Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Theology of Leisure

A healthy theology of leisure is often lacking today. Either there is the sinful "lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God" that Paul warned about in 2 Timothy 3, or the worship of work to the detriment of God, family, and all else. As I prepare to leave for a vacation the subject weighs upon my thoughts. What is the correct approach to leisure? Should we feel guilty about taking times away from work or are such times good and necessary?

First, it is essential that we have a high view of work. Work is ordained of God as an essential element of our human existence and we must maintain a high sense of vocation--of calling. When we have a healthy view of work it is sometimes difficult to draw a clear distinction between leisure and work because we find great fulfillment in our calling. In my daily labors as pastor I find great pleasure and enjoyment. However, this is not the same thing as leisure. Work must be combined with periods of rest if we are to maintain a consistent productivity. Not only has God provided one day in seven as a time of rest, there must be other times of leisure. Even our Lord took times of separation and solace in order to pray and separate Himself from His hectic activity. He also spent times of simple leisure. For example, He attended the wedding feast at Cana and did not condemn the celebration as a carnal activity.

It is good to take times to pause from our labors. It is good to pause to refresh ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually. It is good to take times away from our work for times of meditation, for pondering God's goodness and marvelling at His creation. For leisure to be an excellent persuit it is essential that our motives be pure in the areas of both work and leisure. For the person that labors diligently in his vocation times of leisure can be both guilt-free and pleasurable. "Unto the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbeliving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15).

I'm grateful for times of respite; times when I can read with no particular agenda; times when I can relax without maintaining a particular schedule. These are times of refreshing that will allow for a return to work with renewed energy and a heightened productivity.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fearing the Face of Men

I recently listented to a lecture by Albert Martin from a series he delivered on the pastoral ministry that was a source of encouragement in my own ministry. It was Lecture #9 titled "Deliverance from the Fear of Man." As social creatures it is a part of the essence of our created being to desire the acceptance of our fellow man. For the pastor, however, this desire for acceptance must never cause him to change the essence of his preaching. Martin spoke of the difference between a visiting pastor who speaks one time to a congregation of which he knows little and a pastor speaking to his own congregation. The pastor preaching to an unknown congregation preaches freely with little knowledge of how his words may be speaking to the hearts of the people. For the pastor speaking to his own congregation, however, he gets to know his them well. He becomes familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of his flock and sometimes their sins. Often he preaches without knowing how the Spirit is applying it to the hearts of individuals but sometimes he knows his words are making particular application to an individual. He must never fear to exegete and apply a passage of Scripture because he knows it may be striking at the heart of a particular person or group within his congregation. In my experience, people respond in one of two ways. Some are convicted and repent. Some, on the other hand, become angry at the pastor and continue to justify their actions. A pastor must not fear their rejection. Al Martin's message served as a reminder that must continually ring in the ears of every pastor. While the pulpit must never be used as a retaliatory tool or as a substitute for personal counseling, a faithful pastor must never withhold the truth out of a fear of rejection by men. True love for God's people demands preaching faithfully before them in season and out of season; to continue to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 Expositors Conference

The 2010 Expositors Conference was one of the best yet. The theme was "The Glory of God in Preaching." It opened with a stirring message by Steven Lawson on the nature of the Biblical expositor. He spoke of the gift of preaching, the gravity of preaching, and the goal of preaching. This sermon set the stage for the rest of the conference. R.C. Sproul's messages were excellent as he preached on the "Holiness of God" and the "Wrath of God." The question and answer times with Sproul were edifying as he fielded questions on a variety of topics. It was encouraging to see this man who has suffered various health issues over the past few years continuing to press on, spending himself for the glory of Christ. Steven Lawson concluded the conference with a sermon on the "Immutability of God."
Of particular note was the graciousness of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church. So many of their members were present to give of themselves so that men from all over the country might be encouraged in their pastoral ministries. I'm sure many took two days off work to labor in this work. They went above and beyond to provide for each one in attendance.
I'm looking forward to next year's conference when the guest speaker will be Albert Mohler.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Knowing the Will of God

I often get questions concerning how to know the will of God, particularly when making major decisions. Too often Christians become frozen in trying to determine God's perfect will for their life. Some are given over to subjective feelings when seeking to know the will of God - "The Lord told me . . .," or "I felt led . . ." The truth is God has given us His Word. It is sufficient in all things pertaining to faith and practice. As Christians we are to continually fill our minds with the Word of God which is able to grant us the discernment to live our lives. We then make decisions based upon Biblical wisdom and pray that God will bless our decisions. In areas where the Word of God is silent we are granted liberty to make decisions to His glory.

