Monthly Archives: July 2013

Leadership Development from … the Book of Acts?

I like Phil Newton a lot. He is decidedly biblical as pastor of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, taking that church in a solid direction based on Scripture and not tradition. His booklet, The Way of Faith, has been helpful for me for use as a primer for the Christian faith.

Recently, Newton penned an article about leadership development from the Book of Acts. How wonderful! Here’s an excerpt:

Potential leaders had to learn to follow before leading. The consistent pattern in Acts never separated evangelism and discipleship as though the former succeeded in producing new believers even if the latter were neglected. “The goal of mission,” Johannes Nissen rightly notes, “was the formation of a new community in Christ.” In obedience to Jesus Christ’s command (Matt 28:19–20), the disciples baptized and instructed new disciples. Donald Hagner points out that the “therefore” in Matthew 28:19, connects the assignment of disciple making to not only the disciples but to every church that comes after them. The Great Commission’s emphasis falls on the hard work of nurturing in discipleship rather than proclamation, evident by the clause —“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:20). The atmosphere for training leaders to engage in mission and to strengthen local churches permeated the experience of discipleship. Those that launched out in church planting had a foundation for pastoral work established in the Christian community’s discipling ministry.

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[Repost] Do We Truly Have Free Will?

(Originally posted January 30, 2013)

Every so often over the years, this question of free will arises, usually under the context of salvation.  “Are we free to choose and do we have the capability to choose Christ within our own desires, or does the Father predestine us in Christ before the foundation of the world and choose us?”  After a while, an argument ensues, with each camp picking their choice verses to lob at one another—which can be divisive in the church, and less-than-impressive when the world watches on.

Or we could even say that ‘free will’ is that in which a will operates outside of God’s compulsion or wooing.  This idea is embraced greatly by Americans who hold to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ written in the context of being free from the monarchy and control of the British throne.  The aim of the founding of the United States of America was independence.  The people could exercise their will in voting for their leaders, voting on legislation, and having a significant say in the direction our country goes. 

Before one lunges into this line of thinking, let’s get a bit more ground level.  Two items converged in my thinking to make me so bold as to say, no, our will is not nor has ever been free in the most important sense.  In what sense?  Are humans free beings in one sense, in that we are not programmed robots?  In that sense, yes, we are free to think and choose on the natural level within the realm of time, space, and the limitations of our flesh.  Beyond this?  Well, let me share with you my two items.

First, Scripture.  I grieve over how Christians pick their verses that support their thinking rather than looking at the whole counsel of Scripture to rightly discern God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).  God is not divided, He is not inconsistent, and neither is His Word

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he (under the Spirit’s inspiration) writes a critical word to the church:

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

We are all slaves to something!  Even the atheist has at some point submitted to a course of thinking and living and has, willingly, become a slave to that thinking.  But Paul rightly tells us that we are either in two camps:  slaves of sin (as inaugurated by Father Adam) or slaves of righteousness (as made possible by Christ). 

To be a slave is to be ‘not free.’  To say that our will, our thinking, the core of our being, is free is to miss what Scripture teaches.  We all are led by whatever has taken our will captive. 

Secondly, I came across a quote by my pastor, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) from a website I frequent:

‎”Free will I have often heard of, but I have never seen it. I have always met with will, and plenty of it, but it has either been led captive by sin or held in the blessed bonds of grace.”

Clearly, Spurgeon had at least Romans 6:16-19 in mind. 

Someone then asks, “Why would God give commands in the first place?  Does this not imply free will?”  It does.  We are free to look at those commands, process them, then try to do them.  But keep in mind the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.  On these hang all of the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).  We look at these, process them, then try to do them. 

But can we?  The command is all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Can we do this?  No, we cannot.  So what’s the point of giving the command in the first place?  It’s to show that we can’t and are need of rescue by Someone who can and did fulfill these (Matthew 5:17-20).  Our ‘free will’ could also take us to a place where we see that it’s impossible, and who is this God who imposes such commands on us?  So they freely take their will to a place where they begin to set up their own standard, becoming a slave to that standard.  But even then, whatever standard we try to set up even for ourselves, we will fail at this as well (Romans 2:14-15).  We need a change—we need to be rescued, even from our own supposed ‘freedom.’ 

So before we begin to get into the deep theological and philosophical arguments in regards to ‘free will,’ take Paul’s truth in mind.  We are all slaves to something on this level.  And, yes, Christ does set us free (John 8:31-36), but free from what?  He ultimately sets us free from our slavery to sin.  Once he redeems us and rescues us from that sin, “We are not our own, we were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Christians are now free from their sin under the bonds of righteousness. 

