Monday, January 28, 2008

What's The Driving Force?

These thoughts that I am about to share are very near and dear to my heart. All that I feel and would like to say cannot ever be fully conveyed in a simple, single blog post. With that said . . .

My brother and fellow pastor, Tim Rogers, has over at his site Southern Baptist in NC a long and thorough post about LifeWay Research and the use of words and what unchurched Harry and Mary say about what constitutes a Christian. Along with this I picked up a book at my local library entitled unChristian, the title certainly caught my eye, I picked up and read that it was written and based on a ton of research (there's that word again) done by the Barna Group.

My concern as I read these words about research and what non-Christians think, I am driven to think "so what?"

We read about all of this surveying that church planters must do and study as they begin their work of planting congregations.

My response to this, and I confess I may be labeled unenlightened to many "missiologists" and pastors alike, is if this is so vitally important, then why don't we ever see the Apostle Paul doing surveys and market studies before he goes into a city to plant a church? The first century believers who were accused of "turning the world upside down" I don't ever read of them doing research before they preached the Gospel.

Have you heard anyone recently sayingof the US church that "they are turning the world upside down" for Jesus?

With all of our "gnosis", have we left out the "logos"? Where are the Spirit-filled preachers and missionaries who pray for boldness to preach Christ? Have we gotten so man-centered, so seeker-sensitive that we have left God out of the equation? Oh we would never say that, but gauge: are we walking by faith or by sight?
I submit that the church of Jesus Christ does not need more research, but more men and women wholly surrendered to Jesus Christ, filled with the Spirit of God, who pray without ceasing and are unashamed workman rightly dividing the Word of truth.

The Apostle Paul went to the ancient city of Corinth -- a rotten, vile, filthy city, soaked and saturated in sin, in the grip of Satan -- and read what he unashamedly tells them in his first letter:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Do I really need to know what unchurched Harry & Mary think of me as a Christian? Not really. They don't need me anyway, they need Jesus Christ.
I don't really need to see research and do surveys, Jesus has already told the church what we are to be doing -- "Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

L Russ Bush

I learned this morning that one of the most gentle men and fierce defenders of the faith once delivered to the saints, Dr. L. Russ Bush, went home to heaven. See

I remember my first class with Dr. Bush at SEBTS. Before the class began I did a little research on the man, to prepare myself. I found out that he had come to SEBTS at a very, very hard time. The SBC was changing -- hard and fast. Dr Bush was then a professor of philosophy at Southwestern, writing scholarly about inerrency of Scripture and Baptists and the Bible. He knew where he stood, and so did everyone else. While Patterson and Pressler, et. al, were taking the headlines and many of the pot-shots, Bush and Nettles and others were winning the minds.

The much-loved, and very liberal President of SEBTS, Randall Lolley, was gone. The new president, Lewis Drummond, came along and then had the gall to ask Dr Russ Bush to come east and be a professor and dean of faculty at SEBTS. Who in their right mind would take this assignment? A faculty on fire, the future uncertain.

Only a man gifted and called clearly of God -- Russ Bush. He came to SEBTS, and that has made all the difference.

Dr Bush was the author of two books that have meant a lot to me personally, Baptists and the Bible and The Case for Inerrency. Like their author, the books are clear and straightforward.

When I walked into that first class with Dr. Bush, I learned real quick that here was a man who took things seriously. His faith and his position as a professor, who was paid by the members of Southern Baptist Churches, were of utmost importance. I remember his going over the syllabus -- no tape recordings of any kind, no laptops, the paper you used to turn in papers were to be of a specific weight, the staple was to be angled just so, and when we did class work to be turned in, only black or blue (preferably black) ink was to be used. Dr Bush was old-school. Coat and tie everyday, coat buttoned. He lectured from his prepared notes. He did not seek feedback from students, and grew flustered if someone asked him more than once to repeat something so they could write it all down. He never, however, lost composure or his dignity. I remember him bringing his Bible to class, an NIV Study Bible, everyday -- still in the box it came in to protect it -- I guess.
I had to go to his office a time or two, and both times I approached with great trepidation. Knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this man could chew me up and spit me out intellectually. He, I am sure, forgot more than I will never know. However, when I visited him in his office he was extremely gracious and accommodating. He listened closely to what I had to say, and answered me with sincerity.
I remember thinking when it came time for tests in his class -- they were open book. "Piece of cake" I thought. WRONG. He would take a sentence from a book, change one word, and ask a True or False question. I found that I studied more for his open book exams than I studied for other closed-book exams. Also, you used up ALL the time for one of his exams, and left the room exhausted. This man took loving the Lord with all of your mind seriously, and he wanted to pass that along to his students. He did. I remember walking in one day and the teacher who had been in the room before him had drawn a curve on the board -- a grading curve. As Dr Bush erased it, I heard him say -- "I don't use these -- you get what you get." Clear & straightforward, honest.
One other thing that he passed along to us that I will never ever forget -- and wished more people would get -- he said, "If a person believes that Jesus Christ is the one Savior for mankind, that He died and rose again the third day, then I can go a long ways with that person." A long ways in walking side-by-side in Kingdom work. This I have never forgotten, as some of my dearest friends and I do not see eye-to-eye on every jot and tittle of theology.
Dr Bush made an impact on this young, naive seminary student. I appreciate him and am sorry that more young, naive students will miss all that he taught.
I rejoice that his faith has now ended in sight.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Let It Snow!

Finally . . . the snow has arrived.

The forecasters have been calling for it . . . but then all kinds of variables had to be in place before we would see it. Now it is coming down pretty good, but none is sticking to anything. I personally feel that it is still too warm. However, "they" say that cold Arctic air is coming down to meet the moisture -- but still not too arctic outside now.

