Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Of statues and kneeling...

The following is taken from a sermon I preached a few Wednesday nights ago to our church.  At the encouragement of some of our church members who found it helpful I have decided to post it to my blog.  I tried to edit it down while still including the Scripture references in full for ease of study.  Comments (even disagreeing ones) are welcome, but keep them civil, Biblical, and clean or they will be removed.

Much has been made in the news media of late concerning the Confederate statues in Dallas.  If you watch the news to see the protests and demonstrations it is clear that opinions run hot on both sides of the issue.  Being Christians doesn’t exempt us from having opinions and feelings on these things as well.  Obviously we are not OF the world in this or any other sense but we are IN the world.

In truth, the Christian opinion ought to be able to be the one that is readily sought by reasonable people BECAUSE it should always be the one that can be counted on to be founded upon and informed by rightly
interpreted Scripture.   Because we still battle our sinful flesh this is not always the case of course, but all things being perfect that is how it SHOULD be. But things aren’t that way and so we must endeavor to hold a Christian view on these matters and many many others.

I do not intend to tell you to be in favor of the statue removal any more than I intend to make a case for leaving them in place.  I do want you to help you separate yourself from either side of the history and instead look at the over-arching issue Biblically. 

Is there any problem inherently with these statues being in place?  Are they offensive?  Is their removal an attempt to re-write history?  I would say every one of those questions can be answered with a yes and a no depending on who you talk to about it.  Let’s get above the ground on the issue for a minute... try to see the forest in spite of the trees so to speak... What are some questions the Christian should ask themselves as they pray and study and come to a conclusion on this or any other issue in this world?

I’m going to suggest 3 and frankly, these can be used to help you make all sorts of decisions about everything from statues, to kneeling during anthems, to where you live, what car you drive, what job you chase after, etc...

1.) Does whatever view I choose help me glorify God and make Christ known?

1 Corinthians 10:31 - [31] So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (ESV)

I think that has to be the starting question... I think it simply must be the starting point for the Christian on making any decision.  I don’t care if it is deciding how you feel about this or whom to vote for or what food to order at dinner tomorrow night...   Does it help me glorify God or not?  This has to be where the Christian starts because, as Paul says Galatians 6, our boast is Christ.  So in whatever we are doing we want to highlight the superiority and excellencies and majesty of Christ! 
I cannot begin my reasoning based on my experiences... my experiences aren’t invalid and irrelevant, but they cannot be the starting point or driving force behind my worldview on ANY issue... why is that?

Jeremiah 17:9 - [9] The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (ESV)

Proverbs 3:5-8 - [5] Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [6] In all your ways acknowledge him,...

Look at the blessed result we find when we do this...

...and he will make straight your paths. [7] Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. [8] It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (ESV)

I can’t begin with or let my experiences drive my views BECAUSE my experiences are driven by my memories... I’ll give you a silly example... I won’t eat at Chipotle... why?  Because I once ate at one and I bit into a piece of chicken that was cold and still raw on the inside, as a result I was very sick for a day or so.  Now, my experience with that gives me a terrible feeling when I think of eating there again... I can’t do it.  I understand that that is a silly and trite example but that principle carries over into other more weighty matters too doesn’t it?

Doesn’t Matthew 6 point me to that same conclusion?  Matthew 6:33 - [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

That’s a DIFFERENT question than, ‘how do I FEEL about it?’  Not seek first how I feel about something and decide based on that criterion. If you start with your emotions on the subject you are in severe danger of making an unbiblical choice.  I may feel a certain way about many things, but in Christ my emotions and my mind are to be in subjection to the Spirit’s guidance.  That’s the way that Christians are brought together in one accord concerning these things.  That’s how we are lead to know how to truly love one another... we submit to the same Holy Spirit.  He’s doing the same basic work of sanctification in all of us.

2.) How does my view help/hinder me from sharing the Gospel?

