I just wanted to take a moment and post some thoughts regarding our upcoming studies at FBC this summer. New studies mean new opportunities to get involved in some of the good Bible teaching happening at our church. Here are the studies that will be taking place:
Baptist History & Distinctives–this study begins in our Adult Bible Fellowship on June 2 at 9:45am. Do you know what it means to be Baptist? Why is it important to understand what Baptists have historically believed? Why is our church a Baptist church? These and several other questions are what we will seek to answer as we study this important subject.
The Epistle of I John–this study begins on June 2 during our morning worship service at 10:45am. Have you ever wondered about how salvation and good works are related? Can a person claim to be saved but never show any fruit? How do we have confidence and assurance of salvation in our lives? Again, these and many other questions like it will be answered as we delve into this power packed epistle.
The Gospel of John–will be our study during our afternoon services at 2pm. Up until recently, this has been our morning study. We are moving it to the afternoon beginning June 2 and it will continue to be a study in the life and ministry of our Lord.
Wednesday Prayer & Visitation–We are excited about some new things happening with our mid-week service. Beginning Wednesday June 5, we will begin a rotation of having a prayer meeting and having a time of visitation. Our prayer meetings will focus on praying and learning about prayer as we study some of the great prayer passages in Scripture. Our visitation times will be an opportunity to visit some of our shut-in members as well as folks that have visited our church. Dates for each of these will be announced in advance so that you can plan accordingly.
I hope that you will take advantage of being a part of these and many other events taking place this summer at our church. The opportunities for spiritual growth are here. My prayer as your pastor for you is the challenge and command given under inspiration by Peter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” (2 Peter 3:18, ESV)
The longer I am in and around the ministry, the more often I hear about fellow pastors, church leaders, and believers that fall from grace. They have been involved in deep sin for some time, and all of a sudden it comes out, usually in stunning fashion. While I hear about these situations more that I would like to, I never get used to it and the stories never cease to make me sick to my stomach. I recently sat down and thought through some of the things that the Lord always brings to mind in light of these sorts of situations. There are absolute truths that we can learn from these very tough situations.
First, spiritual leaders are human. Paul wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” (Rom 7:18) This is why our faith is in God not in the leaders of our churches. No one should ever be afraid of trusting their church leadership. God has placed them there for your good and His glory. While the bad always makes the news and puts a bad light on churches, there is so much good going on which is never reported. Church members must remember that their leaders are under attack and Satan will expose and use any weakness that is in a life. Every believer, but especially church leaders, has to remember that the flesh is dangerous and prayer for protection of yourself and of your church leaders is absolutely crucial. This is not an excuse. If spiritual leaders would understand and remember this fact regularly, they would not have to use this to defend themselves after they commit some gross sin!
Second, leaders need to consider themselves. One of the jobs and responsibility of church leaders is to seek repentance on the part of individuals and to see them restored. The apostle Paul again writes, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal 6:1). Any time a leader falls or a believer falls, it is always a reminder to search our own hearts understanding that we are capable to doing the very same thing and that it is by the grace of God that we are not involved in the very same thing. In all reality, it needs to scare every believer straight!
Third, all sin will be revealed. Paul writes, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5) Clearly, God will bring everything to light at the judgment seat and every believer will be known for what they truly are. BUT, God also has a way of revealing who and what people are right now. He will not allow sin to go covered or for His name to be constantly blasphemed. He will reveal and judge sin. I can tell you as a pastor that I never go out and try to catch people doing wrong things. The Lord has a way of making sure that it is revealed.
Fourth, church discipline needs to be practiced. When a church leader or a member of a church falls into sin and that sin is revealed, church discipline MUST be practiced. The level of that discipline depends on the level and publicity of the sin. It isn’t enough to just fire the church leader and move on. Some argue that church discipline re-opens wounds and is not profitable. So, we must ask the question, why church discipline? Church discipline could be something as small as a private confrontation of sin by the pastor and deacons to a public confession and apology to the church. Again, it all depends on the situation at hand. Passages such as Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5 must be followed. The end result is to encourage righteous living on the part of the believers that see and experience the discipline, repentance on the part of the one being disciplined, and eventual restoration of the individual being disciplined. This is not a shunning. The only time someone is put out of the congregation is with a refusal to repent of their sin. Even still, the goal is always restoration!
Finally, consequences always remain. David committed gross sin and God brought it to light. He had committed adultery and murder, both horrible sins. When it was revealed, David confessed and forsook his sin and God forgave him. David was still called a man after God’s own heart. He still wrote the majority of the Psalms and God still allowed the Messiah to come from his line. But, grave consequences still came to David and his house. His child died. The sword and rebellion never left his house. David’s own son tried to over-throw him and was killed. Things were never the same for David after he committed this sin. God’s grace and restoration was absolutely there for David, but it was no without consequence. Sin always robs a man of what could have been.
