Thursday, February 26, 2009

Moderate Baptists and Ash Wednesday

Associated Baptist Press has an interesting story today about the phenomena of moderate/liberal Baptist churches trending toward the observation of Lent (the 40 day period excluding Sundays before Easter). In the liturgical calendar, yesterday was "Ash Wednesday" and some moderate Baptist churches have even offered "the imposition of ashes." The above article notes that Baptist related Belmont University even had a Catholic Bishop co-preside in their chapel service!

What do we make of this? Many moderate Baptist churches are enamored with "high church" liturgical worship with smells, bells, candles, robes, and holy days. I think many are more than a little embarrassed by their blue collar, "low church" Baptist roots. So, they borrow the traditions of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Likewise, when I went to a moderate Baptist seminary, reading Catholics like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton was all the rage. When doctrine does not matter anymore, the line is blurred between Baptists and Catholics.

My guess is that some moderates like the mystical, visual, experiential, and tangible elements of such "high church." The irony is that they seek to borrow what they perceive to be "traditional" outward elements of worship style, while jettisonning traditional Biblical theology, roles of men and women, views of Scripture, etc. Another irony is that they don't realize that these expressions of "traditional" Christianity are more recent inventions in church history.

Sadly, they miss out on returning to their Reformation roots, and then to apostolic Christianity, to the simplicity and beauty of worship regulated by Scripture. We don't need ashes smeared on our heads to express repentance. We only need to read the Scriptures, to listen to the preaching of the gospel, to sing praises, to pray, to observance the ordinances, and to worship on the Lord's Day.


Shack Review

JPBC Pastoral Assistant Marcus Deel gave an insightful review and warning about the dangers of "The Shack" at our midweek meeting last night. You can listen to his review here.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Efforts At Limiting Family Size Not Just Fiction

A few weeks ago I gave a recommendation of Margaret Peterson Haddix's juvenile fiction book Among the Hidden, which has a story line set in a future totalitarian state where, for environmental reasons, the government limits families to a maximum of two children.
Of course, the story line is not that far fetched but a reality with the one-child policy in China. Then last week, I ran across this article reporting on a British government official (a "green" adviser) with an eerily similar idea:
WASHINGTON (BP)--Families should be restricted to two children, with abortion part of the population control effort to protect the environment, Britain's "green" adviser says."I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible," said Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the English government's Sustainable Development Commission, The Times of London reported Feb. 1."I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate," Porritt said.

Twelve year old speaks up for life

I saw this story at sermon audio last week. Listen to this articulate twelve year old Canadian girl put forth the convincing case for life.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

NPR on Christian Filmmaking

NPR had a surprisingly positive story (listen and read here) on this morning's "Weekend Edition" on Christian filmmaking. It included a discussion of the success of the movie Fireproof which has already made over $33 million dollars and cost only c. $500,000 to make. Charlottesville's own Steve Morales is also interviewed in the story in his role as a Producer for Franklin Media.


Friday, February 20, 2009

More "60 Seconds in the Word'

We are going to begin broadcasting more episodes of our one minute devotional "60 Seconds in the Word" on local radio (AM 1260) starting the first week in March.
Here are some of the new spots (recorded last year):
You can listen to all past "60 Seconds in the Word" spots here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Washington DC Trip

Our family took a day trip to DC on Monday (Presidents' Day). Traffic was very light going into the city, and I got the best parking lot I've ever had near the Mall, just across the water from the Jefferson Memorial and about a block walk to the US Holocaust Museum. Off peak season and on a holiday is definitely a good time to visit Washington. We all went to the sobering children's exhibition "Daniel's Story" then Llew took the older children to the primary exhibition while I played with the younger children downstairs.
Here's the inside of the Museum. After this visit we caught the subway at the Smithsonian stop and went to the Gallieria/Chinatown stop to visit the International Spy Museum. We had heard some recommendations that this was a good place to visit. It was OK. Sort of a "Ripley's Believe it or Not" take on international history and espionage, but there were lots of interactive things for the kids to enjoy.

