Visions from the Vincents

November 24, 2008

Seven ways to Redeem Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joshua @ 6:48 pm

1.    Use it as an opportunity to see what God is doing in the lives of other Christians in your family.  Remind Christian friends or family of things that you are thankful for.  Plan intentional discussions geared towards this end.  Also, implement traditions geared towards this.  This way Thanksgiving will illicit thoughts of gratitude to God and to others, because they will know they will be expected to share particular people and events they are grateful for. In particular, you should focus on lifting up praise to God for particular blessings.
2.    Use it as an opportunity to be an example of the gospel played out before non-Christians.  If you have an opportunity to share Thanksgiving with non-Christians, prepare your heart and the hearts of your family or friends who are Christians to display love and care for one another during this time as an expression of lives led by the Spirit of God.
3.    Use it as an opportunity to share the gospel w/ non-Christian families.  If non-Christians are going to be present, pray for them beforehand.  Anticipate sharing the gospel with them.  Try to drive conversations towards meaningful discussion.
4.    Use it as an opportunity to invite others into your home that are alone, or who have less.  One of the best ways to display the power gospel to your children and others is to show love to those who are different then you.  It carries with it an alien footprint that is not of this world.  People tend towards similarity.  Showing love, especially when difficult or costly, causes people to listen to you.  Moreover, this kind of love reflects a belief that all men and women are valuable because they are created in the image of God.
5.    Set apart a time to think about tangible reasons you have to be thankful.  Some people probably have spent more time thinking about what they are going to eat than why they are getting together.
6.    Don’t let your thanksgiving be confined to the 4th Thursday of every November.  Thanksgiving for the Christian is a way of life.

7. Watch a lot of football, but make sure you spend more time communicating and relating with others than vegging out.  You have little spiritual responsibility for who wins between Texas A&M and Texas, but I do have a responsibility to those God puts me in an actual room with.

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joshua @ 6:31 pm

Thanksgiving historically focuses on taking time to gratefully lifting up people, places, and circumstances we deem praise worthy.  If the news stories associated with Thanksgiving this year indicate with any clarity the current prevailing attitude, we might need to rename our historic holiday.  I challenge you to google news stories anticipating Thanksgiving this year.  You will find them to be saturated with more gloom and doom than thanks.  Headlines complain that despite lower gas prices, fewer people will travel.  Black Friday has been prophesied to fail to meet the sales successes of recent history, and food pantries are struggling to find enough food.  It seems desperate times have swallowed up our thanks.  This is the time for Chrisitans counter-cultural joy and thanks to shine most clearly.

Is anything keeping you from a thankful heart?: Paul Erupted with Gratitude

Paul emits some of the sweetest words of encouragement and thanks in all of Scripture in Philippians 1. Notice that in verse 3, Paul says, “I thank God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine.”  Paul is thankful for God’s work in his fellow Christians on the behalf of the work of the gospel.  What is amazing in this story is his situation.  Paul sat imprisoned in a Roman cell, where the Roman church had been ignoring him.  In the middle of some of the darkest times in his life, he pens a note of thanksgiving to God for Philippian Christians.  Friend, is anything keeping you from a thankful heart?  Is it sin?  Is there some sin that you struggle with that has surrounded your heart and gripped it so tight that you feel like you can barely breath.  Are particular situations causing you to sin?  Is it trouble at work, trouble in your marriage, trouble with your kids or grandkids, trouble with your boyfriend or girlfriend, trouble with addictions, or trouble with debt?  What is chaining you up from a thankful heart?  Know this, Scripture never says that being a Christian causes all of our suffering to leave immediately.  Instead, we are told to be patient amidst suffering because in creates hope in us.  Paul was thankful amidst really difficult times because he was hopeful.

Paul focused on the right things:
1.    He focused on God.  He looked to a full orbed trinitarian vision of God the Father, God the Son, and in verse 19, God the Holy Spirit.   In verse 3 Paul says, “He thanked God continuously in prayer” as he was in his cell (1:3).
2.    He focused on others—He thanked God particularly for faithful Christians in a church in Philippi for specific works in the gospel, who were faithful daily. 3
3.    He focused on the thing that knit them together, the work of the gospel.
Christians constantly battle the corruption of our hearts that seek to steal our focus away from thanksgiving to God.  One way to fight this is to turn your focus from yourself to God, his people, and the gospel.  Paul focused on these three things as he sat in a dark cell bound by chains.

November 17, 2008

American Idol comes to Florida Baptist Convention 2008


Monday morning Brian and I gassed up the Nissan and traveled up to the 2008 Florida Baptist Convention held in Lakeland, FL at FBC at the Mall—this church literally purchased a Mall for their church building.  Apparently, attendance among women and teenagers has increased dramatically since they moved into the mall, while the number of men suffering from extreme anxiety upon reaching the parking lot has simultaneously increased.  Just kidding!  We were happy to attend this convention, and appreciate our church affording us the opportunity to do so.  I wanted to give you some reasons we were encouraged by the convention and one area I think improvement is needed.

Encouragements
1.    I have to get one highlight out of the way upfront.  Chris Sligh, a contestant from season 6 of American Idol, sang at this year’s convention—and, no, he wasn’t singing Bobby Brown.  He actually turned down the opportunity to sing secular music professionally to sing and write Christian music.  He sang a couple of songs from his newly released CD, Running Back to You.
2.    I was extremely encouraged to see the convention’s zeal for evangelism and missions.  Every pastor that preached sought to challenge and inspire pastors to witness.  I am so grateful to be a part of a denomination in a state that hungers to see more people saved.
3.    I was further moved by the obvious emphasis many of the pastors put on their need to seek God’s help in prayer.  Many of them recounted significant moments of prayer their staffs had had together regularly.  I praise God that we have pastors throughout the state petitioning God to cause revival to break out in their cities, state, country, and even world.

4.    Johnny Hunt delivered an excellent expositional message as the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I was moved by his passionate heart for the gospel, for seeing people saved, for seeing orphans adopted, and for seeing the poor provided for.  This really is pure and undefiled religion.

5.    Florida Baptists also made the need for adoption in our state clear.  The image of 3 football stadiums full of children without mommies and daddies weighs on the heart.  How can the church ignore this?

6.    Finally, I learned much from the gifted communicators at this convention.  Many of the preachers were engaging, entertaining, and moving.  They were also articulate in explaining many of the successes they had in ministry as an encouragement to go and do likewise.  I learned a lot from these seasoned pastors.

Always looking to improve
1.    Now for my list of one improvement.  While there is much to be encouraged by, the convention also reminded me of a trend in Southern Baptist life.  Preaching today tends to stray from the actual meaning of the text.  A number of preachers failed to make the point of the Scripture they preached from the point of their message, and in some cases, they taught something that was clearly wrong to encourage something that was entirely right.  For instance, one pastor taught that the “hidden treasure” in Matthew 13:44’s parable represents all of the people in the world, including lost people, and that God treasures them.  He used that to inspire others to evangelize.  While it is true that God treasures all people because they were created in the image of God, it is not the point of this text.  In fact, the treasure of this text is clearly the message of the kingdom.  If you are not willing to sell out your life to follow this message, then you are not worthy of it.  I agree with this pastor that evangelism is critical—plenty of Scriptures affirm this—but his interpretation of this text is wrong.  The real treasure of this text is not the people, but the message of kingdom that is available to all people.

Conclusion

Brian and I labor to preach what the Bible clearly says.  In fact, we meet weekly to review our messages and to make sure we are making the point of the Scripture we preach from the point of our message.  Why?  Because we believe in equipping our people with an understanding of God that goes beyond just telling them what to do.  We believe Chrisians have been created in the image of God and that they have been given his Spirit.  We also understand that this world is tough.  Stuff doesn’t work like the commercials say.  We can’t tell our people the right answer to every dilemma, because the world is so full of them.  But, if you understand what the Word of God actually says, we believe that, with the aide of the Spirit, they will be equipped to make wise decisions.  In other words, right action follows right understanding when led by the Spirit.

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