Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Memory Verse - June 30, 2008

John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Review: Return to Worship

Have you ever wanted to read a thoughtful discussion on the topic of worship. A book that does not simply argue for the authors preferences or that is not obsessed with the war of style. In Ron Owens book we get substance over style in a very thoughtful and helpfully provacative book.

The book is divided into two parts written in the form of letters. The first part is the collection of letters to the church; it is also serves as the theological portion of the book where he defines his understanding of worship. There are a great many principles in this portion of the book that would point us toward health as individuals and as churches. Part 2 is a collection of letters to those involved in leading worship; it also serves the purpose of applying the theological conclusions of the first part in a more practical manner. This part of the book would be helpful for church leaders to give to those invovled in leading worship at the churches they serve.

Chapter 15 is a must read. There Owens points out the common evangelical mistake of thinking that we go to church to receive. The truth is that we go to church to serve. We are called to build one another up in our gathered times.

Owens also rightly points out the power of music and the dangers of manipulation. We can easily lead people to an emotional response through musical manipulation. He does a good job of showing how this has been common knowledge throughout history and how some Christian leaders consciously took advantage of this reality to make converts who were not real converts at all. This also creates an unhealthy dynamic in a church. People confuse this emotional manipulation with the work of the Holy Spirit and this conditions them to think that they are not close to God because their emotions are not at fever pitch. It also creates an unhealthy expectation for worship services. People come expecting to be emotionally lifted and when this does not happen no matter how much Christ was exalted through song and Word, the service was a flop.

Ron Owens has written a gem for our benefit. The book is very beneficial for church leaders and is written in such a way that all readers would benefit from this book.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Conservative Resurgence in the SBC

While we recognize that there is much work to be done in Southern Baptist churches, we should also pause to thank God for delivering our convention from the deadly poison of unbelief. If you are curious about where we would be had the conservative resurgence never taken place, just read this Baptist Press article summarizing some of the workshops offered at the CBF annual meeting I thank God that we are discussing the merits and demerits of Calvinism in Baptist life, rather than promoting impious lies about the Word of God. For a positive assessment of the conservative resurgence, and a call to continued vigilance, see the following blog by Nathan Finn, church history professor at Southeastern Seminary:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Memory Verse

I think that one of the most profitable practices that any Christian could adopt is scripture memorization. So to encourage the adoption of that practice I will be posting a verse each Monday. Diligence in studying that verse throughout the week and then periodic review will place that verse near at hand at all times. We will begin with . . .

John 15:5 - I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

VBS Week: Seeking to Glorify God in Prayer

This week at our church we begin Vacation Bible School that will happen every night. I have to confess that VBS is one of my favorite times of the year as a pastor. It provides us opportunity to minister the gospel to numerous children and families, to meet new people who may need a church home, and prayfully we will see new believers emerge from the labor of the week. This year our VBS program is called "Outrigger Island: Living God's Unshakable Truth." The theme verse of the week is Psalm 86:11, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (NIV). One thing that I have tried to do every year as a pastor to build excitement is to preach the VBS text that first Sunday morning. And so this morning I preached on that very text.

The context of the passage shows us a great deal about King David's prayer time with the Lord. Fifteen different times in Psalm 86 David lays an appeal before the throne of God. And the interesting thing is that each time he makes a request to God, he follows it with the reason why God should answer the prayer or the result if God should answer it. This is why C. H. Spurgeon, famed Baptist preacher of the ninteenth century, reminds us that we too should learn to pray in arguements to God. David does not merely go to God, ask his request, then move on to another subject; he argues his case for answered prayer before the throne of the almighty. Was David trying to change the mind of God. Absolutely not! Fleshing out the reason for our prayer is more for our benefit than God's; it forces us to think carefully and critically about why exactly we are asking God to do something in our lives. And when we follow David's example of good arguementation in our prayer time, we will begin to uncover the motives behind the requests we make. Am I praying in a selfish motive, or a pure motive? Is the focus of my request on my own glory, or God's glory? The answers we find will expose our hearts before God and bring repentance when we pray for self-driven purposes.

So brothers and sisters let me challenge you, pray in arguements. No you will not change the sovereign will of God for your life or your circumstances, but you will find your heart changing to match HIS sovereign purposes for you. Then you will see your prayer life becoming more and more like the prayer life of Jesus who prayed in the face of death, "not my will be done, but yours Father."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Esther and David Crowder Band

I just thought that this was funny and that I'd share it with you.

Now Esther (my daughter) is of a very musical bent, she loves to sing with mommy and she plays (loose use of that word) lots of kid instruments. But the only CD that she has really gotten into is her Backyardigans CD. Well I have been on a big David Crowder kick (I go through musical moods). Yesterday we were driving in the car and I was singing along while Here is our King (my favorite Crowder song) was playing, suddenly she began yelling at me to be quiet so she could listen.

