Archive | Current Issues RSS feed for this section

The Day of a Godly Person’s Death

8 Sep

Our church family at Lakeside has been touched profoundly by death this week. First of all, a beloved 33 year-old member of our church died after six months in the heart transplant unit at UAB hospital. On Wednesday, a wonderful 37 year old teacher at one of our local schools passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She was (and had been) the teacher of several of our Lakeside children. I do not write this blog post because I have answers. I do not. Only the Lord knows why. Tonight my mind went to a little known sermon by a well known preacher.

Jonathan Edwards was a preacher the Lord used mightily. He is most famous for his well known sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. However, my personal favorite sermon   from Edwards is a sermon on death.  It’s good to share it for many of us this week…

“The Day of a Godly Person’s Death Is Better Than the Day of Their Birth”
Ecclesiastes  7:1

A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, NASB95

1.  They receive a better and more blessed life.

“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”” (John 6:49–51, NASB95)

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” (1 Corinthians 15:53–55, NASB95)

2.   They enter into a better world.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1–4, NASB95)

Listen to Edward’s own words on this point…

The world that a man comes into on the day of his birth is a world of low, earthly, and mean enjoyment. But the world that the soul of a godly man is born into on the day of his death is a world of spiritual and divine enjoyments. This is a world of fading, vanishing pleasures but that is a world of substantial, durable joys and delights. There are pleasures forevermore.

 The world that men come into on the day of their birth is a world of sin and vanity and trouble. But the world that a godly man enters into on the day of his death is a world of perfection and holiness, of light and joy without any mixture of sin and sorrow.

 On the day of a person’s birth, he is born into a world that is under a curse and has no guard against it; but on the day of his death he enters into a world that is blessed of God, where there is no curse, but only joy and happiness, a world that is blessed continually with the glorious presence of God and the perfect manifestation and full enjoyment of God’s love. It’s a world filled with the boundless love of God which doth as a river of life satisfy all the inhabitants thereof.

3.   They are received by a better parent.

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18, NASB95)

4.   They receive a better inheritance.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3–5, NASB95)

At the end of the message, Edwards urges us to make some important applications…

  • This truth should help the grief of those who have lost friends and loved ones.

 

  • This truth should inspire us all to prepare spiritually for death

 

  • We should rejoice because we need not fear death.

 

 

The Inerrancy & Authority of the Bible

13 May

It seems like the issues just keep coming. In 2015 the issue was marriage; now in 2016 the issue is bathrooms. I shutter to even think of what the 2017 issue could be.  There is pressure to compromise on every side.  Increasingly, leaders in many areas of our culture insist that all must get on board with the new moral revolution even if “sincerely held religious beliefs” are in conflict with it. We are basically being told, “If your religion goes against the program, then you need to change your religion and get with the program – or else.” As usual, there are churches and denominations surrendering on these issues by the droves. As usual, there are voices even within evangelicalism who advocate “moderating” positions in order to be more acceptable. All of this leads to two very logical questions…

Why have many “Christian” churches and denominations already surrendered to the new moral revolution? 

Why is our church/denomination so strongly insisting it will never surrender on these issues?

The answer to these questions is really surprisingly simple and straightforward: the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. We either believe the Bible or we don’t. We either live by what the Bible says or we don’t.  Here is what the church I serve and our denomination (Southern Baptist Convention) believe about the Bible…

I. The Scriptures

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.

We believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God to mankind. Therefore the Bible is authoritative for all issues of living and believing in this world. The inerrancy and authority of the Bible are intertwined.  If we do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the logical conclusion is that it is not authoritative and we can make it mean whatever we wish to make it mean in order to “fit with the times.”  However, if we do believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then the logical conclusion is that it is authoritative and we live by what it teaches – no matter if it’s cultural acceptable or not.

