Monday, January 27, 2014
The Ten Commandments
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Leaving Out Repentance?
Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord!
Last evening the church had a very edifying look at how God helps us when we have regrets over past disobedience to His ordinances. One of the points raised, from 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, was how the Lord Jesus Christ uses the sorrow of regret to work in us repentance; and how that repentance produces a number of very healthy, God-honoring effects in us.
2 Corinthians 7:8-11 For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. (9) Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. (10) For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. (11) For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
Repentance has been on my mind for the past several weeks. More specifically, I have been thinking about a sermon I heard last month, where the pastor (Baptist) did not mention repentance at all. He spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (great!!!), and briefly mentioned trust in Christ (super!), but the several times where it seemed he should have mentioned repentance, he said "have a personal relationship" instead. I am left wondering to what degree the concept of repentance is being left out of the message in the churches around here. Just now I started praying that God will help us to preach and practice repentance in this church and the others around us.
Love in Christ,
Thursday, November 11, 2010
SFC Richard Kenneth "Dick" Young, U.S. Army
Today being November 11, Veterans Day, I would like to write this brief remembrance of my own father, who was a veteran of the Korean War. Obviously this is not a full biography, nor even a recounting of what I know of his war experience. It is just a brief mention that I am thankful to the Lord for my father, for his service to the Savior, to this country, and to our family. May the Lord raise up many Christians, Americans, and fathers to serve as he did.
Love in Christ,
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Excellent Essay on Pastoral Ministry
I recently renewed an old blogship (friendship made through blogging) with a fellow pastor, Barry Maxwell, who ministers in a church in Tennessee. He was asked to address a class at a Baptist college, and wrote a manuscript of his remarks for the occasion. He has briefly described the experience and generously posted the manuscript on his blog. I highly recommend it.
Here is the link:
Here is one of the helpful thoughts, to whet your appetite:
"Some medicine is best taken on a full stomach, or else it causes more pain than the ailment. Likewise, imperatives are digested far easier and with greater hope by souls full of the gospel."
That's just what Paul did in his epistles! Consider how Romans chapters 1-11 is all about how God has saved us by His Son Jesus Christ. Then chapter 12 begins with "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God . . ." and goes on to tell us how we should live, all in response to the salvation given by God's grace.
In Brother Barry's essay, there is also material about humility. But I'm already perfectly humble, and proud of it, so I didn't need any of that. :)
Love in Christ,
Monday, March 22, 2010
Have you heard about the "Tabernacle Experience"? It made the front page of this week's Southern Baptist Texan newspaper, and was brought to my attention by a dear brother, a pastor in another Baptist church. I have been thinking about this phenomenon, and am concerned about some aspects of it.
Would you be interested in examining it with me? If so, let's start with the founder's statement about how she came to create the "Tabernacle Experience." Here's the link to her page:
What do you think about her description of her experience?
How do you think this verse applies here:
1Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
I look forward to reading your ideas.
Love in Christ,
Labels: Tabernacle Experience
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities" part 6
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities" part 5
Dear Courteous Reader,
Thanks be to God that He has given believers the benefit of counsel among ourselves. No one has a complete understanding of all things, and so we benefit from the fellowship of other Christians. Sometimes other believers can add their learning to our own, so filling gaps in our theology. Other times they can critique our doctrine, so helping us separate the dross from the silver
In this case, God has provided two brothers, who have taken issue with the doctrine presented in this series of articles. One is “Eklektos,” who commented on the blog. Another is a very dear and respected fellow pastor, who sent an e-mail. These two men's objections to my interpretation of Romans 13 have been given so strongly, so reasonably, and with such obvious love for Christ and His church, that I must now pause to answer their objections.
Please bear with me patiently. For my part, answering objections is harder than simply teaching, and requires more time in study. For your part, following all the arguments and their supporting points is harder than simply reading an article. The task of understanding and obeying the Bible, however, is well worth the hard work. These brothers who have studied the issue and put their objections to my interpretation in writing have sacrificed time and effort to do so. Likewise, it will be an additional commitment of time and attention for me to answer. It's springtime outside. The seeds, the soil, and the sunshine are calling for my attention out there. This matter of submission to the government is of great importance, however, and also increasing urgency.
Please pray for me, dear ones, as I work on this. I am a frail creature of dust, and feeble as frail. Only by the work of the Holy Spirit on my mind will I be able rightly to interpret the scriptures, rightly to apply them, and effectively to express them in writing.
Love in Christ,
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities" part 4
In the last article, we considered how some of God's commands are given in such a way that if we obey the command in its bare form in certain crisis situations, we actually disobey rather than obey the spirit of the commandment. Let us study this principle further by considering the concept of a proviso.
The word “proviso” has passed into English from the Latin phrase proviso quod, which means “provided that.” We are all familiar with this concept, because we use it often. Here are some examples:
- “This engine is guaranteed for 36 months or 36,000 miles, provided that the owner performs regular oil and filter changes.”
- “I will pay you $600 for those wheels, provided that they fit my truck.”
- “I will keep my side of the bargain, provided that you keep your side of it.”
- “You may borrow my car if you will take good care of it.”
- “You may go over to his house if you will be home by supper time.”
- “Make another sandwich if Uncle Jeff is coming for lunch.” (Would that be enough?)
- “Lord willing and the Creek don't rise.”
In these examples, the proviso is stated. But the concept of proviso is almost always understood, even if not stated. When the proviso is not stated, if it were stated, it would be something like, “provided that things go as they should, and normally do.” Consider these examples:
- “I'll be home by about 8:00” (provided that things go as they should, and normally do---that I don't have a car wreck or a heart attack, and that I am not murdered, and that no asteroids hit the earth, etc.).
- “Put on your pajamas and go to bed” (provided that things go as they should, and normally do---that no pipe has broken and flooded your bedroom, that your pajama drawer is not on fire, and that no rattlesnakes are in your bed).
- “Children, do not leave this house until I get home” (provided that things go as they should, and normally do---that the house does not catch fire).
- “On the Sabbath you shall do no work” (provided that things go as they should, and normally do---that your neighbor does not have an accident and need you to save his life).
- “Slaves, obey your masters” (provided that things go as they should, and normally do---that they do not order you to commit murder).
- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (provided that things go as they should, and normally do---that they do not tell you to steal for them).
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, provided that these authorities generally govern as they should, within the bounds of what citizens should rightfully expect from their government.”Please accept also this paraphrase of the command, with a fuller statement of the understood proviso:
Citizens of a country should pay their taxes, respect the governing official (or body), and obey his laws, provided that he rightfully holds his office and does not exceed his authority (is not a usurper), that he rules according to the constitution, the laws, the long-standing traditions, and ultimate morality (is not a despot), and that he refrains from cruelty and excessive use of force (is not a tyrant).This principle of the unstated but understood proviso helps us interpret and apply this command correctly, and should help us with other commands as well, both human and divine.
As always, you are very welcome to send this article to others, if you think it would be helpful to them. You are also welcome to ask questions, and to add your ideas.
Love in Christ,
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I hope you enjoy this letter, which I wrote to Dr. Walter Williams, a college professor and conservative political columnist.
