Monday, March 30

Taking Notes on the Sermon: Edwards and Lloyd-Jones Say NO

From Jonathan Edwards' pen:

"The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered." [quoted in The Salvation of Souls, eds. Richard Bailey and Gregory Wills, 11]
From Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
"The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently.It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit." [from HERE]
For many in our congregations, the task of filling in blanks has become an exercise in blank prediction (guessing which words belong in the blank before the preacher gives the answer) or blank phobia (the fear of blank blanks), or even blank apathy (not caring about the blanks)! Often, the listeners are so concerned with filling in the blanks correctly that they miss the worship that is to be taking place through the proclamation of the Word.

So are Edwards and Lloyd-Jones onto something here? Or are they a bit too strict in their understanding of preaching as an act of corporate worship?

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Thursday, March 26

Mark Driscoll Squares Off in Nightline Debate Tonight

If you want to stay up for a while watching your bracket survive or die after the games tonight I would recommend that you tune in for a lively and theological debate later this evening on ABC's Nightline on the existence of Satan.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle Washington gives a clear and distinct presentation of the gospel that you don't want to miss. He definitely makes the most of his opportunity to focus on Christ being the ONLY real alternative to our spiritual enemy and our own spiritual deadness. I have made no secret in the past about some concerns I have had about Driscoll and some of the language that he uses behind the pulpit. Nevertheless, I must give credit where credit is due. He does a brilliant job in proclaiming our Savior and it was exciting to see and hear Driscoll biblically lay out what the doctrine of evil and the solution in Jesus Christ.

If you don't want to stay up and watch it tonight you can view the whole debate HERE.

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Not Abandoning a Pastoral Call While Blogging

Some truth to think about before our fingers hit the keyboards of our computers:

2 Timothy 2:23-25 - "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness." (ESV)

May we by the grace of God manifest this not only in our pulpits but also in our homes, personal lives and on our blog!

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What Is Dispensationalism? Can Dispys Come to an Agreement?

Some of you will undoubtedly accuse me of beating a dead horse; but before you do, I want to remind you that many around here are convinced that dispensationalism--classic darb-scof-afer dispensationalism--still lives.

Therefore, literally speaking, I could not be beating a dead horse!

Still, I am puzzled that I have yet to find (NOTE: anecdotal evidence, not scientific evidence) a widely-accepted definition of dispensationalism. Perhaps I am dense (my wife has often thought so) ... or perhaps I was blind (Isaac Newton says so) ... or perhaps I am so blasted stubborn that even if it bit me in the nose, I would refuse to acknowledge it (have you ever seen my nose?).

So ... how would you define dispensationalism?

While you ponder that question ... and while you attempt to define the fluid, splintered movement often known for its inner disagreements rather than its agreed-upon tenets ... here are some helps for you (you are welcome!):

*John (Leaky) MacArthur: "Dispensationalism, by the way, is simply a title for theology that recognizes a literal nation Israel to be restored in the future." (From HERE.) Yet another definition from MacArthur: "That the Bible taught a unique place for Israel and that the Church could not fulfill God's promises to Israel, therefore, there is a still a future and a kingdom involving the salvation and the restoration and the reign of the nation Israel (historical Jews)." (From HERE.)

*Charles (Bishop) Ryrie (from pages 43-47 of Dispensationalism Today, Moody, 1965):
  • Grammatico-historical hermeneutics applied to all Scripture
  • The Christian church and Israel distinguished from each other
  • The glory of God seen as the center of history
*The (I hope they are my) Brethren: "Dispensationalism is a period of stewardship during which man is tested during God’s dealings with him." (From HERE.)

*(Look to the [Middle] East, it must be the) End Times Dot Org: "A system of theology that sees God working with man in different ways during different dispensations." (Read HERE.) According to this site, the distinctions of dispensationalism are:

1 - A clear distinction between God's program for Israel and God's program for the Church.
2 - A consistent and regular use of a literal principle of interpretation
3 - The understanding of the purpose of God as His own glory rather than the salvation of mankind.
Now it's your turn. How do you define the movement and theology of which you are a part?!

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Wednesday, March 25

Which Dispensationalist Said it? It Will Surprise You!

"The time of the Second Coming of Christ is the key that unlocks all 'Dispensational Truth.'"
The same man has proven himself to be a faulty prognosticator (although nearly all dispensationalists have been encouraged to purchase his classic book):
"If our inference is correct, then it follows that the Return of the Lord will take place before the close of this present century. How much before is uncertain. If the Millennium is to be ushered in in A. D. 2000, then the 'Rapture' must take place at least 7 years before that."
More troubling eisegesis:
"... the 'Prayer of Faith' (James 5:13-16) for the sick is not primarily a promise to the Church but to Israel ..."

"The manner of the 'creation' of the Pre-Adamite Earth is not revealed in the Scriptures. They simply declare that--'in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' We have to fall back then upon Science."

