2030 Vision

What do we want Glynwood Baptist Church to look like by the year 2030?

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18, ESV)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people are discouraged (Proverbs 29:18, ESV, alternate translation in footnote)

eye patchBlame it on the eyepatch. Vision (or the lack of it) has been on my mind a lot lately. Ever since last Wednesday, when I left the office for lunch and immediately saw all these black specks, floaters, cobwebs, and hairballs in my field of vision, I’ve been thinking a lot about vision. What if I lose it? Even after the laser surgery to repair the torn retina, I’ve been worried that the cloudiness in my left eye might not clear up? What if I have to wear this silly eye patch long term? How long will Glynwood tolerate a pastor who looks like an extra for Pirates of the Caribbean?

In fairness to you guys, you’ve been incredibly kind and patient, and after the first week, the pirate jokes have been kept to a minimum (for the last time, Jeff Williams, I’m not getting a parrot!!!).

Without the eye patch, things still look cloudy and muddy when I am looking though both eyes. With the eye patch, I can see clearly, but I lose depth perception. I can’t accurately judge how far something is ahead of me. I lose track of what may be coming up behind me. And I have a hard time taking hold of and grasping what is directly in front of me (just ask Stacey what it was like watching me try to use a staple remover on a document the other day. Picture the Claw game at Chuck E Cheese).

All of this was on my mind the other day when I wrote a simple, two-word phrase in my journal:

2030 VISION

I stared at it with my one good eye, and then, during our staff meeting, I wrote it again on the whiteboard in our conference room:

2030 VISION

To clarify: this is not the result of my latest eye test. It’s a question. It’s a challenge. It’s the start of a discussion:

What do we want Glynwood Baptist Church to look like by the year 2030? What is our vision for the church 12 years from now? 

Early in 2019, I plan to assemble a group of people who can help answer this question. The team will have members of the generation that built Glynwood, so we can have an accurate view of what’s behind us. It will include members of the next generation who can help us accurately see what’s ahead of us. And it will include strategic thinkers who can help us figure out the steps to get there.

We need a long range plan.As Proverbs 29:18 says in all its various translations, without vision people are unrestrained. We find ourselves running in lots of different directions without a compelling focus toward one direction. Without vision, we will be discouraged. And ultimately, without vision, we will lose our ability to influence and impact Prattville.

But, with vision, we can not only see what’s ahead of us, but we can also take hold of the opportunities that are directly in front of us. A “2030 Vision” will not only help us see clearly, but it will help us see with depth perception.

I want you to know that I love being your pastor. I am so excited for what the Lord is doing right now, and I anticipate with awestruck wonder what He will in the future.

Joy in the Journey,

James

Ten Lepers Left

0001620_ten-lepers
Ten Lepers, by James Christensen

I wrote this poem several years ago, but updated it and used it in a sermon I preached this past weekend. A few folks have asked for it, so here it is. It is based on the story of the ten lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17:11-19.

Ten lepers walked the city streets,

and stopped to hear the preacher preach

So close to death, all pride was stripped,

Nothing to lose; so those with lips

Called, “Jesus, help us out a bit?”

“Go, show yourselves unto the.  priests,”

He said, they scattered, west to east

Their skin, with cleansing fire burned

Ten lepers left, but one returned.

 

Once, the question came to mind, “What happened to the other nine?”

And though I claim no revelation—this is nothing more than speculation

I offer you this testament

To where the other lepers went.

 

First, there’s Leper Number One

Who took off in an all out run.

Her feet, now free from open sores

Ran like they’d never run before.

 

Poor old leper number Two

Had no idea what he should do.

So, scarred from years of being shunned

Went home, locked up, and saw no one.

 

Then there’s leper Number Three

For whom sickness became security

For years, defined by leprosy

Till it became identity

Healed, became a bitter man

And wished he could get sick again.

 

That accounts for three who were healed that day

Nine lepers left, one leper stayed.

 

Leper four, his skin free of spots

Left and immediately forgot

He’d ever been a leper.

 

Five and six found love along the way.

Ran off, got married that same day.

 

So that makes six accounted for

One leper stayed, that leaves three more.

 

And of those three, there were the two

That wrote “Life from a Leper’s Point of View.”

They gained great fame in lecture halls,

Signed copies of their books in malls.

