- 2018 (3)
- 2017 (4)
June 18, 2018
I am not that much of a movie enthusiast nor am I in any way a qualified movie critic. I do, however, want to take a moment to offer my thoughts on the fairly recent popular movie, The Greatest Showman. I waited until this movie came out on DVD and my daughter purchased it before I watched it. I surprisingly found myself captivated by it. I am certain that my love of musicals played a part in my fascination, but more than that, I was intrigued with the underlying message.
There are various themes and sub-plots that could be discussed but I want to focus on what I believe to be the most significant theme of the movie and its potential impact on viewers. While the major theme is just that, major; I imagine that it could be partially overlooked or at least incomplete to the average viewer
[Spoiler Alert] If you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, you might want to stop reading here.
In the beginning, the movie seems typical. It begins with a sensational picture of a realized dream only to leave it fading into the background as the movie’s main character, P.T. Barnum, comes into view as a little boy. It is clear that Barnum is an impoverished boy with little to hope for in life. This reality grows with the death of his father. All this is portrayed as one of the most gripping songs of the movie, A Million Dreams, plays:
‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
In good dramatic tradition the main character is going to realize his dreams against all odds.
As young Barnum grows into a man, he realizes his first dream by marrying his childhood love, Charity. The movie again erupts into a reprise of A Million Dreams as Barnum and his new bride set the stage to pursue their dreams of a grand life. The scene then turns to Barnum loosing his job and returning home to his family (which now consist of two young daughters). This is the point when the first subtle hint of the real theme arises.
Barnum finds his wife and girls on the rooftop playing. When he tells Charity about the loss of his job, he then proceeds to say, “this isn’t the life I promised you.” Charity responds, “but I have everything I want.” Barnum then continues, “what about the magic?” To which Charity responds, “what do you call those two girls.” The stage is now set for P.T. Barnum’s greatest dream to be realized.
Through various circumstances Barnum is able to purchase a museum that eventually becomes the center of his realized dream, P.T. Barnum’s Circus. After an initial struggle, Barnum begins to create a show focused around a group of unique but outcast individuals. Barnum’s world begins to be filled with lights and grandeur. Except that he isn’t able to appeal to the upper class, something that is obviously important to him.
During a trip to England, Barnum is introduced to an opera singer named Jenny Lind. Barnum invites Ms. Lind to perform on his stage and now has the opportunity to appeal to the upper class. The movie peaks at this moment. P.T. Barnum has realized his grand dreams and in the moment that we visibly see Barnum apparently satisfied, Jenny Lind sings the song, Never Enough.
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough
After leading Jenny Lind on a tour, Barnum finds himself successful but empty. After returning home, Barnum’s dreams begin to come crashing down as his circus burns to the ground and a kiss from Jenny Lind puts his marriage and family at risk.
It is at this point that Barnum discovers that the grandest dream of all was his from the start. He makes this known through the song From Now On,
From now on
these eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on
Barnum’s circus rises from the ashes only to have him turn it over to his partner so he can be with his family.
This dramatic movie is a refreshing reminder of truth even though it’s purpose is not necessarily to drive truth home. In a world that sensationalizes everything and drives young people to pursue their dreams as though their greatest joy awaits them on the other side, this movie brings out the depth of disappointment in the selfish and sole pursuit of “my own happiness.”
All that this world offers and any accomplishments we might attain will never be enough to bring the deep satisfaction that our hearts long for. As emotional and exciting as the world can make the pursuit of our dreams sound, everything in the world will disappoint apart from the pursuit of Christ and His glory.
Finally, the song Come Alive reminds me of the great truth of the gospel even though it is not the intended meaning of the song;
When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And you know you can’t go back again
To the world that you were living in
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
So, come alive!
If we pursue OUR dreams, whether we catch them or not; they will disappoint. If we pursue HIS glory, we will find ourselves living in the grandest truth of all. While living for the sake of the gospel will come with great sacrifices and difficulties; along the way we might just find ourselves feeling as though we are dreaming with our eyes wide open.
