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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bobby and David Planting TULIPS

Upon perusing some recommended blogs, I came across the deal with Bobby Welch, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and David Cox, pastor of First Baptist Daytona Beach, FL. In their recent church newsletter, Bobby Welch attempts to show through the research of Dr. Steve W. Lemke, Provost and Professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, that Calvinism is bad for the Great Commission and therefore should be seen as problematic if not destructive for the SBC. In Lemke's research, he attempts to show how churches affiliated with the Founder's Fellowship are less evangelistic, lower in attendance, and baptize less folks. However, upon reading up on this, I can only predict only inevitable outcome of this article. I believe that what Bobby Welch has attempted to do in trying to give Calvinism a black eye, has in effect, shown the error of his presuppositions and therefore spawned an increasing interest in Calvinism. What was a hope (I presume) to eradicate the SBC of the Calvinistic resurgence has only fueled even greater interest in the truth of the doctrines of grace. If you would like to read the four part responses of the Founder's Fellowship, led by Tom Ascol, I believe it will be helpful to see the fallacy of Bobby Welch in his hastiness to report on what seemed credible information. I feel like there is some similarity to Dan Rather and Bobby Welch here. Anyway. This deal is blowin' up on the blogdom, especially among SBC bloggers, and could potentially result in irreconcilable differences between those who take every opportunity to bash Calvinism and those who simply say what the Bible says. David Dockery, President of Union University and well-noted scholar, has recently sought for common ground in this ever-increasing debate. He says that "if you believe there are people in the world who are sinners and need salvation, that God initiates salvation and that the means for salvation are necessary within the sovereignty of God, then we have common ground." I think that there should be common ground sought, especially from the SBC leaders. Preachers like Johnny Hunt who take every opportunity to make outlandish statements against Calvinism and Bobby Welch, who uses his presidential powers and influence to drum up "support" for the Great Commission by means of attacking the rich roots of Southern Baptists and the missions movement as a whole are definitely NOT setting the example. I guess we must look elsewhere. But where I wonder? That question for now is left unanswered. To read what some other bloggers are saying, click on these: Joe Thorn Scott Slayton Alex Forrest Tim Ellsworth Marty Duren Steve McCoy William E. Turner Jr. James Thompson Paul Lamey David Phillips Oh . . . and that reminds me - you might want to read/re-read Jim Eliff's article called SBC: An Unregenrate Denomination. My commentary on this to come later . . .

Saturday, July 30, 2005

National Porn Sunday

Found this on the back of the latest issue of Christianity Today (August 2005). I first heard of XXXChurch from Relevant Magazine where the guys of XXXChurch went to Mosaic Church in L.A. (Erwin McManus' pastor). Obviously, this is a highly controversial deal, but I can't help but think, "What other way do you deal with such a big than to hit it head on." Not many conservative evangelical leaders have come out in support of this event, and I don't know if they will (The People's Church in Franklin Tennessee appears to be a big supporter though). Here are some statistics on their site: > Number of pornographic web sites: 4.2 Million > People who regularly visit Internet porn web sites daily: 40 million > Christians who said pornography is a major problem in the home: 47% > Breakdown of male/female visitors to pornography sites: 65% male - 35% female > 30% of unsolicited e-mails contain pornographic materials > Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs. > Porn revenue is larger than the combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises. > US porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC at $6.2 billion. I am sure you will be hearing more of this as October 9 arrives. I will be listening in and learning how this will impact Christianity and the world of porn as well.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Getting The Most Out Of Tentmaking

