When God redeems the scandal.

Through every word we speak and every action we take, we write a story for our lives. Sometimes people write two different stories for their lives—one in public and one in private. When the story a person lives in public does not match up with the one he or she lives in private, it is called a scandal. Most people find themselves involved in some sort of scandal at some point in their lives. The good news is that our God is a redeemer of scandals.
King David is a great example. In public, David lived the story of an attentive king who was faithful to his God. In 2 Samuel 11, though, we learn that the story of his private life was something different. While his army was off at war, he was lying low at home, enjoying the comfort of his easy royal life. An examination of his private life also reveals that he lacked self-control as he descended into lust, then adultery, and finally murder.
God had every reason to destroy David for his scandalous behavior. Instead, God sent a prophet to David, who opened his eyes to the inconsistency of his life. That confrontation led to David’s repentance. His confession and repentance resulted in his being cleansed and made white as snow (see Psalm 51). David suffered the temporal consequences of his sin, but was saved from the eternal wrath of God, and went on to be one of the great kings of God’s people.
Peter also lived a scandal. Publicly, he proclaimed to be the most faithful of all the disciples vowing to follow him even unto death. When no one was looking, however, Peter denied knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. When the rooster crowed, and he saw the truth in Jesus’ prediction of his denial, Peter was devastated.
Peter never dreamed that anything good could come out of his scandal. He judged himself a failure at being a disciple and went back to his old occupation of fishing. In an ultimate display of grace and mercy, Jesus did not wait for Peter to come to him and ask for forgiveness. Jesus went to where he was, performed a miracle, and then walked him through repentance (see John 21). Jesus took the initiative to redeem Peter’s scandalous actions.
Perhaps the most exceptional example of God redeeming scandal is the story of Saul of Tarsus. Publicly, Saul proclaimed to be a devoted worshipper of Yahweh. He claimed to be a student of the law and the prophets. The hateful life he lived, though, told a different story. When the fulfillment of the law came in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, Saul failed to recognize Him. Saul persecuted the Savior by arresting, abusing, and killing His disciples.
One would expect God to completely and utterly destroy such a man as Saul. Astonishingly, though, what we find in the written record in Acts 9 is something completely different. Jesus, instead, came to Saul, confronted his ungodly behavior, and extended to him a hand of grace. His redemption resulted in a name change and a call to be an apostle. Saul, the persecutor of the church, became Paul the apostle– the greatest protagonist in bringing the gospel message to the gentiles.
These stories serve as an encouragement for us. We should not be surprised when our scandals are exposed, nor should we be dismayed. Scandals are what we do, but redemption is what God does. When confronted with the inconsistencies of the stories we live, whether it comes from a friend, a preacher, or quiet time with the word, we should see it as a grace. Confrontation is how many of the most beautiful stories begin.

If you are currently living two different life stories, one in public and another in private, you are living a scandal. Now is the time to come clean. Don’t listen to your inner defense lawyer. Don’t seek to justify yourself. Instead, confess your sin. Step into the light. Experience his grace. Give the Lord an opportunity to make yours a story of redemption rather than a scandal.



The Sun Came Up This Morning

The sun came up this morning. Did you notice? Last night, while the storms raged, God was ordering the universe for a perfect sunrise this morning. He formed just the right number of clouds in just the right texture to create the oranges, reds, and blues in the eastern sky. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The gladiolas that last week sent up a loaded shoot of buds, and that yesterday barely revealed their pastel pink blossoms, begin to unfurl from the lowest buds signaling a promise. In short order, the color will climb up the long sturdy stalks as if sending up praise to the Creator who dressed them in glory. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The yellow rose bush planted tearfully in memory of a loved one years ago sports seven bright blooms. The soft morning light reveals their tight spirals of petals perfectly proportioned by the Creator. As if connected to the loved one that is gone, they say to the morning admirer, “Everything is okay.” The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The bluebird stands on her porch and whistles, “Thank you.” She tweets a song of thanksgiving for the one who constructed her house. Mostly though, she sings for the one who dressed her in blue. She thanks Him for the night’s rain, for keeping her safe, and for the sustenance His showers provide for her young. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The leaves of the live oak held on through the late-night storm. This morning they wave gently in gratitude for the morning light. The strong howling winds failed to separate them from their roots. In the early light, they bounce triumphantly in praise as they carry on their work of gathering in the light. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

