Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The election of Sen. Barack Obame as the 44th President of the United States came as a bang, not a whimper. The tremors had been perceptible for days, maybe even weeks. On Tuesday, America experienced nothing less than a political and cultural earthquake.
The margin of victory for the Democratic ticket was clear. Americans voted in record numbers and with tangible enthusiasm. By the end of the day, it was clear that Barack Obama would be elected with a majority of the popular vote and a near landslide in the Electoral College. When President-Elect Obama greeted the throngs of his supporters in Chicago's Grant Park, he basked in the glory of electoral energy.
For many of us, the end of the night brought disappointment. In this case, the disappointment is compounded by the sense that the issues that did not allow us to support Sen. Obama are matters of life and death -- not just political issues of heated debate. Furthermore, the margin of victory and sense of a shift in the political landscape point to greater disappointments ahead. We all knew that so much was at stake.
For others, the night was magical and momentous. Young and old cried tears of amazement and victory as America elected its first African-American President -- and elected him overwhelmingly. Just forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, an African-American stood to claim victory as President-Elect of the nation. As Sen. Obama assured the crowd in Chicago and the watching nation, "We will get there. We will get there." No one hearing those words could fail to hear the refrain of plaintive words spoken in Memphis four decades ago. President-Elect Obama would stand upon the mountaintop that Dr. King had foreseen.
That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans -- not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama. As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again. Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States. The President. The only President. The elected President. Our President.
Every American should be moved by the sight of young African-Americans who -- for the first time -- now believe that they have a purchase in American democracy. Old men and old women, grandsons and granddaughters of slaves and slaveholders, will look to an African-American as President.
Regardless of politics, could anyone remain unmoved by the sight of Jesse Jackson crying alone amidst the crowd in Chicago? This dimension of Election Day transcends politics and touches the heart of the American people.
Yet, the issues and the politics remain. Given the scale of the Democratic victory, the political landscape will be completely reshaped. The fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn human beings has been set back by a great loss, and by the election of a President who has announced his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law. The struggle to protect marriage against its destruction by redefinition is now complicated by the election of a President who has declared his aim to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. On issue after issue, we face a longer, harder, and more protracted struggle than ever before.
Still, we must press on as advocates for the unborn, for the elderly, for the infirm, and for the vulnerable. We must redouble our efforts to defend marriage and the integrity of the family. We must be vigilant to protect religious liberty and the freedom of the pulpit. We face awesome battles ahead.
At the same time, we must be honest and recognize that the political maps are being redrawn before our eyes. Will the Republican Party decide that conservative Christians are just too troublesome for the party and see the pro-life movement as a liability? There is the real danger that the Republicans, stung by this defeat, will adopt a libertarian approach to divisive moral issues and show conservative Christians the door.
Others will declare these struggles over, arguing that the election of Sen. Obama means that Americans in general -- and many younger Evangelicals in particular -- are ready to "move on" to other issues. This is no time for surrender or the abandonment of our core principles. We face a much harder struggle ahead, but we have no right to abandon the struggle.
We should look for opportunities to work with the new President and his administration where we can. We must hope that he will lead and govern as the bridge-builder he claimed to be in his campaign. We must confront and oppose the Obama administration where conscience demands, but work together where conscience allows.
Evangelical Christians face another challenge with the election of Sen. Obama, and a failure to rise to this challenge will bring disrepute upon the Gospel, as well as upon ourselves. There must be absolutely no denial of the legitimacy of President-Elect Obama's election and no failure to accord this new President the respect and honor due to anyone elected to that high office. Failure in this responsibility is disobedience to a clear biblical command.
Beyond this, we must commit ourselves to pray for this new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We are commanded to pray for rulers, and this new President faces challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. May God grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.
We must pray that God will protect this nation even as the new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.
We must pray that God would change President-Elect Obama's mind and heart on issues of our crucial concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.
Without doubt, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must expect to be frustrated and disappointed. We may find ourselves to be defeated and discouraged. We must keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up nations and pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think as unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.
America has chosen a President. President-Elect Barack Obama is that choice, and he faces a breathtaking array of challenges and choices in days ahead. This is the time for Christians to begin praying in earnest for our new President. There is no time to lose.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Thanks to Stephen Lawson and Christ Fellowship Baptist Church for their desire to advance the glorious work of preaching.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Hurricane Gustav blew through Baton Rouge with power never before experienced in our city. Six days after the storm many are still without power. I'm writing this with my router plugged into a generator. While there have been many cities who have experienced much more powerful storms with much more catastrophic damage this is new for us. It seemed surreal when Don Elbourne, pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church, paid a visit on Thursday snapping photos with his camera. It was only three years ago that we were at his church after Hurricane Katrina snapping photos. The only thing left of their building was the steeple. Lakeshore also suffered damage from Hurricane Gustav.
