Friday, October 28, 2011

Is Mormonism Christian?

This video is from our mid-week pastor's Bible study on October 26, 2011.  In a simple, laid-back, classroom style the basic doctrines of Mormonism and Orthodox Christianity are contrasted and found to be in substantial contradiction to one another.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fall Revival with Don Hattaway

Dr. Hattaway
We are so blessed that Dr. Don Hattaway has agreed to be our Fall revival speaker.  Brother Don is no stranger to Emmanuel, having served as our senior pastor from November 1993 to February 2002.  He is currently the longest-serving pastor in church history.  It was my great privilege to serve as his minister of music for over half of that time.

Emmanuel experienced incredible days of expansion and renewal under Dr. Hattaway’s leadership. Emmanuel became known state-wide as a leader in Sunday School and evangelistic growth.  In the Fall of 2000, Brother Don led the church to embrace a vision to build our current sanctuary.  The growth and expansion we’ve seen since that time is but a continuation of the faithful foundation God used him (and those before him) to help lay.

For nearly 10 years now Brother Don has been the senior pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville  That church has also experienced wonderful days of revival and growth during Pastor Don’s tenure.  Brother Don also has a media ministry which can be accessed at

Our Fall Revival will begin on Sunday, October 2nd and continue through Wednesday night October 5th.  The choir will be singing in each service and there will be other special music as well.  You will not want to miss a single service!

My love for Don Hattaway is no secret.  It will be a delight to spend 4 days with him in October.  But more importantly, I want to spend those days (and my time between now and then) in the presence of God, asking Him to pour out revival on His people.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The GBC Needs a Church-Planting President

Copied from

In these days of increasing lostness in our state, Georgia Baptists need fresh visionary leadership. We need the kind of leadership that embraces various worship styles, multi-generational ministries, and a truly missional mindset. John Waters is that man.

Georgia needs a convention president that understands the importance of church planting…a president who doesn’t just TALK about it. A president that actually DOES it. Frankly, it’s time Georgia Baptists had a president who believes in and practices church planting. The army of faithful church planters across Georgia deserves to have leadership that understands church planting from personal experience.

Others may talk about reaching out and building bridges. John Waters and the folks at First Baptist in Statesboro are actually doing it. With a brand new contemporary church plant for Bulloch County called Southbridge Community Church, John Waters and his congregation are intensely committed to reaching a whole generation of people who would probably never come to a “First Baptist Church.” John Waters understands the issue is not bringing them to First Baptist. The issue is, bringing them to Jesus!

Hey Georgia Baptist church planters, there’s a bold new leader with fresh ideas and a missional mindset coming your way in November 2011. You may have never gone to the convention before. But this year would be a great start.

The GBC meets at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville. The presidential election is Tuesday, November 15th.

Plan. Go. Register. Vote. And vote for John Waters.

It’s time to have a church-planting pastor as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Go to for more information or check out First Baptist’s commitment to this new work at

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Outside Preaching Schedule

My first calling and my first love is to pastor Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Preaching 3x per week (most weeks I preach Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday PM) I will be in the EBC pulpit about 130 times this year.  But as the Lord leads I have the blessing from time to time to preach in other places.  If you are in the area I would be delighted to have you drop by one of these special revivals.

August 22
Awesome August Nights
Brandy Branch Baptist Church
Bryceville, FLA
Rusty Bryan, pastor

September 18-21
Fall Revival
First Baptist Church
Buford, GA
Matt Stacy, senior pastor

September 29
Guest Chapel Speaker
Truett-McConnell College

October 18
Guest Speaker
Women's Enrichment Center
Blairsville, GA

*This is a fundraiser for a pro-life organization. Bring your most sacrificial gift when you come!

October 20
Guest Speaker for annual meeting
Mallary Baptist Association
Meeting at First Baptist Church
Sylvester, GA

January 20, 2012
Real Evangelism Conference
Second Baptist Church
Warner Robins, GA

January 22-24, 2012
Upstate Bible Conference
Anniston, Aalabama

March 2, 2012
Annual Men's Conference
Centennial Baptist Church
Rutledge, GA
John Darsey, senior pastor

March 9-10, 2012
Real Evangelism Conference
First Baptist Church of Indian Trail
Charlotte, NC

March 23-24, 2012
Real Evangelism Conference
Wheeler Grove Baptist Church
Corinth, MS

Rick Coram's PowerLife Student Camps (June and July)

Rick Coram's PowerLife Bible Conference (July 13-14 at St. Simon's, GA)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nominations for GBC Officers, 2011-2012

Vice Presidential Nominees (in alphabetical order)

Pastor John Darsey
Pastor John Darsey is no stranger to me or my congregation.  I've known John since we attended undergraduate school together at Valdosta State.  Emmanuel Baptist got to know him while he was pastor at First Baptist in Hazlehurst.  Since that time, John has accepted the call to serve as pastor of Centennial Baptist in Rutledge.  He preaches with the zeal of a prophet and the wisdom of a pastor.  His service will be a gift to Georgia Baptists.

It will be my personal privilege to serve as the nominator for my dear friend, Pastor John Darsey.

Pastor Ray Newman
 Pastor Ray Newman needs little introduction to GA Baptists.  Ray has given a lifetime of service to our convention.  He served as specialist in the brotherhood ministry before going to the office of convention planning.  Ray Newman has ably planned the logistical details of our annual meeting for several years.  If you've attended, you've benefited from his skill and his love for GA Baptists.  Brother Ray presently serves as pastor of Macedonia Community Baptist Church in Braselton.  Evangelist Tommy Fountain is the announced nominator.

