Monthly Archives: October 2010

When Election Cycles Turn Nasty—and Funny!

Now that these midterm elections are finally drawing to a close, so will the political ads for this season.  The mudslinging, slanderous comments these politicians bring against their opponents is embarrassing, to say the least. 

Yet, this is nothing compared to the nastiest election season of all-time:  the presidential election of 1800.  Check out the clip below between incumbent John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—using their own words (HT: First Things):

 

 

And remember when President George W. Bush was universally loved by all Americans in the wake of 9-11?  I remember this video well, but it seems like one of a long bygone era. 

 

Now check out this clip of a debate between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary, c. 1992. 

 

And the best exchange of all, in my opinion, was in the 1984 Republican Debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, where Reagan made clear what issue he would not “exploit for political purposes”:

 

Maybe one day we can look back and laugh at some moments from this 2010 midterm election cycle.  In the meantime, keep it civil, gents. 

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“So When Did You Know You Would Finish the Race?”

Back in August of this year (2010), I ran my first 5K.  It was an amazing experience that hooked me on running for good.  I have struggled over the past two months with a mild calf strain, so I was delighted when I ran two miles today and felt really good!  Glad to be back!

After the 5K, Darlene (a deacon’s wife at my church and that night’s running partner) asked me on the ride back, “So, Bro. Matt, when did you know you would finish?”  My response:  “As soon as I stood with the other at the starting line.”  I did not say that with any bravado—just a determination due to me meeting the most significant goal: signing up and showing up!

The Apostle Paul wrote of a race in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Paul likened the Christian life to a race!  We run with purpose, prepare with self-control with discipline, for a prize that shall not perish. 

The question I pose to myself and to the other two people who read this blog: “If you are a Christian, are you running in order to finish well?”  We should start with the end in mind.  We should live with the purpose of making much of Jesus at every step and every turn!  We run with a dogged determination to play by the rules set out by the one who organized the race (God the Father) and set the course for us. 

May we avoid the dreaded DNQ (did not qualify) or DQ (disqualification)!  Our preaching and living must match without fail!

Take heed to yourselves, lest you perish, while you call upon others to take heed of perishing; and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare food for them. Though there is a promise of shining as the stars, to those‘who turn many to righteousness,’ that is but on supposition that they are first turned to it themselves. Their own sincerity in the faith is the condition of their glory, simply considered, though their great ministerial labors may be a condition of the promise of their greater glory. Many have warned others that they come not to that place of torment, while yet they hastened to it themselves: many a preacher is now in hell, who hath a hundred times called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape it. Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for offering salvation to others, while they refuse it themselves; and for telling others those truths which they themselves neglect and abuse? Many a tailor goes in rags, that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarcely licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes. Believe it, brethren, God never saved any man for being a preacher, nor because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master’s work. Take heed, therefore, to ourselves first, that you he that which you persuade your hearers to be, and believe that which you persuade them to believe, and heartily entertain that Savior whom you offer to them. He that bade you love your neighbors as yourselves, did imply that you should love yourselves, and not hate and destroy yourselves and them (Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor).

Are you running the race to win? 

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Church Plants, High Impact, and an Anointing from God

Do you ever have times when what you expect to happen doesn’t happen the way you think it will—it’s better than you anticipate?  It’s rare!

But it happened today!

A friend of mine is in the works of planting a church in Eastern Kentucky.  God planted the vision of this church in his heart and mind months prior—and what a compelling vision it is!  So we met with some leaders of the Kentucky Baptist Convention today to discuss making this church a High Impact church which demonstrates not only a good faith backing but also supplying this plant with an ‘x’ amount of funding to help them get out of the block and start well (financially speaking). 

My friend and his wife had a chance to share their testimony about their conversion and calling to plant a church.  I talk to him daily, so I have a good grip of his vision and his heart—but hearing it out in open air and seeing the panel’s reaction was moving—like hearing it for the first time!

