Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Final Blog of 2012 - Great Resources for Your Holidays

One of the dumbest statements ever said to me was that someone could "read themselves stupid." The greatest minds in the world read with passion and fervor. Usually people say things like the aforementioned quote when a book points to something they don't like or that is contrary to what they have experienced in the past. C.S. Lewis said "we read to know we are not alone." Books are our friends and sadly, most believers struggle in the area of reading - especially men. 

I have been asked MULTIPLE times if I could create a book list for those believers in our fellowship. We have a "Pastor's Picks" table at Trinity on which all the books have been "screened" by our staff. Today, I am creating a digital version of this book table with some help from Amazon. I decided to add this one final blog for the year, given that many of you might consider these books to read over your vacations or to give as holiday gifts. This new "Pastor's Picks eStore" is a link to Amazon where you can purchase the books online. Again, most all of these books are also available on our book table at the church and even in our church library. There is one other resource offered that many of you may not have heard of previously; the Clearplay DVD player/filter.  Our family found Clearplay over two years ago and it is a wonderful way to watch movies/dvds without worrying about negative content.  

Hope this site gives you some great reading for the holidays and for some of you, starts you on a journey full of passion for reading GREAT books! 
I also want to close with a reminder of upcoming events and schedule for the holidays.  Please mark these dates down and make the most of them with your family.

November 25: No Evening Service

December 2: An Evening In December. Please come this evening and celebrate our Savior as our choir will lead us in worship with a special presentation to celebrate the birth of Christ.

December 16: Sunday evening we will be celebrating “Happy Birthday Jesus.” This is a time that our entire church will bring a gift to celebrate the birth of Christ. We lay an additional offering at the altar (please involve your children in this by making cards and putting this offering in it) as we want our children to see our entire church celebrate His birth through giving.  There will be a special time of  fellowship afterwards.

December 23 and 30: No evening service.

January 6: In our evening worship we will begin a series entitled “Wise Counsel;” this will be one of the most important series we will walk through as a church body.  This series and will enhance your personal discipleship along with your ability to disciple others as we open the Word and dig into truth, allowing it to change who we are in our circumstances, instead of trying to use the Word to change our circumstances or rationalize our circumstances. Start your year off by being faithful all day on Sunday! 
February 10-13: Revival with Bro. Rick Coram. Bro. Rick has been with us before and was greatly used of God; I cannot wait to see what God does in the life of Trinity during this time.

I love you and hope that you have a Merry Christmas and outstanding New Year. I will resume blogging on January 8th.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just a Word to Trinity as the Year Draws to a Close

Last year I decided that I would close out new blog posts for the year once the holidays hit. The truth is most people do not read blogs, nor much else except sales papers during the holidays. After this post I will have one more that simply lays out our holiday schedule, so I wanted the last full entry for the year to end by telling our Trinity family that I count it an honor to be your Pastor. In January I will have been your Pastor for 4 years and it has been some of the toughest, and yet some of the most rewarding times in my life. I am thankful for you because you have become a church that not only longs to hear truth, but you strive to live it.  The love and grace you have shown to not only me, but to one another during some crazy times has been nothing less than a display of God’s grace working through you. I can honestly say that now we are beginning to see a demonstration of what becoming a biblical church is all about. We have seen people saved, new mission opportunities come about, new believers baptized, disciples growing and some even married. The families that God has left in this fellowship and the families that God has moved into this fellowship have come together as a true body of Christ. Your hunger for the Word of God and overwhelming encouragement to me as your Pastor is humbling and brings joy to my soul.

The staff that the Lord has placed here are not simply men I get to serve with but friends that I love and trust. They love and serve this church body with passion and grace. I have been amazed throughout my ministry to watch men falter, and succumb to a self preservation ministry when tough decisions had to be made. I can say by experience that these men are not that way and it has allowed this body to come through many storms. These men and their wives are “low maintenance” and “high service” and that enables me to better prepare to preach the Word each and every week. Thank you Trinity for loving them.

