Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Today, I'm settling back into the routine at FBC Grand Cayman after a simply glorious time of fellowship over the weekend with the saints at CHBC and dear friends from NC. As I do, I'm benefitting from much of what has gone on around the blog this past week. So, I thought I'd post a few links:

Many people often look at me with a grin and nod when they learn I'm a pastor in the beautiful Cayman Islands. They imagine it's all sun and surf. They have no idea that the underwater beauties of Cayman (and there are many, I'm told) are all lost on me. And, they have no idea that the thing that induces them to that knowing nod and grin is a tacit admission that life in an earthly paradise dangerously dulls the senses and lulls an unwatchful man to a complacent, often slothful sleep. That's why my soul rejoiced this morning in this sermon, Boiling for Christ, from John Piper.

I also appreciated this call from Michael Haykin for churches in Ontario to rise up for Christ! It's a call that needs heeding everywhere Christ's people gathers. Here's his concluding paragraph:
Soldiers of Christ in truth arrayed, rise up and have done with lesser things and labour for the Master in this province. We must be assured that if we do not do it, God’s kingdom will come but He will use others to bring it in and pass us by. He is no man’s debtor, and simply because we are the heirs of a great past, does not mean he is obliged to use us. There are churches in this province with rich heritages but today they are living in those pasts, stuck in the ruts of their traditionalism. Look to Christ and break free from such bondages! Be again his free people–the glory of what it means to be Baptist (oh the vast diference between tradition and traditionalism). Be assured that if we do not, God can and will raise up others and other causes and they shall know his presence and have the joy of seeing sinners saved and the saints edified.

My brother Lance Lewis over at Blaque Tulip has been announcing the end of blackness for a couple weeks now. In his most recent post, he's loading the body of the Black Church into the hearse. You can also read parts one, two, and three.

Spurgeon says know what you're preaching about or sit down (HT: Debtor to Mercy via Justin Buzzard).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why I Stay Away from the Airport News Stand

There are a number of reasons. Chief among them are the scantily clad women airbrushed on slick magazine covers. But then there is the non-stop blaring of CNN or some other news station. And then there is what passes as "news." I found this item--not in the airport news stand--but while surfing the net waiting on my plane to board.

"State Sen. Ernie Chambers Sues God." I'll confess. I don't know whether to applaud the senator's concern over frivolous lawsuits or to rant against the silliness of a "justice" system that allows such a suit. I'm too tired to do both. I wonder if Hitchens, Dawkins and others will make it a class action suit.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Between Trips

This week I'm between trips to Toronto and Washington, DC. So, I've not had much time to write and blog. But in the time the Lord has given me, for which I am thankful, I've had the privilege of doing an interview on transracial adoption with Dan Cruver and Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency.

Also, the brothers at NA gave me the privilege of reflecting a little bit on how to humbly approach orthodoxy as well as humbly represent it.

Also, Boundless extended an invitation to reflect on the blessing of God-ordained parental authority in our lives and how to honor it when we're "grown."

These are just the things I've been able to contribute elsewhere. Check out the ton of good work going on at these and related blogs. While things are a little slower here, I hope these are useful.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Take Heed to Yourselves

From Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor:

"Take heed to yourselves lest you should be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others, and be strangers to the effectual working of that gospel which you preach; and lest, while you proclaim the necessity of a Saviour to the world, your hearts should neglect him, and you should miss of an interest in him and his saving benefits. Take heed to yoruselves, lest you perish while you call upon others to take heed of perishing, and lest you famish yourselves while you prepare their food. Though there be a promise of shining as stars to those that turn many to righteousness (Dan. 12:3), this is but on supposition that they be first turned to it themselves: such promises are made caeteris paribus, et suppositis supponendis. Their own sincerity in the fiath is the condition of their glory simply considered, though thier great ministerial labours may be a condition of the promise of their greater glory. Many men have warned others that they comen not to the place of torment, which yet they hasted to themselves; many a preacher is now in hell, that hath an hundred times called upon his hearers to use the utmost care and diligence to escape it.

"Can any reasonable man imagine that God should save men for offering salvation to others, while they refused it themselves, and for telling others those truths which they themselves neglected and abused? Many a tailor goes in rags that maketh costly clothes for others; and many a cook scarce licks his fingers, when he hath dressed for others the most costly dishes. Believe it, brethren, God never saved an my for being a preacher, not because he was an able preacher; but because he was a justified, sanctified man, and consequently faithful in his Master's work.

