November 9, 2011
Power. Power to change. Power to start anew. Everyone is looking for power. Political campaigns point to the power of people. Advertising agencies exploit the power of appetite.
But Churches have something different and better. Something seemingly implausible. Something that comes in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Churches have the Gospel.
Though we live in the world, we must not wage war as the world does, or fight with its weapons. On the contrary, we have divine power to demolish strongholds. To redeem sinners. To create life. To transform and remake the universe. Talk about power.
Witness the underestimated Gospel.
The Gospel is the joyous declaration that God is redeeming the world through Christ (Matt 1:21; Luke 1:68; Eph 1:7; Col 1:20), and that He calls everyone everywhere to repent from sin and trust Jesus Christ for salvation (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 17:30).
Each of us has sinned against God (Rom 3:23), breaking his law and rebelling against his rule, and the penalty for our sin is death and hell (Rom 6:23). But because He loves us, God sent his Son Jesus (John 3:16; Eph 2:4; 1 John 4:10) to live for his people's sake the perfect, obedient life God requires (Rom 8:4; 1 Cor 1:30; Heb 4:15) and to die in their
place for their sin (Isa 53:5; Mat 20:28; 26:28; Mark 10:45; 14:24; Luke 22:20; John 11:50-51; Rom 3:24-25; 4:25; 1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 5:2; Heb 10:14; 1 Pet 3:18). On the third day, He rose bodily from the grave (Mat 28:6) and now reigns in heaven (Luke 22:69; 24:51; Heb 8:1), offering forgiveness (Eph 1:7), righteousness (Rom 5:19), resurrection (Rom 8:11), and eternal blessedness in God's presence (Rev 22:4) to everyone who repents of sin and trusts solely in Him for salvation.
August 17, 2011
They are: “But,” “If only,” and “Why?”
As the Israelites approached the Promised Land, Moses commissioned 12 spies to go
in and scope out the territory. Upon their return, they reported that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey!
“But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large…” (Numbers 13:26a) By this report, ten of the twelve spies gave evidence of the
fact that they were paralyzed by fear, rather than mobilized by faith. Sadly, they had allowed their perception of the facts, rather than the promises of God to dictate their response to the situation. In their minds, God was not big enough to surmount the obstacles.
• When we allow “but” to dominate our vocabulary, we question God’s power.
“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!” (Numbers 14:2b)
Clearly, God had led the Israelites across the desert, assuring them of His presence in providing the pillar of fire by night and the cloud of protection by day. Wonderfully, He had furnished them with manna from heaven, water from the rock, and clothing that did not
wear out. Yet, the moment they were faced with adversity, they cried out, “if only.” By that lament they signaled their preference to living in bondage under their Egyptian oppressors over living in freedom under God’s sovereign care. (Numbers 14:2)
• When we entertain the “if only’s,” we question God’s goodness.
“Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” (Numbers 14:3a)
Faced with formidable obstacles in conquering the land God had promised them, the Israelites whined “why,” rather than believing God could and would help them overcome the barriers.
• When we ask “Why,” we question God’s wisdom .
When God calls us to Himself, He calls us to a life of faith: “But my righteous one will
live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” (Hebrews 10:38)
QUESTION: So tell me, fellow pilgrim, as you trek across your own God-assigned desert, are you shrinking back from the barriers with “but”, “if only”, and “why”? Or are you choosing to forge ahead, trusting in His power, His goodness, and His wisdom?
June 26, 2011
“Baptisms fell to their lowest number in 60 years among Southern Baptists, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
“This is not a blip,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “This is a trend. And
the trend is one of decline.” This marks the eighth time in 10 years that baptisms have declined and the lowest number of baptisms since the 1950s. Membership also dropped for the fourth year in a row. Giving to overseas missionary also fell short.
The latest decline comes a year after Southern Baptists approved a major restructuring of their denomination, known as the Great Commission Resurgence. The new program is designed to channel more into attracting converts.”
What are we to make of this?
I am not an “expert” but I have a few thoughts on the matter.
