Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thankful for a Little Work

As most of you know, I resigned from a salaried pastoral position on October 31st (my own sort of Reformation Day). Since that time I have been without work. Alice and I are extremely grateful to the Chevis Oaks Baptist Church family for supporting us financially during November and December.

I'm happy to say that I now have a little work to do. The Lord has provided some janitorial work for me in the evenings at a local daycare facility. Basically I sweep and mop a cafeteria, kitchen, hallway, and bathrooms for 3.5 hours per night. It is nothing special by the world's standards, but it is real work. The pay is not much (certainly not enough to support a family), but it is something that will help.

I have no doubt that the Lord has provided this for me. A man who I hardly know called me a few weeks ago and simply offered me the job. I didn't pursue it at all. In fact, everything that I have pursued so far has yielded a big nada.

It was really nice last night to do some real work. For a long time I had very conflicted feelings about receiving a salary in exchange for preparing and preaching sermons, visiting the sick and elderly, etc. Last night as I pushed a mop over a Cheerio-encrusted floor, I had no such feelings of compromise. It was honest work, and I'm grateful for that.

This part-time position obviously is not sufficient to support my family for the long-term. The reality is that I need a full-time job by the new year (at least by my thinking). I would appreciate your prayers about this. I know that God will provide because He says He will. However, His provision is often different (and always wiser) than ours. In light of that, please pray for discernment, patience, and contentment in Christ.

As for today, I'm looking forward to sweeping and mopping some more. I could do without changing the diaper-filled trash cans, but that's part of the job. My shoulders hurt a bit, too; maybe I'll lose a little weight while I'm at it.

Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone - A Few More Questions

As I close out this mini-series on justification I'd like to briefly address three questions:

1. What about the sacraments?

The sacraments (or ordinances) are beautiful gifts that God has given to His church. Both baptism and the Lord's Supper remind us of what Christ has accomplished and reassure us of our new lives in Him. They should be joyful acts that unify Christ's church and glorify God.

Although they have spiritual significance, the sacraments are performed by man. We baptize. We partake of the Lord's table. Therefore, these are works (good ones at that). Because works in no way contribute to the basis of our justification, we can conclude with confidence that neither baptism nor the Lord's Supper is required for justification, and therefore, salvation.

2. What about The Apostles' Creed?

I have read and heard Christians who say that The Apostles' Creed spells out salvation sufficiently. The thinking (by some) is that the truths stated in this creed are all we need and that anything more specific divides the church.

As for me, I believe that while The Apostles' Creed is accurate, I do not believe it is sufficient. In other words, it leaves out a great deal of important information about salvation. Specifically, it does not speak to how guilty man can be made righteous before holy God. In other words, how is man justified?

Let's remember that all creeds are man-made documents, and therefore are not perfect. While I embrace the great truths of this document, I believe it is lacking in key areas.

3. Is it necessary to believe it for salvation?

Another way to ask this is, "Does a person have to believe in justification by faith alone in order to be saved?"

Or, with more words, "Does someone have to believe in justification by faith alone in order to be justified by faith alone?"

I'll admit that this is a difficult one.

First, in order to have a full and accurate understanding of the gospel, I believe that a person must believe in justification by faith alone.

Second, different people may believe this doctrine but state it differently (thus causing some difficulty in discussion).

Third, we are all faulty and therefore probably do not perfectly understand all nuances of the gospel.

Fourth, God is gracious.

Keeping all that in mind, I believe that a person can be saved even if he believes that some combination of faith and works leads to justification. However, I could be wrong and therefore would not want to be that person. If that person is relying on faith (but just happens to believe works are beneficial), then I think he will be saved. If, on the other hand, that person is actually relying on good works for salvation, then I fear for His soul.

Ultimately salvation is of the Lord. He will justify whomever He wills. Some will probably be justified by God even though they hold some faulty beliefs about this issue. Again, I'd rather not test God on that one.

The scriptures are clear. God justifies based on faith. This leads to good works. Let's not confuse the two.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone - What About James?

We have seen that in both Galatians and Romans the Apostle Paul makes the case that we are justified (declared both not guilty and righteous) based on faith alone in Christ. He explicitly discounts works as a basis for justification.

As we look at this issue, we must also stare hard at what James has to say. Some people say that James contradicts Paul. Is that what's going on? Let's see.

This passage is critical so I'm going to quote all of James 2:14-26 below:

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe- and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness' - and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead."

What is going on here? Do James and Paul disagree? I don't think so.

Paul and James seem to be speaking of justification in different ways. While Paul makes the case that faith alone is the basis for justification, James is saying that good works act as evidence that justification has, in fact, taken place. Another way of famously saying it is, "Faith alone saves, but saving faith is never alone."

We must remember that one of the main themes of the book of James is that true Christians live godly, sacrificial lives. In other words, followers of Christ live changed lives. They do not live like the world. There is evidence in the life of the Christian that he is, in fact, saved.

In the above passage, James is anticipating the argument from some that faith is all that is needed for salvation and that works don't matter at all. James smashes this idea by saying that faith alone is not saving faith. It is instead dead. Justifying faith is always accompanied by works.

We can also say that faith is the root of justification while works are the fruit. If there's no fruit, the tree is dead.

But what about James 2:24? It says, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." This verse, taken by itself, seems to say that works are required for justification.

So what do we do with this? More important, what did James mean by it? That is the key.

Again, we must remember James' primary theme: true Christianity evidences itself in godliness. While Paul spends much time (especially in Romans) discussing the actual process, means, and basis of salvation, James does not do this. Rather, James assumes that his readers understand all this. He is writing to exhort them to live out the faith they say saves them.

Paul's explanation focuses on the basis of justification. James' explanation focuses on evidence for justification.

Another way to say it is that while Paul looks at the necessary cause of justification, James looks at the necessary effect.

In the end, we see that Paul and James agree. They are simply looking at the issue of justification from two different angles.

