Ministry

Generational Discipleship

On Father’s Day this year (6/18/2017), I had the privilege of preaching at my church (First Baptist Tuscaloosa). The sermon title was “Generational Discipleship” from Deuteronomy 6, Luke 9 & 14, Psalm 78, Judges 2, and Ephesians 4.

Click here for the sermon outline.

Managers of the Gospel

“A person should think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of the mysteries of God. In this regard, it is required that managers be found faithful.” ~ ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

How are you managing the gospel which you have received?

I must admit, I’ve heard verse 2 (above) many times before. It wasn’t until today, however, that I really read verse 1 and saw that the “thing” which we are to be faithful managers of is the gospel (the mysteries of God) mentioned in verse 1.

Now that question is burning deep in my heart: how faithful am I in managing the gospel in my life? In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul said “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received.” Am I being intentional in passing along that which I say I believe is most important?

As a husband?

As a dad?

As children’s minister?

As a Christian?

Psalm 96:2 says, “proclaim His salvation from day to day.” So what am I doing with the gospel? Am I allowing the truth of the gospel to permeate and rule every area of my life?

God has chosen the people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God and equipped with the Word of God, to be about the mission of God to make disciples (Matthew 28).

In The Gospel Project we studied Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. Ultimately Jesus alone holds the power of the gospel message. We, as His disciples, are responsible, though, to spread the seed of the gospel wherever we go. “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Jesus said, “…in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Matthew 28:19 & Acts 1:8) I must diligently and consistently apply the truth of Scripture to my life while simultaneously letting the gospel of Jesus overflow into my decisions, my speech, and my behavior as a husband, dad, and every other role I step into.

God, give me strength and wisdom to manage the gospel well by spreading the seeds of the gospel in all the “fields” of my life. 

Search me, God, and know my heart


“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” ~ ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:23-24‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Another one of my longtime favorite verses. Mostly because of the vast amount of times I find myself praying it as a prayer of confession and repentance.

It was also the theme verse for LifeWay’s 2016 VBS: Submerged. 

One of my favorite things to do with children is to put motions to Bible verses. I find this helps them (and me!) remember the verse better. 

Setting my heart towards God’s Word #Ezra7 #RenewYourMind

This week’s story in The Gospel Project, reminds me of Ezra’s fervency to the impact God’s Word is to have in my life.

In a time when too many of us are following our hearts, Ezra’s example is that we determine the path of our heart.

May I consistently follow Ezra’s passion for God’s Word to “study it, obey it, and teach it.”

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack… He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1, 3‬ ‭http://bible.com/72/psa.23.hcsb

Curly from City Slickers

One my favorite themes of Scripture is God as shepherd. One who knows us, leads us, cares for us, provides for us, and protects us. In my mind I picture a shepherd who is both rough & tough. For some reason this guy (on the right) pops in my mind.

But our God is not merely tough, He also has a gentle hand to care for and nurture his flock (Psalms 23).

On this theme there is an old hymn (circa 1875) called All the Way My Savior Leads Me, which was re-arranged by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman in 2008. It was just a few years ago I became familiar with this song, but I love the lyrics.

Some of the lyrics that stir my heart are:

How could I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide

Gives me grace for every trial

Feeds me with the living Bread

O, the sureness of His promise
In the triumph of His blood

And finally the chorus:

You lead me and keep me from falling
You carry me close to Your heart
And surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me

In John 10, Jesus tells us what a good shepherd looks like. Jesus says “the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out …[and] goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” What a picture! The shepherd wants his sheep to have an abundant, fulfilled life (John 10:10) so no matter where he takes his sheep, he can be trusted that it will lead to life.

 

Who’s Down with O.C.C.

This was a short parody video we shot to promote Operation Christmas Child at First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHJCVqU6VXg

TGP 52-week Devotional

The brand new Big Picture 52-week Bible Story Devotional is the latest addition to the The Gospel Project themed Bible/BIble Story family from B&H Kids… and I love it!! If you are looking for a family devotional, this one would be worth trying out. It is available in print and e-reader (ordering link below).

We have used The Big Picture Storybook Bible with our older preschooler/younger elementary schoolers and it is great for Bible stories. This devotional takes Family Worship to the next tier through well-written life application. Though it doesn’t provide explicit “Bible stories” on each page (Bible story videos are linked), this devotional does an excellent job in the application of Scripture to a child’s life. Consistent with other Bibles and Bible Storybooks in this series, the 52-week devotional retains the central goal of The Gospel Project which is not only to teach Bible stories but to teach the Bible’s story (see tweet below).

