Why Elders Now?

(Note: This will be a five part blog series on the role of elders )

In response to this question, we can speak about this generally in regards to Baptist churches and about our church specifically. For most of those living today, elder leadership seems like a new phase or fad. However, for most of the church history, including Baptist history, there has been a form of eldership leadership that begins with the New Testament. When we look at the plain reading of the New Testament, the concept of elders is hard to overlook.
There are many samples and evidences of Baptist acknowledging an office that is titled both as elder and pastor. Some samples include: The Charleston Association’s 1774 Summary of Church Discipline; W.B. Johnson, the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote “each [New Testament] church had a plurality of elders” in The Gospel Developed and he developed the duties and benefits of a plurality of elders. In 1849, J.L. Reynolds, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond Virginia, supported a plurality of elders in his Church Polity or the Kingdom of Christ. Other notable advocates of plurality of elders include: C.H. Spurgeon and J.L. Burrows pastor of First Baptist Church, Richmond in his book What Baptist Believe. There are other evidences that plurality of elders were normal up to the
beginning of the twentieth century. (Most of the above research comes from Mark Dever’s book, By whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life)

For most of the twentieth century, Baptists have seen church leadership influenced more by the rising business corporate environment of the twentieth century as well as the military leadership culture. The corporate business world and military chain of command have utilized and shaped many of our men and church leaders for the last hundred years. In both of these environments, the authoritarian ruler or the
trustee board takes prevalence. The popularity of these leadership models has affected congregational churches.

In the late 1970’s the Southern Baptist entered the “Inerrancy controversy “ or conservative resurgence. The leadership of churches, convention, and seminaries were debating the role of the Bible among the churches and seminaries. This period lasted 15 years until all of the Southern Baptist seminaries were led in a Biblical inerrant direction. Once this issue was resolved, Seminaries were free to continue in the teaching and application of the Bible for the future church leaders. More students were focusing on what the Bible has to say about church leadership. Now that most pastors in our seminaries are not debating the inerrancy of the Bible, there is a freedom to reevaluate leadership and apply the Bible.

It was in the late 1970s and early 1980’s, that I began to hear about elders in church leadership with the start of Providence Baptist in Raleigh. The popularity of teachings by men like John MacArthur, John Piper, and Mark Dever and their view on elders began to impact a generation of church leaders. Today, there are growing numbers of Southern Baptist churches, even in our area that are led with a plurality of elders. Some of those other churches include not only Providence but also North Wake Baptist, Christ Baptist, First Baptist Durham, Central Baptist in Wendell, Imago Deo, Treasuring Christ, Summit Church, Open Door Baptist, as well as many other churches. While I was in Seminary, the elder question was one I wrestled with since my tradition was that of a committee led church with a single pastor. I came to conclude that the New Testament did acknowledge a plurality of elders, but I defined that group of
elders as the pastors in a church.

Jarrod Scott

Advertisements

Finally, Vacation!

The Best

Vacations are the best, and the worst.  The beach in summer, the mountains of autumn, a cruise ship when it’s not hurricane season, the ski slopes in winter, and so, so many more.  The options are endless, even when the resources are not.  But vacations are vacations because you are out of your routines.  It could be the routine of where you live.  Just being somewhere else is enjoyment enough.  Staying somewhere different changes everything.  The food tastes better, the tv shows are more interesting, bedtimes are optional, puzzles somehow are inviting, even the dishes are better than your ordinary ones.  One of the things I love is driving to the destination.  Along the way, I get to flip the radio stations and discover songs being played I haven’t heard in a long time.  Classic country, or some rock songs from my youth, or even the pop stuff from the 70s, it all sounds better when going on vacation.

The Worst

But vacations don’t help at all if you’ve been trying to eat good, or if you’ve got a workout routine, or if you have a particular morning schedule.  Sure, you can be careful with your meals, and exercise is possible in a myriad of forms, but vacations have a way of eroding the resolve and changing the priorities.  Enjoying the moment, treating yourself and others to what you usually consider extravagant pleasures, sleeping at odd hours of the day (and night), all of these seem to be part of the arrangement when you take on a temporarily new address.  And so, I think it’s pretty obvious how one could make a spiritual application to being on vacation and letting certain good things fall by the wayside.  But beyond that predictable point, I want to highlight one other facet of vacation.