I have five guidelines that are helpful as you make the decisions of life and seek to live according to the "will of God."

(1) Is the decision in agreement with the Word of God. Actually, each of the other four guidelines are only applications of Biblical principles. The Bible gives us the pattern for living. If your course of action is contrary to God's Word you need to change direction immediately. There are some decisions you don't need to pray about. You only need to obey.

(2) Do you have the proper motive in the decision. The high motive in all we do must be the glory of God. Is your motive in what you do a desire to display His glory before all? Is God's supremacy and centrality at the forefront of all that you do?
"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31)

(3) Will this decision be spiritually beneficial to you and your family.
"All things are lawful for me but not all things are profitable" (1Cor. 6:12).
- - A promotion that brings you to a town without a solid church is a bad decision.
- - A job that requires you to miss both services every Sunday is not a good choice.
- - A mother with young children who works outside the home to promote her career is making a poor choice.
-- An activity that consumes great amounts of time may not be the best decision. (taking up golf, coaching a ball team, etc.)

(4) What effect will this decision have upon your Christian witness? Lost people are watching everything we do. This will effect countless details in your life.
"Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing they slander you as evil doers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12).
This principle also holds true as live our lives before weaker brothers. We must be careful as regarding their weaker consciences. (Romans 14:15-21)

(5) Is the decision consistent with the Christian principle of love? (Ephesians 5:2, Romans 13:8). Are you willing to cancel your plans to help a brother in need?

The main issue is this: Is your life a testimony to your submission to Christ? Too often we make decisions based upon "self-will" rather than a true desire to live our life in service to Christ. "Oh God, use me up in service to You and Your Kingdom."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

When I am Weak

God continually reminds us that in our weakness He is great and mighty. The Apostle Paul declared after struggling with his thorn in the flesh, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9).

This past week these realities have become much more clear to me as God's strength continues to be sufficient. First, I fell down the stairs last Sunday, bruising my ribs and leaving me with a week of great pain. Then after an MRI on Monday and an appointment with an orthopedic doctor on Thursday (both scheduled before my fall), I learned that the pain I've been suffering in my back for the last three years is the result of herneation and degeneration of the disks in my back and a defect in my lower spine I never knew I had called a Pars Defect -- caused by an injury in my childhood or early teens leading to my spine not properly fusing. Bottom line is back pain will be a "thorn in the flesh" that I will continue to have. But physical weakness is a good thing! First, it keeps us looking to our true source of strength. We must never become confident in our personal strength or ability. We are infinitely weak and always in great need of God's grace. Second, our physical infirmities stand as a continual reminder of our fallen condition. Sin has left all of us weak and frail and in need of God's continual grace and mercy. Third, whatever infirmity we suffer in this life is a great reminder of how gracious and merciful God is in not giving us the full measure of what we deserve. We all deserve torment of endless and infinite measure. Praise God for His mercy through Christ Jesus our Lord! Fourth, our infirmities remind us to be more thankful for the days we are strong; to appreciate the things we often take for granted. I must admit I've never given thanks for the ability to mow the grass. After watching my wife mow the lawn last week I'll never take that for granted again. Fifth, our earthly infirmities make us long more and more for eternity when all things will be made new. We must never become too comfortable in this life which is but a vapor.