I am reminded again of who rules this world. He sovereignly governs all things according to His good pleasure (Daniel 4:35); He owns all things (Psalm 89:11); and He does all things for His own glory (Romans 8:36). Our church facility belongs to God. Does He not have the right to do with it as He pleases? We belong to God. Does He not have the right to direct our lives as He is pleased (Romans 9:20-21)?
I found out on Friday that we could be out of our building for over four months. God has already proven Himself mighty and faithful in His grace and mercy towards us. The insurance company has sent a crew to begin restoration. Special thanks to Pastor Philip Guay and Cedarcrest Baptist Church in allowing us to hold services at their facility on Sunday afternoons. We can only say, "To God be all the glory, Amen."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
After God created man He commanded him to, "Be fruitful, and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). After the flood this command was repeated to Noah (Gen. 8:16-17). Again, God gave the command to Jacob (Gen. 35:11). While this is not a command to have as many children as one possibly can without regard for other issues involved in the wise ordering of the family, it does place a high value upon children. Raising many children should be seen as a blessing rather than a curse. It is also a reminder to us that a part of being responsible adults is having children.
We live in a generation that has produced scores of self-centered, immature adults. Past generations have not done an adequate job in preparing children for adulthood. We have invented a category of life called adolescence in which childish behavior and irresponsibility are considered the norm. This period of life sometimes extends well past the age of 30. In an interview on CNN in 2005 Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary said, "Parenthood is a part of helping to create adults. We grow up by having children. Without that responsibility, we have a generation of perpetual adolescence just growing old."
We need to be training our children to understand the responsibilities of adulthood. By the time they reach their teenage years they should be seriously considering the future. At the age of 12 Jesus was in the Temple considering the issues of life, not bouncing about as a child. Not every adult will enter into marriage. We need to understand, however, that as married adults it is our responsibility and duty to have children. "Be ye fruitful and multiply." We need to understand that maturity means looking beyond our selfish interests and seizing the responsibilities that are a part of adulthood.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Let me say at the very beginning that I have high respect for John Piper. His passion for preaching and his great love for Christ is not to be diminished. His ministry has been a blessing to many Christians. However, I believe his wisdom is flawed on this issue. To restate the issue, John Piper and his elders are arguing that if a person has been baptized as an infant and believes his baptism is valid, he should be not be denied membership into a baptist church (Bethlehem Baptist Church). They believe the issue of excluding a Christians from membership into the local church is of greater importance than the issue of baptismal correctness. Their premise is the local church should mirror the Universal Church. If a person is a part of the Universal Church he must not be denied membership into a local church.
Let me state just a few inconsistencies in Piper's reasoning and dangers in his position. In his first sermon he did a wonderful job in laying out the importance of the local church. He stated that church membership involves discipline, submission to the elders, and accountability. Submission, however, must include the acceptance of doctrine. We must understand that while the local church should seek to mirror the Universal Church, we must also understand that the local church will never be absolutely pure this side of glory. The local church does not perfectly mirror the Universal Church. This is why we have confessional statements and why we have associations of like-minded churches. A confession of faith states what a local church believes about the Bible. Local churches do not always share the same beliefs . Our church holds to a particular confession (The London Baptist Confession). We believe that our confession reflects the teachings of Scripture. We do not believe that the differing views of other churches have equal validity. This would be tantamount to relativism - that there is no absolute truth. While we believe that every believer has error mixed in with his theology we also believe we must stand upon what we know to be the truth. Trinity Baptist Church believes that Biblical baptism is to be administered to believers alone by immersion. A person cannot claim to come under submission to our church and at the same time refuse to submit to this baptism.