• The average “church member/attendee” today in America is very casual in his or her
commitment level because of their lack of biblical understanding of Christ’s expectations of those who would follow Him; their understanding of biblical salvation is inadequate (they have often been taught inadequately). American “Christians” are consumers (old and young alike) – church is all about their “needs” being met and their preferences being catered to (this relates to musical styles, programs, dress, preaching/teaching content, etc). Worship is “music that I like and a talk that makes me feel positive”. Sacrifice, commitment, ministry to the Lord and seeking to make genuine followers of Jesus at the individual level is sparse.
• A Biblical illiteracy characterizes many (dare I say most?) “cultural” Christians. There is a famine in the land! Many professing Christians do not know (rational, scriptural confidence) what they so-called believe or why (the ability to rationally, scripturally articulate and give reasons) they believe it. 75% of all church young people are leaving the church when they reach 18 to never return. Academia is teaching them that it is all myths; that they are just a product of natural selection and no different from an animal, and this no real truth. They don't have enough convincing examples in the church that is teaching them the truth in word and deed. They need more than “ask Jesus into your heart” and “be a nice person”!
They need more than moralizing Sunday School stories, and a repeated “sinner's prayer” so they can get a ticket to heaven. They need real truth that produces real faith in a real LORD while living in a real world! And so do we, by the way.
I would suggest that if we, as individual Christians and churches, would love and glorify the Lord Jesus instead of ourselves and would serve and be committed to Him instead of ourselves … and would truly know what and why we believe in Christ and the authority of the Word of God … and with meekness and reverence share that truth in Holy Spirit power with our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors…and live a life that lends credibility…then God the Father would mightily use local churches and denominations for His purpose to
build the Body of Christ by saving sinners and making followers of His Only Begotten Son!
I thank God for what He is doing in the life of Providence Church. I pray that each one of us takes our individual responsibilities to the Lord and His church very seriously. I pray that each one of us will take the commission of making followers of Christ seriously. I pray that each one of us will realize the great importance of thoroughly knowing what and why we
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…”
1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)
May 8, 2011
Many things can happen and much can change in one year’s time. That certainly has been the case for me this past year. My life is markedly different from a year ago and I praise God for it (I would praise God anyway – but I am happy for the blessings!).
Some of those blessings – but not all – include: my relationship with my wife is sweeter than it has been in a few years; I am enjoying ministry more than I have in a long time; I am
more free to preach and teach the Bible; I am leading a church that in is unity, follows my leadership, and desires to only honor Christ; I am enjoying peace, contentment, and personal growth and I have a new grandson! In short, I am happy!
A little over a year ago, I resigned my previous pastorate. While that was not an easy decision, I know that it was a God-lead decision. I believe, more than ever, in the biblical doctrine of Providence. There is no such thing as luck, chance, or happenstance. We love and trust the Lord in whatever He gives us or allows into our lives.
Even though the “big reason” for me resigning my previous church was God-directed, and while there was a small group who knew the circumstantial reasons that God used to lead me to that decision, most did not know those circumstances and wanted to know the
“why” behind why I resigned. I have not publically given those reasons because I did not believe that it was helpful and I will not do so now; however, over the past year, my silence has been filled by others and stories have been passed on. I think it is time for me to set the record straight about what was not the reason that I resigned my previous pastorate. I did not resign because I had to…nor did I resign because I was guilty of something immoral or unbiblical. Any story that suggests otherwise is false. I hope that statement is clear to all.
In about a month, we will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the church of which God has allowed me to be the founding Pastor. The past year has been spiritually refreshing and exciting as we have seen the Lord provide for the work that He has directed!
I am a blessed man! I have a supportive, gifted and loving wife, a new grandson, a fulfilling
ministry assignment from the Lord, and a renewed strength from the Holy Spirit. God has always been good to me, my wife has always been supportive and loving, and I have always been grateful for the privilege to serve the Lord Jesus…but what a difference a year can make!
April 4, 2011
for the maturing and holiness of believers should be the heart of every church's ministry. If the world looks at the church and sees an entertainment center or a country club, we're sending the wrong message. If Christians view the church as an amusement park or a super-center department store, the church will die.