On the limbs of the pecan tree, the mother squirrel jumps for joy from branch to branch in defiance of gravity. She has stuffed her cheeks with this morning’s manna. Unable to speak, she whips her tail instead to show her gratitude to Jehovah Jireh. He never fails to supply her every need. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

As the sun continues on its circuit, one by one, the shadows light up. By the end of the day, there will be no square inch of green grass that did not taste its heat or hear its declaration. “You will live.” The clouds fail to prevail against the great light that rules the day. The Creator made sure. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

All His creatures praise Him this morning. No bird sits idle without singing. The butterflies, the honeybees, and every creepy crawling thing comes out to thank Him for life. In their own way, in their own voice, according to their own gifts and ability, they spend the morning in worship. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

All the earth makes a joyful noise to the Lord. The sea roars and all that fills it. The rivers clap their hands. The hills sing for joy together. They make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. The storm may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?


The Importance of Good Theology During a Global Pandemic

Let’s just admit that we are living through a difficult season. The numbers just cannot be ignored. As of the writing of this column, over 140,000 Americans have contracted the Covid-19 virus. 2,490 people have lost their lives to the virus. Yesterday in his press conference, one of President Trump’s top medical advisors said that before this season passes 100,000 to 200,000 Americans will die and that is if we do a good job with the mitigation measures.


This is not the first global pandemic in history, but it is the first that we have encountered, therefore many people are panicking. People are forced, in times like these, to come to grips with their own fragility and mortality. These types of events awaken in people a part of themselves that they never knew. They begin to look outside of themselves for answers. They look for something eternal to hang onto and believe in.


Christians must make sure, during a global crisis such as we are in, that the god that they are representing is the true God of Scripture. Uncertain times have a way of exploiting any poor theology of believers. Like Aaron, in Exodus 32, believers accept whatever golden calf the mob makes in their own image. We have all read how that turns out.


Theology is nothing more than one’s thoughts about God. Good theology is built on God’s revelation of Himself both in the things He has made and on the Word He inspired. Poor theology is built on thoughts of other false gods made according to the speculations of mortal man. If there was ever a time to have and communicate a solid theology, it is now.


The first and most important characteristic of solid theology is the understanding that God doesn’t change (see Hebrews 13:8). Circumstances and situations change. God does not. The character of God is unassailable by Covid-19 or any other plague that ever existed. His unchanging nature is why He is a rock and a refuge that people can cling to in times of great trouble.


Second, God is not surprised. The world was caught completely off guard by this global disaster. God, however, exists outside the realm of time. He knows the beginning and the end and everything in between. God is not wringing his hands over the daily reports of new cases and deaths. He remains steadfast in His love and mercy.


Third, God has brought this upon us. This may be the toughest aspect of solid theology to accept, but believers must. Either God is sovereign and all-powerful or not. If he is sovereign and all-powerful then you have to accept that he either directed or allowed this plague to fall upon us. Either way, we are experiencing this plague by the hand of God (see Amos 3:6).


Fourth, the answer to the “why” questions are not for men to know. Sometimes, God may give us a glimpse of why He allows us to go through seasons like this, but we can never see the whole picture on this side of eternity. As long as we are firm on the unchanging character of God, we should be able to accept that God’s design for this disaster is in accord with His perfect love and justice. Believers walk by faith, and that means they are okay with not having answers to all of the “why” questions for now. When we leave this earth and enter the eternal realm, we will be able to know fully “just as we are fully known” (see 1 Cor 13:8-13).


Fifth, and finally, believers must believe that He makes everything good in its time. Ecclesiastes 3 teaches us that “there is a time and a season for every matter under heaven.” Both the times of living and the times of dying are a gift from God. All the circumstances that we face, good and bad, lead us to know Him more fully and worship Him more faithfully. You cannot go wrong if you have put your faith and trust in Him and committed to living every moment for His glory. 


A Statement From the Leadership Of FBC Wiggins Regarding Coronavirus Concerns


Murder of the Heart

Ask 10 people which of the Ten Commandments they have not broken and all 10 will likely tell you that they haven’t broken the 6th Commandment—”You shall not murder.” By that they mean they have not committed the physical act of taking someone’s life in cold blood. Turns out, there’s more to the 6th Commandment than most people realize. 


