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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Helpful Perspective on ObamaCare and the Supreme Court Ruling

Along with most of America, I am deeply saddened by today's decision by the Supreme Court upholding "ObamaCare."  This is a slap in the face to the personal freedoms our ancestors fought and died for.  The US Constitution has been chucked once again by this administration and a runaway judiciary.

However, it's not the end of all things.  Christ is still King, first and foremost.  And on a more "temporal" note, this thing is far from over.  Many states have been hard at work preparing for this.  Here is an excellent response from Kerry Messer of Missouri Family Network.  He sent this as an email, and graciously allowed me to copy it here.  This applies to Missouri, obviously, but I'd urge you to check your own state legislature and see what's been happening there.  If nothing is happening, perhaps you should make some calls.

A Public Square Perspective on ObamaCare,
Its’ Impact on Missouri, and the
U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling
Today’s announcement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on ObamaCare serves as a reminder that we all owe a great debt of thanks to the majority of our members of the Missouri General Assembly.
Following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) at the federal level, citizens’ demands that the State establish protective measures immediately became the biggest grassroots outcry from every corner of Missouri.  This move by the federal government has sparked the biggest and longest sustained citizens’ reaction to the encroachment of federalism and socialism since the New Deal and threatens to unseat the Goldwater and Reagan legacies for activating a sleeping public. 
The President’s proposed health care takeover has brought the nation to the brink of an outright revolt.  In response, our elected representatives at the State level have passed several measures in attempts to prohibit or limit implementation of the PPACA in our home State.  Multiple bills have been introduced in the Missouri General Assembly by over a hundred lawmakers.  Over the past three years this issue has dominated the Capitol in Jefferson City like no other federal issue in well over a generation!
Among the many bills adopted by the State Legislature and placed into state statutes, Missouri was one of the first to adopt the “opt-out” provisions of the PPACA.  This enacted a law to prohibit any health care exchanges created to implement the federal healthcare bureaucracy in Missouri from providing abortion related services or coverage (SB 793, 2010).  Then we saw the Legislature propose a statewide ballot initiative known as Proposition C (HB 1764, 2010) to protect Missouri citizen’s right to select their own private health care insurance, which was passed by the voters with a whopping 71% approval. 
Just this year the Legislature passed SB 769 which included a provision prohibiting any state law from imposing a fine or penalty on a healthcare provider, hospital, or health care system for failure to participate in a health information organization.  And once again to help voters understand that the Missouri General Assembly is not submitting to intrusive federalism or ignoring the saber-rattling of voters, they passed SB 464 to allow voters to go to the polls this November and vote whether or not to prohibit the establishment of any federal health care exchange infrastructure through Gubernatorial executive order or any State agency actions.  This provision developed in the aftermath of various disclosures of attempts by the Obama administration and also by Governor Nixon to create such an infrastructure without legislative approval or oversight. 
And this brings us to SB 749, which has concerned citizens holding their breath as pro-life and pro-abortion forces square off in a phone calling dual.  As the federal “ObamaCare” allowed some “opt-out” provisions related to abortion coverage, newer HHS rules designed to implement the program has erupted into a major battle ground over revelations of provisions requiring private employers to provide abortion, contraception and sterilization coverage!  The Legislature responded by placing SB 749 on the Governor’s desk.  The bill seeks to override the federal mandates on these provisions, which are seen as an affront to religious liberties.  But Governor Nixon has until mid-July to sign or veto the bill.  This battle line has drawn thousands of Missourians to the public square, and now the governor’s office is the center of a huge tug-a-war between pro-life and pro-abortion phone campaigns urging Nixon to sign verses vetoing the bill. 
What happens in a few weeks is only guesswork, however no one can say that the Obama administration’s health care mandate is anything less than the biggest boondoggle for states like Missouri to wrestle with.  Today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in no way settles the debate.  A sleeping giant has already been awakened and the American people, including Missourians, are outraged. 
November 6th is the day to watch.  Today’s court ruling is the opinion of nine justices – but millions of voters will still get their day too!  This is why we remain the greatest nation on the face of the earth.  Now, if Christians will live out our mandate to be biblical Salt & Light on this issue as well as others, maybe God will hear from heaven and heal our land.  Edmond Burk said it best, “When America’s people cease to be good, America will cease to be great” (paraphrased).  
May today’s ruling remind you of the extreme importance of the August and November elections!  And in the meantime, thank all veterans for protecting your freedoms from external threats, and those many Missouri Lawmakers who have worked so hard to protect you from Washington! 