 

Several key features stand out to me:

1. Single page devotional content is good for time-management and younger attention spans.

2. The Read It section features additional Bible passages to support or re-enforce the devotional story as a great addition to keeping each week founded in the Bible.

3. The Watch It section provides a direct link to the Bible story video from which the devotional is based.

4. The iconic Big Picture Question & Christ Connection sections, staples of The Gospel Project, ensure a close tie-in to the gospel helping children and families think beyond the page. This devotional includes expanded Big Picture Questions to help facilitate deeper conversations.

5. The Live Big section sends the devotional over-the-top providing practical application and recommendations to carry the devotional “lesson” beyond the Family Devotional time to the rest of the week. The inclusion of this section expands the applicable age-range of the devotional to include older elementary-aged children.

No devotional is perfect in and of itself nor is any one book (outside the Scriptures) the perfect fit for every family. The Big Picture 52-week Bible Story Devotional, however, interweaves a simplicity perfect for older preschoolers with thought-provoking questions and application that will engage older elementary schoolers with such excellence that many families will find this devotional a great resource to guide Family Worship in their homes.

Additional reading about this devotional and sample pages:
https://www.gospelproject.com/2016/03/08/the-big-picture-interactive-52-week-bible-story-devotional

Link to purchase from LifeWay:
http://www.lifeway.com/Product/the-big-picture-interactive-52-week-bible-story-devotional-P005727303

Living Life in a Spiritual Layover

Reflections on Philippians 3

Our pastor recently preached on Philippians 3 so it’s been a topic around our staff table. As others have rightly noted, this chapter speaks deep to the topic of spiritual maturity. Paul seems to define spiritual maturity (v. 15) as living an active life in the constant and continued pursuit of a relationship with Jesus and the resulting fruit-bearing Christlikeness that accompanies this intimate relationship. In other words, salvation (being born again) is not the equivalent of acquiring a ticket to heaven, and once acquired, the ticket holder is simply waiting to board his plane to heaven, as if waiting in a “spiritual layover” with nothing more to do than to enjoy to food, scenery, and amenities of the locale.

No. Paul says “I consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of know Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 7) and “my goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (v. 10). Our salvation is meant to propel us into active pursuit of Jesus and building/serving His church.

Paul’s goal in life and the reality of his salvation, as he recorded for the church in Philippi, was to know Jesus more and more each day. In verse 14, Paul says, “I pursue as my goal the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” I love this language! Pursue… it carries a such vivid imagery of action. I picture someone running as fast as he can, maybe in a race toward a finish line (which is imagery used elsewhere: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2, Hebrews 12:1) or after someone or something highly valued. His eyes and mind are focused on the end goal, but the race isn’t over. With each step, he works hard, “reaching forward to what is ahead” (v. 13). Salvation is active. Earlier in Philippians 2:12, Paul said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It seems by both Paul’s teaching and his lifestyle that he did not understand being born again as limited to something that happened at a single point in history (for him on the Damascus road in Acts 9). His life as a Christian began at a point in time, but it did not end there nor was it placed “on hold” there. He said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make EVERY EFFORT to take hold of it…” (emphasis added). Paul worked out (not for) his salvation… growing in Christ… learning about Him… worshiping Him… sharing Him with others.

In contrast to pursuing Jesus and subsequently becoming more Christlike, Paul later says that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18) and “they are focused on earthly things” (v. 19). While Paul does not use the same intesity of active imagery for those who are worldly, he does set the 2 things against each other. The Christian’s “citizenship is in heaven, from which we EAGERLY wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20; emphasis added). Enemies of the cross are focused on earthly things; Christians must be focused on heavenly things. Enemies of the cross pursue their own appetite and desires through the things of this world (3:19). Christians must “seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2) as we “stand firm in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1) and filling our minds with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, [and] whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8).

From a physical standpoint Paul learned how to be content in whatever circumstances he was in (4:11-12), but from a spiritual standpoint, he never settled for where he was or felt like his sanctification was complete (3:12).