We all have an inner Pharisee that wants to let us off the hook when we do wrong. The Pharisee is concerned with outward appearances, actions, and looks. The Pharisee is convinced that it is okay to be angry and hate his brother as long as he doesn’t follow through and murder him. The Pharisee says that it is fine for him to lust after and even fantasize about another man’s wife, as long as he doesn’t actually act on his fantasy and as long as no one else knows of the affair in his heart. Don’t like your wife anymore? The Pharisee has a solution for that too. Just divorce her. Moses said divorce was okay. 


The Pharisee listens to the teachers in his culture instead of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, he misses the heart of God in the Ten Commandments. God’s heart in His command not to murder is not just that His people would refrain from the crime of murder, but that they would love one another and value human life. His command not to commit adultery is not just that His people would not cheat on one another but that they would value His design for the family, the fundamental human institution. The righteousness that God requires is heart-deep. 


Jesus made this truth clear in the Sermon on the Mount. He confronted the Pharisee’s teachers head-on when He declared, “You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’… but I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; whoever says ‘You fool’ will be liable to the fires of hell.”


Have you ever harbored anger in your heart against someone? Have you ever insulted someone’s intellect (called them a “fool”)? Have you ever unjustly attacked someone’s character? I suspect we all have. Do you understand what Jesus is saying here? In this passage, He convicts every human being for the sin of murder. 


God will accept nothing less than heart-deep righteousness, that results from heart deep repentance, by the precious gift of God. It is not enough to appear righteous. Appearances might fool the people around you, but God is not fooled by appearances. He looks right through and sees your heart. If there is anger in your heart, He will find you out and you will not escape His righteous judgement. 


So, what does one do to escape this judgement? First, recognize that you are guilty. Put a sock in the mouth of your inner Pharisee. Better yet, expel him from your life altogether. He will only cause you more trouble. Next, plead for God’s mercy. He tells us that He is a God who is rich in mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in grace (Exodus 34:6). Next, trust in Jesus and the sacrifice He made on your behalf. The Bible says that when we have faith in Jesus, God counts it to us as righteousness (Galatians 3:6-9).


The righteousness that comes by faith in Christ is heart-deep. With His righteousness we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to know the heart of God. He also empowers us to love God and love others as we should. It is in loving God and loving your neighbor that the whole law of God is fulfilled (Galatians 5:14). Will we still fall short of God’s heart? Yes. But where our sin increases His grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20) when we are found in Him by faith. We can be sure that He will sanctify us and conform us into the person he created us to be in Christ (Romans 8:29-30).


Pray for the 2020 Southern Baptist Convention

This will likely end up being a rather long prayer request, but as your pastor I feel an obligation to keep you informed on events taking place in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Today we have more reasons than ever to pray diligently for our convention. Before I get into that though, I need to give some background for the folks who may not know how the SBC works and why what I am about to tell you is so important.


SBC 101


1. The first thing you need to know is that the SBC is not a denomination in the sense that most people think about denominations.                                


The SBC is the entity made up of over 46,000 autonomous churches who cooperate together to do the work of the great commission. That SBC churches are autonomous means that churches are free to govern themselves without any direction from a mother organization. Autonomy allows for diversity in methodologies and church polities. SBC churches agree on the gospel as outlined in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), but the BF&M was developed and agreed upon by the convention and was not handed down from a higher level. In the SBC, the local church is at the top of the hierarchy, and the Great Commission is our common cause.


2. The Cooperative Program fuels the SBC.

Every year, our church prayerfully considers how much of our undesignated receipts to give to the Cooperative Program. Currently, FBC Wiggins forwards %10 of everything her members give that is not designated toward any other fund (i.e. Chest of Joash) to the Cooperative Program. Our Cooperative Program gifts go first to our MS Baptist Convention to fund MS Baptists’ cooperative efforts in our state. The messengers of the MS Baptist Convention also set a budget each year to determine the amount of Cooperative Program gifts to forward to national convention entities such as the North American Mission Board (NAMB), International Mission Board (IMB), and the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC). Currently, MS Baptist Convention sends 38 percent of FBC Wiggins’ gifts to the SBC. Our gifts to Lottie Moon (IMB) and Annie Armstrong (NAMB) are over and above what we give through the Cooperative Program. (Learn more about the Cooperative Program Here)


3. The Southern Baptist Convention only actually exists for 2 days each year, the rest of the year the interests of the SBC are carried out through her executive committee.