Ever thought about what kind of tentmaker Paul was? I mean this guy was full-on in whatever he did. If he persecuted Christians, he did it to the hilt; on the other hand, if he suffered for Jesus, he rejoiced and sang in prison. There was no room for haphazardness or lethargy in this man. I bet you he was the best tentmaker in town, yea the country. Why? Because whatever he did, he did it for the glory of God. I have been thinking about this most of the week. I am in kind of a struggle. No, I am not a tentmaker nor the son of a tentmaker, but I want to be skilled in a trade that will support my family while I study and minister. There was a time when I was in the position where all my livelihood came from the church, and that put me in a vulnerable situation. You see, if you don't go "with the program" and all that jazz, well then they can just fire you, and your family has to suffer because of it. I don't want to risk the well-being of my family on the arbitrary decision-making of folks, nor do I want to be in a situation where I either have to compromise in my convictions and defile my conscience or otherwise stand up and suffer the consequences. Did you know that the average church budget today is comprised of 50-60% of church staff salary? Don't get me wrong, I totally believe that the church should support their leaders, and any church who doesn't isn't biblical. But 50-60% - that's a lot! Paul specifically stated that the reason he "worked with his own hands" is that he would not be a burden to the church and be free in the consciences of people he was reaching. Don't you think that the paradigm for financial responsibility set by Paul is a good one? I think so. I desire to be a minister who is directionally centered, ministerially sacrificial, and financially responsible. I don't want to be a burden on the church nor jeopardize hot meals for my kids (I don't have any yet so let's say my dog Hershey and her treats). Why couldn't we have 50-60% of the church's budget be towards missions, and by that I mean reaching the unreached people groups, Bible distribution, world hunger relief, etc.? Instead, we have 50-60% staff, 20% building programs, 10% debt retirement, and the remaining 10% split between ministeries, upkeep, office stuff, and missions. My desire is to be in a position where I glorify God in my tentmaking as well as my theology. So here's my difficulty. I am an excessive person, and anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate and sometimes an over-achiever ("i before e except after c" remember?). It is so difficult for me to do something and not become obsessed and preoccupied with it. So how do you do it? How do you get the most of tentmaking without it getting the most of you? That is the pounding question in my mind. I want to be a workman of the Word and a craftsman in the work. I want to balance theology with trade, exercising both heart/mind and hands. And I don't want to be put in a position where my trade pushes the ministry out of my life. If that happens, it has served me wrong and wrecked God's calling for my life. I think Paul believed that God was rightly glorified in his work. As he tied those knots and knit those fabrics together, he believed that his honored the Lord as much as preaching to those in the synagogue. It was no different for him. Work was God's idea, going all the way back to Adam when God gave dominion to Adam to work the ground and name all the animals. So soul-winning and being a bread-winner was equally honorable in God's eyes, for if you don't take care of your family, as Paul says, you are worse than an unbeliever. And your family is the proof text of your ministry. Whatever I do, I should do it heartily as unto the Lord, do it with passion, not lacking in zeal, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, do it for his glory. Yet I should do it with discipline and self-control, showing restraint and discretion at all times, knowing that the days are evil and the time is near for sinners to face their sin, either at Calvary or at condemnation's call. I am at this point in my life where I feel like I should take care of not just theology by tentmaking (metaphorically speaking - I do love tents by the way). I want to have a spirit of excellence in them both. When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, I did not know what exactly I'd be doing vocationally or ministerially, and still today, I don't know exactly what that is. But whatever he leads me to do, whether it be with a suit and tie on or worn out jeans and t-shirt, I want to be found faithful to God and to my family. So getting the most out of tentmaking is a big deal to me. I want to bless my family and bless my church, not be a concern or burden to either of them. Paul found time and energy to do them both, and mighty I add, he did it and still got the gospel to the whole world (as it was then). There must be something there, a trade for me, a work that will please God and provide for my family; there must be the priority of seeking first the kingdom of God, of "doing all for the sake of the gospel", of preaching the Word in season and out of season that makes for a faithful minister. This, I presume, at this point, is a matter of utmost importance. May the Lord grant wisdom in the days ahead . . .

Random Stuff for the Week of 7/29-8/4

(Is it August already?!!!) * Found out this past week that Rick Ousley has resigned from The Church at Brookhills. Quite disappointing. When I was a student at the University of Mobile, I used to travel home on the weekends often and would schedule it such that I would arrive in Birmingham around 7:00 for the Friday evening service there. From student conferences to collegiate conferences to hanging out in the foyer after church, I have grown to really appreciate this man. I am sure that The Church in Brookhills will miss him greatly. * One of the craziest guys I know has to be Jeremy Wells. You can find a few pics of him on my flickr page from Taylor's wedding. When he came to our wedding two years ago, he was the long-snapper at Auburn University. He then became cheerleader and has just recently graduated with an MBA there. His website is just hilarious. You ought to check it out for some funny reading. * If you have ever wanted to listen or download some good sermons (especially if you have a long drive-time or take road trips), you might want to consider checking out Biblical Preaching. All the recent sermons of great expositors such as John Piper and R. Kent Hughes, Pastor of Wheaton College Church in Wheaton IL. You can also get Piper's sermon manuscript each week online (he is going through the book of Romans and is currently on chapter 13; he has been in Romans I think for the past 4 years). * Another really good resource that I have grown to appreciate is the ministry of Mark Dever called IX Marks (nine marks). There is a wealth of resources including articles, book reviews, book recommendations, audio downloads, etc. Dever is especially known for his attention to ecclesiology and church life. He is the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. Hope everyone has a great week. And by the way, for all you newbies coming on lately, thanks for reading and hope to hear from you soon! - t.n.b.

Ah I Think I've Found My Next Bible . . .

