Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bible Verses that Freak Me Out - A tribute to my friend Patrick Adair

I have a friend from seminary, named Patrick, who started a blog a few weeks ago that is absolutely hilarious and incredibly challenging. As I told him once, your brain is made for blogging – you can find him at He’s recently been posting a series of thoughts on “Bible Verses that Freak Me Out.” Did I tell you he’s a youth minister? Youth ministers can get away with so much more than pastors. I can imagine the discussion if I titled a sermon series that. Anyway, throughout these discussions he makes a couple of great points – one for honesty, one for humility.

On honesty – far too often we come to church and act like the Bible is an easy book to read. It’s not. There are places that are easy, and nice, and comforting. But there are just as many places that are difficult, or boring, and or even plain disturbing. When we pretend that the Bible is otherwise, we can create lots of frustration in those who are picking up the Bible for the first time (or who are trying to pick it up again for the umpteenth time). Our ignoring of the hard parts also allows us regular readers to dodge some things that might be good for us, even if they’re not easy or comforting.

That leads us to the second point Patrick makes – the need for humility. We need the humility to admit that we don’t understand everything in the Bible (Beware of preachers who claim they do!). We also need humility to admit that often we find the Bible difficult because through its verses God asks us to do things we would rather not do. Patrick puts it well:

To paraphrase F.F. Bruce in "Hard Sayings of Jesus", some verses are difficult because we don't know what they mean, and some are difficult because we know exactly what they mean.

As an experiment, I read through the Sermon on the Mount with the youth group, and asked them to mentally keep track of how many times they thought to themselves, "Golly, I hope Jesus doesn't mean that exactly like it sounded." We came up with about 20 - in just three chapters.

We all have our favorite Bible verses that bring comfort and meaning to our lives. But I think that it is a healthy exercise to confront those parts of scripture that make us distinctly uncomfortable.

I think Patrick’s right, and after reading his words I immediately thought of John 14:12. There Jesus was speaking to his disciples and said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Really? I’m supposed to be doing even greater things than Jesus? How can that be? What would it look like? Why am I not? Not the easiest of verses. Not one I completely understand. Not the only one I don't understand, but heaven forbid I ignore Christ’s words. For the time being, let me rest uncomfortably in my lack of understanding trusting that to know God I don't have to understand everything about him. But let me be uncomfortable enough to continue to seek God's wisdom by his grace.

So what Bible verses have you squirming in your seat or scratching your head?

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near . . . “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6, 8-9.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Family Man" by Andrew Peterson

"Family Man" from Trevor Little on Vimeo.

Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite songwriters. Somewhat in the tradition of Rich Mullins, though I think a better storyteller. This is a video of Andrew's song, "Family Man." The video was drawn by Trevor Little and put together by his church - I think they're out in Las Vegas. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Man, it's hot

If you haven’t noticed, it’s hot outside. I know it’s a dry heat here in west Texas, but 100 degree weather is hot no matter where you are. Alyson and I were laughing the other day because we realized that every time we stepped outside whether from the house or car or from shopping we’d say something to the effect of “Man, it’s hot!” as if the temperature was somehow a surprise. Alyson decided to start counting how many times we said it but quickly gave up – I think the heat sapped her energy. It’s sapping all of our energy these days. Today is supposed to be a little better, thanks to some cloud cover provided by hurricane Dolly. Is it bad to be grateful for a hurricane?

The oppressive nature of the summer heat shows up in the book of Psalms, chapter 32. The psalmist writes, “When I kept silent [concerning my sins], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” Just like 100 degree heat can sap the strength right out of us, so can unconfessed sin sap the spiritual strength out of our walk with the Lord. Now, not all suffering is caused by sin (see the book of Job), but all sin does cause suffering of one kind or another. While as Christians we may be able to get away with sinful living for awhile, eventually, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, such living becomes oppressive. Our once joyful walk with God becomes distant and unfulfilling. Our relationships with others become strained and divisive. The fruits of the Spirit that should be present in our lives shrivel up from the heat of sin. For those of us who have known God’s presence, such a life of sin becomes miserable.

