The Beacon, Bacon, and NAOBC

A few days ago Pastor Blake mentioned to Randy and me that Pastor Gabe had recently noted the letters NAOBC could be rearranged to read BACON! (What a clever anagram.) To NAOBC and Bacon, go one step further, add the letter “E” for encouragement, and you get The BEACON.

For so many of us, just hearing the word “bacon” conjures up the wonderful aroma and defines it. My aromatic memory bank goes back sixty plus years to my childhood when we drove from Alabama to visit my grandparents in western Kentucky. They were tenant farmers. “Daylight Savings Time” was not in their vocabulary. They arose early 24/7/365 to attend to the many chores that afforded them a place to live – an old country house with no running water (only a cistern on the back porch), no indoor bathroom, and for lighting in each room, a single bulb hanging from a long cord in the middle of the ceiling. To assuage the night chill in the winter months, there were old-timey space heaters in the bedrooms, causing great angst to our parents, fearing we would get too close to them when huddling around for evening warmth wrapped in old hand-made quilts. Those are the peripheral memories.  The cherished memory is waking in the early dawn, magically encompassed in heavy wool blankets during the night, feeling warm and cozy in our beds, and hearing the muffled murmur of our parents’ and grandparents’ voices catching up on life in the kitchen, with the wafting smell of frying bacon and percolating coffee. Such are the memories that gave us assurance that we were loved, that we were cherished, and that we were safe and cared for.

So what are memorable “aromas” that define NAOBC?  We are a congregation made up of singles, widowed, newlyweds, and couples who have celebrated decades of marriage. We are a combination of small and very large families. Many families in our church are bi-racial.  We are a church that cares for the very young, and those who have fewer tomorrows than yesterdays. We are a friendly church. A church that presses in and fellowships beautifully together, and is eager and ready to welcome newcomers.  We are a singing church.  Worshipers enthusiastically raise their voices and, many, their hands in praise and thanksgiving to the beautiful melodies, harmonies, and rhythms to hymns such as “Behold Our God.” We are a giving church. Local and foreign missions (The Great Commission) are important to us. We set lofty monetary goals to that end. We are a church that reaches out to the hopeless and witnesses to the lost. We are a church that unashamedly stands on the inerrancy of God’s Word. We have a staff who loves its congregants, and who love one another, and pray diligently to follow God’s leadership in every aspect of its ministry.

Pastor Bill has preached several Sunday sermons about our worship being a sweet aroma to our Heavenly Father.  He has illustrated it by quietly stepping back, pausing, and taking in a deep breath as though smelling the most beautiful, exotic aromatic rose or gardenia. This object lesson is impactful. It allows us to visualize our scent that ascends to heaven. Dr. Cook said there are so many in our congregation who “give off such a beautiful fragrance of kindness, and consideration, and forbearance…. There’s just a scent of encouragement all about them.”

I am thankful for our body of believers at NAOBC, the encouragement of The BEACON, and bacon! I trust that our church continuously presents a fragrant offering to God. When people outside our church hear us refer to NAOBC, does it exude an aroma like a sweet perfume? That is my prayer.

It’s Just a Phase, So Don’t Miss It

Just a few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of unveiling Ninth & O’s Phase Ministry. The Phase Ministry will launch in 2019 and is our church’s attempt to lovingly and effectively come alongside parents as they fulfill their role as the primary discipler in their children’s lives. To help get everyone acquainted with Phase Ministry I’ve written this post in two parts. First, I’ll explain why we believe Phase Ministry is an essential addition to our church by briefly highlighting two biblical teaching. Second, I’ll give a quick overview of the five phases that make up NAOBC Phase Ministry.

Why Phase Ministry Matters

First, Phase Ministry is essential because God has called his church to equip its members for the work of ministry. In Ephesians 4:11–12 Paul writes, “And [Jesus] himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” Pastors and teachers are not instructed merely to do ministry; they are instructed to equip others for the work of ministry themselves.

