Friday, August 31, 2007

Why Expository Preaching? #7

Because it honors the nature of God's revelation to us. God did not give us Scripture in prooftexts, or in bytes arranged on a given subject. God's Word came in historical narrative, poetry, prophetic prose, gospel narrative, epistles, etc. The most faithful approach to unfolding such works is by working within and through a given book with care, precision, and faithful labor over time.


Open Disdain for the Home

The Bayly bros. have a post drawing our attention to the open hostility towards the vocation of homemaking from the Center for Biblical Equality. I encourage you to read Tim's post as well as the very unChristlike and unBiblical piece over at CBE.

Let me quote Scripture again on this issue:

1 Timothy 5:14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.

Titus 2:3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

I have a post here that defends the godly and biblical priority of building and working in the home for wives and mothers. I will not go into great detail here as to the various arguments that present exceptions to the general rule of Scripture on this point (such as single motherhood, extraordinary financial situations, various 'ministry' oriented vocations outside the home, working outside the home in different seasons of life, etc.). It is one thing to argue for the validity of working outside the home, it is quite another to mock and disdain those who do (with strong biblical warrant for their choice, which cannot necessarily be said for those who choose vocation outside the home at the expense of childrearing).

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Why Expository Preaching? #6

It forces us to preach through the 'hard passages' of Scripture and deal with difficult issues as they come up in our exposition. For example, in a few weeks I must preach on headcoverings and male authority in the home and church. I do not want to do this (though some of you think me somewhat of a masochist), but I must because it is in God's Word. Exposition keeps us from 'pet' topics and serving merely 'felt needs' in the pulpit.


Why Expository Preaching? #5

Because it forces us to bring the whole counsel of God upon each text, and not arrange texts around our choices of topics.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Why Expository Preaching? #4

Because you are not nearly as funny, relevant, culturally savvy, and creative as you think you are.


Eschatology Charts

Here's a helpful primer chart on the various evangelical eschatological systems.

And here's another one.

And one here.

Or here.

Check this out if you want an especially clear and easy to read overview of the various 'dispensations'. (I encourage you to enjoy all of Clarence Larkin's almost inscrutable charts.)

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why Expository Preaching? #3

Bible Exposition is the primary homiletical pattern of the Bible.

Bible exposition was practiced by Moses and the Elders at Sinai. Exposition of the Tanach was the basic source of all prophetic discourse. Ezra and the Great Synagogue practiced it repeatedly. In essence, Biblical exposition lay at the heart of Tanaiatic Judaism of the intertestamental period and deviation from Bible exposition was the primary point of Jesus' rebukes and greatest discourses. The Apostles all practiced exposition in their discourses in Acts from Pentecost and Peter's use of Joel through Stephen's great "Walk throught the Bible." And finally, it is the call to Biblical exposition in I, II Tim and Titus that dominates Paul's last words to the pastors and churches he planted. His final words to the Ephesian elders at Miletus sums it up: "I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32) A better question might be: "Is any other kind of preaching warranted by Scripture other than expository preaching?"


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Premillenialism Re-Discovered

I have been working through Robert Duncan Culver's (my father's seminary professor and friend, who has recently written a wonderful Systematic Theology) presentation and defense of premillenial eschatology entitled The Earthly Reign of Our Lord With His People and I must say that I am 'rediscovering' a delight in searching the Scriptures on these matters. Our denomination and our local church affirms a premillenialist position in our doctrinal statement: #11 We believe: In the personal and premillennial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this "Blessed Hope" has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer. Though I do not believe that such a specific eschatological commitment should be held on par with other cardinal doctrinal convictions (when, at the same time, certian more central tenets are overlooked) and should not be included in such a broad doctrinal statement. Nor do I believe that a doctrine of 'imminence' should be included, though I affirm it in a certain sense (I submit to my brothers in this for the sake of unity and ministry, go here for a discussion of the now abandoned attempt to revise the EFCA Statement of Faith). I do believe that an historic (as opposed to a 'dispensational') premillennialism is the most biblical framework of eschatology. It has been a couple of years since I explored these passages and questions, and Culver's work has strengthened my 'blessed hope'. Sadly, this work is out of print and very difficult to find (several copies are available under its previous title). So, I will provide choice quotes and salient points from his work as I read and study.

