Friday, May 31, 2013

A Statement From The Calvinism Advisory Committee

I am at times amused, but also saddened by the bickering among us when it comes to certain doctrines of the church.

Now don't get me wrong on this.  There are certain cardinal doctrines to which there can be NO debate... NO question... NO compromise.

I am dogmatic on the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures.  There are only two possible eternal destinations for the sould of man, Heaven or The Lake of Fire.

God has revealed Himself to us in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Salvation is by the Grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8-10).  There is no other access to God except through His one and only Son (John 14:6).  Jesus Christ is the virgin born Son of God.  He lived a sinless life.  He died a vicarious death.  He was bodily resurrected from the dead.  He ascended back to the right hand of the Father in Heaven where He makes intercession for the saints.  He is coming again to receive His Bride, the Church, and His this event could be at any time!

The Holy Spirit indwells in the lives of the believer in Christ.  He is there to lead, guide and direct.  Believers are called upon to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him.  We are enjoined to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him.  The evidence of His presence in our lives is found in the fruit He produces (Galatians 5). 

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

All true born again followers of Jesus Christ can and must agree on these essential doctrines of Truth.

However, there are are other doctrines (we might call them secondary and tertiary doctrines) in which good, God fearing Christians can, and often do, disagree.  As a result of some of our doctrinal differences different sects and denominations have arisen.  Now I'm not talking about cults that deny the Trinity or the diety of Christ, etc, but I refer to those who simply interpret some areas of scripture a little differently than some of the rest of us might.  I have come to the conclusion long ago that when we can agree on the simple primary doctrines of salvation and the Great Commission, we, as diverse believers should exhibit unity.  When there are disagreements on secondary and tertiary questions, we should exhibit charity.

But what about when we Baptists disagree among ourselves?  Oh, brother, can that get ugly!

One of the issues that at times, and certainly recently, has had the potential of ripping us apart as Baptists is that of what we often call Calvinism.  My, how this issue has had the potential to divide us.  We tend to huddle into our separate camps and label ourselves as "reformed" or "traditional".  In recent years, extremists on both sides have sought to draw battle lines and have often resorted to name calling and demeaning comments about those who may hold opposing views.  Those who may be considered "Molonists" are just caught in the cross fire.

This is nothing new.  It's an argument that has been going on for 500 YEARS.  It has been present in Baptist life for centuries, debated by some of the greatest scholars ever, and is not likely to be settled by any of us any time soon.

The Baptist Faith And Message 2000, is a broad, general statement of the beliefs that unite us as Baptists.  It is purposely broad and silent on the issue of Calvinism, because the framers of the document realized that there is a diversity in our Convention and always has been.

Last year, Dr. Frank Page, President of the SBC Executive Committee, put together a diverse group of Baptists to come together for frank discussion on how we may cooperate for the Gospel and work in an atmosphere of mutual respect for our brethren who may differ on this issue.  Committee members come from both sides of the spectrum and all are well respected leaders in our Convention.  The Committee has released their report, just ahead of our Annual Meeting and having looked over it briefly, I am very pleased with what they have concluded on an issue that will not be settled in our lifetimes.  I invite you to read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions. You can read the report entitled "Truth, Trust, and Testimony In A Time of Tension" here . 

Comments would be welcome - just make your comments civil and Christlike, please!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Four Simple Disciplines Each Church Member Should Practice

I have heard my friend, retired New Orleans area Pastor and Director of Missions, Joe McKeever, say,  "How can one say they love the Lord, and yet care so little about His Bride, The Church? Joe wasn’t speaking of the church buildings or property, he was talking about the congregation – the people who make up the Faith Family – those with whom we worship, fellowship, and serve the Lord.

There is a special relationship among the true people of God. We want to be together. If we love the Father as we should, we will naturally desire that closeness with the family. Henry Blackaby has written this, "The secret to building deeper relationships in the church is not more activities; it is not more potlucks; it is not more entertainment and fun. All of these may be a part of a strong church, but koinonia (Greek word generally translated “fellowship”) is a by-product of a vibrant and living relationship with God through Jesus Christ."

Our love for the Lord and His Church should translate in to visible action and certain graces in the lives of the believers and members. I am not a pastor who thrives on “legalism”, takes attendance at services, checks on the amount anyone gives to the church, nor am I one who tries to force certain behaviors on the sheep of the flock. Each of our members answer to God, who grants each of us spiritual gifts as well as talents and abilities to use in His service. However, there are four general areas that I have asked each of our members to consider as certain MINIMUM responsibilities as members of Westmoreland Baptist Church.

I truly believe that if each member of our church would discipline themselves to regularly practice these four areas of church life, they would grow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Plus they would be moving toward becoming a more mature member who could help disciple younger Christians in matters of the Word of God and Christian life.

I would list these simple actions like this:

· Regular Attendance To Worship Services

We live in a culture that is quickly forgetting that Sunday is “The Lord’s Day”. He has done so much for us, and this is the day we come together for corporate worship. It is a time for Adoration, Celebration, Contemplation, and Consecration. Don’t miss out on this important opportunity for the entire faith family to assemble for worship.There are also other great times for the entire church family on Sunday Evening Discipleship Hour and Wednesday evening Prayer and Bible Study

Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 100: 1-4 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.

· Be Part Of A Sunday School Class Or Other Small Group For Bible Study And Building Relationships

There is nothing like the informal study of God’s Word with others to help us grow and relate to our fellow members. The small group setting is such a valuable tool for spiritual growth and encouragement

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

· Take Part In At Least One Ministry Of The Church

All are not called to preach, gifted to teach, or musically inclined, yet there is something in the many ministries of this church that everyone can participate in! There is some ministry that is just right for you. I am always open to discuss ministry possibilities with any member who has a desire to serve.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Matt. 9: 37-38 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

· Give Regularly And Proportionally To Support The Mission Of The Church

If we all did this, as the scriptures instruct, we would never have to worry about if we were going to be able to meet the budget. God’s plan of financing His work is perfect!

Malachi 3:10-11  Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; “And all nations will call you blessed,

1 Corinthians 16:2a On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper
There are plenty of other opportunities to grow and to serve in the local church.  However, I truly believe that if every Christ Follower would simply begin and develop practicing these four disciplines, the growth of each Church member would be exciting and the growth of the Church itself would be exponential! 
How do you measure up in these graces?  Are you growing in the Lord?  If not, and you are not practicing all four of these disciplines, I urge you to take the challenge.
As the old credit card commercials use to say, "Membership has it's privileges".  That may be true, but Membership also has it's responsibilities!