Kerry K. Messer
Missouri Family Network

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For Those “Head-Desk” Moments

Interesting title?  A bit confusing?  Let me ‘splain it.  (Stay with me, there’s a semi-profound point here).

Our daughters both love to write.  Actually they aren’t bad, either, both having various items published.  (If you’re interested you can check out samples of their writings: LoriAnn here, and Katrina here).  For the last several years they’ve both participated in National Novel Writers Month, or NaNoWriMo.  The goal is to complete a 50,000 word novel in the space of one month.  In case you don’t know, that’s a lot of words per day.

I love to read.  And so I’ve spent a bit of time reading some of the stuff the girls have written (when they let me), and Katrina’s efforts in last November’s NaNoWriMo is the source of this blog post title. 

She was writing along one evening, and here weariness and frustration obviously got the best of her.  But instead of stopping writing (since she needed to add to her “word count”), the frustration showed up in the story itself; the author inserts herself into the writing.  Here’s how it went, starting with the story, and then the author comes in the double parentheses…
“Nothing. Maybe I’m not awake yet either. We’re going home today so that Tsamber can light Da’s fires and Ma can interrogate us and Tsamber and Da can finish arrangements for you and…”
            Nikk remembered now, naturally.
            ((*head-desk. head-desk.* This is SOOOO dull.))
            So they packed up.
            And got ready to leave.
            Sugar crash. *ahem*, I mean…erm…anyhow…
            ((More words!

OK, so maybe you don’t see the humor there.  For me, reading along in the story and then seeing in my mind my daughter pounding her head on her desk in frustration; I thought it was funny.  So this idea:  Head-Desk, Head-Desk, has become sort of a little family joke on frustrating moments.(I've since learned that this is a much more widely known expression for frustration, stupidity, etc.  I'm a little slow catching up on these things)

Personally, I can identify.  Just a week or so ago I posted about my Monday morning frustrations, feeling like I spent the previous day preaching to a brick wall.  Head-Desk!

Or dealing with folks who are old enough that they should be maturing in their faith, but they act like spiritual (and sometimes even physical) infants.  Head-Desk.

Or dealing with the person who is caught, again, in the same sin they’ve been in repeatedly.  Head-Desk.

You get the idea.  Frustration and weariness.  Please don’t hear me being overly judgmental.  I take seriously my role as pastor/teacher, and it’s just so frustrating to feel like you’re teaching and no one’s listening, no one is growing, we’re covering the same ground over and over. Head-Desk! Head-Desk!

But then…then I’m reminded of how God must see me.  Oh my goodness.  When He sees me falling into those same sinful thoughts and attitudes time and again.  When He sees me drift into laziness in my study time.  When He teaches me truth in His Word, only to have me walk away and forget it, and then He has to teach me again.  Do you think God has a bit of a Head-Desk moment?  (Wouldn’t that be frightening?!?  Can you imagine the earth shattering effect of God banging His head on a divine desk??)

However, God doesn’t look at my sin and think “Head-Desk.”  Instead, He saw my sin and thought “Hammer-Nail-Hand.”  He thought “Spear-Side.”  Or as Paul puts it in Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)

Oh the glorious grace of our great God!  What a joyous remembrance!  And what a wonderful reminder for those “Head-Desk” moments.  If God has shown so much love and grace to me, if He can continue to show so much patience with me, how can I not also demonstrate love and grace and patience with my fellow sinners?  

