‘Tis the Season…to Be Satisfied

(This message was originally published on December 5, 2013)

Time magazine reports (December 4, 2013) that Fox Sports has sold out of advertising airtime for the 2014 Super Bowl. A 30-second segment of advertising time sold for over $4 million. Obviously, advertisers assume the Super Bowl’s viewers are prime candidates for their products.

Over the next few weeks, children will make their Christmas lists. Loved ones will exchange gifts. And come January, or just about the time of the Super Bowl, many Americans will be confronted with large credit card bills from this season’s shopping sprees.

Scripture teaches us to find our contentment in the Lord and in godliness. “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment…” (1 Timothy 6:6, ESV)

1 Timothy 6:6 and the verses that follow provide a timely lesson for any season, especially this one. How can we find satisfaction and experience contentment? Here are a few insights on contentment in the midst of such commercialization. (Here are a few “talking points” and applications with the Scripture references I thought I would share with you. For the sake of time and space, here is my condensed version.) 

1. LOOK FURTHER AHEAD.

“for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:7, ESV)

2. LET ENOUGH BE ENOUGH.

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:8-10, ESV)

3. LEARN HOW TO BE A RICH CHRISTIAN.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19, ESV)

Be humble.

Trust God, not wealth.

Enjoy the blessings of the Lord.

Employ your resources for the Lord.

 

Skipping Thanksgiving?

(This message was originally published on November 9, 2013)

Last month, I heard a news report about how Halloween is now second only to Christmas in regard to the impact it has on the United States economy. It appears that Thanksgiving has taken a back seat!

In stores, you will notice that the transition has begun or has already taken place from fall merchandise to Christmas-related merchandise.

Interestingly, our cable provider transitions on November 1 to playing Christmas music. Now, I love listening to Christmas music. But a thought occurred to me just the other day-are we now skipping Thanksgiving?

John Grisham wrote a book titled, Skipping Christmas. But it actually seems more probable that Americans are more likely to skip Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a biblical concept and a key characteristic of the Christian life. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are thankful and grateful for our salvation, for the Word of God, for loved ones, for God’s calling, and so forth.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 instructs us, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I’m struck with how that Scripture tells us to give thanks IN everything and not FOR everything. We can give thanks IN everything because the Lord Jesus is with us and He promises never to leave or forsake us. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Mark your calendars. Don’t skip Thanksgiving!

A Great Way to Start the Day

(This message was originally published on September 25, 2013)

This morning I had the privilege of standing around a high school flag pole. My oldest daughter reminded me that it was national “See You at the Pole” day and she was going to be there. I was flanked by parents, church members, school faculty & staff, and a cadre of praying students! The early morning prayer gathering was a tremendous blessing.

This morning’s student-led prayer gathering reinforced a message from Ephesians 6 that I shared earlier this week while meeting with SBCV pastors across Southwest Virginia.

Ephesians 6:10ff is a Bible text that is familiar. The Apostle Paul calls us to be “strong in the Lord” and to put on the armor. In Ephesians 6 we are reminded that this life is a spiritual battle. Yet, we have victory in Jesus! Ephesians 6:10ff calls us to “wake-up” to the spiritual battle and the fact that the enemy is real. We are called to “take-up” the armor of God. The Lord has equipped us for the battle. We read Paul’s request for prayer, and that tells me that I need to “pray-up.” And the last few verses of Ephesians 6 remind me that we are in this battle together. I am to “team-up” with fellow followers of Jesus. We must be allies in this spiritual battle.

I saw Ephesians 6 lived out this morning. As a father, I looked around a flag pole and saw my fourteen year old daughter taking up the armor of God, praying in Jesus’ name, and surrounded by her allies in the good fight of faith!

Stronger Together

(This message was originally published on September 18, 2013)

In a blog posting this week, Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary pointed out from his own experience the value and vision of our work together through Baptist state conventions. He writes, “We are stronger together, serving together, sending together.”

As I read his posting, I was encouraged to read that the challenge and encouragement he gives fits in with our theme for this year’s SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming, November 10-12 at First Baptist Church in Roanoke. SBCV’s theme is: “Strong Churches with a Bold Commitment to the Great Commission.”

