Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Repentance

This Sunday I am beginning a 3-part series called "3 Steps to Revival." The 3 steps are:

1. Repentance
2. Prayer
3. Fasting

Since it makes sense to start with number 1 we will be studying "repentance" this Sunday morning. Part of the sermon is based on the Biblical words for "repent." There are essentially only 4 words translated as "repent" in the Bible. 2 are OT Hebrew words and 2 are NT Greek. Of course there are a few derivatives of these 4 words but basically, these are the 4 words for "repent."

The Hebrew word nacham means "to breathe heavily, to sigh, to change the mind."

The Hebrew word shuwb means "to turn away from."

The Greek word metamellomai means "to care afterward." In other words, after it's done, it bothers you.

The Greek word metanoia means "to change the mind."

Based on these 4 words I have written a working definition of Biblical repentance. I intend to try to use this in my own devotional life in 2010.

Repentance occurs when I am so grieved about my sin that after it is committed, I breath heavily and sigh. My mind having been sufficiently changed about my sin, I turn away from it.

I am really looking forward to this 3-part study. I am looking more forward to the Lord doing a fresh work of grace and repentance in my life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wedding Vows

Tonight I had the privilege of helping officiate the wedding ceremony of my nephew, Carl, and his beautiful new bride, Kristin. As part of the service, I read the following statement. It's something I use to begin every wedding service I officiate. It is shared here for your edification and consideration. And by the way, congratulations Carl and Kristin. Uncle Mike loves you!

Carl, Kristin, I want to remind you that the vows you are about to take are sacred. They are spoken to each other in the presence of these witnesses and they are spoken to the Lord God Almighty and witnessed by the angels of heaven. Therefore they are not to be taken lightly or flippantly.

The recitation of these vows will bring you into a life-long covenant partnership with one another and with your Creator. With very few Biblical exceptions, these vows will bring you into a covenant relationship with the God of the Universe…a covenant that can only be broken by death itself.

Unfortunately we live in a culture, even the church culture that devalues and minimizes the sacred nature of this commitment. By stark contrast, the Holy Spirit through the wise hand of King Solomon gives a sobering warning in Ecclesiastes 5. Listen carefully to the infallible word of the Living God.

“Do not be hasty with your mouth…to say just anything in the presence of God. Whenever you make a vow before God, do not delay in fulfilling it. God takes no pleasure in a fool so keep your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple minister saying, “My vow was a mistake!” Why should God be angry with what you have said and destroy the work of your hands? Because many people’s dreams and words are meaningless, stand, therefore, in awe of God.”


According to the Bible, it would be far better for the two of you to call off this ceremony, even at this late point, than to desecrate God’s altar, blaspheme God’s name, and anger God’s Spirit by making a vow you do not commit to keep.

If you understand the solemn, serious, and sacred nature of these vows and you wish to proceed, I’ll ask you to signify such by joining me and Pastor Brett on this platform.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Abortion: A God-Given Right?

Taken from today's Baptist Press...

WASHINGTON (BP)--While evangelical and Catholic leaders have been working tirelessly in recent weeks to make sure any health care bill does not include federal funding of abortions, leaders of the nation's mainline denominations have been doing just the opposite, even going so far as calling abortion a "God-given right." The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society all are members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a pro-abortion rights organization that took part in a Dec. 2 "Stop Stupak" rally in Washington D.C., urging the Senate not to include the pro-life Stupak amendment in its version of the health care bill.

The United Methodist General Board of Church and Society -- the denomination's lobbying arm -- even sent out an alert after the health care bill passed the House, calling the bill itself a "major milestone" but lamenting passage of the Stupak amendment, which it saw as "a tremendous setback for access to comprehensive reproduction health coverage." The amendment passed the House 240-194 and prevents the government-run public option from covering elective abortion and also prohibits federal subsidies from being used to purchase private insurance plans that cover abortions.

The four previously mentioned denominations all have pro-choice positions of varying degrees, but their leaders' stances on abortion in the health care bill have surprised even some seasoned observers. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said most church members of mainline denominations would know little if anything about the lobbying effort. IRD is a conservative organization working to transform the "churches' social witness." "They would be very surprised," Tooley told Baptist Press. "At least 90 percent have no idea what happens with the money after it leaves the local church. Certainly, 90 percent or more do not know that their denominations have lobby offices on Capitol Hill....

Most mainline Protestants aren't familiar with what's going on in their name. So, it would be very surprising to the vast majority." The issue captured attention in the conservative Internet realm when Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, told a small gathering at the Stop Stupak rally, "Don't let anybody tell you that religious people don't support choice. You not only have a constitutional right for abortion, but you have a God-given right."

CNSNews.com reported the comment.Tooley said Veazey's quote was "in line" with other past comments. "It's tragic," he said of the coalition's position about federal funding of abortion. "These same church groups were out there supporting Roe v. Wade in 1973.... It's horrifying that groups that are at least in theory parts of the body of Christ are not only defending abortion but demanding that it be funded by tax dollars."

Membership in mainline churches has fallen by a fourth in the past 50 years, according to the research firm The Barna Group. Meanwhile, the leading evangelical denominations have been working to make sure the Stupak amendment remains in the Senate version. Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said "the Stupak-Pitts amendment is the minimum required for any genuinely pro-life person. People who claim to be pro-life and accept anything less have pro-life views as a preference, not as a conviction," he said.

Following are the four denominations' positions on abortion, according to their websites:-- The United Methodist Church in 2004 adopted a position opposing partial-birth abortion. But the statement also says the decision to abort "should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel."

The Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1993 adopted a position stating, "The considered decision of a woman to terminate a pregnancy can be a morally acceptable, though certainly not the only or required, decision."

The Episcopal Church in 1994 adopted a resolution stating that the "Episcopal Church express[es] its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision."

The United Church of Christ has been pro-abortion rights since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. It joined a friend-of-the-court brief this decade in trying to overturn the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. The Supreme Court allowed the law to stand.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Spirit of God

Recently I have had several friends tell me about their visits to other churches (other than the church of their membership, that is). One of the recurring themes and statements has been, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about the Holy Spirit." On its face, that is a very problematic statement.

The purpose of this post is not to get into the specific doctrines regarding the Holy Spirit. Those issues are numerous and include questions like:

1. Do all believers have the Holy Spirit? If so, when does He indwell them? If not, how do believers receive Him?

2. What are the outward signs (if any) of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

3. Is there a difference in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit?

4. Does the Holy Spirit speak revelation today in addition to the Holy Scriptures?

5. Have revelation gifts or sign gifts ceased or are they all operational today? (tongues, prophecy, etc.)

6. Can the Holy Spirit give new revelation so long as it does not contradict the Holy Scriptures?

Please do not post a response to these questions. That is not the point of this post. The point of this post is simple and singular.

When well-intentioned believers say, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about the Holy Spirit" it reveals a profound theological and doctrinal deficiency.

