Monday, April 28, 2008

Feeling Like a Retread

Life can really be funny sometimes. I never could have predicted where I am working now.

Although my heart is in the pastorate, I am not currently a pastor anywhere. I am talking with one church in particular (and have preached there 13 times so far since February), but they are still in search-mode. We'll see what happens with that.

Since we are now not being supported by our mission board and since Bobby is now healthy (praise the Lord for that), I needed to get a job. I have to admit that I wasn't looking for the place I ended up.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine offered to mention my name to another friend of his who works in the tire retread business. I said that would be fine. Well, as the saying goes: "One thing led to another. " Yesterday, I started work at a place near Savannah called Dorsey Tire. I work in a warehouse that takes old tires, strips them of their worn-down tread, and puts brand new tread back on (to read more about the process, click here.) A few weeks ago, I had never even heard of this type of industry; now I am in the middle of it.

God has blessed me with a pretty good job. I am one of the final inspectors of the tires. I have to look over each tire to make sure the new tread has sealed on the tire correctly, to see if there are any old holes in the tire, and to sand down any extra pieces of rubber. It is also a somewhat dirty job. When I got home from work today my daughter said I smelled like rubber.

There are several positives to this new line of work. I'll be working 40 hours per week, but shouldn't have to work on Saturdays too often. I won't have to work Sundays. I can leave the job where it is. I'm home by 4:30 each day. I should have opportunity to witness; at this point I don't know of there are any other Christians who work there.

Unfortunately, this job will not pay the bills long-term. Therefore, I probably will not work there more than six months. However, I thank the Lord for providing it for now.

I'm feeling like a retread, but that is O.K.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let the Local (SBC) Church Decide

I am happy to be a Southern Baptist because I believe SBC doctrine is biblical. I am pleased that this is worked out in effective international missions.

I am not pleased that Southern Baptists, at least at the denominational level, always seem to be fighting or arguing about something. Quite honestly, all the bickering just gets tiring after a while. Current acrimony exists over alien immersion (not baptism of Martians, but baptism in churches of non-Baptist denominations), speaking in tongues, women's role in ministry, Calvinism, Baptist identity, support of the Cooperative Program, and inflated church membership numbers. Even the latest Lifeway report showing a decreased number of baptisms has led to arguments. I'm sure there are other issues people are fighting about that I haven't even mentioned here.

We must get past all of this in-fighting. First, it does not please God. Jesus made it abundantly clear that He wants His church to be united (see John 17). Second, it gives a black eye to the church when we fight. The world just looks and laughs. Third, it keeps us from focusing on the purpose of the convention: missions.

Let me be clear: the purpose of the church is to glorify God. One way this happens is through missions. However, the sole purpose of the SBC, as far as I can tell, is to glorify God by helping local churches in missions work. If not for missions, we might as well do away with the SBC as a whole.

I propose a simple solution for all this SBC in-fighting. First, let's agree on core doctrinal issues such as are stated in the Nicene Creed. Let's agree on the truth of scripture. Let's agree on the importance of believer's baptism. Let's agree on the sanctity of both marriage and human life. Let's agree on the autonomy of the local church.

Second, let's let the local church decide what it wants to believe about other issues. The local church, after studying scripture, should decide what it wants to do about issues that we are currently fighting over in the SBC. With about 45,000 churches, we are far too large of a convention to agree on everything. Let's leave it to local bodies to decide, for example, what they should believe about speaking in tongues, Calvinism, and inflated membership numbers.

We must remember that the SBC is not a denomination like many others. We purposefully have no structure above the local church that can tell it what to do. It will decrease arguing at the denominational level if we will simply leave some of these secondary issues to the local church.

Understanding, then, that there will be differences in some beliefs between SBC churches, could we not still work together to take the gospel to the ends of the earth? Do we all have to believe exactly the same thing in order to share the gospel with people who have never heard?

As a convention, we must stop fighting. It is an insult to God. We must strive to work together for the spread of the gospel. Leave the secondary issues to the local church. We must trust the local church to seek God's will through the scriptures, and then make the right decisions.


For a good laugh, look at the cartoon here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reformed Baptist-Fundamentalist: Is that Possible?