"The creation of the 'Original Earth' was in the dateless past. It was doubtless a most beautiful earth, covered with vegetation and inhabited with fish and fowl and animal life, and probably with human life."

"The six days' work as described in Genesis 1:3-31 is not a description of how God made the Original earth, but how He restored it from its 'formless and void' condition to its present state. If the flood of Noah's day was only local and affected only that section fo the world, then the geography of the restored earth was problably the same as that of the earth today."
Christ to rapture the church prior to A. D. 2000? An entire hermeneutic admittedly formulated upon the time of the Second Coming? The book of James is for Jews? Falling back upon Science for an explanation of the earth's origins? A sin-cursed world and race before Adam's fall? A local Noahic flood? The above is a brief, but telling sampling of exegetical fallacies from the first twenty-four pages of the book.

So who is this respected and revered dispensational leader and author?

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Tuesday, March 24

10 Good Reasons to Keep Looking Up

  1. You will receive a new body (I Cor. 15:52).
  2. You will get a custom dwelling place. Every house on Earth requires fixing, but the home He prepares for you will be perfect (Jn. 14:2-3).
  3. You will be like Christ, so you will be unable to sin (I Jn. 3:2).
  4. You will get to know Bible saints, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Mt. 8:11).
  5. You will speak to loved ones who died in the faith (I Thess. 4:13-18).
  6. You will live in a perfect world. What lies ahead is so much better than what exists today (Rev. 21).
  7. You will never again suffer heartache, pain, death, broken relationships, or the like (I Cor. 15:26; Rev. 7:16-17).
  8. You will fall for the final time. But rather than falling short, you will fall on your knees in praise (Rom. 7:15-25; Phil. 2:10).
  9. You will participate in awesome worship (Rev. 5:11-14; 7:9-12).
  10. You will see God (Job 19:26; I Jn. 3:2)

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Top Ten Reasons the Dispensationalist Did Not Cross the Road


10. Thought he would be raptured before he got there anyway.

9. Thought that the other side was for the ‘Israel’, and this side was for the ‘church’.

8. Charles Ryrie was still on this side of the road, why cross?

7. Thought it was pointless since Jesus was just going to bring him back after 7 years.

6. Like the OT prophets and the church age, he was unable to see the other side.

5. He was afraid that if he went, there would be nothing to restrain the man of lawlessness.

4. He was not a part of the dispensation of ‘crossing’.

3. Dallas Theological Seminary hadn’t yet published anything telling him how to do it.

2. Thought there was a two thousand foot gap between the 69th and 70th step.

1. By taking a consistently literal approach, he thought that ‘cross the road’ meant something about the crucifixion.

This can't-miss Top Ten is from the keyboard of C. Michael Patton. For more hermeneutic-humor, check out Michael's Top Ten Reasons the Emerger Did Not Cross the Road, and The Top Ten Reasons the Reformed Theologian Did Not Cross the Road.

Perhaps it's apparent that Michael is a progressive dispensationalist!

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Monday, March 23

Changing the Trend of Historic Racism in Fundamentalism

I will never forget the disillusionment and confusion that I felt the first time I heard a pastor use the infamous and hateful "N" word when referring to an African-American. I was a very young Christian at the time. The remark was justified and excused in my own mind by me simply thinking that this man had good reason to feel this way and that perhaps I was the one who didn't see things the way that I needed to. I was easily influenced and wanting to soak up all I could from older more seasoned Christians. It immediately became apparent that there was an unwritten rule within many fundamental circles (notice I did NOT say all) that white fundamentalists had a right to forbid other white young people to date or marry those who happened to be black....even if they were biblically qualified.

This gets worse....in fact, a lot worse. While sitting in a classroom at the fundamentalist institution that I happened to be attending one of the professors actually used the passage in Genesis 9:25 to justify slavery and the fact that blacks were an inferior race! Does anyone else here see the exegetical fallacy that this creates? Not only was that a complete misinterpretation of the text....it was also downright heretical! There's more...by the time I had been in this particular college for a few years I had known just about every ethnic and racial joke one could think of. I didn't hear these jokes at my job, rather, I heard them from some faculty and staff members! Sad, truly sad.

But this line of thinking was nothing new. Read these words from one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century (John R. Rice):

"Socially, it is better for both Negroes and whites to run with their own kind and intermarry with their own kind. This mixing of races widely differing is almost never wise...Thus if a girl would do wrong to marry a Negro boy, she would be wrong to keep company with him, mixing regularly in social life."
1954 "Sword of the Lord"

Since it has been years since I've read the "Sword of the Lord" I cannot verify if they have ever recanted or publicly repented of this incredibly hateful and unbibiblical rhetoric. I hope they have. If they haven't, they need to! I still know and love many in the IFB movement and my prayer is that this sort of hateful thinking has not transcended any generational lines.

My way of thinking regarding this matter began to change (only by God's grace) when I began dating my future wife Christina (who happens to be Mexican). It always seemed interesting to me that the same standard my college had on African-Americans was not placed on those of us who were dating Hispanics. Were Hispanics not a different race? Or, is it the fact that their melanin levels were not as high as those of our black brethren? The slam dunk though was the fact that Scripture teaches NOTHING regarding race being a biblical qualification for marrying someone.

