Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I find myself still following the happenings of America’s largest protestant denomination, bound to this love-hate relationship of a man and a convention that espouse rather significant differences in biblical convictions. The latest angst I’ve experienced is from the current edition (April 2011) of Facts & Trends, a publication of Lifeway, the publishing arm of the SBC. Lifeway is probably my least favorite entity of the SBC for several reasons. First, Lifeway isn’t very discerning about the books they sell. One would think they’d be rather rigid in peddling books that support Baptist doctrine and foster fundamental Christianity. Not so. While the shelves aren’t littered with bad books, they’ll sell the popular stuff even if it has a bit of a rub against traditional Baptist beliefs.
Second, Lifeway also makes money, lots of money. Long ago, they were the Baptist Bookstore of the Southern Baptist Convention, committed to serving the local church. In these later decades, they’ve reinterpreted their identity to appeal to the larger Christian family. The trade off is their service to the local Baptist church isn’t all that great. When I was pastoring local Baptist churches, one of the highest budgeted items was our literature from Lifeway. But hey, they do give money to the Cooperative Program!
And while I’m pontificating, why not give a third critique. Lifeway’s major face of Biblical teaching is Beth Moore. While she does hostess only woman’s conferences (though I’m sure men attend) and seems to teach orthodox beliefs, it seems ironic that a denomination that believes in male-only Biblical offices, wouldn’t also have a male face hosting conferences and writing studies.
Be that as it may, my most recent conflict is that Facts & Trends is currently debuting one of Lifeway’s newest training modules: “Game Plan for Life.” One headline reads: “Football, NASCAR champion helps guys develop a “Game Plan for Life.” Did you catch that? Yeah, read it again. It isn’t the Bible that’s helping men develop their game plan. It’s football and NASCAR.
Joe Gibbs, head coach of the Washington Redskins and NASCAR owner, is at the center of the new discipleship module. Maybe he’s the author. Maybe he’s the sponsor, I’m not sure. The whole promotion rubbed me wrong. Here’s a new module off the presses designed to help the local pastor train his men in Biblical discipleship and the dominant graphics, words and ideas are football, superbowl, NASCAR, etc. Lots of glitz, but very little substance.
The accompanying article was the most troubling. Entitled “Football and NASCAR captured men’s imagination, led to Bible study” (yes, you read it right again…it’s football and NASCAR that are capturing Christian men, not the Holy Spirit or the Bible), it focused on the module’s usage by Riverbluff Church in North Charleston, South Carolina. The summation of the article was that this is a great study because it draws men together via the sports theme and gets them talking with each. Hmmm. And I thought we men were supposed to be learning the Bible.
Now to be sure, I’m quite convinced that the men of Riverbluff Church did talk about the Bible. My problem is that in reading the article, you come away with this dominant idea that the Bible alone is insufficient (and even absent!) in attracting men. It must be repackaged. And the wrapping needs to be pretty. The Bible wasn’t in the spotlight. Joe Gibbs, football and NASCAR were.
Two realities are staring at me.
The first, is that in the modern church age, there is a demand to repackage the Bible. Common churchmen and women aren’t committed to studying the Bible on its own merits. They don’t want to abide with Christ, learn of Him or be sanctified by His truth. They must be enticed by bells and whistles. They need allurement and excitement.
The second reality is that church leaders and church entities are catering to this immaturity. It brings to my mind God’s scathing rebuke in Ezekiel 34. Verse 10 states, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I [am] against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.” Lifeway needs to stop focusing on what sells and what is attractive, and start focusing on what matters and what is needful.
The church is weak. We don’t need chats stemming from the backdrop of football championships and roaring stock cars. We need men (and women) who recognize their great need of God’s Word and will “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
IT IS to you who have heard and hearkened to the call, "Come unto me," that this new invitation comes, "Abide in me." The message comes from the same loving Saviour. You doubtless have never repented having come at His call. You experienced that His word was truth; all His promises He fulfilled; He made you partakers of the blessings and the joy of His love. Was not His welcome most hearty, His pardon full and free, His love most sweet and precious? You more than once, at your first coming to Him, had reason to say, "The half was not told me." And yet you have had to complain of disappointment: as time went on, your expectations were not realized. The blessings you once enjoyed were lost; the love and joy of your first meeting with your Saviour, instead of deepening, have become faint and feeble. And often you have wondered what the reason could be, that with such a Saviour, so mighty and so loving, your experience of salvation should not have been a fuller one. The answer is very simple. You wandered from Him. The blessings He bestows are all connected with His "Come to ME," and are only to be enjoyed in close fellowship with Himself. You either did not fully understand, or did not rightly remember, that the call meant, "Come to me to stay with me." And yet this was in very deed His object and purpose when first He called you to Himself. It was not to refresh you for a few short hours after your conversion with the joy of His love and deliverance, and then to send you forth to wander in sadness and sin. He had destined you to something better than a short-lived blessedness, to be enjoyed only in times of special earnestness and prayer, and then to pass away, as you had to return to those duties in which far the greater part of life has to be spent. No, indeed; He had prepared for you an abiding dwelling with Himself, where your whole life and every moment of it might be spent, where the work of your daily life might be done, and where all the while you might be enjoying unbroken communion with Himself. It was even this He meant when to that first word, "Come to me," He added this, "Abide in me." As earnest and faithful, as loving and tender, as the compassion that breathed in that blessed "Come," was the grace that added this no less blessed "Abide." As mighty as the attraction with which that first word drew you, were the bonds with which this second, had you but listened to it, would have kept you. And as great as were the blessings with which that coming was rewarded, so large, yea, and much greater, were thetreasures to which that abiding would have given you access.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
His kidnapping by Irish raiders changed his life. Grabbed from his British home in the middle of the night while his parents were away visiting a nearby town, he instantly lost all prestige and entitlements. Within weeks, he was a slave to an Irish landowner and consigned to guarding sheep. Some years later, he escaped and returned to his home and his parents. Shortly, thereafter, he decided to return to the people who had altered his life.
There are many worthy quotes from the aged missionary to Ireland worthy of our contemplation, especially on this, his day. But let’s not forget his life expended preaching the gospel, modeling the gospel and warring for the gospel was all predicated on an earlier decision. Long before he became known to the world as St. Patrick, he decided to forgive his enemies of their offenses and this action was the defining action of his life and is central to the gospel of Jesus.
Forgiveness is the core of the Christian faith.
Have you sought the forgiveness of God, your Creator, Designer and Sovereign King?
Have you forgiven others who have offended, wounded, and hurt you?
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Friday, March 04, 2011
It is the ultimate reason behind the exodus—God’s rescuing His covenant people from Egyptian slavery. “And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Ex 6:7). And, too “…the Egyptians shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them” (Ex 7:5).
God used Jeremiah the prophet to tell us that if we accomplish anything at all with our lives and energy, be sure we know Him: “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I [am] the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these [things] I delight, saith the LORD” (Jer 9:24).
The apostle Paul said his highest quest was “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…” (Phil 3:10).
And in 1 John, the Bible talks of knowing God experientially (ginosko) 24 times: 2:3, 4, 5, 13 (twice), 14, 18, 29; 3:1 (twice), 6, 16, 19, 20, 24; 4:2, 6 (twice), 7, 8, 13, 16; 5:2, 20 and knowing Him intellectually (oida) 15 times: 2:11, 20, 21 (twice), 29; 3:2, 5, 14, 15; 5:13, 15 (twice), 18, 19, 20.
The interesting this about the perspective in 1 John is that this knowledge of God manifests itself in action. It isn’t a passive, philosophical knowledge. It is an active, integrated knowledge. It really is an echo of the book of James. Don’t just talk about faith—show it.
So, how much of God do you know?