Thursday, April 30, 2015

Uh-Oh!: The Left Is Less Confident About SCOTUS and "Marriage Equality"

I still believe that the oligarchs at the Supreme Court will unilaterally legalize same-sex marriage without any clear boundaries for future sexual lifestyles. However, it is worth noting that pro-same-sex marriage supports are feeling a little nervous. So whatever it is worth, consider the following from the far left publication, The Slate:
After Tuesday’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, those who were confidently predicting victory for marriage equality are—if we’re being honest—trembling a bit. Based on the questions the justices asked, the outcome appears to be very much in doubt. And if the court were to decide that states aren’t constitutionally required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the result will be chaos. Marriages in many states could be legally unraveled, leading to consequences that would be sure to tie up couples and courts for years to come.
Before Tuesday, some observers had speculated that Chief Justice Roberts’ vote might be up for grabs, but his questioning left only a little of that hope alive. It seems Jeffrey Rosen was right in arguing, as he did a couple of weeks ago, that Roberts would remain committed to allowing the democratic process to play out in the states.
As usual, then, it is Justice Kennedy’s vote that matters—and even that vote, one previously perceived as likely, now appears uncertain. His questions in a case challenging California’s Proposition 8 a few years ago suggested a tension in his thinking. On the one hand, he was concerned about gay and lesbian couples and their children, expressing the view that denying them the right to marry would both demean them and “humiliate” their children. On the other hand, he worried that allowing such unions would be akin to jumping off a cliff, given the unknown consequences of doing so.

Again, I still assume the worse, but the above is worth noting. You can read the rest here.

The Slate - Uh-Oh, Marriage Equality Isn’t Looking as Certain as We’d Thought

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Kingdom

There is a lot of talk today about the Kingdom of God and rightfully so.  Perhaps no other phrase is more foundational to the message and ministry of Jesus than the Kingdom of God.  Unfortunately, too many confuse what Jesus means by the Kingdom or distort it to fit their own theological, political, social, or economic prejudices.   The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 says:
The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God's will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.*
The BF&M 2000 seeks to strike a balance between two extremes when discussing this issue.  Here’s the question.  Is the Kingdom of God here already or still in the future?  Are we to build the Kingdom now or await the Kingdom at the return of Christ?

Consider the biblical evidence.  Jesus speaks of the Kingdom as already present.  In Luke 16:16 Jesus notes that the law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaim.  Likewise, both John the Baptist and Jesus both began their ministries by proclaiming, Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand! (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  Jesus is always seen building the Kingdom and His followers are portrayed as working for the Kingdom, building the Kingdom.

But the Kingdom is also portrayed as future.  In Luke 19 Jesus tells a parable about a man in a far off country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return (Luke 19:2).  The man is undoubtably Jesus Himself who will leave in order to return as King.  In fact, Luke notes that this is the very purpose of the parable.  Verse one notes that Jesus told the parable because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.

So which is it and why does it matter?  Is the Kingdom of God present or future?  The answer has to be both and we must affirm both.  This is not a contradiction, but a paradox.  The Kingdom of God is both here and not yet and to emphasize one over the other is to fall into dangerous ground.

Liberalism has traditionally emphasized the present reality of the Kingdom and thus turn the gospel into social justice.  The gospel has nothing to do with the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross, instead the cross becomes an example for us to follow.  Thus Christianity is about humanitarian aide, not about repentance from sin.

Fundamentalist Christians, on the other hand, emphasize the future hope of the Kingdom and thus become obsessed with end times prophecy & escapism.  As a result, they refuse to see the needs around them.  The cross, then, is only about saving our souls and not about regeneration.  The gospel is about getting ourselves into heaven and oftentimes fails to change the person to meet the needs around them.

It is against these two extremes we must emphasize both the present reality and the future hope of the Kingdom.  The gospel of the Kingdom means that we have been redeemed and transformed and the work of the Christ on the cross and resurrection changes who we are now in the hopes we will be finally changed at the resurrection.  The Kingdom is both and, not either or.  The gospel is both here and now and, at the same time, future.  We are saved (past), being saved (present), and will be saved (future).  The Kingdom is the same.

Our responsibility, then, is to both build the Kingdom by calling on souls to repent trusting in the work of the gospel to change the person and to change the community, &, at the same time, we long for the day that Christ recreates this imperfect, fallen, depraved world and restores it.  Thus we must look for the work of the gospel here and at the same time long for the gospel to be completed at Christ’s return.  We long to be with Christ, but in the meantime, we have work to do.  Let us then build the Kingdom knowing that one day the King will return and we will give account for how we have been serving Him.

Thus let us pray, Your kingdom come.  Your will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

*  Gen 1:1; Isa 9:6-7; Jere 23:5-6; Matt 3:2; 4:8-10,23; 12:25-28; 13:1-52; 25:31-46; 26:29; Mark 1:14-15; 9:1; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2; 12:31-32; 17:20-21; 23:42; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:6-7; 17:22-31; Rom 5:17; 8:19; 1 Cor 15:24-28; Colo 1:13; Heb 11:10,16; 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 4:13; Rev 1:6,9; 5:10; 11:15; 21-22.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes -  God's Purpose of Grace
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Church
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Baptism
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Lord's Day 
 This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Kingdom 

All Around the Web - April 30, 2015

The Gospel Coalition - 6 Ways an Interim Pastor Can Help a Church in Crisis

The Point -  The Materialist Magicians Are Here

Trevin Wax - The Fire of Jesus and Patience of Paul

Michael Bird - An Anglican Theologian Has Five Questions for Rachel Held Evans

Jason Allen - Preacher: Ask Yourself These 7 Questions Before Preaching Your Next Sermon

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Lord's Day

Sunday is not the Sabbath.  But before you think I’m a heretic, let me explain.  Saturday is the Sabbath – the last day of the week. Just check your calendars.  The Jewish day of rest in Scripture is Saturday. After a week of work, the Jews, as commanded in the Old Testament, rested on Saturday, the Sabbath. So what is Sunday all about?  Why do we, as bible-believing Christians, worship & rest on Sundays if the Sabbath is on Saturday? Are we breaking one of the Commandments?


