I remember this from when I was child. This what Christmas is all about.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I spent the first two days of this week at the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Some of it was really good, especially Scott Thompson's sermon; while some of it was less than excellent. I have to admit that I tire of the business and the promotion of all the LBC programming. On the other hand, I realize that some of that was necessary. What bothers me the most is the sense of self-promotion and political positioning.
I left asking myself the question, what really holds us all together as a convention? Most Southern Baptists would say the cooperative program and missions are the glue that binds the LBC and the SBC together. I understand what they mean, but there is something more. What binds a group of diverse Churches and pastors like the LBC together is love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mission, evangelism, and the Cooperative program all grow out of our love for and devotion to our Lord.
I hope, for the sake of our convention, that we don't lose our foundation. I pray that we are not so caught up in the elections and budgets that we forget the Gospel.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
By Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“Brothers, pray for us.” (1 Thess 5:25 ESV)
“Let the thought sink deep into the heart of every church, that their minister will be such a minister as their prayers make him. . . . How perilous is the condition of that minister . . . whose heart is not encouraged, whose hands are not strengthened, and who is not upheld by the prayers of his people!
“It is at a fearful expense that ministers are ever allowed to enter the pulpit without being preceded, accompanied, and followed by the earnest prayers of the churches. It is no marvel that the pulpit is so powerless, and ministers so often disheartened when there are so few to hold up their hands. . . . When the churches cease to pray for ministers, ministers will no longer be a blessing to the churches.” Gardiner Spring (1785-1873)
There is no greater gift you can give your pastor and the spiritual leaders of your church than to pray for them. Pastors cannot win the battle alone; they need committed intercessors to lift them up in fervent, specific prayer. Imagine how the power of God might be released in our churches if we were to pray faithfully for our pastors.
Pastors are human—they face the same challenges that their people do, with some additional ones! They grow tired in ministry, are tempted to sin, and may find it difficult to balance their many roles and responsibilities. They need the encouragement and support of those they lead.
Prayer for your pastor is crucial to the spiritual health of your pastor, his family, and your church. God will reward your efforts to cover him in prayer. If you want to encourage your spiritual leaders (and their wives!) let them know you are praying for them. Ask them periodically for any specific prayer requests and assure them you will pray accordingly. Use the following prayer guide with accompanying scriptures, to suggest practical ways to pray for those who provide spiritual leadership for the flock.
Day 1 Pray that your pastor will love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. Pray that God’s Spirit will work in his heart in power and that he will value and follow biblical priorities. (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 6:33)
Day 2 Pray that your pastor will cultivate strong character and uncompromising integrity. Pray that his testimony will be genuine, and that he will never do anything that he would need to hide from others. (1 Tim. 1:5, 3:7; Eph. 6:10-12)
Day 3 Pray for his personal walk with God—that his soul and spirit will be nourished and strengthened in his quiet time with God, beyond his sermon preparation. Pray that he will spend more time in the Word of God than reading Christian books and articles. (Mark 1:35; 2 Tim. 2:15-16)
Day 4 Pray that your pastor will counsel and teach with discernment through the wise use of Scripture and faith in God’s power to work. Pray that he will be protected from the effects of sinful or negative attitudes that he encounters as he counsels. (Mal. 2:7; James 1:5-6; John 17:15)
Day 5 Ask God to protect your pastor’s marriage and keep it strong as a model of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Pray that your pastor will tenderly cherish and lead his wife, and that she will respect and encourage her husband, submitting to his leadership. (Eph. 5:23-33)
Day 6 Pray that God will protect your pastor’s wife from bitterness when her husband is criticized. Pray that her prayer and devotional life will be consistent, and that she will guard her mind and heart. (Heb. 12:15; Prov. 4:23)
Day 7 Pray for your pastor’s children, and especially that the pressures of the ministry will not discourage or embitter them. Pray that your pastor will provide godly leadership in the home, not based on fear of what others will think, but according to scriptural truth. (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:20-21)
Day 8 Ask God to protect your pastor from the evil plots of Satan. Pray that he will not be corrupted as he rubs shoulders with the world in the course of ministry. (John 17:15; Is. 54:17; 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Pet. 3:12; Ps. 9:9-10, 91:9-11)
Day 9 Pray that God will build a hedge of protection around your pastor’s marriage, and that he and his wife will be aware of the potential for any improper relationships. Pray that their family time will be protected. (Ezek. 22:30a; 2 Cor. 10:4-5; Matt. 19:6)
Day 10 Pray that your pastor will use discernment in use of e-mails, the Internet, and the media. Ask God to guard his heart concerning the use of free time. Pray that he will be morally pure and that he will wear the armor of God so that he will not fall into sexual temptation. (Rom. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:16; Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Cor. 10:4)