Second, Phase Ministry is essential because God’s design for families involves parents taking up the ministry of disciplining their children. Just a few chapters later in the book of Ephesians Paul writes, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Paul’s words echo those of Moses hundreds of years earlier, who wrote, “these words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7). God has specially commissioned parents to instruct their children in the ways of the faith.

Since God has called the church to equip its members for ministry, and God has given parents the ministry of disciplining their children, we as a congregation have an obligation to help equip families for discipleship in the home. Phase Ministry is Ninth & O’s attempt to do just that.

How Phase Ministry Works

Phase 1—Dedication
When a young child has been added to your home, you’ve entered the dedication phase. As with all the phases, the dedication phase involves both a training class and a church ceremony. The class introduces families to the biblical teaching on parenthood and provides practical instruction on caring for a child during their first year of life. Also, any family who has completed the class is invited to participate in the Parent-Child Dedication on Sunday morning.

Phase 2—Starting School
A student entering school is a significant milestone in a family’s life. To match the significance of this phase, we have developed an entire Wednesday Adult Equip class for parents dedicated to equipping parents for this season of life. In addition, students and families are invited to attend the Bible Presentation Ceremony. This ceremony provides an opportunity for parents to reinforce the centrality of God’s word by presenting their child with a Bible of their own to use through their elementary years.

Phase 3—Middle School
As a child enters the sixth grade, parents are invited to attend a special one hour, Sunday morning class, which will introduce them to the Youth ministry and provide an overview of several critical issues related to the early teen years. Aside from the Sunday morning class, the Youth and Kid’s ministry will host a Family Cookout at which parents will have an opportunity to pass on wisdom and encouragement to their child on their way to teenhood.

Phase 4—High School
Entrance into the ninth grade begins a students transition from the Youth ministry and the home. Similar to the Middle School phase, a special Sunday morning class will be available to help prepare parents for the challenges and opportunities of the later teen years. Additionally, we invite students and parents to join us for a trip to the Creation Museum. The trip will serve as a celebration of the families transition into this phase and involve a recognition of the students as leaders in the Youth ministry.

Phase 5—Adulthood
Eventually all students must leave childhood behind and enter into adulthood. Because this phase is such a special and significant time in the life of a family, we have set aside a one-day retreat designed to equip students, with the help of their parents, for the challenges of being a Christian in the workforce or on a college campus.

That, in a nutshell, is NAOBC Phase Ministry. We hope that all of Ninth & O will join us in praying that through the Phase Ministry, Ninth & O Baptist church can lovingly and effectively fulfill our obligation to help equip families for the work of discipleship in the home.

Fall 2018 – “The Break”

Join us on Wednesday nights at 7 pm in Room 231 and get to know our Ninth and O pastors and families.   We are excited to have our pastors and their families to join us for some food and fellowship around their favorite snack.     We will spend some time with some fun Q and A along with plenty of hangout time.

11/21/2018 – No Break due to Thanksgiving 

11/28/2018 –  Dr. Blake Ring (Missions and Education Pastor)

12/5/2018 – Ryan Morris (Children’s Pastor)

12/12/2018 – Tommy Sims (Connections Pastor)

12/19/2018 – Drew Smith (Youth Pastor)

12/26/2018- No Break due to Christmas

1/2/2018 – No Break due to  New Years

1/9/2018 – Craig Shuff (Worship Pastor)

Preach the Gospel Everywhere. Use Words. It’s Necessary.

Most Christians have heard the supposed quote of Saint Francis, “Preach the Gospel everywhere, and if necessary use words.” Unfortunately, many Christians both think that he said this and that it is an acceptable model for evangelism. This model of evangelism, known as “Lifestyle Evangelism”, is when you seek to share the Gospel merely through living a pious life. But this is a problem and an inaccurate view of evangelism. Any time a Christian views evangelism as only how you act, they will miss the purpose and the joy of evangelizing. All too often, I find myself in the same situation as many other believers. I want to simply be a good person, a good friend, a good employee, a good manager, and for that to lead to the spread of the Gospel. However, the Bible gives a clear command that we are to use words:

Romans 10:14: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

The other extreme also misses the point: to only preach with words and not demonstrate with action the faith that you claim. James 2 explains that if we ignore the physical need of a person we lose the ability to effectively share with words alone. In the same vein, if you are attempting to share the great news of the Gospel with a person who realizes that your actions don’t reflect your words, why would you expect them to listen to you?

