Friday, November 28, 2008

A Good Word From Pastor Spurgeon

Never think of the Church of God as if she were in danger. If you do, you will be like Uzza; you will put forth your hand to steady the ark, and provoke the Lord to anger against you. If it were in danger, I tell you, you could not deliver it. If Christ cannot take care of his Church without you, you cannot do it. Be still, and know that he is God… When you begin to say, “The Church is in danger! The Church is in danger!” what is that to thee? It stood before thou wert born; it will stand when thou hast become worm’s meat. Do thou thy duty. Keep in the path of obedience, and fear not. He who made the Church knew through what trials she would have to pass, and he made her so that she can endure the trials and become the richer for it. The enemy is but grass, the word of the Lord endureth for ever.

Your people will volunteer freely in the day of your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. PS 110:3

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

18 Properties of Humble Souls...

The following is an excerpt from Vol. 3 of the works of Thomas Brooks, a puritan pastor from the 17th century. He is developing the idea that: those that are lowest in their own esteem are highest in God's esteem, proved... 18 properties of a humble soul.

Over the next few weeks I hope to share with you more of Thomas Brooks, but for now, enjoy pondering these 18 searching proofs.

1. A humble soul under the highest spiritual discoveries, and under the greatest outward mercies, forgets not his former sinfulness and his former outward meanness

2. He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus.

3. The lowest and meanest good work is not below a humble soul

4. A humble soul will submit to every truth of God, that is made known to it; even to those divine truths that are most cross to flesh and blood.

5. A humble soul lives not upon himself, nor upon his own actings, but upon the Lord Jesus and His actings.

6. He judges himself to be below the wrath and judgments of God.

7. A humble soul doth highly prize the least of Christ.

8. A humble soul can never be good enough, it can never pray enough, nor hear enough, nor mourn enough, nor believe enough, nor love enough, nor fear enough, nor joy enough, nor repent enough, nor loathe sin enough, nor be humble enough.

9. A humble soul will smite and strike from small sins as well as for great, for those the world count not sin, as well as for those that they count gross sins.

10. A humble soul will quietly bear burdens, and patiently take blows and knocks, and make no noise.

11. A humble soul will in all religious duties and services, trade with God upon the credit of Christ.

12. A humble soul endeavors more how to honor and glorify God in afflictions, than how to get out of afflictions.

13. A humble soul seeks not, it looks not, after great things.

14. A humble soul rejoices in the graces and gracious actings of others as well as in its own.

15. A humble soul will rather bear wrongs than revenge wrongs offered.

16. A humble soul, though he be of never so rare abilities, yet he will not disdain to be taught what he knows not, by the meanest persons.

17.A humble soul will bless God, and be thankful to God, as well under misery as under mercy; as well when God frowns as when he smiles; as well when God takes as when he gives; as well under crosses and losses, as under blessings and mercies.

18. A humble soul will wisely and patiently bear reproof.

...for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble
(1 Pt 5:5)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

He Said What?!?

Posting a blog was really not even on my mind tonight as I was sitting here preparing for tomorrow's sermon from Psalm 110. There are only a few things that can distract me on a Saturday evening from my sermon prep, one of those things is blatantly faulty exegesis. Studying through verse 2 of Ps. 110 [The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion], my curiosity was piqued over how one of my reformed brother's would "explain" Zion. My reformed friends usually howl whenever I suggest that they too often spiritualize the biblical text to make it fit their theology instead of allowing the text to say what the text says, and thereby informing their theology and understanding.

This is a classic example of what spiritualizing a text looks like:

The link is to an "exposition" of Zechariah 8:1-23 (never mind the Joel title at top as it is wrongly applied). While this is actually more of a devotional than an exposition, what I want you to notice is how the author interprets this passage. Notice particularly that in his exposition that Zion is no longer a specific geographic location but is representative of the the church. What?!? Notice how he handles the other explicit images in this text. The few ones that he does deal with, and they are scant - just like his "exegesis" (typical of a reformed hermeneutic when dealing with passages such as these), they are reinterpreted or reapplied to apply to the church.

A literal hermeneutic reads this text and does not see the church, but a national Israel in view, and the promises of a real, yet realized,future for her. The events foretold in this passage are mainly related to a future millennium, which are vividly described in this passage as a time when "old men and old women will sit again in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age (vs 4), and a time when "ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of Jew saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." ' I am advocating that these are not events which we are free to reinterpret or reinvent to fit our presuppositions, but rather ones we must seek to understand and allow to inform and direct our theology/eschatology.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The "E" Bomb...

