Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Notable Quote ...

"Biblical preaching must always occupy the leading place of influence in the life of any church. At the core of any healthy congregation is a vibrant exposition of God's Word. Unfortunately, though, many pastors are turning away from the central role of expository preaching and doctrinal teaching. But in so doing, they fail to realize that new converts, first and foremost, need to be taught God's truth. As a result, many other things are competing with - and even replacing - the primary role of biblical preaching in the church. Christian concerts, drama, pageants, festivals, musicals, talk shows, and religious movies are establishing a greater foothold in the life of the contemporary church. Some of these activities may have a place in the church, but they must never compete with nor overshadow the Spirit-energized proclamation of God's Word within a church.

In diagnosing the hills of emphasis on these auxiliary methods, Martin Lloyd-Jones lamented, "All this at best is secondary, very often, not even secondary, often not worthy of a place at all ... The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God." He echoes the words of the chief pastoral voice of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, who declared, "The primary importance of the pastor is to be an expository preacher."

Evangelical churches desperately need to return to the primacy of the apostle's teaching. Preaching is the foremost responsibility of the preacher and the church."

Lawson, Steve. (2003). Famine in the land: a passionate call for expository preaching. Moody: Chicago. pgs. 33-34.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Amazing Grace Still Amazes Me

There has been a lot of attention paid recently to this great old hymn. The book by John Piper on the life of William Wilburforce and the recently released movie "Amazing Grace" has brought new attention to the hymn by John Newton. Newton was a friend and an influence on Wilburforce, who was a Minister of Parliament (MP). Newton had once been a captain of a slave trading ship but he was saved by God's "amazing grace." Wilburforce believed God had saved him during his public life to be an influence for good for the people of England. Newton and Wilburforce teamed up together with others to abolish the slave trade once and for all among the British people.

Newton knew the depth of his sin and depravity. He was thoroughly a five point Calvinist. He knew there was nothing good in him. Yet, he knew that God had saved him in spite of who he was. So he opens his great hymn with the words, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." We all know those words. But not many people today think of themselves as "wretches." In modern theology man has been becoming better and better. In much of today's preaching, man is a pretty good guy who God loves and wants to make into a better guy so that he can gives us happiness and contentment. But that is not the biblical gospel.

Grace is impossible to understand apart from a view of man's depravity. We are sinful in every part of ourselves. Our emotions, our wills, our bodies, our intellects, our thoughts, in short, there is no part of ourselves that is not stained by sin somehow. This is the definition of the Calvinist doctrine of "total depravity." To me, it is simply a Bible doctrine. Romans 3:10-18 and other passages show us what man is like apart from God. There is nothing good in me. Even now as a Christian I know how much I love my sin.

O, I know, I am supposed to hate sin. I do hate sin. I hate it and I hate myself when I find sin in me. But as Paul said in Romans 7, I find two laws at work in my members. There is a law of the Spirit that leads me to holiness and there is a law of sin seeking to please my flesh. They are always at war within me. I look around myself and I find many enticements to sin and I find that my flesh loves it so. Sometimes I enjoy logging onto a voice chat area on the Internet to talk with other Christians. Sometimes the topics are controversial and the discussion gets heated. Sometimes, we get mean with each other. In those moments it occurs to me that I cannot even talk about holy things with other Christians without using it as an occasion to sin. Yes, I hate sin, but my flesh loves it so.

In light of that I take to heart the verse in 1 John where the beloved apostle says "Behold what manner of love the Father has for us, that we should be called the sons of God." Isn't that true? Look how the Father loves us ... that he takes us rebellious, sinful, depraved, worldly creatures ... creatures who, even if we are saved, must offend Him with our sin, and yet He calls us His own dear children. Even while we were His enemies, according to scripture, He sent His Son to die for us. We are adopted into His family, into Christ, and have become partakers of the divine nature. We are inheritors of everything that is Christ's. One day, we will be mirror images of Jesus Himself. Wow! Amazing grace indeed!

I know my own sin. I know my failures and how easily my flesh turns aside from holiness towards sinfulness. But I also know the promises of God that He has given to me. That is why I still find grace to be amazing. Salvation is not a nebulous thing. It is a personal thing. So I can say look at how the Father loves me, personally .. that I should be called a child of God. That is why grace is still amazing to me.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cognitive Disconnection

When I was in grad school studying education I found I had a problem. I learned a great deal about being a better teacher but for all the knowledge in my head, I found I often failed to apply much of it to the classroom. I knew a lot, but I failed to use it. My professors said I suffered from a cognitive disconnect. I admit I have that problem. I suspect the Church suffers from it too.

It has been said that America is under judgment. Our failures in foreign policy, the lack of integrity and basic honesty in our politicians, the rise in crime and other factors all show us symptoms of God's hand of judgment falling on the nation. But it has been said that "as the Church goes, so goes the nation." If the nation is under judgment the Church is MORE under judgment. That is as it should be since "judgment begins at the house of God." And why wouldn't the Church in North America be under God's judgment? We have compromised the gospel, we have cheapened worship, we have changed the message of scripture until it is all about us. We have become worldly. We are weak, mean, biblically illiterate, smug, self centered, and complacent in our mediocrity. In my mind, the Church in North America is the best illustration for why salvation is by grace alone. If it depended on our works, there'd be no hope at all.