Love in Christ,
Dear Dr. Williams,
Despite the fact that I appreciate your March 11 article on "general welfare" very much, and despite the fact that I usually agree with your ideas, I must say that I find your use of the split infinitive "to regularly exercise" very unpatriotic.
Some social commentators see the court decisions outlawing school prayer, but legalizing abortion, or the laws granting no-fault divorce, or the hippie movement violating sexual norms and undermining authority structures, as the social developments that have led our country into such dire straits today. But the real culprit in the slide of America from our past greatness to our present weakness is the use, even by good men such as you, Dr. Williams, of the grammar construct known as the "split infinitive."
Consider that ever since 1966, when Captain Kirk decided "to boldly go" beyond the traditional grammar structures of our language, our citizens have become less and less familiar with proper modification of the infinitive. True, we have retained the post-infinitive adverb, as "to think creatively," but the mid-infinitive adverb has come "to mostly replace" the traditional pre-infinitive adverb of our founding fathers.
Aye, there's the rub! Today, our citizens have more need of the Constitution than ever. Yet, many of the citizens see it as ancient, outdated, irrelevant. Why? We have become so accustomed to the carelessly-split infinitive, that we no longer appreciate the beauty of such a carefully-crafted phrase as "peaceably to assemble." Instead, the unfamiliarity of such a phrase leaves the young American with the impression that the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the related writings of the time must be mere museum pieces.
Certainly the lack of attention to traditional morality, especially the Ten Commandments has played a role; probably the tolerance of rampant political corruption has contributed; undoubtedly the exchange of the Great Awakening's vibrant religion for today's shallow pseudo-spirituality has done it's part; but the abandment of the grammar of our founding fathers is proving to be our nation's undoing.
Therefore, Dr. Williams, I hope you will, in the future, for the good of our posterity, structure your sentences in a more patriotic way, and so do your part faithfully to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and grammatical.
Jeff Richard Young
Friday, March 06, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities" part 3
May the grace of God given us by His Son be foremost in your minds today!
God's commands, given to us in the Bible, are given both for His glory and for our benefit. Every command of God is good, and in fact is perfect!
But some of His commands come to us in such a way that the general statement of the command is not to be applied in its bare form to every conceivable circumstance. Sometimes, because of the sinfulness of mankind, circumstances are so reversed from how they should be, that, to do what is right, you actually seem to disobey a commandment.
Let me present an example of a human commandment that is given in such a form, followed by an example of such a scriptural commandment. With both of those examples in mind, I will then suggest how this principle applies to Romans chapter 13 and the command to submit to the authorities.
A mother commands her children, “Do not go outside the house while your father and I are gone this evening.” When the children are tempted to go outside for a game of hide-and-seek in the dark, they will do well to obey their mother's command and stay inside. But if the house catches fire, the children should NOT stay in the house, but should run outside. Because of the sinfulness of man, and the fallen state of creation, the situation has become utterly reversed from how it should be. The house should be a safe haven from danger for the children, but has in fact become a danger to their lives. So, to obey the commandment in its basic form will not honor the mother's intention, but will violate it.
God commanded, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.” Take the case, then, of a Jew in the days of John the Baptist. When he is temped to work in his business on the Sabbath, he will do well to obey the Lord's command, putting aside his work for one day, in order to rest and worship. But if, on his way into Jerusalem on the Sabbath, he sees that an archway has caved in, trapping two people under the rubble, he should NOT refrain from work. Because of the sinfulness of man, and the fallen state of creation, the situation has become utterly reversed from how it should be. In such a circumstance, if the man will not help lift the fallen stones off the people who are trapped, this will be sin. So, to obey the commandment in its bare form would not honor God's intent, but would instead violate it.
Examples could be multiplied, and perhaps you will do so as you meditate on this concept. One believer suggested the case of the boy with his finger in the dike.
Of course, some commandments of God are not stated in such a way that this principle applies. For example, it is never right not to love God with all your heart. It is never good not to love your neighbor as yourself. It is never right to commit murder or adultery. But many of God's commands do come to us in this form.
Romans chapter 13 opens with the command, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” If a believer is tempted to stop paying his taxes, or stop getting licenses, or stop obeying the traffic laws, because he is ultimately a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, not an earthly country, or because Jesus is his Lawgiver, King, Judge, not the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court, he will do well to obey this command, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.”
But what if a Christian citizen of the United States of America, a constitutional republic, finds himself living in a time when the office of President is usurped by a foreigner, unconstitutional powers are assumed by the Congress, and immoral rulings are given by the Supreme Court? What if the government rewards the wicked and punishes the righteous? What if the government, instead of insuring justice is done, becomes itself the doer of injustice. What if, instead of securing the rights of the people, the government itself infringes the people's rights?
If a Christian in such circumstances reflects on this command, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities,” and so passively submits to every abuse and injury dished out by a usurping, despotic, even tyrannical government, allowing his fellow citizens, as well as yet-unborn future citizens to suffer the same, he has NOT obeyed God's command rightly. He has instead acted with the foolishness of children who would die in a burning house because their mother had told them not to go outside, or of a man who would not lift a stone off of his fellow man because it was the Sabbath.
This principle is a key to right interpretation and application of the commands in Romans chapter 13. I urge you to consider this, and see the rightness of it. Please feel free to add your comments and ask your questions.
Love in Christ,
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities" part 2
Dear Courteous Reader,
No matter what is happening in your life, whether pleasant or unpleasant, easy or difficult, I pray that your hope is not in your circumstances, but in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Bible talks of Christian citizenship in several passages, but the central one is Romans chapter 13, so let's work on that for a bit. How about just one concept for now?
The apostle gives this doctrine to those believers who had the wrong idea that God's people do not have to submit to earthly government. In the case of Jewish believers, perhaps some of them claimed their special status as God's nation, and so had the same sentiment reflected in the question asked of Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17) In the case of gentile believers, perhaps a misapplication of the glorious truth that Jesus is the King of kings led them to reject all human government. Certainly some unruly professors were acting disrespectful toward officials (2 Peter 2:10). But the fact that both Paul and Peter commanded submission to government in their letters indicates that some of the Christians of their day held that they did not have to submit to kings and to lower levels of governors.
In answer to this wrong idea, the apostles command that believers be in submission to the governing authorities.
This is tender, easy stuff, I know, so let me give you something tougher to chew.
This doctrine was given to correct those believers who wrongly thought that they did not have to submit to the government, to bring them over to the truth that they did have to submit to the government.
It was NOT given to those believers who were already cheerfully submitting to the government, to help them know what to do as citizens of a republic when dealing with a usurping, despotic, and tyrannical government.
To put it another way,
Paul IS saying, “Those of you who are not submitting to the government must begin to submit.”
Paul is NOT saying, “Those of you who are faithful citizens of a republic, whose laws are being violated by a tyrant, must do nothing but submit to the tyrant's violence.”
I invite you to chew on that, and I hope it doesn't give you indigestion!
Love in Christ,
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Beyond "Submit to the Authorities"
May you rejoice today in the grace given you freely by the Lord Jesus Christ!
Please consider this word I offer you in love.
As Christians, we are ultimately citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, not of any earthly country. While we live this earthly life, however, we are indeed citizens of our earthly countries, which in my case is the United States of America. As part of our discipleship, then, we must act rightly toward our government and our fellow citizens.