This past Wednesday evening (Nov 5) we spent some time looking at the message Malachi unflinchingly delivered to his arrogant, unrepentant, backslidden nation. They had all the trappings of religion, but their hearts were far from God. For example: they were offering the LORD "seconds" in their worship (1:7 ff), had become weary and bored with worship (1:13 ff), were divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women (2:10 ff) which was a flagrant violation of the covenant, were believing that God was actually blessing the wicked who were prospering (2:17), were robbing God by not giving generously (3:8 ff), and were seriously questioning if serving God was really worthwhile (3:14). It seems that the root cause of their condition is identified immediately by Malachi in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1:

"I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob;"...

Their sinful, shortsighted, and arrogant attitudes were a result of forgetting God's sovereign electing love (God loved Jacob, but hated Esau - Rm 9:13). They had come to believe that they somehow deserved God's special favor and love. They treated lightly God's gracious love and consequently became arrogant and indifferent to the God who chose them.

What a timely lesson for each of us! God's indictment of these people who lived some 2,400 years ago could easily be made against each of us. At the risk of offending some with the "E" word, maybe it is time that we all reflected a little more on this crucial aspect of God's love for us. It certainly is a great comfort and source of strength when things seem to be going very badly. And ultimately, it brings great praise to the God who loved us!

At the following link, the author draws and number of contrasts between God's eternal election and the election that is probably on your mind right now. I encourage you to read it and then rejoice in the free grace of our great God and Savior.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In connection with our recent look at Ephesians 5:21-33, I want to make you aware of an important document known as the "Danver Statement" and also the organization from which it originated. Let me encourage you to spend some time looking through this site, their statements, and various articles.
As Christians we cannot afford to be ignorant of what is happening around us concerning this issue; there is simply too much at stake for us to remain passive in our thinking and complacent in our practical living in the area. What we think about this issue will demontrate itself in how we conduct our marriages.
Will the marriages of those who are members at Grace Baptist Church clearly illustrate and proclaim the truth of Christ and His relationship to the church or will our marriages detract and deface this holy picture and disgrace the name by which we have been called?Pray for one-another that we would each grow in this area so that our marriages would grow in conformity to the beautiful pattern seen and set in the relationship between Christ and His church.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Another Must Read Book

The discovery of a great book is somthing like happening upon an Indian arrowhead while searching in a 100 acre field, it is as rare as it is exhilarating. When that elusive arrowhead, or book, is finally found you instantly want to share your treasure and awe with others. “More Than Meets the Eye” is such a book for me and one I want you to share in as well.More than any other book I have read, “More Than Meets the Eye” highlights the genius, the power, sophistication and artistry of God from the smallest aspects of the creation (sub-atomic particles, atoms, systems, etc) to the largest (anti-matter, light, stars, black holes, planets, etc). The author, Richard Swenson, has compiled an impressive, mind-numbing array of medical and scientific data chronicling the works of God in the creation. Although not designed or written to be a biology or science textbook, it does contain much of both so as to force the reader come to grips with a God that is far bigger, greater, wiser, stronger, and faithful than you ever imagined. Let me give you a small taste of what you will find:“The human body is composed of ten thousand trillion trillion atoms – a number far greater than the stars in the universe. In each person, more than a trillion of these atoms are replaced every on-millioneth of a second. These atoms, in turn, are comprised of sub-atomic particles, some of which have life span of than a billion billioneth of a second. It is entirely possible that we have no sub-atomic bottom. As the technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, we discover yet smaller particles. We are, perhaps, infinite in the sub-atomic direction. pg 94Each human cell is made up of a trillion atoms. The body contains between 10 and 100 trillion atoms. We tear down and rebuild over a trillion cells every day. Each cell is remarkable in its own miniaturized way, with electric fields, protein factories, and hundreds of ATP energy motors 200 thousand times smaller than a pinhead. In a lifetime, the heart beats over two billion times and pumps sixty million gallons of blood through sixty thousand miles of blood vessels. pg 94The core temperature of the sun is fifteen million degrees centigrade. It is so hot that a pinhead heated to the temperature of the center of the sun “would emit enough heat to kill anyone who ventured within a thousand miles of it,” explained physicist Sir James Jean. “ pg 148And on and on he goes.I highly recommend this book and hope you will purchase a copy today. However big your view of God may be today, “More Than Meets the Eye” will cause you to realize that it is probably way too small.You can learn more here:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why We Don’t Display A National Flag When Our Church Meets. (Part 4)