In his book "What He Must Be" Voddie Bauchman lays out three main truths that exposes what racism inherently denies:

1. Racism Denies Our Oneness in Adam (Acts 17:26)
2. Racism Denies Our Oneness in Noah (Genesis 7:11-13)

3. Racism Denies our Oneness in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29)


This is not a dead issue even in our own churches. Sadly, there are still many who would rather their children bring home a caucuasion person rather than a Christ-centered person! May we approach this sin of hatred with the same passion, biblical authority and zeal that we would any other sin related issue!

In the end, racism makes the Gospel look hateful and unattractive. It forces Christians to adopt a paradigm of hate and superiority towards others. It denies the universal effects of sin and exposes the utter depravity of man's heart. Let me leave you with a quote that I think summarizes the whole issue very succinctly:

"At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being."
Friedrich Otto Hertz

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Friday, March 20

The Arminian Version of Amazing Grace

My friend and accomplished theologian and song writer Steve Camp recently posted this and I found it too irresistible to pass up. Hope you find this to be some good Friday afternoon humor:

Amazing Graceworks! How sweet the sound
that saved a blissful bloke like me
I was kinda lost, but now I'm found
Was a bit blind, but now I see

Twas graceworks that taught my heart to cheer
the best that lied within;
And it was graceworks that calmed my fears
And conquered all my sin

Both God and I have done our part
To make redemption mine
My freewill faith removed my stoney heart
And earned me eternal life

So when we’ve been there ten thousand years
'Cause of all the graceworks we have done
We’ve no less days to share God's praise
Than when we first begun

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Dr. Kevin Bauder on the Survival of Conservative Christianity

A few months ago I signed up for Dr. Kevin Bauder's (President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Plymouth Minnesota) weekly newsletter entitled “In the Nick of Time”. This is a weekly periodical that is released every Friday. You can sign up to have this sent to your email weekly HERE.

Dr. Bauder is someone that I’m extremely thankful is on our side (the side of conservative/fundamental Christians). He is bold, articulate, honest, and credible as a scholar. Below are some good thoughts on the survival of conservative Christianity:

“If conservative Christianity is true – as I believe it is – then it is the very Christianity that the world most needs. Moreover, the people who understand it and love it are few. Like it or not, my friends, it is up to us to make a difference, not by pleasing ourselves, and not by making ourselves inconspicuous, but by exercising leadership.

I have no illusions about the prospects of success. If we are frank about our beliefs (and we ought to be), then not many churches or institutions will want us. Even those that tolerate us are likely to misunderstand us. We may find ourselves having to start from scratch again and again. I do not intend to suggest that this is a contest that we can or should win.

But, as T.S. Eliot remarked, there are times when we do not fight to win. We fight to keep something alive. In some future day, the dark ages must end, and when they do, the Christians of that day will need the gospel in its integrity. They will need the whole counsel of God. They will need the boldness that comes from recognizing God’s sovereignty over human affairs. They will need ordinate affection and meaning. Our job is to keep these things alive – to conserve them – for that future generation."

You can read the article in its entirety HERE.

Bauder reminds us that while we will not be the most popular or populated movement, we will still have a truth to be contended for.

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Letter To A Dying (GARBC) Church

In 2004, Dr. James MacDonald and the ever-sprawling, multi-campus Harvest Bible Chapel rescued then-GARBC Crossway Baptist Church in Niles, Illinois, from the clutches of death. In MacDonald's words, Crossway Baptist took the leap into Harvest's "staffing, leadership development, building renovation, live worship, and teaching by video" by voting "to never vote again."

Since giving up their right to vote, this church has exploded numerically. They now average 1400 in weekly attendance, and 40 baptisms per year. MacDonald sums up the church's success with this statement: "Sadly, many churches in the position they were in do not make the courageous decision they made."

What was that courageous decision MacDonald lauds? To give their land, building, assets, people, money, and their vote to a multi-site sprawling mega-church who is sure to rescue them from certain ecclesiastical extinction.

Sadly, MacDonald does not attribute the church-rescue to God's grace or power or strength--or even the effectiveness of God's Word. Rather, MacDonald seems to attribute the church's drastic five-year-turnaround to that vote in 2004--the vote to join his multi-site church. His staffing, leadership development, building renovation, live worship, and teaching by video seem to be the key to any struggling church's success.

Read MacDonald's words (and a poignant hypothetical letter to any other dying church) HERE.

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Wednesday, March 18

Do Nothing Leadership (Quote)

"He wasn't a bad leader because he made poor decisions; he was a bad leader because he made no decisions."

