Thursday, August 02, 2012

This Blog Has Moved

Dear Friends, Thanks for all the support over the years. I appreciate all those who read and followed this blog. I am still writing and engaging with issues, but the location for that has changed to twitter and facebook. For more information, simply follow me on twitter. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Prayer For Protection: A Meditaiton on Psalm 12:1-8

Although many Psalms reflect personal struggle, problems and need, some of them reflect on the nations woes and tribulations. From the very beginning, the Israelite's maintained a community of consciousness; they looked on the entire people as a corporate personality. David reflected this feeling as he prayed for God to intervene and bring hope out of despair. That's exactly what we see in Psalm 12, where a godless society caused the psalmist to ask God for protection. All around the nation were arrogant people who spoke lies and caused people the people to fear.

What we see in Psalm 12 is that those who live close to God face pain as they feel deeply about the moral decline around them. Psalm 12 was composed by one who saw the almost universal hypocrisy that accompanied the nation's decay. Although the psalmist suffered, he was concerned more fundamentally about what such sin was doing to the nation.

When was Psalm 12 composed? Some scholars place it during David's lifetime. Some suggest that David wrote it as a young man when he was fleeing Saul's armies; others point to Absalom's rebellion when many of David's trusted friends turned against him. Either way, verses 1-4 appear be a prayer for help as evil was seemingly everywhere.

Like Elijah, the psalmist felt alone as God's servant. He singled out sins of speech as being prevalent in the land. In verse 5, God answered the sad cry and promised to give security to those who had been made to suffer. Prophecy and prose met as the psalmist addressed God and his answer to the people. God gave his instructions for the people and delivered his authoritative message. Verses 6-8 expressed confidence in God's answer.

Thankfully, unlike, peoples deceitful words, God's word can be trusted. Human speech might contain both truths and lies; but, repeatedly, God's Word had been proved to be pure. The expression of certainty ended with a prayer that God would defend his people from the evil ones who sought to exploit the weak and oppressed. Divine intervention was necessary to curb the widespread depravity in the land.

A few lessons can be learned from this Psalm:

1. God's Word Stands Firm - In spite of prolonged and severe conflict, the Word of God remains the one authoritative message to people. Blatant unbelief will seek to undermine its message, but God's Word remains fixed forever as the standard for conduct. God's Word is understood better and has spread more widely now than ever. We should hide it in our hearts so that we might not sin against God. We should wait on the Lord to fulfill his promises.

2. People usually deny God because they do not want such a God to exist - When we accept the fact of the God of the Bible, we also accept the demands that go with such a belief. When people shut their ears to the voice of obedience to this God, they must eliminate God or suffer terrible feelings of guilt. We need to keep burning in our hearts the truth that God lives; thus, life has beauty and responsibility.

3. Nations need God for survival - God is the only one who can rescue a decaying society. In the Bible Israel's ups and downs were tied to how they responded to God. When righteous individuals lead and the people follow, great rejoicing comes. However, unless a nation accepts the God of the Bible in its life, judgment will come thoroughly and perhaps quickly. No one can claim to be exempt from the moral laws that God has set up.

4. A greater age is coming for those who trust in Christ - Just as a person has moral and spiritual obligations, so does a nation. Folly and sin bring misery. We do not have power to gain God's favor by our moral achievement and effort. Only by repentance and trust in God's grace can restoration from sin become a reality. Christ frees us from sin. Being united to him gives us a future filled with hope - the hope of a new heaven and new earth where we will dwell in God's presence in restored relationship with him forever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Passing Pleasure of Sin

Thomas Brooks has a great section on the dangers of worldly pleasure in his essay, "Apples of Gold". This summer, I preached a sermon from Mark 6, entitled "A Closing Window of Opportunity" on the sad demise of Herod the Tetrarch. John the Baptist spoke faithfully into his life, but in the end, a love for the passing pleasures of this world proved to be his ruin. In that sermon, I quoted the following section from Thomas Brooks:

"Pleasures pass away as soon as they have wearied out the body, and leave it as a bunch of grapes whose juice has been pressed out; which made one to say,I see no greater pleasure in this world than the contempt of pleasure’. Pleasures seem solid in the pursuit; but are mere clouds in the enjoyment. Pleasure is a beautiful harlot sitting in her chariot, whose four wheels are pride, gluttony, lust and idleness. The two horses are prosperity and abundance, the two drivers are idleness and security. Her companions and followers are guilt, grief, late repentance (if any) and often death and ruin. Many great men, and many strong men, and many rich men, and many hopeful men, and many young men have come to their run by her. But none of them ever enjoyed full satisfaction from her".

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward" - Hebrews 11:24-26.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is Your Church Reformed or Deformed?

I guess it depends on what the gravitational center of your church is. What do you orbit around? Is it the cross? Is it the gospel? Or have you made the center of your church other theological distinctives? This morning I read a word from Wayne Grudem regarding the importance of maintaining humility in our theological convictions and practices.

