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Archive for January, 2009

association-300-yrsOK, I don’t have long to post right now; I am getting ready to head out the door and attend the weekly meeting/ luncheon of the Elkhorn Baptist Association.  EBA is the oldest association in the state of Kentucky and I believe (but could be wrong) the oldest west of the Alleghenies.  Anyway, I enjoy the fellowship and work of our association here in Lexington.  I believe it is done right by our DOM Don Reed and his staff.  We have various ministries to the people of greater-Lexington and our association sees itself as a resource for the churches, not vice-versa. 

My question, which is specifically directed at “younger” guys but open for all, is this: What do you think about local associations in Southern Baptist life?  Why aren’t more “younger” guys interested in being a part of the fraternal fellowship provided at the associational level?  Why are the meetings increasingly attended by the older generation but skipped over by younger guys?  Are we really arrogant enough to believe that we don’t need any fellowship, encouragement, or accountability outside of our local places of service?  What is the usefulness of the association for you?  How would you like to see them improve?   

I am not necessarily offering answers to these questions, but merely asking them because I really believe that in my lifetime, we are going to see either a radical restructuring of associational life or the death of them as institutions.  I say that not as a critic, but as one who participates and supports associational life when it is done well. 

What are your thoughts?

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That quite frankly, I don’t even know where to begin.

Check out the first one here, about a 6-year old that took his family car and attempted to drive to school, saying that he learned how to drive from playing Grand Theft Auto?@#$!

1. What the heck is a 6-year old doing playing Grand Theft Auto?

2. How does a 6-year old take keys, start a car, and drive for 6 miles unassisted?  NO WAY can he reach the pedals and maneuver properly?

3. How does he crash the car and receive nothing but a bump on the head?

4. How does he do this without the parents knowing a thing?

Can anyone else see a problem here?

cappucino The second story is a ridiculous report out of Chicago, students graduate without knowing how to read, but really enjoying their coffee!

Finally, there’s this one.  I have just one question… how is one “accused” of urinating on another’s leg?  Shouldn’t that one be pretty cut and “dry”?  The evidence should speak for itself?

This world in which we live is not only coming apart at the seams, it’s just a downright weird and creepy place to live sometimes.

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*NOTE: If you are someone who takes yourself or life in general too seriously, you probably don’t want to read this. If you can laugh at the little things in life, then enjoy!

birdsandbeesLast night as my wife and I gathered with our children for family Bible reading before bed, we read Proverbs chapter five (5) to them and discussed it’s content. You may ask “why did you choose that passage?” The answer is that I am making it our goal to read through Proverbs this month as a family by reading a chapter per day out loud and discussing the wisdom of Proverbs with our children. After all, no book is more practical or more needed today than Proverbs.

And so we read chapter five. Now, chapter five of Proverbs is a discourse on the wisdom of marital faithfulness, which leads to life and blessing, as opposed to the folly of infidelity of any sort. I think this is a very relevant passage for a number of reasons. First of all, kids today need to understand the beauty of covenantal relationships as God intended them and the way in which they point us to the gospel (Eph 5:25). They need to learn from their parents and pastors about God’s plan for relationships and understand sexuality in the context of marital relationships. They are certainly not going to hear this message from the culture?@#! And so as I read the passage and explained the idea of infidelity in all its forms (i.e. marital unfaithfulness, pornography, lust, emotional infidelity, etc…) my kids were surprisingly attentive, even though they are only seven and ten years old (the babies were in bed by this time!). They asked questions about marriage, divorce, adultery, and even what it meant for sin to lead to death. It was a great teaching opportunity.

It got a little sticky for me however, to try to skate around the obvious issue of sex in the passage. Instead of being graphic, I spoke to the kids about “kissing” and “mommy and daddy smooching” and used other colorful terminology to substitute for sex without being too graphic with my kids. The time will come to drop the cutesy terms and be blunt, but its just not yet. As I read on and explained more, there were a couple of responses from my kids that were just pure gold.

