Monday, December 27, 2010

Paid in Full

Today I had the joy of ceremonially signing the paperwork that authorized our finance office to make the final payment on our loan.  We took 6 or 7 pictures "for the record."  I like this one the best.  There are no faces.  And the only names are the ones that are necessary for our purchase orders.  It reminds me that God alone has brought this to pass by stirring the hearts of His people.

Over 23 years ahead of schedule...and with millions saved in interest payments...To God alone be the glory.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Birthday Gift

When I became the pastor at Emmanuel in 2002, we had already joyfully embraced the vision to construct a new auditorium at a cost of over $2.5 million.  That loan was finalized in March 2004 in what was, in effect, a 30-year note.  By God's goodness and the sacrifice of His people, this Sunday we will finish paying that debt...about 23 1/2 years ahead of schedule.

During the last 6 1/2 years, by the Lord's grace, we have also purchased about 13 additional acres, built a large preschool annex, converted the office area to house some additional nursery rooms, bought the old Farmers' and Builders' Supply building, renovated it in 2009 for our student ministry, and constructed a new administration building.  That doesn't include the growing budget in other areas as we've expanded our missions and ministry base.  That's just a little of the brick-and-mortar side!

All of this effort has been a testament to God's grace and His hand on our fellowship.  Humanly speaking, thanks goes to the faithful membership at EBC.  Your systematic giving has been an outward manifestation of your love for our Lord.  I also owe a personal word of gratitude to my friend and predecessor, Dr. Don Hattaway.  He ministered here for nearly a decade and left a strong healthy church.  And he and I both have been privileged to reap where many faithful pastors and members plowed and sowed before we ever came along.

So...this Sunday in celebration of our Lord's birth, I plan to give a gift of gratitude to put "The 2010 Vision" over the top.  And I am humbled to have the privilege of doing so.

Happy Birthday, Lord.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Real Evangelism

I am honored to be invited to preach with these fine men.  Please pray for me that I will preach with clarity, boldness, and humility.  And come if you are in the area.  Check out the other conferences at

Monday, November 29, 2010

Smoke, Mirrors, and Delete Buttons

I will never forget the privilege I had of touring the production studios of one of America’s most famous TV and radio preachers. As a former DJ and radio guy, I was particularly interested in the technology they were using. It was cutting edge at the time although many home computers today contain similar software.

Our host made a very interesting statement to the group of pastors I was with. He said something like this,

“By the time Dr. _____ gets through with Sunday lunch, we already have a full transcription of his actual ‘live’ sermon he delivered in the 11am service. Our paper copy is complete with highlighted portions that we are to delete. So his personal staff takes all the guess-work out of the editing process for us.”

A member of our group asked, “What kinds of things are deleted from the pastor’s sermons?” The reply was quite telling.

“Well, of course we delete all lengthy pauses where the pastor struggled to find the right word. Some pauses are for effect. Other pauses are erroneous. We take all those out.”

That answer seemed pretty natural.  He continued.

“Then we delete all of the ‘uhs’ and ‘ahs’ although the pastor doesn’t do a lot of those. He has learned that it’s easier for us to delete a space of silence than to delete an ‘uh’ in the middle of a sentence. So if he is at a loss he will usually just pause. But if he says ‘uh’ or ‘ah’ it gets deleted.”

I was fascinated.

“And of course if he just makes a mistake…”

Those words caught me completely off guard. “A mistake? What do you mean, ‘A mistake?’ I thought. Dr. ________ would never make a mistake in the pulpit. I’ve never heard him make a mistake of any kind!”

But as our guide continued, I realized exactly why I’d never heard the good doctor make a mistake on his international broadcast.

“And of course if he just makes a mistake we take it out. If he misquotes a passage, (usually just giving the wrong reference) then we delete the erroneous part. If he gets tongue-tied or makes a grammatical error, he usually catches it and simply repeats the phrase properly. The congregation would never really catch why he did it. But the fact is, he did it so we could delete the erroneous part, and leave the accurate part on the recording. With the digital editing process you would never know it.”

He was right. I had never known it. But our guide wasn’t quite finished.

“And from time to time he might even make a Biblical error. A doctrinal or a factual error. It can be something as simple as misquoting a survey or saying, ‘Goliath killed David’ or ‘Moses built the ark.’ He once implied that Christ was a created being. Of course, anyone who knows his doctrine would know that was simply a misstatement. But with our world-wide audience, we certainly could not leave that on the recording.”

I was hanging on every word.

“The editing job is tougher when he doesn’t catch the error himself in the pulpit. When he does catch it, he self-corrects and it’s easier to edit. When he doesn’t correct the error himself, the splicing can be a bit trickier. It’s easier of course with the computer, but it’s still tricky.”

I knew our host was an old radio and TV man when he used the word "splicing."  That was a reference to the literal cutting and splicing of audio and video recording tape.  Even though they were completely digital in their studio and no actual "splicing" occurred, he still said "splicing."  In my mind, I wondered if he would like to have that word "deleted" and have the word "deleted" cut-and-pasted in its place.

While I was on the verge of being distracted by this technical faux pas, he concluded this part of the tour by saying, “And occasionally there is a sermon that just simply never sees the light of day again. No amount of editing will fix a poor sermon. That’s a very rare thing for our pastor but it does happen.”

With that final statement, several things rushed through my mind.

