Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Thanks to Tony at EvenPar Solutions, I've moved over to WordPress at joeysparks.net.
I've been using WordPress for our church website (and been having issues with Blogger--when I've posted), so I've made the move. All of the previous posts at this address are over at the new site.
Please update your feeds, change your bookmarks, and adjust your blogrolls. I look forward to doing some cool things in the new space.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
This year, my mind turned toward the word of God. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good" (Ps. 14:1, ESV).
Something heavy and heartbreaking struck me this morning about this verse. I am a fool. I've never uttered the phrase "There is no God." I've never formulated an elaborate argument against the existence of God. But the verse isn't pointing the finger at the staunch, Richard Dawkins-like atheists. "The fool says in his heart...they do abominable deeds...there is none who does good." The "fool" label isn't just reserved for those who articulate a disbelief in God, but also for those who act as if He doesn't exist.
When I presume on God's grace and act in my own selfish interests, I'm a fool (Rom. 6:1-2).
When I talk badly about someone God created with a grand and glorious purpose in His spiritual kingdom, I'm a fool (Eph. 4:29).
When I convince myself this life is about "stuff" and how much of it I can accumulate, I'm a fool (Luke 12:13-21)
When I stretch, bend, or hide the truth--even when I'm doing something I think needs to be done--I'm a fool (Col. 3:9-10).
When I attempt to fulfill a God-given need in an ungodly way, I'm a fool (Matt. 4:2-4).
When I put off encouraging a brother or sister because "there's always tomorrow," I'm a fool (Heb. 3:13).
When I minimize God's standards of purity by surrounding myself with unholy people/watching unholy TV & movies/going to unholy places, I'm a fool (Eph. 5:3-12).
When I think that God won't do what He says He will do when I dishonor the blood of Christ, I'm a fool (Heb. 10:29-31).
"Father, help me to stop living as a fool--as if You don't exist. Thank you for forgiving the foolish (1 Jn. 1:9)."
Saturday, February 07, 2009
I've caught wind of several monumental announcements by way of the bottom line. I remember finding out about the deaths of Alabama/Kansas City Chiefs great Derrick Thomas and Redskins safety Sean Taylor. I found out that Dennis Franchione was bolting from Alabama to Texas A&M through the bottom line. I often keep up (not with excitement, though) with the latest Terrell Owens "he said/he said" soap opera that scrolls by. Today, I read about one more death.
Baseball is dead.
It's only hope was actually on dope. Sports Illustrated is reporting that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two different kinds of anabolic steroids in 2003. He was the one guy with the ability, numbers, personality, and exposure to restore an air of integrity upon a previous era of infamy.
I don't foresee people getting as upset about A-Rod's doping as they did about Bonds and Clemens. Inconsistency is the one thing that has characterized the entire debate during the steroid era. I don't see that stopping now. The 'fair' thing to do is to toss A-Rod under the bus and out of the Hall the same way everyone's done Bond, Clemens, and McGwire (especially considering there's already more 'proof' of A-Rod's usage than any of the other three--a positive test). That doesn't matter anymore, though. A lot of people were cheating in baseball. Too many to know or to count. Since we can't accurately know who was doping or not, I'm afraid the baby will end up getting thrown out with the dirty water.
We should hope for some young studs to rise up and take over the game in the name of fairness, integrity, and honesty. For now, the future looks bleak.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Great crowds have flocked to hear this moment in history. Their eyes and ears are firmly focused upon the orator—one of their own; many are hopeful he has come to rescue them from repression. Their expectations of his capabilities and purpose are extraordinary, misunderstood even. As a people, they have been waiting for this day for years, decades, and even centuries. The hopeful audience anticipates his words of vision and direction. They are eyewitnesses to history.
Throughout the discourse, there is a heavy emphasis upon change. The speaker notes keys to economic success. It’s impossible to miss the theme of loving and helping others. There’s even a part about being correct with oaths.
This moment in history didn’t take place in the capital of a 21st century world-power, but rather in 1st century Palestine. The speaker really was the Messiah; He actually brought hope and change to a people repressed by the consequences of sin.
When Jesus spoke what we commonly call the “Sermon on the Mount,” he did so without the aid of a microphone; there were much less than 2 million people in attendance. Yet, as far as speeches go, there’s likely not a more important one in the history of the world. Even though many would still reject Him as the Messiah and Savior, it serves as a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry and in God’s revelation of the new covenant.
Words of God > Words of men. We must always remember to hang our hopes and confidence on the unchanging words of our Lord. We as men can write and deliver powerful messages; none of those, however, come from the pen of the Creator and Sustainer. May we hear, hallow, and obey His words (Matt. 7:21-23).
Change is easier said than done. Much of Jesus’ sermon is fashioned around the thesis, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, your will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). He then outlines specific areas of change by saying, “You have heard that it was said...but I say to you…” Notice some of the things to which he alludes: anger, lust, divorce, honesty, revenge, loving enemies. Don’t we as 21st century America still struggle with many (or all) of those? What about within the church? What about you and me? Two-thousand years ago, Jesus ushered in an era of change; one that starts in the hearts of individuals. Even though it’s not easy, may we have the courage to change the world by changing our lives.
