For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Does The Missouri Baptist Convention Need Saving?

Two weeks ago, 11 pastors from some of the largest churches in the MBC called a meeting (at least some folks were invited; not me) to express their “concerns” over matters in the state convention. The cute little title for this meeting was “Save Our Convention.” One email that went out prior to the meeting (which I obtained a bootleg copy of) stated:
Folks, these are desperate times!
That email went on to say that the main issue was:

…the political agenda of a select group of individuals seeking to control the direction of this convention to the neglect of the voices of the masses. It is our belief that this agenda has culminated in the manipulation of the Nominating Committee process as well as a tightening of the reins in the area of church planting and a lessening of involvement among our fellow Missouri Baptists.

Can you say “fear mongering?”

During that meeting in St. Louis (which I didn’t attend, largely because I wasn’t invited) information was passed out stating the concerns more fully. (Thanks to David Krueger’s blog for posting this information for the rest of us to see; and for a very good commentary on it).

That handout said in part:

What is Our Purpose?
1. To break the power-hold that a small group has on the Missouri Baptist Convention.
2. To halt the spread of a legalistic spirit and allow for diversity of opinion on non-essentials.
3. To include all those who want to work together with the Baptist, Faith and Message as our guide.
Can you say “innuendo?”
Furthermore, the statement laid out these objectives:
Goals for Missouri Baptist Convention
• Elect new slate of officers President 1st and 2nd Vice President Recording Secretary
• Reject Nominating Committee Report if it is not reflective of people who represent the MBC as a whole and adopt a substitute minority report.
• Reject Presidents Nominations for the Nominating Committee if those nominations are power brokers and do not reflect the MBC as a whole.
Can you say “ridiculous?”
If the issue is the political machinations of a small group of men and women (who by the way are named in the report), then how is that solved by replacing it with the political machinations of this group instead?

The question is: Does the Missouri Baptist Convention need saving?
The answer is “Yes” and “No.”

No, the MBC does not need saving from the current Executive Board, which according to the SOC group is a mere ignorant puppet of the reported power mad individuals they list. I know several Board members and know them to be much more intelligent than that.

No, the MBC does not need to be saved from the remnants of Project 1000, the movement several years ago to reclaim a conservative direction in our state. That movement is over and done with. The only evidence the SOC group can point out to the contrary is an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, which we all know clearly beats with the pulse of the average Missouri Baptist. (Can you say “sarcasm?”)

No, the MBC does not need to be saved from any of these perceived threats, none of which has any factual basis. However…

Yes, the MBC does need to be saved from individuals who spread fear and division.

Yes, the MBC does need to be saved from those who would continue to lead us down a path toward moral relativism (see my previous post), many of whom do seem to be involved in church planting as the above statement maintains.

Yes, the MBC does need to be saved from those whose best solution to “power brokers” is to become their own power brokers. (Read those stated goals again). I guess it’s OK to politick and control as long as you’re the one doing it, right?

Yes, the MBC does need to be saved from those who say they are concerned about the “masses” not being represented when they haven’t consulted those “masses” themselves. The last time I checked, I wasn’t a power broker, which would make me a “mass,” I guess. No one asked me if I was offended. No one asked me if I felt left out. And yet the SOC group assumes to speak for me.

Yes, the MBC does need saving from those who highlight the service of certain individuals on boards and agencies trying to show their supposed “control” while neglecting to mention that several of the SOC members have themselves served on just as many boards. But no one accuses them of a “power-hold.”

The MBC needs our prayers. Our state leadership and our state staff need our support. And we ought to be concerned about our direction as a state. Yet, for some reason, I’m much more concerned about the agenda of the SOC and their misinformation and innuendo than about anything else.

(For a much more insightful take on this, read the blogs by Rodney Albert or David Krueger)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Ever Happened To Sin?

From alcohol to pornographic advertising, it seems as though some self-proclaimed conservatives are not as conservative as one might think. On a discussion list for supposedly conservative Missouri Baptists, the ongoing debate is over the use of alcohol (see my previous post for my opinion about that; if you really care about my opinion, that is).

