Friday, May 23, 2008

Holiness and Faithfulness

Colin Adams has some great book ideas concerning holy living. Check out the rest of his site as well.

Snakes and Doves

Here are a couple of things to think about concerning Jesus' quote in Matthew 10:16

First off, Jesus was instructing the disciples in verses 5-15 concerning their short-term mission in Galilee. They were to go to the Jews, preach the kingdom of God is here, travel lightly and bless those who help them along the way. All the verbs are in present tense in this section.

Now Jesus is instructing them about their (and our) future ministry. All the verbs through the end of the chapter are in the future tense. He is preparing them (and us) for the adversity they will face. That is the "sheep and wolves" bit. What are serpents depicted as in the Bible and Jewish culture? A picture of Satan, to be sure, but also depicting shrewdness, cunning and deviousness. The dove is seen as innocent and pure. For the disciples to last against the established religion and to face the adversity, they needed to be smart and non-aggressive. They needed the cunning of the serpent without the venom. A serpent without the traits of a dove is just devious. A dove without the traits of a serpent is naive and gullible.

We need to use the brain, the gray matter God gave us. We are only to preach the Gospel and share our lives with people. We are not to beat them over the head with a ten pound Scofield Bible. We are to love them, not argue with them. If we are rejected, it is Christ they are rejecting. Shake off your sandals and keep going.

Why You Should NOT Swallow Your Gum

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

School, Ministry and Missions Updates

Here are a few updates:

Seminary - I got a C+ in Intermediate Greek and an 82% on my Greek commentary of Philippians 4:2-9. I am VERY happy with this and to be done with the academic side of Greek. Now I can do it at my own pace. I am pretty sure I got an A in the Classics of Christian Devotions class. I will be taking Intro to New Testament Part 1 and Foundations for Ministry this next semester.

Ministry - As I stated previously, I am on the "short list" for a ministry position. Hopefully I will know more later in the summer. That is as much details as I care to share at this point in time.

Missions - The trip to Croatia is June 13-28. We have 11 people going and we will be teaching ESL and engaging in a coffee shop ministry. There are little cafes everywhere and we will be playing music and visiting with the people in the coffee shops. I should have a few chances to preach while we are there.

The Brasil team (July 21-Aug 1) is made up of 16 people and we will be building a church, doing children's ministry in two locations and teaching leadership seminars in tow locations. I will get a chance to preach a couple of times.

I am scheduled to preach twice at home this summer. I am looking forward to the extra chances to preach.

All in all, I am looking forward to this summer, though it will fly by quickly. But first, I will be taking the family to Indiana this weekend and spend a few days with my dad and my brother's family.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What A Week!

This has been a crazy week. We were doing inventory, which takes up a lot of time and I was training the guys how to do it in my absence. I also had 5 airport runs which take up a lot of time. It is an hour round trip in normal traffic, not counting waiting for a plane to show up. I had hoped to post several times, but that did not happen.

I did get a notice that I am on the "short list" for the ministry position I am applying for. This would be a huge transition in life, but I am very much looking forward to this change. This is a ministry position I have been praying about for over 8 years.

My grades for the last semester have not been posted yet. Aarrggghhhhhh!!!!!!

We are going to see Prince Caspian tomorrow. Not the real (or fictional) Prince Caspian, but the movie.

The Reds have a big interleague series against the Indians at home this weekend and won 3 straight from the Eastern Division leading Florida Marlins.

I could care less about the NBA playoffs and my only concern is that the Lakers lose.

Pittsburgh Penguins are 1 win away from the Stanley Cup finals.

Portsmouth plays Cardiff in the FA Cup. Go Pompey!

Other than that, have a great weekend!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Shake the Dust Off Your Sandals

Matthew 8:28-34

This is the story of Jesus healing the two demon possessed men living in the tombs. The region is part of the Decapolis and was considered Gentile territory which is one reason why there was a herd of pigs nearby. In the previous verses (23-27) Jesus displayed His power over creation by calming the winds and the waves. Here His power of the spiritual world is displayed. The demons recognized Jesus right away. They felt a disturbance in the Force! With one word Jesus cast them into the herd of pigs. R.T. France (NICNT-Matthew) mentioned that most Biblical references to demons show that they prefer a host. Apparently pigs worked but I doubt they expected Jesus to send the unclean herd over the cliff!

What is interesting is the two men are not mentioned again, but the pig herdsmen went to town to mention what happened and town representatives came out to Jesus and asked Him to leave. He must have cost them a few drachma by drowning the pigs. They begged Him to leave. Jesus was not a Messianic symbol to these Gentiles, but a Jewish mystical, holy man that they wanted nothing to do with. The Jews, as we know from the scriptures, will turn against him as well. This experience helps us understand what Jesus will instruct His disciples in 10:14 when He tells them "to shake the dust from your feet as you leave a home or city that will not receive you or hear your words."

