Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 31 Sermon Outline

Sunday October 31 Sermon Audio Link is here.

Here's the rough outline of today's sermon:


Text: Romans 1:16-17

Title: Reformation Day

Theme: Living by Faith

Location: FBC Almyra

Date: 10-31-10 AM

16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith .”

Illustrate works-based salvation: a never satisfied God, a strict, angry, demanding God. Present the idea of a longing to be right with God, but not able to do so because His demands cannot be met. What are His demands?

  1. Be holy, as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16)

  2. Be right in heart not just deed (Jeremiah 11:20)

  3. Love God with all we have (Mark 12:30)

  4. Love is shown in obedience (John 14:15)

  1. Righteousness: address concept: righteous is being right before God.

    1. Not on man's standard

    2. Strictly on God's standard.

  2. Faith: trust, given and strengthened by the work of God (Ephesians 2)

  1. Ashamed of the Gospel

    1. Are we ashamed of the Gospel?

    2. What is the Gospel?

      1. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

          3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

      2. The substituting atonement of Christ for our sins

      3. His power revealed in resurrection

  2. The Gospel is the Power of God

    1. For Jew and Greek

      1. Jews first: where did Christ preach, and what was His people group? And Peter, and Paul?

      2. God honored His commitment to bless the people of Israel by bringing Christ to them first

    2. Greek next

      1. Everyone is either Jew or Greek (in the terms Paul is using. To the Greek, you were either Greek or Barbarian)

      2. This encompasses the whole world.

      3. God honors the promise of Genesis 12: from Abraham comes the Savior of the world, in whom all peoples are blessed.

  3. All who believe

    1. Believe: fully committed in life

    2. Believe: enabled to do so by the power of God

  4. How do we live?

    1. We can never measure up to the righteousness of God

    2. This is the essence of this text:

      1. It is the faith God grants us, that grows within us that we live by, and that we are justified by. There is nothing else by which we can approach God

      2. We have only the faith that He will honor His word to do so

  5. What should we do?

    1. Stop trying to please God by our actions

    2. Rather accept His offer of grace

    3. Live by faith

      1. Consider Galatians 2:20-1

      2. 20  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.21  “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

  6. If you have never acknowledged Christ as Savior and Lord, if He is pouring out grace on you then you need to acknowledge, accept, receive, and surrender to Him. He is calling out to you

  7. If you have, then are you living by faith? Are you fully trusting in Him?

Fires and responsibility

No, this is not a plug for Smokey Bear, although he's got a good point.  If you're done with a real fire, put it out.

Instead, this is what I was contemplating this morning as I released a more greenhouse gases and sequestered carbon through my chimney.  Yesterday, we built our first fire in the fireplace here in Almyra.  It was a bit of a challenge, because the fireplace is huge, and I didn't take the time to split some good kindling.  Overnight, the fire fuel burned up, but there were a few coals left, and I brought in some smaller wood to get started this morning.  I got the fire mostly restarted, and then it seemed to simmer down to just some coals again, but with lots of wood and heat in the fireplace.

So I got down in front of the fireplace, took a deep breath, and blew hard right at the hottest part of the wood. The wood burst into flame, and now we've got a good crackling fire in the fireplace.

A few thoughts on this:

1.  Take the time to prepare the fire properly.  Yesterday, had I taken time to split some thin pieces, or even gathered twigs from the yard, I could have started the fire much more quickly.

2.  Properly tended, a fire will never stop burning.

3.  When everything is right, a little movement of breath will cause a fire to ignite.

So, what about the "responsibility" word in the title?  Well, churches and the work of God are somewhat like my fire experience over the past 2 days:

Our churches are meant to be hot in obedience to God.  We should be a place where the flame of the Spirit burns brightly as we are the light of the world.  So:

1.  Take the time to prepare the fire that is your life properly: split the wood, discipline yourself to take the time you need to be ready for the work of God.

2.  Properly tend: keep the Word of God close, and ready in your mind and heart.

3.  The Holy Spirit will breathe in and through, ignite the wood of your life from the glowing coals of the Word.

It's your responsibility to be ready, and to bring into your life the Word.  The Spirit of God will follow.

And guess what?  The same thing is true of the church you're a part of: if the church gathers, seeks the Word, and is willing to let the Spirit "blow where he wills" (John 3), God will ignite your church such that He will change your community through it.  And if your community is changed with the Gospel, you'll change your region, and you'll change the world….



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book Review: A Year with God

So, I got my next Booksneeze book for review.  It's a devotional book, a year's worth of reading.  Ann asked if I had to take the whole year before I could review it….we decided not.