1.  Dr. ________ was really human.  I'd long-expected it.  But here was the proof I needed.

2.  If I had this guy working for me, no one would have ever heard me say that "Aquila and Priscila were 2 godly women." 

3.  If I had this setup, no one would have ever known that I quoted what the Apostle Paul said in the book of First Peter. :)

4.  The audio where I said, "We need a gully-washing, toad-strangling chog-froaking revival" would have never seen the light of day if I were preaching in this church.

5.  The mp3 file of me saying that "Truth runs off some people like ducks off a water's back" could have been erased with a few mouse clicks.  The offending phrase would have gone to that great Recycle Bin in the sky.

6.  The times I used a joke that just didn't work...or maybe shared an illustration that I just shouldn't have used...or chased a rabbit...or sounded angry...or got in the flesh...gone!  With the blink of an eye and the flash of a delete button...gone!

7.  Some of my sermons would have never made their way out of the editing room.

8.  If this guy worked for me with his trusty little zap-away-all-the-errors laptop, people all over America would be asking their pastor, "Why can't you preach more like Mike Stone?"  They would share my highly edited CD's, media links, and podcasts with all of their friends.  I'd be the rage of Facebook if this guy worked for me!

9.  While taking NOTHING away from the God-given ability of these great preachers, I came to realize...not even John MacArthur preaches like John MacArthur.  And Adrian Rogers in the flesh can't preach as well as the host of "Love Worth Finding."  David Jeremiah is good when you hear him 'live.'  He's almost as good as that guy on "Turning Point."

10.  "Crowd shots" on TV broadcasts are used to edit and delete dumb things the preacher said.

11.  If every member of every church could see this room they might be a little more grateful for their pastor's faithful preaching of the Word...uh's, ah's, duds, and misstatements included :)

I am grateful for a wonderful and loving church that lets their pastor preach the whole counsel of God without any additions...or deletions :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

He is Jehovah

This morning I preached on "The God of All Comfort" from 2 Corinthians 1.  In the message I mentioned some of the "Jehovah" names of God.  Here are a few of them for your study and edification.

Genesis 22 – Jehovah Jireh – The Lord, my Provider

Exodus 15 – Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals

Exodus 17 – Jehovah Nissi – The Lord, my banner

Exodus 31 – Jehovah M’Kaddesh – The Lord who sanctifies

Deuteronomy 33 – Jehovah Chereb – The Lord, my Sword

Deuteronomy 33 - Jehovah Magen – The Lord, my Shield

Judges 6 – Jehovah Shalom - The Lord, my Peace

1 Samuel 1 – Jehovah Sabaoth – Lord of the hosts of heaven

Psalm 3 – Jehovah Kahbodi – The Lord, my Glory

Psalm 10 – Jehovah Malech-Olam – The Lord who is king forever

Psalm 18 – Jehovah Chezeq – The Lord, my strength

Psalm 18 - Jehovah Misqabbi – The Lord, my strong tower

Psalm 18 - Jehovah Naheh – The Lord who smites the enemy

Psalm 18 - Jehovah Seli – The Lord, my Rock

Psalm 20 – Jehovah Hoshea – The Lord, my Savior

Psalm 23 – Jehovah Rohi – The Lord, my Shepherd

Psalm 24 – Jehovah Milchamma – The Lord, mighty in battle

Psalm 27 – Jehovah Ori – The Lord, my Light

Psalm 89 – Jehovah Gannan – The Lord who is my defense

Psalm 91 – Jehovah Machsi – The Lord my Refuge

Psalm 98 – Jehovah Hamelech – The Lord, my King

Isaiah 40 – Jehovah Bara – The Lord, my Creator

Isaiah 49 – Jehovah Goel – The Lord, my Redeemer

Jeremiah 16 – Jehovah Ma’oz – The Lord, my Fortress

Jeremiah 23 – Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord, my righteousness

Ezekiel 48 – Jehovah Shammah – The Lord who is present

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SCBC Pastor's Conference

I am very excited to be a part of the South Carolina Baptist Convention's pastor's conference.  I will miss the first day of my own state convention to be there.  But it will be a great day full of awesome music and wonderful sermons from some of my heroes.  See you in Irmo, SC on November 15th!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lessons Learned

In light of some of the recent opportunities for grace-filled ministry at EBC, I’ve begun to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned and/or been reminded of about our church. Here are just a few random thoughts.

1. We really do have some incredible leaders. I am intentionally excluding myself from this comment. But I do not know when I have been more humbled to work with a group of people. Leaders who are not afraid to ask tough questions, to lovingly and graciously disagree, and to simply seek the mind of God for the church’s direction. No church in America has any more mature lay leadership than EBC. None.

2. Our staff is awesome. I’ve watched these men and women deal with a lot of different things in the last year. It’s always been with grace and humility. I respected all of them when they were hired. But my estimation of their love for Christ and His Church has skyrocketed in recent days. If there’s anything worthy of criticism at EBC, blame me. But if there’s anything worthy of thanksgiving, say a prayer of gratitude for the staff. Lee, Sandy, Lynn, Tommy, Dusty, Michael, Wendy, Christi, Philip, Matt, Nita, Brandy, Rhon, Kay, Joey, Ronnie, John, and Justin…you guys are the best!

3. We want to be a Bible-centered, gospel-driven church.  Every church says that and many really mean it. EBC really means it. In the last few weeks I have watched strong men and women of God humbly submit themselves to the teachings of God’s Word. Their “flesh” wanted to respond in one way but their Bibles demanded a different response. They went with the Bible against their own opinions and emotions. That’s an increasingly rare thing, even in conservative circles.

