This coming Sunday is the last day of the year. Come this next Monday morning we’ll be pointing to the New Year and what we trust will be more promise and possibility than what we experienced over these past twelve months. Of course, a lot of how things will play out will hinge on how some things have already gone. Yesterday can be a springboard into tomorrow, or it can be a ball and chain that keeps us from experiencing our heart’s desire.
Years ago, I was introduced to the concept of Total Quality Improvement by way of an engineer in the church I was serving. TQM was his bailiwick and the primary responsibility he had in his place of employment. He quickly helped me to see the many applications the approach had to what the church is called to be about, and I immediately began to see the places...
Every church has its own set of challenges, some of which can also be seen as growth opportunities. What determines whether the church is derailed by the challenge or whether it becomes a stronger fellowship for it is its response. Obviously, the healthiest churches are those that do what is necessary to grow from their challenges. You may have noticed this past Sunday...
The Christmas season is a time when families need to be together. If you’ve ever had to be away from home at Christmas, you know what I mean. Nothing makes you feel more disconnected than to be separated from your kin at a time when the sights, sounds, and even smells of the season are all around us. That’s why so many of us have gone to such time and trouble during the holiday to find our way back home.
“God is in His heaven,” the saying goes, “and all is right with the world.” I understand that the saying intends to convey how God is in control of everyday life, and I believe that truth beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, sometimes all does not seem right with our world, and we need God to come down from heaven to set things right.
I hate to wait on anything or anyone. I do my best to hide my impatience (and perhaps my sense of entitlement), but most of the time even a three year-old can see the edginess written all over my face. But of course, there are times when I have no other option but to wait. All the complaining and cajoling do me no good. And if I can just accept the time of inactivity as a season of preparation for something I otherwise would never be able to know I actually come to see that on most occasions the arrival of the cause for which I was in limbo turned out to be more than worth the wait.
Once Thanksgiving passes, some may think that they can shelve their grateful expressions and go back to being their normal selves, as if gratitude is simply a fleeting fancy. But as each of us knows deep down in his heart of hearts, thanksgiving is not just something we calendar for one day of the year; it’s an abiding attitude that when we hold it adds so much value to each moment of each day.
Some years ago, a popular American soda manufacturer launched a highly successful ad campaign they called, “The Pause that Refreshes.” It caught on like wildfire, in large measure because of how at the time most Americans were weary from trying to keep up in the fast lane of life and longed for something that could offer them an off ramp.
Like all of you, I have been shocked and saddened by the events of last Sunday when a shooter entered the sacred space of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and opened fire on an unsuspecting congregation, killing 26 and wounding 20 others. Because of ministry commitments that day I was away from the television until later in the evening and unaware of what had taken place. But when I heard the news I couldn’t help but think of how at the very time the carnage was taking place in that church, we were sharing together in a Day of Remembrance at ours.
Back in seminary days I played basketball with a group of students, many of whom had played in college. During the fall and winter we would take on teams from other seminaries and community colleges, as well as even a freshman team or two at some of the larger four-year schools in the Louisville area. Our nickname was the “Saints,” which at the time seemed appropriate but now strikes me as being more than a tad presumptuous. But of course, no one we played took our...
Matthew 22:34-46 • “What Do You Think?” Back in the days when shopping malls were places everybody frequented, you often saw people scattered about with clipboards in hand stopping shoppers to seek their opinion on topics ranging from political causes to entertainment tastes to leisure activities to favorite sports teams. I’ve even bumped into some who were conducting religious surveys. Nowadays, most of those surveys are done by telephone or email, but the end result is still the same. People are always trying to gauge where the Court of Public Opinion stands, not so much out of mere curiosity but more as a way to initiate a conversation that might those who answer the survey to consider an option they may never have considered before.
As most of you are aware, our Minister to Students Hayden Walker and her husband Cody are on the verge of delivering their son Rhett, and we are elated at God’s favor toward them! As the two of them have prayed over their role as parents, Hayden has sensed God releasing her from her responsibilities as Minister to Students. She and I have discussed this matter and given it prayerful consideration, and I am in agreement that this transition is God’s will for the Walkers at this stage in their faith journey.