Two musems in one day was about all we could handle. After supper, we took another walk on the Mall past the Washington Memorial and on to the World War II Memorial. The latter is very impressive and a great follow-up to our visit to the Holocaust Museum earlier in the day. The children all agreed that none of them would ever want to go to war. The girls, in particular, said they would not want Sam, my oldest son, to have to fight in a war. Then I asked, "What if there were another situaton like the Holocaust? Wouldn't you want young men like Sam to go and fight for them?" "Yes," they reluctantly agreed. It made the memorial we were visiting and their appreciation of the sacrifice of others for liberty much more real.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Alexamenos worships his God

In last Sunday's message from Mark 15 on Christ's Suffering, I made mention of this crude drawing archaeologists found scratched on a wall in Rome. The photo above comes from Roland H. Bainton's book Faith of Our Fathers (Scribner's, 1944): p. 14. Historian Martin Hengel also makes reference to this graffiti in his classic book Crucifixion (Fortress, 1977) as an example of pagan animosity toward the scandalous preaching of Christ crucified:
There is an admirable illustration of this in the well known caricature of a crucified figure with an ass's head from the Palatine with the inscription 'Alexamenos worships god' (Alexamenos sebete [=sebetai] theon). There should be no doubt that this is an anti-Christian parody of the crucified Jesus. The ass's head is not a pointer to some kind of gnostic Seth-worship, but to the Jewish derivation of the Christian faith. One of the regular themes of ancient anti-Jewish polemic was that the Jews worshipped an ass in the temple (p. 19).
As the Apostle Paul put it:
1 Corinthians 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Children and Worship

Note: Last Sunday evening (2/8/09) I did a practical teaching, offering seven points on the topic of children in corporate worship. Here are my abbreviated notes:

1. It is appropriate for children to be included in the corporate worship gatherings of the church.
  • Children have a capacity to serve the Lord (cf. 1 Sam 2:18).
  • The people worshipped as one man in the days of Ezra (cf. Neh 8:3).
  • NT worship assumes an intergenerational gathering (cf. Eph 5-6).

2. It is good for families to sit together in worship.

It is good for children to see their parents worshipping. Children understand that they and their family are not alone in the faith. It also provides a corporate witness. We see children as a blessing and not a burden (cf. Psalms 127-128).

3. Children need training in how to behave during worship services.

The Christian view is that children are a blessing and that they are stamped with the image of God. But it also recognizes that children are sinners who need guidance, instruction, and correction (cf. Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 29:17).

4. It is good for children to develop the disciplines of obedience and self-control.

Asking a child to sit quietly during a worship service is valuable for many reasons. First, children usually learn more than we give them credit. Second, even if they gain little in factual knowledge they learn other things. They learn obedience. They learn self-control. They learn that some occasions call for formality and reverence. Finally, they learn that not all things in life are designed primarily to suit them.

5. It is good for families with small children to be mindful of the needs of others in the worship service.

The key verse is Romans 12:10: "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another."

I see two believers coming to a door in an eternal stalemate. One says, "After you." And the other says, "No after you." Each puts a priority on serving the other.

Parents will be mindful of how others (particularly those without children, like singles and older persons) might be distracted by what, for them, is normal.

6. It is good for the congregation to be patient and understanding of the needs of those with small children.

Those without children, likewise, will be especially understanding, patient, and supportive of the needs of families with children.

7. It is good for parents to take practical steps in training their children:

  • Talk with children about what your expectations are for their behavior during corporate worship.
  • Before you come into worship, take your child to the bathroom and explain that he will not be allowed to get up unless it is an extreme emergency.
  • Model proper behavior in your own attitude and actions.
  • Help your children participate in the service. Examples: Holding a hymn book together, standing, praying, reading, etc.
  • Encourage older children to take notes on the sermon.
  • Train proper behavior in family worship.
  • Discuss the worship service over Sunday lunch or throughout the week.


Note: Evangel 2.11.09.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The worst Baptist Press story I think I've ever read

Yesterday I noticed just about the worst story I think I've ever read on Baptist Press (news service for the Southern Baptist Convention). Here's the link.

The article relates how "evangelist" Ronnie Hill gave away a new Chrysler 300 LX in a sort of "gospel raffle" (my words here, not ones actually used in the article) to a Methodist woman who, along with c. 10,300 other people, took the time to register for the raffle by listening to Hill's online three minute evangelistic appeal. The "winner" admits that when she registered for the raffle she did so "selfishly" but now she sees "the car is secondary" (but she's still keeping it).

But wait, there's more. Hill claims that 3,200 of those who listened to his three minute message have been soundly converted. I think as a follow up to this promotion, Hill should offer a new car to anyone who is able to find one of those 3,200 who shows any remote signs of authentic regeneration.