Day 11 Pray that God will bring godly friends and encouragers to your pastor and his family, to strengthen them for the ministry and provide meaningful fellowship and times of rest. (Phil. 2:19-25)
Day 12 Pray that your pastor will be humble and authentic in his faith, not given to pride or hypocrisy. Pray that he will have pure motives and give God glory for every gain or victory. (Micah 6:8; Gal. 6:14; John 7:17-18; 1 Cor. 10:13)
Day 13 Pray that your pastor will make wise lifestyle choices in order to protect his health, especially in the areas of exercise, eating moderately, and getting sufficient rest. Pray for times of relaxation and renewal to balance the stress of ministry. (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 9:27, 10:13, 6:19-20; James 3:1-2)
Day 14 Pray that your pastor will focus on the Word of God and walk in the fear of the Lord—rather than fear of man—as he prepares his messages. Pray that he will seek to please God rather than men, and pursue holiness rather than the praise of men. (Acts 6:4; Prov. 19:23; 2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 11:6; 2 Tim. 4:1-2)
Day 15 Praise God for your pastor’s leadership and pray that he will make godly decisions. Pray that he will lead with a shepherd’s heart, and that he will always speak the truth in love. (1 Kings 3:9; 1 Pet. 5:2; Rom. 12:6-8; Jer. 3:15)
Day 16 Pray that your pastor will be courageous in the pulpit in proclaiming Christ, and confident in his use of the Word of God. Ask God to help him preach with insight, transparency and humility. (Col. 1:28, 4:3a; Eph. 6:19)
Day 17 Pray that your pastor will be a “Great Commission man”—committed to personal evangelism and the equipping of the saints to seek the lost. Pray that he will have a heart to develop a thriving missions program in his church. (Rom. 10:15; Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 19:10)
Day 18 Pray that your pastor will be a man of prayer and worship, and that he will lead by example—teaching the congregation how to walk in a close relationship with the Father. (1 Thess. 5:17; Acts 1:14a; Matt. 4:10; Mark 1:35; Luke 22:46)
Day 19 Pray that your pastor will use wise time management, and that he will seek God’s perspective for his schedule, guarding his time against unnecessary interruptions. (Eph. 5:15-16; Col. 4:5; Ps. 90:12; John 9:4)
Day 20 Pray for a fresh divine anointing on your pastor’s ministry. Pray that God’s working will be powerfully evident both in his personal life and the spiritual life of the congregation. (1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Tim. 1:7; Rom. 15:18-19a)
Day 21 Pray that your pastor will not give in to discouragement, but will deal with inevitable criticism and conflict by committing himself into the hands of God, who judges righteously. (1 Pet. 2:23)
Day 22 Pray that your pastor will practice servant leadership, edifying the congregation with wisdom and serving with God’s “agape” love. (Gal. 5:13b; Eph. 6:7; Luke 10:43b-45, 9:23-24; John 13:5-9; Phil. 2:3-4)
Day 23 Pray for spiritual unity in the church staff and among the spiritual leadership of the church (elders, deacons, etc.). Pray that the enemy will not be allowed to create divisions, strife, or misunderstanding among the church leaders. (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 12:25)
Day 24 Pray that God will give your pastor a clear, biblical vision of what your church can be and should be for His glory, and that he will communicate that vision clearly and confidently to the church. (Prov. 29:18; John 15:16, 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:5; Mal. 3:11)
Day 25 Pray that your pastor will seek God for personal revival, and revival in your church and community. (2 Chron. 7:14; Ps. 69:32)
Day 26 Pray that your pastor will think biblically, with the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16; Col. 2:6-8; Eph. 4:17)
Day 27 Pray that he will earnestly seek God’s will and be committed to instant and complete obedience—ready for God to work powerfully in and through his ministry. (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Luke 9:23-24)
Day 28 Pray that he will strive for personal excellence and will believe God for all He wants to do in the congregation. (2 Pet. 1:3; Col. 3:23-24)
Day 29 Pray that your pastor will be a man of faith and passionate love for God, not giving in to worries, fears, or an uptight and anxious spirit. (1 John 4:18; Prov. 3:5-6)
Day 30 Ask God to provide for the financial needs of your pastor and his family. Pray that he will be a wise steward of both personal finances and church funds. (Phil. 4:19; Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:11; Ps. 37:25)
Day 31 Ask God to heal any hurts that your pastor has suffered in the ministry. Pray that he will serve the Lord with gladness, and encourage the congregation to worship God with a joyful, surrendered spirit. (Is. 61:3)
Monday, October 08, 2007
I have just finished one of the best books I have read in a long time. From Embers to a Flame by Harry L. Reeder III is a biblical study in how God can revitalize a struggling church. The strength of this book is that it is not another study in worn out church growth principles, one size fits all church programs or warmed over Rick Warren principles. Embers to a flame presents a biblical and theological approach to Church revitalization. This book is timely and needed. Reeder quotes Kirk Hadaway, a SBC research specialist in chp. 1 "The typical church in almost any American denomination is either on a plateau or declining in membership and participation. Rapid growth is atypical, and among older congregations the pattern is even more pronounced - plateau and decline are the rule; growth is the exception."
