Honoring a Father in the Faith

gloryjpegPay to all what is owed to them: . . .
respect to whom respect is owed,
honor to whom honor is owed.

— Romans 13:8 —

In God’s kind providence he has given me many fathers in the faith. Some have taught me how to read the Bible, others have showed me how to love my family and do the work of the ministry, and others have even helped me know where to stand. It is this last category that I am reminded of today.

More than five years ago, when I was newly called as pastor, Jim Downey told me where to stand and how to lead my first funeral service. To someone fresh out of seminary and nervous to conduct his first funeral, such simple instructions were truly invaluable. His fatherly advice was most welcome and would be the first of many funeral services he and I conducted together. But with sadness in my heart, we will not share that ministry again.

On Monday, July 6, Jim went to receive his reward in heaven. Yesterday, I stood next to the man who told me where to stand at a funeral. And today, I want to honor him for his service to the Lord. Continue reading

A Letter to My Church: A Sexual Manifesto on Biblical Holiness

Pastors have a responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God and to help the people of God form a biblical worldview. With this conviction in mind, I will be leading a series on what the Bible says about marriage and sexuality. In preparation for that series, I wrote this letter to our church: ‘A Sexual Manifesto: Embracing the Church’s New Mission.’ Let me know what you think.

If you haven’t noticed, things aren’t the way they used to be.

It wasn’t long ago that the boys’ bathroom was for . . . well, boys. Homecoming queens had to use a razor on their legs (not their face). Marriage was legally defined as the union of a man and woman. And Christians had a place at the table in regards to influencing public policy.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, all of these givens are gone. With more people in Georgia supporting same-sex marriage than opposing it, the once influential Bible Belt is nor more. Christendom as we know it—or should we say, as we knew it—has collapsed. Welcome to the new America.  Continue reading

Hold Them Back (A Sanctity of Life Message by Denny Burk)

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Prov 24:10-12)

Denny BurkLast Sunday night (January 20), our church (Calvary Baptist Church, Seymour, Indiana) heard a powerful message from Dr. Denny Burk, a professor at Boyce College, associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church, and a perceptive bloggerjournal editor, and author (see his forthcoming  What is the Meaning of Sex? )

Basing his message on Proverbs 24:10-12, Denny’s sermon is a clarion call for men and women to get involved in the greatest civil rights issue of our generation.  In it, Denny challenges all those who love the gospel of Jesus Christ to  (1) Forsake Cowardice, (2) Rescue the Perishing, and (3) Reject Excuses.

Then in a time of Q & A (starting at 59:45), Denny tackled the issues concerning Hobby Lobby, Obamacare, and other matters pertaining to religious liberty.

The sermon and the Q & A lasts about 90 minutes, and is  worth your time!  Pass it on to others, and stand up to “rescue those who are being taken away to death!”

Hold Them Back (Prov 24:10-12) MP3

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Sweetness and Sacredness of Sundays

[This post is from our monthly newsletter at Calvary Baptist Church (Seymour, Indiana)].

When God created the heavens and the earth, he spoke light into existence and separated it from the darkness.  On the first day, he called the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.”  From the start, God’s world has run on a schedule.  Like a watchmaker, God spun the earth so that every revolution would take twenty-four hours, and every year would include 365 days, plus six hours.  It seems that in Genesis 1, God’s creation modeled the pattern that men would keep in all generations—six days of labor, one day of rest.

The rest of the Bible depends on this basic structure to frame all that God does with men.  In Exodus 20, God commands Israel to keep the Sabbath holy, saying “On it you shall not do any work, . . . for in the six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Now, this command to rest was not a call to inactivity or sluggishness.  Rather, it was a call to make time a servant to men, a means by which men would learn to trust the Lord with their time and to know that they needed something more than they could acquire in their weekly schedules.

Since God did not rest because of fatigue, the Sabbath was not just a means of physical recovery for him, or for us.  It had a more Christ-centered purpose.  In fact, it seems that the Sabbath was a gift of joy and fellowship with God.  In other words, it was a holy day of worship, a day to set aside creation and to enjoy the creator. In a world unaffected by sin, this day off would have been needed, but how much more in a world wrought with sin and its effects?!

This was true in the Old Testament, and it is true today.  Only, since Christ’s advent, the meaning and application of the Sabbath has changed to the Lord’s Day.   Thus, as we make application, let us consider three things.