On Mall Worship

I had to get up a little early this morning to take our daughter to work at Chick-fil-A. The only problem is that this particular restaurant happens to be located in a mall here in Savannah. Arrrgh. We arrived at the mall at about 6:15. The parking lot was already full. My two goals were to drop Caroline off safely and to escape without a fender-bender. Mission accomplished.

Out of morbid curiosity I left that mall and drove the five minutes to Savannah's other mall. This is sort of like stopping to smell rotting milk on a hot day. Anyway, the other mall's parking lot was, predictably, already full as well. So was Best Buy. So was Home Depot. Etc.

We know that America's real god is materialism. This is another way of saying that America's god is self. This false god is alive and well - at least if the parking lots are any evidence of this.

This "Black Friday" phenomenon that increasingly grips our nation each year is a form of worship. People excitedly flock - at all hours of the day - to stores to spend money they probably can't afford on things that most people don't need.

It doesn't shock me when lost people do this. After all, they are slaves to cultural norms. It would be stunning if they did anything else.

Also, I'm sure there are many solid Christians who are shopping this morning. They may be trying to save money by taking advantage of some of the sales today. If you are one of these folks, please don't leave me an angry comment.

This is what concerns me: Many people who claim Christ as Lord never stop to even question "Black Friday." They never step back to ask whether or not we should be involved in this materialistic, gluttonous worship-fest. On a bigger level, they don't seem to ask larger questions about how we spend the money over which God has made us stewards. Simply put, on this issue at least they act just like unbelievers.

Our country is a dangerous place to be a Christian. The reason is that so many people still think and act as if this is a "Christian nation" (whatever that is). They fall into the trap of God-plus-culture. They don't question many cultural norms, but instead accept them as valid because, after all, we live in America!

All I ask is that Christians question all cultural values. If a non-Christian culture pushes hard for us to embrace certain practices like "Black Friday," then we should ask whether or not we should be involved in it. When I look at Christ's teachings on money and wealth, and then I look at what is occurring right now at the malls, I can't see any similarity at all.

We should think about these truths if we are tempted to run past old ladies and pregnant women to grab the last plasma T.V. at Target.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Instead of a Show"

This is a well-done and convicting video based on Amos 5:21-24 -- "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone - Romans

In many ways the letter to the Galatians is a mini-version of the letter to the Romans. Because of their similar themes, it's not surprising that Paul deals extensively with justification in writing to the Roman Christians.

Toward the end of Romans chapter three, after Paul has made an exhaustive case that all humanity is guilty before God, the apostle writes this (3:20), "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." From this we can conclude a couple of things. First, no one is justified (declared both not guilty and righteous) by works. Second, if anyone is to be justified, it will be on the basis of something other than works.

We are briefly left wondering what the basis of the justification will be.

Paul answers this question with the clear affirmation that justification comes through faith alone. In what is one of the most important paragraphs in all scripture, Paul writes (3:21-26), "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

Paul tells us that we are justified by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who is our redemption and propitiation.

As if to further make his case, Paul says (3:27-28), "Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law."

In Romans chapter 4, Paul points back to two important figures from the Old Testament to show that even then justification came through faith apart from the law. The two people Paul selects are two of the most prominent in both Jewish history and in the ancestry of Christ: Abraham and David.

In Romans 4:1-8, Paul writes, "What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'"

Paul goes on to inform us that both Jew and Gentile are declared just because of faith and not works. This is all a gift of God based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Romans reads much like a lawyer making a logical case for the gospel. Step-by-step, Paul lays out God's plan before us. After seeing that all are guilty because they have all transgressed God's law, we read that no one can be justified because of the works of the law.

At first this seems like terrible news. If we can't be counted righteous by works of the law, then how can it possibly happen? This is when we read, beginning in 3:21, of the almost unbelievable truth that God declares us just because of a gift of His grace through our faith.

As in Galatians, Paul makes the clear contrast between faith and works. He leaves no room for a faith-plus-works scenario. His entire emphasis is upon justifying faith.

Both of these epistles cry out that justification comes by faith alone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Justification by Faith Alone - Galatians

Justification by faith alone is a doctrine that most Protestants (at least those who think about theological things) love. It is the primary doctrine that the Reformation was all about. It is a doctrine that rejects all works-based theories of salvation.

But is this doctrine really all that important? Is it something worth fighting for? Is it something we should divide over? Is it simply fine to "agree to disagree" about this doctrine?

The key is whether or not justification by faith alone is a core aspect of the gospel message itself. If it is, then we should argue strongly for it. If it is not, then we can surely discuss it, but it should not be a point of contention.

As always, we must look to the bible for answers. We will first look to Paul's letter to the Galatians because this is the primary issue discussed. In Galatians, Paul is writing to churches in Galatia that he probably planted. The apostle's concern is that false teachers had crept into these churches and began teaching a false gospel based upon works of the law. Basically, they were teaching that Gentiles had to become law-abiding Jews in order to be saved.

Paul's letter is a stern rebuke of these false teachings. Right from the beginning of the epistle, Paul writes the following:

Galatians 1:6-9, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Paul makes it clear in the above verses that his concern is that the Galatian Christians were beginning to follow a false gospel.

In light of this, we must know what this false gospel was really all about. Paul tells us in several places in chapters two and three. The issue itself is one of justification. Paul writes:

Galatians 2:16, "...yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."

Galatians 3:6, "...just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'."

Galatians 3:11, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"

In 2:16 we see what is probably Paul's clearest teaching on the issue. He offers us a stark contrast. Justification is based on faith in Christ. It is not based on works of the law. Although the apostle does not write "by faith alone," it is clear that this is what he means. We know this because he discounts any works.

In 3:6, Paul reminds us that Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith - long before the law even existed.

In 3:11, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, showing that even in post-Sinai-OT justification came through faith as opposed to the law.

Why is all this so important? In this epistle, Paul ties together the very truth of the gospel with justification by faith alone. In chapter one he blasts that Galatians for turning from the gospel. In chapters two and three he explains that we are justified (declared righteous before holy God) because of faith and not works. We must not ignore this connection. Justification is at the heart of the gospel itself.