In his second sermon Piper correctly states that baptism is big, huge. He says, "When we talk about baptism we are not talking mainly about religious ritual. We are not talking about a church tradition. We're talking about Christ!" Baptism reflects the glorious Gospel of Christ. He states that baptism is "uncompromisingly commanded" by Christ, "universally administered" by the church and "uniquely connected to conversion." With these glorious statements about Biblical baptism one has to wonder how Piper can conclude that Baptism is optional for church membership. His position is that if a Christian is convinced that his infant baptism is valid he should be allowed membership and hopefully, at some point, come to an understanding of the truth. We must be absolutely clear here. A person who has been baptized as an infant HAS NOT been baptized, period. It doesn't matter whether he believes he has been baptized. According to the Biblical definition of baptism he has NOT been baptized. Piper makes two essential statements in his sermons. In his first sermon he states that church membership involves submission. In the second sermon he states that baptism is "uncompromisingly commanded" by Christ. If Baptism is uncompromisingly commanded by Christ then it is NOT improper for the local church to demand baptism as a prerequisite for church membership.
Piper's argument is that it is vile and heinous to exclude a Christian from church membership. I argue that it is more heinous to disregard the explicit command of Christ in order to add people to the local church. If Christ has commanded us to be baptized it is not only correct for our church to demand it, it is essential that we demand it. Baptism must be a prerequisite for church membership.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Whatever happened to the family? There was a time in our nation when the family was the bedrock of society. No matter what else was happening, the family stood as an unshakable source of stability for children; the place where needs were met and, most important, the place where the principles of morality were taught. Today, only a shadow of this God ordained institution remains and as a result our culture is on the brink of ruin. What happened? Who's to blame? Who is responsible for the great fall of the family from it's unshakable place upon the wall?
It is difficult to place the blame on one single source. Satan's resources are large. You might look to the spirit of rebellion that began in the 1950's and 60's, an attitude that turned away from anything that was traditional. The family of "Leave it to Beaver" was abandoned for what was described as "free love." Premarital sex and "living together" became the "in" thing to do. Today, many young people have turned away from traditional marriage. The consequences of these attitudes have been devastating as the illegitimate birthrate continues to climb and new cases of sexually trasmitted diseases continue to skyrocket. Even before the 1960's, however, the government was doing it's part to destroy the family. Through the operation of a welfare state the role of the father has been greatly diminished and his function has been given over to the state. And we cannot fail to recognize the effect Hollywood continues to have upon the morality of our nation. In the 1950's most television shows depicted traditional two parent families, but today this is not the case. Today there seems to be a clear agenda of assaulting the traditional family. There is also the power of the homosexual lobby that is continuing to promote same-sex unions as normal. With funding from corporations like McDonald's they are quickly changing public attitudes about what defines a family. The bottom line is, it is difficult to place the blame for the demise of the family at one single source.
So what is the solution? Can the family be put back together again? If it can it won't be by the power of the government. "All the kings horses and all the king's men" will fall short in putting the family back together again. I believe the solution rests upon the church. The family is defined by the Word of God. The family is strengthened as it conforms to God's perfect design for the family. The church must regain its voice and speak clearly applying God's Word to the hearts of men. Christian families must serve as models of God's design for the family. The King of kings can surely put the family back together again.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
For July 4th here's a touch of patriotism. These young girls sang the Star Spangled Banner at a Texas Tech Basketball game. They range from 9 to 16 years of age.
God has blessed our land with rich measures of His grace. Oh that our people might recognize God's bounty and praise Him for His goodness.
Monday, June 30, 2008
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
This statement is a statement of theology. It is making a statement about God; that God has granted certain unalienable rights to all men -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you make theological statements, however, they must be absolutely true. Of these rights we would certainly agree that life is granted by God. The Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" demonstrates that God has a high view of life. We should do all that we can do to protect life. There are elements of this statement in the Declaration, however, that are not completely true. First, the Bible does not declare absolute liberty to be an unalienable right. No man lives under absolute freedom. All men are under authority and are commanded to submit to that authority. There are familial authorities, civil authorities, ecclesiastical authorities, etc. there are many libertarians today who push for zero restraint. Such a condition of absolute autonomy does not exist upon the earth. Second, the Bible does not declare happiness as an absolute, unalienable right. The Bible confined happiness to a very narrow definition. The Bible does not guarantee the right to satisfy every carnal lust. We have the right to pursue God and true happiness is to be found in that pursuit. For many, the concept of independence is actually lawlessness. They feel they have an unalienable right to live without restraints or accountability.
The truth is, freedom can only be found in Christ. The lost man is rebellious and self-willed, continually seeking autonomy from God and His Law. In reality he is bound up in slavery. He is held captive by sin and Satan and has not way of escaping from this servitude. The Christian has surrendered his will to Christ. The Christian has thrown down every bastion of independence and has signed a declaration of dependence. But in surrendering all of his liberties to Christ he has actually found true freedom. In Christ we have been set free from sin and Satan and granted great liberty as we gladly serve Christ. We have found true happiness as we find our full enjoyment in Christ.
