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Eyeing address at Texas-Mexico border? (First column, 6th story, link) Related stories:White House going forward with State of Union despite bid to cancel... Advertise here
Centrist Dems urge Pelosi to break shutdown stalemate... (First column, 7th story, link) Related stories:Congressman: 'Give Trump the money'... Advertise here
Congressman: 'Give Trump the money'... (First column, 8th story, link) Related stories:Centrist Dems urge Pelosi to break shutdown stalemate... Advertise here
Migrant smuggling vessel intercepted off Florida... (First column, 9th story, link) Related stories:Is Tijuana prepared for next caravan?Murders in Mexico set new record... Advertise here
Is Tijuana prepared for next caravan? (First column, 10th story, link) Related stories:Migrant smuggling vessel intercepted off Florida...Murders in Mexico set new record... Advertise here
Murders in Mexico set new record... (First column, 11th story, link) Related stories:Migrant smuggling vessel intercepted off Florida...Is Tijuana prepared for next caravan? Advertise here
Undercover cop says colleagues beat him 'like Rodney King'... (First column, 12th story, link) Advertise here
Political shifts, sales slump cast shadow over gun industry... (First column, 13th story, link) Advertise here
Fake ICBM missile warning over NEST system sends family into panic... (First column, 14th story, link) Advertise here
LIST: OSCAR NOMS... (First column, 1st story, link) Related stories:SNUBS...'ROMA,' 'FAVOURITE' LEAD...'BLACK PANTHER' MAKES HISTORY... Advertise here
SNUBS... (First column, 2nd story, link) Related stories:LIST: OSCAR NOMS...'ROMA,' 'FAVOURITE' LEAD...'BLACK PANTHER' MAKES HISTORY... Advertise here
'ROMA,' 'FAVOURITE' LEAD... (First column, 3rd story, link) Related stories:LIST: OSCAR NOMS...SNUBS...'BLACK PANTHER' MAKES HISTORY... Advertise here
'BLACK PANTHER' MAKES HISTORY... (First column, 4th story, link) Related stories:LIST: OSCAR NOMS...SNUBS...'ROMA,' 'FAVOURITE' LEAD... Advertise here
White House going forward with State of Union despite bid to cancel... (First column, 5th story, link) Related stories:Eyeing address at Texas-Mexico border? Advertise here
Today the Supreme Court refused to take up the case of Coach Joe Kennedy, but some of the justices nonetheless sent a signal in favor of religious liberty.Coach Kennedy, represented by our friends at First Liberty Institute, is a Christian high school football coach from Bremerton, Washington, who was punished after taking a knee and praying on the field after games. His case has been deliberated in federal district court, then the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, before making its way to the Supreme Court.While the Court’s refusal to hear the case is not ideal, it appears that unresolved factual questions (the lower court never concluded whether Coach Kennedy was punished for praying or neglecting his professional duties) prevented the Court from hearing the full case and taking up the First Amendment free speech claim.Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, penned a separate statement (see pp. 8-13) explaining that while he understands and agrees with the Court’s reason for not taking the case right now (if asked to do so, he would direct the lower court to reach a conclusion on this question, but at this point the Court was only asked to decide the legal question), he doesn’t necessarily agree with the lower court rulings, which appear problematic for religious liberty and the First Amendment:While I thus concur in the denial of the present petition, the Ninth Circuit’s understanding of the free speech rights of public school teachers is troubling and may justify review in the future.Alito criticized the “highly tendentious way” the Ninth Circuit applied the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos (dealing with the First Amendment rights of public employees) to Coach Kennedy’s situation, which would have required public school employees like teachers and coaches to refrain from any religious activity a student might see or the school might not like, from the time the teacher or coach shows up in the morning until the time they leave. Alito concluded:If the Ninth Circuit continues to apply [this] interpretation of Garcetti in future cases involving public school teachers or coaches, review by this Court may be appropriate.Alito wasn’t finished:What is perhaps most troubling about the Ninth Circuit’s opinion is language that can be understood