In light of this, we must come to the conclusion that justification by faith alone is a core aspect of the gospel itself. Therefore, it is worth fighting for.

God's Purpose for Creation

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Church is...

My current Facebook status says:

"The church is not a place. It is a people. The church is not a building. It is a family. The church is not an organization. It is a body. The church is not an institution. It is an assembly. The church is not a business. It is a community."

What needs to be added?

"To Die is Gain: The Triumph of John and Betty Stam"

I love biographies of missionaries. It is exciting to see the way God moves in various places all around the world. When we read of missionaries, we see God using regular people to do amazing things through His grace for His kingdom.

I just finished reading another inspiring book about missionaries. To Die is Gain: The Triumph of John and Betty Stam is a gripping tale of a young couple who gave their lives in martyrdom for Christ.

While in their late 20's, the Stams moved to rural China - with China Inland Mission - to share the gospel with the millions of lost there. Despite the dangers of both bandits and communists, they went where it wasn't safe to go. The Stams were willing to do this even though they had an infant girl (Helen).

In God's grand plan, communist revolutionaries suddenly took over the town where they were living in 1934. After a couple of days in captivity, the Stams were marched to a hillside and beheaded.

In God's amazing providence, Helen was spared. Some brave Chinese Christians found Helen and smuggled her over 100 miles to safety.

I encourage you to read this book because it reminds us of what God will do with people completely given over to Him. Both John and Betty abandoned the cares of the world to follow Christ wherever He would lead them.

One of the fascinating aspects of this little book (about 130 pages) is that it contains copies of much original correspondence from both John and Betty to their families and friends. We get to know them both through these original writings.

This book has been through over 30 editions since 1935. In light of that, it seems that it would be easy to find. Unfortunately, I think I purchased one of the last reasonably priced copies from Amazon.com.

It's worth the search. I encourage you to look for it and buy it. Another option is to check your local library. With so many editions, there is a good chance the library has it.

To read about the Stams without getting this book, click here.

Voddie Baucham Asks the Right Question

I love this video from a few years back:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's Sunday. Now What?

It's Sunday. Now what?

Peter answers this question for us in I Peter 4:7-11. He writes:

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Of course, this passage describes how we should live all the time, not just on Sundays.

As we gather (whenever we gather), let's all use our gifts to serve one another in love that Christ will be glorified.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back to the Old Testament?

As we look at common, modern church practices, we find that many have no basis when we look at the New Testament church. When arguing for these practices, those in support of them often point back to Old Testament Israel to defend their use.

There is something extremely problematic with this. Israel, with its temple, priests, sacrifices, etc. operated under the Sinai covenant. As the church, we live under the New Covenant, which Christ ushered in with His life, death, and resurrection. Therefore, the church ought to be looking to the NT for its practices instead of pointing back to Israel.

Despite this, most modern churches cling to practices that require old covenant justification. Here are a few that come to mind:

The temple - Israel's temple is frequently used as reason to justify spending thousands (or even millions) of dollars each year to construct church buildings and keep them operating. Just take a look at the typical church budget (another foreign concept) to find what percentage of the money goes toward the building.

The priest - When pastors are set apart in a clergy-laity divide, they become a type of priest to the rest of the people in the church. The pastor is seen as extra spiritual. He is depended upon for much decision-making. He "brings a word from the Lord" at least once per week. The ironic thing about this is that most pastors that I know do not want to be viewed this way. The problem is the traditional system they have fallen into.

The sacrifice - In the OT, the temple was the location of the sacrifices. In much the same way, the church building is the location of the weekly sacrifice - the "worship service." Each week churches gather to go through a ceremony that is designed to honor God through worship. The problem, as I have said numerous times before, is that this is foreign to the NT. When we look at church gatherings in the NT, the focus is edification. Instead of a scripted ceremony, the gathering is less formal, more conducive to conversation, and ultimately more edifying.

The altar - In the OT, this was where the animal sacrifices took place. Today, we refer to the place at the bottom of the platform steps as "the altar." I have absolutely no idea how this came into practice. The pastor often says something like, "If you would like to pray at the altar, please come forward and do so." This is where the offering of prayer is made, as if kneeling in the front of the building brings you closer to God than praying in the pew.

The tithe - Big church buildings and pastoral salaries require quite a bit of money. In order to pay these bills, churches collect weekly "tithes and offerings." Again, this is foreign to the NT church. The NT principle for giving is to do so, "as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion." If the NT church did take up an offering, it was to give to the needy, not to pay bills. In order to justify the tithe, modern churches point back to OT books such as Malachi - even though this requires yanking the text far out of context to make modern application.

The Sabbath - Many Christians today say that we should follow the Sabbath. Of course, none that I know actually follow all the OT Sabbath rules such as observing it from Friday evening to Saturday evening. These folks point to the 4th commandment and say that this applies today. Of course, they can't make the case from the NT because we don't see the Sabbath emphasized there. In fact, we see that the Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath. I'm all for a day set aside to gather as the church; I can understand a Sabbath-principle. However, let's not turn back to the OT and pretend that those Sabbath regulations apply to us today.

I write all this to point out that if we must look back to OT Israel to justify church practices, then we have a real problem. We live after the death and resurrection of Christ. We are under the New Covenant. Let's look to the NT church to learn how to function as the church. This will probably challenge some of our beloved traditions, but if we want to honor Christ, we will be the church He has called us to be.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dave Black on Extending the Reformation

A few years back Dave Black wrote an excellent essay about the importance of extending the Reformation beyond salvation to church practice.

