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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Free will voting?

Today marks the Texas election primary, in which we may have the sad distinction of providing Mitt Romney enough votes to push him over the top in delegates garnered for the Republican Convention. 

A few days back I posted on the general subject of voting, and want to make a few comments here. There are many principles we should look at in determining how as Christians we should relate to our government. Our God to whom we are responsible has ordained the principle of human government/governments (Rom 13:1-6) and is sovereign over the events of the world (Ps 75:6-7; 103:19; Dan 2:21; Ezek 30:20-26; Rom 9:17). God who has ordained government, also establishes our obedience to law/government (Rom 13:1-6). This includes paying tribute/taxes, praying for and honoring those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2; 1 Pet 2:17). Christians ought to use what freedoms they have to do good, and so lead others to glorify God (1 Pet 2:11-17). The Christians’ allegiance is to God. The government’s power ends when it conflicts with God’s commands to His people (Acts 4:18-20).

Within these principles one must determine whether to vote, and if so, for whom to vote. I guess I came to that position by default, coming from a background where voting was considered both a duty and a privilege. Though I have increased in much skepticism, so far I have not decided that it is unbiblical to vote for human government.

As far as the biblical basis of choosing to vote for a particular person, platform or issue, I would say it is mainly informed by three main points — that God is sovereign over the events of the world, that the purpose of government is to promote good and punish evil, and that Christians ought to use what freedom they have to do good& to lead others to glorify God. 

Because I believe God is sovereign, I do not worry that it is my responsibility to “raise up” or “put down” the next “ruler”. God can do that with or without my vote. As a Christian under the rule of God and commanded to do good, I should vote for what or who I think will do good and punish evil. Mine is to vote; God's is to raise up and put down. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that many of us are very "free will" and "anti-sovereignty" in our voting. We worry that if we do not vote that God will not be able to raise up the right ruler or rulers. Perhaps we never consider that our vote or lack therefore is already part of God's determined means of accomplishing His will?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Inheritance, by Wimer

People come to earthly inheritances either by heirship, gift, or purchase. Any who are heirs can tell you how they came into their estate, and by what right they have their inheritance. How is it that the Lord’s children have come by their inheritance of salvation and eternal glory?

1. It is theirs by PURCHASE. It is not the child of God who has purchased it, but rather the LORD Jesus Christ, their elder Brother. He paid the price in full, and therefore it is called ‘the purchased inheritance,’ Ephesians 1:14.

2. It is theirs as a GIFT. In Luke 12:32, our Lord told His disciples, ‘it is your Father’s good pleasure to GIVE you the kingdom.

3. It is theirs by HEIRSHIP. It is not by natural birth, but rather spiritual birth. Because the LORD Jesus Christ paid the price by His shed blood, and God imputed righteousness to their spiritual account, once for all, upon completion of His death, the Spirit of adoption has been given to them, whereby they cry -‘Abba, Father,’ Romans 8:15.

4. It is theirs by FAITH. It is not faith that procures it, but receives it, by the grace of God, and embraces it as already accomplished by the LORD Jesus Christ. Faith enjoys the comfort of what Christ accomplished. ‘Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved (that righteousness worked out, established and imputed at Calvary), let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, (that which God-given faith produces).

5. It is assured by the SPIRIT. The Spirit of God is the earnest of this inheritance, Ephesians 1:14. The meaning of an earnest is a 'pledge' or 'part of the full purchase money – or property – given in advance as a guarantee that the full amount will indeed be paid.' Today we would say 'deposit' or 'down-payment.' When you pay a deposit on a house or a car you are offering a small security of your commitment to paying the full purchase price within either days, months or years (depending on the terms of the agreement). What God is saying to His blood bought elect ones is that we should look upon the Holy Spirit as a divine guarantee that we are indeed saved by the blood and righteousness of Christ and will finally in time therefore inherit Eternal Life!