What is so surprising is the large number of pastors on this list who not only have no problem with alcohol in general, but are going to great lengths to support its consumption. And when someone suggested that one argument against alcohol is the predominance of sexual images in its advertising, these same pastors gave a somewhat “oh well” response.

Someone likened it to the overtly sexual ads being run by Hardees these days, which are appalling, and again the response was flippant and dismissive. Derisive comments about “boycotts” were thrown out, as if it would be ignorant of Christians to avoid supporting that particular chain because of its offensive ads. In voicing my concern, I was told, “just flip the channel.”

Is this what the church has become? We no longer oppose sin, we just ignore it and pretend its not there. I understand that we are surrounded by a sinful world system, and it would be impossible to avoid any and all contact with every business that has any connection to sinful behavior in any way. I’m pretty na├»ve, but I’m not stupid.

But that sort of extremism is not what I’m talking about. It’s not a matter of looking in every nook and cranny to find any hint of any sin anywhere. Yet when a company like Hardees or the beer industry flaunts it in our face, mocking us, assuming this is the sort of trash that will encourage people to buy their products, shouldn’t Christian people respond? Shouldn’t we see this as a genuine slap in the face to Biblical morals? Or have I really become that much of a prude? (and even if so, is that so bad?!)

There seems to be a slow erosion of moral values even within the church. People talk about Jesus eating with the sinners, etc. However, I don’t seem to recall Jesus ever speaking flippantly about that sin. Yes He ate with them, but He also called attention to their sin, the seriousness of it, and called them out of it. He didn’t just pretend it wasn’t there by “flipping the channel.”

And whether we like it or not, there is a biblical command to “come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Not in a haughty, judgmental way; but in an obviously observable one. We don’t live like the world, we don’t act or think like the world, and we should not accept what the world accepts.

I’m honestly concerned about our Missouri Baptist Convention. Not just about the politicking going on (see Rodney Albert’s blog for a wonderful take on this), but where we are heading on these moral issues. If we fail to stand for the Biblical moral values, I wonder how long God will bless our efforts. As someone reminded me lately: No purity, no power. I pray the MBC will continue to have both.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Another Attack on the Family

In a sick and twisted irony, in the days leading up to the celebration of Mother’s Day, the liberal wackos have chosen to spew forth more offensive anti-family garbage.

British news agencies tell of a recent report from the environmentalist organization Optimum Population Trust which suggests that having too many children is bad for the planet. That’s right, I’m not joking. You’re kids are harming the ozone!

The report suggests that “The most effective personal climate change strategy is limiting the number of children one has. The most effective national and global climate change strategy is limiting the size of the population. Population limitation should therefore be seen as the most cost-effective carbon offsetting strategy available to individuals and nations.”

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said: "The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights. . . The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child." Professor Guillebaud says that, as a general guideline, couples should produce no more than two offspring.

The report concludes that “having large families should be frowned upon as an environmental misdemeanour in the same way as frequent long-haul flights, driving a big car and failing to reuse plastic bags.”

As an added vulgarity, the OPT website cites the supposed “cost” of each individual child over a lifetime, and then adds: “A 35-pence condom, which could avert that £30,000 cost from a single use, thus represents a ‘spectacular’ potential return on investment – around nine million per cent.”

This is just the further extension of the environmentalist claim that humans are mere parasites on the planet, a message related even in so-called “family films” like the recent Happy Feet.

Of course, this all flies in the face of the biblical command given by God that man should be fruitful and multiply.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Gen 1:27-28 (ESV)

Actually, God even had a second chance to get it right. Just in case He hadn’t realized the CO2 problem that would have resulted form all those kids, He could have started over after the Flood. But even after wiping out the whole of creation and starting again, he repeated the command.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 9:1 (ESV)

God clearly tells us that children are a blessing and reward:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV)

You would think that the Creator of the Universe would be smart enough to know how much CO2 emissions each of these little blessings would emit and whether or not they would “damage” the planet. You’d think He would have considered that before encouraging “quivers full” of the little guys.

Here’s a suggestion. Good Christian people of the world, be fruitful and multiply. Have as many of those blessings as God will allow. Bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord so they will be Christ honoring people.