It is no coincidence that the churches/denominations who have (or soon will) surrender to the new moral revolution long ago surrendered on the issue of inerrancy. Their seminaries trained generations of pastors in the “modern” approaches to the Bible. The result was increasing numbers of pastors in the pulpit who really didn’t believe the Bible; soon we had churches filled with people who didn’t believe it either. Once the Bible wasn’t viewed as the inerrant Word of God, it was no longer really authoritative.  The resulting state of so much of mainline Protestantism is the direct result of the long ago loss of Biblical inerrancy and Biblical authority. Once that is gone, surrender to the new moral revolution is really the only option.

There is also another line of attack we are seeing today: the Bible doesn’t really say what it plainly says.  Knowing that many evangelicals hold to Biblical inerrancy as a core belief, some very smart voices have arisen to argue that we have misunderstood the Bible. For instance, they argue that Romans 1:26-27 isn’t referring to homosexual relationships as we know them today.  This enables people to say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God and I support same-sex marriage.”  Arguments such as these do not hold up to serious theological scrutiny. These arguments undermine the authority of scripture just as much as saying the Bible isn’t true. They are simply attempts to find a way around what the Bible says so that one does not have to live according to what the Bible says.

Here is the absolute bottom line…

and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15–17, NASB95)

Why is our church/denomination so insistent that we will NEVER compromise to the new moral revolution?   The innerancy and authority of the Bible. We believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. We believe that it means what it plainly says. We believe that Christians are obligated to believe what it says and live as it says.

The inerrancy and authority of scripture is at the core of what we believe as Christians. It isn’t something that we can just discard because everyone says we should. It isn’t something that we can change because we are made to pay a price for our beliefs. This is what the cultural elites do not understand. They look at Bible believing Christians and believe that we will inevitably cave in when enough pressure is brought to bear. They do not understand that the inerrancy and authority of the Bible is the very core of who we are.

We either believe the Bible or we don’t. We either live by what the Bible says or we don’t. We are quickly finding out who does.

Good reasons to be Southern Baptist

6 May

Particularly in the last decade, new models of “doing church” and churches working together (networks rather than denominations) have arisen.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of these churches and networks are preaching the gospel of Christ, seeing people come to faith, and taking the gospel to the world. Much has been written about the rise and fall of denominations – often couched in terms of “older vs. young.”  There is no question that the rise of the Millennials into young adulthood and church leadership has helped to drive the popularity and publicity of these new paradigm ministries. Established churches and established denominations are struggling to adapt to the new paradigms. The denomination the church I serve is part of – the Southern Baptist Convention – was started in 1845.  As a result, the other day a fellow pastor told me that Southern Baptists would continue to struggle because “younger people don’t want to be associated with us” and then he listed the reasons why.

While I believe some of this brother’s criticism to be valid, such as the fact that Southern Baptists have been defined more in terms of what we oppose rather than the good that we do, I also believe that there are great reasons to continue to be Southern Baptists for the foreseeable future. Unless something drastically changes, I intend to make the Southern Baptist Convention my home for the rest of my life. Please allow me to list some good reasons why you and your church should be Southern Baptist.

1.  MISSIONS.  It isn’t even close. No other denomination is involved in sharing the gospel, planting churches, and meeting needs in as many places in as many ways as Southern Baptists are. The International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, state conventions, and local associations all provide “boots on the ground” for the front lines of gospel advance. Southern Baptists are “doing missions” in our community and all over the world.

2.  Training pastors and missionaries. Southern Baptists operate six theological seminaries. Each one of them unapologetically teaches the Bible as God’s inerrant word, personal faith in Christ, the great doctrines of the Christian faith, etc. Thousands of students are being trained right now to serve our Lord in the future. Through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention underwrites the education of every student at one of these seminaries – allowing our young men and women to attend at far less cost than would otherwise be the case. While I do have a couple of “favorites” among our seminaries that I personally identify with in a greater way, I believe that all of our seminaries are led by men who love Christ, have integrity, and desire to take the gospel to the nations.

