Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I Will Build My Church

This past Sunday we were able to hear the gospel confession of three new members.  Believer's baptism and the testimony of new Christians is so encouraging.  Few things stoke the flames of personal evangelism more than this ordinance.

FBC Freeport joyfully welcomes Raul and Dalila Cuellar and Bill Waters into our spiritual family. 

Jesus Christ is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"When Your Reputation is Unfairly Tarnished in Service to Christ." At the Feet of C.H. Spurgeon (pt. 2).

How should you respond, quoting Spurgeon again, "When you come under the cruel rebukes of your enemies and the ungenerous reproofs of pretended friends?"

I am learning that in many situations it is best to say little or nothing at all because many of your most critical critics have already made up their minds.  

It is not uncommon for pastors to find themselves in "lose-lose situations" (humanly speaking).  I am thinking of those contexts where if your pastor says nothing at all people will assume that the things his critics have stated are true and will likely pull away and/or leave the church.  If your church leaders prepare a fact-filled response these same people will accuse them of sharing too much information or of being proud and defensive.  In situations like this what is a pastor to do?  Read 2 Corinthians if you need help understanding what it is I am trying to highlight here.

Many of the strongest and most critical prejudices formed against Word-driven pastors are commonly based on what someone has told someone else ("hearsay").

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"When Your Reputation is Unfairly Tarnished." At the Feet of C.H. Spurgeon (pt. 1).

Throughout my Christian pilgrimage I have placed myself at the feet of Charles Spurgeon many times over.  While reading Spurgeon's authorized biography I have been learning a lot about gospel-centered evangelism, Christ-centered preaching, and pastoral ministry that is Word-driven.

I recently came across a helpful section on criticism and slander.  How should a Christian pastor respond when his reputation is unfairly tarnished?  What should you do when former disgruntled members actively seek your demise especially when you pastor a local church in a smaller community?   As with every wisdom scenario context is very important.   

Everyone agrees that it is imperative to humbly consider any and all criticism in order to prayerfully discern if their is even a 'kernel of truth' in it.  Having said that, some church leaders have also suggested that it is never prudent to defend yourself or your ministry from misrepresentations even when the criticism or slander is grossly imbalanced or patently false.  "Let God take care of your reputation."   In many instances this may be the wisest course of action but not always.  Spurgeon, following Paul's own example in 2 Corinthians, provides a few illustrations of what to do, or not do, when you find yourself in the line of fire.

Concerning his own ministry Spurgeon writes, "It was my lot to go through two or three years of the most violent abuse, and I thank God for it.  I felt it very hard to bear, but I fell upon my knees before God, and told Him that, when I gave Him everything else, I gave Him my character, too.  If I had known that by faithfully serving Christ I must ruin my reputation, I think I should not have paused for a single moment."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hardship + Struggle = Spiritual Maturation

We must learn to trust God especially when life hurts.  In other words, the trials and tribulations of church revitalization ministry are exactly what this author/pastor/Christian needed.  The pain has not been enjoyable but all of the hardships and set backs over the past 10 years in ministry have been spiritually profitable. 

Our loving Father often uses "various trials" to burn away sinful dross and to refine us into the image of Christ.  In this we rejoice
In the words of J.I. Packer, “We are spiritual dwarfs.  A much-traveled leader, a native American (be it said), has declared that he finds North American Protestantism, man-centered, manipulative, success-oriented, self-indulgent and sentimental, as it blatantly is, to be 3,000 miles wide and half an inch deep…. Ease and luxury, such as our affluence brings us today, do not make for maturity; hardship and struggle however do.”

Romans 5:1-5, "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

I for one needed the loving admonishment Pastor Jerry Wragg provided in his recent article, "Gospel Off-Centered." 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kingdom Breakthrough

"The history of kingdom breakthrough is a history of faithful submission to God's Word over time in difficult places" (Acts 6:7; 12:24; 19:20).  GK  Beale.  

Faithful submission to God's Word often includes going against the grain of American culture, and in many instances, it also means going against the grain of American evangelicalism.

Faithful submission to God's Word certainly includes preaching unpopular texts of Scripture.  Kingdom breakthrough includes teaching and applying the whole counsel of God.  Kingdom breakthrough often involves Biblical reformation and revitalization.

In short, "The history of kingdom breakthrough is a history of faithful submission to God's Word over time in difficult places."  For this reason,  I believe First Baptist Freeport is on the right track as we begin our 170th year of ministry.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"God, Grace, and Katy Perry"

Some people likely wondered whether a cultural commentary piece on the gospel according to the Grammys was really necessary.   "Surely evangelicals have enough discernment to perceive for themselves the weightier things that were alluded to in my previous blog post, right?"  

Not so fast.  It was not more than a day or two later when I came across an article by a pastor and "Christian" author who contradicted almost every biblical point that was made in my most recent article.   A number of Christians commented on Facebook how much they appreciated this pastor's perspective on "God, grace, and Katy Perry."   I encourage you to take ten minutes and compare and contrast both articles for yourself and then 'search the Scriptures to see if these things be so.'  

Please keep in mind that Ms. Katy Perry's influence on society extends far and wide.  Katy has over 75 million twitter followers and is especially popular with children and young adults.  In fact, last night I noticed one of our first time Awana guests had her hair dyed just like one of her role models, Katy Perry.  As many parents with teenage children know, Katy Perry fashion line sells lots of jewelry and make up at Claire's (a store for young girls). To suggest Katy Perry's music is only popular with young people however would be a mistake.  The 2015 Super Bowl chose Katy Perry to be the Pepsi halftime entertainment (following the likes of Bruno Mars, BeyoncĂ©, Madonna, etc).  

The Super Bowl is hands down one of the most popular events of the year.  In fact, the 2015 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks set a new mark, averaging 114.4 million viewers per minute becoming the most watched event in American TV history.  Now that I have your attention please read on.

God, Grace, and Katy Perry

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Gospel According to the Grammys

I have a confession to make.  I love music and would echo the sentiment of Martin Luther who said, "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world."  As someone who appreciates music I also enjoy the diversity of musical styles that exist in our current culture.  In God's common grace, even unregenerate human beings possess the God-given capacity to create unbelievable sounds and memorable works of art.  Sadly, a lot of amazing talent is spoiled and/or squandered once explicit, hedonistic lyrics (songs that extol the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life) are married to what is otherwise 'happy' music.  More on this point in a moment.
As with other areas in life, in some ways, "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder.  This explains why some people gravitate to opera while others prefer the distinct sound of country music.  But now I digress.
During the 2015 Grammys two particular segments stood out in my mind.  The first was when Grammy winner Pharrell Williams went back on stage to thank the Lord for his God-given talent.   This kind of acceptance speech is really not that uncommon even at a 'secular' award ceremonies show like the Grammys.  What was out of the ordinary is that Williams went on to say, "I forgot to say it earlier God, but as You can see I am at your service, Lord."  This public confession was not the industry standard, "I want to thank God for giving me such amazing talent" speech.  I wonder what went through your mind when you heard Pharrell Williams express this gospel sounding admission.
The first few thoughts that entered my mind when I heard this public confession were the haunting words of Jesus Christ in Luke 6:46, where King Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"  I also thought of Jesus' penetrating words in John 14:23, "If anyone (truly) loves me, he will keep My Word."  Whenever a public confession like this is made in a context like the Grammys one cannot help but consider the practical implications of Matthew 7:21-23