"Take heed, therefore, to yourselves first, that you be that which you persuade others to be, and believe that which you persuade them daily to believe, and have heartily entertained that Christ and Spirit which you offer unto others. He that bade you love your neighbors as yourselves, did imply that you should love yourselves and not hate and destroy both yourselves and them."

Of Gospel-Less Gospel Preachers

"How horrible to be a preacher of the gospel and yet to be unconverted! Let each man here whisper to his own inmost soul, 'What a dreadful thing it will be for me if I should be ignorant of the power of the truth which I am preparing to proclaim!' Unconverted ministry involves the most unnatural relationships. A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophising upon light and vision, discoursing upn and distinguishing to others the nice shads and delicate blendings of the prismatic colours, while he himself is absolutely in the dark! He is a dumb man elevated to the chair of music; a deaf man fluent upon symphonies and harmonies! He is a mole professing to educate eaglets; a limpet elected to preside over angels. ... It is a dreadful position for a man to be in, for he has undertaken a work for which he is totally, wholly, and altogether unqualified, but from the responsibilities of which this unfitness will not screen him, because he willfully incurred them. Whatever his natural gifts, whatever his mental powers may be, he is utterly out of court for spiritual work if he has no spiritual life; and it is his duty to cease the ministerial office til he has received this first and simplest of qualifications for it."

From C.H. Spurgeon's "The Minister's Self-Watch," Lectures to My Students (Christian Heritage, p. 10).

An Excruciating Case of Baptism and Membership

The blogosphere's recent roil over baaptism, membership and the Lord's supper has cooled a bit. That's probably good. It's the kind of conversation that requires reflection, not speed. But my wife passed along this personal situation involving baptism and membership. Obviously this situation is exceptional, but it's worth the read, prayer and counsel for our brother. For my money, make the local church's practice of baptism a higher priority than that of the parachurch organization.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again...

It's good to be back home and back in the swing of things in Cayman after a wonderful trip to the warm?? climes of Toronto, Canada. Toronto is regarded as one of the most diverse cities in the world--and with good reason! It's one of only a couple places I've visited where I've ever really felt any level of culture shock. The Lord has brought the nations to its door, giving gospel-believing Christians there a great missions opportunity. I'm impressed with the need to pray more fervently for this city and its churches.

In addition to ordering up some warm weather for me, the folks there were wonderfully hospitable and encouraging in the Lord.

It was a great privilege to "bunk" with Ellen and Anand, transplanted Trinidadians who opened their home and literally showered me with generosity. Despite Anand's crazy work schedule, he and Ellen were tremendous hosts, and I won't soon forget their kindness.
My official Canadian tour guide and historian was Pastor Ken Davis, pastor of Thistletown Baptist Church. Ken is about as close to walking laughter and Christian joy as you'll find. And I love his deep love for his people at Thistletown. Saying he has "a pastor's heart" is too much of a cliche. He loves the people of the church and the community. It was a privilege to preach at Thistletown Baptist, a very diverse congregation that loves God's word and each other. They know how to make a brother feel right at home.

Later that evening I also had opportunity to fellowship with Pastor Paul Martin and the saints at Grace Fellowship Church of Toronto. Paul blogs over at Kerux Noemata. It was great to have time with the saints during the evening service, where Paul did an outstanding job meditating on the prayer life of Jesus. Paul is a towering figure in the pulpit! :-) And later, Paul and his lovely family opened their home to me and Tim Challies for a fun pizza dinner and conversation.
If you're in the Toronto area and looking for places where the word will be preached, I can't recommend Thistletown Baptist and Grace community highly enough.
The Sola Scriptura conference was also a great time of fellowship in the Lord. I learned a great deal about Islam from James White and Michael Haykin who both gave excellent talks on apologetics and the history of Islam, respectively. Heinz and the team at Sola Scriptura are to be commended for organizing an outstanding conference and fellowship. May the Lord bear much fruit from it.
And after a great several days in Canada, sampling Tim Horton (I must say I'm still a Krispy Kreme kinda guy) and thoroughly enjoying the body of Christ, I'm tremendously blessed to come home to my family and the saints of FBC. It's good to be back in the saddle.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Greatest Sin Ever Planned

"The greatest sin that was ever committed in the history of the world... was planned by God, namely the death of His Son."