The Eternal

Being away awakens within us a joy and pleasure that the rigors of daily life beat down.  Responsibilities of work and issues within the home do not necessarily disappear, but vacation allows us to focus on something different, something more permanent than a career and a tidy home.  Vacation turns our heart in a fresh direction, quickened by new surroundings and unique opportunities.  And God is there amidst it all.  The trick is to see and experience Him when your old zip code returns.  And that requires some effort on your part.  Choices have to be made, to do and to not do.  Joy has to be prized and grasped, and defeat and discouragement left to die on their own.  Vacations are the best.  They only become the worst when we don’t bring them home with us, when we save the joy and contentment for strangers out of town.  So, take a vacation, right where you are.  Break a routine, choose a different reaction, enjoy what you have been abundantly blessed with.  You don’t need to pack up and go to get the best of what God has for you.

Rich Holt

Living with Hurricanes

Image result for Hurricane Irma

In the last few days and the next few days, the topic peppering most every conversation in this area is hurricanes.  We are praying for the people in Texas and contemplating where “Irma” is going to go.  At this point, we may be considering what supplies we have in stock in case a hurricane hits our area.  For those of us living in North Carolina, this is a ritual we go through every August and September, though the season continues through November.  I personally am relieved when we get through September without a major hit.  Perhaps this is because I endured “Fran” in September of 1996. As I watched the news and tracked the storm projection, I had memories of the feelings from experiencing hurricane “Fran”.  Fear was a powerful memory and I could sense it creeping into my mind as I watched the weatherman explain the projections.  Interesting fear was the first memory, but it took a few days to remember the feeling of God’s care and protection I sensed in the storm.  Why is it the first memory is fear and anxiety, but it took days to recall faith and God’s power?

Reading Psalms helps us to move from fear to faith as we use God’s Word in prayer.  I would encourage you to read Psalm 86 when you sense a hurricane coming into your life.

Jarrod Scott

 

“Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly, save your servant, who trusts in you – you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant for to you,
O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O LORD are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD to my prayer, listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I will call upon you for you answer me.”
Psalm 86:1-7

Be Like Christ

Philippians 2:1-11
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What a challenge the Bible presents to the believer, to be like Christ. That was certainly part of the reluctance I had back in 1989 “to ask the Lord into my heart”. I had little idea of what that meant, but I did know it would involve changes in my life and lifestyle that were diametrically opposed to my [sinful] personal desires. So in March of that year, when I finally accepted that there was a God, and Heaven and Hell were real (a process that took years of research and resistance), I still refused to ask Him into my life. How fearful, how stubborn I was (we are), even in the face of the acknowledgement of eternal damnation, to turn from sin to Christ. What does that say about the hardness of our own hearts and Satan’s influence, that we would trade freedom in sin for a few fleeting moments on this earth, over everlasting freedom in Christ! Even if we were not totally sure (in March of 1989 I was totally sure), it was all real. Even if maybe we could be good enough to enter Heaven on our own works. To take that chance, to roll the dice on our eternal state, how truly crazy are we? And, in retrospect, how much of a sacrifice does following Christ really put on us when we place our burdens on His shoulders, when we have the Holy Spirit leading us through life, when we have the peace which transcends all understanding on this earth and recognize that we are already (even before we get there) citizens of another place of eternal joy?

It took me a month… I had to “get some stuff at work done”. I had to clean up some things in my life…. not sins, but just stuff….before I “accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior”.  Boy, if He just wanted to be my Savior, things could have gone much faster, but the Lord part… it took a month of believing it (the Bible) was all true, before I took a trip to Bond park in Cary, walked up on a hill, got down on my knees and asked the God of the universe, Who loved me with an everlasting love from eternity past to eternity future, to come into my heart and save my soul.

A month….. how crazy is that!