This Independence Day may we take time to celebrate the true liberty we have been granted in Christ.
Monday, June 23, 2008
On Saturday we completed our 2008 Vacation Bible School. God has blessed our small congregation with a large number of children. VBS is grand fun for them but there is a much higher purpose. During this annual event we have an opportunity to present the Gospel clearly and directly. This is the focus of our labor. I pray that God will take the Gospel that they heard and press it upon their young hearts. I'm grateful to pastor a congregation of people who have a burden for the souls of men.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Space isn't sufficient here to expound on the created differences between men and women. For more information on this you can examine a recent study we had at Trinity titled, "The Biblical Role of Women." It might be a shock to some, but men and women are not the same. Although all are equal as we stand before God, men and women were not created the same. Peter described the woman as the "weaker vessel." Real men behaving as God created them should naturally seek to protect and provide for women. What kind of country sends its mothers to fight its wars. It really isn't the issue of ability. A woman may be able to fly a plane, maneuver a tank, and fire a gun but she has no place on the battlefield.
Let me give seven reasons why I don't think women should serve in the military:
(1) God designed men in such as way as to fulfill their role upon the earth. They are to be providers and protectors of their family. As I stated above, they should seek to protect and treasure their wives, mothers, and daughters. God gave men this instinct. This was the natural response of men as the Titanic was going down - put the women and children in the lifeboats. Women are pushing harder and harder for more active roles in combat. It is predicted that over the next two years all restraints will be lifted (LA Times.) On the battlefield a man will naturally seek to protect a woman. This can obviously be a distraction in a combat situation and actually put a mission in jeopardy.
(2) God designed women as nurturers. As women fall farther and farther from their God given design their behavior becomes more and more depraved. What kind of mother would murder her own baby growing in her womb? She becomes worse than an animal. In like manner, what kind of mother would abandon her children to go to war? God designed her to nurture her babies. They feed from her breasts. Children need their mothers. Yes, they need their fathers as well, but young children need their mothers in particular ways. To voluntarily join the military and risk being deployed and separated from her children should be unthinkable. I only shudder at the thought of our nation reinstituting the draft.
(3) Women captured in combat should be a fearful thought. The danger of women being raped or used as a tool for propaganda is great. Why would a nation place their women in such danger. The media coverage of POW Jessica Lynch tells us that deep down we know women shouldn't be in combat. She later admitted she was brutally beaten and raped. With women pushing harder and harder for greater involvement in combat we risk many future Jessica Lynches.
(4) The military is a machine designed and dedicated to fighting and, if necessary, killing our enemies. The military should not be the place for social experimentation.
(5) Women simply are not as physically strong as men. This means they will not have "equal opportunity" for survival on the battle field.
(6) It is inappropriate for men and women to share close quarters with someone with whom they are not married. Battle conditions create intense emotional and psychological stress. Putting men and women in close contact during such times risks unnecessary temptation. As I stated above, men and women are created different. This includes sexual differences. A wise man will not allow himself to be placed in a compromising position. Unfortunately, in a military that places men and women in close contact he is placed in a difficult position. In addition, where men of low moral character are placed in close contact with women there are particular risks involved. Since 2002 there are been 976 cases of sexual assault reported in the military (All Things Considered, October 4, 2007).
(7) This one will probably be most unpopular. Men were created to exercise leadership upon the earth. Women should not have authority over men. I know this is unpopular in today's secular culture. Even some professing Christians voice strong opposition to this viewpoint. But Scripture is clear on this matter. It is the husband that has the authority in his home. It is the men who are to have the leadership in the church (the office of pastor is limited to men alone). In the military women will rise to positions of authority, even giving orders during combat. This is contrary to God's design for men and women.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
The name Rick Warren has become well known among evangelicals. Thousands of churches have joined the “Forty Days of Purpose” parade. While he may have the best of intentions, his driving force seems to be more directed by pragmatism than truth. Most disturbing is his
What is Rick Warren's understanding of the Great Commission? Is not the focus of the Great Commission making disciples? While teaming up with various groups with a common goal of feeding the hungry is a worthy task, teaming up with thousands of churches regardless of creed to spread the Gospel spells disaster. Ecumenism almost always means forsaking truth for the sake of unity.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
A couple years ago John Piper and the elders at
It would appear that many Southern Baptists share similar confusion about Baptism. On May 6, Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., was nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a questionnaire sent by Baptist Press he was asked the following question: The IMB trustee guidelines governing baptism and private prayer language in appointing missionaries: Do you think their action was needed and appropriate? Johnny Hunt responded: “I am not sure that I fully understand all that the IMB trustee guidelines have said, however, if a person has received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and has been baptized by a minister who embraces the Gospel and the Scriptures as we do, their baptism should count in our churches. If James Dobson desired to become part of First Baptist Church Woodstock, I would not require him to be re-baptized.”
