Monthly Archives: August 2008

Bruce Ware at Founders Baptist Church Sept. 5th–7th

The Trinity--Bruce Ware

The Trinity--Bruce Ware

I want to highly encourage you to attend one (if not all) of the sessions of the upcoming conference entitled Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance, led by Bruce Ware, professor of Systematic Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I’m so thankful for Richard Caldwell and the ministry of Founder’s Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. I can’t wait!

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Sermon Introduction–Acts 3:1-10

Is it possible to be a Christian, someone who is born again, and who understands and believes the gospel–and be held in the clutches of the fear of man? Can we, as Christians be dominated by felt needs: desires, lusts, wants—and are we looking around for other people to fill those needs? Are our desires and perceived needs bigger than our God?

Most people today will divide human needs into three basic categories—biological needs—things we need for physical life (food, water, clothes, shelter), spiritual needs—needed for spiritual life (faith, obedience), and psychological needs, needed for happiness and acceptance (love, significance, security and self esteem). You won’t be surprised to know that the main focus in America today is on the psychological needs of people…you can find it in bookstores, secular and Christian…and hear it in counseling offices and in casual conversations. “If only my husband would encourage me more…” “If only my wife would respect me.” “If only my children would obey me.” “If only I were married.” “If only he [she] would show interest in me.” “If only my parents would give me more independence.” This popular view of people is pictured by a (love) cup—that holds psychic needs (mainly those of love and significance). When these needs are not met, we feel empty and we should look to Jesus to fill them. Of course, if this is the working theory that you have, then you need to suggest that the gospel is, most deeply, intended to meet psychological needs…it is aimed at our self-esteem problem…our tendency to dwell on our failures…because after all, “God doesn’t make junk.”

Now, this sounds good, but is it the gospel? Is the good news of Jesus Christ intended to make us feel good about ourselves? Did Jesus die in order to increase our self-esteem? Let’s take a married couple as an example. This couple was instructed from day one that marriage consisted of “mutual need-meeting.” So, after the honeymoon, their home was a festival of service…he’s washing the dishes, she’s giving foot rubs, he’s mowing the yard, she’s watching football…he’s spending time in deep conversation with her…she’s supporting and encouraging him. Things are going great! But, what happens in 6 months? What happens when their emotional needs are no longer being met? Is it possible, that we are called to love not because other people are empty and need love (to feel better about themselves), but because love is the way in which we imitate Christ and bring glory to God? This couple is thinking that their cup must be full and if it’s not, their marriage is in trouble.

So what image does Jesus give us of our lives? An emotional cup that always needs to be replenished…? Have you ever thought about all the miracles that are recorded of Jesus and the Apostles? Now, you may say that they ARE meeting physiological needs…and physical needs…Who are the ones being healed? The blind, the deaf, the dumb, the lame, the dead! But, what do all these people have in common? Is it most deeply that their social status was below average? Or is it that they are unable to change themselves on their own? What do we learn about the gospel from the miracles of Jesus and the Apostles? What do we learn about ourselves? Are we merely these empty cups that need to be filled…or is there something much deeper at stake in the ministry of Jesus and the early church? We’ll think together about these questions today as we consider the first miracle that takes place in the ministry of the early church, done by Peter as the Leper is healed in Acts 3:1-10.

*I was greatly helped in this introduction by Edward Welch’s book, When People are Big and God is Small, especially pages 135-168 that deal with real vs. felt needs.

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Family Driven Faith–Reviewed by Michael Lawrence

Michael Lawrence, the Associate Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, has recently reviewed Voddie Baucham’s newest book Family Driven Faith.

In my opinion, Lawrence brings us a very balanced and fair review of this potentially paradigm shifting book/ideology. Baucham has spearheaded the “family integrated church” movement and Lawrence asks the question of whether or not we are creating a new problem in order to fix an old one…

Here is a taste test:

As I said at the outset, I’m no fan of age-segregated ministry and largely agree with Baucham’s critique of its ill-effects on the church. And certainly I’m no fan of parental failure in evangelizing and discipling their children. What I don’t agree with is how Baucham links these two matters and tries to fix both, namely, by redefining the church as “a family of families.”