The greatest show will not be found on any stage in this world whether real or fantasy. The greatest show has been playing since the creation of the world. It’s greatest moment was upon a cruel cross that is now made evident in the life of all those who, though once dead in sin and trespasses, come alive by the power and grace of God! (Ezekiel 37; John 11:43)
March 01, 2018
Over the past several weeks, during our Sunday night gathering, we have been focusing on “Being the Church on Purpose.” So far we have considered the following themes:
- How Effective and Fruitful Churches assume the gospel - Matt Chandler
- Glorifying God by Reaching the Lost - Joh Piper
- A Clarion Call to Worldly Christianity - Arturo Azurdia
- The Gospel and Personal Evangelism - David Platt
My hope is to saturate our hearts and minds with a passion to take the gospel beyond our four walls and impact the community around us to such an extent that it transforms both us and the community in a visible, tangible, and measurable way.
Among the many insights that I have gained from this time together, two stand out above the rest:
“God calls us to do what we cannot do but what He has chosen not to do without us.”
“We cannot be authentically Christian without being meaningfully worldly.”
First, I am reminded that God does not need any of us to accomplish His purposes. God is not dependent upon any of us to fulfill all that He has purposed. He has, however, determined to accomplish His purposes through means and WE are that means. The call to salvation is a proclamation by believing people to unbelieving people. It is through this means that God will call many to salvation. It is a guarantee. When the gospel is proclaimed, God saves! I want our family of faith to experience the joy and satisfaction of serving as God’s means to save the lost.
Second, I am challenged about what it means to engage our culture. It is a difficult task to determine in what ways we are to stand apart from the world around us. While we want to be “set apart” from the world for God’s use, we must not isolate ourselves from the world. We must live the gospel before them which means we cannot become solely inward focused. May God teach us what it means to be “meaningfully worldly.”
Please continue to pray along with me about how God may lead our faith family to impact and transform the culture and community in which He has placed us.
January 03, 2018
First, I want to say happy new year to each of you! We are so excited to start out this year here at Craig Memorial. The last 9 months have been a joy as we have been, not only getting to know you, but becoming a part of this family (something we felt almost from day one).
As we look toward this coming year, there are so many things that come to mind that I want to see and experience at CMBC. I am a dreamer, so my thoughts likely go far beyond the possible. I have been asking myself one question for quite some time now, “if we could only accomplish one thing that would impact the gospel here at CMBC, what would we do?” I wish I had a definitive answer to that question. I imagine that all of you would like to see some exciting things in the days ahead as well. With so many different ideas and opinions, it is often hard to settle on one single thing. I can say for certain that my overwhelming prayer is that regardless of what events and circumstances come, I want us to be overwhelmingly excited about what God might do in and through us! I want us to have great expectations, even amidst the mundane routines in which we often find ourselves.
So, with this new year, I hope that we will focus our attention on two pursuits. While we will continue to do all the necessary and important things like gathering together each Sunday and Wednesday for Bible study, singing, fellowship, and worship; I hope that we can keep these two pursuits before us from day to day and week to week.
First, as I mentioned before, that we would pursue great expectations. We rarely exceed our own expectations. Though it may be difficult to articulate what this should look like, I pray each of you will develop this attitude in yourselves. Our corporate expectations and excitement will come from the sum total of this same attitude in the individual lives of the membership. Pursue great expectations in your own spiritual growth and love of the gospel and no doubt we will see this grow exponentially in our congregation.
Second, join me in praying how we might make one singular impact for the cause of the gospel through our church. There are so many things we can be doing and at times need to do. This, however, does not have to define us. Too often we get involved in so many things that it is difficult to do any one thing with excellence or with our whole heart. Please pray and dream with me how we, together, might invest ourselves in one singular effort. Doing so would not only allow us to make a larger investment and impact for the gospel’s sake, but it will also go a long way in uniting our hearts and minds together for the glory of God.
I look forward to another year serving together with this family of faith. May God richly bless each of you for His own glory and for the good of His people!
November 13, 2017
As we rapidly approach the holiday season the chaos of our lives often escalates. While it seems summer just ended, many of us are now talking and planning around, not only Thanksgiving but Christmas as well. While this season often creates a greater amount of stress due to the busyness, I pray we all will pause and focus our hearts and minds upon the more excellent things.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul paused at the beginning to express his thankfulness to God for the believers in Thessalonica. Paul wrote,
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” (1 Thesalonians 1:2–5).