4. We are a place of truth, repentance, and grace.  Without both grace and truth you don’t really have either one. The truth is, God is a God of grace. And grace is based on the truth that none of us deserves forgiveness. You can’t have one without the other. Repentance is the hinge upon which grace and truth pivot. When truth is declared and repentance is expressed, grace begins to flow. It really is a beautiful thing!

5. Grace can be messy.  I mean, it’s not easy. Legalism with all of its nice little boxes and check-lists is (in some ways) easier. Grace requires prayer, forgiveness, Bible study, wisdom, discernment, and personal holiness. I know the Savior’s crucifixion was not a tidy little affair. The daily crucifixion of my carnal flesh and the redistribution of His grace can be a bit messy, too.

6. God loves me.  In the midst of expressing and teaching the love of God to others I have been reminded of that simple and timeless truth myself. Not because of me or my actions but in spite of me and my actions. God loves me. And He loves you too.

7. I am one decision away from stupid.  That doesn’t soften sin or condone ungodly actions but it sure does temper and color my response. Galatians 6:1 and 1 Corinthians 10:12 would be great supplemental reading on this point. Moses, Jonah, Jacob, Lot, Peter, and others would all testify that loving God doesn’t immunize you from sin or stupidity. I have a personal interest in making sure that EBC is a hospital for repentant sinners…I will be a patient there sooner or later.

8.  Repentance changes everything.  It really does.  It changes the reaction from both God and man.  No blame-shifting, excuse-making, and acountability-dodging...just confession and repentance.  Maybe we could start a new trend...each of us beginning with ourselves.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hell's Plan for our Revival

As we continue our study of Nehemiah, here's a little preview of Sunday's message, "Hell's Plan for our Revival."

The people who do not deserve an attack do not deserve a victory. And the pastor who is not worthy of criticism is not worthy of praise.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Outside Preaching Schedule

I am very thankful for several invitations to preach in addition to my weekly privileges at Emmanuel.  If any of my friends are near these events, I would count it a joy to see you in person.

August 22 at 6pm
Awesome August Nights
First Baptist Church of Thomasville, GA
Dr. Dan Spencer, pastor

September 26-29
Fall Revival
Walkerville Baptist Church
Blackshear, GA
Brother Greg Carter, pastor

October 5-6
Fall Revival
Shady Grove Baptist Church
Blackshear, GA
Brother Edmund Thrift, pastor

October 21
Fall Meeting
Piedmont-Okefenokee Baptist Association
Riverside Chapel Baptist Church
Nahunta, GA

October 25
Upstate Bible Conference
Fellowship Baptist Church
Pendleton, SC
With Dr. Don Whitt (host) and Dr. Phil Hoskins

November 15
South Carolina Baptist Convention
Pastor's Conference
Riverland Hills Baptist Church
Irmo, SC
With Dr. Brad Whitt (host), David Landrith, Emir Caner, James Merritt, and Ken Whitten

December 29
Harvest Community Church
Nahunta, GA
Brother Joey Taylor, pastor

January 25
Alabama Pastor's Conference
Dr. Don Whitt (host)

March 27
North Jacksonville Baptist Church
Jacksonville, FLA
Sunday AM and PM services
Dr. Herb Reavis, Jr., pastor

I have also been privileged with an invitation to preach at all 3 "Real Evangelism" conferences hosted by Dr. Bailey Smith in 2011.  They will be held in GA, NC, and MS.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Inviting All Men!

I am convinced that one of the biggest problems facing our church, families, community, and nation is the absence of real men of God. That’s why Emmanuel Baptist is offering a brand new Bible study on Monday nights for men only. It is going to be a great joy as a pastor to facilitate this Bible study.

The class begins at 8:15p and will end no later than 9:30p. The schedule is designed to accommodate the busy calendar we men have. Most men can get home, enjoy some time with their family, fulfill some evening duties (like getting the kids bathed or helping with homework) and still make the 8:15p start time. Since the class ends by 9:30p, most men in our area can still be home by no later than 10p and in bed shortly thereafter.

I want to invite every man in our church and our community to join me for “Man of His Word.” This study by the late Dr. Adrian Rogers is a dynamic invitation to authentic Biblical manhood. The 8 sessions will take about 10 weeks to complete due to the Labor Day holiday and our Fall revival schedule.

“Man of His Word” begins Monday, August 23rd at 8:15pm in our church fellowship hall. I hope to see you guys there!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Finishing Strong

Tomorrow morning I have the privilege of preaching about a special two-Sunday offering we will be receiving this Fall.  It is going to be a great joy to finally be debt-free as a church. 

Church members, please use the logo contained in this blog post to make your own personal "offering box" for yourself and your family.  Just click on this picture and your computer will take you to a screen where you can "right mouse click" and save this logo to your computer.

I think for our three children we will use three old coffee cans, one for each child.  We will probably let them decorate it themselves and glue or tape this logo on the box.  Using something like MS Word or MS Publisher we will probably personalize the label for each child.

Of course you can use other items such as shoe boxes, milk jugs, mayonnaise jars, etc.

Just use this logo to make this entire emphasis a special time of reflection and gratitude for your whole family.

Looking forward to finishing strong,
Pastor Mike

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome Brother Matt!

This morning I was blessed to publicly announce what we believe is God's call on the life of Brother Matt Rodgers to join our pastoral staff as our new children's pastor.  Matt is no stranger to EBC.  He was raised here, saved here, baptized here, and called to the ministry here.  He met his wife Jif here at EBC.

