The Treasure of a Godly Spouse

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Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates
(Proverbs 31:28-31, ESV)

Take time to get away with your spouse, not from your spouse!  Distractions abound. Work beckons. Children have wants and needs and homework and baths and messes and… and … and….

Cindy and I will be married 18 years this year (August 1–circle the date).  I met her at when I first went to seminary in 1995 as I was a part-time Minister of Music at Pleasureville Baptist Church, Pleasureville, Kentucky.  Over the following year we developed a friendship that evolved into a relationship that evolved into marriage.  As one who tended to overthink everything, I found myself nervous about marriage but crazy about her (typical man).  But I realized that if marriage was with her, I’d be crazy to let her go.

God has taken us many places: Clewiston, Florida; Cox’s Creek, Smithfield, and Lexington, Kentucky; and now Denver, Colorado–all due to God’s call to seminary and to ministry.  We’ve had seasons of ministry live that were excruciating–in fact, each chapter of ministry life has those seasons.  But she’s there!  Wife, mom, RN, preschool teacher at church, and friend.

We try to go out at least once a month on a date night to just talk, catch up, shop, dream–the whole business.  But the majority of our lives are in the ebb and flow of the routine.  And it’s in those times that the little things about who she is and how she acts fascinate me.

I see her in all my children, just like she sees me in them as well.  The nuances, idiosyncrasies, and movements they make come from our union.

I see Kentucky in her: the values, the strength, the determination that makes me feel as if Kentucky is home because I feel as if I’m always home when I’m with her.

Most of all, I see a woman who willingly goes when God calls me.  She epitomizes what Tanya York once said when I asked her, “Did you feel called to be a pastor’s wife?”  Her response nailed it: “No, I felt called to be Hershael’s wife and to support him where God called him.”  Exactly.

I’m at word 350 now.  I could go on for volumes.  Be thankful for the godly spouse God has given you.  Pray for your spouse that Christ would continue to sanctify them in the midst of all the joys and challenges life brings.

 

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Set Free from the Prison of Unforgiveness

forgiveRefusing to forgive puts you in a spiritual and emotional prison.  Only the key of the gospel will spring you from that prison door. Jesus preached:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV).

Having an unforgiving heart means that you wish for your brand of justice to take place on them.  But having an unforgiving heart also means that our Father will not forgive us–and will dole out His perfect and deserved justice on us.

So, forgive!  Forgive because you’ve been forgiven by Christ, dear Christian!  Forgive so other may seen the kindness and tenderheartedness of Christ as forgiveness has given you that kindness and tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32).  Forgive so the world can see how we as Christians love one another, one of the best witnessing tools around (John 13:34-35).

Forgive!

Your Prayers Matter: The Connection Between Praying and Not Losing Heart

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In reading through Luke 18, Luke tells us the point of the upcoming parable of Jesus by saying, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).  I believe this connection is lost on many populating the pews in our churches–and maybe even the pulpits as well.

When we fail to pray, we fail to connect with the perspective and purpose of our Heavenly Father.  Therefore, all we focus on are the frailties, failings, and foibles that happen in us in all around us.

I love what the study notes in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible say:

Our perspective is limited and our vision is clouded.  Holy Scripture continually reminds us that God is truly for us in Jesus.  We need this constant reminder of God’s kind heart and great power toward us as we fight against our inherent unbelief.  We now belong to him.  He is our advocate.  He delights to care for us and to defend us.

Without Christ-centered prayer focused on God’s will and way, we leave ourselves to our own devices.  We, in essence, believe we are “god enough” (if you will) to handle the day-to-days.  We rest in our own knowledge, rely on our own wisdom, and recognize our own wonder in moving things forward.

And yet, when our failings rise, we could listen to Osteen who would tell us basically to draw deep from our own goodness and destiny that God has planted in us.  How unsustainable!  We can take his advice and plow our own future–and lose heart when we come to the end of that highway (and yes, I said when–it will happen).

