Monthly Archives: December 2014

Top Ten Posts from 2014

Yes, I’ll add my list to the various “Top Ten” lists in the blogosphere.

  1. The Movement of Campbellsville University:  “Recently, the university changed its relationship with Kentucky Baptists so it can appoint its own trustees (Baptist or otherwise) and ‘maintain academic freedom’—breaking a covenant established in 1986.   In a letter published to Kentucky Baptists, Campbellsville began by communicating a desire to “protect the mission of the University and to avoid both undue influence and the imposition of theological and doctrinal control.”
  2. How My Pastor’s Friend’s Death Changed Me:  “Almost two months ago, my friend Tommy Rucker took his own life.  To say this affected me would be an understatement.  In preaching his funeral, God permitted me to sort through a number of theological issues surrounding his death—as well as talk to the family and friends of Tommy that I hadn’t seen in over a decade. “
  3. Show Discernment Over the Touring Heaven Books: “We have no shortage of books on this matter: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, Flight to Heaven by Capt. Dale Black, Appointments with Heaven by Reggie Anderson, and numerous other ‘touring heaven’ books. While we take comfort in many thinking about heaven, we must also comfort each other in thinking rightly about heaven.”
  4. What’s An Alternative Lifestyle Today?  You’d Be Surprised. “David Wise won USA Olympic gold.  But his personal life deemed by NBC as an ‘alternative lifestyle’ caught much attention.  What was that lifestyle? He’s in his early 20’s, married, with a child, goes to church, and has aspirations of being a pastor one day.”
  5. When You Don’t Have a Homeland.  “Everytime I come back to Kentucky, I see that my wife has not only family to come back to, but also a type of homeland to which she can return. We were driving around in Henry County, Kentucky, and she was pointing out places from her childhood but she spent a lot of time at over the summers, where her grandmother used to live, as well as the church where she grew up. I wish I could identify with her, but I can’t.”
  6. Why Do We Stand to Read Scripture? “Every so often, I am asked this question:  ‘Why do we stand when we read scripture in church?’ I also have others who have asked me in the past when we haven’t stood for scripture reading, ‘Why didn’t we stand?’  Is this simply a tradition?  A preference?  Or do we have a biblical basis for this?
  7. Why I Was Pulling for the Broncos:  This is a blog about the Super Bowl fever that almost (almost) sucked me in to Bronco-mania. Thankfully, I’ve recovered. 🙂
  8. This is How We Leave the New Year? Secular Evangelism, Times Square, and a Troublesome Message for the New Year. “My children didn’t get the first one, but they heard the second one loud and clear and were mortified. Religion, according to Lennon (and Etheridge) is not the solution but the problem.”
  9. Is There Truly Any Dignity with Death?  “Life matters.  No, it may not be our quality, but with a God who numbers our days, those days matter.  Maynard handled this one way.  Tippetts handles it another way.  Death has dignity when you know the One who conquered sin, death, and hell.”
  10. How I Plan to Navigate an Established Church Through Change. “All churches and church members need to grow (we can’t stay put, can we?) and all churches need to go (Christ said so, didn’t He?), and so we continually evaluate what we could do better, what we must begin doing, and what is an obstacle to what needs doing.”

Runners Up

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As We Close Out 2014…

As we close out 2014…

Remember the grace that God extended,
Remember His mercy when life was upended,
Aware of His beauty so resplendent,
On Him are we so ever-dependent.

Changes are all that stay the same
in this world. But our aim
Is to chase the One who does not change–
Where nothing goes outside His range
Of care. We share His care as ones
who are His holy conduits from which runs
His lavishing, ravishing love.
Praise God we are born from above.

On Him we lean in 2015
A year that’s new and all pristine
With a year that is new as the morning
Amidst the trials that come sans warning.
With tears that last throughout the night
Those joys will come at morning light.
Oh, what a sight!

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Penn the Atheist Gets It Regarding Christians Sharing Their Faith

We show we hate non-believers if we fail to share our faith and be used of God to rescue them from hell and to Christ.

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Obey. Seek. Chase. (January 2015 Newsletter Article)

Now 2015 is upon us, and I for one am most thankful, for I believe that this year poses an incredible opportunity in the life of our beloved church.

On Sunday evening on the 21st of last month, I shared a devotional from Colossians 4:17:

And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”

And that’s all we know about Archippus, but by the providence of the Spirit, He chose to preserve this piece of communication to this follower of Christ. Why? This was not just to Archippus, but to all of us!

For the sake of our walk with Christ, our walk with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the sake of those around us who need Christ, we must (not should, must) fulfill our ministry. But how do we know what that ‘ministry’ is for us individually? Do we sit and wait for God to reveal it, then get busy? No! These are the next steps.

Obey what you know. The Scriptures are filled with commands God calls us to obey, and as believers we obey them out of love for the One who rescued us! This is our calling. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Our Christian walk is a walk of surrender, a life given totally over to our Savior. We are crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). So, obey what we know from God’s Word. Love God with all we have, and love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-40).

Seek what He knows. Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, tells Archippus to “fulfill your ministry that you have received from the Lord.” This implies that Archippus didn’t know what exactly that ministry was for a time, but soon God revealed it. Dave Earley in his book, Pastoral Leadership Is… , noted that younger people who surrender to full-time ministry do so after a period of time, while older people surrender after a life-changing moment. Either way, God at times and places lets us know what our gifting is and where he’d have us go. How helpful it is to understand our spiritual gifting, whether it’s a speaking gift or a serving gift. He knows! And He’s not in the business of keeping it a secret!

Chase after what He shows. You can be a Paul that immediately chases after his calling (see Acts 9) or you can be a Jonah who runs. Our misery begins when we fail to chase after God’s direction for our lives. In fact, it’s not just a bad life-decision, it’s outright sin! Running from God’s call will not only make you miserable, but will make all those around you miserable, even if you or they do not realize why.

For did not Jesus say to the man who invested what he had for his master, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). In the joy of your master! Being faithful with what he have is where it starts, then God will entrust more to us. With that comes joy!

What’s that old hymn? “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey!” Take that next step in obedience to Him.

Speaking of Next Steps, we praise God for the work He did in Corey, who will be baptized on the first Sunday in January (January 4th). I can’t think of a better way to start off the New Year, can you?

In closing, I want to remind you about our Leaders Boot Camp on Saturday, January 31st from 9-noon. The theme will be “A Great Commission DNA.” This is for all pastors, deacons, teachers, team leaders and members: let’s get together and pursue what God has for us moving forward.

Have a blessed 2015! Remember, Jesus changes everything!

Pastor Matt

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Spurgeon on the Angels’ Song—Merry Christmas!

What is the instructive lesson to be learned from this first syllable of the angels’ song? Why this, that salvation is God’s highest glory. He is glorified in every dew drop that twinkles to the morning sun. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it live to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness in the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the spray; in every lamb that skips the mead. Do not the fishes in the sea praise him? From the tiny minnow to the huge Leviathan, do not all creatures that swim the water bless and praise his name? Do not all created things extol him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that doth not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt him, when they write his name upon the azure of heaven in their golden letters? Do not the lightnings adore him when they flash his brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Do not thunders extol him when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not all things exalt him, from the least even to the greatest? But sing, sing, oh universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, thou canst not afford a song so sweet as the song of Incarnation. Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle—Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in worlds on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High. Pause Christian, and consider this a minute. See how every attribute is here magnified. Lo! what wisdom is here. God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Lo! what power, for where is power so great as when it concealeth power? What power, that Godhead should unrobe itself and become man! Behold, what love is thus revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man. Behold ye, what faithfulness! How many promises are this day kept? How many solemn obligations are this hour discharged? Tell me one attribute of God that is not manifest in Jesus; and your ignorance shall be the reason why you have not seen it so. The whole of God is glorified in Christ; and though some part of the name of God is written in the universe, it is here best read—in Him who was the Son of Man, and, yet, the Son of God.

