Archive for May, 2007

31
May
07

Wow, What a Night!

If you were among those who participated in WOW last night at CrossPoint you were blessed, weren’t you? For those of you who did not take part, you missed an incredible experience. It was a special evening!
We ordained Bryan Haskins to the Gospel Ministry, and it was, indeed, a very special occasion. Bryan’s mother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends were present. He even had a dear friend drive in from Memphis, only to turn around and drive back late last night. He also had an uncle and aunt from Montgomery drive to Birmingham for the event.

On Tuesday several of the ordained men of CrossPoint met with Bryan for an ordination council. The meeting was sacred, to say the least. As the Deacon Selection Team Leader, Tim Tidwell, commented, “It was a God moment.” Last night was more of the same; it was a carry over from Tuesday night.

Watching Bryan and his band, Third Floor, lead us in worship was a keynote moment for me. Those guys are extremely talented, and they used their talent for God’s glory. What made the worship even more meaningful was witnessing how Bryan followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That was a direct answer to something I prayed earlier in my morning quiet time.

Bryan and I have a tremendous working relationship. We meet every Monday to plan, pray and prepare for worship. He and I believe it is important for us to become a team not only in worship but also in planning worship.

I know this is going to come as a real shocker, but there are times I will change things in between worship celebrations or even in the middle of worship. As a result of making too many changes recently, the Lord revealed to me how I may be dictating the course of worship more than allowing the Holy Spirit to do so. Thus, in order to get out of the way, I have started praying that Bryan would follow the Holy Spirit rather than me. Last night was a marquee moment in Bryan following God’s Holy Spirit. You could see God working in Him and through Him from the beginning of worship until the end. It was amazing.

Of course, Bryan’s testimony and the laying on of hands were both special. And, I must not forget the great fellowship so many of us enjoyed during the outdoor reception. Everything about last night was good, wasn’t it?

I would be curious to hear your comments about the evening. What did you gain from being there and from participating in worship? Let me know what you think.

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30
May
07

God is Everything

Before calling it quits last night from a long day, I completed a book I started reading last week. And, I am glad I did.

I would be curious to hear if the following story speaks to you as it did me.

Many years ago a famous violinist died. Leaving behind no family members, there was no one to whom he could bequeath his Stradivarius. An auction was summarily convened, in part, to sell the instrument. It was eventually purchased by another violinist. He paid twenty thousand dollars for the violin, a sizeable income in its day.

Shortly thereafter the new owner of the Stradivarius announced that he would play a concert on his new violin. When the evening arrived the concert hall was filled to capacity. People were waiting in breathless anticipation. At just the right moment he walked out on the stage with nothing but his violin and he began to play a composition of Paganini. He held his audience spell-bound. His technique was flawless. His tone was exquisite. At the conclusion of the final note, the audience instantaneously jumped to their feet and roared with applause. He bowed, simply, and walked off the stage. A few seconds later, with the applause still thundering, he walked back on stage, took his violin by its neck, raised it over his head and smashed it on a nearby piano bench, shattering it into a thousand pieces. He then walked off the stage. The audience was horrified. They were stunned. A moment later a second man walked out on stage and stood before the people. They became very quiet as he spoke these words: “The violin on which the maestro has just performed his first selection, the same violin that he has just destroyed, was but a twenty dollar violin. He will now perform the rest of the concert on the twenty-thousand dollar Stradivarius.”

What was the point he was attempting to make? The genius is never in the violin. It is always in the violinist. And the same is true for the preacher, teacher, soloist, musician, VBS worker, etc. At best, he is but a twenty dollar violin. But music can be heard when he is taken up in the hands of the Heavenly Violinist.

We do not worship the rod of Moses, the trumpet of Gideon, or the slingshot of David. Such would be grievous expressions of misdirected worship. But such is also the case when the preacher rests his confidence in the power of his own abilities. “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one” (1 Corinthians 3:5). The man is nothing. God is everything.[1]

A few pages earlier Azurdia quotes Spurgeon’s thoughts about the preacher and his preaching of the gospel:

The gospel is preached in the ears of all; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be converters of souls. Nor does it line the preacher’s learning; otherwise it would consist in the wisdom of men. We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it—the Holy Ghost changing the will of man. O Sirs! we might as well preach to stone walls as to preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the word, to give it power to convert the soul.