-- By Ken Wimer, Shreveport Grace Church Bulletin, September 20, 2009

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Building a Statement of Faith

Have any of you readers ever been involved in writing a statement of faith? Maybe for a church or association? If so, how did you do it? If not, how would you write a statement of faith if you were to write one for a church or association?


Would you prefer less or more? Would it be minutely detailed or briefly succinct? Lots of articles (e.g. 20 to 30) or fewer articles (e.g. 8 to 12)?


Would it be inclusive or exclusive? Would you try to include as many variations as possible or exclude all but those in tight-knit agreement?


Would it be historic or unique? Would you try to incorporate or follow historic Baptist confessions as much as possible or would you work independently of them?


Would it be "theological" or "biblical"? (That is) would you use theological terms and explanations such as "Trinity", or would you use biblical wording such as "these three are one".


Would it be logical, chronological, or otherwise? Would you follow God's revelation in chronological order, or a logical order of what you feel one needs to know first, second, third,...?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Denominationalism

Bart Barber, whom I consider an internet friend[1] and a biblical Christian, has recently written about "monochurches". He also has a well-thought and well-argued chapter[2] on denominationalism in Upon This Rock: a Baptist Understanding of the Church. Nevertheless, I don't agree with his conclusions. Reading and interacting at his blog provides the background for my discussing this here.

Hoping to represent him fairly, I'd say Bart concludes that denominations are a tertium quid, a "third thing" which stands somewhere between local church ministry and parachurch ministry (p. 134).[3] He further concludes that denominations are both biblical and useful.

Brother Barber addresses the elephant in the room that is too often assumed or ignored. What makes a denomination? How do we define it? He ties denominational barriers to the boundaries of ministerial service and membership (pp. 136-137). I will address denominations in this way. Denominations for the practical purpose of this blog post are groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention, American Baptist Churches in the USA, Baptist Missionary Association of America.[4]

I have no problem with "associations" and "conventions" as advisory councils. While I wish not to “fight” them, I believe conventions and associations as continuing organizational entities are neither biblical nor useful. Unlike councils or presbyteries which meet to conduct business/give advice[5] and cease to exist, denominational organizations linger on "to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of the denomination..."

I find three problems with denominationalism as commonly practiced by modern Baptists.

1. Denominationalism that rejects normative biblical practice is disobedient (violates orthopraxy). Here modern Baptists are distinctly deficient, and are weighed and found wanting. Baptists who once based their practice on New Testament practice now find the vast majority of New Testament practice to be "descriptive" rather than "prescriptive". This is a nice little deflection from saying they believe their own convolutions are better than those of the apostles and prophets. "We live in a different world; that won't work anymore." Such a rethinking will eventually rethink Baptists out of existence, and even already has for a number of them. Are we free to develop our own organizations any more than our own orthodoxy? That is the question. Is it of any consequence that there are no national or denomination-wide organizations in the New Testament? The majority of Baptists seem to have already answered that is of no consequence – we are free to develop our own methods to suit our own needs. If so, biblical orthopraxy is of no consequence. But if apostolic practice is normative, not only our doctrine but also our practice should be guided by the New Testament. Time and again we read statements such as "so ordain I in all churches," "as in all churches of the saints," "be ye followers of me," and "ye ought to follow us." I contend that these commands direct us in seeking the old paths of the apostles and New Testament churches rather than carving out our own.

2. Denominationalism that usurps church authority is unscriptural (violates orthodoxy). The autonomy and authority of the local church is a distinct Baptist precept. Let me hasten to say that there is one sense in which Baptist denominationalism generally and consistently does not violate church authority. Baptist churches enter voluntarily into their associations and conventions, and they participate or do not participate in the part or parts of the denomination each particular local church chooses. The area in which denominations usurp church authority is that of taking on themselves the work given the churches. The majority of Baptists recognize the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as a church commission, yet many of these same Baptists operate within organizations which do the work themselves (e.g. operate seminaries) or decide who can do it (e.g. elect and send missionaries). Also at question here is whether churches may delegate the authority given them by their Lord to another entity for that entity to carry out. The apostles never organized another entity to carry out the work given to the churches. If so, why should we?

