Friday, December 31, 2010

Preaching Notes

A friend of mine recently told me he was rebuked after preaching a sermon at a church where he was a guest. The rebuke was not for ignoring or misrepresenting Scripture- he is a diligent expositor. The rebuke was certainly not for being dull or lifeless- he is an engaging and winsome communicator. The rebuke was not for neglecting the gospel- he is a passionate evangelist. The rebuke was for preaching with notes. He was told that "at seminary we are taught not to preach with notes". The rebuker was a seminary student who I pray had his heart in the right place even if his words lacked wisdom or kindness.

The truth is I preach with notes- a full manuscript. I was encouraged recently by other faithful preachers who allowed their notes to be published by Josh Harris on his blog. Here are Tim Keller's notes. Here are Mark Dever's notes. Here are C.J. Mahaney's notes. While I know other brothers who preach completely from memory or from only short-hand notes, there is no "one way". I remember in John Stott's book on preaching (I don't have the reference handy) he argues that there is too much preaching from notes but he meant that preachers can rely too heavily on rote preaching rather than preaching from the heart. He's right. Notes should not be a teleprompter for a performance. One should preach from the overflow of his deep wrestling and devotion with the text. Listeners should hear that the preacher is moved by the text not just regurgitating notes. However notes protect from rambling, rabbit-chasing, and soap-boxes. The Holy Spirit guides me in the study as much as He does from the pulpit so my notes are a product of that.

So what are your thoughts... if you're a preacher, notes, limited notes, or no notes? If you are a listener I'm interested in your thoughts as well. There is a delay to comment posting as I have to clear it first (I've had a spam problem) but let's hear it!?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Hodge-Podge

I'm presently enjoying our winter family vacation and hope you all had a Merry Christmas. These are a few interesting links I fell upon in the blogosphere before we left town (confession: this is a pre-scheduled post... no blogging during vacation).
  • CNN blog post on why Francis Chan stepped away from the mega-church he pastored and moved to an undisclosed location in Asia.
  • Here is a free online Hebrew course... in case you're making it a New Year's Resolution to learn Biblical Hebrew.
  • R.C. Sproul fields an assortment of questions- watch here.
  • We're doing a book study group on Wednesday nights at our church on the excellent book, The Trellis and the Vine that you can buy here for 41% off!
  • Check out my favorite (wink wink) Christmas song below...


Friday, December 24, 2010

Lebron say what??!!


As I am waiting for my wife to finish getting dolled up before we drive to Houston to celebrate Christmas with my family I just read this article. It gave me a revelation- 25 year old Lebron James and 25 year old Jeremy Bradshaw (I'm nearly 34 now) are a lot alike. Okay, my basketball skills were probably not as great as I remember displaying them on my plastic doorhanger hoop but really, we have a huge quality in common. At 25 I thought I was much wiser than I really was (which wasn't very wise at all) and thought people wanted to hear my wisdom. Now I know I may be a little wiser nine years later but not much and I'm certain noone really wants to hear it. I wish Lebron would learn this and just play basketball.

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Few Minutes with Billy Graham

I really enjoyed this interview with "the Evangelist". He offers great advice to young preachers- "Spend more time in study and prayer".



HT: Trevin Wax

Friday, December 17, 2010

Re-Reclaiming Christmas


I read that one very prominent church in Texas started a website to post complaints and report stores that say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas". It does bother me that stores are embarrassed to acknowledge the holiday that is making them boo-koos of money because they are uber-sensitive of hurting the feelings of those who do not recognize the holiday. It is ridiculous. In fact I doubt businesses are really worried about people's feelings and being offended (otherwise they wouldn't place all those women-degrading magazines at their check-out lines). They are worried about the bottom line--$$-- and if they alienate a group that group may not help their bottom line. Yet with no logic or common sense they don't mind alienating the group that boosts their profits the most-- Christmas shoppers. They are betting that people will Christmas shop anyway and that most Christmas shoppers know little of Christ or couldn't give a flip about whether He is recognized by saying "Merry Christmas". For the most part stores have placed a safe bet.

Now with regards to the church website. I think this is short-sighted. In the first place we are never commanded in Scripture to celebrate Christmas so it is not like business are openly scoffing at one of the Ten Commandments. Two, we should not be surprised that the world does not want to recognize our Lord because sin is still their master. Three, we should remember that Christmas was started by the Church to reclaim pagan celebrations for a celebration of Christ. Today Christmas is shared by the non-relgious who enjoy the common graces God has given all humanity: family, friends, expressions of love through giving, etc. So rather than gripe that unbelievers don't behave more like believers in praising Christ we should counter secular references to Christmas (or "Happy Holidays") with a Christ-exalting message and attitude. We should re-reclaim Christmas.

When you are in line at the store it does not exalt Christ to hammer an unbeliever for not saying "Merry Christmas"... especially if you've shown no interest or care for that unbeliever other than them moving customers through more quickly so you can get to your next destination. You may not have much time but rather than worrying about their words, concentrate on how your words might be a blessing to that person and how your behavior might exalt your Lord Jesus. I feel as though Christians are more passionate about unbelievers giving lip-service to Christ by saying "Merry Christmas" than they are actually knowing Christ as Lord. Let's re-reclaim Christmas by actually making sure Christ is exalted through our words and lives.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reaching the Unchurched (part two)


Sometime back I read this article which contained the chart above. This research merely affirmed what I have seen and what I believe to be true. Advertising and glitzy programs cost a lot of money, consume a lot of time and energy, and often take the lion's share of attention in church life but have a marginal effect in connecting unchurched people to the church. The most effective tool at sharing the gospel and exposing an unchurched person to the fellowship of gospel-changed people continues to be the personal invitation. Building relationships costs the least amount in a line-item budget but has the biggest effect. Building relationships does demand time, prayer, desire, courage, and patience-- we are often more willing to shell out a few more dollars on a program or billboard than expend energy on any of those other things.
It has been reported that between 75%-90% of people who walk through the doors of a church auditorium for the first time because a friend or relative invited them. I believe that the Holy Spirit has to overcome a person's depravity and give them "ears to hear" but our faithfulness to invite these people often put them in a position to use those Spirit-awakened ears to hear. We cannot be complacent or lazy concerning people in the community. We must be active "bridge builders", active invitors, and active at cultivating conversation about the gospel. This isn't easy. I'll be the first to confess I need to be more proactive than reactive (just waiting for people to come to me) so let's get on with our mission to bear the image of God before men. It can start with a simple invitation to a church worship service where the gospel is preached.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reaching the Unchurched (part one)

Why do people choose which church to attend or unite with? That is a question many people take for granted. If you have been in the same church for decades you've probably never considered that question. You might think people pick a church because of the location, the advertising, the "bells & whistles" music ministry, the buildings, the programs listed in the "welcome" brochure, or because you think they instinctively know all the wonderful things you love about your church. Thom Rainer (president, LifeWay) offers some interesting insight from research presented in his book, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched.

