Archive for April, 2008

30
Apr
08

And God Was Good

I want to thank Brian and Angie Harris for recounting their adoption testimony last weekend at CrossPoint.

We have now placed an audio version of their story on CrossPoint’s webpage. I encourage you to send your friends there to hear their testimony. Click here for more details: www.crosspointchurch.info.

God used Brian and Angie to speak to us in a decisive way. Their faithfulness to God in the midst of great setbacks is a powerful story

Did you notice how toward the end of their story they stopped testifying and started preaching? Reminding us of God’s goodness was the best way to conclude.

They nailed it when they said God was good because He is God. When the doctors gave them bad reports, God was still good. When the first adoption failed, God was still good. God was not good because He blessed them—indeed, He has blessed them. God was good because He is God. Brian and Angie, we heard you loud and clear.

We just don’t talk enough about God, do we? We have a tendency to think that life is all about us; yet it is not. Our story begins with God, continues with God and ends with God. That is why each week in worship we remind ourselves of these words:

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

I want CrossPoint to dwell so much on God that we are God-centered in our thoughts and God-fearing in our hearts.

29
Apr
08

For The Cause of the Gospel

On January 11, 2008, while my family was in China, I wrote the following paragraph from a longer blog about our mission efforts in that part of the world:

Bryan spent the day with us the other day while we toured Lamma Island.  Bryan is a Chinese national who is not a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he is a seeker.  Maik, the student minister for Kowloon International Baptist Church, brought him along on our excursion so he could hear more about Christ.  Brian is the President of the Chinese Student Union of HKBU.  Imagine what the Lord will do through him once he repents of his sin and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Maik, HKIBC Student’s Minister informed my son that Bryan was not born again, and that he wanted Taylor to share the gospel every moment he could. What made that time meaningful was how my son repeatedly turned the conversation toward salvation through Jesus Christ.  I was very impressed with his passion as well as with his accuracy in explaining the gospel.

It took a few months, yet the Lord was faithful in answering our prayers.  This morning I received the following email report for Harry Lucenay, pastor of Kowloon International Baptist Church in Hong Kong, where Bryan is a regular attender.

Sunday morning one of the baptismal candidates told the following story:

Good morning everyone! My name is Bryan. I am a student from mainland China studying in my second year at HKBU. I made my commitment to Christ three months ago on January 29. Looking back at the past three months I can now say that this has been the most important day in my life. During that time, God has constantly revealed Himself to me through the Bible. Today I am here because I’ve decided to be baptized.

I was brought up in the Northeast of China, in Chang Chun. Like most mainland Chinese students I am an only child. About seven years ago, my family moved to Shenzhen. I finished my junior school and senior school education in Shenzhen.

When I studied in China, I would often question what was taught in school. Many times I asked myself: “What’s the meaning of life? Is there anything deeper than getting high scores in exams?” Although I was an “A level” student in history, I never trusted the history textbooks composed by the government—I just recited as much as I could for exams.

My desire to explore something deeper in life brought me to Hong Kong. Though at that point I didn’t know what the “something deeper” was. Yet I realized it is nothing I would find in my textbooks. It had to be something universal which would be true for everyone, everywhere.

The first semester in Hong Kong was a wonderful experience. I read books which I could never find in China. They challenged me and helped me grow. However things started to change in my second semester.

I was overwhelmed by things I got involved in – soccer, drama, girls and of course studying. I also ran for president of a student organization at HKBU, which really showed me the negative side of power struggles. All of these brought a lot of trouble into my life. There were so many choices and I didn’t know which to devote my life to. I asked myself: “Bryan, what is the ‘something’ you are looking for?” I had found no meaning in what I was doing.

So I switched on my mobile phone and a name from the contact list got my attention: Maik, whom I had met at the HKBU Welcome Night. I really needed someone to talk to, but not anyone on campus. So I called him and we met here at KIBC. It was “stormy” before I talked to Maik, but when I walked out of the church, everything was peaceful. Even today, I still remember the Bible passage we shared: Jesus calms the storm.

Yet when I was elected president of the student organization I quickly forgot the words that brought me peace. What was ahead of me was worse than all the troubles I experienced before. Being involved in politics I experienced lying and gossip. I often felt lonely and hurt by people. As a response I hurt people in the same way.

I said to myself: “Ok, Bryan, if this is the way the world works, so why don’t you live the same way; pursuing money and power?” However as I began pursuing this way of life I found nothing that could satisfy my heart.