Jeff Hilles

Illuminating GOD’S Glory

Lord willing, by this time next week all of us will have witnessed something a little rare……. A Total Eclipse of the Sun.   I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to it because the last one that was visible this area was in 1979 and I can’t really remember much about that one.   But nonetheless, this one seems different, maybe it’s the hype this one is getting that I don’t recall at all for the 79 eclipse.   I mean some schools are releasing kids early, and some are having viewing parties to take it all in and I certainly don’t remember that.  I’ve even noticed the DOT warning signs on the highways are promoting the Eclipse and our need to make plans for the traffic issues that are coming.  And then the internet and media have taken it to the next level as they are full of info on what the Eclipse is, how they happen, when they might happen again, how to watch it, how not to watch it and more, you name it you can find it if you want it.

But one thing I am not seeing in mainstream media and beyond is what even makes an Eclipse possible.  So Let’s back it up all the way to Day 4 of existence and see what GOD did to make 8/21/17 more exciting………

Genesis 1: 14-19

And GOD said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years,  and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.  And GOD made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.  And GOD set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,  to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And GOD saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

As the VBS kids would say……WOW GOD!  That’s Amazing, Thank you for the Sun and Moon that gives us the Light and darkness we need for our daily life, because without it we wouldn’t survive, we couldn’t see the beauty of your creations and we certainly couldn’t see this Total Eclipse.  And the neat part is, when God Created the Sun and Moon on Day 4, he knew they would cross in this unique way next week and we would get to witness it.  Did you know the Sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon?  God does and he also knows when something 400 times smaller can cover something that’s 400 times its size we will take note and we will be amazed.  I just pray we are more amazed at the power of HIS hand than just an Eclipse which pales in comparison to everything else HE has done for us, HIS Children.

So no matter what the media says, or what teachers are forced to tell kids about it, the Word of GOD makes it clear…….  Without GOD the sun and moon wouldn’t exist and without HIS power over them they wouldn’t rotate in their perfect pattern and give us this opportunity to see this amazing work of our GOD on display.

Let’s give GOD the Glory only he deserves for each New day and let’s celebrate his great power as we watch a light show that only HE can create!

Chris Best

Know thyself?

Image result for Robert Murray Mccheyne "If you could hear Jesus praying

The phrase “Know thyself” is attributed to Socrates and is written on the temple of Apollo at Delphi.  Aristotle and Confucius believed this knowledge was the beginning of wisdom.  Yet how do you know when you truly know yourself or just a version you want to believe about yourself? This was the conflict that Peter experienced when he boasted of his loyalty to Jesus as found in Luke 22:31-34.  Peter’s confidence claim about his loyalty was in response to a troubling revelation from Jesus about the spiritual struggle warfare and warnings of Peter’s faith failure.  In response to Peter’s assertion, Jesus bore down on the prophecy with more specific detail.  We learn something important in this dialogue, Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.

We can learn two other important observations about Jesus in this dialogue.  Note that Jesus said that He was praying for Peter before the crisis hit.  What did Jesus pray? He prayed that Peter’s faith may not fail; “and when once you (Peter) have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus continues to pray for us today. “If I could hear Jesus praying for me in the next room,” How would that make a difference in your day? Lastly, Jesus could look past the betrayal of Peter to the redemption of Peter.  Jesus didn’t just see Peter and us in the dark moments of our lives, He also sees the end result of grace by faith.  He could see the day when Peter would be instrumental to strengthen the discouraged brothers.  In fact, the verdict of Peter’s faith wasn’t given at the fireside of betrayal, but in the days ahead when Peter turns back to Jesus in humility.  If you are finding yourself in the pit of personal failure, pray to see your life from Heaven’s eyes and see that grace is powerful because of personal failure.

