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."

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mack and Carr: A Better Way Fwd

photo credit: Pro Sports Daily
A better way forward.  NFL superstars Derek Carr and Khalil Mack showed the nation a better way forward while the National Anthem was played, and after the game, during their respective locker room press conferences.  Rather then enter the arena of racial politics Carr and Mack demonstrated the power of genuine friendship through a symbolic gesture of solidarity.  Hand on shoulder, side by side.

Their was no anti-police rhetoric.  No "black power" fists raised.  No Colin Kaepernick/Marshawn Lynch sit down(s) while the country's anthem was played.  Their was no politically charged (vulgar) press-conferences following the game.  Their was no pot shots taken at Democrats or Republicans.  It was just two close friends, one white and one black, demonstrating that Americans must come together as "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

Our nation does not need more protests.  We simply need to flesh out the practical implications of the Biblical worldview of "one blood, one race."  Jesus put it this way, "Love God (supremely)....and love your neighbor as yourself."  Christians should model what 'brotherly love' looks like.  I cannot speak for the entire country, but in my circle of Christians friends (which stretches from coast to coast), I can testify that this very thing is taking place.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"You're a Racist" (If You Don't Think Exactly Like I Do) and Other Myths

"You're a racist!" "No wonder you pastor such a small congregation!"  This is what a fellow believer accused me of in the aftermath of the Michael Brown/Ferguson race riot situation back in 2014.  When this tragic situation unfolded in real-time a close pastor-friend asked, "What's the backstory behind the slanderous comments that were posted on your family's Facebook page?"  This individual assumed that these emotionally charged accusations came from a former, disgruntled church member who had a serious ax to grind.  I replied, "No brother.  This is someone who has filled the pulpit for me as a guest preacher on multiple occasions.  I thought he knew me, and more importantly, that my life example spoke for itself..." apparently I was wrong.  Or was I?

Have you noticed that every time a "racial controversy" takes place in our country history seems to repeat itself?  If a political conservative and/or a Christian (regardless of heritage or race) states a position, contrary to what the Liberal N.Y. Times and/or what those evangelicals who support the Black Lives Matter narrative promote, (such as Thabiti Anyabwile and Russell Moore), their perspective is quickly drown out in a chorus of "white privilege," "racism," and/or "hate speech" accusations.  As a result, many Christians, including quite a few church leaders, are afraid to offer up a nuanced perspective- even when in the same breath- genuine racism is soundly condemned; (be it "white nationalism" or "Antifa").
Christian Harmony 

The last thing any decent person wants to have said of them today is you are a "racist," "a sexist," and/or a hate-monger.   Black Conservatives (Ben Carson, Condi Rice, Allen West, Clarence Thomas) and African-American Christians are sometimes called "house Negros" and a host of even worse sinful pejoratives. I have witnessed individuals face this kind of slanderous fire storm just because they have the audacity to hold a different political/social viewpoint.  Contrary to popular opinion, words sometimes sting far worse than "sticks and stones" and can be even more destructive (see James 3).

To set this particular blog post into it's larger context.  Some time ago I posted an article titled, "Overcoming the Flames of Ferguson."  Before publicizing this blog post I asked a well known black pastor, whom I greatly respect (Voddie Bauchman), to review my "Christian opinion piece."  I am not afraid to uphold unpopular biblical truths but I also desire to do so without causing unnecessary offense.  I have no interest in being controversial just for the sake of gaining a larger audience.  Brother Voddie graciously agreed to read my blog and told me that he thought my article was biblically balanced and helpful.  After posting this same perspective on my Facebook page another black "friend" responded by calling me a "racist" (see paragraphs one through three).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Disney Promotes Lesbian Parents On Popular Cartoon Show

Photo Credit Screengrab via GLAAD/Facebook
“Disney breaks new ground, introduces interracial lesbian parents” in popular children’s cartoon show ‘Doc McStuffins.’  Just when you think that our morally bankrupt nation could not stoop any lower we find a way to do so.  Romans 1:18-32 is playing out before our watching eyes.  I think every Christian would agree that the Romans 1 "wrath of Divine abandonment" is nothing to yawn about.