So, we say God is judging us, the Church. And we go on doing the same things we have been doing in the past. Nothing changes. THEN we study the great passages of scripture dealing with judgment like Isaiah 1 and 1 Chronicles 7 and we talk about it ad nauseum. But for all we do, we do nothing. We talk a good game but we are way short on delivery. In short, if we are under judgment then let us be judged.

Judgment is punitive when dealing with the reprobate. But it is restorative in dealing with His children. Read Isaiah 1 closely. The condemnations of God's people always turn to invitations to come back to a restored relationship with God. Verses 1 through 15 give way to verse 16. God invites us "Come let us reason together..." and that is a great passage unless we will not do it! If we are under judgment and the purpose of that judgment is to cause us to confess our sin (individually and corporately as a Church) and repent and turn from the sin that has turned God's hand against us, then isn't it time we admitted we are under judgment and that we started dealing with our sin?

Cognitive disconnection is knowledge divorced from application. Now, today, this moment is the time to have a cognitive connection ... a place of knowledge AND action.

A Proposal

I propose, to all who read this ... that we (whoever "we" may be) set part time on the Sunday before Easter Sunday this year, as a day of fasting and prayer. Let us spend time apart from food, with the intent time with God, to confess our failings and beg God to grant us mercy and to return to our churches, our families, our personal lives, and our nation .. with glory and power. He has done it in times past. I pray that we will beg Him to do it again. Let us turn away from mediocrity, worldliness, unholiness and every thing in our lives that battles against God and let us renew our surrender to Him completely. Ultimately, may we remember that we live to bring glory to God, first, last, beginning, end and always ... soli Deo gloria ... "To God alone be the glory!" That is how it should have been all along.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Onward Christian Soldiers ...

In the hum drum of every day life it is easy to forget that we are locked in a deadly spiritual battle. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that Prince of Preachers, reminds us correctly "The Christian life is a battlefield, not a playground." But we forget that. More than that, we seem to think that Satan limits his attacks to single forays into our lives, then we believe he backs away to look for another chance to attack us again. But that is not the way it is.

When I was in the Air Force, I studied Tae Kwon Do Korean fighting. I noticed this about the difference between the white belts (beginners) and the black belts (experts). The white belts would set themselves against each other then fire off an attack and back up to get set again. That is the way they fight. One technique each hoping to execute it fast enough to actually land it on their opponent. Black belts move around until they believe the moment is right then launch a barrage of techniques ... 5 ... 6 .. 10 ... a dozen until either they are countered or they score against their opponent or drive him backwards out of the fight. They attack and attack and attack until they get through.

That is the way Satan is. Our warfare is not limited to the occasional skirmish. It is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week barrage of assaults against our living holy lives. Satan and his demons are always attacking us and he never ever stops. Every minute of every day he is after us. He attacks us through our spouses, our children, our neighbors, our bosses, our employees, our circumstances, our TVs, our computers, our bills, our greed, our lusts, our emotions, even our good works are moments Satan tries to get a foot in the door to work against us. Nothing is off limits to him. he is a master of warfare, both open and covert. Nothing is too high or too holy for him to try to twist. Nothing is too low for him to use. He is vicious and plays by no rules.

Until we get this idea through our heads we are not going to be effective soldiers in the army of the Lord. We are sleepy and complacent. We need to be awake and alert. Woe to the soldier who is found sleeping on duty. Stop thinking like a white belt and realize the kind of opponent who is out to make you ineffective for the kingdom of Christ.

While Satan has hundreds of thousands of strategies, maybe millions available to him, there is only one strategy the Christian has that we know for will work against the wiles of the devil. James 4:7 says "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Only as we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, being obedient to Him do we find victory over the devil. The devil will do what he can to get us to commit unholy acts and fall into sin. Therefore, as we are obedient to God, growing in holiness and Christlikeness, then the devil will fail to defeat us. Here is the Christian secret to victory over the devil.

But make no mistake about it, just because we know how to win does not mean the devil will not try to keep us from achieving that victory. As I said before, he is always after us every second of time trying to lead us away from God. We, on the other hand, spend every second trying to grow to be more like Jesus. And that battle between sin and holiness rages on in vicious combat every second of our lives. Until we realize that, we will always be beaten because we are not (really) even in the fight. The true Christian soldier girds on the armor of God, takes his weapon in hand, and goes forth under the banner of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ ... Prophet, Priest, and King, and carries the name forward .. prevailing over the gates of hell. Everybody these days seems to talk about spiritual warfare. Isn't time we actually got in the fight and starting battling the enemy ... the real enemy? Hmmmmmmmmm?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

5 Contemporary Books

I confess I have learned so much from the Reformers and the Puritans. However, I am a contemporary man and I must also learn from those who live in my time. The following list of books are by authors who have been teachers to me. Of course, the list is by no means exhaustive, however, these are ones who have spoken to me deeply and in an extraordinary way. These are books I think every modern Christian (especially Baptists) ought to be familiar with.

1. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

2. Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur

3. The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever

4. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett

5. Revival!: A People Saturated with God by Brian Edwards

There are other books worthy of consideration and I could not list them all. But here are a few "honorable mentions" that are worth looking over...

1. Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill

2. By His Grace and For His Glory by Tom Nettles

3. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

4. The Forgotten Trinity by James White

5. Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby

6. The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper

7. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney

8. The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur

Many other authors have taught me and shaped my Christian life over the years, for example, David Wells, Albert Mohler, Justin Taylor, Phil Johnson to name a few. But the above books are ones that stand out in my mind. Read them if you have the chance to do so. May they touch your life as they have touched mine.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

5 Ancient Books

In my humble opinion, these are five old books that every Christian ought to be familiar with. These are not necessarily in any particular order.

1. The Confessions of St. Augustine.

2. The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther.

3. The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.

4. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen.

5. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

A few books that are worthy of attention that did not make my top list are:

1. The Glory of Christ by John Owen.

2. The Decades by Henry Bullinger.

3. Foxe's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe.

4. The End For Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards.

5. All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon.

6. The City of God by Augustine.

7. The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.

I am sure that this list if by no means complete in so far as the great books go. I am sure other people would include some I have left off and left off some I have added. But for me, these books helped define my beliefs and shape the religion I cling to today. These are books, which to me, every Christian ought to be familiar with.

What Are The 5 Points of Calvinism?

One of the most common errors of non-Calvinists is thinking that John Calvin wrote the so called 5 points of Calvinism. He did not. Calvin was long dead when Jacob Arminius died. It was the followers of Arminius who petitioned the Church of Holland to review 5 areas of doctrine which the Church taught and which Arminius' followers though were wrong. At the time, the doctrine of the Dutch Church was overwhelmingly Calvinistic. The Remonstrants, as they were called, presented a petition called the Remonstrance. In it, they believed these points were the biblical positions...

1. Partial depravity. That man is sick in sin, not dead in sin. There remained enough of the image of God in man that he can act to do the right and godly thing if he wanted to.

2. Conditional election. That God foresaw in history, who would choose to be saved and based on their foreseen good choices God chose them to be His elect people.

3. General atonement. Christ died for every human generally but no one in particular. Jesus' death made salvation possible but did not actually secure it for anyone. The death of Christ must be joined with man's faith to make it effectual for the individual.

4. Resistible grace. This is actually the starting point for Arminius' theology. The work of God in a person's life can be resisted by the human will. God's grace works to woo the sinner to Christ but cannot cause the sinner's will to do anything.

5. Conditional security. A believer remained as believer as long as faith remained in him or her. If the believer chose to deny the faith they had, they could choose to walk away from Christ and be ultimately lost.

The Dutch Church called a synod that met in the city of Dordtrecht, or Dort for short. They discussed the matter for some months and then issued what are called the Canons of Dort. There are 5 Canons, each one responding to one of the points of the Remonstrance. In the Canons, they affirmed the Calvinistic doctrine of the Church and declared the Arminian view to be heretical. They believed it robbed God of His rightful glory and exalted man. The Canons affirmed these teachings...

1. Total depravity. There is no part of the human being (emotions, will, body, intellect, etc.) that were untouched by the fall of Adam in the Garden. Therefore, man is totally unable to come to God through Christ without God helping and making it possible.

2. Unconditional election. God chooses whom He will save based on NO merit in the person. No works, seen or foreseen, influence God in His decision. Election is by God's merciful grace alone.

3. Limited atonement (particular redemption). Jesus died on the cross as an actual substitute to take the place of the people the Father has chosen to save. The salvation of these people are actually secured by Christ, not merely made possible.

4. Irresistible grace. The work of the Holy Spirit in the person's heart is so effective and powerful and Christ is so needed and desirable that the sinner is drawn to Christ as a moth to a flame. When the sinner is made aware of his or her true condition in God's eyes and see the desirableness of Christ as savior, they cannot resist Him but will come to Him.

5. Perseverance of the saints in God. Whom Christ died for God will keep to the end so that the one who is genuinely converted cannot ultimately be lost.

These are the 5 points of Calvinism, so called. They are remembered in English by the acrostic TULIP. They are an explanation of how God works in moving a person from being a sinner to a saint. Some have called these 5 points, the gospel. But they are not the gospel itself but an explanation of how the gospel works.

They are also called the doctrines of grace or the doctrines of sovereign grace. They also form the heart of what is called "Reformed theology", or Calvinism (the system).

This is a very short explanation of the 5 points of Calvinism. But there is so much misinformation floating around that it is good if someone explained the terms, even in a short way.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

God and Man in Salvation

“We are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what He produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are, in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” - Jonathan Edwards (quoted in John Piper The Supremacy of God in Preaching, Baker House: Grand Rapids (1990), pg. 94.