Jarrod Scott

Seasons of Life

Over the past few weeks, we have experienced a couple of milestones in our home.  I finally reached the top of the hill and celebrated my 40th Birthday.  Our daughter, turned 11 exactly 4 days later and entered the world of middle school 2 days after that.  For both of us, these were milestones that became intimidating and stressful in one form or another.  For me, it was the realization of the possibility that I have lived more years than I might have left to live.  It was amazing how my reflection of many decisions, failures or accomplishments that I had made in my past came back to mind in a matter of 24 hours in turning 40.  With a new morning came a fresh reminder of the responsibilities that laid on my shoulders and how they didn’t just affect me but also others in my life.  Remembering the past 40 and looking ahead to the next 40 brought thoughts of good, bad, stress, worry and so on.  With those thoughts came somewhat of a challenge to myself to learn from my past and try to be a better steward of the remaining years that God allows me.  A good reminder to me is the wisdom provided to us in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your Heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

For my daughter, the realization of growing another year older wasn’t so much about the age she was turning but what life would bring her way with a whole new schedule and set of responsibilities in Middle School.  She had completed elementary school and would be leaving her smaller K-5th grade school.  She was stepping into a larger 6th-12th grade school with a whole new day to day routine and set of responsibilities.  Her day would no longer consist of one or two classrooms but she would be in 8 or more.  She would have to learn how to juggle going from class to class, switching books at her locker, much more homework every night, many more test and quizzes and all the other new responsibilities that Middle School would bring.  Not to mention Latin!

As she was going to bed the other night and we were having one of our end of the day talks the stress and anxiety of all these new responsibilities weighed heavy on her to where she was in tears over trying to adjust to it all.  At that very moment, the thought occurred to me that we were in the same place but at different stages of our life.  The opportunity arose for me to share with her how life can be so tough as we try to manage things on our own.  The experiences that I have had in my life over the years and even now in my day to day was an opportunity to point my daughter to the One who is with us through all of it, every day, every second, and even the time in between.   We read in Psalm 121:3b “He who keeps you will not slumber.”  We talked about how it is our human nature to often try to handle things on our own both physically and mentally.  As we grow weary or become stressed or anxious we must remember that our Lord is there to carry us through it all.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we are reminded, “Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”  We talked about the very fact that we grow tired, become anxious and need sleep is a reminder to us that we are human, and He is God our creator.  As we prayed together and my daughter went to bed that night I thanked the Lord for the stressful times in our lives that remind us of how we need Him every second of every day.  I thanked Him for the reminder of the things I have gone through in my past and will go through in the future can be used to teach our younger generation to trust in Him with all our heart.  To teach them not to always lean on their own understanding.  To teach them to acknowledge God their creator in all things and that He will order their steps.

Jason Hicks

Five Vows for Spiritual power

Some of you might be familiar with the books of Alliance pastor, A.W. Tozer.  One of his lesser known books is titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power.  I came across this information a few years ago and shared it with our church then.  I have found it to be a helpful guide in prayer and thought today.

Five Vows to Make and Keep

by A. W. Tozer

Some people object to taking vows, but in the Bible you will find many great men of God directed by covenants, promises, vows, and pledges. The psalmist was not averse to the taking of vows. He said, “Thy vows are upon me, 0 God, I will render my praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

My counsel in this matter is that if you are really concerned about spiritual improvement – the gaining of new power, new life, new joy, and new personal revival within your heart -you will do well to make certain vows and proceed to keep them. If you should fail, go down in humility and repent and start over. But always keep these vows before you. They will help harmonize your heart with the vast powers that flow out and down from the throne where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

A carnal man refuses the discipline of such commitments. He says, “I want to be free. I don’t want to lay any vows upon myself; I don’t believe in it; it is legalism.” Well, let me paint a picture of two men.

One of them will not take vows. He will not accept any responsibility. He wants to be free. And he is free – in a measure – just as a tramp is free. The tramp is free to sit on a park bench by day, sleep on a newspaper by night, get chased out of town on Thursday morning, and find his way up a set of creaky stairs in some flophouse on Thursday night. Such a man is free, but he is also useless. He clutters up the world whose air he breathes.

Let’s look at another man – maybe a president or prime minister or any great man who carries upon himself the weight of government. Such men are not free. But in the sacrifice of their freedom they step up their power. If they insist upon being free, they can be free, just like the tramp. But they choose rather to be bound.

