Total Dad Brag

I’m really proud of my daughter, Morgan. She is a Freshman at West Georgia and as her mom commented about her, she has blossomed wherever she has been planted. The University took an essay she wrote for a scholarship and turned it into a commercial script. Thank you UWG for doing an amazing job of filming a beautiful soul. Way to go Mo!

Ask These Questions to Find Out When Enough is Enough

How much stuff do you have with you right now? Count every article of clothing; maybe 8, 10, 12 items – don’t forget your glasses – 13. What’s in your pockets? Keys? How many? If you are like me there are 10 – 12 keys and maybe two key fobs. It doesn’t count for this survey, but don’t forget that each one of those keys connects to something. If you carry a bag or a purse for work, school or both – what all is in there? I carry a computer bag around with me most days that is filled with cords, books, papers, a laptop, an iPad, a few pens, and a lot of lost change. 

I surveyed my stuff last week and on the day I counted, I stopped at 47 things either on me or with me. That’s a lot to lug around. Perhaps it is time to lighten my load.

Truth is, Americans love stuff. We are a “gotta have it” gadget laden, fashion forward, constantly on the go culture. And even though we feel we have made great strides in efficiency, truth is, we are collecting more and more as we go.

Did you know that in 2017 the average person bought 66 articles of clothing – or 20% more than we did in 2012?

Did you know that there are twice as more storage unit facilities in American than there were just 10 years ago.

Did you know that in 2017 we spent $240 billion on material goods which is double the amount we spent in 2002.

We can’t get enough of stuff! This is not surprising given that American culture is bent on convincing us as consumers that happiness has a price tag. We measure success by wealth. The health of our economy is tied to an algorithm called the Gross Domestic Product which measures how much goods we produce as a nation. The Consumer Index measures our economic confidence and the DOW is a constant projection of what we “think” the value of a company will be in the not too distant future. 

But are we being consumed as consumers? We are wealthy, but are we happy? We have stuff, but have we found stability? Our society is highly commercialized but is it ever contented? 

When is enough, enough?

The Bible offers numerous warnings about the false hope of happiness tied to consumerism.

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim. 6:6-10 ESV)

In 1 Tim. 6:6-10 we see true gains and losses. Godliness with contentment is a great gain. Consumerism in its pursuit of more only brings ruin, destruction, and piercing pain. The problem is, we never see it coming – which is the essence of the word “snare.” 

So how do we safeguard ourselves from being consumed as consumers? In Haggai 1 God sent the prophet to confront the people about their misplaced materialism. He counsels them to “consider your ways.” Consider your ways doesn’t mean to merit your ideas. It doesn’t even mean explain what you believe. It means, look at how you live. Say nothing with your mouth – just read through your accounts. Look at the numbers! 

From this passage I find three questions we can ask ourselves to keep us from being consumed as consumers.

1) What contents?

In verse 6 He says, “You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill.” I think we can all identify with the insatiable desire for what’s new and what’s next. If we are never satisfied, the lack of contentment begins to consume our peace

Did you know that numerous studies show that when a person has sufficient food, shelter, and clothing that material gains do little to improve a person’s sense of well-being (The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser). In fact, accumulation only adds to anxiety.

We know we have a problem; but the problem is that we never change.

I’ll sound 45 when I say this, but a lot of things about millennials confuse me. For the most part I don’t get them politically or socially. But I’m 45. I probably confuse you.

But there are some things about millennials that I find extremely interesting. They are not afraid to find another way. They think about things from odd angels and find ways to do things differently. 

One thing mills have realized about us 40+ is that we have too much and so they are finding ways to live on a lot less. One example is a website called LiveFeather.com. LiveFeather.com is a furniture subscription service. Now, I know that we 40’s call that rent – but the words “subscription service” sound better with lattes.  

At LiveFeather.com yo do a 5 minute survey. You agree to your subscription price and the people at LiveFeather send someone to deliver and setup your room. It’s a minimalist approach.

While I admire detachment, I realize that detachment merely for the sake of detachment is as pointless as materialism – both are a total waste of a life if they are not at some point attached to meaning. 

Paul explained contentment with attachment to Christ beautifully in Philippians 4:11-13.

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

What if we could have less for the sake of trusting Christ more?

What if we could have less for the sake of knowing Christ more?

What if we could have less for the sake of being satisfied in Christ even more?

What if we could have less so we could live for more!

If we don’t find what contents it will consume our peace.

2) What costs?

In Haggai 1:6 the prophet once again describes a situation with which we are well acquainted. He says, “You sow much, but harvest little.” He goes on to say, “And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

In Haggai 1:6 the prophet once again describes a situation with which we are well acquainted. He says, “You sow much, but harvest little.” He goes on to say, “And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

We all own at least one bag with holes – that thing that seems to erode your time, energy, and money. You thought you would enjoy it, but it has become a burden to you and it has become a drain on your resources. If we don’t figure out what things REALLY cost the will consume our resources

To have more, it costs more. We don’t need stats to bear this out – we know it. We live it. To have more it takes more money, more work, more upkeep, more insurance, more time . . . more takes . . . more.

The side effect of more is not just in the consuming of our own resources but in the neglect of leveraging those resources toward people and places where they are truly needed. 

The side effect of more is not just in the consuming of our own resources but in the neglect of leveraging those resources toward people and places where they are truly needed. 

Did you know that there are enough resources on the planet right now to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter every human being? So why are there such vast pockets of poverty? It is because 12% of the world’s population consumes 60% of the world’s resources. And you guessed it. American’s are the world’s worst. When it comes to food the average American consumes 3,700 calories a day. We are eating ourselves to death while others are starving to death.

There is a scathing indictment of consuming more to the neglect of others in James 5:1-6. It says:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

This passage is painful. It calls for us to be made uncomfortable. It should bother us, but the self-self-indulgence is not only fattening, it is also blinding. Our homes and storage sheds are filled with rotting goods that could be put to better use if our resources were not so concentrated on our consumer driven culture.

What if we could consume less for the sake of helping others more? Generosity if far more satisfying than simply having stuff.


So what brought the Haggai’s audience to such wasteful ends? The indictment comes in 1:2-4.

2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” 3 Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 

In God’s mind time for rebuilding the Temple was long overdue. In the people’s mind it was not a priority. And the problem was not simply that they were rebuilding their homes – they had to have a place to live, but notice the passage. He doesn’t just call them houses, but paneled houses. They were past rebuilding and now into remodeling. 

We are not dismissive of the things of God. We know we need the Lord. We know our families need the Lord. We would all say that it is good to go to church – but the problem is that in practice we have developed a THIS NOW – THAT NEXT approach when it comes to the things of God.

And this mentality will cost us because in the end we are missing what REALLY counts! 

Our mistaken priorities consuming our souls? You and your family may be having a great time – but do they know Christ? “But we are spending time as a family?” Great – but where are you headed eternally?

Jesus tells the story of a man who made a major miscalculation of what really counts.

15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The man was successful, resourceful, and his life was enjoyable. No one would fault him for that. He did well. He planned ahead. He was living the dream. According to Jesus, HE WASTED HIS LIFE.

Notice two ideas from the story.

  1. The man was successful, resourceful, and his life was enjoyable. No one would fault him for that. He did well. He planned ahead. He was living the dream. According to Jesus, HE WASTED HIS LIFE.
  2. Notice how Jesus prefaces the story. “Be on guard against all covetousness.” The words “be on guard” suggest vulnerability and intentionality. Vulnerability – because we are all prone to covet. Intentionality with being on guard, because saying “no” to self does not come naturally.

What Miracles Mean

There is a Bible oozing oil in Dalton, GA. Is it a miracle or something else? What is the meaning of miracles?

In this message from, The Gospels series, being shared on Sunday nights at Liberty, we look at the seven “sign” miracles recorded in John’s Gospel. In his book John records not only the miracles, but also explains their meaning.

Our apologies for the reverb in the video. It clears at about the 4:30 mark so hang with it!

Overcoming Temptation, Just Like Joseph

In my Wednesday night Bible Study Cafe´class (Wednesdays 6:30pm at Liberty Hwy 76) I shared 7 observations about overcoming temptation gleaned from Genesis 39 as Joseph is propositioned by Potiphar’s wife.