And so as we all age and grow weaker and weaker in the flesh, may God grant us to look more and more to His strength and may we grow nearer and nearer to Him. Oh God, use whatever means necessary to make me more holy and conform me more and more to the perfect likeness of Christ.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Louisiana Day of Prayer

According to an article on Fox News the Louisiana State Legislature declared Sunday, June 20, a day of prayer "to focus on Divine intervention to find a solution" to the oil spill crisis plaguing the Louisiana Gulf coast. It is great that they recognize that in this time where the impotence of man has been openly displayed there is a God who rules and overrules all things with His mighty and sovereign power. It is great that our state has made a public declaration that God is our only hope during this time of desperate need. During our worship service yesterday we prayed seeking God's aid during this time of crisis.

What is missing in this plea for God's help, however, is any sign of repentance on the part of our state. It is so typical of the view most people have of God. Most see Him as a puppet to use at our convenience like a marrionette on a string. They see God as a good resource to help us in time of need as long as He doesn't make any demands of us. They are willing to add Christ to the rest of their idols but they are not willing to bow to Him exclusively.

God will not be manipulated. He is God; the only God. He commands, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." He commands all men everywhere to repent of their sin and turn to Him in absolute submission and obedience. What we need to hear from our legislature is, "Oh God, we have sinned! We have acted foolishly in seeking our own way. Forgive us of our iniquity." What we should hear from our state legislature is a declaration that our state will immediately seek to operate to the glory of God. Abortion is no longer legal in this state. The state lottery will be phased out over the next six months. Casinos have six months to close their doors and move out of this state. Our state will be restoring the "Blue Laws" in honor of the Lord's Day so that our citizens may spend the day worshipping God. This state no longer recognizes homosexuality as a legitimate expression of human sexuality and will seek to strengthen the traditional family.

You might say, the Federal Government would never allow some of these declarations. Our answer would be, we will obey God rather than man. God is bigger than our Federal Government. But how could our state survive without the revenue generated from legalized gambling? Is the God who is powerful enough to stop a spewing oil well not powerful enough to bless a state that seeks to honor Him? Is our state really willing to trust God, or do we simply want Him around long enough to plug the leak?

It is great that our state sees the value of prayer but prayer lifted up from idolatrous hearts will always be ineffectual. "So when you spread out your hand in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you, Yes, even though you multipy prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood" Isaiah 1:15). "Behold, the LORD's hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

2010 Trinity Baptist Church VBS

It's hard to believe we've completed another Vacation Bible School. I'm so grateful to all of our members who worked so hard to bring it to pass. From the classes to the kitchen to the crafts to the nursery all gave of themselves sacrifically to make this year's VBS a success. I am continually filled with great gratitude to be one of the pastors of such a faithful group.

I am also thankful for another opportunity to set Christ before these young souls. They heard the Gospel several times throughout the course of VBS. We must now give ourselves to prayer that God will take the Gospel and apply it effectually to their hearts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My iPod

Many of you know I lost my iPod Touch last week. We were at Home Depot and I glanced down at my waist and my iPod case caught my attention. It was upside-down and empty! We searched the store and the parking lot and checked at the customer service desk. Nothing. I checked my truck. Nothing. I checked the couch cushions at the house, just in case it fell out there. Nothing.

Like so many technologies, I've become dependent upon my iPod. I use it for so many things: email, contacts, personal and church calendars, keeping up with the names of visitors, keeping track of my auto milage, and even checking the weather, and it has both the KJV and ESV Bibles and the 1689 London Confession. And all of my music, podcasts, and sermons. The worst thing about the ordeal, however, was the knowledge that someone had picked up my iPod and now had access to all of my email - a possible security risk. Foolishly, I didn't have my iPod password protected. Someone could even send email messages to my contacts as though from me.

Well, I prayed, "Lord, if it would please you, help me recover my iPod. Protect my email information from being missused." I went back to the store on Friday and again on Saturday and again on Tuesday to check if someone had turned it in. I purchased a new iPod - not a cheap solution. I set it up and it was soon just like my old one. Still, the lingering thoughts of someone peeking at my emails haunted me.

As with every trial I sought what God was trying to teach me through it. Was I too dependent on "things?" I was reminded again of how excellent God's ways are. Even in our losses His ways are perfect. Once again, I was reminded of how I must trust Him in all things. I even thought, perhaps it isn't about me. After all, my iPod has two Bible versions on it and lots of Christian music and sermons to listen to. And many of my emails are edifying. Perhaps God is using my iPod to stir the heart of a lost person.