In a related article on msn.com the following commentary was given in view of Disney's latest pro-LGBTQ  cartoon.  “Disney has introduced a multiracial two-mom family, voiced by lesbian actors. On a recent episode of the Disney Channel show Doc McStuffins, Wanda Sykes and Portia de Rossi each voice doll-like lesbian mothers helping their children cope after an “earthquake” shakes up their house. The mothers, who are in a relationship, learn from titular character Doc McStuffins how to create an emergency earthquake kit to protect their family in the future.

The episode doesn’t necessarily focus on the lesbian mothers’ sexualities. Instead, their relationship is simply shown as a matter of fact. The scene has been hailed by GLAAD for its thoughtfulness and inclusive nature, paving the way for future representation of queer interracial families on TV.  “Children like mine deserve the chance to see their families reflected on TV, and this episode does just that in a beautiful and positive way,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said. “Shows like this reflect our real world, and today that includes the many children being raised by gay and lesbian parents who are all going to celebrate this story.

This isn’t Disney’s first step into LGBTQ representation. Earlier, the animated series Star vs. the Forces of Evil featured Disney’s first gay kiss. Disney also showcased their first lesbian couple on Good Luck Charlie, making their relationship central to an episode within the series.”

If the Old Testament prophets or John the Baptist were alive today what heavenly message do you suppose they would deliver to the ‘divided’ States of America?   I can guarantee you that the tone and content would be much different than what is heard on a typical Sunday morning in most churches. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Choosing a Church: the 10 Things That Matter Most (pt. 3)

WHAT MATTERS MOST

"If you’re ready to decide where to go to church – or not sure if the church you’re attending is where God wants you – you may be faced with difficult choices as well. A lot is at stake. Most of us have a lot of options. And most of us have a lot of preferences, too.  So how do we decide what matters most?

  ....When it comes to selecting a church – a “must-have” list and a “that-would-be-nice” list of qualities in a church. In this chapter, I want to help you with your “must-have” list.

TEN IMPORTANT QUESTIONS (# 6-10):

6.  Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word?

                No church can claim to live out God’s Word perfectly.  What’s important is to look for a church that is seeking not only to believe rightly, but also to live rightly.  It’s possible for a church to be doctrinally sound but have a culture of total apathy when it comes to applying the truth of God’s Word in everyday life.

                Our faith in God and our desire to honor Him with obedience and holiness will affect everything – from how we conduct ourselves at work to how we speak to our children at home.  If it doesn’t, something is wrong.

                That means that the church you’re looking for will seek to build a culture and community of both hearing and obeying God’s Word (see James 1:22).  It will seek not only to win converts, but to make disciples by helping them to mature in godly living in every area of life.

See R. Kent Hughes', "Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life."

See Kevin DeYoung's, "The Hole In Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness."

See J.C. Ryle's classic, "Holiness"


7.  Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships?

                We all need relationships where we can receive encouragement, accountability and care.  And an essential part of living out God’s Word is being connected to other Christians. Does the church you’re considering provide settings where you can enjoy biblical fellowship, mutual encouragement, and application of Scripture?  This will look different at different churches – some have official small group structures, others don’t but achieve the same purpose through other means.  What matters is that godly relationships happen.  And, of course, these kinds of relationships usually take time to develop.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Choosing a Church: 10 Things That Matter Most (pt. 2)

WHAT MATTERS MOST

If you’re ready to decide where to go to church – or not sure if the church you’re attending is where God wants you – you may be faced with difficult choices as well. A lot is at stake. Most of us have a lot of options. And most of us have a lot of preferences, too.  So how do we decide what matters most?