In other words, Baucham moves from examining parents’ responsibility to prescribing a new role, and even culture, of the church. This new ministry paradigm is “family driven” in which “the family is the evangelism and discipleship arm of the family-integrated church” (p. 195). Baucham insists that if we are to be faithful to what the Scriptures teach, “churches must facilitate this commitment” (p. 190). At precisely this point it seems to me that he has ironically placed the church at the service of a newly defined set of consumers.

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: 9 Marks)

New TBI Curriculum Now Available!

From Desiring God:

Our new TBI Curriculum, Abortion Is About God: Reframing a Moral Issue, is available and ready to ship. We are taking orders at our website. Again, this is a six-week Sunday School curriculum advancing the truth that the deepest evil of abortion is that it defies God’s supremacy over life in the womb. Students will gain a deeper understanding of this issue by closely examining key biblical passages, answering provocative questions, and considering sermons and writings from the ministry of John Piper.

On the website, you will find an Annotated Table of Contents and an Explanation of the Curriculum.

YouTube Video: John Piper on Abortion and the Supremacy of God
In a recent interview, John Piper discussed the relationship between abortion and the supremacy of God. He addressed the amazing person-forming work of God in the womb, the connection between the cause of racial harmony and the pro-life movement, and reasons for hope that the pro-life cause will triumph in the end. This video may be found here and embedded on your website.

Special Introductory Price
Normally, this curriculum would cost $25 for an Instructor’s Guide and $15 for a Student’s Workbook. However, we are launching this curriculum with an initial 20% discount ($20 for an Instructor’s Guide and $12 for a Student’s Workbook).

Special Introductory Promotion
Also, as a special introductory promotion, we are including a free copy of Randy Alcorn’s book Why Pro Life? with every order of an Instructor’s Guide or Student’s Workbook. In this book, Randy Alcorn offers compassionate, factual answers to the central issues of the abortion debate. We are grateful to Randy for his partnership in the gospel and the cause of the unborn.

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Sermon Introduction–Acts 2:42-47

If you missed it, I’m starting to post some of my own sermon introductions (and others as well). Here is my intro from this past Sunday.

“You know how people are.” This is a common response today when something happens that seems to go against the grain of what is commonly thought of as right or good. “Well, what do you expect?” In other words this phrase gives a pass, or a get out of jail free card to people because of the generation that they live in. For example, if someone from an earlier generation were to show up today, they might be surprised that the most watched sit-com of all time is Seinfeld, “The Show about Nothing.” The characters are rootless and never seriously committed to anything but themselves. Yet, we seem to live in a culture that is about nothing and proud of it! One author described as the culture of marketing and the marketing of culture. People are enamored with the grand narrative of post-modernity with its aimless plotless erring—and its lifeless gods of technology, entertainment, sex, power consumerism…Is this the only story that needs telling?

One pastor said that his children took him to their church with them one Sunday morning. The church was marketing itself as one that was an outreach to our postmodern world. On the way home, they asked him what he thought… “Wasn’t it alive and relevant they asked?” He replied… “In all my years….I have never seen such a studied avoidance of anything specifically Christian.” One advertisement for a new paraphrase of the Bible had a full color photograph of a young woman who appears sophisticated and well educated—the caption reads “Pastor, if you want to reach me, you better watch your language.” The inside copy elaborates: “Distracted by deadlines and bills, this is the only time she takes to nurture her spiritual life. You can’t afford to lose her attention when you reference Bible passages that are too lofty and obscure.” Really?

One has to wonder, in the process of being relevant, are we in danger of losing the reached instead of reaching the lost? Are our “cultural translations” really accommodations that empty the faith” of its meaning and power? Has fascination taken the place of reflection, and seduction taken the place of argumentation?

We can talk in terms of post-modernism and modernism if we want to, but the only distinctions made by Jesus are those in the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world. Even when evangelicals say things like “traditional church models no longer work in our world…and we need to find new ways to fulfill the Great Commission, we must be arrested by the testimony of God, not of man. Should we look like our culture to reach our culture, or should we look like Jesus and live in our culture? Are we to invest in “this passing age,” or the “age to come?” What does it look like when a church lives in obedience to Christ and yet still loves their community and seeks to serve it? Today, we will examine a template of the local church, the first local church in Jerusalem as we turn together to Acts, chapter 2:4-47.

You can listen to the entire sermon here.

