Thursday, April 19, 2012

ARBCA 2012 GA - Day 3

The final day of the ARBCA GA began with a devotional by Pastor Jeff Oliver from Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Placerville, CA. His text was from Numbers 6:21-26, the priestly benediction. He described the source of blessing--the LORD through whom every blessing flows; the definition of blessing--a face to face relationship with God; how to receive the blessing of God--by grace and mercy. Christ gave up peace with the Father for our sake, that we might know the blessing of God's countenance.

Following the devotional we heard a biographical sketch of William Carey by missionary Sam Masters. This was followed by missionary reports--Jatniel Perez from Cuba and Raymond Perron from Canada and then reports from several of our ARBCA churches.

Lunch was at 12:30--tuna sandwiches, soup, and salad. During lunch several of us met in a room to hear testimonies from two young men, one from Switzerland and the other from Ireland.

We returned at 3:30 for an hour of prayer followed by our theological discussion. This afternoon's discussion was on the topic of church discipline. Several helpful comments were made by several pastors.

Supper was sirloin tips, sausage, potatoes, and green beans. Fellowship during supper was great.

The evening sermon was by Pastor Jon Hueni from Grace Fellowship Baptist Church of Bremen, IN. His topic was, "The Implications of the Incarnation" using Philippians 2:1-11 as his text. He asked the question, "What shall we do with the incarnation?"
1. Believe and confess it. No true Christian denies the incarnation.
2. Adore it. Sing of it.
3. Use it. He is there for us. We can come confidently before the throne of grace.
4. Imitate it. First, in our relationship with saints in the church. Paul urges us to unity and humility in service to one another. Second, with sinners in the world. We need a genuine interest in others. We must get close to sinners--Jesus sends us into the world.

We closed the meeting by singing, "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name." The General Assembly this year was the best I've attended in six years. It was pervaded by a spirit of joy and optimism. The fellowship was warm and genuine. God is working greatly in our association.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ARBCA 2012 GA - Day 2

Day 2 of the ARBCA GA began with a devotional by Thomas Winn, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Jackson, MS. Taking Psalm 37:1-11 as his text, he pointed to the great encouragement of trusting God, even when it seems that the wicked are prospering more than the righteous. His charge was to depend on the LORD, delight in the LORD, and commit our ways to the LORD.

The devotion time was followed by a biographical sketch of Isaac Backus by Ron Baines, pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church of Topsham, Maine. In the 17th century there were 12 congregations throughout New England. During the life of Isaac Backus the number of Baptist congregations grew to 978. He left the Congregationalist Church over the issue of open communion as well as believers baptism. He pastored Baptist churches for 58 years. Valuing an educated ministry, he founded Rhode Island College where he served as trustee for 34 years. He is also well known for his staunch support of religious liberty.

Our annual business session began at 10:30 and was blessed once again by a spirit of cooperation. This year's GA has a air of joy and excitement over what God is doing in our Association. The business session ended at 12:40 with lunch following--ham sandwiches and chicken noodle soup. Fellowship during all of the breaks and meals has been wonderful.

Returning at 4:45, we engaged our theological discussion on the subject of "Fencing the Table." Our Association is divided pretty evenly on the subject. I spoke on the grounds of 1 Corinthians 5 and withholding Communion from a so-called brother in sin and Matthew 28 (the Great Commission) with regard to baptism preceding Communion--which would prohibit a paedobaptist from partaking in our church. It was interesting to hear that closed communion has been the historic Baptist position, contrary to the practice of many today.

Supper tonight was a combination of a penne pasta, meatballs, and sausage. Dessert was a delicious cannoli.

Our evening worship service began at 7:00 with singing, always rich with the robust sound of male voices lifted up in praise. The sermon was delivered by Pastor David Campbell from Grace Baptist Church of Carlisle, PA, titled "The Purpose of the Incarnation." He took his text from John 1 with three points:
1. Christ in His humanity was susceptible to death. His sinless body could die.
2. Christ in His humanity became justly liable to death - it was right. Christ became sin. He bore our sin.
3. Christ in His humanity voluntarily embraced death. He obeyed the Father and embraced the cross as the ultimate model of love.
4. Christ in His humanity fully experienced death, both physical death and the second death--the separation of the whole person from God. He suffered in an intensity to satisfy the wrath of God.
5. Christ in His humanity forever freed us from death.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ARBCA 2012 GA - Day 1

The 2012 GA began at 8:30 am with a devotional by Rich Jensen. He began by quoting the opening lines of Charles Dickens', A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." With this opening, he proceeded to describe the pastoral ministry; good times filled with encouragement and joy, and difficult times filled with discouragement and grief. The devotional was very encouraging as he spoke to the heart of the pastoral ministry. He closed by sharing a story of a man he led to Christ that God used to greatly encourage his ministry. We all need such encouraging blessings upon our ministry.

The remainder of the morning was filled mainly with reports, primarily regarding the many church plants God is raising up among ARBCA churches. It was a blessing to hear of what God is doing among us. We broke for lunch at 12:30--ham sandwiches and clam chowder; a taste of New England.

At 4:45 we returned to the church for the first of our three theological discussions. The topic was "Incarnational Ministry." The idea is that missions should be modeled after the incarnation of Christ; i.e. He came as a helpless infant, as a man to identify with men. He came as a Jew to immerse Himself in the Jewish culture, etc. We should be willing to immerse ourselves in the culture to which we are ministering. Various comments were expressed regarding the lack of Scriptural support for the incarnation of Christ as a model for missions, especially using Philippians 2.

