Experiencing God

It’s been almost thirty years since Henry Blackaby published his collection of discipleship principles that came to be known as “Experiencing God.” Before then, Henry had been a pastor of fairly obscure churches in the outposts of Canada. Folks who publish such things realized that he had put into a discernible and actionable form the tenets of just how God uses his people to accomplish his will.

The Experiencing God workbook and subsequent trade book have sold millions of copies. And you will be hard pressed to find anyone who has traveled in Baptist circles in the past generation whose life and ministry has not been impacted by this work. I know that when Lisa and I accepted the call to leave Albany for Monroe over twenty years ago, EG was the guidebook on our journey of faith. And traveling the path to St. Pete, we paid lots of attention to the EG road marks and used them as confirmation of God’s call.

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The Deacon Leadership Team

Back in November, FBC adopted an updated structure for both congregational governance and ministry structure. An important – perhaps the most important – element of the changes was the formal renewal of Deacon ministry. This new-again body is referred to as the Deacon Leadership Team.

In the New Testament, we read of the origins of this church office. It was born out of a need to meet the needs of the people in a way that involved more people and freed the elders to put more focus on the teaching of the Word. Funny thing, it was a food fight that brought the need to light – look it up, you’ll be amused. The answer to the problem was found when a number of the faithful were set aside to carry out this important work. There was work to do, a body of believers to deploy, people to reach, and a reputation to establish and protect.

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The Sunday Sermon

The Sunday sermon, for many, is a relic of a bygone age that both faithless and faithful folks have just moved beyond. The irreligious and religion in general crowd hold little desire to sit and listen to things they do not believe, or do not believe matter. And those who claim the name of Christ have managed to frequent the religious marketplace, yet leave sermons to sit quietly on the shelf. As you might expect, this reality is grievous to us preacher types, left to question the value of both craft and office deemed increasingly irrelevant in the eyes of the masses.

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These Three Things

“Faith, hope and love abide, these three…”

Calling on these three sacred commodities, Paul put a heartfelt exclamation point on one of the most loved, beautiful and referenced words of scripture. This triad of virtue makes a clear and succinct statement about what matters, what has great value. They are our most trusted spiritual possessions, and when understood and treasured, they change our lives and those around us. With all the truth and wisdom of the Bible to gather, a clear focus on and commitment to these things has great power. And great potential.

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Joining the Effort

Years ago I served on staff of a church whose slogan was “The Place of New Beginnings”. It was on all the printed material, and as I recall, there was even an personalized anthem commissioned to sing the theme. (Now that I wrote that, I know there was. The refrain has begun circling in my brain and who knows when it might stop.) The idea was that it could be New Year’s everyday for people who needed a fresh start. And the church was a safe place of grace where all sorts of souls could move beyond and move ahead. That idea has guided my ministry for many years. Still does. I am convinced that the currency of the church is changed lives. And most significant changes will point to a day when a marker was put down, a tipping point reached, a conversion experienced. Those are the kind of things we rightfully celebrate, and on occasion, deeply long for.

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Essential Ingredients of Abundant Life

Hope. Peace. Joy and Love. These themes light the way for all we desire and all that’s represented in the coming of the Christ child. More than most years, I have been taken by the drought of these soulful commodities in the lives folks known and unknown. It is a sacred thing to stand beside those whose year has been marked by the things that have robbed them of the capacity to hear the music from this holy quartet. At least not without distortion, dissonance, and distance. We’ve all been there and cared for those who have taken residence there as well.

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Christ Was Born For This

I’ve been preaching from the prophets this Advent season. In the Gospels we have a birth narrative from Matthew and Luke as well as John’s theological perspective. The stories of donkeys, shepherds, inns, stables, angels, and wise men give shape to the main attraction; the arrival of the holy baby entrusted to two scared kids. Indeed the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

I love those accounts, but continue to be intrigued with the passages about those who long waited for that arrival. The prophets spoke to God’s people at different times in history and stages of faithfulness. None were sure of how and when it would happen, or for that matter, what it would look like. But the promise remained as big as the need for it – God would make himself present and known in an unmistakable way.

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Amazing Journey

Today’s Money Talks Blog comes from FBC’s 2018 Advent-ually Devotional Collection for December 9th

Thirty-four years ago today, Lisa and I stood up before God and everybody, said our “I do’s” and started quite the journey together. The only thing that rivaled our love for each other that day was our fear. Like the song says, “we were two scared kids just trying to save each other.”

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The Tried-and-True Quartet

Lisa and I have a friend with a strong inclination to decorate her home with words. If you have made a recreational trek to Hobby Lobby, Kirkland’s, or TJ Maxx, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Picture frames come etched with belonging words like family or best friends. Inspiring words like courage show up on pictures of, well courageous looking things. Scriptures always sell well it appears. Graduations, births, wedding days all call for event specific words. And then there are the carved-in and painted-on sayings, possessing varied degrees of humor, advice, perspective, profoundness, and thanks to our friend and her word-worshipping tribe, profitability.

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Approaching Year-End

How can it be that Thanksgiving week has arrived already? I mean Easter was just the other week and school started back yesterday – right? At least it feels that way. We just got up from a great staff meeting putting the finishing touches on our Advent plans. As we get ready to get ready for the coming of the Christ child, there will be lots of ways to be meaningfully engaged at FBC. I trust you will take advantage of them and invite some friends to join you.

Approaching year-end brings about another important focus in congregational life; the fulfillment of the current budget and presentation of a new one. In 2018 we were intentionally ambitious in setting the annual ministry goal funded at 1.35 million dollars. We have received just short of one million of that to date, representing a considerable shortfall. There have been cuts, revisions, and postponements where possible, but the bulk of our commitments and unavoidable expenses have largely remained. In response to that deficit, we need a very strong financial finish over the next five weeks. That calls for all of us to be bolder in regular giving. And for those among us with the heart and capacity to dig deeper and step higher, now is an important time to do so.

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