Or we can pray out of our frailties, feebleness, failings, and foibles, trusting in the One who is able, and not lose heart because our rest is in Him.  He is our Father and will listen to us (Luke 18:8).

In a beautiful scene in Revelation 8, the Lamb is opening the seventh seal–after which heaven was silent for one-half hour.  The seven angels stood before God and were given seven trumpets.  But verse 3 is a joy to read:

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

I cannot add to what John Piper preached in a sermon on this very topic, and rejoice that not only does God hear our prayers, but they are an instrument for the judgment to come at the end of the world.

The utterly astonishing thing about this text is that it portrays the prayers of the saints as the instrument God uses to usher in the end of the world with great divine judgments. It pictures the prayers of the saints accumulating on the altar before the throne of God until the appointed time when they are taken up like fire from the altar and thrown upon the earth to bring about the consummation of God’s kingdom.

In other words, what we have in this text is an explanation of what has happened to the millions upon millions of prayers over the last 2,000 years as the saints have cried out again and again, “Thy kingdom come . . . Thy kingdom come.” Not one of these prayers, prayed in faith, has been ignored. Not one is lost or forgotten. Not one has been ineffectual or pointless. They have all been gathering on the altar before the throne of God.

So the continued connection between praying and not losing heart is that not only will God hear, but He will judge in righteousness at the consummation of all things, and will vindicate His people based on His righteousness purchased at the cross and seal at the resurrection.

Do not lose heart, church!  Pray!  God will hear.

Native or Naturalized? How Does One Become a Kingdom Citizen?

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Let’s define what a citizen is.  Merriam-Webster defines a citizen as:

An inhabitant of a city or town, one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.  A member of a state.  A native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.

An inhabitant?  That’s right, for over and over the New Testament tells us that our position is ‘in Christ.’  Rights and privileges?  In John 1:12-13, we read that, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  So if you’re a gospel citizen, you’re a child of God.  But let’s go on with that definition. 

It says, “A native or naturalized person.”  I’m going to say something to you that some of you may not realize.  Are you ready?  When it comes to being a gospel citizen, a member of the Kingdom of God, none of us are natives to that Kingdom. When I moved to Colorado, I almost felt that way when finding native Coloradoans.  Most were from other places, such as Texas or Oklahoma.  Same with when I lived in Florida, where that state seemed to be New York or Jersey South!  But when it comes to being a citizen of the Kingdom, none of us are born nationals.   So many people, maybe even some of you in this room, maybe some of you who are members, believe you were born Christian.  Your parents were, your grandparents were—so you must be.  There is a difference between the citizenship of this world and the citizenship of heaven.

So how do we become a gospel citizen?  Do we take a citizenship test? By US law, in order to become a citizen of this country, you take a citizenship test.  Section one is about American Government and all it involves (law, structure, etc.).  Section two is about American History.  Section Three is about Integrated Civics regarding geography and the like.   You know, many of us probably would struggle with those tests. 

Do we have to take a test in order to become a citizen? Some say that.  The test is that we have to do ‘gospelly’ things!   If I come to church, serve, get on a leadership team, even preach!  Scott and I were talking about his class he was taking and brought up the name Elias Keach, the son of the old Baptist preacher Benjamin Keach.  He was a wild child, but when he arrived in Philadelphia, he decided to dress like a clergyman.  When they found out he was the son of Benjamin Keach, he started preaching. 

Keach was elegantly dressed in his ministerial coat and white bands and probably using one of his father’s sermons he began his discourse, but about half way through he suddenly stopped short being seized with the enormity of his hypocrisy and sin. The people assumed he had been seized with a sudden illness. When they gathered around him and asked the cause of his fear, he burst into tears, confessed his fraud and threw himself upon the mercy of God and pleaded for the pardon of all his sins. He immediately traveled to the Cold Springs Church, the first Baptist church established in Pennsylvania, and poured out his heart to Elder Thomas Dugan. The aged Baptist Pastor lovingly took him by the hand and led him to Christ.

