Friday, June 29, 2007

I Love My Son

Jonathan James just turned four years old, and I wanted to take a moment to say publicly that I love him very much. Thinking about my love for him causes me to think about the love of our Father for His only begotten Son, and the wondrous relationship that is shared within the Trinity. And then, wonder of wonders, what a thing to realize that we have been adopted by the Father - declared His children - and brought into His perfect love. My love for Jonathan just reminds me again how much God loves all who are His through Christ!

The Offence of the Cross to the Natural Man

"The world is full of do-gooders. these people are anxious to put things right. They set up an organization, they form a society and other people join it and they write protests and they are going to put the world right. And there is one thing they hate. It is this cross, which tells them that you can never deal with the problem like that, and that all are in the same position. There is not difference, there is none righteous, no, not one. It is a terrible thing to be told that all your effort comes to nothing. Let me put that in this form. The cross is an offence to the pride of the natural man, because it says that not only are we all sinners, not only are we all equally sinners, but it tells us that we are all equally helpless. We can do nothing at all. It tells us that all our righteousness is but as filthy rags. All we regard as best is dung and refuse, and absolutely useless. And it tells us, who believe in ourselves and in our capacity, that we can do nothing. That we are utterly and completely helpless and entirely hopeless. And here it offends us and hurts us, it damns all our efforts, it is an offence to the mind and to the heart. And it is equally an offence to the will of man. It tells him: I do not care what your will is, I do not care how powerful your will. I do not care what your resolutions are. Do all you will you will never save yourself."
Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfill thy law's demands:
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save, and thou alone.

-A.M. Toplady
"It crushes us to the ground. It demolishes everything that we have ever believed in. It leaves us helpless and hopeless, lost, damned, hell-deserving sinners, and that is what it says about every one of us."

"And I say, that that is the offence of the cross to the natural man." (The Cross, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Good News Publishers 1986, pages 52-53)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jesus Loves You - Have a Free Burger

A car pulls up to the drive-through window of a local burger spot and the driver extends his hand to pay the cashier. “The car in front of you paid for your order and said to give you this,” the attendant explains, handing the driver his order and what appears to be a business card.
The stunned driver looks at the card and reads, “We just wanted to show you the love of Jesus in a practical way.” Below these words he sees a church’s name, address and worship times. He turns the card over to reveal a simple map and written directions to Gardendale’s First Baptist Church in North Jefferson Baptist Association.
That's an excerpt from the story Gardendale's FBC members pay for others' meals as outreach. I've been thinking about this type of "outreach" recently. It's usually called "random acts of kindness" or something... feel-good moralism with a Jesus twist.

I do applaud the church for wanting to get out into the community... to do something. But is this the right something? Washing windows in a Wal-mart parking lot, paying for a random person's burger, planting flowers in a school yard... what do these things actually accomplish? Clean windshields, a free burger, a pretty school yard?

Now, I'm not opposed to buying someone a burger. I'm just concerned about what message we're sending when we do this as some form of outreach. It seems that the act itself is the main thing... then we can tack Jesus onto it in order to redeem it.

Or, just forget about tacking Jesus onto it and you get ArkAlmighty, the "movement" spun off from "Evan Almighty." Here's a quote from the "about" page:
The website is designed to enable youth groups and churches to easily get involved in practical and tangible volunteer outreach. Can you balance a checkbook? Can you hang a picture frame? Can you throw a spiral? You might not think of these everyday activities as volunteering, but for the people around you who can’t do them, your ability and your willingness to help is exactly what they need. You’d be amazed how a simple act of kindness can change lives.
It's all about changing lives with acts of kindness. To me, it just smacks of Christ-less, self-help, "what we can accomplish together," moralism. In this case it's not even, "Here's what Jesus can do for you." It is, "Here's what we can to for you."

I know that there is room for meeting needs in the community, and I'm all for that (giving a free burger to a homeless guy, visiting widows and orphans, teaching poor kids to read, etc.) . So, I've probably gone too far in my criticisms of this "random acts" sort of outreach. But where's the line? When have we gone from sharing the love of Christ to sharing the niceness of Christians? It almost seems that these things are done to show how nice and friendly we Christians are. "Here's a free burger. See how nice Christ has made us? Don't you want to come a be a part of our fellowship?"

I can't quite put my finger on the problem, here. What do you think? Am I off base? Leave a comment (esp if you think I'm wrong).

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I Think We Broke Desiring God

Would you people please stop buying books so that I can get through in their website!!??

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Chapman on BFM Statement: "It says what it says."

Morris Chapman discusses the statement about the BFM 2000 that was passed in San Antonio in a First-Person article on Baptist Press. Here's a quote:
Although the Executive Committee did not recommend it to the Convention, it is not a confusing statement. I encourage you to tune out all the rhetoric surrounding the issue and read the statement carefully, taking it at face value. It says what it says, nothing more and nothing less.
Here's the statement that was adopted:
The Baptist Faith and Message is not a creed, or a complete statement of our faith, nor final or infallible; nevertheless we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.
Now, consistently defines "creed" as something like "a set of accepted or authoritative beliefs." Is the BFM a creed or not? But, I'm assuming that by "creed," we Southern Baptists mean something different... something that we must hold to strictly or be kicked out of the denomination. So, it's not that.

And it's not a complete statement of our faith. So, we believe other things that are not contained in the BFM 2000. Further, it's not final (we may change or revise it) and it's not infallible (we may see that we've made some mistakes and correct them).

That being the case (it's not a creed, it's not a complete statement of our faith, it's not final or infallible), it's the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the SBC. So, what is consensus? Again, trusty defines "consensus" as the "majority opinion" or "general agreement."