I’m not saying we should be satisfied in our sin.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t still seek more maturity and more growth and more Christ-likeness in ourselves and in each other.  God tells us to be holy and He is holy, and we should strive for that in our own lives and seek it in the lives of our brothers and sisters.

But just maybe, the point here is that when we come to those moments of frustration because of a lack of that growth and holiness, instead of thinking “Head-Desk” maybe we should remember “Hammer-Nail-Hand” and it should lead us to “Knees-Floor.”  Just a thought. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Meaning of 23

People often attach meanings to words, phrases, and symbols.  There are even those who attach meaning to numbers.  As you may know, gematria is a system which assigns numerical value to a word or phrase and then attaches meaning to it.  

According to one website which looks at such things, the number 23 has meaning in that it is the number of letters in the verse "And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light." || ויאמר א-להים יהי אור ויהי אור – Genesis 1:3.

Not sure what meaning comes from that, but…

Another site records these associations with the number 23:

-At the moment of his assassination, Caesar was stabbed 23 times.

-The circulation of the blood through all the human body takes 23 seconds.

-The number of articulation in the human arm is 23.

-The 23 axioms of the geometry of Euclid.

-The 23 days of the "physical" cycle in the biorhythm.

-The ovule and the spermatozoon are composed both of 23 chromosomes.

-The number 23 is used 14 times in the Bible.  (So…???)

-The words leprous, dragon and blasphemy are used 23 times in the Bible. (Eeww, not so great)

According to another site with some rather New Age leanings, The most common trait found within the Number 23 is the ability to adapt and change.

Here’s my favorite definition of the number:  “Twenty-three: the cardinal number that is the sum of twenty-two and one.”  Now, that’s something to hang your hat on.

Well, for me 23 has significant meaning today.  I know it’s the 24th, but it was on this day 23 years ago that this woman
 entered into a covenant relationship with this lug nut
(Yes, she married a long-haired Zorro wanna be who drove a Ford Pinto. Makes you wonder about her sanity, doesn't it?)

So, for me, 23 measures the span of time in which this wonderful, godly woman has endured a life of the challenges unique to ministry.  23 years of listening to her husband try and preach; of smiling while church people occasionally mistreated her; of making the most of often less than adequate financial means, never complaining about any of it.   

23 is the number of the trips around the sun we’ve taken together, during which time God sent four little lives into our world that totally reshaped us.  Though I hate to give any credence at all to the numerology nuts, that idea of adapt and change certainly applies.  

I could go on, but the “sum” is this: 23 represents the number of years of extreme blessing God has poured down on me through my beautiful wife.  Like all things of grace, I don’t deserve her.   I can never thank Him enough, or thank her enough for that matter.  So I’ll simply say: 

Happy Anniversary, Cheryl.   
I love you now more than ever and 
look forward to every day God gives me with you!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Not Your Father's SBC

Many of you may be aware that the Southern Baptist Convention met for its annual meeting this past week.  You may also know that it has been called an “historic” meeting because we elected the first African American president.  Since the convention’s founding dates just prior to the Civil War, and since we came from the Southern end of things, people have for years acted as if somehow the SBC was the KKK or something.  So this is a big deal.

For me, personally, I detest racism in any form, and in one sense focusing on Dr. Fred Luter as the “first African American president of the SBC” instead of simply a godly man called to lead our convention has its own little racist quality.  Still, I’m happy for him, happy for the SBC, and this “first” is a good thing overall.

My problem with the state of the SBC has nothing to do with race, but rather where we take our stands theologically.  One resolution that was introduced for adoption was called On Biblical Scholarship And The Doctrine Of Inerrancy.

In part it said: RESOLVED, That we affirm our belief specifically in the direct creation and historicity of Adam and Eve and in a literal, space-time fall of mankind into sin.

One messenger got up and asked that we add a phrase to the resolution, so that it would say something like “we affirm our belief specifically in the direct creation of all matter in six twenty four hour days and....” Sorry if that’s not exact, I was listening online and since the amendment was defeated, I have no written version.  That’s right, the amendment was defeated.  Spoken against by the resolutions committee and then defeated by the convention as a whole.  

