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Showing posts from February, 2008

Global outreach celebration

On Wednesday night, I and three other members from our church had the privilege of going down to Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland for their annual Global Outreach (GO) Celebration. As Southern Baptists, it can be difficult to break through the barrier of security and the sheer volume of missionaries (over ten thousand) to actually feel personally connected with what God is doing around the world. But Immanuel Baptist does a fantastic job through their GO Celebration of bringing global and North American missions down to a local church level. Last year, through this event, we met the Phams, who are currently studying in Costa Rica and have become ministry partners and life-long friends.

During Wednesday's service, more than 50 missionaries from around the world introduced themselves on stage. We had a time of praise and worship, prayer, missions reports, and a sermon. The special speaker was Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida. He brought a passionate…

Defining marriage, part 3

As I already discussed here and here, the California Supreme Court will conduct hearings next Tuesday, March 4, to decide whether it is “constitutional” to restrict marriage to the union of one man and one woman. Similar debates have been taking place in other states across the country.

Although we hope and pray the Supreme Court will uphold the traditional definition of marriage, we also know there’s a good chance that Prop. 22 will be overturned, and that a “same-sex marriage” provision will quickly follow from the state legislature. For this reason, is promoting the “California Marriage Protection Act.” This initiative would put a constitutional amendment on the November general ballot that would add, once-and-for-all, the following statement to our state law: “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”Getting a constitutional amendment on the November ballot will not be easy. The first step to qualify is the collection of almo…

Is seminary important?

The longer I'm in pastoral ministry, the more thankful I am for my college and seminary education. At times, it felt like an endless journey of one semester after another. The classes, reading assignments, papers, and exams never seemed to let up, and there was no end in sight. But just like driving across the Great Plains of the Midwest, if you persevere by the grace of God, you do eventually arrive on the other side. It was a total of ten years from the time I started college and sensed God's call into ministry, until the time I actually finished seminary and began serving full-time. But I don't regret it for one minute. It was an investment that reaps daily dividends.

If you're wondering whether you should pursue further theological education, which seminary to attend, what degree to get, how to prepare, and how to survive, then here are some articles that will prove very helpful:

Owen Strachan, Seasons of a Seminarian

B. B. Warfield, The Religious Life of Theological …

Knowledge, love, and obedience

Pop quiz: Which of these is the primary cause of our salvation: our intellect, our emotions, or our will? How are they related? Which one should we appeal to in evangelism? William Hendriksen, commenting on John 7:17, answers this question with a profound analysis of these human experiences of knowledge/love/obedience. The quote is a little long, but it is rich and rewarding.

Jesus says in John 7:17, "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself."

Hendriksen comments:
If there be no true desire to obey the will of God as expressed in his Word, true knowledge (both intellectual and experiential) will not be found. This introduces the interesting question: Just how are the various elements of Christian experience related to each other? In general it may be said that according to the teaching of Christ and the apostles, knowledge (concerning Christ and the facts of redemption: implying, of course, a knowledg…

Using illustrations

One of the distinctives of John Calvin’s preaching was his use of “vivid expressions.” Steve Lawson explains,Calvin used vivid expressions to enhance imagery in his listeners’ minds. John Leith notes, ‘His sermons are replete with metaphors, comparisons, and proverbial images and wisdom that appeal to the imagination.’ Most frequently, he used figures of speech drawn from Scripture itself, but many of his images had military, judicial, natural, artisan, or academic connections, and he often used common expressions drawn from routine conversations in everyday life. While humor was scarce in Calvin’s pulpit, he used stimulating language and biting sarcasm that was sure to draw a smile or shock the listener – and leave a lasting impression. (The Expository Genius of John Calvin, p. 89)I've noticed firsthand just how effective a timely illustration can be in sermon delivery. Sometimes, a story or word picture produces that “aha” moment when a point suddenly clicks, and the listeners f…

