Archive for October, 2007

26
Oct
07

Preaching to Preachers

Monday and Tuesday of this week were incredible days of opportunity and ministry for me. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the pastors of the Idaho/Utah Baptist Convention. One of the great joys about preaching to preachers is that you can get right to the point of your message without much explanation. Additionally, it is good preaching to preachers because most of them are rooting for you, encouraging you with an “amen” or “preach it.”

Last Monday I preached from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, where Paul said:

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

As with everything else Paul recorded under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, this passage preaches itself.

I pointed out three insights from the text.

First, Paul tells us WHAT he came to them preaching.

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2

Imagine the wealth of material a preacher can preach from just from this one statement. Jesus speaks of the HUMANITY of the Son of God. Christ addresses the OFFICE of the Son of God. Him crucified refers to the REDEMPTIVE WORK of God’s Son. You know I had a ball preaching that part of the message.

Next, Paul tells us HOW he came to them preaching.

Paul said first, how he DID NOT come preaching:

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom… 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom…
1 Corinthians 2:1, 4

Paul followed that description by telling us how he DID come preaching:

3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…
1 Corinthians 2:3

Paul did not try to impress his audience with his own oratory skill or knowledge. In Corinth that was the measure of a man’s message. Did he walk with bravado? Did he speak persuasively? No. Could he? Sure. Paul could have very easily impressed his audience with his eloquence, but he decided not to so they would be impressed with God, not with him.

Finally, Paul tells us WHY he came to them preaching.

Paul said,

5 that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:5

Paul wanted their faith to rest in the power of God because if it rested in Paul, then their conversions would not have been genuine or real. Besides, Paul knew that his audience only had two kinds of people present—those who were perishing and those who were being saved.

Note what he said in 1 Corinthians 1:18:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Thus, that is why Paul preached Jesus Christ and him crucified. Paul knew the people in his audience were either perishing or being saved. The Gospel of Jesus Christ applies to both audiences. For those who are perishing the gospel leads to salvation. For those who are being saved the gospel leads to sanctification. The gospel is for both the lost and the saved.

I thoroughly enjoyed preaching this message. Perhaps the Lord will afford me the opportunity to preach it someday at CrossPoint.

25
Oct
07

I’ve Been Praying 30 Years

I really do not know where to begin today’s blog, or for that matter, the next several blogs I intend to write. For the last three weeks I have been in the middle of a whirlwind of activity for the kingdom of God. As I shared with a CrossPointer last night, I feel like a quarterback running a two minute drill in order to win the biggest game of the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not so busy that I cannot enjoy the ride. I am enjoying every minute. Perhaps a better way to describe the last few weeks would be to describe them as a flurry of kingdom activity.

The flurry of goings-on started when we kicked off Project One. Since the first day of Project One I have participated in 11 Bible study class fellowships. I believe I have six more to attend. Thanks to those opportunities, I have been wide open, especially when you add my normal routine to that mix every week. I can’t think of the last time I took off a Friday. But that’s okay, I am not complaining; actually I am celebrating.

God, it seems, is working overtime in and through CrossPoint. Our family of faith is abuzz with adrenaline. In addition to Project One, I think some other factors contribute to this flurry of God-ordained activity. For example, the time of year is always a major momentum gaining time for CrossPoint. The mo hits an all-time high this weekend with our annual 5K race and Fall Festival. Another example is the opening of the Point—the new recreation facility. The building is causing quite a buzz among our people as well as in our community. Beyond all that, however, I think the Holy Spirit of God is working overtime in our church and it shows.

As if that were not enough, I want to take a few days to communicate to you some of the incredible things God did while I ministered to the pastors of Idaho and Utah. I am so glad my friend Scott Hanberry called me months ago to invite me to preach for those dear pastors. In addition to taking in all the beauty of the area, I was also blessed with the commitment of the pastors from that part of the country. Some men pastor churches two or three hours away from a Wal-mart, yet they do so willingly.

