For The Truth

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Content of Our Conversations

The following is a letter that I circulated to those in my flock that I could reach via e-mail. The pastoral role is much like that of a gardener; if you want the garden to flourish, it must be weeded. If this important part of care is neglected the garden begins to grow in ways not intended. Our communication is an important part of our witness, and so I offer this so that others might benefit from any help it may provide as we travel this Way.

Dearly beloved,

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8

It has become clear that the content of our conversations needs to be reviewed. This has not been the first time I have had to address this kind of issue nor will it probably be the last time (though I wish it would be).

First, I will remind you that we are not our own, The Christ bought us with a price (1 Cor 6:19,20), we are now His servants (Col 3:23,24) and ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) and representatives for Him to the world around us (Ac 1:8). We dare not take this role lightly. Jesus said we were to be salt and light, but also reminded us that salt that has lost its valued principles is worthless (Mt 5:13; Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34,35; Col 4:6).

Now, when we communicate with each other, whether it be written, verbal, or electronic, we must choose the high road. What does this mean? It means we are to model Christ-likeness in our speech as well as our actions (Rom 1:14). I have no doubt that our Lord had a sense of humor, yet it would never have descended to the gutter, nor would it have failed to account for the audience. I cannot imagine Jesus being crass or making light of the many things we desire to justify in our often sinful and fallen speech (Ja 3:7-10). Our God is holy and He calls us to be such (1 Pet 1:16). He calls us out of the world and away from sin (2 Cor 6:15-17). We are to be different from the world, to His glory (Php 1:9-11). Is what you are communicating glorifying to God? Is it proclaiming that He is, and that He is able to save from sin; or is it telling the world around you that God is common, that there is nothing truly special about your relationship with Him, and that what He offers is no different than the business as usual of the world? Does it make light of His holy standards as if He doesn't really expect better of us, as if He winks at sin? Are His standards to be disregarded if we desire? Also, is what you are communicating edifying to your brothers and sisters in Christ (Eph 4:29)? Or is it pulling them down, telling them that they really do not matter, or teaching them sin is okay if you say it with a smile, if it elicits a laugh, or if you say it as a joke? When we act this way, what are we telling the eyes that are watching? Who are those eyes? God for one, but who else? A lost and dying world that questions our message, but also younger Christians, both in age and in time in Christ. What are we teaching them about God, about holiness, edification of the body, and about the implications of our faith for our life (Titus 2:1-8)? Do not take lightly what you say. For when you do, you discredit Christ and you despise those whom you are to edify.

Finally, when we are confronted with errors in our speech, how will we respond (Mt 18:15)? Will we repent, seek forgiveness, and be reconciled with our brothers and sisters, or will we chafe and justify our words? Which will it be? In the handling of these matters we must recognize that none of us have reached perfection. On the contrary, most of us will fail miserably if mustered for an inspection of our holiness, and yet, it is to holiness that we are called and to holiness that we must hold each other, and to holiness that we must yield when confronted. How are we then to deal with one who has fallen into sin? 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) Grace and love is what is needed here. It is by grace that we are able to allow love to cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8). While there needs to be grace extended to each other over our shortcomings, we must recognize that that grace is not to be used to justify our sins (Pb 17:15), but it is that which enables us to pass over sins forgiven. So, there is a responsibility within the Community of Christ to not only forgive (Mt 18:21-35), but to seek that forgiveness (Mt 5:23,24), which presupposes the admission of sin. It is far better to be pure of speech and considerate of others. To that end I offer the following chart for spiritual health. It would also be good to read James 3 and reflect on what is said there.

The Word

Keeps my heart on the right path

Pb 4:18-27

Helps guard what I say

Ps 19:7-14

Embeds the truth in me

Ps 119:9-11

Shows us how to love others

Gal 5:14;

Ro 13:10

Directs us to consider what is pure

Php 4:8

In the love of Christ,

Pastor Cal

Acts 20:28

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Silly Rabbit, Easter's Not for Kids

In an excellent post, Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Executive Director of the Henry Institute relates how the mind set on the things of this world relates to the Gospel message. It recoils, it is embarrassed, and it seeks to gloss the truth to make it more palatable. This is the mind careening toward liberalism; and while it reaches out to shield its hearers from the scandal of the cross it actually pushes them toward destruction. It is the “Enlightened” mind that scoffs at the wisdom of the cross (Acts 17:32; 1 Corinthians 1:21). Thanks to Kingdom People for bringing this one to my attention.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jesus was dead, and I mean really dead, on a cross, but he's not anymore.

That's how my son Timothy, a few years ago when he was three, explained to neighbors why he was so excited about Easter. No one referred me to a therapist, or to a cognitive development seminar. Those around me didn't see the horror of what I was doing to my children. Neither did I.

We didn't know that the Gospel, like Ginsu knives and blood pressure medicine, ought to be kept out of the reach of small children.

At least that's what one church was told recently, by a publisher of children's Sunday school curricula, according to Two Institutions, a blog about family and church matters.

The pastors at this church in Raleigh, North Carolina, were perplexed when they saw the Holy Week Sunday school lessons for preschoolers from "First Look," the publisher of the one to five year-old Sunday school class materials. There wasn't a mention of the resurrection of Jesus. Naturally, the pastors inquired about the oversight. It turns out it was no oversight.

The letter sent from the publishing company is up on the Two Institutions blog website. I had to read it three times to make sure I wasn't falling for a Lark News parody. It turns out this publisher has decided that the Gospel is too scary for preschoolers.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Southern Seminary and Calvinism

This is a post from a blog called Kingdom People by Trevin Wax, an M.Div student at Southern. It was passed to me by a dear friend who used to blog and I wish still did. Trevin puts the current buzz over Calvinism in proper perspective.