I owe this introduction almost entirely to Michael Horton, who contributed to the book Give Praise to God with his chapter entitled, Challenges and Opportunities for Ministry Today (P R Publishing, 2003, pages 436-446.)

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The Cost of an Olympic Prayer Band

This is a picture of Pastor "Bike"Yesterday, I received prayer bands for my family reminding us to pray for the persecuted church in China, especially during the Olympics. Here is how the idea got started:

Pastor Zhang “Bike” Mingxuan, known for traveling across China on a bicycle to evangelize, was arrested by Chinese police just two days before the Olympics began. Pastor Bike was the inspiration for the recent partnership between The Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association to create the Olympic Prayer Band.

Earlier this year, Pastor Bike pleaded with VOM staff to ask Christians to pray for persecuted Christians in China during the Olympics. The pastor voluntarily preaches the gospel openly in China despite being persecuted. He has asked for his identity to be revealed to bring continued attention to the persecution of Christians in Communist China.

Pastor “Bike” was the inspiration for this movement of prayer…and he is currently paying the penalty in a jail cell:

On Aug. 6, Pastor Bike was arrested while trying to deliver medicine to his ailing wife. His wife and another pastor were also arrested. We have also learned this week that Chinese officials are opening a full investigation of the Olympic Prayer Bands that were distributed to house church members within China. Despite this increased pressure from Chinese authorities, Chinese Christians continue to ask for prayer and to make their plight known.

Obviously, you don’t need a prayer band to pray for the persecuted church in China and across the world. Let’s pray that the Lord would allow pastor Bike and others to rejoice in suffering, knowing that this is not their final home.

You can order your own prayer bands here and also make a donation to the Voice of the Martyrs.

(HT: Voice of the Martyrs)

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Sermon Introductions

I think I’ve learned most of what I know (or think I know) about sermon introductions from Mark Dever. Dever has a mysterious and effective way of weaving the main points of his sermon into his introduction, sometimes just under the listener’s nose. For an example, visit Josh Harris’ blog in which he is posting the pdf’s of Dever’s (and other’s) sermon notes. Dever preaches longer than I do, so his introductions are much longer (maybe 10-15 minutes!) and more involved. However, despite the length of a sermon, I’m convinced that we ought to begin with more than…”The sermon text today is…”

I’m tossing around the idea of posting the introductions to my sermons here and inviting others to send me theirs as well. Below is my introduction for my sermon Sunday on Acts 2:37-41 entitled “How Can I Be Saved?”

Imagine if you could make it rain. Think of all the problems across the globe that could be solved. Drought, disease, crop increases…Well, as many of you know scientists have discovered a way to make it rain. “A chemical [called] silver iodide or dry ice is used in seeding clouds to make rain.” One expert has noted that “seeding appears to contribute to what he calls ‘gentle, wide-spread and longer-lasting rains.’” However, as you’ve probably guessed, there are some side effects. One expert has warned that “the chemicals used in the production of artificial rain could affect climatic patterns, ecosystem, water sources and the soil…” One scientist even saw a correlation in China with bird flu…that killed both human beings and birds. So, what seemed to be a way to improve on God’s design, even when done with the purest and best of motives, has turned out to backfire in a major way.

Imagine if you could do more than make it rain. Imagine that you could actually cause people to be born again. You could, with your oratory ability and convincing arguments and tone of voice, bring sinners to the point of submission to Christ, even if your motives are pure and right (to see people saved). Charles Finney was born in Connecticut in 1792—he is known by some as the greatest “revival” preacher ever. He was converted and then trained by a Presbyterian minister named George Gale. Finney spoke of Gale as holding to the “old school doctrine of original sin, or that the human constitution was morally depraved…eventually Finney said that he could not receive these doctrines…of atonement, regeneration, faith, repentance, and the slavery of the will or any of the kindred doctrines.” Finney departed from his teacher (and these doctrines) to begin a career as a revival preacher. He was quoted as saying that he “wanted make regeneration so easy that men may not be discouraged from attempting to do it—this was delivered in his sermon entitled ‘Make Yourself a New Heart’.” Finney is the earliest proponent of the “invitation system,” or calling people to the front of the auditorium at the conclusion of a sermon, who are professing Christ. He is famous for the term “the anxious seat,” in which people were experiencing great conviction until they stood up and came forward. Finney said that Christians were to be blamed if there was no revival…you don’t have a revival only because you do not want one.” Clearly his belief about conversion dictated the way in which he lived and ministered. This understanding gained a great following and is flourishing today. But what are the effects? What are the results of doing evangelism like this for so long? How can we be saved?