This book is A Year with God by R.P. Nettlehorst:

A Year with God

The premise of this devotional book is to take the parts of Scripture that are direct quotes of God and present devotional thoughts from those parts.  It's an interesting premise.  While a conservative like myself would find that all of Scripture is God's Word, it is interesting to study the direct quotes.

The layout of this book is the traditional yearly devotional layout: each page has a portion of Scripture, and a devotional thought based on that portion.  The table of contents is organized by subject, and the order of the entries is also subject grouped.

I'd say this is a strength for the table of contents, but a slight weakness for the book order.  True, I'm nitpicking here, but I would like this book a little better had the "Mercy and Judgment" "Faith and Doubt" "Hope and Fear" "Perseverance and Quitting" sections been interspersed throughout for an annual read, since we struggle with all of those at various times.  Then, with the table of contents divided by subject, you could use it as a reference to find specific subject.

That's not to say it's a bad book.  It seems on first glance to be well done, and generic enough to allow the Spirit of God to work through both the Scripture passages and the devotional thoughts of the author.  This is a strength: there are some devotional books that are perhaps too specific, focusing on one type of person or one phase of life, and it's not useful to anyone else.  I can easily see this book being valuable year in and year out.

Also a strength is the effort to use enough of Scripture to provide good context, rather than one verse then ripped from its moorings and applied however the author saw fit.  Instead, there is some effort to provide context and original placement.  Not too much, so you'll still need a study Bible or something of that sort to help answer those questions.

All told, if you're looking for a devotional book to give as a gift for this year, you'll do well with this one.  The binding seems strong enough to hold up to daily use, although you'll have to ask in about a year to know for sure.  I would say this to Thomas Nelson, though: get this book on Kindle!  There's a good market of people that use their Kindles for daily devotional readings (or their Kindle apps), and this would be a good addition to it.


4 stars out of 5.

Read Disclosures! if you want more details than this: Free book from publisher, free review from Doug, no influence, no money.



Friday, October 29, 2010

A positive happening in Baptist life...

A little over a year ago, a high school football team had traveled from one part of Arkansas to another for an away game. Like many other medium-sized town in Arkansas, Monticello had hotel rooms to stay in, but there wasn't meeting space large enough for 50 or more high school kids and their associated adult chaperones and coaches. Add in that football is a big deal, and there's not going to be much help forthcoming for a visiting team.

Well, one of the adults with this team was also the “unofficial” chaplain of the team. He sent out a message on Twitter that he was looking for a space to meet. That tweet was picked up by one of his friends, who happened to pass the info on to me. At the time, I was pastor of a church in Monticello. In fact, it was the church within rock-throwing distance of the hotel the team was staying at for the game. I made contact back with the team, and offered the use of the youth room in our church for their team to meet in, watch film, and do whatever they needed. Because it was a Thursday night and Ann was out with some friends, it took a little extra looping to get the keys to the church in the hands of the team.

Actually, it didn't take much looping. The football team was having dinner at the pizza restaurant that shared a parking lot with the restaurant Ann and another pastor's wife had gone to for dessert night. So, it was a quick walk across the parking lot and the problem was solved.

So, that night, the team used Calvary Baptist Church in Monticello, Arkansas. This was the first time nearly half the football team had ever been in a church. That's right. Ever been in a church. That night, and the next day, they got to look around and think it was a cool building and a cool room. They had the opportunity to hear their coach's testimony of his Christian faith. They had the opportunity to see nearly the closest thing small-town Arkansas has to “love your enemies” when their opposing team's supporters provided them meeting space.

How did it all come together? Like I said, a tweet went out from one person, and it bounced off of another. Well, here's a few other details: Doug, the team chaplain, sent a tweet. Mark, a mutual friend, saw it and forwarded it to me. I bounced it to Ann, who, knowing Mark and the first Doug helped with the project. How did we know each other? A little place called Ouachita Baptist University. Mark and I lived in the same dorm. Doug was there, and so was Ann. We majored in different things, but remembered each other, and had grown with a love for serving the Lord Jesus Christ together in our time there.

One other detail....Mark was in Singapore. Or China, or someplace in East Asia, because that's where he lives these days. So, one Doug helped another Doug in Southeast Arkansas, by way of East Asia, all because of a group of relationships that began with Ouachita Baptist University.

Why tell this story now? I was reminded of it when I ran into the other Doug this week at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. I haven't seen him since school. I still haven't seen Mark. We were there, together, celebrating the work that Arkansas Baptists have been involved with together, and I remembered this story. I should have shared it then, but better late than never.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Conventional Wisdom

I'm currently at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was remembering a few things from going to Orlando this past summer for the Southern Baptist Convention.  I'm not sure if I ever got around to sharing this tidbit here on the blog, but I'll share it again.