to mean that a coach’s duty to serve as a good role model requires the coach to refrain from any manifestation of religious faith—even when the coach is plainly not on duty. I hope that this is not the message that the Ninth Circuit meant to convey, but its opinion can certainly be read that way. After emphasizing that [Coach Kennedy] was hired to “communicate a positive message through the example set by his own conduct,” the court criticized him for “his media appearances and prayer in the [Bremerton High School (BHS)] bleachers (while wearing BHS apparel and surrounded by others).” [citation omitted] This conduct, in the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, “signal[ed] his intent to send a message to students and parents about appropriate behavior and what he values as a coach.” [citation omitted] But when [Coach Kennedy] prayed in the bleachers, he had been suspended. He was attending a game like any other fan. The suggestion that even while off duty, a teacher or coach cannot engage in any outward manifestation of religious faith is remarkable.It’s very encouraging to see Justice Alito on record noting the religious liberty problems with this case—something we’ve come to expect from him—along with Justices Thomas and Gorsuch. But it’s particularly heartening to see Justice Kavanaugh join this statement. While his judicial record would have suggested he’d rule the right way on religious liberty issues once seated on the Court, his refusal to join these three justices in dissenting from denial of cert in the Planned Parenthood defunding cases late last year left many wondering whether he would be a true originalist. While these actions don’t necessarily indicate how the justices will rule on the merits (there’s a good chance Justice Roberts still agrees with his originalist colleagues on these matters), they are heartening nevertheless.Justice Alito concluded by almost inviting Coach Kennedy to ask the Court to reconsider Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, a Title VII case lowering employee protections against religious discrimination, and Employment Division v. Smith, which cut back on Free Exercise protections and prompted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be passed over twenty-five years ago.Let us hope Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh are prophesying where the Court is going on religious liberty.
Musicademy presents a packed training day for the whole worship team (or just come by yourself!). Features vocal coach Nicki Rogers as well as the team from SFL teaching PA and Sound Tech. The programme will include: Plenary sessions – Band skills for worship teams Vocals stream* for singers with Nicki Rogers PA/Tech training team […]The post Worship Training Day: Ealing London Sat 4 May 2019 appeared first on Musicademy.
The Civil Rights leader's life and legacy embodies the revolutionary ethic Jesus Christ.“Martin Luther King Jr. is dead.”These solemn words were uttered by King’s distant friend and spiritual mentor, Howard Thurman, as he eulogized over a San Francisco radio station on the evening of King’s assassination. The world was shaken. Riots were taking place across 110 cities. King’s murder was declared “a national disaster.” Stokely Carmichael, the civil rights leader who first used the slogan “black power,” went as far as to say, “When white America killed Dr. King, she declared war on us.”As “pastor of the civil rights movement,” Thurman knew he needed to speak words of comfort and hope but he felt there were no words that could possibly do justice to King’s life and legacy. Still, he knew he must say something.Weighing on Thurman’s mind was the awareness that King’s assassination “reveals the cleft deep in the psyche of the American people, the profound ambivalence and ambiguity of our way of life.” Just a few hours ago King’s voice could be heard preaching freedom and hope in his majestic sermon, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” Now there was only the voice of anguish crying out from “the heart of our cities, from the firesides of the humble and the mighty, from the cells of a thousand prisons, from the deep central place in the soul of America.”In Thurman’s estimation, King’s greatest contribution was the way he embodied the epitome of Christianity and its ethical implications in America. He was able “to put at the center of his own personal religious experience a searching ethical awareness.” He embodied the revolutionary ethic of the religion ...Continue reading...