Last but not least, thank you for loving one another! To watch you minister, serve, pray and go after one another week by week is a blessing like no other. To see the Lord’s grace at work in so many ways and so many ministries in our fellowship has been exciting and encouraging. To watch as over these past four years our membership has moved from thinking that church is about me and my performance, to making it all about bringing glory to our Lord and with a passion to carry forth the Gospel, makes me extremely excited to see what the next 4 years (and the next 20 years) hold. The way the Lord has raised up men to love and lead this fellowship has set us up to stay the course by God’s grace. I love you and am a blessed man to be called your Pastor; thank you for the love and grace you continually display.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Silence of the Saints

I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church and have been on staff of only Southern Baptist Churches and, here is what I know: if I want to bring a tear and lead the average person to stand with reverence and awe, it is not the cross of Jesus I need to mention, it is not a great song saturated with Gospel that we need to sing...we only need someone to sing “God Bless the USA.”  If I want a chorus of “amen” to ring across the church, it is not gossip, or the importance of men leading in their home I must preach on…but on the sin that is seldom committed by “religious” people but is common in Hollywood and on TV. In fact in many of our churches (not ours thank the Lord for His grace on us), we have forced not only the people, but the pulpits into silence.  Just a few weeks ago I had a friend call me and he was sharing that his church had an issue of open adultery - the husband and ex-wife were still in the church and the husband had actually “asked out” some of the ladies in the church.  After I spoke with this dear brother for a little while, I found out this clear line of open sin was in the fellowship because the church had refused to deal biblically with another adultery situation that had happened some years ago. I give this story in a general way to underscore the fact that if we do not handle sin inside the body in a biblical fashion, we totally lose our voice when speaking against it in a lost world.

It is tough to speak clearly with integrity when it comes to defining marriage when we allow adultery and divorces to take place within the church because we “don’t want to get involved.” The entire picture of the Church being a body or a family is a call to be interwoven in one another’s lives. I am to have such a concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ that I am willing to be “put out” or “uncomfortable” if it means that I am aiding them in their walk with Christ.  I find it amazing and confusing when churches that seem to get so many things right, that are faithful when it comes to articulating truth, decide to become pragmatists when it comes to living out church. If church has become nothing more than a place that I go to sing a few songs and hear a sermon, then it makes perfect sense that the Barna Group states that of the adults that have a biblical worldview only 25%  of them agree with the idea of the centrality of a local church is crucial to a persons spiritual growth.  Church is no longer  a place that I walk with other believers, that I am involved in discipleship and missions and getting my proverbial “hands dirty” by dealing with sinners saved by grace yet struggling in areas just like me.  If we are not truly developing a family within the body, and all church has become is a large room that we conduct our personal “quiet times,” then church is not important. However, I am not called to live on some spiritual island of isolation: I am called to walk with people, to show grace to them by loving through tough times, rejoicing  in good times and confronting during rebellious times. This is not easy, but church is not meant to be “easy” if it is done correctly.  All of those wonderful verses in Matthew about being peacemakers and bearing with one another are also lived out in the community of the church.  It hurts, it allows us to see some turn to Christ, some rejoice in truth and others walk away because truth is too tough. But the bottom line is, when a church is healthy it will not be a place where people can be happy in “neutral”, or becoming stagnant. It serves as a greenhouse where the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and people of God are used to mature the believer and enable him (and the entire body) to shine in such a way that when we speak truth mixed with grace, the world may not like it, but they can’t roll their eyes because they know we speak with integrity. May God give us the grace to live out what real church is!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reformation Day!!!

Well, most of us know October 31st as Halloween, but many people in our churches really have no clue what Reformation Day is really all about. Reformation Day is Oct. 31st and it is an opportunity to at least point out to our children the importance of this day. As I point out to our congregation, the Jewish people had a lot of festivals and celebrations to lead their children to ask questions so they could teach them about God. We have celebrations and we come up with ways to exclude Christ and gospel. Use this time to at least mention this to your children. If you want to make the most of it, use this weekend as a movie night and watch “Luther” as a family and talk about the blessing of men who were bold enough to stand on the Word of God when it could cost them their life (while "Luther" can be a dark film and may inappropriate for young children...parents will need to be the judge of this.  Please see http://www.pluggedin.com/videos/2004/q3/luther.aspx for a review of the film and its content)

Below is a short blog from biblegateway.com about October 31st.