I knew my trip to Idaho was going to be special when I called on CrossPoint to pray for me last Sunday. Wow, that was an amazing experience. I am not sure I realized how powerful of a moment it is in the life of our church when I call us to lay hands on and pray over someone. Unless you have been in the center of that circle, having throngs of people gather around you to pray, you have no idea how intense that moment really is. Now that you have done that for me, I can tell you it is a God-moment, and I plan on us doing it more and more as a church.

I want to thank you for praying for me last Sunday. You sent me on my way full of enthusiasm and motivation. Thank you, also, for praying for me last Monday and Tuesday. It was evident from the time I arrived until I departed the Lord was responding to the prayers of his saints.

After the last session on Tuesday a woman about my mother’s age approached me. Tears were streaming down her face. She was a member of the church hosting the Pastors’ Conference and Convention. She had attended each session, even though she was not a pastor.

With her voice trembling, this dear saint said, “Ryan, I pray every year for the pastors’ conference. When I heard you and Tony (Lambert) were coming I started praying for both of you. Whether you know it or not, you are an answer to a prayer. For 30 years I have watched pastors in this area deal with discouragement and depression. This week’s conference is the first time I have seen these men walk away built up rather than beat down. I have been praying for something like this to happen for 30 years.”

Apparently God revealed to this faithful soul a particular need all these pastors share. So for 30 years she has been praying for the pastors of Idaho and Utah.

You know me, at this juncture, I started crying. Then she asked, “How did you know these dear pastors were struggling so much?”

To her inquiry, I responded, “I cannot truthfully say I did know, but God knew and so He directed me to preach what I did. And that is the power of God’s word. God’s Word is living and active, and if we would just preach it and teach it then we would see His power at work among us.”

At that, she hugged my neck and thanked me for coming to Idaho. I hugged her neck and thanked her for praying for the dear pastors. There many people who said many things to me during the week. Every comment was encouraging, yet it was this woman’s comments that inspired me the most.

Thanks to your prayers, CrossPoint you went with me. Your prayers were in response to a woman’s prayer of 30 years; and God answered both.

22
Oct
07

Please Pray For Me

By the time you read today’s blog, I will be in Burley, Idaho, preaching for the Idaho/Utah Pastors’ Conference. I flew out here last night, and arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho, sometime around 10:00 PM.
My friend, Scott Hanberry, invited me to this event. Some of you will remember Scott from last summer when he preached during WOW the second Wednesday in June. Scott is the president of the Idaho/Utah Pastors’ Conference. I consider this one of the highest privileges of my ministry. For a preacher to preach to preachers is an awesome invitation.
If the Lord is willing, I plan to preach tonight from 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5. Tomorrow night I will preach either from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 or 1 Peter 5:1-11. Both passages are specifically targeted for preachers.
A preacher who knew a lot about preaching once gave this admonition to pastors. W. A. Criswell once said:

When a man goes to church he often hears a preacher in the pulpit rehash everything that he has read in the editorials, the newspapers, and the magazines. On the TV commentaries he hears that same stuff over again, yawns, and goes out and plays golf on Sunday. When a man comes to church, actually what he is saying to you is this, ‘Preacher, I know what the TV commentator has to say; I hear him every day. I know what the editorial writer has to say; I read it every day. I know what the magazines have to say; I read them every week. Preacher, what I want to know is, does God have anything to say? If God has anything to say, tell us what it is.’

Pow! That’s on the money, isn’t it?
If the Lord places my name on your mind this week, please pray for me. You can pray for me in at least four ways:
  1. Pray I get out of the way. You know me; I can get in God’s way. Pray I humble myself before the Lord every day I am with these preachers.
  2. Pray the Lord uses me to minister. I want to be an encouragement to these pastors. Many of them are bi-vocational. All of them are involved in some type of frontier work in this part of the country. I want them to leave encouraged and challenged by the Word of God.
  3. Pray for the Lord to have His way. If I will get out of His way and stay out of His way, the Lord will have His way. Pray I remain sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and that I do only as He instructs me to do.
  4. Pray I proclaim and explain the Word of God clearly. Pray I remain faithful to the text, and that what I say makes sense. I want the pastors to understand what I am saying so much that when they leave they want to study the Word of God more thoroughly themselves.
Thank you for allowing me this privilege to preach the Word of God to a church full of men of God. Whenever I go somewhere to preach I take CrossPoint with me in heart. Please pray for me to represent you, and more importantly, our Savior in an honorable manner.
20
Oct
07

Hurray, I am Back on Track!