So, in essence, what the resolution says is that we believe the Bible to be true and without error, except for Genesis 1.  The committee’s response to the amendment was that there are those within our ranks who disagree over the meaning of Genesis 1, which I assume means there are those who believe in evolution, and so we don’t want to use to restrictive language.

God created the heavens and the earth, various things on each of six “days” Genesis 1 says, and at the end of each we read that “it was evening and it was morning, the first day” or the second day, etc.  Evening and morning implies one actual day.  Six specific days are listed.  But even though we say we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, we can’t say we believe in a literal six day creation.

The only reason not to believe what the text says is if we are trying to placate that brand of “science” which claims that life came over millions of years.  For life to have happened over that time would require death and decay for those millions of years, which means there was death before sin, even though sin was the cause of death.

Furthermore, God created all things and called it good.  If there was already death and decay, ergo sin, then how could it be called good.  The plain reading of the Genesis text is that God created all things in a six day period, that man fell into sin bringing death to himself and to all creation, that death and decay then happened bringing creation to its current state of being.  

At one time, Southern Baptists believed in a God capable of doing exactly what He says He did in Scripture.  We used to believe the text was the truth.  We used to say that ALL Scripture is God breathed, inerrant.  Now, we apparently believe it only becomes inerrant after Genesis 1.

The SBC has truly come a long way.  Electing an African American president is a wonderful step in the right direction.  Too bad we turned around and where it really counts took a major step in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Just Go Outside

In the spirit of the "ad", I'm not going to add anything else to the blog today.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Morning Minister’s Meditation

No one except another pastor can truly understand what Monday mornings are like in ministry.  I know that some folks will never understand how physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually taxing Sundays can be.  Not because we don’t love God’s people and love worship and love fellowship, etc.  All of those are great positives. 

But for those who take seriously the proclamation of God’s Word, and do so on a regular basis, Sundays are “hard work.”  Most of us put a lot of prayer, study and effort into preparing Sunday messages.  Our hearts go into those things.  We speak God’s Word with both joy and fear in our hearts: joy because of the great privilege, fear because of the great responsibility.

Sometimes, the Word is received with great joy and amazing response.  If we’re honest, much more often the response is less enthusiastic.  Speaking only for myself, it’s extremely discouraging to pour your heart into a message, only to have people whispering and giggling through it, or watching cute babies instead of listening, or any host of other distracted actions.  At the end, it occasionally feels as though I’ve spent the last half hour pleading with a brick wall.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not just whining (although maybe a little).  People come into church on Sunday with a week’s worth of baggage: life and death and illness and family and job and on and on.  I understand, and I even sympathize.  I don’t expect “revival” every Sunday.  Quite honestly, I know my limitations as a preacher and I’m amazed when anyone listens at all.

But I’m also just a man, and weariness and discouragement and even self-pity creep their way into my heart just like anyone else’s.  And because I truly believe the things I’m proclaiming, I want more than anything for these truths to be received and embraced and I’m frustrated when it seems to fall on deaf ears.  (OK, so maybe I am just whining).

Anyway, all of this is just to say that I’ve been encouraged over the years by this prayer from the Valley of Vision.  This wonderful collection of Puritan prayers is an inspiration to many, and at the end is a series of prayers designated for certain days.  I’ve always found it profoundly appropriate that the prayer assigned for Monday morning (Second Day Morning) centers on the Sovereignty of God in all things.

On Monday mornings I need this wonderful reminder that all things are in God’s hands, His eternal plans are far beyond my little corner of the world, He has already done so much, and He is still at work, sovereignly moving all things according to His plans for His glory.

So, the whining is the backdrop.  Here’s the prayer. I hope it's an encouragement for you whoever you are.

