Monday, June 29, 2015

An Open Letter to Evangelical Leaders in NW Il

Dear Pastor and/or ministry leader,

I write you this morning with a simple invitation. We are all very aware of the Supreme Court’s landmark SCOTUS decision this past Friday. Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision was announced the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC published an “Evangelical Declaration on Marriage: Here We Stand.” This document was signed by church leaders from a variety of evangelical backgrounds (Presbyterian, Free Church, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Non-denominational, etc).

If you agree with this evangelical declaration on marriage and would like to add your name to the signatories list I am asking you to prayerfully consider doing two things.

 1) Please send me an email with your name, position, ministry. For example, “H.B. Charles Jr., Pastor-Teacher, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.” I plan on sending this Evangelical Declaration on Marriage to the Journal Standard with a name of LOCAL signatories. As many of you know the Journal Standard has provided free advertisement to Dr. Dutcher’s LGBT/’Open and Affirming’ beliefs more times than I can keep track of (Unity Fest, etc). I am going to ask that the Journal Standard to allow the other side of this debate to express their religious/biblical convictions by publishing this Declaration in the paper with our signatories. In view of how many times they have published articles for St. John’s I believe it is only right that they do so. If you decide to add your name to this cause I will send you a final document with a list of local signatories so you can use the list as you see fit.

2) If you want to sign the national document you can add your name here. I do not think the vast majority of people in our local communities will ever see this document or our signatories. Hence the reason for request one.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Biblical Perspective on the SCOTUS decision

         Rom. 1:16-32, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, and Jude 3-25         
A Biblical Perspective on the SCOTUS decision
"Fight the Good Fight of Faith!" 

After Friday’s landmark SCOTUS decision many shepherds serving in America felt compelled to imitate the example of Jude.  Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.  For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).  I Following in Jude's footsteps I decided to take a week off from our gospel of John series in order to address the Supreme Court's nation changing decision.  

“These are dark times, there’s no denying it!”  In our own backyard my family often hears beautiful hymns of the faith played on traditional church bells from only a block away.  We often hear great gospel songs like “the Old Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace.”  Yet when anyone drives by this church they quickly observe a flashing "Gay Pride" rainbow flag that is proudly displayed on St.John's digital billboard.  St. John Church of Christ wants everyone in Freeport to know that they are leading the way in the "Open and Affirming" church movement that is sweeping through our nation like wildfire.  Dr. Dutcher strongly believes that Lord himself desires every church, not just his own congregation, to join him in this progressive crusade; And they are certainly not alone in this!  Just like week Pastor Tony Campolo issued a statement saying he now "fully supports same sex marriage."  Add to that, a recent article on Reuters which reports that close to thirty five percent of “professing Evangelicals”now support gay marriage. That number represents a a sixteen percent  increase over a time span of just three years (though around fifty percent of the nation still believes homosexuality is a sin).

Friday, June 26, 2015

An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage: Here We Stand

Official statement from 
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage represents what seems like the result of a half-century of witnessing marriage’s decline through divorce, cohabitation, and a worldview of almost limitless sexual freedom. The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.

The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman. From Genesis to Revelation, the authority of Scripture witnesses to the nature of biblical marriage as uniquely bound to the complementarity of man and woman. This truth is not negotiable. The Lord Jesus himself said that marriage is from the beginning (Matt. 19:4-6), so no human institution has the authority to redefine marriage any more than a human institution has the authority to redefine the gospel, which marriage mysteriously reflects (Eph. 5:32). The Supreme Court’s ruling to redefine marriage demonstrates mistaken judgment by disregarding what history and countless civilizations have passed on to us, but it also represents an aftermath that evangelicals themselves, sadly, are not guiltless in contributing to. Too often, professing evangelicals have failed to model the ideals we so dearly cherish and believe are central to gospel proclamation.

Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

God-centered preaching in a Text-driven Manner

"However, neither the important role of the Holy Spirit nor our faith in the triune God requires that every sermon give more or less equal time to each Person in the Godhead.  Not systematic theology but the preaching-text determines the focus of the sermon.  Systematic theology functions as the 'rule of faith' which sets the boundaries of valid interpretation; but only the text-- understood in its biblical and redemptive historical contexts-- provide the focus of the sermon." 

This was the best quote I came across in Dr. Greidanus' book, Preaching Christ From the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method, 182.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Another Celebrity Pastor Disqualifies Himself. How, Why, and Now What?

Picture from

This past week Tullian Tchividjian stepped down from his Florida megachurch after admitting he had an extramarital affair and that he had therefore disqualified himself from pastoral ministry.  As with Mark Driscoll it was another sad day for the evangelical church in America. 

In light of a few public statements I have spent time this week praying for Coral Ridge Church as well as asking God to mend the Tchividjian's broken marriage.  I have also spent some time meditating on the sober warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12, Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  "But for the grace of God there go I."

As most of you know I have posted a few articles highlighting the theological trajectory of Pastor Tullian and Elyse Fitzpatrick; (If you need a quick recap on the issues surrounding the sanctification/hyper-grace controversy you can click here and here).  Some people have suggested that Tullian's "Antinomian tendencies" had absolutely nothing to do with this recent adultery/affair announcementI have responded by saying none of us know for certain how much or how little Tullian's hyper-grace sanctification paradigm impacted his recent behavior and sinful choices.

The Scriptures do teach us however that what someone believes (or does not believe) should and often does impact our everyday living. Biblical examples of this thinking/behavior connection include Platonic Dualism, Gnosticism, the hyper-realized eschatology problem in Thessalonica, and of course, heretical Libertine theology (as described in 2 Peter/Jude).  Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are inseparably connected!  Or you might say that unbiblical theology and sin are often partners in crime. 

