Archive for October, 2013

When I served as a church planter in Arkansas, my friend Cliff Jenkins introduced me to a ministry practice that I had not seen before. He was encouraging parents to perform their own children’s baptisms. Since that time, I’ve implemented the same practice and have discovered other churches that are doing it as well. Here are four reasons why I encourage parents to perform their children’s baptisms.

First, it models family to the congregation. Churches pride themselves in being a place that values and elevates family, only to contradict that bragging point by dividing families up as soon as they walk in the door. Allowing parents to baptize their own children communicates the importance of family in a tangible way.

Second, it acknowledges that parents ultimately bear the responsibility for their children’s spiritual growth and development. I believe churches and ministry leaders are resources to parents, serving them by equipping them to be the primary spiritual voices that speak into their children’s lives. Having parents baptize their kids tangibly expresses that responsibility.

Third, it creates a lasting memory. I’ve never seen a parent baptize their child and not feel the gravity and significance of the experience. Most of them embrace in the water, wiping tears from their eyes. As the years pass children may forget the name of the pastor that performed their baptism, but they’ll never forget the fact that their parent baptized them. While I can’t substantiate it with hard data, my gut tells me that children who are baptized by a parent will struggle less with faith questions as they mature through high school, college and young adulthood. When doubts arise, parents are able to provide much needed support because they played a vital role at a crucial moment.

Fourth, it blurs the line that distinguishes ordained clergy and those who sit in the pew (I hate the word “laity”). We have no record of Jesus performing a baptism for anyone, and little is mentioned of the apostles performing baptisms. Yet we know baptisms were taking place all the time. As I read the Bible I see no prohibition that would limit baptism to the ordained. Releasing this important ordinance to the congregation not only values parents, it values the body of Christ.

Categories : Baptism
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About three o’clock in the morningb Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strongd wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. (Matthew 14:25-32, NLT)

Where do we find hope when we come to the end of our strength? What can we learn from this familiar text?

The first thing we have to do when unexpected storms arise is to look for Jesus. The image of the story is telling. The story said that Jesus came to them walking on the water. What threatened the disciples overhead was already under his feet (cf. Ephesians 1:19-21). No matter what we face in life, Jesus is in authority over it.

The second thing we must do is listen to Jesus. Look at his words of assurance. “Don’t be afraid, take courage, I am here.” The literal translation of this verse would render, “Don’t be afraid, take courage, I AM.” Does that ring any bells? I AM is the name God gave Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3. Through it Jesus declared both his deity and his sufficiency.

Next, we must trust Jesus. In a moment of boldness, Peter asked if he could walk to Jesus on the water, and Jesus invited him. The other disciples must have thought he was nuts as he climbed over the side of that small fishing boat and stepped out onto the surface of the sea. Peter demonstrated great faith, and helps us understand that if you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. There’s another lesson we learn from this experience. Keep your gaze on the Savior and your glance at your problem. When Peter took his focus off of Jesus, he began to sink and in desperation cried out to be rescued. I don’t know how Peter got back to the boat. Either he walked back with Jesus or was carried back by Jesus. Neither is a bad option!

Finally, we should worship Jesus. When Jesus and Peter got in the boat, the storm subsided. The disciples joined in worship and praise as they reaffirmed their conviction that Jesus was the Son of God.

When your life gets rocked by an unexpected storm, look, listen, trust and worship is the protocol to follow. Jesus may deliver you from the storm. But he may deliver you through the storm. That’s how we mature in faith. If you never had a problem you’d never know he could solve it.

Categories : Uncategorized
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“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning” (Matthew 14:22-26, NLT).

You will recognize this as the familiar text where Jesus walked on water and Peter had the opportunity to walk to him on the surface of the sea. Before I get to that I want to share a few observations about the problem the disciples faced. The text describes the dilemma as four fold. First, the storm rose suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere. Second, the disciples were far away from the security of the shore. Third, the wind was strong, making it hard for the disciples to maintain their balance. Finally, it was the middle of the night. The darkness would have impaired their vision. Parallel accounts allude to the fact that the disciples had expended all of their strength as they rowed in futility. Those four things are fairly obvious.

