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.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A New Challenge

Well, it is official. I have been called to be the senior pastor of an Independent Baptist church in Springfield, Missouri called Victory Baptist Church. It is a small church and my ministry there will be bivocational. That means I will be the full time church pastor AND have a full time job outside of the church to support myself and my family. Even though the church is small there is a lot of enthusiasm that God is about to do something new and wonderful there. The core group of the church is very dedicated to the work.

My wife and I will be making the move to Springfield in the last week of August. We are waiting to finish procuring a house to move into. After that, we are on our way.

We were able to preach there at the church on the Person of God and the message was very well received. The church members are teachable and I have been given a blank check, so to speak, to teach as the Lord leads. There is a great deal of work to be done here but I have the help of an associate who will help with the workload while we are bivocational, and a core group who are willing to step in and do what needs to be done.

The Task

As I was praying about this move I was reflecting on the task of being a pastor. The word pastor comes from the Greek word "poimen" and means "shepherd." The role of the shepherd is twofold. First, he is to lead the flock to good grazing. In church work, that means that he sees that the members are fed a good diet of biblical food ... milk for the baby Christians and strong meat for the mature. That means a steady diet of Bible, Bible, and more Bible. As a pastor, my concern is that I pass onto my members the old faith. Every study, every book, every sermon is to help me assure my members that I am not offering them anything new, but can connect them to what is old ... the faith of the apostles, the church fathers, the martyrs, and those who have gone before. When I quote other preachers, it is not to introduce some new innovation but to connect my teaching with the Christians who have preceded me in the faith. I want my members to know the Christ of Paul and Peter and John, and of Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Knox, Spurgeon, Edwards, Carey, Taylor, and others. We want the historic faith, not the modern fad. My task as pastor is to lead my people to discover that faith for themselves. To experience it, know it, and live it.

The shepherd has to lead his flock to it. But even that has two parts to it. They are orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Right belief and right living. When the congregation sees Christ taught and Christ lived, it is a powerful combination.

Secondly, the shepherd protects the sheep from the wolves and other predators that come to feed on the flock. Sometimes that can be done through sound teaching. There is nothing like handling the real thing to give people the ability to identify the counterfeits. But sometimes the pastor has to go head to head with the false teachers and take on false ideas and unsound doctrines as they appear in the church.

The pastor has to be both irenic and polemic. These are a few of the thoughts that I have been reflecting on as I have thought about taking the pulpit of this small church that is looking to me for leadership.

Pray for me. This is a big jump and I am hoping this will be the last move. However, if the folks at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England call me and ask me to come and pastor there, I would have to give them serious consideration. The Tabernacle was founded and pastored by Charles Spurgeon, one of my heroes and mentors in the faith. But Springfield is a good city and I think I could enjoy living there. Victory is a good church and I think we will all do OK for each other there. Keep us all in your prayers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What About Tithing?

I was having breakfast with some friends recently and this topic came up. It always seems to come up sooner or later. Here are my thoughts on it.

It is well known that the Hebrews in the Old Testament were commanded by God to tithe of their first fruits. The first and the best tenth went to God. It is also well known that nowhere in the New Testament is tithing commanded. To put it bluntly, Christians are not commanded by God to tithe. But we are given many guidelines in the New Testament about giving. Let me mention a few.

First, everything a Christian does, and I mean everything, is done for the glory of the Living God.

Second, our motivation as Christians is love for God. Love drives us not obligation.

Third, God loves a cheerful giver.

Fourth, money is a powerful idol. It is necessary in our society and therefore, it is hard for us to give it away.

There are more minor points about God's laborer being worthy of his pay and also of giving double honor to those who labor in the word on behalf of God's people.

When you put all this together, here is what I get. A Christian ought to give to support the work of the church and the furthering of the kingdom of God. This is reflected in our church covenant in the sentence that says "We engage therefore ... to contribute cheerfully and on a regular basis to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel to all nations."