Paul said, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 - [19] For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. [21] To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. [23] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (ESV)

What did Paul mean by that?  To win Jews did he affirm ceremonial sacrifice as a propitiatory practice?  No.  He certainly confronted error and those who sought to distort the Gospel.  But He approached his ministry from the standpoint of what would help him best lost his fellow man. How could he best show them Christ?  Put yourself in proximity of a statue real quick.  You are a person who thinks they should be torn down.  They’re offensive... they are symbols of racism... the whole deal... you think they need to go.  So you go to exercise your 1st amendment rights and protest them... peacefully... the violent on both sides are an obviously sinful issue.  But you are doing it peacefully... just expressing your view... and once the rally concludes you are headed to your car and you strike up a conversation with someone who disagrees with you but they were there and they saw your behavior on display or your viewpoint on display... how will sharing the Gospel with them be affected by what you did there? That’s what Paul has in mind... in things that don’t pertain to Gospel clarity I am to put others first so that I gain an audience with that person to hopefully win them to Christ... do you see?  So if I go to Japan... and I am in a community that says... you need to wear this certain type of robe or it is culturally offensive to the people... well I’m not bound by any world law to do it... but if I am bound to the law of love as a Christian and I desire to win them... I’ll put on the robe. The flip side of that... you’re there demonstrating because you want the statues left alone... and you behave peacefully... when you leave... how will the view you hold affect witnessing to the lost person who disagrees?

You may be inclined to say, ‘well my view there shouldn’t bother them... that’s not about the Gospel...’ maybe it shouldn’t... but that isn’t the question we should ask... the question we ask is... is my particular view on this social issue a hill worth killing my witness to the lost in the other camp on?  Is it worth it to die, metaphorically, for this issue if it means my Christian witness will be damaged elsewhere. “Well that group doesn’t understand!” that’s a possibility... but that still isn’t your starting point as a Christian... How can I put myself last and others first? How can I model Christ to the lost?  No lost person is going to come to you and ask for the reason for the hope that lies within you because you demonstrated for or against a statue... but they just might if you responded to that and other issues in accordance with the love Christ has shown you.

3.) How does my conduct affect the “weaker brother” from Romans 14?

Let’s think about this... there are Christians lining up on both sides of the issue.   For whichever opinion on the issue is wrong... ok... whichever one is the wrong view... and I know a Christian who holds that wrong view... how can I reach them and love them as my “weaker brother,” as Romans 14 talks about, how can I reason with them and bring them to both affirm whatever is right and more importantly how can I help them grow in Christ?

In 1520 Martin Luther wrote a treatise called "The Freedom of the Christian." He began it with this paradox: A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

Then he explained:

“These two theses seem to contradict each other . . . [But] both are Paul's own statements, who says in 1 Corinthians 9:19, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all," and in Romans 13:8, "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." Love, by its very nature, is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.”

Galatians 5:13, "You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."

Use your liberty to love by serving. That's what Paul says he is doing here in verse 19: "Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave [or servant] to all." That's what Paul—and Jesus—mean by love.  Is it sinful to want the statues down?  Maybe, but not necessarily...  Is it sinful to want them to stay up?  Maybe, it could be, but not necessarily.

In your Christian freedom, but for love's sake, you try to overcome unnecessary, alienating differences that cut you off from unbelievers.  All the while you keep a vigilant watch over your heart to see if you are in the law of Christ.  Christ died to set us free. Free from the wrath of God, and free from the loveless limits of the law. Free for love and eternal life.  Are we using our freedom to make this good news plain? Or are we so culturally minded or are we so worldly that unbelievers don't know we have something radically different to offer than anything this world offers?  O may the Lord grant us to use our freedom to become the servants of all, that we might by all means save some! Examine yourself to see whether you are becoming more like Christ in your worldview or more like the world...

I’m not telling you to feel any certain way on this issue... you want the statues left alone?  Fine, make that case from Scriptural reasoning.  You want them removed?  Fine, make that case from scriptural reasoning. If you can’t do that, you need to take a long hard look at what you believe and why?

Personally, if it means giving me an avenue in to reach a lost person, I say take them down and quick!  At some point, the Christian has to decide that they are Christian first and that loving others is what God has called us to do.  In the eternal scheme of things, is a statue argument worth it?  In my estimation, I would say emphatically no.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I had the privilege to sit down with my friend, brother, and fellow Pastor, Pastor Ed Johnson of Harvest Fellowship Baptist Church in Desoto, Texas to talk about race, culture, and the church.  How should the church interact with the culture and respond to problems of race in this country?  This was an honest and open discussion.  I was helped by it and I pray that you were as well.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Is a Boycott of Target off the Mark?

I posted this article a few years ago about a different issue and it seems that every so often I find myself updating and adding to it as new "boycotts" appear on the spectrum.

The latest issue has surrounded whether or not Christians should boycott Target due to the latest announcement from
Target that they will join many other businesses in removing gender labels from their restrooms. With this move they are taking their stand with the Transgender movement to affirm those who were born with one gender and have decided to identify as another have the right to use the bathroom of their choice.

