Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Message for Hannah & Joey's Wedding

This is difficult. Primarily it’s difficult because I have the unenviable task of trying to say something meaningful to two people who are barely even aware that my lips are moving. Joey can’t think of anything but what a beautiful bride Hannah is and Hannah is just generally overwhelmed by Joey’s all-around hunkiness. But let’s give it a shot.

I have been thinking and praying for some time about what to say at this moment that would hopefully be meaningful and special and particularly unique to the two of you. For some reason, a while back, my thoughts began to center on your names and what they mean. Now I knew what Hannah’s name meant because Janet and I had carefully considered that when she was born. But I needed to do some investigating on Joey.

First, Hannah Gale Price. In my crack research I learned that in 1989, the year of your birth, Hannah was the 42nd most popular name for girls. The name Hannah means grace and the name Gale means song, at least that’s what all the books said around the time she was born. While preparing for this I looked up Gale again and found that one of the meanings it holds is “father in rejoicing.” Now that’s a reference to the fact that it has also been a name for males historically. So a man named Gale is one who is a “father in rejoicing.” But it’s also very significant here. For all of your life Hannah, as my Baby Girl, you have made your father rejoice. I have rejoiced as I’ve watched you grow into the woman you are today and I greatly rejoice in God’s sovereign providence in bringing you to this moment with Joey.

But let’s go back to the meaning it held for your mother and I, song of grace. That’s what you have been to us all of your life. You were a gift of God’s grace to us from the first moment’s that you emerged from your mother’s womb. How well I remember the night I lay in a hot hotel room in El Salvador that I was sharing with Arthur and the phone rang in the middle of the night. You were calling to tell us that you had just been born again; the greatest display of God’s grace in your life. Since then we have watched you grow in grace till now you stand here as a testament to the grace of God in every way.

Joseph Glen Logan. Again I learned in my crack research that the name Joseph was the 11th most popular name for a boy in 1989 when you were born. But what is the meaning of your name? Well, from several sources I discovered first of all that the meaning of the name Glen. Now I know it was given to you in honor of your granddad. But I also discovered that the name itself means valley. How fitting for a guy from Fresno. You have been a child of the valley all your life.

I went to a Bible dictionary to learn the meaning of the name Joseph, which is very prominent in Scripture. Two of the greatest characters of the Bible are Joseph the son of Jacob in the OT and Joseph the husband of Mary in the NT. Both were men of great faith in and humble submission to God. But what does the name mean? Joseph means God will increase. How true that has been in your life. God has increased you physically in making you into the man you are today. God has increased you mentally in giving you a keen mind that loves to study and learn in whatever area you find yourself. God has increased you personally in making you a kind person who cares deeply about others. And best of all God has increased you spiritually by calling you to Himself and giving you the gift of eternal life and continuing to sanctify you on a daily basis.

However, now for just a moment let’s think of your names and what is happening today. God is making the two of you one. The Scripture says you are no more two but one flesh. So let’s take Joey and Hannah and make them one: God will increase grace! I can think of no greater name for a couple who begin their lives as one together. I pray for you that this name will be true for you in every way. I pray that God will increase His grace in you together as He does individually in conforming your marriage to the likeness of Jesus Christ. I pray that He will increase His grace to you in the provision of your home and earthly needs. I pray that one day He will increase His grace to you by giving you a great heritage for a family. I pray that He will increase His grace to you by allowing your marriage to be a picture to the world of the relationship between Christ and His church. So that many who know you and see your love will be drawn to a loving Savior.

I pray that he will increase His grace to you by helping you to remember that there is “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Should We Stand or Sit to Read the Scriptures

In our church worship services we have for many, many years observed the practice of standing for the reading of the sermon text on Sunday mornings. The stated reason has normally been, “We want to honor the Lord for giving us His Word.”

A while back we added another time of Scripture reading to most Sunday mornings and we have not asked the people either to stand or to turn to the passage, but simply to sit and listen meditatively to the reading of the Word. We also added a time of silence after this reading to allow for reflection on what has just been heard.

Recently, some have asked why we stand at one time and not the other. Honestly, I had never given it much thought since we are not commanded one way or the other in the Scripture itself. Also, we read many passages as a part of our teaching where we do not ask folks to continually stand and sit again. Now I know the Puritans did stand for the whole sermon, often hours, and I thought of suggesting this but chose discretion over valor. Actually, I chose for that not to be my last Sunday here. (smile!)

But, since the question has been asked, I have spent some time thinking about it and looking again at the Scripture. This is my response.

First, let me say that the content of the Word is the important thing, not the position of the reader. On that I’m sure we all agree. So whichever we choose, to sit or to stand, is perfectly acceptable. Of primary importance is the position of the heart, not the position of the body.

Having said that, here are a few thoughts on either practice. The idea of standing for the reading of the Scripture comes primarily from Nehemiah 8:5 where Ezra “opened the book in the sight of all the people…and…all the people stood.” Obviously, that passage gives us a great example to follow. However, we should note that this was not merely the reading of the Scripture but also explaining “the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” This would correspond to our sermon text and sermon today.

As we examine the Scripture for times of “sitting before the Lord” we find the beautiful story of David sitting before the Lord, contemplating God’s amazing blessings for him and offering a sincere prayer of gratitude in 2 Samuel 7:18ff; 1 Chronicles 17:16ff.