What is most refreshing about this book is the emphasis Reeder places on the basics of Church life in revitalization. He builds his chapters on the biblical paradigm of revitalization, the Gospel of grace and its power to bring life to a church, the role of prayer, the ministry of preaching the Word, leadership multiplication, mission and vision, and discipleship.
The chapter on the Gospel of God's grace is worth the price of the book. Understanding the Gospel and the story of redemption that runs throughout the Bible is necessary for the life and health of the church. The focus of the church must Jesus Christ, the hero of the Gospel. A struggling church often finds itself overwhelmed with financial and staff issues, and at times conflict management. Our eyes must remain firmly fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one who builds His church and His power is the true source of new life for a dying congregation. The gospel must be believed, preached and fleshed out for the world to see. Paul tells us that it is the power of God unto salvation. What this means is that there is hope. No church is too far gone for Christ to revitalize. What we must realize is that no amount of programs or organizational theories can revive a dying church. Only the power of God can accomplish this. Now that is a message all of us pastors sorely need to hear!
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
“If you make doctrine the main thing, you are very likely to grow narrow-minded. If you make your own experience the main thing, you will become gloomy and critical of others. If you make ordinances the main thing, you will be apt to grow merely formal. But you can never make too much of the living Christ Jesus. Remember that all things else are for his sake. Doctrines and ordinances are the planets, but Christ is the sun. Get to love him best of all.”–Charles Spurgeon
Thanks to the Refromed Evangelist for this quote.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
A Contagious Christian faith
Starting Sept. 12 we will be studying "Becoming a Contagious Christian," a lifestyle evangelism course published by Willow Creek and created by Bill Hybels. I realize that a lot people dislike some of Hybels methods and theology, but having taught it twice in the past I can honestly say this course is great. Christians should be witnesses of the Gospel everywhere they go. We have a responsibility to the people we live and work with to share the glorious good news of the Gospel with them. Contagious Christians teaches believers to use everyday opportunities to share Christ. The method is simple and true to God's Word. I hope that every member of Parkview Baptist Church will take the time to come on Wed. nights and sharpen their skills in evangelism. We may not agree with everything that Hybels does or teaches, but we do agree on the Gospel. That is one subject that we are all together on!
See you there.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The past few weeks here at Parkview have been great. People are friendly and kind to my family. To say I have enjoyed my first month here would be an understatement. Being a new pastor means lots of work! People to meet, committees to work with, sermons to write and staff to lead. Yet, there is a very real danger hidden behind all that good and necessary work. It is far too easy to put off or forget to spend much time alone with God in prayer. One of my staff members gave me a paper to read that describes the Fulton Street prayer revival that rocked New York city in 1857, and ultimately the world. There was no slick publicity, no famous speaker, no ultra talented singing sensation. There was only Jeremiah Lanphier and his burden to get business men together to pray during their lunch hour. At first there were only a few men, but as time went on, hundreds, then thousands met in churches all over the nation to pray. At the peak of the revival 50,000 persons a week were being converted! What would happen today if the pastor, the staff, and the membership of Parkview Baptist Church were to embrace Lanphier's burden for prayer? There would be revival! We need to be constantly reminded that busyness, even the busyness of church does not bring revival - only prayer!
Let us pray!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT
Context-Jesus is preaching a powerful discourse against putting one’s faith in riches. This parable reveals the terrible consequences of a life without Christ.
The Rich man has by tradition been named Dives. The Poor man who finds himself in heaven is Lazarus. The thrust of the parable is not about Lazarus, but the rich man.
From this passage we will find the truth about Hades and Hell. We will find that Hell is a place of conscious, eternal torment for those who reject Christ as their Lord and Savior.
For you who are here who have never accepted Christ I want to urge you to listen and to receive Him.
Believer, I hope your heart is as burdened by this truth. Burdened to the point of sharing Jesus with everyone around you.I will treat Hades and Hell in one train of thought this morning. Hades is the place where the wicked go immediately following death. Hell is the lake of fire in Rev. 20. The difference between is only a matter of time. The experience of Hades is most likely indistinguishable from Hell.
THE EXISTENCE OF HELL-“And being in torments in Hades”. Vs. 23
Modern theologians, even conservative ones, have all but discarded the traditional view of Hell’s existence. There are many theological reasons why we would argue for Hell’s literal existence. I want to present only a few this morning.
THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST-Jesus says more about Hell than any other figure in the Bible. He speaks of Hell and Hades as a fire, burning sulfur, a fiery furnace, outer darkness, and a lake of fire.
The parable at hand is one of the most powerful arguments for Hell’s existence. The parable is meaningless if it does not teach the reality of endless punishment.
THE JUSTICE OF GOD- The rich man in his arrogance and selfishness has shunned and disregarded God’s will. His life is a life of outright rebellion against the God of heaven. To refuse Christ as your Lord, to live your life for yourself and not for the God who created you is a sin against the infinite, Holy, sovereign Lord of the universe. No other punishment could be given except that of Hell. Because of the absolute holiness of God, Hell is a necessity.
ILLUS: a Judge who not prosecute the guilty, i.e. a murderer, rapist, etc. would not be worthy of taking the bench. The same is true spiritually.