March 11, 2008

Southern Seminary has always held a prominent position in Southern Baptist life. As the oldest and most prestigious of the Southern Baptist seminaries, Southern has long promoted high academic standards and a strong emphasis on pastoral training for local churches. Since 1993, the Seminary has been guided by the leadership of Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., a prominent evangelical thinker and cultural commentator.

Though conservatives are thankful for the return of Southern to biblical fidelity, some people in Southern Baptist life have begun to worry that the Seminary has moved too far to the right - especially in the issue of Calvinism.

Today, a widespread myth exists that the Seminary student and population faculty is made up primarily of 5-point Calvinists.

Of course, Dr. Mohler's Reformed theology is no secret. Nor is the Calvinism of several prominent professors at Southern Seminary. But one should not mistakenly assume that the entire faculty and student population holds to the Reformed understanding of doctrine and salvation.

Consider this:

Currently, not one of the deans at Southern Seminary is a five-point Calvinist.

Calvinism is not a litmus test for teaching at the seminary; the Abstract of Principles is, and the Abstract leaves room for disagreement on the extent of the atonement and irresistible grace.

Calvinism is not the main subject of interest among faculty members or students.

In the cafeteria, on the lawn, or in the extension center, Calvinism is sometimes discussed, but not as often as one might expect. As I was discussing this post with a good friend of mine (also a student at Southern), I realized that in all the hours of theological conversation that we had shared, we had never once discussed our own views on the extent of the atonement. I suspect that such is the case for many other Southern students.

Recent LifeWay Research statistics show that 27% of graduates from Southern Baptist seminaries are likely to call themselves 5-point Calvinists. Despite the alarm sounded in some corners, the fact of the matter is: 73% of Southern Baptist students do not belong to this category.

From my own experience as a student of Southern, I suspect that the majority of Southern Seminary students that I have encountered on campus and at the extension center I attend (Nashville) are not 5-point Calvinists.

Furthermore, Louisville is not a hotbed for Hyper-Calvinists. (Historically, Hyper-Calvinism is the errant teaching that one should not evangelize, and I have yet to meet a Southern Baptist who believes this.) Those who stand against Calvinistic teaching need to refrain from labeling Calvinists as "Hyper" unless the shoe actually fits.

Perhaps there are some who fit the category of "hyperactive" Calvinists - students who are still in the proverbial "cage-stage" of Calvinism and who are actively seeking to convert all other Christians to their doctrinal viewpoint. The problem with the hyperactive strain of Calvinism is not theology, but sin, particularly the sin of pride and arrogance. It is the same sin that lies at the root of Church Growth controversies, when a young pastor enthralled with Bill Hybels proceeds to divide a church by throwing out all hymns and organs. Immaturity and selfishness comes in all forms, not merely Calvinist.

But even if a handful of vocal Southern students might fit the "hyperactive" description, the blame does not necessarily fall on the Seminary. Some students are convinced Calvinists before ever going to Southern, and in any case, the hyperactive are a small minority that happen to get the most press. Many faculty members seek to temper Calvinist fervor of the "hyperactive."

It is true that most of the student population may indeed be friendly to certain aspects of the Calvinist resurgence. There are many students like myself who, theologically, lean Reformed, even without espousing 5-point Calvinism. Many of us agree with some aspects of church reform (the recovery of church discipline, integrity in membership recording, avoiding manipulation when doing altar calls, etc.). But one should not assume that all Southern students are 5-point Calvinists seeking to push Reformed theology on our churches.

Furthermore, many of the 5-pointers I know are not agressively seeking to cause strife and discord in local churches, and it is unfair to present them in this light. Many of those most passionate about Reformed theology are also extremely passionate about personal evangelism. Some of them evangelize so regularly and so confidently that I am put to shame! Just as it is unfair to present all Southern students as 5-point Calvinists, it is also unfair to present all 5-point Calvinists as being of the "hyperactive" type that care more about debating TULIP than sharing the gospel.

Southern Seminary, like the wider Southern Baptist Convention, contains both Calvinists and non-Calvinists. Next time you hear someone speaking of Southern Seminary as "Calvinist," I hope you will be inclined to correct the misconception and provide some additional details in order to put an end to some of the false, sweeping generalizations about Southern.

Southern Seminary and Calvinism, written by Trevin Wax. copyright © 2008 Kingdom People Blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Toward One Flesh

Beginning from the fall, men and women have struggled both with understanding and fulfilling their God ordained roles in marriage as well as meeting and having their desires met in the marriage relationship. Today more than ever there is a need for husbands and wives to understand their roles and their covenant relationship to each other in the sight of the Lord. Following is a list excellent books to assist those who desire a solid biblical relationship that can not only last, but also flourish.

Reading List for Husbands

The Complete Husband: A Practical Guide to Biblical Husbanding, Lou Priolo, ISBN: 1879737353

Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes,
ISBN: 0891078185

From Boy to Man: The Marks of Manhood,
R. Albert Mohler. To obtain a copy call 800-625-5525

Reading List for Wives

Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets them Free,
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, ISBN: 0802475973

Walking in the Truth: The Companion Guide for Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, ISBN: 082446922

Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Barbara Hughes,
ISBN: 158134208X

The Excellent Wife: A Biblical Perspective, Revised Edition,
Martha Peace, ISBN: 1885904088

Reading for Both Husbands and Wives

Strengthening Your Marriage, Wayne A. Mack,
ISBN: 0875523854

Preparing for Marriage God's Way, Wayne A. Mack,
ISBN: 1563220199

Your Family God’s Way, Wayne A. Mack,
ISBN: 0875523587