Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Year Later

I’ve been a bit retrospective the last few days as Blair and I hit the one year mark for my pastorate at Memorial Baptist. The first post on this blog was dedicated to setting forth some pastoral goals before assuming office. Some of those goals may have come across as idealistic but I still stand by them though it’s clear that the deeper things do not come quickly.

My main priority was to simply establish my preaching ministry and then to build relationships. Check, and check… though these are still ongoing priorities. No matter how frustrated I can get and no matter how many “set-backs” it seems we face there is still an indescribable joy that wells up on Saturday night knowing that I have the privilege to open God’s Word to God’s people on Sunday morning.

Moreover I’ve learned so much about loving people and investing in people. Actually I’ve learned that I do not do this nearly as well as I thought and nearly as much as Christ is calling me to. So I’m praying more than ever that there not be a disconnect in my own heart from the preaching the Word and loving the people.

It is easy for a shepherd to get frustrated with the flock but I’m reminded daily of the instructions Jesus gave to Peter before His ascension back to Heaven. In John 21:15-17 Jesus repeatedly questions Peter on whether Peter loves Him. “Absolutely Jesus!” summarizes Peter’s three replies. Jesus tells him that love toward Him is demonstrated through the feeding of the sheep.

So my goal for year two is (in addition to preaching the Word) to love Jesus by loving and feeding His sheep. It is more difficult to become angry or discouraged when you remember that those in your flock belong to Jesus and your ministry is to love them… which I do.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Gathering Storm of Statism

You may not know much about home-education. You may be leery of it from lack of exposure to families who responsibly educate their children at home. You may be concerned over the loss of Christian witness by a mass exodus of believers from public schools. No matter what your view, this story (link below) should send chills down your spine. A North Carolina judge has ordered that the children of a home-educating family be enrolled in public school in the next school year. It is not a matter of the children being neglected or receiving poor education at home- they are testing two grade levels above their current grade. One of the central reasons the judge has overruled the parents' rights and authority is because he believes the children can get better social skills in a public school. This is a myth of course, but that's not even the main point. The main point is that the state is now assuming control in the home. This is a dangerous trend my friends. It is an attack on the American family.
Read Voddie Baucham's piece on the case HERE.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When being nice is un-Christian

Christians are called to kindness and gentleness. This does not always mean we are obliged to obey the social rules of Victorian nicety. Too many times have I seen Christians allow the truth to be distorted and immorality among the congregation go unchecked because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. We are certainly to speak the truth in love (1 Corinthians 13) but we are to speak the truth. Being kind and gentle means simply, that we are not to be bullies and that our motive should be for Christ to be glorified in a person’s life. If we never speak the truth because we are always “looking for a nicer way to put it” then we disobey the command in 2 Timothy 3:16 to use the Word for rebuking and correcting. Moreover, our desire to be nice places our ego and a person’s self-esteem over God’s reputation and instructions to us.

Christian Perspective on the Recession

Here is Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church addressing the crisis of our economy. How do we take a distinctly Christian perspective on these troubling times? How should we pray? This is a helpful video.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm Not Cool

Hat tip to Jonathan Leeman and the Nine Marks Blog for posting some great quotes from James Gilmore. Gilmore authored the book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want. I have not read the book but am eager to. This is a hot topic today. It is funny that when you meet a Muslim Imam or a Buddhist monk you think of a holy man but when you meet a Baptist minister you often are left with an impression of a salesman or marketer. My ecclesiastical tradition has become obsessed with being cool and sadly such attempts just come off as desperate, cheesy, or cheap imitation (case in point). Some people are sucked in to this approach to ministry- mainly perpetually whiny Christians, but not usually lost people. Listen, I am not cool. I know it and I own it. Furthermore, we aren’t called to be cool and relevant. We are called to be faithful… faithful to living and proclaiming God’s Word. So anyway, Gilmore’s thoughts struck a nerve. Here are some of his quotes from an interview by Leadership Journal

  • "As a business guy, I'm always cautious about taking any business thinking and applying it to the church...To me, the church should not aim to be 'real' as an end. The church is there to proclaim truth. Trying to be hip and cool and real does a disservice to the church. We're not called to be successful. We're called to be obedient, even if they don't come."
  • "If somebody doesn't find you objectionable, I wonder if you're preaching the full counsel of God."
  • "If you truly see people, that comes off as real. If you love, you will automatically come off as real. You don't need to strive to be real."
  • "Real is telling people about their sin and their need for repentance and their need for a Savior."
  • "Read my book to understand the culture that you're preaching to, not as an operating model for your church.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where did all the singing go?

Blair and I love to enjoy a good bowl of ice cream together. Most would agree that after supper a bowl of your favorite ice cream for dessert enhances the enjoyment of the whole meal. However we wouldn’t replace the meal with it and we shouldn’t make it a regular part of our diet. This illustrates many elements that can be introduced in corporate worship. Recently I’ve had suggestions, urgings, and even rants for more “choir specials”, solo performances (as the big number before the sermon), and drama skits. I am not wholly against weaving these elements into the tapestry of a congregational worship service but like ice cream there is a time, a place, and a certain moderation that needs to be considered.