For God not to punish sin would make Him less than God.
THE TEACHING OF THE APOSTLES-Paul, Peter, James, and John all speak of the reality of Hell.
If we will believe that the Word of God is inspired and inerrant then we must believe in Hell. To discredit the doctrine of Hell is to disregard God’s Word on the matter. We may not like, we may wish it were different, but God has spoken on the matter. Hell is a fact
There exists at this moment a place of the darkest night, the hottest fire and the most severe torment. At this very moment the smoke of Hell rises up in shame and contempt. At this very moment the cries of those who have rejected Christ ring out across it black and bleak halls. Hell is a Horrible Reality.
THE EXPERIENCES IN HELL-VS. 23-2
I want to be careful here to say only what the Bible says and no more. Many preachers and so-called prophets have gone beyond the bounds of scripture in describing hell. I only want to bring out what Jesus teaches. In the fate of the Rich man God gives us an awful glimpse of a grim reality. This parable is a window to the horrors of Hell.
*One moment he lay in his luxurious bed of wealth. Most likely, even in his dying condition surrounded by his excesses. Servants waiting on him, moping his feverish brow. Then in the space of a heartbeat, in the one moment that it takes for His Soul to depart His body He finds Himself in Hell.
Hell is only a heartbeat away for the person without Christ. What does this passage tell us through Dives experiences in Hell?
<HE IS CONSCIOUS IN HELL-“He lifted up His eyes being in Hades”vs. 23
He sees, he feels, He knows, He thinks. Think how horrible the realization will be for the man or woman who has refused Christ. How horrible that moment of death when they realize there worst fears are confirmed. They are in Hell.
HE IS TORMENTED IN HELL-Vs. 23-24. Being in Torment. Jesus again and again refers to Hell as fire.
Tormented by Loneliness
Tormented by darkness
Tormented by the cries of the damned and demons around him.
Tormented by their view of Heaven.
The bible does seem to teach their will be degrees of punishment in Hell. The principle in scripture seems to be, the greater the knowledge, the greater is the responsibility.
Can we really imagine the horrors of such a place?
HE HAS MEMORY IN HELL-VS. VS. 25 “Remember” Perhaps this will be the greatest of all torments. It will be one that is self-inflected. All the missed opportunities, all the times you have rejected Christ, refused His calling will sear through your mind with more heat than a thousand flames.
The sins you so loved will sour in your memory as you consider them for all eternity.
Mark 9:48 speaks of the worm that does not die. Most commentators interpret this as the Soul’s internal torment. Eating away at the person’s mind for all eternity. Over and over your mind will replay every chance you had to come to Christ. If you do not repent, it may be this very sermon, this very service that runs through your mind for all eternity.
THE ENDLESSNESS OF HELL. VS. 26-
Hell is a permanent condition. There is no crossing over from Hell to Heaven. There is a great chasm. A great gulf.
The Bible does not teach purgatory. That is a Catholic doctrine born out of the vain imagination of the pope, not the heart of God. In fact nothing could be farther from the teaching of the New Testament.
There is no probationary period to be spent in Hell. All are sentenced to an eternal fate with not possibility of parole.
The Bible does not teach Annihilation. This is a doctrine propagated by seventh day Adventists and Jehovah’s witnesses.
Heb. 9:27-For it is appointed for men to die once, and after this to face judgement.
A) THERE IS NO ESCAPE FROM HELL-“vs. 26” ILLUS: Papion, the Movie. Papion escapes from a French island prison considered inescapable.
“….In human punishment some will find means to break prison and flee. In hell, they will be reserved in chains of darkness forever and ever. Malefactors have often found means to break prison, and escape the hand of civil justice. But none ever escaped out of the prison of hell. It is a strong prison. It is beyond any finite power or united strength of all wicked men and devils to unlock or break open the door of that prison.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon said: In hell there is no hope. They have not even the hope of dying—there is no hope of being annihilated. They are forever-forever-forever lost! On every chain in hell, there is written "forever”.The fires there, blaze out the words “forever”. Above their heads, they read “forever”. Their eyes are galled and their heats are pained with the thought that it is “forever”. Oh, if I could tell you tonight that hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might die, there would be a jubilee in hell at the very thought of it. But it cannot be—it is “forever” they are cast into outer darkness”
THERE IS NO REST IN HELL Vs. 24-25;
The rich man (Dives) longed for water, but received none. Never would he ever receive any.
Rev. 14:9-11 “The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. They have no rest day nor night”.
“nor will they find any thing to relieve them in hell. They will never find a resting-place there. No secret corner which will give them any respite. They will find no cooling stream or fountain. Not so much as a drop of water, for they will be tormented with fire and brimstone, and they will have no rest forever and ever. There is not a moment of rest. No sleep, no possibility to pass out from the pain.
Imagine day after day, month after month, year after year, century after century, millennia after millennia. Perhaps the worst characteristic of hell is the sheer hopelessness of it.