For one, we must be careful in turning the Sabbath into a legalistic rule that offers salvation or threatens us with separation from God post-salvation.  The 10 Commandments primarily identify idols & aren’t just rules.  In this case, the primary idol identified here is work, greed, accomplishment, & unhealthy drives.

Secondly, we must ask why the change has taken place?  Why did the “Sabbath” go from Saturday in the Old Testament & Sunday in the New Testament?  The answer is simple: the resurrection.  Since the founding of the Church, Christians have always set Sunday aside as a day of worship.  When the first Church was made up primarily of Jews they still rested on Saturday as the Jewish law required, but made Sunday a day of worship whereby they would remember & commemorate the day of Resurrection.

This is an important point.  The resurrection was & is so central to the Christian gospel & the Christian Church that it has altered our calendars.  The substitutionary death & the triumphant resurrection of our Lord is central to Christianity & without these events there would be no Christianity, no salvation, & our faith would be in vain.  Jesus is not dead, but alive!  And that is worth worshiping.

This fundamental fact forces us to make a slight shift in our understanding of the day of rest.  I do believe we ought to rest on Sundays (especially since our schedules are so full that Sunday may be the only day to take a nap!), but in a post-resurrection world, Sunday should be a day of resurrection.  Sunday is the day we commemorate & remember the historical fact that Christ died in our place for our sins & was raised for our justification three days later.  Thus we worship, not as a ritual, but with joy.  Sunday is more than a day to sleep, it is a day to celebrate.  Easter – Resurrection Sunday – ought not to just be a holiday, but an everyday reality whereby live as raised souls.  Like Christ, we are not dead.  Christ has raised us & will raise us.

In this light, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 says regarding the Lord’s Day:
The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead & should include exercises of worship & spiritual devotion, both public & private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.*
The point made in the confession is the same as made above.  Notice that the Lord’s Day is an institution not a law that points us to Christ.  It ought to be regularly observed not in the hopes of salvation, but because of our salvation. 

It’s the last sentence that could cause trouble for some: Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  In other words, each person’s conscience ought to dictate what is & isn’t work on the “Sabbath.” The point here is to avoid being Pharisees-like with endless religious rules regarding the Sabbath. What the BF&M 2000 does is guard against such legalism.  The Lord’s Day ought not to be a burden, but a joy.

So what ought we do in terms of rest on Sunday?  Again we must be careful not to turn a day into a law.  Sunday is a day of rest for sure, but it ought to primarily be a day of worship.  We are encouraged in Scripture to gather together with other brothers & sisters in Christ & celebrate our risen Lord.  Let that set the tone for the rest of the week.  We are a resurrected people who serve a resurrected Lord.  We must guard against both legalism & libertarianism & the gospel offers the right balance.

All of this is to say that Sunday ought not to be a burden on the people of God, but a day in which to look forward to by the people of God.  Certainly we ought & better rest, but more fundamentally let us worship.  In fact, the rest we enjoy on the Lord’s Day is itself an act of worship wherein we trust in the Providential care of our Father who has given us His Son.  Why worry about tomorrow?

*  BF&M 2000 offer the following references:  Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes -  God's Purpose of Grace
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Church
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Baptism
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Lord's Day 

All Around the Web - April 28, 2015

Russell Moore - What Should the Church Say to Bruce Jenner?

Canon and Culture - What the Gospel Has to Say to Transgendered Persons

Denny Burk - Uncommon moral clarity from a politician

Doug Wilson -  How Blue the Sky Was

The Blaze - Hillary Clinton: ‘Deep-Seated Cultural Codes, Religious Beliefs…Have to Be Changed’

Monday, April 27, 2015

"Atheism Remix" by Albert Mohler: A Review

I have deep respect for Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is known for many things: institutional reform, cultural engagement, brilliance, academic achievement, wit, etc. But until recently, he was not known for his writing of books. Throughout his academic career, Dr. Mohler has contributed to books, but has never written one. In 2008, however, that changed when he published four books..

His second book that year was entitled Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists which contributed to the ongoing apologetic discussion regarding the New Atheist. I have personally read several titles from both the New Atheists themselves (like Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and others) and from Christian responses to them (like Dinesh D'Souza, Alistair MacGrath, Ravi Zacharias, and others). 

This is Mohler's takes on the New Atheists. Out of all that I have read on them, this is by far the shortest. I read the entire book in one setting and was grateful that I did. To begin, Mohler's work is based on, and very similar to, a series of lectures given at Dallas Seminary; the lins of which are available below.

Mohler's approach is very different than others. He begins with a look at the history of atheism, the origin of the New Atheist, what they bring to the table, what their arguments are, who they are, and why they are so dangerous. He takes the reader on a historical trek around the West to show that these "4 Horsemen" did not appear out of nowhere. Perhaps the most helpful was the time he spent on Friedrich Nietzsche, ardent atheist and hater of Christianity. Nietzsche is critical to understanding atheism, and the New Atheist fall in line with Nietzschian philosophy.

From there, Mohler looks at what makes the New Atheism new. His numbered list are helpful and easy to follow. Anyone reading (or listening/watching) this argument quickly realizes that what argument Dawkins and crew are making are significant and dangerous.

Afterward, Mohler shifts to evangelical engagement with the atheist. He primarily looks at two men: Alister McGrath and Alvin Plantiga. Mohler presents their main argument against the atheist, namely Dawkins, and why his (and their) arguments are faulty and self-refuting. Mohler lays out their argument in a way that is clear, precise, and devastating to the atheist. Following that, he offers his short critique of the New Atheist (though it could have been longer). Mohler calls Christians to return to Christian theism as the starting and ending point of the debate. Though this is helpful, I am afraid that it misses the point. I would have to side more with McGrath and Plantiga who meet the atheist where they are and then take them to the logic of Christian theism.