Premillennialism is the belief founded mainly upon a literal interpretation of Rev. 20:1-7 which predicts a real earthly reign of Christ with his resurrected saints for 1000 years (Pre- referring to the second coming preceding an earthly reign; millennial- referring to a literal 1000 years). This eschatological system is founded upon a host of other predictive passages throughout the whole counsel of God's Word. Culver summarizes the essential teachings of historic premillenial doctrine in three propositions (I will not prooftext here):

1. The Millennium is specifically (1) the period of time between the resurrection of the just and of the unjust and (2) the period of Satan's imprisonment.

2. The Millennium is further qualified as (1) an initial stage in the everlasting Kingdom of Christ; (2) a period begun by the visible return of Christ in glory to judge and rule the nations; (3) a period closed by the final eradication of all evil from God's universe at the final judgment of the wicked; and (4) a period during which the saints of the first resurrection will be associated with Christ in His reign.

3. In connection with the inauguration of the Millennium it is revealed that (1) the closing days of the present age shall witness the restoration of Israel to the land and the conversion of the nation, to be followed in the Millennium by the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant promises distinctive to that nation; (2)a final personal Antichrist shall appear near the close of this present age who will become master of the world and will be destroyed by Christ at his coming, and
(3) a period of the Great Tribulation for Israel is to transpire under Antichrist's oppression, from which deliverance will be provided by Christ at His coming. (Culver, pgs. 20-21)

A commitment to premillenialism is not welcomed in most 'reformed' communities. But, along with Culver, I would say that much of what people see as 'premillennialism' is a caricature, and easily presented as a straw man. There is not a great deal of wise and careful exegesis coming out of what I'll call naive (even bizarre) 'dispensational' premillennialism these days (though this cannot be said of the history of premillennialism). The silliness of the 'Left Behind' series would be a great example. Consider Culver's introductory lament:

"Unfortunately the most grievous wounds to millennial faith have been inflicted by overzealous and sensationalist advocates among writers and preachers. As the good prophet in Zechariah 13 explains, his trauma is from "wounds...with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." this has been going on as long as I have been alive and continues unabated. These well meaning, and I think incautious people, make the millennium vehicle for far more doctrinal freight than the biblical undercarriage was engineered to carry. Some recent "evangelical" fiction has carried this to grievous extremes in my opinion. These self inflicted wounds by premillenarians may explain, in part at least, why presently literal interpretation of biblical predictions of a future reign of Christ on earth has been under severe attack from many quarters. As a matter of personal observation these excesses have certainly caused some to renounce chiliastic [premillennial] teachings and prevented others from accepting them." (Culver, pg. 7)

Culver's book lays down the gauntlet and challenges any convinced amillennialist or postmillennialist to pick it up with out merely assailing foolishness from the other side, but by answering the questions presented by an honest struggle with the text.

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Why Expository Preaching? #2

A belief in the inerrancy, authority, and infallibility of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

". . . it seems our commitment to inerrancy is somewhat lacking in the way it fleshes out in practical ministry. Specifically, evangelical preaching ought to reflect our conviction that God's Word is infallible and inerrant. Too often it does not. In fact, there is a discernible trend in contemporary evangelicalism away from biblical preaching and a drift toward an experience-centered, pragmatic, topical approach in the pulpit." - John MacArthur, The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy: Expository Preaching


Why Expository Preaching? #1

Because our corporate worship (and life, for that matter) is short, and there is precious little time to waste. Spend as much of it as you can with your finger on the page and your heart under the Word as it has been delivered, and not as it has been strategically arranged for you for the sake of a 'series' or 'topic'.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why Expository Preaching?

In a recent Leadership Journal there was some discussion of good preaching. The question was put to three pastors, "What does good preaching mean in your church context?" The answers were, well, quite sad.

The question is sad as well. Good preaching is good preaching, in any context. So, what then, is good preaching in any context?

If you've been around Four Oaks for more than a week or so, you've heard me talk about expository preaching. What is it?

Al Mohler gives a great concise definition:

"Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching that takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text and makes clear how the word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the church as the people of God."