At that time I took the Bible from the top of my bookshelf and started to read. This was the last thing I tried (how I wish that I had tried to read the Bible first). It was an afternoon on which I locked myself in the dormitory and read the Bible till the evening. After I finished reading, I felt peace, joy and confidence. For the next few weeks, I went to church and continued to read the Bible and it felt as if this is the ‘something deeper in life’ I was looking for. Still I wrestled with the question whether Jesus was really the one he claimed to be. As I continued to seek truth I found the answers that I needed.

On January 29, I was again troubled about life and started to read the Bible. Again God “calmed the storm” and I knew in my heart that I need to follow Him. I called Maik and told him that I made my commitment to Christ. He was excited and we met in his apartment. There he told me: “You know Bryan, this morning I read this Scripture: We as God’s servants beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). And he told me that he could not stop thinking about me and that he was really moved by God’s Spirit that my salvation was near.

How great is our God! Before we ask, he knows what we will ask for. Before we do, he has already arranged everything for us. Over the past three months God revealed Himself to me through His Word so many times.

Thanks KIBC family for your love and encouragement. I also want to thank all of you who have been praying for me during the past year. God bless.

Amen & amen!  That is the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

28
Apr
08

Why I Didn’t Drop Out!

I don’t know how many of you know Dr. Mark Isley. Mark and his wife, Belinda, are faithful CrossPointers, involved in the Family Matters Bible Study Group.

Some of you may recognize Mark’s name from the list of potential candidates for the Hoover High School Principal. Mark was one of the top three candidates for the job. He believes it was a direct answer to prayer he was not selected for the job. There are many CrossPointers, along with Mark’s pastor, who would agree with his assessment.

Mark is an extremely sought after school administrator. Dr. Isley currently serves as the principal of the Shelby County Alternative School. During Mark’s tenure this school has experienced revival among the students and faculty.

Mark sent me a letter from a recent graduate. As you read this letter you will see why Mark’s school is being awakened by God’s Spirit, and why Mark is so highly respected across this state.

Why I didn’t drop out!

When I found out that I had to go to Alternative School I said that school wasn’t for me. My parents said that I needed to graduate from high school so I could have a better job than a high school drop-out.

When I came to the Alternative School I was treated with respect. The kind of respect you give to someone who you’ve just met for the first time. The Alterative School helped me succeed by encouraging me to do better. I had to take the Graduation Exam while I was in the Alternative School. I tried my best to pass this exam. Finally when I got the results back, it said that I passed all portions of the graduation exam, I was so exited that I almost cried out loud for joy!

While I was at the Alternative School I met two men named: Mr. Hopper and Mr. Davis. Before I met them I was lost; I didn’t know who GOD was on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level. These two men run a program called First Priority. While I was at the Alternative School I attended every meeting of First Priority.

Due to these two men I am no longer lost. I AM FOUND!!!! Before I didn’t believe in GOD because I couldn’t physically see him, touch him, or smell him. I now realize that the only proof you need is to see how a truly believe that JESUS CHRIST died on the cross to pay for all of my sins and that I will live an eternal life threw me knowing HIM.

CrossPoint has many teachers, principals and administrators in the public school system. I give thanks for each of them, especially when they make this kind of eternal difference in the life of a student.

25
Apr
08

Get Naked With God

Another book I completed last month is Sex, Sushi and Salvation by Christian George (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008).

I highly recommend the book. I think it should be required reading for our high school and college students. Christian is a well grounded young man, and he writes in an amazingly transparent and relevant manner.

Of course you know of my fond admiration for his father, Dr. Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School.

I have asked my college-aged son to read George’s book. I can’t wait to hear his response. The following story alone was worth the purchase price.

One day at a drinking party, his friends noticed that Francis (St. Francis of Assisi) seemed bored with his life of debauchery. The wine held no more magic for him, and the games were growing dull. “Are you ever going to get married?” they asked him, laughingly.

Francis was not laughing. For quite some time, his dreams and nightmares were pulling him away from his old habits. His heart felt strangely warm as the world grew strangely dim. “Oh yes” he replied. “I will marry a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen.”

“And who will that be, Francis?”

“Lady Poverty,” he said with a grin on his face.

After Francis returned from his pilgrimage to Rome, he went back to Assisi and began begging. One day, while praying at the Church of San Damiano, he was sure he heard Jesus speaking through a wooden cross, telling him to rebuild His church. This was a turning point in the life of Francis, and with great fervor he abandoned his passions for partying and began his ministry.
His father, a wealthy merchant, didn’t approve of his son’s new lifestyle. Why would a son give up a life of health and wealth? Why would he give his expensive clothes away? It didn’t make sense. In a desperate attempt to change Francis’s mind, his father held a court to cast judgment on his son and hold him accountable for all the money he had borrowed to give to the poor. Naturally, the town was buzzing with gossip about this family quarrel, and many showed up for the showdown.