As I read various Southern Baptist blogs, one of the main topics is the disagreement over Calvinism/Reformed Theology/Doctrines of Grace within the convention. Since we are Southern Baptists, we must be fighting over something, and this appears to be the hot topic for now. As is normal in arguments, the two sides usually get painted as being more extreme than they are. For now, the two groups are the Reformed (with a home-base of Southern Seminary) and the Conservatives/Fundamentalists (Southwestern and New Orleans Seminaries). While the Reformed group emphasizes God's sovereignty and glory, the Conservative/Fundamentalist group focuses more on Baptist identity and man's responsibility and/or freedom.

As I look at the two groups, I realize that I don't fit perfectly into either one (although I do certainly lean more toward the Reformed group). On some issues, I tend to be more Reformed. On other issues, I tend to be more of a Conservative/Fundamentalist. Can a Reformed Baptist-Fundamentalist exist?

On the Reformed side of things, I believe that the Doctrines of Grace are biblical, even the much-debated Limited Atonement/Particular Redemption. I believe that God's will always occurs. I believe God does not allow, but rather causes suffering. I believe the 1689 London Confession is a much better document than the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. I believe that a multiplicity of pastor-elders is the biblical model for the church.

As for the Conservative/Fundamentalist side, I hold to a Historical Pre-millenialist view of eschatology, including a post-tribulation rapture. This basically means that I interpret most (certainly not all) of the book of Revelation literally. I like to teach more from the NKJV than any other version; this stems from my preference of the Greek Byzantine text. Regarding the use of alcohol, although I think we have freedom to use it as Christians, it seems unnecessary, unwise, and like poor stewardship to me. As for dating, I see it as completely unbiblical, and prefer the courtship model we see in the bible (this issue could probably fall on the Reformed side as well).

I guess I don't fit into either camp very well. That's fine with me; it keeps me out of at least some of the arguments. I still have to ask: Can a Reformed Baptist-Fundamentalist exist? I hope so because I think I am one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oprah's New Church

You may have already seen this, but if not, please watch. The video speaks for itself.

Monday, April 21, 2008

T4G 2008 Audio

I wish I could have attended last week's Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, KY. The line-up of speakers was truly amazing. Almost all of my modern-day heroes were there. They even gave away a lot of free books! Oh well, maybe next year.

For those of us who could not attend, T4G has made available the audio files from the conference. I highly encourage you to listen in. In particular, RC Sproul's discussion entitled "The Curse Motif of the Atonement" is well worth the time.

Click here to select a T4G speaker.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Give the Pagans Back Their Easter Bunnies and Eggs

I am greatly troubled by how the church so often looks just like the world. We have even brought pagan holidays right into our assemblies. One of the worst offenses happens in almost every evangelical church just as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord (I know we should be celebrating Jesus' resurrection every time we gather, but let's leave that for another post).

On Resurrection Sunday, more popularly known as Easter, our churches often celebrate by having the little kids run around the church grounds looking for hidden eggs full of candy. The children usually draw or paint some kind of picture of a bunny while in Sunday School. In order to spiritualize it all, the pictures sometimes have a rabbit with a basket of eggs praying in front of a cross. Yuck.

Could we please just give the pagans back their traditions?

We recently received a newspaper clipping from my in-laws, who live in Northern New York State. The clipping shows a few pagans celebrating the spring equinox at St. Lawrence University. The article says, "Attendees celebrated Ostara, a nature-based festival centered on the spring equinox."

Describing the celebration, the reporter writes of what occurred after a drumbeat started, "Unable to resist the rhythm, attendees began to twirl and dance in a circle. Lights streamed through the stained-glass windows as attendees processed around the altar, a table bearing candles and ritual items. Attendees invoked the powers of north, south, east, and west, symbolized by earth, fire, air, and water."

One part of the article in particular caught my attention. It reads, "One of the attendees portrayed the 'Ostara Bunny,' by donning rabbit ears and hopping around the room to offer chocolates and eggs."

The person dressed as the bunny said, "We're also reclaiming the symbols the Christians have assimilated. Eggs and rabbits are fertility symbols. Spring promises a new beginning, just like eggs promise a new beginning - a new life."

If pagans want their own symbols returned, then let's do it. If they want the word "Ostara," then let's give them "Easter." Why don't we just call the Christian celebration "Resurrection Sunday"?