The SBC convenes for two days in June of each year when messengers from some of the 46,000 churches gather to hear reports from the convention entities. The elected president of the convention presides over the meeting and has authority to recommend initiatives and appointments to certain committees. Messengers can make as well as vote on motions or resolutions from the floor. Resolutions are basically public statements adopted by the messengers, while motions call for action from one or more SBC entities or the Executive Committee. 

4. The SBC Pastors Conference meets each year right before the SBC in the convention hall.

The purpose of the SBC Pastors Conference is to encourage SBC pastors. Pastors do not often get to be led in worship and hear sermons from other preachers. There is a pastor’s wives conference as well as a kid’s camp alongside the Pastor’s Conference, so the pastor and his family can attend together, be refreshed and ministered to. With the 2020 convention being held in Orlando Fl, you can imagine that attendance for this pastor’s conference will be even better attended than in past years.



Now, Here’s Why You Need to Pray


1. A tremendous controversy has erupted over the 2020 Pastor’s Conference and the proposed lineup of speakers and musicians.


The Pastor’s Conference is technically a separate body from the SBC led by a president and cabinet which are all elected by conference attendees. The president of the 2020 conference is David Uth, Pastor of FBC Orlando. Uth, last week, announced the lineup of speakers and musical artists. The list has not sat well with conservative Southern Baptists.


The list of speakers includes bestselling author Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu. New Hope is a Four Square Gospel church that does not align with the BF&M. Cordeiro’s book “Dream Releasers” touts a Christology that aligns more with the prosperity gospel movement than widely held SBC doctrine.


Also on the platform is Hosanna Wong, a spoken word artist, who’s slated to deliver a musical performance where she will recite a poem. Wong holds the title of “Teaching Pastor” at Eastlake Church in San Diego, Ca. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastors is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Even though she is not “preaching” per se, Wong’s role as “pastor” has raised a lot of eyebrows among conservatives in the SBC.


Finally, the pastor of the famed Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, Jim Cymbala and David Hughes, senior pastor of Church by the Glades in Florida have been asked to preach. Cymbala believes in a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. Church by the Glades borders on

Invitation to Church by the Glades Valentines Event

blasphemy by using these “Victorious Secret” calling cards and hip hop covers as worship songs to draw in crowds.


Reaction from conservative Southern Baptists has been fierce. Earlier this week, the Executive Committee voted to withhold the convention hall from the pastor’s conference unless changes were made to the lineup before February 24. This action sparked a debate as to whether or not the Executive Committee has any authority over the Pastor’s Conference especially since First Baptist Orlando has agreed to foot the over $100,000 bill for the use of the convention hall.


Pray that this conflict gets resolved in a way that honors God and reinforces the unity of the convention.



2. A group of conservatives has formed an internal network within the SBC.


In reaction to a perceived leftward shift in the direction of the SBC, a number pastors have joined in a grassroots movement known as the Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) in order to reverse what they believe is a downgrade of the Convention.  The number of Southern Baptists who have signed on with the CBN as well as their identities have yet to be reported. Brad Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Church of Bossier City, La is the group’s spokesperson. On their website, the CBN touts endorsements from Dr. Chuck Kelly, former president of New Orleans Seminary as well as several leaders of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.  


With the CBN announcement, the SBC now has one more “tribe.” This newest tribe is calling for another Conservative Resurgence like the one that took place in the 1980’s. I was just a child in those days, but I hear from many of my elders that though the Conservative Resurgence was necessary it was a tremendously difficult and tense season. Pray that SBC conservatives and moderates will, instead, be a model for our nation on how to come together and work through our differences.



3. The Executive Committee announced an investigation of the ERLC to determine whether or not its recent activities are in keeping with its mission as defined in the SBC Bylaws.


The ERLC is the ethics arm of the SBC tasked with guiding Southern Baptists in how to respond to our ever-changing culture and to seek the preservation of our religious liberty. As we all know, our culture has recently become increasingly more divided along political, social, and racial fronts. The ERLC has taken firm stands on all these issues and received a mountain of criticism for it. Dr. Russell Moore, a native of South MS, is the president of the ERLC. Moore was very critical of President Trump during the 2016 campaign when he boldly announced that he was a “never Trumper.” A combination of Moore’s criticism of President Trump along with the controversial stands taken by the ERLC led to a number of churches dialing back their Cooperative Program giving.