If you are a great next-door-neighbor that is always helping out others in your neighborhood, you are going to end up with the opportunity to share with words about your faith – be ready to do it! If you are a great employee that always shows up to work early and with a smile, people are going to notice – use that as an opening to share with words about your salvation and faith!

One of my best friends unexpectedly passed away last summer. He knew that I was a Christian, and we had talked about the Bible and Christian topics over the years. I had shared with him why and how I knew I was saved, but I never took the opportunity to be explicit and uncomfortable with our conversations to the point that I have certainty one way or the other of his standing before God. As a Christian friend of his, I was always there to help him whether he was moving, sick, or had a baby. Being a good friend doesn’t save anyone. My first thought when he passed away was that I don’t know how he would have answered the question of the jailer in Acts 16.

Acts 16:30b-31a ‘“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”’

The context of Acts 16 sums up how to evangelize perfectly – the way that Paul and Silas acted lined up with a verbal proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior, resulting in the salvation of an entire family.

Here is an example of how this looks in day to day life. As a physical therapist, I get to spend a lot of time one-on-one with my patients and their families. Through being on time, joyful, and engaging in meaningful ways with my patients, I am typically able to earn the ability to share from my personal life. One of the most common ways this happens is when discussing my family, specifically the adoption of my son, Brandon, from the state foster care system. When I’m asked why we chose to adopt, in my weaker moments it is easiest to explain that there are a lot of kids that need homes in our city, so my wife and I decided to help take care of one. In the moments God gives me the strength to speak the truth, here is how it sounds:

“The Bible tells Christians that pure religion that is undefiled before the Lord is to care for orphans and widows in their affliction. As a Christian, I have been adopted by God through my relationship with Jesus, and so the command to care for orphans is very personal. Because of that, my wife and I felt specifically called by God to help take care of children in our city, and it ended up being God’s plan for us to adopt our son.”

By focusing on developing relationships that are backed by Christian actions and behaviors, I rarely, if ever, end up with a person that is upset when I share the words behind my faith.

Jesus gives us as his second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. As you look at your neighbors, everyone in your life that you interact with, make sure you know the answer to these three questions:

  1. Would my neighbor think that I’m a Christian by my actions?
  2. Would my neighbor know that I’m a Christian because I’ve told them with my words?
  3. How would my neighbor answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?”

Preach the gospel everywhere. Use words. It’s necessary.

Resting Like a Christian

Earlier this month, Dr. Wellum helpfully reminded us that labor is a gift from God to be done for His glory with our whole hearts.  For many of us this was a much needed reminder to reorient our view of work as a burden and a curse.  While it is true that some of us lean towards the extreme of laziness and a disdain for work, others of us drift in the opposite direction.  Nowadays, those who lean this direction often go by the name “workaholics,” and it is safe to say America has its fair share of them.  Consider the following statistics:

  • One Gallap poll found that a higher percentage of Americans work over 45 hours a week than in Canada or Great Britain.
  • A 2014 study found that only 25% of employees in American take all their vacation time and 15% of employees took none at all. That same study found that 50% of employees say they work during their vacation time.
  • In one survey, 11% of employees said the reason they did not take all their vacation days was because “work is their life.”

Taken together, these statistics tell a story about American culture: some of us have a hard time resting.  According to Scripture, however, rest ought to be a regular and important part of our routine.  Many reasons could be given for this, but I am going to focus on three big ones here.

1. Rest Is a Part of the Rhythm of Creation

As many of you will know, in the Old Testament God prescribed one day a week for Israel to cease all their labor called the Sabbath (a word which means “cease” or “rest”).  To take just one example, consider God’s command in Exodus 20:8-11:

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates.  11 For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.