Once they were finished, the rest of us had a chance to speak and tell why we were on-board with this plant.  In essence, I shared these points:

  • Our church had never sponsored a new church plant before.  I knew that Mark would get his sponsorship—so this was more about us and how we would react to this opportunity. 
  • By discussing the notion of sponsoring, it triggered more conversations about how our church could minister in Eastern Kentucky with this church—and I know it will kickstart ministry here at home.  It has generated an excitement even in the midst of our in-house financial struggles. 
  • It has been incredible having a front-row seat in seeing how all of this is piecing together.  There will be a mutual benefit for our churches—us toward his, and his toward ours.  How marvelous that a 225-year-old church would be involved in such a venture!

At the end, one of the panel members asked to make a brief comment.  In a very emotional manner, he said, “Clearly, this is of God.”  It was very moving.  Another said in a more wry fashion, “If you couldn’t sense the Spirit of God here, you’re dumb!” 

Never did I anticipate being in the midst of the presence of God like I was today!  So thankful when God brings these unexpected times of refreshing our way!

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Tony Bennett Sings God Bless America at the World Series

I love hearing Tony Bennett belt it out!  And he killed it during Game 1 of the 2010 World Series.  Enjoy!

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Revisiting Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven”

At my previous blog, I wrote a short post on one particular concern I had with Don Piper’s  then new book 90 Minutes in Heaven (“Did Don Piper’s ‘90 Minutes in Heaven’ Reflect the Biblical Heaven?”).  The premise of this book is that Don had an accident and for ninety minutes was in heaven.  This book outlines some of the experiences there.  Here was my main issue:

What interested me was his chapter on heavenly music. Praise was everywhere, he said, filling his heart with the deepest of joy. But what really caught my attention was his remark on p. 35:

“Many of the old hymns and choruses I had sung at various times in my life were part of the music — along with hundreds of songs I had never heard before. Hymns of praise, modern-sounding choruses, and ancient chants filled my ears and brought not only a deep peace but the greatest feeling of joy I’ve ever experienced.

As I stood before the gate, I didn’t think of it, but later realized that I didn’t hear such songs as “The Old Rugged Cross” or “The Nail-Scarred Hand.” None of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus’ sacrifice or death. I heard no sad songs and instinctively knew that there were no sad songs in heaven. Why would there by? All were praises about Christ’s reign as King of Kings and our joyful worship for all he has done for us and how wonderful he is.”[1]

With all due respect to those of you who have read through this book and found it so joyous and hopeful, I found myself not wanting to read another word. Why? Well, if we need to see what heaven is like, the Bible is clearly sufficient for that, so we must look to see if Piper’s vision of heaven matches the Scriptures. And on at least two occasions it clearly does not. Rev. 5:9-10

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

[10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Let me ask you: do you believe those in heaven realize how they made it there? It is because of Jesus reconciling us as sinners to God who is holy through … what? The Cross! The elders and the whole company were singing about the cross even in heaven! Also in Revelation, the Spirit reveals a Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Why is Jesus called a Lamb? Because Lambs were sacrificed, but Jesus was the once and for all sacrifice and all who partake of this are recipients of Christ’s reconciling and atoning work on the cross!

I received 31 comments on this—six just yesterday!  What are your thoughts on this book?  Please be clear if you have read it or not. 

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Programs, Pastors, and Pastures: Why This Video on the Missional Church Intrigues Me

As a pastor of a smallish church (averaging 150 per Sunday morning), I am constantly thinking on what not only the church should be, but what our church should be under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. 

Do we load up on programs, or is there another way? 

Do we engage primarily in ‘come and see’ evangelism, or is there another way?

Is our primary walk about being fed, or is there another way?

Does everything rise and fall on the pastor, or is there another way?

This video implies that the point of a missional church is not just to come in, but to go out!  John Maxwell even said that the way you can tell a healthy church is not by how many come in, but by how many go out!

Churches that have a maintenance mode mentality will see this as a slow and even an impossible and unattainable turn to make. 