Here is my take on the abovementioned story and quote. Whether you are a preacher or a teacher, a musician or a soloist, a sound tech or a media tech, a Bible study teacher or a Vacation Bible School leader, you are nothing and God is everything. God will have no competitors. You cannot simultaneously glorify yourself while you glorify God. God will only use you when you recognize you are only an instrument of righteousness in His hands. The instrument is not what is valuable. The value is found by what the instrument produces in the hands of Almighty God.

[1] Arturo G. Azurdia, III, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry (Mentor Imprint, Great Britain), pp. 146 – 147.
29
May
07

The Birmingham Islamic Society Advertisement

How many of you read the following advertisement in the Birmingham News on Sunday, May 27?

Paid Advertisement

“Who so ever kills a soul unless for a soul (i.e., for legal retribution for murder) or for corruption done in the land (i.e., that requiring death penalty), it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and who so ever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind,”
(Qur’an 5:32)

The Birmingham Islamic Society affirms and reiterates clearly that those who commit acts of terror, murder and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent. No Injustice towards Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent lives, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam. We repudiate and dissociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts. We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a small minority of Muslims acting outside the teachings of both the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad and the prophets who came before him, peace be upon them all.

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed God is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.
(Qur’an 4:135)

Birmingham Islamic Society

1810 25th Court South

Birmingham, AL 35209

(205) 879-4247

So, what is your impression?

Allow me to express a few of my reactions.

First, I accepted the apology at face value. I received it as genuine and sincere.

I certainly appreciate the Birmingham Islamic Society’s attempt to take a stand against terrorism which hides under the guise of Islam. Although not entirely forceful, their strongest statement declared, “We repudiate and dissociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts.”

Additionally, I reminded myself I must be cautious to critique the apology. Therefore, I should take it as just that, a sincere statement. That is my first impression.

After reading it a second time, I formed a few other responses.

Next, I asked why now?

Why is the Birmingham Islamic Society apologizing now? What prompted the apology? Did they apologize before today? If so, when did they apologize? The advertisement makes it sound as if they had apologized before—The Birmingham Islamic Society affirms and reiterates. If they have apologized before now, when did they first express regret? I do not recall such a confession, although that does not mean they have not apologized before Sunday. Again, I asked myself “why did they apologize today.”

Next, I asked why did they not apologize specifically for 9-11?

Why did they not mention the 9-11 act of terrorism? We can assume that is what the Birmingham Islamic Society was referring to, yet one cannot be sure since the ad did not refer to it expressly. Do they accept responsibility for these acts of terror? I think the advertisement would have carried much more force if it had referred to 9-11 directly.

Then, I asked what are the boundaries or ramifications of this apology? Does this apology include the persecution the Global Islamic Jihad terrorists take out on those who receive Christ as Lord and Savior in Muslim nations (see www.persecution.com)? Additionally, does this advertisement include the Muslim acts of terror worldwide—the murder of school children in Russia, the bombing of a train in Madrid, Spain; the suicide bombings in public squares, restaurants and other public places; the rape, murder and beheadings of people in Darfour?

Also, I asked what are the leaders of The Birmingham Islamic Society or any other Islamic Society doing to confront the radicals that have highjacked the Muslim religion? Do they realize that those who commit mass murder in the name of Islam are not just a few fringe elements? Sure, they apologized today, yet what are they doing tomorrow to confront the terrorists? What are they doing to rid the world of terrorism that has its roots in the Islam religion?

Finally, I asked would the advertisement be more effective if the Birmingham leaders issued a fatwa instead of an apology?

A fatwa is an Islamic religious ruling, a scholarly opinion on a matter of Islamic law. Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa in 1998, saying that any American, whether Muslim or not, should be killed. Due to that edict thousands of innocent souls have paid the ultimate price of their life since then. Isn’t it time for the leaders of Islam to issue a fatwa against terrorism?

There is so much more on my mind. I better stop.

Isn’t it interesting that I would ruthlessly evaluate the admission? Perhaps I would be wise to return to my first instinct and accept it as fair and honest.