Notice two things about this passage.  First, God commands even the slaves and livestock to be given rest on the Sabbath.  Rest was not a luxury for the upper class, it was a part of the rhythm of creation itself.  Even the land, according to the Old Testament law, was to be given a rest every seventh year from cultivation (Lev 25:1-7).  Second, we rest because God rested.  The rhythm of rest is something God established in His own work of creation.  God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh; therefore, we too ought to make rest a regular part of our week as well.

Jesus, likewise, illustrates the importance of rest in His handling of the disciples.  We read in Mark 6:30-31:

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.

Jesus understood that the disciples could not continue to labor, even for the gospel, indefinitely.  They needed a time of rest and recovery.

2. Rest Reflects Faith in God

Part of what drives many of us to “workaholism” is the fear that if we ever stop working, our well being and our worth will diminish.  Recall the 11% who said “work is their lives.”  Regular rest reminds us that ultimately our well being depends upon someone far greater than ourselves.  As one scholar put it, “The sabbaths were a way of teaching Israel that ‘one does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD’ (Deut 8:3).”1

3. Rest Now Points Us Towards the Rest to Come

The author of Hebrews, reflecting upon Israel’s rest as they entered the promised lands, makes an important point:

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. 10 For the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.

A great and final rest is coming for a people of God.  Not a rest free from activity and purpose, as Dr. Wellum reminded us, but a rest free from the wearing effects of sin.  When we pause to rest from our labor now, it ought to remind us of the greater rest that God has in store in the new heavens and the new earth.

Final Thoughts

Like most virtues, labor is a balance between two extremes.  On the one hand, there are those of us who look at our work as a curse and a burden, wishing we could give ourselves totally over to rest and leisure.  On the other hand, for some of us “work is our life.”  All our hope and all our value is bound up in the tasks we accomplish with our own two hands.  Hopefully, these last two posts have been a helpful reminder that a biblical view of rest and labor strikes a balance between these two extremes.  Work is a gift from God to be done with our whole hearts for His glory.  At the same time, God set within his creation a rhythm of rest: the need to step back from our work and to trust in the faithfulness of God to preserve us.


1 Laansma, J. C. (2000). Rest. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 729). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

How Should Christians Think about Labor and Work?

TGIF (“Thank goodness it’s Friday”) is a common expression today. Implicitly it reflects many people’s attitude towards labor and work. Ultimately, what people work for is time away from work, as represented by the arrival of Friday and the beginning of the weekend. What people most desire is not to work but to enjoy leisure and pleasure. Or, people view work merely as a way to pay their bills thus allowing them to do what they really desire, namely, not to work.

How should Christians think about work, especially when work is so devalued by many in our society? Obviously much could be said, but I will limit my answer to three biblical truths that must govern our thinking about labor and work.

First, work is a gift from our triune God and not a curse. From the beginning of the Bible’s story, God, as the Creator of the universe, is not only viewed as doing work which he takes complete satisfaction in—“It was very good” (Gen. 1:31)—but he also creates humans in his image to work. In fact, at the heart of our creation as the image of God is our representative rule over creation (Gen. 1:26-28), where we are called to work by “putting everything under our feet” (Ps. 8:6). Work, then, is part of God’s glorious plan for us. Although work is greatly affected by the entrance of sin into the world (Genesis 3), work is first a gift of God. In fact, even in the new creation, we will work (Rev. 22:3). At the heart of our redemption in Christ is our restoration to the purpose of our creation which is to know and glorify God and to rule over the world (Heb. 2:5-18).

To view work as a gift is contrary to our society’s view of work. But Christians must reject the mentality of our day and return to viewing work as a God-given gift. It is an amazing truth that God created us to be his vice-regents and to use our abilities to rule as stewards over creation. In fact, God deliberately created this world to require the labor of humans to make it productive. God did not create the world to produce on its own; instead, he created it in such a way that it is our job to plant, sow, explore, and harness the world’s resources. No doubt, God provides the soil, seed, sunshine, and rain, but we have to do the plowing, sowing, and reaping. God provides the fruit trees, but we have to prune them and pick the fruit.

