otherwise wonderful sermon. I don't think most of the crowd got his digs; it's still 1975 down here for the most part. He talked about "bloggers that go online to talk about the temperature they like their brandy." The Baptist bloggers are boozers!? According to Hunt they are also on par with the dreaded Nicolaitans of Revelation 2:6. Hunt believes that the Nicolaitans were worldy, compromised Christians that lived close to the edges. "That's just what we've got now", he said. That's pretty tough stuff because Jesus hated the deeds of the Nicolatians and praised the Ephesians for hating them as well.

I think we should hate what Jesus hates and loves what he loves. However, I would not class the Baptists that opposed the alcohol resolution with the Nicolaitans. It's pretty clear from Hunt's tone the direction the SBC is heading in the next few years. Those opposed to the old hardline junta will be cast as boozin bloggers whose deeds Jesus hates. Feel free to hate them as well for you will be patted on the back.

I am looking forward to the next two days of convention. I hope to see you there.

Steve Gaines and the Gang

The MBC Pastor's Conference kicks off the 2006 convention today. I'll let you know how it goes.

Dizzy, Pepper, and Charlie Snowden

I am in Meridian, MS sitting in front of a TV with my dad and daughter. We just saw the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series. I am really happy for my grandfather Charlie. He is a Cardinal fan from the old days of Dizzy Dean and Pepper Martin. Go Cards!

Preaching Preview for Sunday October 29

Morning Worship
Series Title: Intense Life
Sermon Text: Psalm 28

Evening Worship
Series: Romans
Sermon Text: Romans 2:1-29

A quote to consider as you read these texts -
"Often the worst enemy of the gospel and of God's honor is sin in the lives of those who profess to be believers." Wayne Grudem

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

This week's Record was again dedicated to the upcoming convention. You can't say the Record doesn't do its part in trying to beef up the crowd.

Dr. Futral wrote a very good piece on the principle of sowing and reaping. You should check it out. He looked at three laws and told a really funny story. The laws are:

1. You get more than you sow.
2. You get the same as you sow.
3. You always reap later than you sow.

A quote to ponder:

"I have lived long enough to watch families reap what they sow. I have known of folks who took their kids to church all the time. They had them there for every activity and made them stay through every service. The kids grew up with a bad attitude toward church and a distain for church leadership and the pastor. How does that happen? Well, they come to church for a little while on Sunday but the seeds that are planted all week long are seeds of criticism, distrust, and sometimes even hostility. When the crop comes in, it is not just a harvest of church attendance but it is shaped by warped attitudes." Jim Futral

Wednesday's Word: Pros and Cons, Fers and Agins, Yeps and Nopes

In reading through the book of Exodus one finds that following commands is an important part of a robust spirituality. In chapter 20 we read "you shall not" many times. We also read positive commands like, "Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy." From chapter 25-30 we read "you shall" over and over and over again. It is a blessed monotony. It is clear from Exodus that God is concerned with the brakes and the steering wheel, the pros and cons.

Seeing commandments as life giving is liberating. In the first chapter of Eugene Peterson's new work "Eat This Book" he writes, "Most of us carry around a handful of essential commands to keep us on track: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart...Love your neighbor...Honor your father and mother...Repent and believe...Remember the Sabbath... Be not anxious...Give thanks at all times...Pray without ceasing...Follow me...Go and tell...Take up your cross..." The list of life giving guidance is open to a good many more...s. Embrace God's commands. They will keep you on track.

A verse to consider: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27 NRSV

Preaching Preview

Sermon Text: Psalm 80
Series Title: Intense Life

"...give us life, and we will call upon your name!" Psalm 80:18b ESV

We have been exploring what the bible teaches about life as God would have it. Until this week we have focued on our individual lives. Psalm 80 deals with our collective life as the community of God. In this psalm the psalmist uses bodily metaphors to talk about God's interaction with his people. He seeks God's:


We will look at these on Sunday. I think they are beautiful!

Something to ponder: Have you ever fealt like our church could pray verse 4? "O Lord of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?" (ESV)

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

The main (non BP) material in the Record this week is dedicated to the proposed 2007 Mississippi CP budget. I encourage all of you to read the guest opinion written by Scott Wiggers, chairman of the CP Budget Committee. If you do not get the Baptist Record and are a member of TMBC contact the church office and it will be sent to you.

I am struggling with one of the proposals. The SBC will get a 5.99% increase. This is in keeping with the general increase in the budget but it still hits me hard. I don't want to deprive missionaries on the field but the current climate in the SBC requires critical reflection on how MS-CP money is used.

Our church invests in the CP but we are also taking a more direct approach. We are directly supporting the Brodie Road Baptist Church in D'Iberville and have voted to directly support two church plants, the South Mountain Community Church (sub. NY) and Iglesia Esperanza (Pearl, MS). Mississippi Baptists may need to adopt this approach in the future.

Remember Ole Doc Causey and the state line?

Wednesday's Word: athletae Dei

St. Anthony of Egypt was fond of speaking of maturing Christians as the athletes of God. Contemporary spiritual writers like Richard Foster and Fisher Humphreys make use of this image to encourage growth in godliness. The Apostle Paul used athletic ideas to spur his protege Timothy toward growth. Tonight we will explore I Timothy 4:6-9. In this passage Paul points to three important elememts of physical and spiritual training.

1. Nourishment
2. Abstinence
3. Exercise

Join us tonight! Can you hear the Rocky music in the background?

Preaching Preview for Sunday October 15, 2006

Morning Worship
Text: Psalm 119:105-112
Series Title: Intense Life

"I am severly afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word!" (Psalm 119:107 ESV)

The psalmist was going through a dark night. His life was in his hand, fragile. However, he was not without light. The scriptures impacted his past, present, and future as the Word of Life. Robert Davidson of the University of Glasgow, Scotland wrote:
"The darkness is threatening, but there is light, the light of the Lord's word. To this the psalmist has made a solemn and unbreakable commitment, while recognizing that he needs further instruction. However deep the commitment of faith, there is always more to learn."

Something to ask yourself -
Have you made a commitment to the Word of Life?
Are you still growing in your understanding?

Sunday Evening
Text: Romans 1:8-15

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

Here are my highlights for the week:

Pastor's Conf. slated for October 30
The Record leads with a piece on the 2006 Pastor's Conference. I look forward to hearing Fred Luter and Fred Wolfe again. I have never heard James Merritt, Steve Gaines or Johnny Hunt in person. They are all Baptist "newsmakers" and will probably make some news at the conference. Another newsmaker, Dr. Jim Shaddix, will be leading the "Bible Treasures" portion of the convention. I was disappointed with his remarks at the Joshua Convergence and hope he doesn't politicize the convention. The Pastor's Conference has been the mouthpiece for the takeover/resurgence agenda in Mississippi. I'm hoping that it will just be a meeting of preachers this year. We'll see.

A new low for the pretenders
William Perkins wrote a great piece on Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. I was glad that he pointed out his Mississippi roots. My mother brought up Phelps on our last trip to Meridian. I told her he was from the M town and that he was "called" to his current "ministry" in a Meridian tent revival. I think Phelps and the Amish give us a good contrast. The Amish community has been a shining light for Christ. Phelps represents the twisted logic of sin that exudes from the dark spirit of man centered religion. Thanks Amish!