4 Elements of an Effective Biblical Apology People are dangerous! Our sinfulness often brings with it the capacity to hurt others. We hurt one another with the words we say and with the things we do or forget to do. Sometimes we injure our relationships with others through carelessness or negligence. When this happens, we need to learn to find the grace to forgive as the Lord has commanded us to do.Forgiveness is one of the great themes of the Christian faith. We learn from the Bible that God has forgiven our sins and that He expects us to pass along that same forgiveness to others. Forgiveness, though sometimes very hard to do, is absolutely necessary in order for our personal relationships to stay strong. It grows us into the image of Christ and frees others and ourselves from the bondage of bitterness and resentment.No doubt many of us have heard numerous sermons, Sunday School lessons, and devotions on the subject of forgiveness. It is important to realize, however, that there is not only a scriptural obligation on the part of an offended party to forgive, but there is also a responsibility on the part of the offender to make things right.It is a universal experience to be hurt, to be offended, or to suffer injury in a personal relationship—everyone knows this pain. Husbands at times say things to hurt their wives; wives now and then hurt their husbands. Parents, children, friends, and associates all know the bitter sting of being falsely accused, taken advantage of, or hurt in other ways. However, it is also true that it is a universal experience to cause offense. Our selfishness and insensitivity frequently injure others. Any time human beings live near each other, they will most likely hurt each other.Intentionally or unintentionally, we are dangerous. We get hurt. We put up barriers. We distance ourselves from those who have hurt us, and—if we are not careful—we let bitterness and resentment grow in our hearts. To prevent this, we need to learn to forgive, and we need to learn to apologize. Apology is often the forgotten responsibility when people hurt other people, but apology and forgiveness are the hand-in-glove requirements for damaged human relationships to be properly restored. The problem is that both of these things are hard on our pride. The only thing in this world more difficult than forgiving someone is asking someone to forgive you. An apology is the highway that must be paved for forgiveness to travel.We can learn a great deal about biblical apology from David. In Psalm 51, we get a glimpse into the heart of this man of God after he had committed an array of unimaginable sins. His heart was broken, and he knew he had damaged his relationship with his Heavenly Father. So David—in a desire to restore the joy and intimacy he once enjoyed with God—offers a sincere apology to God. From David's confession we can learn four elements of an effective biblical apology.1. Remorse and RegretThe starting place for a biblical apology is expressing remorse and regret. When our actions hurt people, the injured party needs to know that we are remorseful—that we can identify with their injury.We can encapsulate this principle in three simple words: “I am sorry.” Saying these words can go a long way in healing another's heart.It is impossible to miss David's remorse over his actions: “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:2–3). David was truly sorry for what he had done, and he wanted God to know it. He recognized his actions hurt others, and he sincerely acknowledged that to the Lord.An apology cannot stand alone, though. It must be coupled with true contrition. It was David's words spoken with humility that God took notice of in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” A flippant apology only adds to the damage. It is a second insult. An injured party does not want to be compensated because they have been wronged; they want to be healed because they have been hurt. Only a sincere apology can heal the hurting. It is important that we do not offer excuses for our actions, that we ask nothing in return, and that we are specific in our apology.It may not be enough to simply say, “I am sorry.” The offended party is healed by hearing that you know specifically what you did that hurt them. If you lost your temper with someone and said hurtful words to them, your apology needs to recognize this. It would sound something like this: “I am sorry for losing my temper today and saying things I should not have said. I realize my words were hurtful, and that is not the kind of person I want to be.” Expressing remorse with a contrite spirit is something we all need to learn to do.2. ResponsibilityThe second component of an effective biblical apology is encapsulated in saying the three most difficult words known to mankind: “I was wrong.” These words take us beyond remorse to responsibility.David not only was remorseful for what he had done, but he also accepted full responsibility for his actions. He said in Psalm 51:3, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” David acknowledged his sins and admitted they deserved judgment.This step is vital. The admission of failure holds the potential to bring true change in our hearts. Saying “I was wrong” takes courage because we are afraid of what the admission of guilt will bring. But leaving outcomes up to God is an important part of growing up in Christ. Admitting guilt also requires humility, trust in the Lord, and maturity. It is a function of integrity—admitting I am not the person I want to be, but I am still trying to get there.3. ReconciliationThe third step in offering an effective biblical apology is learning to say, “Will you forgive me?” Expressing remorse communicates that you understand you hurt someone. Admitting that you were wrong is owning responsibility. But saying “Will you forgive me?” brings reconciliation. Years ago I learned that when I had offended my wife, in order for her heart to fully rest again, it helped her to hear me ask if she would forgive me. This is because these words are more than a question; they are also a statement. They say to the offended party, “I want our relationship to be restored; you are important to me; and my pride will not stand in the way of my love for you.”These three phrases combined say to the injured party that there is still hope. “I am not finished growing, I have not given up on myself, and I don't want you to give up on me either.” Alexander Pope said, “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong; he is merely saying that he is wiser today than yesterday.” And, I might add, that there is still hope for our tomorrow. One of life's greatest failures is not admitting that you have failed. No one has ever choked to death on the words, “I am sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”David cried out for reconciliation to God when he asked the Lord not to cast him away from His presence. His relationship with God was more important than anything else in his life.4. RepentanceThe first three components could be communicated with words, but this fourth component is an action. True repentance is the final component to an effective biblical apology. It will never be enough to simply apologize. As sinful and dangerous people, we also need to change. Repenting not only recognizes that what we did was wrong, but it also expresses a desire to do right.We owe it to the people we love to be at our best for them. An apology is a desire to continue growing. It is the best way to keep a contrite heart and not be at odds with the Lord. An apology is required to safeguard the important relationships in our lives, and it is necessary to do what's right!