"It is ironic and tragic that denominational leaders (pastors/churches, addition mine) will so often give much of their lives to defending precisely the minor doctrinal points that make their denominations different from others. Is such effort really motivated by a desire to bring unity of understanding to the church, or might it stem in some measure from human pride, a desire to retain power over others, and an attempt at self-justification, which is displeasing to God and ultimately unedifying to the church?" - Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine p. 61-62.

That's well said. We need not only a humble orthodoxy but a humble orthopraxy. We err if we pursue one to the exclusion of the other. Moreover, to the degree that we gravitate around these distinctives and not the gospel we will be unhealthy as a church. The gravitational center of our churches must be the Gospel or we will be deformed. May God help us to hold our distinctives with humility and gravitate around the gospel. If you're interested in hearing more on this, I'd encourage you to listen to a sermon I recently preached entitled, "The Gravitational Center of Heritage Baptist Church"

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

When Hip Hop Meets Humility

I just bought Lecrae's latest album "Rehab". I'm glad I did. In fact all the guys associated with this Reach Records have been a real encouragement. For those who don't know, Reach Records is an American based Christian hip hop record label that includes: Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, DJ Official and Sho Baraka. In 2009, the rappers completed a nationwide "Don't Waste Your Life Tour" together with fellow Christian rapper Flame who's about to become a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Anyway, below is a preview from Lecrae's latest Album "Rehab". The song is "Background" by Lecrae and featuring C-Lite. Lyrics below.

I could play the background
I could play the background
'Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

Verse 1:
It's evident you run the show, so let me back down
You take the leading role, and I'll play the background
I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines
I'm sticking to your script, and I'm reading all your signs (Aye)
I don't need my name in lights, (Aye) I don't need a starring role
Why gain the whole wide world, If I'm just going lose my soul?
And my ways ain't purified, I don't live according to Your Word
I can't endure this life without Your wisdom being heard
So word to every dancer for a pop star
'Cause we all play the background, but mine's a rockstar
Yeah, so if you need me I'll be staged right
Praying the whole world would start embracing stage fright
So let me fall back, stop giving my suggestions
'Cause when I follow my obsessions, I end up confessin'
That I'm not that impressive, matter of fact
I'm who I are, a trail of stardust leading to the superstar

I could play the background
I could play the background
'Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

Verse 2:
Yo, I had a dream that I was captain of my soul
I was master of my fate, lost control, and then I sank
So I don't want to take the lead, 'cause I'm prone to make mistakes
All these folks who follow me, goin' end up in the wrong place
So just let me shadow you, just let me trace your lines
Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes
'Cause if I do this by myself, I'm scared that I'll succeed
And no longer trust in You, 'cause I only trust in me
And see, that's how you end up headed to destruction
Paving a road to nowhere, pour your life out for nothin'
You pulled my card, I'm bluffin', You know what's in my hand
Me, I just roll and trust you, You cause the dice to land
I'm in control of nothing, follow You at any cost
Some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss
And man, I'm so at ease, I'm so content
I'll play the background, like it's an instrument

I could play the background
I could play the background
'Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I know I'm safest when I'm in Your will, and trust Your Word
I know I'm dangerous when I trust myself, my vision blurred
And I ain't got no time to play life's foolish games
Got plenty aims, but do they really Glorify Your name?
And it's a shame, the way I want to do these things for You, yeah
Don't even cling to you, take time to sit and glean from You
It seems like You were patient in my ignorance
If ignorance is bliss, it's 'cause she never heard of this

I could play the background
I could play the background
'Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

I could play the background
I could play the background
'Cause I know sometimes I get in the way
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
So won't You take the lead, lead, lead?
And I could play the background, background
And you could take the lead

Monday, September 13, 2010

Parenting By The Book

Tim Hoak is teaching a new series at Heritage Baptist Church entitled, "Parenting By The Book". His parenting series has been taught at a number of venues, and is back by popular demand. Thankfully, Heritage Baptist Church is providing both the audio and video of each class online. I encourage you to download or stream the entire 16 week series. I am sure you will profit from it immensely. To introduce the class to you, I am embedding the first two lectures below. For subsequent weeks, please visit the Parenting By The Book page.

Parenting By The Book | Session 1

Parenting By The Book | Session 2

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Words From The Wise: How to Win Your Wayward Children To Christ

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the funeral of an 88 year old woman from our church. She was a godly lady who impacted hundreds and hundreds of lives. In fact, she served as a mom to many of the ladies in our church. In some senses it could be said that she was the quintessential model of Titus 2:3-5. She had three sons. One of them, Bob, spoke in honor of his mother at the service. He confessed that he was the most rebellious and troublesome son to his mother. He indicated that he had received 100's of letters from his mother. He chose to share one of them with us. As I sat and listened to the letter read, I thought to myself, "This has got to be the best example I've ever seen of how one can winsomly speak to their lost and wayward children." In honor of Dot Hoak, I want to share that letter with you now. I am sure that in reading it you will be blessed by the persistent, invincible love of a mother for her wayward son. Her labors paid off. May God help us to emulate her example. Hope in God.

Psalm 91:11 Sunday 11:00pm

Dear Bob,

Just crawled into bed. It has been a good day-but full-like most Sundays. I pray that today you gave your Lord His proper place. The pastor preached on the fact that when we are saved the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and that we need to be certain that we take Him only to places where He will not be grieved. May others see that He is your guide and companion. He is a jealous God and will not be satisfied until he has every part of your heart. Isn't it wonderful that He loves you that much. I love you too.

Hope your cold is all gone. I know how hard it is to go about your tasks when you feel punk.
Sorry about this messy writing but it is hard to write in bed. Don't forget that Dad's birthday is March 12-he will enjoy a card.

Howard Swindler (an elderly man from their church in Niles, OH) was in church today-bless his heart. He knows Jenny (his wife who had jsut passed away) is with the Lord. Hope like that is reason enough to live for the Lord.

Sorry I got carried away Dear but you are so precious to me and I only desire God's best for you. You will just have to love me as I am.

God bless you and keep you,
All my love,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Clarifying The Relationship Between Social Justice and Missions

Recently, Brett McCracken wrote an article entitled: "Have Missions Become Too 'Deeds'- Centric". I found his analysis (on the relationship between social justice and missions) extremely lucid. I asked him if I could re-post his original piece here. He kindly gave me permission to do so. Please read the following. I welcome dialogue.

I really enjoyed a column by Brad Greenberg (of The God Blog) a few weeks back in the Wall Street Journal‘s “Houses of Worship” column. The piece, entitled “How Missionaries Lost Their Chariots of Fire,” took a look at the trends in Christian missions in recent years–most notably the shift among younger evangelicals from proselytizing and preaching to doing more service and social justice oriented work as mission. A shift in focus from words to deeds.

Evangelical youth now hold the term “missionary” at arm’s length, afraid of the colonialist connotations of the word. They prefer being involved in “social justice” under the auspices of a more generalized Christian sense of charity rather than operating under anything resembling (groan) “soul winning.”

Greenberg cites such popular organizations as Invisible Children, an ostensibly Christian social justice organization whose media kit states that its founders “believe in Christ, but do NOT want to limit themselves in any way.”

Greenberg, who notes that “Christians today typically travel abroad to serve others, but not necessarily to spread the gospel,” ultimately concludes that as much as abandoning the colonialist undertones and “vacationary” short-term reputation of evangelical missions is a good thing, we have to remember that both actions AND words are necessary in missions.

He writes:

Spreading Christianity through deeds alone aligns with a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” But research suggests that non-Christians often miss the message without the words.

A 2006 study by Calvin College’s Kurt Ver Beek found “little or no difference” in the spiritual response between two groups of Hondurans—one which had its homes rebuilt by missionaries who did not proselytize and the other by local NGOs. Intuition would suggest as much. Unless foreigners explain that they are motivated to help by their religious beliefs, locals may be grateful for the new home but they should not be expected to connect dots that they may not even know exist.

The reality is the Church should be doing both: serving the needy and spreading the gospel. This is what makes the humanitarian work of Christians different than that of the American Red Cross. Both are motivated by the desire to help others, but Christians are spurred by that Jesus thing.

Props to Greenberg for highlighting this important point–that in our desire to move away from the ills of “old school” missions thinking we don’t throw the baby (preaching the gospel) out with the bathwater (colonialism, etc). Sadly, we pendulum-prone evangelicals have a hard time with these both/and scenarios–always inclined to correct the ills of one thing by a wholesale replacement of it with something equally full of its own ills.

I’m all for social justice. I’m passionate about it. Christians have to be serving people and loving them not just in word but in deed. But man, if I hear another well-fed, Toms-wearing evangelical kid quote St. Francis (“preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words”) one more time as a justification for their unwillingness to utter a word to anyone about Christ as the one true hope, I don’t know what I’ll do.

It’s an ongoing debate in missiology: Should missionaries in foreign countries prioritize meeting physical needs (food, water, social justice, development) before they preach the gospel, or should evangelism always be given primacy?

To me, the debate is silly. Can’t we do both simultaneously? Can’t we serve others and meet their circumstantial needs while at the same time telling them about Jesus? Yes, we should be in Africa building water wells, or in Haiti building schools, but what’s the harm in mentioning along the way that we are Christians acting as the church, loving the world because God loved it?

I’m not sure missions could ever be too focused on deeds–unless it is at the expense of the equally important words of truth that people need to hear. I hope my generation figures out a way to emphasize both.

Brett McCracken is the author of the new book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. This post was originally published on his blog, The Search, and is used with permission.