Pastor and Mrs. Tony Samples
Pastor Tony Samples serves at Pickett's Mill Baptist in Dallas.  Tony is a well-respected leader among GBC pastors.  He has served on a variety of committees in denominational life.  Tony will bring a love for the past and a passion for the future into his position as vice president.  I was glad to learn that Bryan Alexander would be nominating my friend, Tony.

Pastor Terry Trivette
Pastor Terry Trivette rounds out the list of vice-presidential nominees.  Terry is a 33-year old preaching machine.  A published author, he truly is one of the finest young preachers in the state (and beyond).  The son of pastor Ken Trivette, Terry possesses Godly wisdom that far exceeds his years.  He serves the congregation of White Oak Baptist in Trenton.  I am so grateful that our convention leaders desire young pastors like Terry to be involved.  And I am blessed he has agreed to be nominated by Pastor Jeff Daniels.

Our convention elects 4 vice presidents who serve in order (by voting) as 1st VP, 2nd VP, 3rd VP, and 4th VP.  These men represent a great mix of seasoned experience and youthful vigor.  I hope you will support these men with your prayers and presence at the 2011 annual meeting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Dog-Gone Day at the Office

I spent ALL DAY yesterday in the office with a 2,000 year old Syrophoenecian woman. She simply wouldn't tell me why Jesus seems to have called her a dog in Mark 7. And like a good woman, she pointed out that if I really wanted to communicate with her I should have spent a little more time developing a relationship with her instead of spending 2 days at a Bible conference this week :)

I begged from weary pastoral knees.

I pleaded as frustrated tears poured from my bloodshot eyes.

I explained that I thought I was ready to deal with her 2 weeks ago...before going on vacation. But it seemed that the more time I spent with her the less I understood her. She smiled and made some remark about how I should understand that dilemma after 16 years of marriage.

All I knew to do was to hire a few friends to help question her.

I hired Matthew Henry to begin the inquisition. Honestly, I didn't understand a thing he said to her but I am sure it was accurate. And his books look really good on my shelf.  I nodded as he spoke so I'd at least LOOK semi-intelligent.

John Phillips came back from the dead to "explore" the matter. The blood-bought Brit wrestled, wrangled, and writhed with her. But despite his prodding, poking, and pleading she provided no remark! No reason! No relenting! There was no answer! No admission! No acknowledgement!

Warren Wiersbe's line of questioning was too balanced for such a hard case.

When Jerry Vines raked her over, all she wanted to talk about was her demon-possessed daughter.  Her words provided great "Help for Hurting Parents" but it wasn't the exact information I was seeking.

Dr. Falwell strode in with the Old Time Gospel Hour Bible Commentary.  At the end of his spiel she enrolled in 3 classes at Liberty...but said nothing about the whole "dog" thing.  And the distinct smell of cigarette smoke on the old Baptist reminded me to never buy books from smokers on eBay again!

Calvin said he was predestined to simply smack her with the truth.  If it was the Sovereign will of God for her to speak she would be irresistibly led to do so.  No pragmatic devices would be employed on his part to get her to speak.  If she'd been Baptist he could have threatened her with martyrdom.  But alas, she was a Canaanite.  So having no other choice, he elected to leave.

I thought she would relent when I brought in MacArthur. He got right in her face with a report about a parallel incident from Matthew 15. She mumbled something about Markan priority and clammed up again.

Mark Driscoll got further with her than any of the others...letting loose on her with a string of blistery questions more appropriate to a drunken sailor (OK, not really a drunken sailor because the Bible clearly condemns drunkenness.  Just a sailor that had overextended his use of Christian liberty).  But alas, I couldn't use any of his material in the polite company of the Emmanuel pulpit so in the end it was useless.

Herbert Lockyer did ALL he knew to do before resigning.

David Cloud came in with the Sword of the Lord commentaries.  He dressed her down over her short hair style, her NKJV, and for even being in the office of a compromising Southern Baptist preacher.  It had something to do with Billy Graham talking to the Pope back in the 70's.  I didn't really follow his line of questioning but I do know it had nothing to do with the matter at hand in Mark 7.

Just when I thought I would have to take out the rubber hose and the water board, I remembered something.  This old Syrophoenecian woman was a redeemed slave of Jesus.  Indeed, she was one of a very small number of Gentiles actually saved during Jesus' earthly life.  Some say the only one. 

Maybe if I asked Him, He would tell me why He dealt with her that way.  Yes!  That's it!  Since all the Bible is really about Jesus, why had I been wasting my time asking her?  I needed to ask Him!

And boy, oh boy...when Jesus revealed why He said that thing about dogs eating the kids' food...well, I nearly had revival in my office.

I can hardly wait to spill the beans Sunday morning at 9a and 10:30a.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Should I Study the Bible?

I had forgotten all about this message until someone emailed me to say it had been a blessing.  Perhaps you will be blessed by it and it will drive you to a place of Bible study.  It's more than a year old.  But truth never changes.

Why Should I Study The Bible? from ebchurch on Vimeo.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Want to be Like Andrew

Last night we went over the devotional for family worship week. It dealt with "serving others."

We spent some time thanking God for the kind acts of others toward us. Then we began to discuss someone that we could encourage through an act of Christian kindness. God laid someone’s name on my heart. When I shared it, the suggestion was warmly embraced by the entire family.

We committed to pray and ask God what he wanted us to give toward a financial need. Each of my 3 kids has multiple “piggy banks” so I thought it would be good to teach them to give some of their own money rather than merely giving a “family gift” from Mom and Dad’s checking account. They were assigned to spend some time praying for the Spirit’s guidance.