Dante in his work places a sign above the gates of Hell “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”
THE ESCAPE OF HELL-vs. 27-31
Notice I said Escape of Hell, not from Hell. Dives (The rich man) wanted Lazarus to go back and tell his 5 brothers not to come. Dives understood that He could have avoided Hell. He could have escaped its horrors. Hell was made for the Devil and His angels, not for you and I.
Let me point our two very simple very obvious truths.
UNBELIEVERS CAN ESCAPE HELL-Lazarus could not go back, but the brothers could repent. Abraham states they have Moses and the Prophets. They have all the light they need to repent. It is up to them. This morning you can know the joy of coming to Christ. You can have an eternity with the Father, Son and Spirit. You can live as you were created to live in complete joy and purpose.
Realize your lost condition.
Call upon the name of the Lord.
You have all the light you need to be saved. Dives brothers did not need Lazarus to come back from the dead to warn them. They had already been warned by the law and the prophets. You do not need a miracle to validate my message. You do not need a prophet with a new vision. You do not need someone to return from the dead. You have all the light you need in the Scriptures. Repent and be Saved! Acts 2:38
<BELIEVERS MUST HAVE A BURDEN FOR THOSE BOUND FOR HELL.
Paul did- Romans 9:2,
11 “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of
There is not a soul in Hell that wants their loved ones to come! If we could for one day open the gates of Hell and let the damned walk among us-we would find ourselves in the midst of the greatest Soul-winners the world has ever known. Their one message would be Repent! Don’t join Me! Fly to Christ. Be saved!
I wonder if some of you really believe in what you say you believe. John Piper states that we need to feel the force of our doctrines. Perhaps you need to think and pray for a vision of Hell. How can you look at a friend, a family member, a co-worker and know that this is their destiny without Christ and share the Gospel with them!
Monday, July 16, 2007
No, I'm not offended R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Posted on Jul 13, 2007
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Aren't you offended? That is the question many evangelicals are being asked in the wake of a recent document released by the Vatican. The document declares that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church -- or, in words the Vatican would prefer to use, the only institutional form in which the Church of Christ subsists.No, I am not offended. In the first place, I am not offended because this is not an issue in which emotion should play a key role. This is a theological question, and our response should be theological, not emotional. Secondly, I am not offended because I am not surprised. No one familiar with the statements of the Roman Catholic Magisterium should be surprised by this development. This is not news in any genuine sense. It is news only in the current context of Vatican statements and ecumenical relations. Thirdly, I am not offended because this new document actually brings attention to the crucial issues of ecclesiology, and thus it presents us with an opportunity.The Vatican document is very brief -- just a few paragraphs in fact. It's official title is "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church," and it was released by the Vatican's Congregation for the Defense of the Faith on June 29. Though many media sources have identified the document as a papal statement from Pope Benedict XVI, it is actually a statement from the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith that was later approved for release by the Pope (who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, headed this Congregation prior to assuming the papacy).The document claims a unique legitimacy for the Roman Catholic Church as the church established by Christ. The document stakes this identity on a claim to apostolic succession, centered in the papacy itself. As the document states, "This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him."Lest anyone miss the point, the document then goes on to acknowledge that the churches of Eastern Orthodoxy also stake a claim to apostolic succession, and thus they are referred to as "Churches" by the Vatican. As for the churches born in whatever form out of the Reformation -- they are not true churches at all, only "ecclesial communities."Look at this:"According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense."Pope Benedict was already in hot water with the media because of his recent decision related to the (limited) reinstitution of the Latin mass, complete with a call for the conversion of the Jews. He was not likely to be named "Ecumenist of the Year" anyway. This latest controversy just adds to the media impression of big changes at the Vatican under the current papacy.There have been changes for sure. Benedict truly is a doctrinal theologian, whereas his popular predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was more a philosopher by academic training. Those familiar with the current Pope know of his frustration with the tendency of liberal Catholic theologians and laypersons to insist that the Second Vatican Council (known popularly as "Vatican II") represented a massive shift (to the left) in Catholic doctrine. Not so, insisted Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith. Now, as Pope, Benedict is in a position to shape his argument into a universal policy for his church. Vatican II, he insists, represented only a deepening and reapplication of unchanging Catholic doctrine.Evangelicals should appreciate the candor reflected in this document. There is no effort here to confuse the issues. To the contrary, the document is an obvious attempt to set the record straight. The Roman Catholic Church does not deny that Christ is working redemptively through Protestant and evangelical churches, but it does deny that these churches which deny the authority of the papacy are true churches in the most important sense. The true church, in other words, is that church identified through the recognition of the papacy. Those churches that deny or fail to recognize the papacy are "ecclesial Communities," not churches "in the proper sense," according to the document.I appreciate the document's clarity on this issue. It all comes down to this -- the claim of the Roman Catholic Church to the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Pope as the universal monarch of the church is the defining issue. Roman Catholics and evangelicals should together recognize the importance of that claim. We should together realize and admit that this is an issue worthy of division. The Roman Catholic Church is willing to go so far as to assert that any church that denies the papacy is no true church. Evangelicals should be equally candid in asserting that any church defined by the claims