I was working at the SBC as a part of the Credentials Committee (there's an explanation for that committee, and it's dull).  As such, I was up front in the registration area when a US Army Major General walks up and asks where he's supposed to be.  This was the Army Chief of Chaplains, a post currently filled by a Southern Baptist Chaplain.  Chaplain (Major General) Carver was there to do the invocation and say a word or two at the service.  He had gotten there perfectly on time, but later than he preferred.  He also wasn't quite sure where to go.

Now, I've never had the chance to tell an Army General where to go, so I offered to walk him to the stage area rather than just give directions.  Why?  Well, first of all, I wasn't really clear on how to give the directions.  Second, I didn't really have anything else to do.  Third, I still hold a deep desire to be a Chaplain, at the very least with the National Guard, and didn't want to be remembered as being unhelpful to the boss.

So, from registration, up the stairs we headed.  I've already mentioned, I think, that the General was in a hurry.  As we're headed up the stairs, we pass an Orange County Sheriff's Deputy working security (Baptists make for a rough crowd), and the man stops, thanks the deputy for his service, and then goes on. 

Now, typical, conventional wisdom would tell you that an Army Major General is much more pressed for time than a sheriff's deputy picking up some overtime with an easy job (come on, this wasn't a CR-debate year).  That a man with nearly 40 years of service should be thanked by those around him, not be the one thanking.  That was not what I saw. 

I saw the complete opposite. 

It challenges me to this day:

1.  Who do I think I should be thanked by?  Am I so important in my own mind that I expect appreciation? If so, how dare I? 

2.  Who am I overlooking that needs to hear "thank you"?  Honestly.  Where are there people in my everyday life, or in my once-in-a-lifetime encounters, that need to be told they are appreciated?

3.  What am I going to do about it?  That day, I went to the first aid area and told the people there 2 things: that I appreciated them being there, and I hoped they had the most boring 2 days of their lives (well, you wouldn't want first aid busy at your event, would you?).  What about now?  There's much to do.

So much for conventional wisdom.  Let's apply some appropriate wisdom: let us serve, even with words.  After that day, I wanted all the more to be an Army Chaplain.  For what I saw in 2 minutes, I realized that I would be honored to follow Chaplain (Major General) Carver into any situation.  Did he do it for that reason?  No.  He likely did not catch my name, and barely had time to see my face.  He did what he did because it was right.

May we find leaders worthy of our following like this.

May we be leaders like this.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

On the road again

Tonight, I'm sitting in a hotel room in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Not because Jonesboro is just the garden spot of Arkansas, nor just so that I can have cable TV to watch Iron Chef America tonight, but I'm here for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.  The past two years I've been at each level of Southern Baptist organization: the local association, the state convention, and the national convention.  The streak will probably end next year in Phoenix, because I just don't see making a 2 day drive to get to a 2 day meeting to drive 2 days back.  While there are some benefits to going, such as some good preaching and the chance to reconnect with the occasional friend, that's just a bit too much.

So, what will we do, and why are we in Jonesboro for it?  Well, I'm not sure how many total messengers we'll have.  Last year in Benton I believe we had 777 messengers, which is down from being above 1000 back in the 1990s.  However, the messengers that register will hear some good preaching, hear the reports of what the Arkansas Baptist agencies, boards, and entities have been up to for the last year.  We'll hear the plans for the next year, and we'll vote on approving some of those plans and the budgets for them.

We'll also elect officers, trustees of agencies and boards, and approve (or deny) resolutions.  It's basically an opportunity for all of the Baptist churches in Arkansas that support the work of the state convention to hold accountable the people that spend the money we send them.  Not only will they make speeches and present reports, but many of these agencies will have people standing at booths in an exhibit hall who will attempt to answer whatever questions don't get asked in the session.

There will be plenty of informal meeting and encouragement happening on the side, a few good meals, and plenty of coffee consumed.  It's the way we've done business for many years as Baptists.  It works, even if it's not perfect. 