As you can tell, I am in a much better mood than yesterday. I think I just needed some recovery time after wasting my time reading about BibleZines. Anyways. Ironically enough, I got a postcard in the mail from Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul) about The Reformation Study Bible with the new English Standard Version (ESV) edition. Now here is a Bible for teenagers if you ask me, but then again, I am not as hip and with the times as those guys at Thomas Nelson. It is very clear that certain publishing companies are going one way (a la Thomas Nelson, InterVarsity, Zondervan) and only one seems to be putting out week in and week out quality works, and that is Crossway. Upon perusing the website made for the Reformation Study Bible, I have decided to make it my next study Bible. As Sproul puts it, "Turn to the Word that turned the world upside down." And so I will. Many of you know John Piper. Here's what he had to say about this Bible: "I would like every English-speaking Christian to own and use The Reformation Study Bible. First because it is a Bible, God's Word to mankind-and the English Standard Version is the translation I pray will become the church's standard for the next fifty years. Second, because it is a study Bible-and the God-centered scholars who wrote the notes are reverent and rigorously faithful to the facts of faith and history. Third, it is a reformation study Bible-and the whole counsel of God's sovereign grace is affirmed and illumined. Study notes are not infallible, only the Bible is. But I know of no study Bible that comes closer to the truth than this one." Dr. John Piper Preaching Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota Personally, I don't like any Bible with study notes or commentary, because we seem to think that the commentators words are as authoritative as the text itself; also, many people cheat themselves out of being a good student of the Word by simply munching on other's crumbs rather than getting fresh manna themselves. But in this case I may make an exception. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Phillip Melancthon, and others I can read alongside. I mean, God used them to change the world, didn't He? Sure beats tips on changing make-up patterns.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

BibleZines Are Bunk.

BibleZines are bunk. Period. I can't believe that Christianity has been suckered into such trendiness. I guess the Bible is the next thing that needs an "extreme makeover" to be "relevant" to "Generation Y". Why are trying to turn eternal truths into novelty and girl talk? Why are we taking "the word of God which abides forever" and turning it into a fad? We have kissed the tail of our culture and capitulated for the sake of marketing our message while at the same time losing it.

Yep. These babies are hot sellers these days. A little research will show you that they are Thomas Nelson's fastest selling "bibles" with over 8 million sold just between 2004-2005. Reason? They want to target the kids who are reading "Seventeen" and other such magazines that seem to appeal to kids these days. Have they ever thought about what these kids do with the magazines after they have read the sex column and horoscopes? Throw them in the trash. Maybe that's what will happen here. I mean, the fad can only last so long, right? How will we need to repackage God's Word to reach the next generation. I can't wait for that one.

Fool's Gold, the recently edited book by John MacArthur, addresses this idea of turning the Bible into a magazine. Rick Holland wrote the chapter which is called "When the Truth Becomes Tabloid: A Closer Look at The Revolve New Testament." He outlines his critique by explaining how the Revolve adds to the Bible, edits the Bible, trivializes the Bible, pollutes the Bible, temporalizes the Bible, redirects the Bible, and neutralizes the Bible. Another blogger has written a good response to this trend, entitling his post "Bible in the Bathtub".

I could entertain this rant for a healthy scroll but honestly, it's not worth it. For such a disappointment as this, I would rather not spend too much time or I would be driven to despair. We Christians simply must value God's Word more than this. I don't know about you, but I don't want to open a "bible" that next to "take up your cross and follow Me" there is an article that says something like, "Dress for success: 10 Make-up tips for true beauty" or some crap like that. Teenagers don't need a "bible" that they won't be embarrassed carrying; the Bible needs Christians who are worthy of carrying it period.

Oh, and one more thing - when these kids pick up one of the zines, do you think they will get disappointed when the articles in the Bible are not as well written and juicy as the one in Seventeen? Ah yes, second-rate attempts of being like our big brother Culture. That's what we need, right? According to these people, the Bible needs a lot of help. And here's their answer. The Bible simply isn't enough. What God says isn't trendy enough to get teenagers reading it. We need Robert Schuller and other pop-psychologists and self-help experts to appeal to the "felt needs" of kids. And if they do get what they are looking for, most likely it won't be found in red-letters because it has been neutered by all the junk that surrounds it. I'm done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Taylor Wedded and With Hair!

Jammin' On Chocolate, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

For six years I have been associated with this bald man, and lo, at his wedding, he goes out and grows some hair. I don't know what to do with him.
Anyways. It was really great spending the weekend with some old friends (really not that old) and getting some great laughs in.
This week I will be posting a few pics I took while roaming around the wedding. It's not much, but I thought the church was beautiful and the decor was superbly done.
Kudos to Taylor for having the insight to spend the honeymoon in St. Thomas. Elegant and simple. Best honeymoon place in my opinion.
May the Lord be supremely glorified in the unifying of two lives and one passion to live for His name's sake.