A Christian ought to give as much as they are willing to give cheerfully and out of a true love for the Lord our God. I have always held that Christians ought to try to exceed the tithe because I don't think the Old Testament Hebrews should give more out of obligation than a Christian gives out of their love for God.

Is tithing commanded? No. Is it commended? Yes. How much ought a Christian give to God's work? As much as they can willingly and cheerfully give.

And that is what I think about tithing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Worshipping the Bible?

One of the charges I often see from "moderate" Baptists (translate that "liberal" Baptists) is that conservative Baptists worship the Bible. I have seen several posts from liberals such as Bruce Gorley, Bruce Prescott, David Flick and others, saying that Southern Baptists have made the Bible the fourth member of the Holy Trinity.

Of course the accusation is absurd on it's face. No Christian worships the Bible. Still, and let me be perfectly clear on this ... it is not possible to have too high a view of the Bible. We worship the God of the universe. The Bible is God's Holy word. We hear the Bible, we obey the Bible, we conform ourselves to the commands of the Bible. God speaks to us through the Bible. God changes us by the Spirit and the word ... the Holy Spirit and the Bible.

We love and cherish the Bible as we love and cherish the Living God. But let me tell you something. There is no danger of worshipping the Bible among our people today. People use the Bible to hold open doors, or prop up a broken table leg or as a coaster for a wet beer. The really religious people will pull it out of the trunk of their car once a week to be seen carrying it in church. but one thing they don't do with it is worship it, or love it, or cherish it.

But still, it is not possible to have too high a view of the Bible, Our problem with modern Baptists is not too high a view but rather, too low a view. We need to do better teaching a high view again. Then people will love it and cherish it again. Then they will hear God speaking through it and be changed by it. Christlikeness comes when our lives are lived in conformity to the holy word of God.

Sola scriptura was the heart cry of the Reformation. I pray to God that it would become the heart cry of Christians today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Content of Our Preaching

It is an awesome and fearful thing to be a preacher. But God speaks through His word and if we are not preaching His word then our people cannot hear the voice of God. If I preach the writings of other Christian authors they may hear my word, or Piper's word, or MacArthur's word, or Calvin's word or somebody else's word, but they will not hear God's word unless we preach God's word. The content of our sermons must be zealously, decidedly, unapologetically, intensely biblical.

Listen to me here ... if I took a collection of very good Christian writings ... for example,

Calvin's Institutes
Luther's Bondage of the Will
Hodge's 3 volume systematic theology
the 2 volume collection of Edward's writings
all the extent writings of Charles Haddon Spurgeon
and any other writing you would care to name ...

If you took all these writings and read them with understanding ... you would possess a superior theological education. Yet, a single page of scripture is of more value to your soul than all the above named writings combined! Why? Because all scripture is inspired by God.

And when we step up to the sacred desk and preach, when we preach scripture we preach the inspired word of the Living God. It is the Spirit and the word that bring life. Nothing else we can preach (else meaning other than the bible) can equal this one all excelling book. O Preacher! Take scripture to heart then take it to your people. Everything else is just .... everything else.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Preaching Calvinism

"It is not our job to preach Calvinism. We are to preach Scripture. Since Calvinism is the most biblical system of theology we have, people who are biblically taught will taste Calvinism in our preaching ... but not because we preach Calvinism, but because we preach Scripture!"

Pastor John Sneed
July 13th, 2008

The Church and Worship

Every Sunday, and sometimes on other days, Christians gather together for their worship services. But I think that we have lost some of the idea of worship, especially what the Protestant Reformers and some of the Puritans considered worship. Now, I know that those worthy folks did not have a lock on true worship (in the sense that they were the only ones who did it right). I am not saying that. But there were elements in their worship that (I think) are very important and I think sometimes, these elements are being lost in our modern times.

Above all else, I think we are losing the idea of "meeting God" in worship. Many worship services today have become "shows and programs." By that, I mean that they are times of entertainment, not unlike many modern pop concerts.

