A Thousand Ways to Jesus

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10 KJV

I have been lingering over the Christmas story for a week or so now. I cherish the time between Christmas and New Years because its rhythm gives me some needed time to read and reflect. This year I have come to freshly appreciate an important truth about the gospel. The good news is simultaneously narrow and wide. The Christmas story reminds us of this because all the seekers were looking for “the Lord.” You also get the point that he was intended for “all people.” Jesus was particular. He was born in a specific time and place and there was only one of him. There is a “the” connected to him and believers have affirmed this stubbornly. This is one for chief beefs people have with our message. In addition to the “the” Jesus is closely associated with “all.” His birth became the concern of poor Jews and rich pagans alike. He was one for many. The Christmas story is clear on this.

This principle was further affirmed for me as I read Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson’s, The Externally Focused Church. We are going to use some of their recourses later in the year and I appreciate their work. Here is a quote from the book, “There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus. But there are a thousand ways to Jesus.” We need to be stubborn and preach the onlyness of Jesus and we must be equally committed to offering his healing deeds and saving words to all. God is at work through FBC Meridian. He’s expanding our vision. We must walk through the doors of service opened to us and recognize that people come to Christ in a thousand different ways. As 2010 begins we need to ask ourselves:

What is God doing?
How can I join him?
What does God want to do?
How do we get started?

"Hey guys it's our time!"

Learning How to Fish

I love this photo. It's a picture of my grandmother teaching my son how to fish. I like it because I deeply love both of those wonderful people and because it reminds my of my calling as a Christian minister. Ephesians 4:12 reminds the church that God gave pastors, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service." We are called to teach, prompt, and support God's people in the work of the Kingdom. Sometimes you wonder if you are doing any good. I was reminded this morning that remaining faithful to this calling results in God honoring service.

Turning on the radio for my drive to work I heard one of our church members talking about a community ministry that he is leading. He spoke with passion about how God has been at work in his life. He mentioned other young leaders in our church and how God was working in them as well. He spoke of "pew power" and challenged other churches in our community to get outside. He said that he has experienced God in amazing ways as he entered the community to serve in the name of Jesus. I was blown away. His testimony was really about a conversion experience. He said for ten years it was all about coming to church and learning. Serving has changed his life. He sounded like a Deep South Darrell Guder. It was awesome.

Over two years ago we decided to pour missional theology into the church. We were very intentional about this. We taught and taught and then we acted. We canceled Sunday evening services in the Summer and challenged SS classes to serve the community. New ministries have been born and people have been renewed. I have a new confidence in the pastoral calling. If we will devote ourselves to empowering and supporting the pew God will do beautiful and surprising things.

We will celebrate Christmas in two days. We need to thank God for what he and did and ask God what he is doing. Now is the time to join in. Let's teach fishing, learn fishing and by all means fish.

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19

The Mourners Bench

Our church game me this James Conner painting this Sunday. They wanted to give me a lasting gift to honor my graduation that would remind me of my calling. Our pastor explained that the childern in the painting were in the process of receiving Christ with a pastor "praying them through". The congregation was his partner. They were one in the effort to lead people to Christ. This painting will hang in my office and speak to me as long I have have the opportunity to serve in ministry.

Good News of Great Joy

Yesterday's sermon is up for viewing. Check it out and have a great day.


Thanks Truett

I graduated from Baylor's George W. Truett Theological today. I've spent the last four years in the Doctor of Ministry program. Meredith and I had two children and we moved to a different city during this time. We've seen some major life change and Truett has been a part of it.

Thinking about my Truett experience always makes me feel grateful. I've met some truly wonderful people through Truett. David Garland was my faculty supervisor. I met him in Jackson 9 years ago and he is the major reason I chose Truett in the first place. Dr. Garland is a brilliant man but that is not his best trait. Dr. Garland loves Jesus and has a passion for the church. He's a humble man and his contribution to my life has been huge. Dr. Ron Cook leads the program. He is full of pastoral wisdom and I can see myself leaning on him in the years to come. I've come to really appreciate his insights into the work of ministry. I learned major lessons on leadership from Terry York and Levi Price. Those guys are great. Roger Olson and Bert Dominy helped me think through some tricky theological issues. I'll always remember the day Dr. Dominy asked me to lunch and encouraged me to stive for great things. Theresa Muirhead and Michael Godfrey gave me tons of practical help. They were wonderful. Great organizations and built by good people. Truett is filled with good people.

The thing I liked most about the school is the deep commitment to the mission of God. I was talking to my friend Will the other day about Truett. He is currently in the program and will be finishing soon. He said that the thing that stands out the him is the obvious desire to please God he sees in all the professors at Truett. Will is right, I sense it as well.