Second, work is to be done, not for its own sake, but to the glory of God. Paul states this truth this way: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). Why do we ultimately work? To put food on the table? To pay the bills? No doubt, these reasons for work are partly correct, but there is much more to it. Just as our triune God created us to know and glorify him, he created us to work to glorify him.

When this truth is lost, our work becomes tedious if not meaningless. In the West which was greatly influenced by Christianity, people did not always view their work as tedious. For example, due to the influence of the Protestant Reformation, there was a correct emphasis on the value, dignity, and meaning of work. For many people, work was done for the glory of God. Think of how Johann Sebastian Bach inscribed the letters, “SDG,” on the bottom of his compositions—“Sola Deo Gloria” (“To God alone be the glory”). When the Puritans came to America to start a new life, their aim was to glorify God in their work, which resulted in what is called “the Puritan work ethic.”

When people took seriously God’s Word, work flourished in nations influenced by the Gospel. When people worked ultimately for God’s glory and his pleasure, they had satisfaction in their work. What a contrast to our day! When surveys are taken, a huge number of Americans say that they have little satisfaction in their work. Why? Because our society has made work as end-in-itself. People try to find meaning and purpose for their lives solely in terms of their work, but a job is a very poor substitute for God. Significance, self-worth, and contentment cannot be found solely in work; it is only found in a person’s relationship with the living God and it is out of that relationship that work is to be done.

However, the heart of our problem is that we are rebels against God and we want to go our own way. We want to make and serve our own gods. But because God created us for himself, we are never satisfied until we stop our rebellion, acknowledge our sin, and cry out to the Lord Jesus Christ who alone can save us. Work is never meant to be a substitute for God and to fill the void in us—only Christ can do that. And when our Lord Jesus is central in our lives, then in our work and labor we find satisfaction, contentment, and lasting joy.

This truth was beautifully illustrated in the movie, “Chariots of Fire.” The movie depicts the quest of Harold Abrahams and missionary, Eric Liddell, to win gold medals in the 1924 Olympics, a feat they both accomplished. However, a huge difference between them was contentment. Everything Abrahams did was for himself, while everything Liddell did was for God’s glory. On one occasion Liddell said to his sister Jennie, “I believe God made me for a purpose—for China. But he also made me fast! And when I run, I feel his pleasure!” By contrast, Abrahams, one hour before his 100 meter final, says to his best friend: “I’m 24 and I’ve never known contentment. I’m forever in pursuit, and I don’t even know what it is I’m chasing.”

Third, work requires diligence and whole-hearted commitment. Paul reminds us of this truth in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10. When Paul encourages the Thessalonians to withdraw themselves from every brother who walked disorderly and not after the apostolic tradition, we might think he has in view false doctrine, but instead he is speaking about the people’s work. What Paul reflects in this passage is the teaching of the entire Bible. God expects us to labor hard in our work. Our work is a gift and it is to be done to God’s glory but both of these truths require that we work hard at our work.

Today, people have forgotten the importance of working hard. We live in a society that demands our rights and expects someone else to pay our way. People have the attitude that they can work less, earn more, and have someone else pay for their lack of work. No doubt, Scripture teaches us that we need to help those who need help. But for those who can work, we are to labor hard at our work. God is pleased with nothing less than our full devotion to our work. In ever realm of life, whether it is Christian service, family life, daily work, or school—God is not pleased with half-hearted service.

How should Christians think about labor and work? We need to view it as a gift and privilege. We must always do our work for God’s glory. We must work hard and give ourselves whole-heartedly to what God has called us to do. If these three truths are embraced and practiced, they will not only change our view of work but it will result in our good, the betterment of our society, and ultimately the glory of our triune God.

Steeped in Tradition

When a church has been around for more than 100 years, you’d expect there to be many traditions that have carried on within the body of believers for decades. Unfortunately, as time marches on and people move away, the opportunities for traditions wane. But one thing that has remained – hospitality.

