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As I stated in the first blog post of this series (located here), we recently took a church bus trip and visited the painted churches of Schulenburg, Texas. These small town, Texas churches are made up of Czech and German Catholic communities who have meeting for over one hundred years.

As I was touring these church buildings, I was brought into a time of reflection on my upbringing. Because I too am Czech and I was raised in the Catholic church, I was rushed back to the times when my family met for family reunions at a small church just like the ones we were visiting. It was really cool and it brought back some things that I had not noticed as I was growing up.

For one thing I began to notice the BBQ pits. At every church we visited there were BBQ pits built out behind the church with an awning for picnic tables to accommodate meals on the grounds.

I loved this because it expressed to me the need for community and family within the church. Let’s face it, many of us do not know the people who live next door because we are in such a rush. But for church, this should not be the case. We are a family and we should act like a family and share a meal together every so often.

I loved this because it showed me the desire to meet as a church family. Think about it. There were church members who desired to meet as a church family enough to set aside the plans and the finances to build the space, and there are members currently who still desire to use the facility today. I see so often that people have lost the desire to spend time with those they go to church with and it saddens me. I also think it saddens our Lord. How it must frustrate Him when His children don’t get along or don’t get together.

As I think about this, I want to encourage you to set aside some time to fellowship with the people of your church. Seek to understand who they are. Share life with them. Love on them. Be a part of God’s family.

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Last week, First Baptist Church took a bus trip to the painted churches in Schulenburg, TX. This trip was an all day affair to visit churches that have been around over 100 years and have been maintained by the members of the church.

I know that you are thinking, “What is so special about that?” Well, these churches are hand painted from top to bottom and they are BEAUTIFUL!

But what really had me thinking on this trip was the incredible amount of dedication these church members had for their church!

Let’s face it. In our self serving, immediate gratification based society, we often see church as something that should serve my needs and should be there when I need it. But doesn’t require much dedication or loyalty from me. With this mentality I think we have lost the real reason for church. We have made church about us and not about God. (Acts 2:42-47)

When we were touring these churches I could not stop thinking about how many hours this would have taken. How much sacrifice it would have taken. How much time away from work of family this would have required. How many TV shows or social events would have been missed. (Hebrews 10:24–25)

I believe this reveals something for every person that is member of the church. Church is not about us. It is about our God. It is about serving and sacrificing for Him. It is about living the life He has called us to. It is about being on Mission with Him. (Gal. 2:20)

My hope with the post is that you become encouraged through the witness of these faithful church member’s example and you begin to serve our God in your church with the same self sacrifice and dedication. (Ephesians 4:11–12)


And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47, ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, ESV)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

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Why is baptism so important?

That was my question as a new believer in Christ. Like many who were raised in a religious home, I didn’t find a need or desire in my life for baptism. I would often rely on my religious actions before salvation to claim that there was no real need for another religious action such as baptism. In this time I had many work to convince me with common arguments regarding baptism. However, they never motivated me to get baptized. Looking back on that time and knowing my heart, I can see that the issue was a heart issue. I did not understand how important baptism is because I did not understand how important Christ was to my life.

Mark alludes to this in Mark 1:9–11.

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

These passages begin by describing a set of ordinary things where a very divine encounter occurs.

  • The Ordinary
    • those days – The days of John the Baptist’ ministry
    • in the Jordan – The Jordan river is not a special river
  • The Divine
    • A Divine Intervention – the heavens being torn open – The Lord opens the heaven to introduce a new advent and covenant of Christ.
    • A Divine Appointment – the Spirit descending on him like a dove – The Lord aligns all members of the Trinity in one place for a divine display of His glory.
    • A Divine Proclamation – a voice came from heaven – The Lord proclaims a divine announcement for His presence on Earth.
    • A Divine Purpose – You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased – The Lord declares his divine purpose of sending His beloved Son to die for the sins of man.

As we see this intermingling of the ordinary of this world with the divine of the heavens, we can see that both come together at the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Isn’t it interesting how God chose this moment to reveal himself to the world through miraculous measures at the time baptism.

I believe that this show us that the Lord values baptism immensely.

Therefore, when we do not hold the same reverential respect and awe for baptism in our own lives we are stating that what God values is not what we value.