A peculiar set of standards
Kelly Boggs takes a shot at NBC for messing with the Veggie Tales. I may take ole Dr. Wildmon up on this boycott. The Veggies have saved my bacon on many long car rides with Molly Katherine. They should not be challenged by a two bit outfit like NBC. LET LARRY BOY SPEAK!! FREEDOM FOR BOB THE TOMATO!!!!

You Give Them Something to Eat: World Hunger Emphasis
Support this CAC emphais by working in your church's food pantry. If your church does not have one drop by ours and lend a hand.

Wednesday's Word: Our Integrative Theme

"We are a church family serving Christ and community." TMBC's Integrative Theme

"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." II Corinthians 4:5 (KJV)

I am making a commitment to preach on our theme every time we gather for a community business meeting. In the II Corinthians passage Paul asserted, "we preach Christ." "We" assumes a bound community of believers, a church family. "Preach" brings to mind a message for the greater community. The service and preaching are done for "Jesus' sake." Paul could have written our statement. It is taken from a number of biblical passages and represents sound commitments. Any Christian congregation could affirm it. The trick is to demand a kind of simplicity that excludes everything outside of it. I believe that if we will focus on loving Christ, our community and each other then we will have the type of integrity necessary for reaching our Jerusalem. I hope to see you tonight!

Preaching Preview for 8.8.06

Morning Sermon Series: Intense Life
Text: Psalm 119:25-32

In Psalm 119:25-32 the psalmist says that his life is, "in the dust." Eugene Peterson captures the sense of this passage in the Message, "I'm feeling terrible - I couldn't feel worse! Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?" When I read those words I can't help but hear the words of an old rock and roll song - "do-do do, another one bites the dust." There are times in our life with God that we simple feel like the LIFE Jesus gave us is bound up and in a tomb. During these time we often want God to change our circumstances. He often does. The vital thing to remember is that he always wants to change us. He wants to, "enlarge my (your) heart" (v. 32 KJV).

Read this section of the Psalm and list the ways God wants to enlarge your heart so that you can experience life as God would have it.

Evening Teaching Series: Romans
Text: Romans 1:1-16

John Avant and Ed Stetzer @ Catalyst

I am at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. Today I had the chance to hang out with Kevin Bussey and enjoy an amazing conference. I also attended a lunch at the Georgia Baptist Convention Building given by the North American Mission Board. John Avant and Ed Stetzer spoke. If the old gatekeepers of the SBC will just leave those guys alone we may be OK.

Avant and Stetzer spoke with authentic passion and humility. They stated that the role of the denomination was to support the mission of local congregations in the advance of the kingdom. Avant said, "The age of denominationalism is over." Stetzer added, "There is more biblical justification for you having a concubine than for us having a denomination." In my life and short ministry I can't remember denominational workers speaking this way. It was great! I left the meeting truly believing that NAMB could become a partner in ministry. I was also thankful for a free lunch (I have another baby on the way).

I think these guys have a good handle on the fruitful role denominations can play. What biblical role do you think denominations play?

Baptist Students, Eugene Peterson, and Private Prayer Language

Eugene Peterson has always been one of my favorite Christian leaders. I heard him speak today at the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. His morning lecture was a call for us to became contemplative pastors. His evening was given to a large group question and answer time. It was during this time that he spoke to an issue presently confronting my denomination. Here is what happened -

A young woman presented hereself as a senior at the University of Mobile. She said that she was writing her thesis on "tongues." She asked Dr. Peterson why he used the phrase "private prayer language" in I Corinthians 14:4 of the Message. He responded by saying that he used "tongues" in other places. He went on the say that the glory of tongues is the mystery. Peterson was raised Pentecostal and told us that his heritage made him very sensitive about this issue. His sensitive pen captured well the words of Paul, "I'm grateful to God for the gift of praying in tongues that he gives us for praising him, which leads to wonderful intimacies we enjoy with him. I enter into this as much or more than any of you."

How sad that Southern Baptist workers are forbid a gift from the Father. A gift once enjoyed by the apostle Paul. A gift that leads to wonderful intimacy when practiced within the Pauline discipline. Dr. Peterson has a healthy attitude about this gift and is a wonderful example of a man who loves God with his mind AND heart. I think we should follow his lead and become sensitive about this issue as well.

Calvinism, Missions, and Evangelism in Baptist Life

Calvinism is experiencing a resurgence in Baptist life. Some suggest that it has the power to kill missionary efforts and evangelism. Others are convinced that a revival of Calvinism will restore a more pure form of Baptist church life. I think it is a good time to step back and ask both sides of the issue to talk about matters in an irenic and fruitful way.

Anthony L. Chute has published a book with Mercer University Press titled, "A Piety Above the Common Standard: Jesse Mercer and Evangelistic Calvinism." In the introduction to this book he makes a comment that demands attention from Baptists concerned with this issue. Chute states:
"Those who fear that a return to Calvinistic theology among Southern Baptists will sound the death knell of missions may be surprised to discover that the missionary spirit they now champion was birthed at a time when Calvin's understanding of salvation was in vogue. And it is hoped that those who appeal to the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention as examples of Calvinistic Baptists will carefully note the pitfalls into which Primitive Baptists fell and avoid them like the plague."

Questions for discussion -
1. In what ways can Calvinist and non-Calvinist Baptists partner together?
2. How can Calvinist Baptists avoid, "the pitfalls of the Primitive Baptists"?
3. What gifts do Calvinists give to Baptist life?
4. What gifts do non-Calvinists give to Baptist life?
5. What attitudes are necessary for us to work together?

I think this is important. What do you think?

Preaching Preview for October 1, 2006

Text: Colossians 3:1-17
Title: Intense Life

"When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." 3:4

Sunday we will see that the Messiah is our life when -
1. We are in God.
2. God is in us.
3. God's character is on us.

Romans 16
We will begin our study of Romans at the end. Chapter 16 serves as a good intoduction for the book. It is also a good way for us to ground our deacon ordination in scripture.

Something to Do: Read Romans 16:1-16 and list the Christian virtues listed in the text.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

MBC Annual Meeting Schedule
The Record led with a shedule of the 2006 convention. I think the theme will be a very positive one and Dr. Shaddix will no doubt do a good job developing the "Your Jerusalem" idea. I am a bit concerned about a good portion of the meetings taking place on Halloween. My wife has already told me that I will be missing alot of it due to our community outreach activities - O well. Maybe I'll go in a costume. I'm thinking about dressing as a fat Baptist preacher. Will any of you join me?

Picture of the Year
Perkins' editorial was dedicated to a film titled, "Facing the Giants". I join him in challenging you to support this movie. I am grateful to the McLaurin Heights Baptist Church for giving tickets to all of the Pearl High School football team. Pray that God will work in those young men's lives. We will partner with McLaurin by providing transportation for the players.

Iuka Church and Sunspots
Jim Holcomb and Bobby Cobb both wrote pieces in support of the Iuka Baptist Church. This church has drawn national press attention for problems related to the Purpose Driven model. I think we should pray for and support the church. A Pentecostal pastor named Tommy Barnett used to say, "God doesn't do division." Amen to that.

Disagree with Writings
John Brashier wrote a fiery rebuke of William Perkins editorials. I have not always agreed with Perkins but I fealt like the tone of Brasier's words was out of line. I myself don't like the, "fundamentalist Baptist mentality" but I think it can be manifest on the left as well as the right. I have commented where I disagreed with Perkins but have also affirmed much of what he has done as editor. I think we can disagree and remain civil. A true moderate should be a bit more irenic.