But this is a turn which must be made!  And it’s this turn in which I shall cast my lot.

When our people at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church come into this building, they will receive a welcome in the love of Christ, and hear the Word about the gospel of Christ.  Now, the next step is to take the Word and affect the world for Christ!  In our work (Ephesians 6:5-9), in our homes (Ephesians 5:22-33), in the marketplace, we are called to take the Word to where we are to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) and invest in our fellow image bearers.

Pray for me and us as we think through how this would look!  But this is the way we should go.  It is the way we must go!

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Spurgeon Teaches Us About Giving—Even in Want

"Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house."
Haggai 1:9

Churlish souls stint their contributions to the ministry and missionary operations, and call such saving good economy; little do they dream that they are thus impoverishing themselves. Their excuse is that they must care for their own families, and they forget that to neglect the house of God is the sure way to bring ruin upon their own houses. Our God has a method in providence by which he can succeed our endeavours beyond our expectation, or can defeat our plans to our confusion and dismay; by a turn of his hand he can steer our vessel in a profitable channel, or run it aground in poverty and bankruptcy. It is the teaching of Scripture that the Lord enriches the liberal and leaves the miserly to find out that withholding tendeth to poverty.

In a very wide sphere of observation, I have noticed that the most generous Christians of my acquaintance have been always the most happy, and almost invariably the most prosperous. I have seen the liberal giver rise to wealth of which he never dreamed; and I have as often seen the mean, ungenerous churl descend to poverty by the very parsimony by which he thought to rise. Men trust good stewards with larger and larger sums, and so it frequently is with the Lord; he gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels. Where wealth is not bestowed the Lord makes the little much by the contentment which the sanctified heart feels in a portion of which the tithe has been dedicated to the Lord.

Selfishness looks first at home, but godliness seeks first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, yet in the long run selfishness is loss, and godliness is great gain. It needs faith to act towards our God with an open hand, but surely he deserves it of us; and all that we can do is a very poor acknowledgment of our amazing indebtedness to his goodness.

(From Morning and Evening, October 26-Morning by C.H. Spurgeon)

A Note to My Congregation

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

I know that by man’s accounting we took a big risk by choosing to sponsor an upcoming church plant, even when our finances are stretched so thin and the money going out is far surpassing the money coming in!  But see what the Word has to say.  And see what God laid on Bro. Spurgeon’s heart.  Does this not speak to our situation?  Does not Haggai 1:9 put some assurance that when we give and give generously as a church to what God has commanded us, that He will always take care of us?  Did not Jesus say that if we are faithful with little, we can be trusted to be faithful with much? 

Take heart, Boone’s Creek Baptist Church!  When we voted to sponsor this church that will be birthed to reach many for Christ who have yet to be reached, we cast our lot with the Lord by saying, “Lord, I don’t know how, I don’t know where—but we know You!  May we be faithful in our want, knowing that you will bless us in ways we cannot foresee nor anticipate.” 

1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you see that you excel in this act of grace also (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, ESV).

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Book Review: “Church in the Making” by Ben Arment

A friend of mine who is seeking to plant a church recommended a book entitled Church in the Making by Ben Arment.  I was intrigued until I looked at the subtitle:  “What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before It Starts.”  I thought, “I’m not starting a church plant—I’m pastoring a 225-year-old church in Kentucky.  I don’t have time to read a church planting book.”  That is, until my friend shared some of the insights of this book.  So, since our church was (and now will be) helping sponsor a church plant, I thought it might be a good investment.  So, I purchased it to read on my Kindle.

What Arment proposes is a method of church planting that defies conventional wisdom in numerous areas and infuses it with some common sense principles derived from Scripture and experience.  He notes that, “Ultimately a new church’s purpose is not to become a congregation; it’s to manifest the glory of God.  The more churches there are, the more glory.  So if we don’t create movement, he’ll do it for us.” 

What caught my attention was how Arment takes away the barrier from the church planter by telling him, “It’s OK to move on.” 