From his own surveying Rainer lists the "Top 13 reasons unchurched people choose a church":

1. 90%- Pastor/ Preaching
2. 88%- Doctrines
3. 49%- Friendliness of members
4. 42%- Other issues
5. 41%- Someone from the church witnessed to me
6. 38%- Family member belongs to the church
7. 37%- Sensed God's presence/ Atmosphere at the church
8. 25%- Relationship other than a family member
9. 25%- Sunday School class
10. 25%- Children's/ Youth ministry
11. 12%- Other groups/ Ministries
12. 11%- Worship style/ Music
13. 7%- Location

These are very interesting and even helpful statistics as we consider and pray about how to build relational bridges into the community. They are also informative in thinking about how we should spend our time and resources. There are three things we must remember though. One, we aren't governed by statistics. They tell a story but don't necessarily dictate our future. Two, regardless of people's interests or what hooks them for people to genuinely and enduringly love the church they must love Christ (it is His church) and this comes by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Three, there is no getting around our responsibility to personal evangelism. No hook, no enticement, no strategy will ever replace the need and command for the gospel to be verbally proclaimed (Romans 10:17).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pitching Rotation for the Ages?


As a casual Yankees fan (I am a diehard Astros fan- there’s a difference) I’m disappointed they weren’t able to sign Cliff Lee. I’m more disappointed he’ll be throwing against the Astros in the National League. As a baseball fan though, I am in awe of the Phillies rotation: Roy “Doc” Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. It is the best I have seen since Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery/ Neagle of the Braves in the 90’s and perhaps the best I have ever seen personally. My early World Series prediction for 2011: Philadelphia Phillies over the Boston Red Sox in five games. What?! Not a sweep?!! I’m thinking it is possible the Phillies bus could get caught in November snow and be late to the game forcing a forfeit in the Sox favor.

Tuesday Hodge Podge

Here is a bunch of stuff I've been meaning to post on but haven't had the time:

  • In preparation to preach through Galatians in 2011 I've been reading up on Luther. Here are all his Table Talks free to read online.
  • Is Paul talking about corporate election rather than God's election of individuals to salvation in Romans 9? Michael Patton and Dan Wallace both chime in on this one.
  • Follow THIS LINK to view the video of the five sessions of the Nine Marks at Southeastern Seminary conference from earlier this year. It is a great line-up: Mark Dever, Thabiti Anyabwile, David Platt, Danny Akin, and Matt Chandler.
  • I've had multiple conversations with folks in my church who are either for or against the use of a choir in the main congregational worship on Sunday. Here is an interesting "for" article.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Video Monday- Swedish Singing Horses

This is one of my son's favorites and it is always good to laugh.
Click on the link below and click on each horse to start or stop his singing. Enjoy!


Follow this link to hear the Swedish Singing Horses... then get back to work!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That's Rude!

Do you ever get emails that really tick you off because of the rude tone? I've received some that were actually rude and some that because of my mood I read rudeness into them where it wasn't intended. I've had to learn that after writing my response email to let it sit there in the Draft Box for a few hours or days. Usually I will delete it and start over or at least do some serious editing. We are very blessed to live in such a day where communication can be so accessible and quick but there is a down side in that things often get lost in the transfer.

Justin Taylor recently posted some wise thoughts by David Mills regarding how to respond to rude (or seemingly rude) comments or emails. These were helpful to me so I thought I'd pass them on...

1. Never rebuke or confront even the most obnoxious inquirer, unless you know him well enough to judge that you can fruitfully do so.

2. Many people often write (or speak) much more rudely than they mean to because they have no idea how their words sound to others, and those who mean to be rude will not respond well to being rebuked.

3. Answer them as if they had written politely.

4. If they didn't mean to be rude, this will encourage them to keep talking.

5. If they meant to be rude, this will either convert them or annoy them. Both have their uses.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Out of the Whirlwind

Back in the summer I preached through the Book of Job on Sunday nights and one of the most mesmerizing passages is Job 38:1-2, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, 'Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?'" I've often imagined what this encounter was like and how terrifying this must have been for Job. Below is a NASA photograph of a supercell thunderstorm over Montana taken back in November. Notice the little tree and imagine Job sitting there beside it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

My son got a rocking horse for his birthday but this was a rocking horse for a new generation. There were no hard wooden edges or piece and no metal of any kind. It is all plastic, padded, and rubber. It is designed to be injury-proof. I’m good with that as I do not enjoy taking my son to the emergency room or seeing him hurt for that matter. However it did remind me that we live in a society that goes to great lengths to make sure people are injury-proof. There are added safety features and safety regulations to everything, warranties. Insurance, liability waivers, politically correct rules for what you can and cannot say (hurting feelings is more loathed that bodily harm), and of course padded rocking horses.

I asked my son’s pediatrician recently why there seems to be a rise of allergies among children and he said our society is too clean. We are so “sanitize-crazy” that we weaken our immune system. Presently Asher has no allergies to speak of so I guess we aren’t clean enough in our home. I mention all this to point out an inherent trade-off in our injury-insulated society: we lose the lessons that come with scars.

Don’t inflict pain on yourself or others to learn life lessons. That’s dumb and sinful. However much of our personal and spiritual growth comes out of scars. Rather than obsessing over insulating ourselves from all harm we should trust the Lord and take life as He gives it to us. When He leads us through difficulties and pain we should remember that the fire is where refining happens. Consider what Solomon said to his son in Proverb 17:3, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One

This time last year my wife and I were wondering if we'd ever sleep again. There were about four bags under each eye and we were walking around in a daze. It was our first weekend home with our firstborn, Asher. Well, a year has come and gone. Last week our little man turned one (or 12-months in mom-speak, I was informed you always refer to the months until 2 years- silly me). How easy it is to take these last 365 days for granted! Every one of them has been a test of patience, an opportunity to love, a tool for sanctification, a blessing to enjoy, and a gift from the Lord. My wife and I are on a mission to train up who we hope and pray to be a godly man. We know this is a weighty responsibility but what a joyful one it is as well! We're so thankful for Asher, for the year that has gone by, and for every additional day the Lord graciously gives us.

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a rewar. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate." -Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Global Church Vision from Every Local Church

One of my hopes and aims as pastor of Memorial Baptist Church is to lead us to be the kind of church that influences and aides other local churches and pastors in their efforts at healthy church reform. I pray we will be a launching pad of people to go out into the world, into their communities, and into other churches (as the Lord moves them) to help fan the flame of the gospel and Biblical truth. A real inspiration for me in this kind of vision is the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and their pastor, John Piper.

JP has led his church to make every sermon, every conference session, and nearly every book that he has written available for free. He wants to get these resources out to has many people as possible with as few barriers as possible. While not every church is the size and shares the resources of a Bethlehem Baptist and not every pastor (not many actually) have the global influence of a John Piper, every local church should share such a vision. There are churches everywhere that have replaced the proclaimation of the true gospel with an easy-believism schtick or the prosperity gospel lie. Too many pulpits have starved the congregations they serve from Biblical expositional preaching and replaced it with canned motivational talks (which is like serving children twinkies- tastes great, gets stale fast, not filling, and unhealthy). These erosions have led to applications in church life and leadership that have undermined the purpose of the church-- to be the uncompromised presence of Christ on the earth.