Deep calling unto deep

The presenters at the Mercer Preaching Consultation have been wonderful. I have heard some great lectures including Fisher Humphrey's amazing message, "The Preacher and Forgiveness." All the lectures have been helpful and inspiring but for me the most beneficial has been Craig McMahan's, "The Call" (Or,"Why I Didn't Do Something Productive with My Life"). McMahan is University Minister at Mercer.

McMahan said that we were in the ministry because God called and we each followed with our own yes. He challenged us to remember the day that our calling became a public event. McMahan said, "Anchor yourself in the sacred moment of your ordination. Remember that day - it will be bread enough for the journey." I have some friends at the Kettering Fellowship that allowed me the opportunity to remember that sacred moment recently and it was greatly affirming. I must be honest though and say that the grind of ministry and life's trivia often cools the fire of the divine call. McMahan offered ways to fan the flames. Using biblical call stories, especially Isaiah's, McMahan pointed to three important principles:

1. Pay attention to mystery. Be alert to the God that dances on the edge of knowing.

2. Cultivate grief. Pay attention to the brokeness in the world and in yourself.

3. Listen the the inner voice. The Holy Spirit's calling renews our call.

What is your "heard the call" story? How do you fan the flames of divine purpose in your life? What do you think of McMahan's principles?

The Freshness of Altitude and the Bloom of Glory

As a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary I would check out old sermon tapes from the library to listen to on my way home to our little parsonage in Wanilla, Mississippi. I grew fond of a salty old preacher named John Killinger. I heard Killenger give a lecture tonight that I thought was amazing.

His lecture was tited, "Preaching as the Footnotes of Mystery." In it he called us to climb the mountain of God to find the "freshness of altitude" and return to preach with the "bloom of glory" on our faces. Killinger counseled us listening preachers (a rare congregation) to resolve not to preach until we had done three things:

1. Have met with God. A sermon should not be delivered until we reside in God's presence.

2. Have done a comprehensive search of scripture and tradition. He said we need the full weight of the spear behind us and not just the point.

3. Have a clear idea of what your people need to hear.

I think this counsel is sound and life giving. What do you think?

Snowden's March to the Sea

We loaded into a rented minivan yesterday and made our way toward the Atlantic. I am going to attend a preaching consultation put on by Mercer at St. Simons Island, GA. This is Molly Katherine's first long road trip.

Our first stop was Meridian, MS. We visited with family and stocked up on some trip essentials. My grandparents prepared us the Southern family's car ride feast of fried chicken, pimento cheese on white bread, boiled peanuts and coca-cola. We ate it for lunch at the Alabama-Georgia line.

After lunch, we drove east and listened to the David Crowder Band (Daddy's pick), The Dixie Chicks (Mamma's pick), and the Veggie Tales (Molly Katherine's endless pick). As we listened to, "Traveling Soldier" my thoughts turned to Ole General Sherman. It dawned on me that he took this same road trip years ago. His was a journey of blood and fire. Ours has been one of pure joy.

Today we hope to visit Christ Church and eat some crab cakes before I have to go to meetings.

Larry Kennedy Remembered

Dr. Larry Kennedy, president of William Carey University, died today. Meredith and I both graduated from Carey and were sad to hear the news. We remember Dr. Kennedy as a godly man who did a number of wonderful things for the school. Our prayers are with Dr. Kennedy's family and the university.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

William Perkins included a quote from Margaret McRae Lackey that I think is awesome. Her comment will serve as my commentary this week.

"Sisters, we have done passing well this year. But oh, the untouched multitude of Baptist women and children in Mississippi today whose souls are crying silently yet know not for what they are crying. Beloved, figures, however high-sounding they may be, are mere skeletons in the valley of dry bones unless there is breathed into them a spirituality that makes them living, breathing realities." Lackey 1917

Let's sing with Lackey, "Breath on me, breath on me, Holy Spirit breath on me."

Preaching Preview for 9.24.06

Morning: Jim Didlake of the Mississippi Baptist Convention will be with us. He will be talking about the state missions offering that we will be collecting in October.

Evening: Bob Griner, a church planter and pastor of the South Mountain Community Church in Milburn, New Jersey, will be with us to talk about the Strategic Focus Cities Initiative. We are partnering with other churches in the Mississippi Baptist Convention to plant congregations in New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and Vancouver.

Don't miss the opportunity the hear these men talk about what God is doing and our role in it!

Wednesday's Word

We had a great experience last week. God is doing a work in our church in the area of prayer. I was renewed in my commitment to pray for and with my friends at Truitt Memorial. Tonigt we will continue to explore God's power released in prayer. Our focal text will be Isaiah 64. In this prayer the writer presents three factors related to experiencing God's power for life and ministry.

Factor One - The Oh Factor
In verses 1-5 the supplicant prays for God's power to be released into his present circumstances. He prays, "Oh, that thou wouuldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down..."

Factor Two - The But We Factor
In verses 6-7 the supplicant sees the depth of sin and its limiting force in the life of the people. He says, "And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee..."

Factor Three - The But Now Factor
In 8-12 the supplicant grounds his prayer for God's power in the soil of relationship. He says that God is father and we are his children, God is potter and we are clay, and that God is a lord and we are his people. Bold prayer rooted in a personal relationship with God is usually filled with faith and free of presumption.

We will flesh these factors out tonight and put them into practice as we pray together.

See Ya'll Tonight!

Lash Yourself to the Local Church

Ben Cole's latest post involves Dr. Joel Gregory of Truett Seminary. Ben said that Dr. Gregory met with a group of Southwestern students and himself last fall at Pappadeaux' Seafood in Arlington, TX. Dr. Gregory gave them the same advice he gave a group I was in at Truett earlier this year.

Gregory told us - "Lash yourself to the local church. The Kingdom of God is not built on the backs of anything other than the small-membership church."

I would like to know what you think about that statement (setting aside all Baptist politics).

Monday's FAITH Focus

We had a wonderful week with Drs. Kevin Meador and Barry Landrum. The messages on prayer really stirred a number of people in our church. I have received calls, emails, and old fashioned personal comments about the impact of the services. Two of our young deacons are really passionate about leading the church in prayer. Wow! Prayer should fuel all that we do. This is vital to our church growing into the missional community God would have us be.

"Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is still greater. He who has not learned well how to talk to God for men will never talk well - with real success - to men for God." E.M. Bounds

"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence - as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil - " Isaiah 64:1-2a

Baptist Parties

Jeremy Roberts just posted about two parties that are emerging in Baptist life. He was present as Dr. Frank Page preached in chapel at Southwestern Seminary. He placed Page in one party and Paige Patterson in the other. So now we have the "i" and "no i" parties or the Page and Paige parties, etc. Roberts created party titles that had to do with wine drinking and beer abstaining. I think a better system would be the "Strong Conservative and Conservative But" parties.
The Strong Conservative label was coined by Ronnie Floyd. Conservative Buts say things like: I am conservative but -
I'm not mad about it.
this is crazy.
I don't want the SBC to become any more narrow.
this method is ungodly.

I am a Conservative But - it could be worse.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

Here are a few items of interest in this week's Record.

