Saturday, January 31, 2009

Men of God in Africa

I just came across this video of the Grace Bible Institute graduation ceremony in Mwanza, Tanzania. The Institute is led by Rob Howell, the missionary that the Eads family is now assisting. Even though you folks do not know the Howells or Grace Bible Institute, I just had to post this. It made my heart nearly burst to see faithful men equipped and ready to take the Word of God to their people. Nothing could be sweeter! Praise the Lord!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Signs of Conversion

Turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, shows. It is visible and observable. What does the Bible indicate we should see when one is converted? Join us to worship the Lord as we consider this truth.

Songs
Come We that Love the Lord (#223)
Church of God, Beloved and Chosen (#222)
Come Ye Who Bow to Sovereign Grace
Take My Life and Let It Be (#560)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)
Baptismal Hymn (#455)

Scripture Reading
Our Living Hope and Holiness - 1 Peter 1

Sermon
The Signs of Conversion

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Schleitheim Confession

I have previously posted on this blog the Second London Baptist Confession. Before we return to that, I thought it would be enlightening for you to see some of the prior European confessions which set the stage for the Baptist confessions. I am not saying that the Baptist confessions necessarily depended on these prior confessions. Rather, these prior confessions set the context for understanding the Baptist confessions. You might compare it to entering a conversation in the middle. If you don't understand what the other people were talking about prior to your arrival, you may well have a hard time following the conversation. That is, you will not understand why the people are saying what they are saying. But if they fill you in on what they are discussing, you will have a clearer picture of what is going on. Similarly, if you understand the historical "conversation" of confessions, you will be better equipped to benefit from them.



Here is the first part of the Schleitheim Confession of 1527, a statement by Swiss Anabaptists which set forward their distinctive convictions. Perhaps their most significant contribution to the "conversation" was their insistence on a church composed only of believers.


The articles which we discussed and on which we were of one mind are these 1. Baptism; 2. The Ban [excommunication]; 3. Breaking of Bread; 4. Separation from the Abomination; 5. Pastors in the Church; 6. The Sword; and 7. The Oath.


First. Observe concerning baptism: Baptism shall be given to all those who have learned repentance and amendment of life, and who believe truly that their sins are taken away by Christ, and to all those who walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and wish to be buried with Him in death, so that they may be resurrected with him, and to all those who with this significance request it of us and demand it for themselves. This excludes all infant baptism, the highest and chief abominations of the pope. In this you have the foundation and testimony of the apostles. Mt. 28, Mk 16, Acts 2, 8, 16, 19. This we wish to hold simply, yet firmly and with assurance.


Second. We agree as follows on the ban: The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves to the Lord, to walk in His commandments, and with all those who have been baptized into the one body of Christ and who are called brethren and sisters, and yet who slip sometimes and fall into error and sin, being inadvertently overtaken. The same shall be admonished twice in secret and the third time openly disciplined or banned according to the command of Christ. Mt. 18. But this shall be done according to the regulation of the Spirit (Mt. 5) before the breaking of bread, so that we may break and eat one bread, with one mind and in one love, and may drink of one cup.

Third. In the breaking of bread we are of one mind and are agreed [as follows]: All those who wish to break one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ, and all who wish to drink of one drink as a remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, shall be united beforehand by baptism in one body of Christ which is the church of god and whose Head is Christ. For as Paul points out we cannot at the same time be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils; we cannot at the same time drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of the devil. That is, all those who have fellowship with the dead works of darkness have no part in the light. Therefore all who follow the devil and the world have no part with those who are called unto God out of the world. All who lie in the evil have no part in the good.



Therefore it is and must be [thus]: Whoever has not been called by one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one Spirit, to one body, with all the children of God’s church, cannot be made [into] one bread with them, as indeed must be done if one is truly to break bread according to the command of Christ.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Save America...Kill Babies

I'm sure some of you have seen or heard the report on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments about birth control funding as part of the stimulus package. From what I hear, $87 billion is to go to "family planning services." Many have pointed out the economic self-destruction that is involved in such thinking. It's pretty obvious that the smaller the next generation is, the fewer producers you have to keep an economy going, especially when you have already borrowed against those future producers with massive debt.

But let this be a lesson to us also regarding what happens when we trust in the government to provide for us. If we get nationalized health care, this is exactly the kind of logic that will be used to justify murder. "We are in debt, so we can't afford to keep providing services for elderly people who have no quality of life. This goes for handicapped people, too. Oh, and while we're at it, we won't pay for the birth of any imperfect babies either, so you'll have to have your pre-natal genetic screening. If your fetus has any abnormalities, we will just pay for you to have an abortion." And so on and so forth.

This tendency is not unique to today or to our government. It has always been a tendency of the powerful to eat up the weak for their own purposes (Ps 94:6). This is why God repeatedly told Israel to defend the widow and the fatherless, precisely those people who did not have the power to defend themselves (Ps 82:3; see this repeatedly in Deuteronomy). Those who hate God and hate life will always act this way. Don't be caught unprepared. If fathers and families will provide for their own, and churches will truly take care of those who have no family to provide for them (1 Tim 5:3-16), then we won't have to rely on voracious power-mongers. And we won't have to kill babies in order to save our precious American way of life.