                The wisdom you need to choose a church is a little like the wisdom a person needs to choose a spouse. For example, it’s not wrong for a woman to want to marry a man with blond hair who likes Italian food and hiking. But it would be foolish to place these preferences over the priority of his being truly converted and growing in godliness. In the same way, it’s not wrong to want a church with a lot of people your age or to prefer a certain style of worship music – but these are secondary concerns. Curtis’s example is helpful. He chose a church based on the criteria God’s Word gives – not just on his preferences, or what felt comfortable to familiar to him. In the same way, we need two different lists when it comes to selecting a church – a “must-have” list and a “that-would-be-nice” list of qualities in a church. In this chapter, I want to help you with your “must-have” list.

TEN IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

Use these ten questions to help you explore and understand a church you’re considering. They work whether you’ve been there for two weeks or ten years. This list isn’t exhaustive, and some of the questions will take time to process. But they can help you hone in on the issues that matter most.

1.  Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?

     “The kind of church you want to be a part of,” writes Donald Whitney, “is one where, when the Bible is read at the beginning of a sermon, you can be confident that what follows will be built upon it. God made our hearts, and only He knows what we need most. And He made our hearts for the Word of God. Nothing nourishes us like his message.” A God-glorifying church is governed by God’s Word. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Be careful here. At first glance, most churches will appear to teach God’s Word. You’ll see it printed in the bulletin, written on the walls, or sprinkled through the services. But these references to Scripture don’t necessarily mean a church is submitted to God’s Word.

                Some teachers start their messages with the Bible, but it’s only a jumping-off point to share their own opinions. I should know – I used to be one of those teachers! I used to build entertaining messages around engaging illustrations, stories, or ideas I had. I always peppered my messages with Scripture. But Scripture wasn’t the meat of the message; it was only the seasoning. Since then, God has mercifully helped me to grow in my understanding of faithful preaching. I’ve learned that the best thing I can do for my church is to build a message on the teaching of a particular passage of Scripture – to draw my points and emphasis from the points and emphasis of the passage. This approach, often called expositional preaching, can be expressed through many different personalities and presentation styles (and it doesn’t have to add up to long, difficult, or boring sermons!). The driving principle is that God’s Word has the authority. The preacher’s task is simply to unleash what it has to say to God’s people. So your first priority is to look for a church whose teaching is driven by a confidence in the authority of Scripture."

WHAT TRULY IS BIBLICAL EXPOSITION?  WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT? WHY IS IT SO HARD TO FIND FAITHFUL PREACHERS WHO DECLARE THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD?  If you get the first mark of a healthy church wrong (biblical preaching and teaching) everything that follows  in this article will not make sense.  So make sure you know what biblical preaching is before you move into items 2-5 and 6-10.

See Steven J Lawson's, "Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call For Expository Preaching."

See Alistair Begg's short book, "Preaching For God's Glory."

See Albert Mohler's "He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World."

See John Piper's, "The Supremacy of God in Preaching."

See John MacArthur's, "Preaching: How To Preach Biblically."

See Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Preachers and Preaching."


2.  Is this a church where sound doctrine truly matters?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Choosing a Church: 10 Things That Matter Most (pt. 1)

In a recent conversation someone asked me, "How do you determine what to really look for when it comes to choosing a local church?"  "When it comes to selecting a new church what is most important?"  How do you know when it's time to transition from one "Christian assembly" to another?

As with marriage, it is essential that we Christians grasp which things are non-negotiable and which things are preferential.  For example, in dating or in courtship it may not be wrong to wait for a blonde haired, blue eyed, single Christian to providentially come your way; but you better not settle for a lukewarm believer simply because they enjoy the same hobbies you do and are physically attractive.  If you have lived long enough you know exactly what I mean.  The Scriptures informs us in Proverbs 31 that "charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the LORD shall be praised."  A spouse with noble character and who possesses an undying love for Christ is worth more than great wealth.

The same principle is true in regards to choosing a local church.  If we place finding a church that offers a certain musical style, or one with a certain size children's or youth ministry, on par with finding a fellowship with a Word-dominated/full counsel of God pulpit with Trinity-centered worship we have obviously missed the biblical mark; (note Eph. 4:11-16; Acts 2:42; Heb. 5:12-14; Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Tim. 3:15-4:5).