May God help every believer and every church leader to remain faithful to Him and to never take sin lightly.
I have never been a fan of the phrase and question, “I have good news and bad news…which would you like to hear first?” Depending on the context in which that question is asked, the answer may or may not be what you want to hear regardless of which one you want to hear first. At the same time, if I am ever faced with that dilemma, I tend to always choose the bad news first only because the good news can many times help to ease the bad news and encourage you rather than vise versa and having the bad news discourage you.
Psalm 8 has some of these same elements in it. There is the good news and the bad news. I think that understanding both of these aspects will greatly help a person struggling with inferiority issues. When a person constantly believes that they don’t match up to other people or tend to shrink in the face of obstacles because they lack confidence. These are inferiority issues. These issues can also be revealed when a person has to act overly aggressive in order to try and prove something to those around them because of insecurity and wrong feelings. I believe that Psalm 8 can help to encourage those that struggle in this way.
The first way it helps with inferiority is that it reveals praise to God for His Superiority (vv. 1-2; 9) The reality of this passage is that the glory that God gives to mankind results in glory being given back to God in the form of praise. He is the one that is totally superior to all of the creation that He has made. Romans 1:20 clearly states that all of creation cries out as a witness not only to His existence but also to His very character. God is superior because He is the creator of everything that moves and breathes. The sooner that every man understands this truth, the quicker they will be to bow to Him and worship at His feet. Man will quickly understand that he is nothing. Feeling inferior is the result of one thinking that they don’t match up or that they have to try harder and be more aggressive in order to match up. The reality is that no one can match up to God. He is far superior than any man and because of that all men fall short and are completely inferior.
The second way it helps with inferiority is that it reveals the inferior position of all men. (vv. 3-4) As has been mentioned already, in considering God and all of His creation, one quickly realizes that man is not God and that he is nothing compared to God. Hence the question by the psalmist, “What is man that you are mindful of him? Perhaps it could be put a bit more simply by saying that because man is nothing, man should never be our standard. It is not an issue that some men make it and some don’t or that the ones that do not make it have to work that much harder to be accepted. The issue is that no man makes it when it comes to matching with God. This realization makes the playing field even for everyone. No matter how good, how talented, how rich, how poor…every man misses the standard. This is why Paul writes that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). A person will stop feeling inferior the moment they recognize this fact…God is the only one about whom they need to be concerned.
The final way this Psalm helps with inferiority is that it reveals the privilege of all men. (vv. 5-8) Even though man is inferior and God is superior, there is the good news that every man has been given the privilege of being in the image of God as Genesis 1:26-27. This is referred to as man being made “imago Dei” or in the image of God. Being made in the image of God means that every man has inherent worth in God’s eyes and that God made every person the exact way in which they were to be made according to His perfect will. Furthermore, man has the ability to be God’s representatives here on this earth by having dominion over the earth.
In conclusion, inferiority problems are really a struggle with selfishness, pride, and even guilt. If we will but humble ourselves and start by understanding that we are nothing compared to God and then further understand the worth that every man has by being a creation of God, those inferior thoughts will leave very quickly. God has given every man the privilege of reflecting Him, therefore, each of us must shine as only we can shine!
We are very excited to announce an online Bible study group that will be lead by Pastor Ben and will be totally online. This will enable all of you who follow our page to be a part of it. These will be topical studies, with set readings each day. You can post your thoughts directly on the group page which will encourage discussion about the passage. If you would like to join, click on this link. We will start the first study a week from today.
In the beginning of Daniel 9, Daniel is reading the book of Jeremiah regarding the captivity. Jeremiah’s prophecy speaks about the exile of Israel in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and also in 29:10. Daniel studied and understood these prophecies very well. He knew that there was a set time for the captivity of Israel and that time was quickly coming to and end.
This prophecy motivated Daniel to prayer because he understood that the time for the end of the captivity was very near and he prayed to the Lord in order to know God’s plan for Israel once the captivity was over. But even more than this, Daniel understood that the real reason for the captivity of Israel was that they might once again turn back to God and restore the sacred relationship and rituals that God had asked them to put and keep in place as far back as the time of Moses. They had forsaken those things and the captivity was meant as a reminder to Israel to put them back in place. The prayer that Daniel prays is quite the example to us, and next to the Lord’s prayer, there is no better example for us as to how to pray and to seek the face of the Lord when we are burdened.