Our church has the reputation of being one of the friendliest churches in Louisville. Romans 12:12–13 says, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.” We are a praying church. We are a church that preaches and teaches hope in Christ. We are a church who cares for those in need. And we pursue hospitality.

One of the pillars of NAOBC from past decades was Howard Downing. Deacon and Sunday School Director, Mr. Downing had an infectious laugh, and he and his wife, Juanita, were vital to the life of the church. Just ask their granddaughter, Amy Pierce, who is an NAOBC member. Juanita even wrote our church history that we cherish to this day. Howard was known for one of his specialties – orange tea. At family and church functions, this yummy libation was served, and rarely did it pass your lips that you didn’t ask for the recipe. One of those people who wanted the recipe was Martha Sirles.

If you don’t know Martha and Urb Sirles, you need to. They are also pillars of NAOBC, serving in leadership throughout the years. Martha portrays the picture of hospitality every chance she gets. She frequently pulls out that tea recipe – which she has adapted and calls “Fruit Tea” – to serve others. Like Howard, Martha gets requests for the recipe every time it’s served. Throughout the years and generations, this tea carries with it memories and tradition, and fosters the joy of practicing hospitality.

Maybe you are planning a gathering of your BFG as part of “Pressing In.” Maybe you are entertaining neighbors in order to “reach out” and begin planting seeds to share the gospel. What better way to have a simple conversation starter than serving up a glass of iced tea steeped in tradition? As you sip together, you share the story of how, through the years, NAOBC has been blessed with serving saints. May one day we will all be as faithful to our Lord and His church as the Downings and the Sirles. It could all start with a simple glass of tea.

Fruit Tea
(adapted from Howard Downing’s “Orange Tea” recipe)

Bring to a boil 3 ½ quarts of water. Remove from heat and add 9 Family Size Tea Bags. Cover and let steep for 3 hours.
Remove tea bags and carefully squeeze excess in the pan. Add 6 cups of sugar.
Stir until completely dissolved. Store concentrate in quart jars and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

1 quart of tea concentrate
1-6 oz. frozen lemonade
½ cup of orange juice
Mix well and serve over ice with a slice of orange.

How Watching a Baptism Changed the Way I Read the Bible

Recently our church had the privilege of witnessing the baptism of a child from our kids’ ministry. It’s always a joy to see the prayers and efforts of both parents and volunteers come to fruition as children profess Jesus as Lord and Savior. What struck me was the testimony of this young girl: how the Holy Spirit used the story of Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree from Luke 19:1–10 to open her heart.

If you’ve ever read the Gospel of Luke or been in church for very long, you’re likely familiar with the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector who scrambled up a sycamore tree so he could catch a glimpse of Jesus as he passed by. (It’s okay to admit if you’re humming the children’s song right now.) It’s a story that I’ve read and heard countless times, but her testimony arrested me. She said, “Jesus said three words. ‘Zacchaeus, come down.’ And it meant a lot to me.” Watching this baptism has changed the way I read this story forever.

Zacchaeus. The call to salvation is universal. The gates of heaven are opened wide through the cross of Jesus, and the invitation to eternal life is for every nation, tribe, people, and language. He will never turn any away who seek Him; all are welcome.

Yet the story of Zacchaeus reminds us that Jesus’ invitation is also personal and intimate as well as universal. Imagine Zacchaeus’ surprise when Jesus stopped and called to him by name. Remember your own surprise when the Lord called you. At that moment when you saw Jesus as precious and worthy, Jesus was calling you by name. And why wouldn’t He know your name? He counts the very hairs on your head.

Come Down. Jesus’ first command to Zacchaeus was not to work but to rest. Tree climbing is not easy, especially for a wee little man like Zacchaeus, but at that moment, I imagine he would have raced to the top of that tree if Jesus had asked. But Jesus wasn’t interested in Zacchaeus’ work or wealth. He wanted Zacchaeus – “I must stay at your house today.” The same is true for us. Jesus is not interested in how much we can work or how much we can give. Instead, he invites us to rest and enjoy fellowship with Him.