Nothing in Scripture indicates the church should lure people to Christ by presenting Christianity as an attractive option. In the first place, nothing about the gospel is optional. In the second place, the gospel is not meant to be attractive in the sense of modern marketing (Rom 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8). It is disturbing, upsetting, confrontive, convicting, and offensive to human pride. Those who try to erase the offense by making it attractive or entertaining inevitably corrupt and obscure the essential aspects of the message. The church must realize that its mission has never been public relations or sales; we are called to live Jesus-following, holy lives and declare God's raw truth – lovingly but uncompromisingly – to
an unbelieving world.
February 21, 2011
Biblical Conversion and Assurance –
A biblical understanding of regeneration and conversion has been lost by the modern church. Salvation requires hearing the Gospel accompanied by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8, Ephesians 2:5). This supernatural work, called regeneration, produces repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21). The truly saved person perseveres in faithfulness (Philippians 1:6, Matthew 7:16-20). This perseverance is the basis of assurance. The man who walks in a continual state of carnality with no divine discipline can have no assurance of sonship (Hebrews 12:8), no matter how adamantly he professes Christ.
Biblical Evangelism –
It is the duty of every believer to evangelize the lost. I adamantly stand against cold, unevangelistic hyper-Calvinism on the one hand and “hoop-jumping”
easy believism on the other. We are committed to preach the Gospel to every creature and to implore ALL men to repent and believe. I believe that whoever believes in Christ will be saved. At the same time, I recognize that neither repentance nor faith can be produced by manipulating the emotion or coercing the will. They are the result of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.
Personalized World Missions –
The Great Commission is a great command. Personal involvement in world missions is not a suggestion or an option, but it is demanded of every true believer. The entire local church family should be personally and strategically involved in world missions, mobilizing laborers, prayer, and finances to the end of glorifying God among all peoples. We are either called to go down into the well (be a missionary) or to hold the rope for those who are going down (support missionaries). Either way, our dedication must be costly and enduring.
Bible Saturated/Thoroughly Biblical –
It is my desire to be thoroughly biblical in the totality of my life and in the life of the church that I lead. Our purpose, our methods, and our goals must be from sound, biblical teaching. I reject the modern concept that biblical goals can be achieved by man-centered, man-empowered methods. Our theology must dictate our methodology.
God is most glorified through the Person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By His unrivaled character and work (merit), He has redeemed for Himself a people (the Church). As His church, we strive above all things to know Him, love Him, praise Him, and serve Him. It is by, through, and for Him that we exist. It is my goal to keep Him the honored center of all that we say and do! “In all things He must have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
Glory of God Focused –
The glory of God is everything! The centerpiece of the universe for time and eternity is for God to be seen and praised for His matchless perfections! For all eternity, those in hell will bring Him glory as they suffer eternal wrath under His perfect justice (Revelation 15:1-4). Those in heaven will bring Him glory as they inherit paradise as trophies of perfect grace. Every individual Christian and every local church family must have a continual, intentional, and passionate focus on the glory of God! (1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 3:21)
February 9, 2011
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)
God’s love is beyond measure. These words were written to a church that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years, Paul’s hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for his people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to his love. Suffering should not drive us away from God; it should help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.
God’s love is eternal. These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death. These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ. But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love. Nothing can stop Christ’s constant presence with us. God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)
God’s love is sacrificial. The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse. God’s love is not
static or self-centered; it reaches out and draws others in. Here God sets the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships—when you love someone dearly, you are willing to pay dearly for that person’s responsive love. God paid dearly with the life of his Son, the highest price he could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price for our sins, and then offered us the new life that he had bought for us. When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus’. We must be willing to give up our own comfort and
security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love.
January 8, 2011
January is recognized as Sanctity of Life Month by those who hold to a “prolife” worldview and specifically those who oppose a woman’s “right” to choose an elective abortion.
The basis of the “prolife” position is largely, but not exclusively, grounded on divine
authority and the belief that human life is a gift of God.