The Holy Spirit is God...the so-called "3rd person of the Godhead." Therefore to say, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about the Holy Spirit" is synonymous with saying, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about God."

There is certainly room for honest open debate and even some disagreement among believers. Some issues of the Holy Spirit should not be points of fellowship. I am merely saying that these are issues about the very nature and person of God. These questions should not dismissed as lightly as questions about worship style or organizational structures.

Regardless of your denominational label (including the definitive label of "non-denominational") when you are discussing the doctrines of the Holy Spirit you are talking about God.

Bottom line: If two congregations do not believe the same thing about the Holy Spirit, then on some level they do not believe the same thing about God. Why not? Because the Holy Spirit is God.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Requirements to Date My Daughter

In Sunday's sermon I mentioned a top ten list for "Requirements to Date My Daughter." Several have asked for it. It is not original to me but I cannot recall where I first found it. It is shared here for your amusement and encouragement.

Requirement One
If you pull into my driveway and honk your horn, you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Requirement Two
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her nose. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Requirement Three
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose this compromise:

You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Requirement Four
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, physical activity without utilizing some sort of "barrier" can kill you. Let me elaborate... when it comes to physical activity between you and my little girl, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Requirement Five
Some people think that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is "early."

Requirement Six
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Requirement Seven
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process that can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like mowing my grass or changing the oil in my car?

Requirement Eight
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen, or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. You may also not take my daughter to any place where there is dancing, holding hands, or any form of happiness.

Requirement Nine
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway, you should exit your car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car. There is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Requirement Ten

Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me. I will bury you and tell God you died.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Congratulations to Dr. Brad Whitt

I am thankful for my friend, Dr. Brad Whitt and for his recent election as president of the pastor's conference for the state convention of South Carolina. Brother Brad is a young scholar, a gifted preacher, and one of the rising leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. Raised in a pastor's home (Dr. Don Whitt) Brad has experience that far surpasses his age.

I know the folks at Temple Baptist in Simpsonville, SC are honored by their pastor's accomplishments. And well you should be. God has smiled on you by blessing you with one of the great pastor/preachers in America.
Congratulations Dr. Brad.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How Great is our God

God is up to some awesome things at Emmanuel. While numbers don't always "tell the tale" it is worth noting that membership applications are up, the Spirit is awesome, and the waters of baptism are regularly stirring. Budget giving is holding steady in a time of economic uncertainty. The Sunday evening services are as well-attended as anywhere in the Southern Baptist Convention. We've been blessed to see 37 baptisms from October 1-November 1.

In spite of all that, we are not a great church. We are a church with a great God. I know, I know...many people say we have a "great church" and I know what they mean. But it's good theology to put the adjective on the right noun.

As I contemplate what the Lord is doing at Emmanuel Baptist I can only say, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Harvest Time

We had an absolutely wonderful time working in the harvest in October. We had scores of people participate in the Harvest Day canvassing on October 15th. Only eternity will reveal the fruit of those homes visited, flyers distributed, and hands shaken.

I am especially grateful for the great crew of folks who took part in that vital outreach event. On October 18th our Harvest Day with Dr. Junior Hill was a tremendous blessing. I cannot recall the last day there were that many public decisions on a single Sunday. I am also particularly thankful for Brother Junior's sensitivity in the time of invitation. Sinners were called to salvation and Christians were challenged to obedience and discipleship, particularly in the area of believers' baptism. No gimmicks, no arm-twisting, and no tricks.

When the final count was in 35 public decisions were recorded. 14 individuals publicly professed Christ as Lord and Savior, 20 believers responded to obedience regarding a Biblical baptism and there was 1 additional candidate for membership (not counting those who were saved). For the Emmanuel members who had other unavoidable obligations, you missed a great blessing. For those who had other priorities, you missed a blessing and will one day miss out on an eternal reward.

The beauty of an annual event like Harvest Day is that it calls the church's focus back to soul-winning. It is your pastor's prayer that evangelism would be a constant event in our lives and not merely an annual event on our calendars. The recent sermons and emphases on evangelism have brought both conviction and commitment to this preacher's heart.

I am blessed to be back in the pulpit for the remainder of the year in all services. As November and December roll around it is my intention to move toward completion of our morning study in Revelation and our evening study in Galatians. I pray that you will be here for each service with an open heart, a warm smile, and a Bible.

God is up to some incredible things at Emmanuel. I am blessed beyond words that He (and you) allows me the privilege of serving as your pastor. Andrea and I love you with all of our hearts!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shameless

This past Sunday I preached a message called, “Shameless.” The text was Romans 1:1-16 with a primary focus on verses 14-16. The title of course was based on Paul’s glorious and familiar statement, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, the Jew first and also the Greek.”

As part of that sermon I dealt with the phrase “the gospel” and focused on the exclusivity of the gospel message. Namely, there are certain unwavering and immutable components to the gospel. Without these fundamental tenets, there is no communication of the gospel.

For example, some seem to think the gospel means, “I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I do not want to go to hell.” Those are wonderful statements which I affirm. But our personal confession must move beyond those truths. In fact, if you study Christ’s encounter with the Gadarene demoniac you will find that “Legion” believed in God, believed in Jesus, and had not desire to go to Hell (the abyss).

These statements (belief in God, belief in Jesus, no desire to burn eternally in the lake of fire) are all great statements. But they do not comprise the gospel. Frankly they do not even get us beyond the doctrines and desires of demons.

Many well-intentioned, would-be soul-winners have engaged in a conversation like this one:

Witness: Do you believe in God?

Prospect: Oh, yes.

Witness: Do you believe Jesus is His Son?

Prospect: Yes, I believe in Jesus.

Witness: Do you understand that if you don’t ask Him into your heart you go to Hell?

Prospect: Yes and I sure do not want to go to Hell.

Witness: Have you ever prayed and asked Jesus to come into your heart?

Prospect: No.

Witness: Is there anything that would hinder you from doing that right now?

Prospect: No.

Witness: Well, amen. Then pray this prayer after me and mean it with all your heart (insert sinner’s prayer).

Let me be crystal clear. I agree with everything in this fictitious dialogue. But it is simply not complete. To say the gospel was presented in this scenario is the equivalent of saying that A, B, C, D, E and F comprise the English alphabet. What about the other 20 letters?

As an alliterative preacher by nature, I gave the church a 4-part list comprised of R’s and S’s that I believe gives us a complete picture and presentation of the gospel. This post assumes that readers here are familiar with relevant Scripture passages, though a few are cited.

1. Recognize you are a sinner.

The Bible teaches that we have all sinned and come short of God’s standard of perfection. (Romans 3:23). As a sinner I am deserving of the just condemnation of God. In other words, God would be right if He sent me to Hell. I deserve it. I am a sinner.