This rambling scribble is a simple thank you to a wonderful place. If you are thinking about theological education you owe it to yourself to consider Truett. You are sure to be surprised.

We are now publishing our sermons on Truthcasting

Check out FBC Meridian sermons on Truthcasting -


New Community Ministry

"How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help." 1 John 3:17 NRSV

"I desire compassion." Jesus in Matthew 9:13

Many of you have heard about our church's partnership with Wesley House Community Center. During the summer one of our Sunday School classes took the Walking challenge and began to serve in a significant way. Over $50,000 has been raised and a children's ministry area is being constructed as you read this. This has been a mustard seed/grass roots effort and God has really blessed the work. The editor of the Meridian Star called it one of the most compelling local stories of the year. His family has started attending FBC Meridian because of it's impact on his life.

My friend Trey Long has been at the front of this effort and many others have dedicated time and resources. Trey has been asked by a number of people how they can help with the work in the East End area of Meridian. He is working with Wesley House to make needs known through the same mustard seed/grass roots network that raised the funds for Playground for Jesus. We would like to see this network grow. If you would like to hear about local needs so that you can help see those needs met then please read the email from Trey that I include in this post and send him your email address.




I have decided to start a new email ministry called the 1 John 3:17 email list.


“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

Many of you have asked how can I help the Wesley House. I have decided to start getting individual stories of people in our community that you can help if God calls you to. I know everybody has limited incomes, but many people are willing to help if they know who and what their money is going to. I simply cannot afford to do it all, and neither can you. I have a hard time going to sleep at night knowing somebody in this world who is trying their best needs a little help. So in reflecting upon what I could do I decided to start emailing all of you. If you do not want to get emails from me with stories of needy individuals please email me back and I will take you off the list. If you know somebody who would like to be added to this list please send me their email address. The more email addresses I get the better. When I send you an email I will give the story, and amount needed to help in that situation. If you decide to help contact me through email or call me 601-934-9427. The money you give will go in full to the individual if you decide to help. God is so good, and thank you for being somebody God can use. Please pray for each story and see if God gives you the means to help. If God puts it on your heart, please do not use the excuse somebody else will take care of it because it might go undone.

**All donations are tax deductible**

For your information- Any story I email you will be after an individual has been checked out through the Wesley House Clearing Procedure. Each individual must bring proof of I.D., pay stubs, tax records, social security for each member of the household, any child over 18 must provide income information, receiving any subsidy (food stamps, housing allowance, etc.), and proof of all outgoing bills. There is an extensive application that proves who the people are and the situation they face. Phone calls are placed to verify employment and information provided.

Today’s Need - $365.00

35 year old woman with a 10 year old girl. Husband walked out on the family 3 years ago when the woman asked for food. She has done well in providing for herself and her girl, but has recently run into trouble. This woman has never asked for help in the past. She does not live in your typical needy neighborhood. She might very well be your neighbor. She cannot afford to pay her heating utility bill. With the cold weather approaching she is scared her heat might be disconnected. $365.00 would go directly to this woman for the purpose of having heat for the winter. What could you do with $365.00? Provide heat for a 35 year old woman and her 10 year old girl for the winter.


Trey Long

Enjoying the Unpromised Day

I lead a bible study every Thursday at the Lauderdale County Boys and Girls Club. It's part of a ministry that our church has been doing for a number of years. I love the kids and the time we share each week. At the end of the bible study a couple of weeks ago I asked if someone would lead us in a closing prayer. Diamond's hand shot up and we all bowed our heads. This sweet little Pentecostal girl began, "Thank you for this day - it was not promised...". I've been thinking about those words for two solid weeks.

Today is a gift, pure grace. We don't deserve it but we should out of deep reverence enjoy it. I pray that you receive this day as the gift it is and use it up for God's glory.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.' Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." James 4:13-16 NRSV

College Ministry Trip to Magee, MS

We will leave FBC Meridian at 4:00 Friday afternoon.

We will be staying at the:
Holiday Inn Express
1591 Simpson HWY 49
Magee, MS 39111

We will eat supper on Friday at 6:30 at:
1670 Simpson HWY 49
Magee, MS 39111

We will be doing construction work at:
Corinth Baptist Church
207 Church Road
Magee MS 39111

If you are going to drive from Hattiesburg or Jackson you can call me and I'll tell you where we are. 601-616-5413

Please make sure to wear good tough shoes. You don't want your toes exposed. You won't need any money but bring any snacks you might want. We will start working on Saturday at 7:00 and end a little before 3:00.

Thanks for serving your sisters and brothers in Christ!

What Could You Do With $10.00?


