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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tithing

Tithing
I continue to run across people today that say that ‘tithing’ is not to be practiced in our day and time.  They claim that tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament and that it has passed away with the old covenant.  Is this true?  These well meaning people emphasize that giving is a matter of the heart and that God blesses a cheerful giver.  They claim that when giving is done in the church it ought to be out of a love for the Lord and not simply a duty that must be obeyed.  They claim that to encourage tithing is to fall into legalism.  The people who claim tithing to be a form of legalism are usually the same people who do not think that the 4th commandment is still valid.  If we put both of these thoughts together we end up with a group of people who rebel against the Sabbath and rob the local church of the necessary funds to do the work that God has called the church to do. 
First, I would like to say that I agree with God blessing a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).  In many ways the teaching of the NT should compel one to give far and above the 10 percent mark.  According to the NT it would be good to sell all one has and give it to the poor.  If all the saints would give with a full and joyful heart the things that could be done for missions would greatly increase overnight.  However, does the truth of a cheerful heart negate the reality that the saints ought to tithe 10 percent?  Second, if there is one thing I know about the people of the 21st century it is that most people are undisciplined.  In order for a person to tithe 10 percent each and every paycheck, they will need discipline, faith, and a resolve towards the things of God.  God gave us such a discipline to guard our hearts against materialism, selfishness, and forgetfulness.  When people do not tithe they readily spend money upon the material.  When people do not tithe they immediately begin to believe that all the money they possess belongs to them.  Thus, if they feel like it they will give a bit of it to the church.  When people do not tithe they forget to trust God and be dependent upon Him for all things.  
When Jesus is pronouncing judgment upon the Pharisees we find that He acknowledges the necessity ἀποδεκατόω (to tithe, collect a tithe).  In Matthew 23:23 Jesus once again calls the Pharisees ὑποκριτής (hypocrites, actors, pretenders).  They are acting one way and then doing another.  They are saying one thing and doing the opposite.  They get one side right and the other side wrong.  The side that they get right is that they ἀποδεκατόω (to tithe, collect a tithe).  The side that they get wrong is that they ἀφίημι (to leave, depart, neglect) matters that carry more weight than tithing.  They have neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  They should have done these last three as well if not more so than the tithing that they were doing.  Notice what Jesus is saying in the last sentence of verse 23.  The English phrase from the ESV is “These you ought to have done.”  In Greek He uses δεῖ which means, “To be under necessity of happening, it is necessary, one must, one has to.”  Jesus is saying, “It is absolutely necessary for you to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness.”  However, you should not ἀφίημι (to leave, depart, neglect) the tithing mint, dill, and cumin.  
In one verse Jesus has shown that tithing is valid and should be practiced and at the same time shown the importance of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  Notice, Jesus did not say, “You do not need to tithe anymore since we are in a new covenant.”  He simply says that Christians must practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness without neglecting tithing. 

I am sure that there are those who will not be convinced about tithing by my very short article, but do not tell me tithing is not in the NT.  For those who have the audacity to say that it is only one verse, I would reply and say that one verse is certainly enough.  I would also let you know that this is not the only verse on tithing in the NT, but I will let you try to find the others.   

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reading

ἀναγιγνώσκω - "To read something that is written or inscribed, read" (BDAG).  This word is used 32 times in the New Testament.  7 times in the gospel of Matthew Jesus is asking, "Have you not read?" in reference to the Old Testament.  Out of the 7 times this word is used in Acts, 5 of them are in reference to reading in the Old Testament.  In Thessalonians and Revelation the word is used in reference to public reading in the church.  

In the book of revelation this word is used under the heading of those who would be blessed by God.  Those who are blessed are those who "continually read," "continually hear," and "continually keep" what is written in the book.  