I think that there are only two possible explanations for her actions. 1) she is old enough now to realize that I have absolutely no business singing where another living person can hear, or 2) she simply has great taste in music. Or it could be both.

N.T. Wright on the Colbert Report

I don't make a habit of watching the Colbert Report for all the obvious reasons, but when I saw that N.T. Wright was going to be on the show I was intrigued and just had to watch.

I was a little frustrated that I had to wait the entire show to see Dr. Wright's segment appear at the end of the show. Now I do want to complement Dr. Wright on his ability to convey anything meaningful on a show like this one, whose main goal seems to be the highlighting of clever and sometimes mean satire.

Dr. Wright did a great job explaining that Heaven is not a permanent eternal home. We are actually looking ahead to the New Creation after the resurrection of the dead. This is a truth that has simply slipped out of evangelical thinking, to our detriment.

But it was what he did not say that left a bitter taste in my mouth. There was no word about how one gets to this New Creation or if there was a corresponding place of eternal torment. The Gospel was simple missing. There was no mention of Jesus, there was no mention of the Cross that makes entrance into the New Creation a reality and no word about how one must respond to God's offer of salvation. This was a tragedy. But I am not shocked.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I'm Back

Well, that was one long week. The class was long but very fun and I learned a ton this week that I hope will help me be a better leader in the future. But I'm home now, I've been able to spend some time with my ladies (referring to Edna and Esther of course) and my batteries are recharged somewhat. Thank you for praying for me. I also want to thank John and Josh for carrying the blogging load for me. I've got a couple of posts for the week planned so things are settling down and returning to normal. Talk to you soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A More Disciplined SBC

The Southern Baptists approved a resolution to encourage churches to repent of membership rolls inflated by the dead (physically dead and spiritually dead!). Since true repentance leads to action, this would require a biblical understanding and practice of church discipline.

I want to share a letter a church I served drafted for a member that we removed due to a refusal to repent of immorality. I personally appealed to this person on a number of occasions. When this failed I enlisted two discrete church members to join me in appealing to this person. After several failed attempts over many months we finally addressed the church with this matter. The whole church appealed to this person, and still no repentance (see Matthew 18 for the precedent followed above). I share this so that you might have a sense of the gravity of such a move. There is no delight in sharing this, as there was no delight in actually removing this person from the fold other than the hope that this final action might lead to repentance and the glory of Christ. Of course, names and personal information are excluded to inhibit gossip.

Dear *****:

Knowing you as a friend makes this both more and less difficult to write. It is more difficult because I fear that it will hurt you and ruin our friendship. It is less difficult because I believe God's word that this is the means by which you will be reconciled to Christ. Because I love you as a friend, I pray that the latter will prove to be the case.

Upon the recommendation of the deacons and pastors, the members of ******** Church voted mournfully, yet unanimously, to remove your membership from the church. The reasons for this action are unrepentant ****** and *******. The motives of this action were for the purity of the church (1 Corinthians 5:6-7); the name of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:12-20); and the good of your soul (1 Corinthians 5:5). It is our fervent desire that you will receive this as an appeal from the church who loves your soul to repent of your sin and trust only in Christ our Savior and Lord.

This action was very sobering, for it forced each of us to examine our own lives. Each person found defiling sin in his/her life. This awakening to our own sinfulness was alarming, and could have led to hardness or despair. But we are reminded of the promise of the Scripture, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9). So, we flew to the arms of our Savior to repent, confess and be cleansed from our unrighteousness. We pray that God will grant you the same spirit of repentance and faith toward Jesus Christ.

We are eager to receive you back into our fellowship. Please, be reconciled to God and to His church. Sin is a deadly poison. Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you (Matthew 5:30).

With Christ's love,


The last sentence is a reference to John Owen's work The Mortification of Sin. I highly commend this work for invigorating yourself for your battle with sin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


My apologies for not posting yesterday about the Southern Baptist Convention's 2008 meeting in Indianapolis, IN. I have had some issues with internet connection in my hotel, but am ready to go, so here is a quick overview so far:

I arrived late Sunday night and made it to the morning sessions of the pastor's conference. The morning's theme was brokenness and I was moved a number of times by the men who brought God's Word. They all came through situations of brokenness, but none more than Ed Littleton who gave the last address of the morning. Ed's wife of twenty five years was killed in an auto accident just eight months ago. As he spoke of the experience through the lense of God's love and tender mercies in Psalm 23, I fought tears thinking of such a thing. I was blessed to be encouraged through him, and reminded that the problems and struggles in ministry are part of the work, no exceptions. In the afternoon, James MacDonald gave a message on repentance that fast-paced and hard-hitting. Great stuff, I just wish he would have slowed down so I could soak it in! Out of a desire to remain positive on this blog, I will not make any comments regarding the evening session's speakers, except that I was very disappointed and walked out amid one of the talks (I cannot refer to them as sermons, as they had no Biblical grounding that I could tell).

