Monday, December 21, 2009

Joy to the World

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel", which means, God with us.” (Matthew 1:21-23)

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
(John 15:11)

In a few days, you will gather around your family tree. Many of you will read the precious story of Christmas and spend several moments reflecting on the good gifts of God, prior to opening the first present. Some of you will simply pray together in a spirit of joy and then open gifts. Some of you will ravage the boxes under the tree until your craving for all the stuff is satisfied. Either way, the wrapping paper will be destroyed in a “second coming” moment. You know what I mean: “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, for presents will be ripped open and we shall be - changed?”

This is my last Monday Morning Manna for 2009. When you read this I will be on vacation. I will, however, experience the joy of performing the wedding ceremony for Gary Brittain and Donna Shugarts on the 22nd, and then our Christmas Eve services (4:00 PM at the south campus and 5:30 PM at the north campus). I look forward to both these events, not as pastoral “business”, but as a Christian overwhelmed with joy for my dear friends the soon-to-be “Brittain’s”, and the great joy of our incredible Christmas Eve worship as a church family. We will be leaving for Kentucky on Christmas Day to spend the holidays with my family.

In my absence, you will be blessed with the incredible preaching of Dr. Rick Lance, the executive director/state missionary of our Alabama Baptist Convention. He will be preaching in all three of our services on the 27th. My only regret is that I will not get to hear him. The last time Dr. Lance was with us was when we dedicated our south campus in May of 08. I know you will welcome him with open hands and loving hearts.

As I reflect on this Christmas and the joy of knowing that Christ is Immanuel, “God with us.” Because God is with us we have:

· An inheritance that can never be lost. (I Peter 1:3-5)

· A deliverance that can never be outdone. (2 Cor. l:10)

· A grace that can never be limited. (2 Cor. 12:9)

· A hope that can never be disappointed. (Heb. 6:18-19)

· A peace that can never be disturbed. (John 14:27)

· A righteousness that can never be tarnished. (2 Cor. 5:21)

· A salvation that can never be canceled. (Heb. 5:9)

· And a joy that need never be diminished. (John 15:11)

These are but a few of the blessings that are ours, because God was made like us so that we could be made like Him. Rejoice today! Here are the words from Isaac Watts, written in 1719, that bless our hearts today:

Joy To The World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Merry Christmas,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Faithful to the End

“You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5)

Many of you have asked me about the Stams’ illustration that I used yesterday at the South Campus. Here is a brief summary as is recorded in Christian History, p. 682-683:

John and Betty Stam met at Moody Bible Institute while both were studying to become missionaries to China. After going there separately under the China Inland Mission (CIM), they were unexpectedly reunited and a year later were married. On Sept. 11, 1934, their daughter Helen was born, and by the end of November the Stams were installed in their new post in Tsingteh. Only 27 and 28 years old, with a newborn baby, they seemed at the beginning of their ministry, but on Dec. 6, 1934, communist soldiers swept into Tsingteh and arrested the Stams.

John wrote to the CIM: “My wife, baby, and myself are today in the hands of the Communists, in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is $20,000 for our release. God grant you wisdom in what you do, and us fortitude, courage and peace of heart. The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.”

The Stams were forced to make a difficult march to the town of Miao-shou. Physically exhausted, they were horrified to hear the soldiers discuss plans to murder their baby to make the trip easier. Witnesses said that an old farmer stepped forward to object. When challenged by the soldiers to take Helen’s place, the man agreed and was shot on the spot. Little Helen’s life was miraculously spared.

Arriving in Miao-shou, the Stams were imprisoned until morning. Then soldiers bound them both and forced them to leave their baby behind. As they were marching through the streets, the soldiers called people to witness their execution. On a hill outside the village a local Christian doctor stepped forward to beg for their lives. The soldiers condemned him to die as well, and when John asked for mercy for the doctor, he was immediately beheaded. Betty fell on her knees beside John and was beheaded as well.

A Chinese evangelist named Lo was hiding with his family outside the village. Hearing of the executions, he came secretly into town where villagers pointed toward a silent house. Entering it, Lo found baby Helen, not yet 3 months old, miraculously safe after 30 hours alone.

Taking her with him, he went to the hill and found her parents’ bodies. Hastily organizing his friends’ burial, he spoke to the people who had gathered: “You have seen these wounded bodies, and you pity our friends for their suffering and death. But you should know they are children of God. Their spirits are unharmed and are at the moment in the presence of their Heavenly Father. They came here not for themselves, but for you, to tell you about the great love of God, that you might believe in the Lord Jesus and be eternally saved. You have heard their message. Remember, it is true. Their death proves it so. Do not forget what they told you – repent, and believe the Gospel.”