The Bible's basic commandment in this regard is to be found in Romans chapter 13, among other places, and it is that we are to submit to the government, rendering both taxes and honor to those government officials to whom it is due. We must never forget this basic principle, nor fail to live by it.
HOWEVER, we must not allow this one principle to be our whole understanding of the Lord's teaching on government and citizenship, either. There is much more to learn from the Bible about Christian duty, about good citizenship.
Please join me as I inquire into the Bible's teachings on this matter. At the same time, please join me in praying for our government officials, for each other, our fellow Christian citizens, and for me as a pastor/teacher.
If you find anything I write helpful, you are most welcome to send it around in whatever way seems best to you. Please feel free to contact me personally for more information.
In the thoughts I offer here, I will be leaning heavily on the text of the Bible, of course, but also a book of old sermons. It is available to read free of charge on Google Books, and is available for purchase on Amazon, and I suppose from other book sellers as well. The title is The Pulpit of the American Revolution, or The Political Sermons of the Period of 1776. The editor is John Wingate Thornton. It was published in 1860, and there is a recent new printing as well.
Click here to view on Google books.
Love in Christ,
P.S. I am including here at the bottom of this article a few key words, so that those who are searching for information on these topics can find their way here. By seeing these words together, you may also be able to guess where I am headed with this teaching.
Barack Obama, president, usurper, usurpation, constitution, natural-born citizen, Declaration of Independence, despotism, tyranny
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
The Cost of Leaving Problems Uncorrected
Have you ever noticed something going wrong, and failed to fix it? Most certainly I have done so! Typically we fail to fix things that are breaking, in order to save ourselves inconvenience, expense, or other unpleasantness in the short term. But in the long term, what is the cost? What are the consequences? What is the price of leaving things uncorrected?
This morning my dear wife, whose mind is as beautiful as her face, asked me this question.
The answer, of course, is well known to us. If you fail to do minor repairs to a machine when they are needed, eventually major components will fail, and the price of repairs or replacement will be high.
If you fail to fix a small leak in the roof of a house, eventually there will be major water damage, which will have to be repaired at great expense and inconvenience.
If you fail to correct a naughty child, he will become a rebellious, lawless young adult, who will most likely ruin his whole life, and the lives of others.
If you allow openly sinful people, or anti-Christian doctrine, to remain in the fellowship of a church, the church may well be severely damaged or destroyed eventually.
The example my dear wife suggested was Germany and the rise of the Nazis. In the 1930s, it became apparent that Hitler and his Nazi party were turning government upside down. Instead of protecting the good and punishing the wicked, the government began to reward the wicked and punish the good. At that time, when Hitler's hold on power was relatively weak, the good citizens of Germany should have thrown him and his party out of the government. Instead, they let him go on ruling Germany, until he had led them to world war and genocide.
Other examples from history abound, including the Bible's historical accounts. King David, a good man, saw that his son Adonijah was going astray, but did not correct him. The result was an attempted coup d'etat, and ultimately the death of the son.
Understanding this principle, let us put it into action. If you have put off setting something right because of the perceived cost of doing so, consider what the cost will be if this problem is allowed to continue to its end, and begin to fix it now!
Love in Christ,
Friday, July 18, 2008
William Screven-1689 in 1699
Have you heard of William Screven? He was a Baptist pastor in Maine, who, due to persecution from the official church there, moved with most of the congregation to Charleston, South Carolina in 1696. The church joined with Baptists already there to become the first Baptist church in the South, FBC of Charleston.
Just three years later, William Screven had to retire at age 70, due to poor health. To conclude his farewell sermon, he spoke these words regarding the selection of a new pastor:
"Be sure you take care the person be orthodox in the faith, and of blameless life, and does own the confession put forth by our brethren in London in 1689."
Are you familiar with this confession, the 1689 Second London Confession of Baptist Faith?
If not, I urge you to read and study it. If you do, I think you will see why William Screven thought it so important. Here's the link:
If you would like more information on this, I am at your disposal.
Love in Christ,
Monday, November 12, 2007
The Liberating Loveliness of Biblical Worship part 1
If this order of worship looks familiar to you, if it makes you unsure of whether to laugh or weep, please read the series of posts that will follow, to learn more about biblical worship.
Love in Christ,
11:00 Announcements of Upcoming Events
11:02 Singing "Happy Birthday" and "Happy Anniversary"
11:05 Prayer (kept short to save time)
11:06 Hymn (skipping middle verses to save time)
11:09 Fellowship (greet, shake hands, hug, chat)
11:12 Committee Report
11:14 Praise Songs
11:24 Skit by Youth Drama Team
11:28 Recognition of Veterans (or mothers, or fathers, or graduates, or teachers)
11:31 Offertory Hymn (skipping middle verses to save time)
11:34 Offertory Prayer (kept short to save time)
11:35 Giving of offerings by passing the plate, with musical accompaniment
11:39 Special Music (solo or small group)
11:43 Sermon (brief scripture reading and quick prayer included)
11:58 Invitation/Altar Call
12:02 Closing Prayer or Song
12:03 Grumbling About Getting Out Late
Monday, August 13, 2007
A High View of Baptism Leads to a Man's Conversion
Dear Courteous Reader,
The International Mission Board/Wade Burleson crisis of late 2005 and early 2006 drove many of us back to the books for study of the ordinances. During several months of intense reading and discussion, I learned a higher view of baptism than what I had formerly held. This Sunday, God used that high view of baptism to convict a man of sin and convert him to faith in Christ!
As a Baptist, I had always been repulsed by the various iterations of "baptismal regeneration." The Church of Christ and the Catholic Church both hold that a person is "born again" or regenerated in the act of baptism. We Baptists rightly reject this position, which is based primarily on a wrong interpretation of John 3:5
Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The correct meaning of "born of water" is "born naturally" or "born physically." But these two groups, as well as some others, take "born of water" to mean "baptized in water."
As a reaction against this wrong belief, however, many Baptists too strongly de-emphasize baptism. We act as if "walking the aisle" is the profession of faith, and baptism is something to be done later, at our convenience, if at all. (Please see Dr. VanNeste's excellent article, p.4.) This was the position I held.
In study of the issue, however, I came to understand that baptism, although not regenerative, should always accompany faith in Christ, and should be performed immediately upon conversion. The command is "believe and be baptized." The practice is to be baptized right away. (Consider the experience of the three thousand, the Ethiopian, the Philippian jailer, and Saul/Paul himself.) A person who has come to faith in Christ, and made this known to other believers, should not remain unbaptized for more than a few hours. Certainly there are difficult cases, where physical infirmity or lack of a suitable body of water is an obstacle, but in almost all cases, the new convert should be baptized the same day.
Understanding this biblical truth, I began to reconsider my idea of who should be allowed to share in The Lord's Supper. As a young adult, in ignorant zeal, I had believed that anyone at all could share the Supper. As my understanding matured, I had held that any Christian could take the Supper, even if he had not been baptized. But through study and prayer in 2006, I came to realize that the old Baptist position is right: A man who has refused baptism should not be welcomed into the communion of the church, especially around The Lord's Supper. (See any of the old Baptist confessions of faith, or any of the three versions of The Baptist Faith and Message, found here.)
