MAN UP – First Priority

How are men Christian men to prioritize their lives? I think we all know the answer to that. We could gather a group of Christian men together and ask them questions about what they should do and how they should live as a man of God, and almost every man would know the right answers. What is the first priority in a Christian man’s life? God! However, men don’t usually struggle with knowing what to do. They struggle with actually doing it. There are many excuses as to why we don’t put the Lord first. “I’m too busy.” “I’m too tired.” “I don’t want to give up anything.” I have sin in my life that I need to deal with.” ” I don’t want to add anything else to my schedule.”

The problem is in our understanding of our other priorities when compared with our relationship with God. It is a problem of the heart. It is a problem of devotion. When we make excuses for not serving the Lord, what we are really saying is that those things are more important than God. But, NOTHING is more important than our relationship with God. And NOTHING is more important than our devotion to Him. In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus dispels the idea that our daily lives are more important than following Him.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)

Jesus is pretty clear! If we call ourselves His followers and are not willing to serve Him, then we are not really following Him. When we put our hands to the plow and look back, we are serving God under the pretense of complete devotion. But we are really longing more for the things of this world than we are for Him. Jesus gave EVERYTHING. What are you willing to give? It is time to make a decision. It is time to recommit yourself to the Lord. This is the first step to becoming the man that God has called you to be. MAN UP and PUT GOD FIRST.

Remember this … There is nothing sissy or weak about being a man of God. The first examples of Christian men, the apostles,  were willing to die for Jesus, and most of them did. They were willing to be bold and confront evil. They were persecuted and ridiculed and executed. The were MEN! Where have all the men gone? They are in our churches. They just need to MAN UP!

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MAN UP

As I look around at today’s culture, I see an alarming trend. Many families seem unconcerned with their spiritual lives. In some cases the wife and mother will be more committed, but seldom do you see the opposite. People will tell you that they are Christians, and yet their lives show little evidence that they want to serve the Lord. Salvation is a free gift, and we do nothing to earn our status as a child of God, Jesus has done everything necessary to secure our righteousness before God. His suffering on the cross and his resurrection from the dead have accomplished redemption for those who believe. However, does that mean we have no responsibilities in the kingdom? Does that mean that we have a free ticket to Heaven without regard to our Christian obligation to live for the Lord as a transforming disciple and a witness to His glory?

In the book of Romans, Paul teaches for the first eleven chapters that Jesus is the only way for salvation for both the Jew and the Gentile. He teaches that all are sinners and desperately need salvation. And we can do NOTHING to save ourselves. Then, when he begins chapter 12 he says, “Therefore i urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NASB) Because we are saved, we should serve. Because he gave everything, we should give back. Do you wonder why your spiritual life is in the dumps? Do you wonder why God is not speaking to you? Perhaps it is because you are not serving him or spending any time with him. Do you read your BIble? Do you pray? Do you study to learn more about God and his world? It is time for us to evaluate our spiritual lives. It is time for you to get serious about your spiritual growth and the growth of your family!

All of us need to constantly evaluate out spiritual life. Everyone could do better. So make a commitment to grow this year. I am calling on men to take charge of the spiritual lives of their families. I am calling you to first look at your own spiritual life and do what is necessary to promote growth and a renewed relationship with God. And then I am calling you to influence your family. You cannot lead if you don’t put God first in your own life. What does that look like? That is what I will be exploring over the next several weeks in this blog. It is also what we will be discussing at our new men’s breakfast one Saturday per month. It will be called “MAN UP” and we will meet at 8:00 AM. Make a commitment to be at this breakfast. Make a commitment to draw closer to God in your daily walk. And make a commitment to your family.

MAN UP is a monthly men’s breakfast at FBC Lepanto for the purpose of helping men become the man God wants them to be!

Prayer at the Football Games

I have been interviewed by two news outlets and contacted by several people over the last few days concerning the issue of school approved prayer before the football games at East Poinsett County High School over the loud speaker. The situation revolves around a tradition that has been practiced for many years without controversy. Someone complained and the school received a letter from a lawyer. The school lawyers told the school administration that they must put a stop to public prayer over the loudspeaker. This is further proof that out nation and our southern communities are moving away from God. I want to take this opportunity to publicly state what I believe the Christian stance should be on this issue since the media outlets have only published small excerpts of my interviews.