When I read verse 15, (Drink water from your own cistern…) I paused and asked my kids in a puzzled tone just what that meant. I never dreamed that they would have a clue, but my 7-year-old son responded without missing a beat, “I think that means that you should be happy with the girl God gave you dad.” How incredibly perceptive is that for a young boy who had NOT been coached in the answer?! I hope he remembers that when he grows in to a young man!

Then, when I approached Proverbs 5:19, I faced a problem. The verse reads, “Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight,” but I just could not bring myself to explaining that to my mixed audience of children. As I paused momentarily to think of a substitute word (I settled upon “Let her hugs and kisses fill you at all times…) my wife snickered softly, sensing my clear discomfort and awkward hesitation and knowing the verse well. My ten-year-old daughter then bursts out of her seat and, like a hyena perfectly sensing its prey’s weakness, comes at me insisting, “that’s not what it says dad, come on, tell us what it really says.” It was a moment of laughter and fun as we playfully wrestled and I diligently sought to maintain some level of innocence by keeping the Bible from her and “hiding” the real word used! But we eventually continued in our study together and I was left to reflect upon some lessons that I had been taught about family devotions.

#1– God’s Word is relevant to the needs of every generation. It is not outdated, outmoded, or out-of-touch as some insist. In a day when many in the church feel that they need to move to “something else” to give kids what they need, I say that a return to the relevant Word of God is what is needed. When exegeted properly and diligently mined for nuggets of truth, the Bible addresses clearly and truthfully all areas of life from God’s perspective. I would much prefer for my kids to learn about human relationships and sexuality from God’s Word than from MTV, Oprah, or from the public education system.

#2- God’s Word is powerful when unleashed. All I had to do was read it to my children and facilitate instruction and they were able to grasp its truths by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

#3– We need a return to more Bible reading in our homes. Most adults today are not even aware of what rich truths the Bible contains because they have simply never read it. How much less today’s children, who seldom know more than what they have learned from a singing vegetable! (Before anyone complains, I LOVE the singing vegetables… but they should not be the sole source of children’s knowledge of the Scriptures!)

#4– Sometimes presenting the totality of God’s Word can become awkward or uncomfortable, especially with our children, but with a little common sense, the truths of Scripture can be conveyed without too much embarrassment or discomfort. There is no question that in our culture, our children are going to be exposed to issues like violence, war, murder, sexuality, adultery, etc… In fact, they see it every day on the news and in popular media. I firmly believe that parents can use the Word of God to give their children right moral and ethical views on these and other subjects according to what God has revealed about them. This can and must be handled with sensitivity and common sense, but navigating the difficult course between truthfulness and embarrassment is possible with a little practice and common sense. I guess what I am saying is, don’t avoid the “hard passages” of the Bible with your children, but rather, approach them truthfully with much prayer and concern for your child’s moral and spiritual development.

**On a lighter note though, a list of passages you may want to save until your kids are older might include Genesis 9:18-27, Leviticus 15, Judges 19, 2 Kings 6:24-31 (Lam 4:10), and the entire book of Song of Songs! It’s hard enough to explain circumcision to your kids or to tell them why David danced naked before the Lord (II Samuel 6) without having to make things too complicated! Stick to the “fun stories” that kids (especially little boys) love hearing, such as the story of fat king Eglon (Jud 3), or Jael and her tent-stake (Jud 4), or Absalom’s hair-problem (2 Sam 18), six-fingered giants (1 Chron 20) or even Ezekiel’s fuel dilemma (Ezek 4:9-17)! Last year, we bought my son a comic-book style adaptation of selected Bible stories called “Weird and Gross Bible Stuff,” and amazingly, he couldn’t put the book down! He read it diligently and asked many questions about the content of the Bible. Incidentally, there is a whole series of these books for children published by Zonderkidz, including one titled “Seriously Sick Bible Stuff” and “Bible Wars and Weapons.”