To weigh in on this issue there are a couple of things we need to think about.

1.) This was already happening - This was already taking place, the difference now is that it is getting corporate approval and increasing cultural approval.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about the issue.  That doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak up about it.  We do need to keep in mind, however, that it isn't as though this wasn't a thing one moment and then all of the sudden it was.

2.) This is an indication of a society presently undergoing God's judgment.  People say, "God's going to judge America for this." No friend, the fact that things like this happen and receive hardy cultural approval is proof that God has and is judging America.  When a society gives approval to sinfulness and even begins to endorse it, you can be sure that you are seeing Romans 1 on display.

Now, I've heard much discussion in general over "boycotting" said businesses (specifically Target) that decide to make their restrooms gender neutral.  Should we boycott businesses for this?  My position, is no.  No we shouldn't.  Hear me out before you go nuts.

Here is my 8 point pondering on the matter.

1.) A boycott is the way of the world.  Bruce Springsteen recently released a statement stating that he would not do a concert in North Carolina in protest over the HB2 legislation.  Bruce is of the world.  We are to be set apart.  A boycott is a worldly endeavor in this case.  I think if the world is reacting one way to a given situation then we as the church need to assume our reaction will likely be a polar opposite. (Mind you that's not a concrete principle and it may not always apply equally.)

2.) Have you gone about boycotting the bad doctrine and theology in your church or your denominational affiliations?  For example, I am a Southern Baptist.  I love my Southern Baptist brethren and denomination.  I am NOT a fan of the staggering lack of discernment that seems to be growing in some of our Baptist institutions.  For example, Lifeway sells books and "Bible" studies by two women (at least) who claim to receive new revelations from God.  That's heresy folks.  That's some really really BAD teaching.  Why is there no boycott there?  If there is to be a boycott of anything it should probably begin by aiming to 'clean house' so to speak and work its way out from there don't you think?

3.)  Have you considered confronting them in an Ephesians 4:15 way?  Speaking truth in love to them first.  It seems that we were all happy to spend our money at Target and endorse all sorts of debauchery but not this one touches on a level that comes with a very real risk of effecting us personally.  All of the sudden it is a much bigger deal?  That seems a bit off to me.

4.) It doesn't seem doing this has been thought through too wisely.  Granted we ought to feel something when we see things like this.  I am so thankful that many are upset about this primarily because it is a continued rebelling against God's Word and what it says, in this case, about gender identity.  You have every right to see to it that your family is protected on top of that (I'll address that in a closing thought), Our reaction, though ought to be to proclaim the Gospel all the more!  Not condemn the world. Has anyone personally contacted any of them and arranged a time to sit down with them and share the true Gospel (Mark 1:15), perhaps to lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? I am not saying that they would receive such an advance, but have we tried?

5.) Gender neutral restrooms are not the real problem here.  The real problem is a society dead in sin that loves their sin and celebrates their sin.  This will only get worse from here.  The problem isn't just gender confusion (rebellion).  The problem is sin.  Right now we see it in the gender issue, but it is also shows up in a myriad of other ways.  That said, if all we go after is the small battle of keeping the restroom usage policies in accordance with a person's God-given gender we have won very little and missed the war.  The end result of this is that those business who give to your boycotts and change back (if any do) you've not changed their hearts, you've soothed your conscience so that you can continue doing business with that place... (1 John 1:8-9).

6.) Shouldn't we be consistent? If you are going to call out businesses using who follow Target's folly, then let's also go and call out businesses that support abortion, that promote promiscuity or drunkenness, or that put out sinful media products (all of which can also be found at Target).  Are you sure that the businesses that leave their bathrooms as Men and Women aren't selling products of companies who don't? Have fun figuring that one out!  Where does it end?  You'd better go home and clean out your pantry and throw away all clothing items as well that come from companies that give money to Planned Parenthood or some other evil corporation/campaign. You'd better cut your electric off because chances are your company gives to an immoral group or political candidate or something in some way. The commission of the church is not to chiefly attack the peripheral issues of this sin broken world, but rather to attack the heart of all issues with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That though they are sinners bound for God's wrath, their is forgiveness and pardon in Jesus Christ alone!  (John 3:16; Mark 1:15; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:16-20)  It doesn't mean that we don't speak out, but we keep the cross and eternity in our ultimate perspective. 