- t.n.b.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Start 2006 Off With A BANG!!!

So have you made plans yet for the start of 2006? I know, it's still July, and January is still 6 months away. But have you? Right now, there is an opportunity before me to take a small team of 6-8 people to Bangladesh to travel to some unreached peoples and villages with the gospel. We will travel down rivers/tributaries with locals to distribute literature, establish contacts, and do some groundwork for other workers there. My contact is a leader among a movement that is growing stronger by the day and is needing help in going to these people who have been deprived of hearing of Jesus. Details to come later. Love the outdoors? Want a challenge? Interested?

If so, I need to hear from you . . . and soon. If this trip is to be planned and organized, it must be quickly. If you or someone you know might be interested, I am asking that you either comment back on this post or email me directly at outpostministries@yahoo.com ASAP. Depending on the situation there in Bangladesh and the logistics here, the trip is on hold at this moment. It is in the Lord's hands, and if it works out, great!

Wouldn't you want to start the year off with a real bang???

Craftmanship Needed

I heard a great message this past Sunday at First Bible Church in Decatur, AL. Their pastor, Steve Bateman, has been going through a series on how to glorify God through work. This Sunday, he spoke on cultivating craftmanship in the workplace with his text being Colossians 3:22-24. I must say that this is a much-needed message. At the close of his message, he prayed something to this effect: "Lord, it is not that Decatur has not heard your gospel message that many are not saved; but it is that they have not seen good craftmanship among your people who preach your gospel." Man, that hit me hard. Where's the credibility to our message? It is built upon our character, our work, and our words. So much of Christianity has taken a black eye because so many Christians are lazy, short-cutters, cheap tippers, and the like. No, we should not do it because eyes are watching, but that the Eye is watching and will reward on that day. You can hear this message and others here. This message, I have come to learn, was prepared, presented, and proclaimed by a good craftman of God's Word. Let us listen and learn together what our Bible-belt folks really need.

99 @ 2?

Aaargghhh. I just got in after a sweltering night where the low was only 84 and the heat index was well up into the upper 90's. Quite a night I should say. Good thing I had my hefy portion of meatloaf, stoved stopped stuffing and green beens! I guess it could have been worse. I've got better things to write, so I will put a comma here,

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Hearty "Hell No!" to Hell

At work the other night, I was working with a fellow employee who I knew was not a Christian. When I first started working there, she thought I was a priest, so the inside joke was to call me "Father Timmy". While I have had the opportunity to talk to most of my coworkers about the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus, I had not talked to her. A couple of weeks ago, another seminary student started working on my belt (the only other seminary student in my area), and the three of us were working on the Chicago next-day air load together. While loading some boxes, she just came out and said, "You preachers are so weird." "Weird?" I said. "What's so weird about us? I mean we are not aliens are we?" (though we are in effect). "I mean we have two legs, two arms, look just like everyone else, talk like everyone else (though not really), and live in the same world as everyone else. We are sinners, whose hearts deceive us and have nothing to offer God to make us better in his eyes. So how are we weird?" I really wanted to know her answer to that question. Then I asked her, "______, what do you believe about Jesus? Do you understand why He came?" She replied, "Oh yes, I know about all that Christianity stuff. My mom's a minister. I know that you must 'accept Jesus into your heart' and all that. I just don't think it applies all that much to me." Then I asked, "So what do you believe it takes for someone to go to heaven?" She answered, "I think that you just have to be a sincerely good person. I mean, I don't think that you will go to hell just because you do some bad things." I responded, "______, do you believe that if you were do to die tonight that you would go to heaven?" She answered, "Probably not . . . but I know that I won't go to hell. There's no way that I am going to hell." Then it hit me why we are considered to be so weird. We believe that sinners who die outside a saving relationship with Jesus Christ will go to hell. It was a hearty "Hell No!" to hell, and such is the air we breathe. No, you cannot scare someone to becoming a Christian, but you are naive to think that there is not a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" What we need a fresh dose of Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", and not as a piece of literature to be read in high school, but an announcement made to sinners of a soon and coming reality that they must face. With pleading lips and broken heart, we who believe in hell, must live like it. As C.T. Studd said, "Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell, but I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell." So he did. But what about us? Do we live like sinners who die in their sin will go to hell? Are we reaching for the church bells or sinners arms? While we may not have a hearty "Hell No!" response to hell, we can glibly pass by the notion of hell because of our "eternal security" we have, and think, "Whheeeww, I'm glad I am safe!" and go on with living our lives like hell is non-existent. I learned a lesson that day. A lesson about hell. A lesson about weirdness. A lesson about a dry eye and hard heart.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 7/21-7/28