He begins by saying, "The church meetings revealed in the NT were interactive, informal and small. Simplicity was the rule of the house-church meetings. Somewhere along the line (about the time of Roman Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan) we moved out of homes and into awe-inspiring, majestic 'sanctuaries' (which formally belonged to pagan religions). We exchanged interaction and mutual encouragement for monologue. Intimacy was lost as the masses gathered in huge lecture halls called cathedrals. Informality gave way to liturgy, pomp and ceremony. Church meetings became a spectator sport with the congregation watching a performance by the spiritually elite. In such an atmosphere, fulfilling 1 Co 14:26 became increasingly difficult. About all that could still be fulfilled was Eph 5:19b and Col 3:16b, so 'worship' became the primary focus of these performance shows."

Read the entire post here.

Ravi Zacharias on the Bible

Zacharias is a brilliant speaker and apologist. I'm thankful to God for him. Listen to this lucid and firm answer to why we should believe the bible.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Instant Church Membership

When a person turns to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, he is saved. Jesus becomes his Lord and Savior and he is from that time forward forever in Christ. He becomes a part of the people of God, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. He becomes a new creation.

At the moment of salvation, the Christian also becomes part of the church. After all, the church is simply the one Christ-centered community - the assembly of all believers of all time.

This means that church membership (if that's what you want to call it) is instantaneous. It happens at the same time that salvation does. This is church membership according to scripture.

Any other form of church membership - like the types so often emphasized by local churches today - are little more than artificial man-made dividers that say "who is in and who is out." These have no biblical basis.

So let's all rejoice that when a person comes to Christ he also comes to the church. These happen at the same time. May we recognize this and glorify God for it.

Take Advantage of This

I continue to be amazed by what Chapel Library offers free of charge.

Through this ministry, you can receive writings of great Christians from years gone by. Click here to read about it. Go here for their Title Catalog.

In my opinion, the best part of all this is the quarterly Free Grace Broadcaster.

Earth As Art

God created this world to display His infinite glory. Because of this, I enjoy seeing photos like these that show the earth as art.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christ-Centered Community

WARNING: subjective post ahead

Because the word church carries so much baggage today, it is often helpful to use other terms. I like terms such as fellowship and assembly. If I had to pick my favorite, however, it would be community. This word conveys the idea of sharing lives together. It suggests togetherness and care. It indicates a group of people who have something in common that causes them to get actively involved in one another's lives.

Of course, there are many communities that are not Christian in nature. I live in a neighborhood in suburban Savannah, Georgia that some would refer to as a community. It's not Christian.

In light of this, I like the term Christ-centered community. That's a bit of a mouthful, but I think it is accurate. All of God's people are part of the one Christ-centered community. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ who look to our head: Jesus. When we get to heaven, we will remain part of this community, only then we will rejoice in seeing Christ face-to-face.

This is not a term to put on a church sign. Rather, it is a descriptor of the people of God, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Despite our failings and differences, as followers of Jesus we are all part of the great Christ-centered community.

Overseers in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1

I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 are familiar passages. Therefore, I'm not going to spend much time on them. I just want to point out a few things; I'm not being exhaustive:

-Paul is discussing elders and overseers. This seems to be the same role. In I Timothy 3 he uses the word "overseer," while in Titus 1 he uses both "elder" and "overseer."

-Overseeing is a "noble task." Paul sees this as something good for the church.

-Paul discusses character issues much more than skills. Godliness is more important than talent or education.

-Paul speaks in the present tense. In looking at a man's character, therefore, the focus should be on what he is currently as opposed to what he was years ago.

-Overseers must have good reputations both inside and outside the church. What is he thought of in his broader community?

-Overseers must hold firm to the gospel - for the purposes of both instruction and rebuke.

I wonder: as we think of the role of elders/overseers/pastors, do our expectations and assumptions line up with what Paul says here? Let's make it be so.

Salaried Pastors Are Not Evil Men

Salaried pastors are not evil men - at least not any more evil than the rest of us.

We must be very cautious when making assumptions about the heart motives of other people. Quite frankly, when discussing salaried pastors, I've heard and read (in comments on this blog and other places) some people make some very general and very negative accusations about the motives of salaried pastors. I do not think this is accurate, charitable, or fair.

As with most of us, I've met many pastors in my life who receive salaries from their local churches. In almost every case, I believe these men love the Lord Jesus, love the church, desire to serve the church, work hard, teach the scriptures to the best of their abilities, and do not crave power. More than anything, they desire to honor God by building up their churches.

Do I agree with all of what they are doing? If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that is not the case. Do I think some of their assumptions about the church and the pastoral role are incorrect? Yes. Do I think they should receive salaries for their service? No.

Despite these differences, I do not believe that their heart motivation is evil. I suppose some pastors in this country do crave power and want to be seen as #1, but in my experience this is the small exception, not the rule.

We should feel free to question practices that we believe are unbiblical. In fact, this should be encouraged. On the other hand, let's be very careful about making automatic assumptions about the motivations of those who may be performing what we believe to be unbiblical.

Let's take an example: the pastor preaching the weekly sermon. When we look at N.T. church gatherings, the sermon is a foreign concept. Therefore, nobody should be preaching sermons as the church gathers. This is a fairly simple and straightforward conclusion - if we are willing to let scripture inform and direct all our belief and practice.

But what about the motivations of the pastor who preaches the weekly sermon? Is he automatically evil and power hungry? Does he love the limelight of standing before the church and proclaiming? Does he demand that others bow to his wishes because he is in control? Although there are some pastors who could be described this way, for the vast majority the answers to the above questions are a resounding "No."

It is true that some people see the questioning of the existence of the salaried pastor as a direct attack on his character. This is not the case. As I've already stated, we should ask hard questions about the functioning of the church. We should ask why churches provide salaries to pastors today when we cannot find this in the New Testament. In as gracious a manner as possible, we must keep asking these questions.

At the same time, let us be careful. We do not know people's hearts. Most salaried pastors believe that they are doing God's will by serving in their capacities. Most have been raised in a system of traditions that has never challenged or questioned salaries for pastors. Many attended seminaries that would never ask these questions. They've fallen into a system that exists. This doesn't mean they are evil.