1 Your mindset going in often determines how you come out (Gen. 39:1-6). If any man had a reason to be bitter about life, it was Joseph. He was hated by his brothers; betrayed by them and sold into slavery. Yet even in a difficult place Joseph was a man of integrity and found ways to advance. Had Joseph chosen bitterness and thought of himself only as a rejected brother and purchased slave – when a beautiful woman propositioned him he would have thought, “why not?” But because Joseph was man, his location may have changed but his mindset never did and he knew WHY NOT! How you think of yourself going in usually determines how things will come out.

2 Don’t just FANTASIZE about what you stand to gain. THINK about what you stand to lose (Genesis 39:6-10). Fantasy is a story without consequence. THINK is rooted in reality. Fantasy is in your own mind. THINK seeks out wise counsel. Fantasy “glorifies what is wrongfully gained (thank you Rob Hoffbauer – great word).” THINK understands the value of what is lost. As Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph with an attractive offer, Joseph cited truth – Potiphar has withheld nothing from me – he has given me responsibility – YOU ARE HIS WIFE – how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God. Don’t let the situation play out in your fantasies, THINK through it with a lens of truth.

3 Temptation is not a single encounter. It is a persistent offer (Genesis 39:10). For Potiphar’s wife, “no” meant “ask again the next day.” The Bible says she propositioned him “day after day.” I wish our temptations would go away, but even when you tell them “no” they may keep talking. You are the one who has to determine “NO” means “NO” and will continue to mean “NO.”

4 Temptation is not sin. Sin is temptation after incubation (James 1:12-15, Genesis 39:11-12). I think it is important here to insert what I believe to be the Bible’s most clear, concise teaching on temptation. It is not wrong to be tempted. We are all tempted. But James describes temptation with the same language we would describe the beginnings of human life – conception, incubation, birth, and maturity. The Bible says that Joseph did not toy around with it, he fled from it. 2 Tim. 2:22 gives us a great strategy for overcoming temptation – RUN!

5 Refusing evil does not stop evil (Genesis 39:13-18). Joseph did the right thing, but it put him in a bad situation. Joseph did not make the decision based on who she was, but on who he was. It was not about what she was willing to give, but about what he wasn’t willing to take. As right as Joseph’s decision was, it is amazing how quickly she came up with a story that was all wrong. You can’t change people – but you must be careful to not allow bad people to entice you into bad behavior. You can’t change who THEY are. Never forget who YOU are in the Lord.

6 No matter what happens, trusting God is always better than giving in to temptation (Genesis 39:19-23). A lot of us may read Genesis 39:19 as defeat – Joseph gets thrown into prison. The problem in reading that verse through modern Western eyes is that it fails to realize what COULD have happened to Joseph. He was a Hebrew slave. He could have been castrated, killed – executed – and even by some ancient Egyptian laws, fed to gators. But he was thrown into prison. Even then notice, this was not Cairo County jail. It was the King’s prison. Also notice, the Lord never left him. The language in the beginning of the passage – Joseph was favored, trusted, prospered – is the same language that is used in the end of the passage. What God did for Joseph in Potiphar’s house he will now do for him in prison. The location may change. God never does.

7 Some things feel detrimental but may prove to be beneficial (Genesis 39:19-23). Joseph wound up in prison, but if you continue to read the story he is one step closer to the throne! The stories of God’s people are filled with detrimental episodes that proved to be beneficial turns in life. There are no shortcuts to blessing. Sometimes the right way is the hard way.

Repentance Unto Revival

There have been moments in history in which there have been unusual movements of God upon His people. We call these moments revival.

What will it take for the church to turn from a “formal, cold, callous profession of Christianity” to a white-hot version of faith? In studying revival, without doubt, both prayer and repentance precede revival.

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, with His baptism and temptation, is an unmistakable moment of history in which God begins to move. By watching this moment in Jesus’ life, perhaps we can usher in another incredible move of God in this moment of our own.

Why Some People Never Get It

No matter how hard you try. No matter how right it is. No matter how wonderful the vision; some people never get it. 