This January marks Terrie's and my thirty-third New Year at Lancaster Baptist Church. A few weeks ago, we were able to host several families from our church who were here when we came or who we were able to lead to the Lord in those first couple years. Their faithfulness over the decades is such an encouragement to us.In this season of the year, when many of us are focused on our newly-set goals and investing our energy in developing new habits, it's easy to overlook the obvious—that there is great value in consistency and faithfulness over time.We all know that God blesses faithfulness, but sometimes we forget how significant those blessings are. Here are five blessings that come through faithfulness:1. Faithfulness Develops FaithWhen you think back to what challenged your faith in the earliest days of your walk with the Lord compared to what challenges it now, usually you can see growth.This is because faithfulness is an exercise of faith. And faith is a muscle that grows over time. Do you want more faith? Keep being faithful.As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.—Colossians 2:6–72. Faithfulness Proves the Reality of GodWhen a Christian continues forward despite opposition and setbacks, it sends a powerful message to others that God is trustworthy and able to sustain those who follow Him.Think of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer. The jailer didn't ask, “What must I do to be saved?” in Paul's first days of ministry at Philippi. It was after the jailer watched Paul and Silas' response to persecution and their steadfastness through it that he asked them for spiritual help.Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?—Acts 16:29–303. Faithfulness Builds Families and RelationshipsWhat a blessing it has been over the years to see families in our church who have remained faithful to the Lord and stayed in the church where God was working in their lives. I've watched God strengthen marriages and develop the spiritual roots of young people through parents who have remained faithful.Faithfulness also build relationships within the church. As you serve the Lord with the same people year after year, the depth of friendship and fellowship in that relationship grows.Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—Hebrews 10:254. Faithfulness Gives a Clear ConscienceWhen you are faithful even if your service for the Lord doesn't have the visible results you desired, even if circumstances go differently than you hoped, you can have a clear conscience. And you can know God is working in ways you cannot see.And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,—Acts 20:205. Faithfulness Produces FruitNo farmer quits in disappointment at not seeing crops the day after he plants his fields. He knows it takes time. Similarly, fruit in the Christian life—both the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of souls—takes time to multiply. And those who are faithful reap the benefit of seeing it developed.And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.—Galatians 6:9
As our Lord is coming to the close of His earthly life and ministry, He shares a meal with His closest followers, girds Himself with a towel, draws a bason of water, and kneels to wash the feet of His friends. It is a wonderful lesson on humility that convicts me each time that I read it. It is my desire to be that kind of a servant.As we consider John 13 and John's account of this impactful event, I think it is important that we not overlook the very first verse of the chapter. I believe it holds a key to why Christ did what He did with that towel and bason of water. In that verse we read these words: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” Jesus served these people because He loved them!Many years ago I was concerned about a man who had accepted a pastorate. At the time, this man was not a very gifted pulpiteer. A friend commented to me, “He doesn't have to be a great preacher as long as he is a good lover. People will put up with poor preaching