7.) Preach the WORD in and out of season... PREACH THE WORD. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)  Just because you are willing to give other businesses a pat on the back for maintaining a sane and Biblical restroom usage policy does not equal success.

8.) Have you considered the issue of hypocrisy in your own heart with this? Is this the only time you've spoken up about the God ordained role of gender?  Have you sought to share the Gospel with those who are gender-confused?  They are darkened in their hearts.  They are in open rebellion against the God who made them.  He created them one way and they are charging Him with wrong.  And you are seeking to make them your enemy as opposed to your mission!?  The lost world is not our enemy, they are our mission.  We aren't trying to destroy them, we are trying to lead them to Christ who can clear up this sinful confusion AND forgive them of ALL their sins!  If this is the only thing that gets you riled up, might not you look like a hypocrite because you are claiming to prize and hold the name of Christ so very very closely and yet never share the Gospel any other time in the year?  Just a thought.  Some "Christians" will rail about these things (and again I understand the anger and agree what is going on is immoral) but those same Christians NEVER share the Gospel.  Never witness to anyone... How do you expect things to change if you keep the Gospel to yourself?

My Final Thought:

I am going to protect my family.  If my daughters or wife are headed into a restroom anywhere and a man identifying as a woman is in there or follows them in I will not hesitate to do whatever is necessary to protect my family.  Please hear me clearly, the whole identifying as a different gender issue is one of sinful rebellion.  It is not ok. It goes against the Lord and His Word.  Businesses who capitulate to gender-neutral restroom usage policies are wrong for doing so and they advance the cause of evil.  But unless we are going to pull out of every worldly thing, I don't think a boycott is the best way to combat it.

I want to hear from you on this.  If you believe I am way off base, please provide Scripture to refute me.  Keep your comments civil.  If you are a person involved with the transgender movement, I want to tell you that you are dead in your sin.  Not just because of the gender issue, but a whole host of other sins as well.  You need Christ to save you from your sin.  I was just as you once.  My sin didn't look like yours, but I needed the rescuing grace of Jesus Christ no less.  Repent of your sin, turn to Christ.  He will forgive you and give you a new nature.  He will not only clear up your gender confusion He will give you of His own righteousness.  Curious about that? Feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The folly of worry

Let me speak briefly, I have a confession to make... One of my sin struggles is worry. I fight it but find it a stumbling area often. Desiring to conquer this temptation by God's Spirit I sought out help from the Word of the Lord.  So here are my Biblical thoughts on worry and how to overcome it.

I thought of 5 Biblical reasons to avoid worry, and 4 Biblical ways to combat it.

1.) Worrying forgets the Gospel

It denies God’s sovereignty and power.  Christ has said in John 14 that we are not to let our hearts “be troubled.”  Why?  Because He was going to be and has now died and been raised, thereby making the way for man to get to God.  Worry denies the peace promised by the Holy Spirit and makes God out to be a liar.  It forgets the Gospel’s power to bring peace as it fails to trust that Christ is a refuge for all our strife.  Worry elevates some stresses as being beyond the perfect plan and power of God.

2.) Worrying is meditation
Defined, to meditate is to “think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time.”1  It is to have your mind captive to something.  Scripture tells us that we are to let our minds dwell (meditate) on Christ and His Word.  The truths of God are to be our meditation.  In Psalm 19:14 the Psalmist pleads with God to let his every word, every thought and every devotion be pleasing to God.  Verse 13, however, sheds some additional light to his plea.  He petitions the Lord to keep him away from presumptuous sins.  The “presumptuous sin” in worrying is presuming that meditating on what you can do about a worry will produce a more favorable result.  It sets the meditation of your heart on that issue and resolving it as opposed to trusting the Lord to do what is right and in keeping with His perfect will.

3.) Worrying is idolatry
If worry is your meditation and meditation is that which you think and dwell on... then doesn’t it stand to reason that what you dwell on is your idol?  That stings a bit.  We know we aren’t to have any idols (Exodus 20:4-6).  Instead we are to dwell on Christ alone, but how easily idols sneak in and construct themselves in plain sight, and before we know it we have allowed them choice real estate in our heart.  Idols form when our hearts are drawn away from Christ by other things (Deuteronomy 30:17).  They are demonic in origin and dressed as something seemingly harmless but massively destructive to us.  Be on guard for them in your heart.