Genesis 2:18 says, “It was not good for man to be alone.”  Outside of Christ, our own selfish aims and desires drive us, and our free will will always take us away from Christ.  But when Christ comes to rescue us, He draws us to Himself (John 6:37-44) and by the Spirit that indwells begins to lead us into all truth (read John 14-16 on the beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit).  Being free in Christ is the equivalent of being a slave to righteousness. 

If I’m going to be a slave to something, I’m thankful it’s in service to my Lord Jesus Christ! 

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus—than to trust and obey!

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How Do We Understand, Engage, and Evangelize Mormons with the Gospel? John Divito Helps

My good friend, John Divito, just conducted a five-part interview with Mormon Research Ministries that you would do well to hear. John was converted to Christ after growing up in the Mormon church. He recently contributed to The Gospel Coalition as well as Christianity Today regarding connecting and engaging Mormons with the true gospel. John currently serves as the Administrator for the Midwest Center for Theological Studies in Owensboro, Kentucky.

John describes the content of each part:

The first part is my testimony and background. The second part covers my contribution to Christianity Today. The third part looks more at Jana Reiss, a well-regarded Mormon who responded to the CT article. In the fourth and fifth parts, I interact with Reiss’ response.

Listen here to all five parts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4| Part 5

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Pray for Persecuted Christians in Muslim Countries

Bruce Thornton writes a poignant article about the significant persecution of Christianity all over the world, and especially in Muslim countries:

Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero. Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100-200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes. And most of this persecution is taking place at the hands of Muslims. Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizeable Muslim populations.

The extent of this disaster, its origins, and the reasons why it has been met with a shrug by most of the Western media are the topics of Raymond Ibrahim’s Crucified Again. Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow of the Middle East Forum. Fluent in Arabic, he has been tracking what he calls “one of the most dramatic stories” of our time in the reports and witnesses that appear in Arabic newspapers, news shows, and websites, but that rarely get translated into English or picked up by the Western press. What he documents in this meticulously researched and clearly argued book is a human rights disaster of monumental proportions.

This is a timely article. Please read it in full and pray for those Christians under persecution elsewhere and here in the USA.

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Recapturing the Doctrine of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Parsons)

Dr. Burk Parsons of St. Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, FL, preaches a tremendous sermon on Recapturing a Robust Doctrine of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.  In a time and culture where many have gotten on the ‘gospel-centered’ bandwagon in trusting the power of the gospel to work in hearts, Parsons lets us know that this ‘power’ at work is attributed to the Holy Spirit.  And this especially captured this ‘gospel-gripped’ blogger.

HT:  TGC

 

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[Repost] A Biblical Case Against Gambling (Hershael York)

Hershael W York (Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching (1997); Associate Dean, Ministry and Proclamation / B.A., M.A., University of Kentucky M.Div., Ph.D., Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary).

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A dear pastor friend of mine who, like me, finds himself of necessity involved in trying to keep casino gambling out of Kentucky asked me to share some biblical reasons why I believe gambling is wrong. I actually wrote most of the following in 2005 and it was published in the Western Recorder, the official newsmagazine of Kentucky Baptists. In order that it might contribute to the debate that now consumes our state, as well as inform some of my students who think it an adiapherous avocation, I share it once again with the conviction that a follower of Christ has no business gambling.

Simply put, gambling is sin.

If no passage of Scripture explicitly forbids it, can we with confidence claim that gambling is wrong, a moral evil, sin? With good reason, Christians are hesitant to label sins that the Bible doesn’t mention, yet we often have to distill principles from the Bible that we apply to contemporary situations. Pornography, computer hacking, or cheating on tests aren’t mentioned in the Bible either, yet believers who want to live like Jesus know intuitively and correctly that these behaviors run counter to the will of God. While biblical texts may not mention them explicitly, biblical principles speak to them directly.

In the same way, the ethics of Scripture clearly teach that gambling is wrong and a sin against God, not for one single reason but for many. The slot machine, casino, or poker table are not for believers submitted to the Lordship of Christ.

Many Christians object that if they budget a certain amount of their discretionary entertainment funds for gambling and don’t go beyond that, what’s the harm? After all, Christian people waste money on all kinds of diversions. Far from convincing me that gambling is not necessarily wrong, this particular argument actually confirms it in my mind, because it reveals a complete disregard for what one’s participation in gambling does to others. This argument reveals a self-centeredness and lack of concern for weaker brothers and sisters that believers ought to find disturbing (Romans 14:21). In reality, even Christians who are not personally hurt by it are not free to participate in an industry that preys on the weak and the poor.

The Bible is full of references to God’s view of economics. In the garden of Eden, even before sin entered the world, God established a work ethic by which humanity was to exist (Genesis 1:28-30) Part of God’s creation of man in His own image was that man would work for his food. While God provided it, Adam and Eve had to exercise “dominion” over the plants and animals and till the soil, working for their sustenance. After they sinned, work changed to a more laborious task, but it remained the way God provided for them. In other words, God’s way is that we should earn what we get.