if they get good loving.” I have never forgotten that statement, and I have tried, for more than thirty years, to be sure that my people have received “good loving.”We can determine in our hearts to serve, and we can run on that fuel for a while. Inevitably, serving will become laborious and we will eventually find ourselves operating on fumes. The alternative to that motivation is to love God and love people. If you love God, you will find joy in serving Him. Likewise, if you love people, you will want to serve them. Kneeling down at someone's nasty feet is not such a difficult task, if you love the people to whom those feet are attached.Jesus operated from a heart of love. He genuinely cared. He did not weep at Lazarus' grave because Lazarus was dead. He wept because Mary and Martha were broken-hearted and He loved Mary and Martha. Jesus did not have to force Himself to spend time with the crippled man by the Pool of Bethesda, He approached that man because He cared about him. Jesus had to go to Samaria. He did not have to go because He was making Himself go, He had to go because there was a woman there for whom He cared.I would rather be good at loving people than to be a good preacher, a good administrator or a good supervisor. It is compassion that makes a difference, not so many things that we think make us more effective. Love is powerful. Love is impactful. Love is necessary. However, there is more to this passage than just the statement that Jesus loved the people. The Bible states, “…He loved them unto the end.”Too often, we claim to love people, and we do love them as long as they behave like we think they should. Over the years, I have seen many ministry workers who obviously loved the loveable. As long as those to whom they ministered “toed the line,” they were quick to express their love to them. Thank God, that was not how Jesus loved.Jesus loved unto the end. Of whom was John 13:1 speaking? It was speaking of His disciples, including Judas. He did not love them as long as they did the right thing. He loved them unto the end. He did not love them as long as they dressed a certain way, walked a certain way, talked a certain way, or lived a certain way. He loved them unto the end. He did not love them as long as they kept the rules at the Christian school. He loved them unto the end. He did not love them as long as they took a stand for what was right. He loved them unto the end.Yes, Jesus loved them unto the end of His earthly life, (and beyond). He also loved them unto the end of themselves. When they came to the end of the dead-end road that led them away from the Saviour, He still loved them. Much like the father loved the Prodigal when he had gone as far away from home as his conscience would allow him to go. From the pig pen, the wayward son knew that his father loved him.When our young people disappoint us and rebel against all they have ever been taught, may they know unto the end, that they are loved. When our church members allow temptation to overcome them and sin to take up residence in their hearts and lives, may they know unto the end, that they are loved. When those in whom we have invested the most seem to appreciate it the least, may they know unto the end, that they are loved. May we love them the way we will want to be loved if we walk away. May we love them the way we will want someone to love our son or daughter if they are overtaken in a fault.Over the past three decades, I have been let down too many times to count. People for whom I had the highest hopes have driven me to some of my deepest disappointments. I have watched some of our Christian school graduates make tragic decisions that have destroyed their lives. I have watched faithful church members walk away from the Lord in betrayal, and in some cases, denial. Again and again I have felt so helpless. I have felt that there is nothing that I can do to make any difference whatsoever. Then I am reminded of John 13:1. There is something that I can do. I can love them unto the end!