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Tuesday, March 17

11 More Things That You'll Never Learn in Seminary

I've never gone to seminary. I've never even been in a seminary classroom. Most pastors have an educational and ministry background that blows mine out of the water. In fact, my route to the ministry was a very unique one. One that I would not recommend that others take. But I do know this...I am called of God to preach His Gospel. And so far, not having a prestigious grouping of letters after my name has not hindered my ministry (at least I don't think it has but perhaps others would disagree). Again, I am NOT downplaying the importance of education. I envy those of you who had the privilege to go to seminary and learn from the brilliant theological minds who help equip you with the tools that you needed for an effective ministry.

While most will go to seminary and benefit from learning Greek and Hebrew some will not. We are at a natural disadvantage and are forced to be vociferous readers and students. We have to be. Our backgrounds do not afford to do otherwise.

I use this as an introduction and a follow up to a post that Deepak Reju of 9 Marks Ministry posted a few days ago entitled "17 Things that Seminary Never Taught Me". I'm going to take this opportunity to add 11 more from a list of my own:

1. How to comfort someone whose son has just committed suicide.

2. How to deal with a false accusation.

3. How to clear your mind from the stress of ministry when you get home.

4. How to tell someone who thinks they're saved that biblically they show no fruit of being regenerate.

5. How to deal with someone who storms into your office, loses their temper and storms away over something incredibly insignificant. (This one was over a church bulletin!)

6. How to plead with parents to not allow their child to marry an unbeliever.

7. How to discipline yourself to stay zealous and excited about your own personal devotional life.

8. How decide which conference (of the 1,000,000 to choose from) would be a wise use of my time and resources.

9. How to deal with being misunderstood and having your motives misjudged.

10. How to prioritize the imperative of understanding your calling as the shepherd of your own home as your greatest calling and pastoral qualification.

11. How to pastor those who hate the Chicago Cubs (this requires a lot of patience folks!).

Please do not misunderstanding me here. I absolutely LOVE pastoring and serving at the church that God has entrusted to me. And please believe me when I tell you that the benefits of ministry far outweigh the negatives. God has given me a gracious, loving and patient group of people to pastor. Perhaps I'm off here and seminaries do indeed offer courses on this. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

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Sunday, March 15

If He Wants to Marry My Daughter....

Those of us who are fathers sometimes cringe at the thought of walking our daughter down the isle on their wedding day. Not a day goes by where I do not passionately pray for my children's future spouse. Honestly, the concern here is not whether they will marry someone influential, wealthy, nice looking, or with a promising career. The real concern is whether they will make the tragic mistake of prioritizing convenience and comfort over godliness and biblical qualifications. God has been incredibly kind to me in giving me a wife who reflects the inward and outward joy of knowing Christ. May God in His grace do the same for our children!

Voddie Baucham's new book "What He Must Be" tackles this issue head on. Let me give you a few excerpts that I found challenging and helpful:

"If this is true (and I believe it is), then fathers must do more than just send their daughters off into the world and "hope they come back with a good one." We must take our responsibility seriously. We must walk with our daughters through this process of finding a suitable husband. We must also actively protect our daughters from men who do not measure up to God's standard. If we don't the consequences will be dire."
Voddie Bauchman Jr., What He Must Be (Crossway Books, 2009), 14

"I believe God has spoken rather decisively in his Word about what our daughters should look for. Moreover, I believe there are some non-negotiables that our daughters must be looking for. There are some things a man simply must be before he is qualified to assume the role of a Christian husband. For instance, he must be a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14); he must be committed to biblical headship (Ephesians 5:23ff); he must welcome children (Psalm 127:3-5); he must be a suitable priest (Joshua 24:15), prophet (Ephesians 6:4), protector (Nehemiah 4:13-14), and provider (1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 2:5). A man who does not possess - or at least show strong signs of - these and other basic characteristics does not meet the basic job description laid down for husbands in the Bible."
Ibid. 17

"The result of this is a generation of young men and women who view marriage as a temporary arrangement as opposed to a lifelong covenant. As a father, I must protect my daughter from men who think this way. I must also see to it that I do not allow such thinking in my sons. A young man who is worthy of a wife will have a clear understanding of the covenantal nature of marriage. He will also have a healthy apprehension when he thinks about the magnitude of his responsibility should he assume the role of a husband and father. He must know the weight he is taking on his shoulders and be willing to accept it. He must be a man who is willing to endure hardship for the sake of his family should he be called upon to do so."
Ibid. 23

If you are even remotely concerned about who your children will marry then this book is a must for your bookshelf! May we all as parents be proactive in biblically determining what the circumstances will be when we are asked one day - "Who gives this bride away?"

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Thursday, March 12

Am I Still A Fundamentalist?


You tell me after reading these next ten statements:

1. I go to movies and rent them.

2. I hate wearing ties....even with white shirts.

3. I'm not even close to being KJV only and think this ridiculous teaching has corrupted fundamentalism and in many ways has taken away much of its credibility.

4. I'm a 5 point Calvinist.

5. I enjoy incredible fellowship with non-Baptists.

6. I enjoy incredible fellowship with non-dispy's.

7. I listen to secular music.

8. The church I pastor usually changes the schedule of our Sunday evening service on Super Bowl Sunday to an afternoon service.