As preachers of the Gospel, we can not make people listen or make a decision. We are not there to win a popularity contest but to preach the Gospel with accuracy, clarity and in love. If we are rejected or unwanted, it is not us but the Word of God and Jesus Christ they are rejecting. We have done our job and we need to move on. I pray that I never have to shake the dust off my sandals, but I have been given my traveling orders.

Of grinches, goblins, gremlins and ghosts

This is a rather lengthy post, but it is very timely. I hope you have a chance to read or skim through it.

FIRST-PERSON: Of grinches, goblins, gremlins and ghosts

By: Paige Patterson

Original article can be found here,

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--There are a good many things about which most of us maintain a healthy skepticism. Some of those are listed in the title of this essay. However skeptical you may be, there are two categories of humans for whom at least one of the above is very real -- the terrified and those who love to tell ghost stories to keep the fearful tied in a knot. While statistics and their interpretation are not unimportant (3,000 saved on the Day of Pentecost), they often function in Southern Baptist life to remind me of a search for goblins that have no reality.

LifeWay recently released statistics gathered from reports of the churches. Doomsayers and analysts immediately began to explain to readers what the numbers "meant" and why such catastrophic shrinkage had occurred in Southern Baptist churches. So, to paraphrase Luke, "since many have taken in hand" this assessment, maybe one more will do no harm. In fact, another perspective might even be helpful.

At the outset one can only say that the picture does not look the way those of us who played a role in the Conservative Renaissance had imagined and hoped. We did not embark upon that massive effort merely for the sake of truth, even though such would surely have been noble. Neither were we convinced that full confidence in the truth of Scripture would result in more evangelism and missions because we knew of historical cases of orthodoxy that apparently produced spiritual pride, atrophy and sometimes detestable legalism. But we could discover no place in history where any movement based on questioning the authority and accuracy of God's Word ever produced evangelistic fervor, missionary zeal or healthy churches. This latter truth, which vitally affected the eternal destiny of millions, drove us to risk the movement thus spawned. We prayed and hoped that revival would follow, and we have not yet abandoned that hope. So while I am mortified by the picture of dropping baptisms, I fear that some proposed interpretations and solutions have little more to commend them than do the "gremlins." Consider these observations:

-- Thumbing through the recently arrived 2007 Annual of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, I counted about 500 churches (or 25 percent) that did not respond with an annual report. The national average may be lower, but I know that fewer churches are responding. I also suspect that a major reason for no response is embarrassment about those statistics. Nevertheless, if 98 percent had responded, how would baptisms look? No one knows.

-- The small membership loss is actually not such a tragedy. I want to grow, but I want to do so legitimately. There is a need to purge our rolls of two to four million more who never attend and are not involved in any way. Let's be honest: We lie to ourselves and to the world to count people as "members" who no longer have anything to do with our churches. If we cleansed our rolls, we would take a giant step toward integrity and the blessings of God -- and our ratio for baptisms in relation to membership would fall considerably. It would not be "good" until it is at least one to one, but it would be much improved.

-- Thrashing the Conservative Renaissance as though it were somehow responsible for this decline is irresponsible. One need only ask for the evangelistic and missionary statistics for the moderate churches whose leaders provided the opposition to conservatives in order to debunk this allegation. The present state cannot please our Lord, but it is a safe bet that He is more pleased about what we are attempting globally than about the social and environmentally based programs of moderate and liberal churches. If the Conservative Renaissance had not happened, our evangelism would look exactly like moderate churches, which are in decline.

-- "Mean spiritedness" is certainly never pleasing to God. But I am less than certain which Baptists are guilty of the charge of "mean spiritedness" and, therefore, share in the cause of the decline. Without doubt an abuse of congregationalism has occurred in Southern Baptist life. The turning of opportunities to seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit and determine strategies to get the Gospel to all into monthly town meeting debates and expressions of personal opinion has driven many from the churches and still more from congregationalism. This is tragic.

But I cannot help but suspect that an incipient post-modern influence is the womb from which part of this criticism arises. The world and much of "Christianity" is irritated that Southern Baptists on one hand continue to oppose abortion, the practicing of homosexuality, gender confusion, the alcoholic beverage industry that annually kills, harms, and creates so much sorrow in the social order, and on the other hand support biblical role assignments in the home and church. We can always improve the graciousness with which we articulate our positions, but we have no choice about what we endorse and what we reject if we follow Christ and the Bible. Jesus Himself warned, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:19).

The same is true for doctrine. To be unapologetically Baptist, embracing the exclusivism of Christ in salvation, the inerrancy of God's Word, and the concept of a regenerate church witnessed by baptism and disciplined to live for Christ is to the minds of some, "mean-spirited." Again, sensitivity of expression will help, but doctrinal clarity is not popular nor has it ever been.