4.) Worrying is disobedient

It seems that this one should be most obvious, yet it bears stating even still.  Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus declares that we aren’t to worry.  Our Father, He says, knows our needs and will provide.  So to engage in constant worry is to disobey the Word of the Lord.  Before you think me legalistic, please remember that God’s Law is a law of liberty!  Though often stated in the negative (“Thou shall not...”) they are always intended for our good.  They are intended to preserve our joy by focusing us on Him and our need for Him in all things.

5.) Worrying is vanity
What good does worrying incessantly do?  “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27).  What more needs to be said about the sheer wastefulness and vanity of worrying?

So what should we do?

I write to you, the one tempted to incessant worrying, from the trenches with you.  My mother says that I get that nature from her.  Maybe I am predisposed genetically to struggle with worry to some extent, but the truth is that I wrestle with it because sin dwells in my flesh.  I don’t set out trying to worry, but it creeps in at times just the same.  At its worst in me I literally lie in bed, my mind racing so fast over the many daily things I’ve decided to worry about, that I can hardly lie still.  There are few things more frustrating than a restless mind fixated on worry.  For someone whose sin struggle doesn’t include worrying, this is hard to understand.  I explained that those times when the worrying is at its worst, in my mind, it feels as though I am trying to divide a number by a color to derive a letter.  I mean that quite literally!  I have seen that frustrating formula over and over in my mind at times.  (I should note that these extreme times happen mostly while I am trying to sleep, but during times of extreme worry nonetheless). It is the sign of just sheer mental exhaustion that has come on over time as I have failed to pray and rest in Christ as I ought.  As the Lord works in and grows me I am learning how to more quickly rest in Him and for that I am grateful.

Can you relate to this struggle?  If so, here are some Scriptural helps.

1.) Pray – (Philippians 4:6) – Seems simple, but for those who struggle with worry we also struggle to keep our mind focused during times of prayer.  If you find it difficult to pray at all times and stay focused, wrestle and pray all the more!  Strive in prayer until you feel the Spirit of God bring you rest.

2.) Seek God’s Glory, not Your Solutions. – (Matthew 6:33) – Certainly we are to engage our minds in problem solving but there is a difference between evaluation and problem solving vs worry.  Ask God to help you seek His will above all things.  Seek His wisdom and trust His sovereign plan.  Striving with worry will only weigh you down (Proverbs 12:25).

3.) Humble Yourself. – (1 Peter 5:6-11) – Worry is arrogant because it sets our “wisdom” over God’s.  Scripture says to humble ourselves “under the Mighty Hand of God.”  We are to cast all our cares upon Him “because He cares for” us and is abundantly mighty to take all the cares we can think of and infinitely more.  We are promised rest if we will seek it from the Lord (Matthew 11:28-30).

4.) Remember the Gospel. – (Romans 8:28-39) – Are you born again?  Redeemed by Christ?  Think on that!  What greater promise is there?   I know of none, than to be certain that I have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember the Gospel and apply it!  What worry is greater than the problem you once had of being condemned and under the wrath of God for your sin?  None.  Yet Christ was mighty enough to rescue you from your condemnation.  Will He now not be able to strengthen you, guide you, and give you joy and rest?  Of course!  Nothing, not even that which you worry over, can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Nothing.  So, my fellow worriers, let’s press on in the love of Christ together and trust Him to care for us as He has promised to do.

If you found this article helpful, please encourage others by re-posting it to your facebook, twitter, or other appropriate social media outlet. Also, feel free to comment and let me know how God has worked in you to overcome worry.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Preach a text or preach a topic?

Year after year we hear report that our churches are in decline.  Some try every program on the market, spending thousands of dollars on the latest church trend/fad.  But I think the problem is much more simple than an overhauling program.  I believe we have the solution in our possession.  Most of us have multiple copies in different translations and languages.  It is God's Word. 

What has happened is that many have abandoned relying on the power of the preached Word of God.  They claim to trust the Word, but they deny that claim by preaching topic driven, pragmatic, 'relevant' sermons that seek to entertain as oppose to exhort and admonish. 
While it can at times be appropriate to preach a sermon addressing a particular topic, this should certainly not be the norm.  Even when done it should be done in a manner that takes an honest approach to the proper text.

If we desire to develop healthy disciples and healthy churches we must seek to preach the text.  You may ask, ‘but doesn’t that equate to the same thing?  If I preach a text, will that text not contain a topic?’  The answer is yes and no.  Yes, each text has a meaning.  If you want to call that a topic I suppose that would acceptable.  However, there is a difference between preaching a text and a topic.  Preaching a text allows the testimony of Scripture to dictate the topic.  Preaching a topic allows you, the preacher, to be in control of the topic.