Perhaps I'll blog more as we go through the next few days.  Perhaps not, because I've still got to do Hebrew homework and do a few other things.  We'll see you in a day or two if not…



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Above the Law

Right now, I'm reading through Hebrews in the mornings as my personal study.  (I try to make sure I'm reading and learning outside of what I'm preaching.  Right now, that means I need to be reading something in addition to John and Exodus.)  This is what struck me this morning:
For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.  Hebrews 7:18-19
The author of Hebrews (Paul, Apollos, Barnabas, Aquila, or Priscilla?) has been comparing the Old Testament covenant with the covenant instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ.  This passage opened up a line of thought which I'd recommend you to consider:

We are not righteous of our own accord.  In fact, all humanity is born with a tendency to sin.  It's like coffee's natural inclination to get cold (and, therefore, nasty), our natural tendency is to drift from the perfection God has commanded.  This has been our problem since Adam, Eve, and that whole fruit incident.  That tendency has very diverse manifestation, but it's still ultimately the same: God is perfect, and we're not.  It's like being born with a negative balance in our account.

Now, the Old Testament Law contains two major parts: 1.)Commands about living a holy life; 2.)Commands about sacrifices to cover failing to live a holy life.  If you extract the narrative, that's Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  What I see is this: under the old way, man was expected to do his best, and offer sacrifices to bring him up to zero in his 'holiness account' before God.  Now, further study of the OT shows that it was actually God's grace that accepted the sacrifices as adequate, but that's the essence of the Old Covenant.  (Covenants are binding agreements. More in another post.)

The New Covenant works differently.  As people, we're still born the same way we always have been, in debt to the holiness of God.  We're still carrying a negative balance in our account.  Except that when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and died as the substitute sacrifice for our sins, He changed the situation.  Note that He didn't substitute for Old Testament sacrifices.  He substituted for us.  For those who have accepted Christ and surrendered to Him as Lord, His righteousness balances our account at zero.  We are now capable of standing before God, because we have been credited with His account.  Our lives are now about living in gratitude of that credit, and living up to it.

The Law, as the Hebrews passage points out, could not make us holy and perfect.  It was structured to point out our lack of holiness and perfection, and to illuminate what has to be done about it.  It is possible for us to be counted as perfect before God because of Christ, though we are now needing to live up to that credit we have received.  Will we falter?  Certainly, but we have no debt to work off any longer.  We have only the gratitude we owe that brings us back, and keeps us in obedience to God.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: Really Woolly Bible Stories

Book Review: Really Woolly Bible Stories

Really Woolly Bible Stories

Yes, I chose to review and light and fluffy book. Well, fluffy at least. Sheep aren't light. Ann and I have been swapping Really Woolly cards and gifts for quite some time, and my daughter has a Really Woolly Bible, although I think that's really just the cover. So, naturally, I thought I'd take a read at the Really Woolly Bible Stories book, since we're kind of fond of those sheep around my house.

First observation: this is a board book. There are not very many pages, and not very many stories. However, if you've been in the board book market, you know this, and are not surprised by it.

Second: the writing: you've got Bible stories in short, rhymed verse. It's cute. It's not Shakespeare, but why should it be? The writer has kept the Biblical concepts clear and not diluted anything presented. This is a big plus in my accounting. Many children's Bible story books are overly concerned with cute and non-scary writing and miss the points of several stories. It's better to not tell the story than to water it down if you don't feel kids can handle that story.

Third: the artwork: It's sheep. They're cute, and there's a duck involved too. If you have seen Really Woolly cards or artwork or gifts, you know what you're getting: cute sheep.

My kids are old enough now that they don't chew up or throw around board books, so I haven't truly durability tested this book. It seems well made, and as a children's item should be.

If you need a cute book for a toddler this Christmas, it wouldn't be a bad choice to get them the Really Woolly Bible Story book. It's certainly a better choice than some annoying noisy toy!


No money changed hands in exchange for this review. All I got was a book, all they got was the opportunity to demand a review. That it's favorable is my own choosing, and the author/artists for creating something worth a favorable review. Check out Booksneeze from Thomas Nelson so that you, too, can get free books in exchange for reviews.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Catchphrases and mental blocks

For those of you who don't know it, early voting started today here in Arkansas.  It's an opportunity to vote a different day than Election Day, avoid lines, address issues, and have a little more convenience for yourself.  I've done it once, myself, but I probably won't do it this year.  Or very often, for that matter.

You see, I remember the joking catchphrase about politics "Vote Early, Vote Often."  So, early voting has associated itself in my mind with fraudulent voting.  Living for 6 years near Memphis, which was the first district I lived near with early voting didn't help.  Memphis, after all, is a place where not just Elvis is still alive.  So are many people on the voter rolls, no matter how long it's been since their funeral.  The anecdotes are legendary, but there is a modicum of truth under them  (What's odd is that, even without the fraud, Memphis would still vote Democrat as a line, so why bother?)

So, while I know there is nothing inherently fraudulent about early voting, it's still kind of locked up in my mind. 