The morning of the trial, Francis dressed well for once. The bishop, who presided over the court, said, “Your father is very angry with you and deeply offended. You tell me you wish to be religious. Well, then, you must give him back the money you have taken, since you may not have legally acquired it.”

All eyes were on Francis to see his reaction. Would he return the money and appease his father? Would he keep the money and be disowned by his family? With firm resolution, Francis stood to his feet and said, “Not the money only, my lord, for that belongs to him. All my clothes also.”2 In front of everyone, Francis took off his robe and let it fall to his feet. A unified gasp circled the scene as naked Francis bent over to present both his robe and the money bag to the bishop. Mothers and fathers covered the eyes of their daughters, but Lady Poverty looked on with great admiration. Francis had finally abandoned himself to God, and there was no turning back. He was willing to get naked with God.

24
Apr
08

Lord’s Supper Training Video

I love the deacons of CrossPoint.  The deacons serve our congregation in many ways.  One of the more high profile ways they serve CrossPoint is by assisting me in the administration of the Lord’s Supper each month.  Provided in today’s entry is a training video our deacons are using to prepare for Lord’s Supper this Sunday.  Enjoy.

23
Apr
08

Advancing the Gospel

I enjoy reading books on presidential history.  I suspect I have read more books on presidential history than any other topic; that is, other than theology.

Late in the month of March I picked up a book I tried to read during the Christmas holidays, yet put it aside for another book.  I am glad I returned to the book and completed it.  The book is Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed American 1789 – 1989 by Michael Beschloss (New York, New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2007, pp. 321,322).

The last president Beschloss examines is Ronald Reagan.  I was a big fan of President Reagan for many reasons.  Perhaps greatest was because he was the first president for which I ever voted.  Additionally, I liked the man because my lifelong friend, Ron Ethridge and I once wrote Reagan, and in response to that letter President Reagan sent us a reply with an enclosed photograph.

Reagan professed to be a Christian, and from the account provided below it sure sounded as if he was trying introduce Gorbachev to Christ.  Perhaps when you read this exchange you will see why I love presidential history and presidents like Ronald Reagan.

Meeting with Gorbachev in the Kremlin, Reagan found it was too late in his Presidency to close the deal he had hoped for, cutting nuclear arsenals by fifty percent. (*In 1991, Gorbachev and President George H. W. Bush finally signed a Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty, which drastically reduced the arsenals and delivery systems of both sides.)  Instead he used their private talks to advance his mother’s old wish that the wellsprings of religious feeling be loosed to sweep away Soviet Communism.

Reagan told Gorbachev he had a “kind of personal dream.”  He had been reluctant to raise it, but now he and Mikhail were friends.  If anyone leaked it, he’d deny they’d ever had this conversation.

He asked Gorbachev to “see his way” to let all Soviet citizens attend “the church of their choice.”  Americans had “endured a long sea voyage to a primitive land to worship as they pleased.”

If Gorbachev granted religious freedom, he would bed a “hero” and much of the world’s anti-Soviet feeling would evaporate “like water in the hot sun.”

Gorbachev replied that Soviet society had “evolved” beyond mass religion.  Although he had been baptized, he did not believe in God.  Turning the tables, he asked why Americans did not give nonbelievers their full rights.

Reagan said, “They do.”  In American public schools, “you can’t even say a prayer.”  He noted that his son Ron was “an atheist, although he calls himself an agnostic.”

Reagan told Gorbachev about a letter from a young World War II soldier to his faraway wife.

Although a professed atheist, he wrote that he was praying God would accept him if he died in battle.  The soldier belonged to the Soviet army.  The letter was found on his corpse.

Trying to change the subject, Gorbachev proposed a U.S.-Soviet mission to Mars.

Smiling, Reagan retorted that Mars was “in the direction of heaven,” but not a close as what they’d been discussing.  He said he’d always yearned to serve his atheist son “a perfect gourmet dinner, have him enjoy the meal, then ask him if he believed there was a cook.”

Tired of arguing, Gorbachev said, “The only possible answer is yes.”

The more I read about President Reagan, the more I am convinced the man was a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

21
Apr
08

Witnessing to a Robber

My friend Ron Ethridge posted this video on his blog two weeks ago. Someone sent it to me again today. The more I watch this video, the more I am impressed with this woman’s faith. Moreover, I am impressed with God’s providential care. Watch and enjoy.