So I'm thankful for men like John Piper, Mark Dever, Al Mohler and others who have a global church vision that they seek to be launched from every local church. We are striving to be a healthy, vibrant, Biblical church that can produce or equip other local churches to be likewise. Take advantage of these gifts to our church... these trailblazers of Biblical church reform.

John Piper's Online Books

Mark Dever's Leadership Interviews

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Book from a Faithful Herald

Jim Hamilton, one of my professors at Southwestern Seminary (now at Southern Seminary) and a man I consider a mentor in my life, has just had published through Crossway a new book which I am eager to read. Below is a preview video for the book. While I have not yet read this new release I can recommend taking every opportunity to be enriched through the ministry of Jim Hamilton. The Lord has been gracious to Jim and gracious to the church in giving us Jim. He is a faithful herald of Scripture- in the classroom and in the local church. I have no doubt that his passion for the gospel and for the Bible to be understood will leap forth from every page of this book, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment.

James Hamilton - God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment from Crossway on Vimeo.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What to do on Sunday?

I'm going to hijack a post from Tim Challies' blog because it is so helpful. He offers some great suggestions (picked up from a Nine Marks article) on how church members can serve their church on Sunday morning.

He recommends that before the morning worship service you read over the sermon text, pray for the gathering of the congregation, think strategically about who to sit with (note: this is not disingenuous; it is thoughtful), arrive early, and greet newcomers.

During the service he recommends you "sing with gusto" (we are singing unto the King Eternal), help with logistics- or as I prefer- jump in and help "put on fires", guard your mind against distractions, listen carefully, and be conscious of your body language (those sitting near you will pick up on frowns or fading eye-lids).

Then he recommends some things for after the service... connect with newcomers (go to them and don't wait for guest to approach you), exchange contact information with them, start a conversation about the sermon ("what did you think about such and such statement?" or "that was something I've really been chewing on, how about you?"), ask someone (even a member you've known for some time) how they became a Christian, and don't rush out-- you might be rushing past opportunities the Lord has prepared for you to fellowship or minister.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallow..errr REFORMATION DAY!

Here are four videos in celebration of the 493rd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (two have been previously posted but still worth the watch).







Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

I'm mid-way through my preaching series through the Book of Jonah and I am loving it. My prayer is that my people will grow in their understanding of the sovereignty of God through this little book but I also hope they catch a vision for how to read the Old Testament as pointing to the Messiah. Jesus is all over the Book of Jonah! I do not mean that I believe Jonah's story to be a parable or a point-for-point allegory of Christ. Actually I'm convinced every note of this story is historical just as it is written-- big fish and all! I'm also convinced that Jonah was read and understood in his time. Those ancient Jews were taught the Word of God before the New Testament came in.

However we should now see that Jonah does point to Jesus-- a new and better Jonah! Not only to Jesus draw this line (Matthew 12:39-40) but He taught His disciples that the Old Testament should all be read as a Messianic book (Luke 24:27, 44-46). We are given a great example of Philip, that early deacon putting this hermeneutic into practice in Acts 8:35, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture [Isaiah 53] he preached Jesus to him [the Ethiopian official]." Preaching Jesus from the Old Testament does not mean contorting historical events into parables about Jesus but means seeing the typology and how all of Scripture points to the King of Kings.

For more and better insight into this subject Justin Taylor has helpfully linked to Sinclair Ferguson's lectures on 'Preaching Christ' and HERE is the lecture on "Preaching Christ from the Old Testament".

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Hodge-Podge

Monday, October 25, 2010

Video Monday- Al Mohler on Reading

I guess there's some humor in watching a video about reading but this is a helpful word by the Michael Jordan of reading, Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary.



HT: Challies

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dead Theologians

I have grown to love reading classic theological writers and have always loved history. For most people older writers and historical study is difficult or drudgery. Let me encourage you that reading men like Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or John Owen is tremendously rewarding and worth the effort. We don't mind putting in the work to tone our abs, to make a few more bucks at work, or to play sports. We do it because of the pay-off. Well reading history and reading these time-tested men of God is definitely worth the pay-off. In fact, the more you read, the more accessible and applicable you'll find these resources.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Multi-site Mania

How many times have you heard the slogan "one church, two locations" or some variant? I think some of the churches using this slogan actually think they are original and creative. This multi-site trend is concerning to me for a number of reasons but I'm trying to remaind open-minded. Some employ the multi-site model as a means for church planting. Share resources, train leaders, and eventually launch them off. Others seem to have other motives. I'm especially perplexed when a church starts a second campus in a community that already has Biblical churches instead of just sharing resources with those churches.
  • Here is a BLOG POST that questions the practicality of such giga-churches.
  • The Gospel Coalition guys have POSTED a helpful resource of links to many different perspectives on the multi-site trend.

Friday, October 22, 2010

On Disciple-making at Home


Let me begin by first saying that the church is God's "program" for evangelism and discipleship. To be a Christian is to be a member of the Lord's church and the word "church" by original definition means "official assembly" or "congregation". So if you are part of the CHURCH you assemble locally with a church. I say that briefly to say that discipleship at home or worship as a family does not replace the accountability and fellowship a believer should commit to in a local church.

Now to the home, the Bible is clear that parents- particularly fathers- have a responsibility to bring the gospel to bear in their children's lives (not to mention each spouse's responsibility to do the same toward each other). Paul' s commands to the church in Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:18-21 particularly remind us that the Christian home should exemplify the gospel. Sunday School teachers and youth ministers may provide help and accountability to come alongside the parents but are not a replacement for Christian parents sharing Scripture with their children.

I know this can be intimidating to some parents but if you treasure God's Word and love your children you will make this a matter of importance and for improvement. Keep it simple for starters. Have a set and protected time when your family prays together. Set apart time to read Scripture together. My eleven-month old has little understanding of what we're saying but before bed we huddle up and I pray for our family. When I read Scripture to him I realize he isn't getting much from it yet but it is great practice and discipline for me! As your kids grow (or even if its just you and your wife) discuss the sermon from Sunday or read the sermon text for the upcoming Sunday. Think about ways to "put it into practice". Remember above all the principle of Isaiah 55:11- God's Word will not return empty!

Here are some helpful links:



Is your Youth Group accomplishing anything? (Dustin Nickerson/ Resurgence Blog)


The Centrality of the Home (sermon by Voddie Baucham)

The Family: Together in God's Presence (John Piper on families worshipping together)


Thursday, October 21, 2010

What a Blessing!

We've officially entered the mini-van world! Blair and I were determined holdouts. We're too young for a mini-van! We're too hip for a mini-van! These were the silly things we convinced ourselves (for the record my wife is still young and hip) until we finally realized this was the best fit for our present family and for our future hopes for more children (not to mention two dogs). The Lord took us from concession to really loving what He provided and boy oh boy did he provide!