Finally, Mohler takes us to the future of atheism. How else have Christians engaged this new threat on our faith? Mohler points out that the liberal response is failing miserably and must be avoided at all cost. Mohler agrees with the atheist that liberal Christianity isn't helping anything. Rather than resort to finding middle ground in this debate, Mohler reveals that we have one of two options:
The definition of "Christian" is also crucial importance here. Harris defines a Christian as one who believes "that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that only those who place their faith in Jesus will find salvation after death." Once again, he is much clearer here than many Christians are about what Christians are to believe. the New Atheist are certainly right about one very important thing - it's atheism or biblical theism. There is nothing in between.
And with that, he closes his book.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Mohler, though not making many arguments, does succeed in presenting the issues at stake and providing a Christian response. Unlike other books engaging the new atheism, Mohler fails to engage them directly. Though that is not his primary purpose, this is a real weakness of the book. The subtitle suggests that Mohler is confronting the New Atheism, but there is little of said confronting.

Mohler is writing to Christians who may be oblivious to this new movement, or at best, uncertain of the debate. Mohler seeks to lay out the issues in a clear way and show how Christians are to respond. This is why it is such a short book. If Mohler wanted to defend the existence of God (though he does some through the pen of McGrath and Plantiga) he could have. But that is not the book's purpose.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to enter the debate. However, I would not recommend it to anyone that knows nothing about cultural engagement, naturalism, Darwinism, philosophy, and secular theory and practice. Of all that I have read on this movement, Mohler offers the most precise and easy to read book yet the reader is not given new ammunition for engagement.

Here is the lecuture series that the book is based on:

All Around the Web - April 27, 2015

Russell Moore - Should Christians Care about Earth Day?

Thom Rainer - 11 Places to Use Church Greeters

Baptist21 - CP Giving Rises in 50/50 States

9Marks - Dear New Seminarian . . . Sincerely, Your Baptist Brother

The Blaze - Ancient Pottery Shards Analyzed by Israeli Scientists Seem to Support Biblical Narrative

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Prerequisites of a Healthy Church

What does a healthy church look like? Much ink and paper has been spent answering that question. Every pastor wants to lead a healthy church. The difficulty is that virtually every new pastor realizes that their challenge is to lead a very sick church to health. Some local congregations are more difficult than others, but any minister who takes his calling seriously ought to focus daily on leading their church back to health.

There are two evangelical leaders who have their own view on what a healthy church looks like. The first is Mark Dever whose ministry, called 9Marks, is based on his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Below are his so-called 9 marks:
  1. Expositional Preaching
  2. Biblical Theology
  3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
  4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
  5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
  6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
  7. Biblical Church Discipline
  8. Promotion of Church Discipline and Growth
  9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership
A lesser known approach is Jame MacDonald's 4 pillars of a healthy church. I first came across these in his book Vertical Church. Those four pillars are as follows:
  1. Proclaiming the authority of God's Word without apology - 2 Timothy 4:2
  2. Lifting high the name of Jesus through worship - John 4:24
  3. Believing firmly in the power of prayer - Ephesians 6:18
  4. Sharing the good news of Jesus with boldness - Ephesians 6:19-20
I am currently engaged in a new ministry. As the new pastor, I want to engage our church into considering what a healthy church. So instead of speaking of "marks" or "pillars," I have focused on the 8 "prerequisites" of a healthy church. Its basically the same concept, but I want our church to focus on what must be present before we could ever become healthy. Lack any of them, and health remains a distant dream. Below is my list (in no particular order):
  1. Doctrine/Gospel
  2. Evangelism
  3. Worship
  4. Scripture
  5. Fellowship
  6. Discipleship/Holiness
  7. Prayer
  8. Spiritual Gifts
There is one thing clearly missing: sound, gospel, public exposition. It is my conviction that before a church can achieve the above prerequisites, they must be regularly preached by the pastor. The gospel must be the message of every sermon. A regular diet of the gospel will bear fruit all of the other prerequisites.

Am I missing something? What should be added?

All Around the Web - April 24, 2015

Kristen Powers - Kirsten Powers: Christians thrown overboard left to drown by Obama

Special Report - New ISIS video purportedly shows more killing of Christians

Christianity Today - ‘But Jesus Didn’t Say…’

Trevin Wax - 4 Things I Learned at Dinner with Church Leaders from Denmark

Independent - Most authors earn less than minimum wage from their writing, survey finds

Crossway - Ask Kevin: What Does "Arsenokoitai" Mean?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Baptism

Like most Protestant traditions, Baptist practice two ordinances (we avoid the word sacrament in an effort to avoid the connotation that these practices are salvific): Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These two ordinances were instituted by Christ who commanded all believers to practice them. Regarding baptism, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 says:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.*
The confession makes several points. First, baptism is by immersion. For centuries, Christians sprinkled baptismal candidates, but Baptist have avoided this primarily on the grounds of the meaning of the word.  “To baptize” in Greek means “to immerse” or even “to drown.”  The act of sprinkling primarily came as a result of the practice of infant baptism.

Secondly, Baptist affirm believers baptism. This is a baptist distinctive. We only baptize those who have made a public profession of faith by which the local church recognizes God’s work in salvation and follow up with the public ordinance of baptism. Many traditions within both Catholicism and many Protestants traditions baptize children. Baptist have always rejected this position on biblical grounds.  No infant in Scripture was ever baptized nor is there any trace of the practice of infant baptism in the early Church.

Thirdly, baptism is a symbol illustrating the work of Christ in the believer. Contrary to some traditions, baptism only gets a person wet and nothing else. Some Christians have held throughout the centuries that baptism contributes to our salvation. Baptist reject this on the ground that salvation is by grace through faith alone apart from any works on our behalf. If one must be baptized to be saved, then salvation is not by faith alone.

But what does it symbolize?  s the confession reveals, baptism is about the death, burial, and resurrection of both the Redeemer and the redeemed. It is through the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross (whereby He absorbed the full wrath of God in our place) and the resurrection (whereby we are given His righteousness) that we are saved. Thus baptism reminds every witness of the work of Redeemer who has saved us by dying in our place and being raised from the dead. 