The BFM 2000 is the only "generally agreed upon" statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the SBC. We may generally agree about other doctrinal statements (the Abstract comes to mind), but, no, they haven't been approved by the SBC. As such, the BFM is something that is meant to be somewhat broad. General agreement, or majority opinion does seem like a minimal statement (though Chapman says to say that misses the point).

Now we come to what I consider to be the "tricky" part of the statement. Since the BFM is the only consensus statement approved by the SBC, it is sufficient. We all know what "sufficient" means. It is "adequate" or "enough." But what is it enough for? It is adequate to guide 1) trustees in their establishment of policies; and 2) the practices of entities of the Convention.

The question is, What does it mean that something is sufficient to guide? Some think it meant one thing, while others think it means something entirely different. Here are the two views:

First, you might say that if something is sufficient to guide, then you don't need anything else to guide you. If you have a set of rules that are sufficient to guide you in how to play basketball, then you don't need anything else. That set of rules is sufficient to guide you in playing. If this sense is correct, then the Burleson camp has won quite a victory. Also, if this reading is correct, then it means a strengthening of the BFM, but a weakening of the SBC. For, then you have a minimum document (you must affirm these things to be an SB missionary) turned into a maximum document (this is all you can be tested on to see if you qualify to be an SB missionary). If you read the statement in this way, then if you want to add some new limitation or qualification, it must be brought before the SBC.

I assume that Wade Burleson and Rick Garner hold to this first view. Burleson was quoted by ABP as saying "This is the biggest decision in the Southern Baptist Convention in a decade," and "The SBC has said it doesn’t want the agencies going against the convention." In that same article, Garner, who introduced the motion said, "If they feel like they need to go beyond that … they will need to come back to the convention floor."

Second, you might say that if something is sufficient to guide, then it is generally a good place to start and finish. If the trustees do make some policy changes, they must not stray far away from the BFM. For it is the only consensus doctrinal statement approved by the SBC. If this view is correct, then it doesn't seem like the motion does very much (if anything). The trustees could have made the same policy change on the "tongues" issue and said that they were guided by the BFM, but felt that other considerations weighed into their decision.

The more I have thought about this statement, the more I have come to the conclusion that the first view above is the correct one (and that's not a good thing). Rick Garner introduced the motion and that is clearly his understanding of it. Burleson says that it is the biggest decision in a decade (is that the case if you take the second view?).

Is the statement clear to you? Which of the two views (or a third or fourth option) do you think is correct?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ruth Graham - an Oppressed Woman?

Consider these words from an "Appreciation" in the Washington Post by Laura Sessions Stepp:

“What a sign of the times, one might say. Or, how sad. The world will never know what else Ruth Graham, who as a wife and mother reared five children and wrote 14 books, could have accomplished had she not been Billy Graham’s ‘helpmeet,’ . . . Being a pastor’s wife, particularly an evangelical Christian pastor’s wife, is one of the hardest jobs there is. Not only are you expected to obey and serve your husband, you’re supposed to like doing so, and on the occasions you don’t, keep quiet about it.”

Did you get that? We will never know what Ruth Graham could have accomplished had only she not chosen to give her life to serving her husband and family. How absolutely contradictory this sentiment is to the teaching of the Scriptures that Ruth Graham treasured so highly!!

I wonder, what do you think about that?

Wise Words from Danny Akin

Danny Akin's approach to the SBC controversy about the hiring of those Southern Baptists who have a "private prayer language" is a wise one (in my estimation). I've decided to post his letter to the student body at Southeastern Seminary here in its entirety - it is full of good information.

Reflections on the SBC in 2007

Having returned home from the annual meeting of the SBC in San Antonio , I again was reminded why I love and appreciate the people called Southern Baptists. We are not perfect to be sure. Sometimes we can be somewhat funny and even a bit strange in how we do business. Still, our love for the Lord Jesus, devotion to the Bible, and passion for the lost makes me glad to be a part of this family. It honors me to serve you and our Convention at Southeastern Seminary.

As I have done in previous years, let me share some reflections on this year’s meeting, where I think we are, and where, by God’s grace, we can go in the days ahead. Know that what follows will chart the future for Southeastern Seminary.

First, I rejoice in the re-election of Frank Page as our Convention president, and the election of Jim Richards and Eric Redmond as 1st and 2nd vice presidents. All three are friends of mine, and they are men for whom I have great respect. I will support each of them this coming year, especially with my prayers.

Second, we saw a renewed commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the sufficiency of Scripture, our doctrinal commitments, and the priority of the Great Commission both at home and abroad. All Southern Baptist should be able to unite around these great affirmations. Along with my fellow seminary presidents, I believe the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a solid theological confession to guide us. It is not an exhaustive statement, but it is a sufficient statement. It, along with the Abstract of Principles, will continue to give theological direction to Southeastern. This is what our convention reaffirmed on Tuesday evening. Barry McCarty, our chief parliamentarian said to me at the airport following the Convention, there was no understanding that this motion was asking our agencies to do anything different than what we had been doing. It was a reaffirmation, not a re-direction. In that context let me say this. Your seminaries are not interested in theological witch hunts. At the same time, we will not be ostriches with our heads in the sand. If we spot a teaching that possesses a danger to our churches or will compromise our ability to fulfill the Great Commission, you can rest assured that we will withstand it with all our might.