This week we traded in our Jeep and all its $$ baggage for a used Toyota Sienna. On reflection we got a safer, bigger, and higher quality vehicle for lower monthly payments (and a quicker pay-off). I couldn't imagine we would come out so much ahead in so many ways. The Lord blew us away in how He met so many needs and we are so thankful... not to mention young, hip mini-van drivers!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fan the Flame


Thus far one of the best books I've read this year is The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves. If you only have time to read one book, read the Bible. If you have time to read two books, read more Bible. If you can squeeze a third in read Reeves' highly accessible and winsome introduction to the history of the Reformation. I heartily agree with Mark Dever who wrote the foreward that this book is "The best brief introduction to the Reformation I have read."

Follow THIS LINK to view the website for the book that has gobs of resources to read and listen to for further study of the subjects addressed in this book. Below is an excerpt from the book (which comes in under 200 pages) that addresses "How to reform a church" (pgs. 56-57):

"Luther... instead of using force to reform, sought to persuade people with the Scriptures through simple, clear preaching. He believed that the word of God must first convince people, and then the rotten old structures would collapse. It was exactly what he had stood for before the emperor, that it is the Scriptures that must drive and dictate thought and practice. As a result, Luther never believed that he should devise any great programme for spreading the Reformation. He simply wanted to unleash the word of God, and let that do all the work."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pursue it or Kill it

I once heard (and I've often repeated it) that if repentance and faith are step one in our Christian walk then step two is repeat step one. Not a day goes by that we do not have to fight sin. There is a choice to make- pursue it or kill it. Every day we must- by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit- turn from self and trust Christ our Lord. These sermons by John Piper will challenge and convict you to make war against sin.

How to Kill Sin (part one)

How to Kill Sin (part two)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Hodge-Podge

Here are a bunch of things I've been wanting to link to or expound on for a while. I don't have time for expounding so I'll just link...

1. Five ways to know if you are REALLY a Christian- for a spoiler they are: 1) You love Jesus; 2) You hate sin; 3) You love God's Word; 4) You love truth; and 5) You love believers. Now go read the rest of the article.

2. Yes, boys do read. HERE is a very interesting post by Al Mohler. The expectations are so low for boys and men in our culture and this will give some insight into the needs.

3. Don't sing that song! HERE is a very tongue-in-cheek post about worship tunes. We should be careful and thoughtful about what we sing but we need to guard against being paranoid.

4. A good book that's coming to MBC soon... preview here.

5. Need preaching? Here are sermons from Pastor David Miller. I mention it because I'll be attending a conference in November that he'll be preaching at.

Monday, September 27, 2010

All My Labels

Label #8: REFORMED

This is the last part in the series on “labels” and will address the “Reformed” label. This is a polarizing label so I want to be clear. By reformed I’m not referring to ex-cons or recovering alcoholics but those who are reformed in doctrine and practice as it concerns the local church (particularly in contrast to the theology of the Roman Catholic church). The label “Reformed” has been so misused and misunderstood that I’ve grown more reluctant to use the label. At its most basic level the “Reformed” label refers to three emphases: 1) An emphasis on the “five solas” of the Protestant Reformation; 2) An emphasis on the regulative principle for worship and church life; and 3) An emphasis on a high view of God’s sovereignty through a high view of the ministry of the Word in worship and church life. These statements beg unpacking.

To be “Reformed” in the proper sense one must at least affirm the “five solas” which are the conviction that 1) Scripture alone as the final and infallible authority for the church in matters of life and practice; 2) Justification from God is by faith alone without any mixture of works; 3) Salvation and the ability to have faith in Christ is a gift of grace alone from God; 4) Christ alone is the mediator between a holy God and sinful man; and 5) The miracle of a sinner’s conversion and adoption is to the glory of God alone. This miracle is helpfully explained in what is known as the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. These points are a systematic method to explain what Scripture teaches regarding God’s saving work. Those who are “Reformed” also hold (in some degree) to the “regulative principle of worship”- meaning, since Scripture alone is our authority Scripture alone regulates what we do in worship and church life. Those who are “Reformed” follow in the tradition of the 16th century Protestant Reformers in placing a renewed emphasis on the ministry of the Word- particularly through the pulpit which is carried out by Biblically qualified and set apart men (pastors/ elders).

That is a “nutshell” version of the “Reformed” label but there’s more to the story. The “Reformed” label like most labels carries so much variety that like most labels it does not fairly describe the one being labeled. Does one have to affirm everything in the Second London Confession of 1689 to be “Reformed”? Does one have to sing only Puritan-era hymns in a Puritan-era style to be “Reformed”? Does one have to be Amillennial in their eschatology to be “Reformed”? Some might argue that being “Reformed” means you are a Paedobaptist! Can you have an invitational hymn after the sermon and still be “Reformed”? Can you have Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, guitar accompaniment, preach from some Biblical translation other than the KJV or ESV, and aghast… hold anything other than a full Cessationist view of the miraculous gifts and still be “Reformed”? My hope is that Memorial Baptist Church would be distinguished as being “Reformed” in its convictions and its aims but we must be carefully with becoming legalistic in some of the applications.

When I say that I want our church to be “Reformed” what do I mean? Very simply I want my flock to embrace a high view of God’s sovereignty, of God’s Word, and of God’s church. To that end: 1) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical theology in the life and practice of the church; 2) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical leadership in the life and practice of the church; 3) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical evangelism in the life and practice of the church; 4) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical worship in the life and practice of the church; and 5) I’m praying for a renewal of Biblical hospitality in the life and practice of the church. The old Latin phrase semper reformanda or “always reforming” is true. We should always be submitting ourselves to the authority of Scripture and be conformed to its content.

Video Monday- Some guy on a guitar

This is perhaps the funniest thing I've ever seen. For all you non-Calvinist readers, take a chill-pill and laugh at the satire. For all you Calvinists, hold up a lighter and sway back and forth...



HT: Ben Witherington

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Example of Courage

Last year and early on into this year our church spent a good deal of time in our monthly (now bi-monthly) Church Conference to discuss the issue of church membership. I preached on this subject from the numerous Biblical texts that address it. I've now preached at least a dozen messages specifically on church membership and discipline-- not to mention how we've seen the issue addressed from the very books I've gone through either on Sunday morning, evening, or Wednesday evenings (like Matthew 18 for instance). So this is an issue heavy on my heart.

Earlier in the year we determined to table the issue as a matter of church action until January 2011. We will begin reevaluating our membership records to determine matters of discipline that need to be addressed. Our goal of course is not to run people off-- we sincerely want to see the Lord add to the number of His church. However, church membership reflects New Covenant membership and our covenant with each other reflects God's covenant with us. If people are not taking membership seriously and have willfully withdrawn fellowship it indicates they do not take the New Covenant seriously and our corporate responsibility to display God in our membership.

This morning I read Jonathan Leeman of 9 Marks Ministries interview Pastor David King who led his church to remove 575 members from their church role. This is sobering to say the least but it is also encouraging to know there are others in similar situations as our church is and who had the courage of conviction to do the Biblical thing. I pray the Lord will bless such faithfulness to grow healthy churches to His glory.