Let us question unbiblical practices, but be careful about questioning motives.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who's Willing to Talk About It

I've experienced something fascinating over the past few weeks:

As I talk with people about being unemployed, the reason for my unemployment invariably comes to the forefront of the conversation. I tell them that I was formerly a traditional church pastor but because of biblical conviction I could no longer serve in that capacity. In as gracious a way as possible, I let them know that I cannot find any biblical evidence for salaried pastors and therefore I resigned.

The reactions to what I have done are mixed. Some folks remain quiet. Others tell me that I had to follow my convictions. Others mention it being a matter of conscience. Others ask about I Timothy 5:17-18. Usually the conversation either comes to a quick end or someone changes the subject.

This is where the fascinating thing happens. Someone who was listening to the conversation (but usually was not too actively involved in it) comes to me a few minutes later and wants to know more about my decision. They are open to what I was talking about and in most cases had thought some of the same things themselves. It is with these folks that I am able to have the most fruitful talks.

This is what happened this past weekend. I went on a Boy Scout campout with my son, about nine other men who I knew a little bit, and 25 boys. We had a great time. As I was getting to know the men (we just recently joined this scout troop), someone asked, "What do you do?" I'm beginning to get used to this question. I explained my situation, we discussed it a bit, and then the topic went elsewhere.

A while later one of the dads approached me. He had been listening in on the previous conversation. He proceeded to tell me that he had wondered about some of the same things I had been discussing - especially about salaried pastors. We went on to have several excellent conversations during the weekend. Mostly we talked about how magnificent Jesus is. He told me about his background and his amazement that God would save him. I also learned about his serving in prison ministry. As we discussed the church, we found that we were in agreement on many things. He is part of a fairly large church - 400 or so people - that he loves. I'm thrilled for him about this.

Despite the differences we may have on some aspects of church, our being brothers in Christ helped us discuss the church in a positive way. We talked about all sorts of different things related to the church. It was positive for both of us because we both looked to scripture to guide us. He was open to challenging any tradition to seek to be more biblical. I think we both grew because of it.

It seems that there are a lot of Christians who recognize that the church needs reform, but they don't really know what is wrong or what to do about it. I'm glad that I'm getting to talk to more and more of them. I hope I can encourage them to ask hard questions, even if these are not particularly welcomed. My desire is to show them that they are not crazy or whacked-out to think some of the things they are thinking.

The way I have been approached shows me that more people than I thought have legitimate questions about the church. I also see that many of them appear almost scared to have these discussions in the open (even with other Christians!). This is most likely why they approach me after the group conversation is over.

We need to be willing to ask any question, even as it relates to our faith. If we are scared to ask the question, it probably means that we are afraid of the answer.

We also should encourage other Christians to ask hard questions. I'm glad to have this opportunity. I'm fascinated by how it is happening.

Photos of Mecca from 1885

Click here for some interesting photos of Mecca from long ago.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Today I turn 40 years old. I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to feel about this. Right now it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

The older I get the more majestic and faithful I see that God is. He continues to prove His perfections to me everyday. In every aspect of life, God is constant. He is there. He is providential. He is supreme.

I am currently unemployed. Even though it can be difficult to see it at times, even my unemployment is a gift from God. It makes me depend upon Him more now than I normally do. It is drawing me closer to Christ, and in this I rejoice. Part of me hopes God soon provides me with a job and part of me hopes this lasts a while longer.

I suppose I have to come to grips with some facts about getting older. For one, my dreams of professional athletics appear to finally be finished. Unless I desire to be a quarterback who doesn't know when to retire, I've got to sacrifice this fantasy. Additionally, I have to face the fact that my children are getting older. Our eldest now works here. Our youngest is no longer elementary age. On the plus side: I haven't had to change a diaper in quite some time.

God continues to show me new things in life. Is He still doing this with you? For me, over the last few years God has opened up my eyes to a much broader, deeper picture of what He wants His church to be. I'm grateful to Jesus for this and look forward to living it out.

Despite turning 40, I don't feel old at all. In fact, I'm looking forward to spending the next few days with my son and some other Boy Scouts on a campout somewhere in South Carolina. I'm looking forward to enjoying God through being with other Christians in His creation.

I won't be blogging over the next few days. Instead, I'm going to be having fun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pastors in Ephesians 4:11-16

In continuing a discussion of the role of elders/overseers/pastors, we turn to Ephesians chapter 4.

Ephesians 4:11-16 says, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (ESV)

As always, the context of this passage is critical. In 4:1, Paul transitions to a discussion that is more application-based than he has addressed so far in this letter. The overall theme of at 4:1-16 is the unity of the body of Christ. Paul calls on all believers to live in such a way that brings about unity. He mentions various aspects of the Christian faith that all display unity ("...one Lord, one faith, one baptism..."). Paul then mentions grace that is given to each if us "according to the measure of Christ's gift."

After mentioning gifts given to the church, Paul writes in 4:11, "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers..." We must keep in mind that these roles fall within the context of gifts that Jesus gives to His church to bring about unity and maturity.

So, what stands about about pastors from this passage?

1. God gives gifts to His church.

God (Father, Son, and Spirit) give specific gifts. We must understand that it is God who does the giving to bring about His purposes. These gifts are mentioned in a few other places such as I Cor. 12-14 and Rom. 12.

2. God gives pastor-teachers to His church.

This passage mentions four roles within the church that are gifts to the church. God gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, ans pastor-teachers. The original language makes it clear that the words "pastor" and "teacher" go together. In fact, the word translated "pastor" is really the word shepherd. We can glean from this that God gives pastors to His church to, at least in part, teach and guide the flock. As we have seen from the role of elders in other places, the guiding seems to primarily take the form of providing godly examples.

It is imperative to see that pastors are given to the church. Thus, this role exists for the benefit of the church and not the other way around.

3. Pastors are to equip the saints for ministry.

This passage tells us one of the primary things pastors are to do. They are to equip the saints. How do they do this? We can surmise that teaching and giving examples are ways this happens.