If pagans want their bunnies and eggs returned, then let's cooperate. They can have them. This would only help the church get rid of pagan ideas that have made the church more worldly over the years.

Could we please just look to the bible to gain our beliefs and practices instead of always compromising with culture? Could we allow the scriptures to guide all we do in the church?

Let's give the pagans back their bunnies and eggs. While we're at it, let's be rid of Santa Claus, too.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Is Oprah Starting Her Own Cult?

Click here to read a helpful article from FOX News about Oprah's new interest and connection with New Age writer Eckhart Tolle. If this is not a cult, then I don't know what a cult is.

R. C. Sproul on the Difference between Justification and Salvation

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Catholicism & Hinduism: 10 Similarities

(I originally wrote this post about a year ago, but in light of the Pope's current visit to the USA, it seems appropriate to re-post it now. Let me know what you think.)

I know everyone will not be happy with this post. That's fine - healthy discussion is usually a very good thing.

After having lived in the USA and India, I have been exposed first-hand to both Catholicism and Hinduism. This pertains to both belief and practice. Let me say first of all that not all Catholics believe the same things or practice in the same ways. This is also true for Hindus. Therefore, the following 10 similarities are generalizations based upon what I have experienced both here in America and in South Asia.

I'd also like to point out that we have friends who are Catholics and friends who are Hindus. This post is not intended to be an assault on either religion, but rather a comment on similarities that I have observed.

That said, here we go:

Ten Similarities:

1) Repeated sacrifice
- At every Catholic Mass, Jesus is again "sacrificed." This is why the elements of the Mass are literally thought to be Christ's body and blood. When Hindus go to temple, they perform some sort of sacrifice, usually presenting an offering to the gods.

2) Rituals - The Mass itself is a type of ritual. Also, the Rosary is one of the most well-known rituals of the Catholic faith. At a Hindu temple, various rituals are performed such as ringing a bell to wake the gods, bowing before the gods, and chanting different mantras.

3) Prayer to multiple saints/gods - Many Catholics (not all) pray to various saints within the Catholic church. Most Hindus (not all) pray to various gods within the Hindu pantheon. Some of the most popular are Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Ganesh.

4) Priests - both Catholics and Hindus must go through a priest to get to god. There is no direct access to any god.

5) Cathedral/Temple - In both religions, all important practices occur at some type of building. There is little encouragement for meeting in homes because priests cannot be at multiple homes at the same time.

6) Images and Icons - In Catholic churches, pictures and statues of saints are common-place. These typically receive veneration. At any Hindu temple, there will be multiple statues of the various gods. These will include Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Durga, and others.

7) Works-based salvation - In both Catholicism and Hinduism, salvation is based, at least in part, upon the works of the individual. This is far different from the cry of the Protestant Reformation: "Justification by faith alone."

8) Lack of knowledge of sacred writings - Within both religions, the typical follower of the faith has limited knowledge of the sacred writings of his religion. The same is true within Protestantism, but to a much lesser degree. Within Catholicism and Hinduism, the priest is heavily relied upon for scriptural knowledge and understanding.

9) Centered on Rome/Ganges River - Both religions are very centralized. Rome is the epicenter of Catholicism, is the home of the Pope, and is a destination for thousands of Catholics each year. For Hindus, the Ganges River is the site of pilgrimage. Many Hindus travel hundreds of miles to take a dip in the "holy river," in the hope that it will wash away their sins.

10) Death: purgatory/reincarnation - Both faiths teach that upon death, people do not go directly to heaven or hell. For Catholics, purgatory awaits. For Hindus, death leads to another cycle of reincarnation.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about the significance of these similarities. If you have any comments about why you think these exist, please let me know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Take an Easy Bible Quiz

I stumbled across this bible quiz and decided to spend a few minutes taking it. After a few questions, I realized that it is fairly easy. That put the pressure on - I felt like I had to get 100% correct. I was much relieved when I did. Some of the questions are a bit challenging; however, since it is in a multiple guess format, you can figure things out with minimal thought. Anyway, enjoy it by clicking here.

If you find the bible quiz to be fun, click here to see what American accent you have. I think the results are at least somewhat accurate since it rated me as "Inland North." I grew up in upstate New York, so the answer is right on.

I was a bit nervous to take the quiz entitled, "Do you deserve your high school diploma?" Fortunately, I did get 100% correct. There were a few tricky questions on this one. Click here to take it.