Third, Southern Baptists are overwhelmingly a body of cessationist and continualist when it comes to spiritual gifts and their activity today. We are not “charismatics” in any historic sense of that word. This is what the recent LifeWay survey clearly revealed, and I am surprised at a number of shrill responses I have heard. I am personally grateful for the research done in this area by LifeWay under the superb leadership of its president Thom Rainer, and I am disappointed that some have questioned Dr. Rainer’s motives and intentions. I have known Thom for more then ten years, and I know him to be a man of the highest degree of integrity. Now, let me put my theological cards on the table as I did at this convention. I am a continualist, “open but cautious,” when it comes to the activity of spiritual gifts in our day. This has been my position since I began teaching at Criswell College almost twenty years ago. It is also the case that I do not have a private prayer language nor do I believe that one can make a good case for a private prayer language from the biblical text. Still, I must be honest and note that good non-charismatic scholars like D.A. Carson and Darrell Bock believe 1 Corinthians 14 allows for the possibility of such a gift. Therefore, for me and for Southeastern Seminary, the issue will be one of priority and agenda. If someone makes private prayer languages an agenda item, then I will oppose them in the strongest measure. In fact, as I said above, I will withstand any agenda or movement that gets in the way of fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ. Perhaps you wonder how many of our faculty at Southeastern has a private prayer language. The answer is I do not know. I have never asked. It is not an issue with this faculty, and it will not become one.

Fourth, I believe it is clear that Southern Baptists have got to grow in the discipline of thinking theologically and living biblically. Hopefully the new Broadman and Holman work, A Theology for the Church, will help us in this area. I had the honor to edit this book, and it includes contributions from some of the brightest and best in Southern Baptist life. Our own David Nelson, Pete Schemm, John Hammett and Ken Keathley participate in this project. You will also discover that Mark Dever, David Dockery, Timothy George, Al Mohler, Russ Moore, Paige Patterson, Malcom Yarnell, and Greg Thornberry penned significant chapters as well. Southern Baptists cannot afford sit on the sidelines when it comes to good and careful theological reflection. At Southeastern we are committed to loving God with our heart and head. We believe in pursuing the model left to us by the apostle Paul, the great theologian and the great missionary. We believe the best context for doing theology is the Great Commission. The best missionaries are capable theologians, and the best theologians are also passionate missionaries. The two must never be separated. This is absolutely essential for the future health of our denomination.

Theological discussion and debate, carried out in the atmosphere of mutual love and respect, is a good and healthy thing. Indeed, it is vitally necessary for the health and well-being of the church. Southeastern is delighted to partner with LifeWay and the Founder’s Ministry in sponsoring a conference on Calvinism at Ridgecrest on November 26-28. No subject needs more light and less heat than this one. Extreme positions and dispositions need to be exposed, confronted and rejected. Areas of agreement that will show how we can work together for the gospel need to be embraced and affirmed. We are thrilled to host on our campus, October 26-27, what is certainly to be the premier C.S. Lewis conference in America in several decades. We also are glad to sponsor a conference on the Emerging/Emergent Church with participants like Mark Driscoll and Ed Stetzer on September 21-22. I applaud neither Pastor Driscoll’s view on alcohol nor his less than wholesome language. The former is unwise and runs the risk of compromising his witness. The latter is blatantly sinful. However, we need to hear and learn from persons like Mark Driscoll in how to effectively engage an increasingly secular culture with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. We can learn from those with whom we do not see eye-to-eye theologically, or practically, (e.g. in everyday decisions of Christian living). I want a well informed and educated student body. I believe it is appropriate to invite to a college or seminary campus those you would not invite to speak or lead in worship when your local church gathers for worship. It seems to me that a clear difference exists between the two.

Fifth, I was delighted we approved a resolution on integrity in ministry but disappointed we did do the same for one on regenerate church membership. Some feared the latter was telling the local church what to do, but a resolution can never do that. Some may think there was some political agenda in the works. However, this is a clear biblical and theological issue all Baptist should be able to affirm. Perhaps the resolution presented needs to be reworded or adjusted, but an emphasis on regenerate church membership needs to be recaptured by our churches. I have personally been saying this for several years now. I will continue to speak to this in the days ahead.

Sixth, it was a joy to welcome Geoff Hammond as the new president of North American Mission Board and to receive their fine report. Southeastern hopes to work side by side with the North American Mission Board in the years to come as we seek to reach North America with the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Finally, this year’s attendance is a cause for grave concern. In spite of “pre-convention activity,” this was one of the smallest conventions in years. Our annual meeting is also aging, and I include myself having turned 50. A younger generation committed to the goals and convictions of the Conservative Resurgence must be sought out. We must get them involved with what we are doing. They need our wisdom and we need their passion and energy. I pledge to do my part to see this happen. I believe what is happening on our seminary campuses is a very hopeful sign.

God has blessed our Convention beyond what we deserved. He has indeed been gracious and faithful. Now is the time for us to come together as a mighty army equipped and ready to take the gospel to the nations. Time is short. The hour is urgent. Heaven and hell are real and Jesus is the only difference. If you come to Southeastern, if you send your children to Southeastern, know that our challenge will not be, “Should you go to the nations?” Rather, it will be, “why would you not go? You have already received the command to go to the nations by the Lord Jesus Himself.” Southeastern is committed to being a Great Commission Seminary, and a Great Commission seminary is what we will be. I love you and consider it a joy words cannot capture to serve you.

Danny Akin

Biblical Eldership

Here is the message I preached this past Sunday morning as we began our series on eldership. Thoughts, comments, and criticisms are always appreciated.

Pastoral Leadership - Part 1
Acts 20:28

“Pay careful to attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

The Context
In Acts 20 we find one of the most moving passages in the whole book of Acts. The Apostle Paul is on his way to Jerusalem, and there he fully expects to be arrested and taken to Rome. The elders of the church of Ephesus meet with him in Miletus, and there receive his farewell address.

One can sense the love that these men shared for one another. After Paul has finished speaking, we are told that…

He knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38)

When we read Paul’s last words to these men, we must remember that these are not just the words of a hard-nosed, highly-intelligent apostle, but of a man whose own heart was breaking at the thought of never seeing these co-laborers for Christ again in this life. Paul’s words, inspired by the Spirit, do not come just from his brain, but from his heart.