Only one foundation lasts. The riveting conclusion of Jesus’ sermon describes two normal men with two normal houses who face powerful storms. Only one house survives the storm—the one built upon hearing and doing God’s words. The other house is destroyed (Matt. 7:24-27). No matter how important, powerful, and discerning politicians and governments are, they will not withstand the storms of this life or the next if they are guided by anything other than the truth of God’s word. Our lives are no different.
Let’s make sure our faith is founded upon Him and His word. He's where we find hope.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Friday, November 28, 2008
Pornography in Marriage (November 25, 2008)
Pornography and Marriage (October 22, 2008)
Men and Sex (October 15, 2008)
The Porn Myth (August 4, 2007)
Free Porn or Porn Free (January 23, 2007)
Thanks to God for the beauty of a holy marriage and thanks to Trey for these helpful posts...
Friday, November 21, 2008
After that tragic night, Peter goes on to do great things for his Lord. Much of the first half of the book of Acts features Peter as its main character. He also pens two books of the New Testament. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2 jump-starts this post-resurrection greatness.
At Pentecost of Acts 2, notice that Peter’s faith stood strong when...
Jesus was taken away—for good—from His disciples (Acts 1:6-10). Fifty days prior to this account, Peter acted immaturely and denied knowing Jesus. Now, Jesus has died and resurrected. He is back spending time with the apostles and disciples. In Acts 1, however, we read that Jesus ascends to heaven to be with the Father until His second coming (Matt. 25:36-37). This is more significant than being arrested and taken away to trial. This is final.
Notice how Peter responds after Jesus leaves this time. First, he leads the effort to replace Judas with Mathias (Acts 1:15ff). Then, at Pentecost, he preaches that Jesus is the Christ, and some 3,000 souls are baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:14-41). Though Peter no longer had his major source of spiritual influence, he exercised spiritual strength by introducing a multitude of souls to their Savior. As Jesus had comforted Peter and the apostles, He comforts us today, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Some in the crowd were pressuring the disciples (Acts 2:5-13). Peter denied knowing Jesus when the crowd approached him directly. He gave in to peer pressure. Here, in Acts 2, we see pressure from some in the audience that day. Through the Holy Spirit, the apostles were doing unbelievable things (Acts 2:1-12). They were so unbelievable that some mockingly accused the apostles of being drunk!
The apostles could avoid embarrassment by not speaking in tongues. Peter could preach an easier message to the Jewish crowd that Jesus was not the Messiah. Peter also could ignore the insults hurled by the audience. Instead, Peter and the apostles display great courage by confronting their erroneous claims (2:14-15) and by preaching the truth about Jesus Christ (2:16-41).
He was forced to choose his allegiance (Acts 2:14-39). In Matthew 26, Peter could not ride the fence regarding his association with Jesus. He could only answer “yes” or “no” (“present” was not an option). In Acts 2—before an anti-Jesus crowd—he had to choose if and how strongly to preach the saving message about Jesus. Based on how the people previously handled Jesus, they could kill Peter just the same. If a violent disturbance broke out, the apostles and disciples were clearly outnumbered. On this occasion, Peter boldly tells the people “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
Even though the truth would be difficult for some to accept, he proclaimed it anyway. His faith in Christ was strong and his actions prove it. Like Peter, we will face situations where our faith and allegiance are tested. We must choose Christ anytime and every time. Peter made a dramatic turnaround from his denial of Jesus to his sermon on Pentecost.
Next time, we’ll look at what made the difference for Peter and can make the difference for us today.
In case you missed it, check out Part 1, "Peter: A Case Study in Immaturity."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In the process of growing and improving, there are some interesting things to consider. Over the past several years, discussion has increased concerning how to welcome guests/visitors to our assemblies. This video highlights how some of our good-intentioned efforts likely fall short at welcoming those who might be new to our assemblies. I've seen it on several blogs recently and felt it worthy of passing on.
I think there are some things worth considering. Ultimately, I think guests can easily detect whether our actions (whether or not they are considered the most "guest friendly") are growths of love and warmth.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Peter was one of Jesus closest apostles. We might know more about him than we do any other figure in the New Testament, outside of Jesus himself. And yet, time and time again, Peter ends up displaying his shortsightedness and immaturity.
The most immature moment of Peter’s life—the time when he was spiritually weakest—likely came when Jesus needed him the most. When Jesus was arrested and carried off to the cross, Peter followed. He would later buckle under pressure and deny association with Jesus. Some of the circumstances regarding Peter’s situation are similar to ones we face when we make weak and immature decisions.
Jesus was taken from the disciples (Matthew 26:47-56). Jesus was obviously important to the disciples as they followed him around for almost three years. They heard his teachings and saw his miracles. Peter’s faith was built upon his direct interaction with Jesus. His overall faithfulness is to be commended; but he failed to be strong when Jesus was taken away from him.