After leaving EBC for vocational ministry, Matt served as the youth pastor at Patterson Baptist Church for several years.  For the last 5+ years he has been the minister of youth and children at Jefferson Street Baptist Church in Dublin, GA.  As Matt prepares to come preach in view of our church's affirmation, let me share a few reasons I am so excited.

1.  Matt loves Jesus.

I sense a love for Christ every time I get around Matt.  He is a man of honesty, transparency, and integrity.  Those traits are all born out of a vibrant relationship with the Lord Jesus.

2.  Matt loves his wife.

OK, the Ridgeway clan is the best thing to ever happen to Rhon and Matt.  They both (like their pastor) married up!  Of course those girls didn't do too bad either :)  But in these days of immorality running rampant, it's nice to have a guy who still gets watery eyes when he talks about his beloved bride.

3.  Matt loves his kids.

I confess I am partial toward adoptive parents...especially those who got a "blessed surprise" after they adopted.  I can hardly wait to really get to know Matthew and Grayson.

4.  Matt loves the Bible.

He understands that the only thing that will make a lasting difference in the lives of our children and their families is to be saturated in the Word of God.  There will be plenty of room for "play time" in children's ministry but only subordinate to the declaration, memorization, and application of the Bible.

5.  Matt loves our staff.

One benefit of calling a "home-grown" staff member is that we already know, love, and respect each other.  Our staff enjoys wonderful relationships together and Matt will be a welcome addition to our team.  We've already enjoyed some really sweet fellowship together and I look forward to much more.

6.  Matt loves the church.

How could a person not have a special place for the church where they were saved, baptized, and called to the ministry?  But Matt not only loves our church.  He loves the church.  He loves the organized, visible, tangible expression of the work of God in the world today.

7.  Matt loves the gospel.

Much of what is labeled as "children's ministry" is nothing more or less than the sounding of a strange trumpet.  What our kids need is to be taught that they are sinners apart from God and they must repent and believe.  Not merely raise a hand, pray a prayer, and walk an aisle.

For these reasons and many more, I am thrilled that Matt accepted the leadership's invitation to join our pastoral staff.  We will seek the church's affirmation immediately following the evening service on August 1st.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Doctrine of Separation

2 Corinthians 6:17 - "Come out from among them and be separate. And touch not the unclean thing and I will welcome you."

Tuesday night I preached on the doctrine of separation at the South Georgia Bible Conference.  As part of the sermon from 2 Corinthians 6:17, I mentioned 5 questions that believers can ask the Holy Spirit in order to address the issue of separation.  This post is not an attempt to address that doctrine.  I took a whole sermon to do that.  I merely want to list the questions I gave in that sermon with brief commentary.

1.  Does it violate the Bible?

This seems so basic.  But the bottom line is that violation of a clear command of Scripture is never a matter of Christian liberty.  The Holy Spirit does not have to convict you about lying, stealing, promiscuity, immodesty, etc. in order for these actions (and many others) to be sinful things from which a believer ought to separate.  A great deal of things that some Christians seem to think are matters of "conviction" are really matter of old-fashioned "obedience."

For example, going to see a movie that is filled with vulgarities, lewdness, and sexuality is not relegated to a matter of conviction.  The Scripture forbids it.

2.  Does it harm my body?

We could go off the deep end here because most foods can have a harmful effect in excess.  And gluttony indeed is a sin.  But as God gives us some common sense and simple wisdom, we should ask, "Does this practice work primarily for the harm of my body?" (drugs, alcohol, etc.)

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 teaches us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit so we are to glorify God with our physical bodies.

3.  Does it offend my brother?

Christian liberty ends where my weaker brother's offense begins.  It should be noted that the offense referenced in the Scripture belongs to a weaker brother, not an overly-legalistic, mature brother.  In other words, I am to be more concerned about the sentiment of a new Christian than a fellow pastor.  Both are important.  One is just more important than the other on this point.

4.  Does it lead to bondage?

Many practices are addictive and controlling in nature.  Paul said he would be "mastered by nothing." 

5.  Does it result in blessing?

In short, can I give God glory for it?  If not, I should separate from it.  I am commanded to do all things to the glory of God.  If I cannot stand in the presence of the Lord and say, "Lord, I bless and honor you for _________" then I should consider that practice as an unworthy one.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

South Georgia Bible Conference

It was an honor to be invited to preach at the South Georgia Bible Conference in Valdosta.  Please be in prayer for me and the other preachers as we finalize preparations for our messages.  Of all the places I preach other than Emmanuel, none is any more humbling to me than Morningside in Valdosta.

First, because I love their pastor.  Dr. Robertson is completing his 25th year as senior pastor of that great church.  He is a hero of mine in every respect.

Secondly, because I love this dear church.  In some churches where I go as a guest I feel like Paul preaching at Corinth.  I have to put my sermon in a spiritual blender so they can wash it down slowly.  Morningside, however, is a church that has a corporate appetite for the meat of the word.

Thirdly, because I have a great love for the other men on this program.  While Dr. Cathey's health will not allow him to attend this year, I am still humbled to preach alongside some great men of God.  I am not only taking my sermons but I am also taking a blank notebook.  It is going to be good to sit under the teaching of these wonderful Bible preachers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Unpardonable Sin...What is it (not)?

This morning I preached a message on the "unpardonable sin" in Matthew 12:32.  Because of the breadth and depth of false teaching on this subject, I intentionally spent a lot of time discussing what the unpardonable sin is NOT.  Since I went over them pretty quickly, a few people asked for this list tonight.  Here they are in the form of true statements designed to thrash oft-repeated fallacies.