And on the Oprah Winfrey Show,

Oprah said, “We want to know,

To what do you attribute health?”

“From within,” they said. “We healed ourselves.”

 

Number Nine believed his leprosy

Was to be replaced with prosperity

Convinced it’s what he deserves, somehow.

He’s out there living his best life now.

 

So, ten lepers went their separate ways

Nine lepers left, one leper stayed.

He stayed to fall at Jesus’ feet,

Stayed to feel His touch so sweet;

To thank Him for the gift he gave,

Ten lepers cured, one leper saved.

James Jackson

 

Glorified!

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’ve always jokingly wished that I would get a new body. An upgrade. Something more Chris Pratt-like (“Guardians” Chris Pratt. Not “Parks and Rec” Chris Pratt).

But if I truly believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, then I choose to believe that in my glorified body I will look and be exactly as God intended for me to look and be, without the negative effects of age, disease, pollution, decay, environment, athlete’s foot, and Klondike bars. And somehow, in a way I can’t even fathom, it will be glorious yet still recognizable as me. And people will look at me and say, “my God.” Not in the casual, flippant, offhandedly blasphemous way we use that phrase today, but in a way that expresses awestruck wonder for the God that could resurrect such beauty from such ashes. People will recognize me, but they will recognize Christ in me with none of the flaws that distort and hide Him. And the only thing that will keep them from falling to their knees on the spot is that Christ will be seen in everyone else as well. And maybe the reason we will not grow tired of worshiping the resurrected Christ, even when we’ve been there ten Thousand years, (bright shining as the sun), is that we will experience him in ten thousand million different ways, expressed through every unique, glorified saint.

“With You is My Contention, O Priest”– Thoughts on Hosea 4

39567-hosea-800w-tn

 

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
    because you have rejected knowledge,
    I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
    I also will forget your children.

Hosea 4:6 (ESV)

I was pretty sure I knew the gist of Hosea: God tells his prophet to marry a hussy named Gomer; be a father to three children (two of which may or may not be his); watch her chase after other men; and then redeem her back. All this would be one big sermon illustration that would teach Israel about God’s unfailing love to His people despite their unfaithfulness (side note as a pastor: I’m really thankful God hasn’t come up with any object lessons like this for me so far. I’m happy getting my illustrations from YouTube and Tony Evans books). By the way, you should pause and read Hosea 1-3 if you aren’t familiar with it. Greatest. Love Story. Ever.

But in Hosea 4, the book starts feeling less like a Hallmark movie and more like the powerful prophetic word that it is. Chapter 4 begins with a devastating indictment against Israel. God has a bone to pick with the inhabitants of the land, says verse 1:

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
    and no knowledge of God in the land;
there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
    they break all bounds, a

nd bloodshed follows bloodshed.

2017 MTV Video Music Awards - Show, Inglewood, USA - 27 Aug 2017
Host Katy Perry at the 2017 VMA’s

Sounds pretty descriptive of today’s headlines, doesn’t it? Or MTV’s  Video Music Awards.

Then, in language that parallels the blessing of Psalm 8:6-8 God pronounces judgment on Israel:

Therefore the land mourns,
    and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
    and the birds of the heavens,
    and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

But here is what stuns me as a minister. While God judges Israel, he doesn’t blame them.

He blames the priests. “With you is my contention, O priest,” he says in verse 4 (which seems to be a much more compelling and convicting translation than the NIV. I’d love for someone way smarter than me to help me understand the huge difference between the translations of verse 4, but that is a conversation for another day. If you are interested, check out the translation comparison from Blue Letter Bible.

God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge because you [the priest] have rejected knowledge.” And because the spiritual leader of the people rejected knowledge, God would reject him as a spiritual leader. (verse 6). And you won’t find a more challenging word for a pastor than Hosea 4:9:

And it shall be like people, like priest.

In the business world, the cliche is “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.” Pastors, we cannot lead anyone where we are not going ourselves. God’s people are being destroyed for lack of knowledge. But if we as spiritual leaders are forgetting the law of our God, then the spiritual condition of the nation is on us.

God have mercy.

Bad Move, Devil

Why it was really stupid of Satan to quote Psalm 91 to Jesus.