9. We showed the movie Fireproof for one of our services (Sunday evening).

10. And, if I were given tickets to the Super Bowl I would probably miss Sunday night church for it (and that might go for Cubs World Series tickets too).

Now before you think I am being sarcastic and over the top I want you to consider something here...there is NOTHING here about compromising on anything that the original "fundamentalists" believed (especially regarding essential doctrine). Yet, in the sub-culture of American fundamentalism that has drifted so far from doctrinal essentials we find a more disturbing trend of allegiances to unbiblical externals.

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Wednesday, March 11

Israel, My Glory Magazine Associated With Christian Zionism Website

According to the website, ChristianZionism.org, "Eighteen of the most significant Christian Zionist organizations have come together and created www.Christian-Zionism.org which is dedicated to telling the true story about Christian Zionism."

According to THIS PAGE, Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. (which publishes the magazine, Israel, My Glory) has joined the Christian Zionist effort with seventeen other Christian Zionist organizations for the following purposes [also read HERE]:

Anti-Christian Zionist groups, books, and articles are attempting to poison the public against Christian Zionism. www.Christian-Zionism.org will refute anti-Christian Zionism propaganda and reframe Christian Zionism in a positive light.

www.Christian-Zionism.org is a clearing house for Christian Zionism articles, information, organizations, and events. We encourage you to learn more about all of our Christian Zionist organizations in the Organizations section of the website. We also encourage you to sign up for our email updates under the Subscribe Now section of the website.

www.Christian-Zionism.org also provides extensive pro-Israel resources. Please visit the Resource and Links sections of the website to watch videos from Israel, download posters and cards, and learn about Israeli history.
According to wikipedia, Christian Zionism ...
"...is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy.

Some Christian Zionists believe that the "ingathering" of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. This belief is primarily, though not exclusively, associated with Christian Dispensationalism. The idea that Christians should actively support a Jewish return to the Land of Israel, along with the parallel idea that the Jews ought to be encouraged to become Christian, as a means fulfilling a Biblical prophecy has been common in Protestant circles since the Reformation. The term Christian Zionism was popularized in the mid-twentieth century. Prior to that time the common term was Restorationism."
Renald Showers, a scheduled keynote speaker at the 2009 GARBC National Conference, represents the church ministries division of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry--a ministry which publicly embraces the label and theology of Christian Zionism.

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My Open Response to Ken's Opinion: The GARBC's Proposed Articles of Faith Revision


Kenneth,

NOTE: To our readers – please do not misunderstand this response to Kenneth. This is a friendly dialogue and discussion that I have chosen to do here on the blog to present what I believe are differing views represented in our association. Our discussion here is a little window into many friendly and often intense discussions that we have had in recent months. Do NOT misconstrue this as tension or hostility in our relationship. I consider Kenneth a strong partner in Gospel ministry and our families enjoy a close friendship in the Lord that I treasure! I share Kenneth’s sentiments about the GARBC and I am thankful for the leadership and strong committed history that our association has displayed for the glory of Christ!

A few thoughts here…I have not been a member of the GARBC for a long time – nearly five years as a pastor and about five years before that as a member and leader in a GARBC church. So I admit that I may be speaking here as a novice. I will say that I both agree and disagree with your assessment here. Let me clarify before you think I am beginning to sound like John Kerry….

Yes, there does need to be more clarification on the depravity of man. Especially when you consider the fact that this would have serious implications on how we do evangelism, our approach to biblical counseling, and even our practical day to day ministry. If we as an association remain ambiguous about what Scripture teaches regarding man’s condition before God – dead, helpless and at enmity with God then we will have a complete misunderstanding of God’s grace and man’s inability to seek after a holy and righteous God. I’m totally with you on that one.

However, where I think the wheels fall off of your argument is when you say that there is an apparent “overemphasis” on eschatology in our association. Perhaps I’m off here, but I simply do not remember in recent years in the Baptist Bulletin, GARBC website, Nat’l Conf. reports or from those I have had in my church any sort of “overemphasis” on eschatology. The most recent resolution that comes to mind for me is the one that Dr. John Hartog III wrote at last year’s conference in Iowa. This, incidentally, won unanimous approval from the delegates in attendance (of which Kenneth was a part of).

Using the silence argument to support your view that eschatology is not an important issue or one that does not merit further articulation is a rather weak one. Following that line of thinking would cause to abandon any statement on the Trinity since that “word” is not found in Scripture. Another word that you and I both like is “depravity”. We do find that one in Scripture but in a different context than what we would usually use it in (Lev. 18:17; 19:29 & 20:14 ESV).

I support the fact that our association is putting a clear distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming and I continue to scratch my head wondering why you wouldn’t when I consider the fact that you clearly stated that you yourself are an avowed pre-mil/trib person yourself. Different contexts call for different emphasis from time to time. Today, churches need to be more diligent and articulate in pointing out what their doctrinal statements teach what they believe about Scripture - clear definitions of marriage, the church’s position on divorce and remarriage, the role of men and women in the church and especially baptism in light of well known evangelical leaders having clear disagreements and ambiguity on the issue.

