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Showing posts from November, 2010

Non-Christian Historians and Non-Historical Christians

Historians who are not Christians and Christians who are not historians often make two critical errors. Error # 1: Historians who are not Christians believe that unearthing an inaccuracy within Christian tradition grants liberty to also attack the Biblical text. For instance, if historians can prove that the Christian holiday of Christmas does not have the origins most Christians assume it to have, then they also have warrant to doubt that the birth narratives of Jesus contained in the Bible are also suspect.  This is the glaring error of the History Channel and most books about the history of Christmas. Error # 2: Christians who are not historians may assume something traditional to be Biblical. Christian holidays are full of this type of conjecture. Ironically many of our traditional errors and biblical remixes are due to our sacred songs. The Christmas season is full of songs so familiar to us that their images have made it into our nativity scenes, but they are nowhere to b

Recovering Christmas

On Sunday I will begin a series of 6 sermons on “Recovering Christmas.” My ambitions may exceed my abilities (or the time allowed), but in this series I am trying to draw together several themes: 1) What are the historical roots of Christmas as we know it? How did the holiday evolve into its current forms? I will trace how the Christian church tried to influence what was at one time a purely pagan ritual and infuse it with the gospel. Did you know that historically Christmas was more like modern day Mardi Gras so much so that the Puritans banned its celebration in the colonies? Is Christmas returning to its pagan heritage? Has it ever really forsaken it? How can we infuse Christmas with the gospel again? 2) What parts of Christmas are Biblical, what parts are merely traditional, and what parts are completely commercial? Some people may think that some of the elements we associate with Christmas came out of the Bible when in actuality they come from sources such as Charles

A Random Act of Gospel

Just in case you haven't seen this clip.  The Opera Company of Philadelphia calls this a "random act of culture" but think of what is really happening here.  People in a retail environment are suddenly inspired to begin singing about the omnipotent reign of Jesus Christ, Lordship, and salvation.  If only we as a church could become this inspiring!

Generational Friendships

Because our society is so mobile our roots are not very deep.   It is difficult to make and maintain meaningful friendships.   Sharing common interests is not as rich as sharing common stories.   People bond over common interests, but it takes years for people to share common stories.   Chris Altman is one of the few people on the planet with whom I share common story.   I wrecked his mini bike into the side of his house.   We have been chased by a bear.   We played on the same soccer team.   We were there the night Eric Rudolph tried to blow up the Olympics.   Our stories began to be shared around 1982, through an elementary aged boys class at New Liberty Baptist Church.   This weekend I got to experience how that relationship has come full circle in so many ways.   On Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at the church Chris serves as youth pastor, Roopeville Road Baptist Church in Carrolton, GA.   We only see one another a few times over the course of a year, but even still our kid

Vicarious

Athletics is a powerful medium of communication. We know more about our favorite quarterback than we do about the people who live on our street. The language of sports is vicarious. It is "our team" and "we" always play against "them" even though most of "us" are only watching. Without touching a ball or getting off the couch "we" either win or lose. Our fate is tied to our team. To spare the loss of a great deal of life, ancient armies often employed the use of "the champion." The champion of one tribe would combat the champion of the other. Based on the outcome of two, an entire tribe won and an entire tribe lost. The most infamous example of the clash of the champions is the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Goliath, the Philistine champion, called out the nation of Israel and tied the fate of the entire nation to one. Israel had no champion, they had a David. Goliath got plunked in the head. The Philistines lo

Throwing Our Children Off a Cliff, For Sports

History knows the Spartans as tenacious warriors.  Legend holds that the Spartans were so dedicated to war that any male with a physical abnormality was thrown into a pit known as Apothetae soon after birth.  At the age of 7, boys were removed from their homes to be raised by the state for next 12 years in a strict disciplinary academy aimed at producing physically elite males.  In Sparta these academies were called agoge.  In Greece they were called gymnasiums. Validating these stories is historically difficult, nonetheless, this is the stuff of legends. A June 25, 2006 article that appeared in the money section of the New York Times explores the growing costs of raising athletes.  Across America sports academies are becoming big business as parents are willing to spend thousands of dollars to give their children a competitive edge.  According to the article, some parents confess to having spent upwards of $30,000 over the course of several years on specialized athletic training and c

Conditioning

To be successful, athletes spend inordinate amounts of time conditioning. The body must not only be able to endure, it must also be able to respond. Muscle fitness and muscle memory work hand in hand to keep the athlete consistent and efficient in motion. Paul appreciated athletics. Immersed in Hellenistic culture, athletic competition was an important part of his Roman life. Paul borrowed from the principles of sports and applied them to Christian discipline in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Success in the Christian life demands conditioning. I in no way desire for this conversation to be a wholesale condemnation of sports. I believe sport plays a vital role in culture, health, the rejuvenation of the soul, and the enjoyment God desires for us to get out of life. Historically athletic games have played a vital role in our relationships with one another as nations. Sport has its own language. It creates a unique spirit of comradery and commonality. As a pastor I would be remiss

Gyms and Temples

Hellenism is a historical term that refers to the conquest of Greek culture over foreign peoples. It was the reason the Romans had a pantheon of gods that were little more than Grecian transplants. Jupiter was Zeus without a toga. The world appeared to be diverse. Ethnically it was Jewish, Persian, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Roman, but mentally the world was quickly becoming Greek. Antiochus Epiphanes was a Seleucid ruler who controlled Palestine from 187 to 175 BC. While he initially allowed the Jews to observe Torah his agenda was to conquer them religiously and culturally through Hellenism. He replaced the Jewish High Priest with someone who looked like them, but thought like him. The replacement of the priest was not popular, but it was critical for cultural shift. Re-imagine God, make Him a voice of the emerging culture, then replace Him under the cover of night. In his Old Testament Introduction, Temper Longman refers to another aspect of Antiochus' agenda of cult