In order to solidify our core ecclesiastical convictions the first mini-series I preached in my new church (Lake Country Bible, WI) was on us maintaining "a (thoroughly) Biblical Philosophy of Ministry."  In Colossians 1:28-29 Scripture provides us with the Apostle Paul's inspired mission statement.  Wherein Paul writes, and thus we (continually) proclaim Him,  admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.  I believe that no less than four essential components of a biblical philosophy of ministry are given to us in this amazing text. (I thank God that my former mentors Drs. Rick Holland and Jerry Wragg helped show me the importance of these essential ministry components).

Having inherited a spiritually healthy congregation from my now "retired" predecessor (Pastor Sal Massa) I told Lake Country Bible Church that by the grace of God, we must continue to:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

James White Muslim DIALOGUE Controversy: "Fools Rush In- Where Monkeys Fear to Tread" (PT 1)

My writing ministry is mostly confined to manuscripts related to preaching and teaching within the context of the local church.  My best work is always reserved for my most important task, which is, without question-the expository pulpit (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5).  The inconsistent blog postings here at P.T.L and the "editing polish" of which some of my articles sorely lack is related to these ministry priorities.  For that I make no apologies.  Some of my 'best' blog articles over the years have been the fruit of lessons prepared for Sunday School classes or for more informal, evening gatherings.

With that by way of introduction, please allow me to imitate Carl Trueman and "rush in where even monkeys fear to tread" by discussing the firestorm surrounding James White and Brannon Howse.

Many people within my new ministry context have asked me to weigh in on this controversy.  Thus far, I have said very little because I have not had ample time to read the many related articles, let alone listen to the related videos and podcasts surrounding this  bloody affair.  

Having watched the introduction of James White's dialogue with Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi multiple times now and having read a few summary articles, let me offer up a few preliminary remarks on context, format, and consistency.

1. Context matters.

The friendly discussion between a well known Christian apologist and a respected Muslim scholar took place in a local Christian church.  More than a few church leaders have questioned the wisdom of this decision.  It is one thing to "dialogue" with an unbeliever over lunch in the workplace or to debate Scripture and sound doctrine on a secular University campus.  However, providing a platform for a non-Christian teacher to instruct Christians concerning the true tenants of Islam or any other false religion seems very unwise at best.  Could you imagine Al Mohler inviting Matthew Vines to his local church to dialogue about homosexuality and "God and the gay Christian."  Could you imagine Paul or Peter setting up a friendly conversation with the Gnostics?  I can't..  The spirit of the latter epistles of John (see especially 1-3 John) are worth noting here.  The principles found in Galatians 1-2 are also helpful guides.

In a "open letter" the main lay elder at Grace Community (Pastor MacArthur's church) wrote, "We would not sanction a public dialogue with a Muslim Imam, or any other person with an agenda to teach false religion AT (emphasis mine) Grace Community Church..." Chris Hamilton went on to add a word of public criticism aimed at those bloggers (such as Brannon Howse) that are now discrediting the ministry of James White based on this isolated error of judgment/discernment.  More on that issue another time; (Brannon Howse is someone I have heard of but {until recently} have never read or listened to.  This article is not intended to address Howse's or any other blogger's commentary).

2. Format matters.

James White made it very clear that what he set up in January 2017 was a DIALOGUE not a DEBATE.  

Webster's defines a DEBATE as "a contention by words or arguments. Our polite chat about politics became a heated debate." In contrast, the same dictionary defines DIALOGUE this way; "a written composition in which two or more characters are represented as conversing;  2a : a conversation between two or more persons; also : a similar exchange between a person and something else (such as a computer) b: an exchange of ideas and opinions."

When I first heard that James White set up a two hour "conversation" with a Muslim teacher at a local church I did not believe it.   Now if the same person who first told me of this event had named Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, or even James MacDonald (see the infamous "Elephant room" controversy) I would have thought, "Well that's par for the course," but not Dr. James White.  Footnote: I remember reading a Christmas book by Rick Warren some time ago wherein Warren kept referring to the Roman Catholic Pope as the "holy Father." Say what?!?   I also listened to an out of character dialogue/podcast this year between Reformation historian, Carl Trueman and a high ranking leader in the Roman church, but now I digress.

From my Bible-believing corner of evangelicalism James White is one of the most respected apologist/debaters I know.  I have benefited from more than a few of James White's books, public debates, and apologetics articles in the past.  White's insistence on setting up a "dialogue" driven format with a false teacher in a Christian church surprised me (and many others).

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Teaching Ministry that Edifies the Saints and Glorifies the Lord



At bare minimum faithful teaching is comprised of two essential components.  Preparation and delivery.  Or, more specifically stated, God-honoring preaching involves diligent expository study combined with on-target exposition and application. 

              The “diligent study” component is mandated in 2 Timothy wherein Paul instructs his young protégé, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”[1]    

              The on-target exposition component is prescribed in many biblical texts but chiefly in  2 Timothy 3:16-4:2. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” 

              In short, the faithful bible teacher must read the text, explain the text, and apply the text.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Evangelicalism Gone Wild: The Continued Folly of Hyper-Grace Sanctification.

Photo Credit: modernmarburg.wordpress.com
We interrupt our current blog series to bring you an updated press release concerning Tullian Tchividjian and to sadly recount the continued decline of American Evangelicalism...

Last week (celebrity editor) Phil Johnson criticized (celebrity counselor) Paul Tripp over a public article wherein Tripp basically stated that Pastor Tullian Tchividjian's divorce is necessary because his marriage is 'irreparably broken.'  As most of you know Tullian Tchividjian's ministry credentials were deposed by a south Florida Presbytery recently following his extramarital affair. (Paul Jones of Reformation 21 also weighed in on Paul Tripp's public comments.)

As this tragedy unfolded publicly Phil Johnson added some very helpful commentary along the way. Here are some Pastor Johnson quotes that I found to be quite discerning. "I can't imagine any circumstances under which it would be appropriate to counsel a man who is admittedly guilty of adultery that it's OK to file for divorce after a six-month attempt at reconciliation. Plus, this particular man was a pastor whose whole message was supposedly about the power of the gospel and grace and forgiveness. Tullian himself has been practically demanding grace and forgiveness since the day after his sin was exposed. Furthermore, he seemed to throw his wife under the bus even in his original "confession." From the public perspective, it seems clear that he has sinned against his wife; he is not merely an innocent victim of her sin, whatever that may be. All of those things raise questions in my mind, but the biggest question is, Why is Paul Tripp so willing to be complicit in this whole mess?"

Friday, July 7, 2017

John Stott on Hyper-grace Sanctification and Legalism

Photo Credit: http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/
For some time evangelical church leaders have expressed various concerns with the theological trajectory of the free-grace (hyper-grace) sanctification movement.  In recent years certain Christian authors and preachers have attempted to outdo one another in effort to be  even more "gospel-centered" than the next guy (or gal).  In view of this, a large number of books have been published on gospel-centered preaching, gospel-centered parenting, gospel-centered counseling, gospel-centered athletics, gospel-centered dog rearing, etc.  No Christian of course is against genuine grace-orientated ministry.  But just like at the local super market not every product that claims to be "organic" is truly pesticide free.   Such is the case with gospel-centered literature.  We must be aware so we can beware.

In the judgment of this Christian blogger, Bryan Chappell and Jerry Bridges slightly over-corrected their theology many years ago in effort to avoid the potential ruts of "legalism."  Elyse Fitzpatrick and Tullian Tchividjian went much further then either of the aforementioned authors and as a result have gotten themselves into trouble (see sanctification, grace, and the obedience of faith;  The continued folly of hyper-grace sanctification).  Tullian was removed from the Gospel Coalition and Elyse was uninvited to the annual Woman Discipling Woman conference.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Myth of Adolescence

15+ years ago I heard a series of lectures that addressed biblical youth ministries and "the Myth of Adolescence."  This message was quite helpful in shaping my Biblical Philosophy of Ministry in relation to youth and family ministries.  

"Where does most of this come from? Let me begin by highlighting the myth of adolescence. You know the age with which youth ministry deals with is commonly known as 'adolescence,' and our society has been identified as unique in history by calling people between age twelve and age twenty 'adolescents.' Let me give you the history of that, okay?

 In 1904, G. Stanley Hall—this is all on your CD, by the way—G. Stanley Hall published a book called.. .and guys, if you publish a book, please, please don’t do this, okay? Here’s his book, Adolescence: It’s Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education. How do you put that on the spine of… anyway. 1904. This is the first known treatise on adolescence. 1904. The first place to identify that age. In this book, by the way, Hall argues that the stages in a child’s development parallel in mankind’s evolutionary development in history. The thesis of his book and the idea of adolescence is that the period between thirteen and eighteen is a crisis and stormy period of a young person’s life. Hall concluded that these years almost always include extreme inclinations for a person to be very good or very bad.

Has anyone outgrown adolescence? Has anyone in your church outgrown adolescence according to that definition? By the way, it was his book and these expectations that were the basis for segregating school children by age for educational purposes. It was at this point, 1904, that adolescence was—keyword—invented.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lake Country Bible Church 2017


Our new church family and ministry home.

"The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died"

"We believe in one true God
Father, Spirit, Son
One Church, one faith, one Lord of all
His kingdom come

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Passionless Message is a Lecture (Not a Sermon)

All preaching involves teaching, but not all teaching is preaching.  "Without passion there is no preaching.  Without passion you are simply a lecturer."

Paul commanded Timothy to "PREACH the Word, in season and out!"  Therefore, let us implore men, as if God were entreating through us, "Be reconciled to God!"

Thursday, June 1, 2017

"In-Depth Preaching Requires Full-Length Exposition."

photo credit: www.becominglikechristjesus.com
"True expository preaching always involves a lengthy, full treatment of the biblical text.  When Ezra stood before the people of Israel in Nehemiah 8, he read 'from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law" (Neh. 8:3b).'

The service went from sunrise to high noon, from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  It was a six-hour period of time.  Obviously, this was a unique setting and situation.  Every sermon is not to be six hours long; But our delivery should be long enough to be deep.   Nehemiah did not cut it short; his treatment of the Word was lengthy.   This is not the scene we see at many churches in the U.S. a twenty minute sermon and a twenty-minute invitation.  This is not the spiritual fare at the average "seeker" church- one hour of syrupy choruses and a twenty minute pep talk from someone sitting on a stool.  No, this was a full treatment of the Word.  Ezra presented the Word without watering it down.

Careful Bible exposition requires considerable time in the pulpit.  It takes time for there to be introduction, transition, homiletical points, explanation, word studies, cross references, historical background, thematic context, authorial intent, application, illustration, exhortation, persuasion, and conclusion.  It always takes longer to get a 747 off the runway than it does a crop duster.  So it is with preaching.  An in-depth sermon requires a full-length exposition.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pastoral Search Committees and Spiritual Purple Hearts

Question: The primary badge of apostleship for the mighty apostle Paul was _______

A) His ability to triple local church attendance in 24 months or less 

B) Paul's experience pastoring a large church with multiple full time staff.

C) His impressive academic credentials and communication ability.

D) His larger than life personality and his Christian celebrity status.  Paul would have been a keynote speaker at all the major conferences.  He also was the author of 13 best-selling "books."

E) His ministry scars and his spiritual purple hearts.

The answer Paul gives in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10 is E).   If we are being honest we'll admit that 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10 is a counter cultural text to modern day evangelicalism.  Many search committees judge success and ministry potential using a much different criteria than what Paul sets forth in his Corinthian epistles.  I have heard of more than a few search committees of "Bible-driven" churches ask questions and eliminate potential candidates because they could not check boxes A, B, and/or C.  This seems to be especially true of local churches that are larger than 500 people.

