A great Good Friday message by SM Lockridge (1913-2000).
A great Good Friday message by SM Lockridge (1913-2000).
It’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write that I’m really not sure how to begin. I guess the best way to get going again is the same way that I got going in the first place. Just write. So here goes…
It’s been 3 ½ months since my last post on the blog, and a lot has happened since then. My absence was not because I ran out of ideas for writing and it was not because I lost the desire. To put it simply, several major things have happened that jumped ahead of writing on my priority list. Let me try to catch you up.
Many of you already now that early in 2013 my mother was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, MDS, a rare blood disease (most people know about MDS because of Robin Robert’s battle with the disease) which caused the doctors to estimate she had 12-18 months to live without treatment. At the end of May she was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for a bone marrow stem cell transplant. The transplant has been a long and difficult process, however I am happy to report that so far Mom is doing very well and should be able to come home sometime toward the end of September.
For most of the summer our family (my wife Leigh Anne, our son Haddon and myself) has been traveling back and forth to Jacksonville every other week to stay with and care for my mother. However, a few weeks ago, Leigh Anne began having complications with the pregnancy of our second son, Chasen. Because of pre-term labor she has been placed on bed rest for the next 7 weeks or so. As you can imagine, this brought our time in Jacksonville to an abrupt end.
On top of everything else, my laptop died this summer, forcing me to do all my word processing on my office desktop at the church! Needless to say, I haven’t had much time for extra writing when I actually do make it into the office.
I write all of this because my awesome wife has helped me resurrect my old MacBook so that I can start writing again in my downtime at home. Thankfully, after a busy summer, I have a lot to write about. Hopefully in the next few days I will be able to start posting some new articles on the blog and hopefully begin to regain some readers.
Prayers for Leigh Anne, Chasen, and Mom are still appreciated. Even through everything that has happened and is happening, God remains faithful and has shown Himself gracious in a multitude of new ways to me. I look forward to being able to share some of this with you soon.
In Christ Alone,
This past week, my wife, Leigh Anne, and I took our son Haddon to Disney World in Orlando for three days. While there, we hit every park but Epcot. We rode the rides, saw the shows, waved at the characters, and watched the parades. It was a great weather, and we had a blast. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but sometime in our trip, it hit me, “This is what Heaven is going to look like.”
Now before you call me crazy, I don’t mean that in Heaven we will see people walking around dressed in anthropomorphized animal costumes. I don’t mean that you will have to wait in line for ridiculous periods of time. Nor do I mean that two cheeseburger lunches will cost you $30. What I do mean is that just like Disney World, Heaven will be a place full of people from countries and cultures from all over the world. At Disney it seemed as if you couldn’t turn around without bumping into someone from a foreign country. In fact, at lunch one day, Haddon met another almost 3-year-old from Brazil and they became fast friends. Apparently M&M’s are a universal language.
Scripture tells us that this bringing together of peoples from every corner of the globe is a peak into what Heaven will look like. John writing in Revelation 7:9-10 says
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tounges, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
What an amazing picture! When John was given a glimpse into Heaven this is what he saw, people from “every nation” worshiping the slain and risen Lamb, Jesus.
As pastor of a church in small town USA, where just about everybody looks, speaks, and lives the same, this truth is essential for me to keep in the forefront of my theology. Jesus didn’t die just to save middle class white Americans. His death reaches farther than that. Jesus’ death reaches far enough to bring together people from every country, and every culture, and every tounge under the banner of the cross.
Yes, Jesus died for me, but He didn’t die just for me. He died to save a sin-broken world, and to restore it for His Father’s glory. He died to create a new people not defined by nationality, race, language, or economic level. Jesus died and rose again so that His name would be lifted high among all the peoples of the earth.
So the next time that you and your family go to Disney, while waiting in a seemingly never-ending line, baking under the hot Florida sun, just open your eyes to see the people around you and remember, Heaven will look a little like this.
I have been out-of-town on vacation this week, thus the reason for no new posts. However, I have asked Chad Bryant, our Associate Pastor of Youth and Outreach at Airline, to fill in for me. I told him he could choose any topic he wanted for the blog, however, I was still more than a little surprised when he, a 36-year-old bachelor, informed me he had written on parenting. So here it is…a single guy’s take on parenting.
Quite often I find myself reading news articles from different news outlets. I especially take interest in articles to which the subject matter includes—religious/spiritual matters, teenagers, churches, parenting, politics, etc. Well, last month I stumbled upon a doozy of an article that pretty much included all aforementioned subject matter! I first noticed the article on the ajc.com website, but if you wish to read a more detailed article of what happened you can click here, (www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/17/georgia-teen-who-shot-parents-wanted-to-read-bible-not-do-chores/).
