Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Florida Baptists and Haiti

Some years ago, at the request of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Florida Baptists Convention assumed responsibility for Southern Baptist missions work on the island nation of Haiti. Since that time God has worked miracles, comparable to those of New Testament times, in Haiti.
  • 881 Churches have been started
  • This year more than 10,000 will be baptized
  • 167 men have received certificates in theology from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
  • 6 Directors of Missions have been employed
Possibly the most significant of these accomplishments would be the theological training of indigenous leaders. Any mission’s strategy that forsakes or ignores the need to train indigenous leaders is doomed to fail. Ultimately, the ongoing success of the work is dependent upon indigenous leadership.

This has been possible because of the faithful cooperative program support of Florida Baptist Churches and the vision and passion of our Executive-Director Treasurer, Dr. John Sullivan. Craig Culbreth, from the Florida Baptist Convention Missions Division has done yeoman work in Haiti. God is using Florida Baptists to disperse darkness in one of the poorest and most evil places in the world.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?"
~ David Livingstone


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Religion and Politics

Last week I was having breakfast with a group of unchurched and mostly unsaved men. This is a group of men I meet with on a consistent basis. It has been my joy to lead several of the men and the servers at the restaurant to know Jesus as their Savior.

As you would imagine our conversations run the full gamut of topics. This particular day the topic among some of the group was politics. One of the men spoke up and said that he “never discussed religion or politics.” While I have often heard this statement, this time it caused me to wonder why we would exclude “religion and politics” from our dialogue. It would seem to me that these should be two topics that rank high on our list of items to be discussed.

One of the reasons we hear this phrase is that there are people who lack conviction and therefore have little or nothing to say concerning wither religion or politics. Another reason is that there are those who cannot dialogue but rather desire to argue others into submission. Further, there are those who are so intolerant of others as to allow that there may be another position to be considered.

I believe both religion and politics are necessary topics for our public and open discussion. If we genuinely believe in our republic and the democratic way of life it provides then we must involve ourselves in the process of dialogue concerning the matters of the day politically. To do otherwise is to surrender our participation in the greatest nation in history. Civil discourse is no only guaranteed by the First Amendment it is required of free people.

Religious dialogue is not only necessary it is natural. If a person has a genuine living relationship with Jesus they will desire to speak of that relationship. While I possess firm conviction about my personal faith, my dialogue about my faith should always be civil and respectful. I have no fear of losing my faith in public discourse. Jesus is the truth and will stand the crucible of public dialogue and critical examination.

We must never lose sight of common courtesy as well as maintaining personal conviction. Start talking about religion and politics. It will do your soul and your country good.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.”
~ Mahatma Ghandi

Friday, September 18, 2009

Anti Christian League United

Yesterday, Americans got a win. In Pensacola a Federal Court Judge ruled in favor of a high school athletic director and a high school principal on trial for violating a court order that prohibited them from praying. Their crime was praying over their food. This case is a part of an ongoing issue between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Santa Rosa County School District.

The A.C.L.U. has possibly done more harm in this generation than any other non-government organization. They have promoted anti-Christian sentiment and issue and are the major voice in the “separation of church and state” debate. It is sad that an organization that is so influential cannot read. Here is the first amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The First Amendment is a part of the “Bill of Rights” comprised of the first ten amendments of the constitution. It was important to our founding fathers that limits be placed upon the Federal government for the purpose of protecting specific rights. This concept has been aborted in our day at least partially by a culture that has confused “entitlement“ with rights. What does the First Amendment protect?

1. The federal government will not establish a religion. The obvious intent here is that there shall be no government sponsored religion.

2. The federal government will not prohibit the free exercise of religion. People are to be allowed to express their religious faith as they choose. This includes publicly praying and expressing gratitude to God for our daily bread.

3. The federal government will make no law restricting free speech. Every individual is allowed to express their opinion.

4. The federal government will not interfere with the media. A free press is an absolute necessity for a free people. The government should not influence either positively or negatively the media.

5. The federal government will not stop people from a peaceable assembly. History teaches that freedom is suppressed when people cannot peacefully gather.

6. The federal government will not prohibit people from seeking relief from the government when they experience grievance against the government.

The verbiage specifically restricts the influence of government in these specific areas. We can thank the A.C.L.U. (Anti Christian League United) for the abhorrent and unconstitutional rulings of the past generation.

Hopefully, the Pensacola ruling will begin a movement back to the constitutional protections of the First Amendment.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“It appears that some school officials, teachers, and parents have assumed that religious expression of any type is either inappropriate or forbidden altogether in public schools; however, nothing in the First Amendment converts our public schools into religion-free zones.”
~ President Bill Clinton

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Pastor Wonderful People

It has been my joy to be pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Sarasota, Florida for the past eighteen and one-half years. As you can imagine those years have been packed with thousands of experiences, some of them have been great others have been less than great.