First, this is a serious issue for the community of Lepanto. Football is an exciting and sometimes dangerous game. We want to see a great game on Friday nights, and we want to see every player walk off that field at the end of the game. While it is true that the Christian should bathe every aspect of their life in prayer and our first goal should be to glorify God, the main issue of concern in that moment that we gather before every game is the safety of the players. So we pause to tell God that He is so important to us that we want to consult Him first and ask for protection for these young men. We have now been robbed of having someone pray for the safety of our children! It is morally wrong and clearly not the wish of the majority of those in attendance.

Second, what has happened in our country when prayer is viewed as a bad thing? Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian moral principles. In the early days of our country, prayer was offered at all government meetings and usually a preacher would give a sermon. Clearly separation of church and state was to keep the government from meddling in church affairs, not to keep the religious ideas out of the government. Why is it that people want to keep moral religious values out of the government. Is it bad that Christianity teaches the respect of life and property? Is it bad that Christianity teaches that hard work and moral living are part of God’s plan? These ideas make society better. Why are we forcing God out of the public arena? There will come a time when we keep pushing God out of our lives, and God will eventually remove His hand of blessing from our country. Everything we are as a country, we owe to God!

Third, Christians will pray for our players with or without a microphone. Although ideally we would prefer one person offering the prayer for all over the loudspeaker, Christians will pray! Just like Daniel continued to pray after government leaders devised a law to stop Him, we will pray. There is no lion’s den awaiting us for praying. We still live in a country with religious freedom. Yes it is beginning to be trampled upon by the godless left, but true Christians will continue in their commitment to God no matter the consequences. This is a great opportunity for Christians in Lepanto and Tyronza to come together and show the community the character of God through our lives. Choose to treat this as an opportunity to be God’s hands and feet in this world!

Fourth, I have seen many people really mad about this situation. It is fine if you are upset. It should bother us that this has happened. But many of the people that are the most angry are not even church attenders! So let me get this straight. You are not willing to get out of bed on Sunday Morning and attend church, but you are angry that you can’t pray at a ball game. Now I don’t want you to get mad at the pastor on this one. I just want to point out the double standard of your thinking. And I want you to come to church. We would love the opportunity at First Baptist Lepanto to help your family grow in Christ. I would love to meet you and help you on your spiritual journey. Also, the Bible says that “the fool says in his heart that there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) The person that made this complaint should not be a source of bitterness to us. We should not allow our hearts to grow cold toward this person or group of people. We should pity them. I guess Mr. T. had it right when he said, “I pity the fool!” Love them! Tell them about Jesus! After all, the sin of atheism has its origin in a rebellious heart, not a logical intellect! For more on this topic listen to a sermon entitled “The Fool and is Sin” at http://www.fbclepanto.com/wordpress

Although this has not been an exhaustive list of my thoughts on the topic, these are the most important. I hope to post a few more reflection blogs in the coming weeks on cultural topics that face our world. And you can always find sermons at the link listed above. We are God’s people. Let us love and live according to His will and His way!

The Armor of God

In the month of July on Sunday Mornings, we will be looking at a sermon series called, “The Armor of God.” God calls us to be prepared for the life we live. We must have a strong foundation. God has ultimately won the war through the victory of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but we still fight a battle daily. The Bible says that we are in a battle. We must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Although people may come against us, we must remember that our battle is a spiritual battle. We must fight in the strength of the Lord for our battle. If we fight on our own strength, we will fail. We must also fight the battle God’s way, and we must know our enemy. Sermon audio for the first sermon can be found at http://fbclepanto.com/wordpress/archives/1529. Get in the fight. Be prepared. This Sunday we will begin to look at the parts of the armor that God calls us to put on to be ready for battle.

Contending for the Faith

In Jude 3 we are told to earnestly contend for the faith. In this context Jude is referring to the false teachers that had crept in to the church unnoticed. As God’s children we are called to live a life that is faithful to God and His Word. After all, His Word is His revelation of Himself to mankind. In it God tells us who He is and the nature of His character. We also find precepts for our lives in the Bible. These are not merely divine suggestions, but are commands of design. God has created us. When we live our lives according to His design we are most fulfilled and are living within the purpose for which we were created.

If we are living according to God’s commands,  we will be contending for the faith at times. Whether we are struggling to keep the church pure or debating with nonbelievers for the purpose of showing them the truth of the faith, we are commanded by God to be ready to give a defense. But what does Peter have to save about how we should give a defense? He says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in for hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15 NASB) You see we should be willing to earnestly contend and debate for the faith, but Peter ends that verse with a couple  of qualifiers. How shall we defend the faith? With gentleness and reverence. Far to many Christians have crossed the line between gentleness and cruelty. We all had a tendency to become frustrated with nonbelievers. We want them to understand. We want them to know the truth because it is a matter of eternal significance. But that is never a license to be cruel and arrogant. Remember, the Christian hasn’t come to know the truth because they are smarter or better than lost people. We know the truth by the sheer mercy and grace of a loving God, who is infinitely worth of our praise. And that is exactly what we want for them, to know Him.