of the papacy is no true church. This is not a theological game for children; it is the honest recognition of the importance of the question.The Reformers and their heirs put their lives on the line in order to stake this claim. In this era of confusion and theological laxity we often forget that this was one of the defining issues of the Reformation itself. Both the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church staked their claim to be the true church -- and both revealed their most essential convictions in making their argument. As Martin Luther and John Calvin both made clear, the first mark of the true Church is the ministry of the Word -- the preaching of the Gospel. The Reformers indicted the Roman Catholic Church for failing to exhibit this mark, and thus failing to be a true church. The Catholic church returned the favor, defining the church in terms of the papacy and magisterial authority. Those claims have not changed.I also appreciate the spiritual concern reflected in this document. The artificial and deadly dangerous game of ecumenical confusion has obscured issues of grave concern for our souls. I truly believe that Pope Benedict and the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith are concerned for our evangelical souls and our evangelical congregations. Pope Benedict is not playing a game. He is not asserting a claim to primacy on the playground. He, along with the Magisterium of his church, believes that Protestant churches are gravely defective and that our souls are in danger. His sacramental theology plays a large role in this concern, for he believes and teaches that a church without submission to the papacy has no guaranteed efficacy for its sacraments. (This point, by the way, explains why the Protestant churches that claim a sacramental theology are more concerned about this Vatican statement -- it denies the basic validity of their sacraments.)I actually appreciate the Pope's concern. If he is right, we are endangering our souls and the souls of our church members. Of course, I am convinced that he is not right -- not right on the papacy, not right on the sacraments, not right on the priesthood, not right on the Gospel, not right on the church.The Roman Catholic Church believes we are in spiritual danger for obstinately and disobediently excluding ourselves from submission to its universal claims and its papacy. Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for their submission to these very claims. We both understand what is at stake.The Rev. Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, responded to the press by saying that the Vatican's "exclusive claims" are "troubling." He also said, "[W]hat may have been meant to clarify has caused pain."I will let Bishop Hanson explain his pain. I do not see this new Vatican statement as an innovation or an insult. I see it as a clarification and a helpful demarcation of the issues at stake. I appreciate the Roman Catholic Church's candor on this issue, and I believe that Evangelical Christians, with equal respect and clarity, should respond in kind. This is a time to be respectfully candid -- not a time to be offended.--30--R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
There is a disturbing tendency in American Christianity to downplay and even discredit the necessity of difficulty in the Christian life. Popular, yet heretical prosperity preachers want you to believe that God wants only ease and riches for your life. The New Testament teaches something very different. In James chapter one we find two truths that should be foundational to our approach to trials as believers. First, trials are purposeful. Verse 3 – “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience . . .”
God is at work in the difficulties of life. He is developing us, shaping up, and sanctifying us. This is why the apostle Paul was able to remain faithful in the midst of incredible hardship. He had the right perspective about trials. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 He writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart . . . For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Few of us would consider the persecution, beatings, perils, weariness and sufferings that Paul faced to be light. But he was able to because he saw trials from the perspective of eternity. He knew that God was being glorified through his sufferings, and he knew that he was being changed and transformed more and more into the image of Christ through these sufferings
“For we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
Which brings us to the next truth – trials are not only purposeful, they should also be a pleasure. That’s right, we can and should find joy in our trials. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Paul is not advocating some kind of masochistic or escapist existence, but an understanding of life that centers around the soveriegnty of God. He wants us to remember that our Father has not forsaken us. He has not forgotten us. He is forming and fashioning us for His greater glory. James closes his chapter on trials by stating that “every good and perfect gift is from above.” Vs. 17 Heartache, suffering, and even sickness can be grace gifts that work great glory into our lives. . Finding pleasure in trials is the true test of Christian maturity. These are deep waters. God grant us the grace to say with David, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Pastoring FBC Swartz for almost 7 years has left us with a wealth of good memories. Here are a couple of my favorites, caught on camera.
Singing with DALLAS HOLM! How cool is that! Gary Griffith and I got to sing along with one of the greatest Christian artists ever - on one of my favorite songs of his - Bloodline!
Whoopin up on my music minister and buddy Gary Griffith. Honestly, most pastors and staff would probably get along better if they just spent a little time in the ring!
Playing a little ball - I may not be what I once was, but I still ain't as bad as some of you!
That's probably more than enough for most of you. But really, Swartz was great. I don't deserve that God should have called me to pastor such a tremendous group of people. And I don't deserve that He should send me to another great church like Parkview. Here's to more years as good as the past 7!
Monday, June 11, 2007
I know there are probably other bloggers who are more delinquent than I am when it comes to posting, but they are few and far between. However, I can now tell you why I have just been too busy and preoccupied to blog for the last couple of months. As of July 1st I will become the new Senior pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La.
My family and I are excited about the possibilities and challenges that lay ahead of us. Pray for us that we can find a home large enough for us, and still in our price range! God is faithful and sovereign and He will provide both for the sell of my current home and the purchase of our future home.
