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.
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