The man was saved by his own preaching. This drives home what Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  You see, just saying or parroting, “Jesus is Lord” will not do.  He goes on to say, “… but He who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  So, wait!  In order to be a citizen, I need to do His will!  No, in order to be a citizen, you need to not just say He’s Lord, but He must be Lord—and from that, you do His will.  You do not do His will in order to get him as Lord, you do His will due to your heart (will, mind, emotions) surrendered to him!

A gospel citizen, then, is one who has been adopted by the Heavenly Father through what His Son accomplished on our behalf.  Those who are part of the citizenship have surrendered their heart (again, mind, will and emotions) to Him.  And what Paul is calling believers to do is this:  if you’re a gospel citizen, live like one.  In other words, the gospel is not simply to get us to heaven.  The gospel fuels us in Christ for the here and now.

Bob Russell on Learning from Mistakes He’s Made as a Leader

Bob Russell served as the founding pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  In the Duke McCall Lecture on Leadership delivered November 3, 2015 at my alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he shares the mistakes he made as a leader and the lessons he learned from those mistakes.  This is such a good listen, and helpful to any leader in the church and beyond.  This would be good for any pastor’s gathering you have to discuss and learn.

  1. Confront problems early.
  2. Know your weaknesses and delegate accordingly.  Stay in your strengths.
  3. Give priority to your family.
  4. Be content when it comes to statistics.

 

 

Happy Birthday to My Brother from Another Mother

2013-01-20 15.04.14Whereas today marks a sad anniversary in the life of our country with the Roe v Wade ruling making abortion legal in the United States, today also marks the 60th birthday of my brother from another mother, the Rod of God, Roddie Taylor.

Many of you who know me know Roddie.  Roddie has served for the last 28 years as Senior Pastor of the Mount Beulah Evangelical Baptists Church in Point Fortin, Trinidad and Tobago (Point Fortin is in the Trinidad part of T & T).  Over the years, I’ve made ten trips to Trinidad to minister with them in various capacities.  Sometimes, I go alone to conduct conferences and services, other times I have taken members from my church to help them with their church plants, Vacation Bible Schools, construction, among other things.

I first met Roddie while I was in seminary in the mid-1990’s.  Our Seminary Vocal Ensemble was planning a trip to Trinidad and Tobago to teach music (piano, guitar, conducting, and basic rudiments to the kiddos).  The entire team was set up by November 1995 until one person dropped out. That left a spot open for me to go.  So, on December 28, 1995, I and 30 other music students flew to Trinidad for a two week stay–in what turned out to be two of the most challenging weeks of my life.  But that’s for another time.

Two days before we returned home, we had a joint concert to demonstrate all that the churches had learned.  It was a wonderful time of worship.  While I was sitting in the congregation, I sat next to a fellow that was funny and engaging–we had a great time, and I hardly knew him.  I introduced myself, and he responded, “Glad to meet you!  My name is Roddie Taylor.”  That was January 1996–and the name stuck.

When I came to Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, in September 2003, I felt that our church should not only be active in missions monetarily but personally.  And Trinidad had always been on my heart and mind–even to the point of exploring whether I could serve in Trinidad as a missionary.  Even those the IMB said they wouldn’t send more missionaries to Trinidad due to the high amount of evangelical churches there, I knew Trinidad needed more of a witness.  With the high volume of Catholics, Hindus, and other cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, Trinidad needed help in getting the gospel out.

So I tracked down a missionary named Garey Scott and his wife Polly, who were in the last stages of their missions work there through the IMB.  When I inquired as to a place in Trinidad where a church could go, Garey said, “I have just the place.  The pastor’s name is Roddie Taylor who serves in the southwest part of Trinidad in Point Fortin.”  I was blown away!  No way this could be the same man.  After getting his e-mail and talking to him online, it was indeed him.  He remembered me.  And that began a friendship that has endured.