#5 Sharing the Word of God with your children can be fun, exciting, and memorable. It does not have to be some negatively stereotyped “boring quiet time” that your kids dread. My kids laughed, interacted, and even asked for applications of the text as we discussed this difficult text. I’m willing to betcha’ that they will remember for a long time to come the core teachings of this text.

#6– Be patient with kids as they learn the ropes of spiritual truths. One last anecdote. Because we had spent yesterday evening volunteering at a local homeless shelter, my kids had asked lots of questions about homelessness, poverty, and a Christian’s concern for these issues. I explained as best as I could the plight of the homeless and why we should be motivated by the love of Christ to help our fellow man not only with physical comfort, but also with gospel-centered concern. As we closed out our evening with family prayer, my son prayed just as seriously as he possibly could (no denigration intended), “Lord, help the homeless people of our city to find a nice cozy dumpster to sleep in tonight…” My daughter began cracking up and my son didn’t understand the problem. I worked through the chuckles to explain to my son a better prayer to offer and he then finished. Kids have to grow in their understanding of how to live the Christian life, but shame on us parents if we don’t teach them diligently and then give them the room they need to make mistakes and learn by trial and error.

As my son demonstrated with his response, they really are picking up a lot more than we give them credit for!

It was one of the best nights of family devotion in my recent memory. I can’t wait to find out what we discover tonight in Proverbs six… and neither can my kids.

Oh, and by the way… I never did tell my daughter what the real word was in 5:19! I know she can find out for herself if she chooses to and nothing I can do will change that…but as I said, there is a time and place for everything. For now, she just knows that I am satisfied with her mommy’s “hugs and smooches!” And she is a happier child for it!

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First let me wish everyone who reads this the happiest and most blessed of new years! My prayers are for peace, joy, health, and the advancement of the gospel in 2009 in an unprecedented way, both in my own life and church and around the world as well! May you be blessed in 2009!

Now for other matters…I am officially reentering the blogosphere with this post. As you may be able to see from the date of my last post (June 25, 2008), it has been over six months since I wrote. Although I really do love the engagement, interaction, and capacity for communication that blogging allows for, I had to make the choice to put blogging on the back burner for a few months for a number of reasons (which I will mention below). However, in the past two weeks, I have received three inquiries from friends about when I would begin writing again. Honestly, I didn’t really think that there were three people who cared, but apparently I was wrong. So today, with “things” finally slowing down and a new year upon us, I thought it was a good time to reenter the blogosphere and begin a regular regiment of posting again. I do so with a renewed commitment to try to post things that are positive and encouraging rather than focusing on negative things in the SBC today. Believe me, I do think that there are lots of things wrong that I could blog about. Chronicling the so-called “Baptist Identity” or “Anti-Calvinist” agendas, while it would really boost my “daily hits” number, would lead only to greater division and nasty posting back and forth by the same 2-3 dozen people. Spending my time ranting against the political agendas at work within the SBC or pointing out the incessant nepotism and narrowing of parameters would lead to lots of heat, but very little light. Yes, there are problems. Southern Baptist life is not perfect. However, I want to work with my brothers and sisters to make it a better place. I want to work hard to create a positive environment within the SBC in which the world can see the love of Christ at work. Maybe I just don’t have the stomach for the politics of it all, or maybe I just naively trust that truth will win out in the end. Maybe I’m just a coward, afraid anymore that to speak out about some things will only result in bad consequences for me personally. Whatever the case (and they are all options), I hope to bring some things to the table that are positive and encouraging to my small crowd of readers and those within my church who visit the site.

So where have I been for these six months and what has been going on in my life?