Worship is essentially having a life changing encounter with God. Everything in the worship service leads one to be ready to meet God. All the prayers, the singing, the scripture reading, all designed to bring one into a ready state for an encounter with God.

That "meeting with God" happens during the preaching of the sacred word. As the preacher faithfully expounds the word of God, the Holy Spirit takes that preached word and applies it to the listener's heart and situation, so that the hearer is compelled to respond in some way to the word. To the Puritans, this was the whole point of the worship service. This is the place and the time when the Christian met God. And, as Henry Blackaby says in his study "Experiencing God" "No one can meet God and walk away unchanged." In fact, if a person leaves the worship service in the same condition he was in when he entered, he did not meet God there.

This is what the church does when it meets. I fear that a lot of modern worship is all about sending people home entertained instead of sending them home changed. Church leaders need to be aware of what they are doing (bringing people to a life changing encounter with God) and plan their services accordingly. Charles Spurgeon noted this trend over 100 years ago. He had a sermon titled "Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats." We've come a long way since Spurgeon's day.

The next time you go to church, go prepared to meet God. Oftentimes, people get what they expect. Ask yourself, did the message that was preached compel me to make a life changing decision? Am I changed because I was here? If not, why not? Scripture warns us to use our time wisely because "the days are short." If you are attending a church, and you are not meeting God there, are you using your time wisely? It is worth considering.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Notice:

I will be travelling to the St. Louis area next week to be at my sister's wedding. I will be offline from Thursday until the following Monday night or Tuesday morning. After the wedding I will be in Springfield, Missouri to preach at a small independent Baptist church there. If you think kindly of me, pray for safe travel (and low gasoline prices!).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some Odds and Ends

This is just a post for catching up on a few things.

Boy! God is good! Last month my computer caught a virus and ate itself. I will tell you nothing worked anymore. It was a mess. I had one word processing program that worked when I could the computer to come on far enough to call up that program. Finally, I had to just pull the plug. A friend of mine from a voice chat area on the Internet called another friend of mine and told him of my problem. My other friend immediately volunteered to to send me another computer. Now friends, I have a complete flat screen moniter, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a computer that is more powerful than anything I have ever owned before> I thanked both my friends profusely, but they both give the glory to God, and so shall I.

My granddaughter Naomi is coming up on her 10 month birthday. My daughter Hannah sent me some new pictures and I have to confess, in all humility, there is not a prettier girl in the world than my granddaughter (although I have a high opinion of her mother too). My son in law Josh is deploying to Afghanistan later this year and will be gone for 6 months. My daughter has indicated that she would like to stay with me and her mother for a while during the time Josh is gone.

My son Stephen has started looking hard at colleges now. Some that he is considering are Minot State University, Concordia University in Moorhead, MN, Northern Illinois University and Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO. I am very proud of my son.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to preach in Dubuque, Iowa. The church there received me warmly and were enthusiastic about the message that was preached. I preached on God from Isaiah's vision in chapter 6. I worried since I have been doing more teaching than preaching recently that I might have trouble recovering the gift. I did not need to worry. God came with power and blessed the message. I was honored to have been asked to be there.

If you are thinking about prayer while you are reading this ... pray for the staff of Victory Baptist Church of Springfield, MO. I have friends there and the devil is trying hard to get a foot in the door. Pray for God's presence to make itself powerfully known among the congregation there. Thanks in advance for your prayers.

I am working on reading right now "Chosen for Life" by Sam Storms, "The Future of Justification" by John Piper, and "Baptists: Vol. 1 Beginnings in England" by Tom Nettles.

That is about it for now. Until next time, may God go with you.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Milestone

This is my 150th blog post. I think that is a milestone for me. I have been doing this over the course for nearly 2 years. I thought that deserved a mention of it's own.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What Difference Does It Make?

We Christians call the conversion of a sinner (into a saint) a life changing experience. We tell people it is better to be a Christian than to not be a Christian. Then, when we become Christians, we spend our lives trying to learn a truly God honoring system of theology. Why? Because right belief leads to right living. Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxis. We accept it as an axiom that the more biblical your theology is (and the more you understand it) the more biblical and God honoring will be your lifestyle. Belief matters.