Our church in Lexington agreed to send a team to Trinidad to conduct VBS in July 2004.  We had just over 15 go, and what a challenge that was.  But what a blessing that was as well.  God has a way of getting us out of our comfort zone.  But Roddie and his lovely wife Stella, along with their kiddos (who aren’t kids anymore) have become like family to us.  Well, they are family: he’s my brother from another mother!

And I was honored that in 2012, I was asked to preach at his 25th anniversary service at Mt. Beulah.

Roddie has allowed me to come and preach the Word to them and bring teams to help get the gospel out.  But he has given me his friendship, which I will treasure.  Roddie turns 60 today.  Plans are in the works for either myself or a small team from ARBC to go to help them with a church plant in their area and spread the gospel where we can by God’s leading.

Happy birthday, Roddie!  I’m thankful that our friendship has transcended seasons of life, geography, and will transcend this life as we feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb, never having to say goodbye at an airport any longer.

 

What Biblical Christianity Refuses to Do

This!

Biblical Christianity refuses to separate historical fact from spiritual meaning. Its core claim is that the living God has acted in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Other religions tell people what they must do to achieve salvation, or become holy, or reach Nirvana, or connect with the divine. The burden of obligation is on the individual to perform the right ceremonies or perfect the right rituals. The Christian gospel is unique because it is the narrative of what God has done in history to accomplish salvation.

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo.  Start reading this book for free here.

 

All Lives Matter, So Make Yours Count

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If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again (Philippians 1:22-26).

What’s the first word here?  “If.”  Consider what faced Paul?  “If I am to live in the flesh…” meaning, “If I am to escape the possible execution I’m facing.”  I’ve been at the bedside of many who have been sick and/or dying.  When the possibility of death comes along, the vast majority of us approach this season with anxiety and dread.  We ask all sorts of questions about the life we will leave behind.  Paul could have asked these same questions about what would happen with his churches and those he won to Christ.

Our present life entails fruitful labor for Christ.  In verse 22, we read, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.”  If Paul lived, then praise God—fruitful labor for him!  He would continue to tell others of the good news of Christ.

Compare him with the likes of Hezekiah.  In Isaiah, chapters 38-39, King Hezekiah was on the point of death.  He did not approach the prospect of death well!

And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.

Hezekiah wept at the thought of death.  He wanted to stay here.  But those 15 years that God gave him were tragic years.  At the beginning of Isaiah 39, a Babylonian delegate asked to see the Temple, the armory, the storehouses, everything.  Hezekiah was proud, so he allowed it.  Isaiah responded:

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”

He wanted to stay in order to glorify himself rather than God. Even when tragedy would hit, he took comfort in that this tragedy wouldn’t happen as long as he was alive—even if it affected his sons and people.

How different are Hezekiah than Paul!  But if we were to take inventory of our hearts in our culture, and even those who name the name of Christ, we identify more with Hezekiah, don’t we?  Some of you know that I’ve just started working on a team the North American Missions Board helping churches that are within two years of dying not to, well, die.  They’ve gotten to a position of looking inward more than outward, ministering more to themselves rather than to the changing communities around them.  Many of these churches would rather die than to change.  As long as they have comfort in their own community, they are fine–for at least there is peace and security in their days.

We wish for fruitful labor, that is, labor that bears fruit!  Make your life count, dear Christian! Do you believe that God’s favor is found in peace and security in your days–or fighting the good fight of faith for the eternal security of others?

 

Spurgeon on the Bible Defending the Bible

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Tim Keller’s book on preaching is a treasure. Included is a quote from Charles Spurgeon which is also a treasure.

There seems to me to have been twice as much done in some ages in defending the Bible as in expounding it, but if the whole of our strength shall henceforth go to the exposition and spreading of it, we may leave it pretty much to defend itself. I do not know whether you see that lion – it is very distinctly before my eyes; a number of persons advance to attack him, while the host of us would defend him. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion: open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! You know sooner goes forth in his strength and his assailant flee. The way they meet infidelity is just read the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.

Let’s trust the Word to do its work. Let lion out!