While eschatology may not be something you consider to be a matter of “first importance” in the context of a local church, it remains to be a prominent subject in both the Old and New Testaments. To ignore the importance of eschatology and particulars associated with it would be to ignore the issue of hermeneutics altogether. Frankly, as I’ve stated before, it would be difficult for me at this time in my life to be able to be a part of a church that ignored the issue of hermeneutics and eschatology in the name of “unity”.

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My Opinion: The GARBC's Proposed Articles of Faith Revision

Opining carries with it the ever-present danger of being misunderstood, and the even greater danger of being misrepresented.

Yet there are times when, for the sake of truth, critical opining is a necessary practice.

Before I share my opinion regarding the proposed changes to the GARBC's Articles of Faith, let me publicly proclaim my love for our association. I was born into it ... reared in it ... trained in it ... and have pastored in it for the past 13 years. I've attended nearly every Annual Conference since 1985 (with the exceptions of those held in California, and one in Florida). I'm planning to attend this year's conference with my family--even though the subject matter is certain to stir some consternation and controversy (classic, Judeo-centric dispensationalism--and I don't mean that pejoratively). I love our association. I respect its leadership. I eagerly embrace its valuable history--which is why I do not share the same enthusiasm for the proposed changes to the GARBC Articles of Faith.

The GARBC Council of Eighteen (our association's leadership council) has recommended several changes to the eschatology portion of the articles of faith. The association leadership has described these changes as "minor" and "not a revision of our beliefs ... but a clarification in the way we describe long-held views among our churches on the doctrine of eschatology" [entire reasoning for proposed changes available HERE].

I do not question the motives of our association's leadership in proposing the change. But I am perplexed by the stated reasoning for the proposed change. Later in the aforementioned article, the reasoning driving the change becomes even more apparent:

Our Articles of Faith do not live in a vacuum. The theological landscape around us progressively changes in ways that demand our continued clarity. Pastor Tom Alexander, a Council of Eighteen member who serves on the policy committee, described a problem he was having in his new members’ Bible study. “I found myself going over the wording of our doctrinal statement very carefully with the new members because it was hard for them to understand,” Alexander says. “Every time we got to that section, I had to do a lot of explaining. I needed to clarify the difference between the Rapture, which we believe could happen at any time, and the Second Advent, which we believe could not happen at any moment (because it occurs after the Tribulation).”
The reasoning presented in this paragraph is both puzzling and confusing. The GARBC clarified their conviction on the immanency of Christ's return back in 1953. The Articles of Faith have included immanency since the mid-70's--the same period in which the GARBC was unwilling to take a stand on total depravity [see pages 28-31 of THIS DOCUMENT]. This action and lack of action speaks volumes when it comes to the emphasis of our association's doctrinal standards. Specific matters of eschatology are important enough to repeatedly clarify, while the seemingly fundamental doctrine of total depravity and human inability is repeatedly (and purposefully, in the name of unity) ignored. When specific matters of the timing and sequence of future events in eschatology trump the condition of unregenerate man and the salvation Christ has secured through His death, something is amiss, and our emphasis is skewed. The total depravity and sinful condition of man is not a tertiary doctrine, while many of our association's founders considered the timing and sequence of eschatological events to be non-essential matters [see page 23 of THIS DOCUMENT].

So while I am a premillennialist, and a pretribulationalist, I am concerned over the perceived over-emphasis of eschatology in our association. At our 2008 association conference, the messengers overwhelmingly approved a "birthday congratulations" to the current political state and government of Israel because "God most certainly has not cast [His covenant people] away." Now we are told that the GARBC Articles of Faith regarding eschatology are "difficult to understand" because they do not adequately clarify the difference between the Rapture and the Second Advent. Perhaps that is not a problem traced to a human-authored statement of faith, but to the fact that Scripture itself never employs the term Rapture. Repeated re-clarifications in our association's eschatological views will not solve this problem of confusion when it comes to teaching eschatology to God's people. One must employ faulty logic to believe that it will.

Times do change; new theological and doctrinal wars appear on the battlefield of truth; sometimes clarifications are necessary (as often is the case on this blog!); but what we as an association emphasize will be what defines us. I, for one, do not want to be defined by what the future may hold; I want to be defined by what my Savior has done in the past. My qualms are not with the eschatological views of our association, but with the apparent eschatological emphasis it is determined to employ. Such an emphasis did not define our association in its infancy, and it should not define our association today.

DISCLAIMER: The picture is provided for comical purposes only!

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Tuesday, March 10

The Unhealthy Practice of Pastoral Sabbaticals

It seems to be an ever-increasing common occurrence.