It is interesting to note that the prophecy did more than just motivate Daniel to pray, however. It also motivated him to act and speak to Cyrus about allowing the people to return to the land from exile. Daniel’s understanding of the OT Scriptures compelled him not only to pray but to act. He went to Cyrus (whom God refers to as His anointed in Isaiah 44) and influenced the decree to allow Israel to return to the land. I believe that Cyrus’ permission was given for two reasons. First, because of their ability to empathize with Israel as captives and second, because God had sovereignly put Cyrus on the throne as His choice servant to make the decision to let Israel return.
I can’t help but draw out some applications to our lives as believers. First, God is always in control and is sovereignly working behind the scenes to accomplish His perfect plan for our lives. What a privilege to trust Him to accomplish His plan. Second, we have promises from God in His Word still today. These promises must motivate us to pray but also to act because right action reveals strong faith.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. (Daniel 1:8)
The final resolution that I want to mention and examine comes from the life of Daniel and it focuses on his resolution to live a clean life. That resolution is found in Daniel 1:8.
This resolution is really the testimony of a teenager (15 years old) who was faced with some very difficult circumstances. His country had been taken over by a foreign power (Babylon) as judgment from God came upon them. Prophets had been warning for some time that judgment like this would come on Judah if they continued in sin against God and did not come to the place where national repentance happened. Though all of this, God had a plan for Daniel and three of his friends. For instance, Daniel had been chosen to study at the palace putting him in direct communication with the king and giving him the chance to earn his favor. The reality is that living in the palace and being close to royalty brought with it great temptation and opportunity to deny Jehovah. Daniel didn’t do this. Instead, he decided in his heart to be different. The reality is that it would have been so easy to just go along with the crowd and to do all of the things that they were doing. He would have easily been accepted and probably could have moved up the ranks much faster.
It is important to understand that the word “defile” here in Daniel 1:8 means to soil or pollute oneself. David’s resolution centered around making sure that he wasn’t going to do anything that would result in his polluting himself or even soiling himself with the sins that surrounded him on an almost daily basis.
What can we learn from Daniel’s resolution? I think we need to understand that there is plenty of pollution around in our world today. There is reading material that defiles, viewing materials that defile, music that defiles, and there are influences that can defile and cause us to go in wrong directions. Every believer must be like Daniel and come to the place where they make a decision to live a holy life before the Lord. The Puritans used to refer to the matter of piety. It meant living your life with a priority on the applications of God’s Word to your life. In many ways, we have failed in the church to allow those kinds of applications to carry weight in our lives and we need to get back to allowing them to impact us. Not in the legalistic way of proving yourself spiritual by keeping more and more commands or having great standards. I mean not being afraid to let God’s Word change your thinking or actions in a certain area out of love for Christ and out of a desire to glorify, please, and honor Him. Remember, a decision for holiness of life will go against the flesh, but it will always pay dividends!
May Daniel’s resolution be of great challenge to us as we enter into this new year!
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.(Psalm 119:15-16)
I recently started a brief but important series dealing with resolutions. This is in light of the new year that has recently come upon us and it is meant to encourage all of us on the matter of making spiritual resolutions in order to see and growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Last week, we focused on some resolutions that Jacob made specifically dealing with the matter of giving back to the Lord. This week, I would like for us to focus on the resolutions made by King David. His resolutions centered on God’s Word and the verses quoted above are just one of several resolutions that you can find on the part of David concerning the Word of God.
Notice some important resolutions David makes in these two very short but powerful verses:
First, David writes, “I will meditate on your precepts…” This promise shows that David understood the importance of meditating on God’s Word. His son Solomon followed up on that same thought when he wrote that as a man thinks in his heart so is he (Prov. 23:7). Putting God’s Word into our minds and hearts on a regular basis is absolutely crucial. The only way that we can walk carefully in this world, defeat temptations, refuse sin, and defy the devil is to hide God’s Word in our hearts and then to heed it on a regular basis.
Second, David says, “I will fix my eyes on your ways….” In order for this to happen, reading God’s Word cannot to be drudgery. It must instead be your daily delight. I heard an old preacher say one time in my Bible College chapel that he would live his life with the motto, “No Bible, No Breakfast!” His point was that he felt it was much more important to feed his soul the very first part of the morning rather than feeding his body. I am not saying that every Christian needs to be that strict but I am saying that this is the desire that each of us needs to have for God’s Word. Fix your eyes on learning and following God’s ways and God’s plan for your life. The more you know about Scripture and the more knowledge you gain about God from the it will create greater growth in your life.