Many years ago A. W. Tozer put it this way, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has wounded him deeply." Few servants of Christ suffered more for the truth and for the Lord's church than Paul.

On rare occasions you will talk with a mature lay leader like Tom Gibson from Christ Fellowship Baptist Church.   Some years ago this particular elder team had the daunting task of hiring Dr. Steve Lawson's ministry successor.  One of the traits this leadership board said they were looking for as they went about the pastoral search process was to find potential candidates who had been "tested by fire" (as Dr. Lawson had been previously).  Rather than viewing Corinthian-esq battle wounds as a liability they viewed battle scars in the line of duty as a mark of maturity (James 1:2-4).

In his classic book on Spiritual Leadership J. Oswald Chambers noted,

When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lessons Learned from a Long Line of Godly Men- Embrace Suffering!

As you make your way through my series of articles on church revitalization articles please consider the Scripture passages and other ministry resources that I have linked in every journal entry.  Suffice it to say, the trials that God took us through during my first four years of ministry in Freeport are really not that unique.   Which Christian parishioner or faithful pastor ever lived a care free life?  Job himself noted that "Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward."

As you listen to the following leadership interviews you will hear some faithful Christian leaders share a collection of honest reflections about some of the trials and tribulations of gospel ministry.  The snippet of John MacArthur (1 minute-8 1/2 minutes) and Paige Patterson (46 minutes-52 minutes) are the clips most applicable to this series of articles on reformation ministry.  I continue to learn so much from the testimony and example of godly men such as those interviewed in this audio recording (see below). 

http://www.9marks.org/audio/9marks-leadership-interview-sampler

http://media.9marks.org/audio/interview-leadership-sampler.mp3

Here is one very powerful quote from the 9 Marks interview sampler.  "I have learned to embrace the suffering and to embrace the criticism and the failure and the pain as probably the most productive work of God in my life.... Their is a sense in which the best things that have ever happened to me are the mutinies that have occurred in my church, the disappointments, the criticisms, and the misrepresentations."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Pastoral Lessons from Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Many years ago I read Iain H. Murray's signature biography on the late great D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  The second volume of this epic two part biography is aptly titled "the Fight of Faith."  If you want to know what makes MLJ's ministry so enduring check out this series of exceptional articles written by Dr. Steve Lawson.

Over the past ten years Christian biographies have been some of the best ministry mentors a young pastor could ask for. Many pastoral lessons can been gleaned from reading great biographies. For example, I was somewhat shocked to read about the internal opposition MLJ faced when transitioning into the Lead Pastor position at the historic Westminster Chapel. MLJ left his very successful ministry in Wales to serve as a Co-Pastor with the famed G. Campbell Morgan. Campbell had pastored his London congregation for thirty-nine years (1904-1943). A church member could not have asked for a better succession than this. To go from the pulpit ministry of G. Campbell Morgan to the preaching ministry of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is sort of like going from Joe Montana to Steve Young at quarterback. 

Despite his ministry pedigree MLJ was not without internal critics. Iain Murray writes, "There were influential members of the congregation from pre-War years, including men in the leadership of the diaconate, who were by no means enamored with the prospect of hearing nothing but Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Hitherto they had tended to suffer the new preaching while expressing their undisguised preference for Dr. Morgan. Some members even choose to attend only when the older man was preaching, and one of these, mistaking the arrangements for a particular Sunday, was overheard at Sunday lunch to say with indignation, 'I went to Westminster to hear Dr. Morgan but it was that Calvinist.'" The same attitude was strongly represented in the diaconate itself. Murray went on to explain how upon receiving Dr. Morgan's resignation letter the deacons met alone.  After this secret meeting the board asked MLJ what his intentions were knowing all along that MLJ was to transition into the Lead Pastor position once Dr. Morgan retired.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Approved Workman

2 Timothy 2:15, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Ezra 7:10, For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.