Think about these reasons why gambling violates Christian principles:

Working and investing for a living is based on a win/win scenario, but gambling is always win/lose.God put His stamp of approval on commerce and work. When a carpenter builds a cabinet and gets paid, both parties win. One of them gets the cabinets she wanted, and one of them gets the money he desired. They can both feel good about the transaction. Not so with gambling. Someone always loses and pays a price.

Gambling is motivated by greed. Let’s be honest and admit that greed lies at the heart of all gambling. The desire to get something for nothing is really another name for covetousness (Exodus 20:17; Prov. 21:25-26).

Gambling is a wasteful use of the Lord’s money. I doubt that many Christians who gamble tithe, but even if they do, New Testament Christians understand that God doesn’t have the right to only ten percent of our money, but all of it. Even though I am a tither, I am still required to be a steward of all I have because it belongs to God. I am no freer to gamble with God’s money than I am with anyone else’s. Even though others might waste the Lord’s money on equally frivolous things, their sin doesn’t excuse mine.

Gambling shows a lack of love for my neighbor. If I really love my neighbor, I want only what is for his good (Matt. 22:39, 1 Cor. 10:24). When legislators talk about putting casinos on the state line so we can prey on the greed and weakness of our neighbors, they reveal the harmful assault that gambling really is. Can I in good conscience support something that preys on the weaknesses and indulges the worst instincts of the precious people around me?

Gambling fails to consider innocent families. We might be tempted to think that if a person gambles away all of his money, then that is his problem and serves him right. But what of his ten-year-old son who can’t afford school supplies? What of his wife who has to work to pay off the credit cards she didn’t even know she had? What of his ailing parents who cannot count on his help in their senior years? What of his daughter’s college education? Proverbs 15:27 says “A greedy man brings trouble to his family,” and nowhere is that more obvious than in the gambling industry.

Gambling shows no concern for God’s glory. A Jesus-follower should try to glorify God in everything (1 Cor. 10:31), and use his or her money to accomplish good for the kingdom (Matt. 6:19-21, 24).

Gambling is not an act of faith but a game of chance. Paul wrote that “Everything that is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). The Christian life is to be lived in dependence on God to meet all needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

Jesus wouldn’t do it. Can you picture Jesus sitting at a slot machine with a cup full of quarters? He was interested in doing His Father’s business, alleviating suffering and grief, not contributing to it.

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[Repost] A Joyful Sound That’s Doctrinally Sound Where Skills Abound and Praise Resounds: Gospel Gripped Church Music

“I like the hymns!  I grew up with them!  They are part of the heritage and the heritage of the Church—and they alone should be sing in worship.”

“I like the choruses and the modern worship songs.  We are called to sing to the Lord a ‘new song’—and these new songs with the modern sounds are what should be sung to reach this generation.”

Conversations like this abound in the American evangelical church over this issue.  Writers have spilled much ink over this topic—usually under the umbrella of the topic of ‘worship wars.’  The hymns vs. choruses debate raged in the 1980’s and 1990’s—and seems to have died down a bit, thankfully.  (When I brought up the topic of hymns and choruses, one man in our church confessed that he had no idea what I was talking about—he made no distinction!  How happy I was!)

I grew up in the church heavily involved in traditional music ministry (choir, orchestra, piano/organ-backed congregational hymn singing, etc.).  I even earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in church music (B.S., Palm Beach Atlantic University; Master of Church Music, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and was a music minister for 10 years before God called me into the pastorate. 

A joyful sound.  Yes, I am starting with attitude.  Musical skills are important (and I will address them soon), and doctrine is crucial, but if you want people to listen to what you sing, sing what you sing with joy!  The axiom “they won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” applies to this area as well.  Do we care about what we sing—or do we act as if we could care less?  Is it any wonder that the Psalms are filled with admonitions and encouragements to sing for joy (Psalm 95-100)? 

that’s doctrinally sound … Here we examine the actual content of a song.  Is the song doctrinally sound and Scripturally bound?  Sadly, fewer and fewer look at the words they are singing but simply to the singability and rhythm exclusively—and whether they can get them into an emotional ‘state’ worship.  Paul instructed Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).  One of the main functions of worship music is to teach about the glory of God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  Having certain emotions is not the main desire, but truth should be the fuel to those emotions.  The joy comes from knowing that what we are singing about (and, more importantly, Who we are singing about) is true!