Southern Heights Baptist Church, Lexington Kentucky

Southern Heights Baptist Church, Lexington Kentucky

First, in late August of 2008, my family and I transitioned to Lexington Kentucky where I began a new ministry as pastor of the Southern Heights Baptist Church. We dearly loved the First Baptist Church of Grayson and valued our almost 4 years of ministry in Appalachian Eastern Kentucky, but in the end felt that truly God was leading us to Southern Heights where there were greater opportunities and greater challenges for a young minister like myself. The moving process took a number of weeks. We packed, moved, unpacked, and lived out of boxes until we were finally “settled in” around the end of September. We are still not completely unpacked, but we are comfortable enough to feel that we are truly “home” at our house just down the street from the church.

We absolutely LOVE living in Lexington and we are crazy about our new church family at SHBC. Our church has tremendous potential, sitting right in the middle of a growing residential area in southwest Lexington. Estimates project that there will be almost 80,000 people living within a 3-mile radius of our church by 2013. My challenge is to lead a group of solidly-committed, progressive-minded Christians (about 140 per week at SHBC currently) to become a missional-minded church that is committed to disciple-making through biblically-sound evangelism and discipleship. It is a tough task, but I feel that I am up to it. I am surrounded by wonderful people, a great staff, and a church with a strong history. We are truly preparing to see God work and move in great ways!

Secondly, the last six months were complicated tremendously by the fact that all of this moving and transition took place in the midst of a very demanding semester of Ph.D. work. Doctoral work is always a bear and working full time in the pastorate while attempting a doctorate is even more strenuous. Moving is always difficult as well. But trying to work full-time at a new church, move my family, and complete some of the most strenuous doctoral work to date (including the reading of about 30 books!) proved to be almost too much. Regrettably, many things had to give, including personal health (recreation and exercise), sleep-time, fun-time with family, blogging, and even leisure-reading. Outside of work and school, I have had little time for much else in the past six months. I have just this week begun preparing for my last semester of seminar/ colloquium work this spring at SBTS. My classes are challenging, but I am more excited than ever to be studying in the program that I am in and blessed to be studying under the godly men that I am under. Pray for me this semester to manage my time better.

Third, there were a string of health-related issues that kept my wife and I extremely busy in the past 3 months as well. Our younger two children (Terah and Lucas, 3 and 9 mos) went through rounds of infection, fevers, and viruses, as do so many children. But also, our 7-year old little man, Ethan, has had some serious gastro-intestinal problems all of his life that finally demanded attention back in October. Without getting in to detail, his condition is by no means life-threatening or even dangerous, however it is one that causes him terrible pain and discomfort and has affected his physio-biological growth in some ways. He had to have an overnight procedure in October at the UK Children’s hospital that seems to have helped somewhat with his problem. He has bounced back well since the procedure, but his problem still requires lots of attention and causes us lots of concern.

Following that, on October 11th, my father was in a life-threatening motorcycle accident. While riding his Harley, he and my step-mother were hit by a deer. It killed the deer and almost killed my dad as well. Though my step-mother walked away with minor injuries, dad had multiple broken-bones, the most serious of which was a crushed pelvis. He was air-lifted to University of Cincinnati hospital where he spent about 2 weeks in intensive care and going through surgeries to reconstruct his pelvis. After UC, he went to rehab for about a week and then came home just before Thanksgiving to complete his recovery. He has been in a wheelchair ever since and will require months of therapy just to walk normally again. Though my step-mother has taken care of him through most of this, we have made some trips north to stay with dad and have spent lots of time and energy helping deal with this trauma. We are just glad that he is alive, well, and recovering. Hopefully, God can use this trauma for his own glory by reminding my dad what the real purpose of life really is, namely to “Love God and keep his commandments.”

So in a nutshell, that is where I have been in the past 6 months. It’s a crazy life…but it’s the only one I got! I hope that things slow down a bit in 2009, but then…wait… no I don’t… I enjoy every minute of the life with which I am blessed just as it is!

I hope to hear from more of you as I re-enter the blogosphere in 2009, and I hope to be a blessing and encouragement as I write!

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