The verse that we are going to focus on this morning contains Paul’s summary exhortation to the leaders of the Ephesian church.

The Pastoral Office
As you remember, we have begun a study on Biblical church polity – that is, what the Bible teaches about how local churches are to be structured. This is to prepare us for the adoption of a new Constitution in the fall. And one point that we’ve already seen very clearly is that Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. It is He who gives us our mission – to live for the glory of God. It is He who gives us instructions and commands to teach us how to live for God’s glory. And it is He who creates and gives pastors to His churches to help lead His people into obedience. It is a group of pastors that Paul is speaking to in Acts 20:28.

Notice that in this verse they are called “overseers”. In verse 17 they are called “elders”. These two terms both refer to the same position of leadership in the local church. The third term, “pastor”, is used in Ephesians 4:11. There is a lot of confusion on this subject in local churches today, so let us be very clear: all three of these terms refer to the same position, the position we know most commonly as pastor. (Compare Titus 1:5-7, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Peter 5:1-3, and Acts 20:28)

Each of these titles emphasizes something different about the pastoral office: The term “elder” (presbuteros) emphasizes that pastors are to be spiritually mature, not novices in the faith. When we hear the term “elder” we might be tempted to think that pastors should be older men. However, when the term is used in connection with the pastoral office, it has less to do with a man’s age and more to do with him being firmly established in the faith. A good example of a “young” elder is Timothy, who served for a time as a pastor at Ephesus. We remember that the Apostle Paul wrote to him and said, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12) So a pastor is to be an elder – a man mature in the faith.

The second term, “overseer” (episkopos), emphasizes the authority and leadership of the pastoral office. Alexander Strauch points out that the word has a lot in common with our words “supervisor”, “manager”, and “guardian.”[1] In the Old Testament overseers were used in the army as officers in charge of different regiments. They were also used in the temple, to manage its affairs and to guard its property and practices. In the New Testament, God’s temple is His people, and pastors have been called to guard them from sin and false teaching.

The third term, used only once to refer to church leaders in the New Testament, is “pastor” (poimen). This word points out that church leaders are to be shepherds: feeding God’s sheep, leading God’s sheep, and protecting God’s sheep. Jesus Himself is the Good Shepherd that serves as the prime model and example for all pastors to follow. He is the true Shepherd of the Church, pastors serve as under-shepherds.

Unlike Jesus, however, who leads His Church as its only Head, each local church is to be led by a plurality of pastors. In fact, if you were to survey the New Testament, you would find that there is never any suggestion that any church of any size had only one pastor. In Acts 14:23 we are told that that Paul and Barnabas “appointed elders (plural) in every church (singular).” In Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus that he left him behind in Crete so that he would “appoint elders (plural) in every town (singular).” This is the consistent pattern of the New Testament. Moreover, Wayne Grudem points out that “we do not see a diversity of forms of government in the New Testament church, but a unified and consistent pattern in which every church has elders governing it and keeping watch over it (Acts 20:28; Heb 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2-3)”. [2]

So, each church in the New Testament seems to have been led by a plurality of pastors working together with equal authority to care for their particular congregation. This does not mean, however, that all the pastors were full-time, vocational pastors. The New Testament is silent on that question, leaving churches with the option of having either all vocational pastors or a mixture of vocational and non-vocational pastors. Throughout Baptist history, many churches have had only one or two vocational pastors and then a number of non-vocational pastors (sometimes called “lay-pastors) that served alongside them. This is the model that I would like to put forward to our church: that we consider bringing alongside myself at least two men from among us who can serve us as lay-pastors. The primary preaching responsibilities would continue to fall on my shoulders, but these men would work with me in overseeing the needs of this congregation.

It only takes a moment’s reflection to see God’s wisdom in instructing His churches to be led a plurality of pastors rather than a single pastor. The fact is no one man has all of the gifts necessary to serve a church well. One pastor may be particularly gifted at preaching. Another may have better counseling skills. Still another may be better at organization and administration. Having a plurality of pastors allows one pastor to make up for the weaknesses of another.

Also, having a plurality of pastors provides a prudent means of accountability. One pastor can’t make a decision and run with it, but rather is required to bring it before the other pastors first. This would help prevent many foolish and careless mistakes from ever being made.

The wisdom of having a plurality of pastors can also be seen in the fact that it provides consistency. Many churches have had the experience of one pastor coming into the church and presenting his vision for the future, making all sorts of changes to help the church reach that vision. Then, after a few years, that pastor leaves and is replaced by another that has a completely different vision for the future. Just about the time the church was getting used to the first changes, suddenly they are reversed or changed again. Yet when a church is led by a plurality of pastors, losing one pastor doesn’t mean that the vision for the church has to change, since the others are there to provide stability and consistency.

So there are several practical reasons for churches to be led by a plurality of pastors, but these do not trump the primary reason: it is the example laid down for us in the pages of the New Testament. If the Bible is to be our guide, than we must take seriously its teaching and make whatever changes are needed to obey.

The Making of a Pastor
In this verse, we see how it is that a person becomes a pastor, namely, by the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls every member of His body to serve the rest in some way, and He gives to each spiritual gifts as He wills. To some He gives the calling to be a pastor, and to these He gives the ability to teach. These Christians are not “better” than other Christians, and the one who pastors is not greater in value than the one who has other gifts. The point is that it is Jesus – through the Holy Spirit – who makes someone a pastor.

Of course, having the inward calling and the gifts to be a pastor doesn’t actually put a man in the office of pastor. So it is the responsibility of churches to keep an eye out for those who seem gifted by God to pastor, and to do what they can to help these men enter into the office. They will need training, of course, but our desire should be either to have them enter into the pastoral ministry here at our church or to send them off with our blessing to pastor another. It is Jesus who makes a pastor; it is the responsibility of churches to put them into office.