Go to a movie, put 3 gallons of gas in your car, buy 2 happy meals at McDonalds, treat yourself to 5 snow-cones, get 10 items at the dollar store, play one round of putt-putt, or provide a “Playground for Jesus” to children in a hurting neighborhood.

God is doing amazing things at the Wesley House in Meridian, Mississippi!!!!!!!

Together we can influence the two little boys who were spray painting their guns to better conceal their weapons, the 10 year old little girl who was told nobody cares about you and they will never build you a playground, the little girl who just got pregnant because here cousin was pimping her out, the two men in the van who said they worship Satan, the 80 kids who came to our first movie night, the women prostituting themselves on mattresses in the field, the 15 kids who have been coming to a Bible Study the last two weeks, and everyone who sees God at work in our community.

We are seeking funds and have a line item in the budget at the Wesley House named Playgrounds for Jesus. We feel this will change lives as it already has for five youth who have accepted Christ during the last month. You can already sense the change in the area. We have a vision of fencing in the open field adjacent to the Wesley House, building a basketball court, pavilion, and recreational area. The cost is $45,000.00. Many people think it cannot be done. So far we have painted the exterior buildings, hung a privacy fence, installed a basketball goal, poured a basketball court, and landscaped the entire lot. We are not finished!!! God will provide the $45,000.00 to finish this project. Please join in!!!

How can you join in this effort? Please email this to everyone you know, and make a tax deductible contribution to the Wesley House for $10.00. Please put on the bottom of the check Playground for Jesus. Mail donations to the following:

Wesley House

ATT: Trey Long

4509 7th Ave

Meridian, MS 39305

Skip going to a movie, putting 3 gallons of gas in your car, buying 2 happy meals at McDonalds, treating yourself to 5 snow-cones, getting 10 items at the dollar store, playing one round of putt-putt, and instead provide a “Playground for Jesus” to children in a hurting neighborhood.

If you would like more details you can call Trey Long at 601-934-9427.


Trey Long

a couple of things to think about

I ran across two quotes recently that have have helped me think through some things. I think that you will like them. The first is from legendary Mississippi baseball player and coach Boo Ferriss. Here is what he had to say, "I've always thought that the athletic field is a great training field for life. It's the best place next to the home and the church for children to learn. Long after a boy hangs up his spikes or cleats, he'll be drawing on lessons he learned from playing ball."

I'm glad that my friend Timothy is going to play at Delta State this season. He'll get a big dose of this kind of wisdom. Ferriss knows something important. Athletics open big doors and provide opportunities to shape the young.

I love watching my friend Neil gather a group of boys to play basketball. I know what's going to happen. During a needed breather, he'll tell them about Christ and encourage them to be honorable men. A number of boys have given their hearts to Christ recently because of this.

My friends installed a basketball goal at the Wesley House this week. My Pentecostal buddies would call Wesley House a, "Dream Center." It's now a dream center with a court. Why? Because the gospel is communicated through foolish things and foolish people. God's way smarter than we are. He ordains the very things we sometimes sniff at. Keep playing for God's sake!

The second quote is from Steven Smith, College Pastor at FBC Jackson, MS. Here is what he had to say, "We are an old, traditional downtown church, but God has blessed this church because of its commitment to the Great Commission and the willingness to do whatever it takes to reach people. Our church is changing, growing, adapting in many ways so that we can be strategic and effective in reaching Jackson, Miss., and the world with the gospel."

I think that this truly describes a great church in a sister city. I also think it illustrates what is happening in Meridian. We've got to keep moving in the direction of people that need Christ. God will bless when we do!

Just something to think about as you continue to serve Christ and community.

Meridian para Christo - ahora.

We are approaching the end of the "Gathering and Walking Summer Experiment." I stand amazed at the way God has been working in and through our church. My prayer and hope was that a few people would move from pew warmer to servant. I should have prayed bigger. God blew the doors of my vision for what could happen. I'd like to thank you to all of my FBC Meridian friends for hearing from God and acting for His glory.

Many of you said, "Today is my someday." I'd say that today is the day for our church and community. I read an awesome article recently that gave me reasons to dream big. It was about the spiritual revival that is going on in Cuba. I was interested in the content because Greg Massey studied this revival as he was preparing for Lauderdale Baptist Association's engagement in the Dominican Republic.

Here is a guote from the Christianity Today article, "Their current evangelistic zeal is best summed up in the recent modification of a common evangelical rallying cry: from 'Cuba para Christo' to Cuba para Cristo-ahora.' Cuba for Christ-now."

I've been hearing people in our church say - now. Now is the time. I'm ready now. Let's do it now.

I can't think of a better word for the new church year that is upon us - NOW!

Meridian para Christo - ahora!
Meridian for Christ - now!

"Today is my someday."