Perhaps the most important aspect, though, is the fact that Jesus sent them into the storm. Jesus was on the mountain top in prayer while the disciples struggled on the sea below. Sometimes we find ourselves in problems because we do stupid things. Our poor decisions, bad judgment, and undisciplined indiscretions create messes of our own design, and while those messes are unfortunate, if we’re honest we can at least say, “It’s my own dumb fault.”

But what happens when we find ourselves reeling from the sudden storms due to the fact that we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing? That’s where the disciples found themselves: struggling in the middle of doing the Lord’s will.

What can we do when we’re at the end of our strength? Tomorrow I’ll finish the story and share some insights that will hopefully be helpful, regardless of the cause of your storm.

Categories : Hope
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Why Teachers Quit

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Interesting article from The Atlantic regarding Why Teachers Quit. While these statistics may be startling to some, those of us how know a little about education or educators (I’m married to a Kindergarten teacher) know that these numbers sound about right:

* 40-50% of teachers leave teaching in the first 5 years
* 9.5% of teachers do not finish their first year of teaching
* 15.7% of teachers leave the profession every year
* 40% of those who pursue an undergraduate degree in teacher never enter the classroom at all

Every profession has its share of turnover, but education seems to run higher turnover rates than other professions. The author of the article, Richard Ingersoll, himself left education after six years in the classroom, shares his thoughts as to why teachers are not sticking. What do you think of the reasons he gives for teachers leaving the classroom?

Categories : Education
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Here’s a simple and concise post by Rick Warren on the 8 Reasons Believers Give to Your Church. I think he’s spot on with this article, right down to the title. This is well worth your time, especially if your church is preparing for next year’s budget promotion or stewardship campaign!

Categories : Rick Warren, Stewardship
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What do we learn from Mark 5 that will help us when we’re at the end of our rope?

1. The end of your rope is where God begins.
Like the woman in this week’s lesson, we will try to do everything we can to solve our problems and resolve our issues. We use our networks, spend our resources, and use our common sense as our first response, turning to God as our last resort. When I was very young in ministry our church faced a tremendous financial problem. During one particular staff meeting, I said something like, “Maybe we should pray about this.” Our beloved pastor quipped, “Has it come to that?” We all had to stop and laugh at his comment, because we realized we were forgetting the very essence of ministry: faith! Sometimes we have to get to the end of our rope so we can see the glory of God at work.

2. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Our problem is not that we are too weak; our problem is that we are too strong.”
Paul learned this lesson as he described his infamous “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). Three times he prayed for God to remove it, and three times God said no. Paul discovered that God’s power is perfected in weakness, so he decided he would rather experience God’s power with the thorn than live his life thorn free without God’s power. God is strangely attracted to weakness.

3. God often expects us to take the first step.
I believe Jesus knew the woman was present and that he knew her condition. But instead of turning to her and taking the first step, he waited for her to act. Sometimes we are guilty of affirming that God’s omniscience and omnipotence is enough. We live under the assumption that if God knows our needs and can act upon them powerfully that He will if He wills it. But we’re not human tokens on God’s cosmic game board. He loves us and desires that we behave relationally. We don’t have to live passively. We can express humble faith and take the risk to reach out to the hem of his garment.

Categories : Hope
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Barna Research has published a new report that reveals some interesting new trends that are the result of our consumption of the internet and social media. Many of their observations will feel obvious to you, but the one that is alarming is our culture’s exchange of depth for surface. In my opinion, this trend began with cable news and the continuous tickering of headlines. We became consumers of headlines versus thoughtful evaluators of stories. Headline news has been exaggerated by Twitter, for example, which instantaneously provides the latest news and information in 140 characters or less, making the full story discretionary.