First, the Sabbath day in creation and Israel is a type of Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and he is the true rest.  Paul calls the Sabbath of Jesus’s substance (Col 2:16-17).  The meaning of this is that in Christ, we who are tempted to work in order to gain security, identity, and standing before God (and men) can now look unto Christ for all three.  In him, we have rest full and free.

Second, Sabbath Day worship has been replaced by Lord’s Day worship. After the resurrection, the New Testament church gathered on the Lord’s Day—the day of his resurrection (Sunday).  Thus, when we gather this Sunday, we announce to the world that Christ is risen and reigning. We do not gather on Sunday because it is the most convenient day for our church; we gather on Sunday because it tells the world that on this day Jesus Christ rose and is now present with us. Just the same, when someone makes a preferential choice to skip church they muffle the testimony of the Lord’s resurrection.

Third, the Lord’s Day is a gift of grace. Sadly, too many Christians obscure the grace of this gift.  The Lord’s Day is not simply a day to recuperate from work in order to return to work.  Your life is more than your vocation!   And it is more than just getting to the next vacation.  The Lord’s Day keeps this in perspective.

Instead of providing physical rest alone, the Lord’s day provides living water for the weary heart. It is a day devoted to the reading, singing, preaching, praying, and discussing of God’s Living Word. If you live on God’s word and not man’s bread, what could be a better gift to you than the promise that for hours this coming Sunday a banqueting feast of God’s word will be prepared before you.

The gift of the Lord’s Day is not merely a reprieve from the world, though it is that; it is a promise that God still speaks.  In a true church that faithfully proclaims the gospel, those who come to hear his voice will never go away disappointed.  This is the grace we need to keep our hearts strong; this is the grace for which your heart longs.  For those who desire God’s grace, gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day is a necessary part of life.  It is a day filled with grace for those who are willing to seek it.

Over the next few newsletters, I am going to consider a number of blessings that God gives us on the Lord’s Day and that come from attending church for the right reasons. I hope you will consider these points with me, and that you would share them with the ones who “know the Lord” but who prefer not to worship him in public Sunday by Sunday.  Perhaps together, we can encourage them to taste and see the sweetness and sacredness of Sundays.

For His Glory and your joy,

Pastor David

Reflections on the SBC

[This is the report that I shared with our church upon my return from the Southern Baptist Convention].

This year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Arizona was the smallest gathering of Southern Baptists since World War II (1944).  However, its diminutive size (approx. 4,800 messengers) should not discount the importance of the two-day convention (June 14-15).  As Bryant Wright, this year’s president, put it, “I do believe it could prove to be the most spiritually significant convention over the last 50 years.”

Why?  Why would an off-year convention invite such a statement?

In one sentence, it is because the spirit of the convention was filled with unity to complete the task of the Great Commission here and abroad.  Whereas the 2005 convention in Greensboro, NC began with a two-hour debate between on the merits and demerits of  Calvinism.  This year’s convention was marked by unity around the gospel and reaching the 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups. Again Wright puts it succinctly, “This was the most unified convention around the Great Commission that I have experienced.  People came here with anticipation of that unity.”

Some of those people were three new presidents of Southern Baptist entities.  Each of these men are newly appointed presidents of the NAMB, IMB, and the Executive Committee, and each man energized discussion with striking calls for church planting, missions, and unity.

The Executive Committee

First, Frank Page addressed the convention with more than 20 entity leaders on the platform.  He introduced a resolution affirming unity and cooperation among Southern Baptists.  The last decade has seen a great deal of misunderstanding and name calling at the convention and on blogs, so Page and others have called Southern Baptists to greater unity.  In his address, he said,

“Our convention is fracturing into various groups, some theological, most methodological…Sometimes there is an honest difference of opinion, but often there is self-centeredness that frequently mirrors our own culture… Christ-like selflessness is our only hope.”

With those sentiments he introduced five pledges for Southern Baptists to embrace.

  1. We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust …
  2. We pledge to attribute the highest motives to those engaged in local church ministries and those engaged in denominational service in any level of Convention life …
  3. We pledge to affirm the value of cooperative ministry as the most effective and efficient means of reaching a lost world …
  4. We pledge to embrace our brothers and sisters of every ethnicity, race, and language as equal partners in our collective ministries to engage all people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  5. We pledge to continue to honor and affirm proportional giving through the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach as Southern Baptists ….”