This my friends is disobedience against God and His values.

Friends, let us hold God and His values as our values. That is what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

 

 

It’s Official! I’m a Ph.D. Student!20140128-093951.jpg

I can’t believe it. I got in. Wow!

This has been a journey.
As some of you may know, I was not the best or brightest student growing up. I did not have a passion or drive to go to school for any reason. I did not care for it or find any purpose in it. However after God called me back to school and eventually seminary, the doors seemed to come open and I asked God to push me through whatever doors He desired me to walk through. To be honest, I am not sure that this was the door that I had envisioned at the time. But I do know that where God leads, He equips. So I am confident in His steadfast help in this process.
Please be in prayer for me and my future studies. This average student can use all he can get. 😉

P.S. I will be working on a Ph.D. in Evangelism & Church Vitalization at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

This past week, I was thinking about my personal study habits and how much trial and error I have gone through to get a good Bible study system that I like.

It seems that there are several programs out there that claim they are the best but no system really fit what I wanted for the outcome that I desired, fitting into the time I have available, and working with a seminary student’s budget. (With seminary and 2 jobs, time is very limited and funds are sometimes scarse.)

In my search, I was looking for a method that would allow me to quickly work through the text, get something out of the text, record what was gained, & do all this in a clear way for future reference.

With that being said, this is the materials and method of study that I use everyday. I hope that you gain something from this and that it encourages you to study more in this new year.

 

I am going to approach this with a break down of the tools I use with notes on the way that I use them. This way, we can systematically work through what you need and how to use these.

A Good Bible Or Two Or Three Or Ten

The first thing you need for Bible study is a good Bible. I am not talking about the family Bible that is 50lbs. and has never been removed from Grandma’s bookshelf. I am talking about a Bible that you have chosen in a translation that makes since to you and feels good to you.

  • When you are shopping for a Bible, check for quality.

A Bible is somethings you should have for a few years. It will be a close friend, spend a little money on it.

On the high end of price range, I like the Cambridge Bibles. They are real leather, have very thick pages, they look very nice, and they are super durable. I have had one of these for 3 years of constant use and it looks brand new. Sometimes, you can find these on sale for great deals.

In the lower price range, I prefer Bibles made by Crossway or Zondervan. They are usually a leather substitute and have slightly thinner pages. These usually last me a year to two years and they show a lot of wear.

  • When you are shopping for a Bible, check for readability.

A Bible is a book you should understand, so purchase a translation that you can read and understand.

Without going into original languages and translator intent for each translation, I would recommend three different translations rated by preference and readability.

1st preference ESV (English Standard Version) – This is a smooth conservative translation but uses some words that may be unknown to unchurched eyes.

2nd preference HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible) – This is a smooth translation as well and the word formatting is very cool.

3rd preference NASB (New American Standard Version) – This is a very literal translation and some words may be foreign to today’s readers. However this is a great translation for those desiring to have a very literal translation.

4th preference NIV (New International Version) – This is a decent version with easy readability. However there have been many revisions over the years. I would recommend a 1984 edition.

  •  When shopping for a Bible, check for usability.

Look for things that will cater to what you desire in a Bible. Does the Bible have enough margin for notes? Does the Bible have cross references? Is the Bible red letter (words of Christ in red)? Is it a single column?

Now before we get overwhelmed with all the options, just remember, there is no right answer here. It is simply personal preference.

In my case, I like a single column for easy reading, a wide margin for notes and reflections, and red letter so I can skip to the words of Christ easily. I write in my Bible a lot and prefer a Bible that is easy to work with.

What do you look for when shopping for a new Bible?

Masters of Divinity Graduation

As many of you may know, the close of a season occurred last Friday afternoon as I graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (@SWBTS) with a Master degree in Divinity and a concentration in Evangelism. This has been a long time coming and a long journey to get here. Even though I was able to get through the program faster than Kristen and I expected, it has been 3 full years of long nights full of homework and papers along with the financial pressures that come with going back to school.

Although this journey has been a long one, it has been a great one. I have made friends in seminary that I would not have connected with other wise, I have grown in the Lord personally, and I have watched the Lord do things that are simply unexplainable. The Lord has been faithful in providing when He called me to seminary.

