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 Taz.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Is The SBC Worth Saving?

Recently, there has been a lot of speculation about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. Since the close of the San Antonio meeting this speculation has increased. Many have noted the strife and seeming division within the Convention and are asking "is it worth it?" It is a good question and one worth answering.

All Southern Baptist churches are independent Baptist churches. Each one is an autonomous organization. The one thing that binds all SBC churches together as SBC churches is their giving to the Cooperative Program of the SBC. The Cooperative Program is how the SBC funds it's various agencies. When people in church put money in the offering place, they are not only paying their pastor and working to keep their churches bills paid, but they are helping to fund the work of the SBC. So the question is worth asking, is it worth sending our money to the SBC? My answer is "yes."

Yes, the SBC is worth saving. That being said, it begs the question "why?" That is what I am going to answer in this post.

I have already said that the Cooperative Program is the vehicle by which the SBC funds it's various agencies. Churches who contribute to the Cooperative Program (hereafter called the "CP"), help to fund the work of these agencies. Those agencies include a lobbying arm in Washington D.C., six seminaries, two mission boards, a publishing arm, and the Executive Board who works the Convention's business between annual meetings.

Our SBC seminaries are world class institutions of higher learning. They are led by godly men who are scholars of the first rank. They have the task of training the leaders in our churches and also training those who, in turn, will teach the later generations of Southern Baptists. Funding our seminaries is an investment in the future, not only of the SBC, but of Evangelicalism in general. Our seminaries stand shoulder to shoulder with other historically orthodox seminaries and universities in keeping the faith once and for all delivered to the saints alive. The quality of teaching (not to mention the timeless truths themselves) must not perish from the earth but be preserved and perpetuated. For this reason, the funding to our seminaries must continue.

Between them, our two mission boards field over 10,000 missions in North America and around the world. Southern Baptists believe that no one will be saved who does not hear the gospel and believe it. Therefore, we must be about preaching the gospel to every creature. In Revelation we are told God is drawing to Himself people from every tongue, tribe, nation, and people group. Therefore, we must get the gospel to people of every tongue, tribe, nation, and people group. That is the work of our missionaries. They are willing to give up everything, sometimes their own lives, to see that missions mandate fulfilled. Our mission boards make it possible for them to do their work by making sure that earthly matters do not distract them from their heavenly task. In other words, Southern Baptist missionaries are paid through the mission boards. That way they know they will have money to live on. Without that worry hanging over them, they can devote themselves to seeing the gospel message reach the most number of people. In my opinion, the Southern Baptist Convention is the best organization on earth for reaching the world with the gospel. That being so, we must keep funding our mission boards, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB).

I will stop with these two examples. I could go on about each of the Convention agencies and tell why it is important for each of them to continue the work they do. But these two are enough to make my point. Let me say, if these two types of agencies (our seminaries and our mission boards), they alone would be enough to make my point.

It is the SBC that makes the funding of these agencies possible through the CP. This organization that binds us all together makes it possible to train the best evangelical leaders, pastors, theologians, scholars, and missionaries. It is what makes it possible to field over 10,000 missionaries around the world. It is the SBC that is the central point, the hub, around which everything else spins. It is the central collection point for CP money that is disburse to our SBC agencies for use in continuing their work.

That is why the SBC is worth saving. It makes so much work possible. As the motto of our flagship seminary states, "For the Church; For the World; For the Glory of God." That excites my heart. That is why I am a Southern Baptist. That's why there should always be Southern Baptists. And that is why the SBC is worth saving.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A House ... For All Nations

In the book of Isaiah the Lord tells us that His house will be known as a "house of prayer for all nations." In the Old Testament, that message applied to the temple. In the New Testament that message corresponds to the Church. In Revelation we are told that the Lord is gathering His people from every "tongue, tribe, nation, and people" on the earth. In short, the Lord is creating one new man from every people on earth. Our churches ought to reflect that.

But many times they do not. More often than not, our churches tend to be homogenous, that is to say, that are all of one type of people.

If we are serious about seeing the Lord's plan for His Church we need to see our churches reflect the diversity of heaven. That means getting way out of our comfort zones. Our churches ought to be known as houses where everyone can come, truly and without reservation, to find the word of God and the good news of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. It means being open to people who are radically different from ourselves. I am not only talking about racial diversity here but also diversity in all it's forms.

I am not trying to be funny. Not only should our churches reflect a great diversity in race, but also in types of people who are in the church. Rich people and poor, janitors and lawyers, saints and sinners, every type of person should be found within the walls of our churches. Anything less is falling short of the Lord's intention for us. Church ought to be church for everybody.

It is important, in these present days, that we stop being comfortable and start being the Christians God has called us to be. That means being comfortable with all the people the Lord is dealing with. It means opening our churches to any one who feels called to be there. It means being a congregation of Christians. Red and yellow, black and white, they are (all) precious in His sight. Right?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Preaching the Gospel to Every Creature

Jesus said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. Have you ever wondered why that is? Jesus also said that he came to save sinners and not the righteous. Yet, the Bible tells us that there are none righteous ... no, not one. Is this a contradiction?