Reading seems to be a lost art in our world today in light of TV, movies, and electronic fascination.  There is a tremendous loss for those who do not read on a regular basis and it cannot be recovered by any other means.  Reading is one of those things that cannot be duplicated by some other technique.  Reading is one of the greatest blessings that a person can engage in.  Reading exposes people to the gospel, to the beauty of Christ, the wonder of the atonement, the history of the church, the future of the church, the immanent return of Christ, etc.  Reading allows people to sit at the feet of Owen, Watson, Bunyan, Swinnock, Spurgeon, Edwards, Morris, Beale, Carson, MacArthur, and a host of others.  

Reading is a discipline.  Reading is a reward.  Reading is an adventure.  Reading is an exposure.  Reading is one of the greatest privileges of the Christian faith.  

I ran across the following quote and pass it on for you to READ:

Keep on Reading

Even if I don’t read as many books as others, I still read. If I’m not reading, I’m relying on my memory which seems to be decreasing daily. So I read. I once heard someone say that books don’t change people--sentences do. If I glean two or three sentences from a book that affect the way I think and the way I live, that’s time well invested. So I read. Books give me the opportunity to learn from and about godly, bright, insightful people I’ll never meet. So I read. What I know will always be dwarfed by what I don’t know. So I read. Books help me become more effective at what I do. So I read.

- Bob Kauflin

Have you READ lately?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

10 Commandments Revisited

10 Commandments Revisited
Let me start my theological reflection by saying that the use of the law in the conversion of sinners is necessary for our day.  It is the law of God that slays the pride of the human heart and exposes one to the need of the Savior.  We live in a world in which the idea of good works, good character, and good intentions seem to rule the day.  It is the law of God that will destroy those three categories.  As the apostle would say, “sin lies dead until the law comes and revives it.”  It is the law that shows men that they are liars, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters.  I am thankful for those who have helped us return to the use of the law in the conversion of sinners.  We have enough watered-down easy believism in the modern church of America and it is refreshing to know that people are using the law for the right purpose.
Over the years there have been discussions about which part of the Old Testament was still applicable in our day.  We understand as we read the Old Testament that we no longer have to bring a bull, turtle dove, or a grain offering to atone for our sins.  We agree that if a woman is caught in adultery today we cannot take her to the edge of town and stone her to death.  It seems that there has been a consensus that we hold to the moral law (10 commandments), but not the laws that were specifically for the nation of Israel and their government at that time.  These things seem clear in the New Testament as well and we can readily see the 10 commandments used and applied by the apostles and by Jesus.  
At this point you may be wonder where the word ‘but’ is going to appear.  You may be wondering where I am going with this theological reflection.  Well here it is.  In the use of the 10 commandments it appears that we have erased one of the commandments and many who are using the law in the conversion of sinners should have gospel tracts that refer to the 9 commandments.  Let me list the commandments for you:
  • You shall have no other gods besides me
  • You shall not make for yourself a carved image
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
  • Honor your father and mother 
  • You shall not murder
  • You shall not commit adultery
  • You shall not steal
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (do not lie)
  • You shall not covet
You can read through the list and you can check them in Exodus chapter 20.  Do you see that one that is missing?  Do you find your favorite command in the list?  Which commandments do you use on your children?  Which commandment do you use on your lost friends?  Which commandments do you use when you preach on the streets (while skipping worship at a local church)?  Which commandment do parents use on their children while they casually stroll off to work, shopping, and the ball game on Sunday?  Are you catching on yet?  There is very little if any talk about commandment number four.  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy!
How are we supposed to regard the Sabbath?  God says, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter . . . why?  For in six days the LORD made all creation and rested the seventh day.  Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  It would be refreshing to hear some people begin to practice and use the fourth commandment.  After all, if the other nine are valid applications for the use of evangelism then what justification does one have to erase number four.  
Let us look at the law sir.  Let us look at the law madam.  Let us look at the law sports fans.  Let us look at the law fisherman, hunter, and discount shoppers of America.  Have you ever disregarded the Sabbath day in order to live life for yourself?  What does that make you?  Uh, I am not sure.  It makes you a disobedient rebellious Sabbath breaker.  The crowd of church skipping street preachers, Sunday working Baptist, and most of religious America says, “Hey, do not judge me! I like the other 9 commandments, but do not use number 4 on me because that was a different time and culture.”  
I have been counseling teenagers, wives and husbands for 14 years to not take that job and have just received word that I had one person listen.  That one person was my son and I am so proud of him.  He moved to Illinois, found a house, and started looking for a job.  He was given an interview and practically guaranteed the job.  The only problem is that it was a job that included Sunday.  The employer was a Catholic businessman and my son looked him in the eye and told him he would work hard, be honest, and show up to work on time, but not on Sunday.  What happened?  He did not get the job.  
However, the Catholic businessman was so impressed that he called the Baptist deacon who owns another business in town and told him he ought to hire my son.  Conclusion, my son did not get a part-time job that was on Sunday, but rather he got a full-time job that does not work on Sunday.  I am one proud dad today.  It is wonderful to see someone who would be obedient to God and see God take care of His own.  God can be trusted.  