Although I have held this position for roughly a year, my fellow elder and I had not yet brought ourselves to state this quite so baldly in our worship services. We have been saying that a person who has not "made a good and credible profession of faith" should not take the Supper. Our intention has been not to drive away inquirers with too harsh a position.
Yesterday, however, it was my turn to lead the communion, and I was convicted that I must state the truth. I instructed the congregation (there were first-time visitors present) that anyone who had supposedly believed in Christ, but had not been baptized should not take The Lord's Supper on the grounds that he might be taking it in an "unworthy manner."
As the worshipers came forward to take the elements and form a circle, one man, a first-time visitor, remained in his place near the back, and bent down his head. When the worship service closed, he was still there, crying. I went to him and asked what he was thinking about, but he only shook his head and continued crying. I prayed over him and offered my help when he was ready.
In a few minutes, he spoke to me outside, and told that in those moments, while the rest of the church was sharing The Lord's Supper, he was being converted to Christ! He had attended church off-and-on for years, known most of the facts, and believed in God. But he said that when he realized he was being excluded from The Lord's Supper, he became strongly convicted of sin, and began asking Jesus to forgive him. He testified that he was overwhelmed with emotion "in a good way" and began to cry out to God. Afterward, he felt a kind of peace that he had never felt before. He said that although he had made deals with God before, and promised to quit sinning in this way or that, it had never worked. This time, however, he did not ask God to do anything for him, and did not make any promises to shape up, but just asked God to forgive him of his sins.
I read to him from Peter's Pentecost sermon, that he should be baptized, and he agreed. I told him that he should be baptized the same day, and he agreed to that, too! So, I had the great pleasure of baptizing him in a the pleasant, warm waters of our local lake yesterday evening, praise God!
I offer this account as an encouragement to my brothers. If you are concerned that a high view of baptism, or a hard line on The Lord's Supper will be anti-evangelistic, perhaps that should not be such a concern after all.
Love in Christ,
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Knowing Christ Jesus-Reprise
Some time when I was a teenager, my father, a men's Sunday School teacher, said to me, "Everybody wants to study Revelation. But they don't even know their Bibles! If they don't know the prophets and the gospels, how are they going to understand Revelation?" Evidently God filed that away in my memory banks, to retrieve it later when it was needed. It was finally needed when I became a preacher in 2002.
In my first year and a half of preaching, I waded through Nehemiah and 1 Corinthians, which had great practical lessons for the church and for me as a new preacher. As I neared the end of 1 Corinthians, I wanted to dive into Romans, which had fascinated me for years. But, thinking of Dad's advice, I considered what material from the scriptures I should study first. I listened to Dr. Tom Nelson (Denton Bible Church) introducing Romans to a Bible study class. He said that to understand Romans, we have to understand the material in Genesis. Agreeing with that concept, in 2004 I studied and preached through the first half of Genesis, up to the death of Abraham. It was very rewarding, and has helped my understanding of original sin, marriage, and a number of other doctrines.
Near the end of that study, I realized that I did not have a very good understanding of Jesus Himself. So, in the Fall of 2004, I embarked on a sermon series called "Knowing Christ Jesus," in which I intended to cover a few highlights of the life of Jesus, lasting a few months. Once into the study, however, I realized that I could not skip anything! What is not important from the life and sayings of Jesus?!
So, I changed my preaching plan, and determined to study and preach on every event and saying of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. As a guide, I had A.T. Robertson's classic harmony of the gospels. Over the course of two years, I preached almost every Sunday morning on the life and sayings of Jesus. How rich! How convicting! How compelling! I had never before known the Savior like I was learning to know Him during these years.
In the late summer of 2006, I reached what I think of as the half-way mark---Peter's great confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" Just a few weeks later, I had to make an abrupt exit from that church, and began a six-month sojourn, which God used as a sabbatical for me. He led me to study the partial preterist interpretation of Revelation, the reformed view of The Ten Commandments (especially the sabbath), and the first three chapters of Romans.
Since I have been preaching here at Grace Community Bible Church, I have been neck-deep in The Ten Commandments. (As I mentioned in a previous article, if you have not yet studied and/or preached the commandments, get hold of A.W. Pink's book, and the appropriate section of Calvin's Institutes, along with just about any old commentaries, and be ready for a life-changing experience.) But this past Sunday was the end. In God's grace, I was able to preach on "You shall not covet your neighbor's house," and it was over.
I have wondered for quite a while, but now am certain that I will endeavor to preach the rest of the way through all the life and sayings of Jesus. God willing, I will return to Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi and declare to all listening that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." I will then teach that the Son of Man had to be crucified, and to rise from the dead. I will teach that to be His disciple, you must take up your cross and follow Him. If the Lord allows, I will spend roughly the next two years unfolding before the eyes of men, women, and children the great righteousness, teachings, sacrifice, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Here is the key passage that drives me to this goal:
Philippians 3:7-11 NKJV But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Father, please help me to know Christ Jesus, and to preach Him in Your church, of which He is the glorious head. Amen.
Love in Christ,
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Turned Inside Out by the Ten Commandments
For the past several weeks, God has had me studying and preaching The Ten Commandments. During this process, I feel that God has turned me inside out. What do I mean by this?
As a Christian and a pastor, I have been in a constant process of sanctification. It has been impossible to deny that I am a sinful man, and that God is constantly refining my character. But in order to keep up the appearance that I was a Godly man, I tried to hide most of my sinfulness away, and admit (to others and to myself) only a small fraction of my corruption.
You know how it is with dark, wet, dirty places. They grow more and more putrid, until finally someone pulls the rotting stuff out into the sunlight and fresh air. During this study of God's perfect moral righteousness, the Holy Spirit has unzipped me, reached inside to where all the filth is hidden, and pulled my insides out into the light. He is now disinfecting me with His Word, cleaning up several varieties of mold and fungus.
I am left with some very interesting feelings. I feel like running away, stuffing it all back inside, and zipping it all back up. Couldn't we just go back to status quo ante? I also feel tired. True, I have been staying up too late, but that's not what I mean. This has been an intense spiritual exercise, it's not over, and I feel that my strength is giving out. Perhaps that is part of the process? I also feel strangely hopeful. It seems that I felt very limited before. I somehow knew that I was not going to run very fast or get very far in God's service with all that sin inside. Now I'm starting to feel that maybe I can fly!
God has also made me feel humbly grateful. I am thankful to Him for continuing to work on me all these years, and thankful to Jesus Christ for his sacrifice on the cross, by which I am now forgiven for all this sin, with which I have brought disgrace upon His perfect name. In the human arena, I am very thankful to Brother Jarrett Downs, of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas. He has preached on The Ten Commandments, and I highly recommend your listening to the recordings, as I have done. I wrote, asking him about his experience preaching that sermon series, and guess what he said---"It turned me inside out."
So, if you have not preached on The Ten Commandments yet, I encourage you to make plans for starting. You might read A.W. Pink, Matthew Henry, John Calvin, and The Larger Catechism for starters. And may God turn you inside out as well!