Displaying a State Flag is Antithetical to Our Baptist Convictions.
Displaying a state flag at our Christian assemblies undermines what our Baptist forefathers believed and sacrificed for at the beginning our great nation. It was because of early colonial Baptists like Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, and John Leland, who persistently and courageously fought for the freedom to worship God, attend, and support the church of one’s choice that we enjoy the freedom to worship as our conscience dictates today. Religious liberty was essentially a new concept even in early America; for many years the state regulated the church, even in colonial America. The two were intertwined each working to aid the other. Baptists argued that the church and state should not be so conjoined. These Baptist champions resented having to financially support the local church/state parish and in its state appointed pastor, they were unwilling to submit to having special state orders so as to be licensed and thus free to preach at will, and so they resisted and worked tirelessly to see that every man had the religious freedom to worship and support the church of his choice based solely upon the dictates of his conscience. The product of their ceaseless effort is the 1st amendment to the United States constitution which guarantees that the state has no authority to establish a state church or religion nor can the state prohibit the free exercise of religion.Reintroducing the state back into the church is unwittingly undoing and undermining a precious freedom we enjoy as Americans citizens. Why would we want to blur the distinct lines between the two God-ordained, unrelated spheres of church and state by displaying a state flag in our assemblies? What biblical connection is there between these two separate spheres? There are none.While we as Baptists certainly appreciate our freedoms afforded us as American citizens, it does not follow that we ought to display the flag or feel obligated to do so. Such freedoms are ultimately unrelated to the purposes and responsibilities of the church and her members, and so every effort should be made to preserve the blessings we freely enjoy in the church over what we have been blessed with by the 1st Amendment. After all that is what it was designed to secure for us. As shown previously we do the church no service by displaying a flag, and neither do we do our country a service when we naively and unwittingly undermine our rights as free citizens by reintroducing the state back into the realm sacred to Christ, His church.
(for more on Isaac Backus and other Baptist champions you can click here:

"The Slow Death of Congregational Singing"

I hope all of our members will read Michael Raiter's article entitled, "The Slow Death of Congregational Singing." Published in April 2008, it's simply one of the best explanations of why congregational singing "in many churches has been in its death throes for some years now." Here are a couple of excerpts that I hope will motivate you to click on the link at the bottom and read Raiter's article."People hear the word of God from the mouths of the pastors and the Bible expositors, but they also hear a sermon during the time of singing. Someone has said that a person's theology is no deeper than the songs they sing. I'm sure that's true, and it's quite an indictment on the modern evangelical church. There is, perhaps, no greater evidence of the theological illiteracy of this Christian generation than the songs we sing and write. Every song is a sermon, and it is critical that the God and the gospel that is proclaimed from the pulpit is the same God and the same gospel preached from the music team.""Whether you travel across the urban areas of Asia, Africa, North America or Australia, everywhere you go, increasingly, the singing in the church—both the songs that are sung and the style of music—is the same. It's the McDonaldization of our world. And in every church you visit across the world, the music is just the same. I'd describe it as the ‘Hillsongization’ of music except that it's such a clumsy word. Oh, the words of the songs might differ, but it's the same music team singing the same way. There's the obligatory leader with the obligatory two or three singers accompanying her, the obligatory drummer, the obligatory keyboard player and the obligatory two guitarists. You're allowed some freedom in your choice of a sax or a flute, depending on the resources available, but it's all exactly the same for every song in every place.Surely it's time to sit down and ask ourselves what is the best medium for actually promoting congregational singing? From my observation, our present approach has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.""As I travel around visiting churches, I've noticed again and again that, for all their good intentions (and the vast majority are, I believe, well-intentioned), the music teams are killing congregational singing. I know that sounds harsh, but I see it in case after case. I enjoy the sound of an electric piano, the beat of the drums, the rhythm of the guitars, and the backing of the saxes and flutes, but my favourite instrument is the human voice. Nothing lifts my soul like being a part of 50— 100—300 saints in full voice, singing the praises of God and the glories of the gospel. Unfortunately that's a disappointingly rare experience."Here's the link:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reading the Bible Together!

