Archive for June, 2010

Close and Clean!

Integrity. For the man of God who stands before the people of God this word is the watershed issue in his life.

Here is the deal, he is called to a higher standard according to scripture , however, he isjust a sinner saved by grace as is everyone who bears the name of Christ. He is tempted in the same way, he gets angry in the same way, he often times lusts in the same way, he hurts in the same way. Gods man does not posses some kind of superhuman ability to overcome the very same pitfalls of his brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to a different area of service. Yet still, integrity demands that he withstand these temptations in a different if not greater way. When this does not happen the end result is nothing short of disaster.

Just yesterday a dear friend in the ministry called me and shared how for three years his pastor has apparently sought to keep quiet an adulterous affair between two staff members in the church that he pastors. Now it has come to light and disaster looms all about. People feel betrayed by the staff members, by the pastor and by church leadership that knew of this yet said nor did nothing. No doubt the pastor was simply trying to minimize the hurt and pain in what was without question already a very hurtful and painful situation, however he has now only added to that pain by seemingly betraying the trust placed in him by the Lord and his congregation. In the last few days a very prominent Southern Baptist preacher and seminary leader has been relieved of his seminary duties because he has in the past years fabricated and embellished much of his testimony and ministry record. He is a good man and an excellent preacher, however he is apparently not who he has said he is. Unfortunately there are others that come to mind but one can only blog so many words in such a short time. Sad indeed. People feel betrayed, they are hurt and the work of the Lord is thwarted in many areas because of all of this

What should our reaction be? How should we respond? First of all humility and an awareness of our own sin and the grace of God in our lives is always the proper road to travel. I do suggest however the following guidelines:

1. Recognize that God does indeed forgive and often times will restore, but that every private sin has the great potential of being made public and there is always a reckoning this side of glorification.

2. The standard of ministry demands that we see the big picture. When the man of God sins it is no longer just about him, but it is now about the integrity of the gospel and vitality of the witness of the local church.

3. The local church is to be the place of discipline. Not the media and certainly not the blogosphere. Too many people utilize blogs to ‘out’ ministers caught up in various sin as if God needs them to help Him out. They are motivated by personal agendas and often times ‘cyber narcissism’ gone amuck. God dealt with His wayward preachers a long time before the advent of the internet. He is capable of righting any wrong today. You may think you are some kind of modern day reformer. Let me help you out. You’re not!

4. At the end of the day, Gods Word must be the final court of arbitration. Not our personal feelings, not our own sense of right and wrong, not our desire to ‘keep things quiet’. Gods Word, Nuff said!

5. Sin in the life of a Christian leader is not something that might happen, it is something that is ongoing. When that sin becomes public it must be dealt with publicly. Mercy should always be a guiding motif, but also justice and proper church discipline.

6. If we are unwilling to discipline the preacher in the pulpit, how in the world will we ever discipline the problem in the pew?

7. God will and does restore. When He does, do not think it a light thing or that the offender has somehow ‘gotten away’ with it. The offender will bear the scars of his sin forever until completely made whole in glory. (See David)

8. When the preacher sins, it does not hurt only him and his family, but the body as a whole. It is a time to mourn, not a time to say “I told you so!”

Johnny Hunt, the pastor of the FBC Woodstock Georgia and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention has some sage advise for young preachers. He tells them “stay away from the gold, the girls and the glitz, , money, mommas and manna! ” Good words indeed. It has been my habit to take young preachers to him at conferences and meetings where he is preaching and ask him to share a personal word of advice or encouragement with them in which he always kindly replies, with a hint if sadness in his eyes “Young man, the only thing I can say to you is simply this , stay close and clean” Close and Clean. What a simple concept yet at the same time profound. To stay close to the Lord who saved us and called us and remain clean by the washing of his Word.

God help me to always be a man who stays “close and clean” I shudder to think that my own sin would ever become fodder for those with an agenda or an ax to grind. I am even more horrified to think that my actions could bring reproach upon the one who saved me and the ministry He has called me to. Pray for your pastor today. Pray for those in ministry. Pray for their famlies

Pray they would remain ‘close and clean’

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Here comes the bride!

