A World Without God

The movie Yesterday poses an interesting premise. What if the world forgot The Beatles?

If you like the music of The Beatles I think you will find the film entertaining. Personally, I think there could have been so much more done with the plot, but I enjoyed it.

But what if the world didn’t just forget about a music group? What if the world forgot about God? Imagine what the world would be like if there was no belief or no concept of God in the mind of man.

The question of God is the first question of any worldview. The answer to that question makes every other decision. In this message I share four critical implications to denying there is a God. If you don’t believe in God you must:

  • Have ultimate faith that science can answer all of your questions.
  • Have ultimate faith that people will eventually make all the right decisions.
  • Have ultimate faith that government will solve all of our problems.
  • Have ultimate faith in yourself that you will find the purpose for your life.

Watch all of the messages from the Brainwashed series at Liberty.

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Love One Another

I am an only child, but I have brothers.

Some brothers are born by blood, but others are born of a different bond. The Bible says that this type of bonded brother is a special relationship. Proverbs 18:24 says that you can have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

How does that happen? It happens when we “love one another.”

Love is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture. Our culture understands love to be emotion and sexual expression. In the Bible love is not sexual expression, it is covenant commitment. Scripturally, love is not an emotion you feel. It is a command you obey.

In 1 John 3:11-18 the Bible tells us to “love one another. The passage then gives us a negative example and a positive exhortation. The negative example is the tragic story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. The positive exhortation articulates the familial bond that love creates. And in these 8 verses, the Bible uses the word “brother” in reference to “love one another”, 7 times. If we love one another we can become more than friends. We can be like family. If we love one another a group of players can become more than a team. They can become a band of brothers.

If we love one another we can be more than friends. We can be family.

But why? Why be brothers? Why do what it takes to love one another? I want to share three reasons from 1 John 3:11-18.

Basic Need (1 John 3:11)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

1 John 3:11

“That you have heard from the beginning.” Love is something the Bible stresses as early as Genesis. The phrase appears 12 times in the New Testament. Love one another is one of the most basic themes in Scripture. It is one of the most shared messages of the church. You have been told to love one another since kindergarten.

But the reason “love one another” is so often repeated is not because it is an elementary theme, but because it is a basic need. In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.

We are in week 4 of the season, game 3. Counting this week’s game we are assured of 8 more regular-season games. We do not want to regress over those 8 weeks. We are committed to progress. We have determined to get better and better together.

But what will make the biggest difference? The weight room is critical. Guys will continue to work at getting bigger, stronger, faster. But in 8-9 weeks, you will not make the same massive gains that you made in the offseason. it isn’t realistic to expect that we will be exponentially stronger and faster by November than we are right now.

In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.

We will continue to practice. The coaches will make adjustments. You as players will feel more and more confident in the schemes. We will get better at playing “our game” but it is unrealistic to think that we will become exponentially better than we are right now at running our offense or defense. There is no way you will advance in the execution of our gameplan in the next 8 weeks than you did over the spring and summer.

But there is something that can make an exponential difference. What is it? Love. A greater commitment to one another will make an exponential difference in the advancement of our team. The plays are important. Strength and speed are critical. But the relationships you have with one another are vital. “Love one another” means that you have not just committed to play together. “Love one another” means that you are committed to each other.

Love means that no one is left on the outside. It means everyone becomes an insider. Love means acceptance, a sense of belonging, loyalty. Where there is love, there is accountability, forgiveness, and justice. Love means that you will defend one another, fight for one another, and make sure you are together. Love means there are no selfies. There are no stragglers. There are no standouts. There are no holdouts.

Learning to love one another will serve you for your 4 years on this team, but it will serve you for the next 40 as well.

You can’t be a team without love. You won’t get married without love. You can’t stay married without love. You can’t raise children without love. You can’t work for someone or with someone without love.

Love is a basic need in every human relationship.

Bad Alternative (1 John 3:12)

1 John 3 recalls a tragic story of two brothers where love was lacking. Cain murdered his brother Abel and John uses this tragedy to offer us a warning.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

1 John 3:12

When people lack love, things go bad.

I have been a part of some bad teams. I’ve seen enough of them. I am not interested in being on another one. Talent is not what makes the difference on a team; love does. You can have plenty of talented people on a team, but if there is no commitment to one another, the team goes toxic.

Antonio Brown asks to be released by the Oakland Raiders.