The Executive Committee voted to form a task force to investigate how the actions of the ERLC have affected Cooperative Program receipts. They will also investigate whether or not the ERLC has operated within its responsibilities as defined in the Bylaws. The Executive Committee claims that this investigation is not to take any personnel action as the Executive Committee has no authority over ERLC personnel (that would fall to the ERLC board of trustees). Regardless, whatever comes out of this investigation and the resulting report have the potential to further divide our convention. Pray for a God-honoring and Kingdom-building outcome.


4. Executive Committee Chairman, Ronnie Floyd has cast a 5-year vision to refocus on our mission to reach the nations.


The name of the initiative that will be voted on by the messengers of the 2020 convention is Vision 2025. With this initiative, the Executive Committee in conjunction with other convention entities hopes to accomplish five goals:


  1. Increase the total number of full-time, fully funded missionaries by a net gain of 500, giving the SBC 4,200 full-time, fully funded missionaries through the International Mission Board (IMB).


  1. Add 6,000 new churches to the Southern Baptist family, giving the SBC more than 50,000 churches.


  1. Increase the total number of workers in the field through a new emphasis on “calling out the called,” and then preparing those who are called out by the Lord.


  1. Turn around the ongoing decline in the SBC in reaching, baptizing and discipling 12- to 17-year-olds in the prime of their teenage years.


  1. Increase SBC-wide annual giving in successive years to reach and surpass $500 million given through the Cooperative Program.


Vision 2025 is a bold plan, and not the first long range plan to be rolled out by the Executive Committee. Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray that churches across the convention will jump on board with a renewed zeal for reaching the nations.



Love is Not Rude

Over the last couple of months, I have been walking First Baptist Wiggins through a verse by verse exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, also known as “the love chapter.” We’ve made it to the first couple of words in verse 5 that teach the truth that “Love is not rude.” I want to share what we learned with you.
Whenever I think of what it is to be rude, I think back to something that happened to me about 30 years ago in Atlanta GA. My uncle had driven me and my cousin there for a Braves game and we were checking into our hotel. The line for check in was quite long, as it was the weekend that the Braves would play their arch-rivals the Philadelphia Phillies. The man in line behind my uncle made me uncomfortable because he was trying to stand as close as possible to keep others from breaking in line. I did not want to get separated from my adult, so I tried to squeeze in between him and my uncle, when he promptly shoved me out of the way. 
I have never and will never forget the day that a 40 something year old man shoved me, an 8-year-old kid, to keep me out of his space. Every time I hear or think about the word “rude,” I think about this event that happened in my life. After an in-depth study of what it is to be “rude,” the scene proves to be a very good illustration. 
The Greek word translated “rude” by the ESV in 1 Corinthians 13:5 means to behave “unseemly or dishonorably.” To be rude is to push someone around with your words or actions. It is to react in a way that is unbecoming of a human being. Usually, a person commits and act of rudeness in reaction to a perceived invasion of their space. 
If you are like me, then you have probably already thought of a time when someone was rude to you. I encourage you to search much deeper, though. The truth is that we have all been rude at times. Everyone at some point in their human experience has felt trespassed against, has had a person step into their space uninvited and unwelcomed, and has pushed back with unkind words or actions to put people back in their place. 
1 Corinthians 13:5 teaches us that it is never acceptable for a Christian to act with rudeness. God is love, and love is not rude, therefore God is not rude. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and into whose image we are being formed, never reacted in a rude way when trespassed upon.  He was never triggered by other people’s behavior towards Him. He never reacted in an unseemly way. In every circumstance, He honored His Father in heaven, and He called us to do the same. 
Rudeness is difficult to guard against because rude reactions are difficult to see coming. We live in a world full of broken people who are bound to trespass on our space. On top of that, we are broken and prone to react in an unholy way when transgressions are committed against us. 
Aren’t you glad that the Lord is not like us? What if He were so easily triggered to lash out against the trespasser? He came and loved to perfection, but His loving guidance was perceived by the world as an intrusion. The world reacted rudely by murdering Him, yet He did not return evil for evil. Instead, He willingly gave up His life on the cross for those who hated Him. 
To love your neighbor as yourself requires a level of restraint that can only come from having a relationship with the One who is Love. By “having a relationship,” I mean that one must walk with Jesus and be in constant communion with Him to avoid being triggered by other broken people’s actions. When we recognize that we are loved infinitely more than we deserve, we are much more prone to love as we should and react to trespasses with grace and mercy.  
Remember today that love is not rude. It is not triggered to react in an unseemly way. Love responds to wrongdoing with gentle correction wrapped in grace. Resist reacting to trespasses by pushing people around with your words and actions. Remember, instead, how Jesus reacted to your trespasses against him. 