At the end of the story, Zacchaeus pledges to give away his wealth as sign of his repentance and resolution to follow Jesus. It was not a means of buying his own salvation – that would be impossible even if he had all the riches of the world. Zacchaeus’ debt, just like our debt, was so enormous that it required a payment that only Jesus could make. So Jesus called Zacchaeus to climb down from that tree, so that Jesus could climb a far more rugged tree in his place.

It Meant A Lot to Me. Zacchaeus was forever changed by his encounter with Jesus. As are we. As was that young girl on this particular Sunday who gave her testimony in the baptismal waters. She heard the voice of the Savior calling to her in those three words. They meant a lot to her. And, little sister, they now mean a lot to me too.

Kids In Discipleship

It’s that time of year again. Summer is starting to wind down and before we know it the school year will begin. I was reminded of this as I came home from work this week and my daughter was sporting her new backpack and lunchbox in our living room. In a few weeks, we will settle into the routine of homework and early bedtimes. While there is a collective moan from children everywhere, I sit here excited about the new beginnings coming this fall, and I’m more excited than usual. Why am I so pumped for this fall? I’m excited to see our families fill up the church building and the energy that comes with it, and I’m thrilled for our new Wednesday night ministry discipleship program. Let me share just a few reasons why I am eager to launch the Kids in Discipleship program.

1. Scripture Memory
Nothing makes me happier than seeing children memorize Scripture. Psalm 119:11 tells us to “hide God’s word in our hearts.” This commandment is one of the core foundations of the Kids in Discipleship program. Not only will kids learn what verses mean but they will discuss how these truths can apply to their lives. Each week, our entire ministry will focus on one key verse. Families with multiple children of various ages will memorize the same verse. The goal is that each family can memorize Scripture together during their worship and devotion time. At the beginning of the year, parents will receive a calendar with all the verses their children will learn. I want to challenge you as parents to join with your children in memorizing these verses and “hiding God’s Word” in the hearts of your entire family.

2. Missions
Each week will have a component focusing on missions. It is our desire for children to embrace sharing God’s Word with others as a part of being Christ’s disciple. We want our children to be disciples who make disciples. Kids will be exposed to what God is doing in different parts of the world. Missionaries and mission organizations, from our church, will share their stories about how God is using them to reach the nations. They will learn about missionaries supported through the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Not only will our kids learn about missions, but they will also have opportunities to engage in missions. Throughout the year, kids will complete mission projects to ensure they are not only hearers but participants in what God is doing in the lives of people.

3. Connection with Amazing Adult Volunteers
We have some of the best teen and adult volunteers! This ministry presents the opportunity for parents to widen the circle of trusted influence in the discipleship of their children. This connection will take place through dynamic, large group, age-graded teaching, as well as intimate small groups. The hope for small groups is for relationships to form that will help aid children in their relationships with Christ. Our volunteers will pray for your children and family throughout the week. Discipleship does not happen apart from parents but is a partnership with the church. Small group leaders will remain connected with parents as a source of encouragement and support.

As you get to know me better, you will see that I love to have fun! Kids in Discipleship incorporates fun activities to reinforce the lessons each night. We will also have game time where kids compete with others in exciting games (helping them to release all of that pent-up energy from sitting in a classroom all day.) Kids will have so much fun they will be begging to come back next week.

I cannot wait to kick off Kids in Discipleship this fall. Our team has already started praying and planning for the new year. I don’t want to keep all of this excitement to myself though! You too can catch the excitement. If you desire to be a part of what God is doing in NAOBC Kids Ministry on Wednesday nights, let me know. Email me or stop by and see me at the kids’ ministry desk on Sunday mornings. Also, keep an eye out for registration opening up at the beginning of August.