  

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

Psalm  91:11-13 (ESV)

I’ve loved using Desiring God’s Fighter Verse app to grow in the discipline of Scripture memorization (If you want to know more about it, I love telling people about it!) For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through memorizing Psalm 91. And this week, we come to verses 11-13. Many Christians are already familiar with verses 11-12, because this is the Scripture the devil tried to tempt Jesus with in Luke 4:9-11.

But here’s the thing: Satan should have known better than to quote that verse out of context. He should have known that Jesus would know ALL of Psalm 91, especially verse 13:

You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

And here’s the thing about the other thing: Psalm 91:13 isn’t the first or the last time God’s Word says something about trampling a serpent underfoot. The first time is all the way back in the Garden of Eden. The first sin has been committed. Adam and Eve have fallen. God is about to banish them from the Garden. But tucked in the middle of this narrative, in God’s curse of the Serpent, we see the first messianic prophecy–what theologians and all lovers of lots of syllables call the protoeuangellion:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

tumblr_inline_nh0l44ggyg1qkqzlv
“Virgin Mary Consoles Eve” painting by Sister Mary Grace Remington (notice the serpent!)

God, speaking to the serpent, says, “There will come a day when an offspring of this woman (other translations call Him “her seed”) will crush (“bruise”) your head. Where else besides in a virgin birth would one ever talk about the seed of the woman? This can only be talking about Jesus!

Can’t you imagine Jesus thinking of that prophecy every time he read Psalm 91:13? And don’t you imagine Jesus immediately thinking of Psalm 91:13 the minute Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Him? And don’t you think Jesus was already anticipating when the Holy Spirit would inspire Paul to write, in Romans 16:20:

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. 

Satan knows Scripture. But he doesn’t know the story. Let that not be true of us today!

Remembering my Aunt Helen: Leave the Pear Alone

Aunt Helen was never happy with this painting. But my mom wisely told her to leave the pear alone.

This past Saturday (June 4, 2016), I was with my mother, my brother, and one of my sisters in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to bury my aunt. Helen Hartshorn Youngblood: artist, wife, mother, deacon, sister, aunt, friend. My Aunt Helen had a profound influence on me. This is the first of what may be several blog posts I write as I think about what I learned from her.

2016-06-05 12.57.49There is a painting hanging in my mom’s kitchen that Aunt Helen painted. For years, every time Helen would visit my mom, she would want to take the painting back to Parkersburg with her and work on it some more. She was never happy with it. Specifically, she wanted to re-do the pear. But my mom wouldn’t let her. “This represents who you were when you painted it, not the painter you wound up being,” she told her. “I like it just the way it is.”

If you’ve lived at all, you have a few regrets. You have a few pears you wish you could paint over. Nobody paints it right the first time. And artists can look at paintings they did early in life and say, “But I’ve learned so much since then!” Poets cringe at the sappiness and naivete of their poems from high school. People who journal can look at entries from a certain day (or even a certain season of days) and be tempted to rip those pages out. In those times, we can all do well to remember my mom’s advice to her sister. The artist we were is not the same as the artist we become. Leave the pear alone, and don’t think twice about signing your name to the work.

signature

Paul tells us, in his letter to the Philippians, that he is confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Consistently in Scripture, we are reminded to forget what lies behind, and to press on to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). That what we will be has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:2). And if there is a sermon you would have preached differently, or a poem you would have written differently, or a pear you would have painted differently, or a day you would have lived differently, then let them all stand as a testimony to where God has led you.

Jesus’ last words on the cross, according to John’s gospel, were “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the Greek, the word is τελέωIt carries the meaning of an action being fulfilled or accomplished according to a command. It’s the last act that completes a process. Significantly, τελέω is also the root of the word for “perfect” that is used in Philippians 1:6.

There will come a day when our work is accomplished, because there has already been a day when Jesus’ work was accomplished. When we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. My Aunt Helen had her work completed this weekend, and she heard her Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share in the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23).

pearUntil that day, we keep painting, composing, singing, dancing, building, sculpting, and journaling. We are artists, every one of us; contributing our stanzas and quatrains and couplets; our still lifes and studies and portraits and landscapes to God’s great masterpiece. The artists we were are not the artists we will become. But if we are gentle with ourselves, and if we leave the pear alone, we can see how far our God has brought us.