Category : Pastor Tony’s Posts

The Commands of God and the Cross of Christ

On February 20 I plan to begin a series of messages on the Ten Commandments.  Do you have a gut reaction to that?  What does the thought of the Ten Commandments send through your soul?  Does it make you think of battles over posting the Ten Commandments in public places?  Does it make you cringe with guilt or make you stiff with anger?  The Ten Commandments hold a central place in the revelation of God.  They are at the core of gaining a right understanding of God, man, how we relate to God, and how we relate to each other.  The truth is however, that I have met very few people who have told me that the Ten Commandments are helpful to them in building their relationship with God and others.  Why?  Because the Ten Commandments are rarely understood properly by the Christian community.  Misunderstanding this core ingredient of the revelation of God has been a strong influence in the misshaping of many Christian’s souls.  Some have been so robbed of joy and freedom by their mistaken understanding of God and His commands that they walk away from them altogether and seek a commandless Christ and Christianity.  Others make these commands a list of rules to prove their righteousness to God and to people yet they in turn become more pharisaical than the Pharisees.

We are going to dive into these commands of God and find them to truly be Words of Life.  It will take work and a bit of  risk, but it will be worth it.  You will know more of God, love God more, and learn how to relate to others in ways you have never experienced.  Sound odd to you?  All I can say is, come and see, we will learn together.


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1359 A Number to Remember

When you are in a road race you are issued a bibb number.  A number is given to each runner so that race organizers can keep accurate records on who finishes and in what order they finish.  For the year 2011 our focus is “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)  The number 1359 is your bibb number.  Why?  To help us remember the basics of the Christian life.

1 stands for one singular passion in life.  The Apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ.”  This was his singular passion and it is the singular passion of every true believer.  3 reminds us that all of life is conducted in relationship.  This is the way God made us when He said, “let us make man in our image.”  There is nothing in life that takes place outside of three realms of relationships.  Your relationship with God.  Your relationship with other beilievers. And, your relationship with unbelievers.  Relationships are the reality of life.  5 represents the realms  of responsibility that each of us have to run our race in.  The New Testament writings continually refer to these 5 basic arenas of life in which Christians are to “let their light shine”.  The 5 realms are; family, work/school, culture (government/society), church, and spiritual fitness (warfare).  9 is the number that reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit.  The fruit listed in Galatians 5 represents a 9 fold picture of what a person looks like when the Spirit of God is controling his or her life.

Thinking like this helps me make my Christian living practical.  It puts it in a manner in which I can easily think about how, where, and when I am “running the race”.  This number, 1359, will serve as a guide for our study of God’s word through 2011.  How is your race going presently?  In 2011 my prayer is that we all learn to run in such a way as to obtain the prize! (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

See you at the starting line – and at the finish!


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The Power of the New Birth and the Problem of the Flesh

The Apostle John’s description of Christmas was quite different than Matthew’s and Luke’s.  John told the complex, theological version of the Christmas story but he did it in simple, short sentences.  One of my favorites is, “In him (Jesus) was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)  John understood the power of the new birth.  It was the power of God himself.  Jesus was the light that delivered people out of darkness and the life that delivered people out of death.  The new birth had such a drastic effect on John that it transformed him from a “son of thunder” into the Apostle of  love.

John was fully aware that being born again did not instantly turn someone into a perfect Christian.  He wrote his first letter to help Christians learn to battle against sin, darkness, hatred, the devil, lust and the world.  Jesus took John’s thunderous personality and formed it into a man who could artfully speak words of direct truth saturated with love.  It was imperative for John that his readers understand the reality and the power of being born of God.  He reasoned with them this way: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves had been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:7-8)

The life of God will make itself known in the life of the person who has been born again.  It is an impossiblity for this not to occur.  John was confronting hypocrits and challenging true believers. 

If you are a true believer I am sure you wonder why you do not love God and the people of God more.  John actually gives some Apostolic counsel in how to deal with this issue.  There are two central points to his directions.  If you will trust the Word of God and follow John’s instruction, you will find your love increase in your heart and in your habits. 

First, you must know yourself to be loved of God.  This is not a natural thing to the human mind.  It takes the power of the Spirit of God and the truth of Scripture to enable our minds to receive the love of God.  John said, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us . . . There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:16,18)  Once you know that you are loved of God you are freed from fear and freed to love others as God loves.  That is power!

Second, the evidence that you have experienced this love of God in your soul is that you express it with your life.  John teaches us that if there is no expression of love from our lives that there has been no experience of God’s love in our lives.  So, we must be born again!  “Whoever loves has been born of God.” (I John 4:7)  Love is the natural expression of the Christian, but it must be cultivated.

Christmas is the expression of God’s character.  “God is love!” (I John 4:8)  It was the love of God that sent Christ to the earth.  It took the life and light of Christ for us to be born again.  That is the power of the new birth! Sing it once again, “Mild He lays His glory by, Born that men no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth!”

As long as we live on this earth we will struggle with the problem of the flesh.  We carry in us the desires of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.  But, those are overcome by the power of the new birth as we purposefully take into our souls the love that God has for us and then purposefully express that love by the life of Christ that is in us.