When I first learned how to witness about my faith to other people I learned that before a person can get saved, they have to get lost. Now, we know that every human is born lost, and so, no one has to "get lost" first. But they do have to come to realize that they are sinners in need of a savior. Many, many people in today's world think they are righteous enough to satisfy God. They honestly do not believe they have anything to be saved from. They are "righteous" in their own eyes. For people like this, salvation comes only through great difficulty. It is difficult because the person does not think (at least at the start) that they need it.

I notice in the Bible, that almost all of the encounters Jesus had with those who were rich and powerful did not go well. On the other hand, there were people who seemed to be extraordinarily tender to the message Jesus preached. They were the people who knew they were sinners. Jesus spent a great deal of time with them. When people wanted to accuse Jesus he was accused of being a "friend to sinners." He included a tax collector and a zealot among his personal disciples. He preached to the publicans, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the unclean ... all those the religious establishment wouldn't touch. And the religious leaders hated him for it.

The good news of the gospel is that God saves sinners. He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die as a substitute for sinners, so that every sinner who comes to Jesus, believing who He is and what He did for them personally, would be saved from God's judgment and be clothed in the very righteousness of Jesus Himself. But ask "who comes to Jesus?" The ones who know they are sinners and who stand in need of a savior. The sinners.

If we want to see people come to Jesus ... if we want to sin souls like Jesus won souls ... if we really want to adopt Jesus' own methods of evangelism ... we need to be found among the sinners. There are no shortage in our day of prostitutes, drug addicts, gang bangers, alcohol abusers, and others who would never be touched by the religious "Christians" of our day. But someone who has the eyesight of Jesus, who looked on the crowds and was moved with compassion, needs to be willing to carry the life changing message of faith in Jesus Christ to them.

It is hard to do it. The sinners will not love you for being straight with them. You may be abused and rejected by the very people you are hoping to see saved. The religious people around you will not like you either. First, your faith in going to the lost is a rebuke to their empty Christianity. Second, they will call you a "friend of sinners" and try to shun you and exclude you from their religious gatherings.

Being a friend of sinners will cost you. It may cost your reputation. It may cost you money. It may cost you your position in your church. In some cases, it may cost you your life. Don't go into this kind of activity with rose colored glasses on. Count the cost, as Jesus said.

For me, I am not ashamed of the label "friend of sinners." The Lord who carried the sins of this wretched sinner in his own body to the cross for me ... he wore the same label. That is exactly what they called him too. So let them call me a friend of sinners. It puts me into the very best of company. When people look at you and examine your Christianity, what do they call you? There are worse labels to be called than to be a "friend of sinners." Don't you think?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Don't Waste Your Life

John Piper wrote an excellent book by the same title but in this post I do not want to go into Piper's book. I have something else in mind. I just want to remind my readers of a few important truths.

Scripture tells us, in the book of James, that we are not guaranteed to live to see tomorrow. James says that is we say "Next week or next month we will do such and such a thing" then we are living in presumption. We are presuming that we will be here on the earth to do those things. Instead, he says, we ought to say "If the Lord wills we will do such and such a thing." God has our days numbered and if He wills that we are here in the future then we can do those things we plan to. However, we are finite, limited humans and we do have the knowledge or the foresight of God. Any one of us could die tonight and never see the sun rise tomorrow.

If we live in the knowledge of our mortality we will learn to live our lives with meaning. Just think that every act you commit might be your last. The words you speak to your wife, husband or children may be the last they ever hear from you. Every kiss may be your last. Every sunrise, every job you do. Beloved, don't waste your life. Savor your life, every moment. Make each day count for time and for eternity. Live in a way that, if you had to face Jesus tonight, you would not be ashamed of what you were doing when the final moment came.

Remember this biblical truth .. that it is appointed unto men to die once and after this, the judgment. The moment of your physical death seals your eternal destiny. If you're not in Christ then don't wait any longer. Look to Jesus, the one who died in place of sinners. Believe that he is the God-man come from heaven to die in your place for your sins and that his death has cleansed you from your sins. Turn from your sinfulness, believe on your savior and be saved from the judgment of God that is coming. If you are in Christ already then remember that your friends and your neighbors will also die one day. And everyone who dies outside of Jesus will face the judgment of God and be lost eternally. Don't waste your life and ignore the call to share the gospel message with all who will hear you. Who knows what sinner the Lord may call to himself through your testimony?

Beloved, make every minute count. Because once a second, or a minute, or an hour, or a day is past, it is gone and you can never get that time back again. I think one of the greatest regrets we are going to have is to see our lives played out for us and see all the wasted minutes of our lives. Will you resolve with me, to NOT let that be our story? Lives filled with wasted minutes, or wasted days? Will you resolve with me to work, as God wills, to make our lives count? Will you?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mormonism - Just Another Christian Sect?

To be blunt, I think not. But let me back up for a few minutes. With Mitt Romney running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, Mormonism has come fully into the public eye. Yet many outside conservative religious circles know very little about this mysterious American-born religion. Even within Evangelical Christian communities, there has been recent discussions about whether there are enough similarities between Christianity and Mormonism to consider Mormonism to be just another group of Christians. Educated theologians ought to know better. But it seems many have forgotten the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints." So, once again, let me say it clearly for all to see - MORMONISM IS NOT CHRISTIANITY. I hope that is clear enough.