Third, David states, “I will not forget thy word…” This is an encouragement for the memorization of Scripture. Memorization of the Bible is not just for children, it is for every Christian regardless of age. It is very important to read through the Bible each year and perhaps that is something you have been doing for years. Why not begin to memorize verses each week this year? Why not stretch yourself and begin to hide God’s Word in your heart so that you won’t ever forget His Word? This time of the year is the perfect time to get yourself on a Scripture memorization program!
What is it that we can conclude from David’s resolutions here in Psalm 119? Ultimately, it is the value of a resolve to read the Bible through this year and to remain in God’s Word on a regular basis. Read to understand it. Study to apply it. Seek for Biblical change in your life and ask the Holy Spirit to mold you through the living and perfect Word of God. This is the most important resolution that you could ever make in your life and I hope that you will do it. The New Year is still new and you still have time. Bible reading plans are available all over. Find one that works for you and determine to immerse yourself in God’s Word in 2013!
Next week we will conclude this series by looking at the resolutions that Daniel made as a young man in a foreign land.
When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. (Ecclesiastes 5:4)
These are strong words from Solomon regarding vows and promises and they are good words to think about as we embark on a new year. It is that time again where all of us make new promises and vows about what we are going to do and accomplish in the New Year and I think it is a good thing to do. The problem is keeping those resolutions and promises, right??
I wanted to carry over the theme of New Year’s resolutions to this post today, seeing as so many of us are making them as we enter 2013. The reality is that there is value making resolutions. It is always good to set goals for ourselves and we see in Scripture that certain Bible characters made resolutions. I would like to examine a few of them in light of New Year’s Day. I would like to look at the resolutions made by Jacob, David, and Daniel. We will look at Jacob today and then David and Daniel later this week.
Jacob made a resolution to give a tithe to the Lord (Gen. 28:22). Jacob made this resolution when he was fleeing from Esau because he had defrauded him. Jacob made this resolution when he had very little to give to the Lord, but he still made the promise. I understand that there is a lot of controversy about tithing and whether or not a New Testament believer should give a “tithe” or a tenth of his income back to the Lord. This is not something that is new within the pages of Scripture. Abraham began the practice (Gen. 14:20) and Jacob merely continued it here. Later we see Malachi commanding it (Mal. 3:10) and the Lord Jesus praised its practice. (Matt. 23:23) Does tithing apply to Christians? Regardless of how one might answer that question, there are some things that are clear in Scripture. It is clear we are to give a portion of our income. (1 Cor. 16:2) A decision to give the Lord a tenth of what you earn may be a great place to start and might be the perfect resolution to make at the beginning of this year.
Giving to the Lord is one of the easiest places to let down and fail in our Christian walks. At the same time, it is also one of the most practical areas to prove and show our faith in the Lord to continually provide for our needs. The challenge from God through Malachi was for the people to prove the Lord to see if he would not provide for them (Malachi 3:10). In Jacob’s case, the Lord rewarded Jacob for this decision (Gen. 32:10).
As you think about resolutions for this New Year consider your giving. Are you tithing a portion of your income to the Lord? Perhaps the Lord would have you give more than just a tenth of your income. Perhaps it is twelve or fifteen percent of your income that the Lord has laid on your heart. Maybe you need to give the Lord more of your time or use your talents and abilities for His service this year. These things are just as much a part of faithful stewardship as giving of your income to the Lord. The Lord will bless those who put Him first and I hope that the Lord and His service is at the top of your priority list when it comes to resolutions in 2013.
Tomorrow we will look at David’s resolution about God’s Word.
Like so many of you, my heart has been breaking as I have sat in my study and listened to the news come in about the shooting of teachers and children in Connecticut this morning. No words can express the difficulty of this situation and no one can really understand what those parents who lost their children and loved ones are really going through unless they themselves have been there. Even in that case, words just don’t seem to help.
An event like this taking place just a week or so before Christmas is so hard. This past week has been filled with mass gun violence on separate ends of our country. Earlier this week, a twenty-four year old man walked into a packed shopping mall in Oregon and killed two people and critically wounded a teenage girl. And now this event happens in Connecticut and the media and our country asks why? These two events don’t even take into account all of the other ones that have happened this year and most recently with an NFL player in Kansas City two weeks ago.
I happened to catch interviews on some of the cable news networks where the anchors were asking professionals this exact question…”Why did this happen?” The answers they had to offer were two fold. First, there was an obvious psychological or mental disorder on the part of those that do things like this. Second, we have too many guns on the street and guns are the reason why things like this happen. These were some of the most recent “answers” to be mentioned. As a pastor, I would like to offer another reason that the majority of the media seem to be missing, and in all reality, may not care to really take into account.