1. A saved person cannot commit this sin.

If you are worried that you’ve committed it, you haven’t.  The person who has committed this sin can never be forgiven.  It is impossible, by definition, for an eternally-forgiven, eternally-secure person to commit a sin for which there is no forgiveness.

John 5:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life.”

Here Jesus teaches 3 tenses of salvation.  As a believer, I have passed (past tense) from death into life.  I have (present tense) eternal life.  And I will not come (future tense) into judgment.

If you do not believe in eternal security, you will stay confused about many facets of the unpardonable sin.  The purpose of this post is not to teach that glorious Bible doctrine but the fact is, an eternally secure believer cannot commit the unpardonable sin.

2.  It is not teaching against charismatic doctrine.

Several people have accused me of having committed the unpardonable sin because of my teaching regarding speaking in tongues and being "slain in the Spirit."

First, I have never preached against tongues. I’ve merely said that what we see today IS NOT TONGUES. Secondly, even if I were wrong, the unpardonable sin is not a sin of ignorance.  It is not a sin committed by a mistaken interpretation of Scripture.  It is an eyes-wide-open sin committed in the face of a full revelation of light.

3.  It is not “dying lost.”

I've heard this one most of my life in various places.  Those who teach this limit the unpardonable sin to an act that is not ultimately committed until a person dies.  But think about it…a dead person cannot sin!

Dr. John R. Rice in his book, Crossing the Deadline writes, “All who die unconverted do cross the deadline. God’s Holy Spirit does cease to call. Such sinners are forever past repentance. So what happens to millions at death may happen to some before death.”

Jesus, however, is describing a sin committed by those who are VERY MUCH ALIVE. Though they may live another 100 years, the Spirit of God will never again deal with them about their sin, they will never feel the tug to salvation, and they are as destined for hell as if they were already there.

4.  It is not “merely” resisting or rejecting Christ.

Granted, all Christ-rejecters will die lost unless the Spirit of God enlightens their eyes and they repent before death.  But if "rejecting Christ" or "resisting Christ" was unpardonable then the only people ever saved would be those who respond the FIRST time they are convicted of sin.

This notion is also based on the false belief that everyone is going to heaven except those who reject Christ.  The Bible teaches exactly the opposite.  As sinners, we are all under the just condemnation of heaven.  Everyone is destined for and deserving of hell except those who receive Christ, not the other way around.

5.  It is not adultery.

Adultery is a terrible and horrible sin.  But, simply put, there is no such sin as “perpetual adultery.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (in part) – “Adulterers will (not) inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Sorry to bother some readers, but if an adulterer has repented, he no longer has "2 wives."  Your grandma may have taught you that but the Bible does not.  There's no way to have "2 wives" without being an adulterer and the text above clearly teaches it's possible to be a FORMER adulterer.

King David, the woman at the well, and the "woman caught in adultery" could sing in 3-part harmony that there is "grace that is greater than all my sin."

6.  It is not murder.

David was a man after God’s own heart.  Yet he was a murderer.

Paul was complicit in Stephen’s death.  He described himself as a violent aggressor.  He goes on to tell Timothy (1 Timothy 1) that as the worst of all sinners, his salvation was an example that Christ would save anyone...even a murderer.

7. It is not suicide.

This thought is based on the false belief that you can lose salvation.  Presumably, a person who kills himself (at least by an instantaneous method) committed a sin without time to repent.

But a person's destiny in eternity is not determined by how they died but by what they did in response to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Interestingly, those who teach that taking your own life is an unpardonable sin do not often think about the sin of gluttony.  Many overweight and unhealthy preachers are killing themselves one porkchop at a time.

8.  It is not sexual perversion.

We live in a sex-crazed and sex-saturated world.  But the truth of the Bible is:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Neither fornicators…nor adulterers…nor effeminate…will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

The word effeminate = perverted = twisted.

I admit that if I were the Lord, crimes against innocent children might be unforgivable.  But thankfully, I am not the Lord.  He promises forgiveness for even the most heinous of all perversions.  Those trapped in bondage to sexual perversion can repent of their sins and discover the truth of the great old hymn,

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.  The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day.  And there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away!

9.  It is not profanity.

Admittedly, I cannot stand filthy talk.  And specifically, It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck when people take God’s name in vain.

Those who teach that the unpardonable sin is profanity typically draw from Christ's use of the word "speak" when describing this blasphemy.  But the root of the sin is in the heart, not the mouth.  See Matthew 12:25.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (in part) – “Revilers will (not) inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

Several reliable commentators point out the the word "revilers" references people with filthy language.  They revile with their speech.

People often take the name of God the Father in vain.
People often take the name of God the Son in vain.
But I’ve never heard anyone take the name of the Spirit in vain as a curse word.

10.  It is not homosexuality

No sin in history has pushed and demanded more acceptance by the culture and the church than the sin of sodomy.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (in part) – “Homosexuals will (not) inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

In addition to reaffirming the sinful nature of homosexual relationships, this verse also teaches that it is gloriously and graciously possible to be a former homosexual.  One of the biggest lies that Satan whispers to people trapped in this lifestyle is "God made you this way.  Don't deny your own nature.  Be at peace with who you are as a homosexual because it can't be changed."  This text unequivocally teaches that there is freedom, liberty, and release from the bondage of this sinful life...and such were some of you!