Board sends record budget to messengers
The MBCB will be sending a record budget to messengers next month. According to William Perkins, "The proposed 2007 CP budget approved on August 29 by the convention board's executive committee and later by the full board, is $33,188,934 - $1,874,433, or 5.99%, higher than the twin 2005 and 2006 budget totals of $31, 314,491." This bold proposal will spark discussion but I believe will be passed by messengers. In additional action, The Conference Ministries Study Committee made a preliminary report on their work. Our prayers are with them.

Not to be taken seriously
William Perkins' editorial dealt with the humble educational background of outspoken Hollywood liberals. I would give him points for courage if he dealt with the humble educational background of some of the SBC's "Dr. Fundypreachers." The Baptist house is filled with a good deal of "worthless adulation." Maybe we should sweep our own porch.

Giving proves faith and love
David Michel wrote a great piece on missinal giving. We will be collecting the State Mission Offering in October. Pray about how you will participate.

Dr. Futral wrote, "The fourth and final thing that I have learned is that some people do not recognize, appreciate, or want any humor." He nailed that one. Keep writing Dr. Futral and I'll keep laughing. Your sense of humor is healthy. Some people just don't or won't get it.

Note: Will are still in revival at Truitt. Kevin Meador is doing a great job leading us to a more vital prayer life. Don't miss the rest of the services. Barry Landrum of West University Baptist (Houston, TX) will be our Sunday preacher. See you at church.

Praying Pastors?

I intended to post about Friedman's "flat world" theory so that I could discuss some of the implications for missions and evangelism with some of my pastor friends. I think I will eventually do this but I ran across a quote from E.M. Bounds that demanded attention. Bounds wrote:

"Too often Christian leaders shut themselves in their studies and become students - bookworms, Bible experts, and sermon makers. They are noted for literature, thought, and sermons; but the people and God, where are they? Out of heart, out of mind. Preachers who are great thinkers, great students, must be the greatest of pray-ers. If they are not, they will be the greatest of backsliders, heartless professionals, rationalistic, less than the least of preachers in God's estimate."

Pastor friends - What do you think?

Monday's FAITH Focus

I am reading an awesome book written by Mark Galli. Galli is a former Presbyterian minister and currently is the managing editor of Christianity Today. He titled his book,"Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God." Galli paints a ragged and lively picture of Jesus based on sections of Mark's gospel.

Eugene Peterson wrote a forward that was worth the price of the entire book. In it he said, "When evangelism is retooled as recruitment, then marketing strategies for making Jesus attractive to a consumer spirituality begin to proliferate. Words and aspects of Jesus that carry unwelcome connotations are suppressed. We emasculate Jesus."

WOW Eugene! Let's decide to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Anyting less betrays the biblical Jesus.

See Ya'll Tonight!

Preaching Preview for 9.10.06

Title: Missio Dei X
Background: Matthew 3-10

"...Jesus sent out with the following instructions:'Go..."

This Sunday will complete our ten week series on the mission of God. We will explore Jesus' missional example. He showed us how to relate to God as a son (or daughter), slave, and sender. He made disciples and called us to make them as well.

Evening Text: II Thessalonians 3:1-17

Note: We are beginning a new semester of E.T.S. We are working through Waylon Bailey's "Step by Step Through the Old Testemant." Join us in the library at 5:00 if you are interested.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

This week's Record ran a number of articles on the anniversary of September 11. I think they did a good job of presenting the issue. In response to disasters we can all participate in Christian response. The Record announced two events that relate to this type of missional work.

Disaster Relief Training for Chaplains and Pastors - September 15

Strategic Focus Cities Initiative - September 27

You may want to mark your schedules. TMBC will be involved in both of these.

Wednesday's Word

"But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." I Thessalonians 5:8 (NRSV)

We are discussing "the Deborah anointing" during our mid-week services. Deborah was gifted by God to prophesy, lead, fight, and worship. Tonight we will focus on spiritual warfare.

Paul Thigpen, founding director of the Stella Maris Center for Faith and Culture, wrote of spiritual warfare: "We must never underestimate the enemy. We must never forget the utter malice of his intentions, the ruthlessness of his assaults, the subtlety of his tactics. Yet we need not walk in fear, for God has provided mighty weapons for our ultimate victory in spiritual warfare." We will examine the mighty weopons tonight. Hope to see ya'.

Haggard on Friedman

Discipleship Journal ran an interview with Ted Haggard in the September/October issue. I have always seen Haggard as an irenic and wise voice within the evangelical community. His DJ interview did not disappoint.

Haggard was asked by DJ what book is challenging his thinking now. He responded, "The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. This and Friedman's other book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, demonstrate the incredible opportunity this generation has to advance the Great Commission. His analysis of the global situation should encourage us to pray and fast, build great local churches, and fund pioneer evangelism like never before."

Alvin Reid discussed Friedman on his blog, Books, Culture, and the Gospel - I have discussed him on Broken Steeple. Haggard's comment confirms the importance of his insights for missions.

Get it. Read it. Go to work!

Happy Labor Day TMBC!

We celebrate four years with Truitt Memorial Baptist this month. We have seen God do some wonderful things and can't wait to see what he has prepared for our future together.

Have a great Labor Day,

P.S. We will be having a "make-up" evening service for all our Ole Miss fans.

I'll load my own pictures, thank you!

Preaching Preview for 9.3.06

Title: Missio Dei IX
Background Text: II Samuel 6

Evening Worship
Text: II Thessalonians 2:1-17

Something to ponder: II Samuel 6:14 says, "And David danced before the Lord with all his might..." What was the last thing you did before the Lord with all your might?

See You Sunday!

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

This week's Record was dedicated to the first year of Katrina recovery. I think you should read the entire coverage. If you are a member of our church and are not getting the Baptist Record please contact the church office and it will be provided for you.

Wednesday's Word

"He chose his servant David, and took him from the sheepfolds; from tending the nursing ewes he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel, his inheritance. With upright heart he tended them, and guided them with skillful hand." Psalm 78:70-72 NRSV

I do a little painting. My medium of choice is the Sunday School room. I am in the process of painting another one this week in an effort to get ready for the new church year. When it comes to being a painter I can only be described as willing - you can't really say that I am all that skillful.

I have learned that being a leader is about the marriage of character AND skill. Tonight we will see how God developed both of these in David's life.

See Ya'll Tonight!

Monday's FAITH Focus

American Christianity is known for an innocuous gospel. We offer enough of the "real" thing to keep people from being tranformed by the life changing power of God. An addiction to church growth stats often leads to this sad reality. While I do not affirm everything Mark Dever asserts I completely agree with the following statements - "The gospel is the heart of Christianity. But the good news is not that God wants to meet people's felt needs or help them develop a healthier self-image. We have sinfully rebelled against our Creator and Judge. Yet He has graciously sent His Son to die the death we deserved for our sin, and He has credited Christ's acquittal to those who repent of their sins and believe in Jesus' death and resurrection. That is the good news." Amen to that!

See Ya'll Tonight

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

I would like to highlight a couple of items of interest in this week's Baptist Record.

Katrina musical ministers to thousands
David T. Clydesdale led a large mass choir on the coast. One of the participants said, "Out of this tragedy came the unity Christians have. The power of Christ just enveloped everyone." Our prayers are still with our sisters and brothers on the coast.