Andrew (age 7) woke up this morning and said, "God told me to give everything in my blue piggy bank." I asked, "How much is in it?" He shrugged his shoulders and replied, "I don't know." So we emptied the bank, counted the money, and rolled the coins this morning.

With the final tally, he is going to give $43.24. I don’t know who is more pleased by the gift. Him or me?

Reflecting on this event has brought several things to mind.

1. My son has a heart of compassion. Andrea and I have often commented that we do not know a kinder person in the world than our son. Sure, he has his selfish and sinful moments. But his heart is tender toward the needs of others. I need to be more like Him because he is more like Jesus in this area of his life.

2. We believe in tithing, not out of legalism but out of love. But this was a “special offering” so I told the kids, “Just pray and do what God said to do.” When Andrew was willing to give all the money in his bank without even knowing how much it was, it really pictured this simple truth: If God said “give it all” then it really did not matter how much “all” was. I am challenged by his simple heart of obedience.

3. God has been good to our family. We are not wealthy people (by American standards) but we’ve made some wise decisions that God has honored, in part by blessings we’ve received from others. When my middle child has $43 sitting in one of his several piggy banks, it is a sign that we are a blessed people. This thought does not lead me toward asceticism…to feel guilty about my blessings. Rather, it just makes me feel grateful.

4. I am a blessed man. My wife and my kids love me and they love Jesus.

I am convinced I have the spiritual gift of giving. Nevertheless, God spoke to me this morning through the mouth of a child. I need to be more committed than ever before to using my blessings and my possessions to build the Kingdom and to bless others. I feel like God has allowed us to do that as our regular practice. But we can always do better and we can always do more.

So thanks for being obedient, Andrew. God taught Daddy a lesson through your kind and generous heart. One of the greatest joys of my life is watching you fall more in love with Jesus as you grow in His knowledge and grace.

Daddy wants to be like you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

South Georgia Bible Conference 2011

I am honored to be preaching in a few weeks at the 26th annual South Georgia Bible Conference. Pastor Wayne Robertson and the wonderful family of faith at Morningside in Valdosta have hosted this dynamic conference for more than a quarter of a century. Over the years I have enjoyed attending the conference for a time of renewal and personal refreshing. Now this will be my 5th year on the program. I could not be more humbled.

I dearly love Pastor Wayne.  When people learn that Valdosta is my home they often assume I grew up at Morningside. I am tempted to let their assumption go unaddressed! Of course I am grateful for the Godly men and women that did shape my life in other churches as a young boy. But Brother Wayne Robertson has proven himself to me to be “12 inches to the foot and 3 feet to the yard” as the saying goes.

This year’s program on July 17-20 is a special blessing to me. In addition to the staff evangelists (Sam Cathey and Bill Sturm) and gifted musicians from MBC, Brother Wayne always puts a great program together. Let me introduce my church family to a few of these guest preachers in hopes you will be able to drive over to Valdosta for one or more of the preaching sessions.

Gerald Harris is one of my favorite people on this planet. A scholar’s scholar, he is the editor of The Christian Index. Brother Gerald is a veteran pastor, a former president of the GBC, and unquestionably one of the greatest preachers of our day. The last several times I’ve heard him preach he has demonstrated the passion of a pastor and the power of a prophet. As a footnote, my only hesitation about preaching at this conference is that I share one of the preaching sessions with Dr. Harris…an unenviable position to say the least!

Herman Parker leads the congregation at First Baptist Church in Bremen, GA. The first time I recall hearing him preach was at the annual session of the GBC. If my frail memory is correct, it was the day that Adrian Rogers passed away. Brother Herman’s powerful sermon on the ministry of John the Baptist is still etched in my mind. No place for rivalry! No place for jealousy! No place for sympathy! It really is just the sovereignty of God that every Southern Baptist doesn’t know the name “Herman Parker.” I eagerly await hearing him expound God’s Word.

Clifford Palmer will be with us from Rogers, Arkansas. He is the former pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale (now Cross Church). I am told that Adrian Rogers once stated that if he could only subscribe to the cassette ministry of one preacher he would choose Clifford Palmer. After hearing Brother Palmer preach last year on “The Doctrine of Imputation” it’s easy to see why that statement could be true!

John Waters has been a friend of mine for over a dozen years. I met him through our mutual friend, Don Hattaway. Brother John has done a superlative job serving as pastor of First Baptist Church in Statesboro. Many of our college students attending Georgia Southern have benefited from the ministry of that wonderful fellowship. Earlier this year it was announced that John would be the conservative candidate for our state convention presidency. As of now no other candidate has been announced but I believe John will do an outstanding job. I look forward to hearing him preach in Valdosta.

Jack Price, David Tew, Martha Sturm and the music ministry from MBC will provide soul-stirring music. It really would be worth the drive to Valdosta if you get a chance to go! The sessions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are at 9:30am and 7pm. Emmanuel family, if you can’t make it please pray for your pastor that I may preach with boldness and compassion.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Great Prayer from My 7 Year Old

"The Beast" is our president's armored Caddy
Tonight our family was praying for our governmental leaders as part of EBC's Family Worship Week.

My 7yr old was assigned to pray for our president. When he thanked God for the president's "magic car" I started to chasten him. Then I realized he was talking about the president's armored car, "The Beast." You're right, Andrew. We should thank God for protecting our president.

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

EBC Family Worship Week

For those who are looking for the "EBC Family Worship Week" blog, here it is along with today's devotional.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Great Loves

Nectar of the gods
Without a doubt my greatest love is the Lord.  I take seriously the age-old commandment to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  But as I celebrate a few milestones I want to express a few of my more "earthly" loves.