O.K., this is the last quiz I will mention. It is basically worthless, but I enjoyed it anyway. It is called, "What should your first name be?" Mine came out as Nathan. Since that name means "gift," I'll be happy with it. Click here to find out what your name should be.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Not Preaching a "Committee Sermon" - A Look Back

The smiley face you see to the right represents my day yesterday. It was a good one.

I'll admit that as I walked to the Rothwell Baptist church building yesterday morning, I felt nervous. That, in turn, made me feel disgusted with myself. Anyone stepping into a pulpit should be nervous; however, those nerves should exist because of the responsibility of preaching in front of God.

When it came time to preach, I tried to focus on the biblical text. Unfortunately, I was somewhat distracted. This is because I quickly spotted where the search committee was sitting. However, when I realized that they looked like pretty much everyone else in the building, I began to relax. I'd like to say that I forgot they were there as the sermon progressed, but that is not the case.

After the conclusion of the service, several of the home folks came up to me to thank me for the sermon (the theme was unity from Philippians 2:1-4). They said the church really needed to hear about that. I was pleased that the people heard something decent from the pulpit considering the situation. The search committee came up to meet me after most of the people had departed. We talked for a while and they said they enjoyed the sermon. They also said we would talk later.

The best part of the day happened in the evening. That's when I preached again at Chevis Oaks Baptist in Savannah. The people there have been very kind to us. The Lord has allowed me to preach there a total of ten times in the last few months. Chevis Oaks is also currently without a pastor. After the service, I joined several of the members for some excellent chicken barbecue. Yum.

This entire process is teaching us several things. The first is to be patient. I'll be honest - it's not easy. The second is to wait upon the Lord. The third is to rest in the sovereignty of God. If we really want to be where God wants us to be, then we'll trust in Him to lead us to the proper place.

Thank you for praying. Please keep praying.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Not Preaching a "Committee Sermon"

This Sunday is going to be an odd one for me. I'm thrilled to have two opportunities to preach. In the morning, I will be speaking at Rothwell Baptist Church in Pooler, GA. This is the church that has graciously allowed us to live in its mission house since returning from South Asia over a year ago. On Sunday night, I get to preach at Chevis Oaks Baptist Church near Savannah. I have preached there nine times in the past two months, so I will feel right at home.

One factor will make the day odd. A pastoral search committee from a church somewhere in Georgia (to remain nameless for now) is going to be at Rothwell on Sunday morning to hear me preach. I'm not nervous about this in any way, but I am concerned that the whole affair might turn into some sort of show. The sweet folks at Rothwell know that the committee is coming and have wished me well. I just hope the focus of the church during the sermon is actually God instead of my current (lack of) job status.

Earlier this week I was having coffee with Devin Bell, the pastor at Rothwell. He asked me if I was going to preach a "committee sermon." I looked at him with a blank stare because I had never heard that term before. Devin informed me that some pastors, if they know a search committee is present, will preach for the committee, including various things in the sermon to make themselves look good. I gave Devin a look of disgust. He was pleased; the thought of a "committee sermon" being preached is his pulpit made him very uncomfortable.

Instead of speaking for the committee, I'm focused on One. I've found that if my desire is to please God by being faithful to His inspired biblical text, then I'll be on the right track. If God approves of Sunday's sermon, then I really don't care what a search committee thinks. I'm not even planning to preach on a text that most search committees would probably like. The text for both sermons (AM and PM) is Philippians 2:1-4. The theme of that passage is God's command for His church to be united and the method for this to occur.

We'll see what happens. My family is resting in God's sovereign hand over this entire situation. He will direct us where we should go and how we should serve. His methods and timing are perfect.

I'll preach Sunday for God. I'm certainly not preaching a "committee sermon."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Why Does a Reformed Baptist Remain in the SBC?

Keeping in mind that the majority of Southern Baptist churches are not Reformed, the question needs to be asked: Why does a Reformed Baptist remain in the SBC?

I certainly cannot speak for all Reformed Baptists within the SBC, but I'll give you my answer. The sole reason that I remain in the convention is international missions. Frankly, I see this as the only reason for the current existence of the convention at all.