Paul expressed his gratitude in three particular ways set off by three participles in the original language (identified in English by words ending with -ing). Each of these reasons for thanksgiving serve to explain his giving “thanks to God.”
First, by “mentioning” the members of the church in his prayers. While we often speak of prayer and its importance, we often simply give lip service to the idea rather than actually taking time in private and corporately to pray for one another. Paul reminds us that our prayers for one another are one of the reasons that we are led to express our thanks to God.
Second, by “remembering” their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness (endurance) of hope. While it may be difficult to see, Paul reminds us that we impact one another through the life that we live particularly for the sake of the gospel. Paul was moved to give thanks to God because of the faithfulness of the church in Thessalonica. We too should be moved to thanksgiving, not merely because we “feel” a certain way about others, but because of the faithfulness of those doing life with us, to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should also be moved to produce an overflow of thanksgiving in others lives as we ourselves seek to be faithful to the gospel in our churches and around our community.
Finally, by “knowing” that God had chosen the believers in Thessalonica. Paul was confident that the faith professed was also a real faith possessed by those to whom he was writing. Note that his confidence wasn’t based on a mere profession of faith with their lips but upon his confidence in the Word of God preached and the power of the Holy Spirit to radically transform lives. Paul goes on in verses 6–10 to unpack this final thought in order to further express his confidence in their salvation. They were faithful living out the gospel both verbally and visibly to the point of their own suffering. Paul reminds us that the evidence of other’s faithfulness to God leads us to true heartfelt gratitude to the God of the gospel, whom we ourselves serve.
Sadly, Paul’s reasons for giving thanks are not the normal list you would find in the midst of a Thanksgiving testimony service. We should, however, consider our own gratitude toward God. For what and why are you grateful to God? Do your responses terminate on circumstantial and tangible things? While there are many other reasons and ways to express our thanksgiving to God in Scripture, we should take time to consider our gratitude in light of the Biblical gospel revealed in the Word of God not only as we approach the holidays but everyday of our grace filled lives.
September 06, 2017
Recently we just finished our study going through the book God's Big Picture written by Vaughn Roberts. I wanted to take just a moment to remind us all of the reality in which we live between two worlds. These two worlds in which we live between are the Kingdom of God inaugurated by Christ in his first coming and the Kingdom that is to come in its perfection when Christ comes again.
In the Gospels we are taught that Jesus came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
And then in light of the Kingdom coming near we are taught to:
“ . . .seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .” (Matt. 6:33).
This Kingdom that came near in Christ is the very same Kingdom that has been God’s plan from the beginning. It is the Kingdom that he designed in the Garden that was spoiled when sin entered the world.
While writing this article, I was interrupted by my son running into my office because my family encountered a snake on the porch during morning devotions. As any dad would do, I set aside my task of writing and went to the rescue of the family, delivering the snake safely into the woods. After my heroic efforts were complete I was then able to return to completing my task of writing this article. I had already determined where I was going with the article when I began but was delayed by a snake. Your ability to read this story is evidence that the interruption was just that, an interruption. My original task is complete.
All humor set aside, this serves to illustrate in a small way the story of God’s plan for all things. When God began, he knew what he intended the Kingdom to be. There was no question about what it would look like or whether it would be completed. It was, however interrupted by a snake. In the midst of mankind’s devotion to God, a crafty snake came along and created quite a delay in the process. This snake however brought with him temptation to sin and subsequently all the affects that come with sin. As a result God’s Kingdom was, in a way, interrupted until a heroic rescuer came along to, not deliver the snake to safety, but to deliver those who were suffering from the poison that the snake brought. Though the Kingdom plan had never been lost or abandoned, it wasn’t until the coming of Christ that it was brought to light. Christ brought with him the reality of this Kingdom which his followers are to pursue above all else until it fully arrives in all its perfection with Christ’s second coming.
In this present reality of the Kingdom, we, Christ’s followers are to live as God’s people (those redeemed by the grace of God and now reside “in Christ”), in God’s place (presently the church who is the people of God gathered together “in Christ”), while enjoying the rule and blessing of God both now and forever.
We look forward with great expectation of the consummated Kingdom in all its perfection, but we must be aware of the present reality that we enjoy as citizens of a Kingdom that is not defined by geographical boundaries but instead by Christ. We are a nation of believers from among every nation. We are the greatest nation that ever has or ever will exist.
