Thursday, July 30, 2009

MacArthur on Spurgeon

This is a great video (and short) of one great Biblical preacher speaking about another great Biblical preacher. It is so encouraging that God continues to raise up men such as these to be champions of truth and encouragers to the church.

Congregational Bible Study... Coming September 6

If you keep doing things the way you always do them you could end up looking like that picture. Thankfully the Lord is always at work in us and life is always new in Christ. Sanctification is a daily process of change and although change can often be frightening it is part of growing in godliness. We are about to make a fairly significant change at Memorial Baptist as it concerns our Bible study ministry. We recognize that we cannot keep doing things the same way and expect new results. The results we are aiming for are transformed lives, transformed families, and a transformed church to God’s glory! To do these we need to challenge ourselves to go deeper in God’s Word and use methods that will help us to apply it more thoroughly.

Beginning September 6 our adults (including teenagers) will meet together for “congregational Bible study”. Our "Sunday School" format has been to divide by departments which are mostly separated by age-brackets. When this format began it was a sincere effort to simply add some organization to the Bible study ministry. The downside however is that one can come and connect with a certain group (or tribe) and never really become integrated into the whole church. This keeps the younger and less mature Christians from learning from the older and wiser Christians (and at times vice versa). We are going to start bringing everyone together for Bible study. This new togetherness is to connect our church family more closely to one another so that we avoid segregating in our little tribes. It is also so that we would learn from one another across generations. This together time will be about 20-30 minutes in length and then we’ll break into small groups for discussion and accountability time (about 30-40 minutes). The congregational gathering will be dedicated to Bible teaching and the small group time will be dedicated to life application.

Each semester we’ll study something new. This semester we will examine what it means to have and live by a Biblical worldview. In the Spring we are likely to delve in a New Testament survey course. I hope this will serve to do some spiritual body building in our church family. If you are not a member of Memorial please pray for us. We want to be thoroughly equipped to engage our culture with the gospel and to stand firm among the myriad of false teaching that is being spread in our world today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Missions & Budget Planning

It is budget planning time at Memorial Baptist! Since our fiscal year runs from October through September we are working through the process of making our stewardship plan for the 2009/ 2010 fiscal year. This is a critical process that we are seeking to improve on. Every one of our ministry leadership teams or committees must submit a budget plan for their ministry. Of course the church isn’t divvying up a big pot of cash sitting out there. This is a plan which estimates how much the church will give to the Lord through tithes and offerings and how we shall be good stewards of the Lord’s money for ministry. It is a faith plan but it requires much forethought so that we can be responsible and exemplary managers of what belongs to God.

So it is necessary to think through the Biblically-driven vision for the church and particular ministry. What are the goals? What are the priorities? What are the needs? Probably the most important area of our budget plan is the “missions budget”. This is the money we designate to send out or support missionaries and mission efforts. This includes supporting missionary-sending agencies like the Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board. It includes planning for and funding short-term mission teams from our own church. It includes supporting local mission organizations. By “missions” we understand this to describe gospel work and church planting. Recently I read an article by Kevin DeYoung on important questions for your missions budget. Here are his suggestions which I find extremely helpful for good stewardship and wise planning…

1. Are we supporting 1 Timothy 4:16 kind of people? The missionaries we support must set good examples of godliness and be proven to hold sound doctrine.

2. Are we supporting ministry in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth? DeYoung says, “We should be engaged in all four areas of missions. Jerusalem: ministry to those like us nearby. Judea: ministry to those like us away from us. Samaria: cross-cultural ministry that may be close to home. Ends of the earth: cross-cultural ministry that is far away.”

3. Are we striking the right balance of word and deed in the ministries we support? There is a place for social ministries (disaster relief, hunger relief, etc) but never at the expense of sharing the gospel- which effects lasting life change.

4. Are we giving priority to long-term missionaries? Short-term missions is on the rise in churches and that is great, but there are certain limitations to short-term mission teams. We must commit support to those who are entrenched in a culture and community for long-term ministry.

These questions are good guiding principles. They will keep us on track and help us be more focused on the true nature of missions- particularly as we plan financially. I love the definition John Piper provides for missions in his book on missions Let the Nations Be Glad, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” We make missions a priority because worship is the greatest priority and we go or support goers as missionaries so that worshippers will be made through the gospel ministry.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Confronting the New Athiesm

Have you seen or heard anything from the likes of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens? These men represent the newest and most influential voices in atheism or perhaps more apply labeled anti-theism. I've read and listened to more from Hitchens who I admit is extremely engaging as a communicator. He uses satire and humor briliantly and seductively to draw listeners to his cause. These are voices that you need to be aware of because their influence is growing. We must be ready to give an account (with love) to those who want to argue against the truth of God's Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 23-26). Below is a video sample of Hitchens so that you are aware the kind of arguments men like these are making. Under the video is a link to lectures by Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary speaking on the "new athiesm". Please watch to be equipped!

To listen, view, or download Dr. Mohler's lectures on the "New Athiesm" CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

State of the Nation with Ken Ham

This is an excellent and awakening video on the state of our nation and really the state of the church in our nation. Ken Ham is the President of Answers in Genesis and the founder of the Creation Museum near Louisville, KY. Click HERE to watch it free online.

"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" -Psalm 11:3

Thoughts on the Church, church growth, and a healthy view of ministry

Do you remember the short little nursery rhyme that goes, “Here is the church and here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people!” The little hand motions explain it all (see picture). Well it is cute but accurate? The church doesn’t house the people, it is the people. The Greek word in the New Testament for church is ‘ecclesia’, which means (and rightly translated by William Tyndale as) congregation. My commitment is not to keep the building full- I’ve not be called to a building and Christ didn’t die for a building. He died for people. My calling is to be His under-shepherd to His people. Our church ministries are worship gatherings are to make disciples so that we might magnify Christ in the world. If God wills then this leads to church growth. Don’t get me wrong I want our church to grow. Church growth means that Christians are having babies and leading their children to Christ. It means that Christians are evangelizing their neighbors and getting them connected in the covenanted family of God. In other words, church growth is a good thing when understood as the God-willed result of obedience. We’ve got to view it rightly. If having a lot of people show up to something at our buildings is the end-goal then we are just making an idol out of a building right? So beloved (specifically my local church family), let’s continue to be disciple-making oriented and not view our role as a glorified event center.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Worshipping the God of earth and outer space

So today marks the 40th anniversary of NASA launching Apollo 11 to the moon. It is really surprising that we only put men on the moon five more times and no more after 1972, but that’s a subject for another time. What I wanted to address was the song that immediately popped into my head when I saw the anniversary headline in the paper today. Have you heard of the hymn published in the 1975 edition of the Baptist Hymnal entitled, God of Earth and Outer Space? It is easily one of the oddest and most ill-conceived hymns I’ve ever seen. I’m sure the writer (Thad Roberts Jr.) meant well and meant to glorify God. He was probably caught up in the thrill of our nation putting men on the moon (it was written in 1970). Still, it is a stinker. Here are a few lines from the lyrics,
  • God of earth and outer space, God of love and God of grace, Bless the astronauts who fly, As they soar beyond the sky.
  • God of darkness, God of light, As man walks in outer space, Teach him how to walk in grace.
  • God of rockets firing bright. Hearts ignite and thrust within, Love for Christ to share with men.
Okay so again, Roberts probably meant well but the cheese factor is way too high. It does illustrate the importance of thinking through the lyrics of what we’re singing in worship to the Almighty. God is the Holy of Holies. He is Creator. Sovereign. Eternal. There should be no “throw away” words in our worship. We don’t go through the motions and sing our favorite tunes for entertainment until it is time to sit down for the sermon. This is adoration to our Lord and we need to worship Him with “all our heart, mind, soul, and strength”. He is the God of earth and outer space so be intentional and devotedly thoughtful in your worship so that you don’t find yourself singing a song that you have no idea its words or meaning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy 500th Birthday John Calvin!

Today is John Calvin's 500th birthday and Wikipedia's featured article is on him. The first line of the article is, "John Calvin (1509-1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation." This sentence is both a massive understatement and a wonderful reflection on a crusader for God's Holy Scriptures. Calvin is one of the most misunderstood and unappreciate theologians in Christian history. He is certainly not to be deified- in Christ alone do we glory- but his courage, his contributions (as an 'influential theologian and pastor'), and his commitment to preach the Scriptures are an exemplary example to learn from.

He was not perfect. Not everything he taught or wrote was correct. Not everything he did was correct. There are certainly dark moments in his life. He was a man of his time which comes with baggage but he was also a man- like every believer- who is sanctified daily (not all at once). A couple years back I wrote a paper which I've developed into a biography sermon for this Sunday at my church that explores Calvin's conviction and preaching regarding the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in every believer's life. He wholeheartedly believed, preached, and lived that the Holy Spirit worked through the Holy Scriptures to draw people to God and transform them to God's glory. These were revolutionary ideas in the 16th century and we should be thankful for men like Calvin that carried this banner high even through persecution.

Let me recommend a couple lighter reading books on Calvin- The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson and Portrait of John Calvin by T.H.L. Parker (which is running a sale on today for only $2 per book!). If you want to read Calvin get a copy of Institutes of the Christian Religion or any of his commentaries. Also, John Dillenberger has put together a collection called John Calvin: Selections from his Writings. Read up- it's important to know your history and to praise God for men such as John Calvin.

HT: Cake pic is from World Magazine which has some great article links about the birthday boy.