Likewise, baptism is a picture of the redeemed. We have been crucified with Christ. We have put to death our old selves only to be raised as new creatures in Christ. Salvation, then, is more than a ticket to heaven when we die, but regenerates us into new persons.  We are not what we once were. We are washed. We are renewed. We are restored. We are made righteous.

It is for these reasons, among others, that baptism is central to the Christian faith. It is not merely a ritual, but a testimonial symbol reminding us of the gospel. It is through baptism that Baptist welcome new believers as members into the local church.  It is a testimony of the work of Christ in the lives of sinful men.  It is the gospel put on displayed. 

It is important for Christians to see in baptism more than merely a religious rite. Baptism ought to be a moment of celebration and a reminder. The work that Christ began at the moment of our conversion remains with us today. When people look at our lives, do they see the fruit of what baptism illustrates, or must we point to a certificate hanging on our wall. If all we have is a certificate, then we do not have Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul raises the question of can believers continue in sin after embracing the gospel?  His answer is no. He grounds this conviction on two points. First, we were once slaves of sin, but are now slaves of Christ thus we must obey our new Master. Secondly, Paul points to baptism.  To remain in our sin is to remain dead. But we who have been saved are not dead just as Christ is not dead.  We have been raised.  We have been changed. Let us therefore worship our risen Lord living in light of His righteousness imputed onto us as a testimony of what He accomplished at the cross and resurrection. Baptism is all about the gospel.

*  The following Scriptural reference are given:  Matt 3:13-17; 28:19-20; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:12.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes -  God's Purpose of Grace
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Church
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Baptism

All Around the Web - April 23, 2015

Trevin Wax - To move beyond abortion stalemate, reporters must ask tough questions (COMMENTARY)

Kevin DeYoung - The God of Justice Hates False Reports

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Genocide

Preachers and Preaching - How Long Should A Sermon Be?

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Joe Carter

Crossway - Ask Kevin: Should Same-Sex Marriage Be Legal?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Lukewarm Preachers

From sermon 2802:
. . . Stagnation in a church is the devil's delight.

I do not think He cares how many Baptist chapels you build, nor how many churches you open, if you have only lukewarm preachers and people in them. He cares not for your armies if your soldiers will but sleep—nor for your guns if they are not loaded. "Let them build as much as they like," He says, "for those buildings are not the batteries that shake the gates of Hell." What we need is new zeal, fresh energy, more fire! Our old Baptist cause has become very slack.

All Around the Web - April 22, 2015

Russell Moore - Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule

Eric Metaxas - Reversing the Abortion Pill

The Gospel Coalition - What Africa Needs More Than Food Aid or Democracy

Thom Rainer - When Church Staff Turn Against Each Other

Radical - Twelve Bad Reasons to Downplay or Distort the Gospel

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Church

The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 moves from discussing God, the Bible, and salvation to talking about the community in which newly redeemed believers fellowship: the Church.  Here, the BF&M 2000 makes two distinctions of the church.  The first regards the local church:
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible & accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
Here the confession says several things. First, the local church is autonomous and made up of regenerated, baptized believers. This is a key distinctive among Baptists. Each church is responsible for its own business. The various conventions and associations connected to the church have no authority over it.  The Southern Baptist Convention does not and cannot hire or fire staff or build a new gym; that is the business of the local church. This is unique among denominations. Unlike Roman Catholic, Methodist, or Presbyterian denominations who have a hierarchal system, Baptist do not. 

But who makes up the local church?  Regenerated, baptized believers dedicated to and shaped by the gospel.  This is the basis of church membership and why Baptists take church membership so seriously.  We do not baptize babies, but believers (this separated us from other denominations like Catholicism, Presbyterianism, and Methodism).  The New Testament speaks of only baptized believers who have made a confession of faith, have repented of their sins, & are redeemed by Christ.  These believers, as the confession says, joins the local church, participates in its fellowships, grows & disciples in the faith, becomes ambassadors for Christ, & observes two ordinances of Christ: baptism & the Lord’s Supper (Catholics add to this list what they call Sacraments including such things as marriage, confirmation, & extreme unction among others).

The second point of the confession regards the Universal Church (which prior to the Great Reformation was referred to as the catholic church.  The word “catholic” means, “universal”).  The confession says:
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, & tongue, & people, & nation.
The church isn’t just limited to the local body of believers, but extends to the universal body of redeemed souls both living & dead. The language of body is important & taken directly from Scripture (see 1 Corinthians 12ff).  The Church is the Body of Christ making Christ its Head.  He is the Head & stands as its Lord & Sovereign leader.  True redeemed believers submit fully to the Lordship & Headship of Christ.

But the concept of the universal church ought to make us rejoice.  The gospel transcends all time, cultures, race, gender, nations, languages, age, & people.  We rejoice with the same salvation in Glenn Dean as do those in the village of Dargol in Niger, Africa.  The same Lord rules over all & offers the same grace to all.  This means that one day, when united with our Maker, we will worship our Savior.  The we here isn’t limited to middle-class white Americans, but will include every person from every nation & race.

This ought to lead us to rejoice in our great God of salvation & it ought to drive us towards evangelism.  May we work to grow the body of Christ to see unity in the midst of diversity. Baptist have a rich heritage in supporting missions & celebrating the diversity of the body of Christ.  Only the gospel can bring such diversity into a unity under the Headship of Christ.

The question, then, is how will we serve in the body of Christ?  Will we act like the head & demand from Christ or will we be the body that we are, & serve at direction of our head so that our Savior might be glorified & the souls of men & women everywhere be redeemed.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - SalvationThis is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes -  God's Purpose of Grace
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - The Church 

All Around the Web - April 21, 2015

Justin Taylor - Paul Was Inspired, Yet He Wanted Timothy to Bring Him Books to Read!

Thinking Christian - Is There Christianophobia in the United States?