The heart of Mormon theology is the eventual ascension of man into godhood. One of their chief sayings is "As man is God once was: as God is man may be." The pathway to godhood in Mormonism involves obedience to the "Word of Wisdom" - a set of 1000 commandments. When every one is obeyed perfectly, a man will achieve godhood. He will appear before a Council of Gods on the Planet Kolob and be assigned a planet over which he will be God. He will then call his goddess wives to himself to engage in sex which will create the spirits of those who will be born into earthly bodies (called "tabernacles") and will be the people this new God will rule over.

Mormons teach that God became Adam to have sex with one of his goddess wives, Eve. Together they made the first earthly human bodies which were inhabited by the spirits of the children they had created in their heaven and so ... here we are.

Mormons believe that even the dead can have chances to become gods and so they make great efforts at genealogical research so that they can have all their dead relatives baptized by proxy (another person standing in for the dead person during the baptism ceremony) and so that dead relative can begin the journey towards godhood.

From this very small introduction to Mormon doctrine it is easy to see that Mormons are polytheists, believing in many gods. They believe in a salvation of works by which they work their way, not to heaven, but to godhood.

Mormons teach that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers and each offered Elohim (the name of the god of our earth) a plan of salvation. Elohim approved the plan of Jesus. Lucifer led a rebellion against Jesus and wanted to force men to accept their destinies as gods. Elohim and Jesus defeated Lucifer and he was banned from ever inhabiting a human body and so he was deprived of achieving godhood. People who sided with Elohim were rewarded with being born into white skinned bodies. People who sided with Lucifer joined him in being denied bodies. People who remained neutral were punished by being born into black skinned bodies.

Friends, I am not making this stuff up. All I have written is easily documented from public resources available by the Mormon church itself.

As the Presidential race comes closer you will hear more and more talk about Mormonism. There are many people who would really like to see Christian churches accept Mormons as a Christian sect, like the Baptists or the Presbyterians. But, I hope you can see from the very few examples I have given, they are not a Christian group. In fact, there are no points of common ground theologically between Mormonism and Christianity. No, not one. If being a Christian means taking a stand for the truth, then this is a truth that was begging to be said out loud.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Should the SBC Include Charismatics?

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will be holding it's annual meeting this week in San Antonio, Texas. One of the topics that will be discussed is the place of charismatic Christians in the SBC. This comes on the heels of the flap earlier when a trustee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth told at a chapel service how he came by the "gift of tongues" while he was a student there. His sermon was censured by the Seminary administration and he was almost removed from being a trustee. Since then, SWBTS has issued guidelines saying no one there will promote the idea of "ecstatic tongues or prayer languages." In the meantime, conferences have been held and much has been written about the charismatic movement inside the SBC and the place, role, and even existence of "tongues."

No doubt, there are charismatics inside the SBC. If the events of the past few months have taught us nothing else, they have taught us that much. But I ask "Is this a good thing for the SBC?" On reflection, I have to answer "no."

The SBC is still recovering from a 25 year long battle called the "Conservative Resurgence." This battle rescued our Convention from liberals who had taken over our seminaries and many of our institutions. It returned us to being a people of the Book. Southern Baptists are, if nothing else, a Bible believing people. This high view of the Bible has caused several consequences among us. One is the rise of Calvinistic theology among Southern Baptists. David Dockery, president of Union University in Tennessee has said that wherever there is a high view of the Bible then Calvinism is ascendant. Other issues in church life and practice have also come under examination as Southern Baptists have turned back to examining everything by scripture.

But the charismatic movement (and it's children) are not a scripture based movement. It is an experience based movement. In a biblically based model, one builds a theology around scripture and then every experience is tested against scripture. We interpret our experiences in light of scripture. However, in the charismatic movement, theology is built around experiences, then scripture is interpreted in light of these experiences and all experience is interpreted in light of other experiences.

One case in point to illustrate this. I read a book by a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He firmly believed that scripture did not support the idea of a modern tongues speaking movement. Then, as he said, "It happened to me." That caused him to change his entire theology. Instead of rejecting this experience in light of scripture, he changes his view of scripture in light of his experience. This is the pathway of the charismatic movement. Once you open the door to extra-biblical experiences, there is no limit. Among other charismatics, not the ones in the SBC, we see people claiming the titles of apostle, prophet, seer, and so on. There are visions, and conversations with Jesus (face to face), there are trips to heaven, hell and beyond. And every experience is to be believed and accepted. Why? Because scripture is no longer the test.

If Southern Baptists are going to move into the future being a people of the Book then this Southern Baptist charismatic movement will find no place among us. To hold a high view of scripture is to bring everything, and I mean everything, under the authority of scripture. Any movement that takes away from scriptural authority, even a little bit, must be rejected. That is why, in my opinion, this charismatic movement inside the SBC is not a good thing for us. I believe it works against what we have worked so hard to become. That is what I think.