3.   Disaster relief. In recent years I have heard this over and over again: “After the Red Cross, the next people we saw coming were the Southern Baptists.”  Because we are such a large denomination (16 million members in all 50 states) and because we are organized down to a local level (state conventions and associations), Southern Baptists are able to mobilize and respond quickly in a great way. Southern Baptists help EVERYONE when a disaster happens – showing love in tangible ways. God has used our disaster relief efforts to open doors for the gospel in profound ways.  What Southern Baptists do in disaster relief is nothing short of incredible.

4.  Investment in people. Here in Alabama, we have three wonderful Baptist universities – Samford, Mobile, and Judson. Out of these three schools, Christian leaders have emerged in every vocational discipline.  Furthermore, Alabama Baptists also operate the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home, which provides care for abused and neglected children from all over our state.  This ministry has multiple locations and services it provides to these children. In addition,  the Children’s Home offers professional counseling at a reduced rate to hurting individuals and families from locations throughout Alabama. Every single day, church leaders contact the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions for help with issues ranging from a pastor search to best practices.  So much of our missions dollars go to a tangible investment in people. This is true in many other states where Southern Baptists have a strong presence as well.

5.   Increasing diversity and a national presence.  Even though our name is Southern Baptists, the reality is that we have churches in all fifty states. We are a national denomination. In addition, the fastest growing area of our work involves predominantly ethnic churches. Each year that I attend the Southern Baptist Convention, I am encouraged to see more diversity in age, ethnicity, and geography.  We have churches in the major cities, and we have churches in the small town. Slowly but surely, our denomination is beginning to look more like our country, and that is a great thing.

6.  Biblical convictions. Southern Baptists have determined to be a people who have firm convictions based on the Word of God.  To be Southern Baptist is to believe some things. We will not bend to the cultural pressure to conform to the new morality. We will not bow to those who wish to portray us as ignorant, hateful, or worse. The Lord has called us to His cross and told us to stand there until He comes. Here we will stand until we draw our last breath. Southern Baptists have made our convictions clear.

 

 

Five reasons why you should see WOODLAWN as soon as you can!

16 Oct

Woodlawn

(1)  WOODLAWN is the true story of the spiritual awakening that happened among the 1973-74 football team at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham.  It is the true of story of how Tony Nathan became a household name in Alabama and the nation.

(2)  The gospel is clear in the movie.  This is no generic “believe in God” piece.  There is a clear call for salvation & change. In fact, this is a great opportunity to bring a friend who doesn’t know Christ.  I am praying that many thousands are brought to Christ through this movie.

(3)  WOODLAWN isn’t a football movie. You read that sentence right. It is a movie about the power of the gospel to bring racial reconciliation and love for others. THAT is the heart of WOODLAWN.  It just so happens that the gospel brought racial reconciliation and love to a high school football team. The message doesn’t get lost in the football.

(4)  There are familiar faces and locations.  WOODLAWN was filmed on location in Birmingham.  You actually see Woodlawn High School, Legion Field, and Birmingham neighborhoods.  Birmingham’s own Caleb Castille has the lead role. Caleb is the son of Alabama great Jeremiah Castille, and played high school football at Briarwood Christian, as well as college football with the Crimson Tide.  Finally, it’s worth the cost of your ticket to see Jon Voight play Bear Bryant. To say it’s “spot on” is an understatement.

(5)  WOODLAWN is an absolutely incredible movie!  It looks great. It’s well acted. It’s paced well. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of the screen for two hours.  You might catch yourself standing up and cheering before it’s over!

 

One pastor’s thoughts on the International Mission Board situation

23 Sep

In recent days, I have had a number of people both inside and outside the church I serve who asked me my thoughts on the well-publicized financial issues at the International Mission Board. I decided to share them here in hopes that it will encourage people to become more informed and prayerful.