It is a pleasure it is to know that many of us are reading from the same passages of the New Testament together. Last night Connie, Allison, Dylan, and I sat down on our red living room sofas and read Luke 20.41-47 and Hebrews 1.10-14. Wasn't the contrast striking between our Jesus who is ever the same and whose years have no end [Hebrews1], and the scribes who make long prayers but devour widows' houses [Luke 20]? Jesus says they will receive the greater condemnation.I prayed for our family, asking God to strengthen us with his almighty power to live in a way that is consistent with our professed doctrine. Faithful is He who calls us who also will do it. I'm looking forward to tonight's prayer meeting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Psalm 2: The Reign of Christ and the Rage of Kings

I. 3 ObservationsA. Psalm 2 has been Psalm 2 for a long time since Paul refers to it as “the second Psalm” in Acts 13.33.B. Psalm 2 has no title. But never fear, the believers in Acts 4.25 help us out by telling us that Psalm 2 was written by David.C. Psalm 2 is ultimately about Jesus [it’s Messianic] because, in the NT, whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews [1.5; 5.5] tells us that God is talking about his Son Jesus in Psalm 2.7. Not knowing that Psalm 2 is about Jesus until you read Acts 4 is like the child who during a temper tantrum throws her dad’s cell phone that he forgot when he went to work into her glass of milk. She might after she’s done it, have an idea of the trouble she’s in [that’s Psalm 2, a partial understanding], but when her mom comes in the kitchen later and tells her how “ticked” her dad is going to be, she really understands [that’s Acts 2 – a full understanding]. We really need Acts 2 [mom’s full explanation later] for Psalm 2 [the child’s incomplete idea of what she’s done] to fully make sense.II. Structure of the PsalmEqually divided into 4 separate parts [like acts of a play] each spoken by a different character.vv. 1-3 [Act I] The Narrator SpeaksHe introduces the heathen peoples and kings, and rulers of the earth, who like a troop of animals or a flight of locusts, rage and plot and set themselves and take council against YAHWEH and His Son, Jesus the Messiah. Acts 4.26-27 tells us that these people are people like Pilate and Herod who killed Jesus, and that the Messiah of Acts 2 is Jesus.vv. 4-6 [Acts II] God SpeaksWell, first he laughs with a derisive laugh which [the only time in the Bible we read Gold laughing.] And he speaks in wrath of His decree concerning His King whom He will set in Zion on His holy hill [v. 6].vv. 7-9 [Act III] Jesus Speaks[the “me” of v. 7 is the Son of v.7 who is Jesus according to Hebrews 1.5. And Jesus tells us what His Father has said about Him. “You are my Son.” [Baptism, Transfiguration]. Nations will be His heritage, the ends of the earth will be His possession, and He will rule with a rod of iron [Revelation 2. 27 quotes Psalm 2 telling us that Jesus will come back the 2nd time as a warrior King..vv. 10-12 [Act IV] The Narrator Speaks Again“Be Wise!” “Be warned!” Serve with fear not with self-sufficiency, Rejoice with trembling not in self-confidence. Don’t rage against Christ. Repent of your sins believe in the Lord Jesus Christ [who will come to judge the earth and you will be saved. Do what the final verse of the Psalm says to do: Find your happiness by finding refuge in Him.*See Psalms: An Expositional Commentary by James Montgomery Boice

Why We Don’t Display A National Flag When Our Church Meets (Part 3 of 4)

Displaying a national/state flag is an obstacle to Christian fellowship.According to Acts 2:42 fellowship was one of four foundational activities that the first church gave themselves to wholeheartedly. Many have come to understand fellowship as just a fancy name for “church-picnic”. There is however much more than that behind the idea of fellowship. The word which we translate as “fellowship” in English is the greek word that is better translated as “sharing”. To share is to hold something in common. When Wendy and I share a Starbuck drink we hold in common the drink, we share (literally:). Christian fellowship is simply Christians sharing and holding together what we have in common. Such things that all believers hold in common, and those which the church should promote among its members, are things like: the Bible, the Holy Spirit, salvation and the new birth, Christ, etc. All else is subsequent to and secondary to these purely Christian, gospel related, unifying, spiritual realities.Displaying a flag is introducing an element into our fellowship that is unrelated to the priorities and privileges already mentioned. The flag and what it stands for is extraneous to true Christian fellowship and many times it actively hinders fellowship among the faithful. What does the American flag have to do with Christ, the gospel, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, salvation, the cross, etc? How confusing it must be to those who are not American citizens but who visit our American churches and see the flag displayed front and center. Unknowingly the message we convey is that the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and Christianity is somehow connected to and related to Americanism, and by logical extension our foreign policies, our culture, our laws. How it must incense those who have suffered unjustly because of our policies or the consequences of them.I wonder how American Christians would respond to attending a church where the communist Chinese flag was on display? Would it not rile our prejudiced patriotic passions into a heated fervor. Such passions rarely if ever produce the fruit of Christian unity, and facilitate the strengthening of the bonds of peace and love.For these reasons, and the others already mentioned, displaying a national flag is an unnecessary hindrance which the church of Jesus Christ should avoid for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of true Christian fellowship.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why We Don’t Display A National Flag When Our Church Meets. (Part 2)

2. Displaying a national/state flag contradicts the true nature of the ChurchThe purpose of a flag is to represent a set of beliefs, ideas, and purposes that characterize the organizational entity for which it stands. It is far more than just decorative, it is declarative. It serves as the standard around which people who hold similar beliefs and convictions form and unite in one mind and heart. If you were sympathetic to the cause and purposes of the KKK you would have no problem flying (identifying with) their flag. Displaying the American flag at a Christian gathering is asking those present to identify and unite around what the flag represents - a nation, a set of laws, policies, and system of government, all of which have little to nothing to do with the cause and purposes of Christ and His church. Displaying the flag sends a contradictory, confusing message to those who are not “American” by birth or by conviction, but who are born again. By displaying the flag in our Christian gatherings we are tacitly saying that the American system and Christianity go hand in hand and nothing is farther from biblical truth.Those who have been made part of the church by the unseen baptizing work of the Holy Spirit are no longer identified by race, nationality or color, but by who they are in Christ. According to Eph 2:11-22 those who are in Christ have been “brought near”, we have been made into one “new man”, “reconciled into one body”, have been made “fellow citizens”, and are now one “household”, each descriptions of what it means to be in Christ and part of the church. No state or national flag is able to accurately represent such profound spiritual truth, instead, any state or national flag actually contradicts the true spiritual nature of the church. The wonderful mystery now made known to us, and made possible through Christ alone, is that both Jew and Gentile are now one body without distinction. Therefore when the church gathers together as one body, no consideration is to be given or taken of Jew or Gentile (or American, Iranian, etc) and any and all barriers that would divide us from Christ and from each other must never be permitted to be raised.Displaying a state flag however does establish a barrier that does not and should not exist in the church. It is an invitation to have unholy, devilish sectarian passions unleashed into the church leading only to schism and division. There is a proper place and time to display the state flag, just not when the church gathers as one body in Christ.When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Eph 3:4-11 ESV)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why We Don’t Display A National Flag When Our Church Meets.

The common and widely accepted practice of displaying the national/state flag in our American Christian assemblies is a custom not seen in the rest of the world. Most American Christians however have grown up with the flag prominently on display in the church and few have ever really pondered the numerous implications of doing so – myself included. Over the next few days we will be giving biblical reasons arguing against this practice. There are at least four reasons why we have as a church chosen not to display the American flag during the time when our church gathers. Our decision to do so is based not upon custom, tradition, or driven by “patriotism”, but upon what we believe to be consistent with what we see in Scripture. We have chosen not to display a national flag when our church meets because:1. Displaying a national/state flag vies for the preeminence that belongs to Christ alone in His church.According to the stated rules of our government regarding the flag and its’ proper use and treatment (see the American flag is to be given the highest place of preeminence whenever flown or displayed in country. According to the U.S flag code the flag must always be placed on the speakers right hand – the place of highest honor.Article 7, section K of the flag code states the following: “ When used on a speaker's platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.”
The clear implication of this law is that all other organizational entities are subservient to the American flag (by extension our laws, customs, and policies) when it is displayed. One could legitimately understand that the state has the ultimate, final authority – ultimate honor- in the church. For Christians this is an intolerable demand requiring what Christians cannot give: honor and preeminence to a state, a nation, over and above Christ (Acts 4:19)- and that in His own church! The rules of our own flag place it at direct odds with Christ and Scripture when displayed in His church.
As Christians we believe in and honor the divinely ordained role of the state (Rm 13:1-7). We believe that we are to be good citizens and fulfill our responsibilities as such to the state. However when it comes to authority in the church Scripture is clear about who is to have the final and ultimate honor.He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Col 1:15-18 ESV)Over the next few days we will post additional arguments for not displaying a national flag…stay tuned.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Great joy because they had understood: A meditation on the public reading of scripture