I Agree with the Pope!

No, I'm not about to run off and sign Evangelicals and Catholics Together. May it perish forever. But when I read this little article, I had to say that he is right on. I like to encourage thoughtful use of technology. Facebook is not inherently bad, but if we use it foolishly it will definitely be bad. Technology comes with potential for benefits and for risks, so let's not be blind to the potential risks of Facebook. Face to face friendships far surpass Facebook.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Invitation to Life

Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other" (Isa 45:22). What an invitation! The one true and living God offers salvation to all who will turn to him. In fact, it is a commanding invitation coming from God himself. It is utmost folly to refuse. It is life to all who receive.

Songs
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (#243)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice (#291)
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy (#300)
I Will Sing the Wondrous Story (#268)
There Is a Fountain (#267)
Depth of Mercy! Can There Be (#282)

Scripture Reading
Living in the Freedom of the Spirit - Galatians 5-6

Sermon
Blessed Be God for Blessing Us in Christ with Conversion - Isaiah 55:7

Friday, January 16, 2009

Putting a Stop to Church Hopping

Jay Adams has some good thoughts on "church tramps" here.

I refer to this because one of my hopes is that we as a church can lead the charge to recover a biblical practice of church membership for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

Fundamentally Pagan

Earlier this week, the Barna Group released the results of a survey which showed evidence that "half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs." Journalist Jane Lampman of the Christian Science Monitor picked up on this report and correlated it with the Pew Forum's massive US Relgious Landscape Survey from 2007. One of the most striking findings of the Pew survey was that the majority of professing Christians believed that eternal life could be found in other religions. These results were confirmed last year by a follow-up survey conducted by the Pew Forum.

These findings are not particularly surprising, so I do not want to dwell on the details of them here. They merely confirm what we basically already knew - that Christianity in America is a mile wide and an inch deep. However, I do want to use these findings to point out a particularly bad blind spot for us as American Christians.

As is often the case, outsiders can see our blinds spots, and in this case, sociologist Alan Wolfe touches it with a needle. Lampman cites him as saying, "It's just part of a 200-year working out of ideas about personal autonomy and equality that are sort of built into the American experience. The notion that someone is going to burn in hell because they have their own beliefs is just not resonant within our larger political ideals."

Wolfe realizes that there is a built in contradiction between some of our most fundamental American ideals and biblical Christianity. Even more, Wolfe realizes that these tensions have been in place from the beginning of our nation. (For more on this, you can see his book The Transformation of American Religion. For a better evaluation than Wolfe's, see Carl J. Richards, The Battle for the American Mind.) This is what evangelicals in America have been refusing to see. And because we do not see it, we are becoming more and more "evangelized" by pagan ideals.

Many conservative (I use the term loosely here) Christians want to think of our founding fathers as the pinnacle of Christian civilization. But that is simply not the case. Our founding fathers embodied an unstable mixture of pagan thinking with their Christian heritage. The evangelical surge of the early 19th century partially obscured and to some degree mitigated the effects of the paganism, but even then Christianity was being inexorably democratized. The Civil War marked a great turning point, and, in my opinion, our nation gradually began conforming to pagan ideals from that point onward. The notorious Sixties were the culmination of this transformation, and since then our collective American thinking has been decisively controlled by paganism. This paganism has been working its way out into our laws and public institutions for the past couple generations. America today, while still having vestigial Christian influence, is fundamentally pagan.

Until we get this fact, we will not be able to repent and take the steps necessary to keep from being colonized by paganism. I fear that many Christians will respond to these kinds of reports by saying that we need to do a better job of teaching our people what we really believe. Well, this is most definitely true, as far as it goes, which is one reason that I advocate things like catechisms and expositional preaching of the Word. But sooner or later we are going to have to come to grips with the fact that you cannot have both American ideas of personal autonomy and equality and biblical Christianity. Alan Wolfe, who is no friend to conservative Christianity, can see it. When will we?

Update: Tim Bayly has a post on his blog that perfectly illustrates what I am talking about here.

Our Father

When Jesus gave us a model prayer, he taught us to pray, "Our Father in heaven...". Those two words "Our Father" have rich meaning for us, and we are going to celebrate that together this Lord's Day.

Songs
Doxology
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
Praise the Savior (#17)
Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord (#627)
More Secure Is No One Ever (#613)
Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us (#503)
Holy Spirit, Lead Us Now (#198)

Scripture Reading
Sons and Heirs of God - Galatians 3-4

Sermon
Blessed Be God for Blessing Us in Christ with Adoption - Romans 8

Update: You may want to read this moving lesson from adoption by Russell Moore before our service.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Study Christ

I'm preparing for tonight's discussion of Holiness, and I wanted to share this thought from Ryle.