First of all, the International Mission Board must balance its books, and new IMB President David Platt is to be commended for dealing with the situation. Like just about every other Southern Baptist, it was news to me when Platt announced that IMB had run an operating deficit in excess of $200 million over the last several years. This deficit had been covered through reserves and the sale of overseas assets.  To be honest, I was floored to learn of this situation.  As a senior pastor of a church that gives very generously to SBC missions, our local church would never operate in this manner. Certainly, every church from time to time dips into reserves due to lean years in giving or unexpected expenses.  That is why you have reserves in the first place. However, living off of reserves cannot be a continual way of life for a church or any organization. Eventually what comes in must match what goes out.

The IMB is dealing with hard realities and it is not easy. For years, we have heard that we have more people willing to go than we have money to send. The reality is that we do not have the money for those we have already sent. It pains me greatly to write these words, but that is the truth. In excess of 80% of the IMB budget is personnel; no surprise given that it is an organization that sends missionaries.  My understanding is that IMB is going through the process of offering buyouts and early retirement to a substantial number of field missionaries and staff at IMB headquarters in Richmond, Virginia all in an effort to get to a financially sustainable level of personnel.  I personally know IMB missionaries who are making agonizing choices about their futures. It is extremely painful for all involved.

Furthermore, David Platt has made clear that he intends to change much of the way IMB operates and its missions philosophy. The specifics of exactly what that looks like are still unclear to me as an outside observer. Some have questioned his election to the position, his missions philosophy, and support of the Cooperative Program. No one questions Platt’s passion for taking the gospel to the nations. Personally, I believe it is past time to stop rehashing those issues. David Platt is the leader of IMB regardless of how anyone feels about how he got there. Count me as one pastor who is willing to support him and give him a chance. I am praying that he leads IMB and Southern Baptists to our greatest days of missions and gospel advance.

I am a strong believer in and supporter of the SBC Cooperative Program.  Hopefully, what will eventually come out of all of this is a leaner, healthier, stronger IMB and a renewed vision for funding missions in our churches. Now is not the time to cut back. Uncertainty and a little controversy is not the time to withdraw. It is the time to set our hands to the plow and stay faithful in the work. I will attempt to lead the church I serve to give more to the Cooperative Program and more to the special missions offerings (Lottie & Annie) in 2016 than we have this year.

 

Put it on your calendar now and go see WOODLAWN!

14 Aug

Woodlawn

I want to use this space today to urge you to go see a movie the weekend of October 16-18, 2015.  That is the premiere weekend for the movie Woodlawn in theaters.  Last night, I was invited by a friend to attend a private screening of the movie with several members of the team and other local pastors.  I must say that I was stunned (in a good way) by what I saw. Woodlawn isn’t just the best Christian-themed movie I have seen, but Woodlawn is one of the best movies I have ever seen, period.

Most importantly, Woodlawn is a true story of what happened with the 1973-74 football teams at Woodlawn High School and how it affected the entire city of Birmingham.  Yes, there is the football. Tony Nathan rose from obscurity to become a football legend in the state of Alabama. There is the climactic 1974 Woodlawn vs. Banks game that to this day holds the record for the largest crowd ever to attend a high school football game in Alabama.  In addition, Caleb Castille, the son of Alabama great Jeremiah Castille, has the lead role playing Tony Nathan. The football scenes are intense and startlingly realistic. The movie was filmed on location here in Birmingham, so we actually see Legion Field, Woodlawn High School, etc.

However, football is not the message of the movie, nor is it the message of the 1973-74 Woodlawn football team. That message is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A great spiritual awakening and movement of God that began among the football team spread throughout the city. During a time of great tension, the only thing that could bring true racial reconciliation and love for one another was the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lives were changed. The city of Birmingham was changed.

This movie absolutely doesn’t flinch. It not only shows the brutality of the game of football, but it also shows the ugliness of racism, abuse, and mistrust. It shows the struggle for teens to grow up in a fallen world. It shows the soul searching of our own individual hearts regarding our own prejudices.  It shows the struggle to forgive. Most of all, it shows the hope of a better way – the love that only comes through the Lord Jesus Christ.  It does all of this with a $25 million production budget – meaning that the production quality is completely on par with any Hollywood blockbuster.