It's kind of like if you were to adopt a wrong way of thinking about God, like conceiving of God as always angry or never correcting His children.  Guess what?  God is always angry at sin and always loving towards His children, which means that He is angry at their sin and corrects and disciplines them.

Yet we get the catchphrase locked in our heads.  We call the church building "The house of the Lord" without realizing we're subtly convincing ourselves that He's more there than elsewhere.  We ask the preacher for "a word from the Lord" when we've got it printed (on average, the American Bible-owning household has 3 of them) and have the same Spirit to illuminate Him to us.  Our catchphrases can hurt us, if we internalize them too much.

So, let's agree to this: we'll let the Bible be our guide, and our Holy Spirit infused consciences be louder voices than the small lines we learned a long time ago.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hebrews 4:2

2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. Hebrews 4:2 (ESV)


Now, to give you a bit of background: the author of Hebrews (whomever he or she may be, though my old-school grammar will use he all the way through here) has been comparing the Exodus of the Israelites to what God has done for all of humanity through Christ.  The author is also contrasting our responses to the response of the Israelites.

What chapter 4 covers is that the Israelites were not able to enter the Promised Land because they lacked obedience.  If you're familiar with the Old Testament, you know that God brought the Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land, told them to check it out and go take it.  They checked it out, then decided it was too much trouble.  Essentially, they said "We'd rather go die in the desert."  So they did.

Something to notice about the Israelites then, and it's what the author of Hebrews is pointing out: they lacked faith, and so they failed to act.  It's not the failure of their actions that leads to the criticism, rather it's the failure of their faith, but the failing of faith leads to disobedience.

So, what about us?  We're not leaving Egypt, at least most of us.  Rather, we're trying to walk in obedience in the life we have now.  Guess what?  Our faith is shown by our obedience.  It's not shown by calmly sitting back and claiming we have faith.  It's shown by our obedience.

This is what the author is saying: the word of God is united in our hearts only when we obey Him in faith.  Have you partnered your faith with obedience?  Obedience to profess faith, to live faith, and to share the faith? 

And our faith, well, it's strengthened by our obedience.  It's a self-reinforcing cycle. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Remember where you were…

18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

Deuteronomy 24:18 (ESV)

This verse comes after Moses has reminded the Israelites of God's commands about how to treat Egyptians and slaves, Edomites, and Ammonites and Moabites.  What are the differences?

Well, Ammonites and Moabites were to be excluded from the assembly of Israel for ever and ever, because of how they had treated Israel in the Exodus.  Edomites were supposed to be allowed within the assembly after a set time, because they had treated Israel well in the Exodus.

Then there's the command that Egyptians were to be allowed into the assembly.  Now, the people of Israel have just (well, 40 years before) left slavery in Egypt.  They had been subjected to oppression and even an attempt at genocide.  Yet, God doesn't command vengeance, rather hospitality and forgiveness.

He also commands that the slaves and servants of the Israelites be treated decently.  In fact, built into the Law is the requirement that slaves be able to attain freedom, and that Israelites be automatically freed after no more than 50 years.

Looking at this, I'm wondering about our tendency to forget where we come from.  How easy it is to attain to power and then use it badly, whether it be for revenge or simply to show how great we've become.

And it's the source of downfall.  Serious downfall.  When we think that God has blessed us so that we can demonstrate our newfound power and authority, we've missed the point.  God had appointed Israel to demonstrate His holiness to the people around them, to be the instrument of His glory and His work in the world.

It wasn't supposed to be about them and their national aggrandizement.  They were supposed to remember the deliverance they had received, to recall that God had chosen them, and that there was no personal merit to them, rather it was the gracious love of God.

Sound familiar?  That's us, as followers of Christ.  That's us, as Baptists.  That's us, as Americans.

As followers of Christ, we're supposed to be demonstrators of God's holiness, instruments of His glory, the body through which He works in the world.  Are we doing it?

Us Baptists claim to be followers of Christ, and so all that applies to us.  How does some of our behavior match up with that?  Are what we are known for as Baptists in line with this?

We Americans have been blessed by God.  It's true that a lot of that blessing has come through the determination and hard work of people, some of whom wouldn't even acknowledge God's hand in the work, but there is precious little other explanation for our birth and survival as a nation.  Yet we have, at times, not been what we should either.

The issue, though, is this: none of us can change our past.  We can learn from it and move forward.  The Israelites weren't told to spend time lamenting that they had gone to Egypt in the first place, but rather were instructed how to be from this point forward.

I think it's time that many of us realize that we are to remember where we came from, and let that affect our behavior from this point forward, not dwelling on the past, but growing from it.