Many Southern Baptist Preachers have drifted away from the rich practice of selecting a text and spending our pulpit time in unfolding that topic.  It is far more beneficial to unfold a text of Scripture than it is to persistently select topics.  In Luke 24, after Christ had vanished from the sight of the disciples He had been walking with on the road they realized who He was and then they make a remarkable comment on what He had been saying to them.      “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”” (Luke 24:32 ESV) 

What produced that burning in their hearts?  The Scriptures!  Opening up the Scriptures!  We must endeavor, the Holy Spirit, to do the same thing. 

With that in mind, and without any further digression, speaking to the Southern Baptist custom of expository preaching, let me share with you “Advantages of Having a Text” taken from "Preparation and Delivery of Sermons” by John Broadus (Broadus, John. Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, New (Twenty-fifth) Edition, p. 21-23)

“Taking a text is an old and well established custom from which there seems to be no good reason for departing; especially as the change would be sure to prove distasteful or even painful to many worthy and devout hearers of preaching.  Moreover, the custom is founded in excellent reason, and has marked advantages.

It is manifest that to take a text gives a tone of sacredness to the discourse.  But more than this is true.  The primary idea is that the discourse is a development of the text, an explanation, illustration, application of its teachings.  Our business is to teach God’s word.  And although we may often discuss subjects, and aspects of subjects, which are not presented in precisely that form by any passage of Scripture, yet the fundamental conception should be habitually retained, that we are about to set forth what the text contains.  When circumstances determine the subject to be treated, and we have to look for a text, one can almost always be found which will have some real, though it be a general relation to the subject.  If there be rare cases in which it is otherwise, it will then be better to have no text than one with which the subject has only a fanciful or forced connection.

There are several advantages in regularly taking a text.

1.)  It constantly recalls the fact just mentioned, that our understanding is not to guide the people by our own wisdom, but to impart to them the teaching of God in His Word.  This fact enables us to speak with confidence, and leads the people to recognize the authority of what we say.

2.)  If the text is well chosen, it awakens interest at the outset. 

3.)  It often aids the hearer in remembering the train of thought, having this effect wherever the sermon is really evolved from the text.

4.)  It affords opportunity of explaining and impressing some passage of Scripture.

5.)  It tends to prevent our wandering utterly away from Scriptural topics and views.

6.)  Greater variety will be gained than if the mind were left altogether to the suggestion of circumstances for then it will often fall back into its old ruts; and this variety is attained just in proportion as one restricts himself to the specific thought of each particular text.

Objections to the use of texts have commonly arisen from one of two or three causes.  The grievous laxity in the interpretation of texts which has so widely prevailed, leads some men to regard the employment of them as wrong or useless.  This is the old story – the abuse of a thing causing men to question the propriety of its use.  Again, persons who have little or no true reverence for Scripture, or appreciation of its riches, speak of the text as a restriction upon freedom of thought and flow of eloquence.  Thus Voltaire: “It were to be wished that Bourdaloue in banishing from the pulpit the bad taste which disgraced it, had also banished the custom of preaching on a text.  Indeed, to speak long on a quotation of a line or two, to exhaust one’s self in subjecting a whole discourse to the control of this line, seems a trifling labor, little worthy of the dignity of the ministry.  The text becomes a sort of motto, or rather enigma, which the discourse develops.”1  It seems plain that the sneer arose partly from the torturing interpretation so often witnessed, and chiefly from the critic’s want of reverence for the Bible, and ignorance of the preacher’s true relation to the Bible.  And perhaps, as a third ground of objection to texts, some able and devout preachers, disliking expository and even textual preaching, and wishing that every sermon should be a philosophical discussion or an elaborate discourse upon a definite topic, incline to regard the custom of always taking a text as an inconvenient restriction.  Such appears to have been the feeling of Vinet.