The so-called opposing “prochoice” position does not see the fetus as possessing rights
independent of the mother, who alone has the right to decide the fate of the fetus. This maternal right is in turn grounded in the principle of autonomy or self-determination, which provides the mother with freedom to make reproductive choices. The prochoice position also views access to abortion as necessary for women’s complete social equality. They see reproduction as the major obstacle to women’s competing successfully with men, and hence control of reproduction, including abortion, is necessary for equality. Any restriction of the availability of abortion is interpreted as coercing women to carry pregnancies to term against their will.
While it is seldom disputed that a conceptus or a fetus is human, there is hardly a consensus as to when a human person begins. Personhood is still a crucial and practical issue, since modern society accords a person certain moral rights, such as the right to life. General philosophical criteria for personhood include any one, a few or all of the following: rationality, consciousness, self-consciousness, freedom to act on one’s own reasons, capacity to communicate with others and capacity to make moral judgments. Some hold that only when one or all of these qualities have been actualized should a human being be considered a person (actuality principle). Others feel that these qualities of personhood only emerge gradually in the course of fetal and early childhood development, so what counts in defining personhood is the potential that the human life possesses (potentiality principle). In this view fetuses and infants are recognized as having different degrees of personhood and therefore are given different measures of right to life.
The Bible does not use specifically the words person or personhood, but a biblical view of personhood can be established on the basis of a Christian doctrine of the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 reads: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,
and let them rule.’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Because God exists as three persons in communion, we also believe that human persons are created in His image to live in community. The most fundamental attribute of being in the image of God and human personhood, therefore, is relationality. God creates every single human person in order to relate to him or her as Creator and, by His grace, as Father. In response, every created human person relates to the Creator (even if it is to rebel against Him!) and other fellow creatures. Since each human being is created uniquely by God, every single human being is God’s image bearer, although the image is marred by sin. This is the ground for
personhood, uniqueness and the sanctity of life.
Life is sacred because God creates a particular life for relationship between Him as the Creator and us as His creatures. This relationship begins when a conceptus is formed as God permits a human sperm and ovum to unite in the creation of a new unique life. How that life unfolds and whether all the inherent potentialities are actualized or not do not take away the intrinsic value of that life as God�s image bearer, a human person.
The sixth commandment in the Bible (not to murder; Exodus 20:13) carries the positive mandate of stewardship of all lives as sacred to God. This means not that the value of life is absolute (Matthew 24:9) but rather that no life is to be taken without an absolutely and unequivocally justifiable reason. As the Creator and Giver of life, it is God who ultimately has the sovereign right to take away life. Thus each person has a God-given source of value and dignity beyond any mere physical well-being and social utility and we must recognize that value and dignity. Life is the fundamental and irreplaceable condition for the experience of all human values, and we have an obligation to nurture, respect and promote the integrity of life, rather than harm or destroy it.
December 16, 2010
The birth of Christ was a divine declaration, an eternal statement to a race of
fallen men and women.
The advent of Christ clearly established:
First, that God is real. The heavens were opened, and another world than this came into view.
Second, that human life is essentially spiritual. With the emergence into human flesh of the Eternal Word of the Father, the fact of man’s divine origin is confirmed.
Third, that God indeed had spoken by the prophets. The coming of the Messiah Savior into
the world confirmed the veracity of the Old Testament Scripture.
Fourth, that man is lost but not abandoned. Had men not been lost, no Savior would have
been required. Had they been abandoned, no Savior would have come.
Finally, that this world is not the end. We are made for two worlds and as surely as we now inhabit the one, we shall also inhabit the other!
November 23, 2010
“Consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24)
There is a remarkable scene near the beginning of the book Never Cry Wolf. The author is standing alone in the midst of the Alaskan wilderness as the plane that brought him fades into the distance. Overwhelmed by the rugged beauty, he finds a voice within him struggling to cry out for expression. “I wanted,” he says, “I wanted to shout thanks to someone.”