3. Denominationalism that separates sister churches is sinful (violates orthokardy). Denominationalism separates sister churches by artificial means. The tendency is for members of a particular Baptist denomination (convention, national or general association) – unless they are highly ecumenical – to view all churches which are affiliated with their denomination (SBC, for example) as sister churches and view those outside their denomination not as sister churches. This inserts a non-biblical third party between churches as a deciding factor in whether they are of like faith and order. Instead, the biblical faith and practice of particular local churches ought to be the deciding factor as to whether they are of like faith and order. If not, we deny the autonomy and independence of local churches that we profess. Organizations should not artificially divide God's churches. Faith and practice not according to the Scriptures should be the only matter separating churches.

This "tirade" against denominationalism is not an indictment against cooperation and interdependency of biblical churches. A scan of the New Testament shows that without any denominational organizational, autonomous churches operated in the spirit of family, love and cooperation. Without instant communication, Christians across the Roman Empire knew about, prayed and cared for one another, and labored in unison of service and purpose. Much of the so-called independent Baptist movement in the Western world has turned New Testament Christianity on its head by exalting isolationism, ignorance and self-confidence above the obvious New Testament example of autonomous interdependence. On the other hand, churches with tight denominational connections also fall short of the true New Testament practice of orthodoxy (right doctrine), orthopraxy (right practice), and orthokardy (right heart). In these cases the true denominational influence is not a bonded brotherhood but simply the common use of the same machinery which drives “fraternal” relations. With Brother Barber, I approve the "cooperative connection among New Testament congregations." We just haven't yet found agreement on exactly how all that plays out in denominational life. To me it might look something like this:

Ideally churches of New Testament caliber which move under the direction of the Spirit & the Word and need no organizations to elicit, combine and direct their energies. But we don't live in an ideal world, and I don't expect the developments of several centuries to suddenly dissolve into thin air. Yet Baptist churches that take their autonomy, independency and interdependency seriously and that exalt the Saviour first of all might learn to hold His churches in the highest esteem; to regard them not on the basis of affiliation with an organization, but rather affiliation with Christ, His Word, His faith, His practice, and His love.

Let "Back to the Bible" be our cry, as it was for our forefathers. May all false systems fall before the sword of the Spirit, the word of God!

Footnotes
[1] Since we've not met face to face.
[2] Chapter 6, A Denomination of Churches: Biblical and Useful
[3] A cooperative ministry of multiple congregations similar to an ordination presbytery
[4] In the area of taxonomy, I consider these to be "sub-denominations" of Baptists.
[5] The business of the council is to give advice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mercy displayed

"The Old Testament reading includes the story of Mephibosheth and how David took him into his (David's) house and let him eat at the king's table all of his life.  The New Testament reading includes the story of the Prodigal Son--how a son left his father's house and lived out in the world for several years until bad times came and then returned to his father's house hoping to become a servant but instead being returned to his former state as a son in the house.

"Two stories reached on the same day by reading through the Bible that reveal how we as such vile sinners welcomed into our Father's house and allowed to eat at His table and receive the blessings of His house as adopted sons.
" --  Michael Hackfeld on PB-MB group, April 20, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

There is a period

There is a period known to God
When all his sheep redeemed by blood;
Shall leave the hateful ways of sin
Turn to the fold, and enter in.

At peace with hell, with God at war
In sin's dark maze they wander far;
Indulge their lusts and still go on
As far from God as sheep can run.

But see how heav'n's indulgent care
Attends their wand'rings here and there;
Still near at hand, where'er they stray
With piercing thorns to hedge their way.

Glory to God--they ne'er shall rove
Beyond the limits of His love;
Fenced with Jehovah's shalls and wills
Firm as the everlasting hills.

Th' appointed time rolls on apace
Not to promise, but call by grace;
To change the heart, renew the will
And turn their feet to Zion's hill.