Those in ministry have been told that because of the stress of ministry and the ongoing danger of burnout, sabbaticals should become a regular part of a pastor's routine (these sabbaticals are to be in addition to the pastor's annual vacation allowance). Churches have been encouraged to grant their pastor a six-month sabbatical every seven-or-so years. And this isn't a bell being tolled in liberal, out-of-touch mainline denominations; it's becoming a widely accepted practice within conservative evangelicalism (read HERE and HERE).

While the motive driving pastoral sabbaticals may be laudable; and while the term "sabbatical" carries a biblical connotation of commanded rest, I remain unconvinced that regularly scheduled pastoral sabbaticals are a good (or godly) practice.

Here's why:

1) Although Scripture instructs Christians to make physical and spiritual refreshment a regular practice, nowhere does Scripture instruct pastors to take special extended times of refreshment. Nowhere in the pastoral epistles (or in the entire canon) are sabbath principles extended for those in vocational ministry. God has commanded all believers to rest one day each week. There is no biblical mandate, reason, or example of vocational ministers taking extended sabbaticals from their places of ministry.

2) The reasoning behind extended pastoral sabbaticals appears to be inherently flawed. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not in favor of pastoral dryness or burn-out. But the problem with pastoral dryness and burn-out is not due to a lack of pastoral sabbaticals, but to a lack of biblical priorities in the pastor's life. The sabbath principle is to be observed weekly. If pastors would discipline themselves to practice weekly sabbaticals, extended sabbaticals would be unnecessary. Likewise, pastoral freshness is cultivated in a regular routine of Bible Study, reading, sermon-listening, and fellowshipping with the people in his ministry context. So while rest and refreshment are necessary, they are to take place within the context of ministry--not outside of it (see Mark 6:31-56)!

3) The problem with extended pastoral sabbaticals is that they tend to enable pastors to continue to mis-prioritize and mismanage their time and leadership responsibilities. There are many causes of pastoral weariness, dryness, and burn-out, but many cases of these pastoral maladies are easily traced to one or more of the following:

1. An unwillingness or inability to delegate ministry responsibility. Here's what I've learned about many churches: if the pastor wants to do everything, many times the church will let him! I praise God that I pastor a church that will not let me do so. So pastors, give people the opportunity and privilege to join with you in God's work. The old addage, "If I want it done right, I'll do it myself" may be a partial-truth, but it tends to leave God out of the equation. Remember, the church you pastor is His work (Matthew 16:18).

2. An inherent tendency to micromanage. Some pastors are master delegators, but micromanagers. They don't do everything, but they have their hand in everything. From the choir songs to the Nursery schedule to what's on the menu for the upcoming potluck, the pastor knows it all, and has to OK it all. The problem with micromanaging is that church leadership is to be a shared responsibility (see Acts 6). While I am not advocating pastoral ignorance or an unbiblical hands-off approach to ministry, pastoral burnout is often traced to the tendency of leaders to micromanage.

3. An unwillingness to include his family in ministry responsibilities. As a boy, I always enjoyed accompanying my father on hospital or nursing home visits. Although I wish I had given more attention to what my Dad did and said while he was there, I learned much about ministry (and life) from being with my Dad while he was doing ministry. Many pastors feel it necessary to take a sabbatical because they ignore or neglect their families in the name of ministry. Extended sabbaticals may very well enable them to continue doing so.

4. An unwillingness to care for their physical bodies. Some pastors wear their bodies out in the name of the kingdom, and are lauded by their congregations for doing so. They reserve little time for rest, relaxation, and exercise in a normal week. And so, extended sabbaticals serve the purpose of providing the pastor "catch-up" time for his body. The problem is that the human body does not catch-up on time and sleep lost in the name of ministry. The once-a-week sabbath principle serves a spiritual and practical purpose.

5. An inability to handle the pressures or trials of ministry. Ministry is tough. Anybody who has any ministry experience can identify with the difficulty and stress of the calling. When it comes to handling ministry difficulties biblically, the answer is not to run. It's not a sabbatical. God's Word does not instruct anyone--including pastors--to deal with life's pressures and difficulties by taking an extended vacation! God's Word is clear: Christians (including pastors) handle life's problems and difficulties by trusting in Him, availing themselves of His sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), and continuing in the work to which God has called them (how long? see Isaiah 6:8-13). When life gets tough ... take an extended break from the ministry and responsibility God has called you to. Is that really the message we want to send to the people in the pews? Should they ask their employer for a six-month sabbatical every seven-or-so years?
While these things may come across as harsh and uncompassionate for those struggling in a difficult ministry, I assure you they are not intended to come across as such. The real questions are these: Is God's Word sufficient in dealing with the "toughies" of ministry, without taking an extended sabbatical from the church and ministry? Is God's grace sufficient to meet every pastor's needs to fulfill his calling well? If so, why would we enable pastors to step outside the bounds of God's Word, and expand the sabbath principle without a biblical mandate to do so?

God has graciously given us all we need for life, godliness, and ministry (2 Peter 1:3). Let us avail ourselves of the means of grace He has granted for a lengthy, healthy, and fulfilling ministry ... and leave the sabbaticals to one-day-a-week sabbaths--the way God intended them to be!