The Lo family managed to escape with baby Helen and made the 100 mile journey to safety. The news of the “Miracle Baby” and her parents’ martyrdom spread around the world. In response, many hundreds pledged their lives to missionary service and the CIM. A missionary in China wrote Betty’s parents: “A life which had the longest span of years might not have been able to do one-hundredth of the work for Christ which they have done in a day.”

John and Betty Stams remind us that our lives, indeed our time on this earth is in God’s hands. He has numbered our days. Since we are not sovereign, and cannot see past the end of our nose, we must commit every breath to serving our King, who alone holds the keys to eternal life. This is especially relevant now as we are in a season of fulfilling our earthly wants. Let’s keep these things in perspective and truly worship our King, firmly “taking hold of that which is life indeed.”

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Wonderful Season

This Friday night at Celebrate Recovery we will experience something unprecedented in the 173 year history of our church. We will baptize three ladies and in the process witness something never before accomplished in the long history of our church. Our church has never seen this number of people (46) profess faith in Christ and follow in believer’s baptism in one year. The wonderful part is that we still have more to baptize this year. Oh, What A Savior!!

We will begin decorating our sanctuary for Christmas with our “Hanging of the Green” service this Wednesday night at 6:00 PM. This Sunday, we will begin our “The Joy of Christmas” message series that leads up to our two Christmas Eve services (4:00 at our south campus and 5:30 at our north campus). What a time to praise His name!

The Christmas holidays also provide us with some wonderful opportunities for ministry that you will not want to miss. Here are just a few:

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering – Our Christmas offering (above and beyond our regular tithes) will go to support over 5000 missionaries around the world. We are off to a great start as we collected over $4000.00 during our “Christmas in August” offering. I want to encourage you to prayerfully make a generous gift this year. Paul said to the Corinthian believers: “Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). As pastor, I want to say “thank you” for your cheerful faithfulness to give and to go!

The Coat Project – Our partnership with Grace Baptist Church in Ogdensburg, NY is off to a fast start. The Coat Project is designed to help pastor Don and Grace Baptist Church impact their community in a real point of need. Ogdensburg, right on the St. Lawrence River, gets about 300+ inches of snow each year. Did you hear that! 300 inches! It will get as cold as -40 degrees F in the dead of winter.

Over the next 3 weeks, we will be collecting new or in really good condition coats, gloves, and sock hats for children, teens, and adults. Then, Don Henderson and Marty Boyles have volunteered to transport our gifts to Ogdensburg and Grace Baptist Church for their congregation to minister to the needs of their community. You might think these guys are crazy. I would agree with you that crazy fits, but not the way you think. I call it “Crazy Love”!


As we begin this Christmas season I beseech (now there’s a good King James word) you to experience these days with your “eyes wide open.” Look for opportunities to share the love of Christ. We are in a “season of self” when we make our wants list and hope for the best. Will you be selfless in these days by the love you display to others? Will you look for the needs and opportunities around you: (down the street, across the room, in the office, around the corner, across the shopping aisle)? Let’s make the most of our time by shouting out with our lives the Amazing Love of God!

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1: 11-14)

I thought you might enjoy reading George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation before we jump into Christmas devotions. George Washington wrote:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been able to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd day of October, A.D. 1789.

(signed) G. Washington

Happy Thanksgiving,

Dr. Derek

Monday, November 23, 2009

There is a Time: and That Time is Now

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”(Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

I just finished reading about the life of missionary David Brainerd, a 27 year-old missionary to the Indians of Crossweeksung, New Jersey. On November 3, 1745, a day he described as “a remarkable work of grace, he baptized 14 Indians who had professed faith in Christ. Of those, six were adults. One was an eighty year-old woman and two fifty year-old men who were notorious as town drunks. One of the men was a murderer as well.

What is remarkable is the amount Brainerd accomplished in such a short period of time. He was born in 1718, saved in 1739, and shortly thereafter entered the ministry, was instrumental in the Great Awakening while at Yale University, and later appointed a Presbyterian minister and missionary to the American Indians of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

David Brainerd described the day he joyously baptized 14 new converts as “a day when the Holy Spirit dramatically altered their lives.” Brainerd wrote in his journal, “Through rich grace, none of them have been left to disgrace their profession of Christianity by any scandalous or unbecoming behavior.

A year later, at the age of 28, David Brainerd, diagnosed earlier with tuberculosis, knew he was dying and that his time with the Indians was nearing an end. On November 3, 1746, a year to the day he gloriously baptized 14 converts, Brainerd visited each family in their home to say goodbye before his return trip to New England. That very evening he rode off, having completed his mission. A year later David Brainerd was dead at the age of 29. His “season of life” had come to an end.

David Brainerd accomplished much in his short time as a minister to the Indians. Like Brainerd, our lives have seasons as well. There is a time for everything. Today as you have opportunity, redeem the time that is before you and accomplish much for the Kingdom of God. I was recently reminded of how quickly our “season” can change with the accidental death of a dear friend at the age of 48 – my age! In a moment God can call us to Himself. In the twinkling of an eye our time “to plant or harvest, kill or heal, tear down or build up, laugh or cry, grieve or dance” will end. Yes, there is a time to be born, and a time to die.