I’ve never seen anything like it.  I wept. I cheered.  I can’t wait to watch it with my sons.  Join me in praying that the message of this movie will bring hope to our hurting country. The directors of the movie are praying for 3 million Christians to buy tickets the weekend of October 16-18.  It is on my calendar, and unless we are providentially hindered, my family will be there. I intend to encourage my church family to be there and bring anyone they know who will come.  Due to the Birmingham connection, I have no doubt it will be big in the Birmingham area, but it needs to be big in places like Huntsville, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis, and Atlanta.

Tell everyone you know. Put it on your calendar. Pray hard. Believe that God is up to something great with this film. Here is the link to the website for more information…http://woodlawnmovie.com/

 

Challenging trends in the same-sex marriage debate

1 May

As a pastor, I use words every week in my speaking and writing. I am also an observer of the words people use, the arguments people make, and how they make their arguments. In recent months, I have seen a definite shift in terms of the debate regarding same-sex marriage in our culture. As a Christian pastor who believes the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, I stand solidly and publicly with those who believe that marriage should be defined only as the marriage of one man and one woman for life. This post isn’t arguing that point. This post is about the trends that I have seen develop in how this debate over marriage is playing out in our culture – even here in Alabama. I will not link to any specific articles or blogs. Suffice it to say that I have seen multiple examples of each of these trends. Again, my focus is on the shift of how the argument is being made.

1)  The argument has shifted from the legitimacy of same-sex marriage to calls for opponents to cease opposition.  It wasn’t that long ago that the most common argument in an article supporting same-sex marriage was that same-sex couples deserved the same rights as heterosexual couples. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states (with Alabama briefly becoming #37), those of us who advocate for the Biblical definition of marriage are told to accept the inevitable, get on the right side of history, or “get over it.”  Increasingly, we are told all three of those things in the same column.

2)  The argument is made that opposition to same-sex marriage can only come from bigotry.  I have seen several columns and blog posts recently who leave no room for any sincere opposition to gay marriage. In their worldview, the only possible explanation for opposing it is a deep seated bigotry.  In their worldview, it is not possible to love homosexuals and yet oppose same-sex marriage.

3)  Using Old Testament passages as a club to shame and silence.  Increasingly, I see advocates for same-sex marriage pull a verse from the Old Testament law and say something like, “This is in the Bible too. If you want to take the Bible literally then what do you say about this verse?”  There is no understanding or at least no explanation of Biblical theology, progressive revelation, historical context, scriptural context, etc.  The end result is confusion and silence for many Christians who might not understand the theological issues involved and how the narrative of scripture unfolds.  The clear implication that is intended is that those of us who believe in the Biblical definition of marriage should not be taken seriously because we hold views that are dangerous.

4) Ridicule and disdain in place of a coherent answer.   The scenario is the same over and over again.  A person makes a logical, thoughtful, gracious argument in favor of the traditional definition of marriage, and their arguments aren’t really answered. They are simply mocked and dismissed as being “on the wrong side of history” or “out of touch with civilization.”

These trends and others like them mean that those of us who advocate for Biblical marriage face increasing difficulty in even having our position heard in the broader culture.  Furthermore, when it is heard, our position is often misrepresented, distorted, and twisted beyond recognition.  On one hand, there is nothing we can do to control what is happening, but on the other hand it is helpful to understand what is going on and seek to be as wise as possible. These are challenging times indeed. None of us know where all of this will end.  However, our response to these issues must be guided by a principle that we do know for sure…

We are not called to be popular, but rather we are called to be faithful.