Read the interview HERE.

HT: Jim Hamilton

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simple Church Life

Sunday I preached a sermon that served as an appendix to my series on Matthew (particularly to the two weeks I preached from the Great Commission). In this message I addressed critical matters for the life of our church and tried to explain how the church, through her simple program exalts God. Here is an excerpt from that sermon (from my notes exactly):

"Our program is simple so that God- not our creativity- is most on display through our church. Creative programming is not bad but should not become the focus of our church nor should it distract from our focus. Having a flurry of activity may seem attractive and vibrant but can inflict collateral damage to the congregation and her mission. Let me suggest twelve dangers to over-programming in the church:

1. Over-programming can mislead people to think the corporate worship gathering is just another program.
2. Over-programming can pull the congregation apart and create separate interest groups.
3. Over-programming can put stress on the church’s finances and leaders.
4. Over-programming can make “sacred cows” out of some people’s preferred programs.
5. Over-programming can minimize the priority of what the church does together.
6. Over-programming can add to the many activities that are pulling at families.
7. Over-programming can risk burn-out and threaten the principle of Sabbath-rest.
8. Over-programming can put over-emphasis on “come see” evangelism at the expense of Biblical “go tell” evangelism.
9. Over-programming can confuse busyness for real fruitfulness.
10. Over-programming can misrepresent what the New Testament teaches is necessary for a healthy church.
11. Over-programming can falsely present the gospel as increased involvement in the activities of a church.
12. Over-programming can reduce the congregation to just the people that exist to maintain the programs.


We can fall into this consuming and meaningless pattern of ‘attract more people to get more money to build more programs to attract more people to get more money to build more programs’, and on and on and on. This feeds pride as we boast to be a bigger and busier church but who is getting the glory? It exalts the ingenuity of some people while reducing most people into widgets. The ministry of the Word must be central in the life of the church and nothing else should distract from that. The Lord builds His church through His Word and by hearing and obeying His Word the church declares the glory of God to the world."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Man Crisis in the Church

Our church is like many congregations where there is a shortage of godly men who are faithful to lead their homes and serve the congregation with Biblical courage. This is not to say our church does not have any of these men-- we certainly do but their number has dwindled. There is also a generation gap as it concerns men who demonstrate faithful devotion and Biblical manhood. This is a serious matter of prayer and concern in my ministry. It is a tide we hope to turn. Here is an insightful and challenging video regarding the "man crisis" that besets many churches.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Silver Lining

This week has presented less than desirable circumstances as I've been stricken with an infection on an abscess that developed over the weekend. To say it has produced discomfort would put it mildly and its actually kept me out of my office and mostly off my feet all week. Antibiotics and painkillers are helping. Thankfully though my wife is ever present to take care of me. If left to myself I'd have used my unsanitized knife to try and fix the problem (only making it worse). Blair knows me so well that was the first thing she said I could not do.

Now on one hand these circumstances have presented a lot of temptations to complain, be selfish, and be lazy. Honestly, I'm certain I've been guilty of all three at times during the week but the Lord has used this temporary condition to provide me three great gifts. First, I've got a number of my congregation who experience discomfort and pain every time they do anything and this has helped me to better empathize. Last night I made my one outing outside the house to fulfill my Wednesday night teaching assignment. It was a blessing to teach but a chore to get in and out of the car, walk to the room, and stand (sitting is worse) in the classroom. Yet every Sunday members of my flock endure similar struggle to worship the Lord with their congregation. Hopefully this will make me more pastorally sensitive to them.

Second, this has allowed me some focused time of prayer and study. I've spent a lot of time soaking my wound in a hot bath or laying face down on the bed. There's not much else to do but read, pray, or listen to preaching on my iPod. That has been a real blessing. Third, and most treasured has been the undistracted time I've had with my wife and son. I heard my son say "Da-da" (after he said "Foster" of course... the dog's name), we've played as much as I physically could and beyond what I should, and we've taken naps together which is the best. It has really been a treasured time to talk to my wife and catch-up after the week she was gone. These are things we can easily take for granted or rush past for "more important things" (that are not). So through pain the Lord has seen fit to bless me abundantly... what a great God we have!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Matthew to Jonah

"Today we are going to embark on a journey as a church. This journey will take us several months and I pray this journey will help to shape our lives for the glory of God. Our journey is to see and savor the Messiah Jesus. My aim this morning and over the course of our study in the Gospel According to Matthew is that you would say over and over, “What a Savior!” and that the story of our Savior would so saturate your mind and heart that you would exalt His supremacy in all things."
Those were the opening comments to the first sermon I preached on the gospel of Matthew in July 2008. Lord willing, this series will conclude over the next two Sundays as I preach over Matthew 28:16-20 (the Great Commission). From my end I can sleep well knowing that I delivered that which I received and did not avoid even the most “difficult” of passages (though the temptation was strong at times). During this period I have taught through other books of the Bible on Sunday evenings but the main worship gathering for Memorial Church has been centered on the study of God through the Gospel of Matthew.

So what’s next? That is a question I’ve gotten a lot and prayed through myself for many weeks. If the Lord wills I intend to preach a sermon on the doctrine of the church (a rare topical departure) followed by a sermon on worship from 2 Samuel 6. Then we will begin going through the Old Testament book of Jonah. This is a powerful little book that magnifies so many attributes of God. Jonah is not the hero of the story- quite the opposite actually. We will study a God who rescues and a God who takes disobedience very seriously.

Right now I am slowly reading through Galatians in preparation to preach through this book in 2011. Somewhere in between I also hope to preach a short three week series on the family. That gives you an idea of what to read in advance and how to pray. God’s Word makes God’s people and I believe the preaching ministry is a key component in the greater ministry of the Word that will make disciples and glorify God in and through our church.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is the Bible primarily about?

I've said before that the Bible is not a high school yearbook. When the yearbooks would come out the first thing you did when you got it was to find your picture (and if you were an extrovert, to find all your pictures in all your activities). In contract the Bible is not for you to find yourself but to know God and His redemptive plan through His Son Jesus. The video below puts Tim Keller's words with images from Gustave Dore. I'm a big fan of Dore's work and I really appreciate Keller's ministry so this is a good combo. Enjoy...



HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ideas for Family Worship

Family worship does not mean worshipping the family (though that can happen and needs to be guarded against) but simply worshipping the Lord together as a family. Family worship is not a substitute for the regular worship assembly of the family of God (i.e. your local church). It is simply exalting Christ in your home and training children to worship.

-The guys at the Resuregence blog offer some good tips HERE.

-They also make a case for family worship HERE.

You may not be a gifted teacher and you might not feel adequately knowledgable about the Scriptures but you can stay one day ahead and fill your home with God's Word.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Heart of Christianity

Doug Wilson (who I disagree with on certain issues is spot on here) quotes President Obama and offers an excellent response.

