Friday, October 29, 2010

The Reformation and the Ordinances

Happy Reformation Day! It was October 31, 1517 when the monk Martin Luther nailed his now-famous 95 Theses to the door of Wittenburg. Martin Luther desired to reform the church, but historians tell us that he wanted to do it from the inside. He did not desire to divide the church into various groups. He wanted to begin a conversation about many of the things that were happening in the church he believed were not in keeping with the scriptures.

Well, the conversation started and the reformation began. And, now we stand as “protestants”, spiritual descendents of the reformation some 500 years later. Out of the “protestant reformation”, a variety of protestant denominations came into existence. There are Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and others.

Some of the most heated debates among the founders and early leaders of what we now call “denominations” were over baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church governance, and the relationship between the church and the state (government).

We began our journey talking about some of these subjects this past Wednesday night as we began to discuss baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This coming Wednesday, we are planning to explore the subject of baptism. 

Over the next several weeks, we are planning to answer questions such as:
·         Why do we not baptize infants?
·         Why do we believe in believers’ baptism and baptism by immersion?
·         What are the differences between Baptists and other denominations with respect to baptism?
·         Are our differences valid reasons for not “fellowshipping” with other denominations?

As we learn about our spiritual heritage, particularly about two of our Baptist contributions to the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, I hope that you will consider joining us each Wednesday as we study these very important subjects.

I hope that these discussions and studies will prompt us and motivate us to study our bibles so that we might be able to know better what we believe and why we believe it.

Happy Reformation Day!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Transformation in Discipleship

At the heart of discipleship is “transformation”, the transformation of the believer into the “image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). In fact, that is our aim in everything that we do: to see people surrender to Jesus as Lord and be consistently transformed into His likeness.

The context of that transformation is the local church, the body of Christ, the community of believers who have committed themselves together as an identifiable group of believers for the purpose of mutual edification and mission in their community and beyond.

I want to share a few quotes this week from a friend of mine to help us think about the God-given means of “transformation” that are available to us in the context of the local church and her ministries. Here are three of them:

“Transformation takes place when a surrendered disciple understands the role of the Holy Spirit and lives daily with a fresh awareness of his power and presence, and regularly engages wholeheartedly in meaningful, God-focused worship experiences.”

“Transformation takes place as a surrendered disciple nurtures his relationship with God by consistently growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, increasingly reflecting His attitudes, behaviors and character in every aspect of life.”

“Transformation takes place when a surrendered disciple pursues the daily spiritual disciplines of personal prayer, Bible study, and reflection; recognizes every resource comes from God and is to be used generously for Kingdom priorities and purposes; practices God-honoring servanthood and develops personal life management skill within the context of a safe and affirming group of like-minded believers who are accountable to one another.”

Now, I would like to ask us a question: are we availing ourselves to these God-given means of grace for our transformation in a consistent manner?

These are some very thought-provoking statements, aren’t they? They help us to think through and process the “transformation” that is happening in our lives, or the lack of it. Transformation doesn’t just automatically happen. Certainly, it is by grace through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives believers the desire for transformation and draws believers to those means of biblical transformation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Going Back

God gave me an awesome privilege yesterday. I was able to be the guest speaker at Seven Springs Baptist Church in Seven Springs, NC. To some, that isn't very significant, but for me, it was. You see, when I was about 10 years old, my dad received a call to be the pastor there at Seven Springs Baptist Church back in 1984. Yes, that was a long time ago. Those two years there were significant in my life as a preacher's kid--even when I got in trouble! The relationships and the memories that were built have never left me. And, yesterday, I got to stand behind the same podium that my dad stood behind over 20 years ago and share God's word with people whom I love. And, I believe that God used those brief years there to shape and mold me for where he would take me in years to come.

And yesterday, God, by his grace and providence, gave me the opportunity to go back and be the homecoming speaker. It was great! The building was in a different place because of flooding. But, in so many ways, it still felt like home for me--getting to see Sunday school teachers that put up with me and seeing childhood friends with whom I "ran" the neighborhood--from one end to the other. You see, Seven Springs is a small town right on the Neuse River. So small in fact, we could ride our bikes from my house (the parsonage) to a friend's house on the other end of town in, oh....about 5 minutes--the only obstacle--main street, but it wasn't usually too busy. What great times--playing GIJoe in the back yard, playing basketball, riding our bikes, being able to walk the entire town on Halloween to trick or treat, going "down to the river" under the bridge, or just standing around waiting for the bus playing soccer at 7 AM. Memories and friendships like that are very important to me as a preacher's kid who moved several times. Some people stay in the same town all their lives; that wasn't the case for me. Maybe that's why I hang on to memories like that. I've always had an affinity for that kind of small town; I don't know, maybe it's the country boy in me that you can't get rid of.

Needless to say, being there yesterday was very special to me. Some of the folks I hadn't seen in 24 years. Yet, there was still a sense of family. Yeah, I know, I was a kid back then, but the people loved my family and me--and I could still sense it yesterday. My eyes are watering right now because of thinking about those times and the friendships that were made. After yesterday and with the advancement in technology (Facebook), now I can get back in touch with many of those friends. I probably will need to apologize to some of them if I was mean to them back then--I'm sorry if I was. I know we were just kids, but...

So, thank you Seven Springs Baptist Church for the hospitality, love, and friendship you showed my family and me--back in the 1980s and yesterday.

May God grant you the grace to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." I love you all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Detecting Our Idols

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been reading Tim Keller’s book, “Counterfeit Gods”, and now I am nearing the end of the book. So far, the ending has been the most provocative as the Holy Spirit is using it to examine my heart for the hidden idols that are there.

Here a few statements from the book’s epilogue:

Idolatry is “what is fundamentally wrong with the human heart”. (p. 165)

“Idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong.” (p. 165-166)

“Idolatry is not simply a form of ritual worship, but a whole sensibility and pattern of life based on finite values and making created things into godlike substitutes.” (p. 166)

One thing is for certain: everyone worships something or someone. We are all worshipers. Everyone gives his allegiance to someone or something. Everyone finds security, significance, and importance in someone or something. Ultimately, if it isn’t Jesus, then that thing, whatever it is, is an idol.

What changes is not whether we worship or not, but the object of our worship. Piggy backing off of what Keller says above, our fundamental problem is that we assign ultimate value to things and people that only Jesus rightly deserves.

I believe it was John Calvin who said, “The human heart is a factory of idols...Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.”

Well, what do we do about these idols? How can we detect these idols?

Keller offer four ways:

Check our imagination – “what do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart?” (p. 168)

How we spend our money – “your money flows most effortlessly toward your heart’s greatest love.” (p. 168)

How we respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes – “but when you pray and work for something and you don’t get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god.” (p. 169)

Our most uncontrollable emotions – “look for your idols at the bottom of your most painful emotions, especially those that never seem to lift and that drive you to do things you know are wrong” (p. 169

May God’s Holy Spirit transform our hearts and replace our idols with the supreme greatness of Jesus.