Defining marriage, part 2

Last week, I explained that the California Supreme Court will be deciding next month whether it is constitutional to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Although our state passed a law back in 1977 defining marriage as between one man and one woman, and although the public strongly affirmed this definition in Prop. 22, the mayor of San Francisco and the district Superior Court have more recently rejected this definition. Now, the matter is to be discussed at the highest court in our state.But what’s the big deal, anyway? Why should same sex marriage be prohibited? Isn’t homosexuality a private matter of sexual preference? There are several reasons I strongly believe the traditional definition of marriage should be upheld at the state and federal level. But today I will give you just one – the biblical one.“Wait a minute,” you may say. “I don’t believe in the Bible. I’m not even a Christian. Why should I care what your Bible says about homosexuality?” Well, since this is …

Calvin's high view of scripture

I have recently been reading through a short book called The Expository Genius of John Calvin, by Steven Lawson. Here are a couple quotes I've appreciated on Calvin's high view of Scripture, why Christians should always remain students of the Bible, and why pastors should devote themselves continually to the ministry of the Word.

"We owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it."

"Wherever the gospel is preached, it is as if God Himself came into the midst of us. It is certain that if we come to church we shall not hear only a mortal man speaking, but we shall feel (even by His secret power) that God is speaking to our souls that He is the teacher. He so touches us that the human voice enters into us and so profits us that we are refreshed and nourished by it. God calls us to Him as if He had His mouth open and we saw Him there in person."

These words remind me of Pau…

Defining marriage, part 1

The San Francisco Chroniclereported yesterday that our California Supreme Court is preparing to discuss whether it is "legal" to prohibit homosexual marriage.

Since 1977, California law has specified marriage as between one man and one woman. This traditional definition was strongly affirmed by the public in 2000, when Proposition 22 was passed. Also known as "The California Defense of Marriage Act," Prop. 22 simply stated, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

However, both California law and Prop. 22 came under attack in 2004, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the county clerk to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. These licenses were quickly overturned by the California Supreme Court, but it became obvious that this issue was not going to go away. In 2005, the San Francisco Superior Court Judge ruled Prop. 22 unconstitutional, but one year later, the First Disctrict Court of Appeal o…

Why I'm encouraged after Super Tuesday

I'm encouraged today. Not because my preferred candidate picked up a lot of delegates yesterday (he didn't); and not because Reagan conservatism achieved a great victory yesterday (it didn't); and not because our next President will be a highly qualified person of character and experience (they might not be). Rather, I'm encouraged today because this world is not my home. My citizenship is in heaven, and my Lord Jesus Christ is a perfectly righteous King, seated firmly today upon His throne! What's more, my King is coming again soon!

In the midst of political turmoil and uncertainty, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 gives me four reasons to be encouraged:
I am encouraged by the coming return of Christ. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God" (4:16). Oh, how I long to hear those three triumphant sounds - the shout, the voice, and the trumpet! I keep my ears and eyes open, because those …

So that no man may boast

While studying for my sermon last week in John 6, I was struck afresh by just how foolish and offensive it must seem to believe in a broken, bloodied, crucified Messiah. Yet that is precisely what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:23: "But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness." Just a few verses later, Paul declares,
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,so that no man may boast before God.But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,so that, just as it is written, “Let him who…

Is church membership necessary?

Have you ever wondered why some churches emphasize membership? Here are nine reasons I believe church membership is important:
The early church kept track of its members (Ac. 2:41; 5:14)Church leaders need to know who the members are (Acts 20:28, 31; John 10:14)Members need to know who their fellow members are (Rom. 12:4-8; Heb. 10:24-25)The community needs to know who the members are (Ac. 5:13)It protects the concept of a regenerate church membership (2 Cor. 6:14)
It provides clear boundaries and consistent requirements for all membersIt makes church discipline possible (Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:12-13)It has historical precedent. By the beginning of the second century, churches required new believers to become “catechumens” before they could be baptized and become full members. During this time, they were taught doctrine and Christian living. This period lasted up to three years!It just makes good sense (compare any business, hobby club, or an…