Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Favorite Church

I love the church where God has allowed me to be a member. Emmanuel Baptist Church is a warm, loving, inviting place for the people (and prospects) of God to gather. I honestly love everything about EBC. That's not to say that we're perfect. We are an imperfect people led by an imperfect pastor seeking to worship a perfect Lord.

I love our music. Rhon does such a great job. I love the fact that we do a wide variety of music. We sing the old hymns with fervor and passion. We sing new worship songs with feeling and intimacy. From Chris Tomlin to Bill Gaither to Fanny Crosby, Rhon mixes it all together with a gifting that is incredible. And the EBC Worship Choir is second-to-none!

I love our people. We're just common, ordinary folks with common, ordinary issues. There is no way we could accomplish all the Lord has set before us without the dedicated service of greeters, ushers, teachers, choir members, sound techs, video techs, camera operators, and workers throughout every organization.

I love our staff. There's no pastor in America that has the blessing of working with a group of guys like Ashley, Joey, Lynn, Philip, Rhon, and Tommy. And of course our directors, Christi and Wendy, could work on anyone's staff...anywhere. Our support staff of Nita, Brandy, Sandy, Carol, Matt, and Jonathon make the load of ministry much lighter. And who would have thought that our first principal for Southeast Christian Academy would have been a 30+ year veteran of educational administration with multiple Master's degrees? Kay Allen is doing a superb job leading SCA.

Sunday's message on "The Church of the Open Door" is from Revelation 3:7-8. Though it is historically about the church at Philadelphia, it could well be about Emmanuel.

Thanks "Emmanuelites" for giving me the privilege of serving our common Lord as your senior pastor. The best is yet to come!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 2009 GBC State Evangelism Conference


1. Jeff Crook and the folks at Blackshear Place did an incredible job hosting. Rob Britton and the choir were incredible. They are now easily my second-favorite choir in the state…right behind the EBC choir. It is easy to see why BPBC is one of the most exciting and fastest-growing churches in Georgia.

If you are anywhere near Hall County you should really check them out at
www.bpbc.com

2. As I predicted, Rhon did an outstanding job representing the Lord and the people of Emmanuel Baptist. I am blessed to call him “my music minister” and “my friend.”

3. Robert Davis produced a brand new video for the song “Heaven.” I would not be surprised if requests for copies came in from around the state. It was a great video.

4. I traveled with John Darsey, pastor of First Baptist in Hazlehurst. John is one of the GBC’s bright young pastors. He is doing a tremendous work at First Baptist and my time with him and with Don Hattaway was the highlight of my trip. The fellowship and "iron-sharpening-iron" I received is something you can't get online or by merely ordering the DVDs.

5. Finally, I was asked by several people about my sentiment on Josh McDowell’s “talk” (his word) on Monday night. Frankly, the entire thing was disturbing. His points were disturbing for various and disparate reasons.

As for the statistics regarding the loss of our next generation, it was startling how many pastors have no clue as to their accuracy. Among other things it undergirded in my mind the need for entities like our own Southeast Christian Academy. Admittedly, a Christian school is not the singular answer to the problem. But our Southern Baptist efforts to pedo-baptize our 4 and 5 year olds and then send them out for daily Babylonian indoctrination does not seem to be helping the situation.

Several of us seemed to have heard (I don’t have the CD yet) one statistic stating that 51% of born-again evangelical youth did not believe in the resurrection. I am confident that statement, if made, was actually a misstatement. It may be true that 51% of self-proclaimed born-again students disbelieve the resurrection of Christ. But 100% of actual born-again youth believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Any who deny, doubt, or disbelieve the Savior’s resurrection are lost in their sins. Either Josh misspoke or I misunderstood. Either way, I am confident we would agree on this point.

As for the implied solution to the generational malaise (Josh never stated one) I will do best in this matter to let brevity and Scripture be my guides.

For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21)

Paul’s Divinely-inspired solution will still work in any time, in any culture, with any generation. The results of any other plan may look impressive but they will be no more or less than the fleshly-generated responses to a man-centered approach.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Most Memorable Part of My Sunday

I had the privilege today to preach God's Word in 2 morning services, to pray for the physical healing of a fellow pastor suffering with cancer, and to hear an evening message from Brother Philip Tyre, our gifted student minister. Despite the blessing of those things, the most pivotal part of my day came after the closing prayer in the evening service.

Tonight as the evening service ended, I stepped into the back section of our main building to wash my hands. My wife and I call it "washing off the fellowship." You know, a pastor shakes a lot of hands on a Sunday!

As I began washing my hands I heard a "gurgling" sound coming from a brass drain line in the floor. To make a long story short, our baptismal pool's drain line was clogged in some way. The water in the line backed up and began bubbling up the drain lines in the floors of both men's and women's restrooms and a mop sink inside a nearby janitorial closet. In a matter of moments I was standing in warm water about an inch deep in the restroom.

As I contemplate this event, I want to pause and (strangely enough) give God a word of thanksgiving.

First, because the water was from the baptistery. Hey, that may not sound like much cause for celebration. But when you're in a public place occupied by 1,000 people on any Sunday and you are suddenly standing in a large pool of warm water from an "unknown source' you will be grateful to discover it's clean water from the baptistery!

Secondly, I saw the body of Christ jump into action. No one complained. No one griped. Men began searching for the problem and enacting a solution. Brooms and mops were deployed. Others sought out the nearest available wet/dry vacuum cleaner. It may sound strange but I was blessed at the sight.