I said all of that to say that God has been very good to let me be pastor to the wonderful people of Southside. Across these years I have been privileged to work with excellent staff, Godly lay leadership, and loving people. They have been tolerant of my mistakes. They have supported my ministry. They have encouraged my service in numerous positions in denominational life as well as in preaching an average of three revivals a year. They have prayed for me and my family. They have been supportive of each of our children as they have grown up. They have provided for us to the very best of their ability.

As a people they have desired the expositional preaching of God’s Word. During my years at Southside I have preached through the entire New Testament, the Minor Prophets, The Psalms and Proverbs, almost half of the Pentateuch and many of the books of History in the Old Testament. They bring their Bibles. They take notes (as if I might say something worth noting) and then follow-up with questions from not only the messages but from their personal study. It is great to pastor a people who not only profess to be people of the book but practice being people of the book. They make me a more effective preacher of the gospel.

I am blessed of God to be pastor to such wonderful people.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present."
~ Bill Keane

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 - Eight Years Later

Today, we stop to remember the horrific terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. What are your memories of that day?

Unbelief - it was surreal to view planes flying into the side of the twin towers, then to hear news reports of a plane that went down in rural Pennsylvania and yet another plane flown into the Pentagon. For the first time America was attacked upon her own continental soil.

Horror - watching the towers beginning to crumble and realizing that people were trapped inside was horrific. The death toll was two thousand nine hundred and ninety-three.

Pride - many brave fire fighters and police officers risked and or gave their lives that day in order to protect or save people they did not know. Courageous men sacrificed themselves on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania. In the midst of disaster true American Heroism ruled the day.

Recognition - there are people in the world that will die to attempt to destroy us. We can no longer behave as if we are exempt from terror attack. We were plunged into a war unlike any war we have ever known. A war that continues and more than likely shall continue into our foreseeable future. We ignore this reality to our own peril. There is evil in the world.

Resolve - this is a war we did not choose, however, it is a war we must fight and win. Yes, the price is high (it can get no higher than the life of even one American). Freedom is not free. It must be reclaimed by every generation that would enjoy its blessings.

Take time today to remember that day. Pray for God to bless our soldiers that still fight for our freedom. Our life as a nation and individual people will never be the same because of those events.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

"We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."
~ President George W. Bush

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The End of the Story

Sunday Mornings @ 10:30am

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Do you think yourself wise? Then there's a donkey inside your waistcoat”.”
~ C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous Polish composer-pianist, was once scheduled to perform at a great American concert hall for a high-society extravaganza. In the audience was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, the boy slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the Steinway on the stage. Without much notice from the audience, he sat down at the stool and began playing "chopsticks." The roar of the crowd turned to shouts as hundreds yelled, "Get that boy away from there!" When Paderewski heard the uproar backstage, he grabbed his coat and rushed over behind the boy. Reaching around him from behind, the master began to improvise a countermelody to "Chopsticks." As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy's ear, "Keep going. Don't quit, son...don't stop...don't stop."

What are the lessons Baptists can learn from this story?

1. There is the danger of the piano not being played at all. If we wait for the experts to play the piano it will for the most part remain silent and ineffective. Further the experts cannot be everywhere at once.
2. There is the risk of finding fault with those who are playing the piano now. Those not playing the piano easily criticize those that are playing the piano. Particularly when it is not being played to their liking.
3. Those who play the piano expertly are prone to criticize those who play differently than they play. It is safe to assume that there were many self-professing expert pianists who “heckled” the boy.
4. The loudest critics are often those who prefer the limelight of being a soloist rather than what is often perceived as a mundane participant. The prima donna does not understand the need for cooperation.
5. There is value when the expert joins in with those currently playing the piano. The melody becomes not only more appealing it is more effective.
6. The perceived expert need not stop what is happening to make it more effective, he simply needs to add his skill to the melody.
7. Cooperation is a much better impetus for success than criticism or removal. We still best what we do together.
8. Cooperation is not dependent on total agreement or compliance. The master in the story had years ago moved beyond chopsticks and certainly had not planned for a concert that included chopsticks.
9. I fear that often the question is “cooperation” versus “control”. Those that seek control seldom understand the concept of cooperation.

The genius of Southern Baptist life has always been our cooperation within the context of theological consensus and missional commitment. If we lose the commitment to cooperative ministry we will lose that which has made us the most effective and far-reaching mission effort in the history of Christianity.

Attempting to connect the dots…

Romans 1:16

“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.”
~ William Arthur Ward

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