John Kent (1766-1843)

Friday, May 11, 2012

A hello and a good-bye

This week our extended Vaughn family welcome one new member and say good-bye to another. Welcome Ezekiel William Vaughn. Good-bye Calvin Coolidge Vaughn, 1924-2012. May the Lord comfort all your family.

Why has Obama changed?

According to Olivier Knox's article on Yahoo, President Obama told ABC News: "I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, that that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that we take for granted, and I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, you know, the word 'marriage' was something that evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs, and so forth."


None of that has changed, so why has President Obama changed?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Abby

In the Monday April 30 newspaper "Dear Abby" received a letter signed "Somewhere in the U.S.A." Somewhere's son last year had revealed that he considers himself a homosexual, and she was trying to come to grips with it. Though the family was accepting, she and her husband were struggling with God's view of homosexuality. She didn't exactly understand the Bible, and did not want to talk to her pastor. So she turned instead to Abby to ask, "Do you believe a gay person will go to heaven?"


Usually Abby will take the liberal and anti-biblical stance. She did once again. Missing the mark of grace, she said, "I believe that entrance to heaven is based upon a person's character, not his or her sexual orientation." Her confidence is based on "modern scientific studies." According to Abby, "we know more about homosexuality than was known when the Bible was written." What do we know from these "modern scientific studies?" "That sexual orientation is not a 'choice'."


Modern scientific studies and Abby notwithstanding, what we really do know from science, the Bible, nature, observation and common sense is that humans are born as men and women. Whether they engage in heterosexual sex, homosexual sex, or any sex at all is a choice that each person makes.

Dear Abby may not be all that relevant, but the issue is; especially in light of the fact that our President has come out in support of homosexual marriages.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Singing in Tull

On the third Sunday in May, Tull will host its 127th "Old Folks' Singing" from the Christian Harmony. 

Singing in Tull, AR 
Tull turns out for 126th singing

Saturday, May 05, 2012

I Reckon

Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Here in East Texas and the Southern United States, it was once very common to get the response "I reckon." When we say or said that the meaning was "I think" or "I suppose". When Paul uses these words in Romans 8:18, he may sound like a Southerner, but he means something much more definite than supposing. Paul is accounting, had calculated or counted up the situation and is confident of the truth he proposes. If we study Romans chapter 8, we can find the things he counts toward the truth that present sufferings have no right or realm to compare to further glory.


Sufferings have a purpose. Christians have a future. Seen in that light, we see small sufferings and resplendent glory. In ourselves we focus on and maximize the bad. But the reckoning clears away the fog that we see Christ only.

There is a future hope, vs. 19-25
There is a present intercessor, vs. 26-27.
All things work together for good vs. 28-30.
All is grounded in God and His promise, vs. 31-39.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Readings on Burial and Cremation

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the blogs linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the posts linked.

Christian Burial: A Case for Burial
Cremation and a New Kind of Christianity
Cremation and burial in the Bible
Cremation or Burial: A biblical perspective
Does It Matter If We Bury Or Burn?
Does it matter if we're cremated or buried?
Good Question: Cremation Confusion
Is it alright for someone to be cremated?
Is It Wrong to Cremate?
Should Christians be Cremated?

In our country and among Christians, cremation was once a rare exception. Today, especially because of the high and rising costs of burials, many are looking at the cremation option. With that look comes the question, "Should Christians be cremated?" Most of the links above favor burial over cremation, whether or not dogmatically so. That is my position as well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

God

Genesis 1:1-5

God is. In the beginning God, v. 1
God does. God created, v. 1
God moves. the Spirt of God moved, v. 2
God commands. And God said, v. 3
God judges. And God saw...that it was good: and God divided, v. 4
God names. And God called, v. 5

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Missing teen

Lauren Ashley Martin is a recently missing Gregg County, Texas teen. A brief article and picture can be found HERE.

If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Lauren Ashley Martin, please contact Cecil Shelton with the Gregg County Sheriff's Office at (903) 237-2531.