Having served with the International Mission Board (IMB) in South Asia, I can say that I am still impressed with Southern Baptist work overseas. Both Alice and I are pleased that the focus of the IMB is church planting. This seems to be the only strategy that will be effective in reaching the thousands of unreached people groups with the gospel. Church planting relies on little outside support, depends upon national pastors, and allows the gospel to be understood within any cultural context. Although we are no longer with the IMB, we will continue to support it financially and through prayer.

Within the SBC, most of the local churches are small. We are a convention of small churches. Most of these churches cannot afford the expense involved in sending even one person overseas to serve as a missionary. This also does not take into account the training the person will need prior to going. The local church can, however, give to the SBC's Cooperative Program (CP). Fifty percent of CP income goes straight to the IMB; the remainder is split up among other SBC entities.

The money from the Cooperative Program, combined with the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, supports the IMB. This money allows the IMB to adequately train missionaries to live overseas, adapt to new cultures, and work with nationals to plant indigenous churches.

I'm sure that other evangelical denominations/associations/conventions/sending agencies do a fine job with international missions. I praise the Lord for their efforts and hope our IMB people will work with them. The reason I support the IMB in particular is that I have seen IMB folks in action and I remain impressed.

As for many of the other large SBC entities (such as NAMB, ERLC, Lifeway), I think the local church can do almost all of what those large and expensive agencies do. We do need to ask within the SBC why we are spending so much money in areas where the local church should be taking the lead. Alas, that discussion remains for another post.

So the answer for me is clear. There is one, and only one, solid reason for a Reformed Baptist to remain in the SBC. That answer is a large and important one - international missions.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What is a Reformed Baptist?

What is a Reformed Baptist? Why am I one?

I fall into that small, unique group of American Protestants who are Reformed Baptists (I'm Southern Baptist, too). I refer to this occasionally on this blog, but haven't addressed the issue directly - until now.

If you asked various Reformed Baptists what makes them distinctive, you might get several different answers.

I believe there are six primary characteristics of Reformed Baptists. These are positions I hold, and I think the vast majority of Reformed Baptists do also. No one of the six characteristics is unique; rather it is the combination of the six that makes Reformed Baptists what they are. Additionally, Reformed Baptists believe much more than what follows. These six are mentioned, as I just said, in order to show what makes Reformed Baptists unique.

1. Reformed Baptists believe in the authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of scripture. The bible is how we primarily know God. His word guides our belief and practice.

2. Reformed Baptists hold to the "5 Solas of the Reformation." In English, these are faith alone, scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, and the glory of God alone.

3. Reformed Baptists think that believer's baptism is what the bible describes and commands. This is a huge issue that I am not going to tackle here. I'll just mention (again) that in the bible we always see people submitting by faith to the Lordship of Jesus Christ prior to the ordinance of water baptism.

4. Reformed Baptists hold to the Doctrines of Grace. These are commonly referred to as either "T.U.L.I.P." or "the Five Points of Calvinism." The primary issue in the Doctrines of Grace is the sovereignty of God. Reformed Baptists believe that the bible teaches that God is completely sovereign and completely within His rights to do whatever He desires with His creation.

5. Reformed Baptists believe that the local church should be independent of any authority other than Christ. The church should have an elder/pastor-led, congregationally ruled polity. In other words, it is the local church that makes its own decisions, which ought to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The congregation has authority over who its human leaders are. Those leaders (pastor/elders) guide the church by godly-example.

6. Reformed Baptists believe in a strong separation of church and state. The government should provide religious liberty to all its citizens. The church, then, will be free to believe and practice as it sees fit. The church should not become unduly involved in politics. However, Christians should try to influence society through the political process to live according to the laws of God.

The confession of faith that most Reformed Baptists hold to is the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. If you are wanting to know more about what Reformed Baptists believe, I encourage you to go to the 1689 Confession.

There are also a few important things that Reformed Baptists do not believe:

1. Reformed Baptists do not agree with all Reformation-era teachings. Just because we use the word "Reformed," this does not mean we agree with everything Martin Luther or John Calvin taught.

2. Reformed Baptists do not agree with the practice of infant baptism (it's not in the bible).

3. Reformed Baptists do not believe that there is any authority above the local church other than Jesus Christ, who is its head.

4. Reformed Baptists do not believe in a mixing of church and state.

I hope this helps explain and/or clear up what it means to be a Reformed Baptist. You'll see that Reformed Baptists have much in common with many other Baptists. The primary difference lies in the Doctrines of Grace. Most Baptists reject the "ULI" of "TULIP."

