I am no musician. I do have a guitar that I attempt to strum a little now and then. One thing that has always been a regular routine is that when I take the guitar out of its case and before I start playing it, I have to tune it up.

It is interesting that no matter if you play the notes or chords correctly or if you have the correct rhythm, if the instrument is not in tune, then it doesn’t sound right… it is just noise that irritates.

I think Paul said it this way:

If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 CSB)

Not only do our instruments need tuning, but our lives do as well. Check out this song by Austin Stone Worship, and may it help you tune your life to the proper “key” today in order to be the disciple of Jesus that we should.

One of the things that I love about studying Jesus’ ministry is the way that He would teach. Many times He would use parables to illustrate truths in a way that anyone could understand. This was so helpful to bring the truth of God in a way that anyone who heard it – religious or irreligious, royal or common, literate or illiterate – could get the most out of it.

In Matthew 21, as Jesus is talking with the chief priests and elders of the city, He shares a parable to illustrate a very important point.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go work in the vineyard today.’ “He answered, ‘I don’t want to’ but later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered, but he didn’t go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21:28-31‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

Jesus tells this parable of two sons and their response to their father’s instructions to illustrate how true believers in Christ are to do.  It is interesting to me that the request was the exact same from the father towards each of his sons: “go into the vineyard and work.”  The difference came in the way that each fully responded to the father.

The first son that was approached by the father was the one who told his father, “NO!” (Matthew 21:29)  This son may have better things to do.  He may have not liked the request because it didn’t fit into the plans and directions that he had for his life.  In fact, the CSB translates this son’s response as “I don’t want to…”  Whatever the case was, this son was not happy with the father’s request and initially turns it down to go about his own way.

The second son is approached by the father with the same request.  This son’s response seems a more like what you would expect.  It was one of politeness… it was one of respect.  This son replies, “I will, sir.”  I think adding the sir on the end was a nice touch.  When one has manners like this, they have to be the hero in this story, right?

As Jesus concludes His parable, the reader/listener does not have to wait long to see what He is trying to teach here.  The issue is not so much what we say, but it is all about what do we do.  If you look closely, you see that the first son (“I don’t wanna”) actually has a change of heart and makes his way out to the vineyards.  The second son (“I will, sir”) turns from his father and goes on about his merry way never giving the vineyards a second thought.  He had no intentions of doing what his father had asked of him.  He just wanted to say the right things.

Jesus finishes this parable with a question: “Which of the two did the father’s will?” (Matthew 21:31)  The chief priests and elders of the community answered, “the first son” (the one who actually did what the father told him to).  This was the correct answer, but Jesus shared that in a very interesting manner.

Jesus warned these leaders that He was talking with that tax collectors and prostitutes were getting into the Kingdom of God before they would.  It is important to remember that this conversation was taking place in the temple.  It could be safely assumed that the conversation was being watched and listened to by many bystanders.  What do you imagine was the reaction was when everyone heard Jesus say that tax collectors and prostitutes (some who were seen as the worst of the worst) were getting into God’s kingdom before the chief priests and people of great respect and honor?

How could Jesus say such a thing?  The reason He could say this is because it was the truth.  These “sinners” that Jesus spoke of were the ones that were hearing the message of the Father and though there were times in the their lives where they had told God “NO!”, they had felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and were turning to God in faith and repentance.  The priests and elders were talking a good game and looking good on the surface, but their professions were empty.

Jesus shows that when it comes to following God and being His people, it is much more than just some words that we recite in a prayer one time with a preacher at an altar… it is about faithful action day in and day out.  It’s like the prophet Samuel tried to warn King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD?  Look: to obey is better than sacrifice”.

What is it that God has said for you to do – things you may have even said “I will, sir” to – but you have not gotten around to actually doing it yet? The one that pleases the Father is the one who actually obeys.

I recently was told about a book that had been released telling the story of how a predominately Anglo-American church in the deep south had become a multicultural community of Jesus followers.  I knew when I heard about this that I had to get a copy of this book and check it out.

Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry is a book that was written by Mark Hearn, the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Duluth, Georgia.  It tells the story of how this “monolithic Anglo-American congregation” has turned the corner and become a “cross-cultural community with members from thirty-seven different countries.”

The story of First Baptist Church of Duluth, Georgia has been shared in parts in different media outlets such as The Gwinnet Daily Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Facts and Trends (publication of Lifeway Christian Resources).  Technicolor is the account of what God is doing in this church from the perspective of the Senior Pastor who has watched it unfold.