Pastor's Today - Top 5 Mistakes Pastors Make with Church Finances

Denny Burk - The six daycare survivors from Oklahoma City bombing

Tim Challies - 7 Books I Would Definitely Read

Crossway - Ask Kevin: Should I Attend My Homosexual Friend's Wedding?

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Desire and Deceit" by Albert Mohler: A Review

In 2008, Albert Mohler published four books. The last of those books was entitled Desire and Deceit: Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance and tackled the issue of sexual ethics in a postmodern age.

Mohler is primarily interested in helping the reader understand the culture, how we have come this far, where we are going, and how the Christian is to think, stand, and respond. And that is perhaps what Mohler is best at. Like the previous book published in 2008, this one is based on some of his blog posts and speeches he has written/given in the past.

Mohler begins by looking at a letter that "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy author JRR Tolkien wrote to his son about the issue of sex. The letter not only gives insight into the religious views of America's most prized fictional author, it also shows how radically different things have changed in our culture. At the writing of this letter, this advice from father and son was sound advice. Now, our culture would consider such advice bigoted, closed-minded, and from the pen of a religious nut.

I found this chapter to be one of the most interesting introductory chapters in most books I have read. As a Tolkien fan, I was drawn in by Mohler's analysis of the letter and of Tolkien himself. Mohler points out that what Tolkien tells his son is a summary of the Christian worldview on the subject. A good summary of what Tolkien tells his son comes from another letter from Tolkien to one of his best friends and fellow Christian, CS Lewis. Tolkien points out:
Christian marriage is not a prohibition of sexual intercourse, but the correct way of sexual temperance--in fact probably the best way of getting the most satisfying sexual pleasure.
From there, Mohler begins to look at many other issues. Much of the book looks at the issue of homosexuality. In fact, it would seem that most of the book is dedicated to this subject. There were a couple of things that Mohler points out that I found helpful on this subject.

First, the argument for the normalcy of homosexuality has radically changed. Before, homosexuals pleaded for identity, now they argue for orientation. The difference is a matter of civil rights. If one is born gay (orientation), then homosexuality is no longer a matter of morality, but a matter of prejudice. Mohler shows how this shift in language has changed the debate and how Christians are to respond.

Another helpful insight was his discussion on what the rise of homosexuality in our culture has affected friendship. This chapter shows how the issue of friendship has radically changed as a result of homosexuality. Two men cannot be as close as they used to be in an exclusive heterosexual society. The more our culture celebrates homosexuality, the more true friendship and affection in that friendship passes away. It seems we are taking the one at the cost of the other.

The chapter itself is a discussion on the controversial movie, "Brokeback Mountain," the "gay Western" that released a few years prior. But in this chapter, Mohler returns to "The Lord of the Rings," again. He writes:
In "A Requiem for Friendship: Why Boys Will Not Be Boys and Other Consequences of the Sexual Revolution," published in the September 2005 issue of Touchstone magazine, Esolen begins by reminding readers of a scene from J. R. R. Tolkien's great work, The Lord of the Rings. Sam Gamgee, having followed his master Frodo into Mordor, the realm of death, finds him in a small filthy cell lying half-conscious. "Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!" Sam cries. "It's Sam, I've come!" Frodo embraces his friend and Sam eventually cradles Frodo's head. As Esolen suggests, a reader or viewer of this scene is likely to jump to a rather perverse conclusion: "What, are they gay?"

Esolen suggests that this question is an "ignorant but inevitable response" to the context. He goes on to recall that Shakespeare and many other great authors spoke of non-sexual love between men in strongest terms. Similarly, when David is told of the death of his friend Jonathan, he cries: "Your love to me was finer than the love of women."

As Esolen understands, the corruption of language has contributed to this confusion. When words like love, friend, male, female, and partner are transformed in a new sexual context, what was once understood to be pure and undefiled is now subject to sniggering and disrespect.
A point well taken. Mohler concludes looking at how we, as Christians, are to respond to the sexual issues we face everyday.

Overall, I found this book to be better than I thought it would be. I have read much of what he has written on the issue and listen to much of what he has said, and have always been impressed and in agreement with his thoughts.

I encourage everyone who is thinking about these issues, especially Christians, to pick up this book and give it a read. It will certainly stimulate your intellectual thinking, but at the same time, the issues at stake are too important to overlook. Mohler has an amazing ability to breakdown, critique, and expose the faulty arguments proposed by those shaping culture. He has a gift to arm Christians with Biblical answers for ungodly times. I recommend this book, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

All Around the Web - April 20, 2015

Carl Truman - Delighting in Death? | "Why is it that the people most vocally committed to causes connected to death (abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia) are often the same who are committed to progressive sexual causes? And why do abortion advocates frequently see it not as a necessary evil but as a positive good?"

Doug Wilson - Superior Women: And the Men Who Can’t Out-Give Them

John MacArthur - What Does It Mean to be the Head of the Home?

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Michael Bird - What “Render to Caesar” Really Means!

Friday, April 17, 2015

"Manhunt" by James L. Swanson: A Review

One of my favorite hobbies and subjects of study is the Presidents of the United States. Near the top of my favorite Presidents is obviously Abraham Lincoln (who in America doesn't like Lincoln?). In light of the sesquicentennial anniversary of his death, I am reposting the following review regarding the fascinating and historical account of John Wilkes Booth's in James L. Swanson's book Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer (P.S.).

Swanson offers a thorough account of this fascinating story full of detail.  This is not boring history, but a riveting tale of how the world's most notorious criminal of his day was captured. I find Booth to be an interesting man engulfed in his acting career who was constantly in performance even when running for his life. Booth was a man of the stage and was rarely out of character even to his last moments in life.

What is most interesting about the manhunt is how surprised he was that his goals were not fulfilled.  Booth considered Lincoln to be a tyrant and believed that if he were to assassinate the tyrant and others in his administration, the war for Southern independence would continue and the South would win. But none of that took place. Instead, Booth read in the nations newspapers that he had become the villain and the most hated man while Lincoln was awarded sainthood in the eyes of the public even in the South.