Charles H. Spurgeon, The First Christmas Carol, Sermon No. 168.  Preached December 20, 1857.

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God Uses Ordinary Means for Extraordinary Purposes

To be content with Christ’s kingdom is to be satisfied also with his ordinary means of grace.  This is a big one.  We have trouble believing that weak things like a fellow sinner speaking in Christ’s name, both judgment and forgiveness, could actually expand Christ’s kingdom throughout the earth.  [They say,] Sure, there are sermons.  We need good teachers. But surely a growing church needs something more impressive that will catch people’s attention than the regular proclamation of and instruction in God’s Word.  After all, it’s not by preaching the gospel but by living it that we draw people to Christ. Surely, doing more in our community will make a larger impact than weekly prayers, especially for the mundane concerns that are common to everyone.  At the very least, we need to have sermons that focus on topics that our neighbors might find more helpful or interesting.  And yet, our King tells us that “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).  Through the lips of a fellow sinner, Christ judges, justifies, and renews us here and now.  The verdict of the final judgment is actually rendered in the present through this speech.

Michael S. Horton, Ordinary: A Sustainable Faith in a Radical Restless World, p. 146.

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Emulated, Not Exalted: Five Lessons from the Life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Mary is one we emulate in our witness, not exalt in our worship.  Whereas some take Mary too far in their veneration, we fail to take her life far enough in our observation.  What should we emulate from Mary’s life?

  1. Emulate Mary in her willingness to obey, regardless of the cost.  Unlike Zechariah who questioned the angel in doubt, even though he knew the promises of God, Mary submitted, saying, “Be it unto me, according to your word” (Luke 1:38).  She knew that, humanly speaking, her life would be a wreck.  How would she explain this to Joseph?  What would he say?  What will the authorities say?  Even with this, she obeyed–come what may.
  2. Emulate Mary in trusting God will keep His promises–and rejoice when He does!  Mary rejoiced that God kept His covenant promises given to Abraham, reinforced with David, and fulfilled in Christ (Luke 1:54-55).
  3. Emulate Mary in bring your questions and concerns to God–but do so in faith, not in doubt (see Zechariah’s mistake)?  Mary asked, “How can this be, since I am still a virgin?  Yes, Zechariah asked a similar question (“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years?”–Luke 1:18), but Mary asked in faith, not in doubt.  God knows the motives of our hearts, but He is also big enough to take our questions in faith (see James 1:5-8).
  4. Emulate Mary in recognizing that age has little to do with God using you.  Mary was a young teenager, Elizabeth and Zechariah were elderly–God used them both.  What a shame to hear young people tell or be told they are too young to contribute to Kingdom work.  What a tragedy to hear elderly people say, “I’m too old to do things–let the younger people do this!”  I pray this is not code for, “I’m too old to be of use to God.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Paul told Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he is young, but to set an example in life, in love, in faith, in speech, and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
  5. Emulate Mary in treasuring and pondering all that God teaches you and shows you in your heart.  John MacArthur once said that the back doors to a church are often used as giant erasers, erasing what people have learned from the Word of God in church.  Mary absorbed all she saw, pondering and treasuring them in her heart (Luke 2:19, 2:50).  She did not deny what she heard and saw, nor did she forget.  She treasured!

No, we should not exalt Mary in worship, but we should emulate her in her witness!

Come what may!

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Church Leaders and the Case of the “Slows”: The Unfortunate Legacy of George B. McClellan

I recently told our student pastor at church that the Civil War can teach us every leadership lesson there is.  (I mean, how often can you bring up Ulysses S. Grant to make a point?  You’ll have to wait until next week for that one.  So much to glean from that dark chapter.)  But let’s look at another (in)famous Union general: George Brinton McClellan (1826-1885). 

If Ulysses S. Grant had been general-in-chief at the beginning of the Civil War rather than George McClellan, the war would have ended much sooner—at least that’s those of us who see their fighting patterns (or lack thereof).  First, General McClellan.