The most talked about man in sports last week was NFL wide receiver, Antonio Brown. At one time Antonio Brown was the highest paid receiver in the NFL. Since signing that deal he has asked to be released from two teams. The most recent was the Oakland Raiders for whom Antonio never played a meaningful down of football. And then after joining the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown faces sexual assault charges in his first week on the job. Antonio Brown has loads of talent, but Antonio Brown is toxic.

Antonio Brown has plenty of money. He’s the most talked about man in the NFL, but he is probably also the loneliest man in the world. Why? Antonio Brown lacks love.

When you lack love the Bible says that people devour one another, grumble against one another, and lie to one another. When people lack love they tell lies and speak evil of one another. Before joining the Patriots, Antonio Brown left a toxic trail of criticism, deceit, inexplicable behavior, and constant complaining.

And then comes the ironic voice of reason, Randy Moss. Randy Moss is a former NFL great who also had quite a history before joining the Patriots at the end of his career. When asked about Antonio Brown, Moss said,

Whenever Antonio Brown shows up on my phone it has nothing to do with football. The next time I see Antonio Brown on my phone, it’s got to be touchdowns. Football from here on out.

Randy Moss, Washinton Post

People who lack love become 1 story people. Anytime you’re around them it’s “the same old thing.”

For people like Cain and Antonio Brown life is never fair. There are problems wherever they go. The situation is never “right enough” for them. Eventually, they end up wanderers headed nowhere.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who have loads of talent, but lack love. Those people end up toxic to a team. They don’t help anyone. They will not help anyone get better. They can’t relate to anyone. Toxic people are an encouragement to no one. With them, its the “same old thing.”

We need to love one another like brothers. Otherwise, there is a bad alternative.

Special Bond (1 John 13, 16-18)

After telling the story of Cain and Abel John says, “Don’t be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” In this life, no one is immune from hate and hardship. When we go through those experiences, we need brothers. And when people pull together to love one another through hate and hardship, it creates a special bond.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little chilren, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:16-18

Anyone can love. We all need to love. But to experience and express love in the fullest sense, we need to experience the love of Jesus Christ. There is no greater example of someone loving us through hardship and hatred than that of the Son of God laying down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. If you truly want to love one another, first realize that you are loved by God. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith and experience brotherly love like never before!

And if we experience that love, we then can lay down our lives for our friends. We can walk into their desperate needs and be sacrificial for them.

At the outset, I said that I’m an only child, but I have brothers. There are countless men in my life that I know I could call on in times of hardship. There are men in my life that I know will rally around me in difficulty. They love me and I love them. We are brothers.

Last week was the anniversary of 9/11. I spent some time that day watching videos and reliving the story. There was a video shared on social media that retold a story of that day I had never heard. It was the story of the harbor pilots who brought their watercraft to the island to rescue people.

For me, one of the most powerful images in the video is at about the 6-minute mark when it shows the white water trails of dozens of boats coming on the horizon in response to the all call. If you lived through that day you remember that it was a day of terror and confusion. No one knew exactly what was happening or what was going to happen next. And for those boat captains to come charging into a cloud of smoldering death to rescue people – that’s the essence of brotherly love.

When you have brothers. People will come to your rescue.

If we are to be a team that loves one another we will not see people sitting alone. We will not see people standing alone. We will have no standouts and no holdouts. A team of people who becomes brothers for a season will be brothers for the rest of their lives. When you go through hatred and hardship, and you will, there will always be people on the horizon coming for you.

Brothers, love one another.


This post is the manuscript of a chapel talk given before game 3 of the 2019 Christian Heritage Lions Football season.

Pulse by Brian Branam

Check out Pulse, a book developed from chapel talks from the 2016 CHS Lions season.

How to Baptize a Bunch of People

In a society that seems to be “losing its religion”, is it possible to baptize a bunch of people? It’s no secret that churches are struggling. Our local newspaper recently published an article about the decline of many churches in our area. The Southern Baptist Convention has been experiencing declining baptisms for at least a decade. I serve as the evangelism director for our local Baptist association. In 2017 over 40 of our 60+ churches reported 0 baptisms. Something has to change.

Finding an answer and making a change is what motivates every pastor, including myself. I found that the answer to baptizing a bunch of people is not in doing a new thing, but in doing what we do more intentionally and prayerfully.