Thank the Lord I have returned to some type of a regular running routine today.

Five weeks ago today I injured my left knee (again!). I hurt it while running a 15-miler with my friend, Dr. John Thweatt. We were both pushing a great run, when around mile 5 I felt my knee twinge. I knew immediately what I had done. I slowed down to complete the run, but by the time I finished I knew I had strained it the same way I did two years ago.

The next Monday I was in Dr. Bailey’s office at Alabama Orthopedics. Soon thereafter I was at the mercy of Wendy, my knee therapist at Performance Fitness. Since then I have been working strenuously in physical therapy to get my knee back in shape.

Thursday morning I decided to see what I could do after taking so much time off. I walked a quarter mile, then I jogged a quarter mile. After four laps, I jogged a complete mile with no problems. Then I concluded with a half-mile walk and a half-mile jog. This morning I decided, no matter what happened I would jog at least three miles.

Mile one was a bit laborious. Mile two I felt stronger. I could sense me knee was getting back in running shape as I completed mile three.

After my run (actually it was a fast-paced walk that built into a slow jog) I returned to my study to spend time praying. While giving thanks for my progress I recalled how I have injured some part of my body during each marathon training plan the last six years. You name it, I have injured it—from my sciatic nerve to my Achilles tendon to my left knee to my big toes to my left knee again to my hamstring and now back to my left knee. Injuries are a part of running. If you run, especially at my age, you are bound to damage something. Pain is a normal part of training.

Thanks to my recent pain I have had to rethink my goals for 2007. Here are a few changes:

  • Instead of running 1200 miles, I retrofitted my goal to 1000 miles. Today I completed mile 860. With ten weeks remaining in the year, surely I can average 14 miles a week. Who knows, I may do well enough to ratchet my goal back to 1200. For now it is 1000 miles, however.
  • Instead of running the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis on December 1, I may run the half-marathon.
  • Instead of running three marathons this year (Georgia, Nashville and Memphis), I may shoot for two marathons (done) and one half-marathon (see aforementioned goal).
  • Instead of competing for a personal best at this year’s CrossPoint 5K, I am looking forward to just finishing with a decent time and feeling strong.
  • Instead of running a race a weekend between now and December 1, I plan to run a race every other weekend or every two or three weekends. Next weekend is the CrossPoint 5K. The next weekend includes the Vulcan 10K. Thanksgiving Day I will run the Jewish Community Center 10K. Hopefully after that I can attempt to run something in Memphis.

You might be wondering why I put so much effort into my running. If you knew what it did for me mentally and spiritually, you would understand. For those who run, they know what I am talking about.

Not everything I am writing about today has to do with running, either. Injuries that come with marathon training are a natural part of the experience (especially at my age). In the same way, setbacks that come with life are a natural part of life as well.

Thinking of the problems of life reminds me of one of my mom’s sayings. She is known to say periodically, “If you live long enough you are going to die.” I would add, “If you run long enough you are going to face injuries, and if you live long enough you are going to face setbacks.”

If there is anything I know about injuries in running and setbacks in life it is this:

  1. God uses every hardship in life and even injuries in running for our good. Romans 8:28 proves that. Speaking of Romans 8, have you ever noticed what Paul says in verse 37. He says, “No, IN all these things (tribulation, distress, persecution, etc.)…we are more than conquerors.” It is IN the injuries and setbacks we conquer life.
  2. Very few setbacks and injuries are permanent. Those that are permanent, I have learned, serve a real purpose. Sometimes that purpose includes protection from our selves, from others, or from other more serious problems.
  3. Setbacks in life as well as injuries in running enable us to appreciate the many ways God has blessed us. To be quite honest, my injury has forced me not to take so many things for granted; to be more grateful.