Let me be very clear: I truly believe that I have the best job in the world. And I pray that God would call many men from our midst to serve as pastors – whether vocational or as lay-pastors – so that they can share the joy of being involved in this work. We should esteem the position of pastor very highly, so that our young boys grow up saying to themselves, “One day, I want to be a pastor in my church.” As First Timothy 3:1 says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”

The Pastoral Duties
What are pastors to do? Paul answers this questions concisely: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock…to care for the church of God.

Pastors are the caretakers of God’s churches. The word “care” (poimano) literally means “to shepherd”. Using this picture, we categorize the responsibilities of pastors under three headings: Pastors feed God’s church, pastors lead God’s church, and pastor’s protect God’s church.

Pastors Feed God’s Church
Not every pastor has to be gifted to preach, but each one does have to be gifted to teach. (1 Timothy 3:2) This is because it is through the hearing of God’s Word that the lost are saved and the saved are sanctified. Pastors, first and foremost, are to be men of the Word! They are to study the Word, meditate on it, pray over it, and share its contents with those under their care. Just as the father of a family will want to make sure that all of his children have food, so a pastor will want to be sure that all in his congregation are receiving a healthy portion of God’s Word.

In Titus 1:9, Paul says, that a pastor “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

In 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.”

The point is clear. Jesus has given His church pastors, and He has given His pastors this command: “Preach the Word!” It’s as if He says, “Do not let my people starve! Do not feed them your own ideas and opinions. Do not give them stories and jokes while they are in need of truth! My Word gives life, My Word gives grace, My Word is sufficient for them – Preach the Word!”

Pastor’s Lead God’s Church
The Bible is unequivocal in its teaching that the authority to lead belongs to the pastors. In First Timothy 5:17 we read “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor…”. God has not given this authority to the deacons. Nor has He given this authority to the congregation. In First Timothy 3:4-5 we see that pastors are to be men who manage their own households well, keeping their children submissive. Why? Because “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” The point here is that pastors have been given the authority to be the caretakers of the church.

This, again, is why it is wise and necessary for churches to have a plurality of pastors – it would be foolish to have all of this authority given to one man. (I do not want it, and refuse to take it in that way, which is why over the past three years I’ve asked the Deacons to serve alongside me as co-pastors. But this is not their calling, and we need to set this right. We need to be on our knees asking God for direction in recognizing from within out own church men who can serve us as lay-pastors.) Because the authority to lead belongs to the pastors, we should also seek to be very wise in whom we appoint to this office. There is a reason that the Bible gives us a list of qualifications, and all pastors need to be men of true Christian maturity and integrity.

What is the purpose of this authority that Christ has given to the pastors of His churches? The purpose is for pastors to use this authority to help lead God’s people to obey God’s Word. And they will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment for how they used this authority. Hebrews 13:17 says that church leaders are those who “are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” James says “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

The Old Testament is filled with God’s warnings of judgment against those leaders who abuse their power. One of the most graphic is Malachi 2:1-3:

And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.”

What a picture! This prophecy is meant to teach leaders that they will reap what they sow, and that they will have to eat of the fruit they produce. It is an abomination to God for any man to take the authority entrusted to him and to use that authority in an ungodly way. This is why John Calvin said that it would be better for a pastor to fall and break his neck stepping into the pulpit then to step in it safely having not resolved to be the first to obey God.

This is probably why Paul’s exhortation begins with “Pay careful attention to yourselves.” No man should be an overseer of God’s church who hasn’t first learned to be an overseer of his own life. Paul told Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Pastors should lead wisely, with tender love and patience. Tonight we will see that Peter commands pastors to exercise oversight “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3) They are to be servant leaders, characterized by gentleness and humility, a willingness to work hard and sacrifice. Like Jesus, they should be willing to lay down their very lives for their sheep. The best pastors are not those who preach or teach best, but those who set the best example, and show genuine love to their congregations. (Oh, pray for me, church! For your sake, pray for me, that I might better serve you well!)

One of the best examples of a leader who loved God’s people is the Apostle Paul. World renown New Testament scholar D. A. Carson has written about Paul, “Here is a Christian so committed to the well-being of other Christians, especially new Christians, that he is simply burning up inside to be with them, to help them, to nurture them, to feed them, to stabilize them, to establish an adequate foundation for them.”

Pastor’s Protect God’s Church
It is the responsibility of shepherds to protect the sheep from danger. We remember David in the Old Testament single-handedly killing lions and bear in order to protect his father’s flock. In verse 29-31 Paul says:

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease day or night to admonish everyone with tears.”

Pastors are to help God’s people know sound doctrine, and they are to help God’s people identify false doctrine. Pastors are to lovingly watch over the congregation, doing all they can to help Christians stay away from the snares of sin. It is possible for professing believers to make shipwreck of their faith; therefore, pastors must labor hard and diligently to help God’s people keep their eyes on the prize before them.

One Last Thing
Before we close, let me draw attention to one more point in our verse: that the church does not belong to pastors, but to God, who obtained it with His own blood. There is nothing more precious to God in all creation than His church. And He has entrusted His Church to pastors, who will be called to strict account for their service. Church, do you realize just how much God treasures you? Do you see just how precious you are to Him? He poured out the wrath that our sins deserved on His Son for us. Jesus took the bullet of God’s wrath for us. We deserved an eternal electric chair – but Christ took our place in the seat. You are near and dear to God’s heart! He will never leave you, nor forsake you! He is working all for your good! Jesus has gone up to heaven to prepare a place for you, and He will return again to take you to Himself, that where He is you may also be forever!