In just 2 days my youngest will marry her best friend. Someone asked me if I was emotional or sad or glad or whatever emotion comes to mind. I responded, “not really, just tired!” In all seriousness I could not be happier for Amanda and James. They both are wonderful young christians and they love the Lord deeply. Simply put, they are both followers of Jesus Christ and believe this to be God’s expressed will for their lives. How in the world can you argue with that? In approximately 48 hours I will walk my youngest daughter down the aisle, I will place her hand into the man she will live the rest of her days with, she will repeat vows before God and the man of God, we will pray, they will kiss, Amanda Maddox will then become Amanda Miller…WOW! See, I am not emotional at all….not at….all.

And the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.

MARK 10: 8

ps – I will blog on the wedding on Saturday night.

God is good…even when we don’t understand

An amazing testimony of Gods goodness in light of terminal illness –

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The joy of ministry

I love ministry – even on Mondays! Monday is a day of routine office work and basically recovering from the adrenal bleed of Sunday. Mondays are generally as good as Sunday was. I am not saying thats how it should be but it is often times the case. yesterday was good. we are still in our Summer attendance slump but the worship service was kick’en, the fellowship was great, Gods Word was awesome and we had a man make public his faith in Christ as Savior! AMEN! So today, not so bad…busy, but not bad. I ended the day by joining with my associate pastor and overall partner in crime, Paul Bryant (Woop woop) in making a visit with a family that has been visiting our church. We shared the gospel with them and found out what we already suspected. They were already followers of Jesus and are simply seeking a church home in which to serve Him and be equipped for ministry. They were very sure of their salvation and their relationship with the Lord. What a blessing to come across a family that ‘gets it’. No big demands, no seeking of frills or dog and pony shows, just a desire to be in Gods will and worship and serve Him. If you guys are reading this blog, you blessed me. Now I know its a great thing to share stories of dramatic conversions and we do from time to time as we visit with folks (Yes, we still visit at our church, maybe you don’t and thats fine I guess, but we do!) but every now and then its just good to visit with a family who understood the grace of God and has appropriated it in their lives. I hope the Lord leads them to join with us and serve Him in and through our local church, but just the chance to minister and serve by visiting them was a joy. How many of us miss out on the joy of a simple conversation with someone about Jesus. What are some of your joys of ministry…the simple things. Share with us and let’s celebrate together! Meanwhile, have a conversation with someone about Jesus – it will give you a ‘shot’ of joy!

The elephant in the room

The term “The elephant in the room” refers to that which is obvious but which we often just ignore. For the American church there are so many that one would be hard pressed to even begin to name them. Collectively it is our obsession with self and our ignorance of a lost and dying world and dare I say, culture which is preoccupied with personal pleasure and gain and often times oblivious to the call of the Great Commission. We are all participants in this strange game of lip service christianity and Madison Avenue living. (The computer I am typing this blog on could feed a family in Eastern Africa for a year!) One of the opportunities that is right in front of us is the blessing that comes from Christian families doing foster care and adopting orphans. During last years SBC there was a resolution encouraging the same. This year during the pastors conference we heard a wonderful message  (I would link it but they do not have it up yet) from Russell Moore on the importance of Christian families answering the call to foster and adopt. Dr. Moore has also challenfed us through his excellent book “Adopted for Life” where he shares his adoption story as an adoptive parent and then points us to the biblical challnege of at the very least considering adoption as a viable responsibility as Christians.

Dorothy and I began foster ministry 7 years ago when we were in Texas. We did not start it with the purpose of adopting, however, we have adopted one child and are in the process of adopting another. (A boy we fostered in Texas) It is not always easy, often times frustrating, always time consuming and in the end worth every second! I do not know if the Lord will allow us to foster in the future now that we are in Northwest Arkansas. I cannot help but believe that we will, especially as more room is made available in our home. I cannot imagine our life without our 2 new sons and the opportunity to have made a difference in the lives of those we were able to care for.