Love in Christ,
Monday, April 16, 2007
Grace Community Bible Church
This past Sunday, I began work as an elder/pastor of Grace Community Bible Church, a small Reformed Baptist church in Bonham, Texas. Brother Dale Sterzer, who has been laboring alone in the church for four years, asked me to join him in the work. Initially, I declined, but eventually my dear wife and I agreed that we should do it. Dale is busy with a full-time business, so I plan to shoulder most of the pastoral responsibilities. Our good friends Matt and Lisa Kennedy are also joining the church.
The church is remodeling the parsonage for us, and it should be ready in one to two weeks. There will also be a salary, according to the church's ability. We are very grateful to the Lord for these provisions from His hand.
Those of you who have followed my posts about The Baptist Faith and Message will be glad to hear that our church holds the 1677/89 Second London Confession of Baptist Faith as its confession. Of course that means we are in agreement with the original (1925) Baptist Faith and Message, also (for your benefit, Brother Dr. Barber and Brother Nathan).
Painfully for me, our church is not a Southern Baptist Convention church. I grew up in an SBC church, graduated from an SBC seminary, and served for twelve years in SBC churches. We are going to consider it seriously, but will probably not affiliate ourselves with the SBC. Although I have been a small-time crusader for reform within the SBC, I cannot say I will miss the many controversies, either. We are independent at the moment, but may join with the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America for cooperative missions and education work. We hope to join Fannin Baptist Association, but despite the brotherly love shown us by those people, we probably will not pass the requirements in that organization's by-laws.
This means that I will not be able to speak in favor of all the failing motions and against all the passing motions at this year's SBC annual meeting in San Antonio. Someone will have to step up to Microphone 13 in my place. If you can manage it, try to speak in favor of a motion right between and Dr. Jack Graham and Dr. Jerry Vines speaking against it. It's exhilarating!
During my wanderings over the past five months, since a painful parting with the church I had pastored, God has sent a long list of Christian brothers and sisters who have supported us in various ways. We are grateful to God for the pastors and members of Grace Covenant Bible Church in Arlington, TX, FBC of Leonard, TX, Heritage Baptist Church of Mansfield, TX, Grace Baptist Church of Willis, TX, and many others who have shown us such Christian kindness.
There is much more to be written, but that will have to do for now. I thank God for all of you, and trust that He will produce good fruit in your ministry and in this new work to which He has assigned me.
Love in Christ,
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Why I Affirm Only the Original Baptist Faith and Message
Recently an exceptionally well-informed pulpit committee asked if I subscribe to The Baptist Faith and Message. As I understand it, quite a number of missionaries, professors, and other types of SBC ministers have been asked that question over the past seven years! So I suppose it was my turn.
My answer went something like this:
“I fully subscribe to The Baptist Faith and Message as it was originally penned in 1925, but there are some problems with the 1963 and 2000 revisions that don’t allow me fully to subscribe to them.”
This position is the opposite of Nathan Finn’s and Dr. Bart Barber’s view. They say that only the latest revision can even be called The Baptist Faith and Message, and that it is sacrilege even to say, “BFM 2000"! (I am poking fun, here, and do not intend to poke too hard at these two fine Baptist ministers and bloggers.) I do not agree with them. The original 1925 version was in perfect keeping with hundreds of years of Baptist tradition, rooted in correct interpretation of the Bible, but the 1963 and 2000 revisions contain significant departures.
I went on to explain the one minor and two major problems resulting from the changes made in the 1963 and 2000 revisions. I will demonstrate them to you here, in terms of the historic consistency of Baptist confessions up through 1925, and the radical departure from them in the 1963 and 2000 revisions. For your convenience, I have provided a link to our most important Baptist confessions of faith, at the bottom of the page.
1646 First London Confession Section 36: Being thus joined, every church hath power given them from Christ, for their wellbeing, to choose among themselves meet persons for elders and deacons . . .
1742 Philadelphia Confession chapter 27, paragraph 8:
the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church . . . are bishops or elders, and deacons.
1833 New Hampshire Confession chapter 13: its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons
1858 Abstract of Principles chapter 14: The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons.
1925 BFM chapter 12: Its Scriptural officers are bishops, or elders, and deacons.
1963/2000 BFM chapter 6: Its Scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.
The scriptures teach us that Paul called the elders to come to him, and that Peter addressed his fellow elders. He then instructed them to serve as bishops, pastoring the sheep. (See Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5.) Biblically and historically, the words “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” were used as synonyms, with “elder” being the most prominent. To drop the two more important terms for exclusive use of the third is to miss part of the meaning of the office. This is not a great matter, as far as I am concerned, but it is an error.
1646 First London Confession Section 4: Adam; who without any compulsion, in eating the forbidden fruit, transgressed the command of God, and fell, whereby death came upon all his posterity; who now are conceived in sin, and by nature the children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subject of death, and other miseries in this world, and for ever, unless the Lord Jesus Christ set them free.
1742 Philadelphia Confession chapter 6, paragraph 3:
They being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.
1833 New Hampshire Confession chapter 3: We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint, but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, positively inclined to evil; and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.
1858 Abstract of Principles chapter 6: God originally created Man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
1925 BFM chapter 3: He was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
1963/2000 BFM chapter 3: By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.
The problem is that by re-arranging the phrases, the revisions state that a person becomes guilty of sin only after he consciously sins. The biblical and historic Baptist position was that a man is born guilty of the original sin that he committed in Adam. The primary scriptural reference for this idea is Romans 5:12 "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned"
1742 Philadelphia Confession chapter 22, paragraph 8 The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.
1833 New Hampshire Confession chapter 3: We believe that the first day of the week is the Lord's Day, or Christian Sabbath; and is to be kept sacred to religious purposes, by abstaining from all secular labor and sinful recreations; by the devout observance of all the means of grace, both private and public; and by preparation for that rest that remaineth for the people of God.
1858 Abstract of Principles chapter 17: The Lord's Day is a Christian institution for regular observance, and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, resting from worldly employments and amusements, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.
1925 BFM chapter 14; 1963 BFM chapter 7: The first day of the week is the Lord's day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.
2000 BFM chapter 7: The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The unbelievably flippant change to this section reflects a misunderstanding of the Law and the Gospel that would have been unthinkable to Baptist ministers of previous centuries. Some of our fellow ministers and many of our dear people have come to believe that The Lord’s Day should merely include worship alongside worldly entertainments, and that whether or not a Christian pursues business on The Lord’s Day is simply a matter for his own conscience. Perhaps you followed the story that Lifeway Stores are working on The Lord's Day this month to do annual inventory, which in past years they had always done on Saturday afternoons. Is that really the direction we want to go?
Brothers, did our late-20th-century generation of Baptists suddenly know better on these three doctrines than did the several generations of Baptists before them? Were the Baptist men who penned these documents in the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s truly in error? Or could it be that on these issues, we have failed to learn the lessons that they knew so well?
May the Lord bless you and our Baptist churches as you study these important doctrines. I have put my flame suit on, and look forward to reading your comments.
Love in Christ,
1646 London Confession of Baptist Faith (First London)
1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith (essentially the same as the 1677/89 2nd London)
1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith (the basis for the 1925 BFM)
1858 Southern Seminary Abstract of Principles
1925, 1963, and 2000 BFM Side-By-Side
Monday, February 19, 2007
A Blessed Trip to Valliant, Oklahoma
This past Lord’s Day, we woke up in the home of our friends Matt and Lisa Kennedy. We attended Grace Community Bible Church, a reformed Baptist church in Bonham, Texas. Brother Dale Sterzer had invited me to preach in his place, which I did, and which was a great blessing to me. We praised the Lord through singing, prayer, The Communion of the Lord’s Supper, and fellowship with the believers in that church.