Did you know that October 31 is one of the most significant dates in church history? No, I’m not talking about Halloween—I’m talking about Reformation Day! You probably won’t see neighborhood kids going door-to-door dressed like Martin Luther or Ulrich Zwingli on Monday night, but these men and their fellow reformers made a huge and lasting impact on the way that evangelical Christians understand and approach Scripture.
The Protestant Reformation was shaped by many people over many years, but came into focus when a monk named Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517. Luther was a Catholic priest who was upset at the widespread corruption he observed within the ecclesiarchy, most notably the sale of “indulgences” that promised postmortem forgiveness of sins for deceased loved ones.
Outside Luther’s Germany, similar “protest” movements were helmed by people like John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox. Beyond protesting corruption in the church, the emerging “protestant” movement challenged many of the theological teachings of the Roman Catholic church. The reformers believed that Scripture alone—not human traditions or the rulings of a church—held complete authority for Christians (see “sola scriptura”), and that salvation was a free gift of God that could not be earned by good deeds. The widespread publication and distribution of Bibles—indeed, the fact that all of us can afford and freely read the Bible ourselves—is one of the most enduring legacies of the Reformation.
The century following the Protestant Reformation was a chaotic and violent time, but the reform movements survived to form the basis of today’s Protestant denominations. Protestants owe a debt of gratitude to the many reformers who risked (and in some cases, lost) their lives rebuilding the church. And non-Protestant Christians can appreciate the reformers for confronting corruption in the church, even if they don’t agree with all of Protestant theology. So on October 31, pause for a few minutes amidst the Halloween festivities to remember this pivotal moment in church history.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What to do for Halloween?

As a Dad of two boys, one of the many mistakes I have made is getting things too early for them. In Georgia we had the opportunity to build a home: it had two oak trees in the back and I had a simple zip-line put in. It was every kids dream, however I had 3 year old and 2 year old and I was crushed that they were so fixed on safety that they screamed and cried as they experienced their first “ride” on it. Now they would love it, in fact in a couple of years they would have loved it. There are times I do the same thing as a Pastor; I either present or teach things too early, or I simply show you some of the best information I have found as I come across it and, when it comes “that time” again I will either restate it or repost it. Below is a post that I did last year regarding Halloween, I hope it helps you think through how we as believers should approach this time of year.

A Great Blog to Think Through

I love Tim Challies's blog and I also have a high regard for Dr. John MacArthur, as Mr. Challies does. Below is an outstanding blog on Halloween that is, at the very least…food for thought:

Halloween Fast Approaches
Halloween is fast approaching, and I am beginning to see articles on this always-popular topic in the blogosphere. I wrote about this for the first time last year and thought I would follow that article with a similar one, but one that is hopefully a little more developed as I've had another year to think about this issue. This topic was been discussed last year on an email discussion list in which I participate. One member of the list posted a couple of responses to Halloween provided by John MacArthur in an informal question and answer setting. MacArthur was asked, “Is there anything wrong with children going out 'Trick or Treating', like Halloween, and if so, what specifically is bad in it, and what do the MacArthur kids do? And, should Grace get involved in any alternatives?” His response was as follows:

