Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Kingdom of Me or the Kingdom of Christ?

Who's kingdom are you building?  Who's kingdom are you serving?  At the end of the day, you'll only have two options: serving Christ's kingdom or your own.  As for me, I'm choosing to build the kingdom of Christ.  No more small dreams of what I can do or how it can be done to my understanding.  No more short-sighted belief that if I can't figure it then it can't be done.  I'm done with small thinking and small believing.  If we are to be the church and people that change the world, then we must dream and act on a large scale.  I believe Christ deserves no less.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Keep your eye on the ball

Keep your eye on the ball.  That's what my coach told me when I was playing little league baseball at 12 yrs old.  While I'm not playing much baseball, it's still pretty good counsel now.  Be focused on what REALLY matters and lock your attention there!  Hmmmmm.  That's harder than it sounds, isn't it?  The temptation to be distracted by the multiplicity of things going on around me is astounding.  Each and every week there are a variety of needs - health needs, financial needs, fundraising needs, leadership needs, missional needs not to even mention the spiritual needs - that come through my door.  It's easy to get distracted and think that pastoring is all about "putting out fires."
Furthermore, when you throw in some people who don't trust me (for reasons only they know) or suspect I've got foul motives (I wish I was as clever or devious as some people believe me to be) and the temptation to forget why I started in this is HIGH!  So to remind myself - and maybe you as well - I'm writing myself a note to be mindful of why keeping a clear head is necessary.  

Keep your eye on the ball - God calls me time and again to be mindful that I'm serving Him first.  His opinion is the only one that really matters.  

Keep your eye on the ball - I want to love Jesus more than I fear people.  

Keep your eye on the ball - be mindful that there are eternal things, but opinions aren't among them.  

Keep your eye on the ball - there are people with crushing burdens - when eternity is literally hanging in the balance! - who need me to be focused on hearing from God and listening to Him, not others.  They come to see me or my staff expecting that we will have spent time with the Lord and be ready to offer a word of hope, encouragement and (hopefully) wisdom.  

Keep your eye on the ball - Critics are a dime-a-dozen.  I was told long ago "you can't stop to listen to every mule in the pasture when you're walking past - you'll never get where you're going!"  

Keep your eye on the ball - we've got a city (and a county, and a state, and a nation, and a WORLD!) desperately in need of Jesus.  I don't have time for small opinions or small minds when people are literally going to Hell all around me.  

Keep your eye on the ball - Sunday is coming (quickly!) when people will gather to receive a word from God.  It's my privilege (not my job!) to bring it to them.  That demands clear thinking and resolve to stay close to the Lord and let him lead me as opposed to being driven by opinion polls or what I think people want.  

Finally - Keep our eye on the ball - my work as pastor isn't a job.  It's a calling.  Even if CBC fired me today (not that such a thing is likely), I would still be a pastor.  I'm called to it and bent for it.  And I couldn't imagine doing anything else.  

Your list probably will look remarkably different from mine but do yourself a favor - keep your eye on the ball.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Open Letter to the SF Trip Team leaving on July 11th.