I would be curious, however, to hear from you. What do you think of the advertisement?

25
May
07

The Story of Amazing Grace

I know many of you saw the movie Amazing Grace when it was released earlier this year. For those who did not see the movie in the theaters, please rent it immediately. And, I know many more of you know the story behind song. Even if you do or do not know the story of Amazing Grace, I encourage you to check out this worshipful video that will make you appreciate the song that much more. Trust me, when I say you will be inspired when you watch it.

24
May
07

Taylor, You Make Me Proud!

Today is a difficult day for me. Today my son, Taylor, graduates from Pinson Valley High School.

I have written enough about my son on my daily blog for you to know already how proud I am of him. Taylor is such a fine young man. Yes, we’ve had our moments, as do all parents, yet through it all he still makes us proud.

I began my morning by glancing through a very special Bible that sits on my credenza in front of me. Today I looked for and found the following journal entry:

August 30, 1989
9:59 PM
Eight days after Taylor was born Vonda and I held a dedication service for him—”You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me” (Exodus 22:29).

I remember that evening very well. We were living in a small, two-bedroom farmhouse on the outskirts of Hattiesburg, MS. The addition of Taylor to our family made that house very small.

Vonda wanted Taylor to sleep in a crib in our room his first few weeks in this new world. It was my job to retrieve him from his crib, change his diaper, place him in front of his mother for his feeding and then return him to the crib. Vonda performed the most important job by feeding him. That particular night, before returning him to his crib, I laid Taylor across our bed, and read the passage from Exodus 22:29. Then Vonda and I literally gave Taylor over to the Lord. The significance of that night was that it was his eighth day of life.

My eyes are welling up with tears even now while reflecting on that moment. It was a solemn occasion in our young married life. Little did I realize 17 years ago what that dedication service would entail today.

We voiced to the Lord He could do anything He wanted to do with our son. We acknowledged the tremendous responsibility He had given us. We prayed for the blood of Jesus Christ to protect Taylor. We literally placed Taylor in the hands of God. We admitted we were only stewards of his life, not owners. God owned Taylor, we were the parents God selected to teach and train Taylor.

I know my days of parenting Taylor are nowhere near complete. Vonda and I still have many challenges and tests coming our way. And, I still look forward to teaching him new things about life and about God. However, I can say without reservation, that we believe our young son is one of the finest men we know. He is a devoted follower of Christ. He is learning to love the Lord His God with all his heart, soul, mind and body more and more each day. He is polite. He has a good work ethic. He is studious, and he has a good start on what we believe will be a very successful life. Sure, his mother’s stubborn streak occasionally flares up in a conversation, but we still love him. Yes, he periodically says or does something disrespectful. Yet we still love him and pray God’s best over him.

Tonight my son takes another big step in life as he crosses over from being a high school student toward becoming a college student. Tonight he takes the next road that will lead him closer to young adulthood.

To say his mother and I want God’s best for him would be no small exaggeration. To say Vonda and I expect the best from him would an understatement. Today, all I want to say is that I love my son and I am proud of him. His mother and I are, among all parents, most blessed.
God bless you, Taylor. You make me proud.
23
May
07

In Our Own Strength

This week I am reading Arturo G. Azurdia’s book, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Instead of saying I am going through the book, I believe the book is going through me.

The author begins chapter 2 with the following quote:

I believe that the greatest impediment to the advancement of the gospel in our time is the attempt of the church of Jesus Christ to do the work of God apart from the truth and the power of the Spirit of God. Like the disciples of old, we are powerless, in and of ourselves, to accomplish the ‘great works’. The declaration of Jesus remains trued to this day: ‘apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).

Azurdia nails it; moreover, he nails us, the church. We are powerless, today. We are attempting to the work of God in our own strength.

Later in that same chapter Azurdia adds:

Rarely are seminarians taught to pray and fast and weep for the subjective and internal illumination of the Holy Spirit in correspondence with their diligent efforts in the sacred text.

I get it. I hear the author loud and clear. God has my attention. I earnestly believe that is why the Lord has me wrestling with the daily components of repenting and believing in my sanctification.

As I have already written several times before these last two weeks: if we are saved by repenting and believing, then are we not also sanctified by repenting and believing?