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.—Luke 2:7Have you ever been invited for a special event, only to find out that there was no space for you to sit at the table? I can remember many times being invited as a guest to a dinner event or speaking conference, but somehow the host did not have a spot for me to sit! Once they figured this out, the host would tell his coordinator, “Please make room for Mr. Fong.” Here, we see one of the most disturbing moments of human history. Our Lord Jesus entered into this world by way of a virgin birth, and was placed in an animal manger, or cave stall, because, “There was no room for them in the inn.” It is extremely important that we make room for Jesus!Make Room for Jesus in Your DevotionDevotion is what we give our heart's affection, love, and worship to. Matthew 6:33 instructs us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. First Timothy 2:1 instructs us that, prayers, supplications, and the giving of thanks be made to God. No man can serve two masters: you will hate the one and love the other. Give your heart devotion to Jesus. Don't let the day's distractions keep you from coming to a church worship service to worship God with your best. Don't let a busy schedule leave you with no room for time with God in His Word and prayer. Make room for Jesus in your devotion.Make Room for Jesus in Your Decisions“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3). Life is made up of many decisions. There are big and little decisions. However, every decision should include the Lord. How will this decision give God the glory? How will this decision result in people hearing the gospel? How will this decision help me be the kind of person God wants me to be? Proverbs 16:3 helps us understand the practical importance of making room in every decision for the Lord.Make Room for Jesus in Your Donations“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (Proverbs 11:24). Someone has said, “Giving to God is a grace: not giving to God is a disgrace.” It is very expensive to live in California. We establish a financial budget in order to not overspend, and to be able to save. However, much of our budgeting leaves God and His work out. There is no room for giving! Make room for giving by being a tither! Make room for giving by including special church offerings. Giving to God should be planned, but it should also be spontaneous.Make Room for Jesus in Your DependabilitySomeone has said that the best ability is availability. We can be available when we are dependable. As a Christian, be dependable in your witness and testimony. Carry tracts with you and be conscious of witnessing to people along the way. As a church member, always be a volunteer for service in the church. The church is always in need of more volunteers. The church and the pastor are always in need of more workers and helpers. The priorities of the church are everyone's priorities. It is wrong to cherry-pick the areas of help that only interest you. We should be dependable in anything and everything.The night that Jesus entered this world, there was no room in the inn. God came in the flesh, and there was no room. Make room for the most important Person: the Lord Jesus Christ!
This past week, Urban Meyer, legendary football coach of The Ohio State University, announced his retirement. Meyer had won more than 90 percent of his games as the Buckeyes' head coach, including all seven of his games against rival Michigan. He had won three Big Ten championships and the 2014 national championship. In addition to his success at Ohio State, Meyer had won two other national championships while coaching at Florida, and his 186-game win total over 17 years is higher than any other FBS coach over the same period of time.So, why resign now? There were several reasons—the most dominant being that of Coach Meyer's health. Meyer revealed in October that in 2014 he had surgery on a cyst in his brain that causes stress-related headaches. The symptoms of those headaches were visible this past fall during some of Ohio State's games when Meyer frequently wore pained expressions on his face and at one point collapsed on the sideline.Though Meyer did not draw a straight line between his stress-related headaches and his suspension that occurred earlier this year, he did say that the suspension also contributed to his decision to retire. Ohio State put Meyer on leave in early August while investigating reports that he had mishandled allegations of domestic violence and other inappropriate behavior made against former assistant Zach Smith in past years. The school suspended Urban Meyer for the first three games of the season after finding he failed to live up to the standards of the university and did not tell the truth when asked about those allegations at a Big Ten media event in July. Meyer said that he believes the suspension will have some lasting impact on his legacy.Urban Meyer leaves the Ohio State program strong, and the future of football at OSU is bright, though Meyer himself leaves, at least to some degree, bruised and blemished. Several points are worthy of consideration for those of us who are involved in ministry.Remember the SabbathWhen Meyer left Florida to take a year off before going to Ohio State, he said that it was a time of reflection when he had to ascertain his priorities. He determined to make family more important than football, something he had not previously done.There is no denying that the constituents we serve never fully understand the pressures that leaders are under—the pressure to succeed, the pressure to always be there, the pressure to always be professional when reviled by inside and outside sources.And to deal with these pressures, leaders have to take time away and off. Whatever is most therapeutic for you—whether it is yard work, sitting in a cabin with a book, hunting, fishing, preaching out—do it! You will be criticized for it. You will be called lazy for doing it. And you will always feel like there is no convenient time for it. But go see a ball game with your son, get away with your