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sermon Outline, October 10 PM

Ok, here's the sermon outline situation:  Sunday morning we observed the Lord's Supper.  I didn't record that, because it just doesn't audio record well, there's too many stops, starts, singings, waitings, and so forth.  Join us one Sunday and you'll see why.

Here's the outline for the Evening Sermon, with audio link here.


Text: Exodus 3

Title: Burning Bushes, Burning Bridges

Theme: Responding to God's Call

Location: FBC Almyra

Date: October 10 2010 PM

  1. The Burning Bush:

    1. When God seeks your attention, He gets it

    2. When God speaks, you should listen

  2. The Burning Bridge:

    1. Cut your ties with the life you leave behind

    2. Go forward towards obedience

  3. The Present reality:

    1. We see God:

      1. Identify Himself to Moses

        1. By history ---of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob

        2. By character --Timelessness

        3. By name –YHWH

      2. Command Moses

        1. For Moses' protection: come no closer to the Holy One

        2. For Moses' provision: what to say to obey

        3. For Moses' potential: to do what God has called Him to do.

      3. Has not forgotten Israel

      4. Has no interest in excuses

    2. We hear God today:

      1. Not from a burning bush

      2. Rather from the Word

        1. The Word is always the final authority:

        2. God will not act in conflict with what He has already said and done


One other housekeeping note:  We're not having evening services Sunday, October 17, so there will be no sermon there, I'll be out of the pulpit October 24, so none then.  There should be morning the 17th, then morning the 31st.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review: The Treasure of God's Word

The Treasure of God's Word: Celebrating 400 Years of the King James Bible

Some of you may not realize it, but an important milestone is next year:  2011 marks 400 years since the publication of the King James Version of the Bible. Now, many people will discount this, since they aren't major readers of the Bible in general, while others will discount the KJV for other reasons.  Others will certainly celebrate the KJV for both religious and linguistic reasons.

In the run-up to this anniversary comes this book.  It's the first I'm aware specifically targeted into that quadricentennial (yes, I looked that up) market.  It won't be the last.

Which is a good thing.  The book reports to readers that the KJV is highly influential, but does not go very far in describing that influence.  The primary content of the book are copy-and-paste sections from the Bible itself, which is certainly good content, but not really worth another book purchase if you own a Bible, especially a KJV.  The short, mini-essay style content that is interspersed between the Bible sections just doesn't hold up as a reason to purchase this book.

What are some of the difficulties I had here? 

At the simplest level, I felt the Scripture sections were too long and the information sections too short.  This makes the book seem more like an attempt to monetize than to inform or inspire.  Also, when the passages selected were specifically intended to show the strength and beauty of the English in the King James Bible, the more you read those words, the less impressive the modern writing is.  I don't know many authors that could generate content that would hold a candle.

A further difficulty was that the original content is more than just celebration of the King James, it comes across as almost too exalting.  If this was the first one read of Bible translations, you'd be shocked to later discover that there are issues with the KJV translation, rather than that it's the best there has ever been. In discussion of the heritage of the KJV, this book does address their existence, but does not acknowledge the debt the KJV has to the previous editions.  The reader is given the impression that the world of English Bibles was a complete mess until King James and the translators saved the day.

The historical reality is a little less clear.  There were prior Bible translations, and many of them were quite popular, except that they lacked official approval by the King and the state religion.  So, there are some issues left undiscussed.

Finally, there are a couple of references to the King James Version not simply as one translation of the Word of God into English, but as the Word of God in English.  It's a hint of treating this one translation as better than all others, and that I find questionable.

In all, this book could have been better.  Judged by its cover, it's beautiful, but on the inside, it falls into the trap of praising something by ignoring issues rather than addressing them.


Read Disclosures! to see that I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze for the review.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bunny Slipper

Swiped from I can haz cheezburger....the Baptist Blogger in his natural habitat!!

Bunny Slipper: "

funny pictures-Bunny Slipper

Bunny Slipper

much better than bunneh coarnur…

LoL by: Unknown

Picture by: Jai Viray

» Recaption This!

» View All Captions


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Confrontation in the Church, pt 2

Sometimes, it's not about sin.

Did you realize that?  Some confrontation in church happens, not because of sin, but because of either preference or qualifications.  For example:

1.  I am a pastor.  I do not lead music.  If you were to hear me singing one Sunday, you might confront me and ask me to make sure my wireless microphone is off next service.  There is a reason: I'm not qualified to sing into a microphone in the presence of people.  Your confrontation is about qualification.