It is sometimes not unsuitable to have two text, or even more.  Thus with Heb. Ix. 22, “And without shedding of blood is no remission,” there might be united I John i. 7, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  Or with Isa. Vi. 3, “The whole earth is full of His glory,” ma be taken Psa. Lxxii. 19, “And let the whole earth be filled with His glory;” to angelic eyes it is so – the human mind can only pray that it may be so. (Comp. Hab. Ii. 14.)  Spurgeon has a sermon on the words, “I have sinned,” as occurring seven times in the Bible, and gives interesting views of the different circumstances and states of mind in which they were uttered. 2”

1 Voltaire, Age of  Louis XIV. Quoted by Vinet, Hom., p. 99.
2 Amer. Ed. Of Spurgeon’s Sermons, Third Series, p. 241

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

7 Ways to Ruin VBS

Vacation Bible School season may seem like a distant dream; however, the curriculum for this year is already in and in just 5½ short months we’ll find ourselves once again serving the children of this church and community with our VBS ministry.  Our goal, of course, each year is to have a successful VBS.  What makes it successful is that, in all we do, to seek to glorify God in our efforts (1 Cor. 10:31).  There are ways to ruin VBS though, I thought of seven.  Read these and consider them as you now prepare your hearts for VBS and before long we’ll be making preparations to receive whatever children God sends our way.

1.) Treat the children harshly
(See Proverbs 15:1; Romans 2:4)

It is no secret that I am not a fan of large and uncontrolled crowds.  Few things send my irritation alarms off quicker!  Some of you may share those idiosyncrasies as well, and VBS can be one of those situations that peaks those alarms in you too.  Children have a way of finding the right buttons to push and then they don’t just push them, they smash them!  But we must remember our goal is to show them Christ.  That doesn’t mean allowing chaos!  Certainly not!  It does mean that as we set down rules and parameters for what is expected that week that we see our interactions with them as having tremendous Gospel significance.  When tempted to speak harshly over an action of insolence, remember the Gospel.  Remember, that your frustration with them over their disobedience is nothing compared to the justified anger God could have held to you over yours against Him.  Yet, Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance; His kindness to send Christ to die in our place so that we could be forgiven.  Think on His kindness to you and how others, even children, need that kindness shown to them as well. 

2.) Forget that they are children and expect them to be tiny adults
(See Proverbs 22:6; 1 Corinthians 13:11)

First, I am an advocate for helping our children grow into responsible adults.  There is a fine balance between remembering they are a child and so they should enjoy the things children do at the same time remember the goal of childhood is preparation for adulthood ultimately.  I am also no fan of the ‘kids will be kids mentality’ as a way of excusing disobedience, however, it does EXPLAIN the behavior.  We are to train up children in THE WAY.  We are to point them to Christ, but we have to remember that they cannot think like adults yet because they aren’t adults.  They think like children, they reason like children, they behave like children; so show them the Gospel and the beauty of Christ and encourage them to follow Him.  Explain that their disobedience comes from their hearts and it reveals that their hearts are in need of the forgiveness that only Jesus can provide!  They won’t see that through the teeth of our frustrations but through the gentleness of our responses.

3.) Don’t prepare ahead of time
(See 2 Timothy 2:15)

If you know now that you are going to volunteer for VBS service this year then you should start preparing your heart now.  You cannot expect them to see Christ in you if you are not seeking the Spirit’s guidance to bear fruit in your that would show Christ to them.  If you call me over to see your dead rose bush and you spend your time explaining how beautiful the roses are that it produces, I will have a hard time believing that anything of value comes from that dead plant.  I need to SEE it.  Further, if you are going to be teaching in any way, start preparing your heart to teach by studying the Scriptural truths for yourself before you even begin going through the outline of the lesson in the material.  I was so encouraged to hear from Bro. Richard Dennis at our Men’s Breakfast as he spoke, at our table, about how he prepares for a Sunday School lesson.  Be diligent to study the word and prepare your heart and mind to be engaged with the Word and by the Spirit impart that passion to those children.

4.) Do VBS to grow the children’s ministry numerically
(See 1 Corinthians 10:31)

It seems that these days many denominations are in a contest to see who can boast the highest numbers.  This most clearly reveals itself in things like boasting of worship attendance, youth ministry numbers, or VBS attendees and decisions.  But the goal of any ministry cannot be to boost the numbers of children (and likely that is so that there is a boost in the number of families).  It isn’t that desiring numbers is necessarily bad; it isn’t that growth is bad.  However, our goal must be to proclaim the Gospel to these children.  We are to do all things unto God’s glory.  That’s the goal.  We ‘put on’ VBS for 5 or 50 (or 500 – yikes!) for exactly the same reason, to glorify God through the proclaiming of His truth to children and hopefully their families.  If we let the numbers become the focus then we will be likely to lessen passion with which we approach each year as we will likely be frustrated or disappointed by participants who don’t turn into to prospects and eventual members.

