Re-entering the Dark Ages by our own volition: On the widespread access to and neglect of the word of God

Just a few short years ago the cliche was that every house in America seemed to have a Bible on the coffee table in their family room, but it was collecting dust for want of being used. Yet, as technology advances and the culture moves from a sort of respect-from-a-distance of Christianity to outright hostility for the faith, the Bible has been replaced by a remote control for each device contributing to our entertainment. Meanwhile, denominational leaders, pastors like me, and church members look out at empty pews, study membership rolls with myriad “inactives,” and wonder how the tide can be turned. We would all do better to realize how we got to this point.

Hint: One has something to do with the other.

Perhaps in previous generations this wasn’t the case, but today it can hardly be denied that a massive majority of people in America and the world at large do not have the worldview espoused by biblical Christianity. This is the necessarily result in a person who does not esteem God and His word rightly, which is where most people are. And that is ironic, because… Continue reading “Re-entering the Dark Ages by our own volition: On the widespread access to and neglect of the word of God”

The monochrome elephant in the sanctuary

A couple of years ago The Help was released to much critical and popular acclaim, depicting the relationships between white families (particularly women) and the black women who worked for them (“the help”) in 1963-64 Mississippi.

The character of Hilly Holbrook (pictured) exhibits the worst kind of condescending racism. It’s my opinion she is the best written movie villain in many years, as you laugh when you see her get hers, but still want to just ring her neck in the end.

There is no doubt race relations in this country have changed drastically for the better in the past fifty years, since the era depicted in the film, but if the recent death of Trayvon Martin and trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman tell us anything, our society has a long way to go (Note: By that I am referring to the reaction on all sides, and not on the guilt or innocence, right or wrong, of Zimmerman).

This is a tragic reality, really, but not nearly as tragic as the fact that this long way to go is nowhere better seen (I repeat, nowhere better seen) than the local church. It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself who said in 1963, “We must face the sad fact that at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, when we stand to sing…we stand in the most segregated hour in America.” As the pastor of a small rural Southern Baptist church, I can attest to this fact. Continue reading “The monochrome elephant in the sanctuary”

Ministering to your pastor’s wife

Ryan Huguley of Redemption Bible Church has a great post titled “6 Ways To Serve Your Pastor’s Wife On Sunday.” These are simple things you and others in your church can do that can go along way toward blessing your pastor’s wife, which in turn will minister to your pastor, which in turn will make it a joy for him to shepherd you, fulfilling Hebrews 13:17.

Here is the list, but he expounds on each of these:

  1. Remember that Sunday’s are different for her.
  2. Pray for her.
  3. Have realistic expectations of her.
  4. Encourage her.
  5. Go talk to her.
  6. Don’t forget she has kids.

These are so easy to do and go so far. I encourage you to read the entire post.

The shepherd and his sheep (1 Pet 5:1-5)

The following are edited notes of a sermon I preached tonight on 1 Peter 5:1-5. Someone at church said he hoped he had it written down. I took that as a lead to publish it here…

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The number of times in Scripture that the people of God are compared to or called sheep is absolutely staggering. From Genesis to Revelation and so many places in between, the relationship between God and those He calls His own is described in the terms of a shepherd and his sheep.

  • In Genesis 48:15 Jacob, near death, blessed Joseph by invoking the name of “The God before whom [his] fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who [had] been [his] shepherd all [the days of his life].”
  • In Numbers 27:17 Moses asked God for a successor, so that Israel would not be like sheep which have no shepherd.
  • In 2 Samuel 5:2 David was being made king over all Israel and the people said, “Previously when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel, and you will be a ruler over Israel.’”
  • In Psalm 23:1 it is the LORD, YHWH, who is our Shepherd.
  • In Psalm 28:9 David cries out, “Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.”
  • Ezekiel was writing and prophesying after David’s death. He was looking toward Christ when he wrote 37:24: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.”
  • There are myriad more Old Testament verses I could quote. What about the New Testament, though? Matthew 2:6 is a quotation of Micah 5:2 in reference to Christ. He is the One “who will shepherd My people Israel.”
  • In Matthew 9:36, Jesus has compassion on the crowds because they are distressed and disspirited, like sheep without a shepherd.
  • In Hebrews 13:20 it is the God of peace who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant.
  • Earlier in 1 Peter 2:25, it is Jesus who is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls.
  • And in Revelation 7:17, with regard to the great multitude which no one can number singing praise to God, it is said that “the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” What a glorious day that shall be.

These verses merely scratch the surface of how much God has used the Shepherd-sheep analogy to describe the relationship He has to His people.

If it were used one time it would be a powerful analogy, but because it is used so often, by so many different biblical authors, employing so many different literary styles, in times of writing which spanned at least 1500 years… Beloved, we would do well to take heed tonight to the relationship between a shepherd and a flock of sheep, especially given that this evening we arrive at the fifth and final chapter of 1 Peter. And this is what the word of God says in 1 Peter 5:1-5:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your bfellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as alording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be bexamples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

Continue reading “The shepherd and his sheep (1 Pet 5:1-5)”

Giving as unto the Lord… with a low interest rate!

You’re driving to work. Your morning beverage is in its trusty cup holder. Your brakes are getting their morning exercise. Your radio is tuned in to the local Christian station, giving you music the whole family can listen to, positive and encouraging. The song ends and the man and woman tag team DJs start bantering back and forth and finally one says, “And don’t forget, we are a listener-supported ministry. Call 1-888-OURPHONENUMBER now and contribute to our Praise Drive. Many of you, I know, are looking for ways to help out. Know that it’s very easy. You can contribute by Mastercard, VISA, American Express, and Discover. Call now!”

You think nothing of it. After all, just yesterday morning when the offering plate was passed at church you didn’t put anything in it. You didn’t have to. You’d set it up a few days earlier when, on the church’s web site, you typed in your credit card number, expiration date, and security code to give as unto the Lord.

Does this sound silly? It shouldn’t. Christian ministries, radio, television, or otherwise, have long solicited donations via credit card. Now, a new trend is sweeping churches, a trend whose time would inevitably come – e-giving – the ability to give your offering via credit. Continue reading “Giving as unto the Lord… with a low interest rate!”

Lutheran schism an example of the down grade

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. – Titus 1:16

A new denomination is forming this coming Friday right down the right road from me in Columbus, OH. The North American Lutheran Church (NALC) will be made up of Lutherans who have split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) after the latter ruled recently to accept non-celibate gay and lesbians as bishops.

The move has been seen as the tipping point for many congregations who have been wavering as the mainline denomination has moved into further liberal ground with regards to feminism and homosexuality. Some 200 congregations have left the ELCA as a result, with more expected to follow.

Rev. Robert Forsberg, who has left the St. Mark Lutheran Church to form a new church of disenfranchised Lutherans, told the Dayton Daily News, “This is probably the first time they’ve taken something that was recognized as a sin and basically made it a non-sin. It just came to a point of, can people of conscience accept this? I just couldn’t do it.”

On the other side of the coin is Rev. Gary Eichhorn of Our Savior in Oakwood, which has remained in the ELCA. Eichhorn doesn’t believe the denomination is ignoring the teachings of Scripture: “Who is to say this (change) isn’t the work of God? I think that’s what God did in 1971 when we ordained the first woman.”

In March 1887 the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon published the first of two articles titled “The Down Grade” in his magazine, The Sword and the Trowel. The articles, written by one of Spurgeon’s friends, were attached with his footnote that special attention should be paid to the article, because “we are going downhill at break neck speed.” The articles focused on the fact that sound doctrine was no longer a priority in the churches. Continue reading “Lutheran schism an example of the down grade”