It is no less aggravating, but you may be encouraged to know that this is a problem as old as Jesus. When he began His public ministry there were various reactions to his preaching. And yes! Some people never got it! 

This message shared in a Sunday night series at Liberty Baptist Church entitled The Gospels, explores why four groups within the church never get it (and every church has “got” ’em).

  • The Groupies – always chasing personalities but missing the power of God.
  • The Selfies – always asking what’s in it for me but missing the movement of God.
  • The Junkies – always chasing the high but missing the fullness of God.
  • The Authorities – always comparing to tradition but missing the newness of God.

Fortunately, there was one group that got it; the disciples. Jesus was able to show them how who they are and what they had done their entire lives could be leveraged for the Kingdom of God.

Which one are you? 

World’s Collide – In a Good Way

Seinfeld character George Costanza greatly feared what he called, “Worlds collide.” What he meant by worlds collide is that one part of your life fortuitously meets another part of your life – work does not need to collide with family. These friends do not need to intermingle with those friends. Elaine needs to stay away from Susan! For Costanza worlds collide upsets the equilibrium of life he called the “worlds theory.” When worlds collide – “it blows up!”

But “worlds collide” is not always a Costanza sized meltdown. Sometimes worlds collide into an amazing experience.

I have a lot of worlds. I am a pastor, preacher, writer, teacher, and a chaplain for a high school football team. A few of those worlds collided for me last night as I took some of our players from the Christian Heritage School football team to serve at our Liberty Spring Place Campus.

Liberty Spring Place is a campus we planted 2 years ago in a local mobile home park that resembles many of the mission trips I have taken into 3rd world contexts. There are approximately 110 mobile home units that house a pocket of our population that is presented with the manifold challenges of poverty – drug abuse, domestic abuse, transportation issues, neglect, malnutriton, low education, and a dire lack of simple, workable, effective life skills. Liberty Spring Place began as a tent on a corner lot that turned into an invitation from the community for us to plant a permanent site there. The results have been incredible as Campus Pastor Mark Seay and our Spring Place team has made a major connection with the community and has partnered with other organizations to bring much needed services into the area. It really is a great story and a prime example of the difference the gospel makes when the gospel is proclaimed and applied.

Last night was our Christmas dinner at Liberty Spring Place. 10 of our football players joined me to attend the event and act as servers. They served plates of food, interacted with the kids, and at the end of the evening they walked several kids home. As they walked down the dusty streets each player carried enough groceries so that the children would have food to eat during their Christmas break as many of them rely on the public schools system to serve them breakfast and lunch. The sacks of groceries were provided by our local Community of Hope. The muscle was provided by CHS Lions football.

As I was taking one of our players home he said to me, “I like your church. You guys do a lot to rescue people.” That meant the world to me as a pastor to have a 16 year old Junior tailback say those words about the people God has called me to pastor. Little did he know that written on the walls of our building are the words, “Rescue People. Show Them What We Do. Send Them Out to Do What We do.” That is the mission of Liberty and he expressed it – not by reading the wall, but by reading our people!

 

Every church needs a definitive mission statement that is clear and motivating. Liberty’s is clearly presented in the foyer of the new church facility on Highway 76. SCOTT BARKLEY/Index

Liberty does a lot to rescue people. We have an amazing Celebrate Recovery program that meets on two campuses. Once a month, soon twice a month in two locations, we partner with Hope for the Hungry to provide meals for those in need. At our most recent Hope for the Hungry the demand was so great that we had to turn the sanctuary into a waiting room for those needing a meal. While a lot of church’s are planting campuses in developing affluent communities, Liberty’s last two campuses were planted in the home of a declining/dying congregation and a trailer park. I love the heart of God’s people at Liberty.

So there was our stud tailback – 220, 4.6/40, full of muscle and hopes of earning a college scholarship next year hauling groceries, watching people in a church saying it as well as it could be stated, “That’s what Jesus told the church to do, help people.” That’s right #27!

I love my church. I love serving student athletes. I love it when worlds collide! Way to go Liberty crew! Thanks Lions! Let’s keep RESCUING PEOPLE in Jesus’ name!