Once again I am struck by the awesome responsibility that God has given pastors to preach the Word. My success at Parkview will not ultimately be measured by buildings, budgets, baptisms or even problem solving skills; but by how faithful I will be to preach God centered, expositional messages.
Pray for us - the future looks bright ahead!
Monday, April 23, 2007
Babies and Heaven
Not long ago I taught on heaven in my pastor’s class. I was asked if babies who are miscarried or who die in infancy go to heaven. My answer was immediately, yes! However, I was surprised to discover that not everyone agrees with that statement. There seems to be a contingency of folk, mostly reformed in their theology, that are hesitant to state that babies who die go to heaven.
What the Bible does teach is that God is merciful and forgiving. This is illustrated in Deut. 1:35-39 when God exempted the children who did not know right from wrong from judgment. Babies, infants who died because of a miscarriage, will all enjoy heaven. Anyone who states differently needs to seriously reconsider their understanding of God and His great grace.
Great preachers and theologians of the past agree. The rest of this post is from a paper by Albert Mohler, he gives the position of two of the great preachers of the past.
“John Newton, the great minister who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace was certain of this truth. He wrote to close friends who had lost a young child: "I hope you are both well reconciled to the death of your child. I cannot be sorry for the death of infants. How many storms do they escape! Nor can I doubt, in my private judgment, that they are included in the election of grace."(6) The great
One of the most eloquent and powerful expressions of this understanding of infant salvation came from the heart of Charles Spurgeon. Preaching to his own congregation, Spurgeon consoled grieving parents: "Now, let every mother and father here present know assuredly that it is well with the child, if God hath taken it away from you in its infant days."(7) Spurgeon turned this conviction into an evangelistic call. "Many of you are parents who have children in heaven. Is it not a desirable thing that you should go there, too? He continued: "Mother, unconverted mother, from the battlements of heaven your child beckons you to
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Over the years I've had several people ask me, just what it is that pastors do. To be honest, most people are just plain clueless! As one smart alex said, "how hard can it be, you only work one day a week!" First, let me say that I love being a pastor. There is nothing else in the world that I want to do, or can imagine myself doing. I am humbled that God would chose a sinful, weak, and undeserving man like to me to preach the Gospel and lead God's church. I am passionate about it, I love it, and I hope to continue preaching and pastoring until I'm dead or too old or sick to step up to the pulpit.
But, again, what is it that pastors do? That question has to be defined by Scripture. If we allow culture or the church growth movement to define it we will lose it. We will lose the biblical ministry of a pastor, that is. We may retain the title, but the true Biblical office will be lost.
So what does the Bible teach about pastoring?
Dr. Jim Shaddix uses the word pastor as an acrostic to spell out the work of the ministry. I've taken what he wrote and changed it somewhat.
A - Administer the Vision
S - Shepherd the flock
T - Teach the Word
O - Outreach and evangelism
R - Reproduce myself
P - Prayer - The pastor simply must be a man of prayer in Acts 6:4 - the apostles stated that their duty was to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
A - Administer the Vision- The pastor is the overseer of the church. He provides the leadership and the vision the Church needs to fulfill the great commission. In fact, the church's vision has already been given to us by Christ in Matthew 28 - "Go, therefore and make disciple." The pastor is called to creatively communicate and administrate that vision on all levels of church life. Dr. Shaddix writes: One of the synonyms for the pastor in the New Testament is bishop, or overseer. As the pastor, I’m responsible for overseeing the ministry of the church. It’s my task to make sure that the church is fulfilling its mission as the people of God and that all the parts are working in a cooperative effort effectively and efficiently. I’m responsible for mobilizing the membership to care for one another as well as reaching out to others. And I’ve got to make sure that it’s all being done with biblical integrity, moral purity, as well as financial responsibility.
S - Shepherd - Of all the titles and metaphors used to describe spiritual leadership, the most fitting is that of a shepherd. The shepherd cares for the sheep, he protects the sheep, and feeds the sheep. God's people must be cared for. Crisis times such as sickness or death are vital moments of ministry for the pastor. Before they can be lead, the flock must know they are cared for.
O- Outreach - Paul instructed Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist." The pastor absolutely must have a heart for outreach and evangelism. The church's passion for evangelism is determined by the pastor. He is the pace setter and the model that people will follow. Both in the pulpit, in weekly visitation, and day by day witnessing the pastor must be a soul-winner.
R - Reproduce myself - Paul commanded young Timothy "the things you have heard from me . . . commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Developing Godly leadership is vital to the future of the church.
There is really only an overview, but I hope it will give you a glimpse into my (and I think a Biblical) philosophy of pastoral ministry.
Monday, April 09, 2007
THE BIBLICAL BASIS OF CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
Was church membership practiced in the New Testament? Although the Bible does not directly state that the early churches had a formal membership roll, a close study of the New Testament does seem to indicate that there was some form of church membership. None of the examples that will be stated are overwhelming on their own, yet taken as a whole they form a strong argument for a formal church membership. Mike McKinley in an article on church membership provides several biblical examples that demonstrate the practice of church membership in the early church.