John Piper's concluding comment at Wheaton ("Treasuring Christ and the Call to Suffer," part 3).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Diary of a Mad Black Preacher

My man Lance Lewis is angry about the silence of African American churches and church leaders in the wake of recent domestic abuse scandal involving Juanita Bynum and Thomas Weeks. He's angry at the abuse of women, and he's angry at the Black churches silent acceptance of the false "gospel" of prosperity preachers. He writes over at Blaque Tulip:

Because of their high profile positions and marriage this incident has drawn national attention and in my view demands some kind of response from the church. And at this point I’m speaking particularly of the black church whether Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist and Reformed (small as it may be). We have to respond because Mr. Weeks and Ms. Bynum represented a large and growing (and at this time the most influential) section of the black church and we accepted that. Few ever questioned their theology, their claims, their methods or their lifestyle. It seemed to matter little to us that almost every time they took the stage they systematically violated each of the first four commandments. If that weren’t enough it appears they consistently broke the ninth command and instead of keeping the tenth actually elevated it, turned it completely upside down and declared that covetousness is the real mark, purpose and goal of salvation and life.

All the while we for the most part stood by silently. They were black after all. If they wanted to engage in the organized crime of weekly flock fleecing well who were we to judge. No, for the black church (including some within the black reformed community) theology is the white man’s distraction. An opiate that would lull us to silence in the face of the "real" problems blacks folks face in white man’s America. I hate to say it but it seems that for far too many of us ethnic strife with our white brothers and the larger white society is THE issue. It’s as almost as if we didn’t care that week after week our people (whom we claim to represent and care for so much) were being fed poison that would corrupt their souls and destroy their lives. I wonder how would we respond if a white person stood up and told black people to send them the mortgage and rent money to receive their blessing? It seems that we’re all too willing to call a spade a spade as long as that spade sports a white visage.

Do I sound angry? Good because I am.
I’m angry because it appears that it’s alright for black people to be led into gross idolatry as long as the high priests and priestesses are black like us. I’m angry because if a white evangelical got up and declared that churches separated along ethnic lines was the will of God we’d jump all over him, call for his immediate removal and demand an apology and retraction. Yet over and over and over again false prophets can recast and re-imagine God in their own image to line their pockets and for the most part we utter not a mumbling word.

Vintage R.C.

From R.C. Sproul's The truth of the Cross:

"The prevailing doctrine of justification today is not justification by faith alone. It's not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death. It's assumed that all one has to do to be received into everlasting arms of God is to die" (p. 10).

If you haven't picked up this gem of a book, I'd highly recommend it. R.C. does what he typically does with deep theological truths and centuries of Christian history--he simplifies it and presses it home in tremendously helpful ways. I plan on doing two things with this book:

1. Begin reading it for the first 10 minutes of our Wednesday night Bible study class; and

2. Buying a bunch and giving them to members of the church.
When you read The Truth of the Cross, you easily recognize why R.C. is loved as a Bible teacher and worthy of the recent lifetime achievement honors he's received.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Upcoming Conference

It's the land of really nice people, a quarter of my congregation, and Tim Horton's!

Today, I have the privilege of heading off to Toronto, Canada to participate in the Sola Scriptura Ministries conference "Christianity--Islam: Two Faiths! Two Worldviews! One God?" It should be a great time of fellowship and study. I'm looking forward to hearing both Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. James White open the word and guid us through the history of Islam and some apologetics. I have the privilege of sharing on the popular Islamic worldview, jihad, and basics of evangelism. If you can't join us, pray for us as we gather and reflect on this important topic.

What Seminaries Need
Speaking of Dr. Haykin, you mght enjoy this post (The Top Ten Needs of a Theological School) over at his blog. Haykin is well-equipped to offer these reflections. He led Toronto Baptist Seminar for some time and is a gifted educator.

Debating the Crucifixion

If you're in the Seattle, WA area on Friday, Oct. 19th, you might check out a debate on the crucifixion of Christ between James White and Muslim apologist Shabir Ally.