But Swanson makes this interesting suggestion at the end of the story. Perhaps Booth didn't completely loose everything after all. Ford's Theater, the site of the infamous assassination, was eventually turned into a tourist attraction and millions of Americans visit the site each year. What is interesting is that though the site is a place of remembrance of the last moments of Lincoln's life, the site has almost become a place more about Booth than Lincoln. Swanson points out that the tourist can trace the steps of Booth and see original memorabilia from Booth and his race against the federal manhunters.  So though Booth didn't revive the South, his name does go on in memory as the actor had hoped it would.

This is a fascinating book and for any history or presidential buffs, I highly recommend it. It is books like this that remind me that non-fiction told well is better than fiction. History regards real people and in this case, Booth's actions against the Lincoln administration changed American history. By pulling the trigger, Booth may have made the recovery in the South much more difficult than it would have been if the "tyrant" in the White House had lived. Swanson is a great writer and a great historian who tells one of the most fascinating tales in American history. I highly recommend this book.

This book was provided by the Harper Perennial Publishers for the purpose of this review.

For more on Lincoln:
Reviews - "Abraham Lincoln, A Man of Faith and Courage"
Reviews - "The Story of Abraham Lincoln"
Reviews - "Lincoln's Advocate"

All Around the Web - April 17, 2015

Rod Dreher - Political Straight Talk About Religious Liberty

Justin Taylor - The Day Lincoln Was Shot: A Visual FAQ

Eric Metaxas - The Shifting Definition of Religious Freedom

Denny Burk - Why can’t a father marry his adult son? A mother her adult daughter?

Preachers and Preaching - How to Respond to Sermon Feedback

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God's Purpose of Grace

At this point, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 has discussed God, man, salvation, other central theological issues.  We now turn to God’s work in salvation and our security.  Many today continue to debate and despair over the question of assurance.  What assurance do we have that right now that we are still  reconciled with God, called into His kingdom, and adopted as His child?  Am I still saved?  Have I squandered my salvation?  What assurance do I have?

The despair over the uncertainty of one’s salvation can be devastating.  And it is at this point that one of the Baptist distinctives come to our aid: the perseverance of the saints.  The BF&M 2000 reads:
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. [1]
So what assurance do true believers have that we are still in the loving arms of the Father?  One word: God.  That is the argument put forward above.  Salvation is not the work of man, but of God. God is the One who put on flesh; God, in the Person of the Son, bore our sins as our atoning substitute; God satisfied His own wrath, redeemed a people, and saves souls for His own glory. Man plays no role in any of it. All our “righteousness” is like filthy rags. Even the most noble of works is tainted with sin.

This means that our security is determined by God.  And being that God makes no mistakes (He is perfect and cannot lie), never changes (He is Immutable), and His wrath is fully and completely satisfied for the repentant due to the saving work of Christ on the cross, believers – true believers – cannot and will not lose their salvation.  This is the point in the first paragraph.  It is God – and God alone – who regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. Sinners cannot accomplish such work; only God can.

However, this does not mean that salvation is a get-out-of-hell-free-card. It is more than fire insurance.  It involves more than saying a prayer, walking an aisle, and getting baptized.  No, salvation is much bigger than that.

Salvation regenerates us - changing us from the inside out. Though none of us are what we ought to be yet (praise God) we are not what we once were.  The reason is because God is working in our lives.  That which God begins, God will accomplish.  Making us more like Him is one of God’s greatest works.

This is what is meant in the second paragraph:  All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace but shall persevere to the end.  This is the wonderful doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. Words like “eternal security” or “once saved always saved,” though true, are misleading. It implies that persons can “accept Jesus” superficially and still continue to live in sin.  Perseverance of the Saints implies that true believers – saints – will live godly lives that reflects their Savior and will persevere to the end in obedience to their saving Father. Everyday is another opportunity for believers to be more like Christ.

Certainly Christians sin, but not with glee. Our goal is to be more like Christ, not less like Him.  Believers will persevere to the end with this ultimate goal. Though we have not attained such glorification yet, we look forward to the day that we do.

This all comes down to where we began.  Do we have assurance of our salvation?  Every religion in the world offers an emphatic no. The reason is because they are built on what man does, instead of what God has done. If God is the author and finisher of our faith, then rest knowing that you are safe in the arms of God trusting in the saving work of Christ. But assurance works both ways. Trust in yourself and in your self-righteousness and I can assure you that you are lost and will remain so. Salvation is of God, not of man and so long as you strive for grace you will never achieve it. Instead, come to the cross in full humility, and embrace the gospel. Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!

[1]  See Gen 12:1-3; Ex 19:5-8; 1 Sam 8:4-7,19-22; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 31:31ff.; Matt 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Rom 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Cor 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Eph 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Col 1:12-14; 2 Th 2:13-14; 2 Tim 1:12; 2:10,19; Heb 11:39–12:2; Jam 1:12; 1 Pet 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes -  God's Purpose of Grace 

All Around the Web - April 16, 2015

The Porch - America’s Greatest “Right”: Sex Without Consequences

Pastors Today - Debunking Ministry Myths

Thom Rainer - Four Reasons the Pastor Should Hire Other Church Staff

Practical Shepherding - How do I encourage my pastor?

Doug Wilson - Surveying the Text/Revelation | Wilson is a Preterist.