If people don’t respond to the gospel and if your ministry is not being received, you’re not obligated to stick around.  Go ahead, move on.  You’ve done your job.  It may not have been to plant a church, but it still accomplished Christ’s mission.  What a liberating realization!

Arment contends that church planters do need a crowd for the gospel to grow.  “Sociology can be just as important to a church planter’s plight as theology.  If we can’t gather a crowd, then the gospel seeds have nowhere to grow.  I know plenty of pastors who believe that the mere presence of a crowd is the sign of a compromised gospel.  But the greatest movements of God, the greatest revivals, have happened among crowds.”  Later he says, “Churches have always been planted and the gospel has always been spread through pockets of people.”  While he does believe that the Holy Spirit enables people to come to faith in Christ, church planters (and pastors) need to remove “the man-made thorns that keep them from trusting him.”

Arment also answers the objection given by many that churches should not simply be planted to reach a distinct group or demographic of people. 

Let me be perfectly clear about this.  You’re not only allowed to plant a different kind of church for a specific group of people; you’re commanded to do it.  The Bible is filled with communities of faith that were formed around cultural distinctives.  In Acts 6, some Greek Christian widows are complaining about low food rations.  So to respond to the problem, the apostles appoint deacons, almost all of which happen to be Greek.  Coincidence?

What is one main key to a church planter’s success?  Arment believes it’s the planter being “indigenous to [his] community.”  He has roots, knows the successes and plights and the histories therein.  There is a type of kinship and bond that doesn’t always exist with an ‘outsider.’ 

Personal Thoughts

I found Arment’s book to be helpful even to this pastor of a traditional, established church.  I found myself sorting through the issues that I and our people often take for granted in church world.  Arment said something that will always stick with me:  “We have to be careful to plant the church our community needs, not the church in our heads.”  This means being open and interacting with the community in which my church is located, keeping my eyes open to the needs and hurts and issues both inside the church and outside her doors.

Granted, this review has served more as giving some random thoughts behind the book—but it was more of what this book spoke to me personally!  I’m grateful for the way it challenged me to think of my own motives as well as the purpose of the church as a whole.  I highly recommend this book.

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Pre-Game Prayers Disallowed? Don’t Try This in Wisconsin

From Gary Bauer’s “End of Day Report” on October 25, 2010:

Tired of the intolerant Left telling you not to pray in public anymore? Evidently a lot of folks in Tennessee are, and I know they aren’t alone.

The atheists at the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin, sent a cease and desist letter to Dr. Jim Scales, superintendent of schools in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Dr. Scales’ “sin” was allowing pre-game prayers to be broadcast over stadium loudspeakers at high school football games. Faced with a potential lawsuit that the school system would likely lose, Dr. Scales instructed all Hamilton county principals to stop pre-game prayers.

At one Friday night football game, the announcer declared over the stadium’s loudspeakers that there would be no pre-game prayer that evening. But he noted that students were free to pray if they wished. Football players from both teams proceeded to walk on to the field, and within minutes the stadium was virtually empty as fans from both sides joined them in prayer.

These are the kinds of small events that inspire major movements. As more and more people realize they are not alone, they become emboldened to stand up and speak out. I applaud the good folks of Tennessee for refusing to be intimidated by a bunch of bitter leftists in Wisconsin.

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Links to Help Your Grip (10.25.10)

Francis Chan speaks on the weirdness of our generation!  He has been called weird because he resigned his pastorate, sold his house, and is moving to Asia to minister.  But is he weird by biblical standards, or American standards?

This article by an anonymous missionary contains the best definition of the glory of God I’ve ever read.

Here is an paper I wrote on John Knox: Scottish Reformer for my church history class back in 2003—posted on Quodlibet.net.  “Give me Scotland, or I die!”  Powerful man of God!

The Museum of the Confederacy is opening up a museum in Appomattox for the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865).  A monumental event for all who love Civil War history.

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