My prayer is that I will follow Paul’s challenge and that you will, as well:

We should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:16-17)

The Gospel

img from: http://davemiers.com/what-is-the-gospel-by-greg-gilbert

Sometimes as pastors we say things like “When is the last time your shared the gospel?” or “Are you living a gospel-centered life?” But often times we forget or neglect that there are many who, though born again or saved, do not understand what the term “the gospel” entails. This is especially important for parents who want to make sure that their children hear “the gospel,” but don’t really know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes it’s because parents have heard it so many times that their memories (hearing it over and over again years ago) cloud the simplicity of the gospel, and sometimes it’s because parents are just learning it themselves. In any case, “the gospel” is “good news,” and as Jeffery Reed (lifeway.com/kidsministry/author/jeffreyreed) recently said “The gospel is good news, not a good recommendation or suggestion.”

The most explicit place in the New Testament in which the gospel is laid out is in 1 Corinthians 15:1,3-8 —

I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed…
For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; 
most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.
Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
This is a great place for adults to start as it lays out the outline or foundation of what Jesus actually did. This is the basics.
However, it is often necessary to take a step back from this outline (especially when talking with children) because there are a few critical questions that must be answered. For example, “why did Christ need to die for my sins?” or “what is sin?” The following was taken from 9marks.org/answers/what-gospel which helps walk through some of these questions in a clear way:

A good way to summarize this good news is to biblically unpack the words God, Man, Christ, Response.

  1. God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5Rev. 4:11Rom. 2:5-8).
  2. Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28Ps. 51:5Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
  3. Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:11 Tim. 2:5Heb. 7:26Rom. 3:21-262 Cor. 5:211 Cor. 15:20-22).
  4. Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15Acts 20:21Rom. 10:9-10).
If you have questions regarding this post, please, reach out to me or to a local pastor in your area.

Cell Phone Safety (a helpful book)

cell_safety1

My wife and 8 year old son picked up a book from the public library last weekend that, as it turns out, is quite helpful and informative. It is a short little book called “Cell Phone Safety” by Kathy Allen.

Most parents will have to deal with the issue of their children having and using a cell phone. Many parents want to help their children learn to use their cell phones responsibly but don’t know where to begin in talking with them. I believe this book gives parents a good track on which to start. For children, it asks the right questions to help children begin thinking for themselves about this responsibility

The book is written directly to children, most likely younger teenagers (older teens might find it “immature”). While it’s certainly not perfect nor comprehensive, I believe there are several good things to note about it. Addressing topics like “Phones are not toys,” “Public v. Private Info,” “Identity Theft and Dangers,” “Cyberbullying,” “Think Before You Send,” and “Screens Taking Time Away from Real Life” makes this a book from which both parents and children/teenagers can benefit.

A few notable points:

cell_safety3

“Cell Phone Safety” encourages open, honest communication between child and parent. On several pages the statement is made “Talk to a parent or trusted adult.” The book elaborates a “trusted adult” to be a teacher or someone similar. Parents definitely need to be intentional about keeping the lines of communication open, but children need to be reminded often (from outside the home helps tremendously) that their parents are not the enemy.

While cell phones certainly enable fun aspects of social life, they are not toys. Owners/users of cell phones, regardless of age, must remember that these devices are a tool for sending and receiving information, and that’s not a game. This book doesn’t gloss over or minimize the reality of the dangers of sharing private information publicly.

In light of the “it’s not a toy” point, “Cell Phone Safety” encourages and emphasizes responsibility on the part of the child, not just the parent.

Dealing with questions like “What’s the harm in telling posting about where I am?” and “What’s the harm in responding to a number I don’t know?” undergirds the serious nature of information sharing and helps children understand the risks.

cell_safety2

Similarly, kids and adults alike should adhere to the point of “think before you post/share” and in many cases, you simply cannot “un-send.”

Kids and adults alike can, also, benefit from periodically and intentionally unplugging; I know I can.

Boundaries are not a means to end fun but a means to ensure safety, just like crosswalks and traffic lights are on the road. Working with your child to set and understand boundaries will go a long way toward cell phone and online safety.

 

All in all, if you are struggling with how to help your child understand the importance of online/cell phone safety, this little book is a pretty good place to start. If you are just beginning crossing into the territory, as we are, of adding an additional cell phone in your home, this book will give you a path to walk on as you begin.

 

 

Note: This is simply a short review of a book I read. I have no affiliation with the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book. I have found its contents helpful; perhaps you can, too.
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