There are many religious tramps in the world who will not be bound by anything. They have turned the grace of God into personal license. But the great souls are the ones who have gone reverently to God with the understanding that in their flesh dwells no good thing. And they knew that without God’s enablement any vows taken would be broken before sundown. Nevertheless, believing in God, reverently they took certain sacred vows. This is the way to spiritual power. There are five vows I have in mind which we do well to make and to keep.

 

1. DEAL THOROUGHLY WITH SIN

Sin has been driven underground these days and has come up with a new name and face. You may be subjected to this phenomenon in the schools. Sin is being called by various fancy names – anything but what it really is. For example, men don’t get under conviction any more; they get a guilt complex.

Instead of confessing their guilt to God and getting rid of it, they sit on a couch and try and tell a man who ought to know better all about themselves. It comes out after a while that they were deeply disappointed when they were two years old or some such thing. That’s supposed to make them better.

The whole thing is ridiculous, because sin is still the ancient enemy of the soul. It has never changed. We’ve got to deal firmly with sin in our lives. Let’s remember that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Righteousness lies at the door of the kingdom of God. The soul that sins, it shall die.

This is not to preach sinless perfection. This is to say that every known sin is to be named, identified, and repudiated and that we must trust God for deliverance from it so that there is no conscious, deliberate sin anywhere in our lives. It is absolutely necessary that we deal thus, because God is a holy God and sin is on the throne of the world.

So don’t call your sins by some other name. If you’re jealous, call it jealousy. If you tend to pity yourself and feel that you are not appreciated, call it what it is – self-pity.

And then there is your temper. Don’t call it indignation. Don’t try to christen it by some other name. Call it what it is. Because if you have a bad temper you will either get rid of it, or it will get rid of much of your spirituality and most of your joy. So let’s deal with sin thoroughly. Let’s be perfectly candid. God loves candid people.

2. NEVER OWN ANYTHING

I do not mean by this that you cannot have things. I mean that you ought to get delivered from the sense of possessing them. This sense of possessing is what hinders us. All babies are born with their fists clenched, and it seems to me it means, “This is mine!” One of the first things they say when they begin to speak, is “mine” in an angry voice. That sense of “This is mine” ‘is a very injurious thing to the spirit. If you can get rid of it so that you have no feeling of possessing anything, there will come a great sense of freedom and liberty into your life.

Now don’t think that you must sell all that you have and give it to charity. No. God will let you have your car and your business, your practice and your position, whatever it may be – provided you understand that it is not yours at all, but His, and all you are doing is just working for Him. You can be restful about it then, because we never need to worry about losing anything that belongs to someone else. If it is yours, you are always looking in your hand to see if it is still there. If it is God’s, you no longer need to worry about it.

Let me point out some things you’ll have to turn over to God. Property is one thing. Some of the dear Lord’s children are being held back because there is a ball and chain on their legs. If it is a man, it’s his big car and fine home. If it is a woman, it’s her china and her Louis XIV furniture and all the rest. Take that vase for instance. There it stands. And if anybody knocked it off and broke it, the poor owner would probably lose five years from her life! It is always necessary to remember that we are only stewards of that which is usually called a possession.

3. NEVER DEFEND YOURSELF

We are all born with a desire to defend ourselves. And if you insist upon defending yourself, God will let you do it. But if on turn the defense of yourself over to God, He will defend you. He told Moses in Exodus 23: “I will be an enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary to thine adversaries.”

What do we defend? Well, we defend our talents; we defend our service; and particularly, we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are, and if a story gets out about you, the big temptation is to try to run it down.

Henry Suso was a great Christian of other days. Once he was seeking what some Christians have told me they are seeking to know God better. Let’s put it like this: You are seeking to have a religious awakening within your spirit that will thrust you farther out into the deep things of God. Well, as Henry Suso was seeking God, people started telling evil stories about the man, and it grieved him so that he wept bitter tears and had great sorrow of heart.

Then one day he looked out the window and saw a dog playing on the lawn. The dog had a mat, and kept picking the mat up, tossing it over his shoulder, running and getting it, tossing it some more, picking it up and tossing it again. God said to Henry Suso, “That mat is your reputation, and I am letting the dogs of sin tear your reputation to shreds and toss it all over the lawn for your own good, but one of these days things will change.”