Hi Team,
     I am SO excited to send this to you!  Before we get into this thing I wanted to make sure and credit Steve Edwards as well.  We forged this journey together.  
      It's just under two months until we leave for SF.  We thought a review of our plans and WHY we're doing it was in order and what we hope to accomplish in this trip.  It's a bit long, but read it at your leisure.
      In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave the final words recorded from his earthly ministry - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
In those words, Jesus gave us clear direction to make sure the Gospel is spread and new churches in new places are launched - and not just where it's easy to get to.  With this objective in mind, in 2012, we, as a staff, felt led by the Spirit of God to pursue starting new churches as an objective for the church.  In January 2013, Darin announced our intentions to the church in one of his twice annually vision talks (once in January, once in September).  Church starting is something CBC has a rich history in, having planted 5 churches in Cherokee County.  While we'd done it before, we'd never done one outside of our home county nor had we done it recently.  The last church we started was about 30 yrs ago (Primeria Iglesia Bautista on Bolton St).  Doing it again would be a leap of faith in many ways.  Yet, after much prayer and study, we settled on seeking to start three churches - one in Texas, one in the US and one internationally (in keeping with Acts 1:8 - Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth).  It wasn't an easy goal, but a worthy one.  These new churches would engage people wherever we planted them, reaching people we may never see.  To participate in that meant we would, by necessity, broaden our prospective to include other places and other people and allowing the newly started church to do things in a way that would allow them to reach their people.  Thus, the new church would reflect something to character of the people and places we put them.  
    Starting a new church in Texas is relatively easy.  We've chosen to pursue a Hispanic work right here in JVille.  Our city's trajectory toward Hispanic population made that an easy choice.  There's still much to be done there, but the wheels are turning.  The most important piece is the right leader.  We're partnering with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (www.texasbaptist.org) and Smith Baptist Association (smithbaptist.org) to help us through the process.
     Starting an international church is much more difficult.  We're working with the International Mission Board (imb.org - an entity we a church support every week when tithes and offerings are given.  A portion of those gifts goes to the IMB.).  As of yet, we've not chosen a specific location.  Tom and I visited El Salvador last November to check that out, but we've not settled the question.  
     Starting in San Francisco was a choice seemingly made by the hand of God.  In the fall of 2012, Darin undertook a study of the Apostle Paul's missionary strategy for starting churches.  There seemed to be three principles Paul used in choosing where Paul put them: (1) A port city.  (2) A multi-cultural center and (3) A population center.  Athens, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Corinth. . . .all these churches are reflective of Paul's plan.  
Meanwhile, at roughly the same time, the North American Mission Board (namb.net) was crafting a similar strategy they call the SEND North America Initiative (http://www.namb.net/overview-why-send/).  NAMB targeted 32 cities across North America (US and Canada) that comprise 81% of the total population of North America.  These cities were the ones they targeted to do church start-ups.  When we looked over the list, San Fran fit the bill.  Right at the end of 2012, Darin got a note from Glynn Stone, pastor at Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview inviting him to go on a trip to consider starting a new church in. . . . San Fran.  Darin went (by his own confession, he went reluctantly given his deep and abiding distaste for the SF 49ers!)  While there, Darin felt assured this was the right place.  Committees meetings and discussion took from March to July to make it official, but it's all done now.  From now until 2017, we (as a church) are committed to a partnership with at least 6 other churches in supporting the work of LifePoint Church in San Fran (lifepointsf.com) and Randy Wilson, their pastor.  
     That's a little bit of why we're in this partnership.  Now here's a little bit of why we're going on this particular trip.  
     Starting a new church is easy - sustaining it is something else.  Many of the things we take for granted at CBC are structures and policies that predate any of us. None of that is present for a newly started church.  Like any newborn, much care would be needed to encourage its survival.  With that in mind, we've committed to bringing a team each year to serve in the city.  To serve the city may mean we do things differently than we expect or have ever done before.  
     Our trip consists of two parts: (1) The LifePoint portion and the (2) City Impact (sfcityimpact.org) portion.  They are not proportional.  Despite our investment in Lifepoint, we'll spend the smallest amount of time with them.  Frankly put, as a house church they aren't completely ready to employ us and another group (there will be a second group working with Lifepoint our same week) for the entirety of our week.  We will spend time with them on a rotating basis and will travel from our base to their location during the week but we won't be staying there.  We will return to our base at City Impact each night.  The region where the church is - Noe Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noe_Valley,_San_Francisco) - is trendy and affluent to say the least.  Multi-million dollar homes are the norm and tech millionaires live in them.  It's filled with tech workers, young families and trendy coffee shops.  When when the staff was there in September, Coby and Darin found a Ferrari and a Lamborghini parked on the next street over from the church.  
     Our City Impact portion will dominate the week.  It's on the other end of the economic scale.  City Impact is situated in a region known as the Tenderloin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenderloin,_San_Francisco), one of the poorest parts of SF.  We will do a little bit of everything to meet the needs we'll find.  Why?  Because its important that we are in the city serving her needs - and the needs at City Impact are huge.  From drug addictions to pornography and homeless, we'll see it all in City Impact.  
     Lifepoint Pastor Randy Wilson spoke with Darin last week.  He told Darin how excited he is that we're coming.  More than that, he told Darin how grateful he is that we're coming with a plan to serve the city, not just Lifepoint.  
Action Points:   What you can do to prepare yourself.
(1) Get praying - You can't serve people who you don't love.  Ask God to give you a love for the people of SF even now so that when we arrive, we hit the ground running.  Pray for Lifepoint church.  Pray for City Impact.  Pray for those we will find when we get there.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for our families as we're away from home.  Pray for work of the Holy Spirit to guide our preparations.  Pray for those who will lead our services - that will be some of you.  Pray for Jesus to be honored in our preparation and our trip.  
(2) Get moving.  Physically, this will be a demanding trip.  San Fran is a hilly city and we'll walk everywhere.  In preparation for that, a minimum of 3 miles a day worth of walking would be advisable.  
(3) Get prepared - We've provided lots of information here for you to read and prepare yourself mentally for what we'll find.  Don't find yourself overwhelmed by trying to learn these things once we arrive.  Study up NOW and prepare your mind as well as your heart. 
(4) Get relational - Think relational thoughts!  Our purpose in going is people!  We're going to invest in eternity by investing in people, not tasks.  We'll have many tasks to do, but please bear in mind they are a means to an end.  We want to spend our time sharing life with the people of SF and sharing with them our love for Jesus.  Nothing else we will do matters more.   
God bless your preparation, God bless Jacksonville and God bless SF,
Darin and Steve