My wife and I immediately fell in love with the Wiggins, Stone County community when we moved here in April of 2015. The small town reminded us of the places where we grew up in north Mississippi. The biggest difference was that Olive Garden was a 40 min drive from Wiggins vs an hour and a half drive from Duck Hill. Over the last few years, we have fallen deeper in love and have grown to cherish even more the sense of community that so characterizes Wiggins and Stone county. 


A little over a year after our arrival in Wiggins we saw the whole community come together in a big way. In July of 2016, racial tensions in the country were at a fever pitch. After an ambush attack on police officers in Dallas, TX, the Lord led us all to come together in Blaylock Park and pray for our country. Hundreds of people from all over the county, black people, white people, and people of all faiths came together and prayed earnestly for racial reconciliation in the nation. 


Sometime later, when nationally the relationships between law enforcement and the African American community were stretched thin, we were the community who came together. A dialogue between the community and local law enforcement was held at Wiggins Church of God in Christ moderated by local clergy from various church traditions. It was a productive meeting and helped everyone to better understand one another and strengthened the relationships between law enforcement and the community they serve. 


Then a couple of years ago, an incident happened at the high school that threatened the unity of the T4L movement. Again, we overcame our differences by coming together as one, once again, in the park for prayer. Again, we poured out our hearts for God to reconcile us together again, and He shepherded us through that difficult season.


Fast forward to last week. Two very tragic events occurred in our community. Tana Loose, a beloved wife, mother, sister, and friend to so many, lost her life in a devastating car accident. Then, on Saturday we learned of the passing of Cole Helveston, a Stone High Freshman, after a sudden medical emergency. Around the same time news came that Yasmine Bradford, the Lady Tomcat basketball standout, was in a medical crisis as well. This community we love was wracked with sorrow, grief, and worry.


Here is what I love about this place! Around 8 p.m. on Saturday night, my daughter received an Instagram message from one of her classmates. The young lady wanted my daughter to talk to me about the possibility of FBC hosting a prayer vigil for Helveston’s family and friends, as well as the Loose family, and Yasmine Bradford’s full recovery. About 18 hours later, the sanctuary of First Baptist Church was filled with students, faculty, administrators, family, friends, and complete strangers pouring their hearts out to God for comfort and healing of every kind. 


Today, the Loose family continues to grieve along with Cole’s family and friends. Yasmine is still hospitalized (though I hear she’s improving). Our comfort is this, thanks to the community’s coming together, no one is hurting alone. We are sharing one another’s burdens. I can’t tell you how encouraging this is to me, and it should encourage you as well.


I give thanks to God, and so should you, for this place we call home. I don’t know of another place like it on this earth. Sure, we have our issues. I’m not saying we are perfect. But I do propose that we seek to nurture the community we enjoy, by giving thanks to God and praising Him for keeping us together even in the most threatening of seasons. 


