Archive for November, 2008

Is that true?

The Bible teaches us to evaluate the teachings and sermons that we hear in order to make sure that they are biblically faithful.  By extension, we can extend the need for evaluation to religious books, articles, and conversations.  On The White Horse Inn, a reformed theology talk show that can be heard online, they have recently been exploring what they call Christless Christianity.  On their latest episode, they mentioned briefly a great evaluative question for sermons, books, etc.  Use this question, not in place of deeply searching the Scriptures but as a beginning point. 

“For this sermon [book, article, etc.] to be true would Jesus Christ have had to be crucified?”

 

 

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Thanksgiving

While clearly steeped in the cultural and social ideas of Revolutionary era America, the first declaration of a national day of thanksgiving issued by the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777, is a good reminder to us even today that it is indeed the almighty triune God to whom we should be thankful.

“FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

“It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth ‘in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.’”

 

 

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Philosophy of Ministry Explained

Christ Church Conway defines our philosophy of ministry as follows:  Christian ministry is prayerfully and faithfully ministering the Word of God (The Subject of Ministry)1 to individuals and God (The Object of Ministry)2 according to the biblically established means (The Authority and Means of Ministry)3-4 – trusting that the Holy Spirit will a) regenerate the hearts of the unbelieving in order that they may be brought into right relationship with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and b) strengthen believers in their relationship with Jesus Christ – all for the glory of God (The Goal of Ministry)5.

This is of course a loaded statement.  I have included some footnotes to help shed a little more light on our philosophy of ministry.

1 – The Subject of Ministry – As the Word of God is the authority of ministry, so also the Word of God is the subject of ministry; therefore, the subject of the Word of God must also be the subject of ministry.  The Word of God as the subject of ministry is understood as the exposition of all Scriptures for the purpose of both the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the instruction of man in faith and life.  “The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (Westminster Shorter Catechism [WSC] #3).  See Deuteronomy 6.4-9; Luke 24.27, 32, & 45

2 – The Object of Ministry – As God has purposed from before time to redeem his people and promised the seed, by which people would be redeemed, people are the object of ministry.  As far as our faithful service in life and ministry is understood as service to the triune God, he also is the object of ministry.  “God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer”  (WSC #20)  “The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed”  (Westminster Larger Catechism [WLC] #31).  See Genesis 3.15; Matthew 28.19-20

3 – The Authority of Ministry – As all authority derives from the Trinitarian God, he is the authority by which ministry is carried out.  Therefore, “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him” (WSC #2).  See Galatians 1.8-9; 2 Timothy 3.16-17

4 – The Means of Ministry – God has chosen to not only communicate through his Word, but also give life through his Word.  Therefore, the preaching, teaching, and application of the Word of God to people in public, private, corporate, and individual settings is the ordinary means by which God gives life.  Jesus Christ instituted sacraments and joined them to the preaching of the Word in order to communicate grace to his people.  Further, Christ has opened the door that the believer may come in the name of Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit before the Father with both praise and petition.  “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation”  (WSC #88).  See Deuteronomy 30.11-14; 32.45-47; Acts 2.41-42; Romans 10.5-17

5 – The Goal of Ministry – As Far As all things tend toward the glory of God, so ministry should tend toward the glory of God.  In so far as, the chief end of man is the glory of God, if man is participating in ministry it follows that in that also he should seek to glorify his Father in heaven.  Finally, as far as man receives life through the ministry of the Word, ministry is for the good of God’s people.  “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever”  (WLC #1).  See Psalm 150.6; John 20.30-31; Romans 11.36; I Peter 4.10-11

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The Sovereignty of God and Politics

Among professing Christians, there has been a great deal of interpretation regarding the election of Barack Obama to President of the United States of America.  I have heard personally the following four attitudes expressed.  1) Obama’s election is God’s judgment on America.  2) America will be judged because we let Obama be elected President.  3) I am scared of where our country is going and what this means for the Church.  4) Obama is the right man for the job, and the nation is headed in a great direction.  I am sure of neither the value of the “Religious Right,” nor what to make of the election of Barack Obama (other than that it is at least a great historical moment).  What I am sure about is that I do not need to fear.  I should not be angry.  And, I should not rest with Obama, or anyone but Christ, as my hope for the future or joy in the present.  Here are some verses that help give us the proper perspective.