Through the years many members of our own church have expressed their repentant spirit over this sin and they would each testify that they have found their pastor to be filled with mercy and grace. But my compassion and grace could never begin to compare to the mercy received from the Lord Jesus!

For these sins and all others except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, there is free and full forgiveness to all who will repent.

Friday, July 2, 2010

For the Record...My Published Quote on the GCR

I was grateful to be contacted by Dr. Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index for a brief quote on the passage of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Recommendations by the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando last month.  Dr. Harris is a dear friend, mentor, and eloquent statesman among Georgia and Southern Baptists.  It was my joy to fulfill his request.

The text of my quote was simple:

"The invoking of God’s name, the misuse of His Word, and the presumption of His will on an organizational matter (the GCR vote) was incredibly over-the-top. I pray that I never use God’s Word to tell my members that their vote either for or against an extra-biblical structural change in our church is an indication of their faithfulness to Christ or their commitment to the Great Commission."

For the record, I believe this occurred on BOTH sides of the GCR.  That's why I stated, "either for or against."  It occurred publicly at the podium and privately in the hushed conversations of the hallway.  Frankly, I have less patience for the private, off-the-record, if-you-repeat-this-I'll-deny-it approach that many Baptist leaders take.  I can at least respect those (for and against) who will stand flat-footed and publicly state their position.

My quote was specifically directed toward those comments that presumed the mind and will of God.  For example, God is in favor of the Great Commission.  No question.  We've got Bible on that.  Would God have voted in favor of the GCR?  Would God have voted against it?  It is prideful and presumptuous to say either way.

I don't think those who voted for the GCRTF report are reckless men and women who do not appreciate the past or who have some sinister motive for denominational advancement.  Are you kidding me?  The leaders of the task force (beginning with President Johnny Hunt) are people of character, integrity, and faith.  And frankly, the members have accomplished quite a bit without the SBC.  To assume they are seeking self-advancement is ludicrous, unwarranted, and frankly, sinful.  To whisper, "I wonder what so-and-so was offered for his vote?" is a violation of the law of love and the prohibition against sinful judgements.  Besides that, if you really have that question, why don't you go ask the man, "Did they offer you a job for your support?"  That will hardly ever happen in the SBC.

I don't think those who voted against the GCRTF report are denominational dead-weights who favor "bloated bureaucracy" or "declining baptisms."  It is possible they are God-loving, Bible-believing brothers and sisters who simply think it is a misstep from an organizational perspective.  Maybe...just maybe...they have not made a god out of the CP and are not more concerned about funding Nashville than populating heaven.  Maybe...just maybe.

Having said that, my concern (and the essence of my quote as published in THE INDEX) is the invocation of God's name to support one's position.  Good and godly brothers and sisters can simply disagree on this matter.  If I were asked to find a text that said, "God is in favor of the GCR report" I could not find it.  It is not there.  If I were asked to find a text that said, "The report is a violation of God's will" I could not find it either.  It's simply not there.

My quote is, at its core, a call for humility.  This is what we believe will help us accomplish the Lord's work.  We could be wrong.  But it's the collective effort of good and godly men and women.

Neither a vote FOR or AGAINST this organizational change was obedience to a Divinely-inspired mandate.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Most Quoted Verse in the Bible

This Sunday morning our series on "The Most" will continue with a provocative look at what I am calling the most quoted verse in the Bible.  It is not necessarily the most quoted verse by Christians.   But I am convinced that the verse we will examine is quoted more often by unbelievers than any verse in the Bible.

Unbelievers may not know John 3:16 but they know this verse.  They may not know Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9, or 10:13 but they know this verse.  In fact, it seems as if even an unbeliever can parse the Greek verbs in this "most quoted verse."  It's as though the world has memorized this verse in the KJV, NIV, NASB, NKJV, and even The Message.  Even a lost man deems himself to be an expert on exegeting this verse.

I am looking forward to unveiling this "most quoted verse" and the Biblical teaching that it contains.  I hope to see all my EBC family at 9am and 10:30am.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Most Patriotic Verse in the Bible

I am a flag-waving, country-loving member of the America-love-it-or-leave-it crowd.  Yet I am reminded from Scripture that the greatest thing I can do for my country is not to wave a flag but to live a holy life.  The best way to truly love country is to love God first.

This Memorial Day weekend we will honor the memories of those who gave their lives for our civic freedom.  We will also (first and foremost) honor the One who gave His life for our eternal freedom.  So for the latest installation in our new Sunday morning series called, "The Most" we will take a serious look at "The Most Patriotic Verse in the Bible."

If you are in Blackshear for the holiday weekend, join us for Sunday School and worship.  We are going to have a great Christ-honoring look at a Biblical view of patriotism.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Most Offensive Verse in the Bible

This morning I preached on 1 Timothy 2:5 and dubbed it "The Most Offensive Verse in the Bible."  Granted, this text may not actually be the most offensive verse but it certainly contains the most offensive truth.  Namely, that salvation is found through Jesus Christ and Him alone.

There is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 2:5)

My outline of this text was simple.  I sought to merely take this verse apart word-by-word and put it back together.

1.  One Sovereign Master (There is one God)

A.  An emphatic statement (There is)

Not maybe, might be, or perhaps.  There is one God.

B.  An exclusive statement (one)

Into a polytheistic culture Moses said, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One."  Paul agrees.

C.  An evident statement (God)

The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.  Creation itself testifies to the existence of God.  Only the fool has said in his heart "There is no God." (Psalm 14)

2.  One Single Mediator (One mediator also between God and men)

A.  The depravity of man (One mediator)

The reason we need a mediator is because we have offended God by our actions and our nature.