Monday, April 21, 2014

Nice Work Coach Nash

Imagine if you will the Gettysburg Address written about Easter in our current times.  So it is that we have a wonderfully written piece by one of our own CBC members, Phil Nash.  A junior high teacher and coach, I've been blessed to find in Phil a godly man who loves the Lord, his family and CBC.  Be as blessed by this as I was.

99 score and 1 year ago God, our Father, brought forth on this planet, a new nation, conceived in the covenant of Grace, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are loved equally by their Creator.
Now we are engaged in a great civil debate, testing whether Grace, or any covenant so conceived and so dedicated, can mend the ills of sinful men. Today we pause to reflect on the great battle-field where this war was first waged. We have come to dedicate our hearts as holy ground and residence for our Creator, and our lives in covenant with those who gave themselves as living sacrifices that this message of Grace might be spread to the ends of the Earth. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should choose this day to rededicate our house to the service of the Lord.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not make this ground holy. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and was raised to life by God has consecrated it, far above the poor power of our self-righteousness. This world may little note, nor long remember what we say today, but it can never forget what God accomplished on the cross and through the empty tomb. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which Jesus sacrificed Himself to advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from the honor of His death and the promise of His resurrection we take increased devotion to that cause for which He gave the last full measure of devotion to the Father - that we here highly resolve that He shall not have died in vain - that this creation shall be transformed by Grace into a Heavenly nation of His people, by the power of His Spirit, which shall not perish, but shall prosper eternally through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
So signed
Phil Nash, 4.19.2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Requim for Firefox