What about you?  Are you a disobedient rebellious Sabbath breaker or are you one of those who sets aside the time and place to be with God’s people and worship the living God?     

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Abortion/Civil Disobedience/Blessing

Murder/Civil Disobedience/Blessing
The issue of murdering babies has been around for over 5,000 years and has always been a serious matter before God.  Murder by definition is, “deliberately killing a person”.  In Exodus 1:15-16 the king of Egypt commands the murder of Hebrew male children.  He says, “If it is a son, you shall kill him”.  The Hebrew midwives who were named Shiphrah and Puah clearly and adamantly defied the king.  The action of the midwives (we should say, “lack of action” – they did not do what he said) was clearly a case of civil disobedience.  Pharaoh gave a direct order and the midwives disobeyed.  This decision by the midwives is the same decision that Christians of all generations have made.  When the policies, decrees, and public opinions of the day go directly against the Word of God, it is then that the people of God stand in agreement with the Word of God.  It is similar to Peter and the apostles when they said, “We must obey God rather than men!”  
It is in times like these that Christians not only have the right, but the responsibility to resist.  These two ladies in Exodus started a revolution, a slave revolt, which ultimately led to Israel being delivered out of Egypt.  Shiphrah and Puah became the first pro-life heroines and the course they took gives an example for all Christians to follow.  Murder is wrong, even if commanded by the king of the land.   What would cause two women to have the courage to defy a king and actually put their own lives at risk (Pharaoh could have executed them for their disobedience)?  Exodus 1:21 tells us plainly that the actions of the midwives was motivated by the ‘fear of God’.  They understood that obeying God is always a safer path than disobeying God.  Shiphrah and Puah knew that murder was wrong even before the 10 commandments were given.  The law was written upon their hearts and they knew murder was wrong.  They knew that Pharaoh could kill them physically for their action, but they knew that their souls must give an account to God.  
What was the result for Shiphrah and Puah standing boldly for God and denying Pharaoh?  Exodus 1:20-21 says, “God dealt well with the midwives . . . and God gave them families”.  What action did God take against Pharaoh and those who would support the murder of innocent children?  God sent plague after plague upon the Egyptians until they let His people go.  God in absolute and perfect justice overthrew the entire Egyptian nation and drowned their entire army in the Red Sea.  The Hebrews multiplied to a number in the millions and were ultimately led into the promise land.  
Here we are in 2014 living in a country that has murdered millions of innocent babies.  We live in a country that condones, promotes, encourages, and pushes the agenda of the murdering of innocent babies.  Our country has so taken this position that abortion is seen as a normal and correct action for women of our day.  The president and government leadership of our country have yet to decree murder as a law, but it does not seem all that far away.  In our country it appears in public opinion that murder is correct and any person who would speak against the murder of innocent children is a radical extremist.  Our country has become so blind that they are offended that the word ‘murder’ is used in regards to the subject of abortion.  Wow!  A person would have to be absolutely blind to not be able to see that when a baby in the womb is killed that that is murder.  The woman having the abortion pays the physician to pull the trigger and execute the baby.  In any other scenario everyone understands what this means.  If a woman pays a man to shoot her boss, it is understood that both will be brought before the judge on murder charges.  When a woman on her on or with the assistance of others pays a physician to kill her baby it ought to be clear what the issue is. 