The point of the Sunday worship service is for the membership of the church to gather together for the study of Scripture, the corporate offering of praise, the yielding to the Lord together in prayer, and the observance of the Lord Supper (we observe this ordinance every other month and planning to do so more often). The “meat and potatoes” of our spiritual meal together should be the reading and preaching of the Scriptures but the other elements are essential for the service as well.

One of those elements that have taken a real blow in recent years is congregational singing. It has become more common to be observers rather than participants. In services that feature a more modern-rock feel (a la Chris Tomlin-style) congregants often stand, clap, move to the music, but don’t sing. Take a look around the next time you are in one of these services. More traditional worship services with an emphasis on hymnody that are led by a piano, organ, and choir are just as guilty of this. Instead of standing and clapping, the congregants sit and stare. The singing from many rarely rises to a level above mouthing the words along with the song director.

The desire for more “specials” from the choir or from the stronger singers of the church often reflects that yearning to be impressed or entertained. Now in fairness, those “specials” can (like ice-cream) at times enhance the spiritual meal but what about the congregational offering of praise? When the soloist hits the high note at the end of the song right before the sermon do we say “amen” and applaud because of the rich truths of God that have just been magnified through music? Or do we respond in such a way because we are conditioned to on the high note? What if the singer hit the high note while singing about attaching new gutters to the side of his house? Would we still applaud with “amen’s”?

There needs to be thought in what we are doing as a congregation because we are doing it unto the Lord. We do not need to check our brains or voices at the door. When the members of a church gather for congregational worship we should do just that- worship as a congregation. The thoughtfulness, participation, mental engagement, and unity glorify the Lord.

For more reading on this subject check out this article- “The Slow Death of Congregational Singing”.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"I'm an image bearer"

A few days ago the Houston Texans made a rather insignificant signing of a back-up quarterback named Dan Orlovsky. You may remember he was one of the quarterbacks who started for the Detroit Lions in their 0-16 season last year. Yet Orlovsky is much more than those two sports bulletins. Watch this video to hear his story.


Spiritual Disciplines class

If you have been part of my Wednesday night class over the last two months on 'Conversational Gospel Sharing' then you know we are about to wrap it up. The next class that will be offered is a study of 'Spiritual Disciplines'. We will be using the book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. This will be a great study through the basic tools of a pursuit of godliness like prayer, Bible study, fasting, etc. Lord willing, I will begin this class on March 25 at 6pm. We have about 35 minutes of teaching followed with about 20 minutes of intercessory prayer around the tables. It is a great time of learning and fellowship in the Word.

You can purchase the book through or Lifeway Bookstores. If you'd like for me to order you a copy I can and the cost will be $11 per book. However for the month of March is giving away (FREE) the audio book of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. I'd encourage you to go to the website and download that- it is pretty simple, just follow the instructions. Here is the LINK.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recap of 'Titus Overview'

Two Sundays ago I picked up my preaching series through the Pastoral Letters of Paul and am in Titus (Sunday nights). I started with a sermon that gave an overview or summary of the letter before I started going through each chapter. As much as time permits I will recap those messages here.

In his letter to Titus, Paul charges this young pastor to get the truth out. Titus has been heavily involved with Paul on his third missionary journey particularly with the church at Corinth. Paul references Titus nine times in his second letter to Corinth calling him “my brother” (2:13) and “my partner and fellow worker” (8:23). In this letter Paul calls Titus, “My true child in a common faith” (1:4). This young pastor was well-trained and well-educated by Paul and Barnabas. He was still up for quite a task in Crete.

False teachers were spreading lies and the church needed men who would take a stand. So Paul gives Titus two basic tasks while on this beautiful Mediterranean island: 1) Put qualified teachers in place and 2) Teach the truth.

The first task given to Titus is to “set in order what remains [to be done from Paul’s ministry there] and appoint elders in every city” (verse 5). Paul then goes on to list the qualification of these elders (overseers/ pastors) in verses 6-9. An “elder” is one who is vested with the responsibility to lead by God’s Word, equip the congregation in God’s Word, and guard the people with God’s Word.

Paul goes on to instruct Titus on specific areas where the truth needs to be taught and lived. In verse 15 of chapter 2 Paul says, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Within the church the responsibility of the congregation is to live out God’s truth among the different age and gender groups (Ch. 2). We don’t need be tribal when it comes to age-groups. We need to invest in each other and sow the truth of God in each other’s lives.

Then in chapter 3 Paul explains that with outsiders the responsibility of the congregation is to live out God’s truth in the world. Our responsibility both inside and outside the church is based on the gospel having saved our souls and changed our lives. People need to hear and see the truth in us now. We glorify the Lord in this way (Romans 12:1-2). That is what Titus was to be about and that is what our churches today are to be about.