“I think, it's not a wise thing to have children go out trick or treating. I mean, I think it's kind of dumb for Christian kids to dress up like ghosts and witches and weird things, and devil suits, and trouble-makers, and all that. I think, for example, you know, the whole thing of All Saints Day or All Hallows Eve has connotations, first of all of Roman Catholic tradition. It has connotations of demons and spirits. Plus the fact that little kids are exposed to screwballs as well as to cars, and all kinds of other things…What we do in our family is we have an alternative. Like you said, we do an alternative thing. We do something fun for the whole family. It varies from year to year, and our church has always done that, too, for the kids. Have parties and socials and things.”
Of course I'm sure it has been a few years since the MacArthur children asked to dress up for Halloween. I post MacArthur's response because I feel it is quite typical of the Christian attitude towards Halloween. He feels the day holds too many negative connotations and that Christians should find a more sacred alternative.
I acknowledge this as a difficult issue and that it is, in many ways, an issue of conscience. I do not believe there is absolute right and wrong here. Each person much examine his conscience and decide what he believes. The Bible says nothing about Halloween, though certainly there are principles we can find that will help guide us. But ultimately I believe we have to trust our consciences and our sanctified reasoning to guide us. Let me share where this has led me.
My conviction is that it is a very poor witness to have the house of believers blacked out on Halloween. Halloween presents a unique opportunity to interact with neighbors, to meet their children and to prove that Christians are part of the community and not merely people who want only to interact with Christian friends or to only interact in our own way and on our own terms. At the same time I despise how evil Halloween is. Already our neighborhood has ghosts hanging from trees and evil plastic figurines stuck into lawns. One section of houses nearby always feels the need to go the extra step, playing recordings of scary music, dressing in occult costumes and generally glorying in evil. To this time we have allowed our children to go out trick-or-treating, provided they do not wear evil or occult costumes. It is a compromise, and admittedly not one I am entirely comfortable with. Over the past several years churches in our neighborhood have offered an alternative to Halloween with “harvest parties” or similar events. These tend to be parties in a nearby community center that allows children to dress up and get their fill of candy in a less-pagan environment. But there are other churches that encourage families to be present in their homes, to greet their neighbors and to look for opportunities to interact with them. A couple of the pastors in a nearby church are going so far as to hold neighborhood barbecues before dark and inviting people to come and share a meal with them. I think this is a great idea.
Perhaps the greatest fallacy Christians believe about Halloween is that by refusing to participate in the day we are somehow taking a stand against Satan. And second to that, is that participation in the day is an endorsement of Satan and his evil holidays. The truth is that Halloween is not much different from any other day in this world where, at least for the time being, every day is Satan's day and a celebration of him and his power. A member of the discussion discussion list wrote the following last year around this time: “Yeah… I've heard all of the 'pagan' reasons Christians should avoid Halloween. The question is whether we are actually participating in Samhain when we participate in Halloween? Who or what makes the 'Witch's League of Public Awareness' the definers of what Halloween is, either now or historically? Such a connection between Samhain and my daughter as a ladybug or my son as a Bengals Boy is highly dubious.” And it is highly dubious at best.
I am guessing my neighborhood is all-too-typical in that people typically arrive home from work and immediately drive their cars into the garage. More often than not they do not emerge again until the next morning when they leave for work once more. We are private, reclusive people who delight in our privacy. We rarely see our neighbors and rarely communicate with them. It would be a terrible breach of Canadian social etiquette for me to knock on a person's door and ask them for a small gift or even just to say “hello” to them. In the six years we have been living in this area, we have never once had a neighbor come to the door to ask for anything (except for this time). Yet on Halloween these barriers all come down. I have the opportunity to greet every person in the neighborhood. I have the opportunity to introduce myself to the family who moved in just down the row a few weeks ago and to greet some other people I have not seen for weeks or months. At the same time, those people's children will come knocking on my door. We have two possible responses. We can turn the lights out and sit inside, seeking to shelter ourselves from the pagan influence of the little Harry Potters, Batmans and ballerinas, or we can greet them, gush over them, and make them feel welcome. We can prove ourselves to be the family who genuinely cares about our neighbors, or we can be the family who shows that we want to interact with them only on our terms. Most of our neighbors know of our faith and of our supposed concern for them. This is a chance to prove our love for them.
The same contributor to the email list concluded his defense of participating in Halloween with these words: “One night does not a neighbor make (and one night does not a pagan make), but Halloween is the one night of the year where the good neighborliness that flows from being in Christ is communicated and reinforced. We are citizens of another Kingdom where The Light is always on.”
The truth is that I have several convictions regarding Halloween. I despise the pagan aspects of it. I am convicted that my children should not dress as little devils or ghosts or monsters. But I am also convicted that there could be no worse witness to the neighbors than having a dark house, especially in a neighborhood like ours which is small and where every person and every home is highly-visible. We know that, if we choose not to participate, the neighbors will notice and will smile knowingly, supposing that we feel too good to participate. We have nothing to fear from our neighbors or from their children. So my children will dress up (my son as a police officer and my daughter as a princess) and we will visit each of our neighbors, knocking on their doors and accepting their fistfuls of candy. Either my wife or I will remain at home, greeting people at our door with a smile and a handful of something tasty. If the kids are deemed too old to trick-or-treat, they'll be forced to sing a song to merit any handouts. Our door will be open and the light will be on. And we trust that the Light will shine brightly.
My encouragement to you today is to think and pray about this issue. I do not see Halloween as a great evangelistic occasion. I do not foresee it as a time when the people coming to your door are likely to be saved. But I do think it is a time that you can prove to your neighbors that you care about them, that you care about their children, and that you are glad to be in this world and this culture, even if you are not of this world or this culture. Halloween may serve as a bridge to the hearts of those who live around you who so desperately need a Savior.