Why We’re Baptists

As Southern Baptists from all over the world gather this week in Dallas to discuss the leadership and future of our denomination, it seems worthwhile to reflect on why we are a convention of Baptists, to begin with. What is a Baptist and why be one? Learned minds disagree on the “technical” definition of Baptist, but there are at least two points everyone would admit lie at the heart of Baptist beliefs.

#1 Baptism

Unsurprisingly, Baptists have some strong views on the topic of baptism. There are two key aspects to Baptists’ believe on this topic: (1) we believe that baptism is for those who have been saved (2) we believe that baptism is a symbol and declaration of salvation not a part of it. Let’s look at both these aspects in turn.

First, we believe that baptism is for those who have already been saved. A key verse on this point is Colossians 2:11-12:

You were also circumcised in him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, 12 when you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

In verse eleven, Paul describes the salvation of the Colossians as a circumcision of the heart. But when did this salvation occur? Paul tells us in verse twelve, it occurred when they “were buried with him in baptism” and “raised with him through faith.” In other words, Paul links baptism, here, with salvation and faith in Jesus Christ. All these events go together, they are part of the same package. Baptism does not come before salvation, it goes along with it.

Second, we believe that baptism is a symbol and declaration of salvation not a part of it. Admittedly, Paul is not to totally clear in Colossians 2:11-12 on just how baptism and salvation fit together. Someone could easily read this passage as saying that baptism is a part of the salvation process. Thankfully, we have a lot more Bible to help us fill in the details. Here are two examples in the New Testament where salvation and baptism are clearly separated. First, Acts 10:44-48:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in other tongues and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 He commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.

In classic Peter style, he preaches the Gospel and droves of people come to faith. What is particularly interesting for us, is that the Gentiles are baptized after they receive the Holy Spirit. Peter preaches the Gospel, the Gentiles are saved and receive the Holy Spirit, then they are baptized.

Another passage that makes this point is Luke 23:42-43. One of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus turns to Him and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” So here we have Jesus promising someone they would be with him in heaven who was never baptized.

Baptism, therefore, is not a part of salvation; however, that does not mean baptism is unimportant. To begin with, Jesus commands all believers to be baptized (Mt 28:18-20). In fact, if we look back at Colossians 2:11-12, Paul considers baptism and salvation so closely linked, he doesn’t even bother to separate the two in his discussion. But what makes baptism so important? In baptism we act out, publicly, the great salvation we have in Jesus (Rm 6:1-11). It is a declaration to the world that we are “buried with him in death, and raised to walk in newness of life.”

#2 The Lord’s Supper

Another belief that distinguishes us as Baptist is our views on the Lord’s Supper. On a basic level, as Baptist, we believe that the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic, commemorative act in which we reflect back on the death of Jesus and look forward to His return (1 Cor 11:23-26).

Almost no one, though, would disagree with us on that point. The bigger issue is whether something more happens during the Lord’s Supper. The debate centers around what Jesus meant when he says, “I am the bread of life” in John 6. Some have been inclined to think that Jesus meant he is literally the bread. If we read the passage this way, the Lord’s Supper would be much more than a symbol. Somehow, the bread and the drink would be transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.

On the one hand, it is not hard to see why people would understand this passage in that way. After all, what else could Jesus mean by “I am the bread” besides “I am the bread.” On the other hand, there are at least two reasons why we should not take Jesus words as literally applying to the Lord’s Supper. First, if we assume that every time Jesus says “I am _____” he means that he is literary ____, we wind up in a bit of trouble later on in John. For instance, Jesus says at one point, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener“ (Jn 15:1). Should we take this to mean Jesus is actually a vine and God the father is actually a gardener? Obviously not. But if Jesus can speak metaphorically in John 15 why not in John 6? Second, it is not clear that Jesus is talking about the Lord’s Supper at all in this passage. As the great John scholar Dr. Bill Cook once wrote, “It is better to understand Jesus as referring to the same ideas as are brought out earlier in the discourse: to personally receiving Him.”

There are many more things we believe as Christians, and there are many points on which Baptist can and do disagree, but on these two points, at least Baptists find their common ground.