No...I'm not writing a post about coffee and Mountain Dew :)

June 23, 2011
My first thoughts go to my sweet bride.  What would I do without her?  She is to my heart what air is to my lungs.  In a few weeks we will celebrate 16 years of marriage.  I do not know where the time has gone but I know how the time has gone.  Joyfully.  Peacefully.  Gratefully.  And blessed.

Easter 2011

Then of course there are my precious children.  I take the task of being a Godly father more seriously with each fleeting day.  With my son's 7th birthday party this weekend I can see my opportunities to "raise them up" flashing before my eyes.  No doubt about it.  I would die for them.  But I'd rather die to myself and live for them.

My other great love is Emmanuel Baptist Church.  Last week I celebrated my 9th anniversary as senior pastor.  And my niece's 15th birthday party last weekend reminded me that we've been at EBC for a total of nearly 15 years. 

Emmanuel Baptist Church
It's a long story...but it was her birth that brought us to Blackshear for a visit.  That night in the summer of 1996 we came to this dear city to have supper with a young pastor and his wife, Don and Sonny Hattaway.  I had no idea we were fellowshipping with a man who would become my pastor, my boss, my Bible teacher, my predecessor, and one of the dearest friends I would ever have.  And little did I know that a quick dinner at Shoney's in Waycross, GA would lead me to be a part of the greatest fellowship of believers in the world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Family Worship Week

Our 2nd annual "Family Worship Week" begins this Sunday morning.  To help folks keep up with all the fun and activities, we've set up a brand new blog.  Stop by for all the latest news.

Mark this page as one of your favorites, at least for the next week and a half!

We'll be posting daily devotionals, videos, coloring sheets, activities, and announcements related to EBC's Family Worship Week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lord, You're Holy

Lord, You're Holy from ebchurch on Vimeo.

My favorite soloist sings with my favorite choir.  I am a blessed husband and pastor :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Weekend

I am excited and challenged by the preaching opportunities before me this weekend.

Sunday morning at EBC we are continuing our Sunday series through the gospel according to Mark. I have really enjoyed this series as Mark portrays Jesus is the Son of God and the servant of God’s people. In our 15th lesson we will examine the familiar story of the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter.

As we’ve seen in this sermon series, the miracles that Mark records reveal the power and the purpose of Christ. For example, the power He manifests over sickness is symbolic of His power over sin. What He does in the natural realm is a picture of what He desires to accomplish in the supernatural realm. These accounts are certainly real literal events but they are simultaneously glorious pictures of the grace of our Lord.

This is certainly true in the case of Mark 5 and Jesus’ encounter with Jairus. The resurrection of this precious 12 year old girl is a beautiful symbol of the salvation of our children. Our children are born in need of a Savior. Paul says they are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Jairus sought out the Savior and begged Him to come to his home because his daughter needed a touch from Jesus. As a result his faith was forever deepened, his future was forever changed and his family was forever impacted because one day this daddy brought Jesus home to raise his daughter from the dead.

What kind of commitment did it take to see his little girl raised from death to life?

What barriers did Jairus have to overcome in order to see Christ do a miraculous work of grace in his home?

Who were Jairus’ biggest critics, skeptics, and scoffers?

We will examine each of these questions on Sunday morning. As a father of 3 young children I am challenged by Jairus’ example. He serves as a Biblical role model of doing “whatever it takes” to see Jesus do a work in my kids’ lives. I am excited to study his commitment to his little girl and to his big God.

Pastor John Darsey
On Sunday night, I am honored to preach the installation service for a dear friend of mine. Pastor John Darsey has ably served First Baptist in Hazlehurst for over 6 years. Recently, he has accepted the senior pastorate at Centennial Baptist Church in Rutledge, GA. This is a dynamic church of believers and John is going to do a tremendous job there.

This Sunday is John’s first official day as their pastor. The evening service will feature an official installation service, laying on of hands, etc. It will be a privilege of mine to be in this great church and preach in honor of my friend and in honor of our Lord.

I don’t like to be gone from EBC very often on Sundays. In fact, I’ve preached 18 of the last 20 messages in the EBC pulpit and was present to hear 1 of the other 2. But I am delighted to be invited to preach at Centennial this Sunday evening. Pray for me as I travel and for John as he begins an exciting new ministry in Rutledge, GA.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Greatest Miracle

The Greatest Miracle from ebchurch on Vimeo.

I really enjoyed preaching this message.  I pray it's a blessing to you.

And this is the song I asked Rhon to sing...minus the white-man afro...and minus the pinky ring :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Death of My Friend and a Motorcycle in Haiti

Good night my friend.
I'll see you in the morning.
This afternoon, my friend and fellow church member Jerry Strickland went home to be with the Lord Jesus.  I take great comfort in that thought.  But there is another thought that is quite compelling.  This thought gripped my heart tonight as I preached in the PM service from Mark 3:13-19 on "12 Men that Changed the World."

I had just come from a bereavement call to Jerry's house to visit his precious family.  Flying into the parking lot on two wheels, I made it into the service with a few minutes to spare.  So Jerry's death was fresh on my mind as I preached a sermon on the characteristics of people God uses to change the world.

My body was in Blackshear at Emmanuel Baptist Church.  But for a flash, my mind was in Gonaives, Haiti on a 2010 mission trip with my dearly-departed friend.  Jerry and I were traveling in a little truck with a Haitian pastor named John and a missionary.  Pastor John was asking the missionary if he could possibly borrow his vehicle.