New Attitude Blog

The brothers at New Attitude are opening their blogging doors to a number of characters who themselves need new attitudes! Justin Taylor (Between Two Worlds), Justin Buzzard (Buzzard Blog), Josh Harris (JoshHarris.com), Eric Simmons, Doug Hayes (Covenant Mercies), Issac Hydoski (ONE), Joe Stigora, and Ricky Alcantar, and the chief of sinners needing an atttitude adjustment, me, join to reflect on humble orthodoxy and the call to follow Jesus. I'm looking forward to a fun time of blogging with a cast of characters who are humble, funny, insightful, and passionate about the truth.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Surprising Sources of Joy in Pastoral Ministry, 9

One of my weaknesses is that I have a hard time letting people care for me. I move between pride, on the one hand, and a kind of concern for inconveniencing others, on the other. Actually, as I think about it, pride is probably at the root of both responses. Man! Pride is subtle.
Anyway, I have to work on killing pride so that I might be cared for by others. In my own mind and heart, I've probably perverted the notion that it's better to give than to receive so that I'm ever the giver and never the receiver.

Practically speaking, this robs me of one source of joy the Lord intends pastors to receive in the course of their ministries. The Apostle Paul is our model. He writes to the Philippians, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it" (Eph. 4:10).

It's a little difficult for me to be easy with the apostle's reaction here. People express a renewed concern for him and he "rejoices greatly." To my proud ears it sounds as though the apostle is taking advantage of someone or overly concerned with his needs above others. After all, isn't he the one who wrote think more highly of others than you do yourself? That's my head blabbing.

But here's what I've discovered since coming to FBC Grand Cayman. The numerous and wonderful ways in which the people here have loved on my family and me have caused us to "rejoice greatly in the Lord." The truth of the apostle's words, though slowly seeping into my head, have been quickly attested to by my heart and experience with the saints here. We praise God for the tangible and specific acts of concern and care we've received from the body here. They have been acts of genuine love, and by God's design acts that excite joy in the pastoral ministry.

Just a few examples:

1. There's a lady in the church with an evident gift for hospitality, and she uses it liberally in the church. On a couple occasions, unprompted, out of the fullness of her heart, she has prepared appreciation dinners for the staff. My wife and I have benefited in a number of ways, but I'll mention two that really stirred joy in our hearts. After a Wednesday night Bible study, this young woman catered a surprise birthday party for my wife, featuring my wife's new favorite dish--Cayman-style lobster. My wife and I celebrated our 16th anniversary this past weekend. I didn't even know the lady knew it was our anniversary. She arranged for people to keep our children over night and sent a professional chef to prepare a dinner in our home! It was a joyous time! Her concern for us has been overwhelming.

2. I recall the night we moved into our place here in Cayman. Probably five couples descended on our home and took over the unpacking and assembling of furniture. It was a great blessing.

3. Then there are the three or four older members of the church who have a special ministry of encouragement to me. They very frequently find me after the service to encourage me in some specific way. And they drop by the office from time to time "just to check on me" and bring me fresh fruit. I'm gaining weight through their concern, but I like to think of weight gain as lingering evidence of previous joy :-).

4. The elders show constant concern for me as they ask about my schedule, balance, and commitments. As they've been helping me to think through these things, I've greatly rejoiced in the Lord at the blessing that they are and the tangible expression of love that their concern represents.

Honestly, I could go on and on. The Lord has been tremendously kind in sending me to the people of FBC. I greatly rejoice in Him. And, honestly, I'm surprised by how much joy comes from letting others care for you--not out of some sense of just deserts or anything like that, but from a sincere heart of love and mutual care.

To my pastor friends, notice in the second part of verse 10 that Paul recognized there are sometimes circumstances in which a people are unable to express concern. A couple of questions: (1) Are there any ways, like me in my pride, that you tend to deny people opportunity to care for you? (2) Is your lack of joy in ministry, to the extent that you lack joy, connected with the inability or failure of the people to show their concern for you? If so, how will you labor to remove that inability and/or express your need in a humble, godly way that invites care for you (and your family)?

To members of local churches, notice that the Philippians were eager to show their concern for the apostle, even to the point of sharing in his troubles (4:14). A couple of questions: (1) In what way can you work to be sure your pastor is "amply supplied" (4:18) and greatly rejoicing in the Lord for your concern for him and his family? How can you tangibly express loving care for your pastors today or this week? (2) What barriers in the life of the congregation need to be removed in order for the body to grow in this way? How can you lovingly point those barriers out to others and collectively express greater love for your shepherds?

Life in the local church is meant to be joyous for all, for pastor and people. Perhaps there is no better way for us to strengthen our joy in the Lord than to care well for one another in all things. May the Lord help us to do so.