And maybe it's our Southern culture...I prefer to think it's our Biblical view of manhood...but I noticed that none of the women thought for a moment that this was their responsibility. Thank God for men who are real men.

Thirdly, I was grateful I had worn shoes with a rubber sole. Most of my dress shoes have leather soles which would more readily become saturated. It may seem a small thing, but this morning as I grabbed my leather-soled brown shoes I remembered that a little rain was in the forecast. Little did I know, the water God wanted to save my shoes from was not a sprinkle from above but a flood from below.

Finally, as I took my position with a broom inside the women's restroom, coaxing the water back down the newly-cleared drain line, I was literally overwhelmed with this realization; God is allowing me to clean the bathroom floor of His house. It was and still remains a high and gracious privilege.

Those who know me know that I still believe in wearing your "Sunday best" to church. I had on a suit, tie, and my best blue dress shirt. And yet here I was being a plumber! God reminded me that my #1 job is to be a servant. Whether it's at a bedside, in the pulpit, at the funeral home, playing with my kids, or cleaning up water in the bathroom, I am to do all things to the glory of God.

Frankly, my own sinful state should merit my eternal place in Hell. Yet the LORD in His mercy saw fit to save me, call me into His service, and give me the wondrous blessing of being a part of what I believe is the greatest church in America (Pastor, I hope you feel the same about your fellowship). My soul was filled with delight that God would let me clean His bathroom.

And to my fellow brothers in the "Baptistery Broom Brigade," I count it all joy to join heart, and hand (and mop) with such a great group of God's servants. I re-learned a lesson in servanthood tonight as you taught me with a living example of humility. I am blessed to serve by your side.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Remember the Alamo


As part of our Sunday morning series through the book of the Revelation, I came across this quote from John Stott describing the church at Sardis, and unfortunately describing many of our churches today.


John Stott – “We can have a fine choir, an expensive organ, good music, great anthems, and fine congregational singing. We can mouth hymns and psalms with unimpeachable elegance while our mind wanders and our heart is far from God. We can have pomp and ceremony, color and ritual, and yet be offering a worship to God which is not perfect or fulfilled in His sight.”


On the morning of February 22 I will be preaching on the church at Sardis from Revelation 3:1-6. My title is "Remember the Alamo." Attendees will understand the title before the teaching concludes. If you miss the service you can find the audio at www.ebchurch.net.

Rhon Carter and the 2009 SEC


If any of my friends are planning to attend the 2009 State Evangelism Conference, I hope you will make a special effort to catch Rhon Carter's music on Tuesday. Rhon is our music minister here at Emmanuel. HIs mini-concert on day #2 will be worth the trip to the SEC.


What you will hear on Tuesday is a small taste of what we receive every week at Emmanuel. I have already looked over his song list for the conference. Rhon's high tenor voice will bless you with songs like "Heaven" and "He Touched Me." His piano abilities will shine on songs like "I'll Fly Away" and "Goodbye World, Goodbye."


Regular GBC people will recognize Rhon as a featured soloist with the Sons of Jubal. Regular Emmanuel Baptist folks recognize Rhon as a friend, under-shepherd, and gifted worship leader. If you will be in Flowery Branch for the 2009 Statve Evangelism Conference, you will not want to miss Rhon's part on the program.


For more info on the conference go to http://evan.gabaptist.org/common/content.asp?PAGE=550

Friday, February 20, 2009

Guest Speakers in March



I am very excited about all God has in store for us in the month of March. In addition to our regular services and our studies in Revelation, Galatians, and Amos, we are going to be blessed by two wonderful guest preachers. Dr. Paige Patterson will be with us on the morning of March 8th in both services. Dr. Phil Hoskins will preach our Spring Revival scheduled for March 22-25.

Dr. Paige Patterson is one of the most influential Christian leaders of our time. You will most likely not see him listed as such in TIME Magazine but it is true nonetheless. Dr. Patterson is one of a very small group of men who in the 1970’s and 1980’s helped lead the Southern Baptist Convention back from the precipice of liberalism. As a tireless advocate for Biblical inerrancy, Dr. Patterson worked to “sound the alarm” about the encroaching apostasy and heresy within our SBC seminaries at that time.

Through his efforts and by God’s grace, Southern Baptists were able to elect leaders like Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, and Charles Stanley as our convention presidents. Using their ability to appoint Bible-believing men and women to various committees in the life of our denomination, the tide of liberalism was eventually stemmed. No major denomination has ever been returned to its conservative roots once it headed down the path of liberalism. Our own SBC stands as the sole exception to this rule and we owe that fact to the Lord Jesus and to the work of men like Dr. Paige Patterson.

Dr. Patterson is currently serving Southern Baptists as the President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Prior to that position he served as the president of Criswell College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Southern Baptists acknowledged a lifetime of devoted service by electing Dr. Patterson as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a position he held from 1998-2000.

Learn more about Dr. Patterson at http://www.paigepatterson.info/

Dr. Phil Hoskins is the senior pastor of the Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. HGBC had about 200 members when Dr. Hoskins accepted the pastorate there in 1991. Today, membership exceeds 3,500 with 2,800 of those additions coming by baptism. Dr. Hoskins is one of the most in-demand preachers in Southern Baptist life today. We will be blessed, encouraged, and strengthened by God’s ministry to us through Pastor Phil.

Learn more about Pastor Phil at www.higherground.org

While every Sunday is an important day in the Lord’s house, I pray you will make a special commitment to these dates. We are going to experience the hand of heaven each time we gather this month. As your pastor I desire for you to be here to receive each and every blessing!