I am convinced that my salvation is all of God and none of me. God saved me through His Son Jesus Christ. I did not and cannot save myself. That is why Paul said:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

In this brief sentence Paul teaches me three facts about my salvation:

God initiates my salvation—that he who began a good work in you God
sustains my salvation— will bring it to completion God
guarantees my salvation— at the day of Jesus Christ.

Additionally, I am convinced if God saved me, then God will also sustain me through His Son Jesus Christ. God provides the energy, effort and endurance necessary for me to live for Christ. In that same letter to the church of Philippi Paul instructs us with these words:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13

Notice Paul teaches us to “work OUT your own salvation” not to “work FOR”. No one can work FOR their salvation; those who are saved can only work OUT their salvation.

This phrase “work out” could be used in many ways. It could be used to talk about “working out a math problem until it is solved” or “working in a field” so it is ready for the greatest possible harvest. It is to work on something in order to produce a result or a harvest.

Note also how we are to “work out our salvation”. We are to do it with “fear and trembling”. Why “fear and trembling”? I think it has to do with realizing who God is and who we are. When we have a proper understanding of our sinful nature compared to God’s totally perfect, and utterly separate nature, our natural response is that of fear and trembling.

Finally, we should note who is working in us. Paul said, “for it is God who works in you”. Again, I believe Paul is teaching our salvation is all of God, and none of us. Additionally, I believe an equal and just as powerful argument could be made that our sanctification is all of God, and none of us. If that is true, then how are we to “work out our salvation”? I believe the answer is found in ongoing repentance and increasing faith. It is only when we as children of God recognize how unworthy we are compared to how worthy He is, that we find the true meaning of continuous brokenness. Additionally, it is only when we as children of God recognize how powerless we are compared to how powerful He is, that we find the true meaning of increasing trust.
And that leads me back to Azurdia’s belief that “the greatest impediment to the advancement of the gospel in our time is the attempt of the church of Jesus Christ to do the work of God apart from the truth and the power of the Spirit of God.” If that is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not true, then what is the answer? I believe the answer is found in repenting and believing, for that is where the church will find her power to do the greater works of God.
22
May
07

Feeling Dirty?

Last week I blogged about Starbuck’s “The Way I See It” advertising campaign. On Monday, I received the following email from CrossPointer Lisa Gray:

I was intrigued by the Starbucks blog you posted last week. I took several classes at UAB on propaganda and public persuasion that is constantly surrounding us. I try to be conscious of the advertisements I am exposed to on a daily basis.

Anyway, while I was washing my hair this week, I noticed the message on my conditioner bottle. The front of the bottle says, “Feeling Dirty? Slip into something silky.” I thought that was a little inappropriate until I flipped the bottle around and looked at the back which said, “Blonde hair as dull as a virgin… daiquiri? Add a shot of sexy.” Talk about stunned. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or because I’m a mom now, but I was pretty shocked that this was on a bottle of shampoo. Whether SunSilk was making a sexual reference or a reference about drinking alcoholic beverages, I’m not certain. I simply wish I could take a shower without having to worry about some type of advertisement telling me what I have to do to fit in!

Welcome to the new age of advertising. More than just selling a product, advertisers are now selling an agenda. For Starbucks the agenda is anti-God. For SunSilk the agenda is sex.

Two years ago Vonda and I spent a weekend in New Orleans (pre-Katrina). During our stay in the Big Easy I watched an offensive ad for Orbits travel on the television. You’ve seen the commercial, where two people compete for travel arrangements in a game show format. The ad typically pits two business travelers together or two families vying to secure flight deals the fastest. One contestant uses Orbits, while the other uses a phone book. Of course the Orbits traveler always wins the game.

What made this particular ad so distinct was that it placed a family of four against two gay men. Needless to say, I was shocked. At first I did not believe my eyes. Later on that weekend, the commercial ran again, and this time I was sure Orbits was promoting homosexuality. Since then I have never seen the commercial in our market. Yet I am confident I saw it that weekend in New Orleans.

Again, I think we live in an age where more than products are being promoted. So are agendas. Lisa thanks for the email. Who knows what we will find out there next. Let me know of any of advertising propaganda you encounter.