Or does it? If we were to be brutally honest we would have to admit that there is a huge "holiness gap" in Christian churches today. The trend of the day is to try and be as much like the world as you can and still feel comfortable calling yourself a Christian. It is easy to rationalize sin and we do it expertly. Many seeker sensitive church services are little more than entertainment extravaganzas. Preachers preach soft sermons carefully chosen not to offend anyone. One preachers quipped that his aim in preaching is to make people feel good about themselves and to send them home smiling.

But worse, people are offered a Christianity with no demands to it. The general feeling is that if you ask people to make a commitment to something that they will back away or reject it. So people are offered a Christianity that asks them to do nothing. One example of this can be seen in the "Free Grace Movement" where people are taught that the decision to make Jesus your savior (and so avoid hell) and to make him your Lord (one to whom you would commit your life to and follow) are two separate choices. One can be saved without being a follower of Jesus. The only problem with this is that it is blatantly unbiblical.

What difference does it make if you are a Christian and if you hold to the highest form of theology if it doesn't make a positive change in your life? The things you believe should make a difference. It they don't, then I submit they are only opinions and not beliefs. Beloved, why are we surprised when the world mocks us and rejects us? They don't see anything different between us and them. The Church (universal) used to be the voice of God in the world and demonstrate what life in Christ could be to the watching world around us. Now, we are held in derision. Why? Because we are a worldly people. A preacher who teaches on holiness is often accused of preaching legalism.

What difference do your beliefs make in your life? Can we not all agree that there ought to be SOME difference? That being a Christian ought to mean SOMETHING? We ought to be the light of the world. Too often our light looks like a flashlight with the batteries taken out. Being a Christian ought to make a difference. What difference has it made to you?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Simple Theological Quiz

Let's see how well you have been taught theology in your church. Can you answer the following questions?

Define the following terms:

Sin
Justification
Atonement
Propitiation
Election
Redemption
Covenant
Kinsman-Redeemer
Grace
Faith



Explain the following doctrines:

Trinity
Incarnation
Hypostatic Union
Salvation
Scripture Alone
Original Sin
Depravity


Can you tell someone how to be saved? Can you explain how Christians use the Law of God? Can you tell why Scripture alone is sufficient for the Christian? Can you explain how your church baptizes and why? Can you explain how Jesus fulfills the offices of prophet, priest, and king? Could you defend the deity of Jesus Christ from scripture? Could you explain and defend the eternal security of the genuine believer?

Off the top of your head, can you outline or tell the biblical accounts of the fall? Of the Great flood? of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Christ? of the resurrection of Christ? of David and Bathsheba?

It is not my intention to answer all these questions in this blog post, but rather to get you to thinking. Most of these questions could be easily answered by a mature believer. Some (maybe many) could be answered by growing believers. But these are things that are important to understand to gain a foundation of the Christian faith. Please note ... these are not intended to be all inclusive. YOU may be able to think of things that you think are foundational. Fine. I freely admit the ones I named above are not all there is. I did not mention the church, or the place of good works, or many other important topics. But I have tried to get you to think. If you have trouble answering the ones I named, you may want to reassess the training you have been given.

I am convinced that many people go through their Christian lives with little or no growth. They are converted into being a baby Christian and when they die they are still a baby Christian. Can you answer the questions above? If not, why not? Isn't it time you thought about it?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Failure of Theological Education

When I was working on my Master's of Education degree at Minot State University I learned the term "cognitive disconnect." A cognitive disconnect happens when you know something but that knowledge fails to have any kind of impact on your life. For example, as I studied I became a much better teacher in terms of my knowledge of teaching. I learned things I had never known before. However, I did not become a better teacher in the classroom. I kept doing things the way I had always done things. My learning did not impact my teaching.