Evangelists needed, now more than ever
Bill Britt wrote a quest opinion on the need for vocational evangelists. I first read this piece in the May issue of "Fires of Revival" and then again in BP. There is a discussion of it and related material on the comment section of last week's "Off the Record."

MySpace website captivating youth
The Record ran a BP piece on the popular MySpace web site. I thought it was a balanced and helpful intoduction to MySpace. My wife has a page and we keep up on most the students in our church through MySpace. The piece includes a great quote from a student minister named Bryan Bulmer, "Youth pastors need to help parents understand how to use this site to keep with the youth culture. Too often we as adults want to label something as bad because we don't want to do the work to understand it." I feel the same way about the guys cursing "blogging pastors."

Preaching Preview for Sunday 8.27.06

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." I Peter 2:9 (HCSB)

Title: Missio Dei VIII
Background Text: Leviticus 8,9

In Leviticus 8 we see that the priests were anointed with blood and oil and made offerings of fire. The vivid images in this chapter help us understand the way the Holy Spirit prepares us for worship and witness.

Sunday Evening: We are having our "Looking Back - Looking Forward Service" there will be a fellowship following.

Wednesday's Word: The Spirit of Prophesy

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." Joel 2:28-29 (KJV)

A few Sundays ago we were challenged to pray for Deborah's anointing. God gifted her to prophesy, lead, fight, and worship. We will spend the next few Wednesday nights exploring these important realities. Tonight we will study the prophetic anointing.

I am working through Eckhard J. Schnabel's massive two volume "Early Christian Mission." In it he explores the spirit of prophesy in the NT. He lists five aspects:
1. The Spirit grants visions and dreams that convey divine guidance.
2. The Spirit grants revelatory words of instruction and guidance.
3. The Spirit grants wisdom and revelatory discernment.
4. The Spirit inspires invasive charismatic praise.
5. The Spirit inspires preaching, witness and teaching.

Tonight we will see how these operate in the church and see how they operated in the lives of historical Christian leaders like Charles Spurgeon.

"What will I cook for supper?"

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

There are a number of pieces in Record this week that caught my attention.

Many seeds bring bountiful harvest
Toby Frost of NAMB wrote a guest opinion on "seed-sowing." It began by repeating my favorite Chuck Kelley quote, "Southern Baptists are a harvest-oriented denomination living in an unseeded generation." We simply must listen to the biblical call to scatter, water, and wait. God will bring a harvest of new life if we will be faithful workers in the field. Frost lists a few practical hints for evangelistic seed-sowing. It must:
. be positive
. be consistent
. be numerous
. be intentional
. be creative
. be service oriented
. be Christ-centered
. be sacrificial
. be natural
. be filled with prayer

Bowlin: Evangelists are crucial ministry
Mississippian Gary Bowlin is the president of COSBE. He wrote a piece on the importance of revival ministry. He made a statement I am still pondering, "A church should hold two revivals a year, one for church renewal and one for outreach. In addition, Harvest Days can really boost the church's evangelistic efforts." I have not made a decision on this advice yet and would welcome any imput. NOTE - We are having a revival in September (13-17) with Kevin Meador and Barry Landrum leading the meetings.

Warren: Plans for 2007 rally in North Korea will proceed
Rick Warren will lead a meeting on the 100th anniversary of the Pyongyang Revival. Warren and David Yonggi Cho have placed a mark on current church life. The outcome of a Warren meeting in Korea will be interesting. Our prayers are with him.

It Is Me and I Am Not
Dr. Futral's piece dealt with his new 'do. I was glad that he thought he looked like Lex Luthor. I pointed that out in a post on Broken Steeple and my mamma thought I was being tacky. I was simply being descriptive. He wrote about the buzz his uncovered baldness has caused in the Magnolia State and the fact that many were praying for his treatments (he does not have cancer). He wrote some touching things about cancer patients that I really appreciate, having just lost a friend at church to that terrible thing. Futral's tender humor is always appreciated and as I stated before he does look twenty years younger.

Preaching Preview for 8.20.06

Title: Missio Dei VII
Background Text: I Samuel 1-12

The OT prophets joined God in His mission and serve as examples for us to follow. Samuel stands out as a model of godly prophetic ministry. Like Samuel we can join God in his work by:

1. having a willing heart - 3:10
2. having courage - 3:18
3. maturing - 3:19
4. listening to those we lead and praying over what they say - 8:21
5. listening to God and doing what He says - 8:22

Sunday Evening: II Thessalonians 1:1-12

See Ya'll Sunday

Wednesday's Word: The Holy Spirit's Decision - and Ours

Acts 15 records the minutes of a church business meeting in Jerusalem thousands of years ago. It describes the decision reached by the church as, "the Holy Spirit's decision - and ours." Wow! Wouldn't it be great if churches were governed by this attitude and not some Americanized majority wins ethos. The process that led the church to discern the will of the Holy Spirit and make it their own is one worth following. The Jerusalem church:

1. Gathered everyone together - Twice the text refers to the church, the apostles, and the elders. Leaders had an important role to play but they expressed their leadership "with the whole church" and not over against the church.

2. Spoke, Remained Silent, and Listened - All points of view were honored. The believers from the party of the Pharisees, Peter, James, Paul, Barnabus, etc. all spoke and all listened.

3. The community discerned the will of the Holy Spirit by coming to a unified desision and course of action - The words of verse 25 are truly life giving, "we have unanimously decided." A 51% majority wouldn't cut it in Acts 15.

My prayer is that we will continue to follow this process. I am reminded of something Bro. Reeves said, "Any church that will honor Christ as its head will do some good in a community."

By the way: We have our regular business meeting tonight!

Monday's FAITH Focus: The Hard Way

"Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind and lame!" "Master," the slave said, "what you ordered has been done, and there's still room." Luke 14:21b-22 (HCSB)

This weekend Meredith and I rented a stack of movies and killed some time. It was great. One of the films we watched was Jerry Bruckheimer's "Glory Road." It was the true story of the 1966 Texas Western University basketball team. Coach Don Haskins started a team of African-American players against Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats. They won and the victory was historic.

Haskins met his team at the beginning of the season with these words, "We are going to play basketball my way - my way is hard." When I heard those words I sensed the Holy Spirit wanted to speak to my heart. It was like He was saying to me, "don't do it the easy way - the hard path is the only one worth taking." Most of my favorite people have taken the hard path. One of those was William Carey.

As a young pastor in England Carey was rebuked by an Anglican minister for "stealing sheep" for his church at Harvey Lane. In response to the rebuke Carey said, "I had rather be the instrument of converting a scavenger that sweeps the streets, than of merely proselyting the richest and best characters in other men's congregations."

I wonder if us good Southern Christians have the same desire. Let's not get caught up in shuffling church folks around. Instead, let's join Carey in the streets and become instruments of conversion.

See Ya'll Tonight

Play Ball! We love our MBraves.

Preaching Preview for Sunday 8.13.06

Title: Missio Dei VI: Redeeming Values
Background Text: Ruth

God is at work. The amazing thing to me is that God calls men and women like us to join Him in this mission. Sunday morning we will explore the life of Boaz, the great kinsman redeemer of the Old Testement. Boaz was a man of values - we may even call them redeeming values. The things he valued are timeless and serve as fuel for the mission of God today. Boaz valued: creative speech, obedience to God, kindness, co-working with God, sacrificial living, life giving community, and hope.

Read the book of Ruth and look for these values. Ask God to produce these fruitful values in your life.