 

A needed lesson on Baptist polity

20 Mar

This week the Madison Baptist Association in Huntsville has made the news because of the action they took on Tuesday to remove Weatherly Heights Baptist Church from fellowship in the association. This action stemmed from the support of and participation in gay weddings by some ministers from the church.  As I watched & read the media reports of this story, I was reminded again that the news media struggles to understand Southern Baptist polity – that is how our denomination is governed.  In addition, over the years I have found that many Southern Baptists do not understand our polity.  On a number of occasions, I have had church members who had heard about actions taken by another Southern Baptist church and came to my office saying, “Our denomination is going liberal. Someone should have stopped that church from ordaining that person or calling that pastor.”  So, please keep reading for a brief but much needed lesson on Baptist polity. One point before I go further: I am writing here about my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches. There are other “varieties” of Baptists that I am not addressing in this post.

(1)   Every Southern Baptist church is fully independent & autonomous.   Each of 45,000+ Southern Baptist churches owns its own property, calls it own pastors, and makes its own decisions. The national Southern Baptist Convention and the Alabama Baptist State Convention have no authority to tell a local church to do (or not do) anything.  This is much different than how other denominations are governed. For instance, in the United Methodist Church, the denominational leadership appoints the pastors of the local churches, and it is my understanding that the denomination owns the property of each local congregation.

(2)   Southern Baptists have organized to cooperate for missions & ministry on three levels.   Local Baptist associations are groups of churches that cooperate together for ministry in a local geographic area.  In the South, local associations are often organized by county since there tend to be a large number of SBC churches in each county, while associations in other parts of the country might comprise several counties.  State Conventions were also formed to provide avenues for ministry & missions on a statewide level.  Many state conventions have entities that no church or local association could support by themselves, such as colleges, children’s homes, conference centers, etc.  Finally, the national Southern Baptist Convention is where the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, and our six SBC seminaries are governed.  As a result, the church I serve is a cooperating member of the Birmingham Baptist Association, the Alabama Baptist State Convention, and the national Southern Baptist Convention.

(3)  Participation in & contribution to these three levels is determined by each local church. Since every church is autonomous and makes its own decisions, each church decides its level of missions giving. Cooperation is voluntary – never forced. If a church reduces or stops giving its money, they are not sent a “bill” or otherwise pressured to restore the funding. This is why I have heard the Southern Baptist Convention described as “a rope of sand” because there is no top down authority for funding and participation.

(4) Baptist cooperation goes both ways.  Like the situation up in Huntsville shows, Baptist polity also means that local associations, state conventions, and the national SBC have the right to determine who they are cooperating with.  That local association decided that Weatherly Heights Baptist Church no longer was in agreement with the beliefs & practices of the association, so they voted to withdraw fellowship from them.  This action does not violate principle # 1 above because no one is questioning that local church’s right to believe and practice their faith as they see fit.  The autonomy of the local church is still very much alive and well. No one is saying that Weatherly Heights must remove the word “Baptist” from its name, etc. Weatherly Heights still owns its own buildings, calls its own pastors, and makes its own decisions, but so does the Madison Baptist Association.  Cooperation goes both ways.  If the Madison Baptist Association had chosen to do nothing or to endorse the church’s position, then every other church would have autonomously decided if they wished to continue participating in the association.

Finally, there is no perfect model for church or denominational government. There are “pros & cons” to each of the different models. It is not the intent of this post to discuss those, but rather to help us understand in a more clear way how the denomination I am part of operates. The Southern Baptist Convention is not perfect, but it is my home and the home of the church I serve.

 

A Powerful Word in a Changing World

16 Mar

It’s so wonderful when the Word of God speaks to us in a new and fresh way. Over the weekend in my personal Bible reading Psalm 12 jumped off the page for me. As many times as I have read it, it is more meaningful to me today than ever before. First please allow me to share a little background.