After lunch with the Kennedys, we hit the road for the 1 ½-hour trip to Trinity Baptist Church of Valliant, OK. Brother Dale was gracious to drive us men and two of the children in his car, while the ladies and the rest of the children drove in our Suburban.
While we drove, Dale, Matt, and I listened to a sermon from Paul Washer. His cry for the authentic Gospel in the SBC is something all Baptist ministers should hear.
We arrived early at the beautiful campus of the church, and were amazed at the lovely property and buildings. Brother Wes Kenney and his sweet wife Debra invited is into their home, which they have decorated in good style, with a Native Texan theme! Kenney, Young, and Kennedy children all played together out in the beautiful sunny afternoon. Susan, Lisa, and Debra prepared a very nice supper, which we all enjoyed together.
At 6:30 we walked next door for worship. It was a nice, typical country Baptist church worship service, with prayer, lively hymn singing, and a beautifully-sung solo about Jesus’ death and resurrection.
When Brother Wes called on me to preach, I began by thanking the church for their hospitality, and for explaining what was happening. I told the people that it was a cooperative effort by several sister Baptist churches to accomplish a particularly difficult task in the Lord’s work---finding a new pastor for a church that needs one.
One of our Baptist churches in Oklahoma, searching for a pastor, had received my resume from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, contacted me, and asked to come hear me preach. Brother Wes and Trinity Baptist Church of Valliant opened their pulpit to me, and so members of the pulpit committee traveled there to meet me and hear my preaching. Friends from Grace church in Bonham came in support. Our pastors and others from Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, TX, where we attend were praying for us. It was a beautiful scene of cooperation and fellowship among like-minded Christians.
I tried, with the Lord’s help, to preach the Gospel with little regard for the fact that my preaching was being evaluated by men. The text was Mark 8:31, and the main ideas were:
1) Who the Son of Man Is,
2) What He Had to Do,
3) Why He Had to Do It, and
4) What Our Response Should Be
Within a few minutes of starting, the Spirit caused me to forget the opinions of men, and preach the truth of the Scriptures as best I know it. I praise the Lord for keeping me faithful.
After the worship service, the pulpit committee members met with me for a conversation. They had questions about why I left my previous church pastorate, what I think about worship music style, and what I believe about youth ministry. We found ourselves in basic agreement on these things. I asked them questions about the previous pastor of their church, and what conflicts may have led to his resignation. They we very open and honest about the situation, which I appreciated. I expressed to them my confidence that God is sovereign over these affairs, and that we can all seek His wisdom and count on His faithfulness to lead us. We had prayer together, and left the meeting feeling blessed by the Lord bringing us together.
We listened to another good Paul Washer sermon on the way home, and arrived safely.
We should have gone to bed, as it was close to midnight, but we stayed up talking for quite a while about how to make a wise decision about accepting or not accepting a church pastorate. I finally turned in with my priceless wife in the wee hours of the morning, feeling mightily blessed of the Lord.
I thank the Lord for all the support that you friends and family have given me during this time.
May all praise and thanks be given to God, through the Son Jesus Christ!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Restoring Two Old Things for God's Use
After a period of waiting, God has graciously given me some meaningful work to do! Starting today, I have the privilege of repairing an old car and an old house for His use.
Back in October, I bought a 1986 Mercury Cougar for $800. It had been gently used and kept in the garage most of its life, but had spent a few painful months being unloved by a college student. When I bought it, it was undamaged, but dirty inside and out, low on oil, and low on coolant. It had a shredded belt, a turn signal stalk broken off, one headlight assembly smashed, and one tire flat. God helped me work on it, and within a week I had fixed all those minor problems on the cheap. After some vacuuming, washing, rubbing, and polishing, the old car looked and ran great. It passed inspection and entered God's service.
I drove the old car wherever God sent me for about one month, racking up 2,000 very stylish, pleasant, fuel efficient miles. (Our suburban is great, but it gets 12 mpg!) Then----I saw the dreaded tan color at the bottom of the dipstick, which means the head gasket (probably) is leaking antifreeze into the oil passages. The car has been sitting like that for two sad months, because repairs by a mechanic are cost prohibitive, and I had nowhere to work on it myself. But a few days ago my dear father-in-law, Larry Jones, offered me space under his carport to do repairs. I brought the car here yesterday, and today I get started! When the car is finished, it will be ready to take me back and forth several times between here (Arlington, TX) and Bonham, TX, where my next restoration project is located.
That project is the old parsonage at Grace Community Bible Church (sorry, no web site---yet!), a small, struggling reformed Baptist church in a wrong-side-of-the-tracks neighborhood. I’ll tell more about that project next time. For now, please pray that God will enable me by His Spirit to do some mechanic work and carpenter work to restore this old car and old house for His use!
Thank You to all of you who have cared about me, kept up with me, and prayed for me every since I left my old church in November. God is taking good care of my family and me in answer to your prayers, and in keeping with His faithfulness.
Love in Christ,
Friday, December 29, 2006
Acts Brand Gospel-Some Assembly Required
The following story is a satirical attempt to spur you into study of how the apostles shared the Gospel, as recorded in the book of Acts.
Love in Christ,
I wanted to give my next-door neighbor just the right Christmas present, so I decided to give him a Gospel. Normally I buy religious presents at a store called Twentieth Century America, but that store is so crowded around Christmas that you can’t even find a parking spot. So I went down to the old Acts of the Apostles store the day before Christmas and picked up a do-it-yourself Gospel Kit (some assembly required). Back home again, I opened the box, got out all the pieces, and spread them on the floor of the garage. There was a book of instructions for how to assemble a Gospel, but I knew how to put one together without any help, as I had seen my preacher put them together many times before.
First, I decided to put on the “God loves you.” But I looked at the pieces, and there wasn’t one there. I shook the box upside down and looked inside it, but there was no “God loves you” anywhere in the Acts Gospel Kit. So, I reached up on the shelf and took down my New Believer Kit, which a pastor had given me for my birthday some years before. After blowing off the dust, tearing off the shrink-wrap, and opening the box, I saw that there were several “God loves you”s in there, so I took one out and stuck it on the front of my neighbor’s Gospel.
Second, I thought a “God has a wonderful plan for your life” would look nice right under the “God loves you.” Again I looked through the pieces, checked in the empty box, but still couldn’t find a “wonderful plan” piece. Well, I knew I had seen one somewhere, so I checked in the New Believer Kit, and, sure enough, there it was. I took it and put it on my neighbor’s Gospel right next to the “God loves you.”
I was beginning to think that this Gospel Kit was defective, but it was Christmas Eve, so I really needed to get it assembled for my neighbor.
The third piece I reached for was the “age of accountability.” By now I was not surprised that my defective Gospel Kit did not have this piece, either. I was surprised, though, that there wasn’t one in my New Believer Kit, either. I began to rummage through the pieces of the Gospel Kit looking for something that would fit in its place. There was an “original sin” part, and an “actual transgressor” piece, but I didn’t like how those looked. Well, I’m pretty handy with tools, so in no time I just fashioned my own “age of accountability” piece and put it on the Gospel.