As you think about God’s instructions for how His church is to be structured, know this: Every command is a gift of love for you good. Every instruction is a gift of His infinite wisdom for your benefit. So let us embrace God’s Word, and let us embrace His love for us. Amen.
[1] Strauch p.148
[2] Grudem, Systematic

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Al Mohler for President...Again

More on the Mohler for SBC President story - check out this editorial by Don Hinkle in the Missouri Baptist Convention's paper.

DG has a post on the ethics of interracial marriage.

Tom Ascol at Founders is hoping to put the "Amazing Grace" dvd (you can borrow mine) in the hands of every SBC pastor in Florida - he's hoping to counteract the distribution of the Vines sermon last month. (The "Amazing Grace" dvd is the one sold by monergism featuring a host of scholars like R. C. Sproul and Tom Nettles explaining and defending Calvinism. Not the one about Wilberforce.)

The PCA and the Federal Vision

Have you been following this controversy? I recently read the PCA's report on "Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology." It is very interesting and not a very long read (30+ pages).

Here are the declarations made by the study committee (restated to somewhat shorten them):
  1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture is contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).
  2. The view that contends that individuals are "elect" by virtue of membership in the visible church and this "election" includes justification, adoption, and sanctification; and that this "election" could be lost if the person forsakes the visible church is contrary to the WCF.
  3. The view that Christ doesn't stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to believers is contrary to the WCF.
  4. The view that strikes the language of "merit" and so claims that Christ's merits are not imputed to believers is contrary to the WCF.
  5. The view that "union with Christ" renders imputation redundant is contrary to the WCF.
  6. The view that water baptism effects a "covenantal union" with Christ in which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ's mediation is contrary to the WCF.
  7. The view that one can be "united to Christ" and not receive all the benefits of Christ's mediation is contrary to the WCF. The primary benefit in view here is perseverance.
  8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ's mediation and yet not persevere is contrary to the WCF.
  9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works or is based on anything other than Christ's perfect obedience and satisfaction received through faith alone is contrary to the WCF.
Doug Wilson takes issue with the report and claims the committee was "stacked." Here's a post from his blog:

In any controversy, it is always easy to move on to the next thing. And the next thing can be the next argument, the next bone of contention, the next chapter, the next dust up, the next round, and so on. When this happens, all the participants move on and the controversy continues. It is often the case that key moments in the early stage of the controversy are almost completely forgotten by the participants. But until that happens, as long as Asahel is dead in the road, people stop and look, and it slows the battle down.

This principle is why people do things that they are willing to brazen out. People brazen it out because brazening it out works. And this is why I intend to bring up the stacked nature of the PCA committee every chance I get, for as long as I can remember to do so. Not only will I do this, but I intend to memorialize it with as many metaphors as I can manage to come up with. That committee was as stacked as a double order of buttermilks, as stacked as some blonde in a tight dress, and as stacked as a brick house. The PCA, she's mighty, mighty.

Looking in from the outside, I don't get this last comment from Wilson. It looks as if he's saying, "I'm not going to win, so I'm going to keep crying "foul" whether anyone listens or not." Granted, I haven't read much of his stuff (mainly just for the past few weeks on his blog)... and I don't know enough about the PCA to know if the committee was stacked. This is just what it looks like to an outsider. Wilson did suggest that people should listen to or read his examination with the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, so I'll be checking that out and commenting later.

It does seem like it would be more profitable for Wilson to answer the PCA report point for point so that there will be no equivocation, as is often the case in controversies. Many times the "defendant" uses avoidance tactics and claims, "No one gets our views right. Everyone keeps misrepresenting what we believe." So, the best way to make sure everyone understands is to give a response to the charges, not come up with endless metaphors for how unfair the procedures have been.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Every Book from Desiring God for $5.00 Each!

Go here to see the post from Desiring God's blog for next week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The New 9 Marks Blog

As you may know, the new 9marks blog has finally kicked off. Over the next few weeks Mark Dever will be sharing his thoughts on 10 influences that have helped bring about the resurgence of reformed theology among "the young" (under 40? 30?) It promises to be a good read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Calvinism, Speaking in Tongues, and the SBC

If you haven't already, check out these two debates from the Jerry Johnson show that aired live from the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio. The debate on Calvinism features Danny Akin and Mark Coppenger (interestingly enough, both Calvinists), and the debate on tongues is between Russell Moore and Dwight McKissic. Check it out here.

Also, I saw this picture on Denny Burk's blog and thought it was funny. As you may know, there's a lot of talk about the possibility of Mohler being nominated for the President of the SBC for 2008, thus making him President in 'o9 as well (since SBC presidents serve two terms). The idea is to have him as President when the SBC meets in Louisville for the 150th anniversary of Southern Seminary in 2009.

(By the way, we are averaging about 25 visits to this blog each day, 173 in the last week. The average visit is over three minutes long, so people are actually reading this thing. Everyone needs to know that they are welcome to leave a comment - not just members of the R&R Fellowship. R&R guys are the only ones that can post - and I hope they'll continue to post thoughtful content here more and more.)


I Repent

I've enjoyed listening to this song again recently.

I Repent

by Derek Webb

album: I See Things Upside Down (2004), The House Show (2004)

i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america's dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we're safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent, i repent of parading my liberty
i repent. i repent of paying for what i get for free
and for the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent

i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes

i repent, i repent of trading truth for false unity
i repent, i repent of confusing peace and idolatry
by caring more of what they think than what i know of what we need
by domesticating you until you look just like me
i am wrong and of these things i repent

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rev. Griffith Jones

Consider this description of the 18th century Welsh preacher Griffith Jones:

"When he came into the pulpit it was with reverence and holy fear...He had an unassuming solemnity and seriousness in his face, sweetened with all the meekness of charity and love...As he advanced, his subject fired him more and more...One while he glowed with ardent love to his fellow-creatures; anon, he flamed with a just indignation at the enemies of their souls...Every feature, nerve, and part of him were intensely animated...When he came to the application he seemed to summon up all his remaining force; he gave way to a superior burst of religious vehemence, and, like a flaming meteor, bore down all before him...No wonder that his hearers wept. No wonder that he was so successful in the conversion of sinners, when it was the Divine Spirit that made the Word effectual. By his preaching drunkards became sober, Sabbath-breakers were reformed, and the prayerless cried for mercy and forgiveness...Christ was all to him, and it was his greatest delight to publish his Redeemer's unsearchable riches."

I Really Like This Album

I happened across the album Glory Revealed while surfing through iTunes. I just bought a few of the songs at first, but then later when back for more. Here's the website and the story behind the album/tour.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Possibly a Great Conference in NC

Thanks to Jim's post yesterday on here I have been looking all morning at the Founder's blog to see the big announcement. I think this has potential to be great. What do you think?

Caedmon's Call

Read a review of the new cd here.

The Most Important Vote at the SBC

From Wade Burleson

Some might believe that the most important vote at the SBC this year will be the vote for First Vice-President between missionary David Rogers and SBCT Executive Director Jim Richards. Though this vote is important, it is not the most important vote.Some might believe the ballot cast Wednesday for any number of resolutions that will be presented to the SBC tomorrow could be the most important vote at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. Though there are several worthy resolutions, no vote for a resolution will be the most signficant vote cast by messengers at this 2007 convention.I believe the most important vote of the Southern Baptist Convention this year, not to mention the last ten years, will take place sometime Tuesday night, during the previously scheduled business portion of the agenda, when the seated messengers of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio will debate, and then ultimately vote for, or against, the adoption of the Executive Committee statement regarding the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 which reads:

"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

The above statement was adopted by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention this past year in response to a motion made at the 2006 Greensboro Southern Baptist Convention by Dr. Boyd Luter, former Dean at Criswell College. If the Convention herself adopts this statement, it will send a strong and irrefutable message to the trustees of Southern Baptist boards and agencies that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is the only consensus statement of doctrinal belief approved by the SBC, and to establish doctrinal guidelines or policies that exceed the BFM 2000 is an act contrary to the wishes of the Convention herself.

Again, in my mind, this recommendation to adopt the Executive Committee's statement on the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is the most important vote to come before the SBC in many years. I pray that the adoption of the statement passes at the Convention, as it did in the Executive Committee of the SBC, WITHOUT opposition.

Why Should The Executive Committee Statement on the BFM 2000 Be Adopted by the SBC?

(1). It will give trustees the authority to lead out in the prevention of any SBC agency from demanding absolute conformity on interpretations of tertiary doctrines, doctrines that are not addressed by the BFM 2000, before there can be participation in SBC missions and ministry.

(2). It will communicate to men who pray in tongues like Dwight McKissic and Jerry Rankin, and men who believe in Calvinism like Al Mohler and Tom Ascol, and men who believe in cessationism like Paige Patterson and Russ Moore, and men who believe in Arminianism like _________ (fill in the blank), and pastors who hold to Landmarkism in their local church, and pastors who don't hold to Landmarkism in there local church, that there is plenty of room in the SBC for both interpretations of these tertiary doctrines, and that not one side, or the other, is free to demand that others take their position in order to cooperate in missions and ministry in the SBC.

(3). It will help us focus on the main thing - sharing the gospel - and will stop cold the continuing narrowing of the parameters of cooperation by insisting we Southern Baptists unite around the essentials and cease making tertiary doctrinal interpretations issues over which we divide.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Other Convention

While the SBC is meeting this week in San Antonio, the General Assembly of the PCA will also be meeting in Atlanta, GA. And boy do they have an issue on their hands. I have already expressed my deep admiration for Douglas Wilson in previous posts, but I really can't get a handle on the federal vision thing. Apparently, neither can anyone else. The PCA study committee is expected to present their report and have its recommendations voted on, but the FV guys continue to assert that their views are being misrepresented. I have such admiration for them, I really wish I could have an honest understanding of what they believe - then I could begin to consider it and test it against the Scriptures.

If you want to take a stab at getting this (and then maybe you can explain it to me), go here. Either way, be in prayer for the PCA - it would be very sad for them to cast out some of their most stalwart pastors over a misunderstanding (if that's all it is).

Keeping Up with the Convention

Ofcourse, the Southern Baptist Convention is this week. You can watch the activities live at I'm using the following blogs to keep me informed of the goings on:

I assume the founders blog will be posting as well.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Cheap Books

If you don't mind your books a bit damaged, you should regularly check here for great deals.

Are You "Missional"?

This term has become very popular in some evangelical circles. Ed Stetzer, a major leader in the "missional" movement and now head of "The Center for Missional Research" at NAMB, is slated to give one of only two or three key messages at the Southern Baptist Convention this week. The Pastor's Conference website has a link on its homepage to certain events at the Covention especially geared towards "missional" pastors. So I was wondering, would any of you guys describe yourself as "missional"?

Of course, this word is notoriously difficult to define. The Resurgence, a group of missional leaders, unpacks the term with these four points in their statement of beliefs:

1. We believe that churches and Christians should be faithful to the content of unchanging Biblical doctrine (Jude 3).

2. We believe that churches and Christians should continually reform their ministry methods to most effectively reach the changing cultures(s) to which they are sent by God as missionaries (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

3. We believe that Christians and churches exist for the redemption of both people and cultures in an effort to have everyone and everything subject to God.