O God All-Sufficient,

Thou hast made and upholdest all things
           by the word of thy power;
   darkness is thy pavilion,
   thou walkest on the wings of the wind;
   all nations are nothing before thee;
   one generation succeeds another,
   and we hasten back to the dust;
   the heavens we behold will vanish away
     like the clouds that cover them,
   the earth we tread on will dissolve
     as a morning dream;
But thou, unchangeable and incorruptible,
   art for ever and ever,
   God over all, blessed eternally.
Infinitely great and glorious art thou.
We are thy offspring and thy care.
Thy hands have made and fashioned us.
Thou hast watched over us with
     more than parental love,
     more than maternal tenderness.
Thou hast holden our soul in life,
   and not suffered our feet to be moved.
Thy divine power has given us all things
   necessary for life and godliness.
Let us bless thee at all times and forget not
     how thou hast
   forgiven our iniquities,
   healed our diseases,
   redeemed our lives from destruction,
   crowned us with lovingkindness and
     tender mercies,
   satisfied our mouths with good things,
   renewed our youth like the eagle’s.
May thy Holy Scriptures
   govern every part of our lives,
   and regulate the discharge of all our duties,
   so that we may adorn thy doctrine
     in all things.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Real Men: In Honor of Father’s Day

I plan to share with our church this Sunday how much I dislike Father’s Day.  Not that I don’t like the cards, and the nice gifts the kids have made me over the years.  Being a self-centered sinner like anyone, I like being the center of attention, so I like that part of Father’s Day.

What I don’t like is the fact that as I prepare to address God’s people on that day I usually seek to find a way to apply our text to fathers, reminding us of our duty before God.  And as I study what Scripture has to say to fathers, I realize this:  my role model as a father is God, and my role model as a husband is Jesus.  No pressure, right?

So I dislike Father’s Day in part because as I study up on the topic, I’m reminded of far short I fall of those perfect examples.  I’m reminded of my weakness, my failure of being the Christ-like model to my family I should be.  And I’ll make resolutions to do better, which often turn out like most New Year’s resolutions; they last a few months and then…

In the end, though, I’m reminded of this.  I’m a sinner.  I’m imperfect.  And though that should never be used as an excuse for complacency, the reality is that as I look at the perfect example of Christ I’m always going to fall short.  Yet that shouldn’t discourage me to the point of just giving up. It should continue to motivate me to seek Him more.

So, while we’ll never be husbands and fathers that match up to the perfect example of our Heavenly Father and our Bridegroom, we can still push forward in His power seeking to be Real Men.  And by that I’m not talking about the naked, hairy man, grunting sort of thing.  I’m talking about being a Real Man by biblical standards.  What’s that?  Well, here’s the picture of being a real man. (Thanks to the folks at Raising Godly Children for the great picture)
 This is it.  Perfection will never come.  But being a Real Man means…

1. Seeking God in His Word.  We have to be in the Word of God, seeking Him, growing into His image and likeness.  I don’t care how big and tough, or how rich and smart you are, men.  If you aren’t a man of God, seeking His Word and applying to your heart regularly, you’re not a Real Man.  It’s that simple. And one of the reasons that’s so important is because of that second characteristic in the above picture…

2. Teaching Your Children.  John Bunyan wrote to men saying: “First, concerning the spiritual state of his family; he ought to be very diligent and cautious, doing his utmost both to increase faith where it is begun, and to begin it where it is not.  Therefore, he must diligently and frequently bring before his family the things of God, from His Holy Word, in accordance with what is suitable for each person.  And let no man question his authority from the Word of God for such a practice.” 

Teaching your kids to throw a ball is great.  Teaching them to hunt is fantastic. Teaching them about cars or computers or whatever your thing is a wonderful way to spend your time.  But if you neglect to teach them the Word of God, you have neglected the most important thing you could ever teach.  We don’t need more highly educated kids, we need more godly men and women, and then will come as Real Men teach their children the things of God.  And then…

3.  Loving Your Wife.  Real Men don’t take their wives for granted, don’t “lord” their authority over them, don’t neglect them in favor of longing after airbrushed images of other women or the latest thing to walk in at work.  Real Men love their wives, as Christ loved the church: sacrificially, voluntarily, unconditionally.