You also see some commonalities with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The two main differences between Reformed Baptists and the PCA are baptism and church polity.

To look at a great Reformed Baptist Church near Savannah, click here. To look at the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America, click here.

So, why am I a Reformed Baptist? I am one because I believe Reformed Baptist doctrine is closer to biblical teaching than any other I have seen.

Why am I a Southern Baptist? That's an easy one. The answer is simple: international missions (I'll discuss this in an upcoming post).

I guess I'd refer to myself as a Reformed Southern Baptist.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Homeschooling: "Dad, I Read it in a Book."

"Where did you learn that?"

"Dad, I read it in a book."

I have no idea how many times I have had the above interaction with my children. It seems that a few times per week either Caroline, Mary, or Bobby will walk up to me and launch into something about math, history, literature, or science that I am at least somewhat ignorant about.

At that point I say, "Where did you learn that?" Sometimes they tell me that they learned it from my wife. Many times, however, they simply respond, "I read it in a book."

This is one of the many beauties of homeschooling. Because our kids don't have to waste time riding the schoolbus, waiting in line to use the bathroom, sitting in the lunch room, waiting for the class bell to ring, listening to a well-meaning teacher review the same material five times, etc., they have much more time to simply read. They read some for assignments and some for pleasure. Many times those two things overlap.

While growing up, I attended public school for kindergarten through 8th grade. I then transferred to a private Christian school for 9th-12th grades. One similarity between my experiences in public and private school was that I did not have to read much. Instead, my duty was to sit quietly in class, write down what the teacher said, understand and memorize it, and then regurgitate it on a test. I did learn a few things along the way, but I wish I had had the opportunity to read much more.

Reading has so many advantages that it would be impossible to list them all here. Three things immediately come to mind. First, when a child reads, he is also learning how to think critically. He sees how the author develops his argument and comes to his conclusions. Second, reading allows the child to use her imagination. Because reading is an auditory medium, the visual imagination is allowed to run wild. Third, reading teaches the child how to teach himself in the future. Learning should be a life-long process, not something that ceases at the end of high-school or college. One of the best ways to keep learning is to keep reading.

I have no doubt that one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is that when it is done well, children learn not only how to read, but also how to love reading. This is a gift that they will take with them for a lifetime.

I'm already looking forward to the next time I hear, "Dad, I read it in a book."

Helpful Links - Part VI - Books

In this final installment of the "Helpful Links" series, I'm listing several good places for searching for, finding, and ordering books. You'll see my Reformed preferences coming through loud and clear.

Banner of Truth - This is an excellent place to find historic Christian books, especially those from the Reformation and Puritan eras. A great place to start is the Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers.

Crossway - Go here to find a wide variety of Christian books, tracts, and ESV bibles.

CVBBS - Click on Cumberland Valley for various Reformed-perspective Christian books.

Monergism Books - Closely related to the Monergism website, the bookstore offers many different Reformed selections including commentaries, church history, apologetics, etc.

RHB - The purpose of RHB is to "glorify God and strengthen His church through the publication and distribution of Puritan and Reformed Literature." My favorite RHB selection is entitled "Meet the Puritans, With a Guide to Modern Reprints."

Westminster - At the bookstore for Westminster Theological Seminary, you will find exactly what you would expect from this excellent theological school - solid Christian books of all kinds.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Is Following Jesus Really That Easy?

I was recently wandering around Wal*Mart, trying to escape from the store, when I saw this T-shirt. Wal*Mart was not selling it; rather, a young patron was proudly wearing it. The shirt got me thinking.

Is following Jesus really that easy? Is it supposed to be easy? Did God intend it to be easy?

That got me thinking about several different bible verses that shed some light on this subject.

Matthew 7:13-14: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 10:37: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24: Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Acts 14:22: Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Philippians 1:29: For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.

II Timothy 3:12: Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

The above verses make it clear that if a person wants to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the life will be difficult. This is not to say that it won't also be wonderful, joyful, fulfilling, and thrilling. Most things in life that are worth anything require some effort, work, and sacrifice.