I could write more, but I will stop there for the time being. I trust you see the picture I am trying to paint. Life is going to have its mountains, its problems, its setbacks. When they come, you don’t quit. You wait. You pray. You press on. You do what you are supposed to do. With time, things will balance out, even though you may have to make some adjustments. It is the adjustments, however, that force us to grow.

18
Oct
07

Same Message, Second Verse

This morning I continued to wrestle with John the Baptist’s message from Luke 3. We learned yesterday that John’s theme in preaching was that of repentance. During my study, I also took time to read Mark’s accounting of John’s preaching and imprisonment, and found this inaugural message Jesus preached soon after John’s arrest:

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:14-15

Let’s review a few passages from Luke 3 to notice how John’s preaching on repentance set the stage for Jesus’ message:

And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Luke 3:3

So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:18

That is not by accident. John was preaching a message repentance because he was preparing the way for Jesus to preach His message, which is also a message of repentance.

Now to get to the meat of the matter let’s break down Jesus’ message much like a football coach breaks down an opposing team’s offense or defense.

Now after John was arrested…

Jesus’ first recorded message comes soon after what we read in Luke 3:18-20. The timing is paramount in that it shows Jesus picks up right were John the Baptist left off preparing the way for Him.

…Jesus came into Galilee…

Matthew records why Jesus started His ministry in Galilee:

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Matthew 4:12-16

Jesus started His ministry in Galilee to prove, once again, He was the Promised Messiah by fulfilling Old Testament prophecy as recorded in Isaiah.

…proclaiming the gospel of God…

Jesus’ message was the gospel. In short, the gospel means good news.

The word for gospel in the New Testament is “euangelion”. It is built out of prefix that means good or joyful and a root word that means message or news. The word was used widely in the New Testament world to mean “the message of victory, but also used of political and private messages bringing joy” (Ulrich Becker, “Gospel, Evangelize Evangelist,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2986), 2:107).

So, Jesus arrives in Galilee proclaiming His message. And what is that message?

…and saying, “The time is fulfilled,

What time is it? Mark explains. Jesus has been introduced by John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8). He’s been inaugurated by His baptism (Mark 1:9-13). He was tested and proven by His wilderness temptation experience (Mark 1:12-13). It is now time for Jesus to start telling His story, and His story if the Gospel.

Jesus makes reference His time being fulfilled through John’s Gospel account of His life (see John 2:4; 7:30; 12:23; 13:1; 17:1). We learn from this simple phrase, and from His statement in Mark that the earthly ministry of Jesus is all about timing. That is why this section begins with a time statement, “After John was put in prison.”

“…and the kingdom of God is at hand…”

What does this mean? It means that God’s rule in the hearts of man begins now! It means that God has come to man to establish His Sovereign way in humans.

“…repent…”

The word repent is a well-worn, often misunderstood word. It means a radical change of heart, a complete turnabout of life. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for your sin. To repent is to not only have sorrow for the consequences, but it is also to have sorrow for the sin. Most people would not repent if they knew they could escape the consequences of their sin. That is why true repentance is a complete turnabout of your life.

“…and believe…”

To believe is to accept Jesus’ message and to act on it. Belief encompasses more than just accepting His message. Jesus wants us to accept His message and act on it. James 2:19 illustrates how belief is more than just believing facts. Jesus’ half brother wrote, “You believe there is one God. Good! Even demons believe that—and shudder.” The kind of belief Jesus is speaking of is a matter of accepting and believing into Him.

“…in the gospel.”

What is the gospel? Once again, it is the good news of God. And the good news of God is that God gave the complete sacrifice for our salvation. To word it another way, the gospel is the free gift of salvation to all mankind, which begins and ends with Christ. Our salvation is found only in Christ. Acts 4:12 states, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Do you see now why this “rabbit” I started chasing last Monday is becoming a great study in God’s Word?

The Gospel messengers may change. The Gospel messengers’ methods may change as well. Yet the Gospel message continues to remain the same, whether it was preached by Jesus, by John the Baptist or by any man who claims to be a minister of the Gospel.