Now I have to tell the rest of the story. Last night we came home from our Wednesday night service and we prepared for bed. I went into the den and noticed the mantel clock had run down so I went over to wind it. As I was winding it I noticed a flat shiny device sitting on the mantel. MY IPOD!! I couldn't believe it. It had been there the whole time.

And so I'm reminded of how infinite the ways of God are. He did hear my prayer. He did protect my email info. He did allow me to recover my iPod. And if I'd been more patient to trust and wait upon Him, perhaps I wouldn't have needed to purchase another iPod. Oh, how He teaches me continually and how slow I am to learn.

So I now have two iPods, but I've always loved having spares. And both of my iPods are now safely password protected.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Presuppositional Apologetics

Presuppositional Apologetics is a method of defending the faith that presupposes the existence of God and the infallibility of Scripture. The Bible alone provides the framework through which all experience is interpreted and all truth is known. According to Romans 1:19-23 we know that all men have a knowledge of God. In spite of this knowledge the unbeliever intentionally distorts the truth and exchanges it for a lie.

This doesn't rule out any use of external evidence such as archeology. Eternal evidence, however, is not the basis of our faith. Recently Fox News printed an article describing the claim that a group of Chinese and Turkish evangelicals had found the remains of Noah's Ark 13,000 feet up on Mount Ararat in Turkey. They said they had a 99.9 percent certainty that their find was indeed the ark. Now Fox has printed a followup article describing the find as a probable hoax -- "at best an elaborate deception." For those of us who rest upon the authority of Scripture this means nothing.

All of creation testifies to the validity of Scripture, but Scripture is not dependent upon external validation. Archeology, when properly interpreted, will always testify that the Biblical record is absolutely reliable, but our faith is not built upon external evidence. The followup article states, "There's never been evidence of a great flood." The reality is evidence abounds, but if one presupposes that the Bible is false no amount of evidence will change their mind. God came in the flesh, performed miracles, and rose from the dead and men continued in unbelief.

As we defend the faith we can go with the confidence that the Bible is true and that all men already have a knowledge of God. And we go with the power of the Holy Spirit who is able to powerfully change the hearts and minds of men. This should give us boldness as we confront the unbelief of lost men.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Redeeming the Time

"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). The KJV is the best translation in this passage. The same word for "redeeming" is used in Galatians 4:5 - "To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." The word means to purchase or buy up. With regards to time it means to make the wise use of every second treating each one as a precious commodity.

Time in one sense is given equally to all. There are 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds in a day. While all of us are not given the same number of days or years of life, it is certainly true that a day is the same length for one man as it is for another. It is also true that each of us have been allotted a certain amount of time upon this earth. The proverbial sand is falling rapidly through the hourglass for each of us. This makes time one of our most treasured assets. Unlike with cellphones, you cannot purchase additional minutes in life. How well are you spending your time? You cannot purchase any additional time, but you can certainly prevent this precious commodity from being wasted - you can redeem the time.

Every man is given the same number of minutes in a day, but oh how some buy up and spend those minutes. Early in his ministry Charles Spurgeon preached three times on the Lord's Day and five nights every week. Eventually he would preach twelve or thirteen times a week while traveling hundreds of miles by road or rail. He said, "I always felt that I could never do enough for Him who had loved me, and given Himself for me" (Autobiography p.359). He reserved Monday morning for meeting with people stirred in their souls from Sunday's sermons. He published a hymnal, revised the Shorter Catechism, published a new Baptist confession, founded a pastor's college in 1857, and founded an orphanage in 1867. He wrote dozens of letters each week and gave of himself tirelessly in pastoral care. He spent his life redeeming the time.

It is so easy to get distracted in this life. It is essential that we maintain a right perspective. Our lives must be fixed on three priorities: (1) the glory of God, (2) growing in holiness, (3) reaching the lost with the Gospel. We must treasure each minute as an opportunity to serve our Savior. We must see ourselves as soldiers. "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who has enlisted him as a solder" (2 Timothy 2:4 NASB). It is important that we be good stewards of our time, using each second to the greatest benefit. In the parable of the Good Samaritan we find the Samaritan man giving of his time for this stranger. He stopped his own journey, took him to a nearby town, and cared for him overnight. He gave of his precious, highly valuable time.