B.  The demands of justice (between)

The holiness of God demands that we be separated from Him.  God in His righteous judgment cannot fellowship with us in our sin.

C.  The desire of God (God and men)

The mediator extends from God to men and not from men to God.  God is initiating, extending, and offering salvation to mankind.  Since He is the offended party, He alone retains the right to determine the terms of reconciliation.

3.  One Saving Messiah

A.  His humanity (the man)

While never ceasing to be God, Christ became man.  (John 1:1, 14)

B.  His deity (Christ)

The clear teaching of Scripture is that Christ was Divine.  Not all man and no God.  Not all God and no man.  Not 1/2 God and 1/2 man.  He was 100% God and 100% man.  He was as much man as if He was not God at all and as much God as if not man at all.

The reason that is important in His qualifications as a mediator is this:  A bridge must be able to touch both banks of the river.  A mediator must be able to understand and relate to both parties.  Certainly there are many religous leaders who can relate to humanity.  But only One can relate to both God and man for only Jesus Christ was both human and divine.

When Bible-believing Christians speak of the exclusive nature of Christ we are not intending to speak in a derogatory way of other religious leaders.  We are simply saying, "That bridge is out."  For example, you can leave the river bank of humanity on a bridge called Mohammed and you can travel that bridge for a while.  But before you get to God, the bridge will be out and you will fall headlong into hell.  You can travel the bridge of Confucius, Buddha, or Joseph Smith.  Before you get to heaven and to God, the bridge will prove too short and you will fall into an eternity of judgment.

If you travel the bridge of Mary worship...bridge out.  If you travel the bridge of water baptism and so-called, "holy communion"...bridge out.  If you travel the bridge of good works and membership at the Southern Baptist church...bridge out.  If you are traveling the extra-biblical bridge of a "confirmation class" you will soon find that bridge, too, is out.

C.  His agony (Jesus)

"Jesus" means "The Lord Saves."  By His grace, God did not merely design a great bridge (the man Christ) but He also built that bridge at a place called Calvary (Jesus).  For a bridge to work, it has to get off the architect's drafting table, off the structural engineer's desk and get planted in concrete and steel.  "The man Christ," God in human flesh offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin.  Through His death, burial, and resurrection He actually built the bridge of Divine reconciliation.  Rather than opening the bridge with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, He simply cried out, "It is finished."

By far, the most commented-on portion of the message so far was my recitiation of several interviews in which prominent preachers gave less-than-stellar answers regarding the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.  These transcripts are available online.

On June 16, 2005 Billy Graham appeared on Larry King Live

KING: But what about those faiths…like the Jews, the Muslims, who don't believe (in Christ).
GRAHAM: That's in God's hands. I can't be the judge.

KING: You don't judge them?


KING: How do you feel when you see a lot of these strong Christian leaders go on television and say, you are condemned, you will live in hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ, and they are forceful and judgmental?

GRAHAM: Well, they have a right to say that, and they are true to a certain extent, but I don't -- that's not my calling. My calling is to preach the love of God…You can get off on all kinds of different side trends, and in my earlier ministry, I did the same, but as I got older, I guess I became more mellow and more forgiving and more loving.
Wow...preaching that faith in Christ is required for salvation is now a "side trend?"  Given his age, this would be almost excusable as a misstatement except for the fact Dr. Graham has a long-documented history of duplicity on this issue.

Joel O’Steen on Larry King Live, June 20, 2005

KING: What if you're Jewish or Muslim, you don't accept Christ at all?

OSTEEN: You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know ...

KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They're wrong, aren't they?

OSTEEN: Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person's heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don't know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don't know. I've seen their sincerity. So I don't know.
It is rather telling that the pastor of the largest religious group in America does not understand this basic fundamental of the faith.

Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club in April 2008

MODERATOR: “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me.’ Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?”

WRIGHT: “Jesus also said, ‘Other sheep have I who are not of this fold.’”
Wright's clear implication was that Jesus said that He had sheep who were not, in fact, Christian believers. Ironically, he only quoted ½ of John 10:16 where Jesus said, “I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must bring them also and they will hear My voice. They will become one flock with Me, the One Shepherd.”

My prayer is that God will use this message in a polytheistic and pluralistic society to remind believers and non-believers alike, "There is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Most: Key Verses of the Bible

This Sunday morning I will begin a brand new series of messages called, "The Most."  Each of these messages will dissect and declare the truth from a single verse of the Bible.  The common thread in this series is that each verse will be the most _______ verse in the Scripture.  Sermons will include:

The Most Offensive Verse in the Bible
The Most Patriotic Verse in the Bible
The Most Misunderstood Verse in the Bible
The Most Loved Verse in the Bible
The Most Famous Verse in the Bible
The Most Neglected Verse in the Bible
The Most Comforting Verse in the Bible

...and perhaps others.

I do not do a lot of topical preaching but I am sincerely looking forward to this brief departure from book studies.  This new series begins with a look at "The Most Offensive Verse in the Bible."  The verse I have chosen may not actually be the most offensive verse.  But I am confident it conveys the most offensive truth to be found in the Bible.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Following Doctor's Orders

This past Sunday as I concluded our "First Aid for the Family" series, I shared a final TOP TEN list.  These are the "Top Ten Things I Would Have Never Known Without Children."  Enjoy.