This is much different than simply admitting imperfection or mistakes. A bad investment is a mistake. Backing the car over your child’s tricycle is a mistake. Accidentally calling your wife by your high school girlfriend’s name is a mistake. A big one by the way.

But a sin is radically different from a mistake. A sin is something I have done (or failed to do) and that action (or inaction) is an offense and affront to a Holy God. In order to be saved I must recognize that I have offended the God of heaven by my life.

2. Realize Christ is the Savior

I cannot save myself. I need a mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). The only One who can save me is the Lord Jesus Christ. By His virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death for my sins, and His resurrection from the dead I have the opportunity to be reconciled to God. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 1 Peter 3:18, etc.)

I throw myself completely on Him. No human effort. No good of my own either before or after salvation. No baptism or act of piety. No other religion or religious leader. No other hope. He is it.

3. Repent of your sins.

When the NT speaks of repentance, the Greek word literally means a “change of mind.” It does not mean that I have ceased sinning. 1 John 1:8 (written to believers) makes it clear that I will still deal with the struggle against sin and carnality. But when I repent my mind has been changed about my sin.

Before repentance, I sinned and it did not bother me. After repentance, it does. Before repentance, I thought the Bible-preacher, Sunday School teacher, or faithful witness were stupid lunatics. After repentance, my soul cries out either “amen” or “oh me” when the Word of God is proclaimed. Whether I am convicted or encouraged the Spirit of God in me affirms, “That’s the truth!” Why? Because by the mercies of God my mind has been changed about my sin.

Jesus said…and before I quote Him could readers of this blog agree that if Jesus is about to address the issue of salvation…could we agree that He knows what He is talking about? Could we agree that Christ is the resident expert on the doctrine of salvation?

Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3, 5) Now, Christ promised Nicodemus that saved people would never perish. Remember John 3:16?

Let’s put this together.

Those who are saved “shall not perish but shall have everlasting life” but those who have not repented “shall all likewise perish.” That simply means that those who have not repented of their sins are not saved.

Scroll back up to the illustration above where the witness encounters the prospect. Where was the mention of repentance from sin? I am afraid it is in the same place it is in many “evangelical gospel” presentations. Completely and totally absent.

4. Receive Christ as Sovereign

I confess I am greatly disturbed when people say they received Christ as Savior but He did not become their Lord until years later. It would be impossible to make a statement that is any more unbiblical.

“Lord” is not merely something Christ does. “Lord” is who He is. He cannot come and merely “do” what a Lord does (redeem) without “being” what a Lord is (ruler).

I do understand that discipleship involves a maturing process. Truthfully, I am continually yielding to His Lordship over my own life. On a daily basis the Holy Spirit reveals to me some corner of my life’s kingdom where I continue to fly my own rebellious flag. But the fact is if I am saved then Christ is my Lord. When I stake a mutinous claim to some corner of my life, I do so as an interloper and a rebel to the rightful dominion of heaven.

The issue is not His Lordship. The issue is my obedience and submission to His Lordship.

Simply put, the call to salvation is a call to receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

I do not think that a gospel presentation has to use any particular format (FAITH, EE, CWT, witness bracelet, gospel tract, marked Bible, Romans Road, etc). But if it is truly a gospel presentation it will call the lost to this reality:

I am a sinner in the sight of a holy God. The only hope I have of salvation is to place my faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I do that because my mind has been changed about my sin. I hate it. I can’t stand it. I don’t want to live this way another moment. I surrender my life to the dominion of Jesus Christ. From this moment forward I will follow Him. Perfectly? No. But the issue is my obedience and not His right to rule and reign over the affairs and actions of my life.

Does a gospel presentation have to use those words? Of course not. But if these truths have not been communicated by the witness then the gospel has not been presented. If these truths have not been embraced by the prospect then the gospel has not been believed.

And where there is no gospel, there is no salvation. For it (the gospel of Christ) and it alone “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.”

To my pastor friends: Please do not automatically assign me to some unwarranted soteriological camp. I would hope both Calvinist and Arminian readers would desire to get the gospel right. I simply desire to lead (by example and exhortation) my congregation to give the gospel to everyone with fervency, urgency, and accuracy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Harvest Day with Junior Hill

Emmanuel is just a few weeks away from our annual Harvest Day. That's a day set aside for a special evangelistic effort. Dr. Junior Hill has agreed to be with us again for this year's Harvest Day. I am so very excited about that. Brother Junior is one of the most gifted and well-loved preachers in Southern Baptist history.

Dr. Hill will be preaching simple salvation messages in each service on October 18th. The 9am, 10:30am, and 6pm services will each provide a wonderful opportunity to invite an unsaved friend or loved one. While evangelism is a lifestyle and not an event, we are still blessed at Emmanuel Baptist to have this event on our calendar.

He who goes to and fro weeping and carrying his bag of seed shall indeed come reaping with joyful shouting (Psalm 126)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

From the Editor

At this past Tuesday's meeting of the Executive Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention Dr. Gerald Harris issued an incredible proclamation. Dr. Harris is a brillant man. He is a brilliant scholar, a bright theologian, a powerful preacher, and a dear friend of mine. Georgia Baptists are blessed to have him serving as editor of our state newspaper. I am grateful for his permission to share his words in this forum.



You may have noticed that in the August 27 issue of The Index that one of our letters to The Forum was critical of the editor stating that he (the writer of the letter to the Forum) did not approve of the partisan content in the paper. In fact what he wrote was: “The Index has become increasingly politicized in the last year. Not as relates to denominational politics, but national partisan politics.”

The letter continues, “If an editor of The Christian Index wants to become a spokesman for one party or the other then he should resign and seek employment with the party of his choice.”

First of all, I am somewhat perplexed that he has only noticed the political bias for the last year. I thought that was evident from the beginning of my term as editor over six years ago.

In the second place he indicated that he has not observed any bias concerning denominational politics. That too, is somewhat disconcerting, because I thought my bias has been reflected in that way as well. However, today the denominational party lines do not seem to be as clear as they were 20-30 years ago. They have been clouded by all kinds of diversity and a conservative theology that is betrayed by a liberal pragmatism. If there is anything worse than a liberal, it is a conservative whose behavior does not match his beliefs.

But if anyone needs to know, I am an inerrantist. I believe our theology should be complemented by our behavior. I am Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred and when I die I will be a Southern Baptist dead. I am also a Southern Baptist by conviction; and I am not ashamed of the name.

I believe in the sovereignty of God and that no man comes to the Father except the Spirit of God draws him, but I believe we are responsible for telling every person within our scope of influence that Jesus saves. I believe there is a general call to salvation that we are responsible for extending to all creation and an effectual call that God in His sovereignty extends to the elect.

I believe that the Baptist Faith & Message is correct when it specifies that there are two spiritual offices for the church: the pastor and the deacon. But I confess that I never knew what to do with deacons who wanted to be a board of directors and were reluctant to be servants.