PM Message - I Thessalonians 5:12-27

Note: We will be celebrating the Supper in the morning service and collecting a community service offering.

See Ya'll Sunday!

He Called it Nehushtan

Tonight's mid-week scripture focus will be Hezekiah's prayer recorded in II Kings 19:14-20. In this prayer Hezekiah: laid his concern before the Lord, praised the Lord, asked the Lord for help, and listened for the Lord's response. He prayed humbly and boldly. His prayer serves as a helpful guide for our prayer lives.

In reading the text surronding our focus text I ran across a passage that I had completely forgotten. In describing King Hezekiah the writer said, "He removed the high places and shattered the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah [poles]. He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned insence to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan." II Kings 18:4 (HCSB)

Hezekiah's leadership at this point was profound. The people of God were serving a "method" God used to bring healing in a former day. Instead of depending on God in the present they burned insense to the remnants of past glory. Hezekiah saw the snake for what it was - a bronze thing (nehushtan).

A question to ponder -
What religious "thing" are you tempted to worship instead of God?

Monday's FAITH Focus: Jesus and Cal Ripkin

"Whatever you do, do it entusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord - you serve the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23-24 (HCSB)

My good friend Brian just sent me an email asking me to check out his blog site. He said that he uses it to intoduces others to Jesus. One of the things that struck me as I looked at it was the seamless way he presented his life. Under "people I would like to meet" he listed Jesus and Cal Ripkin. Brian loves God with all his heart - he also enjoys baseball and Ole Miss football. He is learning to "do" life for the Lord. This whole life devotion is vital for evangelism. Thanks Brian, you have encouraged me. See ya'll tonight!

Molly Katherine and Daddy at the Children's Retreat

Preaching Preview for 8-6-06

Title: Missio Dei V
Background Text: Judges 4-5

Deborah was anointed by God to prophesy, administer, war, and worship. She was part of God's mission of renewal. Read the background text and then come back to verse 4:8. Have you ever felt like Barak? What attracts you to people like Deborah? Ask God to grow you in these attractive ways.

Evening Worship: I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

See Ya Sunday!

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

The Record was given to three main themes this week.

1. Youth Night
I wrote a very positive review of Youth Night titled "Wide is Your Love and Grace." Perry McCall and I had a healthy discussion about the event that ended in me promising to sport a large hat to the San Antonio SBC. Check out our July conversation and Perry's blog - The Kettering Fellowship.

2. Alcohol
I do not drink and don't recommend it. However, I think the discussion about alcohol is absorbing needed passion from our Baptist writers and thinkers. Bottom line - the messengers at the SBC voted for the anti-alcohol resolution in a massive way. The winners should not act like losers - it rings untrue. It's a good time to move to something more fruitful.

3. Calvinism
A letter to the editor toasted Frank Page for his openess to Calvinists. Here are my thoughts:
I am not a Calvinist but William Carey was.
I am not a Calvinist but Charles Spurgeon was.
I am not a Calvinist but many godly Baptists are.
If someone is concerned about his or her church calling a Reformed pastor then that person should become theologically educated and active in the life of the congregation. Hey, that would be a very good idea anyway. I am praying for a new era of cooperation. I hope for a Baptist community large enough for Calvinists, charismatics, just good ole' fashin' Baptists, etc.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday's Word : Bochim the Land of Weeping

Tonight we will be exploring Judges 2:1-5 and 3:1-2 in our mid-week service. In this text we see that God:
1. Commands obedience.
2. Promises power for obedience.
3. Allows "thorns in your sides" to prove obedience.
4. Provides worship as a pathway to renewal when we are disobedient.

Are you in need of a renewed relationship with God? Purpose today to hear God's word of correction and hope. Respond to it emotionally and willfully. Fight for your heart. I hope to see you tonight! Matt

The Drama of Embrace

Loretta Rivers is a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Since Hurricane Katrina she has been attending our church. Loretta moved back to the crescent city last week and we were all sad to see her go. She gave me a small stack of books as a parting gift. One of the books was Truth or Consequences: The Promise and Perils of Postmodernism by Millard J. Erickson. I was struck by a section in the book titled "Reducing One's Own Conditionedness." His guidance is very helpful. He says that we should "practice the ancient philosopher's dictum, 'know thyself.'" Erickson also says, "The other major effort that will help narrow the circle of subjectivity is genuine interaction with others..." Both of these efforts create the enviroment nessary for genuine cooperation and understanding. When I read Erickson's words I was reminded of a passage written by Miroslav Volf that paints a vivid picture of this type of healthy interaction. He speaks of the drama of embrace. Volf asserts that this drama has four functional elements or acts.

1. Opening the Arms - " arms are a sign that I have created space in myself for the other to come in and that I have made a movement out of myself so as to enter the space created by the other.

2. Waiting - this movement respects the other. One is not forced into relationship.

3. Closing the arms - this is the powerful sign of reciprocity.

4. Opening the arms again - the other is not absorbed. "I" is honored as "We" is created.

I think that both Erickson and Volf should guide our interaction as bloggers. This medium holds out great hope for healthy community building and action planning. For it not to decay we must be careful to know ourselves, create the space necessary to welcome others, and honor each other's unique contributions. I have been blessed by the blogging community and want to see it remain a place of healthy interaction. In short, I want it to be a drama of embrace. God bless you and your ministry.

Monday's FAITH Focus

I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicaly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus.
Ephesians 20:20 (NRSV)

Paul's tearful meeting with the Ephesian Elders in Acts 20 is one of the most beautiful encounters in the entire books of Acts. What he says in verse 20 is helpful guidance for leaders in the FAITH Sunday School Evangelism Strategy. Paul was helpful, he proclaimed the message of Christ, and he discipled Christians. His ministry was public, private, and passionate.

Yesterday we participated in public ministry - tonight we go house to house. Let's follow Paul's example as we, "shepherd the church of God..."(v.28).

Summer Fun

Preaching Preview for Sunday July 30th

Text: Joshua 1:1-9
Title: Missio Dei IV

In his book "The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within" Erwin Raphael McManus called the church to shed civilized religion for Barbarian faith. Why? "Because Jesus did not suffer and die so that we could build for ourselves havens, but so that we might expand the kindgom of His love. Because invisible kingdoms are at war for the hearts and lives of every human being who walks on the face of the earth. And times of war require barbarians who are willing to risk life itself for the freedom of others."

This Sunday we will explore the experience of a "Barbarian" named Joshua. He - fought to lead people into the promised land, was strong, was positive, and lived in the Word of God. He cut a warrior path for us to follow.

A passage to ponder - "You, therefore, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 2:1-3 HCSB).

Sunday Night: We will continue our teaching series on I and II Thessalonians. The text will be I Thess. 4:1-12

Word/Spirit Bibliography

I had a great conversation with Buster Wilson at Youth Night. Buster is the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Ecru, MS. His daughter Whitney was the young woman that spoke. We talked, in part, about books written from an "empowered-evangelical" or "renewal Baptist" perspective. These categories are not hard and defined but suggest evangelicals open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the life of the church. Here is a short list of writers I have read in the last couple of years.