The Gospel Coalition - Martyn Lloyd-Jones: A Reading Guide

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: Between Aslan's Paws

From The Last Battle:
Tirian bent his head to hear something that Jill was trying to whisper in his ear. "What do you think is really inside the stable?" she said. "Who knows?" said Tirian. "Two Calormenes with drawn swords, as likely as not, one on each side of the door." "You don't think," said Jill, "it might be . . . you know . . . that horrid thing we saw?" "Tash himself?" whispered Tirian. "There's no knowing. But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan." (ch. 10, page 121)

All Around the Web - April 15, 2015

Doug Wilson - With Stirrups Raised to Molech

Stand to Reason - Expect to See This Argument against Religious Freedom

Denny Burk - President Obama denounces reparative therapy

The Atlantic - Southern Baptists and the Sin of Racism

Ligonier - Scotland’s Protestant Martyrs: David Stratoun

If "Avengers: Age of Ultron" Came Out In 1995

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation

What is the gospel? That is one of the most important questions we can ever ask.  Unless we answer this question, nothing else we think about, ask about, focus on, believe in, or do will matter.  The gospel identifies the Church, redeems the Church, and is the rock by which the Church is built on.  What is the gospel?

That’s essentially what the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 discusses next.  How is a person “saved?”  How does one get right with God?  What is the gospel?  The BF&M 2000 offer a rather theologically robust and technical answer to that question that at first glance appears rather difficult to understand.  Words like regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification aren’t exactly words we use in everyday conversation, but they are important nonetheless.  The BF&M 2000 says:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed. [1]
This confession of faith is well written and defines the issue pretty well, the problem is that to the average Christian, much of what is laid out here is difficult to understand even though each issue raised here is imperative and very much part of the gospel.  So what is the gospel? It begins with God’s holiness and our depravity.  We cannot save ourselves because our God is infinitely holy and we finite beings are depraved to our core.  Even the “good” things we do are tainted with sin, thus if we were to rely on our works alone, we would present God a filthy rag of righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).  God is so holy that He cannot ignore our rebellion.  What we need, then, is a substitute.  What we need is grace.

The gospel offers such grace through the substituting work of Christ on the cross by which our sins are imputed (there’s a big word) onto Him and at the resurrection of Christ His righteousness is imputed (there it is again) onto us.  In other words, “[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Christ took upon Himself our sin so that when God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Christ.

The cross and resurrection does not just give us a clean slate for us to dirty up again, but a new self, a new life.  This is what we mean by regeneration.  God, through Christ, makes us “new creatures” (vs. 17) whereby we become more like Christ.  Therefore, the gospel says that we are both “saved” now (justification) and are in the process of being “saved” (sanctification) meaning that we are growing in Christ becoming more like our Savior.  Unfortunately man approach the gospel as fire insurance whereby after saying a prayer or getting baptized we’re promised heaven after we die.  That is only part of it.  The gospel is a reformation of who we are at our core.  We are no longer the old man, but a new man that seeks to be more like our Savior.  This means that to be a Christian we both are redeemed at the cross and live by the cross.  Look to the cross and resurrection in everyday life trusting that God will use us for His glory.  We need to seek to reflect Him who bought us at the cross making us children of God, siblings of Christ.  Look to the cross.  Repent.  Believe.  And you will be saved. 

That is the gospel.  Do you believe in this gospel?

[1]  See the following references:  Gen 3:15; Ex 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matt 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Rom 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Cor 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Cor 5:17-20; Gal 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Eph 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Phil 2:12-13; Col 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thess 5:23-24; 2 Tim 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Heb 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Pet 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Rev 3:20; 21:1-22:5.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son 
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation

All Around the Web - April 14, 2015

Trevin Wax - Must Christianity change its sexual ethics? History may hold the key (COMMENTARY)

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Actions Churches Should Take in a Changing Legal Culture

Thom Rainer - 12 Reasons Churches Don’t Practice Church Discipline

Erik Raymond - How The Trinity Should Shape Evangelism

Biblemesh - The Church Fathers’ High View of Marriage

Some language and suggestive content in the video below.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"What Every Pastor Should Know" by McIntosh and Arn: A Review

The focus of this first chapter is evangelism and outreach because these topics are so important. Churches that do not focus on these ministries will die in just a few generations. Hoping and even praying that the harvest will be brought in on its own is simply wishful thinking. Yet many churches seem to base their activities on this na├»ve expectation. Howard Snyder observes, and we agree: “Evangelism is the first priority of the church’s ministry. . . . The church that fails to evangelize is both biblically unfaithful and strategically shortsighted. (13)

Every semester seminary students are told by alumni about all the things they learn "on the field" they never learned in seminary. So prevalent is this assertion that I had one professor, at the start of a very practical and helpful class, boldly claim that he was going to teach us what others say that don't teach in seminary. I have in my library a book that makes a similar practice. But most efforts fall short. Though they offer some important, often-overlooked insights, they don't live up to billing.

There is one volume, however, that does discuss the things that most pastors need but are never taught. The book is entitled What Every Pastor Should Know:101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church by Gary L. McIntosh and Charles Arn (Baker, 2013). Of all of the many books on pastoral ministry - some more theological, some more practical - this is by far the best one I've read. Admittedly, it does not offer the "pastoring 101" advice common in many pastoring books. Those books cover virtually every aspect of ministry - from leadership to to preaching to visiting. What the authors offer here is very practical insight into leading a healthy, vibrant church.

The 1010 indispensable rules of thumb are spread throughout the books fifteen chapters. Each chapter looks at a separate issue some of which are worth discussing in some detail here.

I started recommending this book even after reading just the first chapter because it was precisely what I, and so many other pastors like myself, have been looking for. Chapter 1 looks at the issue of evangelism. It is full of insight into who is, statistically speaking, receptive to hearing the gospel, how a church can reach them, and growing churches do evangelism, etc. That is followed up on chapters regarding reaching visitors (first, second, and third time visitors) that show up at worship. How to utilize leaders, small groups, etc.

In short, the book answers a lot of the questions that pastors ask but too few resources fail to answer. The content here might be too much for a first-time pastor just trying to figure it all out. But for those who are looking into how to better lead their church practically, I cannot think of a better resource than this.

This book was given to me by someone in our convention and I am greatly thankful for it. I hope that more pastors like me read it and put it into practice. The days of the lost coming to us are over. We must go to them. In order to reach our communities, we must work harder than we have in a long time. Eternity hangs in the balance. Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn have provided us with a great tool in our work toward building and leading a healthy, vibrant church. 