This is not only for the sake of ourselves and our wives, but for the sake of our witness to Christ.  Larry McCall writes that “To some degree what the world thinks of Christ and the church will come from what they see in us.  They will see how our marriages mirror His relationship with His church as the ultimate marriage prototype.”

We’ll never be perfect.  We’ll never fully reflect the model of our Heavenly Father or our Loving Bridegroom.  But we can, by His power at work within us, still seek to be Real Men and encourage each other to do the same.  So celebrate this Father’s Day by knowing that you may not be perfect, but you are the man God placed in your family to reflect Him.  So do it with all you have, and give God all the glory.

Monday, June 11, 2012

God as a “Red Faced Lover”

Every now and then you come across a description of God that doesn’t seem to “fit.”  We all have our ideas about who God is, how He works, and so on.  And when something happens that doesn’t fit our “box” we might cringe at first.   But sometimes, it’s God Himself who is telling us this particular truth, and so whether it fits our “box” or not doesn’t really matter.

As the class I teach continues to study 2nd Corinthians, we came to the 11th chapter where Paul tells the church that he “feels a divine jealousy” for them.  For most of us, “divine” and “jealous” may not seem to fit.  We see jealousy as a negative emotion stemming from mistrust, insecurity, etc.  Yet Paul’s comment points out that not only does he feel jealousy in a way that’s not sinful, but it’s God’s jealousy.  That’s right, God is jealous.

In fact, more than just an occasional emotion on His part, jealousy is actually a defining characteristic of our God.  We like to think in terms of “God is love” or even “God is holy;” but jealous? 

Well, according to Deuteronomy 4:24 and 6:14-15 He is.  According to Ezekiel 8:3 He is.  According to Exodus 20:4-5 He most certainly is.  And according to Exodus 34:14 God not only is Jealous, but His very name is Jealous. 

Sam Storms, in his study on 2nd Corinthians, puts it like this:  This is no momentary or sporadic or infrequent or occasional bust of anger or minor irritation in the heart of God’s heart.  This is no passing twinge in God’s mind.  This is the incessant, intensely persistent burning in the heart of the infinitely powerful, uncreated God.  In the ancient Near East, the word for ‘jealousy’ literally meant to become intensely red, a reference to the effects of anger on one’s facial complexion.  Jealous in God is not a ‘green-eyed monster’ but a ‘red-faced lover’ who will brook no rivals in his relationship with his people.

Wow; a red-faced lover?  Actually, that seems to fit with the rest of what we read about God’s passionate love for His people.  Over and over again our relationship is described as husband and wife; Christ is even called the Bridegroom and we are His Bride. 

In fact, God uses some pretty strong language when referring to the unfaithfulness of His people.  When His Bride goes after any other God, shows any other allegiance other than to our Bridegroom, God calls it what it is: He says “they played the whore in their deeds” (Psalm 106:39).  That word, that image, is used over and over again.  God indeed is a passionately jealous lover.

So what are we to do with that idea of God?  J. I. Packer in his classic Knowing God includes a chapter on God’s jealousy and he concludes with these two practical lessons.

1.  The jealousy of God requires us to be zealous for God.  As our right response to God’s love for us is love for him, so our right response to his jealousy over us is zeal for him.  His concern for us is great; ours for him just be great too… God’s people should be positively and passionately devoted to his person, his cause and his honor.

I wonder if most of us in the church have that sort of absolute zeal for God, like a wife’s passionate devotion to her husband.  Is our zeal for his glory, or for our own comfort, popularity, etc.  When we chase the gods of comfort and popularity and success and whatever else, we prostitute ourselves and our God sees us with the red-faced passion of a man walking in on his wife and her adulterous lover.  Not a nice image, not one we often think of perhaps, but a true and biblical image.  Which leads to Packer’s other practical lesson.

