Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It’s Not Laziness… I don’t Think

I haven’t posted for several weeks.  The semester was wrapping up, and holiday travels began.  I’ll be writing again soon.

On another note, this is the first post from my new computer.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Entitled to Leisure

It's been a long day. I arose early so I could leave early for school. After the hour and a half commute, I spent the first couple of hours in sermon preparation. I then turned to some of my assigned reading for class, only to discover that this day's reading assignment was about four times the normal length. I was able to read quickly and finish on time. I attended my classes, the last of which ended around 5:30pm. I started the drive home in rush-hour Louisville traffic. So, my hour and a half commute was squeezed into over two hours. I was tired. On the way home, I found myself daydreaming about relaxing in the easy chair while the children played in the floor, being perfectly kind to one another and perfectly obedient to me and their mother. Of course, the baby's schedule would be such that I could kiss him when I got home, and he would be going down for a nice, quiet nap. Supper would be served shortly thereafter, and it would be a wonderfully peaceful evening.

It didn't take long for my desire for a restful evening after a long and tiring day to turn into frustration. Why? Because before I even got home, reality came crashing in on me. That is not how my evening was going to go. It would be a mad dash to get everyone fed and cleaned up for bed time. In the midst of it there would be screaming and crying, fighting and disobeying, all of which call for constant intervention and discipline. It was going to require a great amount of extra effort to create time for family worship in the mix. My dreams of leisure were disappearing before they ever had a chance to materialize.

It was then that the error of my ways came crashing in on me. I was wishfully thinking that because of my hard work and tired frame, I was entitled to some leisure time. After all, hadn't I earned it? Is it really so much to ask?

The truth is, "Love your neighbor as yourself" is not compatible with a sense of entitlement to leisure. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" cannot be interpreted to mean that I am entitled to leisure. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" is not possible to obey if I am interested in pursuing the leisure to which I feel entitled. Indeed, the whole of the Christian life screams at us that we have given up our claim on leisure and traded it in for a heavy cross that leads us to a hill of dying to ourselves and to our own sense of entitlement.

It's not that moments of leisure are never a good thing. Indeed, at times they can be enjoyed as gifts from God. But when we begin to feel entitled, they cease to be gifts and can quickly become idols. You and I feel entitled to leisure, but Christ tells us that those around us are entitled to love. Let us deny ourselves and choose the better thing. We might actually find that the joy of living for love far exceeds the pleasure of living for leisure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Truths that Trifle

"Oftentimes, to win us to our harms, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence."

- Banquo, The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

"Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end is according to their deeds"

- 2 Corinthians 11:14-15


To feel an attraction to godliness, a desire to know divine truth, a desire to be associated with the people of God... coupled with an unwillingness to yield the most precious treasures of your heart when those treasures are found to rival God in your affections... is perhaps the most dangerous place a person can be. For, the religious sentiments that seem so genuine serve to blind the eyes of the heart to the hypocrisy which prevents faith from being genuine.

Many people have convinced themselves that what is expressly forbidden by God (in the Bible) is OK for them because their circumstances are different. "God desires my greatest good and joy in life" ... (This is True) ... "This (forbidden lifestyle) is what brings me greatest good and joy" ... (this is a misunderstanding of what greatest good and joy really are)... "Therefore, God must want me to pursue this, even though the Bible seems to say otherwise" ... (Here is the lie). The very convincing power of the lie rests in its use of the truth. Many are the victims of this subtlety, and many will thereby perish. Beware the truth that trifles in order to lead you willingly along the broad path that leads to destruction.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Exodus Fact Quiz

I gave this quiz to our church on Sunday night. We are wrapping up a study of the book of Exodus, and I thought it would be good to test their basic grasp of the content of the book. Try it yourself. How is your grasp of the content of the book of Exodus?

Exodus Facts Quiz

Here are the answers to the quiz with Scriptural references. See how you do without the answers first. Enjoy!

Exodus Facts Answers

** After opening the document (PDF), you can save it to your computer by clicking "File" / "Save a Copy."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why Quitting on the Church is Quitting on Christ

I recently received a question from a dear friend asking me to comment on a blog post entitled, "Why I Do Not Attend Church." The author of the blog is a woman who refers to herself as Jean. Her view that there is no more true local church made up of true Christians is not unique. This is a growing trend in American Christianity. As people become disillusioned with the imperfections in the church, they abandon it and attempt to keep their personal relationship with Christ apart from the church. George Barna, well-known Christian pollster and cultural analyst, has written a book about the trend: Revolution (Greg Gilbert has written a helpful review of the book). A more thorough treatment of the subject would be helpful, but in order to respond in a timely way to the question posed to me, I'll deal specifically with the most serious problems with the blog post reference above.

In the New Testament, the universal church (all true believers everywhere) is not easily distinguished from the local church (a local assembly of believers who join together for worship and the pursuit of “the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God” [Eph. 4:13]). By my count, the Greek word for church (ekklesia) appears 77 times in the New Testament. 67 of those are in reference to local churches. Jean is giving up on the local church but seeking to maintain her commitment to the universal church. She says concerning true Christians, “There may be a few here, one there, two there and so on,” and these few are scattered "all over the earth." So she concludes that there is no way to assemble a true church in this present day and age: “We have to wait for the next life when we will all be together with our Lord Jesus Christ.” If Jean is right about this then the express New Testament purpose of the church has failed. The church is supposed to be a demonstration in the present age to the rulers, authorities, principalities and powers in heavenly places that Christ has conquered Satan at the cross, redeemed a people for himself, and is going to rule in uncontested fashion one day. It is the church that represents that victory. It is the church that sends that message (Ephesians 3:8-10). If believers are so sparse that assembly in this life is hopeless, then the existence of the church is not sending a message of victory to principalities and powers.