10. No matter what the TV ad says, “Simply Orange” will not erase a Magic Marker or Sharpie from ceramic tile.

9. The nostril of a 2-year old and an English Pea are exactly the same size.

8. Whoever invented the pacifier deserves a Nobel Peace Prize and a Congressional Medal of Honor.

7. 3 o’clock comes twice a day.

6. “Do you want a spanking?” is a perfectly legitimate question!

5. If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42-pound boy wearing Batman underwear and a superman cape.

4. Whoever coined the phrase, “slept like a baby” apparently did not have children.

3. A penny will pass through the digestive tract of a two-year-old in about 2 ½ days.

2. When you hear the toilet flush followed by the words “Uh-oh,” it's already too late.

1. One man could ever have so much joy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Building a Christian Home

Sunday morning in our series, "First Aid for the Family" I shared a quote from Larry Fowler's book, "Raising a Modern Day Joseph."  After multiple requests I've decided to post the quote.  I wholeheartedly recommend the entire book.

You simply won’t succeed without consistent, committed involvement of the parents working hand in hand with your church. Why? Because for the Christian youth, the home is the most important element.  Without the cooperation of the Christian home, the child is being told Christianity is one thing at church and seeing something entirely different at home.

A youth from a non-believing home doesn’t expect home life to be like what the church says – so there is little confusion. Not so with a youth from an uninvolved, unspiritual “Christian” home!”  In fact, the highest risk young person is not the one from a non-believing home but rather one from a hypocritical Christian home.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Raise a Rebel

In our "First Aid for the Family" series, the top ten lists just keep on the coming.  The last two lists were intended to be humorous (though true!) but there's nothing funny about this one.  Taken from the message, "Raising Healthy Kids in a Sick World," here are some sure-fire ways to raise a pagan child.

The entire sermon may be heard at

Top Ten Ways to Raise a Rebel

1) Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.

2) Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. That way he will learn first-hand how to have a dysfunctional home.

3) When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he’s cute when he sins.

4) Make him go to church but don’t let it affect the way you actually live. That way he will rebel against God but will be so inoculated by religion he won’t know it.

5) Never speak about spiritual things in the home. Wait until he is twenty-one and then “let him decide for himself.”

6) Avoid use of the word, "wrong". He may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.

7) Let him read any printed material, and listen to any music he can get his hands on. Be careful that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.

8) Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.

9) Take his part against neighbors, teachers, and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.

10) Prepare for a life of grief. You will most likely have one.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Paper Pastors

A friend sent me this link and it is perhaps one of the best blog posts I have ever read. It's a finely-crafted analogy and well worth sharing here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Things Every Wife Needs to Know

This morning in preaching part 2 of our new family series, I shared a "top ten list" of things every husband wants his wife to know. Actually, since men need extra help, this list includes eleven things. They are shared (tongue-in-cheek).

1. I don’t really need or want all the details. Get to the point.

2. Learn to work the toilet seat. If it’s up, put it down.

3. Tell me what you want. Subtle hints don’t work. Obvious hints don’t work. Just tell me what you want!

4. I own 3 pairs of shoes. I don’t know or care which of your 75 pairs of shoes would look best with that dress.

5. I don’t see why “yes” and “no” are not perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question!

6. There’s a reason you think that dress doesn’t flatter you. Save an argument and please don’t ask me about it.

7. If something I said can be taken 2 ways, and one of them makes you mad, I meant it the other way.

8. I only know 5 colors. Peach is a fruit. Lilac is a flower. And I have no idea what mauve is.

9. I am not a mind-reader. My lack of ability to read your mind is not proof that I do not love you!

10. If I ask you what’s wrong and you say, “nothing” I will act like nothing’s wrong. I know you’re lying but it’s not worth the hassle.

11. When I’m staring off, don’t ask me what’s on my mind unless you want to discuss bass fishing, deer stands, or whether or not Pete Rose ought to be allowed into the Hall of Fame.
By the way, for those in the 9am service, get a CD of the 10:30 message...You will hear what I "meant" to say. You gotta love the time change (yawn).

Monday, March 1, 2010

First Aid for the Family

This Sunday morning I am beginning a 4-part series on the family. It has been several years since I have really preached a family series and my pastoral discernment tells me the time is right. Our series is going to be called, "First Aid for the Family." The Scripture text will be taken from Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and will cover 4 topics.

Sunday, March 7
Doctor Dad

No one in the entire household is better positioned to remedy what ails the family than Daddy. Oh, yes, others need to cooperate but it begins with a properly trained and well-equipped husband and father. When it comes to "First Aid for the Family" God is calling on husbands to step up and be trained as family doctors!

Sunday, March 14
Nurse Mom

I wish every husband had the privilege of being married to a woman like my wife, Andrea. This second message will include a lot of instruction about being a Christ-honoring wife. Of course, I know nothing about that personally :) but I've learned a lot from reading the Bible and watching my bride.

Sunday, March 21
Raising Healthy Kids in a Sick World

As a parent of young children, this has been the most challenging part of my sermon preparation. The world we live in is infecting our children with spiritual viruses of the worst kind. God has called their mother and me to stay by their "sick-bed" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and do all we can to keep them healthy. With a strong word to parents about their responsibilities to their kids, this may be the most sobering sermon in the series.

Sunday, March 28
Following Doctor's Orders

In His infinite wisdom, God knows that children need training and instruction. And no one is better able to write that spiritual prescription than Mom and Dad. In this final message, I will share a pastoral plea with young children to honor and obey their parents. Following these doctor's orders will result in their good and the glory of God...just what the Great Physician ordered.