Ah, McClellan—the one who, after a number of minor wins in Western Virginia (before it became West Virginia) was put in charge of the Army of the Potomac.  After Irwin McDowell’s catastrophic loss at Bull Run in the summer of 1861, Lincoln realized that the army needed order and discipline.  Enter McClellan, who expertly organized that titanic army and made them ready for battle.

Except that McClellan seemed rather reluctant to fight—and he never ran out of reasons.  Some estimated he did not have the stomach for the carnage that would ensue.  Others began to wonder if he were treasonous, even a Confederate sympathizer in Union garb.  Lincoln noted once that McClellan had a case of the “slows.”  Another time, he says that, while McClellan was trained as an engineer, it must have been a “stationary engine.”  When visiting the Army of the Potomac, Lincoln looked out over the vast army.  He asked an associate, “What do you see here?”  “Mr. President, I see the Army of the Potomac.”  Lincoln’s response was classic: “You’re wrong—this is McClellan’s bodyguard.” 

McClellan bought his own press at the beginning.  “Savior of the Union.”  “A young Napoleon.”  Being 34 over the largest army in the world at the time would tempt one to believe the hype.  Yet, Lincoln twice relieved him.  Once for not moving, and another time for letting Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia outmaneuver and outfight him with an army significantly smaller than McClellan’s.

(Man, I love studying the Civil War!)

What’s the lesson?  We in churches can train and drill and drill and train.  We can talk about it, look the part, talk the talk.  But what good is the drilling if we’re not ready to engage in the fight. 

  • What good is it to take a class learning how to share your faith if you don’t take it out to share your faith?
  • What good is it to take a class on making hospital visits, if we don’t go visit the sick (Matthew 25:36-37)?
  • What good is it to take notes on a sermon about the sovereignty of God if we don’t apply it when things don’t go our way?

We train and drill for battle.  May God shake us from the “slows.”

(More on Grant next week!)

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Explaining the Gospel in Five Minutes (D.A. Carson)

D.A. Carson takes about 10 minutes to help us understand how to explain the gospel in five minutes, setting up how the culture has changed over the years in our country.  Very helpful!

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When Theological Knowledge Goes Bad on Us

History lessons are helpful. Theology lessons edify our learning about God. But has this captured your heart and not just your head?

In J.I. Packer’s seminal work Knowing God, he brings some questions before us that we would do well to heed:

What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things?

What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it?

He goes on:

If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens.[1]

If you walk out of away Daniel 8 thinking, “Wow, God set up Alexander in order to set up the apostles to take the gospel with just the Greek language!” Or, “Wow God set up the Pax Romana in order for the gospel to be taken from territory to territory more easily!” Or, “Wow, God moved Caesar to set up a census to get Mary and Joseph to their home city, to fulfill prophecy from Micah 5:2, etc.”—and that it’s just facts of history or theology, you’re missing the point.  Yes, this is fascinating, to be sure–“intoxicating,” as Dr. Packer suggests.

First Corinthians 8:4 says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Has simple knowledge about God come your way, or does should this knowledge lead somewhere? May I quote from Packer again about how we can turn knowledge about God into knowledge of God?

It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.[2]

Yes, I know God’s timing is perfect–in my head. I know He is working all things to a glorious end–in my head. But has it dug deep down that God’s sovereign, holy, perfect work is a reality with you, dear Christian? Do you realize that the lesson of Him sending His Son at the fullness of time means He will do His work in and through you in His time as well?

  1. Pray about what’s now. God has given commands, and if we love His Son, dear Christian, we will do what He says.  Pray about what God has clearly said in His collective Word, and that He gives you the strength to obey.
  2. Pray you’re ready for what’s next.  Do you know what’s next?  Neither do I.  But we know who knows what’s next.  Surrender to Him and His will today, and trust Him for tomorrow!
  3. Pray you understand God did what’s necessary.  We as Christians were sinners, lost and damned and going to hell.  But God did what was necessary in the fullness of time to rescue us!  By His grace!  For His glory!  But don’t just understand—embrace it!  Swim in the deep end of that pool and splash about!

That’s when theological knowledge goes good!

[1]J.I Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 21.

[2]Ibid., 23.

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