As we listened to this conversation it became obvious to Jerry and to me that Pastor John was trying to shepherd 2 Haitian congregations many, many miles apart.  He was spending a great deal of his life walking between his 2 churches.  For Pastor John, the cost of a motorcycle (the best means of travel there) was prohibitive.

"How much does a good used motorcycle cost here in Haiti...and can you even get one," I asked.

"Oh yes, we can get one in Port au Prince," the missionary replied.  "But a good reliable used one would be about $1200 US dollars."

From the back seat, Jerry and I commented on how surprised we were...and convicted at the relatively low cost.  $1200 for us was a good sum of money but not prohibitive.  What for us would be a family vacation could literally change Pastor John's life as he sought to change Haiti for Christ.

Back at the missionary's house, Jerry came to me privately and said, "I want us to buy Pastor John that motorcycle."  Jerry really wanted us to go ahead and buy that motorcycle.  I said, "Jerry I can't make that kind of commitment for our church although I agree we ought to do it."

Jerry appreciated my desire to not make a $1200 commitment on my own.  But he was not to be dissuaded.  "I will go ahead and commit to buy the whole thing myself if we can't get some others to chip in."  With that commitment I gave the go-ahead to the missionary to buy Pastor John a motorcycle with the understanding that we would wire the money when we returned to Georgia.

Landing in Jacksonville, Jerry rode with me and 2 others back to Blackshear.  We dropped the others off at their house and I took Jerry home.  At his house, Jerry went to a special place and retrieved 3 crisp $100 bills.  "Here's my part," he said.  "And if nobody else wants to get in on it, come back and I'll give you the rest."

I protested.  In nearly 20 years of vocational ministry I had never taken cash from a church member for any reason.  I saw no reason to change my policy.  It's just not smart.  "Just put it in the offering plate Sunday in a designated envelope, Jerry.  I do not handle cash!"

But again Jerry Strickland would not be dissuaded.

Shoving the generous offering into my hands he said, "If I can trust you to preach the Bible to me every Sunday I can trust you with $300!"  Seeing the tears in his eyes and hearing the crack in his voice I immediately discerned this occasion would be an exception to my rule.

"Brother Jerry, I will take this if you make me a promise.  Be sure to check your contribution record for a $300 love offering.  And if you don't see it you tell the church office and we will make it right."  He waved me off with a non-verbal gesture that clearly said, "I'll do no such thing!"

We did have some other funds contributed to help buy pastor John's motorcycle.  But Jerry's commitment to buy the whole thing if necessary is what made the transaction possible.  A few weeks later when our missions report included a picture of Pastor John grinning from ear-to-ear on his motorcycle, I looked back at Jerry.  He looked at the floor in a Divine mix of humility and gratitude to God.

So tonight as I grieve the death of my friend and consider the characteristics of people who "change the world," I am overjoyed with this reality.  Somewhere tonight in Haiti, a local pastor is going to bed a little more rested than he used to be on the Lord's Day.  And it's because a man like Jerry was willing to be used by God to change the world.

Jerry ministering in Jubilee Village
on the island of Haiti (Spring 2010)
Tonight as Wanda and her sweet family mourn the passing of a fine man, the gospel of Jesus is spreading across Haiti...carried in part on a $1200 motorcycle.

And the life of Jerry Strickland lives on.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What a View

A great pastor writes about a great view from a great mountain.  Praise God for occasional trips to "Mount Perspective."

Friday, May 13, 2011

In Everything Give Thanks

It was already promising to be a very busy weekend.  There was a Friday afternoon trip to Griffin, GA for a camp-out/birthday party for my nephew, time at the in-laws, a late Saturday evening wedding for my cousin in Macon, GA, preaching 2x Sunday morning, doing a Sunday afternoon wedding on St. Simon's for our nursery director, and an evening service back at EBC.

Feeling totally overwhelmed, I took Sarah to breakfast this morning for our weekly date.  When I got home about 9:45 I sat down to finalize Sunday morning's sermon.  Andrea had taken Sarah with her to go to the kids' field day at school.  I wanted to go but sermon prep was calling and Sunday was coming!

I had been sitting at the computer working on Mark 3 when I heard a noise.  It sounded like it had come from the back yard.  I was supposed to be home by myself so I got up to investigate.  That's when I heard the water running.  Had the sprinkler system come on by itself?

Walking into our new master closet (on the back corner of the house) I saw water running into the floor from underneath the wall.  When I ran outside to cut the water supply to that section of the house I saw water pouring out of the eaves of the house.

I immediately knew what had happened.  My long weekend had just gotten longer.

Last summer we added on a small bathroom and a master closet.  I had already discovered (several months ago) that one of the 2 plumbers we used on the project did NOT glue all the CPVC joints.  Just a simple oversight.  An honest mistake.  He'd obviously dry-fitted the plumbing and then gone back and glued the joints...well...most of them anyway.

One missed joint revealed itself when we first turned the water on back in September.  Today, about 8 months later, another unglued joint made its presence known.  This line ran overhead, in the ceiling above the new closet.  Why today?  I will never know.  And I doubt it will make my list of "top questions" to ask Jesus in eternity :)

As of this moment, I've pulled up the decking in the attic, glued (as opposed to re-glued) the joint, taken all the wet attic insulation into the back yard, taken the siding off the back corner of the house, removed that insulation, and offered a few prayers that the sheetrock dries before it starts buckling too badly.

In all this, I have a few things to be thankful for.

1.  I was home and heard the joint "pop."  A few more hours and we would have been gone for about 36 hours.  As bad as it was today, it would have been worse to find it at midnight Saturday night.  If 3-4 minutes made that much damage, I'd hate to see 1.5 days' worth.