The IMB guidelines are not the only thing Johnny Hunt fails to “fully understand.” First, the Bible doesn’t give guidelines for the person performing the baptism. Obviously, as an ordinance of the local church, baptisms should be performed by one of the elders since God has placed them as shepherds of the flock with oversight over the church. However, if a pastor apostatizes from the faith and forsakes his office this would not automatically render all of his baptisms null and void. The Bible does, however, give strict guidelines concerning the one who is baptized as well as the mode of baptism. The Bible knows nothing of the baptism of anyone other than one who has professed faith in Jesus Christ.
Johnny Hunt mentions that he would not require James Dobson to be “re-baptized”. Dobson belongs to the Church of the Nazarene. According to their Articles of Faith on Baptism they state: “Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant, young children may be baptized, upon request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training. Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.”
Baptist baptism (Biblical baptism) does not include infant baptism or baptism by “sprinkling or pouring.” If James Dobson was baptized by sprinkling as an infant he has not been Biblically baptized. We would not require him to be “re-baptized;” we would require him to be baptized. As much as I appreciate the theological work of men such as R.C. Sproul, Charles Hodge, and even John Calvin, each of them would need to be baptized before we would receive them as members into our church.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
It’s tragic that so much of modern science is prejudiced by political agenda. We’ve seen this with the continued promotion of Darwinism even as the scientific evidence is crumbling. And there is no better example than today’s environmentalism. They go from one sensational extreme to the other, always claiming that the earth is heading for some catastrophic meltdown.
In 1974 Time Magazine reported that fluctuations in temperature and rainfall were indisputable proof that the earth was heading for a new ice age. Newsweek reported that the supporting evidence "has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard pressed to keep up with it." The New York Times reported that "a major cooling is widely considered to be inevitable."
Today the fervor has taken a 180 degree turn and we are being warned of the dangers of global warming—that CO2 emissions are creating a “greenhouse” trapping in heat resulting in a rise in the earth’s temperatures. Former Vice President Al Gore claimed in his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that sea levels will rise 18-20 feet. Experts have warned of a great increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes.
Once again, however, there are inconvenient truths that are raining on the Global Warming parade. After years of reporting by various news agencies of the acceleration of Arctic glacier melting, the NOAA issued a report on March 13 that global temperatures this year are the coolest since 2001. Snow cover in Sibera and
This is not to say that there has not been an increase in global temperatures. There has been. But there is no evidence that the increase is being caused by human behavior. In addition, we have not been collecting data long enough to know whether it is a natural cycle or a permanent change. The sensationalists are not willing to admit that it might just be a natural phenomena. Too many are unwilling to take a reasonable approach on the issue. Like so many other issues it has become a tool to advance a particular political agenda.
It is particularly tragic when Christians embrace the sensationalism. As God’s people, we have been given dominion over the earth. We must be good stewards of the environment. But we are also called upon to be wise, temperate, and stable. We must never become anxious and jump on the latest bandwagon. When we fall prey to sensationalism we risk discrediting ourselves in a world that so desperately needs our witness to the Gospel of Christ. And we must never forget that his world is not being governed by forces of nature that operate without rule or design. This world is being governed absolutely by an infinitely powerful God who rules all things according to His perfect will. We must take our responsibility seriously, but we must never forget who governs this world.
Monday, May 19, 2008
What's in a name? The name "Baptist" describes something about us. First, Baptist churches are Protestant churches. Among other things, this means we believe that a man is saved through faith alone in Christ alone by God's grace alone. Second, Baptist churches have a high view of Scripture believing in its authority, infallibility, and sufficiency. Baptist churches have historically been confessional holding to a confession of faith to describe their beliefs. Third, Baptist churches have historically been congregational in polity. This doesn't mean that the local church is a democracy. The church looks to its elders for leadership. Baptist churches, however, recognize the autonomy of the local church and the great authority of the church. Speaking of this authority our Lord said, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). Fourth, Baptist churches have definite beliefs about Biblical baptism. We believe that baptism is prerequisite for church membership, that the only legitimate candidates for baptism are those who have repented of their sins and professed faith in Jesus Christ, and that the only form of baptism is immersion. We see all other forms of baptism as illegitimate. The name "Baptist" tells the world that we hold these beliefs.