But wait, there's more. The car dealer who gave "evangelist" Ronnie Hill the best deal he could find on the car also had a testimony to share. As the article relates:

For Kelly Chadwick, general sales manager at the north Georgia dealership, Hill was an answer to his prayer as well. Chadwick, who attends Airline Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga., said that while praying during his drive to work he asked God to help the dealership sell a vehicle the same day Hill called to buy the vehicle for the giveaway.

"It shows you that there's nothing God can't do," Chadwick said. "There's nothing that He can't handle."

Truly profound. Clearly, God was at work in this.

I don't know what makes this story worse. The fact that "evangelist" Ronnie Hill put forward this pitiful gimmick or that Baptist Press is promoting it so enthusiastically.

Too bad Paul didn't think of this before he wrote 2 Corinthians 2:17: "For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ."


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Exposition of Jude: Part 13 of 25

Note: This is a series of occasional verse by verse expositions of Jude. An archive of this and past commentaries may be found below under the label "Jude Exposition."

Jude 1:13: raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Jude continues his relentless attack on false teachers in this verse. The author began to compile a list of five metaphors to describe these perverse instructors in v. 12. There he described them as "spots in your love feasts," "clouds without water," and "late autumn trees without fruit." In v. 13 he piles on two more condemning metaphors to complete the quintet.

Fourth, "raging waves of the sea." Can you imagine the tossing waves of an ocean during a violent hurricane? These men are never at rest. Their positions are constantly shifting, rising and falling with every wind of change (cf. Ephesians 4:14). They are never still, quiet, and content. Their constant movement issues in "foaming up their own shame." Their shameful deeds are like an unsightly scum churned up by their untoward actions.

Fifth, "wandering stars." From our perspective on earth, the stars always seem to be shifting in the heavens. They are not grounded, fixed, or constant. Likewise, these men are not reliable. One day they hold one opinion and the next the complete opposite.

Jude is bold to say that a terrible punishment awaits such men. A particular place is "reserved" for them. The God who keeps heaven for the righteous also holds hell for the ungodly. This place is described as "the blackness of darkness." Jesus concludes his Parable of the Wedding Feast with the king instructing his servants to cast out the guest who slipped into the celebration without a wedding garment: "Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13). The same punishment is given the unprofitable servant in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:30).

Have you ever thought of hell as a place of continual darkness? A place where one gropes about in agony without ever seeing or finding? Any child who has ever been afraid of sleeping in a dark room, will understand immediately the terror of being locked in eternal night. Abiding in darkness is not the only description of the punishment that this vile place holds for it inhabitants, but it is one wretched characteristic of that place of perpetual gloom.

Note also that those who go to this place of darkness will abide there "forever." Hell is not a place of limited duration. The worm does not die and the fire is not quenched in that place (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48). The smoke of that place rises forever and ever (Revelation 19:13).

Why does Jude pile up these frightening and vivid metaphors? There is, in fact, a gracious warning in his words. He is urging the false teachers to turn back to the ways of truth and godliness. He is also warning the saints not to follow after such men. Jude is a like a loving parent who calls out stern warnings to children who are getting too near a road with dangerous traffic.

  • How are false teachers like the "raging waves of the sea"?

  • How are false teachers like "wandering stars?"

  • Does your life demonstrate stability and tranquility?

  • Why does the image of hell as a place of perpetual darkness strike fear in our hearts?


Tri-State Particular Baptist Fellowship

Photo: Marcus Deel, me, and Byron Glaspy outside Beacon Baptist Church in Burlington, NC.
Last Monday (Feb 1) I had the privilege of speaking at a pastoral fraternal called "The Tri-State Particular Baptist Fellowship" in Burlington, NC. The meeting was hosted at Beacon Baptist Church. I gave one of three afternoon messages. My topic was "A Biblical Defense of Baptism by Immersion." JPBC Pastoral Assistant Marcus Deel and our new Pastoral Intern Byron Glaspy made the trip with me. We had a seven hour theological discussion on wheels during the trip down and back.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

JPBC Deacons and Wives at Peaks of Otter

Photo: JPBC Deacons and Wives along with "Little John" Case and Llewellyn Riddle.

Photo: Saturday morning discussion. Outside was a beautiful view of the nearly completely frozen over lake where an otter was playing in one pool.

We had our annual JPBC Deacon and wives retreat last Friday-Saturday at Peaks of Otter in Bedford. We started this January tradition a few years ago. The Retreat is informal with time to get to know each other better, prayer together, discuss strengths and weaknesses in our church's ministry, and evaluate caring for our congregation.