Bryan Chapell puts it this way:

"Proponents of expository preaching would say this: An expositor is solemnly bound to say what God says. In an expository message we relate precisely what a text of Scripture says. A more technical explanation—an old one that I hold to—is that an expository message gets its main points and its sub-points directly from the text.
A textual message gets its main points from the text but its developmental components elsewhere. A topical message gets only its topic from the text and could be developed according to the nature of the topics rather than the text. An expository message, however, says what the text says and gets all its developmental features from the text as well."

There you have it. I'll be posting several reasons in the upcoming days offering reasons why all preachers should be expositors.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Behe and Veritas Forum Media

The Veritas Forum has a wealth of apologetics resources.

I've posted some choice quotes from Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box - here is an excellent lecture by Dr. Behe delivered at Ohio State's Veritas Forum.


Four Baptist Leaders Move Toward Biblical Counseling

Daniel Akin (pres of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), Paige Patterson (pres of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Russel Moore (dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), and Sam Williams (professor of counseling at Southeastern Baptist Seminary) discuss issues surrounding a biblical perspective of Christian counseling. The lead sentence reads:

"Southern baptists are making an intentional and historic effort to return to a theory and practice of counseling that is distinctively biblical."

I've discussed some of my concerns with what is often an unbiblical approach to 'Christian' counseling here.

David Powlinson's article on the 'therapeutic gospel' is helpful as well.


Family Facts

The Heritage Foundation has a great website with a wealth of statistical evidence and facts supporting a 'traditional' and biblical understanding of marriage, family, parenting, and sexuality.


Infant Baptism in Three Points

J. Ligon Duncan summarizes the reformed infant baptist position in three points:

1. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly makes a promise to believers and to their children (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39).

2. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly attaches specific signs (respectively, circumcision [Genesis 17:10] and baptism [Acts 2:38, cf. Colossians 2:11-12], to this promise that he gives to believers and their children.

3. Therefore, since God has given an explicit promise to believers and their children, in the New Testament, and attached a sign to this promise, and enjoined us (in the new covenant) to administer that sign
[baptism, Matthew 28:19-20], then we should give the sign of the
promise he has made to believers and their children, to believers and their children, in humble obedience to biblical command and example.

This is a good start toward understanding the argument for infant (paedo) baptism from a covenantal/continuity framework. Many in the baptist camp do not have a reformed perspective, much less an understanding of 'covenant theology', and they are often blown away by the arguments for paedobaptism along these lines. It is this continuity between the covenants (and the recipients of their signs) that Malone deals with in my previous post.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Arthur Miller's Dark Secret

Tim Bayly directs us to a fascinating and heartbreaking Vanity Fair article about Arthur Miller's dark secret.

It seems that abandoning a Down Syndrome son to live in a run down home for the mentally disabled is a sin. And indeed it is. In fact, it was said a couple of times in the article that for years it was under doctor's advisement that many families abandoned those children who needed them the most.

Yet, there was no mention in the article of the sad fact that many in our day do far worse. At least Daniel Miller was able to live, and by all accounts able to live a happy and full life. In our times, many children with Down's are murdered in the womb, and this is under the care of our medical professionals. Vanity Fair spotted many tragic ironies in this story, but failed to spot the starkest irony of them all.

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The Candidates and Their Positions

Here's an interesting table charting the 2008 Presidential Candidates' positions on a variety of issues. I am not entirely sure of it's accuracy, but from what I was able to track it seemed dead on.


Coercion and Statism = Love and Compassion?

A couple of interesting articles here and here on Michael Moore's ability to propagandize and hype the problem and lead us into the typical leftist solution: statist coercion in all things. And philosopher J.P. Moreland writes a nice piece on Moore's bold claim that Jesus would espouse state-regulated universalized health care.


A Defense of Believers' Baptism

Fred Malone writes one of the best apologetics for believers' baptism over at the Founders Conference website.

There are those that argue for credo-baptism merely on the prima facie evidence of Scripture. It goes something like this: "There are no clear instances of babies being baptized in the Scriptures, therefore, we must not baptize infants." This is certainly one aspect of the debate(and part of the string of pearls unstrung for Pastor Malone) , but it does hold enough weight if you are examining the argument at a deeper biblical and theological level.

There are those that argue for credo-baptism from a more developed doctrine of baptism based on the nature of saving faith and it's depiction in the ordinance. This is a compelling argument, but it still often falls short in persuading one who holds to a 'covenant' understanding of the sacraments (ordinances if you're a baptist).