The SBC of Virginia is a fellowship of more than six hundred churches standing together, serving together, and sending together to proclaim the Gospel. We are stronger together as we seek to be used of God to make disciples and plant churches.

Over the next week, month, or whenever the Lord leads you, please consider calling your church to prayer for our work together as SBC of Virginia churches. We call this SBCV emphasis on praying and giving: “VISION VIRGINIA”. Please consider how your church can join together with SBCV churches in serving and sending for the glory of Christ.

For more information and for videos that express appreciation for your church’s partnership with SBCV through “VISION VIRGINIA” please go to:

http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/2013_vision_virginia_week_of_prayer_for_state_missions_offering

Thank You for Your Labor for the Lord!

(This message was originally published on August 27, 2013)

As Labor Day Weekend approaches, please allow me a moment to share a word of thanks with you and the church you serve. Your ministry and mission partnership as an SBCV church is strengthening, mobilizing, and planting churches to proclaim the Gospel across our mission field.

For instance, we just received a thank you from Disaster Relief and Recovery leaders in New York City:

I wanted to touch base to say a huge thank you for your SBCV Feeding Teams. What a joy they were in every way and the food was outstanding as well!! Their attitudes, their smiles, their willingness to do anything, whether cooking, cleaning or working in a warehouse, they were amazing. They were Christ in action and we hope to see all of them again. Please convey our thankfulness for them, we were blessed!

Thank you for praying, giving, going, and sharing in this LABOR for CHRIST! Please allow me to pass along to you that the LABOR of your church in their ministry and mission partnership with SBC OF VIRGINIA (SBCV) is not in vain.

Some highlights of our labor together as SBCV churches…
We are reaching out to a number of different people groups and ethnic groups across Virginia and Metro DC.
We will have our 1st annual Hispanic Conference led by, with, and for our own Hispanic church leaders.
We can resource and support churches planting churches to reach various people across this mission field (because of your support, a church has been planted and is growing in its outreach to bikers!)
We see a new generation of leaders being equipped and mobilized to make disciples and plant churches.
Please consider how you can be used by God to lead and support your church in SBCV partnership, projects, and prayer for our Vision Virginia emphasis! Here is a link to our website for the Vision Virginia call to prayer:

http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/2013_vision_virginia_week_of_prayer_for_state_missions offering

As a way of saying THANK YOU to SBCV churches for their mission support, I’d like to share with you a few video testimonies. You are invited to share these with your church family. Here are some links to what we call Vision Virginia video testimonies.
http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/ryan_hendricks_vision_virginia_2013
http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/feeding_the_5000_vision_virginia_2013
http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/fernando_mangieri_vision_virginia_2013
http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/freedom_biker_church_vision_virginia_2013
http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/highlights_video_vision_virginia_2013

Shine Like Stars

(This message was originally published on July 3, 2013)

Dear SBCV brothers and sisters,

While preaching with the International Mission Board in Romania last week, I received word of the Supreme Court decision related to marriage. As I read the email from our SBCV communications office and prepared to send out an initial response, I was getting ready to preach from Philippians 2:12-18.

A key phrase in that Scripture reminds us to “Shine as Stars.” Our task in this world remains the same: make disciples of all nations for the glory of Christ. We serve the Lord as we radiate the light of Christ in the darkness.

I grew up in Newport News but my grandparents lived in rural North Carolina. I remember telling my Dad when I was a child that they had more stars in North Carolina than in Virginia. He told me that the stars are more visible at my grandparents’ house because in Newport News the city lights made the stars less visible. You see, the darker the night, the brighter the stars seem to shine.

Now is an opportunity for SBCV churches, and all followers of the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the True Light (John 1). Just as John the Baptist was a witness to the Light, the Lord Jesus – I pray that Brian the Baptist, and You the Baptist, will proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ!

Some thoughts on our response:
SBCV churches are united in our statement of faith summarized in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement makes it clear that we understand the Bible to teach that marriage is between a man and a woman.
SBCV churches can emphasize ministry to support families and enrich marriages.
SBCV churches have opportunities to be salt and light as they reach out to their neighbors and the nations.
SBCV churches must minister redemptively to a lost and dying world. A dark society and doomed souls should motivate us to proclaim the good news of Christ to all people.
May we pray for one another, seek revival, and yearn for spiritual awakening.

A few days ago, your SBCV media team interviewed Dr. Russell Moore, the new president of our Southern Baptist ethics ministry. Here is a link to the radio interview where Dr. Moore gives some insight into being the church in this day and age, and his response to the recent Supreme Court decision:

http://sbcva.info/webftp/SBCV_Website/empowered-audio/ER062913-ERLC-Moore.mp3

Strong Churches Proclaiming That Christ Is Risen!

(This message was originally published on March 28, 2013)

Adrian Rogers said, “Without the resurrection, Christianity topples like a house of cards.” Praise the Lord, Christ is risen! May the Lord empower you to preach the Gospel boldly this Resurrection Sunday. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 , “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

As this weekend approaches, here is a favorite testimony from the mission field: The Good Friday service in Dampara Baptist Church, Chittagong, Bangladesh, was packed. Little children sat on the floor in the aisles and across the front of the church. Rows of people stood in the back, craning their necks to see the crucifixion scene as depicted in the Jesus film. Weeping and gasps of unbelief could be heard in the shocked hush as Jesus was crucified. As the Bengalis watched, they felt the agony of Jesus’ pain and the disappointment of the disciples. In that emotional moment, one young boy in the crowded church suddenly cried out, “Do not be afraid. He gets up again! I saw it before.” A small boy’s encouraging cry gave new hope to the viewers of the film. “He is risen!” is the cry that gives new hope to all.

Your SBC of Virginia mission work…
will help to support the ministry and preaching of the Gospel at over 70 church plants this Easter across Virginia
makes it possible for scores of students to attend seminary this school year as they prepare for the Gospel ministry
will enable thousands of missionaries to proclaim the Gospel to people groups across the globe this Resurrection Sunday
strengthens ministries and pastors across Virginia as they reach out this season and share Christ boldly
mobilizes volunteers to serve and share Christ across Virginia and America
These are just a few highlights that you and your church family can rejoice over this Resurrection Sunday. Finally, I ask that you pray for one another as you prepare to preach and serve all across this mission field. The risen Lord Jesus has entrusted His Gospel to us as His ambassadors. Please pray for one another as we serve our risen Lord.

A Three Ring Circus?

(This message was originally published on February 21, 2013)

The circus is in town this week. Just the other night I took my son to see “The Greatest Show on Earth.” We sat on the fourth row, dead center. If the tight rope walkers had fallen, they would have landed on us! But, I have come up with a bit of a parallel I wanted to pass along to you – sometimes ministry and church can seem to be a three ring circus.

Sometimes it can seem that we walk a tight rope as ministers of the Gospel. Sometimes it can seem that we are caged in with tigers.
Sometimes it can seem that we are orchestrating French Poodles to perform.
Sometimes it can seem that we are getting ready to be shot from a canon.
And so on…

Now, I don’t want to stretch an analogy too far, but we have to admit that ministry can be a bit of a dangerous calling.

Some SBCV pastors have come across a resource you may find interesting. The book: Dangerous Calling…

http://www.crossway.org/books/dangerous-calling-hcj/

http://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Calling-Confronting-Challenges-Pastoral/dp/1433535823

SBCV offers pastor networks and fellowships all across our ministry area in locations close to you, as a way of encouraging pastor and leaders. We will also be building ‘affinity networks’ for pastors and leaders this year (example: bi-vocational pastors network).

My prayer for us, as we serve in ministry, is that on days when it seems church, ministry, and even life is a three ring circus, we’d be encouraged that we have a ‘Ring Master.’ The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd, He is Lord and Master. I just pray I won’t be a clown!

Not Just in the Event of an Emergency

(This message was originally published on January 24, 2013)

I remember the first time I flew on an airplane. It was right after graduating from seminary and we were flying to a pastors’ conference in Jacksonville, FL. The flight attendant gave the emergency instructions and modeled how to put on the oxygen mask in the event of the loss of cabin pressure. Having flown many times since then, I really don’t pay much attention to the pre-flight instructions anymore.

As Christians and as church leaders, there may be times when we need to be reminded and also remind the churches we serve about the Lord’s instructions for our journey in this life. Please allow me a moment to encourage you and your church in the area of prayer.

Many people view prayer as an emergency oxygen mask. However, prayer is not something to be used only in times of emergency and crisis. Prayer is more like breathing itself. Martin Luther wrote, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

The Apostle Paul prayed often and encouraged believers to pray. He was a person of prayer and called on churches to be people and places of prayer. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, he ended by simply asking them, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

Please join me in calling SBCV churches to be people of prayer. This Sunday, the Southern Baptist Convention is calling for a day of prayer. Through our Gospel partnership, the SBCV missionaries and ministry team pray for you. We pray for churches seeking pastors; churches celebrating; churches in need; and for church planters. As SBCV pastors and staff gather at pastor networks, power meals, and fellowships, we pray. As churches and small groups gather this weekend, God’s people pray. This weekend, many students and leaders will join together at our Youth Evangelism Conference (East) in Virginia Beach-they will pray! May the SBCV partnership of churches be a family of prayer.

In my writing to you this month, I have attempted to simply call us to be a state convention that will recognize our dependency upon the Lord. “Brothers, pray for us.”

Thank you for your prayers for your SBCV missionaries and their families. Please continue to remember our Student Ministry strategist Steve Maltempi’s family and their son Jonny.

As I close, I want to point you to a prayer resource that you may find helpful. This resource, 52 Sundays, gives your church an SBC/SBCV missionary or church planter to pray for each week. Here is a link to the resource on our website. As always, SBCV missionaries and staff are ready to assist you in your mission. Please let me know if I can do anything for you or your church. I would also love to visit with you. Don’t hesitate to call or email.

http://www.sbcv.org/articles/detail/52_sundays_2013_prayer_resources

Enjoy a Christmas Vacation!

(This message was originally published on December 19, 2012)

Merry Christmas! This weekend and Christmas Eve many of you will be leading and serving in churches across the SBC of Virginia mission field. You are ambassadors of Christ and ministers of the Gospel to our many neighbors and the nations. I also pray you will have some time to rest and be with loved ones.

Perhaps you will have loved ones visit you, or you will visit them. There have been many a Christmas past when I can remember visiting my grandparents in North Carolina as a child. Now, I am taking my children to see their grandparents.

I wanted to take a moment and share with you some verses of Scripture that I often think about this time of year that remind me of three places I need to stop and visit during Christmas! As we read Philippians 2, let’s “visit” three places this Christmas…

Philippians 2:5-11:
[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)

Christmas Vacation Stop #1 – The Crib of Christ

Verse 7 tells us that Christ was born in the likeness of man. I have seen three children (my children) born into this world. It must be (I don’t really remember) humbling to be a baby. Laying there, not being able to form words, unable to walk, messy diapers. Have you ever thought what it was like for the God of the Universe, the One who spoke Creation into existence, to humble himself as a baby? Visit the Crib (the Manger) this Christmas. Ponder what it meant for Christ to be born in the likeness of men. But, notice, the manger, the crib is empty. Jesus is no longer Baby Jesus, He grew in wisdom and stature, lived a perfect human life. So, we must visit another place…

Christmas Vacation Stop #2 – The Cross of Christ

Verse 8 tells us that Christ was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The Bible makes special note that Jesus died, but not just any death – death on a cross. Most scholars recognize that no crueler method of death has been invented than the cross. Consider how Jesus humbled himself, willingly, generously, graciously giving His life to pay for our sins and purchase a place for us in Heaven. But notice, the cross (like the crib) is empty. Our sin debt is paid in full. So, we must visit another place…

Christmas Vacation Stop #3 – The Tomb of Christ

Men who die are put in tombs. Jesus was put into a tomb. But, as we visit His tomb, a borrowed tomb, we notice it is empty too. As verse 9 and following point out, Jesus is highly exalted. He is our risen and living Lord of Lords, King of Kings. Jesus, the perfect God-man. God’s only begotten Son, our one and only Savior.

Isaac Watts wrote “Joy to the World” based off of Psalm 98. People often sing this song as we celebrate Christ’s first coming. But, we must live in light of Christ return. His crib is empty, His cross is empty, His tomb is empty – because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is coming back – not as Baby Jesus, but as King Jesus.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing,
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found,
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love…

There is much lostness and darkness in this world. SBCV Churches, let’s proclaim that joyous Good News to a lost and dying world. Joy to the World…Jesus came, and He is coming again!