I like traditional worship, that is, if it is not dead and formal; and I have no argument with those who have a contemporary service if it is Biblically based and Christ-exalting. I love older pastors because most of them paid a price to get to where they are today; and I love younger pastors because they are our bright hope for the future as a denomination.

I am a registered Republican, but I am not much happier with the Republicans than the Democrats. I suppose I am a conservative in exile with regards to national politics. I am a patriot. I get goose bumps when I hear the national anthem. I loved the day when the flag was honored, the Constitution was the rule of law and God was welcome in public life. I believe in freedom of religion. I believe in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe in the separation of God from government.

I appreciate the First Amendment and believe in the freedom of speech, but I believe it has been abused and misused. I don’t believe that it was crafted to give license to profanity and pornography.

I am an advocate of the second amendment, but I don’t own a gun of any kind, never have and probably have never fired one but maybe a dozen times.


I pray for the president every day, but I hardly agree with any of his policies. I believe that he is more friendly to the Muslim faith than the Christian faith. On September 1 he hosted a dinner in the White House celebrating Ramadan. He did not attend any National Day of Prayer function; and he had the Christian symbols covered when he spoke at Georgetown University. I believe the Muslim agenda is to change our nation into a country ruled by Sharia Law . I know that in 12 days the Muslims will assemble in Washington, D. C. – a predicted 50,000 of them to pray and that they are gaining acceptance day by day in many quarters of our country.

I believe in capitalism and the free enterprise system. I like the day when crime did not pay, but hard work did and people knew the difference.

I believe the president has a Socialist agenda.

I believe that the President’s Health Care Bill is another attempt at government control and it scares me. In fact, in my humble opinion the United States is becoming increasingly socialistic. South Carolina Senator Jim Demint in his book Saving Freedom says we may have reached the point of no return.

I believe in the sanctity of life and that abortion and euthanasia are dead wrong – a violation of the sixth commandment.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage and that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. I believe that same sex marriage is an abomination to a holy God.

I believe that a small minority of homosexuals often have a greater influence in America than the Christians, because they are so vocal and often militant.

I believe that groups like ACORN and the ACLU have an agenda that is foreign to everything that America has stood for in her history. And I wouldn’t give two cents for the collective wisdom of Hollywood; and I don’t care what Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Rob Reiner and Michael Moore think. They would have no real credibility but for their celebrity status.

I believe that many of our political leaders today are influenced by Saul Alinsky’s book Reveille for Radicals. This is the book that had a tremendous influence on the revolution that was taking place in our country in the 1960s when many of our current political leaders were in the colleges and universities of America. Alinsky wrote, “True revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism. They cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within.”

His concept is to infiltrate the existing institutions such as churches, unions and political parties. His followers include Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Hilliary Clinton’s 1969 Political Science Thesis refers to Alinsky in her paper. Many of our political leaders today were influenced by Alinsky in the sixties and now they are shaping our government by the philosophies they learned from him.

I believe the church is slumping toward Laodicea. I believe we have too many church members who give no evidence of being saved and I believe a non-resident church member in a Baptist Church is equivalent to a broken ankle on an NFL running back.

I believe we need to get back to all night prayer meetings and door-to-door visitation and preaching against sin.

I am delighted that Dr. White is on the GCR Task Force. But I am concerned about two SBC agency heads being on a Task Force to evaluate the work of the SBC. To me that is like asking Bernie Madoff to determine his own fate or a student to grade his/her own test paper. I am concerned that a majority of the people on that committee may come forth with a report to develop a different plan to fund our work as a denomination. I have made a commitment to pray for the Task Force daily. I hope you will do the same.

I believe in the Cooperative Program – and think it has done more to keep us together than anything else, because it IS the COOPERATIVE program. I think most Baptists have become too materialistically minded to give sacrificially anymore.

I am sorry so many churches have given up Training Union, because I think we have not taught our present generation anything about our church history and our church polity. I even wish we had the eight point record system in Sunday School. I know times have changed, but I enjoyed two-week Vacation Bible Schools and two-week revivals.

There are times when I must share my convictions, and I can’t help it. Because I am painfully aware of what Edmund Burke said years ago: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

I believe that time and again those who profess to be good clearly outnumber those who are evil, yet those who are evil seem to prevail far too often. Seldom is it the numbers that determine the outcome, but whether those who claim to be good men are willing to stand up and fight for what they know to be right.

When good men do nothing, they get nothing good done. To be good one must do good. The Lord commands His people to do good. Christ, “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

In the parable of the talents, Jesus described a man who did nothing. When he received his Lord’s money, he “went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord’s money. When his Lord returned, he gave back to the Lord just what he had been given. Notice that the servant did not do any outright evil, such as stealing the money, but then neither did he do anything good. He did nothing and he got nothing good accomplished. Jesus said he was a “wicked and slothful servant.”

Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea for doing nothing. That church nauseated Him. Too many Christians and too many churches do nothing. They are standing idly by. They are mere spectators. They sit on the sidelines instead of actively participating and working for the good. If good wins, they join in the celebration though they did nothing to produce the victory. If evil wins, they will complain long and loud though their own apathy helped produce the undesirable result.

When good men do nothing, evil triumphs. Evil, sin and sinful men must be opposed. God commands those who are good, not just to avoid evil but actively oppose it.

In Ephesians 5: 11 the Bible says that we are not only not to “have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Those who do nothing about sin and evil, help the sin and evil to prevail. One who is silent when there are those around him in sin becomes a partaker with them according to Ephesians 5: 7.

In the days of Elijah, the silence of many had allowed the evil of Ahab and Jezebel to prevail throughout the land of Israel. The Bible says, “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, how long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word." The silence of the people spoke volumes of their indecisiveness and inaction. Their failure to stand up, speak up and speak out permitted wicked and evil men to run rampant.

The letter in the Forum suggested that I resign and seek employment with the party of my choice. I really don’t have a party at this point in time so I would prefer to stay with my current job, but I serve at the pleasure of you, the Executive Committee, the Index Board and Dr. White and until those who have authority over me tell me otherwise I will continue to try to stir up the church and afflict the saints who are obviously at ease in Zion. Why? Because I refuse to believe we have reached to point of no return.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall Revival

I am honored and thrilled that Dr. Wayne Robertson has agreed to preach our Fall Revival this week at Emmanuel. Brother Wayne needs no introduction to the people of EBC. He has preached for us on several occasions and it has always been a blessing.

I am not given to unwarranted hyperboles. But Brother Wayne is a true mentor, hero, and friend. It is my privilege to have many pastor friends whom I love deeply. But I do not know of 2 pastors I love and respect more than Don Hattaway and Wayne Robertson. My Emmanuel family knows that is pretty "high cotton" in this pastor's book!

Pastor Wayne has been at the Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta for nearly 24 years. It will be our privilege to hear him Sunday night at 6pm and Monday-Wednesday at 7pm each night.