This life is not the time for relaxation. This doesn't mean there is no place for leisure. We must have a sound theology of leisure which includes valuable times of respite. But we must never be lovers of pleasure or slothful wasters of time. This life is the time for diligence, watchfulness and self-discipline. We must guard against time eaters - TV, the Internet, sports, video games, etc. These things have little value to our souls or our Lord's Kingdom. Our time of rest is coming. May we labor hard until that day. "Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now is salvation nearer to us than when we believed" (Romans 13:11 NASB).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Dat Given Over to Idolatry?

I've been amazed at the frenzy over the New Orleans Saints going to the Superbowl. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased they won. The team worked hard and their efforts have paid off. And, after all, they are the home team. But come on. How is it that people are so intoxicated by watching grown men play a game? What lasting benefit is it in the lives of men? The reality is the NFL is a business; a very lucrative business; a multi-billion dollar business. The Saints are a business. How is it that so many people are so excited because a business has done well? You don't see parades when GM or Ford or Toyota has a banner year.

The truth is sports have become a terrible idol. The definition of a idol is anything that garners greater affection than God. It would seem that most of our city was glued to the television last night giving homage to their idol. The game was played on the Lord's Day but little attention was given to God. I heard that the line Sunday evening at Academy Sports stretched several hundred deep as people rushed to get the championship teeshirts. How many professing Christians skipped worship last night in order to watch the game? Sadly, numerous churches bowed to the idol of the Superbowl. Some churches, in an effort to appear religious, held an abbreviated service and then rushed off to Fellowship Hall to watch the game. It would have been more honest to dispense with the worship service altogether so that it wouldn't be a distraction from their true god.

If my condemnation sounds harsh it should. How much better would it be for every Christian to speak out against profaning the Lord's Day? How much better would it be if every Christian demonstrated that his affections rested upon Jesus alone? Idolatry comes in many forms. May God grant us to flee from each and every one.


I've suddenly realized that I haven't posted to my blog in over two months. Yikes!! What I've come to realize is I'm not very good at multitasking. As I sit in my office studying I find I do best when I am least distracted. When I'm able to focus on a text and think about it deeply I find I'm most productive. But there are endless distractions. Emails continually come in during the day. the telephone rings, people ring the door bell. There are countless office administrative duties that demand my attention. With so many things demanding my attention it seems that I'm always leaving something undone. I guess I'm just not a great multitasker. The truth is, however, neither is anyone else.

In a recent airing of Frontline on LPB they ran a special on the effect of the digital age on the human mind. The lives of many people today are cluttered with endless activity -- reading email, texting, Facebook and countless searches on the Internet. The special examined research conducted by Stanford University in California. They ran a series of studies to test how well students did at multitasking. It turns out none fared well. The human brain is not wired to think about several things at once. Rather, we do best when we are able to think deeply on a single subject at a time. Their conclusion is that the digital age of multitasking may be creating people who are unable to think well and clearly.

A recent book by T. David Gordon titled Why Johnny Can't Preach examines the terrible decline in good expository preaching. His conclusion is that most preachers no longer know how to think deeply. The primary reason is because of our culture of sensory overload where our minds are filled with endless images that do not demand mental concentration. "What kinds of ministers does such a culture produce? Ministers who are not at home with what is significant; ministers whose attention span is less than that of a four-year-old in the 1940's, who race around like the rest of us, constantly distracted by sounds and images of inconsequential trivialities, and out of touch with what is weighty. It is not surprising that their sermons, and the alleged worship that surrounds them, are often trifling, thoughtless, uninspiring, and mundane" (pages 58-59).

It would be good for all of us to set aside some of the distractions. Instead of the Internet how much better would it be for our minds if we read a good book? The world will not come to an end if we don't post to Facebook for a day. With every advancement in technology great caution must be practiced.