Friday, June 27, 2008

Home Alone

I am alone this weekend. Crystal and Reed have travelled up to Alabama to see her family and left me here to fend for myself. I would have gone, but she wanted to stay through Sunday, and I have class to teach. Of course, I'd be lying if I said there were no advantages to having some time to myself. But I will certainly miss those two while they're gone.

But I think while they're gone, I ought to at the very least make good use of my time. So far, results are mixed. I did spend some good solid lesson studying time, listened to a John Piper sermon on my MP3, and read a little bit of John MacArthur's "Twelve Ordinary Men." But I also sat on the bedroom floor and ate while I watched a Netflix episode of "24" and several of those caged mixed martial arts fights. Oh yeah, and there was an incident with some brownies. Obviously, the testesterone levels in this house right now are too high to safely allow women or children.

All in all, having those two out of town reminds me of how fortunate I am to have them when they're in town. If I haven't mentioned this, my red hot wife is about the coolest chick in the world, and my son is just this amazing sponge whom I've come to believe has a bit of his dad's flair for the dramatic. So it's a good life I have here. Too good frankly, better than I deserve. It's a good reminder of God's grace that a slug like me can have a family like I do.

So I'll enjoy this time I have alone over the next couple of days, in hopes that I can use it wisely to re-charge the batteries and spend some quiet time with God. But when they get back, the party starts again!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Week's Lesson

Hey everybody. This week we finish up our short look at the Book of Proverbs. We'll be looking at the Christian perspective on money and power. Everybody is chasing those two things it seems; is it okay for Christians to? Is there someone way that Christians can go after money and power and still somehow bring glory to God?

It's easy to find people that tell you God wants you to be rich and prosperous in all ways. Are they right? We'll be looking at four specific verses in Proverbs that talk about these very issues.

So take a look at Proverbs 23:1-4. I think they'll give us some keen insight on what our perspective ought to be on this very important subject.

Those of you who've been in our class for more than a few months probably already know what I think about this; we hammered it pretty hard for the first year or so of our class. But we haven't talked as much about it lately, and we have quite a few new class members, so I think this discussion will be very profitable. See you Sunday!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thoughts on Mentoring

I've been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about mentoring; you know, older Christians taking an interest in younger Christians, and helping them understand better both the theology and practice of the faith. I don't think this is something we've done a very good job of this lately in the Evangelical church. Frankly, we're all so busy, that finding time for our own families is sometimes a challenge, much less for someone else's.

Not that that is an excuse though. I wonder how much easier the first few years of mine and Crystal's marriage might have been if we'd actually had someone take an interest in us, be there to answer questions frankly, and be there to encourage us to grow closer and do better by one another. I'm not blaming anyone in particular for us not having that; we never reached out to anyone either. But I do wonder if it means we ought to be doing that now, helping younger couples, now that we have a little experience under our proverbial marriage belt.

But how do you approach it? It goes back to my post a couple of weeks ago about fearing rejection. It's very hard to ask someone to help you along; I think it might be equally hard to ask someone if they'd like some help. I guess the real way to do this is just to make a point to make friends with people younger than you, and let the relationships naturally happen. Crystal and I have talked about this a little, but I'm not sure we've reached any conclusions yet.

I know this: too many young couples are drifting away from the faith, falling out of church, falling apart at the seams, and using the same bad techniques the world uses to try to save their marriage. That's one of the reasons the divorce rate is like it is.

For those reading this - Are you investing yourself in anyone's life outside of your own family? Are you looking to take anyone under your wing? I'm afraid I'm ashamed to tell you what the answer to that question is for me. But I've got to do better.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Week's Lesson

I'm making up for my late posting of last week's lesson with an early posting of this week's. So there. We're going to be talking this week about Biblical reasons to keep our mouths shut. If I was going to title the lesson, I don't know if I'd call it "Shutting Up for the Kingdom," or "How God Gets Glory from Our Closed Mouths." Both seem appropriate for the subject matter.

We're going to be looking at a number of verses of scripture, but our main text will be Proverbs 17:27,28:

"Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is full of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." (ESV)

Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything under the sun, "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." Good, Godly wisdom knows when the right time for both of those is. I hope you'll meditate and study these verses in Proverbs this week.

Oh, and I'm not trying to tell anyone anything with that picture. I just thought it might get your attention.

Edit to add - I just thought of another possible title. "Shut Up, Shut Up For Jesus."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tommorrow's Lesson

I know I'm doing this late, so most of you probably won't even get a chance to read this before class starts tomorrow. Sorry about that. We've had a busy day here at the Phillips household. Who am I kidding? We spent the whole day in the pool! Well, except for that two hour nap. Oh well, no excuse for not posting.

Anyway, we'll be continuing our look at the book of Proverbs tomorrow. We'll specifically be looking at the 24th chapter. I think it will be a good study into how we properly go about fighting evil around us, how we rescue those closest to death, so to speak. If you get a chance before you leave tomorrow, look ahead to the first part of Chapter 24, first 13 verses or so.

I look forward to seeing you all!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Frog Update!