Do you see why I could not resist clicking and reading? I am a pastor whose focus is working with young people, teens. Obviously, when I see the words—teen, shot, parents, Bible, chores—my first thoughts are “Uh oh! What am I about the read here?!?” because that headline just does not sound good at all. There are apparently more issues going on with this kid than I could know about, but my goodness maybe somebody needs to help him look up Ephesians 6: 1-4! There seems to be an epidemic of outrageous, disrespectful, and ungodly behavior towards parents from their teens these days. Did we, who are now adults, really behave like this when we were young? What possesses a person to get so enraged by their parents’ request for them to do a few chores that they would take a 9mm pistol and attempt to kill them all because that person wanted to find a Bible verses for a friend who wanted to get saved? Something seems off, no doubt, but I hate that this is now possibly being looked at as another case of those gun toting, wacko Christians trying to take over the world with their crazy beliefs.
What are we teaching our kids today? I do not have kids yet so I am seriously asking this question with hopes for an answer. I have some ideas. I often look at how other parents are parenting their children and say to myself, “I would never do that!” but how naive of me to say such things. The facts are, and I have talked to many parents (my parents included), who have flat out said their parenting style is on a wing and a prayer. It seems parents are ill equipped for parenting in today’s world. So, am I placing blame for this 15 year old boy’s heinous reaction on him, or are his parents to blame for what took place? I believe the answer is a little of both. I would never excuse the boy’s sinful behavior. He was willfully sinning against his parents, and his God. I do not place blame on video games or friend influences in such matters. The real blame is that our hearts are sinful. We are fallen, sick, depraved people in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ. But what about his parents? Here is where it gets tricky because I do not have first hand information for how they have raised this child of theirs. I do not know where they are spiritually. I read from the article that the boy lived with his dad and step-mom, and that he has had troubling anger issues in the past. I do not read how they have parented. My guess is they, like many others, are on a wing and a prayer doing the best they know how.
Can I just say that maybe part of the problem with the ungodly attitudes displayed by our children are a by product of what they see and learn at home? From parents. Parents are you too busy being friends with your child, rather than being a parent? Are you being a good husband and wife? Better yet are you being a Godly example to your child. If you read one chapter ahead in Ephesians 5, Paul is instructing wives and husbands, but first (and I really like this) he says, “Therefore be imitators of God…and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” He then proceeds to tell wives to “submit to their husbands as to the Lord.” This one sentence stirs up a lot of different emotions in different people, but to keep it simple, if you, man or woman, have truly submitted your life to the Lord, and are walking according to His Word, you know that this is a relationship that is like no other. I would never give up that relationship with my God, and that is the type of incredible, nurturing, loving, awesome relationship God is calling you to have with your husband! How is that a bad thing? Guys, husbands, Paul writes several more verses of instruction to us because he knows how we think, and he knows we need that extra instruction. He says, “Love your wife, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.” I do not know about you, but I think that is powerfully romantic.
There is a lot more that could be said on these verses, but let me get back to my point. I saw, not too long ago, a picture of a man and woman, a husband and wife, kissing passionately in their kitchen with a line that said, “Be good parents! Gross out your kids!” It made me laugh, but it also reminded me that we need to show our kids that mommy and daddy still love and cherish each other like Ephesians 5 calls them to do. It comforts them. It brings security to them. It teaches them respect and how to act in the world. It gives them a foundation and clear understanding of how God so loves his people that he sent his only son Jesus to die for them. I believe that most parents have no Biblical concept of parenting, and even when they do they are probably unwilling, or too inconsistent with implementing it in their homes. I believe it is clear that the Bible teaches us that to be Godly parents we must first be Godly husbands and wives. Do not place your marriage relationship on the back burners for the next twenty some odd years when your children are born only to try and rekindle something after they are out of the house. Work continuously on building a Godly marriage in front of your children and then see what type of effect it will have on them. I believe Proverbs 22:6 is correct when it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Feel free to leave feedback below. Chad will try to interact with comments as much as possible.
If you had to guess, what do you think would be the number one reason that people who don’t go to church give for not going? Would it be work? Would it be that they are busy? Maybe they just don’t believe the same things we believe any more? All of these are reasons, and all of them are probably true to some extent, but I don’t think any of them are the main reason that people, at least in my part of the world, don’t go to church. Now let me preface all of this by saying that I don’t have any hard evidence or statistics to back this up, however, once I tell you what I think the number one reason is, you just might agree with me. I feel that the number one reason that people don’t go to church is the people who do.