And for the liberal environmentalist children haters, go ahead and listen to the OPT lies. In a generation we’ll out-number you!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

National Day of Prayer

One of my all time favorite books is called The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I use it as a devotional and often use some of its prayers in our worship services.

In recognition of today as the National Day of Prayer, I offer this prayer from that collection for myself, my family, my church and our nation:

Most High God,

The universe with all its myriad creatures is thine,
made by thy word,
upheld by thy power,
governed by thy will.

But thou art also the Father of mercies,
the God of all grace,
the bestower of all comfort,
the protector of the saved.

Thou hast been mindful of us,
hast visited us, preserved us,
given us a goodly heritage -
the Holy Scriptures,
the joyful gospel,
the Saviour of Souls,

We come to thee in Jesus’ name,
make mention of his righteousness only,
plead his obedience and sufferings
who magnified the law both in its precepts
and penalty, and made it honourable.

May we be justified by his blood,
saved by his life,
joined to his Spirit.

Let us take up his cross and follow him.

May the agency of thy grace prepare us for thy dispensations.

Make us willing that thou shouldest
choose our inheritance and
determine what we shall retain or lose,
suffer or enjoy;

If blessed with prosperity may we be
free from its snares,
and use, not abuse, its advantages;

May we patiently and cheerfully
submit to those afflictions which are necessary.

When we are tempted to wander,
hedge up our way,
excite in us abhorrence of sin,
wean us from the present evil world,

Assure us that we shall at last enter
Immanuel’s land where none is ever sick,
and the sun will always shine.

An Argument Against Alcohol

“Dad, why don’t we drink alcohol?”

“Because the Bible says in Proverbs 20:1 that ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.’”

“What does that mean, Dad?”

“It means that drinking makes you stupid, son.”

Case in point. Jeff Gordon won last weekend’s NASCAR race at Talladega; his second in a row and the 77th of his career, breaking the late Dale Earnhardt’s career total. Since Earnhardt won 10 of these races in Alabama, the faithful there took exception to Gordon’s surpassing their hero, and they rewarded him by tossing beer cans and other items onto the track. Drinking makes you stupid.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. A couple of years back Gordon defeated the legend’s son, Dale, Jr. at the same track and had a similar coronation display. This time, track officials even warned the fans prior to the race that such behavior would result in arrests. Yet the beer toss happened anyway; and indeed, 14 fans were arrested and banned for life from the Talladega Superspeedway.

The issue is not the fans' displeasure over Gordon; we’re all entitled to our opinions. But the beer barrage is not only in poor taste and shows poor sportsmanship; it is a danger to other fans, some of whom are children. Drinking makes you stupid.

The debate has been raging in SBC and MBC circles about the virtue or vice of alcohol. We’ve had the issue thrown in our face by some new church starts who think alcohol consumption is a non-issue and in fact even hold some of their Bible studies in bars and breweries.

The argument is that the Bible is neutral on the issue, sometimes holding up the virtue of drink, other times condemning its abuse. There is some validity to that on the face. But the issue runs deeper.

Scripture also says this:
Philippians 2:4 - Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 14:21 - It is good not to eat
meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

We live in a culture where alcohol is a problem for millions. They struggle with it’s effects in their lives and for us to take a casual approach to the issue may cause them to stumble. I have a friend who has that exact experience.

After years of sobriety, he attended a Sunday School gathering where alcohol was tolerated and even promoted. Seeing those he respected consuming alcohol broke down the barriers he had erected regarding the matter. As a result, he fell into sin. Drinking made him stupid.

Don’t misunderstand. This brother’s sin is his own. The SS class didn’t force him to do it. But their cavalier attitude toward drinking was in violation of both texts quoted above.

We need to open our eyes and quit pretending that we live in a culture in which we will never have to deal with brothers like this. They are everywhere. They are in our churches. They are obviously at the race track. Our Christian liberty needs to take a back seat to their best good. Abstaining from alcohol is the wisest choice for them and for us.

“Dad, why did those people do such a stupid thing? Someone could have gotten hurt?”

“You’re right, son. But remember ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.’”