I want to conclude this short article by asking, “Where are the Shiphrah’s and Puah’s of the day?”  Will anyone stand up for the life of the innocent?  What will happen to our country in the end?  Who is God going to bless?  Jesus should have the last word on this matter: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). 

*Please check out the documentary, Babies Are Murdered Here, that our church plant, Christ is King Baptist Church (Syracuse, NY) has produced with Crown Rights Media.  It features Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr. and has been endorsed by Dr. Larry Bray of The North American Reformed Seminary and Greg Gordon of Sermon Index


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Freewill

Freewill - "The power asserted of moral beings of choosing within limitations or with respect to some matters without restraint of physical or divine necessity or causal law" (Webster Dictionary).   According to Webster's there may be some limits to freewill and there may be cases where there is no restraint.

I have been in church for over 45 years and have heard the term freewill so many times that I have lost count.  In a religious context the term is being used in relation to man and God.  Does man truly possess absolute freedom of choice or perhaps there are some limits to his choices?

A few observations of my freewill not working as of late.  First, the lake where I live is 8 feet low and it is a growing concern for local residence.  I went to the lake and stood on the shore and freely decided that the lake should be full.  Not surprisingly the lake is still 8 feet low.  Second, I am a avid cyclist and runner and in recent months my right knee has been causing me some problems.  Thus, the other night I freely and definitively made the freewill choice for my knee to be fully well.  However, my knee still hurts today.  Third, I have tried my freewill in the physical world, the physical body, and now I have tried it in a family matter.  My daughter lives in Alaska and recently gave birth to our first grandson.  They live just a bit over 4,000 miles away from us.  I made the freewill decision to have them move to Texas.  They are still in Alaska.  My freewill does not seem to be working out the way I wish it would. Fourth, perhaps I should try out my freewill in spiritual matters.  The thing that causes me the greatest difficulty in this life is sin.  If I could quit sinning surely my life would be full of abundance.  I made a resolute and firm freewill decision to stop sinning.  I decided that I would never sin again.  Well?  It did not work.

I was reading in Exodus this morning and started pondering the freewill of Pharaoh.  Pharaoh made a lot of decisions, but where his decisions contradicted God's decisions it was God who always got his way and Pharaoh who lost.  I list but one example.  In Exodus 1:10 Pharaoh says pen-yirbe, which means, "lest they multiply".  Pharaoh makes a decision to keep the Hebrew people from multiplying and enacts a direct order to murder all male babies.  In Exodus 1:12 God says, ken-yirbe, which means, "the more they shall multiply".  Two decisions have been made by two opposing parties.  They cannot both have what they choose.  In Exodus 1:20 the text says, "And the people multiplied and grew very strong".

God is the only possessor of absolute freedom and whatever He chooses He receives.  To quote the Psalmist, "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" (Psa. 115:3).  Rather than clinging to and yearning for a supposed freewill it would be far better to humbly fall before the God of heaven and say, "Thy will be done".  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bibles, Tablets, and Phones

I suppose I will be labeled as old fashioned or as a man who refuses to keep up with his culture, but there are many things that bother me about the modern devices of our generation.  I must admit upfront as I type on my Macbook Pro and listen to music playing on my iPad while waiting on cell service to reach Alaska where my iPhone will work, that I am a part of the technology of the day.  I have enough sense to know that I cannot stop the media world from going forward and I cannot escape the reality that I exist in this world.  I know that to get a message to my church family that I must send out the text message, email, twitter, or some other form of communication.  Gone are the days of a simple phone call or just simply meeting at the local coffee shop and passing on information.  I sure enjoyed life a whole lot more when people actually used their mouths to talk and their eyes to look at each other when they did.  I think it is important to look someone in the eye and have a conversation and to read the reactions of their faces.  All of this is lost in the electronic world and there is much mis-interpretation over text, email, and etc.