1.  Matthew 10.28  ”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (ESV).  The worst any man or woman could do is torture and kill us. Undoubtedly, that would be horrible, but surely, we can have enough confidence in our God that we can face even that by His grace.  God saw Paul and many others through much more than we seem likely to face, at least in the United States.  We must remember that our suffering in no way implies that the gospel has failed.  The goal of the gospel is not our personal comfort and pleasure in this life, but God’s glory through the eternal security of His people in Jesus Christ in the life to come.  Living in fear of man is the opposite of living in light of the glorious promises of a hope and a future in Jesus Christ.

2.  1 Peter 1.17-21 “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (ESV).  No man or woman should be our hope.  Barack Obama should not be our hope, and this has nothing to do with his religious conviction, party affiliation, or political positions.  He should not be our hope because he (despite what an absolutely ridiculous campaign add may have implied) is not the Messiah.  Barack Obama could end up being the most incredible political leader in history.  He could lead every nation to peace and every human to compassion for his fellow man, but his influence and authority would still be temporally bound.  Even if Obama did achieve his greatest ambitions, he could still provide no eternal hope to a single person.  That is no slam on Obama; it is a statement of his humanity.  Peter, of course, is right.  We should conduct ourselves with fear in the time of our exile, (i.e. we should live as strangers here) with our hope set on Christ and the future He has established for His people.

3. Romans 13.1-7 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.   Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (ESV).  1 Peter 2.13-17 ”Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor” (ESV).  I think the “Religious Right” needs to stop and ask, “Would God be more in control if McCain had won?  What about Mike Huckabee?  What about Billy Graham?”  There has been a lot said over the lasts few days that has made me question our conviction regarding Romans 13 and the sovereignty of God in general.  “How did ‘we’ let this happen?”  God ordained that Barack Obama win the 2008 election and commanded His people to honor those in high positions.  We can trust God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will!

4. 1 Timothy 2.1-4 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (ESV).  We must be humble enough to bow and pray for those in high positions.  This is our Christian duty.

In short, no civic election is either the end of the this world or the beginning of a new one.  We need not fear any man in any position, but hope in Christ alone.  We must not hope in any man in any position, but hope in Christ alone.  Submit to the authorities. Fear God.  Honor the President.  Pray for our officials.

 

 

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A Great Quote

Run, John Run.  The Law commands
But gives neither feet nor hands.
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.

 


Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing Group, 2006), 93-94.  Bridges was actually quoting a friend who might have been quoting John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

 

 

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Philosophy of Ministry

A philosophy of ministry is a statement that spells out how a particular ministry or church will go about accomplishing their vision.  Because it is a statement about how we will accomplish or vision, the philosophy of ministry of Christ Church Conway is very closely tied to the vision of Christ Church Conway.  Our philosophy of ministry is essentially a statement of how we are going to work toward being a worshipping, ministering, and transforming community.  So, what is the philosophy of ministry for Christ Church Conway? 

 ”Christian ministry is prayerfully and faithfully ministering the Word of God to individuals and God according to the biblically established means – trusting that the Holy Spirit will a) regenerate the hearts of the unbelieving in order that they may be brought into right relationship with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and b) strengthen believers in their relationship with Jesus Christ – all for the glory of God.”

 The key part of this philosophy of ministry is the centrality of Word of God.  Throughout Scripture, it is the Word of God that changes individuals and communities.  Therefore, our goal is to give the Word of God to people in any and every way commanded or allowed by Scripture.  A friend of mine summed up his philosophy of ministry, which is very similar to ours, with the following statement, “Read the Word, sing the Word, preach the Word, pray the Word.”  While this is a relatively unsophisticated way to think about ministry, I believe it is the correct way to think about ministry, because it seems to be the biblical way of thinking about ministry.

 Finally, when giving the Word of God to people we can and should expect two things to happen – the lost will be found, and the found will be directed.  James Montgomery Boice summed up the effectiveness of the Word of God in his commentary on Philippians saying that when the Bible is taken seriously – “Three things will happen.  First, there will be conversions to Jesus Christ.  Second, there will be growth in personal commitment and holiness on the part of Christians.  Third, there will be an expanding concern for others.” 

 In short, the Word of God is effective according to the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.  Therefore, we are going to focus on preaching the gospel not only from the pulpit but also in all that we do.

 

James Montgomery Boice, Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 11.

 

 

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