To be perfectly honest, every Biblically faithful pastor and every serious Christian in the United States is wrestling with some difficult questions: How do we live as Christians in a culture that is increasingly hostile to what we believe?  How do we have a Biblically faithful church going forward in the cultural realities of today’s world?  How do we reach people for Christ in our culture?  Those are just three examples of many questions that I (and many others) am asking.  While I have not been in despair over them, I am burdened by these questions.  Every single day these questions are on my heart. Now you can understand why Psalm 12 spoke to me in such a profound way. Here it is…

For the choir director: according to Sheminith. A Davidic psalm. Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race. They lie to one another; they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully. They say, “Through our tongues we have power; our lips are our own—who can be our master?” “Because of the oppression of the afflicted and the groaning of the poor, I will now rise up,” says the Lord. “I will put the one who longs for it in a safe place.” The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times. You, Lord, will guard us; You will protect us from this generation forever. The wicked wander everywhere, and what is worthless is exalted by the human race.” (Psalm 12, HCSB)

Verse 1 is clear that David went through a time when he felt as if the faithful had largely disappeared. Then in the verses that follow, David tells us why he felt that way.  Many committed Christians feel this way in our day.  The parallels between our culture and what David describes here are uncanny.  For instance, look at verse 4. We live in a day when politicians, media icons, entertainers, and other influential people use the power of words to shape the culture – in the wrong direction!  Like those described in verse 4, they steadfastly believe they are their own master and determine their own destiny. While there have always been people like this in America, it seems that now they are almost totally in control of every lever of influence in our culture. Yes, times are changing quickly. Like David, we see it. We feel it. It’s easy to begin to feel despair and doubt.

Did you notice where David went when confronted with these realities?  He went back to the pure words of the Lord and His protection. The cultural realities that David faced drove him back to the Lord and the Word.  That is where the answers to his struggle were found.  In the same way, as we wrestle with very real questions today, it is my prayer that we too are driven back to where the answers to our struggle are found.

HE is faithful!

 

The Greatest Generation

6 Mar

This week I visited a church member in the ICU of a local hospital. Even though he had been through a rough time, he was able to talk with me and in our conversation he referred to his time in combat during World War II.  As I talked with him, I was humbled and a little overwhelmed to be the pastor of a man who had given so much for his country.  As I walked to my car, I couldn’t help but think of others in the church I serve who are also World War II veterans.  In the short time I have been pastor here, we have buried several of these veterans.  A number of years back, news anchor Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the World War II generation and he titled it “The Greatest Generation.”   I believe Tom Brokaw had it right; this generation is the greatest generation in American history.  Please allow me to share why I believe this statement is true.

1)  The World War II generation is a generation of deep faith.  Not every member of this generation is a born again Christian, but many are. Some came to faith during the war, while others came to Christ later in life, but the reality is that many of this generation came to a deep and abiding Christian faith. Practically every evangelical church in the post World War II decades has been filled with faithful members from this generation.

2) The World War II generation is a generation of hard work & sacrifice.  Many of them were children during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and grew up in families working hard just to survive. After the war was over, they came home, got married and began their careers and families.  In a very real sense, this generation built the America we know today. They built businesses, communities, churches, etc. Even in their retirement years, the World War II generation has stayed busy. They have worked until they were not physically able to work any more. That is no coincidence. Work is all they have known.

3)  The World War II generation is a generation of a healthy patriotism. I have never met a World War II veteran who thought America was perfect. However, each one loves their country.  Many of them have seen first hand the results of evil and despotism.  They take the phrase “land of the free and the home of the brave” to heart.  They came up in a time when the American flag transcended Democrat or Republican  – it was a symbol of our whole country and what it stands for. Certainly, we do not worship America, but the Greatest Generation shows us how to love America in a healthy way.

According to the National World War II museum, 16 million Americans served in World War II.  Today only about 855,000 remain alive. They are dying at the rate of 492 each day.  In Alabama, there are only 12,700 left alive in the entire state.   Let’s take the time to thank and honor those members of the Greatest Generation that we know. Unfortunately, we do not have very long to do so.