We live in a day of dishonesty and deceit. People claim to be one way but then act in ways that are totally opposite. That is why when someone acts in a sincere way, it’s important to acknowledge it and to say thanks. I feel compelled to do that with respect to our church because of our fellowship’s strong response to a recent appeal to provide support to those affected by the recent hurricanes.
The gospel of Matthew is attributed to a tax collector named Matthew; in fact, he’s the same tax collector who Jesus calls to follow Him in Matthew 9:9.
My kids love to play hide and seek. Recently, I was folding clothes when a game ensued.
I have never been big on bland foods. I wouldn’t say that spicy stuff is ever my “go to” choice when I sit down for a meal, but I will admit that I do enjoy my food better when it is sprinkled with a dash of salt. I don’t think I’m alone in...
“No eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
Have you ever had one of those moments where you were in the presence of greatness and didn’t realize it?
Baptists have a rich history of missionaries traveling the world to share the gospel of peace with those who are “far off.”
At last we come to the end of the book of Isaiah and to his global vision of God’s glory. Isaiah 56-66 pictures the day of this coming glory and helps us see how we ought to respond to God’s promise of salvation.
The story of the Parable of the Evil Tenants is one of those stories that are hard to wrap our minds around. The thought of a group of tenants who are so bad that they would kill not only the owner’s servants but also his own son just makes no sense to us at all. Who lives with...
In Isaiah 40-54, we’ve been hearing about the miraculous work of restoration that God is doing - how He will bring His people home from exile, yes, but we’ve also learned that God is doing a far greater work than bringing physical restoration.
I have been on record for quite some time about my reluctance to change. Being a person who enjoys routine, I don’t look to shake things up for the sake of change, particularly when I think things are going relatively well. My favorite dictum is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And beauty is objective, isn’t it? Our definitions of beauty and attractiveness vary by culture and time period.
We see a shift here in Isaiah; Isaiah 41-48 deals with the problem of physical exile, promising that God will bring His children home to the land promised to their forefather Abraham.
In some ways, the end of Isaiah 42 and the beginning of Isaiah 43 seem like opposites, don’t they?
Isaiah 39 is a hard chapter to read, isn’t it? We’ve seen God deliver Hezekiah from death - and in response, Hezekiah turns to put his trust in Babylon.
Most of us are creatures of habit. While fashion styles may come and go, the vast majority of us prefer to keep things the same.
I remember the first time I watched the classic The Wizard of Oz. As a child, I waited with fear and anticipation when Dorothy’s ragamuffin crew made it to Oz.
In many ways, this chapter is the resolution to a cliff-hanger! I used to hate when I was kid and my favorite TV shows would have cliff-hangers at the end of the season.
There are two great heresies that keep many from experiencing the abundant life that Jesus died and was resurrected for us to know. The first heresy is: "God helps those who help themselves." The fact of the matter is that God helps those who cannot help themselves.
Isaiah 35 offers a beautiful picture of God’s future work of salvation. The people who languished under the prospect of impending defeat at the hands of their enemies needed to know that a day was coming in the future when God would once and for all defeat His enemies and restore His people.
Here in Isaiah 33, Isaiah’s message turns to a message of hope.
I began playing tennis as a child when they built two courts adjacent to my house in Chickasaw, where I spent the early childhood years of my life.
Have you ever had a friend tell you that you had something on your face or a piece of food stuck between your teeth? If so, you know how embarrassing it can be when you are oblivious to a personal flaw everyone else can see. But, after our embarrassment has subsided, most of us are grateful that someone would care enough to let us know about something we needed to change rather than allowing us to walk around looking silly.
Words often reveal the condition of our hearts (Luke 6:45). However, there are other times in which we use our words to conceal how we truly feel. This can happen both in our relationships with other people and with God.
Overview of Isaiah 28-35
On Wednesday, September 20, from 2-6:30pm come by and get your favorites, including Chicken Pot Pie, Stromboli, Bacon Cheddar Scones, Chicken Tetrazzini, English Muffins with Sausage and Cheese, French Market Sandwiches, Over the Top Macaroni and Cheese, Sourdough Missionary Bread, and Cherry Almond Scones. All proceeds go to support local missions, including The WellHouse, M-Power, Camp Seale Harris and Children’s Hospital, among other projects.
I grew up in a liturgical church, and we recited the Apostle’s Creed each Sunday morning. Perhaps like many who grew up at MBBC saying the Creed each week, the words flowed freely from my mouth and memory long before they were translated to my heart. I can still remember the morning that the Holy Spirit awakened me to the words “resurrection of the dead” at the very end of the Creed. After the service, I met my pastor in the narthex and asked if that meant what I thought it might…that perhaps believers would be resurrected just as Christ had been. His confirmation of my wild conclusion astounded me.
You’d be hard pressed to tell it from the bright and sunny skies we’re enjoying today, but these last two weeks have been extremely difficult for so many who live in coastal regions. As the meteorologists have noted, these days marked the first time in recorded history that two Category Four hurricanes have made landfall on American soil. We can only hope that such history never repeats itself.
After the last few days, you may be feeling overwhelmed at God’s judgment and convicted of your own sin. I think both are very appropriate reactions to the wrath of God! Today, the tide shifts. We see the character of God as the one who will by no means clear the guilty, but also the one who is merciful, gracious, and forgiving (Exodus 34:6-7). We have seen that judgment extends to the entire world, but in our passage today, we see that God makes promises of peace that are available to their entire world as well.
Signs and examples help us to grasp difficult concepts. They shed light on challenging truths; this is why preachers use illustrations in their sermons! We understand better through symbols, and so did the people of Judah. All of the other oracles in this section involve rich literary metaphors that are powerful. However, nothing can quite compare with the image recorded in Isaiah 20. Instead of just recording God’s words,Isaiah himself became a living sign to his people.
Cody and I love to travel together. Before we leave home, we always have a detailed itinerary, maps, and guidebooks about our destination. Without this information, we would not understand much about the sites we might see and experience. When reading through prophetic books, I think a similar philosophy is helpful. It is good to read the passages in one hand with a sort of “guidebook” in your other hand. For this oracle, we must remember that Israel was the wicked northern kingdom, a separate nation at the point in time from Judah, to whom Isaiah wrote. Isaiah 17 records a prophecy against the people of Syria and Israel.
Overview of Isaiah 13-27
“The Wells of Salvation - A Canticle of Joy”
One of the lessons I had to learn as a parent was that my children wouldn’t simply catch Christian faith like they seemed to catch everything else as they were growing up. I had to be intentional about speaking with them about developing their appreciation for God’s love in Jesus Christ and understanding the importance of embracing it as they were able. Even as a pastor, while I had assumed that growing up in a preacher’s home would be enough, I came to discover that my responsibility as a parent meant engaging them in positive conversations about why faith is important and the difference it makes in life. Fortunately, my children listened and responded, and to this day they are both very much committed to following Jesus. Now that I have grandchildren, I see my responsibility to help them in an even more important way.
“The Branch from Jesse - Christ’s Birth and Peace are Foretold”
Overview of Isaiah 6-12
This weekend is Labor Day weekend, a time when we pause to reflect upon the value of our work. I always thought it was ironic that we celebrate Labor Day by engaging in acts of leisure. You might think that such a celebration would involve more work, but in truth we humans work so that we can have more time for things that give us true rest.
The book of Isaiah can be intimidating. First of all, Isaiah is lengthy - with 66 chapters, it’s one of the longest books in the Bible! And, its subject matter can be a bit daunting. Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). His ministry spanned over sixty years and while he wrote primarily to the southern kingdom of Judah, Isaiah also spoke to several other nations. It’s easy to get all of these countries and rulers confused. And, to make things even more challenging, the book of Isaiah is a prophetic work. Sometimes it’s hard to understand prophecy and everything gets a bit murky when we start reading about the moon turning to blood, right?
Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You absolutely can go home again. I’m referring of course to the novel that recounts the experience of George Webber, a novelist who returns to his hometown after he has written unflattering things about its inhabitants, who feel unfairly exposed by his work. Webber is shocked by the negative reaction his writings have received, and is reduced to questioning his own identity because of it. Wolfe’s novel received critical acclaim, in large part because of how so many readers identified with the plotline because of their own negative experiences of returning to a place that was not at all as they remembered it.