“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8


When Your Ego Gets in the Way of Following Jesus

Not every obstacle to following Jesus is found outside of ourselves. We do have an enemy named Satan, but the Lord limits the power that Satan has over us. Also, the world in which we live is rotten and fallen, but Jesus has already overcome the world. Most often, our greatest enemy is the one we see in the mirror every day. We must be aware that the person in the mirror has the unfathomable ability to consistently overestimate himself. This propensity to think more highly of one’s self than they ought is what is known as the ego.
God has a way of blowing up our ego whenever we find ourselves in a losing battle with it. Simon Peter is perhaps the greatest example of this. In Jesus’ farewell discourse (John 13-16) we see Peter’s ego in full living color. In this section of Scripture, Jesus was seeking to comfort His disciples by informing them of what was to come with His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Peter’s ego would not let him hear the important message that Jesus was communicating. 
All Peter heard was that his teacher was about to leave him and go someplace where he could not follow. He asked Jesus, “Lord where are you going?” 
Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’
If Peter had listened to what Jesus said, then he would have heard an important detail. What was Jesus really saying? – That Peter could not follow Him to the cross and the grave, but afterward Peter would indeed be able to follow the resurrected Christ. Peter’s ego blinded him though. We know this because he followed Jesus’ response with the bold declaration: ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!’
Jesus answered Peter, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you the rooster will not crow before you have denied me three times.’ (John 13:36-38)
And with that, Jesus destroyed Peter’s ego in one fail swoop. After his thrice denial of even knowing Jesus, Peter realized he was not as strong as he once thought. A river of shame and self-disappointment carried him away in despair. He was so upset with himself that in John 21 we see him giving up and returning to his old profession of commercial fishing. Simply put, Peter’s ego took him out of ministry for a season. We do read that Jesus restores Peter in John 21, but my point is that we should all learn from Peter’s mistake.
In any and every circumstance of our lives, the Lord Jesus wants to teach us something. He communicates with us daily. However, if we cannot (or will not) humble ourselves and check our egos, then we will miss what He wants us to learn. And in the worst cases, He will humble us Himself. Having Christ destroy your ego is not a pleasant experience.
I am a fan of positive self-talk, but we must be careful to find our positivity and strength in Christ and not ourselves. Apart from Christ, you are not smart, strong, courageous, or powerful. You will fall short of honoring the Lord every time you set out to do something apart from His direction and strength. Peter was well-intentioned, but the good thing he intended to do was not in the will of the Lord. Peter was not strong enough to subvert the will of God, nor would the Lord grant him the strength to do such a thing. He was bound to fail.
Whenever you overestimate your ability to do anything apart from Christ, you are bound to fail. Your strength comes from the Lord and not yourself. God will not provide you the resources to do anything that is outside of His will. If your ego leads you to attempt the feat anyway, then you may be in for a great amount of pain. Ours is a loving Heavenly Father who disciplines His children, and His discipline can be especially unpleasant. As difficult as it is to check your ego, it’s much easier than the pain that comes with the Lord’s discipline. 
The real tragedy, though, is not just experiencing the Father’s discipline. At least when we experience His discipline, we learn the lesson he wants to teach us in spite of ourselves. What’s truly sad in these cases is that our ego prevented us from learning the lesson the easy way—the way Christ intended us to learn it.


Introducing the 2020 Focus for FBC Wiggins

I’m excited to announce the theme for 2020, Reaching in with Love. As you know the mission statement for FBC Wiggins is “Reaching Up, Reaching Out, Reaching In.” Over the past two years, we have focused on the first two “reaching” goals. This year we feel it’s time to focus on the last one, namely, “Reaching In.”


By the end of 2020, we want to see members of FBC Wiggins loving one another better. We want to take seriously the words of our Savior in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.” Think about that for just a moment. Jesus commanded us to love one another just as He has loved us.


How did Jesus love us? Here are three ways:

First, He loved us with a love that was so sacrificial, it cost Him His life. He saw our need for salvation and spared no expense to meet that need. He gave all of Himself for all of us. If He laid His life down for us, shouldn’t we also lay our lives down for one another? Even if He had not given us the commandment to love one another as He loved us, it would still be the right thing for Christians to do. John wrote that the love of God cannot be in a person who, having the “world’s goods,” closes his heart to a brother in need.

We don’t mean to close our hearts to one another and hold back help for brothers and sisters in need. However, we also don’t mean to love them. We are not adept at looking for and meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are outside of the circle of people we sit beside in worship and our Sunday school class. We hope to see growth in this area through Reaching In with Love.


Second, He loved us at a time when we were not particularly lovable. Paul wrote in Romans 5 concerning the reasons one person might die for another. He said, and I am paraphrasing here, “it makes sense that a person might give their life for a good person… a nice wholesome person. But who would give their life for a bad person… say a thief or a murderer?” Then he goes on to say (quoting now), “But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).


As mentioned above, we have a difficult time loving people we like, but we find it almost impossible to love people we don’t like… people with whom we disagree… people who have done us wrong. This should not be so for Christians. We all know what it is to be unlovable and yet loved. It shouldn’t be so foreign to us to love the unlovable. Through Reaching In with Love, we will seek to love our brothers and sisters especially when they are at their worst because there is no greater demonstration of the gospel and because that is how we are instructed to care for one another.