By the way, special music starts 10 minutes before the service each night. Our 100+ voice choir will be singing each night, too. They sang 110 at ChoirFest this week...Pastor will be looking for all of you in the choir loft each evening :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In Remembrance of Me

When Jesus Christ established His church, He established two ordinances; the ordinance of believers’ baptism and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Members of His church are
commanded to observe each of these ordinances. Many believers who would never be disobedient in the area of baptism are regularly and rebelliously disobedient regarding the Lord’s Supper. Most of us are familiar with the words of Christ regarding this memorial meal, “This do...in remembrance of Me.” Let us not be slothful or sinful as we consider the words of our Master. For the first two words of His admonition are "This do."

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians Dr. John MacArthur writes, This do in remembrance of Me is a command from the lips of our Lord Himself. Sharing in the Lord’s Supper is therefore not an option for believers. We must have (it) on a regular basis if we are to be faithful to the Lord who bought us through the act we are called to remember. Not to partake of the Lord’s Supper is disobedience and a sin.”


Members of Emmanuel, we will be partaking of the Lord's Supper this Sunday evening. While many will be out of town with the Labor Day weekend (and I pray you have an awesome time of worship and fellowship with your family) I want to challenge the rest of our members to be at the table of remembrance.

Since we typically take the Lord's Supper in the evening (it's called the Lord's Supper and not the Lord's breakfast)...and since some church members never attend the evening worship service...we have scores of Emmanuel members who have been disobedient to this command of the Lord Jesus for DECADES. Beloved, if I did not attend the evening worship service on a regular basis, I would at least attend the evenings we served the Lord's Supper. After all, our Sovereign Lord said, "This do."

You will notice my preferred title of "The Lord's Supper." The name "communion" has often been used to connect this church ordinance to the pagan notion of transubstantiation, a bizarre belief that the elements actually become the body and blood of the Lord. This belief is heretical in its own right because it envisions an ongoing sacrifice of Christ thereby inherently denying the sufficiency of His death on the cross (Hebrews 10). It teaches its adherents that we actually and literally "commune" with God at the Lord's Supper table. After all, they say, Christ literally is "on the table."

Don't get me wrong. I know words can change their meaning over time. I am not suggesting that it is paganism to call the Lord's Supper "communion." No doubt, I will use occasionally that title myself out of mere habit. But I do believe the term "The Lord's Supper" is a more accurate name for this meal.

There are many questions and theological debates that rage concerning the Lord's Supper. One thing, however, is crystal clear. Jesus said, "This do." Sunday night, we will observe the commandment of the Lord. I hope to see each of you there.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Evangelistic Dating

As a pastor I have often warned about the perils of evangelistic dating. This is the notion that a Christian should date a non-Christian in an ill-fated attempt to lead them to a relationship with Christ. It is almost often some sweet (yet immature) young Christian girl who has met a guy and fallen “in love.” It usually ends with heartache and turmoil. Primarily because such a relationship is a violation of God’s Word.

But this morning I realized there is a form of evangelistic dating that God honors.

My friends and family all know that I have taken my daughter Michaela to lunch every Thursday for over 5 years. I have taken my son Andrew to lunch every Wednesday for over 3.5 years. Today it was time to start the tradition with our youngest, Sarah.

Having run out of practical lunch times, Sarah and I headed off to breakfast together. Out of all her options she chose the Huddle House. So Huddle House it was.

Andrea got Sarah dressed while I took the older two to school. When I drove back in our driveway I felt like a school boy pulling up to his girlfriend’s house for a first date.

My theology allows for a state of grace for children Sarah’s age. But the day will come, by God’s grace, that our Heavenly Father will extend to her the gracious offer of forgiveness. I am overwhelmed with the reality that what I started today will make it easier for her to comprehend a Father’s love. Her love for me will not ensure a love for God. That’s a supernatural work wrought by the Holy Spirit. But I so desperately desire to be an earthly father who will more accurately mirror her Heavenly Father’s compassion and care.

A Father who takes the initiative…before she even realizes how desperately she needs that father’s love. (Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:8-10)

A Father who does all the driving, all the ordering, and all the paying. She has no idea the sacrifice required in my busy schedule to make this date. She has no idea what it takes to make the money to pay the ticket. One day she will understand it more. In the meantime all she has to do is submit and enjoy the fellowship and the benefits of being her father’s child. (Romans 8:14-17)

A Father who loves her in spite of the dirty diaper, the spilled milk, and the constant need for a bib. (Romans 5:8)

So in many ways my date with Sarah this morning was an evangelistic endeavor. She has not made a personal commitment to Christ…yet. But I pray God will use the next few years of Friday morning breakfasts to begin lovingly drawing her to His Sovereign side.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Simple Post


For those who don't Facebook (is that a verb now?) let me share my latest status update. It's not the most detailed blog post I've ever written. But may its simplicity reveal a slight glimpse into the deepest part of my soul tonight. Properly understood, this statement needs no elaboration.


Mike Stone is grateful for the breath of life, a wonderful and Godly wife, 3 awesome children, and the humble privilege of pastoring one of the greatest churches in the world. God has captured my affection today. I love You, Lord, with all my heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Proper Clothing

"Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly...as is proper for women making a claim to godliness." (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

As unpopular as it may seem to some, the Scriptures teach there is an attire consistent with a claim to godliness. Of course, the context of this passage deals with women and the immediate issue is modesty and sensuality. Here, the Bible teaches that there is a type of clothing that is so sexually-charged and immodest that for a woman to wear it would be incompatible with that woman's claim to be a Godly woman.


If a woman dresses consistently in a sensual and provocative way and at the same time professes to be a Godly woman, discerning followers of Christ have good reason to be scratching their heads and thinking, "Something here just isn't right." Of course we cannot judge the content of the woman's heart. God and God alone can do that. But the fact is, the dress and the declaration simply do not match.


In that vein, I am preaching tonight in a verse-by-verse series through 1st Thessalonians. Our study has brought us to chapter 4, the first 12 verses. Verse 3 in this chapter declares, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality."


Though you can hear the entire message at www.ebchurch.net, I wanted to post part of the manuscript here. Because this is such a delicate and divisive issue, I took the unusual approach (for me) and typed out this portion of my sermon and read it word-for-word. I knew some people would want it, so here it is.


I want to make a very direct statement on this issue and I wish to speak with the love and grace of a pastor and not the fiery rhetoric of a “preacher.”

Ladies, you need to get into the presence of God and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in this area of modesty. You need to decide if you are going to be more interested in dressing fashionably or dressing modestly (though I do not think there is necessarily a contradiction between the two). In other words you can be both stylish and modest, as many of you regularly illustrate. But you are going to have to determine that just because Brittany Spears and Madonna make a certain fashion popular, you are not going to buy it and wear it just because everyone else is and you will not allow your wives and daughters to wear it.