2.  Our church has certain criteria for leaders.  Our church also participates with other churches to accomplish things we lack the resources to do individually.  The smallest unit of this is called a Baptist Association.  Our association meets next week to elect leaders.  Guess what?  Many of you readers of this blog aren't going to get elected, and if you showed up and wanted elected, you would be confronted and told to sit down and be quiet.  Why?  Because we have a preference that the leadership (and participants) in our annual meeting be people who are actually involved in the area.  You may think it unfair, but if your church hasn't given a dime into the Centennial Association, you don't get a vote, no matter how amazing you are.  It's our preference.

3.  There are times that church leaders have to be selected, and it's a tough choice.  Qualifications and preferences come into play.  It is not sinful to prefer one leader to another based on those issues, as long as you are honest about where you stand. Moreover, when a leader is selected publicly, presented publicly for debate and acclamation, then that will lead to a confrontation between that leader's supporters and detractors.


Now, as to a confrontation over preferences and qualifications, guess what?  It's not about sin.  It doesn't fit any actual Biblical model.  Why?  Well, here's some reality for you: except as it is printed in the Word of God, none of us hears God perfectly these days.  None. Nada. Zilch. Got it?  You and I are capable of mistaking the leading of the Spirit.  Really, we can mistake the printed Word to mean one thing and not another, so how much more the work of God inside of us? 

So, for example, having a preference for a leader, or against a leader isn't a sin.  You have to back up and see how you are handling that preference.  You can handle it sinfully.  If you are so against a person that you do not believe they can ever do right, you've gone too far.  If you are so for a person that you believe they can never do wrong, you're too far.

Likewise, to question a person's qualifications isn't covered in the Scripture.  There are Paul's defenses of his own ministry and God's defenses of Moses, but those are different.  How?  Both of these heard the audible voice of God and saw God (at the bush and on the road, remember?).  Did you?  Did this person who claims to be above question?  The fact remains that we use man-designed institutions to attempt to accomplish what God called us to do. 

It's like this: we know that God has called us to make disciples of all nations and to fellowship and assemble together.  God directs in the Bible that we are to study and learn the Word and grow together. So, we, in America, typically we build building, buy books, have chairs, have multiple churches pool money to support missionaries, create schools, orphanages, and so forth.  We see these man-made structures as being good stewards of the resources we have to accomplish God's commands.

Except that the qualifications for leading and guiding these institutions gets a little fuzzy.  There are some clear guidelines for pastors and elders and deacons, but what about all the other things we have in church and cooperative church life?  In these areas, it is not a matter of confronting sin, but rather of questioning qualifications for leadership.

As such, it's not covered by Matthew 18.  It's not even covered in Galatians 2, because that's about leading people to sin.  It's covered logically from the principles of Scripture: those who would lead should demonstrate why they should lead.  And those who would be followers have the right to ask questions about whether or not someone is qualified to be installed as a leader.  In fact, it's our responsibility to do so.

The difficulty has come because of this: we have mistaken the notion that we must be completely unified to accomplished our purpose together.  While some of the great armies of history were completely unified, do you think every soldier at D-Day was a member of the General Eisenhower fan club? Do you think they all voted for him in 1952?  They had a job to do, and they did it, because the overwhelming nature of their enemy was enough to forge unity in the necessities.

My point?  Confrontation, public confrontation, is a necessity.  The only method we have to select leadership is through prayerful consideration of qualifications and preferences, and to assert that someone can't raise a point about qualifications because they didn't follow Matthew 18 isn't a valid argument.  Public leadership requires public discussion of the issues surrounding it.  And those confrontations and discussions take the same platform as the leadership level.  In a Baptist church, for example, you wouldn't install a pastor that hadn't been publicly introduced and questioned by the whole church (at least you shouldn't).  Most small town churches still officially elect every role in the church every year, including the same organist that's been playing the organ for years (and is probably the only person in town that can play it!).  Wider platforms lead to wider roles.

As such, wider criticism, and a more diverse medium of confrontation.  I wouldn't expect a person to write a newspaper editorial to criticize a small-town pastoral candidate, although a bigger church in a bigger town might rate that.  A national leadership role will result in questions being raised in print, online, and in group discussions.  It's a necessity, because those questions need asked and answered publicly.


Just a few rambling thoughts.  I'll try to get back on track with shorter and better blog posts this week…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Confrontation in the Church

I'm not sure this is going to be pleasant, but it needs to be said, so I'm going to say some it.

There is a time and a place for private confrontation between Christians that have been sinned against by one or the other.

There is also a time and a place for public confrontation between Christians that have been sinned against by one or the other.