He that would be conformed to Christ's image, and become a Christ-like man, must be constantly studying Christ Himself.

Call Us Savages...

...because we gather to sing (and to eat).

The philosopher Roger Scruton reflects on "How Society Lost Its Voice," that is, the ability to sing together. But I say, "Let society come and worship the Lord with us, and we will teach the world to sing!" (Psalm 98; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16)

Friday, January 09, 2009

Justified by His Blood

How do you feel today? I feel rather frustrated, provoked, and weary. The idol worship all around, which spills out in everything from personal lifestyles to federal government decisions, is frankly maddening. One could go insane living in an insane world like this.

But this Lord's Day I want to preach on something from the Word of God which powerfully produces peace and hope in this world. The Bible talks about it often, in passages such as this:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Having peace with God and rejoicing in the hope of God's glory depend upon being justified by faith. This Lord's Day we want to consider that world-changing truth of justification. It was this truth which produced the earthquake that reshaped the Western world in the days of the Reformers, and we need it just as much today as they did then. May God be pleased to mightily reshape our lives by the great truth that we are justified by Christ's blood.

Songs
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (#36)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (#174)
Not What These Hands Have Done (#347)
Amazing Grace (#247)
The Name High Over All (#31)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)

Scripture Reading
Standing for the Gospel - Galatians 1-2

Sermon
Blessed Be God for Blessing Us in Christ with Justification - Romans 3

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Homeschooling Grows

While the homeschooling movement is not a cure-all, it is most welcome and sorely needed in our day. Praise the Lord that it is growing. See the story here.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Losing Our Balance

I'm all for losing our "balance." That is to say, for some time now I have wanted to get rid of appeals to "balance" in theological discussions. Here are a couple reasons. (1) I have found that every person thinks of himself as balanced, so appeals to balance end up being appeals to "see things my way." (2) Appeals to balance regularly try to reduce issues to two simple opposites, both with equal claims to being correct. But this is almost never the case, so the appeal to balance actually obscures the very issues that we are discussing.

Last week I read an article by Graeme Goldsworthy, retired lecturer in Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Moore College in Sydney, Australia, and I was gratified to see his cogent statement on "balance." He put effectively into words what had bounced around in my brain for some time without ever being well-articulated. Goldsworthy wrote:

Just what does balanced mean here? An equal number of tomes, or of sermons, on each? Two great truths simply stated? I would suggest that balance is not a biblical word, nor a biblical idea, and it doesn't explain anything. Try balancing divine sovereignty in predestination with human responsibility, as some argue we must. Or try balancing the human nature of Jesus with his divine nature. They simply do not balance, but there is a biblical perspective on them that we must try to understand and express. So there is also a biblical perspective on the relationship of the being of God and the action of God. It is this relationship between them, not giving them equal time, that is the important issue.

Later in the article, Goldsworthy applied this insightfully to the debates in early Christianity regarding the doctrine of God and the person of Christ.

We can see the ravages of balance when we look at the Trinitarian and Christological heresies that led to so much systematic formulation in the early church. Balance suggests an interchangability that, in the end, produces modalism. The insight of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 was that, in the matter of the two natures of Christ, balance does not suffice. It was the nature of heresy to try to balance the two natures.

Trying to be "balanced" is a good way to end up a heretic. It is much better to strive to be biblical.

(I'm not sure how to link directly to the article I cited, but you can find it by going to beginningwithmoses.org, clicking at the top of the page on bt articles, and then clicking on "Ontology and Biblical Theology" by Graeme Goldsworthy.)

Witnessing to a "Steamroller"

Here's some good advice when talking to people who tend to get a bit aggresive.

Fun Time





Things have been slow on the blog over the past couple weeks, as I have been taking a little extra time with family. It has been thoroughly enlivening to be with kin.


Yesterday we took Monica's sister Amanda to Helen Hunt Falls. The falls were mostly frozen, but the snow sure was fun!



Friday, January 02, 2009

Entering 2009 by Faith

This Lord's Day will be a little different than most for us as a church. I had planned to continue preaching on the good news of God's great plan of salvation, this time dealing with justification. However, the Lord has, in his providential wisdom, given us an unusual opportunity to put our faith in him into practice. James 5:14 instructs us that a person who is seriously ill may call for the elders of the church to pray over him for healing. This is precisely the situation we have before us as a church, so this Sunday we will be following the instructions found in this scripture.

As we do this, I believe this can be a great way to start off the new year in faith. By devoting ourselves to fervent prayer, along with anointing with oil and confessing of sins, we are demonstrating that we believe in the Lord as our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. I can't think of a better way to begin 2009.

Songs
Praise the Savior (#17)
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#495)
Call Jehovah Thy Salvation (#499)
Be Still My Soul (#500)
Be Thou My Vision (musical offering)
He Who Would Valiant Be (#507)
Another Year Is Dawning (#732)

Scripture Reading
A Call to Live Wholeheartedly for God - James 1, 5

Sermon
Let Him Pray: the Prayer of Faith and Saving the Sick - James 5:13-18