For more:
Helpful Books for Pastoral Ministry
9 Reasons Why I Preach Expositionally
My Top 10 Free iPhone Apps For the Pastor - Updated
5 Reasons Why We Should Plan Our Preaching

The Mechanics of Planning Our Preaching
8 Reasons Why Every Pastor Should Write
"One Year to Better Preaching" by David Overdorf: A Review
The Preacher in Black: Why Every Pastor Should Listen to Johnny Cash
"The Hardest Sermons You'll Ever Have to Preach": A Recommendation

All Around the Web - April 13, 2015

National Review Online - The Church of the Left

Mere Orthodoxy - Naive Young Evangelicals and the Illiberal DNA of the Gay Rights Movement

Canon and Culture - Understanding the Definitions of the New Sexual Tolerance

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Timothy George

LifeWay Research - Americans Believe Church is Good but Dying

Eric Raymond - iOS Reading Hack for Efficiency

Friday, April 10, 2015

MacArthur on the Measure of the Church

From his sermon on John 11:17-36, "I Am the Resurrection and the Life, Part 1."
By the way, I might say as a footnote, we've had a funeral here at Grace Church every weekend for the last three weekends. But I was thinking so much yesterday that the measure of a church, the character of a church is not made known by how well it entertains young people.  The character of a church is made known by how well it embraces old people.  The character of a church is not how well it can capture the lighthearted who are alive and young; it's how well it can capture and hold the heartbroken, the grieving.  How does it deal with the suffering?  How does it deal with old age?  How does it deal with cancer?  How does it deal with love, loving people at the worst times of life?  That's the measure of a church. 
Anybody can draw a crowd.  Anybody can put on an event.  Anybody can do a rock concert and attract young people who are just looking for the next gig.  The measure of a church is how does it sustain relationships with people all the way to the grave, fully embrace them, love them right unto death?  That's the measure of a church.  There may be churches that do it with more love and affection than this, but I've never seen one.  The measure of this church cannot be known by sitting here on a Sunday and listening to this that's going on up here. 
The measure of this church is seen in the hardest time of life, the most grievous times of life, the agonies of life, long drawn-out slow deaths or terrible, accidental deaths and how this church embraces people at the low points, the hard points in life.  That's the measure of a church.

All Around the Web - April 10, 2015

Washington Post - Don’t be a bachelor: Why married men work harder, smarter and make more money

Denny Burk - Reflecting on the Indiana RFRA and a final question for the cultured despisers of religion

John Stonestreet - Margaret Sanger and Consequentialism

BibleMesh - Does Christ’s Resurrection Benefit Us Now?

Radical - Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man

For the past several months, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 has led us to think deeply about the doctrine of God and especially the Divine Trinity – 1 God in 3 Persons unified yet at the same time separate.  Now the BF&M 2000 forces us to now consider the Doctrine of Man known as Anthropology.  The BF&M 2000 states:
Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.
The confession of faith essentially says two things – one theologically the other culturally and morally – that force us to address them theologically and biblically.  First is the creation of man itself.

The first sentence sums up the basic Christian understanding of anthropology: Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image.  Understand the depth of that statement and everything else will make sense.  Man stands as the climax of creation and most closely resembles God (though clearly not God is many and most respects).  Whatever made in the His own image may mean (and theologians disagree), we can at least admit that human life is special, unique, and on a level unmatched by any other creature.

At the same time, and as the BF&M 2000 makes clear, though Man was created in the image of God, that special creation was divided into two genders: male and female.  Both are made in God’s image.  Both are equal and both are the crowning jewels of God’s creation.  However, they are both different in many ways.  It is tempting at this point to erase that last sentence.  In a culture like ours, it is simply unpopular and even offensive to state that men and women are different.  Anyone married for 15 minutes, however, can tell you what we all naturally know: men and women are different.  But, just as both genders are equal in status and both are unique creations of God made in His image, God is most glorified whenever we maximize how He has created us.  Only the Christian faith makes sense of this.  In other words, God is glorified in both masculinity and femininity.  God rejoices at the differences in the two equal genders for He created us as we are.  So instead of turning men into wimps or castigating boys for being boys, let us celebrate each other knowing that though we are different, we are equal & God is glorified for that.

This all leads to why we have such debates in the first place.  Sin has entered our universe and with sin came the Curse.  Man and woman were perfect at one point until we sought to dethrone God.  At that point, the world began to spin out of control.  Death, decay, cancer, factions, selfishness, droughts, and divisions replaced what was once the perfect world we can only dream of today.  Once we thought of ourselves instead of God, we became slaves to sin.  And it continues to this day.

It is at this point that the BF&M 2000 picks up on the second aspect of Anthropology.  The first was more theological, the second – driven out of that theology – more cultural and moral.  Clearly the BF&M 2000 has in mind issues regarding life like abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, murder, and other issues regarding life and the taking of life.  As Christians we would also add rape, violence, injustice, and other social issues such as poverty and crime to the equation as well.

How the theology affects our morality should be obvious.  If man is created in the image of God and thus has inherent dignity, then to take innocent life is morally repugnant.  In Genesis 9 God clearly states that any forms of murder is evil because the life of an image bearer of God is being taken.  Being the author and creator of human life, only God reserves the right and authority to determine our days from conception to death.  The BF&M 2000 goes into some detail surveying this issue.  Human life, at its conception, has a level of dignity unmatched by any other creatures and thus ought to have the full rights that any other born human being in a society. Life is precious because it originates with God.  To take the life of an innocent human being, made in the image of God, is an attack on God Himself. 

As a result, the many moral and ethical issues along with the many cultural debates we have in this country aren’t trivial issues, but are theological issues.  They are gospel issues.  Let us not forget that the One who created us didn’t stop at the Curse in Genesis 3, but proceeded to Calvary where He bled and died in our behalf.  If life had no value, then please explain Calvary.  Anthropology, then, is a gospel issue and we must, as always, return to the gospel in all that we say, do, believe, and vote.

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God 
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son 
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit 
This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man