In many ways, this uncomfortableness in sin is a gift from God because like the heat forces us into the air condition, the oppression of unconfessed sin coaxes us into the refreshing breezes of God’s forgiveness. The Psalmist puts it this way, “Blessed is he who transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Are you being oppressed by the summer heat today? Well, for true relief (not the temporary kind resulting from hurricanes) you’ll have to wait for autumn. Are you being oppressed by some unconfessed sin? True relief is only a confession away.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness – 1 John 1:9.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Water For All Drilling Class

All this week, our staff missionaries, Kathy and Terry Waller will be leading a well-drilling (and windmill making) class here in San Angelo. The Wallers, for those who are unfamiliar with their ministry, are missionaries who primarily are based out of Bolivia. There they have developed a low cost well-drilling method to bring clean water to villages across that country. On average, one of the Wallers' wells can be drilled for around $100. Obviously, the need for similar water wells around the world is very great. Water for All's ministry has expanded beyond Bolivia to include a permanent work in Ethiopia through a volunteer missionary Joe Stocker.
As word of this "Baptist Well Drilling Method" has spread, people from all over the world have asked Terry for information on how to drill the wells. In order to fulfill some of those requests, Terry is offering for the second time a well drilling class right here in San Angelo. Churches and ministries from accross the United States are here this week participating in this class.
I really can't even begin to explain how much I admire Kathy and Terry for their work. I am so glad to be called their pastor and it is a true joy to partner with them for the cause of Christ. Be sure to be praying for the class this week and the work God will do around the world because of it.
Check out their website at Donations can be made directly to Southland Baptist Church and designated as Water for All - All such money goes directly to the work in Bolivia and Ethiopia.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Your turn

Today’s thought comes to you from Dallas, TX, where I’ve spent the week at a Stephen Ministry Leadership Training. For those familiar with Stephen Ministry Training, you know that this has left me with little time for thinking. As always happens when I’m away from Southland, though, I’ve been reminded of what a great church we have. Whether it’s our Stephen Ministers, or our Sunday School Teachers, or all those who helped with VBS (which I heard was fantastic!), we have a church full of people who love the Lord and look for ways to share his love in everyday life. Not every church is like that. So to you, the members of Southland, I say thanks.

Believe it or not, our church is coming up on its 30th anniversary. So I thought I might turn the tables a little bit and ask you to fill in the rest of the thought for today. How has God used Southland in your life? What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the people of God that call themselves Southland Baptist Church?

I'll start. One of my favorite things about Southland . . . is you. Many blessings, and I’ll see you on Sunday.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now – Philippians 1:3-5.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Journalist in our midst

Many cheers to one of our recent college grads, Carrie Joynton. Carrie has interned this summer with the Baptist Standard (and later with the BGCT) and has had several articles published. In this week's edition alone I counted five articles. You can check some of them out below (plus see the Standard's newly designed web page).

Doctor heals, gives hope in Middle East

Love in action enables church’s unconditional welcome

Book Reviews: Joining Forces: Balancing Masculine and Feminine

2nd Opinion: A microcosm of the body of Christ

Mentoring program helps ministers chart true course

Pencil marks on the door frame

This week Sophie turned four. Birthdays are magical when you’re four. You could see the magic in her eyes when she woke up Tuesday morning. Those dark brown eyes seemed to dance and sing, “I’m four today. The world will be different now, better, bigger, wider.” Convinced that this was so, she asked to be measured. The Sandlin household, like many households, has a door frame where we mark the vertical progress of our children. Sophie tugged me over to the closet that bears those marks. I planted her feet on the ground, placed the pencil on top of her head, and scratched a line onto the wood.

“That can’t be. Were you standing flat footed?” I asked.

“Yes, sir,” she said with a wide grin.

“Let’s do it again. Maybe I had the pencil angled upwards."