* I am working on putting a series of blog posts together that are similar to the "That's Not What I Came For" post. They will all be short first person narrative-like stories taken from actual biblical accounts in the life of Jesus. This weeks will be called, "What's That I Smell?". Also, I am planning a series of posts called A Hunger for Holiness which will be different ways that I have learned to deal with sin and pursue holiness. These threads of posts I hope will be helpful and insightful in the days ahead. * Thanks everyone who has explored my photo page. As of today, there have been over 3500 visits on my photostream. I am working on some photo assignments, such as graveyards, 6-shot photostitch, antiques, and macro floral shots. If you would like to shoot along, maybe we can share some photos. * My good friend and long time ministry companion Taylor White will be getting married this Saturday. We have had many a talk over finding the love of our lives, and I am glad that he has found his. Dusti and I will be traveling to Birmingham to rejoice with them in what God has put together. * Every wondered where you could get some beautiful flowers at a really reasonable price? Recently, I purchased some from Pro Flowers for our anniversary. What is so great about these folks is that they pick them straight from the fields and ship them the same day. When you get them, they have not even bloomed yet, and you get to watch them over the next 2-3 weeks (yes, that's how long they last). I am thoroughly pleased with this beautiful arrangement. Instead of getting some already-bloomed flowers at an overly priced store, why don't you get some affordable ones straight from the fields? And no, Pro Flowers are not giving me any kickbacks for this advertisement. Have a great week! - t.n.b.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Celebrating Two Years With My Bride

My Beautiful Wife, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

It was two years to this date that my wife and I celebrated the union which God had ordained before time. What can I say in just a few words about two wonderful years? In such an occasion, words seem not only insufficient but almost belittling to the immensity of what I feel and know in my heart.
One of the things I have learned over the past two years is that I am a man of many faults. You know they say, "God knows you best and loves you most." Well, I agree, and my wife would be next in line. She loves me not because I am perfect, but because she has perfect love for me.
I only ask the Lord to be gracious to me to spare me many moments in the future to express how infinitely grateful I am to have a wife like Dusti. Sadly enough, too many moments have passed in the past two years where I have not said "I Love You" enough, even more so demonstrated that love in "laying down my life as Christ did for the church."
Two years. What a journey! What a blessing! To have at my side my best friend and an audience to listen to my sermons on the couch and whipser gently to me tender words to soothe a weary soul. I could go on in unending praise for this woman who is better than any dream and more beautiful than anything I could ever imagine. I love you Dusti. As one humbled by the greatness of your love and amazed at your passionate devotion to our marriage, I today, with solemnly joyous lips, utter "I Do."

I do love you. Happy Anniversary.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Just When You Think We Have Over-Marketed Christianity . . .

Got this via email today. Just when you thought they could not market The Purpose-Driven Life anymore, here's one more just for you. The Purpose-Driven Life for Commuters. And guess what? It's free! Boy, I can't wait to get my copy of this! Sike. Let's see. How many Purpose Driven products are out there today? Probably more than you have time to read, but in any case they market and make millions while people turn them into their Bibles. Reminds me of the lyrics in Webb's CD: don’t want the song i want a jingle i love you Lord but don’t hear a single and the truth is nearly impossible to rhyme but i know the songs with all the hooks and i know some lies that will sell some books so grab ‘em fast, i’m running outta time just keep selling truth in candy bars on billboards and backs of cars truth without context, my favorite of all my crimes (Ballad in Plain Red) Oh well. Such is life in the 21st century.

A Timely Word for the Timeless Word

I recently check out to see what John Piper has been reading and writing, and he has written a timely word that I believe we all need to read. It is called A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind. In a day where sermons are dumbed down and Christians are convincing themselves that anti-intellectualism is real spirituality (ignorance is godly?) and where television and entertainment dictate our learning, a call for rigorous thinking and reading is clarion and critical. It is a sad day, when, as believers we have more movie buffs specializing in novelty than discerning minds who can appraise biblical truth. I hope that this call resonates in the mind of Christians and fires our hearts to pursue Jesus - the Word made flesh.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