2.  The jealousy of God threatens churches which are not zealous for God.  The Lord Jesus once sent a message to a church very much like some of ours – the complacent church of Laodicea – in which he told the Laodicean congregation that their lack of zeal was a source of supreme offense to him.  “I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”  Anything would be better than self-satisfied apathy! “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth…Be zealous therefore, and repent. (Rev. 3:15-16, 19 KJV)

Do we have that zeal for God?  Does God see us, our church, as a “whoring” wife; a lukewarm mouthful worth only spitting out?  Or are we truly living faithfully for His glory, His honor in all things?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to rouse God’s jealousy, even though I know I probably often do.  I for one am praying for strength to be faithful to the one who made me, loves me, and redeemed me.  And as a pastor, I’m praying to lead our church in the same way, so as Paul said, we can present ourselves as a pure Bride to our Bridegroom.  And I pray the wedding feast comes soon!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Homeschooler Moment #12

Being a preacher's kid must be one of the hardest jobs on the planet; right after preacher's wife.  Add in being a homeschooler and the pressure is really on (or as someone told our oldest daughter: "You're really on the fringe!).

Of course, the one thing that might be harder than all those is to be the Preacher/Dad.  I've always felt this great pressure to live up to certain standards, knowing my wife and kids were watching and listening and evaluating me as I preach each week.  I didn't realize how much I was being watched and evaluated until recently.

We always put "fill in the blank" outlines in our church bulletin to encourage our folks to take notes during the message.  It's not that I think I'm saying anything worth remembering, it's just I figure if folks are busy writing they might be less bored.  Anyway...

Last Sunday, our seven-year-old decided to forgo the printed outline and do the whole thing himself in his ever present notebook.  He always has a notebook in which he draws, writes stories, develops baseball teams' starting lineups, etc.  This time he took notes during the evening service.  

Below is a scanned copy of his notes.  While he did a very good job printing out each of the points (even adding an extra point for me!),  the thing I want to call to your attention is the "rating" scale at the bottom.  When I saw that, and which box was checked, I let out a big sigh of relief.  I guess I'd better be on my toes in the future!

PS - The note at the bottom is also a good sign.  He says the "notes" are things I need to fix.  Fortunately for this sermon, apparently it didn't need any "fixing."  Whew!

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Two Cents re: "A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation"

Actually, two cents might be overestimating the value of this, but a couple folks asked for my response, so here it is.

You may or may not be aware of this “statement” regarding the nature of salvation, but it purports to be the view of the “majority” of Southern Baptists.  In short, it wants to show how anti-“Calvinist” Southern Baptists are by denying what it labels as a Calvinistic understanding of salvation.  The statement consists of several articles which combined simply deny God’s sovereignty in salvation.

I don’t have time, or heart to be honest, to respond point by point.  Tom Ascol is writing a series of articles doing that and I’d encourage you to read those if you’re interested.  As for me, here is a brief overview response (it is only two cents worth, remember).

1.  This statement is unhelpful.  It leans on labels and labels, while sometimes useful, are ultimately unhelpful.  Calvinism is the big word we’re supposedly against here.  But as a friend of mine once said, labels like Calvinist are “bag words.”  If I give you a bag with the logo of Chik-fil-a on the outside and ask if you want to eat it, if you’re smart you’ll refuse.  As big a fan of the chicken sandwich as you may be, you may want to see what I’ve actually packed into the bag before you agree to eat it.

Labels are the same.  What you mean by Calvinist may be different that what I mean, which in turn is different than someone else.  I could say that the author of this statement is Arminian and even Semi-Pelagian, and I could believe it to be true.  But in fact, the author is probably no more a “follower” of Jacob Arminius or Pelagius than I am of John Calvin. And honestly, most folks don't know who Arminius or Pelagius even are, and truly don't know Calvin either.  We just know the "bag word" associations with them.  Unhelpful.

I like the way the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon put it.  I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist...I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist…but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply — “It is Jesus Christ.”

