Things to Be Thankful For…A Record-Breaking Year at SBC Voices

We don’t publish our page-views, which is the easiest way to judge traffic on a blog, and I am not going to do so here. But we have had an amazing year at SBC Voices, judging by our page views.

Thank you for being a part of it.

Last year, 2017, was actually down a little. We were running the Pastors’ Conference and tended to ignore the blog and then after the conference, we were all kinda burned out. If it weren’t for William Thornton’s consistent contributions we’d have shrunk to nothing.

But this year we broke pretty much every traffic record our Jetpack stats track – except for the one-day record. Some of the controversies in the SBC played a huge role in that of course – no doubt about it. We just about doubled our monthly record in June. By late September or early October, we had already had our busiest year ever!

I am grateful for all the contributors and those who help to administrate and moderate the blog. We are still struggling with what to do about commenting, of course – we ignored and de-emphasized commenting for much of the year, even as our traffic grew.

There are some major changes that will be coming to SBC Voices in 2019, changes I hope will improve things, of course. We still hope to figure out a better system for moderating comments and facilitating discussion. We vacillate from doing away with comments completely to just letting them go with little moderation to having comments with strict moderation. We keep batting it around and never come up with a complete idea for what to do.

But thanks for reading what we write. We appreciate the privilege of being a part of this site and hope to continue to make it better.

Giving Thanks – Embracing the Cross

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, filled with family, food, and football, a uniquely American celebration of our prosperity and all that we have to be thankful for. And let’s face it, with all the problems that we often bemoan, we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we? We live in a great nation. Regardless of our political foibles, this is still a great place to live. If you are tempted to criticize America harshly, travel. I love Senegal, but I am always glad to set foot back in the USA. I feel privileged to have spent time growing up in Taiwan, but it is not the land of my birth. Israel inspires me but I still love the red, white and blue. We have peace, prosperity, stability, and many amazing blessings to for which to give thanks.

But if all we give thanks for is our homeland and the things that money buys, we have missed the point of biblical thanksgiving. There has to be something more, something greater. God owes us none of these things. Job had all the blessings of life taken away because of a cosmic battle and was put to the test. Would he still love God when all the things God gave him were gone? Even in his pain, he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Israel saw its homeland destroyed but the prophets told the people to continue to turn to God for solace and to give thanks.

There are people who seem to tap into something more – they give thanks when life falls apart, when circumstances are bad.

In early 1980 a doctor told my dad he had 3 months to live. Dad had been preaching about giving thanks in everything and the doctor had been at an associational meeting where he had delivered that message. He looked at dad and said, “You have been telling people to thank God for everything in their lives. God is giving you a chance to practice what you preach.” Dad had a long drive home that day and pulled over to the side of the road there in West Palm Beach and gave thanks to the sovereign God of heaven for everything, even this terrible news that he did not want to hear, didn’t understand, and was devastated to consider. He declared his faith in God’s plan for his life and his thanksgiving for a God whom he could trust no matter what.

Had he lost his mind? He was a 51-year-old pastor who had been told he had 3 months to live and he was thanking God? We’ve developed workarounds for the scriptures that command us to give thanks in everything and for everything and we don’t practice this. Dad did. He cast himself fully into the plan of a merciful and loving God and said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” even when the will of God did not seem to be anything he wanted to hear.

Let me tell you, briefly, the rest of the story. Dad returned a week later to this renowned doctor for a follow-up exam and the doctor came out shaking his head. “Lew, last week you had terminal cancer and this week I can’t find a trace of it.” I guess we won’t know until heaven what really happened – whether God healed dad miraculously or whether the doctor made a mistake that God used to test my dad. But he practiced his sermon and gave thanks when things were not what he wanted. He gave thanks in everything! On his next birthday, he will turn 90. Three months has become nearly 40 years.

Is it possible that there is more to life than we’ve often practiced? Should we give thanks for our homes and our prosperity and our physical blessings? Daily! But true thanksgiving goes far beyond our circumstances. Christians are not reactive – we do not react to our life’s circumstances. We are not even “proactive” – determining our own way based on our decisions and feelings. We are Christ-active. We live based on what Christ has done for us. We love because he first loved us. We rejoice because of the joy of Christ within. We are at peace because of the Prince of Peace who is our Lord.

Let’s admit the truth. Christianity be crazy! We do not live by the world’s logic. The world tells us that you should be happy about good things, sad about our troubles, and angry about injustice. Jesus told us to love our enemies, to rejoice when we are mistreated, to have peace in the midst of the storm, and to live above our circumstances. The world views that as nuts. We have been called to be crazy! (Some of us have a head start, don’t we?)

There is one thing that changes the dynamic of life and makes all of this possible _ the Cross of Jesus Christ. How crazy is the cross? It was brutal torture designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and shame over the longest period of time. Only the worst of the worst faced the cross. And we celebrate it!