What does this mean for our faith and discipleship? Trends are trends, and usually what touches culture touches our approach to faith. Our weakened discipleship has resulted in “headline” principles and keys that are more like 5 hour energy shots than good nutrition, exercise and sleep. Jesus spent three entire years with the apostles who in turn changed the world. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can get the same results with nuggets, slogans, and mottos. If you’d like to read the whole article from Barna Research, click HERE.

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Have you ever felt as though you were at the end of your rope? Maybe that’s how you feel today about your life. If you’ve never felt that sense of desperation, hold on, because the likelihood of you living your entire life not having experienced it is really, really small.

On Sunday I shared a simple story from the gospel of Mark that may prove to be a timely word of encouragement for those who feel at the end of their rope.

A large crowd followed and pressed around (Jesus). And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:25-29, NLT).

The story is very direct about the woman’s health problem. For over a decade she had battled some form of uterine disorder. She had seen every doctor imaginable and had spent everything she had. As time passed, she grew worse and worse. Beyond the obvious problem lies an equally difficult challenge. Because of the nature of her health needs she was ceremonially unclean. She couldn’t enter the Temple grounds. Like any leper she was forbidden to touch anyone or be touched by anyone, rendering her a societal outcast.

So what did she do? The first thing she did was express simple faith. She had heard about Jesus which allowed faith to germinate and sprout (Romans 10:17). Her faith wasn’t perfect, but imperfect faith is ok as long as the object of one’s faith is perfect. Once that faith began to rise she acted in humility. Luke’s account says that she touched “the hem of Jesus’ garment.” Assuming Jesus wore some form of robe, reaching the hem would have required her to either kneel or even lie prostrate on the ground to reach through the crowd to touch it. Jesus responded to her imperfect faith and genuine humility and granted her request. She was healed and she knew it.

She may have thought she could slip away unnoticed, but Jesus realized that someone had touched him and sensed that his healing power had gone out. In my opinion, Jesus knew exactly what had happened and who had touched him. But he demanded the woman give him the praise and glory for what he had done. On cue she stepped forward and for the second time knelt. Only this time it was in worship.

Tomorrow I’ll share three observations from this simple story that I trust will be helpful to you if you’re at the end of your rope in search of hope.

Categories : Hope
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This weekend I’m beginning a new, four week series on hope, based on four familiar narratives from the gospels. Here are the titles and texts I’ll cover:

HOPE: At the End of My Rope (Mark 5:25-34)
HOPE: At the End of My Strength (Matthew 14:22-32)
HOPE: At the End of Myself (Luke 15:11-32)
HOPE: At the End of My Life (John 11:1-43)

If you’re not a part of the First Baptist Family, check this site out each week for reflections from my weekly sermons.

Categories : Hope
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Applying 1 John:: 3

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Keeping in Stride

This week I’ve already posted two major take-a-ways from John’s conclusion to his epistle. Theology is incomplete without application, and so far we’ve observed that genuine faith results in, at least, believing prayer and loving “carefrontation.” The third major application from 1 John is joyful obedience.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (1 John 5:18-21, NLT)

John’s concern is twofold: our sins and idolatry (5:21) Because of our fellowship with Christ we are not powerless to obey him and renounce sin and idolatry. He pointed out that even though the world is under the control of Satan, Satan does not have God’s children in his (literal rendering) grasp. Sin is the distortion of God’s good gifts, and idolatry happens when we take a good thing and make it a “god thing”–and that’s a bad thing.

The larger issue with sin and idolatry is that they uniquely reveal that we are trying to seek satisfaction outside of Christ. When we sin or erect idols, we are in a sense conveying that Christ is somehow incomplete or insufficient to meet our needs. The antidote for such challenges is not obedience, but joyful obedience. Joyful obedience recognizes that there is nothing in this world worth having apart from Christ. Joyful obedience esteems God above all things. When our values are shifted from the transient and temporal to the eternal, we see sin and idolatry for what it is: unappealing and unsatisfying.

Thanks for taking the journey with me through 1 John. On Sunday I challenged our congregation to take time to read 1 John in its entirety in one sitting. I believe that 15 minute exercise will help open the book to you in a fresh way. Thanks for recommending this site to your friends.

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