With the invention of websites like SnapFish, MySpace, and FaceBook, it has become increasingly easier for the pastor to peer into the lives of his church members…and in some cases to see more than he wanted to see. I am shocked, dismayed, and frankly disappointed when I see vacation photos, prom photos, and the like from some of our best families and most faithful members. Some of these photos reveal a reckless and sinful disregard for the law of God.

The Biblical mandate for modesty has no exemption clauses if you are out of town or if it’s a “special night.” Men who live in other towns where you may vacation struggle with lust just like men in Blackshear and Waycross. And if you send your daughter out on a “special night” dressed like an immoral woman, you may discover that the night was “special” in a way you had not intended.


In other words, sir, you may discover that if your wife does not mind having half her breasts showing from her blouse or bathing suit in the presence of your MALE friends, she may not mind revealing the other half should the right situation present itself.

Mom and dad you may discover that if your daughter is comfortable leaving the house with her boyfriend with a large portion of her body revealed, she may not require him to use his imagination to picture the rest of her body before the prom night draws to a close.

Some who are listening tonight, or later by CD or internet may be asking, “Pastor are you talking about me?” The preacher in me wants to say, “Apparently.” The pastor in me wants to urge you to ask a much more-important question than “Pastor are you talking to me?” How about, “Lord are you talking to me?” My guess is, if you are asking the question the answer is, “yes.”

For this Biblical teaching is not limited to bikinis and formal attire, vacations and prom dresses. It is an unchanging immutable principle that applies in all times, all seasons, and all locations.

Specifically, when you leave the house with cleavage revealed, men will be staring at your body everywhere you go. If your blouse or shirt is so tight that it clings to every curve of your chest, the vast majority of men and boys over the age of 8 that you meet that day will either be lusting after you, imagining your body in various stages of undress and imagining themselves with you in any number of immoral situations or they will at least be tempted by demonic spirits to do so. If they win the spiritual victory in that moment, it will be because of God’s grace…and in spite of your careless, casual, and carnal attitude.

Since most of the men you will encounter in the marketplace of life are not even saved, more likely than not, they will fall into sin because of your immodesty…perhaps not with you…but with someone else. Or they will remain enslaved to the lust of the flesh. The day will come that they will reap a harvest of destruction in their lives. That harvest may not occur in your field or on your watch. In other words, it may not be with you. But your immodest clothing may light a fire in that man’s soul that will eventually burn down his home.

Solomon asked, “Can a man take fire into his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” You may hear of a “home” that burned to the ground…a home or family in your SS class, your church, your work-place…and you may think, “How awful that this man burned down his own house and lost his family with immorality.” And you may never realize that you are indeed an accessory to the crime. Oh, it was his candle, his carelessness, and ultimately his choice.

Yet you may not know until the judgment seat of Christ that you are the one that lit the flame. You lit a fire in his soul…a fire that he took home, could not handle, and burned down his house, destroying his wife and his kids in the process.

And just as surely as he will give an account for the lives that are destroyed by his sexual sin, so too you will give an account for the careless way you handled and exposed your body.


May God grant His women hearts of compassion and discernment to both receive and live in light of this truth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Peril of Postponement

This weekend is going to be an incredible time at Emmanuel Baptist Church. We are hosting a Mega-Disciple-Now weekend. Hundreds and hundreds of teenagers have registered for what is sure to be an awesome time of worship, discipleship, and ministry. Our theme for this year is "Here and Now."

As I began contemplating how to connect Sunday's services to the D-Now theme, I was drawn to a familiar story in Luke 12. In this sad passage, Christ records the story of a man who lived for tomorrow and wasn't prepared to meet His Maker in the "here and now." It is a tragic example of the dangers of delay.

If the Lord wills, I intend to preach this Sunday morning on "The Peril of Postponement." I want to encourage every member of EBC to be present and to bring your lost and unchurched friends. There is a strong warning in this text for believer and unbeliever alike.

If I am going to be a student of the Bible I must do so...right here and right now.

If I am going to repent of my sin I must do so...right here and right now.

If I am going to seek restoration with a brother I must do so...right here and right now.

If I am going to be a servant of Christ and my fellow man I must do so...right here and right now.

If I am going to spend time with my children I must do so...right here and right now.

The late R.G. Lee once said, "Yesterday is in the tomb of time. Tomorrow is in the womb of time. Today is the only time we actually have."

He also said, "Yesterday is a canceled check. Tomorrow is an I.O.U. Today is the only cash we have."

Though I am planning to preach on this subject Sunday, only the Lord ultimately knows. So I intend to live today in light of this truth...right here...and right now.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fitzgerald Men's Conference

This weekend I will be preaching at an area men's conference in Fitzgerald, GA. Hosted by Arbor Baptist Church, you can find out more at www.fitzgeraldmensconference.com

Keeping with the theme, "Preparing for Battle...Everyday" the Lord has laid 4 messages on my heart.

When Warriors Need to Retreat
A frank message on sexual sin, this is one area God does not tell us to fight but to flee. There's no shame in retreating from this battle.

A Soldier I'd Like to Meet
Based on a day in the life of King Saul, we'll examine the damage that one day of spiritual disobedience and failure can make in the life of one of God's soldiers.

Battlefield Casualties
We will spend Saturday morning examing 2 aspects of David's sin with Bathsheba. This first lesson deals with the causes that led to David's backslidden condition and his infamous sin.

War Reparations
To victor goes the spoils. To the loser goes the war reparation payments. This 2nd lesson on David and Bathsheba will investigate the price David ultimately paid for losing this skirmish.
If you are anywhere near Fitzgerald, come over and join us Friday night and Saturday morning.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Looking Forward to a Great Week

I am looking forward to Dr. Cathey preaching on the 26th at 9a, 10:30a, and 6p. He has been a bit under the weather lately and actually had to miss a preaching slot at a Bible conference this past week. Pray for his healing and for our time together on the 26th.

Rhon has planned some wonderful music for the day. Anybody near Emmanuel will not want to miss it!

On Monday I will be traveling to preach at the North Georgia Bible Conference along with Gerald Harris, Tom Rush, and Bill Sturm. Mike Griffin is the host pastor.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Love This Poem

I pause today for a brief departure (sort of) from my recent series on the Great Commission Resurgence emphasis within some circles of the SBC. But I love this poem and pray you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

"YOU’RE JUST OUT OF DATE!"
SAID YOUNG PASTOR BATE
TO ONE OF OUR FAITHFUL OLD PREACHERS
WHO HAD CARRIED FOR YEARS,

WITH BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS
THE GOSPEL TO POOR, SINFUL CREATURES.

"YOU STILL PREACH ON HADES

AND SHOCK CULTURED LADIES
WITH YOUR BARBAROUS DOCTRINE OF BLOOD;
YOUR CHURCH IS SO FAR BEHIND

YOU’LL NEVER CATCH UP WITH MINE
YOU’RE A FLAT TIRE THAT’S STUCK IN THE MUD!"