Once upon a time, I was introduced to Mozilla Firefox - the little web browser that could.  I've always been drawn to the underdog and to open source software.  I'd been using Netscape for a long time to avoid Explorer.  I think the first Firefox I downloaded was 2.0.  As I write this, I'm using version 27.0.1 (and it's waiting to update itself).  As of today, however, I'm ceasing use of Mozilla (and I invite you to do the same).  I'm sure they'll be impressed and upset.  I've downloaded Google Chrome and am actually going so far as to delete Firefox altogether.  Why?  Because of their decision to force out Brandon Eich, one of their founders and the CEO.  It wasn't because of anything he had done as a professional or as CEO.  That would be understandable.  Under pressure from outside groups demanding "diversity", they forced him out because of a measly $1,000 donation made 6 years ago in defense of the traditional view of marriage.  After all, we can't have radicals like that roaming the streets, can we? (snarky snort). 
Thus, here are my two primary reasons for ditching Firefox, one theological the other patriotic.
(1) Theologically speaking, I agree with Mr. Eich.  If marriage can't be defined by the Bible then it will be defined elsewhere.  If it will be defined elsewhere, it will be defined by the loudest or most ardent voices in the room.  If that happens, marriage can (and will) mean almost anything.  Marry your sister?  Why not?  Marry your dog?  Sure!  Marry your friends - all four of them?  Of course!  Theologically speaking, the Bible is clear.  Marriage is between a man and a woman.  By way of clarity, that doesn't mean we're to abuse those who disagree.  With love, grace and gentleness, we're called to love those who oppose us and to treat them with the same generosity Jesus showed.  But we are not called to surrender our convictions in the name of "getting along."  Once begun, such a slide is tough to stop.
(2) Patriotically, whatever happened to the First Amendment?  Mr. Eich wasn't using company time or money.  It was his money and his time.  Furthermore, in 2008, President Obama agreed with Mr Eich!  If we're going to use a standard, let's use it everywhere!  The President should resign too!  And anyone else who thought that in 2008!  Instead, a double-standard is in place.  One for those inside the club and another for those outside.  Those outside the club must be punished for their "intolerance."  Those who use that term have so thoroughly distorted its meaning as to make the word itself complete nonsense.  (for a great treatment of this, see D A Carson's work "The Intolerance of Tolerance.")
Before you email me and tell me of the evils of Google, let me tell you I already know.  The same for those who will write me about the evils of my beloved Apple computers.  I know.  There are no perfect corporations because they are led by imperfect people.  But a revolution must begin somewhere.  For me, I'm choosing here.  Farewell Firefox - it's been a great journey and I'll miss you.  But not that much.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Reflections

- Welcome to Michael and Beverly Mock!  I accidentally said "Mack" this morning but they graciously forgave my inability to read!  Either way, we're pleased to have you!
- This morning's message was as "out of the box" for me as I think I've ever tried.  It wasn't that I was tackling an edgy subject or approaching it in a ticklish manner.  The "out of the box"-ness was how I longed to communicate the passion of Jesus by walking along side him for the week.
The message was started with the stations of the Cross (for non-catholics, learn more about that here) and a desire to highlight the darkness of Passion week before the brilliance of Easter morning.  I told our staff, our tech guys and anyone else who asked I believe we do ourselves (and the Gospels!) a disservice by rushing past Jesus' passion in our hurry to get to the good news of Easter.  The Gospels each take deliberate time and intensity in describing that last week of Jesus' earthly life.  We would do well to do the same.
- One of my favorite parts of being a pastor is getting to see things others might not see.  Like standing behind the Lord's Supper table as the elements are passed.  When I look out, I get to see my CBC family sitting reverently.  Like a family reunion gathered around the supper table, it's a wonderful reminder of our shared connection through Christ.
- Thanks to Joanna Jordan, Tom Myers and all our volunteers who made our egg hunt happen today!  The weather held off and there were LOTS of happy kids!
- A special word of thanks to all who wished our Joshua a happy birthday.  He has enjoyed an amazing weekend and is blessed far more than any of us could imagine.
- Next Sunday is my favorite one of the year!  We'll be talking about Paul's story and how everything "Changed in a flash."  Like Paul, once we encounter the Living Christ, things can never again be the same.
- Next Sunday morning has two services - one at 8:00 AM and the other at 10:45.  Our 10:45 service will be akin to our regular morning services.  Our 8 AM service, however, will feature a different style of music and styling.  If you've ever wondered what the difference between the two is like, come next Sunday AM and spend the morning with us.  I think you'll see the heart behind both.
- God is up to something special among us.  If you haven't seen it, you're not looking!  Pray with me that it continues and that we stay faithful to the God who called us, redeemed us, purified us and will glorify us!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trip to DC for the National Prayer Breakfast

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There’s nothing more dull than hearing about someone else’s trip.  That’s why I put this on my blog instead of somewhere else.  But if you’re at my blog, then you’re okay with being bored by the personal details of my life, so here ya go!