Most everyone develops their personal faith because someone else influences them in that direction. Yet, basing faith only on someone else will prove detrimental when tested. This is one reason many young people fall away upon leaving home—their sources of influence, support, and encouragement are no long around. May we respond with strength when our faith is tested. May we train and strengthen young people to handle this necessary part of growing up.
The crowd was pressuring Peter (Matthew 26:69, 71, 73). When Peter claimed he had nothing to do with Jesus, he was prompted on all three occasions by someone in the crowd. This was a crowd, by the way, who was trying to condemn Jesus. No matter his motives for being there, Peter was in the midst of the wrong crowd. And he couldn’t handle their pressure.
With good reason, we emphasize the dangers of peer pressure to our young people. Young or old, we should all remember warnings about evil companions from Solomon (ie, Prov. 22:24-25) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:33). Being a part of the wrong crowd will lead us in the wrong direction. Likewise, not being prepared with spiritual strength will leave us defenseless when we’re in unavoidable situations with ungodly people. If we’re going to be spiritually mature, we must have the strength to stand up and stand out for good, no matter who else is around.
Peter was forced to choose his allegiance (Matthew 26:69-75). Not only was Peter in the midst of the wrong crowd, but he was forced to choose his true allegiance. He couldn’t remain neutral. He had been with Jesus or he hadn’t. Peter’s decision to deny Jesus is heartbreaking because it went against his earlier claim of faithfulness (Mt. 26:35).
The true strength of our faith is evident when it is tested. Football players don’t know the effectiveness of strength training until they’re blocking or tackling an opposing player. Marathon runners don’t know the effectiveness of their training until they push themselves for mile after mile. Likewise, we will have our faith tested. We will prove ourselves genuine or phony. We must develop the strength to choose Christ no matter the cost.
In order to learn from Peter’s example, we must commit to developing healthy spiritual habits and attitudes that give us true spiritual strength.
Stay tuned for Part 2, "Peter: A Case Study in Maturity."
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Just a couple of things, if you don't mind...
America is great not because of who we elect with our votes, but because we can vote. We need to carefully consider how much weight we put on the shoulders of men. No one man has caused our shortcomings and no one man can lead us out of them. We need to thank God that we live in a country where our voices matter. Additionally, the freedoms that grant us the right to vote also give us opportunities to easily teach others about Jesus Christ. I have to think that if we as Christians were doing our part in helping those in need and sharing the good news, there would be less of a need to vote for someone based largely on social reasons.
One more thing about this...if you threatened to move before or after the election based on the outcome (I personally have read several regarding both candidates), what country exists that has blessings, opportunities, and freedoms to a greater (or even same) degree as our own? Canada, Mexico, and so on have their own problems--and they're worse than our problems. Let's not be stupid about this stuff...
God's purpose is not to protect America or spread democracy, but to protect the church and spread the gospel. I'm a proud American. However, I need to remember that the church existed--and thrived--prior to 1776. Additionally, if this nation ever ceases to exist, the church will still exist (Daniel 2:44). It's very comforting to always know that God is in control and that He takes care of His people (ie, Heb. 13:5). However, I need to remember that America is not "His people." It's tempting to think God has a great purpose in keeping this nation strong for millenniums to come, but He's not told us that in His word. Therefore, I need to be careful in assuming such. I pray that God will bless America; not because God needs America, but because America needs God.
I have been hypocritical. This is a more humorous approach, but one that I probably needed to come to grips about. Over the past several months, I easily decided for whom I would cast my vote based on some simple logic. I always want to vote for the man (or woman) who stands up for morality and integrity and who exhibits those things in his or her life. Of the two main candidates, it's obvious there's only one who comes close to doing so. I am appalled at the complete lack of accountability and honesty that's put forward by one candidate, and how so many Americans aren't bothered by such.
Let it be known however, that some 22 months ago I celebrated a new era of 'change' and 'hope' on the sidelines of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I can see how it is easy to overlook what we think is important when we stand to benefit directly from a person's work. In no way do I approve of how dishonest Nick Saban looked when he left Miami; in no way do I approve of his choice of words when he's fired up. But, I am presently glad he's coaching my team and not yours.* So, I do admit to being inconsistent with my approach to the election this year. It's something I'll try to work on...for now, I wish Obama (& Saban) the best in the near future.
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in this steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
* Comparing Obama & Saban is really not fair...to Saban. He came in with a lot more experience and is already following through with his promises.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Monday, June 09, 2008
Well, dancing certainly has not become any more moral over the years. If anything, the modern dance is more sensuous today than it ever was...So then, what then has changed? What has changed are the attitudes and respect (or lack of) God’s people have for His will. Some apparently seem to be more willing to justify their “pet” sins than they are willing to justify God’s high moral standard.
But It's the Prom! (preachinghelp.org)
Friday, June 06, 2008
How to Be On Time Every Time (Lifehack.org)