Rather than hiding from the name "Baptist" prospective members should be taught what it means. Baptist churches have historically been doctrinal churches. We need to return to the day where our Baptist churches are not afraid of doctrine. The name Baptist should reveal to the community that we are serious about the Word of God. Serious believers should seek out such places to serve and worship God. This is why we are Trinity Baptist Church.
Monday, May 12, 2008
The Bible is sufficient unto the salvation of lost humanity. Over and over we read the charge, "Preach the Word!" This was the method of the Apostles. Paul told the Church of Corinth, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:2-5). The apostles knew the power of God in preaching. Paul told the Thessalonians,
"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Today, the Word of God seems to have fallen on hard times. We no longer believe its power. Most of the emphasis today is on the music. For many pastors this is the most important thing. They claim that their people want to hear lively, contemporary music. They don't want to hear traditional preaching. They want "messages" that are brief, entertaining, and directed to their felt needs. Many have replaced preaching with drama or puppets or other forms of entertainment. We claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture but do we believe in its sufficiency? Oh that we might return to the day when God's Word was thundered from the pulpit with power from on high.
Today the work of the Gospel has become far too much a man-centered work. Instead of humbly submitting ourselves before the sovereign hand of God too many seem to be relying more upon human efforts. We need to step back and reexamine our methodology. J.I. Packer wrote in his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, "Is this way of presenting Christ calculated to impress upon people that the gospel is a word from God? Is it calculated to divert their attention from man and all things merely human to God and His truth? Or is its tendency rather to distract attention from the Author and authority of the message to the person and performance of the messenger? Does it make the gospel sound like a human idea, a preacher's plaything, or like a divine revelation, before which the human messenger himself stands in awe? Does this way of presenting Christ savour of human cleverness and showmanship? Does it tend thereby to exalt man? Or does it embody rather the straightforward, unaffected simplicity of the messenger whose sole concern is to deliver his message, and who has no wish to call attention to himself, and who desires so far as he can to blot himself out and hide, as it were, behind his message, fearing nothing so much as that men should admire and applaud him when they ought to be bowing down and humbling themselves before the mighty Lord whom he represents" (page 87).
It is wonderful that so many are holding to the inerrancy of Scripture, but may we also hold to its sufficiency. May we have our boast with the Apostle, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation. . ." (Romans 1:16).
Monday, May 5, 2008
The concept of the youth group continues to foster the modern notion of adolescence; that there is a period of time between childhood and adulthood in which irresponsibility and foolish behavior is to be excused. Unfortunately, this period of immaturity in our day lasts past the 20's and often well into the 30's. Of a truth, there are only two stages of human development: childhood and adulthood. We should view our teenagers as young adults. At this period of their lives their parents should be wisely helping them to prepare for their future, teaching them how to be Godly husbands and wives and how to order their lives for the glory of God. At the age of 12 was not Jesus sitting in the midst of the teachers listening and asking questions? To segregate teenagers from the influence of their parents and other adults at this crucial period of their lives is a tragic mistake. In our church we do not have a separate class for teenagers. They meet with the adults because we recognize them as young adults which helps them to begin seeing themselves that way.
Youth groups are often used by parents to delegate their responsibility to someone else. Too many parents are too busy with their own lives to give themselves to the instruction of their children. Often, by the time the teenage years roll around they have so little influence in the lives of their children, they place them in the hands of the church youth group in hopes that their children might be positively influenced. Too often the influence is just the opposite - carnal kids teaching each other how to be worldly. Churches would do better to give their energy to training parents of their duty to their children.
Youth groups tend to encourage the so called generation gap. The idea is that these young people will do better when surrounded by their peers. Unfortunately, their peers are poorly equipped to provide the leadership they need. Besides, is there any other time in life when we limit our association with only people of our own age? Does a 40 year old man refuse to associate with people older than 45? We would do far better to teach our teenagers how to interact with other adults.
In addition, youth groups almost always result in a "group" mentality. The nature of human beings is to seek the approval of those close to us and to conform to their behavior. In the youth group this often has dangerous consequences. It has been my observation that professions of faith within youth groups often occur in clusters. Several will profess Christ at the same time and the church rejoices that so many of their young people are being saved. Sadly, many fail to bear fruit. Many years ago I was a member of a church that sent their teenagers to a popular SBC youth camp. Each year the youth would return from camp and have a testimony night on a Sunday evening where they would weep and "recommit" their lives. Within a few weeks the high would wear off only to be repeated again the next year.