Judgement (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

One day we will all stand before God and give an account of our lives here on earth. We will find ourselves in one of two courts, the judgement of the redeemed or the judgement of the lost. At this point, there will be no going back, there will be no changing sides. You will either spend an eternity with Jesus as a new creation in his perfect heaven or in everlasting conscious punishment in the lake of fire. Today is the day of salvation; today could change everything. Listen to Audio

We Bought a Factory

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We bought a factory.  Our 3.5 year relocation project took our church from a 66,000 sq ft.  80’s style, traditional mega-church to a 30,000 sq ft. auto factory.  The purchase of this factory is the fruition of a vision God gave us and something He taught us while we waited to move.  Our vision is simple.  We desire to be a debt free church who pours more money into missions and community ministries than we spend on ourselves.  The lesson God taught us is to fulfill the vision we must make efficient use of space.  We accepted the challenge and bought a factory.  We will remodel as the funds become available.  Every space we create will be versatile.  We will not dedicate any one space to a single use.  Our offices are classrooms.  Our auditorium is a fellowship hall.  For the first two years our senior adults used a space during one hour, the preschool occupied it the next.  What a metaphor of regeneration!  Nothing is convenient.  Everything is symbiotic.  It requires constant change

He Leads Me Into Crisis

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The former RBC campus at 12th court God will not lead us into temptation, but He will lead us into crisis.  As C.S. Lewis pointed out about his allegorical lion Aslan, God is good, but He is not safe.  Psalm 23 is refreshing.  It is a Psalm of restoration, but it is also one of crisis.  If read in context, it is laced with trial and danger.  He leads me beside still water because the rest of the pools have gone dry.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures.  Just a few weeks from now the grass will be burnt to a crisp beneath the intensifying heat of the sun.  We move from crisis to crisis.  He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Sometimes sheep eat food in places where they themselves could easily be eaten.  The only reason they survive is because of the shepherd.  He leads us to eat in crisis.  He is not safe. He moved us from crisis to crisis.  When we moved here 8 years ago we did not know that we would be moving here to move.  We moved here to help th

Pastor/Dad

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A few weeks ago I was invited to preach to a church near Talladega, AL.  Our six year old, Kiley, is a vocal child.  The pastor and music minister led worship.  Kiley provided the commentary.  Most people are built with the ability to change volumes.  Most mommas call this, “Using your inside voice.”  Kiley was not born with this ability.  She has no inside voice.  Kiley is very comical.  She is inquisitive and honest.  A child with no vocal, intellectual, or social filters in a small church can be very exciting.  As my wife sang Kiley freely commented on how beautiful her momma is and how great she sings.  Kiley wanted to know why the pastor has so much to say.  She wanted to know why certain people pray so long.  She wanted a theological explanation for hymnals.  She wanted me to read her the entire Book of Isaiah.  Yet nothing she vocalized previously compared with the confession she would later make during a testimony.  A wonderful lady in our church, Tresa, was there to share he

Home

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She was very blonde, very 2, and very opinionated.  She walked into the front door of our new home, stood in the middle of a room full of boxes, looked around and declared, “This is not my house, I want to go home.”  Morgan had expressed what Shannon and I silently feared.  What if Alabama never becomes home? The day I became pastor for Ridgecrest was victorious and surreal.  We walked out of the auditorium, put Morgan in her car seat, got into the car, looked at one another speechless, and drove away.  Shannon had conveniently slipped Lynard Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama” into the CD player.  For a few minutes we jammed.  For the next 2 or 3 hours we drove in silence.  We didn’t have a destination or any real clue where we were in Birmingham, we just drove.  We drove circuitously, realizing there was only one place on the map we didn’t want to go.  We didn’t want to go home. Home at the time was Crossville, TN.  We lived there 6 years.  I had an aunt and an uncle in the church by

The Christian Vote in the Mid-Term Election (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

Politics and religion- do they mix? This message answers that question with a definitive yes. God has made it clear how we should relate to our government, how government should relate to us, and what our priorities should be in that relationship. In 1 Samuel 8, God connects a political decision, a vote of the people with a commentary of what is happening with them spiritually. What will your ballot on November 2nd say about you? Listen to Audio

Church Appreciation

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Somehow October has become pastor appreciation month.  While I don’t expect NFL players to be wearing black leather KJV gloves and shoes anytime soon, it is nevertheless a meaningful month to my fellow compadres of the cloth.  I am very appreciative to all who sent personal cards to me and my family during the month.  I am also appreciative to Frank and Terrie C. for their kindness on Sunday and for the entire RBC family for the gracious acknowledgement. This past week also marked 8 years that I have served the people of Ridgecrest Baptist Church as pastor.  I was reminded of how significant a mark that is in my life as I also had to, last week, renew my driver’s license.  This is the first time, since gaining the privilege of driving, that I have lived anywhere long enough to have 3 copies of a license from the same state.  The good news is that in 8 years I have stayed fairly consistent with my weight (wink, wink).  8 years ago I weighed 207.  At my first renewal I reported 208. 

The Manhattan Declaration

On the eve of the mid-term elections, I want to remind you of the Manhattan Declaration and its statements on marriage, life, and religious liberty.  The Christian vote should reflect distinctly Biblical values without apology, compromise, or excuse.  If you are curious about why I signed the Manhattan Declaration, read " Why Brian signed the Manhattan Declaration ."  If you have never read the declaration please do so and consider adding your name to the list.