I believe these pledges, if kept, will go along way to including all kinds of gospel-minded Southern Baptists, while challenging each Southern Baptist to love, learn, and listen to others who may approach ministry from a different point of view.  My prayer is that this commitment does not reduce biblical precision and doctrinal distinctives, but that maturing Southern Baptists will uphold a spirit of gospel peace even when they disagree on doctrines not spelled out in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The North American Mission Board

Second, Kevin Ezell called Southern Baptists to be honest about numbers.  Boldly, he declared that Southern Baptists like numbers.  We like big numbers.  However, this has led to unqualified and inflated numbers for the convention. This has been a statistical concern for the millions of missing Southern Baptists each Sunday, but Ezell pointed out that it is not just individuals but churches that are missing.  In the words of Jesus, he reported…

”You have heard it said” that NAMB plants close to 1500 church plants a year, “but I say unto you” that NAMB planted 769 churches last year.

You have heard it said that NAMB has over 5100 missionaries, “but I say unto you” that 3480 of those are jointly funded with state conventions, 1839 are missionary spouses, some of whom have ministry assignments and some of whom do not.  He also pointed out that that 1616 are Mission Service Corps volunteers who receive no NAMB funding at all.  Thus the numbers are not as high as we might first think.

Likewise, on the topic of numbers.  Ezell pointed out that through retirement incentives and other compensations, he has reduced the total number of employees at the NAMB head quarters in Alpharetta.  He stressed a desire to do more with less people.  And while this at first sounds cold-hearted or anti-missional.  Here is the payoff.  By reducing the overhead 38%, NAMB will be able to put $8 million dollars into church planting.  Moreover, he pointed out that less than 4% of SBC churches are directly involved in church planting.  Ezell’s challenge: “We must do better.  We are going to do better.”

This leads to the final point.  In addition to improving reporting and oversight of Southern Baptist church plants, he also intends to lead in an initiative to plant more successful church plants.  Thus, he introduced a new initiative to “SEND” church planters into 25 urban centers around the country.

The International Missions Board

Third, Tom Elliff called for Southern Baptists to be more involved in reaching the unreached.   Following the powerful missions message of David Platt, Elliff said,

“This convention has been one long sermon…. There is not one thing I could say” that messengers have not already heard. A lost world, Elliff said, needs churches who consider it unacceptable that there are people groups “who do not have somebody deliberately” trying to engage them with the Gospel.

This call for greater outreach to the unreached was championed by David Platt, whose message from gospel of Matthew reminded Southern Baptists that Jesus will not come until all the nations have heard (Matt 24:14).  And since Jesus has not come, there are still peoples awaiting the Good News.  In fact, current statistics say that 3,800 peoples are awaiting the Good News.

As Platt put it, “”This is not a problem for the International Mission Board to address. This is a problem for every pastor and every local church to address.”

Indeed, it is something that I hope our church will address very shortly.  At the convention, more than 1,000 messengers responded to the call to reach the unengaged, unreached people groups.  I pray that we will too.

The church that shines the farthest shines brightest at home. 

I was tremendously encouraged by the unity of the messengers around the centrality of the gospel.  The divergence of speakers at the pastors’ conference was a good reminder that God is at work among many people, and that even when there are disagreements on things like the order of regeneration and faith, and what the doctrine of election fully means, there can be unity in reaching the lost for Christ.  This was also evident in the conversation between Mark Dever and Paige Patterson.  Again, I am encouraged by the evangelistic unity developing among Southern Baptists who in the past have argued over God’s sovereignty in salvation.

I hope that our church will follow suit.  Satan would love for us to wrangle over lesser points of doctrine, and to miss out on the fact that a lost and dying world is still lost and dying.  It is my hope and prayer and mission to lead our church to be more missions-minded and missional in our own community, even as we continue to grow into a greater understanding of God’s word and a love for one another.  Satan would love for us to question the motives and intents of others, but Christ is raising up an army of gospel-witnessing warriors, and I pray Calvary will be a bastion for such life-saving truth.

I want to thank you for letting me go to the convention this year.  I was motivated and encouraged by the things I saw and heard.  And I pray that all that was planned and promised will come to fruition as the Lord supplies the growth to the seeds that were sown and the plants that were watered.