Instead of youth groups how about groups of fathers getting together to do activities with their sons? What kind of an influence would it have upon a young man for him to help paint a widow's house, to see that life is more than just fulfilling his own desires? How much better would it be for young men to join together with their fathers on a camping trip so that under the influence of men they might learn how to be men. "Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:6-8). And how beneficial would it be for mothers and daughters to gather together to quilt or to prepare meals for a shut-in? "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5). How much more beneficial would it be for churches to plan activities that involve the whole family? This would seem to be of a much greater benefit than a youth group.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The Bible has much to say about the family. The family unit was established soon after creation as Adam and Eve were joined together to become one flesh, thus establishing the basis for procreation and the foundation for an ordered society. The husband/father has been given headship over his family as he leads his wife and children in submission to Christ. Wives are to submit to their husbands and children are to submit to their parents.
Our church recognizes the importance of the father in the home. We place a high priority on building strong families and raising up the next generation to the glory of God. You could call us a “Family Friendly” church. This is important in our day when many churches have placed too much emphasis on various “programs.” Too often we find the church trying to serve the function of a surrogate parent evidenced by the proliferation of the “youth group.”
There is a danger, however, of a hyper-family or hyper-patriarchy in which the family becomes the highest institution and the father becomes the sole authority. Under this error the church becomes more and more irrelevant. No one is allowed to teach the children but the father. Some see the home as the primary seat of worship. Some have rejected the church altogether in favor of a covenant-home group. Extremes are always destructive and always dishonoring to God.
The Bible stresses the importance of both the family and the church. It is the church that Christ established upon the earth of which, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It is the church to which Christ gave the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). It is the church that God has set apart as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is the church that is the primary seat of worship as we gather with the people of God. It is the through the eldership of the church that Christ has given oversight over those for whom He died (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28).
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God delights in the prayers and praises of Christian families and individuals, but he has a special eye to the assemblies of the faithful, and he has a special delight in their devotions in their church capacity. The great festivals, when the crowds surrounded the temple gates, were fair in the Lord’s eyes, and even such is the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. This should lead each separate believer to identify himself with the
May God grant us to always strive for Biblical balance in all our ways and may He protect us from the extremes that lead us to dishonor His holy name.
Friday, April 18, 2008
We don’t find church covenants in Scripture as an explicit command, but there are many things that the Bible teaches implicitly rather than explicitly. The church covenant falls into this category. The concept of covenant is an important theme running throughout the Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments explicitly express the relationship between God and His people by way covenant. The elements of God’s covenants include: (1) Our relationship with God, (2) Our relationship with other people within the covenant, (3) Our relationship with people outside the covenant. The Christian is united to Christ in a covenant relationship. The covenant was ratified in the blood of Christ. At the last supper Jesus said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). The New Testament teaches us about this covenant relationship: (1) Our relationship with Christ, (2) Our relationship with other believers (His body), (3) Our relationship with unbelievers. The church covenant speaks to these relationships.
The local church is a local representation of the church universal. These local bodies are vested with authority. We can see this authority in Matthew 18 as the procedure for church discipline is outlined. At the close of the passage it is written, “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). Thus, the local church is a group of people organized together under the authority of the whole. It is autonomous and self-governing under the authority of Christ – a Christocracy. Christ raises up elders who are then vested with the oversight of His church.
Every organization will have certain expectations regarding the behavior of its members. Churches should expect their members to seek to conform their lives to the righteousness of Christ and exercise discipline in cases where this righteousness is abandoned. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, for example, we see a system of authority and a system that determines when this authority is exercised in the form of discipline. In this example we find a breech of conduct, the church gathering together to examine the offender, and the offender being excluded from the body for a failure to repent. It is incumbent upon a local church to clearly establish its expectations of behavior. The church covenant is merely a statement of what the Scriptures teach concerning behavior within the church – what the rules are. The church covenant is a reminder of what God requires of His people. It doesn’t invent new rules. It is simply a restatement of God’s rules. In like manner, our Confession is a statement of what we believe the Scriptures teach about the doctrines of the faith. You can’t find a confession of faith in Scripture either, but every solid church since the Reformation has held to some Confession. In fact, the creeds dating back to the early centuries of Christendom declare the need for clarification of what the Scriptures teach. To someone who takes issue with the concept of a church covenant I would simply ask them does the church have authority? Then what is the basis of that authority? They would answer, “The Scriptures.” I would reply, “What do you believe the Scriptures teach about applying this authority? Does the church have the right to have certain expectations regarding the behavior of its members? What are those expectations?” These expectations are essence the covenant. The church covenant, of course, is not exhaustive in its content – the Scriptures are. But the church covenant provides a basic framework to which a person joining the church agrees to commit.
Timothy George writes: "One of the much neglected features of contemporary Baptist church life is the congregational covenant, an expression of communal commitment in responsibility, setting forth the ethical standards and obligations incumbent upon all members. Historically, Baptist church covenants have encouraged not only public worship, personal devotion, and congregational discipline but also a caring and pastoral attitude on the part of each church member toward every other member" (New American Commentary, Vol.30, page 415).
The Christian individual can choose whether or not to join with a particular local church. By joining, however, he is agreeing to abide by certain expectations of behavior, expressed by way of covenant – which, again, is simply a statement of what the Scriptures teach. Our church covenant not only provides prospective members a framework of expectations to which they must commit themselves, it also provides an expression of identity to the community. Our confession tells them what we believe; our covenant tells them how we live.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
As millions of the mindless masses watch, Oprah tantilizes them with the lie, "One of the mistakes human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live. There are many ways to God." In the video posted by YouTube, Oprah and her guest, Eckhart Tolle, teach that it isn't what you "believe," it's what you "feel" that matters. There is no sin. Salvation comes from within.
These teachings are not new. Human beings have been denying God and His Word since the fall of Adam. The first recorded words of Satan were, "Hath God said" as he called into question the truth of God and His Word. God in His mercy has sent forth His Son to save rebellious sinners. Oprah and her friends are shouting the words that have been lifted up by multitudes, "Away with Him!" Sadly, Oprah has garnered for herself a huge following. Millions tune in and embrace her words as truth, many believing themselves to be Christians. The words of the Apostle ring loudly today, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
For Christians this opens many opportunities. As the narrator of the video announces at the end, "Open your eyes, turn off the TV, and pray." We must be prepared to speak against this New Age mysticism. There are many Christians who are unwittingly aiding her false teaching by placing greater emphasis on "feeling" than "believing." It would seem that doctrine has fallen upon hard times. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." The Christian more than ever must be equipped with sound doctrine "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:9).
Monday, April 14, 2008
Last Saturday our church gathered at a local park for a friendly game of softball. Such things seem easy at a distance, but after several times at bat and a few sprints across the field attempting to seize the ball and stop the progress of the runner around the bases, I was brought to the reality that I'm not as young as I used to be. As I walked away from the field, my legs and back aching, I pondered how easy such things used to be. As the years pass it will only get worse. But there is a glorious truth behind such melancholy thoughts. For the Christian, though our physical body grows weaker and weaker, our spiritual strength and vitality should only be getting stronger. If growing old means growing closer to Christ old age is to be considered a glorious thing. We are aching to see Christ face to face. Although this mortal flesh is decaying before our very eyes, this frail body shall soon pass away to immortality. As Paul wrote, "we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon our house which is in heaven" (2 Cor. 5:2). Our daily prayer should be, "Lord, with each passing day, may I know you more and be conformed more and more to the image of Christ."
Friday, April 11, 2008
In our postmodern American generation we are plagued by a low view of the church. Even pastors who give themselves to consistent expositional preaching find it difficult to impress upon the modern Christian a Biblical view of the church. Most Americans are fully indoctrinated by a high sense of individualism. In other words, they are motivated primarily by that which affects them personally.
In Christian salvation individualism loses ground to the concept of "body." The Christian is a part of the Body of Christ. The local church (ekklesia) is a body of believers. Spiritual gifts are dispensed, not for personal edification, but for the edification of the body. Membership in a local church is a covenant agreement whereby the individual pledges accountability to the body. In similitude to JFK's "Ask not speech" during his 1961 inauguration, instead of asking, "What can the church do for me," the church member should ask himself, "What can I do to strengthen the church?"
Unfortunately, most church members today continue to operate strictly on the level of the individual. They join churches according to their needs, and they leave without any regard for the wellbeing of their congregation.
May God grant us to see our church as our Divinely appointed place of service and may we give ourselves fully to its health and prosperity. May God grant us a Biblical "vision" of His church and our place in His church.