The great joy that results from the necessary public reading of the scripture [Nehemiah 8.3; I Timothy 4.13] is the joy of the people of God clearly understanding the publicly read Word of God. In Nehemiah 8, God's people heard God's priests read and explain God's Word clearly [the doctrine of perspicuity], and the result was "great rejoicing" [v. 12].Ezra stood on a wooden platform as his priestly brothers helped the people understand the Law as it was being read. Wouldn't that be cool if, during the public reading of the scripture, our deacons at Grace moved around the building teaching the Bible to us while Colin T., Luke L., Dave S., or David B. stood on a wooden platform reading the Bible to us. That would be wild!I think we often concentrate on Nehemiah 8.10 which reads, "for the joy of the LORD is your strength," and fail to grasp that the objective foundation for their joy was their clear understanding of the Word of God publicly read. Verse 12 says that the people of God made "great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them." What began with weeping [v. 9] ended in joy [v. 12].The fullest and final joy, however, is not to be found in Nehemiah. The movie isn't over. There's still more popcorn to eat. The story isn't fully told. The child should remain awake a few moments longer to hear the story's end.The joy of Nehemiah 8.12 is an incomplete joy, awaitng its future fullest and final expression found in the person and work of Christ. As the Reformation Study Bible notes, "Israel's failure to merit life in the land testifies to the universal need for a Substitute thorough whom the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met on behalf of those who could not meet these terms on their own."Gospel joy is Nehemiah's joy fully realized. "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised--who indeed is interceding for us" [Romans 8.34].So Grace Baptist Church, rejoice that we devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture [I Timothy 4. 13]. Rejoice that every week our brothers in Christ carefully give us a sense of and clearly read God's Word at our Lord's Day service [Nehemiah 8.8]. And rejoice that the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" [John 1.14].

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Forget about "rethinking the Church"

As the 21st century Church becomes increasingly unchurched because of a kind of preaching that makes legalists of saints and consumers [shoppers] of the lost, [thanks Pastor Ben for your comment on Sunday that if we want to quench the Spirit, just turn the Bible into a self-help manual rather than a God-glorifying book that changes lives by putting on display with all of its implications the staggering beauty of the person and work of Christ] perhaps we need to forget about rethinking the Church since it wasn't our idea in the first place. The Church is "the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth" [I Timothy 3.15]. As the note on this verse in the 1599 Geneva Bible puts it, "the Church is the preserver of truth, but not the mother." What the Church is is a "body" of brothers and sisters who are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ "whereby He took our sin, bore God's judgment in our place, and now clothes us in His righteousness." At the end of his book, The Courage to Be Protestant [2008], David Wells helps us see the folly of rethinking the visible [those we see saved and lost in our pews or "chairs"] Church:"Everything about the church must be [is being] rethought! We must rethink how it becomes successful! We must rethink it all because this is what businesses have to do. Their products are all the time dying as new niches and needs arise. So it is in the church! Rethink or die! For the multitude of pragmatists who are leading churches in America today . . . the church is nothing but its performance. There is nothing to be said about the church that cannot be reduced to how it is doing, and that is a matter for constant inventories, poll taking, daily calculations and strategizing. I beg to differ . . . The church is not our creation. It is not a business. The church, in fact, was never our idea in the first place. No, it is not the church we need to rethink. Rather, it is our thoughts about the church that need to be rethought. It's the church's faithfulness that needs to be reexamined. It is its faithfulness to who it is in Christ, its faithfulness in living out its life in the world, that should be occupying us. The church, after all, is not under our management but under God's sovereign care, and what he sees as health is very often different from what we imagine its health to be . . . God has given us the blueprint for its life in Scripture. What we need to do, then, first and foremost, is to think God's thoughts after him, think about the church in a way that replicates his thoughts about it" [pp. 222-223].