When these sorts of tragedies happen, it is much easier to blame guns or to excuse the person who does these things based on mental illness. It helps us to have some sort of vague reason behind why a person would do such a thing or in the case of guns, remove the guilt of the person all together by blaming guns. I think there are several factors that MUST be remembered and considered when things like this happen.
First, God is still in control. Nothing happens as a surprise to God. He knew this would happen and He is the one who will give grace and help to all those involved. Some will ask why would a loving God allow things like this to happen? In reality, God doesn’t promise to answer all of the “why” questions. He does promise see His children through circumstances like this.
Second, these sorts of events are ultimately the result of sin. Guns are not the issue and mental illness, though a real and significant problem, is not the root cause in making someone do such horrific things. I believe that the root cause is sin and even Satan. The further our society goes in removing God and the Bible from our schools and from our society in general, the worse things will continue to become. When there is no understanding of God, no focus on His moral principles, and no reality of judgment for sin, events like this will continue to happen. A mind void of God is a playground for the Devil! It is time for the United States and the World at large to understand this and return again to the Biblical and moral principles that were once the normal way of life.
Finally, man is mortal and death is a reality. Times like these serve as a reminder to all of us that no one lives forever. There are two responses that we should have. We need to hug our children and remind them just how much we love them. There are parents waking this morning who no longer have that luxury. We take life for granted and we all think life will just go on. No one ever expects a tragedy, whether an accident, a sudden death, or an event like what took place in Connecticut. In a strange way, living life within the shadow of death makes us appreciate the things God has given us even more. The other response we should have to death is to make sure that we are ready for it. No one knows when or how they will die, but the Bible tells us that we can be prepared for it and know where we will spend eternity once we die. The question is, are you ready and are you prepared?
Our prayers are with the family of all those involved in this terrible tragedy. May the grace of our loving God be evident in their lives both now and in the weeks ahead.
Last week after our Sunday afternoon service at church, I had one of our church members ask me a question as a follow-up to what I had preached that afternoon. It is our custom to observe the Lord’s Table on the first Lord’s Day of the month and over the course of the past several months, I have been going through the theological and Scriptural terms that surround our great salvation. These would be words and concepts such as redemption, propitiation, justification, election, and adoption. There are many others that we will be continuing to look at over the course of the next several months. It so happened that this past Lord’s Day, we focused on the Scriptural teaching of adoption and what that means for the believer in Christ.
Paul wrote, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV). During the message, I focused on what it means to be adopted into the family of God and the blessings that come as a result. This church member, who was thinking through and absorbing all that I was teaching, asked the following question, “Since we are made “sons” of God, does that make us equals with Christ?” His reason for asking was because I had alluded to the fact that while we were made SONS of God, we will never be on the same level with the SON, Jesus Christ. This created some concern on his part because he had always thought just the opposite. This set the stage for a chance to share my answer with him here on my blog. It was a reminder to me of the need for the pastor to also be a theologian. If the pastor isn’t, how is that he can rightly answer theological questions such as this one.
The Biblical teaching of adoption is that all those that are justified are taken in and added to the family of God according to His mercy, grace, and all based upon the sacrifice and redemption of God’s elect by Christ. As members of God’s family, they enjoy all of the privileges that come along with being a member of God’s family:
- They have His name put upon them (Rev. 3:12)
- They receive the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15)
- They have access to the throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16)
- They are enabled to cry Abba, Father (Romans 8:15; Gal. 4:5-6)
- They are pitied (Ps. 103:13)
- They are protected (Prov. 14:26)
- They are provided for (I Peter 5:7)
- They are chastened by him as by a Father (Hebrews 12:6)
- They are never cast off (Is. 54:8-9; Lam. 3:31)
- They are sealed to the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30)
- They inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation (Hebrews 1:14)
Based upon this outstanding list of blessings that come to every child of God, we clearly see that our adoption into the family of God is relational. In other words, through our adoption, we are provided the privilege of a relationship with God as our Heavenly Father and it is based solely on the merits of Christ. In no way are we equals with Christ for we will never be deity and Christ will always remain LORD. Any inclination by Scripture that believers will one day rule and reign with Christ also indicate that believers will be reigning as servants of Christ, still in subjection to Him.
This is a vital focus that must remain in our lives as believers. Terrible heresy can arise with any thinking that veers away from what Scripture teaches in this area. For instance, there are religions that teach that the ultimate destiny of believers is to one day become deity themselves. This is NOT our end result as believers in Christ and ultimately as children of God. It is my hope that this will help to answer questions that others have perhaps had along this same line.