On A Misty Morning

This morning Dan and I thought we would take advantage of the aftermath of what was Hurricane Dennis (which has been around here for about four days) to check out Tioga Falls to see if the flow would be any stronger. We arrived there around 5:30 a.m. and didn't realize that it was still pitch night (especially since there is no artificial light anywhere). It had been raining almost all night, and the constant, gentle pouring down made our quest questionable. We decided to go for it. Grabbing my little headlamp and a pullover and my tripod case, we began our trek. About 1/4 mile into the hike, it just hit me. I am in the middle of nowhere, can't see anything, and my only companions is Dan and the intimidating darkness looming around us. It was simply amazing. The ruffling of leaves, the constant whisper of wind above, and the beautiful yet calming stream of rain hitting us as a reminder of God's faithfulness. It had been quite some time since I had been somewhere so serene, so surreal. I couldn't see anything, but the moment keeps illuminating my imagination. With the "I believe I can" headlamp lighting our little path, we avoided slippery terrain and safety arrived to the falls. It just so happened that when we arrived, the sun had risen and ironically the rain had ended. It was like the previous 30 minutes we were in another world. As the mist and fog and dew began to fade away and the piercing rays above revealed our traverses, I had a renewed appreciation for things I all-to-often overlook even when I have eyes to see and light to see it with. I just thought I'd share a cool moment in my life. It was one I won't be forgetting anytime soon. No fireworks. No big grand stage. No huge price to get in. Just the nod from the trees and the welcoming air of a new day to beckon us to join with all creation in glorifying Him who does all things well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 7/13-7/20

* I appreciate all the positive response from the little narrative I have attempted to write ("That's Not What I Came For."). If you would like to see another, more extensive work, let me refer you to KJ's work called Sennacherib, the tragedy of the account as written in Isaiah 36-37. KJ is a very gifted writer and excellent thinker as well. * I am still getting the Top 5 Pictures in from Drew and Erin's wedding. If you would like to submit your five, please post them on the comment section under the "All Done - Your Turn" post. Please use the names already given to the pics. Your input is greatly appreciated. * I just recently sent out our monthly Brister Briefings (via email) for the month of July. If you are not on the mailing list and would like to be, please send me your email either by posting it on the comment section of this post or email me directly (outpostministries@yahoo.com). * If you have ever wanted to understand more about the Trinity, one of the most difficult doctrines of the Christian faith to understand, let me recommend to you Bruce A. Ware's latest book Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance. Ware does a wonderful job of bringing the more complex, more difficult doctrinal truths like providence and the Trinity in such a fresh and practical way. A book well worth your money and time. Next Sunday's Message: "Wasted on Jesus" (John 12:1-8) Open Books: An Introduction to the Theology of Religions by Veli-Matti Karkkainen Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez

What Excites Me

Just a quick update on DWYL (Don't Waste Your Life). We had our first meeting last night. What for eight months has been churning in my heart is beginning to be realized. Eight fellow UPSers came last night, all who seem thoroughly engaged and excited about this study. Even more encouraging is that there were six others we distributed books to that will be coming next week. All in all, we have connected with at least 25 UPSers, many of whom who are neither believers or churched. From those that are coming, there is a beautiful mix of believers and unbelievers, mature Christians and new Christians. I am excited to see how this study will impact everyone's life regardless of where they are in their journey. Ultimately, my prayer is that UPS would be transformed one life at a time. Our theme has become: "Ask not what brown can do for you, but what you can do for brown." What can we do? Give them Jesus. And that is what excites me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"But That's Not What I Came For."