The suffering of Jesus was the most horrible moment in human history as men put their hands on the Son of God, as they beat him, spit on him, ridiculed him, and finally nailed him to the tree. It was the low point of human history and yet Paul says something strange in Galatians 6:14.

But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.

We boast in the cross – it is our glory. What a shocking statement.  Why would this awful moment be the treasured moment of anyone’s life?

There are many reasons to boast in the cross. I could turn this into a typical 2500 word post, or even go to 3000 or 4000 words, just listing the things that Jesus did for us at the cross. But this Thanksgiving season, we need to remember that God’s love for us was once and for all settled at the cross. Whatever happens in this world, whatever the circumstances of life are, the ultimate reality of my life and yours is the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ shapes me when things are good and it is still my guiding truth when the world is falling apart.

When my dad was told he had only 3 months to live, he could give thanks because he could say, “My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, oh my soul.” The reality of the cross doesn’t change when you are healthy or when you are dying. Jesus’ death and resurrection is just as real when business is good and when it bad. The cross is just as powerful when everything is falling apart as it is when everything is going great, when people are treating you well as when everyone is abusing you. When your life is centered on the cross, when you are “Christ-active,” you are not enslaved to your circumstances.

So, yes, this week, you should give thanks for every good thing that you have in life. But you should also give thanks for everything, knowing that Jesus Christ is at work in whatever circumstances are happening in your life to produce his glory and your ultimate spiritual good. You can give thanks because nothing in this world, even death, can touch the love of God that is yours in Jesus Christ.

Can anyone shout glory?

There was a scene in the Passion of the Christ that moved me deeply. On the road to Golgotha, Jesus was near the end of his strength and began to crumble under the weight of the cross. He tripped and fell, in agony. What happened next is not a biblical truth but it is symbolic of everything Christ did. He crawled over to the cross and he embraced it. Jesus embraced the instrument of torture that would end his life. He embraced the cross! That is precisely what Jesus did. He embraced the horror of the cross to redeem sinful humanity. He hugged the cross.

And that is what we should do this Thanksgiving week. Embrace the cross! It is our hope in dark times, in times of suffering and sorrow, in good times and bad, in prosperity and want, in happy days and hard times. We can hug the cross of Christ and never again be enslaved to the circumstances of life.

Embrace the cross and give thanks!

Holiday Rules at SBC Voices

I have family in and am in the countdown to my third (and hopefully last) surgery of the year – next Monday morning.

It’s Thanksgiving and I hope you have better things to do this week than blog!

If the mood hits I might write something. If any of our writers get inspired and want to write, or if something huge happens, post ’em when they are ready. Give about 5 hours to a post before you post – more if you can. If there is breaking news…that takes precedence.

I don’t plan to be moderating comments unless some of you Reformed guys get into the alcohol and go wild.

Things have calmed down around here after a record-breaking year. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

I talked to a doctor last week who let me know that my surgery next week (cleaning up from previous surgeries) is going to be more extensive than I had previously thought. I will likely be on the disabled list the rest of the year – or at least under the effect of strong narcotics. My family says I’m a lot of fun on narcotics. Maybe it will improve my blogging.

 

One entity hire made, four to go…

IMB is the largest, oldest, and most important of our SBC entities and has a new CEO. Paul Chitwood was a good choice. My prayers for a stable and prosperous future. IMB has been around for a long time. Although the CEO is important, they don’t need any Savior other than Jesus to survive and thrive.

That leaves LifeWay, New Orleans and Southwestern Seminaries, and the Executive Committee still looking.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about the seminaries but a leader needs some marketing savvy to increase enrollment. The CP pool of funding is not likely to grow; hence, tuition will keep the doors open. LifeWay is a large business and needs some business acumen to keep the revenues flowing. The Executive Committee needs a solid, sagacious, and stellar hire or we are in for some difficulty.

I’m moderately inclined not to favor celebrity hires who want to serve out their careers with the high profile denominational jobs, although I can think of one or two that might be a positive agent for change. I don’t see much evidence that celebrity megapastors can, by personal magnetism, influence the great body of SBC churches. Maybe the seminaries could benefit from such, though. A generation (half-generation) change would be good, seems to me.

My colleagues here have strongly advocated for a minority hire in at least one of these. Not likely, I’d think but who knows?

It is unlikely that any opinions expressed here will influence any search committee but it’s good to know what rank-and-file SBCers are thinking along these lines. How about you?

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Extraneous addendum, ignore if necessary:

I know no one likes to think that we “hire” these people but if we hire them, we can fire them. Sometimes, that’s a better alternative than enthroning them and making them think they are anointed and thus untouchable.

And we haven’t hired a CEO who wasn’t “God’s man” in my lifetime and probably ever. I think it inappropriate to blame God for some of the leaders we’ve had. And, just once, I’d like to see someone use the phrase “God’s woman,” as if only men can be “God’s” while women may not.

Dave Miller usually does this type of article but I think he’s shovelling his driveway or something.

Cow pic because this is something to ruminate on…