Third, He continues to love and care for us daily and moment by moment. Each day, He gives us our daily bread even without us asking or thanking Him for it. He not only sustains our lives moment by moment, but He holds the whole universe together (cf. Colossians 1:17). His love never stops reaching us… there is never a space between us and the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (cf. Romans 8:31-39). We may not always feel His presence, but His love…? Well, His love is always with us.


We, on the other hand, turn love on and off based on how we feel and what circumstances we are in at the moment. In season, we love well. Out of season, we stink at love. Our love is as unpredictable as the weather in South MS. We hope to see more consistency in our love in 2020 through this focus, Reaching In with Love.   ————-  

What will this focus look like? Below I list the three main thrusts of Reaching In with Love and the new ministries that will be launched to give legs to this movement.


THRUST #1: Reach with love to the brotherhood.

Most members only associate with the other members that they know well. It’s time to get to know more people… to broaden your circle. The Bible teaches that every member of the church is important and essential to the fellowship just like every part of your body is essential to your health and happiness. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” ( 1 Corinthians 12:21). We tend to do church like only certain members matter… like only the ones we are close to matter. In order for us to understand how much we all matter to the fellowship of the body, we must get to know one another.


To help with this thrust to love the brotherhood, we will launch a Family Friends Ministry. All families will be challenged to put their names and contact information in a basket during the month of January. On the first Sunday afternoon of February, a “Family Friends Night” will be hosted in the fellowship hall. As a part of that get-together, each participating family will draw names from the basket until they draw the name of a family with whom they are not well acquainted. Between February and July, each participating family will make an intentional effort to get acquainted with their new “family friends.” Opportunities will be provided by the church along the way that will encourage each participating family to spend time together and serve with their new Family Friends.


We will repeat the Family Friends Night on the first Sunday afternoon in August. This will allow newcomers the opportunity to join in and for those who have already participated to make even more Family Friends over the last five months of 2020. If one were to do the math, then each participating family will have the opportunity to get to know four other families over the course of eleven months in 2020.


THRUST #2: Reach with love to the forgotten.

Our church roll is thick with families who no longer attend First Baptist. Some just got out of the habit of coming. Some are wounded in some way. Some attend other churches but have never moved their membership. Regardless of the reason for their absence, FBC Wiggins has a responsibility to minister to these brothers and sisters. They need to know that we have not forgotten them. They need to know that we love them and still want them. We need to do everything we possibly can as a church family to encourage them and be reconciled with them.


To help with this effort the staff is in the process of forming an “In-reach Team.” Members of this team have demonstrated a passion for ministering to these members we have been missing. The members of the In-reach Team are also strong in the gift of hospitality. Their task will be to identify all the members who have gone inactive and help develop a way to involve the whole church family in reaching out to them. If you have a desire to be on this team and we haven’t already spoken with you, please let one of the ministerial staff know and we will get your name added.  

THRUST #3: Reach with love to the greater body of Christ.

It’s important that we go about this process of Reaching In with Love with the idea in mind that it is not just about FBC Wiggins. Just as each member makes up the local body that is FBC Wiggins so also FBC Wiggins is a member of a larger body that is the Church (with a capital C). Just as it is important for the families within our church to make connections with more families, so also it is important for our church family to make connections and develop relationships with more church families here and around the world. Our church has talents, gifts, and resources that other sister churches need and visa versa. A cursory read of Acts and the Epistles shows that this is the way God designed the Church (again with a capital C) to function from the very beginning.


With this in mind, there is a church family in Knoxville, TN that we feel the Lord is leading us to connect with. The name of the church is City View Baptist. City View is currently enrolled in the TN Baptist Convention’s church revitalization program. On a visit last fall, Larry and I learned that they are wanting to reach out to their community in much the same way that we did in Wiggins last year, but they lack the manpower and resources to do it well. That is where the Lord is calling us to come in and help our brothers and sisters. We will be making two visits to City View in 2020. One to help them conduct an evangelism conference (will consist of a smaller team for one weekend in April) and another longer trip in the summer to help them conduct a Mission Week like we did here in Wiggins last year. If you are interested in either of these trips, we invite you to attend the interest meeting after lunch on January 19th, 2020.


Thank you for taking the time to read this explanation of our 2020 theme. Please be in prayer for our whole church and the whole body of Christ. My earnest desire is to see us love one another well in 2020. I hope that is your desire too. Jesus said that this is how all people would know that we follow Him… by the love we have for one another (cf. John 13:35). May all people be introduced to Christ through our growth in loving one another in 2020.