Although I’ve been to DC several times, I’d never been invited to an “official” DC event.  So when Congressman Jeb Hensarling’s office called and invited me to join him for the National Prayer Breakfast, I was pleased to say yes.  I had no responsiblities for this event – it was a party I wasn’t going to throw.  I could just go along for the ride. 

When I got to DC on Tuesday, it didn’t take long to remember why I brought my “big” coat!  I stepped out into the jetway and went WHOA!  That’s cold!  As soon as my bag came through the carousel, I pulled that coat out!  I had to hurry, however, as I had (foolishly) made a 6 PM appointment with Congressman Jeb Hensarling.  I didn’t make it at 6.  Kindly, Jeb waited for me until 6:20 when I finally arrived.  If you know anything about members of Congress, you know their time is tightly structured.  A slip like that can throw a wrench into the next several hours.  I knew there was another event Jeb was supposed to be at – I walked past it on my way to his office.  But he graciously entertained me til 7 PM when he finally relented to his staff’s insistence it was time to go.  What did we talk about?  Our families more than anything.  A few minutes of politics, but mostly about his son and daughter and our beloved Joshua – and, of course, our lovely brides.  I told him about how Joshua came to our lives and about the wonderful church I serve.  I told him I’d show him a good time next time he had a few hours in Jacksonville.  He told me he’d show me a good time Thursday morning at the Washington Hilton (that’s where the National Prayer Breakfast is!).  We had a few laughs and then it was time to go.  I had another meeting as well.  But first, some back ground on that. 

In 1990, I was a brand-new Dallas Baptist Univ graduate.  I thought I was so grown!  Two weeks after graduation, I met a congenial stately gentleman with flaming red hair - Mr. James Lankford.  He had just graduated from college, too, albeit from the Univ of Texas .  Officially, he was my boss for the summer, but he never treated me that way.  Little did either of us know that summer just how much our meeting would influence each other.  At the end of the summer, James and I started seminary together and thus began a friendship that has endured through the years. 

In 2008, when James called me to discuss running for the US House seat from Oklahoma City, I should’ve thought he was crazy.  The bizarre thing was I didn’t.  If I remember, I just said “okay, let’s see what God does with this.”  When James won in 2010, Julie and I spent Jan 1-3 , 2011 with James and Cindy in DC helping him settle into his new office.  In the years since then, I’ve watched as he has led his state and his co-horts with integrity, passion and vision – just like I knew he would. 

James represents the 5th District of OK.  When I worked out the details for my coming, he and I were to meet for a late coffee on Tuesday since Wednesdays are crazy.  When I got to DC, his office called and asked if I could meet him for supper instead.  Sure I said.  Just tell me where.  Go to Hill Country BBQ, they said, your name will be “on the list.”  I thought it was odd to be on any list, but this is DC where things are almost always weird, so I told them I would be there at the appointed time.  When I got there, I couldn’t find James or his staff so I waited for a few minutes.  As I waited, I happened to notice that everyone there was a DC staffer or congressman.  Hmmmmm.  I also noticed this was listed on the outside of the restaurant as a “closed event.”  Hmmmm.  What has James brought me to?  Another staffer came to me and said “grab a plate.”  So I did.  Some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had outside of Texas!  James met me shortly thereafter.  There was no bill and there was no ticket so I asked who was our benefactor.  He told me it was ERIC CANTOR and his group was putting this on as a social for the Republican House members and staff.  Wow.  As we sat there eating, Congressman Keith Rothfus from Pittsburg, PA dropped by as did Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming.  I felt like the smallest person in the world realizing how influential these other three seated at the table with me were and how NOT I was.  We had a great talk, mostly about our families, what God is speaking into our lives and James’ run for the US Senate.  James was kind enough to drive me back to my hotel after a late conversation. 