So I have good news! It appears that the frogs around our pool are gone. As you might recall from an earlier post, we were having major problems with those frogs croaking around bed time. It was driving us crazy since the pool is right outside our bedroom window.

Well, they're gone, and I think I've figure out why. Our main problem earlier was that our pool's chemical levels weren't right; as a matter of fact, at the time, the pool still had a green tint from winter and there was a bit of algae still in it. Frankly, it looked a lot like a pond; in retrospect, I'm not surprised the frogs were at home there. So if there is any advice I can offer to people who are having this problem, it's this: just get your pool chemical levels right, and it's likely not to be a problem anymore. A chlorinated pool is not a very happy home for mating frogs.

Speaking of advice to others, it's been interesting. I've gotten at least 10 or 12 hits on my blog from people who googled "how to get rid of frogs," or some variety thereof. I'm afraid they didn't get any help, because at the time, I was as at a loss as they probably are now. I tried googling the same thing and came up pretty much empty. So I hope that my earlier advice helps.

If Google has brought you here because of frogs, let me also tell you that this is not usually a site about the great outdoors or home improvement. My main reason for blogging is this guy named Jesus. I know what you might be thinking: we Christians are a strange lot. I admit, that is often the case. I wonder if you might think about Jesus though. Find someone who is a Christian, who maybe you have some respect for, and ask them about him. Better yet, find a Bible, and read the book of Matthew. You'll see he's probably not what you think he is.

Also, if you have a couple of minutes, check out this video. It's a guy named John Piper explaining what the gospel, or good news of Jesus is, in six minutes. That's long enough not to be canned or trite, but short enough that it won't take up your entire evening. And yeah, that's a funny look he has on his face in the freeze frame.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership Passes!

I must tell you that I am very excited about something that Southern Baptists did at the annual convention today. As I told you about a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Tom Ascol, the Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, has been trying for three years now to get a resolution passed urging Southern Baptists to get their rolls straight, and repent of what is essentially lying about membership numbers. Southern Baptists claim a membership of 16 million people, but less than 7 million show up to church on any given week. That's atrocious. You can read some of my previous thoughts on the issue here.

Today, after not more than a little bit of discussion, the convention passed a hybrid resolution of four different proposals, that I think pretty well reflects what Dr. Ascol has been trying to do for these three years. Here is the text of that resolution.

WHEREAS, The ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle, with Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message describing the church as a “local congregation of baptized believers”; and

WHEREAS, A New Testament church is composed only of those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, the local church’s only Lord, by grace through faith (John 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), which church practices believers’ only baptism by immersion (Matthew 28:16-20), and the Lord’s supper (Matthew 26:26-30); and

WHEREAS, Local associations, state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention compile statistics reported by the churches to make decisions for the future; and

WHEREAS, the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

WHEREAS, Those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures admonish us to exercise church discipline as we seek to restore any professed brother or sister in Christ who has strayed from the truth and is in sin (Matthew 18:15-35; Galatians 6:1); and now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we humbly urge our churches to maintain accurate membership rolls for the purpose of fostering ministry and accountability among all members of the congregation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we humbly urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their pastors to implement a plan to minister to, counsel, and restore wayward church members based upon the commands and principles given in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).

The things I like about this resolution are 1) The admission that our numbers are not right, that we are basically lying to the world about how many of us there are, 2) that it recognizes that many of our churches have not been doing a very good job of keeping up with their people, or exercising biblical, restorative discipline, and 3) that it calls for corporate repentance over our reluctance to do what we ought to have been doing all along.

I'm under no illusion that this resolution is going to start a convention wide roll cleaning up. It was one of several resolutions passed by SBC'ers today, and one of thousands that have passed over the years. Most of them have come to very little. But I think this has the opportunity to be a start of something. The momentum for re-starting the process of church discipline that I think has been slowly gathering steam over the last couple of years could really gain more now. If even a quarter of our churches got serious about this, I think it would be a major step forward.

As I mentioned in the past, my church has already begun this process. I hope and pray that others will feel led to do the same. This might cost us our title of "Largest Protestant Denomination" title. We might lose some press coverage or some political clout if our numbers decline too much. But will be a much better, more biblical, more healthy, convention because of it.

For more on what happened today, you can go to the link below:

Founders Ministries Blog: SBC-Indianapolis #3 - The Resolution passes

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fighting Fear

I don't really like rejection. I guess that's probably a universal feeling; no one really likes being told no, and it's even worse when it's personal. When I ask people for an interview and they say no, it doesn't really bother me all that much. I know most of the time it's because either they don't have time or they don't want to be on television or, sometimes, they're just trying to hide something. But more often than not, it has nothing to do with me. I'm not exactly Mike Wallace. People aren't running in fear from me as interviewer.

But when it's personal, it's really hard. When I was single, it took a lot for me to work up the courage to ask a girl out. I had to be pretty darn sure they'd say yes before I'd actually ask them. I rarely got a no, because I rarely went out on a limb. My wife is one of the few people who actually turned me down when I asked her out; I was so intimidated from then on out, it took her kissing me a year later to make me willing to ask her again.