17
Oct
07

A Message I Must Preach and CrossPoint Must Hear

I was in both the Old and New Testaments during my personal Bible study time this morning. Part of the scattered reading was due in large part to CrossPoint’s Daily Bible Reading Plan. Each day we read from a different book of the Bible. Although reading this way creates a different story line, this plan enables the reader to see how the entire Word of God is interconnected.

Speaking of its interconnectedness, how many of you noticed how this week’s reading from Hebrews and Numbers corresponded with one another? It is remarkable to see how Jesus became the once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 10) to the sacrificial system Moses instituted (Numbers 28-30). I do not know about any of you, but I am glad we now live under the Law of Grace and no longer under the Law of Works.

Now back to why I was all over the Bible this morning.

In the time I spent reading and studying God’s Word I wanted to chase a rabbit that had been running circles in my mind since late Monday evening. The rabbit I chased pertained to the preaching theme of John the Baptist. The central theme of John’s preaching was REPENTANCE.

The opening words of Luke 3:1-8 illustrates my point specifically:

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

Let there be no doubt, John’s message was forceful and clear:

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9

Next, we read how John’s preaching of repentance was applied to his audience:

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
Luke 3:10-14

John’s message of repentance was reinforced by his total humility of service to Christ:

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Luke 3:15-20


Then Luke adds this commentary:

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:18

Although John’s message was strong, forceful and certainly direct, it was still considered “good news” because it was the message of Christ.

I find some people are offended by the Word of God. Some people think the Bible is only about the good things—beauty, reconciliation, life and forgiveness. Yes, the Bible does teach and preach about those things, but it also teaches and preaches about blood, depravity, death and repentance. And, if you study the entire Bible you realize you cannot have one without the other. Combined together – blood and beauty, depravity and reconciliation, death and life, repentance and forgiveness – really is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Finally, if there is any question what this kind of preaching cost the person who preaches it, note what is said in the last few sentences:

19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
Luke 3:19-20

If there is a day where this kind of preaching is needed, it is today. Where are the preachers who call for repentance? Where are the men of God who are willing to stand up before a body of people to say, “Humble your selves before the Lord God in contrition”? The more I study God’s word, the more I read through God’s Bible, the more I am convinced there is only one response to a Holy, Just, Infinite God and that is in brokenness, humility and repentance.

Yet I also know this: repentance is not a popular message. Brokenness before God is not readily accepted. Few people get excited about contrition. Books about remorse, regret and compunction are not big sellers. Yet it is the message of the Bible and it must be proclaimed and explained.

CrossPoint, the message is clear: I must preach a message of repentance and belief and we must humble ourselves before the Lord God Almighty and trust in Him.

16
Oct
07

Project One

CrossPoint is currently in the middle of one its greatest, most influential campaigns to date. It is called PROJECT ONE. The underlying premise of PROJECT ONE is built on each Bible Study Small Group at CrossPoint participating in one MISSION, one FELLOWSHIP, and one COMMITMENT between now and November 18. The campaign concludes with ONE BIG WORSHIP on Sunday, November 18 in the brand new recreation facility.

Steve Parr, our Executive Pastor, Pat Patterson, our Stewardship Team Leader and I have the profound privilege of visiting the PROJECT ONE FELLOWSHIP for each class. This past weekend we visited 7 class fellowships in two days. Wow, what a ride!

We have several more fellowships to attend, yet I can already see the impact PROJECT ONE is having on CrossPoint. I am particularly proud of the mission endeavors I hear each class is implementing. One class has adopted a single mom. Another class is using an ICU waiting room at one our area hospitals as their outreach post. One of our younger groups sponsored a meal for the families of Miracle League Ballpark. Every class is doing something unique. I am blown away by the effort, creativity and sacrifice each group is making.

For those of you who have already had your PROJECT ONE FELLOWSHIP, you know what God is doing. For those who have not yet experienced it, prepare yourself. God wants to work in us and through us for His glory.

I am really curious as to what PROJECT ONE means to you. Please give me your feedback by leaving a response.