The fourth piece I reached for was the “Jesus is the Son of God.” Everyone knows that’s an important part of any good Gospel. Even though none of the first three pieces had been in the kit, I was sure this part would be. I looked, then looked again, and then looked a third time in utter disbelief. There was not even a “Son of God” in this defective Gospel Kit! At that point, I thought I must have bought the wrong thing. I don’t often shop at Acts of the Apostles, so maybe I picked the wrong kit off the shelf. Reaching for the box, I carefully read the label.
Acts of the Apostles brand
Contents: one complete Gospel presentation, one set assembly instructions
Some assembly required; no special tools needed
After making a note to self not to shop at Acts of the Apostles any more, I looked with high hopes into my New Believer Kit. You guessed it---there was a nice-looking Son of God piece right in there. I hooked it to my homemade “age of accountability,” and stepped back to admire my work. The Gospel was looking pretty good, in my opinion, despite the faulty kit, and I thought my neighbor would love it.
Things went much smoother after that. There was a “sin” piece in the kit, although I didn’t recognize it at first, because it didn’t look like what I was expecting. I reached for the “Jesus died for you” piece, and although there wasn’t one of those, the “Jesus died on a cross” piece fit okay. Imagine my relief when the “forgiveness” part was there, and looked just like I thought it should! The kit’s “repent” piece was a pretty good substitute for the “admit” piece I was looking for, and there was a “believe” part, even though it wasn’t quite the shape or color I had in mind. When I tried to put the “repent” on before the “believe,” it wouldn’t fit, but switching them around, they fit perfectly. It looked okay like that, so I just left it that way.
I happened to notice that the “be baptized” piece was a perfect fit to go on right after the “repent.” There were some more pieces, though, so I set it aside for later.
My next real snag was when I looked for the “receive the free gift,” the “ask Jesus into your heart,” and the “make Jesus Lord” pieces. Those pieces were not present in either kit. Again, I had to go back to the workbench and make my own. But even when I did, they wouldn’t fit onto the end of the “repent.” I had to get out the super glue to get them to stay.
Once those homemade pieces were in place, I got out the “be baptized” part but it didn’t fit well on the back of the “make Jesus Lord.” It didn’t seem that important to me anyway, so I just left it off.
I was sure I was finished, but there were several pieces still left on the floor of the garage. Along with the “be baptized,” there was a great big “resurrection,” an “exalted to the right hand of God,” a “Lord and Christ,” a “fulfillment of prophecy,” and a “creation and providence.” These pieces seemed unnecessary to me, so I just put them back in the box and put it on the shelf of the garage, along with my “New Believer” kit.
I wrapped the Gospel I had assembled in Santa Claus wrapping paper and gave it to my neighbor. He politely thanked me, and I went home to enjoy Christmas with my family.
A few days later, I checked with my neighbor. I said, “Did you open the present? What did you think of it?” My neighbor answered, “I have never received a Gospel before, and I was curious about it. I turned it on, and it made me feel really good. I decided I would get it out and turn it on whenever I need to feel better. Thank you very much for giving it to me.”
Monday, December 18, 2006
Irony of Modern-Day Christmas
Here's some Christmas irony for you:
This season is supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. One way we celebrate is to give gifts to others, ostensibly to remember God's gift to us, the Wise Men's gifts to Jesus, and the generosity of the original Saint Nicholas, 3rd-4th century bishop in Turkey.
But in our modern-day Western celebration of Christmas, the gift-giving has taken on a life of its own. The advertising, shopping, buying (including charging), wrapping, mailing, giving, opening, and returning :) of gifts threaten to overwhelm the rest of the holiday, including what the central meaning originally was meant to be.
The irony comes when we consider what Jesus Himself said about money/stuff/possessions/mammon. To summarize His words in Matthew 6:19-34---Do not worship money or possessions, and do not worry about money or possessions. He said this, but in our modern day, we celebrate His birth by worshiping and worrying over money and possessions more than at any other time of the year!
To make the situation more intensely ironic, some Christians apply even this scripture passage as follows:
"Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow, so I will just borrow all the money I want/need to this Christmas through my credit cards, then trust Him to help me repay it all after the first of the year."
O, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, how it must grieve the Lord to see this holiday, which is ostensibly still about His birth, corrupted to this point.
Won't you, this year, obey Christ's commands regarding this matter?
Do not worship money and possessions. Do not worry about money and possessions.
Merry Christmas to all!
Love in Christ,
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Alive, Well, and Standing on the Solid Rock
I apologize for having disappeared so abruptly from the Baptist Blogging world several weeks ago. I deeply appreciate those of you who have contacted me with an encouraging word, and who have prayed for my family and me.
In early November, I resigned from my place of ministry, and have been faced with the task of moving my large family and our large collection of stuff out of the parsonage where we lived. Blogging went WAY down on my list of priorities.
We have now successfully moved out in good order, and are gypsy-ing around among the homes of friends and relatives. The Lord has blessed me with opportunities to preach, especially at FBC of Leonard, TX, where the pastor and other members have made us feel very welcome. Fellow bloggers Wes Kenney, Ben Cole, C.B. Scott, and Wade Burleson have actively helped me, and I appreciate that very much. I am seeking another place of service, and waiting on the Lord to show me where to go.
Because of the controversy within the church that lead to my resignation, I have decided not to recount what happened just yet, at least until the dust settles.
For now, my wife Susan, my children, and I are enjoying a very blessed Christmas season. God is showing us every day that He is taking care of everything.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Love in Christ,
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Revival Meetings, Seminary Extension, and Family Stuff
Monday, August 28, 2006
Eric Liddell-Chariots of Fire
Dear Courteous Reader,
Has it really been 25 years since Chariots of Fire? Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, brought this to the attention of the blogging world last week, and invited fellow bloggers to write an article about the movie's effects on our lives.
Thank you, Michael. Here goes:
My mother took my friend Paul Hesse (Paul, are you out there?) and me to see the movie in the theater when it was released. My mom almost never took us to the movies, and I didn't understand why this one until much later. We were 12 years old, and did not know the story at all before going to the movie. I remember being excited by the race scenes, and intrigued by the 1920s cultural trappings, but I am sure I missed the point.
Now, 25 years later, I assure you that I get the point. Eric Liddell was a devout Christian, and a Scot. It has been said that in his time almost all of Scotland observed the Christian Sabbath, and very little activity could be seen in the streets or the countryside on The Lord's Day. Eric Liddell and his like-minded countrymen believed firmly that the 10 Commandments, including the Sabbath command, are eternal laws that reflect the essence of who God is. Liddell was able to say that he would not race on "the Sabbath," even in the Olympics, and maintain that conviction despite pressure from coaches, fans, teammates, and even the prince.
In our modern times, when even committed Christians are very unsure of the continuing relevance of the 10 Commandments, Eric Liddell's witness is desperately needed. A Christian today will typically say, "I have to work on Sunday," meaning that if he doesn't he may be fired from his job at Stuff Mart. But would that Christian murder to keep his job? Would he lie, steal, or commit adultery to keep his job? No, he would not do those things. But he does not understand that there are 10 Commandments, not 9 Commandments and 1 Principle.