Who are these "mean-spirited" among us? Is it also "mean-spirited" to make broad imprecise allegations of "mean-spiritedness"? Are some who make these charges guilty themselves?

-- The allegation that the "young leaders" are leaving Southern Baptists, and we will never reach our world if we do not change and adopt methods that appeal to the culture is to me the strangest of all. Who are these young leaders? How many left? How are they doing now? Did they leave "because they were never really a part of us" (1 John 2:19)? I have spent the last 33 years of my life working with young people destined to become leaders. People in Florida like Anthony George; in North Carolina like J.D. Greear; in Texas like Nathan Lino, Byron McWilliams, Brad Jurkovich, Michael Lewis and Mark Howell to name just the first ones that come to my mind today. They would never refer to themselves as "young leaders." They know too well that they were called to be servants and pastors and that "leadership" is something arising out of what my father liked to call "moral ascendancy."

In the church, genuine leaders are not simply proclaimed to be leaders. In Baptist life, both young and old leaders have been recognized as such either because they were great preachers/teachers of biblical revelation or because they were wonderful, consistent soul-winners or because they built great churches or because their spirits and attitudes were the sources of great encouragement to others. They did not yield to those who were "despising their youth" but were "examples to the flock" (1 Timothy 4:12). This is precisely what most, like the ones mentioned above, have done. But some self-proclaimed "young leaders" appear to be more concerned about embracing the culture, rejecting the past and demanding personal liberty rather than following the biblical road to leadership.

-- The suggestion that sensitivity to the culture and the incorporation of that culture into the church and its worship is the change, which if implemented, would start us on the road to evangelistic effectiveness is misguided. I am the first to admit that dullness and "Baptist tradition" were too often the rule in our churches. There is no excuse for being boring or settling into numbing sameness. For years I inveighed against high church music, not because I did not like it but because it communicated with less than 10 percent of the people. But has somebody missed the obvious here? The more attune to culture Southern Baptists have become and the more we have incorporated the world into our worship, the more our baptisms have dropped! Although I am not certain that there is a connection, as will become evident in what follows, I admit that I am suspicious.

Well, the time has come to identify the real problems -- not ghosts and goblins. The first failure is the busyness of the age, which has robbed churches of serious prayer. Once Southern Baptist people were almost entirely from the working class and not highly valued in the social order. When we were not respectable, we sought the intervention of God. And He responded powerfully. We will continue to have downward trends until we recognize that it is "not by might nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6). Prayerlessness is foe number one.

The second culprit is our failure to witness. We are so adept at "marketing" and "programming" that we have failed to share Christ individually on a consistent basis. In fact, because meaningful church membership has been traded for numerical addition, most of our people hardly witness at all.

Third, the shallow state of preaching has exacerbated the lethargy of the church and left the lost with no real Word from God. The pastor ought to be the major source of theological understanding and the most able teacher of the Bible. Anemic pulpits create anemic churches and denominations.

Finally, our churches, in their hot pursuit of cultural adaptability look more and more like the culture and the world. Even at its best, the church is not good at being the world. In looking like a faint imitation of the world, the holiness of God and a thirst to be like Him have apparently been lost. And with the loss of holiness has come the corresponding loss of power and appeal!

Well do I recognize that these four culprits offer nothing new, nothing glitzy, nothing mysterious, nothing cool. But for all their antiquity, their simplicity, their lack of creativity, they are just as true today as ever. Style, culture, dress, drink, etc. have almost nothing to do with how churches perform. The need today is not for self-appointed analysts manipulating statistics and pontificating about their meaning, but who are usually less than stellar soul-winners, Bible teachers or pastors. The great need is for us to sense our spiritual poverty, seek God's face, and do his bidding. Folks, it is really that simple.

Maybe we need to remember this admonition from Jeremiah. It has little to do with culture, styles or attire but everything to do with what is really of consequence: "Thus says the Lord: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.'"(Jeremiah 6:16).

Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

School is out!

Actually Monday, May 5, is the last night of class, but for various and sundry reasons we do not have class that night. I have a paper to turn in but I can email it in. I have been ready for the semester to be over since I turned in my Greek paper two weeks ago. I have an "A" in the other class and pretty happy over all with the semester.

Next semester I will be taking two classes: "Foundations for Ministry" and "Intro to the New Testament." I like the schedule for these classes. The Foundations class only meets on two weekends, a Friday night and all day Saturday. There is no homework, no tests and no writing. There will be some writing to be done in class, but no papers. The NT class is taught by an excellent young, newly doctored professor, Dr. Matt Aernie. He got his doctoral degree from the University of Wales. Matt is very animated in his teaching and is fun to talk to. Its great when a NT prof is teaching from the Greek text.

I have said it a couple of times and I will repeat it now, I have not written much because of school, but I hope to write more starting next week.