We live in a time of confusion about this question. We mentioned last week the pushback from an exclusive faith in Jesus Christ alone. However we also live in a time when the majority of people in our midst claim to be Christians…and in many cases they have had Christian “experiences,” but cannot tell you what it means to be a Christians, or what it means to be saved…or what we are being saved from. We have a need to be able to think clearly about the gospel and salvation ourselves and then to humbly (yet boldly) seek to call others to biblical conversion. As we study the book of Acts, we will come upon multiple occasions of the gospel being preached and people responding to it…this is our first situation… A sermon has been preached about Jesus, to non-Christians and now it is time for a response to the questions…what shall we do to be saved? Our text this morning is Peter’s answer to that question…

Stay tuned for more sermon introductions…

Sources:
Website: http://www.ippmedia.com
Revival and Revivalism, by Ian Murray, pages 256ff.

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What Happens When a Pastor Joins Your Church?

I was extremely encouraged to read Jim Hamilton’s latest post in which he interviews Thabiti Anyabwile on the topic of church membership. As most reading this will know, Jim and Jill are now living in Louisville as Jim takes up a post at Southern Seminary. I had the joy of pastoring with Jim at Baptist Church of the Redeemer. They are now looking for a church in which to serve and this interaction with Thabiti is a must read for every church member, seminarian, seminary professor and pastor.

Here is a clip:

Jim: I suspect that for various reasons there are others like me, who go from being involved in shepherding a congregation to looking for a new church to join. How would you advise us? What kinds of things would you suggest we look for as we seek a new church home, and how can we be healthy church members?

Thabiti: Jim, that’s an excellent question. Actually I can identify with you quite a lot. When my family moved from N.C. to Washington, D.C., we moved from a 3-year old church plant into a situation where we knew next to nothing about the church scene. We loved that church and we set about the task of finding something like it in many ways. Actually, that’s the first piece of advice I’d have for someone in this situation. Don’t look for a church that is “like” your previous church, particularly if the likeness you have in mind involves a host of secondary matters. Our preferences can be the death of a good church search. Hold them up to the light of Scripture and be sure to cultivate an accepting heart for other believers who do things differently in secondary matters (Rom. 14). Look for the essentials first: a church holding a sound doctrinal stance, that preaches the gospel faithfully, that preaches the Scripture expositionally, and that at least encourages a strong “one anothering” culture. With the word and a strong membership culture, so many other things have fertile soil in which to grow. That would be my short list, I think.

Thank you Jim and Thabiti for this thoughtful exchange!

(HT: Jim Hamilton)

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Don’t Be Fooled By His Oratory Ability

Thanks to Justin Taylor for posted the below video of Obama giving a speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (July 17, 2007). Sometimes we only see him with the American flag draped behind him speaking about more jobs and cleaner air. But, it’s a whole new ballgame when you see the Planned Parenthood logo behind him. Don’t be fooled by his oratory ability. His agenda is clear. Click here to read Justin’s post.

Let’s pray for our leaders realizing that the Lord sets up leaders (kings) and brings them down. Lord, come quickly!

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New Website for Baptist Church of the Redeemer

Big thanks to John Thacker for his hard work on our new website. Our goal was to make the website useful for our members and informative for those who are inquiring. Here are some of the new features that you will find at www.bcredeemer.org

*A new way to access sermons at Redeemer. We now use Sermon Player, which makes it easier to listen and download. Soon, we hope to have all of our past sermons archived by speaker, topic and scripture.

*A new updated doctrine page including our chuch covenant, statement of faith and constitution.

*A new location page with an interactive map.

*A new page on our book stall (or book nook). This page is still under construction, but eventually it will display the titles that we recommend and have available at the Redeemer book stall.

*There is also a new announcements page featuring a Redeemer calendar, with upcoming events and upcoming announcements at Redeemer.

*Not to mention the cool pictures and graphic design that John did (way to go!)

We hope this website will serve those who access it and help to lead them into a passionate relationship with God and his people.