But I digress. I think a lot of people don't like being rejected, and I think that's the main reason a lot of us are not the kind of evangelists we ought to be. I believe the Gospel message as much as anyone. I understand it's ability to change hearts and minds and make people lovers of God rather than lovers of everything else. But working up the courage to share what I believe is hard. I know that many of the people around me don't really want to hear it, and chances are, a good number of them are going to reject it, no matter how many times I share it. And those rejections don't feel like a rejection of Christ as much as they feel like a rejection of me. Mind you, I'm not saying this is a good or healthy attitude. I realize it's sinful pride that cares more about what people think about me than what God wants me to do. I'm just saying it's how I feel.

So how do we overcome these fears? I think the only thing is to fall so in love with Jesus, to become so enamoured with the work he did on the Cross, to be so full of the Spirit, that we can't help but share it. The Spirit can overcome all of those mental and emotional barriers that we put in the way of evangelism.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

SBC Primer #5 - The Blogs

I still remember my initiation into the world of Southern Baptist blogs very well. I can't remember the exact date, but I do remember, I was sitting at my desk when I worked in Augusta. During some down time, I was reading an article on about whatever the latest controversy in SBC life was. It was specifically speaking of two people, bloggers, who'd become popular in Southern Baptist circles. They were the godfathers of SBC blogging, Wade Burelson, of Grace and Truth to You, and Marty Duren, of SBC Outpost, now of ie:Missional. I don't remember what the subject even was, but I was immediately drawn in, and have been reading those blogs ever since.

Since that first day, I've been introduced through their blogging to men like Tom Ascol and the Founders Blog, Timmy Brister at Provocations and Pantings, Ben Cole, Paul Littleton and the gang at the new SBC Outpost, Nathan Finn at The Fullness of Time, Micah Fries at Husband Daddy Pastor Learner, and Robin Foster, Tim Rogers and the rest of the crew at SBC Today. I've never met any of these men, and have only spoken briefly by e-mail to a couple of them, but I can tell you what most of them think about most of the issues facing both the SBC and Christianity in general. I can also tell you that they all seem to be men who love God and truly care about the future of the SBC in particular and Christendom in general. Trust me, they don't all agree on everything, and those disagreements can sometimes be quite sharp, but they really do a pretty good job of covering all that is good and not so good about SBC life. If you explore the SBC blogosphere right now, you'll discover arguments, ahem, discussions, on everything from Calvinism to tongue speaking to alcohol to proper baptism. All of the bloggers will have firmly held convictions, and will usually state those convictions pretty well.

While thought in Southern Baptist Life was once passed along at the speed of the Postal Service via monthly Baptist State newspapers and the Baptist Press, it now moves at the speed of the Internet (connections may vary depending on location). Southern Baptist blogging has become such a phenomenon that there's a web site devoted just to tracking the SBC blogs. I'm pleased to be one of the newest additions to that site, SBC Voices, which tracks more than 350 blogs daily.

Those blogs have had a pretty significant impact on SBC politics over the last several years. The bloggers have been given at least partial credit for the presidency of Frank Page. They talked up his candidacy quite a bit in the days leading up the convention two years ago. If that Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership that I've talked about passes at this year's convention, it will be thanks in large part, I believe, to a concerted effort through the blogs over the last few years to bring attention to the problem of the SBC's bloated rolls. I would also venture to say that more average lay people know and understand what goes on in SBC life a lot better because of the blogs.

This series has been mostly to help members of my Sunday School class learn a little bit more about how the SBC works as it is presently constituted, but I know over the last week or so, I've also picked up quite a few SBC bloggers, so let me end this post with a story and a word to them and for them.

I do an interview segment in my newscast every day. I usually don't know who it's going to be until right before I walk on the set. One day earlier this year, I picked up the sheet with my interviewees information on it, and the name immediately rang a bell. Just before the interview started, I looked at him and said, "Do you have a blog?" He was pretty surprised that I asked the question, but affirmed that he did indeed. He was one of the SBC bloggers that I'd read over the years, Matt Snowden, now Associate Pastor at First Baptist in Meridian. He blogs at Broken Steeple. We've gotten to know each other a little since then, so I think I can share what he told me with you. He said, "I thought those blogs were just for us insiders. I didn't think anyone else actually read them." He was really surprised that an SBC laymen, or for that matter, some non-Christian out there, might actually stumble upon something he wrote. I can honestly say I've never read anything Matt has written that he should be ashamed of; in fact, much he's written would be profitable to the world at large. But I can't say that for all of the SBC bloggers out there.

Here's the warning: whatever you say, whatever you write, can be seen by the entire world. I've been told anytime I have a microphone on, I should pretend that it's hot, and everything I say will be broadcast to the world. You should think the same thing with your blogs. They are not ways of doing personal correspondence between a small circle of friends. People are watching you, sometimes like me, very quietly, for a really long time, without saying a word. So be careful. My hope for this blog is that all I say will be Christ-honoring. I have a feeling that if I haven't already, I will eventually fall short of that. But the day I feel like I've gone too far, that what I'm writing will hinder the cause of Christ more than it helps it, will be the day I hang this blog thing up. I hope that's a promise that we can all make to ourselves.