It is primarily at this level that Pastor Malone takes aim. He gives the most succinct and clear argument against infant baptism that I've seen. It addresses those who make the argument for infant baptism based on the covenant promises of the Old Testament (signified in circumcision) and their continuity in the new covenant displayed in the sacrament of baptism. Children were part of the covenant community in the Old Covenant and so given the sign, circumcision; children are part of the covenant community in the New Covenant and so should be given the sign of baptism.

I think this paper will deepen your love for Christ and strengthen your theological and biblical understanding of baptism. It will bolster your convictions regarding baptism if you're a baptist, and challenge your understanding of the covenant and it's signs if you're not.

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R.C. Sproul Video and Audio

Go to the Ligonier Ministries website and find a wealth of video and audio exposition, instruction, and theological direction. I cannot urge you strongly enough to sit under the teaching of Dr. Sproul.

Wilson on Satire, again...

Here is a great summary, in a blog post form, of Wilson's call to biblical satire. In my last post I referred you to his great book. This post is a great teaser.


A Primer on Assurance

Tim Challies reviews my friend Tullian's new book, Do I Know God?

This is a great primer on assurance. Read the review, buy the book, but most of all...ask the question, "Do I know God?"

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Godly Satire: Wilson and Frame

Check out Doug Wilson's excellent defense of biblical satire.

Then check out John Frame's excellent review of Wilson's excellent defense.

Now check out Wilson's excellent response.

That should keep you busy for at least 10 minutes.

After all this, go check out our friends at Lark News. If your a run of the mill, positive and encouraging, Testa-MINTS toting evangelical- prepare to be lampooned. To the glory of God, of course.

Pachelbel Bedtime

Awesome. You must watch all the way to the end. This is the story of my life!
And I thank God for it all.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

10 Historical Reasons I'm a Calvinist

Over at 9Marks Pastor Mark Dever gives us 10 reasons for "the growing prominence of reformed theology among the young in the American evangelical scene". Well, I'm not really the 'young Calvinist' I used to be. Nonetheless, I do believe that his evaluation of this resurgence of reformed conviction over the past 10-15 years is on the mark. Here's Dever's list in brief, though I encourage to read all ten posts.

1. C.H. Spurgeon
2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
3. Banner of Truth Trust
4. D. James Kennedy and Evangelism Explosion
5. Inerrancy Controversy (Council on Biblical Inerrancy)
6. Presbyterian Church in America
7. Packer's Knowing God
8. John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul
9. John Piper
10. Rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism

Good Preaching?

I get the pastor trade journal, Leadership. I don't know why I read it. It usually only causes me angst over state of the evangelical church and the evangelical pastorate. I always mutter to myself that I need to read it to 'keep up' and 'keep current' or some such nonsense. And it is nonsense. Hey Pastors- you want to keep current? Read 2 Timothy 4: 1-5. Now, memorize it. Then, do it. Please. We need more 'hip' and 'current' pastors like we need more infomercials.

In the latest 'Leadership' (interesting title, seeing as how I see no trace of biblical leadership upon its glossy pages) we find a discussion of technology and preaching. The question is asked of three pastors, "What does 'good preaching' mean in your church's context?"

Here are their answers:

Pastor 1: Our church is in an urban setting with a multi-ethnic congregation that is about 65 percent Hispanic. We also have Indians, African-Americans, Chinese, Filipinos, Italians, and whites. Good preaching means people's lives are being changed. If I can see that, if I see the connection taking place, I consider that good preaching."

Pastor 2: Ours is a multi-cultural church, too, made up of light white, darker white, and medium white—but definitely white. (Laughter.)
For us transformation is the goal of preaching. We're coming out of a time when merely presenting the text was the goal. That's still incredibly important, but now we're asking, "Does the preaching help anyone? Is it changing lives? Did the sermon help Christ be formed in people?"

Pastor 3: The culture of my church is a 300-person Mennonite congregation and it's multi-cultural only so far as about a third are over the age of 65, a third are in midlife, and a third are under the age of 30. When I started, I was very focused on the question of effectiveness. I found myself drowning because unless I saw some really big life change happening, I felt like a failure. I had a therapist (I'll admit it), and he said to me, "Shane, I went from being an average therapist to being a really great therapist when I simply offered interventions and I stopped being invested in the outcomes." That was a big insight for me. So for me good preaching is being connected to who God's made me to be, and not investing my identity in the outcomes.