Supper was at 5:45 - a choice of Shepherds Pie or Chicken Pot Pie. I had both--quite tasty. Our host church, Pioneer Valley Baptist Chapel of Chicopee, MA, is showing us wonderful hospitality.

The evening worship service began at 7:00 with Pastor Earl Blackburn from Heritage Baptist of Shreveport preaching on "The Wonder of the Incarnation." (The incarnation of Christ is this year's conference theme.) Using John 1:1-5; 14 as his text, Pastor Blackburn led us to gaze with wonder upon the incarnation of our Lord.
1. His Eternal Existence - Verses 1-5. He was always with God, always was God. He was Creator of all, the source of all life, and actively involved over all creation.
2. The historical entrance of the Son into this world. Verse 14 - "The Word became flesh." He was human in every way, physical in every way. It was a Condescending Entrance - "He dwelt among us." It was a Identifying Entrance - "He dwelt among us." It was a Sympathizing Entrance - "He dwelt among us"
3. The incarnation was a Divine exhibition - Verse 14 - "We beheld His glory." It was an exhibition of glory, grace and truth.

The conference makes for a long day, but one filled with wonderful fellowship and preaching.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tattoos For the Glory of God - or Not

I posted a blog back in 2009 titled, "Should Christians Get Tattoos?" It continues to be a question of interest. Body "art" and piercings seem to be more and more a part of our culture. Let me comment on this subject once again.

Surely Christians do not live in a cultural vacuum. We wear nice clothes that are consistent with the current style, while maintaining the Biblical command of modesty. We are mindful of hairstyles consistent with those of our present generation. Christian women wear modest makeup with a desire to accent their God given beauty. But the purpose of all things for the Christian is the glory of God. Our purpose is not to draw attention to ourselves but to ascribe all glory to God. We are never to emulate the practices of the wicked (those who do not love and follow Christ). This is the spirit behind Paul's admonition for ladies to avoid displays of expensive clothing or hairstyles inconsistent with that of a Godly woman (1 Timothy 2:9). Christians do not spend their energy seeking to draw attention to themselves but their greatest desire is to point all attention to Christ. John the Baptist declared what should be the heart of all of us, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 30:30). This takes great wisdom and discernment as we examine our heart. A lady that refuses to cut her hair, wearing it in a huge bun on the top of her head, and wearing dresses that are 30 years out of style, actually draws more attention to herself. I'm not questioning the motives of those who do this. It just stresses the importance of discernment.

As Christians, we enjoy great liberty. God has given us wonderful things to enjoy. We receive His blessings with thanksgiving and rejoice in His goodness. By refusing tattoos, we are not talking about some vain asceticism. And refusing tattoos is in no way an indication of "legalism." Legalism is seeking to gain God's favor through our actions. We can do nothing to earn God's favor. Our motivation for living a Godly life is not to earn God's favor but to exalt Him. On a recent comment on my previous post a young lady wrote, "God will love me not (sic) matter if I have tattoos or not." This misses the point. We aren't seeking to earn God's love but to display Him gloriously before others.

Again, it demands a careful examination of our motives. It demands great wisdom and discernment (Romans 12:1-2). All of us are quite skillful in justifying what we want to do. It is not my responsibility to examine your motives, but it would seem to me, if we honestly examine the motive for tattoos we can only conclude that it stems from a desire to draw attention to ourselves. Look at me. Look at my tattoo. Isn't my tattoo special? I can't imagine someone honestly saying that their motive for getting the tattoo was, look at Christ. Isn't He glorious!

Resurrection Glory

One of the greatest events in the history of the world is one largely ignored by the world. On April 8 we will celebrate Easter Sunday. When I say "ignored by the world" I don't mean the world ignores it completely. As you attach Good Friday to the weekend it provides three days of vacation. In addition, Easter has become a major holiday of decorating, with all the colorful eggs and bunnies surrounded by the beautiful hues of pastels. Children shout with glee as they search and find the Easter eggs, and they find great joy in Easter baskets filled with marshmallow bunnies and chocolate eggs. When I say "ignored by the world" I mean there will be little attention given to the glorious reality of the day.

Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus was crucified there was great joy among many. The Jewish leaders were finally rid of this one who challenged their authority and customs, and Pilate was able to wash his hands clean of the whole affair. The crowds mocked and cursed with an air of celebration. Surely, as Jesus was pierced and finally placed in the tomb, Satan and all his demonic hordes must have lifted their fiendish voices in victory. But little did they know that this was all unfolding according to the predeterminate counsel of God (Acts 4:27-28). On the third day Jesus was gloriously raised with all power and majesty.

The resurrection is an indispensable part of the Gospel. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection was at the very heart of his Gospel preaching and he declared that it must be believed. The resurrection is the glorious declaration of "mission accomplished" and "payment received." The sacrifice of Christ was well-pleasing and received by God to fully atone for the sins of His people. Jesus was able to enter into the very throne room of God to offer up His own blood. This day was so significant that the Sabbath Day was moved to the first day of the week.

In addition, the resurrection has changed everything in our life. We are living the resurrected life. By virtue of our union with Christ, His life has become our life. We have been raised to new life (Romans 6:4-5). May we rejoice on this glorious resurrection Sunday as we celebrate our risen Savior. And may our lives testify to the reality of the resurrection.