President Obama (discussing the proposed ‘Ground Zero’ mosque): "For in the end, we remain 'one nation, under God, indivisible.' And we can only achieve 'liberty and justice for all' if we live by that one rule at the heart of every religion, including Islam-that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”

Doug Wilson: “That religion is Americanism, ick, poo, a religion that wants all the "sectarian" faiths to take their place on the god shelf, and adopt as their central belief whatever the president says their core values ought to be. But in the case of the Christian faith, it is not the Golden Rule -- the heart of Christian ethics, sure, but ethics is not the gospel. Christ crucified, buried, and risen -- that's the rule at the heart of our faith. Not only is it the center of our faith, it is a center that cannot, by any means, be made to fit on the rickety god shelf of the secularists.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on Youth (and Children's) Ministry in the Church

I spent ten years as a youth minister before becoming a pastor at the church where I now serve. Over that decade I did a lot of things well intended but ultimately un-Biblical things in youth ministry. Mainly these things concerned leading students to have an over-dependance on me as their spiritual leader rather than their parents and the pastor, spending more time planning activities than studying Scripture and praying, making the hype of an event more memorable than the content of my teaching, etc, etc, etc. Now that said, in spite of my limitations and lack of wisdom the Lord made disciples and was glorified.

About halfway through my 'youth ministry days' the Lord really began convicting me from Scripture to make His Word center in whatever I did. Fun and games have their place but mainly those few hours a week I was with the teenagers was to make the gospel clear, instruct them in the Scriptures, and do whatever I could to reinforce the discipleship that needed to be taking place at home. I began doing things that would see me decrease and the parents increase as the lead disciple-makers of their children.

Some would argue that youth ministry is totally un-Biblical and all age-divided discipleship should be abolished in the church. While we must guard against dividing the family by an over-emphasis on age-specific ministries we do not have to swing the pendulum to the extreme to still hold parents accountable to carry out their Biblical responsibility. After all, the church is called to make disciples, not just make disciples of dads. There is no doubt that the kind of youth ministry that most churches have employed over the last three decades has produced awful results and has a doomed future (READ HERE), the church can still make efforts to come alongside parents to help train their children in God's Word.

Our church must have a clear vision or aim for what we are doing to train our children and teenagers. The gospel must be at the forefront. The methods must be carefully scrutinized so that the message is not compromised. We also must be careful that parents do not abdicate their responsibility because they feel their efforts are inferior to the bells and whistles of the church program. Parents must be equipped. Good youth or children's ministry partners with parents, makes the teaching of the Word central, and makes sure God (not human creativity) is what resonates most in the hearts and minds of our young hearers.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Libertarian Free Will

Here is a great definition of Libertarian Free Will. I do not know anyone who argues that we have this kind of free will. God has given us freedom to make choices but sadly our choices are always conditioned by the sin nature and our will is in bondage to that nature. Thanks be to a merciful and gracious God who shatters that bondage and causes sinners to be born again.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Preaching the Cross

About a month from now I plan to conclude the series through Matthew's gospel that I've been preaching for the last two years. A lot has changed in my life over the course of this series so there is some sadness as I think about putting away the Matthew commentaries and turning my focus to another book of the Bible. I can only hope that my congregation and those who have visited with us on Sunday mornings have been ministered to by the preaching at least half as much as I have in preparing the sermons.

Over the last three weeks I've been unpacking chapter 27 and the verses particularly on the crucifixion of Jesus. We'll soon turn to the resurrection but the time I've devoted in study on the cross alone has made an enormous impact on my heart. I encourage everyone to devote time and reflection on what our Lord accomplished on the cross. We often so focus on the drama of the cross we forget its perfectly fulfilled deed. Jesus died to pay a ransom and to purchase forgiveness for those who God has mercifully willed to save. How humbling a thought... He did this while we were still dead in trespasses and sins!

I am continually amazed that my God would save me. It is mesmerizing because there is nothing I've done to or could ever do to merit such grace... but that is grace. This is so humbling and I pray the humbling, amazing, and transforming message of the cross would continuing to shape our congregation as it is shaping me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 4 and Done

After a great week with the youth we are all finally home and licking our wounds. Thankfully these aren't spiritual wounds or bad wounds at all... just tired and sore from increased muscle activity! When we weren't exploring caves, swimming in the lake, or spotting Zebras at the ranch we studied the doctrine of salvation from Ephesians 2:1-10. I'm praying now that all that information and explanation is bearing fruit as the kids get settled back into their homes. One of the more difficult things as a pastor (or any Christian for that matter) is sitting back and trusting God to bring the growth. It isn't hard to trust God-- He has completely proved His trustworthiness and is completely deserving of our trust... but it is hard to be patient and not try to coerce growth. You can stifle a garden by over watering. So my head will hit the pillow tonight thinking of the good fellowship and bonding I shared with our youth but it will also hit the pillow with a clear conscience knowing that the gospel seed has been sown and God will accomplish with it what He wills. May the Lord bring a harvest for His glory!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day two behind us... day three ahead!

Yesterday we explored the Longhorn Caverns. The kids learned a lot of Texas history and some cool things geologically. Now I know if they can retain all THAT they can take in some good Biblical theology! We also toured an exotic ranch- thanks to my father-in-law, Steve Savoy who guides hunts at the ranch and led our tour. It was a great day of enjoying God's creation and fellowship. We wrapped up the day by studying in detail Ephesians 2:1-3 and Genesis 3 to look at the doctrines of original sin and the wrath of God. Today we're off to Ink's Lake State Park for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, etc etc. Then we'll study Ephesians 2:4-9 tonight to see how God rescues sinners. Be in prayer for our students (Franklin, Kevin, Betsy, Jackie, Caitlyn, Jessica, Daryanne, Kira, Brandon, Christian, Rommell, and my nephew Cooper who's tagging along with us). Our brave adult sponsors are all a little more tired today so pray for renewed legs and hearts!

Monday, July 26, 2010

MBC Youth Retreat Day 1

I can't promise I'll have the time to post about our youth retreat daily but here goes for day one. This morning we loaded up with 11 teenagers (some church members, some guests), 4 adults (Heather W., Peggy K. my wife, and me), my 8-month old son, and my two dogs... well it was almost one less dog as Chewy, the rat terrier slipped from his collar and leash to make a run down the reservoir behind our church property. A half-hour later I was able to catch him and we got on the road. We had a safe, smooth ride to Burnet, TX and picnicked along the way for lunch. After unloading and settling into the hotel around 3pm we all made our way to my in-laws who have graciously opened their home for evening supper, swimming, and Bible study. On Tuesday we'll be going to the exotic ranch where my father-in-law guides for hunting trips and then over to Longhorn Caverns to hike and explore caves. On Wednesday we'll spend the day at Ink's Lake State Park for all sorts of lakeside activities. Every evening it will be back to my in-laws' home for a meal and to study God's Word.