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Hymn Text written in thanks for Pastor Ben Rust

Hey you all,Last night was one of those sweet summer Wednesday evenings we'll likely remember. God was pleased, sovereignly working through the congregation, to give Ben Rust to us as our senior pastor. The vote was unanimous. Here's the hymn text I wrote for the occasion. Ben preached from I Thessalonians 5.12-13 last Lord's Day Sunday morning.“We Ask You Brothers to Respect Those Men Who in the Lord”A metrical version of I Thessalonians 5.12-211. We ask you brothers to respectThose men who in the LordAmong you labor, love, correct;Give praise for grace outpoured!2. God’s peace we urge you now to seek,Be patient with them all;Rebuke the idle, help the weak,And lift the faint that fall.3. Seek good for all, rejoice and pray,Repay no one with ill;Give thanks in all, this is God’s way,In Christ this is God’s will.4. Quench not the Spirit, good hold fast,The preached Word love but test;Abstain from evil, sin’s black past,Seek Light, bask in the Blessed.David Harris – written 07/09/08 in thanks for Ben Rust

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nothing quite so sweet

When the Apostle John wrote back home (to members of his former congregation) he said, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." Nothing is quite so sweet as seeing that people you love are moving on with their lives in the Lord. My visit with the church this past weekend was a wonderful encouragement to me, seeing that Grace Baptist Church is growing as it should and how it should.Love your pastors as you loved me. Pay them well, both because they deserve it and because it is a visible token of your love for them. Build up each other in the church. And ... enjoy the church, because your time there is all too short.Colin & Anita

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Building' in the OT and the NT

The subject of 'building,' Hebrew BNH, is central to OT and NT theology. For example, God build the garden in which man dwelt in innocence and Solomon's attempts to build such a garden were crowned with vanity (Ecclesiastes). The addition of children in the OT is classed "building up,' in such notable passages as Sarah's plea to Abraham and Psalm127. Building in post-exilic Israel is the predominant theme of the book of Nehemiah and Haggai.The anchor of the NT church is stated by Jesus in Matthew 16:17-19. Although it is hardly likely that the OT audience of Jesus fully understood what this meant, the audience of the book of Matthew, the NT church, certainly would have understood the reference. The power and the responsibility to build the church resides in her Lord. Paul resounds the same theme in 1 Cor 3:5-16 (dealing specifically with the local church) and Ephesians 4:11-16 (dealing ambiguously with the universal church and the local church).The modern church growth movement, which is still very much alive despite the despite of the post-modern emergent movement, needs to take care that it does not remove the responsibility from the Lord of the church and turn to the gurus of the world for the power to build the church.At heart, the failure of local churches to grow, in any sense of the term, has led pastoral leaders to seek answers from the world, albeit with a veneer of Christianity. If the local assembly, the real church, uses the power of the risen Christ and His Word, their growth will be undeniable evidence that "building" is a biblical principle that deserves more genuine biblical attention that it receives.Pastor SmithSunday, May 25

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Houses, Cities, Workers, and Kids"

Psalm 127 – A Song of Ascents of Solomon“Houses, Cities, Workers, and Kids”“There is a ‘kind’ of house that, when it is built, looks sturdy and steady and serene. There is a ‘kind’ of city that looks safe and secure and insurmountable. And there is a ‘kind’ worker that gets up early, works late, and makes anxious plans so that he might sleep more peacefully. However, built houses and safe cites and ‘working hard f0r the money’ [to quote Donna Summer] are only vain, vaporous, and vanishing unless the LORD builds the house, watches over the city, and gives sleep to the worker. There is a kind of child that the LORD builds who, rather than shaming their parents, are an inheritance from the LORD. They are like fruit. They are like arrows from the LORD provideding protection from the enemy. The more of them the merrier and the fuller our nursery. The Jewish children of Psalm 127 partially fulfill the promise made by the LORD to Abraham to make of him a great nation. More importantly, these children point to a future reality when strangers from every tribe and tongue and nation will become the adopted children of promise ‘in Christ.’” Doc 5/21/08

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Stranger in a Strange Land

The goodness of the LORD is never so evident as when we are are alienated from all that is comfortable and comforting in this world. Greetings to our loved ones at Grace. We have made the move down to Winston-Salem and are enjoying our new surrounding and making new friends. but, all in all, we continue as aliens in a friendly, but unfamiliar environment.Our apartment is nice, two rooms (a kitchen/dining room and master bedroom upstairs and two rooms and a full bath downstairs), right across from the campus, and partially furnished ... er, we have a fold up table and a futon mattress. We're planning on getting furniture as we go, but right now we are living like pilgrims and/or newly married college students; and we like it. With high-speed internet (no TV) a stove and fridge, we have all the mod-cons we need!It will be some time before we settle into a church home. We've started traveling on weekends to speak. Yesterday we were 3 1/2 hours north on the Virginia/West Virginia border in Covington, VA at New Hope Baptist Church. wonderful folk, good services, a magnificent Sunday meal prepared by Mrs. Miller, a German lady who used to run her own restaurant with German food. beef, pork, brats, 7 side dishes, three desserts and several pounds later I staggered to the pastor's home to sleep before the evening service. The drive was through the beautiful Allegheny mountains both ways. I hope to do a lot of weekend travel for the school as time and health permit.Spending a lot to time in admin. work and prep for a PhD class coming up the week of August 2-6. Only three students so the time should be very profitable. I'm scheduled to represent the school at the GARBC conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, so I should meet some of my former BBC compatriots around the booths. Lots to talk about :-) We love you guys, miss you more each weekend, and could not have make the move down here without the magnificent love gift that you gave us. After I found out how to silence the chimes (no one needs to be that aware of the time) we are enjoying the pendulum clock in our kitchen/dining room. We miss the grandkids something terrible.Pastor Smith

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"I'm living in a dream that's coming true"

Psalm 126 – A Song of Ascents“I’m living in a dream that’s coming true”Celine Dion, from “I’m Loving Every Moment With You”v. 1 “When” the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion” [“When the LORD returned the returning of Zion”] is an “allusion” to Jewish captives returning to Judah in or around 536 B.C. Cyrus, king of Persia, is the instrument; however it is the covenant keeping LORD [YHWH] who restored their fortunes. The joy is so overpowering that they ask themselves if it could be real. Are they dreaming? vv. 2-3 “Then” There was laughter. There were shouts of joy and gladness and affirmations from even the nations that the LORD had done great things for them.v. 4 “Restore” [v. 1] “Turn our captivity.” The Psalmist is waiting for the full return from Babylon of the captives back to Judah not only under Cyrus but under Darius and Xerxes. Albert Barnes [1798-1870] writes, “As those streams when dried up by the summer heat are swelled by autumnal and winter rains, so let the streams of the returning people, which seem now to be diminished, be . . . kept full like swollen streams.”vv. 5-6 “More” The backbreaking and painstaking toil and burden of planting seed on ground you’ve plowed, planting and seeing no results will be repaid harvest. So the bondage of captivity will “more” than be repaid with a harvest of captives going home. The temporal captivity and return of God’s people looks forward to our Jesus who finally and fully “led captivity captive” [Ephesians 4.8].

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Killing sin with Christological satisfaction

I noticed, as I was reading II Corinthians 6.16-18 this morning, that on either side of the command to “go out from their midst and be separate” from darkness are the pleasures or benefits that will induce the people of God to separate from that darkness – namely that God will dwell and walk among them, that He will be their God, and that we will be the sons and daughters of our God and Father [Matthew 6.9].My prayer is that I will see and savor Jesus, my superior satisfaction at God’s right hand. These intoxications don't leave you with a hangover the next morning. Edwards puts it this way: “To be happy to all eternity is better than all other good; and to be miserable forever under the wrath of God is worse than all other evil.”Looking forward to prayer meeting and maybe some Armetta's later on!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


47And if your eye cause you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell. Mark 9 ESV

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Big barking black white fanged canines and the Great Commission

It was fun to be out on Saturday. Like we do every month, we invite people to our services, sometimes proclaim the gospel, and seemingly always "run" from big black barking canines with white fiangs who don’t seem interested in the Great Commission.What’s really mind-blowing is that “doing the work” of the Great Commission [telling others about Jesus and discipling them] is not the heart of the Great Commission. The heart of the Great Commission is the absolute universal supremacy and authority of Jesus.
Notice in the Great Commission that Jesus places His glory and His authority and His power at the beginning of the Great Commission so that strategies and methods and personalitites and how many souls we've won to Christ won’t be central – but rather that as God saves souls, His supremacy “in Christ” will be the central story and our boasting all the day.Matthew 28.18-2018And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” English Standard Version