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Reasoning About the Season

The Gospel writter, Matthew, recorded for us some of the most amazing words ever written.  Can we reason together about them for just a minute?  Matthew reported that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to give the name Jesus to the baby that his betrothed wife Mary was carrying.  Then the angel gave Joseph the reason for his name. . . “for he will save his people from their sins.” 

Matthew immediately explains that this pregnancy and this special name for the child “took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.”  So, we have a child with a specific name, for a specific reason.  We have an 800 year old prophecy that stands as the reason for this happening.  Then, we see a second name. . . “they shall call his name Immanuel which means, God with us.”

Now, lets reason.  Christmas may be the most beloved story of the Bible.  Is it true?  I do not ask this question to breed doubt but to incite reasoning.  If the Bible’s story of Christmas is true, what claim does it make on the lives of those who say that they believe it?

Did God create the world?  Did humanity fall into sin?  Is the fall the reason for the world being in the shape it is in today?  Did God send His Son into the world to save the world?  Is His Son’s name Jesus?  Is He God with us?  Take some time with these questions.  Don’t give your simple Sunday School answers.  Reason your answers out.  If these things are true, what claim does that make on the church and the individual believer?

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In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we get a bit of a grasp on the work of God in our lives. We learn the perspective God has on us and the perspective we typically have are quite different. We are creatures given to the here and now. We tend to forget there has been a past to this world we live in. Out of our ignorance of the past we tend to repeat the same mistakes as those who lived before us. The mistakes we make are both in our external actions and our internal perceptions of life. We tend to lose our bearings when life gets difficult. It feels like everything is careening out of control. We wonder if anyone is in control of this world and if there could possibly be any purpose to what we are going through.

You must remember that the Bible is not some book full of religious potients to make your life easier. It is God’s book of revelation to humanity to inform us as to what He is up to and how we can come to know Him. When Paul wrote to the Ephesisans he was writing to normal everyday people like you and me. They simply lived in a different time and place. They faced all the struggles of humanity that we do. They needed to know if their lives had a purpose.

One thing we learn from this letter is that God does indeed have a purpose and it comes right into your living room. Just take a quick look at the book. In chapter one you will find that God formed His plan for you from before time began. That would be pretty long ago. Makes me think He really is interested in you. The language used expresses that God is quite generous in what He does for His children. What strikes me as interesting about the book however is that God begins before time with His eternal purpose in Christ for all creation but then works His way through Paul’s pen to tell us that His plan is so powerful and particular that it affects how we live at home. Go ahead, read the book and see if it is not true. Now that is amazing. What God determined from before the world He has now worked out by His powerful call on my life. This call of His is so effective that it gives me, through His Spirit, the ability to be and do all the things He ask of me in this letter. That means if God has told me to be a certain kind of husband at home, He is with me to enable me to live out this calling. Does life have a purpose? I’d say so!

Interesting isn’t it how close God actually is and yet our eyes of faith so obstructed at times that we can hardly see Him and the whole time He is in your living room with you.


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Calvinism in Southern Baptist Life

Doctrine is one of those good words in the Christian vocabulary that’s gotten a bad deal. The word doctrine simply means “teaching.” In one sense, every word that came out of Jesus’ mouth and from the Apostles’ pens was doctrine.

Doctrine is not a boring subject that is only for the halls of academia. It is for the everyday believer like you and me. There is a current “fuss” in the Southern Baptist Convention about a particular view and its place in Baptist life. The doctrinal view is called Calvinism, named after the 16th century theologian John Calvin.

So that we can stay aware of what is going on in our convention and so we can grow in our doctrinal understanding, Dr. Tom Nettles and I will co-teach a six week series on Calvinism in Southern Baptist Life. This will be a great opportunity to learn to listen intently to God as He speaks to us through His Word and develop good clear Biblical thinking.

The seminar will be held on the following dates in the evenings at 6:30 PM:

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Pastor Tony

The Challenge of Scripture

Sometimes it is the little phrases of Scripture that bring to us the biggest challenges. It is those compacted lines in the Bible that hold such life altering truths that make us stop and think if we are really taking God seriously or not.

One such line is in the book of Acts, chapter 20:35. “. . . remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”

At this time of year these words of our Lord become even more weighty as we think of him leaving heaven, setting aside his glory and coming to earth to die for us. A close look at these words clarifies what the Lord Jesus said and brings to us the full weight of the challenge of Scripture.

The word “more” is a contrasting word. I think it would be fare to say that the Lord is teaching there is happiness in receiving. Jesus never ignores life’s realities. But his emphasis is clearly on the odd thought that there is greater happiness in giving. I am sure you realize that “blessed” means, happy. In making this statement God the Son has just told us an indicative truth about life. It is something like the laws of nature that cannot be altered. It is true, and always will be true in life, that it is more blessed to give than to receive! Oh, one other thought. This giving is a lifestyle. It is not writing a check or delivering a Christmas basket to the needy once a year.

Do you want to be happy? Do you believe God? Well, what are you waiting for?


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