I chose my hotel based on it’s proximity to the Washington Hilton where the National Prayer Breakfast was held.  It definitely wasn’t up to my standards for staying with my wife, but as a single, it wasn’t so bad.  We’ll call it “Spartan.”  It’s close to the subway and close to the Hilton, so all in all not bad. 

I had some time on my hands Wednesday so I went to the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Museum at Dulles Airport.  If you’ve never been and you appreciate aviation, military air transportation, space exploration or missles, you HAVE TO GO!  It was amazing, even if it was incredibly difficult to access via public transportation. 
The museum is HUGE!  I wasn’t prepared for it’s size or scope.  There’s the SR-71 Blackbird just as you enter the door.  Behind it, you can see the Space Shuttle “Discovery” standing with it’s regal bearing.  The “Enola Gay” famous for dropping the atomic bomb is there as is are many, many other aircraft of all sizes, shapes and sorts.  I’d heard for a long time just how good this place was and how well worth the trouble it is to get there.  No doubt about it. 

Wednesday evening, I met up with a church planter late in the day.  Matthew Watson and I served together in the mid 1990’s.  He’s planting a church in the DC area.  We got to spend an hour or so discussing church leadership, church planting and evangelism and our families.  I’m not sure but that conversation may have been why God brought me to this whole silly thing. 

Supper was on my own tonight – Pizzeria Paradiso.  A DC classic!  It was quite good!  And they seated me near the pizza ovens, so it was warm too, a real plus given how cold it had been! 

Finally, Thursday came and it was time for the National Prayer Breakfast – the reason I’d make this long trip in the first place.  Representing my family, our church and our fair city, I dressed to the nines – and I wore my best boots!  I don’t wear them much for fear I’ll mess ‘em up.  And they add two inches to my height.  I defintely don’t need that, esp given that I’m supposed to sit with my “date”, Jeb.  He told someone that when we sat down at the table and I laughed at how ridiculous we must look.  We sat with a pastor from Minneapolis, a lady from Chicago, a couple from South Carolina, a college student from North Carolina, an Australian national and some sort of Russian diplomat named “Vlad.”  Without a doubt, Vlad was the most excited of any of us to be there!  He was talking so fast, it was like listening to a Russian auctioneer!  He was great fun! 
     Security was TIGHT!  They warned me when I registered that I should be ready for a long wait to get in.  Breakfast was to begin at 7:30.  I should plan to arrive by 6:00 AM.  Thus, arising at 5 AM (4 AM at home), I prepared myself and went. 
    Wow.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Rep Janet Hahn (D-CA) and Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) were the coordinators for this year’s breakfast and had taken extraordinary care to make it an exceptional event.  Singer Steve Green sang a personal favorite of mine “He Holds the Keys”.  Surfer Bethany Hamilton gave a powerful testimony about how God can use adversity to accomplish His purposes.  Singer Yolanda Adams sang a beautiful concluding piece.  Dr Rajh Shivah, an overachiever if ever there was one, spoke as did President Barack Obama.  As I sat there listening to our President speak, I prayed for him in a way I don’t think I ever have before.  I can’t imagine the burden of leadership his office must carry.  And yet, I prayed that he would embrace the role of shepherd, not just leader.  Some leaders are like cowboys – they drive those under their care through pressure and intimidation.  Shepherds, however, lead with gentleness, grace, compassion because they know their livelihood depends on the welfare of those sheep. 

     Shortly after the breakfast, I headed home, richer for having come, but richer still for going home to my family and my church.  CBC, thanks for allowing the privilege of going to represent you.  Thanks Congressman Hensarling for the gracious invitation.  And thanks to the National Prayer Breakfast Committee who put the program together.  Until we meet again, I’m praying.