**Note: This post was intended to be brief, and to fit within the 1 - 2 minute reading window. When realizing its length, I attempted to divide this into two posts. Doing so would be detrimental to the subject matter at hand. Therefore, I have included the entire lengthy post! I plead for your indulgence and forgiveness!

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Friday, March 6

Suffering, Sovereignty and the Depravity of Man - Voddie Bauchman

This is a brilliant and God-centered portion of a message that deals with the so called "problem" of suffering with a correct view of a holy and righteous God in light of His Word. Pay close attention to the correct question being posed here in light of Scripture's teaching on justice, wrath, condemnation, mercy and grace:

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Thursday, March 5

Practicing What You Preach When Suffering Hits Home

When my mother passed away on April 8th, 2002 I was not a pastor. I had never preached or had a part in a funeral. It was also the first time that I had ever lost someone close to me to death. There is no doubt in my mind that the grief and suffering that I experienced through that time with my mother's long battle with colon cancer and her eventual death better prepared me for pastoring a church in the future.

Today, after nearly five years in the ministry it has been my privilege to be a part of several funerals. In my first couple of years of ministry I felt like I was doing funerals nearly every month. The church that I pastor voted me in by a vote of 38-0 in October of 2004. About 33 of those 38 votes were gray headed saints of God. Of course, there is nothing wrong with age. But we all know that the older we get the chances of our death greatly increase. Hence, the large number of funerals that I did in my first years of ministry.

Funerals for me have always been a great source of comfort, assurance in the gospel and joy that a dear saint of God is now "absent from the body and present with the Lord". I have never preached the funeral of an unregenerate person (to the best of my knowledge). If the Lord tarries, I'm sure that precedent will change.

Yesterday while I was home for lunch my wife received a phone call from her twin brother that brought the news that her mother had passed away that morning at the age of sixty-six. To make it an even more sobering event is the fact that we are not convinced that she was ever truly converted. Hence, this is an even sadder event that reminds me of God's mercy for the elect and the finality of death (Hebrews 9:27).

There is not a week that goes by where I do not admonish God's people to trust in a sovereign and righteous God who is also a good and gracious God. Not "good" because of what He gives to us or does for us. Rather, "good" because that is His intrinsic character and being. His ways are good and His mercy endures forever. Now, at a moment of grieving, I find as a pastor the issue of "practicing what I preach". This is a clear reminder of our desperate need of God's grace, our church family, the promises of God's Word and the presence of His Spirit at work in our lives. Now, we as a family have this test to actually live it out in our own lives.

We ask that you pray for comfort for my wife Christina, our children Joseph and Hannah who will be attending their first family funeral, opportunities to share the gospel and soft hearts to hear the gospel. Suffering and God's sovereignty is not just a nice theological subject, but something that is to be fleshed out and lived out in our own lives.

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Tuesday, March 3

If This is Contemporary Fundamentalism, Count Me In

From the keyboard of the brightest mind in contemporary Baptist fundamentalism:

Conservative Christians recognize that they have received a doctrinal and moral patrimony. They wish to leave this legacy to be enjoyed by their children for generations to come. In order to conserve their heritage, they must pledge themselves both to guarding the integrity of the gospel and to perpetuating the whole counsel of God. They soon discover, however, that they cannot perform these tasks unless they learn to depend upon the wisdom and benevolence of a sovereign God.

For nearly two centuries, American Christianity has been overpowered by a fascination with visible effectiveness. At the latest, this fascination stems from Charles Finney, who made visible success (defined in terms of the number of decisions) into the test of spiritual wisdom. Finney himself succeeded wildly in these terms, and he created a mythology of success that has become the very atmosphere of American evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Finney argued, and many American Christians have agreed, that the spirituality of any preacher, program, church, or method should be gauged by the results that it produces.

Finney’s pragmatism is the carrot that lures American Christians. The stick that drives them is the crisis mentality. This mentality shows up in a variety of ways. You have surely encountered more than one of them. If we don’t send more missionaries (now!), then the doors will surely close in the 10-40 window. If you fail to persuade your neighbor to trust Christ (today!), then he will certainly blame you publicly on Judgment Day. If we don’t vote for our candidate (in this election!), then America will be gone beyond retrieval.
Continue reading Kevin Bauder's article HERE.

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Your Problems Are Not That Bad...Really!

The economy is bad.

Many have lost their jobs or have been laid off for a long period of time.

The stock market is lower than it has been in over twelve years causing the portfolio of many to take a serious beating (including my own!).

Huge banks are at the mercy of government bailouts.

Yet, solving these problems still fails to solve the most monumental of all problems if someone does not know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord - having peace with God through Christ (Romans 5:1). I am reminded today as we read and watch the news that has mostly become discouraging and dreadful of the words of the Heidelburg Catechism (1563):

Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?


Answer
: That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul - in life and in death - to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.


Romans 8:37-39 - "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ESV)

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