What is wrong with these answers? First, not one of these men defined preaching from the standpoint of God's revelation to us as to what 'good preaching' might be. And God's Word does say quite a bit about preaching and the faithfulness of preachers. In these men's assesment preaching is evaluated by our perception of change in others, our perception of God's activity in others, our understanding of the 'outcome': does it help anyone? is it changing lives? can I see the connection taking place? Of course there is a place for all of this. Of course we must ask such questions at some level. But these questions, these human perceptions should be secondary to faithfulness to the Word, faithfulness in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel, faithfulness as a steward of the mysteries of the gospel. God simply does not call the preacher to faithfulness in 'evaluating change', seeing connections between you and the people, noting the 'helpfulness' of a sermon. Ultimately all of those things are sovereign realities, to be left up to God and his activity in convicting the human heart and bringing change by his Spirit.

Pastor #3 almost gave us the right answer. He says that he was drowning in ministry, 'focused on the question of effectiveness'. Any pastor worth his hire would admit that we are always keeping our nostrils just above the waves. Amen. You are never 'effective' enough. There is always some disgruntled naysayer, another tech wave to be surfed, another budget trend to be adjusted, a demographic to be catered to. But, sadly, just when we think one of these pastors might talk some sense, we are taken down a man centered therapeutic path to evaluating preaching: "good preaching is being connected to who God's made me to be, and not investing my identity in the outcomes." Huh? Again, this isn't necessarily a wrong or unbiblical sentiment in its place (if I understand what he means, which I'm not sure I do, but then I might be out of touch with my feelings and my perceptions of others). But whatever he means, it is not the answer to the question at hand.

Imagine Jeremiah walking away from the temple courts with his associate pastors, "Was that helpful? Let's poll folks and get a feel for how 'life changing' that sermon was?"

Or Paul sitting alone at night in Athens going through a post-Areopagite sermon evaluation form, "Connect with audience: check. See life change: check. Connected with who God's made me to be: check."

So let's let Paul define good preaching:

1 Timothy 4:11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 6:2 . . .These are the things you are to teach and urge on them. 3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing.

1 Timothy 6:13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

2 Timothy 1:13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

These exhortations lead a young pastor toward God's design for preaching. And as our preaching adheres to the truth of God's Word then it will be 'current' and 'relevant', 'helpful', and 'transforming'. As our preaching soundly exposes this truth to the hearts of men and the hearts of men to the truth of the word then our preaching will be 'good', no matter the season, cultural context, or market share.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Saved by Submission

You'll remember about a year ago I blogged about the couple in our church family who wanted me to marry them in the bride to be's home church. I was forbidden to officiate the wedding in the church if we used our vows which have the woman pledge to honor her husband 'in loving submission'. God worked all things together for good in the situation. But, of course, nothing so good as glorifying Himself in the salvation of the bride's father. I had Kelly's Dad send me his account of God's goodness to him through Paul's words in Ephesians 5:22. He sent me this testimony that he shared at a recent men's gathering in his new church. Read it and praise the goodness of God who works in ways we could NEVER imagine. And, thank God for His Word. Even, especially, the hard bits like Ephesians 5.

I will probably ramble, but I will give this a try. I am going to put into words what I got up and spoke about at our men's trip in front of 90 people I did not know.

Each night they had a couple of people get up and give their testimony, and then open it up to anyone who wanted to talk about anything or ask for prayers for themselves or others. I really felt the urge to talk the first night, but I was afraid. That night I prayed for strength to tell my story. The next night when they asked if anyone felt like they wanted to talk my hand shot up. The Holy Spirit was at work.I wanted to tell them how I ended up at Willow Creek and the lessons I have learned because of it. Here is what I said.