Other SBC Reviews Consulted For This Report

SBC Annual Convention Videos

Baptist Press

SBC Voices

Trevin Wax

Feeding on the Word

But [Jesus] answered, “It is written,‘Man shall not live on bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew, quoting Jesus, quoting Moses, quoting YHWH
Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:4

Words, words, words. The world is filled with words. Words inform. Express. Empower. Kill. Make peace. And give life.  Proverbs 18:21 says that ‘death and life are in the power of the tongue’ and Proverbs 15:23 tells us, “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!”  In a word, words matter! Words are immeasurably powerful!  And they matter and hold power, because of their origin and purpose. God is a Speaking God (Jn 1:1-3), and in his image, we were given words to rule the world (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:19).

In fact, God himself rules and redeems through words. God spoke the world into existence (Gen 1:3; Ps 33:6).  Jesus upholds the world by the power of his word (Heb 1:3).  God’s word never fails (Isa 55:10-11); it speaks to the ends of the universe (Ps 19:1-7; Rom 10:18) with absolute perfection (Ps 19:7-11).  And for those made in His image, salvation and sanctification depend on His word (Heb 6:13ff; Jn 17:17) So central are words to God, that it is impossible to know Him without them, and thus he has commanded his church to ‘preach the word’ in season and out, unto the ends of the earth.

The word of God is pleasant and life-giving. But our world, and indeed our own hearts, resist God’s word. As Christians should be able to recall the joy of God’s word in our lives, but we surely we can bear testimony to the parched results of its absence.   

Matthew 12:36 tells us that at the end of our lives, we will give an account for every single word we speak, and what God is listening for in our words is an echo of His word.  So, how do your words measure up?  Do they reflect the grace and truth of the God who gave you the gift of speech?  Or do they reflect the worldliness and futility of the world?  God wants to fill your heart with his Word, and indeed our souls long for this more than we know.  This month, may we be those who feed on God’s word, so that our words are life-giving, because we are filled with the Word of God (Col 3:16-17).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Image-Bearers Make Peace

Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9) 

The Bible says that those trusting in Jesus Christ are being conformed into his image on daily basis.  Consider:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor 3:18)

Seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Col 3:9-10)

Biblically speaking, Christians are those who have been born again (John 3:1-8) and are now being conformed, transformed, and renewed as image-bearers of our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.  But make no mistake, this is not a passive work.  While God forms us, He simultaneously fills us with His Spirit, so that we might have power and desire to live as his children.

And one of the ways we do that is to be peace-makers (Matt 5:9).  In our marriages, schools, workplaces, friendships, and especially in the church, God’s children do not break peace, fake peace, or take peace.  They make peace!  This month, may we together ask God to fill us with us his Spirit so that we might be peace-makers. According to his Word, lets fight to make peace.  In so doing, we show ourselves to be the children of God, children who are day-by-day growing in Christ-likeness.

For His Renown, dss

The Tapestry of Scripture

Tomorrow night, our church, Calvary Baptist in Seymour, Indiana, will begin its Wednesday night journey through the Bible.  We will begin by looking at the Bible as a whole.  While preparing for our time, I came across this statement about the unity of the Bible from the ESV Study Bible.  It is a succinct and compelling word about the wisdom of God in Scripture, telling one harmonious story with a plethora of divergent voices. 

Scripture is no ragbag of religious bits and pieces, unrelated to each other; rather, it is a tapestry in which all the complexities of the weave display a single pattern of judgment and mercy, promise and fulfillment. The Bible consists of two separate collections: the OT, written over a period of about 1,000 years, and the NT, written within a generation several centuries after the OT was completed. Within such a composite array one would expect to find some crossed wires or incoherence, but none are found here. While there are parallel narratives, repetitions, and some borrowings from book to book, the Bible as a whole tells a single, straightforward story. God the Creator is at the center throughout; his people, his covenant, his kingdom, and its coming king are the themes unfolded by the historical narratives, while the realities of redemption from sin and of godly living (faith, repentance, obedience, prayer, adoration, hope, joy, and love) become steadily clearer. Jesus Christ, as fulfiller of OT prophecies, hopes, promises, and dreams, links the two Testaments together in an unbreakable bond. Aware that at the deepest level the whole Bible is the product of a single mind, the mind of God, believers reading it theologically always look for the inner links that bind the books together. And they are there to be found.

As you read your Bible, ask God to show you the unity and diversity of this rich tapestry of his redemptive history and revelation.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss