Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lake Country Bible Church: Personal Reflections on Our First Year

In twelve years of full-time pastoral ministry my first twelve plus weeks at Lake Country Bible Church have been the most rewarding months of my life (and some of the fullest).  For this, Andrea and I praise and thank the Lord!

Lake Country Bible Church
After nine challenging years of church revitalization, God (still) owed me nothing; for pastoral ministry is always a mercy.   Having said that, the difficult places and low valleys in pastoral ministry often help one to more fully appreciate the 'good times' and mountain peaks.  This is certainly true of our recent experience at Lake Country Bible Church.

Though Lake Country Bible Church is not the largest congregation in the area it is one of most hungry, welcoming, loving, and passionate ministries we have ever served in.  Evidence to support this statement abound:  From intentional acts of congregational kindness (1 Thess. 5:12-13); to active ministry involvement (Eph. 4:12; at Lake Country Bible 80% of the church serves in a variety of ministries); to an intense hunger for the pure Word (1 Pet. 2:2; when I accidentally preached for 75 minutes a few months ago I didn’t hear a single word of complaint minus my own); to a gracious compensation package (1 Tim. 5:17-18); to responsive hearts to biblical leadership (2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 11:1; Prov. 27:17; almost every single adult male signed up for an intense men’s leadership ministry that was recently started); to stirring congregational worship (Psalm 150).  With each passing week our praise list continues to grow!

Every time I speak with my predecessor (and founding pastor) Sal Massa I thank him for the privilege of succeeding him at such a special place. LCBC is not a perfect church (there is no such thing this side of eternity) but it’s certainly a very special church! This is not to suggest that there have not been any trials (for example our home in Illinois remains unsold), but these challenges have been small in comparison with the recent blessings. Andrea and I have repeatedly pinched ourselves when reflecting upon the Lord’s kindness in bringing us to Lake Country.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New- Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Series

New Class Starting 9/17/17
This Sunday all of our children/youth and adult SS classes begin at 9am at Lake Country Bible Church.

In my adult Sunday School class we will begin our "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" series. 

In this class we'll answer many related questions, such as:  What are the biblical roles and responsibilities of Christian men and women?

What does Biblical manhood entail?

What does Biblical womanhood involve
?

How can we avoid the unbiblical extremes?

MEN, are we striving to be EXEMPLARY Christian husbands
?

LADIES, are you striving to be EXCELLENT Christian WIVES?

Single girls, do you know what masculine Christian virtues to look for in a potential future husband?

Single guys, do you know the roles and goals of a potential future wife?

Fathers are we modeling what a loving leader, a sacrificial provider, and a spiritual protector looks for our children?

Mothers, are a model of the commitments and virtues that are set forth in Prov. 31 and Titus 2?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"The Church That Should Have Died"

Photo Credit: 123RF.com
"It looked like the church would die. The charts showed decades of decline. The roof was leaking, the congregation aging, and the former pastor had left in a scandal. The neighborhood was undesirable. There were a few bright spots, but you had to use your imagination to see them. The odds weren't good.

But they called a pastor. The pastor was an academic who had recently earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge. One of his references said that he probably didn't have what it would take to hold the pulpit. The pastor believed he should accept the charge, but he didn't expect that things would change very much. He thought he would stay a few years, pray and preach, and eventually leave to teach in a seminary.

One more wrinkle: in the middle of the seeker-sensitive and Willow Creek era of church, this pastor believed that the church should set the bar high for membership, and reach into the past. He cared more about biblical principles than business principles. He dug out the church covenant and statement of faith and hammered away at Baptist polity. Could a pastor like that swim against the tide and see the church move to health?

I attended that church this past weekend along with 160 or so church leaders. Over twenty years into the experiment, the church is teeming with young people. There's nothing fancy about the church: the pastor says that he aims for a mere church with few accouterments. The worship is simple, the songs old, the preaching long, and the expectations high.

Over a thousand now call themselves members of that church. Not just members, but active members. It’s also become a launching pad for church plants and church planters. They ignore virtually every principle of the church growth movement by holding Sunday School, Sunday morning and evening services, Wednesday midweek meetings, and two-hour member meetings complete with church discipline. They do all of this in an urban setting far from the Bible Belt, and yet they continue to bear fruit.

One of their leaders calls it Jurassic Park. The church looks like a dinosaur, but it's alive. You'd think that such a church would have gone extinct. It's shocking to see it not only alive but thriving.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility?!?!

Lake Country Bible Church is committed to preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God.  Our overarching goal is to bring everything into conformity with the perfect Revelation of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16; Psalm 19).  This includes our doctrinal convictions, our worship, as well as our daily lives (John 17:17; Psalm 119:105-112).  Our theology is built solely on the Word of God because Scripture alone is inerrant, inspired, infallible, and the source of Divine wisdom.  God speaks to us, both of Himself and His truth, through the Holy Bible.

Having said this, not all Scripture is as straightforward as John 3:16 or 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  Peter makes this very assertion in 2 Peter 3:14-16; “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 
Passages such as Romans 9-11, Ephesians 1, and 2 Thessalonians 2 are but a few texts that require greater effort (2 Tim. 2:15) in order to interpret them properly.
The Bible teaches twin truths with regards to God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Both are equally true.  The absolute sovereignty of God does not lessen or eliminate human responsibility and/or human culpability one iota. 

Concerning God’s absolute freedom to be God passages of Scripture such as Psalm 115:3 remind us, Our God is in the heavens and he does whatever he pleases “As our sovereign Lord, He does always as He pleases, only as He pleases, and all that He pleases.”

In reference to this holy attribute one author writes, “Our God remains incomprehensible and retains His simplicity. He tells us in His Word that He is not a God of confusion but of order. He is not at war with Himself. He is altogether good, altogether holy, and altogether sovereign. This we must affirm to maintain a biblical concept of divine sovereignty. Yet we must always balance this understanding with a clear understanding that God always exercises His power and authority according to His holy character.
He chooses what He chooses according to His own good pleasure. It is His pleasure that He does.  He chooses what is pleasing to Himself. But that pleasure is always His good pleasure, for God is never pleased to will or to do anything that is evil or contrary to His own goodness.

In this we can rest, knowing that He wishes for, and has the power to bring about, all good things for us His children.”  Note also Psalm 103:19; Psalm 66:7; 1 Chronicles 29:12.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Why I Dress Up on Sunday (and Why You Don’t Have To)

For the past many months I have had the great joy of pastoring Lake Country Bible Church.  This local church is best known for two Christian virtues.  1) A deep and abiding love for one another (John 13:34-35) and 2) an intense appetite for the pure milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2-3).  These ministry hallmarks make shepherding and preaching to this congregation a real blessing.

One of the reasons I moved to Lake Country, Wisconsin is because of how like-minded we are.  LCBC and I share the same deep convictions relating to a biblical philosophy of ministry among many other things.  However, that does not mean that there are not any differences.  One such minor difference revolves around dress.  On any given Sunday I may be one of two or three men in a suit and tie.  For many weeks, I had members jokingly remind me that, “You don’t need to wear that here.”  I generally just smile and say something like “I know.”  So why do I choose to “dress up” so formally and why am I totally fine if the congregation chooses not to? 

Let me try and answer both of these questions for you. 

1) The Scripture places a premium on the heart.  External religion without genuine passion and love for God displeases the Lord (see Rev. 2; John 4:23-24).  Matthew 23 and the Old Testament book of Malachi also drive home this timeless truth.

One of the reasons why I am fine with a more informally dressed flock is because the members at LCBC still take worship very seriously.   Biblical worship needs to convey both holy fear and exuberant joy.   One without the other misses the mark.  David put it this way in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  Tim Challies notes that “it is a matter of the heart before it is a matter of dress, and the heart is both tricky and deceitful.”

2) The Bible commands believers to dress modestly.   In some inspired instructions related to worship the Spirit of God calls women (in particular) “to dress modestly, with decency and propriety” (1 Tim. 2:8-15).  In short, worship is about glorifying God (Psalm 150) and edifying our brothers and sisters in Christ (Col. 3:16).  In view of this one should strive to not draw undo attention to themselves.  This could take place in terms of flaunting one’s wealth (look at me) or in showing off one’s body (look at me). Both of these things are common place in the world today. I mean isn’t that what most red carpet events are designed for?  However, this sort of practice is unacceptable within the body of Christ.  The heart of worship is that it's ultimately about Him (not me).  The Triune Lord of creation is the main attraction at LCBC.  I thank God for this. 

"As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Man Sharpens Another"

Iron Men Begins September 23rd
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

The role of a biblical pastor is compromised of three essential tasks:

1) Preaching/teaching/feeding;

2) Leadership/biblical oversight;

3)Shepherding/discipleship/counseling.

In many ways the backbone of the church is compromised of mature, Word-centered, Spirit-filled, lay leaders.  Churches that go astray almost always have immature men at the helm.

By Divine design men are called to be spiritual leaders at home and within society at large. God also calls us to be Christ-like churchmen.

For as long as I have been a Senior Pastor men's leadership training and development has been top priority of mine. Please pray for us we seek to grow in our personal walk with the Lord, understand more clearly the Master's plan for His church, and grow in our discernment of what is the right and wrong direction to lead the Lord's people.  Our first super session will begin on September 23.  Please contact me for more detailed information.

Monday, August 21, 2017

When "Politics" and "Religion" Clash


Christians today need to be aware of the "grave danger of associating the cause of Christ with a (secular) political movement.  While Shane Claiborn and many others rightly bemoan Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s Christ-ifying of the Donald Trump administration, they fall guilty of committing the same offense, giving moral and Christian endorsement of causes, leaders, movements and events that are anything but Christ-like...."

"The social justice movement in America is a political cause, not a spiritual one.  It is predicated upon grievance, is fueled by resentment, and sees worldly power structures as savior.  None of this sounds like Jesus.  What is sounds like is the racist, white nationalist garbage it claims to despise...."

"The perpetuation of race a distinguishing and identifying element in the human experience is the precise opposite path anyone who desires racial reconciliation would counsel.  Yet this is precisely what social justice advocates facilitate by going so far as to deem any white person who promotes Martin Luther King's dream of a colorblind society a latent racist.  When they should be promoting the Biblical view of "one blood, one race," they elevate racial divides and make sweeping generalizations about races that are just as repugnant as the idiotic and hateful neo-Nazi signage."
the Gospel of Peace

"In a sane a world, the church of Jesus would be boldly confronting both of those manmade movements and presenting the better way forward (Gal. 3:28; Rom. 1:16-17). Unfortunately, at least for now, a portion of the church has chosen to identify itself with those who think politics and manmade power will solve a problem only God can heal."