I must say the day began with frustration over chasing down my dog and getting a late start but the Lord brought me in a spirit of prayer quickly. I've been asking all day that we would share sweet fellowship and enjoy the good things He's provided but that we would also grow richly from the study of Ephesians 2:1-10 (our focal text for the week). Tonight in Bible study it was as though every ear was tuned in and hungry to hear about how good the news is of our God's grace through the work of His Son Jesus to rescue sinners. There were actually comments afterwards about how much they enjoyed reading and learning about the Biblical doctrine of salvation. The Lord had watched over our travels, preserved our attitudes to be gracious toward each other, and now kindled an excitement for Bible study... and we're only on day one! I'm about to hit the pillow after a long day but I can hardly wait for what the Lord will do tomorrow! Keep the prayers flowing that the Word will bring forth fruit this week!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Label #7: HEALTHY

Back to my "labels" series... by the way, if you search the word labels you can probably pull all the posts up on this series. Now we've come to the label "healthy" as in healthy Christian or healthy church member or healthy church. What is a healthy church? OK, well I doubt any pastor or congregation would say, "Nah, we don't want to be a healthy church." It sounds like an ambiguous adjective but I mean it in a more proper noun sense.

The guys over at 9 Marks have helped defined some characteristics of a healthy church. They do not mean to provide an exhaustive list but point out some things that are noticeably absent from many local churches who as a result are unhealthy. Mainly a local church is not healthy when they are not faithful to the New Testament teachings regarding the church.

The "nine marks of a healthy church" are 1) Biblical (expository) Preaching; 2) Commitment to teaching Biblical theology; 3) A Biblical view and faithful proclamation of the Gospel; 4) A Biblical understanding of conversion; 5) A Biblical understanding and practice of evangelism; 6) A Biblical understanding and practice of church membership; 7) A Biblical understanding and practice of church discipline; 8) A Biblical understanding and practice of discipleship (I'd add, healthy churches contain disciples who make disciples.); and 9) A Biblical understanding of church leadership... namely two Biblical offices, elder and deacon.

I'd add that a healthy church is a congregation committed to prayer, a congregation committed to each other, and a congregation committed to global missions. You might add some characteristics but you get the point. Healthy churches are churches that recognize the Bible as the rule of faith, order, and life practice without compromise. Healthy Christians or healthy church members are those who live out these qualities in their local church and help to see their church to be rightly labeled as a healthy church.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Video Monday- James MacDonald

Yesterday while my wife napped I took Asher for a drive because he needed a nap (the car ride puts him fast to sleep). So we set off with my iPod in hand and I listened to a sermon by James MacDonald. It was a short one on the will of God. I'd heard a bit of him recently and wanted to hear more. Some of you may be more familiar but I'd only heard the name. So this sermon was, well... it raised some questions. I'm not sure if we are on the same page with some things but other things really edified me. Here are a couple videos I came across a couple weeks ago that I really liked. So I put this out there not with a full recommendation to the man's ministry because I'm still investigating, but these clips are worthwhile.






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P.S. I've been having a lot of problems with spam in the comments and cannot block single posters. So I've enabled the feature wherein I have to approve the comment by email. I may not have much email access this week so don't be offended if you don't see your comment up.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Off to the Beach!

"Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach..." -Acts 27:40

This week my family and I will be spending some rest and leisure time at the beach. It will be a sort of working vacation because I have a lot of advance sermon and study planning to do not to mention two sermons to prepare for next Sunday. Still, it will be some much appreciated getaway time. I am going to ask you to be praying for us this week in some specific ways.

1. Pray that my wife and I would have some quality time together (we'll have extended family there to watch the baby). I really want to be an encouragement for her.

2. Pray that this week will jumpstart our family devotion time... something I've dropped the ball on lately and want to start again daily.

3. Pray that Asher will be cooperative and comfortable even though his routine will be changing a bit for a few days.

4. Pray that I make the most of the time I set aside for study so not to bleed into family time.

5. Pray that I finish three sessions of the "Attributes of God" study series I'm writing and make some headway into some marriage counseling material I'm putting together.

6. Pray that I'm able to begin outlining the series on Jonah I'll be preaching through beginning in October.

7. Pray that I'm able to thoroughly prepare for my sermon on Matthew 27:1-10 and one that will give an overview of Job 22-31 (for Sunday).

8. Pray that we all stay healthy and safe on the road.

9. Pray that I be extra sensitive and helpful to my wife with the baby (it is easy to "check out" when you are on vacation but parent work never stops).

10. Pray the Lord give me open doors to be a gospel witness and a giver of grace to those in our path during the week.

Friday, July 9, 2010

On this DATE in history...

Five years ago on this day Blair and I went to dinner at Cheddars (she had the catfish, I had the New Orleans pasta), played a round of Putt-Putt Golf (she won... barely), and then enjoyed ice cream at Marble Slab. It was our first date. We've had many more since not to mention getting married, buying a house, beginning a new ministry at a new church, and having a baby.

Thinking about that first date makes me all the more thankful of the Lord's kindness and grace to bring Blair into my life. Not every day has been as fun as that first date. We've had our challenges and will I'm sure have many more but I would not want to enjoy the peaks or struggle through the valleys with anyone else. Blair makes our home my most favorite place on earth. She adorns our home with warmth and love. When I think of how the Lord has used her to be a blessing I remember Ecclesiastes 9:9, "Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun."

First dates can often go really bad. Ours was great (I even brought her home 30 minutes before her dad told me to)... the beginning of a relationship that gets stronger and richer by the day. Needless to say, I'm well rewarded.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Video Monday- John Piper in London!

As many of you know, John Piper is on sabbatical because as he said, "the precious garden of my home needs tending". While he's stepped away from his pulpit through December he did commit to honor the few preaching commitments overseas. Here is the message he recently delivered at Jubilee Church in London on "The Gospel and Racial Harmony". Since John Piper is a gift to the many churches and his preaching is rare these days I thought it would be edifying to post this.

The Gospel and racial harmony from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Creeds, Confessions, and Catechism... the Baptist way... really it is!

Recited any ancient creeds lately? Read through any historic confessions of faith over the last week? Dare I ask if any has worked through a catechism with their family recently?? At this point I'm imagining that those non-Catholics reading my blog are thinking I've become Father Jeremy rather than Brother Jeremy... or perhaps you think Out-of-his-Mind Jeremy is more fitting.

Here is the reality- creeds, confessions, and catechisms are not a distinctly Catholic tradition. The use of catechisms to train young Christians and one's children in the faith was actually recovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century! This is our Baptist heritage as well. If I stopped brushing my teeth for a month I suspect those of you who speak with me regularly when our church meets would stage an intervention. That is a tradition of such importance it is essential to recover even after extensive inactivity. The use of creeds, confessions, and catechisms is essential to recover after many years of inactivity.

Creeds are short expressions of what we believe about the Bible. Confessions are more detailed outlines of specific doctrinal/ Biblical convictions. Catechisms (from the Greek word meaning 'to teach') are are series of questions and answers to teach theological truths from the Bible.

  • Try this creed out for memory... Apostles' Creed (really old, really time-tested, really helpful)
  • Try this confession out for study... Philadelphia Confession (published by our Baptists forefathers in colonial American in 1742)
  • Try the catechism out for teaching... Catechism for Little Children (published by the Sunday School Board of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in 1864)

P.S. Go back and read the articles linked to in this post!!