Let's avoid placing our modern ideas of a pastor in a pulpit into this passage. More likely, we see mature, godly men coming alongside fellow believers and serving the church and community with them.

So we see pastors serve, but we don't see them do the majority of the serving. In fact, we don't see them do anything unique at all. They come alongside and assist - as one of the flock - in ministry.

4. Pastors equip the flock with the goals of maturity in Christ and unity in Christ.

God provides pastors as gifts to edify the church. This is the purpose of all spiritual gifts. Pastors come alongside others and provide guidance so that they will move toward maturity in Christ. This maturity then brings about unity of the body.

Overall, then, Paul tells us in this passage that God gives pastor-teachers to His church just like He gives other spiritual gifts to His church. God provides pastors to give godly examples to the church and come alongside fellow believers. As the pastors equip the saints, the goals are Christian maturity and Christian unity.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On the Book of Esther

I love Esther because she is my only sibling. However, she is not who this post is about.

I love the book of Esther for several reasons. I just read it again the other morning and had a great time doing it.

Why do I love this book? Let me count ten reasons:

1. The book of Esther is a constant reminder of the providence of God. Although God is not directly mentioned in this book, His hand is all over it. From putting Esther in the position of queen to Mordecai's discovering the plot against the king to Haman falling on the couch where Esther sits, God orchestrates circumstances that benefit His people.

2. This book reminds us of God's constant faithfulness. It is no small thing that the Jews were under very real threat of extermination. Haman wanted this, the king foolishly decreed it, and Haman was determined to bring it about. God, honoring His promises to Abraham and David, kept it from happening.

3. The book is short enough to read in one sitting. Although books such as the Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, and Acts are obviously beneficial to us, it is nice to read books of the bible at one time. Esther is long enough to be a detailed and fascinating story, but it is short enough to read in 30-45 minutes.

4. Esther is simply a terrific story. We see all aspects of a tale that is gripping. We read of a protagonist-antagonist feud, mortal danger for the heroine, a sudden change of events, and a happy ending. Best of all - it's all true.

5. The hero and heroine are brave and upright. Both Mordecai and Esther are righteous people who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe is right. Mordecai refuses to bow to wicked Haman. Even more amazing, Esther is willing to go before the king twice when not summoned. In 4:16, Esther famously says to Mordecai, "Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."

6. The bad guy gets what's coming to him. Haman is the perfectly evil villain. He wants the Jews dead and does all he can to make it happen. In the end, however, he has a sudden fall. After Esther reveals his plot and he stumbles onto the couch, the king has Haman hanged on the gallows he had constructed for Mordecai. The irony oozes.

7. It is funny. My favorite part of the book is probably when Haman has to parade Mordecai around the city in the king's robes and on his horse. Haman thought he would be the honored one and suggested this treatment. Instead, he has to honor Mordecai. Haman even had to proclaim, "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor."

8. This book provides information no other books gives us. We learn a great deal about the Jewish situation during Persian rule. While Ezra and Nehemiah focus on the return to Jerusalem, Esther looks at both the Jews in Susa and their broader situation in the empire.

9. It shows that one person can really make a difference. Esther had a few very significant choices in this book. She stood before the king for her people. She risked her life. She accused the king's favored advisor. Esther made a real difference.

10. We learn why the Feast of Purim exists. Purim is one of many Jewish feasts. Since we, as Christians, are grafted into the Jewish vine, we should be familiar with these feasts even if we do not celebrate them.

Read Esther again sometime. It's a fun, exciting story that loudly heralds the providence and faithfulness of God.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Open Letter to the Church in Savannah

"To the Church in Savannah,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters Christ, we are united in Jesus through what He has accomplished on the cross. Because of the good news of the forgiveness of sins through His shed blood, we are made into new creations by the grace of God. We are no longer of the world; rather, God has radically changed us into something new: redeemed followers of the King.

Because of His gracious salvation, we are one in Christ. As the Trinity is united, so should we be united. Paul says as much in Ephesians 4:4-6, 'There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.'

We should remember that during Christ's High Priestly Prayer, He prayed for our unity. In John 20:20-23, Jesus says, 'I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.'

Jesus Christ, our Head, desires, expects, and commands that we be united. This unity is not some sort of theoretical unity (often referred to as 'united in Spirit'). This is real unity. This is allowing nothing to come between us because Christ has united us.

In light of this, let's do something tangible that will show our unity in Christ to our community. Let's change our name to The Church in Savannah. Every local body of believers would get rid of its current name (such as Providence Baptist, Grace Presbyterian, Zion Lutheran, The Church on the Hill, Tapestry Fellowship, The Community at the Coast, etc.) in favor of The Church in Savannah.

If you believe you need to keep your church sign (if you have one), go ahead - just change the name.

Paul wrote to churches in entire cities, not to individual small groups within cities. For example, Paul wrote this in I Corinthians 1:2, 'To the church of God that is in Corinth.' In Romans 1:7 we read, 'To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.' Colossians 1:2 says, 'To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.'

Let's truly be united like Paul's greetings imply.

Think about the unity this would show to the world. The lost would see the signs and/or learn the new name and would thus know that similar things were happening amongst these various groups of people. What things? Things such as sacrificial love for one another, teaching of the scriptures, edification of the body, celebration of the ordinances - all for the purpose of God's glory.

If we are the one, united church, then our name should show it - tangibly.

I'm sure that when you all talk about it you will agree. Just get rid of your name that shows why you are different and grab onto the name that shows what you really are - The Church in Savannah.

God bless,

Eric Carpenter"

(O.K., I haven't sent this letter, but I would really like to do so. Do you think anyone will take me up on it?)

Monday, November 8, 2010

When You Depart From the Bible, Anything Goes...

According to a CNN report, "Workers in Poland finished erecting the world's tallest statue of Jesus over the weekend, a 170-foot (52-meter) giant that towers over the countryside near Swiebodzin."