I gathered with adult SS leaders last night to talk about our church's ministry in the summer. We are going to refresh Wednesday nights and we're calling the mid-week service, The Gathering. We are devoting Sunday evenings to SS class based ministry and mission service projects called, Walking. In defining a win for the SS teachers I said that I really wanted to see a number of our church members get involved in ministry for the first time. Watching church goers become the church for the sake of the Kingdom is one of my great passions. I read something this morning that helped me frame my thoughts on these things.

I got a samply of Mark Batterson's, "Chase the Goose: Reclaiming the Adventure of Living a Spirit-Led Life." I'm reviewing it for our twentysumthings ministry. Apparently the Irish called the Holy Spirit the Wild Goose. Batterson's work is about following the leadership of the Spirit. In the first session of this study he said this,

"In his inaugural address, President Kennedy challenged the American people, 'Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.'The Peace Corp program emerged from that challenge. In the past year, the number of volunteers in their 50s and older has risen by 50 percent. One of those Peace Corp baby boomers is 64-year-old Loyci Stockey, who said, 'I never forgot his message, and I tucked it away in the back of my head to act on someday. Today is my someday.' That's a powerful statement." Indeed.

Many Christians have a sleeping dream in their hearts - a when I get around to it kind of thing. My prayer is that many of our church members will follow the Wild Goose into their God-given dreams this summer! I'm praying that many of us will say, "Today is my someday."

Current Reading

I'm reading Jerry Rankin's book on spiritual warfare. It has been very good so far.

Good Friday

The Lenten season and Holy Week have been calling me to connect with Jesus on a deeper level. Today is no exception. This is Good Friday and I'm spending it with my family. Meredith and Molly Katherine are doing some Easter shopping with Nanny. Wes and I are hanging at the in-laws house in Brandon. He's napping. I am sitting here thinking about the love of The Father and the sacrifice of The Son. I look at my son and marvel.

Molly Katherine and her friends washed each other's feet at church this week. When I look at a photo of those little hands and feet I can't help but think that Jesus was a kid once as well. A boy like Wes. He laughed and played. He grew and learned. He spent his life loving and being loved by his Father. They shared secrets. One Friday long ago their love for us reached a height that looks crazy from our perspective. The hands and feet that were once tiny were stained with the dark filth of a broken world. Why? Because we needed a savior and he came to save. Jesus went to the cross in obedience to the Father and becaused he loved us. I look at my sleeping son and shake my head.

How wide - the mercy of God.

The Prayers of the People

Everyone struggles with their sense of purpose from time to time. If you are a preacher I can tell you what to do when you struggle with yours. Have the congregation you serve write out their prayers and read them. You will never be the same.
This past Sunday night we had a concert of prayer at our church. The service ended with us placing our supplications into offering plates at the front of the church. I read them early Monday morning. They were filled with hurt, passion, desperation, longing, and hope. They were the honest words of genuine disciples. When one reads that kind of stuff every face in the crowd changes into someone Christ died to save. If you are a servant leader in a church then hear the prayers of God's people. It will change you.

Ears to Hear

I will give a talk this Sunday night about listening to sermons. I am a preacher but I spend most Sunday mornings, “on the other side of the communion table.” I’ve had a lot of time to think about listening to sermons and will share some of these insights this Sunday evening. Here’s what it’ll look like -

“Ears to Hear: You Can Make Every Sermon More Useful”
Deuteronomy 31:11-13

To make every message more useful you need to -

Appear (11) showing up is ¼ the challenge.

Hear (11) passionate listening is a key.

Adhere (12) we’ve got to be committed to “doing the stuff.”

Rear (13) messages are personal but they’re not private. We’ve got to use them to care for and lift up other people.

This could be a series but I’m going to chunk the material at you during an Equipped to Serve Sunday night environment. I’m pretty sure it will be helpful. I know it will be fun.

The Tribe of Inman

Amy Roller is the associate pastor at Central United Methodist Church. She will be preaching at FBC Meridian tomorrow during the noon Lenten service. I had the privilege of preaching at her church a few weeks ago for the same gathering. I'm looking forward to her being here and hearing her message. Amy's coming has given me a chance to think about women serving in ministry and the influence of Wesley's tradition. A little cross-pollination can help us at times.

Many people assert that the Methodist movement really began with Mamma. Susanna Wesley was passionate about Christ and her family. In 1711, her Anglican preacher husband, went to London and left the church in the care of a Curate named Inman. J.B. Wakeley described him as a, "very stupid and narrow man." Ouch! The church suffered under his leadership and starved for the word. Susanna Wesley began an "unauthorized evening meeting" in the parsonage. It began small but grew fast. Inman complained loudly but the ox was out of the barn. The work could not be stopped. Mrs. Wesley's strong spiritual influence impacted her sons and marked the Methodist movement.