2.  I know how to fix the stuff myself.  As a pastor, I can't afford to get into a debate with a local plumber.  It's just not a good testimony for me.  So we pastors kind of "take one for the team" on things like this.  Besides, it was just an honest mistake that could happen to anyone.  My insurance agent said my deductible was $1,000.  So...into the attic I go.

3.  It's a hot sunny day.  Really hot for ripping siding off your house or working in the attic...but a GREAT day to dry out insulation :)

4.  I did not get angry.  Several months ago when I preached a sermon called, "Taming the Temper" I confessed that God was dealing with me about getting frustrated too easily.  My anger is not typically one that shows itself.  It's the slow-burning internal kind.  Just as dangerous, mind you.  And just as sinful.

But I was about 2 hours into this project when it hit me...I've not gotten frustrated at all about this situation.  And believe me, this hectic weekend would have been the weekend to get really upset.  I cannot boast in my lack of anger.  It's just God's santifying grace in my life.  But I am so very thankful for it.

5.  In the last few hours I've been reminded how blessed I am.  For starters, this whole incident happened because of an ADDITION onto our house.  Secondly, I already have every tool and supply I need.  I could list them all but you get the idea.  We've got a lot of stuff.  This project is going to cost me about $5 for a new can of CPVC glue (and an awful lot of elbow grease!)

I've only stopped to take a break from the heat.  When the sun goes down I will start rebuilding the back corner of my house...a modest but nice home where 1 blessed pastor lives with his beautiful bride, his precious kids, and his grateful heart.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Prayer Request

My friend and church member, Jerry Strickland was placed under Hospice care today.  I got to know him best when we traveled together and bunked together on a mission trip to Gonaives, Haiti.  Tonight as I visit them before mid-week service, I am praying for a miracle...and trusting in Providence.

Monday, May 9, 2011

O Bless the Lord

O Bless The Lord from ebchurch on Vimeo.

From Christmas 2010.  I love this song and was blessed to solo along with my favorite choir and worship band.

The Best News...

Now Thats Good News from ebchurch on Vimeo.

I really enjoyed preaching this message on "Soul-Winning Commitment Sunday" back in January.  I pray it's a blessing to you.  And in case you're just stopping by and you are not a Christian, here is the good news:

1.  Jesus Christ can save anywhere.
2.  Jesus Christ can save anytime.
3.  Jesus Christ can save anybody.

Whew!  Now that's good news!

One Proud Daddy

"Before My Birthday" from ebchurch on Vimeo.

In case you haven't seen it, here's our 3 year-old singing on "Sanctity of Human Life Sunday" at EBC.  It has had about 4,000 unique views over on Vimeo.

Underneath my mother's heart waiting for nativity
I never was so tiny but what God's eyes
And long before my ears could hear
He called me by my name
In the darkness He watched me grow
He watched His creation

For long before my birthday
God was celebrating me
He knows the very moment
That my life came to be
And from the time He gave me life
He watched my tenderly
For long before my birthday
God was loving me.

My Favorite Choir

You Are Worthy from ebchurch on Vimeo.

My favorite choir sings a tremendous song.  It is great on video but nothing takes the place of sitting on the front row and hearing it "live."  I dearly love these folks!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Morning Sunshine

In light of Wednesday's post on "Redeeming the Time" I thought I'd share these two pictures.  I've been taking my little Sarah Sunshine to breakfast every Friday morning since just before her second birthday.  There's been a lot of Huddle House eaten in the last few years.

There are 2 pictures at the right.  The top one is from Easter Sunday, 2011.  The other is from our first weekly "Daddy/Daughter Date" back in August of 2009. the time is flying.  Time is like a nearly-expired coupon.  Better go redeem it while there's still time!

Well...gotta go.  It's Friday morning and I've got a hot date waiting on me :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Parent/Baby Dedication

One of the great joys of pastoring a growing church is officiating parent/baby dedication.  With a vibrant and young congregation it is a regular occurrence.  In fact, I am told something is in the water at EBC :)

On Monday of this week I had the blessing to visit in the home of one of our members who informed me that he and his wife were expecting.  On Tuesday I was in the home of another couple as they welcomed their new-born son home from the hospital.  After preaching mid-week service on Wednesday, I saw another couple on the church playground with their 2 kids.  They had the same joy-filled announcement!

And to think, none of that even counts the 13 children we will dedicate to the Lord this Sunday evening as part of our day-long celebration of motherhood.  We know this ceremony is not salvific in any way.  But it is a glorious picture of a time when Mom and Dad commit themselves to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of our Lord.

The cameras will be flashing and the camcorders will be rolling (do digital cameras actually "roll?") as we have a blessed time in the Lord's house this Sunday night.  And it will be a delight of all delights to "officially" begin my time serving as pastor to the newest members of our extended EBC family.  Emmanuel, I've told you many times.  My great delight is to be my wife's husband, my kids' Daddy, and a pastor to God's people. 

Bring an open Bible and a warm handshake Sunday night.  We are going to have a great time in Jesus along with a house full of guests!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Redeeming the Time

Tonight I preached in Ephesians 5 and the text dealt with "redeeming the time for the days are evil."  It was, at its core, a call to make the most of life in light of the swift-moving pace of time.
Job said, "My days are passing faster than a weaver's shuttle."

James said, "Life is like a vapor."

I say, "Wow!  When did my little girl get that big?!?!"

In preparation for tonight's message on the fleeting nature of life I was reminded that I've been at Emmanuel Baptist 14 1/2 years.  In a few weeks, Lord willing, I'll have my 9th anniversary as senior pastor.  And if the Lord tarries and lets me live, I should become EBC's longest-serving pastor in church history within the next several months.  The only reason that's important in this context is that it seems like we moved to Blackshear...well...yesterday.