And this did change. it was not very long before the people who were tearing his reputation were confounded, and Suso rose into a place that made him a power in his day and a great blessing still to those who sing his hymns and read his works.

4. GUARD YOUR WORDS ABOUT OTHERS

Never pass anything on – about anybody else that will hurt him. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back – a little spot somewhere – and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “But that’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you – no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background.

5. NEVER ACCEPT ANY GLORY

God is jealous of His glory and He will not give His glory to another. He will not even share His glory with another. It is quite natural, I should say, for people to hope that maybe their Christian service will give them a chance to display their talents. True, they want to serve the Lord. But they also want other people to know they are serving the Lord. They want to have a reputation among the saints. That is very dangerous ground – seeking a reputation among the saints. It’s bad enough to seek a reputation in the world, but it’s worse to seek a reputation among the people of God. Our Lord gave up His reputation, and so must we.

Meister Eckhart once preached a sermon on Christ cleansing the Temple. He said, “Now there was nothing wrong with those men selling and buying there. There was nothing wrong with exchanging money there; it had to be. The sin lay in their doing it for profit. They got a percentage on serving the Lord.” And then he made the application: “Anybody that serves for a commission, for what little bit of glory he can get out of it, is a merchant, and he ought to be cast out of the temple.”

I go along with this. If you are serving the Lord, and yet slyly -perhaps scarcely known to you – you are hoping to get just a little five percent commission, then look out! It will chill the power of God in your spirit. You must determine that you will never take any glory, but see that God gets it all.

Now, it is the easiest possible thing to give a message like this. The hard thing is to make it work in one’s own life. Remember that these five vows are not something you write in the back of your Bible and forget. They have got to be written in your own blood. They have to be made final, irrevocable, if it only comes off the surface, it is no good. Much of our consecration is just that way – it comes off the surface. Many of our promises come off the surface. No, no. Let it come out of the depths of your heart, the deep depths of your spirit.

These vows cut against the old human nature. They introduce the cross into your life, and nobody ever walks back from carrying his cross. When you make these vows, remember, they strike at the heart of your self-life and there is never a place to go back to. And I say, “Woe unto the triflers!”

In America – and maybe in other places too – SO many people are saying, “Try Jesus, try God!” Triflers, experimenters, tasters they are. Like a rabbit with a half dozen holes so if one is stopped up lie can flee to another! No! From the cross there is no place to flee. You don’t “try” Jesus. He is not there to be experimented with. Christ is not on trial. You are. I am. He is not! God raised Him from the dead and forever confirmed His deity and scaled Him and set Him at His own right hand as Lord and Christ. Turn everything over to Him, and you’ll find your life begin to lift. You’ll blossom in a wonderful way.

Now, if you happen to be one of those on whom God has laid His hand for a deeper life, a more powerful life, a fuller life -then I wonder if you would be willing to pray this kind of prayer: -0 God, glorify Thyself at my expense. Send me the bill – anything, Lord. I set no price. I will not dicker or bargain. Glorify Thyself. I’ll take the consequences.

This kind of praying is simple, but it’s deep and wonderful and powerful. I believe that if you can pray a prayer like that, it will be the ramp from which you can take off into higher heights and bluer skies in the things of the Spirit.

Jarrod Scott

Have A Coke … And Then What?

Two unmistakable giants in our culture are Coca-Cola and Ford.  But giants do not become giants without making gigantically important decisions along the way.  For The Coca-Cola Company, one of theirs came in 1985, April 23rd to be exact.  On that Tuesday, Coca Cola announced that it was changing the formula for its Coke soft drink, intent on re-energizing its brand that had seen its dominance in the soft drink industry continually slip over the past 15 years.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT
However, the public outcry that ensued over “new Cokemanaged to convince the Coca Cola executives to bring back the original version, and July 11th ended undoubtedly the longest 79 days in the company’s history.  Even positive taste test results from nearly 200,000 consumers couldn’t prevent, and certainly didn’t predict, the fallout that followed.  Ninety-nine years of familiarity with and enjoyment of the original taste ran much deeper than the prevailing taste buds of a sample set, and 1,500 calls a day to the consumer hotline at Coca Cola Company supported that fact.