Eric Liddell understood the importance of the 10 Commandments, and was willing to obey them no matter the cost.
The movie ends with Liddell's amazing gold-medal run. But his witness does not end there. Instead, it continued to his departure aboard a ship bound for China, where he served as a missionary for many years. It continued to his internment in a Japanese prison camp, where he died. It continued in Scotland, where the whole country mourned. It continues in its influence on prominent Christians, such as Alistair Begg, who refers to Liddell often in his preaching, and Twila Paris, who wrote a song about Liddell and fellow missionary Jim Elliott. It continues in the life of every young Christian who hears the story or sees the movie for the first time. And it continues in my life. Hardly a day goes by that I do not think of Eric Liddell, either running his heart out in a race for which he had not trained, or standing up to the prince, or preaching in the rain, or boarding the boat for China, or keeping the faith until death far from home.
God used an unlikely director and an unlikely actor to point the attention of the world to a very likely hero. May his memory continue to point us to God and His law and His Son. Amen.
Love in Christ,
Monday, August 21, 2006
Knowing Christ Jesus
Shortly after he came home, he went to church on Sunday morning, and saw the most beautiful young lady he had ever seen, singing in the church choir. For the next several weeks, this young man was very faithful in church attendance! He had a hard time paying attention to the preacher, though, because his gaze kept drifting to the beautiful girl on the first row of the choir loft.
For a few weeks, he tried to get up the nerve to speak to her, but he wasn’t able to do so. Then, one day, his mother said, “Your sister and her new friend want to go up to the lake. She’s a really nice girl, and I’d like you to get to know her. Since you have that new car, would you please take them this Saturday?” He said, “Ah, Ma, I’m not taking my sister to the lake this Saturday. There are two races down at the dirt track. Dut and Sneezy and I are going to be down there all day.”
So, Saturday morning came around, and the young man was getting in the car to go to the races, when his little sister’s friend walked up to the house. And who do you suppose it was? That’s right---it was the girl from the church choir! Suddenly he forgot all about the races, and had a strong urge to go to the lake!
These lovebirds married in 1954, and celebrated their 50th anniversary before he passed away in 2005. This is the story of how my mother and father, Richard and Amy Young, met and fell in love.
For weeks my father admired my mother from a distance. There was a wonderful relationship waiting for him, and all it took was getting to know each other.
In the same way, Jesus Christ is a beautiful Savior, and he loves us very deeply already. But we need to get to know Him for us to fall more deeply in love with Him.
Consider this passage of Scripture:
(Philippians 3:7-11) But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (8) What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (10) I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (11) and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
I’ve been tagged by Brother Tim Sweatman. Thanks, Tim; I needed a break from the Welch’s controversy of the past two days.
1. One book that changed your life: Quest for Godliness by J.I. Packer
I am supposed to tag four people, so Bob Cleveland, Wayne Smith, Jamie Wooten, and Wayne Hatcher, you’re it!
Love in Christ,
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Help-Outgunned and Overmatched!
I just threw down on the alcohol issue over at the new SBTC Blog. It's just me against Dr. Jim Richards, Editor Gary Ledbetter, Dr. Brad Reynolds, Dr. Jerry Vines, and all six seminary presidents.
It's hardly fair, me against all of them. Could someone come over and give these outgunned, overmatched guys a hand? :)
Love in Christ,
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Do We Have to Get Re-Married?
My dear wife Susan Kathleen (Jones) and I were married July 25, 1992. She was beautiful then, both inside and out, but she is 140 times as beautiful 14 years later. For Jesus to be fairer than she is, He must be fair indeed, and worthy of much worship. God has blessed us with our precious children, sustained our marriage, and blessed us in a thousand other ways. We are very thankful.
There's one problem, though, which has just occurred to me now, on our anniversary. We were not married in a Baptist church, but at Pantego Bible Church in Arlington, Texas. To make matters worse, the wedding ceremony was conducted by Dr. Elliot Johnson, who is not a Baptist minister. In fact he is (do I dare say it?) an elder in a Bible church, and a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, which is not a Baptist seminary.
We are presently serving in a church here in the states. But what if we are ever led to apply for missionary service with the International Mission Board? Will we have to get re-married?
I ask this because last November, the IMB Board of Trustees passed a new policy indicating that if a candidate for missionary appointment had not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church, or one VERY similar, he should request “baptism” in his local Baptist church for identification with the system of beliefs held by Southern Baptists. Here is the quote:
a. Baptism is a church ordinance. Baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.
In adopting this policy, the IMB BOT has created a new breed of hybrid. Their policy is two parts old Landmark ecclesiology, which states that only Baptist churches are real churches, only churches can baptize, and therefore a “baptism” ceremony performed by anyone else is not valid. Hence the need for “real” baptism before entering a Baptist church. Part a. and most of part b. of the new policy are pretty good Landmarkism. Most Southern Baptists, including this author, do not adhere to very much of the Landmark system, but at least the IMB policy is in line with someone's beliefs.
The third part, though, would be disavowed by good Landmark Baptists, and in fact by well-studied Baptists of every stripe. It conveys the idea that the missionary candidate has already been baptized for the biblical reason---to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ--- but now must be “baptized” again for another reason, to demonstrate that he believes what Southern Baptists believe. If that third part is not derived from Landmarkism, what is its origin? Sadly, it comes from the kind of careless, ignorant ecclesiology that has become all too common of late in our churches. The idea that the person who has already been baptized must be “baptized” again, or, as is commonly said, “re-baptized” to state his denominational affiliation is common among the uninitiated in our churches, but is to be found nowhere in the Bible, certainly, nor anywhere in serious theological scholarship.
(Pardon me a moment---cough, cough, cough---every time I hear the nonsense word “re-baptized” I begin to choke, cough, sneeze, wheeze, and hyperventilate all at the same time. Please give me a moment, and a paper bag. No, not a Wal-mart bag, son! Okay, thanks. Ah, that’s better.)
In all of the hubbub over abstinence from alcohol, church discipline, Calvinism, election of officers, requirements for church membership, and other matters that have consumed the Southern Baptist denomination over the past few weeks, we seem to have lost sight of what started the whole thing---it’s about Baptism!
We are Baptists! We know that baptism is one thing, and one thing only: Baptism is an act of obedience whereby the believer identifies with Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Sure, more can be said about its significance, but that is the bottom line. Do not try to tell us that baptism is a ceremony that means whatever we say it means. Do not try to use baptism as a denominational loyalty pledge. God chose baptism precisely because it is a powerful picture of the heart of the Gospel. The believer is lowered into the water, as Jesus was lowered from the cross and into the tomb. The believer is then raised from the water, as Jesus was raised from the tomb to life! If the IMB BOT wants us to cheapen that God-given ordinance into something we do to identify ourselves as loyal Southern Baptists, they have another thing coming.
Susan and I do not intend to be re-married. We have already been married. We are already married.
Neither do I intend to be “re-baptized” (cough, cough, cough) for any reason, least of all to show that I am a good Southern Baptist.
The IMB BOT’s ridiculous policy must be repealed, and the trustees will see no end of opposition from well-versed Baptists until it is repealed.
Love in Christ,
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