I went to seminary at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I had a friend there that was an Assemblies of God pastor. She walked in the tradition of Susanna Wesley (Many Pentecostals affirm the inerrancy of scripture and recognize the ministry giftings of women). She loved God, held a high view of scripture, and believed God called her to lead and preach. She is far from liberal. That label just won't stick to her. It is true that all liberals affirm women in ministry. It does not follow that the affirmation of women in ministry makes one a liberal.

Some of my friends just returned from a mission trip to India. One of them told me just last week of the female tribal pastors (Baptists) that labor to spread the fame of Christ. I celebrate their work. Sadly, there is still a tribe of Inmans that refuse to recognize that God's, "sons and daughters shall prophesy." I know that there are some difficult passages that we must take seriously. I don't think we shouldn't wrestle with the text. I just think we should wrestle with all of it and see grace at work in the lives of our sisters that faithfully share the message of Christ. May their tribe increase.

A Prayer for the Day

I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;

The wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

St Patricks' Breastplate, 5th century AD, adapted

What Are You Doing?: Thinking About Twitter and Communicating the Gospel

I've thought a good bit about how I share messages lately. Oddly, Twitter has helped. I've mapped out a model and I've been using it in preacing, teaching, and personal evangelism. It's a work in progress. Check it out if you have time and let me know what you think. Thanks!

What Are You Doing: Thinking about Twitter and Communicating the Gospel

I became a pastor at 22 and began preaching three sermons a week. This went for eight years until I accepted a staff position at First Baptist Church in Meridian, MS. This put me on the other side of the Lord’s Supper table for the first time in a long time. I teach several times a week in very different settings and still get to preach often but the Sunday morning change has given me an unexpected gift. Getting the opportunity to listen to sermons and reflect on preaching has helped me do something I have not yet done in my young ministry. I’ve developed a philosophy of preaching. I preached my first sermon at 15 and have preached a truck load of them. I’ve done this with passion and have really enjoyed it. I’ve now had some time to think about what I’m doing and I am grateful.

My thoughts on preaching have been impacted by an unpreacherly source, Twitter. Twitter is a social networking tool that connects people through the sharing of simple messages through the day. I’ve often played host to the wedding of intellectual odd couples. They get together in my brain and send me off in a new direction. Twitter and preaching have synched up in my noodle and here are the resulting thoughts –

Social Networking
Preaching and teaching are acts of social networking. The preaching event draws together a group of people that are connected by a common bond. The people have come to hear and respond. The gathered community is the preacher’s network. Each hearer also sits in the middle of a network of his or her own. The wise teacher or preacher sees both the network gathered under the steeple and the many networks just beyond.

When you go to www.twitter.com the introduction page explains Twitter using the categories: what, why, and how. I’ve begun thinking about preaching and teaching using these categories. The WHAT of preaching consists of three things – text, title, and tweet.
The sermon must honor the biblical text. People come to church with the strange notion that they will hear something from God. They want this message to speak to deep needs in their lives but they want it to be more than friendly advice. They get that all week long. If they went to the trouble of getting to church they want to connect with God. A message must be built from the biblical text.
The talk or sermon also needs a title. I’ve found that the really good ones also wind up with nick names. Sometimes I start with the pet name and then write out something for the worship guide. This helps me love the message.
The sermon needs a Tweet. Each sermon or lesson needs a point. Think of an arrow. The entire arrow and the bow serve the purpose of the point. Sermons need to be well tipped. I have friends who go around looking for ancient Native American arrow heads. The heads always last the longest. The same is true for the sermon. The point is what will last.
A Twitter message is called a Tweet. With Twitter, you only get 140 characters. I have not done a good job of sermon prep if I can’t tell you what the message is about on Twitter. When I prepare the point of a message I ask the sermon, “What are you doing?” If I can’t Tweet it I won’t preach it. Calvin Miller and Andy Stanley are my favorite preachers (I don’t know them. I mean technically.). They are big champions of one point preaching. I’ll bet they can Tweet a sermon.

The point of the message must connect with people. The network of people in front of the preacher is the reason for the sermon. The sermon exists for the people because people matter to God. The preacher must make the case for the point. We can’t assume people will care. The "why" part of the message generates creative tension, without which every sermon falls to the ground. What are the people's longings and fears? What does God want for them? These types of questions help craft the why of a message.

Application is the gift of a message. To stand in the center of our network each week and talk about the what and why of scripture is not enough. Sadly, we often assume they will know exactly what to do with the message. I think of John the Baptist’s network in Luke chapter 3. After he preached they asked him, “What shall we do then?” As a preacher I need to anticipate this question and work hard at application.