where skills abound … Skills?  Am I saying that all worship leaders need to sing like Michael Buble? Play guitar like Christopher Parkening?  Play drums like Buddy Rich?  Piano like Horowitz?  No, not at all.  What I am saying is that the Psalmist implores those leading God’s people in worship to “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts” (Psalm 33:3).  When David was organizing the musicians for leading worship in the Temple, he gathered “all who were skillful” (1 Chronicles 25:7) in various instruments to lead.  Granted, this is relative.  Not everyone has equal skills, but everyone can offer the skills they have as an offering of praise to God.

and praise resounds.  What a witness it is to lead people to praise the living God who sent His Son for our justification!  To think how Christ bore the wrath of God toward our sin upon His shoulders to satisfy as a propitiation so we would not have to face the penalty that was due us.  What mercy and grace!  To this, we offer that sacrifice of praise.  We have come full circle. 

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Lighten Up, Preachers and Teachers: Beware of Sacrificing Connection for Content

The Decker Blog put out a video recently regarding how our faces look when we speak or teach. Speakers often think they are smiling when in reality our faces aren’t. He urges us all to lighten up! A great read and watch!

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Still Gotta Study War Some More: How to Stay Strong in the Spirit (Part III: Prayer)

In verse 18, Paul continues on when he says, “Praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.” Prayer and supplication are very similar. When Paul tells us that he prays in the Spirit, he prays with confidence of the protection and the hope that he has based upon what the word has said. He can pray with confidence knowing that God will keep this promise and will provide grace and help in time of need. When we see the phrase pray in the Spirit, many believe this refers to simply speaking in tongues.

But even if you believe that the tongues are still spiritual gift being used now, we know from Scripture that not everyone has all of the gifts. To some he gives certain gifts into others, others. Praying in the Spirit simply means praying in accordance to what the Word says because we know that is God’s Holy Word. Since we know that the Spirit inspired these 40 men to write the word then praying in the spirit means we are praying in accordance with God’s will. Even if we are not praying and requesting his will, our heart of hearts what’s God’s will to be done, even if it’s not ours. So we pray in the Spirit wanting not our will but his will to be done.

Paul does something that I so appreciate he asks for us to pray and keep alert all personal errands making supplication for all the saints. Our new pastor of discipleship and administration, Adam Embry, came in and developed a prayer guide for the members of our church. We will be having these out tonight but we will also make them available for those of you who can not make it to Sunday evening services. In this prayer guide, we will be praying for five of the families each day that are members here at our church. After 31 days, we will have pray for all the families. Is this not a wonderful thing to do to pray for those in our church who may have it together and who may not have it together, who may seem to have it together on a Sunday, but Monday through Saturday is a struggle? We know that if Monday through Saturday is a struggle, and that can certainly affect the corporate worship time on Sunday. We will be praying for the Saints and we hope the same to be praying for us look at what it said verse 19.

And also pray for me, that words may be given to me an opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am in chains as an ambassador, but I made the clear it boldly as I ought to speak.

Pastors, teachers, evangelists, and all those who are in the ministry need your prayers. We know from statistics that 1500 pastors and ministers leave the ministry every single month.  It could be for moral failure, fatigue, dealing with ungodly church folks, and a myriad of other reasons. Many ministers say that being in the ministry has a negative affect on their family life. Many who stay in the ministry our hair’s breadth away from leaving the ministry. They recognize God has called to lead them spiritually, what the world has gotten into such a way in their hearts that they do not wish to be led spiritually, but the simply have their lives affirmed and condoned.

This is why the Apostle Paul asks that he would be able to preach boldly and to preach clearly the mystery of the gospel. and personally that the request that I have all of you, that I would be willing and able to clearly and boldly declare the Word of God.

Back in Kentucky, I had a member at my church and her name is Linda Moon. Linda is a very important part of our lives for the eight years that I was in Kentucky. She had a heart to serve she has a heart to love she has a heart for people to know Jesus. Even with all the physical issues that she is dealing with, that does not stop for. Even when we were in Trinidad with her back and foot issues, she always said that Jesus was carrying. She had a habit every Sunday morning and not just while I was in Kentucky, but she also leaves a message on Cindy’s phone what we’ve been here in Colorado. And every time she says I put your armor on. Why? Because she wanted her pastor and she wanted her church protected from the fiery darts of the devil. She wanted more than anything for us to be strong in the Lord weather in Kentucky, or in Colorado.

And we have to ask ourselves where we wish to find our strength do we find our strength in buildings, budgets, or bodies. This body must find strength in Christ who supplies the armor to protect his body. Are we exposed are we ready? We’ve heard the story the emperor has no clothes. that’s terrible for an emperor. It’s even worse for a church, for the body of Christ.

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A Needed Stat for Churches to Remember

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From Steve Timmis and Tim Chester’s book Everyday Church.

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