The guiding passages are these: Matthew 18:15-20; Luke 6:31; Galatians 2:11-21; Philippians 4:8; James 3 (really, the whole chapter).  Go, click, read, and then come back.  Or get your Bible to read these.  Now, this is not an exhaustive list.  This is a blog, not a book, so it's shorter and less comprehensive.

However, a few principles:

1.  Matthew records Jesus teaching his disciples about how to handle sins between each other.

2. Galatians records Paul's confrontation of Peter over Peter joining with the Judaizers. ("The Judaizers" is the term used to describe the people that taught in the early church that to be a good Christian, one had to be as perfectly Jewish as possible.  They were attaching the weight of legalism to the liberty of the Spirit.)

3.  Luke, Paul in Philippians, and James all have some things for us to keep in mind as we tackle this subject.

Here is what I want to put out there for you to consider:

1.  Sometimes, sin affects our fellowship only with 1 or 2 people.  When that happens, a private, calm discussion should be adequate.  It should be handled that way.  This is the principle of Matthew 18.

2.  However, when church leaders sin, it gets into a whole different ballgame.  The public sin of a church leader requires the public rebuke of that sin, as we see in Galatians with Peter and Paul.  Why is this necessary?  Because we have to consider the impact their leadership has on the people around them.  When it is possible by public rebuke to counter the harm of bad leadership, it is necessary that public rebuke happen.

Now, there are some caveats to this: the first is intention.  If you are reviewing my tax returns from last year, and discover that I took more of a housing allowance than I should have, you ought to ask me, privately, first if I was aware of the issue.  If I was, I did it anyway, and have no remorse for it, then I'm in violation of Scripture, and should repent and correct my behavior.  If I won't, then, when the church's next financial report is presented, the question of the pastor's housing allowance should be put to the treasurer. However, if it's an honest mistake, then it's not healthy to broadcast it to the world. 

Note the assumption: church staff who are paid should have their salaries disclosed to the church. It is their business to be responsible for whether or not the tithes entrusted to the church are being used responsibly.  If you, as a church leader, cannot handle that disclosure, are you in the right business? They should vote on your pay as part of the budget every year, just like everything else. If you can't be forthcoming with what's coming home with you, why would you expect the people to trust you with other money?

The second caveat is this: consequence to the innocent.  There are times that pastors, church leaders, are caught in sin.  This can be sexual, financial, or power issues, among many others.  When there are specific victims, the impact and consequence to the innocent should be considered.  If you will destroy the innocent with a public rebuke, think twice about it.  Try the private rebuke first.

The third caveat is this: consequence to the body: if there are no victims, only that the pastor has, by his behavior, disqualified himself from the role, will it strengthen the church to bring it up?  Are you bearing with your weaker brethren in the church, or are you going to put a stumbling block before them?  Note: crimes need evidence handed to prosecutors, victims need the ability to find closure, any action of the pastor that has those elements must be brought to light.  It's not helpful to sweep abuse or theft under the rug.  One victim leads to two, leads to three, and if you conceal it, you take responsibility for the next one that wouldn't have happened.

Notice: however you look at this, it is not a lightweight task to pick up, but sometimes it is necessary.  If at all possible, allow for the opportunity to privately repent of private sin before making it public.  And seek to be as pure of heart and motive as you can be when you do it.  In fact, it's not something that anyone should seek to be doing very often. It is not your spiritual gift nor your calling to always find fault in others.  It is our accountability to one another in the body of Christ that's involved here.

This is all related to dealing with sin.  Whether it's what we would call a minor sin, like an embellished resume, or a major sin, like a fabricated one, this has to do with issues that, apart from repentance, disqualify one from claiming any role as a church leader.  And malfeasance with church finances or violations of trust, especially to victimize people are automatic disqualifiers. The only thing left at that point is to help the innocent: the victims and the pastor's family, because their lives are pretty wrecked at that point too.


One last note: perfection isn't going to happen.  This is why pastors need accountability and humility, just like anyone else.  If your church leaders are striving to follow Christ, but can admit their mistakes, and those mistakes are along the lines of what any normal believer makes, these are not disqualifying.  Now, a continual attitude that their sin doesn't matter is disqualifying, but that your pastor or church leader loses his temper with a bad referee while watching football doesn't mean he's not fit for the pulpit come Sunday.  If he's never sorry, or if it reveals a deeper issue with anger, it might.  Go back to your Bibles, folks, and get the fullness of what you should do there.  Never trust a blog to be your infallible guide.  Not even mine.

Sermon Recap for April 7 2024

 We started in Acts this week. We'll be there for a few months, then moving onward...