Friends, we Southern Baptists specifically, and Protestant Evangelicals generally, have some of the finest educational opportunities in the world. Some of the very best schools are turning out world class scholars who are becoming teachers and pastors in our denominations. Our churches are being led by men who have some of the finest learning that can be obtained.

But for all that, something isn't working the way it is supposed to. We are failing to teach the faith to our church members and students. One telling story comes from a few years ago when my daughter asked me how many times in her life she was going to have to go through the creation narrative in Sunday School. I realized that our church's Sunday School curriculum was rehashing the same old stuff over and over. Students were not progressing or being pushed to consider the hard questions of theology and practice. This is having a disastrous effect on our churches and our denominations.

I recall a quote by a Mormon bishop where he boasted that in North America "Baptist churches are the best training grounds for new Mormon converts." Now friends ... Mormons think that by learning obedience to their law that they are going to become gods one day. Now it doesn't take a theologian to know that theology is not only NOT Baptist, it is not even Christian! Yet, 6 out of 10 converts to Mormonism in North America come out of Baptist churches! That statistic ought to be appalling to every pastor and educator. A recent Pew Research Center survey suggests that 60% of Southern Baptists hold a pluralistic (even univeralist) view of who goes to heaven. It is said that Southern Baptists believe that many religions teach the truths needed by men to find their way to heaven. These are but two examples of what I am talking about. If I went on the numbers of examples that could be cited could easily fill a large book.

I think that if all the data were analyzed that it would show that we have taught our students many moralistic lessons but we have failed to pass onto them the "faith once and for all [time] delivered to the saints." We have taught them Sunday School lessons built around a small circle of Bible stories and children's songs, but we have not taught them the Christian faith. We have not taught them what it means to be part of Christ's Church. We have not taught them what it means to be Baptist. We have failed to teach them theology and church history. We have not challenged them to apply their beliefs to their daily lives. The we sit back and wonder why the vast majority of our children completely apostatize when they graduate from high school. I will tell you the truth, we worry about the secularism and antichristian bias of our universities and how it will impact our children's faith when they study there ... but our children's faith was in danger long before they ever set foot on a college campus.

The solution, at least in broad terms, is self evident. First, we need to re-evaluate our religious education curriculums. We need to take a hard look at what we are teaching and what we are accomplishing with our current methodologies. Second, we need to raise the bar with our students. Professor Alvin Reid of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote "If our teens can handle high school physics and chemistry, they can handle theology." But we need to raise the bar in every class, at every level. We must teach our students who we are as Christians and why we are what we are. Finally, we must stop compromising with error. Our ancestors delivered to us a body of doctrine called "The Christian Faith." They passed it to us with hands tortured and stained with their own blood shed in defense of that glorious body of truth. We spit on their memories when we sell our birthright for a bowl of pottage and pat ourselves on the back for our ecumenical tolerance. Our faith, THE Faith, is under attack from all sides these days. Many within our churches shout "peace and safety" when there is no peace and safety. We must develop the backbone to stand for truth and teach it without apology wherever we have opportunities to teach.

If we fail to do these things (and surely there are many more things that can to correct our failure to properly teach) the future is a foreseeable event. Our well trained, well educated leaders will die off (assuming the Lord tarries). The ones after them who will assume the leadership in our churches and schools will be the young ones we weaned on moral Sunday School stories who are not grounded in the Faith. Wake up!

Now for the caveats. I am not a prophet nor am I especially brilliant. Other people besides me are noting these alarming trends. Some Christian leaders are already at work trying to correct these things I have mentioned. All is not black or bleak. But folks, we, the North American Church, are in a bad way. We need more leaders like Luther, Knox, Calvin, Boyce, Mohler, and a host of others, who are passionate for the Faith and passionate to see it taught in all it's aspects ... to the glory of the Living God. We need teachers who are convinced by scripture, who are close to God on their knees, and who will teach without compromise the truths of the Holy Word. No one group can fix this alone. It is time we woke up and stepped up. As the motto of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reads ... "For the truth, for the Church, for the world, for the glory of God." I pray you'll give this topic some thought.