Sticking or not, it is certainly pretty to see falling. Much prettier than freezing rain or sleet.

I would love for it to snow really good, at least 12 inches, someday. The last time we really had that kind of snow we lived in Woodland and JPL was just a baby. He and ZDL have never really had the wonderful opportunities to ride a sled, have a snowball fight or build a cool snowman.

Snow is pretty right after it starts to really bury everything in white. Like my dog's nasty pen, the muddy yard and gray, barren trees. To look out and see all white . . . gorgeous and magical and still. It does something to the soul.

I am reminded of a verse from Scripture, Psalm 51:7:
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

Oh the love that our God has lavished upon us -- poor, foul, dirty, wretched sinners. That He would wash us, cleanse us from all our unrighteousness, and make us fit for His glorious presence. Of course, as David says here -- He has to do it. God has to cleanse and wash and make clean, we cannot do it ourselves. Salvation is a gift to be received, not a pass to heaven that we earn, merit or buy.
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Loathing Sin

One of the things that fascinates me and infuriates me is how in modern day evangelicalism we have really toned down or in some cases completely left out the concept of sin and our need to be saved from it.
I guess it is not seeker-friendly to preach about sin, and the fact that we are sinners -- foul, wretched, poor, blind sinners in the hand of an angry God.
I do not make a habit of watching many TV preachers -- I do like to watch some (Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, John MacArthur, David Jeremiah, and I receive a blessing from the now deceased Bishop G E Patterson out of Memphis) but I have stopped by to watch Joel, Joyce, and some of the rest. And what I don't hear is talk of the blood, and why Jesus Christ came and died. Where is the Gospel?
If it is like this on what we see on TV, one can fearfully imagine what are the sheep (goats) hearing at churches all across this land? Is the Gospel being proclaimed? What about sin and the need for a Savior from sin and the punishment that sin brings?
Yesterday I read on a website that I love, Grace Gems, these words from the Puritan Thomas Watson -- I doubt you'd hear them (sadly) in many 21st Century pulpits:

"Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices!" -- Ezekiel 36:31

A true penitent is a sin-loather. If a man loathes that which makes his stomach sick, much more will he loathe that which males his soul sick! It is greater to loathe sin -- than to leave it. The nauseating and loathing of sin, argues a detestation of it.
Christ is never loved --- until sin is loathed.

Heaven is never longed for --- until sin is loathed.

When the soul sees its filthiness, he cries out, "Lord, when shall I be freed from this body of death! When shall I put off these filthy garments of sin -- and be arrayed in the robe of Your perfect righteousness! Let all my self-love be turned into self-loathing!"

We are never more precious in God's eyes -- than when we are lepers in our own eyes!

The more bitterness we taste in sin -- the more sweetness we shall taste in Christ!

Thank you Brother Watson for these words. Now, may Jesus be sweet and sin be loathed. And the Gospel of Jesus Christ be proclaimed in all the earth!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Renovation In Progress

Our sanctuary is undergoing an entire renovation. It had not been touched since the early '80s, I understand, and there is lots to do.
This morning a huge dumpster was placed at the front of the church.

I cannot help but draw spiritual inferences.

First to my own life -- I need to throw out some old stuff. I still battle this old man and his fleshly ways.

There are more than likely some old things that need to be thrown out of the church -- bad attitudes, discord, backbiting and such.

I am praying for renewal and renovation to take place in several ways; first of all in my own heart and life. And also in the heart and life of our congregation.
I am praying that I and we will delight in our Savior and Lord, Jesus, more than anything else. May we return to our first Love. May I and we have a hunger and thirst for God and His glory like nothing else. May we desire to see Him save people and thus worshipped and praised and served. May Jesus be our treasure above all else.

O dear Jesus, renovate your people.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Al Mohler

Yesterday morning I posted here that Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY would be the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I just read an article (4:30 PM, Wednesday, Jan. 2) at that he will indeed be nominated for said office.

Dr Mohler is an articulate spokesman for conservative Christian values. He is a man who is definitely NOT ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is obviously gifted, intellectually and otherwise. Southern Seminary has grown tremendously under his leadership, and continues to draw students and turn out graduates who are committed to Scripture and discipleship -- a full orbed discipleship.
Dr Mohler speaks with clarity on thorny issues. He is a Christian thinker, in the vein of Francis Schaffer. He can speak, knowledgeably on bio-ethics as well as the latest film or book coming at society, and its impact on believers. Whenever I see him on Larry King (or whatever) I am never sorry to see his name and my denomination linked together.
Dr Mohler is a fine preacher, an expositor, and Spirit-filled proclaimer of the truth. We, as Southern Baptists, should all be proud of such leaders and thank God for them. May the Lord be gracious to us and increase the tribe of Al Mohler.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Some Predictions for 2008

Republican Presidential Ticket: Rudy & Fred
Democratic Presidential Ticket: Obama & Gov. Bill Richardson
Winner . . . Rudy & Fred

U S Senator from NC: Dole vs. Hagen
Winner: Dole

Superbowl: Dallas vs. New England
Winner: Patriots

Next SBC President: Al Mohler

2008 World Series: NY Yankees vs Chicago Cubs
Winner: Yankees

2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions: (and oh how I HATE this!) UNC

The Top NCAA Football Team in 2008, crowned National Champs in Feb. '09: Florida

2008 Heisman Trophy: Percy Harvin

2008 NBA Champs: Boston Celtics

2008 NASCAR Champion: Dale Jr.