When we joined Willow Creek I was asked when I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior.I really did not have a date or a place, I grew up as a child going to Sunday school and church, and have always believed that Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin and give us everlasting life. As I grew up, church became less important and I went on Christmas and Easter and a few other times in between. During this time my daughters began attending youth group at Tuskawilla Methodist Church, attended Bible study and grew in their faith. Kelly, my oldest went to FSU and started with Campus Crusade for Christ , while Carrie wanted to spend 6 months in Kyrgyzstan with her church .I saw the passion in each of them and also my son, who had become involved in the Church band. I became more involved in the Church, went every Sunday and Ushered the Contemporary service each week. We had been members for about 15 years, my wife was on every committee they had, and signed all the pay checks. I was very comfortable now and my faith had grown, mostly because of my children and their faith. But God had a very different plan to wake me up.

When my daughter was to be married, She wanted to get married in the Church that she grew up in, went to youth group and bible study at. She also wanted Erik, who was their Pastor in Tallahassee to perform the service. All the plans were made, reception planned, announcements mailed out and the minister at the Methodist church wanted to look over Kelly and Josh's wedding vows.
They wanted to have Ephesians 5. vs. 22 - 25 in their vows. The Methodist minister said they would have to change up their vows. Many of Kelly and Josh's friends, including Erik tried to talk with Charlie about his decision, we soon found out that he cared more about proving he was right than he cared about the people involved. I believe to this day that most people would have just changed the words and gone on, not my daughter. What she told me was that God wanted the man of the house to be the spiritual leader, and that she wanted him to lead her and she would follow. The man’s part talks about loving your wife and that he would die for her. Charlie told us that even though Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, things had changed and you can not take everything in the bible at face value. He said that men and women are equal. No one ever said they were not. This really caused a problem with my wife, she could not listen to him preach any more and lost confidence in the Methodist Church.

Thru Erik, a call was placed to Pete, the pastor at Willow Creek, and the wedding was going to be moved. Erik even paid for the mailing that told everyone invited about the move to a different church.The wedding went of without a hitch. Half of Tuskawilla Methodist Church sat in Willow Creek and watched my daughter get married.

Soon after my wife and I left Tuskawilla Church and looked for another church. We tried a couple but came back to Willow Creek.My next door neighbor is the assistant pastor, and we have known each other for 10 years. Our talks have always been about sports, golf, cigars, cars and a little religion. I really started thinking about Gods plan for me. I told the 90 guys about Kelly going to Barbados, and telling me about this guy that was at a bus stop, and kept looking at them when they were on Campus. Over a period of time, Kelly and Josh talked to the man and he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. My daughter Carrie has had the same experience in Kyrgyzstan. In my business if you don't close 25% you are not getting it done, yet here were both my daughters spending a month or more talking to 1 person and telling me that that person accepted Christ and it was the greatest thing that had ever happened. They had true joy. I wanted that same joy.

I started going to Sunday School and talking with Mike Bass, a strong Christian, and with Chris and Pete. I think now I am staring to finally get it. What all this has taught me is that God wants me to be the spiritual leader of my house. Even at 51 with 3 grown kids, it is not too late. My wife, my family, and God have been very patient with me. My job is to be more like Kelly and Carrie and be there for people, pray for them, listen to them, and let them know who Jesus is and what he has done in my life.

My wife still laughs when I pray before dinner. She is not making fun of me, she is just so happy that I have started taking my responsibility to heart and trying to be the spiritual head of the house. You see, for all my adult life I never said the prayer before dinner. I am much happier today than before. Work and stress don't bother me as much when I realize that there is so much more in my life. I go to a bible study now and am getting involved in this church than ever before. None of this would have happened, had God not said you need to do more, I am going to show you the way thru others that you love and then you will start to get it. Now Chris and I talk about sports, golf, cigars, cars and God and when I talk to other people now I talk about sports, golf, cigars, cars and God. I had one of my employees who was having problems with their children, that they ought to think about going to church. She moved away but a short time ago she e-mailed me and said they had gone to church for the first time. It is a start. I felt like I had truly done something.

I know that a year ago I would not have stood up in front of 90 guys and profess my faith in God, nor would I have written this. As I have found out, it is never too late, and that God is very patient.

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It's Never Enough

I shared the rather woeful stats on giving trends in our body on Sunday. Someone asked me if I got any negative feedback for being so confrontive on this issue. Of course not, people are afraid I'll pull their file!

Of course I'm kidding. But I do want to clarify a few things. First, I do not know what individuals give in our church, nor do I want to. Second, I didn't share these things merely to give people a guilt trip. I believe that it is unhealthy for the leadership to have such knowledge and to bear it without bringing it to the body. Third, I am so thankful and encouraged by the core of faithful and kingdom heart-ed people who truly support the ministry of the local church.