5.) Assume VBS is only for the benefit of the children
(See Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; Galatians 6:8-10)

We all receive delight in serving these children, but there is reward to be had for you as well.  The Bible speaks about storing up treasures in Heaven.  As you serve and find yourself tired or frustrated, remember why you serve, for God’s glory so that you can store up treasures in Heaven that one day you will lay humbly at His feet in praise of His glorious Name!  Don’t get so busy serving that you forget that the Lord intends to not only bless the children with what you teach and show them, but also you as you learn to trust Him and glorify Him in your service.  He will sustain your joy!

6.) Dumb down the message and assume they don’t understand
(See Psalm 19:7; Romans 7:7-25)

I’ve heard it said before that children only need to hear about God’s love because they don’t understand sin.  Well to that I say, if we don’t labor to explain sin to them they will never understand.  We must teach both about sin and God’s love.  God’s love in sending Christ is robbed of its impact when the reason for it is omitted.  You can explain to a child what sin is in a way that they will understand.  And as they grow they will eventually be able to understand why sin is so serious an offense against God and just how remarkable God’s love is for sending the Lord Jesus to save them from their sin.  You can’t make them make the leap between knowing what sin is on an intellectual level and understanding it in their heart, that is the Spirit’s job, but you can give them the knowledge from God’s Word and trust God to save.  They can understand more than we give them credit for, all too often the problem is that we don’t labor to find Biblical ways to explain it to them in a way they can comprehend.

7.) Push decisions over discipleship
(Jonah 2:9; Psalm 3:8; Matthew 28:19-20)

Just as true as it is that we do not do VBS to grow numerically in attendees, we also do not do it to boast numbers of conversions. Sure we all want conversions!  We ALL want to see those children come to repent and trust the Lord Jesus Christ! We want them soundly saved!  But we have to remember that salvation is of the Lord, we are called to proclaim the Gospel, plant the seed so to speak, and make disciples.  We make disciples from those the Lord saves. If getting my children to repeat a few words was the way to get them saved then the first sentence I would have taught them as babies would have been “Lord save me”, but their prayer to God to save them must come from the heart, not simply repeating what we tell them they need to say. Is it not an equally wonderful reason to rejoice over one soul saved as it is 100?  Certainly yes! Is it not comforting to know that the Lord’s Word never returns void but always accomplishes that which He sends it to do?  Sure it is!  So rest in those truths and preach on trusting the Lord to bless your efforts in His time and in His way.

Submit your ideas for "ways to ruin VBS" in the comments section below and don't forget to re-post this article if you found it Biblical and helpful!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Prayer for Duncanville...

"The noise amongst the dry bones waxed louder and louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things, was soon thrown by; all the conversation, in all companies and upon all occasions, was upon these things only, unless so much as was necessary for people carrying on their ordinary secular business." Jonathan Edwards on the Northampton revival from 1740-1742.

My deepest groaning prayer for Duncanville that God would grant such an awakening here. But it will not happen so long as ministers keep silent the Gospel in their pulpits. Edwards thundered out the Gospel of grace and impressed upon his audience their dire need for repentance and God moved on that region!  God responded by sending a true revival to that and surrounding areas.

We reduce revivals down to something we schedule... something we plan... as if God works on our time table and permissions.  We limit revivals down to one week as if to put God to the test and say 'revive us during this week or we are going back to our lukewarm state!'

How heartbreaking... we must exhaust a great many prayers to the Lord for revival and that begins not with a scheduled week long emphasis, but in the hearts of those who feel they need the least reviving.

A Prayer for Duncanville:

Lord Jesus Christ, from whom comes all who are appointed any authority in this world.

We gather in Your Name and humbly ask that you grant heavenly wisdom in all our discussions and in all our decisions.

Lead us to lay aside self-interest, prejudice, and partial affection so that Your Name is glorified and Your will is sought for our city.

As we pray for the members of this body, its officers, and all who share in its labors, we remember that you have appointed them with their authority and ask that you give them strong leadership and to the people of Duncanville that we receive a peaceable spirit that is willing to be led by those given charge over us.

Give us your peace and refresh us in our weariness, that this may be a day in which much good is done.  For those who are in You, grant them strength and endurance.  For those who reject You we pray you lead them to the foot of the cross for salvation.

Let our every breath honor you now and forever.  In Your Name we pray these things.  Amen.