wife, take your daughter shopping. Do it!I have heard preachers say, “The devil never takes a vacation.” True, but you are not trying to be like the devil. You are trying to be like the Lord. And He took a Sabbath.Remember the SourceI have a pastor friend who is an avid fan of Michigan, and understandably, he hates Ohio State. If Urban Meyer would have duplicated the feeding of the five thousand, my friend would tweet, “Urban Meyer takes little boy's lunch.” There is no denying that we have enemies, and these enemies will never be able to be pleased by anything that we do.Urban Meyer was strongly criticized for the way he handled Zach Smith, but my hope is that no leader would be handed such an unwinnable situation. Are there things that Coach Meyer could have done better? Of course, there are! But I hope that we never become proficient at handling disciplinary situations, for that would necessitate we have an abundant amount of them. Of course their hopeful rarity is not an excuse to mishandle them—there may be times when we need to seek counsel on how to handle them.All too often stress is caused in our lives by the armchair quarterbacks who have never taken the field, but are absolutely certain they know the best way for us to lead the team. This is not to say that we cannot learn a germ of truth in even the most destructive criticism. It is to say that we cannot allow the destructive critic to get into our minds and eat us alive. Always consider the source of the criticism.Remember the ScriptureThe Bible tells us that, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” God's Word is filled with multiple promises for every emotional struggle of life. God gives peace! And we must allow ourselves to be filled with God's peace even when the media critics are field dressing our leadership style. At times, all of us need to go back to the Bible and encourage ourselves again in the Lord.In the ultimate analysis, the Lord is the final judge of our ministries. Other coaches, irate fans, and wealthy boosters are not primarily where our ear is bent. It is bent to the One whose, “Well done,” means the most—the Lord Himself. The fear of man brings a snare, but the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.As an Ohio State fan, I am very appreciative of Urban Meyer's contributions. I trust that his retirement will give him the sabbatical time, the stress release, and the spiritual reflection that he needs. And may I, in turn, learn from the strengths and weaknesses of our legendary coach.
6 Characteristics of a Disciple-Making Church—Part 1 The Great Commission of Christ is to share the gospel and make disciples.Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19–20Sometimes I paraphrase it, “go, win, baptize, teach.”Yet, as clear as this commission—this mission statement of the local church—is, it is easy to become distracted.Sometimes if we honestly ask, “Are we really making disciples, or just superficial converts?” the answer may be uncomfortable.In a day of comfortable Christianity, testimonies like the Apostle Paul who was stoned and left for dead and then the very next day went on to preach in the next city (Acts 14:20–22) are unheard of. We need renewed tenacity in reaching and building people from the Word of God.Jesus spent approximately half of His three years of public ministry purposefully investing in training twelve leaders—making disciples.A disciple-making church, then, will be a Christ-centered church.What are the characteristics of a disciple-making church?1. A Christ-Centered PhilosophyFor the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.—Luke 19:10Jesus came to seek the lost. A Christ-centered church will actively, passionately, and purposefully seek to reach people with the gospel.This will not be a side goal; it will be a consuming mission from the pulpit to the pews.But it doesn't stop there. A Christ-centered church will put a priority on training disciples (2 Timothy 2:2) and teaching people to share their faith. The goal of the Great Commission has never been that the pastor and a few especially-committed Christians share the gospel. It is that every Christian would share the church's God-given mission to reach the world with the gospel.2. A Christ-Centered MotivationFor the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:—2 Corinthians 5:14If our motivations as spiritual leaders are fleshly, new disciples will not bear spiritual fruit.Motives make a difference, and ours must remain the grace of God (2 Timothy 2:1), the love of God (2 Corinthians 5:14), and the Word of God (Acts 20:32).3. A Christ-Centered ApproachMoreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand…For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:—1 Corinthians 15:1, 3–4Making disciples doesn't end with making converts, but it does begin there. To lead people to Christ—not just to ourselves or to repeating a prayer—we must be committed to consistent and thorough gospel presentations.When someone then makes a profession of faith, we must nurture their faith in the Lord and help them become grounded in biblical doctrine. This is why at Lancaster Baptist Church, we make consistent follow up after salvation a strong priority.From the time a person is saved until they are a faithful, growing member of our church, the soulwinner and adult Bible class leader work together to encourage steps of obedience and growth including baptism, enrollment in an adult Bible class, attending a new members class, and enrollment in our discipleship program. The goal of all of this is to help them become grounded in their personal relationship with the Lord.A Christ-centered, disciple-making church is the New Testament pattern. But it doesn't happen accidentally. It takes leaders and members who are individually Christ-centered and committed to His Great Commission, motivated by His love, and consistent in their biblical approach to leading people to Christ.In part 2, we will look at three more characteristics of the Christ-centered church that relate to the church's culture and environment for growth.