Let’s be active in what God is doing and even see people put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ while we have opportunity. Let’s labor for Christ as long as we have breath. Ultimately, all of us will come to a final season, a season of death. We do not know the order or length of our seasons, but we can touch lives for the Gospel’s sake as we have this day! Remember one of our Christmas sayings, “Jesus is the reason for the … season!” Today, make Jesus Christ your reason for living! Trust Him and follow Him today. And never forget – He will forever be your reason for dying. Paul said, “For to me to live as Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) Let’s make that our theme verse as well.

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Divine Appointment in Ogdensburg

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16: 9-10)

About 2 months ago, God placed a burden on my heart for the 27 million unchurched in the state of New York. Last week I traveled to Syracuse to meet with Lamar Duke, church planting strategist for the Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) and Tommy Echols, church growth strategist for BCNY. We explored possible partnerships in Syracuse on Wednesday and then Thursday we traveled into the North Country to visit the churches of the Thousand Island Baptist Association (10 churches). Our last two stops took us to Richville Baptist Church and pastor Johnny Nixon, a young Alabamian with 5 small children. He has done a marvelous job and his church has grown to about 50. We felt a kindred spirit with him as he talked of both the facility and ministry needs of his church.

Our last stop Thursday was Ogdensburg, a community of about 12,000 adjacent to the St. Lawrence River, a rock’s throw to Canada. The only evangelical church in the area is Grace Baptist Church, a congregation of about 25, and pastored by Don Thoms. When we met Don, he asked where we were from. When Kenny Burell told him we were from Jacksonville, he looked stunned as he told us his daughter Stacey attends Jacksonville State University.

Then we knew, we had stepped into a divine appointment. He said, “My daughter attends church in a barn called EaglePoint! Pastor Don then noticed me and said, “Hey! Wait a minute! Don’t you preach there? I heard you this summer while visiting with my daughter!” We were frozen in our tracks, aware that we were in the midst of a divine appointment. We all had God bumps the size of golf balls all over us! God had answered our prayer for crystal clear clarity by saying out loud in our hearts, “This is it!” He probably knew our flesh would get in the way and we would look elsewhere.

Pastor Don shared his burden for the people of Ogdensburg and his desire to see another great spiritual awakening take place in New York. He gently spoke of his people and how their church wants to grow. Then he said, “Please come and help us!” We knew we had received our Macedonian call. As we debriefed back at the hotel it became clear to each of us where we sensed God was directing us to in New York.

This Wednesday night at 6:00 PM, I plan to share with you the details of our trip and the recommended steps for our mission partnership in New York. I encourage you to prayerfully search your own heart and how God will use you to help reach the unchurched of New York. Until then, please covenant to pray for pastor Don Thoms, his wife Susie, and the people of Grace Baptist Church.

On Mission,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New York, New York

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10”13-17)

This week I will be traveling to Syracuse, NY along with Zack Casey (south campus worship pastor), Kenny Burell, and Steve Spears. We will be meeting with Lamar Duke, who leads the Missions/Church Planting division of the Baptist Convention of New York. Several weeks ago God burdened my heart for the state of New York while attending a missions mobilization meeting in Anniston and led by the North American Mission Board. The sheer lostness right in our back yard is staggering. Here are a few facts about the need in New York.

Fast Facts:

· The population in the territory served by the BCNY is 26 million.

· The area is 95% unchurched.

· 25 million unchurched people live in the territory.

· 429 SBC churches serve the area

· That is 1 SBC church for every 61,000 unchurched persons. In the south the ratio is 1 SBC church for every 1,000 unchurched persons.

· One out of 3 adults in NY State does not speak English at home.

· One out of 5 in NY State was born in a foreign country.

· 10% of the lostness of North America lives in the territory of the BCNY (Baptist Convention of New York).

· North America is the 3rd largest mission field in the world today.

· Since 1990 the USA has been receiving more evangelical missionaries from other countries than all the evangelical churches and mission agencies combined have been sending from the USA to other countries.

· North America is the only continent where Christianity is not growing.

I would ask you to fervently pray in these days that God would show us where, when, and how He wants us to “Get In The Game!” We have been blessed with so much! We are on active duty status in Jacksonville (Jerusalem). We help with mission work in Anniston and in Birmingham (Judea). Next year we plan to send more people and resources to Honduras (Uttermost) than ever before. All that’s left is our “Samaria” to fulfill our Acts 1:8 challenge.

Could it be that getting actively involved in church planting efforts in New York State is the call God has set before us? If so, will you accept the challenge? Will you make an investment of time and resource in hopes of making an eternal difference in the lives of over 25,000,000 unchurched residents of New York State?