This present reality must compel us to live in light of the coming Kingdom NOW! Until that glorious day when the time of awaiting is over and the snake’s interruption and distraction is no more, we must seek FIRST the Kingdom of God! Simply stated we must make our greatest pursuit and highest treasure that of living as God’s people for His glory, living in God’s place (his church), and manifesting the joy of his rule and blessing over our lives! Who knows . . . living in such a way might even be the catalyst to compel outsiders to join our kingdom pursuit in Christ.
For His Glory Alone,
August 01, 2017
We spend the large majority of our lives searching after the things that we believe will bring fulfillment and satisfaction to our lives. Often we wonder somewhat aimlessly hoping to discover some thing that will turn out to be ultimate. Those of us who have experienced the grace of God in salvation know that the only real satisfaction will be found in Christ, but even though we may sense a moment or moments of satisfaction, we still struggle to experience lasting fulfillment in this chaotic life. If we truly believe that Jesus is our ultimate satisfaction, then we will turn to the Scripture in our continuing search for satisfaction, identity, and meaning in our life.
While the Scripture is filled with wisdom and direction concerning this dilemma, Philippians chapter one addresses this very thing as Paul prays for the believers in Philippi whom he dearly loved. Verses one through eight express Paul’s heartfelt longing for these believers and then beginning in verse nine he offers a prayer on their behalf. It is in the conclusion of this prayer that we find one element that will truly allow us to experience satisfaction and meaning. Paul desires that the life of the church would grow in such a way that they would stand blameless in the day of Christ’s return. His explanation of being pure and blameless is expressed as, “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (v. 11). This conclusion offers three significant characteristics of a church (and the individual believer) that will stand ultimately satisfied when Christ fully and finally finishes what he started.
First, Paul desires the church to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” God, through the pen of Paul expresses his desire that we experience and produce “fruit.” It seems that there is a goal of love as it is expressed in the gospel. Our life will likely not “feel” complete merely by receiving all that we “think” we want, but rather through the production of fruit. Likely the idea of fruit implies something that is tangible and measurable, otherwise, things that we can communicate and describe. Our growth in the gospel will no doubt produce things in our lives that will bring real satisfaction. To put in words that were recently expressed to me, it will make “my heart full for sure.”
Second, while we can assume a lot about what fruit is, Paul qualifies the fruit that he means by attaching “of righteousness.” This is not just any random concept of righteousness, but the “righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.” This phrase expresses the very gospel itself. It is not the result of any form of self-righteousness or mere morality that is in view, but that which comes from and because of Jesus himself. It is the same righteousness that Paul says elsewhere is revealed in the gospel and is the power for the full and final salvation of all who believe (Romans 1:16–17). The fruit that will bring satisfaction is that which results not merely from our effort but from what Christ has already done for us and in us. This righteousness, when received, does something in and through us resulting in the experience of God’s handiwork. While we are expected to strive and labor for the gospel, no amount of effort will produce this fruit apart from it originating from the righteousness of Christ. God guarantees this fruit in and through the lives of all who love him. A love that begins with God himself and grows in the lives of his people.
This brings us back to the beginning of Paul’s prayer,
“that your love may abound more and more in all knowledge and discernment.”
Finally, we read the quintessential goal and means for the increase of our love and our confidence for Christ — the glory and praise of God! God himself is the origin and goal of all things. Everything we are comes from him and has its consummation in him. Christ is truly the author and finisher of our faith. He is the reason we exist! Therefore may,
“ . . . your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9–11)
For His Glory Alone,
June 28, 2017
I cannot express enough the gratefulness that my family and I feel in this amazing transition to Craig Memorial Baptist Church. While our new position was not expected, we joyfully embrace God’s evident desire for us to remain as a part of this family.
During our Homecoming service on Sunday, June 25, 2017; I shared a message that communicated 5 foundational characteristics that I believe are significant in the life of a church that truly desires to do more than just exist. I want to take this opportunity to reiterate them since they will serve as a guide to much that I will strive to do while serving as your pastor.