At this point, many people have wondered what is on the plate for Kristen and I in ministry and life.

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Well this last Sunday I began a pastorate at First Baptist Church Jewett, TX. Kristen and I felt called to Jewett last April and I accepted a call to be the lead pastor of this loving family of faith. We are now in transition to move to the city of Jewett over the next month as Kristen is still finishing the school year. As you can understand, this is a crazy time of excitement and joy, watching dreams and calling come to reality. It is a real adventure!

 In the near future I will post more pictures of the church and give some more details about the community we will be ministering to.

Please be in prayer for FBC Jewett, the community of Jewett, Kristen and I as we press forward to see what the Lord has in store for our family.

 

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Baptism – What We Believe and Why?

I was thinking through the ordinance of Baptism the other day and collected a few thoughts that may be helpful.

Where is Baptism Found in the Bible? 

  • All Over The New Testament
  • Romans 6:4-5 = the Foundation for Baptism (Where Theology Merges with Methodology)

What is Baptism?

  • Baptism is a symbol of our faithBaptism is a symbol of Spiritual Rebirth = Matt 3:11; John 3:3-8
    • 1 Peter 3:18-22 = Baptism is a symbol of our faith in Christ as the person to save us from God’s judgment for sin through faith, as Noah obeyed God’s plan for his salvation in faith to avoid God’s judgment for sin

What is Baptism Not?

  • Baptism is Not a Sacrament (means of grace)
    • But is an Ordinance (command of Christ)
    • Matt 3:13If Baptism is a means of Grace, why was Christ baptized when He is the author of grace?
  • Baptism is Not a covenant with God
    • Salvation comes by an individuals faith, not a covenant
  • Baptism is Not a means for Spiritual Gifts
    • Acts 19:1-7 = The Spirit and the gifts came on these believers only after they believed Christ and were baptized in His name

Who Should Be Baptized?

  • Only those who believe = Acts 2:38-41; 8:12; 8:34-40

What if I was baptized but I did not believe?

  • You should be baptized as a believer = Acts 19:1-7

What does Baptism do for believers?

  • Makes them a part of the body of Christ = 1 Corinthians 12:13
  • Gives them equality before God in Christ = Galatians 3:23-29
  • Unifies them in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection = Colossians 2:10-14

What does baptism do for those after death?

  • Nothing Hebrews 9:27; 1 Corinthians 15:29-31 

If you have a question or thought, Post it in the comments.

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Today was bitter sweet.

Today, I started the last semester I will have as a Master of Divinity Student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

This endeavor started almost 3years ago and has been a time of growth and exploration in ministry and education.

The day was quite nostalgic as the day progressed. I often found myself looking back on all the great times I have had and all of the hard situations I have endured while attending seminary. While also thinking how crazy it will be for this season of life to be complete. It is surreal to say the least.

As I was working through these thoughts, I found one thought to be above them all.

The thought was of the reality that God was present through all of it. He was present through the hard times, and through the good times. He was present with me as I was taking exams and writing papers, as well as with the professors as they are teaching future ministry leaders.

Because of this we owe Him all the glory.

My prayer as I embark on this final semester of my M.Div. is that I am able remember that God is present when I dont see Him and that I am able to honor Him by finishing well.

GradApp

Today brought and unexpected blessing! I turned in my graduation application to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This is truly bitter-sweet.

I am so happy to be finished with the arduous work that comes with seminary life. The late nights of Hebrew home work and paper writing will finally come to an end. 😀

However I am truly going to miss this season of life. I have seen God do some unexplainable things in ministry and I have experienced God change me in all sorts of ways over these past three years. 🙁

Please be in prayer for me as we see what God would have for us in the next season of life.

 

Back to School at SWBTSSWBTS

I just finished my first day of my last year as an Master of Divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I must say that coming to this school and experiencing the enthusiasm of the students and faculty to share the gospel is inspiring and exciting.

It truly is a blessing.

To all my fellow students, I hope and pray you have a great year and that God would use this time to prepare you.

To all my professors, I hope and pray you teach the students well and be willing to give grace as the students need.

Preach the Word! Reach The World!