WHEW!
And so, Chairman and CEO Robert Goizueta, the man who received a letter of complaint addressed to “Chief Dodo, The Coca Cola Company,” brought back Cokeâ as the newly named, “Coca Cola Classic.”  And much to the satisfaction of so many who had been hoarding and rationing their favorite drink, the original flavor was back, and normalcy and sanity had returned to the soft drink industry.

IT’S A FORD, WHAT ELSE?
Henry Ford used to get casual credit by the uninformed for inventing the automobile, primarily because of the number of cars his company made.  But Ford’s part in the demise of the horse-drawn carriage was the mass production of vehicles by use of the moving assembly line.  In his factories, production was unheard of because of the efficiencies he was able to incorporate.  But the reason for his immeasurable success also became the cause for his greatest concern.

MORE, BUT MORE OF WHAT?
The year before he installed the assembly line, he doubled his work force and doubled his productivity.  The following year, production nearly doubled again, but he did not increase the number of laborers.  What had happened, though, was that the workers had become increasingly intolerant of the repetitive, demanding work, causing the turnover rate for employees to skyrocket, reaching levels as high as 370% annually.

BRILLIANT
So in a drastic attempt to retain his workforce, Ford took the advice of his trusted VP James Couzens and reduced the work day from nine hours to eight, added a third shift to open up new jobs, and more than doubled the pay rate to $5 a day.  Within a year, the results were staggering.  The turnover rate dropped to 16% while productivity jumped another 40%.  And before the decade had ended, car prices had been cut in half.  Ford was well on his way to filling the land with Model T’s and earning his first of several billion dollars.

FOR GOD DID NOT GIVE US THE SPIRIT OF FEAR
Decision-making is not always easy, and certainly not always simple.  But when you are basing your decision on what can be trusted, there is peace amidst the uncertainty.  One man said it’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.  And though I believe the decision can still be difficult, the strength to act does come from the foundation on which the actions are based.  Another once warned to not make permanent decisions on temporary feelings.  That is why verses like Proverbs 3:5-6 are so powerful.  They call us to trust in God completely, and that admonition comes on the heels of verses that urge us to immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s commands.  When decisions are hard, when the answer is unpopular, courage and resolve comes from God and His Word on which we rely.  If that source is of our own making, if your god has a lower case “g,” then trouble awaits.  But when the Rock is our fortress, no storms shall prevail.

Rich Holt

The Sin of the Self-Made Man

In the garden of Eden, the first temptation dealt with mankind’s desire to define good apart from God.  Our society continues to strive with God as we define what is good.  For the believer in Christ, who has surrendered the right to define good, our struggle is to do good apart from God.  To do right and to love others yet doing it in our own strength fails to be worship.  If we are disregarding God’s strength and simultaneously overestimate our capabilities to love a neighbor, we have failed to love God (the first chief commandment).  We seem to have an undying false confidence in our abilities to live life as though there is no sin to handicap our efforts.

There is one undeniable indicator to reveal this self-reliant attitude, our spirit of prayer.  This was Jesus’ warning to Peter on the night that he would be betrayed by Peter.  Peter seemed to have the loyal disposition and every experiential evidence and relationship to be loyal to his friend, Jesus.  It was not enough.  Jesus’ solution in warning to Peter was “to watch and pray.”   Earlier in that same evening, Jesus had taught his disciples that “apart from me (Jesus) you can do nothing (John 15:5). The idea is not just the routine or habit of prayer, but the disposition of our prayer.   I have a friend of mine who stresses to us that we need to be a “people of desperate prayer.”  That phrase gets to the heart of the spirit of prayer that God is seeking for His glory.

Our church has needed for a number of years, God’s life-giving work, which may come as the result of desperate prayer.  God’s prerogative to revitalize a church belongs only to Him, but whether He acts or not, we glorify God by our desperate prayer.  This past Sunday I asked us to commit with 2 or 3 others to join in 40 days of prayer.  There is a good 40-day prayer guide that you can print out and download here.

Jarrod Scott