FOR SOME LITTLE WHILE,

A WEE BIT OF A SMILE
ENLIGHTENED THE OLD PREACHER’S FACE
BEING NOW MADE THE BUTT

OF A RIDICULOUS CUT
DID NOT RUFFLE HIS SWEETNESS AND GRACE

THEN HE TURNED TO YOUNG BATE

SO SUAVE AND SEDATE
“'CATCH UP,' DID MY EARS HEAR YOU SAY?
I’D NOT CATCH YOU INDEED

IF I TRIPLED MY SPEED;
YOUNG FRIEND, I’M NOT HEADED YOUR WAY!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Virgin Lips

As I read this article I couldn't help but ask, "Why not have this as a prayer for my kids?"


If you engage in "casual parenting" please prepare to be bothered and/or challenged by Dr. Mohler's wisdom.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Learning My Alphabet

Today I learned about the letter “Z.” Of course a 38-year old college graduate should have learned about “Z” a long time ago but I guess I am a slow learner. But the lesson I saw today in the 26th letter of the alphabet was not about phonics. It was about parenting and the brevity of life.

It seems like just yesterday when I walked Andrew (my "almost-5" year old son) to his preschool class at Southeast Christian Academy. Most parents know how quickly those years fly by. I thought I knew how quickly it would pass too. But nothing had prepared me for what I saw today when I walked him to class. They were working on the letter “Z.”

In case you don’t know it, Andrew’s class work on the final letter of the alphabet means the year is drawing to a close. How can this be? We just started on “A” yesterday. OK, it was really 8 months ago but it sure seems like yesterday. How can this be?

My mind raced with all manner of thoughts. If you think I was wondering about his college, marriage, and career choices you would be wrong. My thoughts went to the recent statistics about children and their world-view. It seems as if a child’s world-view, the way they think and process information, is largely set by the age of 10-11. In other words, my son is about ½-way there.

So my thoughts were not about the secular. I wondered, “Will he know Christ?” I mean really know Him? Not just the stories…not just the Sunday School answers…not just the facts…I mean really know Christ? Will he know more about Diego and Curious George than he knows about the Scripture? Will his love for the Savior be outweighed by his love for football and hunting?

Or will my son be like the 70% of churched kids who leave the church for 1 year or more after graduating from high school? Will my son be in the ½ of 1% of American young people (the so-called Mosaic generation) who possess a Biblical world-view? Or will he find a comfortable place among the 99.5%?

Will Andrew’s dad have an ongoing passion to reach and teach his son? Or will I bury my head in the sand like most parents (even Christian parents) and obliviously skip down the road of life as if on my way to a lazy afternoon of fishing?

As Andrew sat at his desk to begin working on his letter “Z” the inspired words of James came flooding in to my spirit. “Life is a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” That Scripture was not intended to be given numeric value but yet I pondered, “If a 77-year life is a vapor…and my son’s world-view is established by age 11…then I have 1/7th of a vapor to get this thing right.”

As a parent and a pastor the Lord is reminding me the task is great and the time is short. I cannot be so devoted to my calendar, my church, or my convention that I miss the harvest field right here under my roof. I told the church last night that I don’t merely want to raise 3 Christians. I want to raise 3 productive and effectively-serving disciples. Andrew and his sisters deserve a dad like that and our Lord is worthy of me being a dad like that.

Pray for me that I will keep my hand to the parental plow and my eyes on the finish line. And pray that I will do that today.

After all, my son just starting working on the letter “Z.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Great Word from Brother Philip

Philip Tyre serves as the student pastor at Emmanuel. On Sunday night, at my request, he taught God's Word concerning the task of reaching the next generation. Using Ephesians 6:1-4, Philip challenges us with the question, "Will our children keep our faith?" As a father of 3 and pastor to hundreds I was deeply challenged by his thoughts from God's Word.

With one click (and 53 minutes) you can hear from the passionate heart of a true servant of the Lord and of His church.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Love of My Life

Today I had the unusual privilege of taking part in 2 separate pre-marriage counseling sessions. I don’t do a great deal of counseling and I don’t know if I’ve ever done 2 pre-marriage sessions in one day. Today, both couples and I discussed the importance of “love” in a marriage.

Because I only provide Biblically-based counseling, I primarily use 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in discussing love. As I talk to couples in counseling settings I try to simultaneously do an inventory of my own skills as a husband. Today was no exception. As we moved through the well-loved Corinthian passage I asked myself:

Do I demonstrate patience to Andrea?

It involves a lot more than just waiting on her to get ready. It also includes the attitude with which I wait. Sitting in the garage blowing the horn does not constitute patience. Thankfully, I don’t do that!

Do I show her kindness on a regular basis?

Someone once said to me, “I don’t need my husband to treat me like a queen. I just wish he would treat me as well as he treats strangers.” That quote haunts me. How sad that sometimes we treat the clerk at the store nicer than we treat the person who has committed their entire life to us.

How do I overcome the fleshly desire for jealousy?

For me the answer is found in the reality of oneness in Christ. If Andrea and I are one (and we are) then I can never be jealous of her accomplishments, achievements, or accolades. When she achieves something…I do too! Besides, if I love her like I am called to do by Christ, then I am too happy for her to be jealous of her. When she receives praise, I don’t think it could have happened to a better person :)

How do I avoid the sin of pride and arrogance toward my wife?

The best place to begin is to realize I am called to be a servant who sacrifices his all. The servant has no cause for boasting in the presence of the one(s) he is called to serve. Since there is no such thing as an arrogant servant, if I focus on serving my family then any hint of arrogance toward them will flee.

How do I keep from “behaving unseemingly?” Or as we say here in the South, “How do I keep from showing out when I don’t get my way?” Do I demonstrate servant leadership and refuse to “seek my own?”

Simply put, love doesn’t seek its own way. My natural tendency would be to act in an unbecoming manner when I don’t get my way. I believe the key is trying not to seek my own way. Then when I don’t get “my way” there is no shock, sadness, or surprise. In other words, this isn’t Burger King and Frank Sinatra doesn’t live here. (Hint for you younger readers: Old Blue Eyes sang a song called, “My Way.”)

Am I easily provoked to anger or do I have a slow temper and a long spiritual fuse?

I am not an angry person so this isn’t a really big challenge for me. But sometimes I carelessly break the commands of 1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 6:4. As a strong leader, I have to remember that my wife and children may see strength as harshness if I am not very intentional in my tone. In other words, the problem is not in my heart but sometimes in the miscommunication of it.

Am I a forgiving husband or do I keep a list of every offense committed in the last 12 months?

Honestly, I fail far too often as a pastor, preacher, husband, dad, and friend to be a list-keeper. List-keepers need to be much closer to perfect than I am.

What are some ways I can avoid rejoicing in unrighteousness but rather rejoice with the truth?

The biggest mistake I see (and hear) people make on this one is when they publicly denigrate their spouse. If I do not rejoice in my wife’s unrighteousness (or she in mine) then I do not want to bring it to light…to anyone. In fact, after the matter is settled I don’t even want to bring up to her again.

How can I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things and endure all things?


When the Bible repeats a phrase it speaks of its importance. Here of course, the emphasis is on “all things.” It’s the AGAPE love of the Greek New Testament. The only way I can love Andrea, Michaela, Andrew, and Sarah this way is to stay with them through “all things.”

I know a lot of men who claim they would die for their families. With characteristic machismo they brag about their willingness to step in front of an assailant’s bullet to save their wife or kids. But frankly, I’ve never known anyone who was ever called on to make that sacrifice. I’m sure there have been some but I’ve never heard the story.

The call and commitment to die for my family will more likely play out every day in much less exhilarating and less spine-tingling ways. I am called to die for my family when the kids need bathing and my wife is as tired as I am. I am called to die for my family when the dog needs taking to the vet and neither of us wants to go. I am called to die for my family when Michaela needs help with her homework and I’d rather FaceBook or blog.

God isn’t calling me so much to die for my family as He is calling me to die to myself and to live for my family. Granted, stepping in front of a burglar’s bullet sounds a lot more heroic than taking out the trash or changing a diaper. But at least this way I don’t end up in ICU.

As I do a little marital inventory on my skills in being a “1 Corinthians 13 husband” I really think I’m doing pretty well. But by God’s grace, I will do even better tomorrow.

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Atheist Pastor

In case you missed it, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lousville, Ky offered this commentary in today's Baptist Press. I can add nothing to his insightful analysis so I give you, my Emmanuel family, Dr. Al Mohler.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Setting My Priorities Straight

Without a doubt, I have my priorities in order…on paper at least. It is always a challenge to keep them properly ordered in real life. But let me take a stab at sharing them with you.

First, I am a person. I know that sounds like a strange place to start but I must begin there. I simply mean that I have to focus on myself. Not in a selfish way of course, but in a way that acknowledges I am an individual child of God.

Before I can take care of anyone else, I must first be right with God individually. Andrea and I have never viewed ourselves as “two halves making a whole.” No, we are two whole and complete people who have come together as one. The Bible clearly says, “The two shall become one” not “the two halves.”

In order to function in the other areas of my life I must take care of myself. My body, soul, and spirit, must be properly attended. If I am unhealthy physically, emotionally, or spiritually it will affect everyone in my life.

So, one priority for me is to cultivate a daily personal relationship with the Father through prayer, Bible study (not sermon prep), and other spiritual duties.

Secondly, I am a partner. Andrea is the love of my life. I adore her. Without a doubt she is my dearest friend and closest confidante. I have deep pity for husbands who do not have that kind of relationship with their wife.

The Bible says that I am to love her as Christ loved the church. That references sacrificial love. Most likely, I will not be called upon to die for her physically. But every day I must die to selfishness and pride, take up a towel and a basin and serve my bride.

Many women want to put their maternal duties ahead of their spousal duties. I am convinced that is as wrong as wrong can be. Frankly, the greatest thing I can do for my 3 children is to love their mother with a deep and abiding commitment. I must prioritize my relationship with her, even over our own kids.

Thirdly, I am a parent. Michaela, Andrew, and Sarah are gifts from God. Like every parent, I love them more than life itself. There is absolutely nothing I would not do for their good.

My greatest responsibility to them is to teach them to love and serve the Lord. None of them has made a profession of faith in Christ but the older two are well on their way to having a personal love for the Lord Jesus.

I treasure the “special days” I have with the older two. Since they were about 18 months old, I’ve taken Michaela to lunch every Thursday and Andrew on Wednesday. Now that they are in school, I meet them with their class and we still have our regular lunch date together. Sarah is nearly ready to begin her weekly date with Daddy and I am really looking forward to it.

Being a dad is the most humbling and awe-filled task I’ve ever had.

Lastly, I am a pastor. I have often said that next to being a child of God, Andrea’s husband, and my kids’ Dad, my greatest joy is to pastor Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear. The love I have for this church is beyond description.

In a few months I will celebrate my 7th anniversary as Emmanuel’s pastor (June). I can only pray that in that time the Lord has done as much through me as He has in me. Some pastors hate their church and pray that a pulpit committee will show up every Sunday. By God’s grace, I cannot relate.

But as much as I love it, even this priority comes in at a distant 4th place. If anything competes with Christ, Andrea, or my children, that thing will lose. In fact, that competing priority will die a quick and painful death…and rightly so. I can’t be so busy saving the world that I lose my own family.

At this point I must distinguish that I am talking about the “job” aspect of pastoring the church. There is no question that my service to Christ is always first.

When the Lord calls me home, I assume there will be at least a handful of people at my funeral. Some of them may even whisper kind remarks. Whether they do or not, there are 4 people in this world that I want to be able to say, “Well done.” And their last names are all Stone.

Simply put, I cannot place my love for EBC ahead of obedience to Christ, fidelity to my wife, and devotion to my children. And thankfully, EBC has never asked me to do so.

Looking back I think this post is really directed toward the men. Guys, with everything vying for your time and attention, make sure that your priorities are:

1. God
2. Spouse
3. Family
4. Work


When it’s all said and done, may the Lord, our spouse, our children, and our friends and coworkers (in that order) say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Revival

I am very excited about our upcoming meeting with Bro. Phil Hoskins. Pastor Phil is the senior pastor of the HIgher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport, TN. HGBC is one of the largest and most exciting churches in the Volunteer State. He is a much sought-after keynote speaker at revivals and Bible conferences around the Southern Baptist Convention. We are blessed that God has allowed our schedules to match with Pastor Hoskins.

I will be preaching revival-themed messages on Sunday the 22nd at 9a, 10:30a, and 6p. Pastor Phil will be at Emmanuel on March 23-25 at 7pm nightly.

The psalmist prayed, "O Lord, will You not Yourself revive Your people once again that Your people may rejoice in You?" That's a great prayer to pray for our services this coming week. I hope you will each join me in offering that petition to our Lord.

Friday, March 13, 2009

SPLASH!


I had a great time teaching the high school boys small group tonight at M-Now. We’re using the theme SPLASH this weekend. It’s an acrostic for Show People Love And Share Him. The idea came from a book by Dr. and Mrs. Ken Hemphill.

My pastoral duties don’t typically allow me a lot of time in teaching settings with the students. I had a blast tonight. We have an awesome group of young people and it's obvious that Philip is doing an incredible job pouring God's Word into them.

Be in prayer for the group as we spread out tomorrow performing random acts of kindness. We go out representing our Lord, showing people love and sharing Him!