Thursday, July 24, 2008

Casting a Vision for the Next Ten Years of Your Life

Next week, I will be at camp with our young men and women. We are expecting over 120 strong as we come together with Midway Baptist Church at Camp Victory in Florala, Alabama. Our theme for the week is "Heroes". We will study the heroes and the zeroes of the Bible and how faith in the living God made the difference. We will memorize Scripture. We will preach the Gospel. We will champion the call to missions. We will give a biblical challenge to purity and a set apart life for the glory of Jesus Christ. We will give truth and pray that convictions will form about marriage and family. We will sing and eat and have fun for God's glory.

In thinking through our theme "Heroes", I was drawn to the life and legacy of Jim Elliott who in 1956 was martyred on the mission field in Ecuador at the age of 27. At the age of 22, he wrote the following to his parents about his missionary call to take the Gospel to South America,

“I do not wonder that you were saddened at the word of my going to South America. This is nothing else than what the Lord Jesus warned us of when He told the disciples that they must become so infatuated with the kingdom and following Him that all other allegiances must become as though they were not. And He never excluded the family tie. In fact, those loves that we regard as closest, He told us must become as hate in comparison with our desires to uphold His cause. Grieve not, then, if your son seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly. Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as an heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them.. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly---all of them, straight at the Enemy’s host."

Where do 22 year olds like that come from? They don't fall from the sky. The short answer is, God's sovereign grace. His grace makes a heart like that, and God often uses the incubator of a godly home and a faithful church to cast the vision.

This week it will be my joy to sow the Word into young hearts. For ten years I have made this journey with them, and my annual question for them is, "Do you have vision for the next ten years of your life?" I know, they can't plan for all the twists in the road, the unexpected events of life. But they can develop convictions. They can set their heart to seek and serve the Lord.

I think of the 16 year old who in ten years will probably be married. How do you get ready for that? Most just live for the moment, and they stumble into their 20's clueless. God has a better way. It is the walk of faith which clings to the living God as one's treasure, and when we come to know Him and trust Him the next ten years is embraced with joy and hope and direction and conviction. May God be please to raise up from our little congregation Jim Elliot types who radically live their lives for the Savior. Young men and women who have counted the cost and say, "For me to live is Christ!"

Pray with me to that end.

Expecting great things in Alabama,

Pastor Jim

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Guide for Celebrating the 4th of July

This week we celebrate the 232nd birthday of our nation. To reflect upon the history of the United States of America is a remarkable journey of God's providence and grace! Through many dangers, toils and snares we have come as a nation. Through moments of great uncertainty and trial beginning with the Revolutionary war, to the Civil war, to the Great Depression, to Hitler’s terror, to racial tensions, to 9/11, God has preserved us as a nation. He has preserved and blessed this land with immeasurable blessings.

However, in recent years there have been noticeable shifts in the cultural landscape of our country. The line from the book of Exodus comes to my mind, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” As a people, we seemed to have developed an ego-centered mindset as if we are the only generation of Americans who ever lived. In our thinking, history has become a revised story that we mold to fit our sensitivities. With manifest arrogance, we have become a people who do not know Joseph, who do not have a context of who we are. Specifically, an ignorance of, or a distain for the rich biblical heritage that was the foundation of our country. We act as if we have arrived to this generation in a vacuum.

Woodrow Wilson gave warning to such folly when he said, “A nation that does not remember what it was yesterday does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from , or what we have been about. America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify those elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelation of Holy Scripture.”

Can you imagine any of the candidates in this presidential election speaking like former President Wilson? Not if he wanted to be elected! Such rhetoric is not allowed anymore. We have drifted a long way in ninety years.

Our propensity to drift leads me back to God's word, specifically to Psalm 33. Not as a personal escape, but as a refuge and reminder to give hope and perspective. This didactic psalm has become a helpful guide to me in celebrating Independence Day. Many are familiar with verse 12,“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.” In this Psalm there are three important declarations that call us to go back to the Source of our national blessing.

1. The Lord Who Blesses Is The One To Be Praised. (33:1-3)

2. The Lord Who Blesses Gives Unshakeable Counsel. (33:4,5,10)

3. The Lord Who Blesses Is Sovereign Over Every Nation. (33:12-22)

Take some time to read this Psalm before you go to your picnic or pool or fireworks, and pray the closing verse for your country, "Let your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You." As you enjoy the day, remember the One who gave it.