Isaiah 66:2b, But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Sunday Morning Begins Saturday Night"


Charles Spurgeon: "We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed & harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fight the Good Fight of Faith as a Faithful Christian Soldier; (Heeding the Call of Christ Our Captain)

One should never engage in a theological controversy simply for the sake of a good fight.  However, the holy Scriptures does call true pastors "to fight the good fight of faith as faithful Christian soldiers" (see 2 Timothy 2). In addition to passages like this that are addressed specifically to church leaders every believer is commanded to "contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3-4).  Failure to comply to the clear instructions of Scripture is to disobey the one true Head of the Church (see Col. 1-2).  The Captain of the Lord's (spiritual) army is none other than Jesus Christ!  Where He sends we must go. What He commands we must do.  We are after all bond-servants (not independent contractors or self-serving mercenaries).  In short, we are not at liberty to pick and choose which parts of the New Testament we will follow and defend and which parts we will skip or disregard.  If and when the gospel itself is in question silence is not an option (see Galatians 1-2).

Tragically, the contemporary church seems to think nothing of it when passages (such as the ones listed above) are routinely ignored; often under the so called banner of "love," "unity," and "tolerance." As one who has grown up in the American evangelical church I have witnessed time and time again the accuracy of the following quote.  "The doctrinal ignorance of the Evangelical church is shocking (think Eph. 4:11-15; Heb. 5:12-14), matched only by its cowardice I fear."

Consider the inspired testimony of the New Testament Scriptures beloved.  The following three biblical examples come to mind:  1) When the Apostle Peter began to act in manner contrary to sound doctrine the Apostle Paul was moved by the Holy Spirit to confront Peter to his face.  Go back and re-read Galatians 2:11-21.  If Peter himself was not above biblical confrontation neither is the Pope, a Pastor, a church member.  This is not to say we should act hastily in this process as Galatians 6, 1 Timothy 5:19 so remind us...but now I digress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lake Country Bible Church (Candidation Sunday 2017)

Lake Country Bible Church

Candidation Sermon at LCBC 2017

LCBC Worship Service

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Word-Driven Ministry of a God-Centered Pastor

"All Word and no Spirit, and the Church dries up; all Spirit and no Word, and we blow up; both Word and Spirit, and the people of God grow up."

Understanding the proper relationship of the Spirit of truth and the wholly sufficient Word of truth (that the Holy Spirit inspired) is an essential aspect of God-honoring worship and of Christian ministry (John 4:23-24; Colossians 1:29).

(The following is a series of articles written by a friend, Pastor Don Green about our former shepherd John MacArthur)... "I was first introduced to the ministry of John MacArthur in 1984. I had been a Christian for less than six months and was wrestling with the issues of the charismatic movement.

A friend recommended his book The Charismatics (1978) to me. It was the precursor to the better-known Charismatic Chaos (1992).

It was among the first ten Christian books I ever purchased.

It was by far the most strategic.

At that formative crossroads in my spiritual life, I read words that changed my spiritual trajectory: “Experience is not the test of biblical truth; biblical truth stands in final judgment on experience” (p. 14).

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Who You Are When No One Is Watching: Godly Character

The Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, was known to say that, "The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching."   Pastor Don Green makes this very point in his opening series of articles on the life and ministry of John MacArthur; (his former boss and pastor).  This is the kind of compassion that endears people to their church leaders; it's also the measure of kindness that should characterize all of God's people.  Without further ado here is part one:

"When I first started at Grace to You in 1996, my supervisor in the counseling department was Doug McMasters, a very fine pastor and theologian in his own right. Doug is now serving as the pastor of New Hyde Park Baptist Church.

Early in our friendship, Doug told me a story. He was a young and somewhat isolated missionary in England when John MacArthur came to that country for a time of ministry.

Doug’s time was not without difficulty there. Men around him in ministry did not live up to the faithfulness that their position should have required.