A Preference Given to Expositional Preaching & Teaching
Expository preaching simply means making the main point of the text the main point of the message. This doesn’t mean that “topical” studies are irrelevant but that they should be exceptional. Too often we approach the Word of God from a “me-centered” perspective thinking this will provide us with the answers we want and think will improve our lives. This approach begins with “me” and seeks to “use” the Scripture to our benefit. God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us the revelation of Himself providing us with what we truly need to experience real satisfaction as His creation. Seeking this revelation in the same way which it has been given to us will ultimate afford us the ability to grow in our understanding of who He is and will lead to our greatest satisfaction and His highest glory. Our greatest need as His creation is determined not by our feelings and experience but by truth. I will, therefore, continue to pursue presenting the Word of God primarily in this manner for our good and His glory as well as encourage you to do the same.
A Passion for the Gospel
Loving the gospel by which we are saved is not merely a matter of evangelism. The gospel is what you and I, as believers, need to be confronted with every day of our lives. We must never leave the gospel behind or relegate it simply to the place of evangelism. Our passion for the gospel will always lead to the proclamation of the truth to those who have yet to experience God’s grace in salvation. Evangelism should be a normal part of our life as a church! If we grow in our passion for the gospel it will always lead us to proclaim the message to the lost. We will pursue first, our own love of the gospel, as we seek to determine how we can most effectively pursue evangelism in our community and around the world. Consider the following quote, “Until your soul has a thirst for Christ as the bread of life and the living ing water, you will use Christ for what your soul thirsts after.” (John Piper. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions (p. 211). Kindle Edition.)
A Process of Meaningful Membership
I have often said that anything we seek to do as a church will only further portray who we already are. If we are a dysfunctional church, then any new ministries will only further reveal that reality. If we are a healthy church, the same is true. Therefore we must seek to be responsible and healthy from the very start which obviously begins with membership. Too often churches set there attention upon mere church growth, “get them in by any means possible.” The result is often a group of people with divided passions and perspectives about who we are as a church leading to struggle and multiplied division. I desire to ensure as best we can that our members are fully aware of our particular passion and goals so that they can become a willing participant in the life and direction of the community of faith. While we want to include anyone who will “go” with us on our journey, we must be faithful to the boundaries that God has established in the church. We must therefore be exclusive on the basis of the gospel. Church membership matters! It is meaningful! I hope we all will grow in our understanding of the joy of participating together in God’s mission as members of His church here at Craig Memorial.
A Particular Means of Discipleship
Discipleship is that obscure word that we often misunderstand and neglect. It is difficult to communicate how we, as a church, will do discipleship. While there is a measure of discipleship built into the normal activities of the church, we must prayerfully pursue growth in this area. Our ability to disciple one another rests firmly on the previous characteristic of meaningful membership. We become committed to one another in membership for the purpose of ongoing discipleship together. I pray that God will allow us to develop a culture in our church that revolves around this important task rather than around mere activity. I will seek to bring intentionality to the commanded role of discipleship. After all, Christ commanded this of all believers when He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations!” Sermons and Sunday School play and significant role in establishing this culture but they are not enough.
A Participation in Missions
Missions is a concept that crosses multiple lines. It includes evangelism, discipleship, service, as well as other aspects. We must first determine what involvement in missions means for us and then decide how we will most effectively invest our time, talents, and treasures to this end. Missions often implies ministry that extends beyond the walls of our church. It often involves and investment that affords us no immediate return for ourselves. It requires sacrifice on our part. Missions begins in our own community and extends to the ends of the earth. It always has as its ultimate goal both the verbal and visible proclamation of the gospel. There is no end to the many ways we can do missions, but we must strive to find the particular ways that we can participate together as a corporate body of believers. We do this in one way by cooperating with others through financially giving to the SBC Cooperative Program and our local association (South Fork Baptist Association). We also need to discover how God desires us to participate together in hands-on involvement. In time I pray we will discover how Craig Memorial can best impact the Kingdom of God together through our mission endeavors.
These are but a few foundational elements for us to consider together in the days ahead. If we strive for unity in these areas as a corporate body, I believe we will be amazed at what God will do in and through us. There are many things I desire to see us grow together in and will, in time, begin to communicate more details about my own vision. My vision, however, is destined to fail if it is just “mine.” We are in this together! You have something to offer that I and others do not. You are an essential part of Craig Memorial growing toward experiencing all the fullness of God. I look forward to this journey together!
For His Glory Alone,