So I've spent several days contemplating my ministry and recommitting myself to doing whatever would please God and bring Him maximum pleasure and glory.

After preaching on this subject I spent all of a late Wednesday evening supper time staring at my 8 year old and wondering where the time went.  She's becoming a beautiful little lady.  Even though she's finishing up the 2nd grade in a few weeks it seems like she was born...well...yesterday.

After supper I went upstairs and found some old pictures.  That's when I found the emotional final straw. 

There were some old high school photos. (1980's)

There were some little league ball photos. (1970's)

Then there was this picture.  It's a photo of my paternal grandparents (Hollis and Juanita Stone) celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.  This picture was made years ago (1/9/90) and they are both deceased now.  But it still seems like...well...yesterday.

Then it hit me.  If 20 years ago (for example) seems like yesterday, then 20 years from now may seem as if it is here as soon as tomorrow.  And the remainder of my life may seem like just a few more days.  And then my yet-to-be-born grandchildren may be looking at a picture of me thinking, "He sure does look old!"

Let me be clear.  My thoughts haven't been of the morbid "mid-life crisis" variety at all.  It's been invigorating, challenging, and motivating.  I am ready to take the world by the tail and make this day count.  And tomorrow.  And the next day.

Since I only have a limited number of days, I want them all to matter in the light of eternity.  So I'm getting up in the morning ready to be a disciple, a husband, a father, and a pastor.  I want this day to be a day that I help declare the glory of my God to the ends of the earth.

After all...the days are fleeting.  I need to redeem the time.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Sneak-Peek at Tomorrow's Lesson

Ever known professing believers who were always negative?  Who never had a good word to say about anyone or anything?  Ever wondered, "What causes that?"  Ever been forced to ask yourself, "Am I that way?"

Tomorrow morning in our continuing series in The Gospel According to Mark, we will discover at least one of the main reasons for this spiritual malady.  It's called P-R-I-D-E.  And the Pharisees were steeped in it.

I am really enjoying this new series in Mark.  Each lesson has brought me face to face with the Lord Jesus and face to face with myself.  Tomorrow's lesson will reveal that if we are full-time, professional critics, we should resign and find a new line of work. 

By the way, I am blessed that the wonderful congregation I serve does not need this sermon as a corrective Word.  But we can all receive it as a Word of caution.  If you are in the area, drop in to visit us at either 9am or 10:30am.  We've got a great SS class just for you and your family at either 9:15am or 10:30am.  The music is going to be great and the fellowship of the folks at Emmanuel is always sweet.

Tomorrow morning Christ will overturn the apple cart of religion and show us that the only cure for our spiritual malady is His cross.  I hope you can make it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pure Joy Really is...Pure Joy

When LifeWay Christian Resources was looking for a musical group to sing at the 2011 National Conference for Ministry Assistants at First Baptist Sevierville, TN, they didn't have to look any further than Emmanuel Baptist in Blackshear, GA.  So at their request, the ladies of Pure Joy pulled out this afternoon headed for the volunteer state.

Brother Rhon Carter has done a tremendous job preparing this musical group.  They have sung at a lot of different events and conferences over the years since we formed the group over a decade ago.  But this week will be their first opportunity to be on a truly national stage.  And it's well-deserved.

They sound great.  But that's not what makes them a pure joy to this pastor's heart.  You see, I know these girls.  They are all dear and devoted women of God.  They love their Savior, their church, their families, and their pastor.  And Andrea and I sure do love them.

Please join me in praying for Jamie Daniels, Samantha Hall, Michelle Kirkland, Brie Long, Sherri Robson, and Donna Wallace as they travel and lead this event.  By my count, they've left 11 kids at home between pray for their husbands too!

Seriously, I am thankful for their husbands and parents who will be shuffling responsibilities with home, jobs, and kids for the next few days.  Your sacrifice has helped make this trip possible.  I pray our Lord will bless you for your efforts.

If you are anywhere near the 2011 National Conference for Ministry Assistants then you are in for a real treat and a great delight.  In fact, by this pastor's estimation, you are in for some pure joy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dr. Jesus, HD

Tonight our sermon series through Mark continued with a message on “Dr. Jesus, HD.” At the conclusion of the message from Mark 2:13-17, I posed a series of questions. They are listed here for your consideration.

1. How do I view people that are lost without Christ? Am I burdened or am I boastful?

When I encounter people who are not followers of Christ, do I look down on them with a “holier-than-thou” attitude? Or is my heart grieved by their lost condition? In other words, which bothers me more: the idea that they are not meeting my standard or that they are in danger of dying under the just condemnation of God against their sin?

The example I used in the service tonight was this. Imagine I am at a restaurant and the person in the next booth has a foul mouth. Do I look down my religious nose, criticize them for “taking my Lord’s name in vain” and walk away? Or do I acknowledge, “There but by the grace of God go I?” Does their ungodly lifestyle lead me to criticize them or pray for them and seek to befriend them?

2. How much time do I spend around lost people for the purpose of showing the love of Christ?

Too often I am not only insulated but isolated. Christ spent time with sinners. It was not for the purpose of becoming like them. He spent time so they could become like Him. In our context, we don’t need people to become like us. We all need to become like Christ.

3. Do I have a critical spirit? In other words, do I enjoy correcting and chastening other people?

Some believers seem as if they were baptized in pickle juice. They’ve been weaned on persimmons and appear to be sucking on lemons. They’ve never seen a glass that was not half empty. And they spill their critical spirit on others at every turn.