"Your sins are forgiven." That was all that he said. My four friends gave of themselves to take me to this man who we heard and have come to believe that he can heal. A miracle worker. Someone who can fix what I have lived with for all my life. This is what I have been waiting for. This is the day that I was to be forever changed. Upon arrival, we noticed the amazing number of people pushing and shoving, trying to get a glimpse of this man, to hear what he had to say. The crowd, we suddenly realized, was too much for us, and we had no way to get to him. So we stopped in discouragement and dismay. Every time something great was supposed to happen, other people and insurmountable obstacles seemed to always get in the way. But just as we began to turn back, one of the guys shook of the doubt and frustration and convinced the others to press on. "We must get to this man. He is the only one who can heal our friend. Whatever it takes, we are going to get to him," he said with relentless trust and passionate determination. Feeling their selfless love and compassion to help me, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. There were taking me to a place I could not go myself, to a person I could not find on my own. Approaching the crowds, we began to get the blank faces and glaring looks and other smirking, thinking in their heads, "Now, how in the world do you think you are going to get to this rabbi?" I was concerned that the ridicule and mockery of the crowds would deter my friends and cause them to turn back. But it seemed that the crowd's jeering only solidified their resolve. They worked their way through each line of shoulder-to-shoulder row of spectators and patiently found their way somehow up onto the roof. Another said, "If we are going to get him to this miracle-worker, we must tear a whole in this roof." We had no tools, no utensils to tear through the rock and mortar. Yet they began to pound and punch. Minutes became hours, and after worn out hands, bruised needs, and sweat-stained brows, the hole first began to appear. We began to hear those below yelling at us, and the owner of the house threatening us, demanding that we come down. But by this time, it was no turning back. We have come this far, and this Jesus man is just below. Finally, the hole got big enough that they could see the rabbi. Interestingly enough, he was not upset over what we were doing. As a matter of fact, he stopped his preaching and turned his attention to us. Watching in amazement, he let the rock and dust fall on his head as though it was just what he was waiting for. Eventually the hole was big enough to let me down. That fateful moment seemed to have stopped in time. His eyes pierced me through and through, yet when he looked at my friends, he smiled and was overjoyed by what seemed to upset everyone else around him. My friends just looked down, knowing that their job was done, and they were ready to receive any accusations or penalties for having pushed through crowds, tearing a hole in the owner's house, and interrupting his message. Seeing all that my friends had done, the moment we had been waiting for had come. Opening his mouth, this miracle worker said, "Your sins are forgiven." What? I was confused. That was not what I was expecting to hear. In my head, I could not stop thinking, "My sins? What about my legs? You mean to tell me that you are not going to heal me? What about all that my friends did to get me here? Are you going to make me leave in the same condition that I came?" Then something provoked him to turn his attention away to some in the crowd who were whispering about what he said. Addressing them, the tone of his voice and disposition changed with sternness and boldness, saying, "Which is easier, you think to tell this man 'Rise up and walk' or 'Your sins are forgiven?'" You see, they understood that he was blaspheming because no one can forgive sins but God alone. This miracle worker was not claiming to just be a miracle-worker, he was claiming to be God! At that moment, I thought it was all over. He could not be God, could he? Is this the Messiah? Then he said again, "So that you would know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth, I tell this man to 'Rise up and walk.'" Suddenly, strength came to my legs, and the palate that I had lived on all my life was a souvenir of the man I used to be! I leaped up with sheer joy to see that this man changed my life! As the excitement and overwhelming joy settled in my heart, I had the courage to ask him, "Why did you first say to me, 'Your sins are forgiven.' That was not what I came for?" He simply said, "Yes, but it was the reason for why I came." Suddenly, I understood that he was who he said he was. This is God. This is the Savior of the world. My greatest problem was not that I was a paralytic, but that I was a sinner. He saw in me what no one else could see, and he forgave me of the sins that I had committed against him. So whenever I get a chance to tell my story, I always am reminded of how my four friends' faith and extraordinary commitment to get me to Jesus changed my life. Where would I be without some friends to bring me to Jesus? Where would I be if there was not a Savior who would accept me, even if I came through a roof? He was so inviting, so available, so accessible. Now that I have legs to walk, and a heart that has been forgiven, I have made it my life's goal to glorify this Man by bringing others to him. Not necessarily paralytics or blind men or the lame, but sinners, for those are the people for whom he came. Jesus - the one who would save his people from their sins. (This is my interpretive story of the sermon I preached yesterday. Hope it encourages you.)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Some May Ask, "Why?"

Hurricane Dennis, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

I am none one to try to have an answer for every question, especially questions that we simply cannot have sufficient information about. I don't want to speak on the basis of speculation or conjecture, but I do want to provide a possible perspective on why phenomenons such as hurricanes happen. So why does such natural disasters happen? The tsunami's, the hurricanes, the monsoons, earthquakes, firestorms, etc. - it seems that we are bombarded with the ferocity of mother nature. Some may say, "If there is a God, and given that he is good, then why does he allow such things to happen? Can't he stop them?" This, to me, is a question of providence. Could it be that these acts are not a matter of permission but causation? Could it be that God, in his infinite wisdom, has something in mind with these forces of nature that we know nothing of? Certainly, God is not unaware of what is going on. Certainly, God is capable of stopping them. But why doesn't he? I admit, I don't know the answer to all those questions, but they are worth asking. As a Christian, the perspective I prefer to take is to think of this as a God-given opportunity for his people to represent him and his love by responding in a moment of crisis with grace, generosity, and compassion. This is a call to action - a wakeup call to shake us out of our comfort zone to feel the sense of urgency and importance of reaching out to people who are in need. One week ago, they were in the same situation save the 120 mph winds. They still needed Jesus. Yet today and tomorrow we will go to those, who, yesterday we unfortunately ignored. This must be a good thing, that is, if we heed the call. So when someone may ask,"Why?", or maybe you are asking that question, think of the opportunities that are afforded to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to share his love, to reach out when we once had our hands in our pockets, to give when we were once hoarding, to be Christians when we were once spectators. This, I hope, can be a glimpse to the real Answer to the catastrophic results of sin that has swept humanity in its grip with more force than any hurricane force winds.