4 Truths I Have Embraced during My Transition into the Senior Pastorate On June 17, 2018, Harvest Baptist Temple of Medford, OR, celebrated forty-one years of ministry. It was also the day that the founding pastor, Dr. Bob Gass, entrusted the heritage and history of that ministry to me. For us, it was a historic event. By the grace of God this was the first senior pastor transition in a forty-one year history.Although it is my desire to wait another thirty years or so until the next transition, I learned that there are truths of preparation that I must embrace even now before the next transition. Preparing to transition is more about dependence than preparation. It begins and ends with a total dependence on God. There are four major areas of dependence I learned during the transition that I have immediately embraced.1. Dependence on PrayerI have four children and every day since we first found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child, I have prayed for their future spouse(s). Since June 17, 2018, I have faithfully prayed for the next senior pastor of Harvest Baptist Temple. Obviously, I don't know who that is, but the absence of a specific name from my prayer doesn't hinder me from praying for my children's future spouses. The same is true with my church; the absence of a specific name shouldn't hinder me from praying for Harvest's future pastor(s). You may be starting a pastoral ministry or in the twilight of a pastoral ministry. It's never too late to start and commit to praying for the next man.2. Dependence on PowerEvery day of my life I depend on the power of the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. Why should a major transition be any different? Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”If I rely on God's power and guidance to live a life of sacrificial service everyday of my life… If I rely on God's power and guidance for unction for every message I preach… If I rely on God's power and guidance for every decision in the day to day operations of the ministry, then should I not rely on God's power and guidance for the next transition? God already has a man; I just have to get in the path of the will of God and get my pride and self out of the way of the will of God in order to be totally dependent on His power and guidance through the transition.3. Dependence on PromiseThere are no more sure words than these, “The promises of God are sure.” If God is limited by His Word, then every Word spoken by God is sure. God has promised by His own words to perpetuate His church. It was Jesus who said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” If Jesus made that statement, then He alone is fully responsible for the perpetuation of His church.We can do all we want to prepare, plan, and prosper a transition, but it is the Lord's work. His blessing is absolutely essential. Even while understanding this truth, it is prudent for a pastor to always keep his eyes open for the next potential pastor. Maybe it is someone in the family, but don't put parameters on the Lord. It could be someone that you have followed through the years that you have seen grow in pastoral ministry. It may be that current “problem” child in children's church… you never know who the Lord will choose to use.4. Dependence on ProvisionGod always provides. Where there was Moses… there was Joshua. Where there was Elijah… there was Elisha. I'm reminded of the name Abraham called the place where he was called to sacrifice Isaac (Jehovah-Jireh “God, my Provider”). God provided a ram to take Isaac's place as a sacrifice. God provided the Lamb to take our place as a sacrifice. If God can provide the Lamb, then God can provide a man. Hudson Taylor said, “God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply.”Since it is ultimately the Lord's work, then the Lord will supply. It's sad that while we are willing to trust the Lord with the future of our eternity, sometimes we struggle to trust the Lord with the future in our earthly ministry. If God can be trusted to secure our eternity, then God can be trusted to secure our today. This includes provision in transitions for the ministry and the future of the ministry that He has called us to.Transition is just another opportunity to depend on God. Dependence on God is faith in God and “...without faith it is impossible to please Him.” We must be diligent and keep our eyes open, but our sufficiency in transition is directly related to our dependence on God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 reminds us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”
If you recall Isaiah chapters 13-23 essentially contain Messages of Judgment … to one nation after another. But none (so far) have “hit” three nations at once, not like Isaiah chapter 21 does, today’s Text. The first of those three countries is really not specifically named, not at first … but obviously is a nation […]

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