To build a straw man which you call Calvinist and then knock it down is unhelpful, and quite frankly dishonest.

2.  This statement is unnecessary.  Southern Baptists already have a statement of faith.  It’s called the Baptist Faith and Message and you can go to the official Southern Baptist website and read it.  If you want further comment on that statement, you can go to the bottom of that page at the official Southern Baptist website and read a series of “commentary” articles written by various SBC folks.  

Our official statement of faith wasn’t written by one or two people and posted on the internet.  It was hashed out by a committee, then presented to and approved by the Convention as a whole.  It’s based on a string of historical documents which Baptists have produced, most notably the New Hampshire Confession and the Second London Confession.  Read those documents if you want to know what historic Baptist principles are.

And if you do read our current BF & M statement regarding salvation, you’ll read things like this from Article V: Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

Ah yes, that dreaded word “election.”  It’s a shame the Bible has to use that word, isn’t it; and cause all this consternation about “Calvinism.”  Again, we have a statement of faith and don’t need a “petition” drive to form a new one.

3.  This statement is unhealthy.  As I just said, this amounts to nothing more than a petition.  It’s written/promoted in part by one who is running for office in the SBC.  It’s been released just prior to the national Convention meeting and asks people to “sign on” if you agree.  It amounts to nothing more than politicking.  If someone were to post online a rival petition extolling the virtues of the Baptistic understanding of the Doctrines of Grace, we could likewise garner a host of signatures of equal “standing” in SBC life.  

All this statement does is polarize and divide.  It uses labels and straw men to define “them” and places “us” in opposition.  All that can result from such efforts is division, and unless I’m in error because of my “Calvinistic” interpretation, Romans 16:17 says “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”  

4. This statement is unbiblical.  Again, I don’t want to go into a line by line response, but the overall nature of the articles in this statement outright denies the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.  Here it is in its own words: We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.  We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.

Do you see that?  We deny that Christ’s sacrifice achieved anything unless you add the faith of the individual to it.  So Christ’s claim on the cross that “it is finished” means nothing.  He didn’t achieve salvation, apparently, but only the potential to be saved if you really believe hard enough.  Heresy! 

The statement denies original sin as well.  Here is it: We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.

You aren’t born into sin, according to this.  You are only guilty after you sin yourself at some point.  Folks, this is outright heresy, denying thousands of years of Christian orthodoxy.  

Well, I’ll let you read the rest for yourself, and again read Tom Ascol’s responses if you’re interested.  But that’s the summary. This statement is unhelpful, unnecessary, unhealthy and frankly unbiblical.  If Southern Baptists are wise, it will also go unheeded.  Yet, given this day and age where emotion and hype and feel good theology often trumps sound biblical doctrine, I have a feeling that wisdom may not appear.  

This is a sad, sad day for Southern Baptists.  We have such a rich heritage of sound theology and worldwide missions, seeking that the name of Jesus be exalted among the nations.  I can’t help but see this sort of thing as harmful to both.  

As for me and my house, we will continue to serve the Lord, continue to teach the Doctrines of Grace as so clearly presented in Scripture, and continue to seek His glory in all things.  Soli Deo Gloria. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sad and Speechless

By now most of you are no doubt aware of the "statement" made by a handful of people claiming to represent all traditional Southern Baptists.  Aside from the fact that they don't, by far, and that this statement is nothing but a straw man to build division, I don't know what the point is. 

I have been trying to decide what I want to say in response to this, but right now I'm just sad and speechless.  This statement is historically and biblically inaccurate, mean-spirited and just plain divisive.  I don't know what these folks are after.  I guess it's just part of that depraved sinful nature that makes us like to stir things up.  Oh, wait, I'm sorry.  I guess my "calvinist" beliefs colored my thinking.  Maybe they aren't really depraved after all. 

Anyway, I may still come up with something worthwhile to say about all this.  In the meantime, here are some good words from our friend Gregg at Gospel Driven Disciples.