Friday, July 08, 2005

All Done - Your Turn

Farewell B&W, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Yes. I have finally finished posting pictures of Drew and Erin's wedding. In all, I posted 192 pics in the last month. My work is done. Now it is your turn. I need you to reply back with your top five favorite pics of the wedding (for those of you interested). Number them from 1-5 (one being your favorite of the favorites) and use the title given them. Make sense? Your input is greatly appreciated. Much thanks. (To Drew and Erin's Set)

Barriers, Buildings, Budgets, and Big Names

I got this email yesterday. Check out what the gist of it is: ARE YOU STUCK? Let’s Get Growing! There are two things we all have in common: We want to grow our churches for God’s glory. We inevitably run into Growth Barriers along the way! No matter what barrier has you stuck, teaching to help you grow through is finally here! Nelson Searcy, church growth strategist and founding pastor of The Journey Church of the City in NYC, has developed essential teaching to help you break through the barriers that are holding you back from God’s best! These Breaking Growth Barriers CDs are available for churches of all levels and include dynamic, applicable teaching on: · Why growth barriers must be broken · Structuring your staff and volunteers for growth · Top challenges of pushing past specific barriers · Principles for growing as God intends Choose the CD that best suits the next level of ministry your church is striving for… Breaking the 65 Barrier $12 Breaking the 125 Barrier $15 Breaking the 250 Barrier $15 Breaking the 500 Barrier $15 Are You Really Stuck? Check out a LIVE Breaking Growth Barriers Workshop! Nelson Searcy invites you to a power-packed workshop on Breaking Growth Barriers. In this day-long seminar, you will have the chance to delve deeper into the barriers holding your growth at bay. The workshop will offer intensive teaching on: How to see and break through the nine most common growth barriers Pouring the foundation for solid growth in the future What growing churches don’t do Where do I go from here? Clear next steps. Short Commentary What concerns me today is that so many churches have bought into this church growth mentality that turns the bride of Christ into another pragmatic experiment or project. Is this how we are to view God's church? Don't get me wrong: I am for church growth because Christ will add to his church, but is this what he is talking about when he said that? Breaking the 125 barrier - are you kidding me? Is this how far we have plunged into superficiality and "measuring success"? The majority of churches today are under 100 on Sunday, and they are being scolded and made fun of by larger churches because of their size. I feel like we are in middle school all over again - only that this time it is not the size of your bicep but your budget and building. We have become so mesmerized over numbers and names that we feel like we have to have a big name personality as our pastor and the biggest building on the block to give us clout. The more I see of this church growth movement, the less I see of the kingdom of God and the more of the marketing schemes of corporate America. The last question on the email is, "Where do I go from here?" I have an answer for you - the Bible. But it appears that the Bible is not efficient enough (I guess because of its message), so we are left to this, and Wal-Mart supercenters as our models for spiritual malls of America.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Random Stuff for the Week of 7/5-7/12

* As you can see, I have not been able to write much as of late, and for that I apologize. With the summer at high noon, it was a wake-up call for me that the Fall semester is right around the corner, and I have much to do. I will attempt to hammer out a major research project this month. As a result, I will try to post every 2-3 days rather than everyday, simply for the sake of focus and lack of time. Please stay tuned in the future as I hope to provide something readworthy, and hopefully comment-worthy as well. * I enjoyed spending some time in Athens with my family and some friends this past weekend. I also took a number of photos. I recently posted some celebrating the 4th of July. Next week, I will post some of the fireworks show, and the week after I will post some cool antiques that I shot as well. As far as Drew and Erin's wedding goes, my last uploads will be tomorrow, as I conclude that folder with over 190 photos. I hope that you have enjoyed view them. Could you tell me which ones have been your favorite? That would be great! * DWYL is getting started next week. I am pumped about it. It just so happened (a.k.a. God's sovereignty) that we have a new hire on our belt who just graduated from Boyce and entering Southern Seminary. He seems like a great guy and could be a great help in reaching our co-workers for Christ. Please pray that God would capture the hearts and lives of these people whom I have grown to love. * I have been mulling over the whole Live 8 Extravaganza and was wondering what your thoughts were. Comment back on this post and tell me what you think, if you don't mind. That's all for now. At the end of July, I hope to have a more complete bibliography of my sources for this research as well as an annotated bibliography. If you would like to see my work, I will try to get them posted on PDF format or something like that (something I am clueless about). Have a great week! - t.n.b.

Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes, originally uploaded by Sola Lumina Captura.

Here are some pictures celebrating the 4th of July. I hope to have some pics of the short 15 minute fireworks show in Athens, AL sometime soon.

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