Furthermore, when Paul wants to instruct the true church, he does not compose a letter to be sent to the four winds, hoping that the few isolated Christians out there will stumble upon it. Rather, he writes to local congregations. He writes to the church at Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Colossae, Ephesus, etc. When Jesus wants to speak to his people, he addresses his words to seven local congragations (Revelation 2-4) For Paul, the local congregation is a localized expression of the universal church. The two concepts cannot be neatly divided. When Paul instructs the church concerning the way the various parts of the body work together for the edification of the whole, this can only have meaning in a local congregation where believers in Christ actually assemble together and work together for the progress of the gospel (1 Corinthians 12). Jesus also addresses the church in a way that only makes sense when understood in terms of the local congregation. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gives instructions for how a believer is to deal with a sinning brother in Christ. The final step in the process is to take it “to the church,” and if the brother still will not repent, the church is to treat him as a Gentile and a tax collector (an outsider). To whom will Jean take the case of a sinning brother if the other steps in Jesus’ instructions do not bring him to repentance? In her understanding of the church, she can only wait for heaven.

On another note, when the New Testament speaks of the church as the body of Christ, that imagery is used with respect to the universal church (Eph. 1:19-23) and the local church (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16 – this is clearly a local church situation because of the way Paul speaks of the individuals in the church working together toward “unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God”). If the universal church is the body, so also is the local church. To reject the local church is to reject the body of Christ. To say that there is no longer any such thing as a true local church is to say that the body of Christ is no longer present in the world, except in a dismembered form which no one can recognize.

Finally, Jean’s understanding of what it means to be a "saint" is informed by something other than the New Testament. For Jean, a saint is someone whose allegiance is perfectly directed toward Christ, with no room for error, failure, missteps, and no need for growth and maturity. In fact, after reading Jean’s post, especially the second paragraph, I am convinced that Jean believes she is the only true Christian she knows personally. She is clearly not paying attention to the way the New Testament uses the word “saint.” In the New Testament, a “saint” is certainly someone who is a truly born again believer in Jesus Christ. But consider the Christians at Corinth. They form factions leading to bickering and divisions (1 Cor. 1-3), they refuse to exercise church discipline toward a sinning brother (1 Cor. 5), they misunderstand gender roles in the church (1 Cor. 11), they abuse the Lord’s Supper by being selfish and getting drunk (1 Cor. 11), and they take pride in a shameful and misguided use of the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14), among other problems. Whatever they are, these Corinthians cannot possibly be “saints,” and they cannot possibly be a true “church.” Yet that is exactly how Paul addresses them in the opening to this scathing and rebuking letter: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling…” (1 Cor. 1:1).

To reject the local church is to reject the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:25). Certainly not all assemblies which bear the name “church” are true to that description. But to begin imposing standards of definition on the church which are inconsistent with and contradictory to the teaching of Scripture is problematic. The gospel of Jesus Christ sets the boundaries for whom and what really constitutes the body of Christ. Any other imposed boundary is legalism.

So, don't quit on the local church. Unite with the church, and labor diligently to serve Christ by serving his body, striving to play your part in helping the whole body grow toward a "unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph. 4:13).

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Pro-Homosexual Agenda of Barack Obama

I confess that my feathers are a bit ruffled right now. Last week I posted an article entitled "How Heavenly Wrath Becomes Historical Record." It dealt with the issue of homosexuality in American culture. The news that prompted the writing of that article at that time revolved around Maine and Washington D.C. as each of those local governments is currently dealing with laws pertaining to homosexual marriage. Maine has passed legislation legalizing gay marriage, but the people have the right in that state to veto the legislation by popular vote in November. Washington D.C. is on the verge of legalizing gay marriage as well.

I published the article on Saturday morning. I had no idea that on Saturday night, President Obama would be addressing the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) concerning the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. His address reveals what many refused to believe during last year's presidential campaign. Barack Obama is more ardently pro-homosexual "rights" than anyone who has ever served in the office of President.

During the address he promises to continue fighting for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), among other things. I want to encourage you to take the time to look over the President's address. Also, please take the time to read Dr. Al Mohler's blog article on this topic. His intellectually clear-headed and insightful analysis is helpful. Pray for your President; and as you pray, pray that his agenda concerning the homosexual community and the future of America with respect to this issue would fail.

The wrath of God has begun to be manifest in the United States of America (Romans 1:18). The moral decay is taking place. Pray that God would make us salt of the earth, to slow the inevitable process.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

In Hope of Restoration

I recently preached a series of four sermons at Bethlehem concerning the biblical and theological importance of keeping accurate church membership records. Two of those sermons are posted here, the two that I believe are the most important. I have not taken the time to upload the other two, but I may do so eventually.

At the 2008 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), an important resolution was passed that reaffirmed the historic Baptist commitment to regenerate church membership. One of the grounding statements in the resolution points out that of the 16, 266,920 members of Southern Baptist Churches, only 6,148, 868 attend primary worship on a given Sunday. That's an average attendance of 37% of the membership in church on any given Sunday. Bethlehem is no exception to the rule (we are actually slightly below the average for the SBC). The first sermon here asks the basic question: "What's the big problem with inflated membership records?"

The Membership Record

The biblical goal of the Church Discipline process is restoration of the fallen, sinful, or absentee brother (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, Matthew 18:12-17). This next sermon answers the question that everyone finds difficult to face when addressing the issue of faithful church membership records and the process of Church Discipline. It answers the question: "What happens when all efforts at restoration fail?"

When All Else Fails

** To listen, simply click the link above. If you want to download the audio sermon, right click the link and select "save target as" (Internet Explorer Users) or "Save link as" (Firefox users).

** If you are on the membership committee, it is the second sermon that I discussed with you tonight: "When All Else Fails"