My simple challenge on this Fathers Day weekend is that we might echo the words of the Psalmist in celebrating a God who is the Father to fatherless and simply pray about the command of scripture we find in James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

There are thousands of children that need not only the care of a loving parent, but also the love of a forgiving Savior. Maybe God has not called you to foster or adopt, but then again, how will you know unless you ask Him?

there is an elephant in the room – let us not ignore him any longer.

To Blog or not…

There is a lot to be said about change. Some of it good, some of it not so good.

I have vowed to make a change in my life. It is not loosing weight, it is not saving money, it is not anything really that significant at all. However, it is important to me. It involves discipline. I have on two occasions started blogging only to find myself giving it up after a short period. Why? Simply put, I was not disciplined enough to stay the course. Now a blog is really nothing of great significance. Those of us who feel that our little rants are news to the world are really exercising our most narcissistic tendencies. Yet still I think blogging can be a good thing. It really is nothing more than purposeful journaling with a much wider audience. Many have used blogging in what I believe to be a very negative purpose, especially in Southern Baptist life. Many have used it for great good. There are some who have done both. I also readily admit that this is simply my opinion and that some would see it very different. Either way, blogging is a tool in many ways to exercise the demons in us and to be a part of this wonderful information age in which we live. My topics will range from everything from the Christian life to theology and church and kids and movies and sports and the price of tea in China! I would imagine there will be a healthy dose of Southern Baptist life and issues also. I am interested in what you would like to read about. Let me know!
Tomorrows post will be on voyeurism and Southern Baptist Blogs. The 21st century cyber train wreck!

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It is the small things that matter

I won’t kid you…it’s the truth…really…I am not playing…MINISTRY CAN BE TOUGH!

The truth is that the ministry for me is God’s call on my life to serve His people. I do this in various ways, the chief being the expositional preaching of the Word of God. I also have the task of leading our church in the work of discipleship and reaching the nations. This is sometimes a real challenge because often times folks really do not want to be led. I know there are times that I don’t!  Please do not misunderstand me, there is no greater joy in the world than to serve as a Pastor of a local church. I am just saying that there are those times that it can be a difficult task. Different opinions, ideas and an ever increasing conflicting culture can lead to some real frustration. Of course the way to deal with this is to take it to the Lord, listen to your critics (They may be right), stay filled with the Spirit and let God love on you and lead you, then step out and be Gods man!

Just today a fellow staff member and I were talking about a situation he is aware of where there is a pastor struggling and a church hurting because of conflict. I have been a part of conflict and I can assure you it is never fun. However, if we are centered in on the conflict of our lives and in particular our church life, we may miss the ‘small’ things that really matter.  I have a former staff member who is now a pastor and has been going through a tough time in his new pastorate. He called me tonight to inform me that a major victory had been won. With excitement in his voice he told me how the church had decided to begin using a few praise songs in their worship and to utilize a projector to help folks with the new songs. This may not seem like much to you, but it marked a major victory in the life of his church and his young ministry! He is excited because instead of fighting, folks listened and moved forward…maybe just baby steps to many of us, but to this young pastor it was sheer victory!

Tonight in my study before our Wednesday night service I had the privilege of leading a man to faith in Christ. He has been visiting in our church for a couple of months and had come to the point that he was ready to become a follower of Jesus. There was no fanfare or superfluity of activity in his decision. Just a presentation and discussion of the gospel and a simple prayer. Another name written down in glory! A commitment to follow Jesus as Lord no matter what…by faith!

This past year there has been a lot of discussion and even conflict in our Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists are no strangers to conflict and disharmony. This week it came to a close with the adoption of the GCR report and a dynamic new change of direction for our historic convention. There was an abundance of press and coverage and a great deal of attention. Folks like to pay attention when Baptists fight. The vote was taken and history was made, but meanwhile in church’s across America, small steps were taken in the process of making disciples of the nations. Classes were taught, sermons were preached, children were loved, students were challenged and ministry was accomplished. You won’t read about it in the paper or see it on the local news but you can be there first hand when you join yourself to ministry through your local church, and remember, when ministry gets tough, when conflict is evident, when direction is questioned, we must simply trust God, move forward and realize that it is indeed the so called ‘small’ things that matter.

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