Thursday, February 14, 2008

Marriage and the Gospel

To the left is the most beautiful, intelligent, sagacious, gracious, gentle, sexy, humble, articulate, wonderful woman in the whole world! No wonder I'm hurting this week!

My lovely wife is helping lead a team from our church on a vision trip to the island of Antigua. She will be back this Sunday night, so I have taken a week of mission trip leave to work from home and stay with the boys. Obviously, the week has been busy, as I have combined my work schedule with taking care of Sam and Seth. Still, all the busyness hasn't helped much. Being without her is excruiciating. And yet the very thing that has held us together for nearly 14 years is, paradoxically, the same thing that compells us to spend this week apart from each other.

By the way, I know what some of you are already thinking. "Antigua. Yeah, suffering for Jesus in 80 degree weather in February." Actually, I've been teasing her about this for the past several weeks. But like most islands in the Carribean, once you leave the shore and head inland, you begin to see the harsh physical and spiritual realities that exist.

But back to the subject at hand: This morning I had a conversation with a woman about missing my wife. Our youngest woke up sad, and I was commenting that he missed mommy, and so did I. Her reply was that she wished her marriage had been like that, and it was a wonderful opportunity to share with her about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and how it really wasn't our personalities, or even our commonalities, that held us together. It is our common faith in Christ that has produced the marriage Amy and I have. The longer I'm married, the more I realize this. The things Scripture demands of me as a husband are things I could never do in my own strength. By nature, I'm a lazy, responsibility-shirking slob. No one like me could ever truly love their wife with the same voracity that Jesus loves His people. All of these experiences constantly remind me that the Gospel is not just for my soul, but also for my marriage.

At the same time, this week also reminds me that the corollary is also true. The Gospel isn't just for our marriage. Our marriage is also for the Gospel.

And so I will live out the rest of this week deeply missing my wife's conversation, touch, embrace, company, and friendship. But I will do it knowing that she is involved in a strategic Kingdom advance . . .one that will bear fruit which will outlast even our marriage. After all, marriage is only good until death. But the Gospel she is presenting this week lasts for eternity, and our marriage is meant to illustrate those eternal values.

I'm praying for Amy's safe return late Sunday night. No doubt the boys and I will all feel much better when that plane hits the tarmac at Baltimore-Washington Airport. I can't wait to hold her again. But more than this, I can't wait to see Jesus, and I can't wait to see the fruit He brought to bear through our relationship, and mutual commitment to the spread of the Gospel

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pray for Union University

Last night, much of the nation was glued to TV sets watching the "Super Tuesday" primaries, and I'll admit to being among that crowd. But while the nation's attention was turned primarily toward politics, a group of Baptist students and educators were dealing with a weather nightmare. Thank God no lives were lost, and thank God for the opportunity given the leaders of this institution to bear witness to a Kingdom that is infinitely more significant than the United States.

The campus of Union University was the victim of several terrible tornadoes. Early estimates are that as much as 40% of the campus has been totally destroyed. More than half of the 1800 resident students lost their homes last night.

Please be in prayer for this great University. Pray that the administration and faculty will present themselves to public media in a way that gives honor and glory to a sovereign God who rules, even in the midst of tragedy.

Pray for the students, more than 50 of whom were injured, and several of whom were hospitalized. Pray for God to heal their wounds, be they physical, or emotional.

Pray that God will use these events to open widely a door that will allow the mass-spread of the Gospel message.

Pray for the Disaster Relief efforts that will no doubt be activated in response to this tragedy. Pray that those who respond will do so not only with their hands, but also with their hearts.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Legacy of Liberty

Is it hard to associate this picture with Jerry Falwell? If so, you are among the majority of people who don't realize that what you saw of him on CNN was only a scant glance at the periphery of a deep, abiding, and lasting ministry legacy.

I was invited by Dave Earley to come to Liberty University last week, speak to students about church planting, and play a part in their Church Planting Emphasis Week. It was my first time on the Lynchburg, VA campus, and after this visit, I realize that someone should shoot me for not having gone sooner. What follows are just a few observations of what God is doing there.

1. The legacy of Jerry Falwell. I've written about this issue before, but it bears repeating; Jerry Falwell has left a positively indelible mark on the Christian church. Say what you want to about the man (and I've said a few things myself in dissagreement), no one can doubt the tidal wave of influence this man has had on just about every aspect of our culture, and that legacy begins where every God-called and Biblically qualified man's legacy should begin; with his own children.

I met Jonathan Falwell, and had the opportunity to hear the five-year vision of Thomas Road from him directly. The church has taken on a God-sized task of planting more churches in the next five years than they have planted in the last fifty!

2. Liberty Baptist Fellowship. If you are in our association, you willl be receiving information on this organization soon. For a nominal monthly cost, your church can be a part of this fellowship, which partners with associations like ours and churches like yours to send out church planters. The funds given to the Fellowship are all directed toward the financial support of planters in the field. In addition, as a member of the fellowship, ministerial staff at your church can atted seminary tuition free.

3. Ergun Caner. Given some things I have said about this guy before, some readers might be surprised to see the picture of the two of us above. If nothing else, my few moments with Ergun Caner have taught me that in most cases, you really need to sit down and talk with someone directly before making a judgement call on them.

Ed Stetzer introduced us to each other, and before the evening was over, we still had our disagreements, but I now know which lane this guy drives in, and not only is it much closer to my own than I originally thought, but he is also an OK guy. I understand he also rides a Harley, which also ratcheted him up a knotch in my book!

4. Elmer Towns. I actually shook his hand. Enough said! Anyone who has a passion for planting churches cannot help but stand in respect of the one guy who probably had more to do with the success of Thomas Road and Liberty than Falwell himself.

5. The students. Having spent four years teaching on a University campus, I always enjoy being back around students. I spoke at both the University, and Liberty Theological Seminary, and also had the opportunity to pray and talk with several students who responded to the call to missions during Wednesday night's "campus church." These students are lining up to walk through mine fields, war zones, and countries they aren't supposed to be in so that Christ will be more widely known and worshipped. The emerging generation gives me great hope for the church.

6. The Kingdom of God. Its a lot bigger than Liberty University, and the folks at Liberty know that, which is one of the reasons God is using this campus in great ways. They are cooperating with Southern Baptists, as well as a host of other groups committed both to sound doctrine and missional fruitfulness, and God is blessing them as a result.

The next stop for me in 2008 will be Seattle, at the Reform and Resurge Conference. Its going to be an exciting year.