By this time Alyson made her way over and I re-measured Sophie. No mistake. She’d grown two inches since January. Alyson and I were dumbfounded; Sophie was delighted. She doesn’t know what an inch is, but she could see the large space between the two marks. She smiled and laughed and twirled. She said joyfully, “It’s because I’m four.” I realized that she thought she had grown two inches over night. Yesterday, she was three so she was small. Today, she’s four so she’s obviously bigger. I don’t think she bought my explanation that we grow gradually throughout the year. She would later add, “Next year, when I’m five, I’ll be really big.”

Those of us who have stopped growing physically (at least in the vertical direction) still can find ourselves thinking that somehow at the next milestone, the next big event, the next whatever, that we’ll somehow be better, wiser, kinder. Of course, those things are much harder to measure than one’s height. And the lack of visible progress can sometimes be as frustrating to big folks as the lack of physical growth is to a child. It’s easy to be discouraged as you wonder whether or not you’re becoming more like Christ. I know there are times in my life like that.

I like to think, though, that when I get to heaven, up there in one of those rooms God is preparing for me, there’s a door frame with my name on it and pencil marks revealing the growth that’s happened through the years. I’ll probably be surprised at some of the growth. May even think it came all at once. Perhaps after some great turn of events, certainly not while I was in some great valley. God will have to explain to me, “No, it didn’t come all at once. It’s been me, gradually working in you, your whole life long – through the good days and the difficult ones, when you recognized my hand and when you did not.” I imagine in heaven I’ll accept God’s explanation. I’m certain, like Sophie, I’ll smile, and laugh, and dance a dance of thanks.

[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus – Philippians 1:6

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lessons from the Lorraine

While in Memphis, Alyson and I took some time to stop by the National Civil Rights Museum. Built into the Lorraine Hotel, the location of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, the museum does more than tell Dr. King’s story. In great detail it traces the struggles, the persecutions, the failures, and the victories of the civil rights movement here in the United States. Our visit at the NCRM proved to be one of the highlights of the trip. On one level, the very existence of the museum gives testimony to how far we’ve come as a nation. As we strolled past the exhibit of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, James Meredith applying to Ole Miss, Thurgood Marshall arguing before the Supreme Court, we saw families of all colors pointing out these brave folks to their children as heroes for all people, not just of one race. Also noticeable, were the looks of incomprehension on the faces of younger people as they watched old news reels of sit-ins and school integration. Their faces asked the question on my mind, “How could people actually think segregation was right? Was the God ordained thing to do?”

Such questions pushed me into the greater lesson of the museum: as grateful as we should be for the gains made in our country for the freedom of all people (and we have made great gains – from the writing of the constitution to this very day), we must constantly be on guard against the blindness caused by our own self-righteousness or the defensiveness caused by our own fears. The museum did a good job I thought of showing that such missteps occurred even within parts of the civil right movement. We are all such a mixture of good and bad motives. I left the museum asking myself, “What evils reside in me that I am simply unaware of? What evil do I excuse or ignore in the world around me in order to preserve my advantage, my comfort, my peace of mind?”

It’s always easy to see other people’s shortcomings. It’s somewhat of a miracle to see our own. G.K. Chesterton was once invited to participate in an essay contest for a newspaper which asked, “What’s wrong with the world today?” Chesterton, always the sharp wit and a faithful Christian, wrote back a two word answer – “I am.” You and I live in an amazing country. It has given us great freedom. It is a place where movements like the civil rights movement can happen and succeed. But as we celebrate our independence tomorrow, let us do so with grateful and humble hearts. No doubt in the world around us there exist horrific evils (terrorism, sexual exploitation, extreme poverty). As Americans we must use our resources to strongly resist such forces. But the testimony of scripture and our own history remind us that the evil in another person is never an excuse to ignore the evil in oneself. Even in America we can be blind to injustice, callous to the needy, ignorant of oppressed. So let us follow Paul’s command and use our freedom, not to indulge in the sinful nature, but to serve one another in love.

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:13-14