So when you give a defense of the gospel, whether at work or in the church, do it with compassion and love, not a critical spirit. God does’t need us to defend Him. He can take care of himself. Why then should we be defending the truth? We are defending the truth so that people will come to Christ, not to prove we are right. God will take care of that in the end. Our job is the share the truth in love!

The Silence of Religion

What has happened to religious ideas in our world? When someone brings up a religious or even moral idea in a conversation, interview or debate, it is instantly shot down. This is true of all religious ideas, but Christian ideas receive the greatest hostility. What is the rational behind this silencing of religion? The wise men of the world believe that religion must remove itself from the area of thought. They say that religion is fine, if you believe that sort of thing, as long as you keep it out of the area of real thinking. They say that religion only has a purpose in the mystical or spiritual life of the individual and in the practical life of the individual. If you have a religion, it is your business and yours alone. Keep it to yourself. Let it influence your practical life, but don’t bring it into the area of decision making. Only the logic of our own understanding can help us make political decisions and understand our world today. To impose your religious ideas on others is seen as intolerance and narrow-minded.

There is a problem with this line of thinking. I am a Christian. I worship the God who created everything that exists. As the creator, he reserves the right to govern that creation. Whatever He does and says it right and true. If God were to reveal Himself to humanity and tell us how we are to live, how we are to relate to Him and how we are to relate to others, then we should listen and obey. God has revealed Himself through the prophets and apostles in the Bible. In the Bible, God tells us that we are to live in such a way as to give glory to him in all we do. We are to be completely saturated with His love and that love is to flow from us to the world. It should affect how we live and how we relate to every part of the created order. We are also called to be salt and light in the world. We are to influence it! Why on earth could anyone think it would be appropriate for a person to call himself a Christian and not have their Christianity influence what they believe about abortion or homosexuality. I wouldn’t be a very strong believer if I didn’t believe what God taught in Scripture.

The point is that I respect someone who has convictions based on something outside of themselves. A person without convictions doesn’t understand why they believe something is right or wrong because their beliefs are based on whatever feels right. They make themselves into god. The moral compass of a Christian is guided by God’s standard of righteousness. So please don’t tell me to keep my religious ideas out of politics or intellectual conversations. I assure you, your beliefs about the world influence all your decisions. I am a Christian to the very core of my being, and it should played out in every area of my life. The Christian should never compartmentalize their religion. God belongs in every area of our lives! But remember, God has also called us to love others, so while I believe sin should be called sin, we are also to love the sinner. We should always enter into intellectual talks with passion and a loving spirit.

Back from China

I had promised to blog on a regular basis, but as it happens, we have been going through a year long adoption process that has consumed my extra time. I intend to be more involved with this blog at least on a weekly basis. Last week we returned from China with our second adopted daughter. Her name is Zoey, and she is a joy. You can find information about our daughter and our journey at www.babysisterthesequel.blogspot.com. We are now a family of seven!

Family

The culture in China is quite different from our own. It is a tough place in which to get comfortable . There are so many people in China that the rules are a little different when it comes to property and personal space. Also, the government influence over everything, including the internet is mind boggling. For example, on one day we could access our blog site and on the next it was blocked. Then we could access it on another day, and then it was blocked the remainder of our stay. I didn’t meet any Chinese Christians on this journey, but I talked to some Chinese people about Christianity and how it was practiced in their country. They talked about house churches that met in peace as long as they didn’t draw attention to themselves. It is the ones that make a stir and try to get involved in politics and aggressive evangelism that get in trouble. So in their minds Christianity was perfectly legal to practice Christianity as long as you keep it quite and to yourself. That doesn’t sound like the Christianity of the Bible. I hope to have the opportunity to contact a Southern Baptist Missionary that has been to China so I can gain a better understanding of what is going on over there. Regardless, it would not be an easy place to minister. The people are so set in their culture and the ideas of enlightenment and oneness that the teaching of the gospel would be somewhat difficult to grasp at first. I have thought much about it in the last week and the people of China have been on my heart… So many people that need to hear the truth… So many people that are placing their lives in the hands of religious ideas and not the living God. Pray for the Chinese people. And pray that the missionaries called to China will know how to effectively share the gospel with them to have the greatest impact for Christ.