Are you looking for a ministry in the church? Let us help you find your place at either of our campuses. Are you looking for a mission in the world? Look no further any one of our mission ministries designed for one purpose: To bring glory to God through the redemptive message of hope found in Jesus Christ.

On Mission,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Deacon's Reward

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:1-7)

I just left the funeral service for Alice Henderson Arnett, age 95, and a longtime member of our church. The service honored her commitment to Christ and served as a tremendous model for every man who aspires to the office of deacon. Rodney Sprayberry, as her deacon, modeled the true meaning and purpose for deacon ministry in the life of the church.

Let me give you a little textual background on the early church in Acts. The early church, with thousands of new believers from all over, attempted a form of communal living and, actually, it succeeded for a short while. Then carnality entered the church. Jerusalem had a large minority of “Hellenistic,” or Greek-speaking Jews who, though they spoke no Hebrew because they lived abroad for centuries, returned to Jerusalem because it was their holy city.

They had a background of Greek culture, while the Hebrews in Jerusalem closely followed the Mosaic Law. Naturally, a misunderstanding developed. Both of these groups were Jews. Since the wealthy of the Christian community had sold their goods to provide for the poor, some of the Grecian Jews felt their poor and widows were being neglected in favor of the more traditional Hebrew-speaking Jews.

When they came to the apostles with the problem, the result was the calling of a congregational meeting. They saw that the corporate witness of the church was at stake. The apostles wanted to devote themselves to their ministry: prayer and the ministry of the Word. They knew their priority was praying, preaching, teaching, and the studying of the Word.

Now, let me say that this text is crying out to me today. This text is convicting me today. Today’s pastor is expected to be more like a corporate CEO than a man devoted to prayer and the preaching/teaching ministry of the Word. My calling is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). My calling is to mature the saints to do the work of the ministry.

The solution to this problem lay in the calling out of godly men in the church to serve, literally “waiting on tables.” These men, evidently the first deacons, were to have the characteristics that every born-again man should possess:

Integrity - “men of good reputationThese men had to be men of honest report. Their honesty was to be unquestionable. Servants must set an example of godliness for their people to follow. And they must be qualified spiritually regardless of their position in the world or their human ability.

So the issue here is integrity. The dictionary defines integrity as “the state of being complete, unified.” When I have integrity, my words and my deeds match up. I am who I am; no matter where I am or who I am with. Some argue today that image is everything. Integrity is everything. Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are.

Intimacy - "full of the Spirit" - G. Campbell Morgan says, "A man full of the Spirit is one who is living a normal Christian life." It is the life lived in intimacy with the Savior. The men selected in this chapter as godly men lived in dependence upon God's Spirit and not their own strength.

To be a godly man is to be fully yielded to the Spirit's control in every area of life. Stephen and Barnabas are prime examples of intimacy with the Spirit of God. Is it obvious to the congregation we serve that we are men filled with the Holy Spirit?

Insight - “full of wisdom” - They were to be spiritual men who possess biblical and theological knowledge, and the practical wisdom to apply biblical truth to the situations of everyday life. That was very important.

I Chronicles 12: 32 describes some wise leaders of Israel as “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” How do you become a wise man? Psalm 19: 7-11 tells you what the Bible can do for you if only you will read it, meditate on it, and obey it. God’s Word is the basic book.

Influence - Notice the influence of godly men in the life of the early church (v. 7):

The Word of God spread

The number of disciples increased

A great number of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith

Now back to Alice Arnett’s funeral service. Rodney Sprayberry understood the meaning of “widow ministry.” He lovingly cared for her, going to see her often. He would take his family along and together they would minister to Alice. He stepped into her life in such a way that, upon her passing, the family wanted Rodney to speak at her service. Rodney modeled the impact a deacon can have on a widow by the way he demonstrated faithfulness to his calling as a servant.

There have been many times when I have been proud of the ministry our church provided for people. I have never been as proud of a deacon as I was yesterday as Rodney verified the impact of authentic deacon ministry. The meaning of Acts 6 was clearly seen in the honor Alice’s family bestowed upon Rodney. It was also clearly seen in the humble manner with which Rodney loved and cared for his widow. He serves as an example for every deacon who wants to fulfill his calling as a “head table waiter.” Way to go Rodney! May others take notice!

Until Next Week,



We had about 1200 at our fall festival and discovered several prospects. Pray for the follow-up on these families. Our volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure a successful festival. The ladies from the Wade Freedom House came early and stayed late. They were (are) such a blessing.

We will have deacon ordination November 22 at 6:00 PM as a part of our joint worship with both our campuses. We will also honor our new members following the ordination with cake and punch for everyone in the fellowship hall. You will not want to miss this service. We will be ordaining Tim Royster, Brandon Pisacrita, and Gary Peden.