So, what will we do. I think we’ll just keep doing what we have been doing with a better understanding of what we are doing. At the sermon time, at least most of the time but not always, we’ll stand and all open our Bibles to read the passage. For the other extended reading of God’s Word, we’ll let that be a time of hearing (not opening our own Bibles), reflecting and meditating while seated before the Lord.

Our prayer is that both times, as well as any time we read and hear God’s Word, our hearts will respond in faith and obedience to what we hear.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Long Journey to the Beginning

While listening to a download of a message by D.A. Carson I was struck by something that have never occurred to me before.

Apologetics for the existence of God is a worthy pursuit. I am thankful for those who are much more learned than I who can engage the great minds of skeptism and atheism in the continuing debate about the existence of God. From the marvels of space to the irreducible complexities of creation and from the amazing instrument we know as the eyeball to the perfect and precise distances between the inner workings of the atom, the arguments for the existence of God are irrefutable for the non-foolish mind (Psalm 19:1; 14:1).

But what do we have when the apologetics are successful? At the end of the debate, at the end of the arguments, at the end of the wrestling with the evidence, when the skeptic arrives at belief and confesses, "God exists," where have we come? We have come to the point where...the Bible...begins! "In the beginning God.

The existence of God is not the end of the journey. His existence is not the summit of the Everest, it is the base camp at the bottom of the hill that is the starting point. The Bible is the answer to the basic question, "God exists, now what?"

Interestingly, a part of the answer to that question, found in the Bible, is the explanation of why there are those who do not want to arrive at the beginning point.

God does exist! Now, discover all that means!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Prayer for the Nation

Yesterday, on July Fourth, this prayer was prayed for our nation by Van Syverson, an elder in our church:

O Lord Almighty, God of heaven and earth, the great and awesome God, the One who keeps His covenant of love with those who love and trust Him, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear our prayers on behalf of our great nation.
Father, we pray for our President knowing that his heart is in your hand. We pray that you would surround him with men & women of integrity, who will place Your agenda and the good of this nation above their own. Likewise, dear Lord, we pray for Congress that by Your Power, this body would pass laws that are just. We pray for the Supreme Court that as they make decisions, their decrees would be Your decrees. Indeed, dear Lord, we would pray for all those in authority, whether national, state or local, that again, righteousness and justice would prevail.
O Lord, as we consider the prophet Joel’s description of the invasion of locusts, we can only think of our country today. Economically, many have lost homes, jobs, assets, the ability to make a living. Poverty has increased greatly. Banks and businesses have failed; greed dominates the corporate scene. We are politically corrupt, morally depraved, spiritually bankrupt.
Father, as a nation we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked & have rebelled; we have turned away from you and your Holy Word. We have pursued that which is right in our own eyes. We are covered with shame because of our unfaithfulness to you!
Further Lord, I pray on behalf of that great sleeping giant, the Church in America. Forgive us for the lethargy, the divisions, the strife, and the failure to accept and uphold all Scripture as the inspired Word of God.
Father, we are comforted by Your revelation to Joel that if we return to you with all our hearts, with fasting, weeping and mourning, you will be gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. You have promised that if we, your people who are called by Your name will humble ourselves, pray and seek Your face, You will hear, You will forgive, and You will heal.
Lord, I pray that the Church will awake to righteousness and holiness. I pray that the Church would unify under the blood-stained banner of the Cross and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom clearly and boldly. I pray that you would send a sweeping revival resulting in a great multitude coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I pray that the revival of the saints would be so all-encompassing that it will affect the spiritual complexion of our entire nation, influence our politics, our economy, our media and our society.
Jesus said in Matthew 7 that “if we ask, it will be given to us; seek & we shall find; knock and it will be opened to us.”
Oh Father, may Your Name be glorified and Your will and purpose be accomplished. For all this we pray in the powerful name of your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

GCR Progress Report Response

Here is my response to the Progress Report of the GCR Task Force. I am grateful to my dear friend Rob Zinn for joining me in composing and signing it.

"What an amazing day it is to be Southern Baptists! The challenges before us are greater than ever; the Commission from our Lord is as strong as when He uttered the words to His disciples; and the power of the Holy Spirit is the same today, yesterday and forever. We must recognize that the challenge before us calls for new strategies, new forms, new wineskins.

We have heard the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Progress Report and we would like to respond from way out West. The argument can be made that we in California are among those who have the most to “lose” potentially from the recommendations. In terms of actual dollar amounts that is probably true. We recognize the huge effect this will have on us here in California. We know that changes will have to be made. With heavy, prayerful hearts we realize the impact and economic challenge this will be to real people–people whom we love and appreciate for their faithfulness to the Lord.

However, in spite of the obvious difficulties before us and because we share a concern for the lost of the world, we want to acknowledge our support of the Progress Report of the GCR TF. And we will continue to pray as they move toward the final report in May. These folks, led by Chairman Ronnie Floyd and President Johnny Hunt, are serving us well and are being truly visionary in their desire and willingness to lead us with bold new measures.

Yet before these bold new measures the GCR TF has recognized our greatest need…a true, God-given revival among His people. They have called on us to humble ourselves in brokenness and repentance before God. May He give us the grace to so do.

What will happen in California? We believe with all our hearts in the sovereign power of our great and glorious God. He is our Source, He is our Provider not Cooperative Agreements. He will give us wisdom in how to go forward. Whatever we might “lose” for the greater good of our partnership in the gospel we will “win” in our absolute dependence on the grace of God. Our prayer is that He will be glorified as all Southern Baptists come together for the taking of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

To Him be the glory now and forever, amen!"