The first recorded celebration of Thanksgiving in North America was in Newfoundland in
1578. An English minister named Wolfall presided. There are records of another held in Maine in 1607.
In December 1619 thirty-eight men landed safely on the banks of the James River near Jamestown in Virginia. The English captain, John Woodleaf, read a directive from his charter declaring that the day of their arrival “shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of thanksgiving to God.”
It was the Pilgrims’ settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts, that is most often remembered as the site of the first Thanksgiving. Governor Bradford ordered a three-day celebration in October
1621. In keeping with the biblical instructions in Leviticus 23:39 for the Feast of the Ingathering, its purpose was to give prayerful thanks to God for the blessing of the harvest. The Christian commitment and spiritual motivation of this little group of people are inspiring.
The desire of an individual to offer thanks to God goes back to the early chapters of Genesis: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 NASB). And God said, “I will establish My covenant with you” (Genesis 6:18 NASB). When Noah left the ark, having been saved by God, he “built an altar to the LORD . . . and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma” and promised, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:20-22 NASB). Noah modeled the importance of saying, “Thank you.” And God blessed Noah and said, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. . . . Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:1, 3 NASB).
The experience of corporate thanksgiving finds expression in the annual harvest festival, that is, when Moses directed the people of Israel to observe a full week of thanksgiving
after the ingathering of the harvest: “When you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days” (Leviticus 23:39 NASB). David and Solomon continued the tradition, declaring special times of celebration and thanksgiving to God. After years of captivity the great leader Nehemiah called the people together to thank God, thereby reinstituting the instructions from Leviticus regarding the harvest festival. It is recorded that there was great rejoicing (Neh. 8:17).
There are at least 140 passages of Scripture that deal with the subject of thanksgiving from a personal or corporate point of view. The word praise is used many more times. Praise means “to appreciate,” “prize” and “consider precious and worthy of honor.” Thanksgiving is a combination of words joined to express thanks to God. It is gratefulness followed by expressions of that gratitude. By far the most familiar passages of praise are found in the Psalms: “With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD” (Psalm 109:30 NASB); “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (Psalm 105:1); “Enter his gate with thanksgiving” (Psalm 100:4).
In the New Testament we read how Jesus constantly gave thanks to the Father and one year risked his life to celebrate the thanksgiving festival. Paul began nearly every one of his
letters with an expression of thanks and urged us to give thanks in everything (1 Thes. 5:18). In Romans 1:21 he describes those under the judgment of God as people who “though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks” (NASB). The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 13:15 tells us to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise�the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
The Bible tells us to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:16-18 NASB). There are many ways to give thanks; a number of ideas follow.
As a Hebrew proverb tells us, “Put something where you can see it so your eye will remind your heart.” Hang a cluster of Indian corn tied with an attractive bow on the front door. Remember the thankful spirit of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.
Lovingly assemble a harvest display with seasonal produce as your centerpiece.
Place a colorful leaf at each person’s place at the holiday meal. On each leaf sprinkle several kernels of dried corn. Before the meal is served, take time to remember the hardships of the Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World and how with God’s help they overcame great difficulties. Take turns expressing your own gratitude for God’s mercy.
Encourage children to make lists of all the things for which they are thankful.
Through a church or Christian agency, discover local needs. Decide together how you will help. This is the season to share with others.
The real celebration of Thanksgiving is thanksliving. The best way to thank God for the gift of life is to live your life in a spirit of gratitude.
Deut. 8:10 says, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you” (NASB). The chapter warns that when everything is going well, there is a tendency for your heart to become proud and thus forget the Lord. Take time to thank God for all of the good gifts that you enjoy. Live out the words of Deut. 8:18, “But you shall remember the LORD your God” (NASB).
G. Gaither and S. Dobson, Let’s Make a Memory (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983); J. Santino, All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life (Urbana: University of Illinois
S. W. Shenk, Why Not Celebrate! (Intercourse, Penn.: Good Books, 1987); D. Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer (New York: Paulist, 1984);
M. Zimmerman, Celebrate the Feasts (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1981);
M. Zimmerman, Celebrating the Christian Year (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1993).