1) Those reluctant “to join” the church. In Acts 5:13 we are told that “None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” This occurs in the wake of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Fear gripped both believers in the church and the non-believers who heard of the events. The word join means ‘to bind closely together’ or to ‘unite.’ This certainly seems to describe some sort of formal arrangement.
2) The list of widows. In I Timothy 5:9-12 Paul gives Timothy instructions on caring for the widows within the fellowship. He refers to women who had been ‘enrolled’ in the list of widows. This certainly seems to suggest a formal list. It is hard to imagine having a list of widows and not having a list of members of the congregation.
3) The practice of church discipline. In 2 Corinthians 2:6 Paul refers to the “punishment of the majority.” The existence of a majority means that there was a clearly defined group of people from which this majority was constituted. There cannot be a majority of an unspecified group, there must be a majority of something. “Was it a majority of people who happened to be present the day the vote was cast? Could non-Christians vote? Could any Christians who happened to be visiting from another city who didn’t know the situation vote? The most natural assumption to make is that Paul meant the majority of an acknowledged membership of the church.”
THE PRACTICAL REASONS FOR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
Along with the Biblical basis of membership there are several practical, logical reasons for having a formal church membership roll. Healthy church membership is basically an act of commitment. When joining people should understand that they are committing to attend worship, be involved in a small group, serve God through the use of their God-given giftedness, and give their tithes and offerings to that local fellowship. What motivates people to make that kind of commitment is an understanding of the practical benefits that church membership brings. Rick Warren lists several benefits to church membership in his book The Purpose Driven Church.
1) Church membership identifies a person as a genuine believer in Christ Jesus.
2) Membership provides a spiritual family to support and encourage them in their walk.
3) The church provides a place to discover and use their gifts in ministry.
4) Membership places people under the spiritual protection of Godly leadership.
5) Church membership provides much needed accountability for spiritual growth, service, and holiness of life.
 Mike McKinley, Church Membership and the NCLHGA, 9Marks ministry
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
This month I'm posting a series on Church membership. None of this is original! I repeat none! I have been helped greatly by Mark Dever's writings, various articles on the 9Marks web-site, and Jason's writing on church membership at Fide-o. This is the rough draft (very, very rough) of a paper that I am preparing for my church leadership on the issue of membership.
Disclaimer: Everything bad is mine. Do not blame any of the aforementioned folk for what I have written.
Church Membership in the 21st Century
This paper (series of entries!) is written to answer several important questions about church membership. Is there a biblical basis for Church Membership? Was there any form of membership practiced by the early church? If so, how should church membership operate in the 21st century? Most importantly, is formal membership consistent with the Bible’s teaching about the nature of the Church. If so, we are obligated to pursue it in our church. If not, then we really have no basis for continuing the practice of adding people to a formal membership roll.
In order to answer these questions we need to define what membership means. Basically, church membership is a formal agreement between an individual and a congregation to be committed to one another in life and discipline. Also, we have to define what the Bible means by a church. A church is not a building, or an organization. The Bible speaks of the church as being both universal and local. The Church universal is all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue and people, and nation.
The Church is also a local congregation or assembly. In fact, when the NT speaks of the Church it almost always speaks in terms of a local congregation of believers. IE – The church at Ephesus, the Church at Thessolonica, etc.
The Baptist Faith and Message defines a church this way: “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 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. “
As Baptists we believe the Bible contends that church membership can only be extended to those who are regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit, through faith in Christ alone, and who follow the Lord in obedience through believer’s baptism.
 Mike McKinley, Church Membership and the NCLHGA, Article from the website of 9Marks.ministry,
 Baptist Faith and Message,
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
For the past five weeks I've been preaaching through the ten commandments. What a wonderful antitdote for the weak view of truth that is so pervasive in the Church today! If you have a few minutes check out my church site and you can listen to some of the messages.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I am finally getting around to blogging again. Basketball games and church activities have left little time free to write lately. So, I thought I would start out with a quote from a book that I have recently begun reading. I haven't finished it yet, but it promises to be great. The title is Choose the life, and is written by one of my favorite authors, Bil Hull. Here is a great quote, one that really hits close to home for me.
"The contemporary spiritual leader hears many voices. One of the loudest is the one that appeals to the natural desire to be successful. It says you can lead a growing, cutting-edge ministry with all the accoutrements. You can achieve your dreams; you can reach thousands. It tells you to ask God to give you more influence because that is what he desires for you. It is the cultural voice of the upward mobility with all its allure. The single greatest need of spiritual leaders today is to ignore this voice of the flesh and learn to hear the voice of God. God is calling us to renounce all other voices and to devote ourselves to hearing his voice. It is an acquired skill - one that I have only begun to learn. "
This is a much needed correction to the church growth mentality that is taking over American Christianity. Success is a hard master. We pastors need to remember that Christ has not called us to success, but to faithfulness.