1. Lon Allison and Mark Anderson - Going Public with the Gospel: Reviving Evangelistic Proclamation (IVP).

2. Doug Banister - Sacred Quest and The Word and Power Church (both with Zondervan).

3. Roc Bottomly (no kidding) - The Promised Power: Experiencing the Union of Word and Spirit (NAVPRESS).

4. Greg Boyd (an open theist but interesting writer) - God at War and Seeing is Believing (IVP and Baker).

5. Jack Deere - Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, Surprised by the Voice of God, and The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy (Zondervan and Vine Books).

6. Larry D. Hart - Truth Aflame: A Balanced Theology for Evangelicals and Charismatics (this is the Word/Spirit systematic theology published by Nelson, Grudem's systematic theology can also be considered Word/Spirit).

7. Jack Hayford - The Beauty of Spiritual Language (a classical Pentecostal but a bridge building work on spiritual language published by Word).

8. Bill Hull - Straight Talk on Spiritual Power: Experiencing the Fullness of God in the Church (Baker).

9. R.T. Kendall - Total Forgiveness, The Thorn in the Flesh, Just Say Thanks, The Anointing (Charisma and Nelson).

10. Craig S. Keener - Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today (Baker).

11. Calvin Miller - Loving God Up Close: Rekindling Your Relationship with the Holy Spirit and Miracles and Wonders: How God Changes His Natural Laws to Benefit You (Warner).

12. Ron Phillips - Awakened by the Spirit: Reclaiming the Forgotten Gift of God and Vanquishing the Enemy (Nelson and Pathway).

13. Clark Pinnock (an open theist but interesting writer) - Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (IVP).

14. Sam Storms - The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts, Pleasures Evermore, and The Singing God (Vine Books, NAVPRESS, and Creation House).

15. John White - When the Spirit Comes With Power: Signs and Wonders Among God's People (IVP).

Happy reading. If you know of others please comment.

Wednesday's Word

Our scripture focus for this week's mid-week service will be Acts 11. We'll see God working in a powerful way in the young church. One reason for this was the character of the Christian leader Barnabas. The example of Barnabas is one we all hope to follow. Luke described him as, "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith."

Have you known another man or woman that this describes?

How have they impacted your life for Christ?

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

We sang a wonderful old hymn in church last night. I love the words-

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Everliving One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

The preaching of the gospel should bind us together. It holds out hope for peace and offers us a true resting place. Let's purpose to make the main thing - the main thing. See ya'll at F.A.I.T.H tonight.

Molly Katherine's Toofies

Wide is His Love and Grace

Meredith and I went with a group from our church to the Mississippi Baptist Youth Night. It was an amazing event. Steve Fee led the worship. Dr. David Platt gave a powerful call to live a gospel centered life. He told a number of inspiring stories about Asian Christians and the powerful way the Holy Spirit is at work in their ministries. Whitney Wilson also spoke. She is a former speakers tournament contestant and student at M.C. She preached the stars down calling us to a life of radical faith. In a time when many in the SBC are focusing on non-essentials the Youth Night was a refreshing experience. It was an enviroment where Jesus was honored and our sons AND daughters were given an opportunity to prophesy in His name. It may have been more biblical than Baptist but it sure was fun. Thanks to the planning committee for a job well done.


Molly Katherine is getting teeth and we are expecting #2. Keep us in your prayers.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

Youth Weeks a hit in relocated setting
Youth Weeks have always been well attended, quality events. I feared the future of Youth Week following Katrina and the damage to G.B.A. It seems clear that moving the event to the Jackson area has not hindered the program. Good work ya'll.

Get ready, stay ready
William Perkins' editorial was a very sane treatment of events in the Middle East and eschatology. I liked his line, "Don't try to divine the future; don't even give a worry to the future. Just be ready." That pretty much states my position on the issue as well.

The strangers within our gates
Martha Stockstill wrote a wonderful guest opinion on ministry to internationals. She stated again the missional Baptist ethos that has guided Mississippi Baptists for years. She also called attention to a literacy conference to be held at Crossgates Church July 27-29. If you are interested call Paula Smith @ 601.292.3336.

Jim Futral is sporting a new Lex Luthor look. He appears twenty years younger. He wrote this week about a creative pro-life project called Memorial to the Missing. This project is a breath of fresh air following the crazy nature of the anti-abortion protests in Jackson last week. These "pro-family" folks thought it a Christian witness to have children destroy a Koran and "gay" flag. I was heart broken when I saw it on the news. Jimmy Porter and Lee Yancey should be commended for their wisdom and restraint.

Analysis: The case for alcohol abstinence
The Record chose to print a piece written by Paige Patterson against, "imbibing strong drink." Classic Patterson stuff - Yada, Yada, Yada. Let's move on!

Preaching Preview for Sunday July 23rd

Title: Missio Dei III
Background Text: Exodus 3-4:17

Moses was another "sent" by God. His ministry was one of rescue and leadership. God accompanied his command to GO with LO promises. Moses experienced God's - presence("I will certainly be with you..."), provision ("So you will plunder the Egyptians"), people ("Isn't Aaron the Levite your brother?"), and power ("take this staff in your hand that you will perform the signs with").

Read the background passages. How have you seen God provide for the spreading of the gosple in these ways?

REIDing Blogs II

Steve McCoy's Missional Baptist blog is about to die. I was sad to hear the news. I will always be grateful for that blog - it introduced me to the blog world and has renewed me on many levels. I was about done with the SBC. The spiritual language issue almost clinched the deal. I googled "missional baptist" and discovered a collection of Baptist thinkers I did not know existed. From there I fumbled through and began this rather modest blog, mostly to communicate with church members and other Baptists in Mississippi. In three months I have: communicated with Alvin Reid-learing about creative evangelism, talked with Buster Wilson about a network of Renewal Baptists in Mississippi, increased CP giving in next years church budget, met many new friends, made plans to go to next years SBC, etc. Our Minsiter of Congregational life is going to Peoria, Illinois this week to lead a childrens outreach - because of this blog. I can't say enough about the positive influence blogging has had on my ministry. Thank you, Steve!

Wednesday's Word

"Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified."
Psalm 40:16 (KJV)

The scripture focus for our mid-week service will be Psalm 40. This psalm holds out hope for spiritual renewal. It points to a number of disciplines that create the space needed for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. These include: sharing your testimony, praise and worship, the Word, witnessing, and prayer. If you need a fresh touch from the Holy Spirit then these disciplines are a good place to start.

Off the Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

'Katrina kids' recveive Gospel message
The Record's front page was dedicated to a wonderful summer ministry for children on the Gulf Coast. Many Mississippi Baptist congregations conducted VBS and back yard bible clubs among FEMA trailer communites. Good work ya'll.

'It will control you'
William Perkins editorial was a full throated call for prohibition. I live in Rankin County. We voted "dry" in the last election and supported NOAL. I do not drink. I won't lie and tell you I have not had a sip in my life. I have. I made a decision not to drink as many of you have. With that said, I think that the recent focus on alcohol is becoming an adventure in missing the point.
Perkin's editorial hype is staggering. He wrote, "Many Mississippians - and regrettably, some Mississippi Baptists - would agrue that the consumption of alcohol is a harmless social activity with little or no consequences, especially when used in 'moderation' (whatever that is)." I question the inability to distinguish the moderate drinking of a Presbyterian minister and the drug and alcohol abuse of death row inmate Bobby Glen Wilcher. Placing the issue in the context of the Wilcher story is over the line. It is time for Baptists on both sides of this issue to move on to something more fruitful.