Today Frank Paige brought a wonderful presidential address that was both timely and powerful. I am one who personally loves and appreciates Dr. Paige, as he has in my view done a great job at pointing the SBC to our obvious needs of improvement and responding with love to both critics and supporters. The vote for next years president was shockingly decided in only one vote (with 6 candidates in the field I was sure there would be a second ballot!). Johnny Hunt is our new President (over 52%) and I am absolutely thrilled. While I may not agree with him in every respect, he loves Jesus and has a heart evangelism. I pray that he is effective in this post and will be a catalyst for God's glory!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

What Really Scares Me

You want to know what really scares/bothers me, its not the worship wars (although I have some convictions there), its not the emerging church or seeker-sensitive churches (once again convictions there), its not even the state of the culture of our nation.

What really scares me is the state of the Christians in our nation. What is unique about us. We drive luxury cars like everybody else, we pay too much money to cover our nakedness, we pay too much money for gadgets and jewelry. We take our vacations like everybody else. We go to the country club like everybody else. What scares me is that there is so little real vital Christianity around us. I think the Apostle John would probably be tempted to call us liars when we claim the name of Christ.

What I long to see in every Christian in America is a passion for Jesus so consuming that we stopped worrying about what people will think, stop saying my money is mine, stop being satisfied with being slightly more moral than our peers. I long to see a passion for the glory of God arise in us to such an extent that we would truly offend or at least confuse the world. I long to see more real Christianity. I don't want decaf anymore, I don't want watered down faith. I want to be consumed. My fingers aren't pointed outward right now. My fingers are pointed at me. I'm looking in the mirror. I am far too shallow and I'm sick of it. I've been reading Piper today and just reading his books make me feel like my heart is numb and I have no idea what it really means to love Jesus. I preach about setting our eyes on a farther horizon and living for eternity and then I read C.S. Lewis and he makes me think that I don't even know what I'm talking about.

Please don't be offended at me, please be challenged the way these men have challenged me. Let's go deeper and farther in. Let's truly be the people of God, an alien people, foreigners, in the world but not of the world, lets shake loose from the cobwebs and rust that have worn over our hearts. Lets truly embrace the cross not just as a message, a ticket to heaven, but as an all-encompassing reality that demands our very lives, that has changed who we really are and demands that we lead a different cross-like lifestyle than those who do not love Jesus.

You want to know what really scares me, its the heart of this sinner. I long to be set free from this fallen mess and gaze with unfallen eyes and an unfallen heart into the beautiful face of my redeemer.

Friday, June 6, 2008


This coming Sunday I will leave from the church I serve and drive five and a half hours to Indianapolis, IN, sleep alone in a hotel room, attend conferences and meetings, be separated from my family, all to drive back to West Virginia and try to play catch-up on my work. So why would I endure all of this to attend the Southern Baptist Convention next week? Along with all of these things, the Convention seems to be bickering and backbiting over secondary issues that should not divide Christians who love Jesus (examples stretch from Calvinism, private prayer languages, baptism for non-SBC missionaries, etc.). Not to mention I will be among many who are going for no other reason than to rub shoulders with the "big dogs" who have large churches and make new connections for climbing the ladder of denominational influence (as a sidebar, while all of these will be wearing their Sunday best, I will be in Dockers and a shirt, maybe even shorts if it is hot!). So in light of all this why am I going? The reasons are as follows:

1. I am Southern Baptist by confession and conviction. I honestly believe that Southern Baptists are the closest denominational body to accurately reflecting the New Testament model of the church. In college, I realized that I was baptist simply because that was how I was raised. So I vowed to God that I would study the Scriptures and be part of whatever church or denomination that I was absolutely convinced reflected the Bible. I stayed put.

2. I may not change much with my presence at the SBC, but I will change nothing without out. I am one of those annoying optimists that actually believes change is possible in my lifetime. I have seen the move of God through a conservative resurgence, and I pray we see a renewed commitment to the integrity of the Gospel in our churches and a unity of purpose centered upon the glory of Christ and the Gospel going to the world!

3. This is the first time since the year I was born (1979) that numerous candidates are up for the presidency (6 in all at this point) without a clear front runner. As long as I can remember, the candidate who was endorsed by the leaders of the convention was a guaranteed win. Yet when Frank Paige won in 2006 it opened the field for candidates who are not part of the establishment. Now let me make myself crystal clear: I am NOT an anti-establishment Southern Baptist. In fact, I hold the deepest love and respect for the men who shed sweat, blood and tears for the Inerrancy of God's Word and conservative theology. But I also know that this is a time of great opportunity, since all the candidates are conservative to my knowledge and will bring different agendas to the front of the Convention. Southern Baptists need a voice of leadership that will not be a catalyst for political agendas, but one who will honestly assess where we are and issue a bold declaration that will call for reformation.

4. The single-most important issue in my estimation facing Southern Baptist churches today will be presented to the floor, namely a motion concerning regenerate church membership. Southern Baptist purport to have over 16 million members of our churches, but I challenge you to find 7 million on any given Sunday, even Easter! The fact is, my church and many others must honestly evaluate whether or not we are honoring God and loving people by allowing people to remain on the church roll when they have no association with that church. There is no such thing as an "inactive" church member in the New Testament, and we must take seriously the problem of huge church rolls filled with names of people who do not show any interest in the community of the local church. I want to be at the SBC to cast a ballot in favor of a statement concerning regenerate church membership and a repentance for the way we are now.

5. Part of my responsibility to the local church I serve is to represent them as best as I am able at the SBC. Southern Baptists churches are not accountable to the convention, but the convention is accountable to the churches. I believe with all my heart that if I lead my church to give its money and time to the Convention, then we must be faithful stewards over that investment and participate in every way possible. I have no visions of denominational leadership, but as a servant to the local church I am also a servant to the associations we maintain, and I am accountable before God for making sure we belong in them. If the SBC were to ever stray beyond the bounds of orthodoxy, I will be there to voice my heartbreak and disagreement, and will make sure I am prepared to react in the way most honoring to God (I do not see that ever happening for the record).

So in light of all of this, I will be in Indianapolis next week. If you are there, come find me because I would love to talk with you. Pray for me and my family as I am separated from them. Most of all, pray that God will bring a brokenness to our convention that leads to a Revival yet to be seen on this earth!

PS: Since Jaimie will be on leave next week with his classes, I am taking my computer and planning to blog each night about the trip. Stay Tuned ...

Thursday, June 5, 2008


The posting has been kind of slow lately and over the next week will be virtually non-existent. Being a Pastor and a seminary student (not for much longer) can be pretty hectic at times. And this coming week I will be taking a J-term (whole semester in a week class). This means that over the last couple of weeks and over the next week or so the little time I would normally spend blogging will be spent reading or writing a paper.

The pull back and forth between all the hats I wear is pretty hard time-wise (during the semester) and it is very draining for me. There have actually been moments where I wondered how important walking across the stage would be, since you know I am already a pastor. And since being a pastor is the sum total of my ambition, makes you think twice about the four hour drive every Monday. But the fact that I have only two classes left (and my wife's urging) has convinced me that I need to finish, besides Josh just finished his PhD and John already beat me to a Mohler handshake. So I just have to finish.

So please be patient with the blog, and I could certainly use your prayers for the coming week, I'm gonna miss Edna and Esther like crazy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why Fight Same-Sex Marriage

There are many now, in light of the California decision to open the way for same-sex marriage, who would say that we are wasting time and resources to resist same-sex marriage in our nation. They would say that we are fighting the inevitable. I do not agree. Number one we serve God who can do as He pleases, and if it is His good pleasure He will turn our culture back from this brink of insanity. Second I believe that marriage is so important it is fighting for and seeing saved. But this response demands a why answer, why bother. I think there are a number of reasons.

First, God has defined what marriage is for us, we are not free to recreate marriage as we wish.

Second, for the good of homosexuals. Sexual sin (all sexual sin) seems to be especially enslaving and we long to see homosexuals flee the destructive power of sin and know the joy of knowing and following Jesus.

Third, for the good of society. All societies need the rock-solid foundation of healthy families to have a healthy culture.

Fourth, for the good of children. Children need both a good father and a good mother (not necessarily biological, I'm all for adoption), anything short of this will lead to some form of imbalance in the child.

Fifth, for the glory of God. God is honored when His creation follows His right ordering of human life. This is most true of His own children. He is honored when we stand for truth and the good of others.

Last, for the cause of the Gospel. When we refuse to call sin sin, we undermine the Gospel. If people do not see their own sinfulness then they will not see their need for a savior. Let us stand up for the Gospel and call sin sin, and then let us show love for the sinner without compromise on the truth.

If you have anything to add feel free to do so in the comments. If you more and/or better reasons than mine I would honestly love to hear them.