Don’t take notes Tweet.
When I grew up I was taught that the good Christian takes notes during a sermon, so I became a note taker. I’ve been encouraging people to update Facebook and Tweet during lessons and messages. This happened last night as I led a bible study for young adults called The Gathering on Parkway. They were all goofing around with their fancy little phones. I told them to update their status. To tell their network what they were doing. This gets the word out and sends the message down a relational bridge already built for the gospel. CNBC just ran a piece of Mark Driscoll’s encouragement of sermon twittering at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I hope this goes viral.
Andy Stanley wrote something interesting that applies here, “The last category I might apply a message to is the person who is not there. Every time you speak, somebody is sitting there thinking about someone who really needed to hear what you had to say. Go ahead and address the person who is there but who knows someone who should have been there. Suggest ways for them to get your message in front of that person, tactfully.” Here’s a weird sentence I've come up with that helps me – “We preach to our thems for them AND for their thems.” Preaching is social networking.

These thoughts are really for me and they are a work in progress. Feel free to comment if you can help me with them. I’m working to craft my lessons and sermons based on these ideas so it’s a big deal to me and I’d appreciate your insight. If they help you communicate the gospel then I am really grateful. If you read all this thanks!
you think.

Job: My Lenten Friend

I’m preaching at a Lenten Lunch later today. St. Paul’s Episcopal and Central United Methodist are hosting the event in conjunction with the Downtown Church Association. My text is Job 42. Job is my Lenten friend. The ashy old man from the OT helps me see Lenten possibilities.

Some possibilities for this year’s Lent are:

We can see God. Job 42:5
Job went from a theoretical understanding of God to a very personal one. He experienced God in the deep places of his heart and was changed by the encounter. I believe God wants all people to make this move. He is interested in us having a deep and personal relationship with him.

We can repent. Job 42:6
When Job encountered God he recognized both God’s holiness and his sin. He turned to God for new life. Ralph Wood says that the South is, “a Christ haunted place.” We have symbols of the faith littered all over the countryside. One of these symbols is the ever present, hand-painted, roadside admonition, “REPENT!” Some respond to the call to repent in an entirely negative way but repentance is a beautiful biblical concept. It’s the invitation to life. Lent reminds us of the hopeful power of repentance.

We can pray for our friends. Job 42:8
Job’s friends did not give him much help in his time of need. They piled up a bunch of bad theology and bumper sticker religion and dumped it on his head. God, however, would not let Job live in bitterness. He called him to forgive them and pray for them. We live in a broken world. We are hurt by and hurt our friends. Lent is a good time to release the bitterness and pray for each other. So often we would rather hold the bait of bitterness and stay in the snare.

We can be restored. Job 42:10
God worked restoration in Job’s life. He wants to do the same in our lives. In fact, restoration is one of the major themes of scripture. He may want to restore: your faith, your passion for service, you love for you wife… Some of us are grasping bitterness and un-forgiveness to the point that we are unable to receive gifts from God’s hand. What does God want to restore in your life this spring?

I’ve been guided by these thoughts this Lenten season and I hope they are a blessing to you.

Small Group Prayer Gathering

Dr. Leake preached on the phrase "Our Father" from the Lord's Prayer this morning. Tonight we are going to gather for prayer experiences in homes around Meridian. Jack Jackson, Neil Henry, and I will be leading a group of young parents. We'll use this outline in our time together.

Small Group Prayer Experience
“Our Father”

Call To Worship
Leader -
“And in praying do not heap
empty phrases as the Gentiles do;
for they think that they will be heard
for their many words.
Do not be like them,
for your Father knows what you
need before you ask him.
Pray then like this:

Group -
“Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts, As we
also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Leader -
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your
heavenly Father also will forgive you.”

Group -
Let us then approach the throne
of grace with confidence, so that
we may receive mercy and find grace to help
us in our time of need.


Prayer Experience:
Prayer Triplets
Closing Community Prayer

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


Christians all over the globe will observe Ash Wendesday today. The season of Lent is here, marking the advent of Spring. There has been some discussion regarding Lent and how we are to participate in it. Here is what I'm doing.

I'm going to subtract something.
Lent is a season of fasting. People who can't find Malachi in the bible know to ask, "What are you giving up for Lent?" I think the idea of Lenten disciplines is a good idea if practiced with the right attitude. Giving up some normal activity is intented to prompt us to seek God. I'm going to subtract something from my normal routine and No I'm not going to tell you what it is.

I'm going to add something.
I am going to participate in some special activities during the season. On Monday's (beginning March 2) I'm going to come to the Brown Bag Bible study @ FBC Meridian. Dr. Adkins will walk us through some important passages of scripture during the lunch hour. You still have time to sign up @ www.fbcmeridian.org. I am also going to participate in the Downtown Church Association's Lenten Services. Here is the schedule if you want to participate -

March 5th Host Church Centeral UMC/St. Paul's Episcopal @ Central Preacher Matt Snowden
March 12th Host Church New Wine Ministries Preacher Tom Sikes
March 19th Host Church FBC Preacher Amy Roller
March 26th Host Church St. Patrick Preacher Terrence Roberts
April 2nd Host Church First Christian Preacher Lenin Vargas

I hope you will join me in observing Lent this year. God will use it to prepare you to fully celebrate Easter!

Associations Either/Or and Both/And

I have been asked to serve on the search committee for the new Associational Mission Director for the Lauderdale Baptist Association. I've thought more about Baptist associations over the last few weeks than the last few years. I believe that associations can serve as positive catalysts for the Kingdom of God but they must be aware of the change in time and climate. I read Paul Stripling's book, "Turning Points in the History of Baptist Associations in America", this morning and appreciate his good work. There was a quote in there that I think is important. Well, it was one quote among many. Here it goes -

"Without doubt, the increased emphasis on the local church as being God's primary agent of mission is having a profound effect on all denominational organizations. As more churches take on direct mission efforts, traditional cooperative methodologies may lose their importance. The current trend is for churches to self-direct mission money and work through their church with less reliance on other denominational groups. Efforts by denominational entities to fight this trend may result in undermining a foundational Baptist value that denominational entities support the local church, not vice versa. The leverage point is to show how associations can help the local church achieve its mission goals with both/and thinking rather than either/or thinking."

Sent Session 5 Group Discussion Questions

Thank you for being part of Sent over the past few weeks. I have had a wonderful time and believe that many of you did. Let's pray that God will use the time we shared to stir the heart of our congregation.

Who is koinonia to you?

Why do you think we struggle so much to look outside ourselves?

So what, if anything, can move us out of ourselves?

What is the best way to begin a conversation about Christ? What is the worst way?

Is it disingenuous to enter into a relationship with people in order to share Christ with them?

How can you maintain the integrity of a relationship and still be authentic about sharing Christ.

Christ Church Community

We are called to honor Christ, be His church, and serve the community He died to save. This, I think, is the core of the missional life. Lester Reeves believed this too. I often think of something I heard him say in an old tape recorded sermon. Reeves said,

"Any church that honors Christ as its head will do some good in a community."

'd sure like to do some good. Think about it!

Sent: Session 4 Group Discussion ?s

1.How is it possible to live by John 3:16 and 1 John 2:15?

2. Which one is easier to do?

3. What are some practical ways you can bump into more non-Christians?

4. Why is this important? Why is it difficult?

5. Do we love our preferences more than the people who are dying to connect with a God who loves them (This is one of those gut-check questions).

6. Do you agree with this statement - "Too many churches have chosen their traditions over their children. They've chosen their present comfort over their future." Why or Why not

Current Reading

My copy of Roger Olson's book on The Shack just came in and I plan on reading it sometime this weekend. Many of my friends have read The Shack so I read it. I even saw a tough looking Sheriff's deputy reading it in the court house yesterday. The book is viral. I had Roger Olson at Truett and I appreciate his love for God and the church. I'm looking forward to his take on things.

The Temple in Thine Heart

"Whereas it was in thine heart to build a house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart." I Kings 8:18

My friend Joe suggested I check out a collection of old sermons by Clovis G. Chappell titled, "Familiar Failures." The book was published in 1928 when Chappell was the pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Memphis. Joe is a neat guy so I got the book and began to read.

Chappell had a sermon in the collection called, "The Successful Failure." It was based on the story of David and his desire to build a Temple for the Name. He was not allowed to do this but God affirmed the desire in his heart. Chappell wrote -

"He measures us not by our achievements, but by our longings to achieve. He judges us not by what we have in our hands, but by what we have in our hearts. He crowns us not for the great task that we have acctually accomplished, but for the great task that we long to accomplish."

Falling short of a great goal is not a bad thing. How have I sinned by refusing to dream? I have asked myself, "Is there a Temple in my heart?" What about you?

Sent - Session 3 Group Discussion ?s

1. How do you define "church"? What factors from your past have led you to that definition?

2. How do you think a church can find an appropriate balance of providing ministry to its members and focusing outward?

3. What about you? Do you think you have a balance in your own life with these two elements?

4. How well do you understand your spiritual gifts?

5. What practical steps can you take to exercise your God-given gifts?

6. What is the mission of the individual as a member of the body and bride of Christ?

Becoming an Orchard: Missional Christianity in Northeast Mississippi

A mystery friend left a copy of this article in my office box yesterday. It comes from the Tupelo paper. I thought it was interesting and think you will. It deals with some of the issues we've been exploring during Sent. http://www.individual.com/story.php?story=95629391

A Door for the Word

"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should." Colossians 4:2-4 NRSV

I've discovered when we ask God to give us opportunities to serve others and share his story he answers in amazing ways. You may want to experiment with this. As you pray, ask for someone to open a door for you to enter. Show them love and tell them about Him.