Big ministry in a small town
The guest opinion was written by Russell Mord, pastor of Sturgis Baptist Church. He wrote about the upcoming evangelism efforts at the Sturgis South Motorcycle Rally. This sounds like and amazing and creative ministry. Way to go Russell! You have our prayers and support.

William Carey to formalize name change on Aug. 14
William Carey College (our college) will become a university. I hope a divinity school will one day follow!

Fresh Fire

We got out of church early enough last night for me to attent the Fresh Fire Revival at Christway Church of God. Dr. Ron Phillips was the guest preacher. Dr. Phillips is the pastor of the Central Baptist Church (Abba's House) in Hixson, TN and one of the most recognized leaders among charismatic Baptists. I have followed his ministry for a number of years and have recommended his books to others.

Dr. Phillips preached an amazing message, challenging the church to a "day by day" faith. He called the church to share the gospel and encouraged them to reach out to the "forgotten". God was powerfully at work and the modest sized church grasped a vision for all God could do in and through them. It was an awesome experience of authentic, missional Christianity.

After the service I had a chance to briefly talk with Dr. Phillips. I introduced myself as a Southern Baptist pastor. He prayed a genuine prayer for me and our church. After he prayed he joked with me saying, "I won't tell anybody I saw you here." I chuckled but the joke communicated a sad reality in Southern Baptist life. The IMB trustee issue highlighted a smallness in the SBC that is truly heartbreaking. Don't we have enough room for Reformed theology, charismatics, and moderates? We do in my church. Why not in our denomination?

The things I witnessed in that little Pentecostal revival were genuine and beautiful. I was proud that the preacher was Baptist. I hope one day that Baptists will be proud of him.

Flat World - Bright Hope

I am grateful to Alvin Reid for posting a book review of Friedman's The World is Flat. I would like to see more conversation about this "brief history of the twenty-first century". I think that the book's implications are huge for authentic Christianity. There are two issues that touch all our ministries now.

1. Collaborative Leadership
I have been watching the YearlyKos Blogger Convention on C-Span 2. The speakers were all from the political left so I did not agree with all of the content. I am more purple than red or blue. However, the discussion of linguistics and technology was amazing. One of the participants said, "This is a bottoms up phenomenon." This reminded me of a point Miroslav Volf made in his wonderful book, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Volf said that the church was constituted from "below". Authentic Christianity has always been a collaborative reality. The flattening of the world serves this important part of Baptist polity. We have already seen this fleshed out at the SBC.

2. Open Doors
Globalism, with all its negatives, has made the world smaller. This will serve the cause of missions. It always has. In section four of the Enquiry William Carey credited the invention of the mariner's compass with opening up doors for missions. He also pointed to the role of commerce. Carey quoted Isaiah 60:9 and commented, "This seems to imply that in the time of the glorious increase of the church in the latter days, of which the whole chapter is undoubtedly a prophecy, commerce shall subserve the spread of the gospel." We must exploit these open doors for Christ without baptizing the morality of McWorld.

I think these two realities are here and are already impacting ministry. I would love to know what others have say.

REIDing Blogs

I am amazed at the positive role blogging plays in the advance of missional Christianity. I had an experience recently that illustrated this for me.

Alvin Reid of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has joined the blogging conversation. I have a good deal of respect for Professor Reid. He wrote a wonderful introduction to envangelism that I read in seminary. I refer to it again and again. Reid is passionate, open, and dedicated to the message of Jesus.

Dr. Reid reviewed Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat on his new blogsite. I just listened to the book on CD driving to Texas so I commented, "I just finished Friedman's book. Do you think that the connected and collaborative digital ecosystem written about in this book made a difference at this years SBC?" He promptly commented, "Matt: to answer your question, yes I do believe bloggers made an impact. And I believe the SBC and other bureacracies will be nudged along toward change via the new world in which we live. I started a website a few years ago intentionally because I knew youth and college students would soon be living there. As Sweet noted in Soul Tsunami, I don't carry a business card, I have a website:-)"

It is amazing to me that blogging has allowed a young pastor of a small church (me) the access to a seminary professor like Alvin Reid. It is equally amazing that this access is available to everyone. Change is here. Let's ride it toward revival!

Cathedrals of Kudzu

I recently read a Discipleship Journal interview with Eugene Peterson. He was asked about the most important spiritual discipline in his life. Without flinching he said that sabbath keeping was #1. I was blown away. We decided to take his sage advice.

Meredith and I came to Meridian, MS to spend the 4th with my family. We have been to a movie ("The Devil Wears Prada" - the wives picked), been swimming with the girls at Okatibbee Lake, cooked pork chops, ate watermellon, and wasted a lot of good time.

The grocery store and office brain waves have given way to the rolling waves of color, smell, and vision. The tight muscles in our backs are being heated by the sun. We are sleeping better. Like the book of Esther, God has gone unmentioned but has filled every warm spot of rest with His presence. We are silent before Him. He speaks Grace.

When my grandmother was a girl Baptist worship services began with the words of Habakkuk, "But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him" (2:20). Maybe we should reclaim this call to worship. A little silence and sabbath keeping is good for the soul.

Waste some time with God this week - it's a holy activity!


We finished our week of VBS at Truitt. I would like to thank all our workers for a great week. God is at work in the lives of many families in our community. We saw a number of older kids make professions of faith and I was able to talk to a number of parents. Keep these new Christians in your prayers.

Off The Record: Commentary on the Journal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention

With July 4th coming up the editorial and guest opinion were dedicated to "God and Country" material. Let's spend this Independence Day praying for peace. We all know someone in the Iraq war. May God grant them grace and protection!

Much of the Record covered convention matters. Alot of it was BP pieces. One of the more interesting pieces was the cover piece on Frank Page. The highlights for me were:
1. "Page said he believes messengers are calling him to place an emphasis 'not on personality, but a cause of evangelism and missions that we do together.'" I think he got that right. His election was a blow to the cult of personality that has ruled SBC life for a generation.

2. Page gave criteria for SBC appointments and indicated that he would tap a reserve of leaders found in small and medium sized churches. His criteria would be. A) A sweet spirit, B) an evangelist's heart, C) a commitment to the integrity of the Word of God. I can live with these and think Page's openness is a breath of fresh air in Baptist life.

3. Page affirmed the importance of the Cooperative Program but stopped short of placing a 10% mark. He wrote, "I would rather not us a specific percentage amount because my entire point has been to broaden involvement, not to restrict involvement." It seems like Frank Page is free of guile. WOW!

Page believes his election was a defining moment in Baptist life. We will watch and see.

At Such A Time As This

Meredith and I are teaching in VBS. Today's lesson was on the book of Esther. What a story! I read the text again last night and was amazed at the paternal advice Mordecai gave the young Hadassah. His message to her was a powerful example of a balanced theology of Christian service. Mordecai said:

"For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:14 NRSV).

Mordecai's message reveals -
1. God does not need us. We can loose that messiah complex.
2. God delights in us joining in His work.
3. There are consequences for not joining God's work.

Let's join God in His mission. Who knows? Perhaps we have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this!


Our VBS began at Truitt today. We had a great turn out and it looks like it is going to be a great week. We also had a children's consultant from the MBCB pay us an unexpected visit. We are part of a really good state convention. Keep Jan Halford, Shirley Garrett, and all the workers and students in your prayers.
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