This summer at Liberty, we baptized 72 people. Scott Barkley of The Christian Index wrote a great article covering the story. Personally, we learned a lot from this experience and our plan is to build off of it. So, how can you not only ignite evangelistic fervor in your church but turn the traditional summer slump into an amazing ministry opportunity? In the past couple of weeks, several people have been asking how we did it at Liberty. Here is what we did and what I learned from the experience.

Hopeful

After studying some of the issues churches are having in baptizing people, I envisioned an outdoor baptism for our church. I thought of it as a goal we could set for our summer that would help us bring better focus to our ministries.

I pitched the idea to our leadership, but I also painted a picture. I talked about what each of our summer ministry opportunities could bring to the table in accomplishing our goal. We shouldn’t just be trying to accomplish a calendar of events, we should be seeking to accomplish a God-ordained mission. We shouldn’t be just going over the calendar. We should be seeking to obey Christ’s command.

We began to pencil in some plans. Then it was time to share the vision with the congregation. But I didn’t want to simply tell the church what we were doing, I wanted to get people personally invested.

Use the word “imagine.”

Johnny Decker led his 81 year old father to the Lord. Johnny helps him out of the water after his baptism.

The word “imagine” is a powerful word. I asked each person to imagine them standing in the water with someone they loved as they were being baptized. I asked them to pray for that person. Invite that person. Have gospel-centered conversations with that person throughout the summer. A group of people with a hopeful vision and an active imagination is a powerful thing!

There was hardly a week that went by that I didn’t use the word “imagine.” I wanted our people to visualize it. See the possibility of it and bring it to God in prayer. Even on the final Sunday, I asked our people to imagine that person standing with them being baptized “tonight!” I asked them to make one more call. To issue one more invitation. Use the word imagine – a lot!

Intentional

The curious thing about our summer is that we “did” what we “do.” We kept our summer schedule as is – VBS, youth camp, Sunday services, Wednesday activities, Celebrate Recovery . . . We did what we do, but we did it with greater intentionality.

  1. We set a goal and we set a date. Our goal was 30 baptisms on August 18. That gave us roughly 12 weeks to work our plan. We broke our baptism goal down into tangible ministry objectives. If we were going to baptize 30, that means that we would like to see X number of people reached at X ministry opportunity.
  2. We set numeric goals for each ministry and event. If we set a goal of having 60 men at a men’s event, our next question was, “What do we have to do to get 60 men there?” Here’s a way to get 5 here. 15 there, these 20 will come if we . . . We didn’t just set goals, we broke them down and created action plans for each goal. Some people are critical of numeric goals. I usually don’t hang out with those people :). But I say often, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
  3. We worked at getting better at gathering information. We’ve always done a good job of gathering crowds at Liberty. We have not done a good job of getting information. If you don’t get people’s information you can’t continue the conversation, you won’t lead them to salvation, and there will be ZERO follow up. Being transparent here, but over the course of the summer we missed and lost a lot of information. Had we retained that info and carried through with our follow up, we might have baptized 100 people this summer. We’ll never know. But it happens and we made sure we learned from our mistakes.
  4. We evaluated our lists on a weekly basis. As people were responding throughout the summer we made a list and evaluated it regularly. Each week we looked at the list as a staff and made adjustments and assignments in light of our goals and objectives. We tried to communicate with key leaders and help them meet baptism goals in their areas of ministry.
  5. We encouraged those being baptized to invite their family and friends. We not only encouraged those invitations, but we helped them with those invitations. We sent cards and invites. We created social media posts that people could share with their friends.
  6. We made lots of calls. One of the most exciting things about the summer happened in the final two weeks. We had set a goal of 30 baptisms. About 3 weeks before our target date, our list surpassed the 30 mark. A week later it surpassed 40. Then we began making calls to our baptism candidates as a means of answering questions, sharing information, and encouraging people. We were just trying to help recent converts follow through with their commitment, but those calls turned into so much more.

    So I would make a call and that person would tell me about a person they had invited to their baptism. They would then tell me about how they shared Christ with their friend, and their friend was saved. They would then ask me, “Would you call ____?” YES I WILL! That happened about 10 times as I was making calls. The list then went over 50, then on to 60 just because people were inviting people. It became a very “Book of Acts” kind of experience.