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Friday, July 2, 2010

What's going on with those crazy Baptists?

"Look out honey, the Baptists are coming!"

That is what I always assume is said when I go to make a prospect visit and the TV is blaring, the lights are on, the dogs are barking, but no one ever answers the door. I usually shrug my shoulders, pray for those inside (Lord knows after 6pm I'm tempted never to answer the door either), and move on. Baptists are always on the mood--being the evangelical and evangelistic group we are. The Southern Baptist Convention has shown through their annual meetings the last two years that our cooperative convention of local churches is still on the move in a more determined and "Great Commission"-motivated way. Below are the video feeds to the B21 meeting and the Nine Marks @ Nine meeting during the most recent convention in Orlando. The B21 or (Baptists in the 21st century) is a group representing the "next generation" of Baptist pastors and leaders who seek to link Baptist heritage with continual gospel fidelity. The Nine Marks outfit exists to promote healthy churches and healthy church leadership.

B21 Panel at 2010 SBC Annual Meeting from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.



IX Marks at 9 Panel from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Label #6: EVANGELISTIC

Note that this is not a repeat of the "Evangelical" post. Being labeled an Evangelical implicitly means you hold to the conviction that the gospel is to be shared. By wearing the "evangelistic" label I am taking some implicit and making it explicit. I sincerely want to be known (and want our church to be known) for spreading the gospel. In other words, when people are around me for any length of time or if people are around our church family for any length of time the goood news of God's redemptive plan through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be made evident.

What does this mean practically? Well typically when you think of an evangelistic church you go to a program- G.R.O.W., F.A.I.T.H., W.O.J.T., E.E., N.O.T.A.N.O.T.H.E.R.A.C.R.O.N.Y.M... you get the idea. These programs can be good and effective tools for motivating and training people for evangelism but just having a program or a designated "outreach night" does not earn the label "evangelistic". Being an evangelistic person means the gospel permeates every area of your life. God has predestined to place us in jobs and neighborhoods and other social situations around people who are watching our lives closely. We need to build relationships and invest time in people so that we can share the love and truth of God with them.

Knocking on doors and going through a gospel tract is fine but it is not enough. It may be fearful but it requires us to invest very little. If you want to be an evangelistic person begin at home with your children and work your way out as far as you can go (Acts 1:8) to weave the good news in every conversation. That is not to say you awkwardly and abrubtly shift every casual conversation to your four-point sermonette on escaping the fires of hell. There are always open opportunities to draw attention to the grace of God in your life, the consequences of sin, and the hope found in the Lord Jesus. Season, as with salt, every conversation with good news.

Now how about being an evangelistic church? Again, it is more than a program. In fact we have to stop thinking in "program" or event language and think in "the gospel through community" language. If you look around and see that visitors are attending the Sunday worship and you think that the church needs to do a better job welcoming those visitors the solution is not to start a hospitality program led by a hospitality committee. That lets the majority of the church off the hook and burdens what should be a shared responsibility on only a few select people. Instead every member ought to see their responsibility to make "first contact", befriend a guest, invest time and pew space (maybe even lunch after worship) in that person, exchange contact information, and make a point to follow-up that week. Well what if five people contact the same person?? You'll have five people doing the same job??!! Yep, and that visitors will be inundated with the love of the God through the arms of the gospel community.

Evangelism works the same way. Don't wait for a committee to be elected and an event to be scheduled for people to hear the gospel. Open your home to neighbors or co-workers and invite other church members to you (those who can't join you can be asked to earnestly pray for your outreach). Your witness to these people must obviously reach a point where words are shared for "faith comes by hearing" but along the way those who you are witnessing to get to see how the gospel unites people in community as the family of God. You can also get with another family or a few church members and go ask for the stack of visitor info cards the pastor has (yes, that's me) call or write them and invite them to a get-together. They expect this from the pastor- "he's paid to be nice to me"- but what a witness when the community extends its arms to one of these. That is how I hope we wear the label, Evangelistic Church.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where to go?

Why are you a member at Memorial Baptist Church? If you aren't then why are you a member wherever you are a member at? We should take church membership seriously and take seriously where we covenant in membership. Don Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Spiritual Disciplines for the Church provides some helpful guidance if you are trying to decide what church to join. I believe if you commit to think thoroughly and consult the principles of a healthy church from the New Testament the Holy Spirit will lead you to where He wills for you to unite in covenant church membership. Of course you need to consider where you have your membership now as well. Are you in covenant with people who are being led Biblically, where the Scripture is central in all matters of worship and practice, and where the gospel is clearly articulated? You'll never find a perfect church but you do need to be part of a church that is rightly seeking to reflect Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Hodge-Podge

  • Justin Taylor gives a good primer on the doctrine of Definite Atonement (aka Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption) HERE.
  • Desiring God is spotlighting some "best of" sermon from John Piper. Here is a sub-series on Romans 12:1-2 from Piper's greater Romans series. THESE are must-listen-to's!
  • You know I love using the "Two Ways to Live" tool for personal evangelism. If you'd like to stock up HERE is a good price.
  • Do you struggle with procrastination? HERE are some practical tips to overcome that.
  • Should mothers work outside the home? That's a great question and John Piper helps us to think Biblically and practically about it. Watch below...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Video Monday- David Platt

David Platt is the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills. His is a Southern Baptist congregation in Alabama. The Lord is using him as a leader not only among his flock but also among our convention of churches. Below is an excerpt (actually part one of four) of his 2009 message at the SBC Pastors Conference and below that is an insightful interview.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Label #5: EVANGELICAL

Over at the Theological Word of the Day website there is a helpful definition of the next label I’d like to address. Their definition of “Evangelical” is one who would “identify with historic Protestantism and are committed to 1) the necessity of conversion to Christ, 2) the authority of Scripture, 3) the spread of the Gospel message, 4) a belief in the Five Solas of the Reformation, 5) a belief in the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian statement of faith.” We should at least be willing to be labeled Evangelicals.

The label has come to be synonymous with the Fundamentalism and political activism of people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I’m not willing to be cast into that camp nor am I willing to concede the label to such a narrowly defined group of ideologues. Larry Eskridge of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals summarizes this label in four convictions. Evangelicals have a conviction for the need for personal conversion or being “born again”. They have a conviction to spread or share the gospel with other people. They have a conviction for the authority of the written Word of God- the Bible. Finally they have a conviction on the historicity of the literal death and resurrection of Jesus. Based on these convictions I’m happy to be labeled an Evangelical Christian and will lead my church as an Evangelical church.

This is a broad label but is distinguishes us from Roman Catholicism (though there are some Evangelical Catholics) and from liberal Protestantism. So what’s the point of even embracing these convictions as a label? The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a cross-denominational association of pastors and church leaders who purpose is “to call the Church, amidst a dying culture, to repent of its worldliness, to recover and confess the truth of God’s Word as did the reformers, and to see that truth embodied in doctrine, worship, and life.” The label, like the mission of the A.C.E. draws a necessary line in the sand regarding Biblical conviction and proclamation.
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