4. We believe that the continual planting of new churches is part of God's plan to reach new peoples, new cultures, and new subcultures.

So, working with their four points as a definition of "missional", would you fit in?

I'm particularly interested in what you guys think about points 2 and 4.


Friday, June 8, 2007

John Piper is Bad

Thanks Jim. This was very funny.

John Piper Is Bad

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ayn Rand

The DG blog notes that the Ayn Rand Institute has now put some of her audio/video material on the web for free.

This is one of the few similarities between Piper's journey and mine - we were both influenced by Rand's writings. In my case, I discovered Ayn Rand before I had ever heard of Piper or reformed theology. As a Junior in High School, the Rand Institute was offering a big scholarship as first prize in an essay contest. Students were required to read Rand's "The Fountainhead" and then write an essay about the book. My english teacher urged to me to enter the contest. I didn't win, but the book certainly had an impact on me. It was so radically different from anything I had ever encountered before.

The story was about an architect named Howard Roark who was very talented at what he did but would only design and build structures in the novel ways that he pleased. He compromised for no one. He has a really complicated relationship with a lady named Dominique (which really began when he more-or-less raped her.) I assure you, you've never read a book like this one...

Unless you've read "Atlas Shrugged". After being enthralled by the Fountainhead, I read Atlas Shrugged - a bigger novel that was written after "The Fountainhead" and is an even better portrayal of her philosophy. This book is amazing and engrossing. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. I remember reading it on an airplane and the stewardess leaned over to me and said "That book changed my life." I've seen bumperstickers that say "Who is John Galt?" (You have to read the book to get it.) Alan Greenspan (former Federal Reserve Chairman) is a well-known "Randian".

What is really unique about these books, is the philosophy that they teach (quite overtly) - that selfishness is the highest virtue. "Selfishness" for Rand means living by your own objective principles for your own happiness without ever compromising. Rand says "My philosophy in essence is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity and reason as his only absolute". According to Rand, the purpose of my life is my own personal happiness through creative productivity. To show charity to someone is immoral - evil - because it gives them something they have not earned and discourages them from pursuing true productivity. (i.e., Welfare discourages people from getting jobs and being productive, and since creative productivity is the key to their happiness, I'm actually hurting them.)

Obviously, there is a lot in these books that is wrong: they teach atheism, for one. But there are two reasons why I still have some affection for these books:

1. They elevate the importance of reason. (Too much, to be sure, but too many Christians have thrown reason out the window. Reason and faith are not enemies - they are the dearest of friends.)

2. These books show the wisdom of seeking your own happiness. For Rand, true happiness was found in artistic productivity. As Christians, we know that true happiness is found only in Christ. But as a Christian Hedonist, we also recognize that living for God' glory and our own joy are the same pursuit. (As the Bible makes clear over and over again: "Delight yourself in the Lord...")

Ayn Rand's works are a great display of rational hedonism. She was really close to getting it. If only she had been converted to the joy of knowing rational Christian hedonism!

(PS. This is one chief way in which Piper helped me so much - I discovered him within a year or two after Rand, and he helped me take what I knew was right from Rand (minus the atheistic baggage and its consequences) and showed me how objective hedonism was indeed a part of a truly Biblical Christian worldview. If it wasn't for him, I don't know what I would have become. Praise be to God.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Good Quotes on Various Subjects

"We have become so accustomed to its discontinuities that we are no longer struck dumb, as any sane person would, by a newscaster who having just reported that a nuclear war is inevitable goes on to say that he will be right back after this word from Burger King; who says, in other words, ‘Now . . . this’" (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. 105).

"If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth not be diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and liscentious literature will; if the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness, will reign without mitigation or end." Daniel Webster in 1823


"As long as men shall live there will be wars and rumors of wars. Strife and hostility will dog and plague our existence. Men everywhere will long for peace. People will feel the part of stranger and alien in this world… because we are not made for this world.

Our cries for reconciliation are testimonies to the fact that this world is not as it was originally made. Things have gone terribly wrong. Our sin has utterly corrupted everything—it has corrupted our hearts and corrupted our society. Loneliness and alienation and hostility are abominations. We were made for perfect and intimate union with one anther and supremely with God. We were made to reflect the glory of God through a unity that affirms that God made no mistake when He made us both Jew and Gentile – Jew, African, Asian, European, Haitian, Native American, Hispanic and so on. A unity that affirms all of that and yet transcends those categories through an abiding oneness with Jesus Christ.

That vision, that reality, that reconciliation is possible only through becoming one new nation, indeed one new man, and taking up one new dwelling together with God. And that is only possible through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ who gives us peace with each other and with God the Father through faith in Him." - Thabiti Anyabwile

- - On a different note, here is the message "Membership: A Commitment to Submit" that I preached this past Sunday night. Some of us were talking about this on Monday. It's probably the only time I've ever mentioned the "Gospel Gangstas" in a sermon.

Praying for you all,

Monday, June 4, 2007

Good Post for Summer

Hey guys - if you haven't already checked out JC's latest post on his blog, do so. He has a great list of ways to draw closer to Christ over the Summer. After checking out his ideas, do you have any of your own to offer?


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Wilson vs. Hitchens

Douglas Wilson is the gentleman I mentioned in an earlier post who wrote an excellent and persuasive book on Classical Christian education and is also one of the most brilliant, logical thinkers I've encountered. (Though I still disagree with his whole "federal vision" thing.)

Christopher Hitchens is the author of "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" - one of a number of outspoken atheists (i.e., Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins).

Christianity Today has posted the email debate about Christianity between Wilson and Hitchens here - it is truly a great debate between two serious thinkers, and well worth the read. It reveals that main arguments that atheists are using today, and also how the force of logic ultimately serves the cause of theism.