A lot of unchurched people, especially in the south, see church-goers as mean-spirited, judgemental hypocrites. And let’s be honest, there is a lot of truth to that. It’s time that churches wake up to the fact that the way we treat people matters, and for some it matters eternally. That’s why Peter spends a large portion of 1 Peter instructing believers how they should treat each other, as well as those outside the Church. We are going to look at one of these sections today (1:22-2:12).
In the first part of this section we are going to cover, Peter is going to urge his readers, who have already repented of their sins and put their trust in Jesus, to simply love each other. This sounds really easy to us at first, but if you’ve been in a church any amount of time, you know that sometimes people who call themselves Christians can be the hardest to love. In v.22, Peter point-blank tells believers to love one another. Not just in some, “I love you but don’t really like you right now kind of love.” Peter says we are to “fervently” love each other “from the heart.” Now if you’re like me, you don’t use the word fervently very often. The idea is that we deeply love one another. It is something that we work towards and strive to give our energy to. Next in v.23, Peter says that the reason for this deep, intentional love is that we have been born again, or given a new birth. This is important because it reminds us that as followers of Jesus, we are all apart of the same family, and as part of this family, God’s family, we have been given a new source of power to love with. Peter then goes on to tell us this new source of power. It is the Word of God. Specifically the Spirit of God applying the Word of God in our lives. There is power in God’s Word that can change your life. You may not understand it, I know that sometimes I don’t fully understand it, but I know that there is power in God’s Word that can and does change people. That’s the reason that in the first few verses of chapter two Peter can bluntly tell us to “put aside” things like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander, because we now have the power to change these things. This power is not some kind of power that originates from deep within us, but from the Word of God applied to our lives by the Spirit of God. The bottom line is loving each other is hard, and it takes effort. Sometimes you may think that you can never love or forgive someone, but if you are a part of God’s family you can.
Peter then shifts gears and focuses on what God is doing through our relationships with one another. He tells us that God is using our relationships, both good and bad, to form us into a new people for His glory. First, he says that we are, “as living stones” being built together into “a spiritual house”. This can be a very painful process. Sometimes God gives us people to encourage and polish us. Sometimes God gives us people who rub us the wrong way, maybe just to sand off our rough corners. You will not find perfect people in the church. (If they were perfect they wouldn’t need Jesus.) In fact you will probably find people who are a lot like you, and that bothers a lot of us more than we would like to admit. Still some people use this as an excuse not to be a part of a church, or maybe to hold of in their level of involvement. They just don’t want to get hurt, or ruin any relationships. But Peter says the real reason they stumble over this is not other people, but their own disobedience (2:8). That is why not going to church because of others is always an excuse.
Finally, Peter says that it’s not enough that we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ well, but we must also live well in front of unbelievers. By the way, this is going to be more and more important as we go farther into a post-Christian world. People will never be saved simply by watching how you live your life. However, people can either be drawn to or pushed away from the saving message of Jesus based on how you live your life. Don’t let your sin be their excuse for walking away from Jesus.
The way that we treat people, both inside and outside of the church, matters. And for some people it will matter eternally. Now listen, I totally understand that for most people, using people inside the church as a reason not to come is just an excuse. I get that. But are we so stubborn that we are unwilling to change how we treat people if it draws them closer to Jesus? Live your life and treat others in such a way that your actions won’t be their excuse.
There has been a lot of talk about the comments made by ESPN’s Chris Broussard in regards to the outing of NBA Center Jason Collins. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Denny Burk has an excellent overview here at his blog. First off, let my applaud Chris Broussard for his courage and clarity in addressing the issue from a Biblical viewpoint. Second, let’s go ahead and admit that Jason Collins sexual orientation has nothing to do with his talent as a basketball player, and he, or for that matter anyone else, should not be shunned from professional sports because of it. If we are willing to let drug dealers, murders, drunk drivers, domestic abusers, and many other types of sinful and immoral athletes slide, it would be a joke to balk at an athlete simply because they are openly gay.
The thing in all of this that has struck me, as it has in other cases where Christians have been chastised for speaking biblically about homosexuality, is how dumbfounded some believers seem to be by all of the backlash and hostility. It’s like we are shocked by how people are responding to our beliefs. But should we be shocked when we are called “narrow-minded”, “hateful”, “bigots”, and the like? absolutely not!!! Jesus warned us that those who follow Him would be hated, just as He was hated. (John 15:18ff) This is nothing new and we should not be shocked by it.
What we are seeing in America is what we have seen time and time again in various cultures throughout the last two thousand years, a broadening divide between worldviews that helps us realize we are not citizens of this world. This is why I feel so strongly that we need to recover the teachings of 1 Peter, namely that we are “aliens and strangers” (2:11) in a land that is not our home. We are subjects of a different kingdom and citizens of a new city. I feel like the reason that many believers are so shocked at the change in our culture is because for to long we have forgotten this key truth.
For to long we have felt at home in this culture because its values and worldview were so close to our own. But this is no longer true. With each passing day the values and views of popular western culture drift farther and farther from the values and views of Scripture. More and more people are awakening to this truth, but few really know how to respond. Instead of learning how to live as aliens and strangers in a foreign land, many Christians are simply left shouting at the culture, looking to unbelievers like the crazy old man down the street yelling at the neighbor’s kids and longing for the “good ole’ days”. But the truth is, there never were any “good ole’ days”. This world has never been our home. We have simply forgotten how to live in light of this truth.
This is not a call to isolation, but a call to recover the biblical lifestyle of the early church who lived in and ministered to their culture, while being distinctly different from it. That is why I am taking our church verse by verse through 1 Peter, so that we can rediscover the key to this type of life. I pray that God will begin to awaken His Church to this truth, and that we would begin to actually live like aliens and strangers, keeping our eyes on the heavenly country that awaits us.
Over the last year or so, the idea of the “sinner’s prayer” has come under fire in many Christian circles. Some see it as harmful, some see it as Biblical, but most people are probably somewhere in between. Lately in a Bible study that I lead in our church, this topic seems to have found its way to the forefront of many of our discussions. What we come back to time and time again is that the “sinner’s prayer” is something that can be both helpful and harmful in our understanding of the Gospel. Let me give you a few examples.
The “sinner’s prayer” is helpful in providing a verbal expression for the desire of the heart. I think this is the most obvious benefit of the ides of the “sinners prayer”. For many people who are overwhelmed emotionally, intimidated by the moment, or just plain not well spoken, the traditional sinner’s prayer is a template for them to express their own desire to repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus for salvation. Still, it is important to note that the sinner’s prayer is only helpful at this point if it does truly reflect the attitude of the person’s heart.
The “sinner’s prayer” is harmful when it makes us question if “we did it right”. Far to often in my ministry, I have seen believers, both young and old, tormented by the fear that they “did something wrong” when they were saved. Did they says the right thing? Did they walk the aisle? Did they really really really mean what they said? This is extremely harmful, because it puts the emphasis of salvation on a one time, past event, while totally disregarding the biblical understanding of salvation as a present posture of repentance and faith.
The “sinner’s prayer” is helpful in providing a moment in time that we can look to for our salvation. While it certainly is true that Scripture puts a very high emphasis on understanding salvation in terms of a present posture of repentance and faith, we must also acknowledge there is a definite, fixed event in time when a person goes from lost to saved, from dark to light, and from headed for hell to bound for heaven. To put it simply, there must be a point in time when someone first responds to the Gospel. The sinner’s prayer is helpful in giving us a memorable marker for this event in time.
The “sinner’s prayer” is harmful in giving many a false hope of salvation. You and I both know people who claim to be Christians but have absolutely ZERO evidence in their life to back this claim up. They simply rely on a prayer that they prayed as child, or when a FAITH team showed up at their house, or at a revival in a church they have never been to again. Needless to say, this reliance upon the sinner’s prayer as proof of salvation is devastating to these people ever truly understanding the Gospel and their need to be saved.
The “sinner’s prayer” is helpful in affirming the necessity to “call upon the name of the Lord”. One of the most helpful aspects of the sinner’s prayer is that it reminds us that we must all come to the place in our life when we call out to God in repentance and faith asking for the forgiveness of our sin and the transformation of our heart and life. The sinner’s prayer reminds us that we do not simply grow into faith, rather we must actively respond to the message of the Gospel and the drawing of the Holy Spirit.
The “sinner’s prayer” is harmful in reducing salvation to a one-time decision. Perhaps the most harmful consequence of the sinner’s prayer, even when it is unintended, is the reduction of salvation to a one-time decision that we make and move forward from. As we have discussed earlier, believers must learn to embrace the biblical presentation of salvation as a present posture, not just a past event. The mercies of the Lord are new every morning, and every morning we must respond to them. That is why the truest test of our salvation is not a prayer that we have prayed, but a faith that endures to the end.
Maybe the best way for us to summarize is by saying that the “sinner’s prayer” is both helpful and harmful to believers. When used properly, it is an awesome expression of faith, but we must be keenly aware of its limitations, namely that the prayer is useless unless there is faith in the heart for it to express. Leave your comments and thoughts below and check out the clip of David Platt discussing the proper use of the sinner’s prayer.