I'm not saying that we have to work for our salvation. Salvation is all through grace. After we are saved, however, the Christian walk is often difficult and painful. Just ask Christians living in places like China, North Korea, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cuba, Belarus, and the entire Islamic-dominated world.

One reason that we have so many people in this country claiming to be Christians but not acting like it is that they view Christianity to be easy. This is called "easy-believism." This problem is plaguing the American church today. I wonder if this has anything to do with the way we present the gospel?

If we present the gospel by saying, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," this suggests that being a Christian is easy. If, however, we say something like, "God created this world for his glory, you have rebelled against him, Jesus died on a cross for sin, etc.," then it becomes clear that a price has to be paid by the Christian.

Despite what this T-shirt says, living for Jesus is not easy. The rewards of following Christ are certainly worth the difficulty, but let's not think that serving Jesus is a simple walk in the park.

There is no "easy button" for being a Christian.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Excellent Post on the Purpose of Marriage

Please read this excellent post by Dr. Al Mohler on the purpose of marriage.

Helpful Links - Part V - Family

Answers in Genesis - Since I believe in a young earth and a literal interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-2, I like this site a great deal. You'll find all kinds of information about creation. I recommend clicking on the "Get Answers" button.

CBMW - It is refreshing to read articles from a biblical perspective on the roles of men and women. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's mission is "to set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church." Well said.

Family Research Council - The focus of the FRC is to promote marriage and family issues in the political arena. The sanctity of life is also a core value. If you want to stay up-to-date on what is affecting the family in the political realm, this is a good place to go.

Grace Family Baptist Church - This is the website for Voddie Baucham's church. GFBC is a Reformed, Family-Integrated, Baptist church in Texas. This site offers many ideas that would be valuable for family-integrated and age-segregated churches alike. If you want to promote family discipleship within your church, look here. Buy this book!

Vision Forum - Click here to see all kinds of resources for the Christian family. Go to the "Issues" button to find various family-related articles. You can also visit the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches.

HSLDA - Home School Legal Defense Association offers varied information about, obviously, homeschooling. Check it out to find out about political issues, helpful education tools, and homeschool speakers. Know your constitutional rights regarding education your own children.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - This site is close to our hearts because of Bobby's lymphoma. You can find out all about these cancers by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Predestination and the Relief it Brings to Evangelism

"The pressure is off."

Those are nice words that almost everyone likes. This is what the biblical teaching of predestination brings to evangelism.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are clearly commanded to both proclaim the gospel (see Mark 16:15) and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). However, we are never told to save anyone.

Why is this? Why would we never be told to save anyone? The reason is simple: we can't. We are not able to. We do not have the power to do it.

Only God can break through the spiritual blindness of the lost person. Only he can work the miracle of salvation in the pagan's soul. Only God can overcome the awful corrupting power of sin and cause someone to see God for how glorious he really is (see Ephesians 2:1-5).

A part of God's work in salvation is his predestination of some people to salvation. The bible is abundantly clear on this. Here are a few verses that make this point:

Romans 8:29-30 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

Ephesians 1:4-5 "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will."

Ephesians 1:11 "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will."

The beauty of this truth is that it takes the pressure off us when we share our faith. Too often Christians do not evangelize because they incorrectly believe that it is their responsibility bring the person to salvation. This is a huge burden to bear - one which God himself never places upon us.

God is glorified when we are obedient. When we share our faith, God is honored. He is the one who decides whether or not that person becomes one of his adopted children.

We need to be obedient and, as the saying goes, leave the results to him.

On a related topic, click here to see if Calvinism will kill evangelism.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Helpful Links - Part IV - Church History

CCEL - At Christian Classics Ethereal Library you can find just about anything related to church history. For example, there is good information about both the Church Fathers and hymns.

Hall of Church History - If you want to look at writings from across the spectrum of Christian history (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Reformer, Puritan, Arminian, etc.), this is the place.

John Owen - This is pretty straightforward. This site offers many of Owen's works and information about him.

Jonathan Edwards - Similar to Owen's site, you can find both information about Edwards and many of his works at this location.

Monergism - The best aspect of this site is the wide variety of theological articles and essays from a Reformed perspective.

Reformed Reader - As a Baptist, I love this site. It offers just about any important statement of faith from the history of the Baptists.

Spurgeon Archive - If you have an interest in the "Prince of Preachers," click on this site to find out about him and read his writings.