The priest in charge said, "This is the culmination of my life's work as a priest. I felt inspired to fulfill Jesus' will, and today I give thanks to him for allowing me to fulfill his will."

This is just another sad and dangerous example of what happens when we leave the biblical model behind in order to do our own thing. This may get me in trouble, but it strikes me that this statue has about as much biblical support as today's church buildings do (hint: zero).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New House Church Page

This is not exactly headline news, but I've added a new page near the top of my blog entitled House Church. Because house church life has become a focus on mine lately and because we are beginning to gather as a house church, I've decided to add a page where I'll be able to concentrate on that subject. All the blog posts will still end up on the main blog page, but the House Church page will allow people to go there to concentrate specifically on the topic of house church.

For clarification purposes, when I use the term "house church," I'm referring not so much to the location of gatherings, but rather the broader idea of following the biblical model in all of church life. Other terms that I use interchangeably with house church are "simple church" and "organic church."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Attitude of Intentional Edification

Most of us will gather with our church families either tonight or sometime tomorrow. As we do this, what should we take with us?

I believe the answer is an attitude of intentional edification. We should arrive at the gathering with the goal of building up one another in Christ through both what we do and what we say.

The specifics of what we do probably matter less than the goal itself (edification).

For example, I Corinthians 14:26 says, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." We see mentioned here some of the things that are acceptable to bring to the gathering. Surely there are others (for example prayer). It is important to notice that whatever we bring, it is to be with the purpose of helping others mature in their relationships with Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, we read, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." In the context of the church gathering, we should encourage one another to lives of love and good works. This is an example of what we can do to edify our brothers and sisters.

Ephesians 4:29 is a good reminder for us. Paul writes, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." In every area of our lives, we are to only speak words that build up, or edify. This certainly applies to church gatherings, whether more formal or less formal.

So as you gather today, tomorrow, or some other time, purpose to take specific things with you such as a teaching, a psalm, a hymn, a prayer, a word of exhortation, a word of encouragement, a word of confession, a tongue (yes, I wrote that), a revelation, a word of prophecy, etc.

Whatever you bring, plan to participate by doing things that build up your brothers and sisters in Christ.

God receives worship He enjoys when we focus on the good of others. Let that be our goal as we come together.

Those "One Anothers"

The "one anothers" of scripture challenge us. The reason is that they force us to come out of our comfort zones into the lives of others. We also must allow others into our lives. As we live out the one anothers, we find ourselves sharing our lives with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is both challenging and exciting at the same time.

My friend Mael has written a short post listing many of the one anothers in the bible. Are we living these?

On Multi-Site Churches

Multi-site churches are becoming increasingly popular in our country. For what this is worth, here's what I think of this new reality.

I both like and dislike multi-site churches. It all depends on what is meant by the term "multi-site."

In the new world of the mega-church, multi-site refers to large groups of people who rarely if ever all meet together but are governed by the same over-arching mega-church name and structure. These are churches that are too large to meet in one place so they come together in different locations. The obvious problem is that churches are communities. How can you be a community and share life together if you are too big to even gather in one place? Additionally, churches of this size almost always have large budgets and staffs. The institution often overshadows the community.

John Piper is a favorite author of mine, but the church where he pastors has multiple sites. My guess is that the attendance swells at the particular building where he preaches in his rotation.

This mega-church type of multi-site reality ends up getting so large that most people in the church do not even know each other. This is not community - at least not what we see in scripture. This I do not like.

There is another type of multi-site church that I do like.

When "multi-site" describes small groups of people who meet together frequently but in different locations, this is a positive thing. Since churches should be communities, it ought to be clear that the people know one another. They gather frequently. They share lives together. They carry out the "one-anothers" of scripture.

The above implies that they gather together frequently. The majority of the time, they meet in homes (some times they may gather in parks, restaurants, coffee shops, beaches, etc.). Because of the frequency, it may be difficult for one family to always host the get-togethers. How can a church keep one family from shouldering the responsibility of having the meetings at their home all the time? The solution is simple. The church gathers at multiple sites - different homes.

Each simple church can work out how this will function. If the Sunday gathering (if there is one on Sunday) is the largest, then the folks with the biggest house could host that one. Others with smaller homes could host gatherings during the week. Some type of rotation could be set up. Flexibility would be a key to making this work.

One large benefit to meeting at multiple sites is that this way the church does not become identified with any one person or family. It doesn't get referred to as "so-and-so's church." Church leadership does not by default fall into the arms of this home owner.

This method also keeps any one family from feeling like the gathering is a burden. If every meeting is at one home, the hosts will eventually burn out. I like people, but having groups in my home that frequently would be difficult. If, on the other hand, we could host some gatherings but go to others' homes some of the time, this would be very welcome.

An additional bonus is that if the church gathers at multiple locations, this makes it easy for any of the people to go out of town without it being a big deal.

If "multi-site" describes a relatively small group (25 or so people) that meets in multiple homes - this I like.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Elders in Acts 20:17-38

Acts 20:17-38 is a very important passage in discussing the role of elders/overseers/pastors within the church. I encourage you to read it prior to the rest of this post. Thanks.

The broader context of this passage is Paul's 3rd missionary journey. He is trying to get back to Jerusalem quickly in order to be there for Pentecost. For time's sake Paul decides to bypass Ephesus and stop in Miletus. Paul calls for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come to him. In saying a final farewell to them, the apostle reminds them of his example and instructs them in caring for the church.

What can we learn about elders/overseers/pastors from this passage?

1. The terms "elders," "overseers," and "pastors" refer to the same role in the church.

Acts 20:17-38 is a passage that uses all three of these terms. In 20:17 we read of Paul calling for the "elders." In 20:28, we see that the Holy Spirit has made them "overseers." Later in that same verse, we read that these men are to shepherd (pastor) the church. In the N.T. all three terms seem to be used almost interchangeably.

2. Elders are important to the life of the church.

Paul specifically calls for the elders of the church in Ephesus. This indicates that they play an important role. This is consistent with what we see in other sections of the N.T.