However, there is one thing that I am holding on too and I am resolved to hold on to it till the day that I die.  I am not willing nor am I ever considering giving up one piece of my history.  I have seen this item all but disregarded in my day, but I will go to the grave with mine.  It has been put away with numerous justifications by much of the religious world and the preachers have helped to usher this item out of our hands.  You may have guessed already, but let me be clear.  I am holding on to my book!  I am going to feel the leather on my fingers.  I am going to turn pages.  I am going to mark and underline with a black pen.  I am going to put notes in the front of my bible that are important to me.  I will use the first blank pages of my bible to write down quotes that are important to me.  When the preacher preaches I will look up the text in my book.  I will memorize my text on most occasions when I preach, but when I stand before the people I will open the book and place it on a pulpit (elevated and before the people; Neh. 8:4).  When I preach a funeral I will open the book and read the text in sight of the people.  When I go to the graveside I will open the book and read the appropriate text before the last prayer is prayed.  When it is time to join two people together in marriage I will continue to open the book and explain the covenant of marriage and to declare the gospel to all who are present.  When I go to the mission field to preach on the street, in the church, or in any other location I will not need electricity, powerpoint, nor will I need the projector to work.  I will simply open the book and help the people to understand the sense of it.

I know, I know that the electronic people have an answer for me.  I have heard all the answers before.  They use there tablets to do all of the above things that I listed.  Their tablets contain the same words my bible does.  I also know and have seen tablets (etc.) freeze up, batteries run dead, and the preacher to go to panic mode because one of his devices does not work.  I say, "memorize your text and take a bible in your hand".  I suppose electronics are faster, search better, and they have an amazing capacity to access all types of information.  It sounds good when people say this, but in reality I still hear more theology and in depth bible comprehension from the Puritans who possessed no electronics.  Stephen Charnock, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Watson, and etc. remain far superior in the Word of God than the modern man with his electronic device.  We need to face the fact that information easily attained does not have the same root system  as that which is gained by diligent study.  

10 Reasons I think that people ought to hang on to their bibles:

  1. God's people are to be holy (separate from the world) and carrying a bible to church, school, work, or anywhere else will separate you from most of the known world.  
  2. An open bible on a desk, lunch table, or park bench communicates far better than a tablet
  3. Electronics are extremely distracting to study and temptation to view other things is real
  4. Fascination with what an electronic will do is different than marveling in the glories of Christ
  5. Your bible will never ring, vibrate, or make any other distracting noise while the preacher is preaching
  6. Electronics have glitches, bibles do not.
  7. Leaving electronics at home and loading bibles in the car will communicate much to your children about the Sabbath
  8. Gadgets demand your eyes, but the bible is more conducive to meditation upon the Word.  
  9. You do not have to upgrade every year if you buy a good bible and even if you buy a top of the line bible it will be cheaper than a tablet
  10. There is a great heritage to the book we call the bible and many men have bled and died to ensure that we have copies of it in our own language.  It is important to hang on to this heritage and pass it on to the next generation.  
P. S. When I grew up we received bibles at birth, graduation, ordination, weddings, and on other special occasions.  We always had an open bible on the communion table in the front of the church.  We had an open bible in the foyer of the church.  The pastor always had a bible on his desk when you went in his office.  These things mean something and they are worth holding on to. 