At the 2015 Shepherd's Conference Dr. Ligon Duncan also reminded a room full of pastors that immoral living often leads to bad theology.  In other words, bad theology is often created in order to justify sinful behavior (note for example the open and affirming church movement in America).  Before you write me off I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about the implications of these observations.  I believe Lig Duncan made this insightful statement about 'sin and erroneous theology' during this exposition of 2 Timothy 4. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Retrospective Analysis of the First Ten Years

The past decade of pastoral ministry has been very sanctifying and for that I thank the Lord (Rom. 8:28-30).  In faith I am holding on to the promise of Philippians 1:6.  "Who I am is in between of who I want to be and what I am." I am highlighting of course the already/not yet component of sanctification/glorification (note Rom. 6-7).  As I have said before, I had no idea how challenging church revitalization would be when I graduated from seminary back in 2005.  That one would have to be willing to suffer loss of health, reputation, friendships, and worldly success/accolades in effort to build Christ's church God's way (2 Tim. 2; 3:12).   Surely this battering accounts for some of the staggering numbers related to the high dropout rate among ministers.
I humbly admit that I also did not realize how much my sinful flesh desired the approval of men.  Part of my internal agony and pastoral burden over the years is a reflection of how I wanted both the favor of God and the applause of men.   In other words, if a shepherd is trying to establish a Word-driven ministry (from top to bottom) he will find out rather quickly that their are many occasions when you cannot "have your cake and eat it too."   A reoccurring test that I have encountered during the first decade of pastoral ministry is this: What's more important, biblical fidelity and the approval of God, or nickels and noses?  Am I more interested in building a pure church that is truly Christ-centered or in telling people that I pastor a large and "successful" church?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Why 'Verse-by-Verse' Expository Preaching?

Their was a season fifteen or so years ago when preaching through books of the Bible, verse-by-verse and chapter by chapter, was quite trendy.  We all know how much American Evangelicalism loves trends so naturally lots of churches started doing this (at least many attempted to do this).  I recently checked out a number of church websites in our community and realized that those days are long gone.  Expository preaching is no longer en vogue.   So why am I so committed to this "not so popular" (passé) method of teaching?

A missionary friend of mine (Jonathan Moorehead) provided a very helpful explanation this week as to why sequential exposition is the preferred method of preaching for most TMS graduates.  This is not to say that faithful Bible exposition demands Lectio Continua but many of us are convinced that it is the safest way of insuring that the authorial intent of each passage is declared in every sermon. Mark Dever rightly describes Bible exposition as “Preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.  

Why does accuracy and authorial intent matter? 2 Timothy 2:15 reminds us that those "workmen" who "rightly divide the Word of truth" have no need to be "ashamed" as they preach the Word of God in season and out (2 Timothy 3:15-4:5).  To twist or distort the true meaning of holy Scripture is no small thing even when it is done intentionally. See for example my sermon, "Faulty Interpretation. Wrong Applications. Serious Problems."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Acknowledging Former Church Members in Celebration of 170 years!

This year marks the 170th Anniversary of the First Baptist Church of Freeport.  That means of course that every founding member has gone on to glory long ago.  As we prepare to celebrate the faithfulness of God and the provision of our Savior over 17 decades we felt it was also important for us to try and acknowledge the faithful ministry service of former church members who now serve the Lord in new contexts.  This letter will be sent out this week.

Dear friend(s) of First Baptist Church,

As many of you know 2015 marks the 170th anniversary of First Baptist, Freeport. In order to commemorate the faithfulness of God and His enduring Word Tim Zimmerman and the King’s Brass will be with us on July 1st at 7pm. Following a special concert of praise we will gather in the fellowship hall for a dessert fellowship. In view of this, we want to personally invite you and your family to join us for this milestone occasion.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Celebrating 170 Years of God's Faithfulness

"Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Better To Fight For Something Esp. If That 'Something' Is God's Truth (Jude 3-25)

Especially if that something is the Divine "truth" (1 Timothy 3:15) and "the faith" (Jude 3-25)!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"Ruining Our Witness" & "Worship that Displeases God": A Few Considerations.

For anyone who is regular reader of Elyse Fitzpatrick or Tullian Tchividjian I would highly encourage you to read Daniel I. Block's, "For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship." In it you will find helpful insights like this, "In chapter 3 we established that while the call to salvation is unconditional, the call to worship is conditional and subject to the spiritual and moral conditions of the worshiper."Just because we have experienced the grace of Christ in salvation does not mean that New Testament believers should be casual about worship (nor should we be nonchalant about our witness).

"For many, Sunday morning is just as hectic as any other day. By the time we arrive at the church, we are out of breath, our tempers are short, and we have scarcely had worship on our minds. But, blissfully, we imagine all we need to do is show up in church and God will be impressed. So we take pride in being in the services on Sunday morning, and if we are involved in various youth activities, in campus charities, or in Bible studies (midweek), we are obviously exceptionally spiritual. However, this scarcely fits the picture painted in Hebrew 10 and 12."

I believe hyper-grace advocates would heartily AMEN the second quote but I do not think the first quote would be posted in very many Twitter feeds.  As with most things, biblical balance is desperately needed in this area of theology/practice.  

So how can we elevate the free grace of justification without minimizing the various imperatives related to our progressive sanctification?  Or as Kevin DeYoung puts it, how can we glory in the indicatives while insisting on the imperatives?  How do we avoid the ditch of Legalism (Col. 2:16-17) without falling prey to hyper-grace Antinomianism?

In this vein, how do we balance New Testament warnings like 1 Peter 3:7 without becoming Pharisaic legalists? “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered