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!