Prayerful

At Liberty, we end our Sundays and we begin our week together in the altar. Yes, we do have a Sunday night service. Yes, it is a smaller crowd, but it is a critical crowd. For the most part, these are our leaders. On Sunday nights we practice corporate prayer. Each Sunday night we layout 2-3 things before the Lord and we agree together about in prayer. As we approached VBS, we would pray for VBS and for our goals for VBS. We did that all summer for each ministry opportunity. Each Sunday night of the summer, we prayed for the lost. We prayed for our goal of 30 baptisms. We agreed together and WOW did the Lord answer!

Gospel

It should go without saying that as a church everything we do should be evangelistic, but it isn’t! Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to draw crowds that we forget that we should also be drawing the net. We should be fishing for men! We should be telling people about Jesus and inviting them to repent of sin and turn to Him in faith.

We made sure, this summer, that we were sharing the gospel clearly in every ministry opportunity and that we were inviting people to make a decision of turning to Christ in repentance and faith.

The Lost and Found Sermon Series

I also preached a sermon series that emphasized the importance of evangelism and the urgency of the gospel. The series was called Lost and Found. You can watch each message here on my YouTube Channel. You can also access the sermon series in audio and video via the Liberty sermon archive.

Here is a rundown of message titles and texts.

  • Lost and Found – Luke 15
  • Totally Lost – Romans 1:18-32
  • Religiously Lost – Romans 2
  • Eternally Lost – Revelation 20:11-15
  • The Seeker, Zaccheus – Luke 19:1-10
  • The Hater, Saul – Acts 9:1-22
  • The Outsider, Cornelius – Acts 10
  • The Thinker, Paul at Mars Hill – Acts 17:10-34
  • Baptism, Importance – 1 Peter 3:18-22
  • Baptism, Picture – Romans 6:1-14
  • Baptism, Obedience – Acts 8:26-40

Powerful

The end result of being hopeful, intentional, prayerful, and centered on the gospel was POWERFUL. I’ve seen some amazing things in 22 years of serving Christ as a pastor, but seeing 72 people come to Christ – baptizing 64 of them in one day – it was truly amazing!

For me, the highlight of the day was in baptizing a young guy, probably late 20’s, who was recently saved in a prison Bible study. He began attending Liberty mid-summer and has been truly loved by our people. After he came up out of the water he gave me a hug and said, “I never thought my life would be like this!” Me neither bro! Me neither!

How to be a welcoming church.

Does the Bible encourage misogyny?

Captured By Culture

Have you noticed a rise in incivility in our society? Why are so many people becoming favorable to socialism? How is it that a grown man can leave his family, identify as a 6-year-old girl, and be adopted? It all comes down to your worldview.

In this opening message of a critical new culture series I am sharing at Liberty, I reveal two conflicting worldviews that are prevalent in our culture. What is a worldview? What is your worldview? How do you protect yourself and your children from being taken as mental captives of a misguided culture?

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Why is Bubba Still in My Basement? Missing the Point of Parenting

Biblical Worldview Resources

At Liberty, we are in a series called Brainwashed that is a critical conversation about our culture. In the first message, I mentioned some important resources on Biblical worldview. Here is the list:

Websites:

Books:

Take This, Not That

If you were ever stranded on a deserted island, what would be the essentials you would want to have with you? In an article on MentalFloss.com, survival expert Tony Nestor says these are the essentials: a machete, a cell phone, a mirror, a hammock, and a family photo.

The Christian life is a long journey, not a short sprint. Imagine the Christian life to be a trip to a distant place in which you could only carry a few essential things. What would those things be?

In this message I share 6 essentials for the Christian life while also encouraging you to leave some things behind. Take this, not that!

In this message I also share 4 questions you can ask in Bible study that will help you get great application from any passage.

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Have you read my latest book Pulse?

How to be a Welcoming Church

Many churches are friendly, but not welcoming. And yes, there is a difference! A friendly church smiles, shakes hands, and tells people that they are glad to see them. A welcoming church moves people past their first visit and into the family of faith. Friendly is not necessarily welcoming!

Don’t you want people to become a part of your family of faith? I would think so. Here is how. In this message I use the word WELCOME to show you how to move your church past friendly and into a place of true Biblical hospitality. This is a great video to show your leadership teams, especially your first impressions team, to help them understand how to become a welcoming church.

Here is some articles on welcoming that helped me prepare for this message.

Seven Great and Seven Bad Experiences of First-Time Church Guests

What Does Community Mean?

8 Ways Your Church Can Be More Welcoming to Guests

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