Granted, there is a time to correct, for sure. And there certainly is a time to chasten. But it should be the least enjoyable part of our Christian walk. I realize that some spiritual gifts (teaching, for example) cause some of us to recognize doctrinal error more easily than others. And we do find a sense of fulfillment in bringing a word of correction through God’s Word. But that’s not really what I am referencing.

I’m talking about the spirit in which it is done. If you actually enjoy rebuking people, something is desperately wrong with your heart. Don’t attribute it to having the spirit of a prophet or being some spiritual watchdog. If you enjoy putting folks in their place, it’s probably because you are just plain mean.

We have some dear friends who once met a sister in Christ who seemed to enjoy putting others “in their place.” Her actual name was Rebecca. People who knew her best gave her the nickname, “Rebukah” because she loved rebuking people.

By the way, a good diagnostic question to ask is this, “When is the last time I found something commendable in my spouse…my kids…my pastor…and my church?”

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s spouse. I don’t have to live with them.

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s kids. They didn’t break your 5th generation family heirloom china.

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s pastor. I don’t know him like I think I do. If I did, I’d see he has feet of clay too.

It is always easy to find something commendable in someone else’s church. I need to remember that everybody in that other town doesn’t go to that other church. There’s a reason for that. It’s not the perfect church that I think it is.

So if the only people I can commend are people that, in reality, I don’t actually know then it may be a sign I have a critical and sour spirit.

4. Do I consider myself to be a doctor or a patient when it comes to spiritual matters?

If I am never a doctor, I can never help others. God certainly wants us to grow up and mature to the point we can help others. That’s a fact. But how often do I see myself in need of a touch from the Great Physician? If I am always the one doing the correcting but I am never able to be corrected, something is woefully wrong.

John MacArthur comments this way on our text, “So our Lord's gospel ministry as any gospel ministry since is concentrated on those who know they are sinners, admit they are sinners, desire forgiveness and turn to Christ, the only source of forgiveness, the only one who has the right to forgive. Well in apostate Judaism in the first century where you earned your salvation, this kind of grace, this friendship with sinners was an outrage and threatened, really, to bring their whole system down, it was so opposed to it. So they hated Jesus and they're already early in His ministry formulating a way to get rid of Him before He brings the collapse of their system down on their heads.”

And thus, the saddest part of this story in Mark 2 is that the Pharisees thought they were so spiritually healthy they did not need a Physician. And their self-inflicted misdiagnosis prevented Jesus from helping them. They were, in fact, dead men walking. And the Resurrection and the Life stood in their midst and they did not recognize Him. Their strict adherence to their religious system did not help them. It actually hindered from seeing who Christ was. In the end, their flawed perception of their spiritual health sent them to hell.

I pray God will help me maintain a regular appointment with Dr. Jesus, Heart Doctor. And may I be more faithful in telling others about the One who alone can transform their hearts.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Well Done, Ladies

In the next few weeks it is our joy to celebrate together with three outstanding members of our leadership team. Each of these ladies is making a transition in her life and ministry. I pray you will join me in expressing your gratitude to the Lord and to them for their service at Emmanuel.

Mrs. Kay Allen is stepping down as the principal of Southeast Christian Academy in order to spend a little more time enjoying retirement. When EBC first launched SCA, we immediately saw the hand of heaven through the procurement of Mrs. Allen. A veteran educator and curriculum expert, she has been used mightily by God in the birthing of SCA.

Recently, SCA applied for accreditation through a major, DOE-approved agency. By the end of the first day, our accreditation advisor gave rave reviews about the work being done at SCA. This man is a retired teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent from the public schools. In other words, he knows his stuff! While we are still awaiting official action, he has already recommended to his board that SCA be “accredited with quality.” That is the highest level of official accreditation that a school can receive. He was so blessed by his observations that he has even recommended that the accreditation be made retroactive.

That news is shared in this context because it is a testament to the work performed by Mrs. Allen and her faculty. The SCA board, faculty, parents, and church members have long witnessed numerous examples of her competence and commitment. Now we are on the verge of having an official state-sanctioned affirmation of the incredible job she has performed. We know that God is the One who has been shaping and molding these young hearts and minds. But we’ve been blessed that He has chosen Mrs. Kay Allen as one of His instruments. Congratulations Mrs. Kay! And we pray God’s richest blessings on this next season in your life.

Mrs. Christi Jones has ably served as our nursery director since December of 2003. She and her late husband Kelly were actually two of the first people we met in Sunday School when we came to EBC in the Fall of 1996. On May 15th, Christi is scheduled to become the bride of Mr. Brian Cowart. They will be making their new home in the Stilson area, southeast of Statesboro.

All 3 of our children have been a recipient of Christi’s service overseeing our ministry to birth-2 year olds and their families. We will miss Christi around Blackshear, around EBC, and around our family. We pray the Lord’s favor on your marriage and your transition to a new town. Your church family will miss you and your children.

Mrs. Brandy Ricketson joined our support staff in January of 2008. She brought her skills in accounting and bookkeeping to our finance office. Although her ministry has been “behind the scenes” for most members, her service has touched the lives of every member of this congregation. With the birth of their 3rd child, she and Rick sense the call of God for her to become a full-time, stay-at-home mom and we rejoice in that decision. Rick, Brandy, Tatum, Sam, and Layne are a vibrant part of our ministry here at EBC. We will still see them around the church but we’ll sure miss her around the office. Thanks Brandy for a job well-done!

During the next few weeks, please take an opportunity to share your thanks with these dear ladies. They have been an integral part of what the Lord has done at EBC in recent years. As I consider their contribution here I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Philippians, “I thank my God on every remembrance of you.”