This book covers a topic that I believe is one of the most needed topics that the church in the United States and around the world needs to have.  Whether we like it or not, want to admit it or not, our world is quickly becoming a multicultural place.  Hearn learned this as he found out that there were 57 different languages being spoken at the local high school. As it is shared in the book, “by the year 2050, the United States will no longer have a majority ethnic group.”  I could not agree more with what Hearn says, “Churches in America are going to become extinct, or at least severely crippled, unless we learn how to minister in a multicultural society” (15).

One of the things that I liked so much about Technicolor was that it is not a “how to” manual.  Hearn is quick to mention that this book is a telling of what God had (and continues to do) in their midst.  While Hearn does share some principles, lessons learned, and encouragements for those looking to do more multicultural ministry in their local churches, he is careful not to say anything like “this is the way to do it.”

Recommendation

I would encourage you to get a copy of Technicolor and read it through.  I believe that you will see the shift in cultures that is taking place before us in a fresh new way.  I believe that you will be inspired by the story of a deep south white church that heard the call of God to reach out to the nations.

Technicolor is one work that is definitely needed for both church leaders and church members.  The multicultural ministry is coming to all parts of the land in which we live.  We can either learn to do it well and thrive, or we can refuse to participate and die.  The story of First Baptist Church of Duluth, Georgia is one that encourages me greatly.

To say that I am a fan of A.W. Tozer’s writings would be an understatement.  I have read many of his works that has been published over the years.  I appreciate his style and approach to topics of the faith.  When I got the opportunity to read a “never before published” work of his, I was a little excited.  The work that I am talking about is The Wisdom of God.

The Wisdom of God is a collection of sermons and thoughts from sermons that has been compiled by James L. Snyder.  This is an important thing to remember as you read this book because you will find that there are topics and statements that are repeated often in various chapters.  At first, it was a little annoying reading the same thing over and over and over, but once I got my brain wrapped around that these were different sermons compiled together into a book, it helped.

Snyder shows how Tozer reveals what the wisdom of God is all about.  As the book cover shares, “wisdom is more than just a list of instructions – it is a part of God’s character, inseparable from His love and grace.”  The book is broken up into twenty-three chapters covering the topic of the wisdom of God and how it applies in different situations.

I would say that this was a different read that the normal Tozer work.  The compilation of various sermons into a book was sometimes repetitive, but the meat of what is shared is still inspiring and causes the reader to look at this topic that plays such a big role in the Bible in a fresh manner.

Recommendation

I would recommend this to anyone looking to get a fresh look at what the wisdom of God is about.  I would remind the reader that this is a compilation of sermons and materials so do not be surprised when certain things are often repeated and when the chapters do not necessarily flow into one another.  Otherwise, it is a good read.

This week my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the SEND Conference that was hosted by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was a great time as my wife and I got away and experienced God in a mighty way. I thought that I would share a couple of things that stood out to me from this week.

Great Host

The SEND Conference was hosted by First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida. I had heard many great things about this church, and this week just solidified what I thought. This church has so many things going on, but they gave their campus over for a week so that people from all over the world could worship together and be encouraged.

Diversity

One of the first things that we noticed about the SEND Conference was the diversity of people that were present. There were people from all generations present. There were people from different languages, cultures, and ethnicities present.

This was a breath of fresh air. Sadly, the Southern Baptist Convention has been seen as a denomination of old white people by many. I know that there were people of younger generations and other ethnicities in our denomination, but it is easy to see the stereotype when you look into some of our meetings.

The SEND Conference was a picture of heaven, at least according to Revelation 7:9-10. There were men and women, boys and girls, various languages and ethnicities… it was a beautiful sight. It really showed me that there is a future for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Amazing Worship

The musical worship for the SEND Conference was led by the Austin Stone worship team. Oh my goodness… I have heard some of their music before, but I have never seen them lead worship before. It was something special.

The one thing that I appreciated most about the worship team was that they were not just up front playing music for others to sing along to. They truly took a pastoral role and led each person in the room to the throne of grace. They took time to explain lyrics and used both older hymns of the faith and contemporary songs. It was truly something for all present.

Gospel and Great Commission Focus

The main thing of the SEND Conference was undoubtedly the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His church. While there were multiple sessions and many different breakout sessions, each and every one had the gospel and the Great Commission at the heart of them. I loved how each of the breakouts and main session speakers clearly tied things back to the gospel and did not have to stretch it to make it happen. They showed that the gospel truly does apply to any topic.

Meeting New People

I always like to meet new people and hear their stories. This week provided a great opportunity to meet people from all over and hear about what God is doing in and through their lives. It was also good to see a few people that I haven't seen in a while. It was so good to refresh the connection.

I will be grateful for some time to the North American Mission Board for contacting and providing complimentary tickets to the conference in Orlando. It was a much needed break from the norm and time to refocus. I am definitely looking forward to 2020 when they will do it again in Atlanta.