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reporting Converts

Reporting of Conversions
I have been in the Southern Baptist church for over 45 years now and of those 45 years I have been involved in full-time ministry for almost 20 years.  I have seen, heard, and experienced the reporting of conversions in the church my whole life.  I have seen the usual method of seeing people walk forward at the end of a church service and ask Jesus in their heart.  This act was followed by a bold declaration of the pastor that so and so has been born again.  The congregation would always respond with a generous hand clap and the usual amen from the guy who always says amen.  I have seen the revival techniques of countless evangelists and their ability to get large numbers to come forward at the end of a service and ask Jesus into their hearts.  Once again this is followed by the joyful declaration of the pastor that so many were born again and then, yes you guessed it, the generous hand clap and the usual amen.  
I have heard the reports of foreign mission trips and local mission trips a hundred times over.  The numbers have been extremely large at times and followed with great rejoicing.  I distinctly remember one of my Mexico mission trips where we gathered at the end of the week and tallied up the numbers of converts.  What was so heartbreaking for me was that the number we came up with in Mexico grew by 20 by the time the report was given in the states.  I asked the pastor if 20 of our own people got saved on the bus ride home and he was not too impressed with my question.  
I am a man who is committed to the gospel and a man who regularly shares the gospel, but I am a man of questions as well.  Questions will not erase reality, but they will certainly expose falsehood.  I read an article this morning and the following is the gist of it (Article is found in “Southern Baptist Texan: Church outreach marks nearly 600 converts since 2010”; by Norm Miller; pg. 2):
Church outreach records 600 converts.  Out of these 600 converts they baptized 1/5 of them (120 – 480 were not baptized or we do not know if they were or not).  Why are 480 unaccounted for?  The church claims that the converts came from Beautiful Feet Ministries, mission trips, preaching in other churches, retreat settings, Vacation Bible School, musical presentation, jets, vacations, business trips, and North American Mission Board’s Evangelism Response Center.  I will comment upon this a little later.
How does the church report these converts?  A person leads someone to accept Jesus and then gets the converts name and contact information.  The person then calls the pastor and lets him know that another person has been converted.  The pastor has seven electric candles in front of the church and he lights one every time a call comes in and then on Sunday the people see the candle shining in front of the church and they can rejoice that God saved another soul.  This reporting is based upon John 1:4-5 and has now been given the title “Shattering the Darkness”.  My article would grow way too long to comment upon the misuse of John 1:4-5, so I shall refrain.  
I am all for conversion, but I have a few questions and thoughts.  I personally worked at Beautiful Feet Ministries for 3 years (a homeless mission in downtown Ft. Worth, Texas).  At Beautiful Feet Ministries they reported salvations almost every week and many of the ones they reported were from the same people getting ‘converted’ week after week.  In three years of ministry I never witnessed one baptism.  I did witness people who were drunks, drug addicts, and prostitutes who were reported ‘converted’, but they continued week after week as drunks, drug addicts, and prostitutes (I am not claiming no one was ever converted, but that the vast majority of ‘converts’ were repeats . . . God knows).  The article not only listed BFM, but also Vacation Bible School.  Why were the children from VBS not baptized?  After all the Southern Baptist are only a couple of years away from infant baptism so it seems like they ought to be able to get these 4 and 5 year old ‘converts’ baptized before VBS is over. 
How do you know if a man is converted?  How can you report confidently that a man has been born again?  If a man prays a prayer to accept Jesus, but never unites with a local church, is never baptized, and never becomes a disciple are we to conclude that he will go to heaven when he dies?  If a man says that he has prayed a prayer to ask Jesus in his heart five times can you guarantee that when you led him through the prayer the sixth time that it worked?  Can we light a candle and put in the front of the church as a testimony to the mercy of God in saving a sinner when there is a high probability that the person we lit the candle for is still unconverted?  
It is not a great achievement to get someone to repeat a prayer to ask Jesus into the heart, but try getting a person to stand in the waters of baptism and give their own testimony, unite with the local church, and serve that church for the glory of God until they die.  This will take a miracle and only God can accomplish it.  When Jesus finished sharing the gospel His disciples said, “Who then can be saved?”  Perhaps Jesus should have got the rich ruler to repeat a prayer and then Jesus could have lit a candle and the disciples could have rejoiced.  

Conclusion, preach the gospel, pass out tracts, do one on one evangelism, preach open-air, go on mission trips, and any other means possible to get the gospel into the ears of the lost, but do not buy into a superficial reporting of numbers for the glorification of the flesh and the winning of awards by the convention.  How should converts be reported?  Let them stand in the baptismal waters and give their own testimony and let them live their testimony out in a local church for the rest of their lives and all will know that they are one of Christ disciples.