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!

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Prayer for 30 Days

Yesterday morning in the 9am worship service, Dr. Paige Patterson preached an incredible message from Exodus 1:15-21. The gist of the message was comparing the midwives of Pharaoh's day to the soul-winners of today. In essence, they helped superintend the birthing process of precious new babies in the same way soul-winners assist new believers in coming to Christ.

It was an incredible message, as was the sermon he preached in the 10:30 service. Both can be heard at www.ebchurch.net

During the invitation of the 9am service, Dr. Patterson encouraged us all to pray the following prayer every day for 30 days. I prayed it in the service yesterday, but I consider today, March 9th as Day #1. The 3-part prayer is simple, yet profound.

1. Lord, give me an opportunity to share the gospel today.

2. Lord, give me the wisdom to recognize it when it happens.

3. Lord, give me the courage to act on the opportunity.

Tonight about 7:30pm, I had the blessing to be a spiritual mid-wife...to assist a grown man in the process of being born again (John 3). I am ashamed to admit it, but even though I am a well-paid, full-time vocational minister of the gospel, this was the first person I led to faith in Christ in my private witnessing in weeks. (In this context, preaching and office visits don't count)

I also witnessed to 2 other people today. Again, I am embarassed to admit it, but this is the first time in a long time that I witnessed to 3 people in the same day in an intentionally evangelistic manner.

I'm sure it had nothing to do with the prayer :) but I think I'll keep praying it anyway!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kids and Cell Phones...The Cavalry is Riding In

In the Fall of 2008, I preached a series of 3 messages dealing with idolatry. It wasn't a neatly-packed "series" with a cool name and graphics package like I usually like to do. It was more of a theme that the Lord kept bringing me back to over a period of a few weeks.

There was, "American Idolatry," a message based on the 1st and 2nd of the Ten Commandments. There was "Restoring the Family Altar" based on Joshua's call, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord." Then there was "Living like Lot." This message about the dangers of backsliding was perhaps one of the most riveting I have ever preached, at least in terms of its impact on the preacher (me).

Each of these messages had at least 3 common threads. As I've mentioned, one of them was the concept of idolatry. Another commonality was the relationship of idolatry and its inevitable impact on the family. The third and most controversial common thread was my reference to teens, pre-teens, and their cell phones.

I am convinced that most Christian parents are making very unwise choices with the technology that they willingly make available to their children. To buy a 14 or 15 year old boy (or girl) a device that will allow them to browse the web, download and send pictures, send text messages with pictures (of heaven only knows what) attached, all the while assuming that your child is of such substantive moral stature to not be susceptible to the desires of the flesh is somewhere between naivety and foolishness.

Don't get me wrong...this is not a soap-box issue for me. The only three kids for whom I am ultimately accountable all live at my house. I can only offer wise Bible-based counsel. Parents remain, as they have always been, free to do with it what they choose.

But for those who think "Pastor Mike is off the deep end" let me introduce you to two of the leading thinkers in the Southern Baptist Convention. These men have both written articles on this subject in the last week.

Dr. Russell Moore is one of the brightest minds in the SBC today. As the dean of the school of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Brother Russell is one of the most credible and respected voices in our denomination. That's why I was intrigued by his article today from The Baptist Press, the official news agency of the SBC.


Then there's this article by Dwayne Hastings, VP of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC. You might say the ERLC is the "social policy" arm of the denomination.


Then there's this recent blurb from Focus on the Family. Note the warning about cell phones and PDA's.


And last, but not least, there's this news story from this week in Tampa, Florida. This is no isolated incident. Mom and Dad, do a GOOGLE NEWS search and you'll get stories like this from across the nation.

I definitely hear the sounds of the evangelical cavalry riding in to help defend my position. I just hope we haven't lost our kids in the battle by the time they get here.