Three things need to happen in our hearts and minds and wills before we see obedience and faithfulness on this issue of generous and sacrificial support of God's kingdom:

1. Someone has said, don't ask me who- but it's a good one- 'your theology comes out your fingertips'. More simply put, theology determines practice and practice reveals theology. So, if your treasure is bound up in the temporal, fleeting, and ultimately perishing then that is where your 'theology' (read: heart) is. Many in our church, and in the evangelical church in general, are man-ward and not God-ward. How do I know? Well, Skip M. our financial dude gave me the rundown. Simple as that.

Until our beliefs, our theological orientation, changes at a heart and conviction level - then there will only be small (guilt driven) change.

2. Paul told Timothy that he must be 'disciplined' toward godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Our convictions take shape through godly disciplines. If we do not establish disciplines in our spending, budgeting, prioritizing, and giving- then we will not see change. If you are not generously supporting the ministry of the gospel, then you are sinning. You need a change of the conviction and theological perspective. But you also need discipline and accountability. But didn't Jesus say that our own hand shouldn't know what the other is doing? Yes...but this was a guard against self righteous pride, not an escape clause for wise and healthy accountability.

3. The time is now. It will never be enough in this life. There is always a newer car, a better vacation, more clothes, bills to be paid, and mouths to feed. God says that his kingdom and the gospel is to be prioritized above all such things (indeed all such things are to be regarded in the light of the gospel). Life is a vapor. One day, in the blink of an eye, you will stand before God as a steward of all that he is loaned you. Begin your investment now.

Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being: You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. -- St. Augustine

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Create your own radio station

Want to listen to music online that is specially and magically brought together to suit your own weird taste? Check it out over at Pandora. Pretty sweet.

HT: Gordo

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Piper Seminars - Audio Online

Many of you who hear me speak so highly of Pastor John Piper can go listen to any (and I pray you would listen to them all!) of these wonderful seminars that he taught at Bethlehem Baptist church over the years. These are all provided at Desiring God's website (I've linked them through Justin Taylor's blog, Between Two Worlds)- free of charge. All of Piper's book royalties are funneled into the Desiring God ministry and Bethlehem Baptist and all of his ministry work that can't be boxed is provided free online. The online ministry of Desiring God has been a mainstay of encouragement and strength for me in my pastoral ministry.

My favorite of the seminars is 'Why we believe the Bible'. The notes for all the seminars are provided as well.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

New Devotional Blog

You'll notice there is a new link over in the sidebar. I've started a devotional blog called Holding Fast, a title taken from that wonderful exhortation of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:13, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus".

The devotionals will follow my daily readings, which I will list at the top of each post. Each post will be either a brief commentary on a portion of that day's reading, or a more exhaustive examination of a specific text in one of the passages, or just musings and various notes that strike me as I prayerfully read and study. I will try and post at least 4/5 times weekly. Just a way for you to 'listen in' on my devotional life. Hooray for you! (I've already posted yesterday and today on Ezra.)

Very soon, our web guru extraordinaire will set up a direct feed for the site along with an email subscription for each post (just as with Bright Wings).

For the Kingdom!

Pastor E

Another Frightening Trend in Africa

A piece over at Christianity Today tracking and analyzing the growth of health and wealth prosperity pentecostalism in Africa.

Some facts:
  • out of the 890 million people in Africa, 147 million are 'renewalists' (Pentecostals and Charismatics). While it is wonderful that so many make some profession of faith in Christ (and that it is out pacing Islam in Africa!), it is a cause for alarm that so many are being inundated with false doctrine and the devastating lies of prosperity theology. It is an opportunity for us to come alongside our African brothers with healthy and biblical doctrine.
  • in Zambia there are only three TV stations: MUVI TZ (showing American reruns and old movies), ZNBC (Zambian nat'l broadcasting), and TBN (the network based out of Santa Ana, the chief peddler of the heresies of the health and wealth 'gospel')
  • As in America (Osteen's Lakewood), the largest worship auditorium in Africa (boasting 54,000 seats) is Winners Chapel Int'l- a health/wealth, prosperity gospel church in Lagos.

Check it out.