3. Elders should follow Paul's example in attitude and action.

In 20:18, Paul says, "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia." I may be reading a bit into his statement, but I think Paul is telling them to emulate him. We know that in other places he tells Christians to copy his behavior.

In light of this, elders should serve with humility and long-suffering, declare and teach what is profitable to the church, proclaim the good news of Christ to all peoples, and care little for their own lives.

Of course, we should remember that all Christians are called to all of the above things as well. We should all follow Paul's example.

4. The Holy Spirit makes overseers.

In 20:28 we see that it is God who appoints overseers. It is His decision, not man's.

5. Elders are to be on guard for themselves and the church.

Paul warns in 20:28-31 of the coming of false teachers from both outside and inside the church. A primary duty of elders is to protect the church against false teachings. This obviously implies, then, that elders will be knowledgeable of the scriptures and what constitutes sound teaching.

6. Elders should work hard.

Paul's example to them was that of a tentmaker. He was able to provide for himself and those who were with him. He did not rely on the church in Ephesus to support him with a salary.

7. Elders are to help the weak because it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Paul makes it clear to the elders that they should help the weak, poor, and needy. Paul was able to give to those in need because he made money working with his hands. He reminds the elders of the importance of this because Christ Himself said that giving was better than receiving.

So what are the implications of this passage for us today?

The bible makes it clear to us that elders/overseers/pastors are important to the life of the church. I can't think of a N.T. church that lacked elders; therefore, all churches today should have them.

Elders, like all followers of Christ, should emulate Paul's attitudes and actions as he looked to Jesus. Obviously Christ is our ultimate example, but we can learn from Paul as well. We should be humble people who are willing to suffer for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel.

We must all recognize that it is the Holy Spirit who selects overseers. God makes the choice. In churches, we should look for God's decision about this and simply recognize who He has appointed.

Elders must know sound doctrine and be ready to protect the church from false teaching both outside and inside the body. Ideally we will all do this, but the elders in particular must be alert to this task.

If Paul's example is to be followed, then elders should work hard with their hands (not salaried by the church) in order to give to the poor and needy. The reason for this is based on what Christ has said: it is more blessed to give than receive.

MacArthur Rebukes Osteen

I'm not sure when this video is from, but it is still worth watching. It's refreshing to hear the truth spoken by John MacArthur about Joel Osteen's false teaching.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm Reformed So I Need to Write Something Really Deep Right Now

One thing that bothers me is how political liberals in this country think they're smarter than conservatives. While it may be true in some cases, it still smacks of arrogance.

Sadly, the same can be said of many folks holding up the "Reformed Theology" banner. For whatever reason, many who call themselves Reformed seem to think they are smarter than those who don't embrace those teachings. Even if it's not the case, it still comes across that way (and, remember, I'm writing this and I'm Reformed - at least as far as salvation is concerned).

From experience I can attest that there are a lot of non-Reformed and Arminian people out there. Most of my family can be described that way. Most of them are brighter than I am.

Why is it that Reformed folks always seem to be carrying around about ten books? At least three of those have to be written by guys who are really hard to read - like John Owen. My guess is that most John Owen-book-owners haven't actually read the books (count me in there).

If owning lots of thick theology books gets you to heaven, then the Reformed folks will be the first to get in. If Christ cares more about how we care for the poor, sick, and needy, well..maybe I shouldn't go down that path right now.

So I'm Reformed and I write a blog. I feel this weird pressure to write something really deep about God right now. I could just write what I'm thinking, "I'm amazed that God loves me and doesn't send me to Hell right now." That's the truth. It may not sound very deep, but that's what I'm thinking and feeling.

If I wanted to sound Reformed and really smart at the same time, I suppose I would write something like this, "I am continually astounded that our infinitely holy, triune God stoops down to cast His affections toward me, one who has rebelled and transgressed against God's holy law an infinite and terrible number of times and ways. That He refuses to cast me headlong into the terrors of Hell, reserved for Satan and the fallen angels, each moment stuns me beyond measure. All my deepest affections and loving admirations I place at His feet upon His high and lofty throne. Amen."

That sound silly. God doesn't care how smart we are. I'm sure He's disgusted if we are prideful over how smart we think we are.

Let's stop acting like Reformed smart-pants, and begin loving others sacrificially. That will please God.

I'm sticking with this, "I'm amazed that God loves me and doesn't send me to Hell right now."


I have nothing worth writing today and I'm busily looking for jobs. I'll leave you with the above picture. God bless.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Sweet Good-Bye

Yesterday was my final day serving as pastor for Chevis Oaks Baptist Church. It was a nice day and a sweet good-bye.

I guess the best descriptor for the day is "bittersweet." On the one hand, Alice and I are excited to be doing what we believe God wants us to do. On the other hand, we will obviously miss our friends at Chevis Oaks. Of course, it's not as if we died. We will continue to be friends with these sweet people. When we can we will return to visit. Additionally, since we still live in the area, we will see our friends in the normal happenings of life.

I'm thankful to the Lord for giving me the opportunity to complete preaching through the book of Matthew yesterday. I focused on taking joy in the resurrected Christ. It's interesting in chapter 28 that when Jesus sees Mary He commands (present tense) her to "Rejoice!" This is a proper Christian response to life in Christ.

After the service, we had a big meal. It was nice to hug and be hugged. We had time to talk with many people and say "good-bye" - at least from the perspective of me being pastor here.

Today I've officially entered the world of the unemployed. I'd appreciate your prayers about that.

As for church life in general, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then we are a part of the church together. If I see you, let's encourage and edify each other.

As for church gatherings, Alice and I are going to take a few weeks off. Next Sunday we'll probably just meet as a family. The following week I'll be on a scout campout with Bobby. After that we're still not certain. Eventually, we're going to begin gathering in our home with other believers. We are looking forward to that.

Our hope is in Jesus Christ and Him alone.