Lessons from Church Planters

My ministry has always been in long established churches. Our first congregation was in Monticello. I was asked to preach at the 100th anniversary of this church last year. We now live in Meridian were I serve on staff of one of the oldest churches in our city. For five years I was the pastor of the Truitt Memorial Baptist Church in Pearl. It is the oldest church in the city of Pearl but Pearl is not that old. There are a couple of charter members still alive and I loved to hear them talk about the days when the founded the church in a tent. These friends are old but their stories are still fresh and full of passion. These charter members helped me see the important place church planting has in the work of God.

Church planting is a gift to the whole Christian community. There is a definite place in the Kingdom for old churches. It's simply arrogant and a little dumb to deny this. New churches are also a vital part of what God is up to in the world. Old and new churches need each other. I like church planters and I want to thank them for a handful of things.

1. Church planters remind me that only God can do God's work. They are forced to live by faith. We all should.

2. Church planters tend to be a grateful group.

3. Church planters "read" their communities so that they can reach people.

4. New Churches celebrate what God is doing.

5. Church planters remind us that the message is more important than the method.

This list could go on and on. Tonight we will vote about giving a bus to Church Arise in Decatur. They are a new church, serving their community in creative ways. We should become friends with churches like Church Arise. It will be good for us!

Sent - Session 2 Group Discussion ?s

1. Is it easier to be for something or against something? Why?
2. What implications does the "already but not yet" nature of the kingdom of God have for your life? What does living in the meantime mean to you?
3. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of the role of an ambassador?
4. What are some practical ways you can live in a reconciliatory way?

Pray for President Obama

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior," 1 Timothy 2:1-3 (NASB)

Connecting - Sent

I get two messages, several times, every day. They come from my computer and cell phone. You get them as well. Connecting. Sent. We live in a world of electronic communication and online community. We are never more than a text away from our friends scattered around the world and around town. They are in our hip pocket and we are in their's. The two messages of this relational web are connecting and sent. These messages, I assume, come from some all knowing wizard, a nerdy guy that looks like Jobs or Gates.

I have come to incorporate these wizardly messages into my spiritual formation. When I see them I've begun to ask a couple of questions. Here's how it goes for me. -

Connecting - Am I connecting with God and his people? In what ways do I need to cultivate vital worship, discipleship, and fellowship?

Sent - Am I living a sent life? I've been called to serve people and share the message of Christ. I've been sent by God. In what ways do I need to cultivate vital service and evangelism?

When you hear from the wizard look deep. God has sent you and wants you to connect.

A Lesson from the Threefoot

It seems like everyone in Meridian wants to talk about the Threefoot these days. There are scores of opinions, a lot of heat, and every now and then some light. I was talking to my grandfather Charley the other day and the Threefoot came up. I got a lesson that I was not expecting. He told me that my great-grandfather Ody Snowden contracted to hang the original doors in the building. He agreed to be payed per door hung. He was so fast and efficient they wanted to put him on salary. He refused and made enough money to start his own construction company. The old time carpenters told my grandfather that the reason he was so good was that he came to work early every day and sharpened each tool before the work day began. There is a lesson here for us.

So often we rush into ministry without taking the time to sharpen ourselves spiritually. We try to use our gifts before we fan them into flame. We need to attend to our spiritual formation. This is hard for activity prone disciples to do but it is necessary if we are going to get the job done.

Don't forget to sharpen your tools!


I'll be preaching this Sunday night from Titus 3:3-8. The basic idea of the message is that believing in God and maintaining good works are good things and that a life of purpose comes from a vital relationship with God. Some Christian thinkers refer to this stuff as telos.

Meredith gave me a book for my birthday by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk. They made a stament about telos that I think is pretty good. It may give you something to think about. Here it is -

"In the Christian story, the telos of human life is neither to fulfill oneself in the modern sense of the individual nor the drive to self-actualization or even self-differentiation. Our telos is to know God. Both Augustine and Aquinas state that it is God who is our end, and therefore our source. To know God is to know the Good. Knowing God is also participating in a life infused with proper calling, and to do the work we have been given to do in this life. Only by participating in the life of God can we live out our telos and live into our work and purpose. By doing our proper work in life, we know happiness in the sense of knowing God. As human beings our quest for the Good is a quest for the telos of our life, which can only be known in God."

from The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World
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