Thursday, February 22, 2007
Not many months ago, I didn't know what a blogger was and now I are one! Blog comes from the term "web log"--kind of a digital diary (oops, that's too feminine a term) that is, an internet journal ( more macho). It has become such a powerful medium that many of the candidates for the Presidency have announced they are running on a blog.
A recent survey was done of "Christian" bloggers, that I participated in--so now I am listed on numerous blogs with a link to my site. Perhaps it will soon become a favorite among the masses, and everyone will be talking about "Mountain Top Musings" (not likely)!
The price to pay for this exposure was a willingness to post the links of others on my site. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF ANY OF THESE BLOGS OR BLOGGERS! I would suppose most, if not all, are fine (though I'm sure there would be a point or two of disagreement on some matters). Still, I have not visited each one--don't know when I'd have time to--and unless alerted to a problem, I have posted these with the aforementioned disclaimer. Here goes:
thefissiongroup.com/blog http://www.thefissiongroup.com/blog livelikejesus.com/bloghttp://livelikejesus.com/blog
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
This is Part 10 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.*
The Greek word rendered baptism in the New Testament means to immerse. In the common usage of the term in the first-century, as you washed dishes, you would “baptize” (immerse) them. You didn’t sprinkle water on them—that wouldn’t get them very clean!
Baptism is for believers—those old enough to have made a personal faith commitment to Jesus Christ. The order in the New Testament is that someone believed and then they were baptized. For this reason, we do not “baptize” babies.
Baptizing in the name of the Triune God comes from a direct commandment of Christ. When He gave the church the Great Commission, He told us to baptize in that fashion.
The water of baptism has no power to wash away our sins, but it is an outward expression of that spiritual reality. Neither does it have the power to save us, but gives a clear testimony of salvation. Each time it is practiced it is a graphic portrayal of the Gospel—the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Our profession of faith is that we have died to the old life (buried in baptism) and have been raised to walk in newness of life. Further, we declare our conviction that now having eternal life, even though our bodies may be placed in a grave one day, there is going to be a resurrection.
Baptism is the way you become part of a Baptist church.
Being part of the church means that we should participate in another symbolic ordinance—the Lord’s Supper. When we partake of the bread we are remembering the sinless body of Jesus offered up as a sacrifice on the cross for sinners. Partaking of the fruit of the vine reminds us of the blood of Christ that purchased our salvation. The elements do not actually become the body and blood of Jesus, but represent the same.
The Lord’s Supper looks back to an event that redeemed us to God by the blood of the Lamb. The Lord’s Supper looks around to the members of the family of God—our brothers and sisters—as we have communion with them as we commune with Christ. The Lord’s Supper looks ahead to the coming King who reminds us that we are to observe this ordinance until He comes—and He is coming—maybe soon!
* Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12. (Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
This is Part 9 of a continuing series of articles examining the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This statement of faith was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 14, 2000 “to set forth certain teachings which we believe.”
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ, which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.*
The church administration manual is the New Testament. We are not interested in what man’s religious opinions and church traditions tell us about the nature of the church—but what does the New Testament say?
The church belongs to Jesus. He lovingly bought it with His blood. Christ has the right to direct His church to accomplish His will. It is His body, His bride, and His building. It is described as His field and His flock. Christ is the head of the church—not the pastor, not the deacons, not a pope, priest or presbytery.
This means that the church is autonomous as concerning any earthly power. We are not wed to any secular government, being citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We are not controlled by any ecclesiastical hierarchy, being led of the Spirit of God. That Spirit calls us into the body and bestows grace gifts to equip the church for Kingdom service. A local church functioning as God intends, has a membership that prays and seeks to submit to the Word of God, coming together to carry out her mission.
Although the New Testament occasionally speaks of the church as a universal, spiritual body of all believers, most references are to local assemblies. The local church is where the action is! That local assembly is to be composed of a regenerate membership, committed openly to Christ through baptism, and linked together in the bonds of love to accomplish the Great Commission. The ordinances of the church are baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper. As there are two ordinances, there are two offices in the church—the pastors and deacons—these are the elders of the church who provide leadership to the assembly. The Bible acknowledges the indispensable gifts and ministries carried out by women in the church, but in the different roles God has established for the sexes, men are chosen to be the God-ordained elders of the church.
In a day when many disdain the church, and scorn what they call “organized religion,” it is important to note that the heritage of the church of yesterday and the hope of the church of tomorrow speaks of the health of the church of today. The church—Christ’s church—is still alive and well! I’m glad to be a member and servant of the church—the local church; specifically, Pole Creek Baptist Church!
* Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3.
(Baptist Faith and Message, 2000)
I was faced with that very issue at another church, several years ago. A fellow told me about his sister going to Mississippi, to one of the casinos, and that she had "hit the jackpot." She was going to give the Lord "His part" however. 10% was going into the offering plate--a sizable sum for that country church. I'll return to the story in just a minute.
But first, let me share with you what triggered this line of thought. I read an article from the Executive Director of the Christian Action League in North Carolina. It brought back some memories. Here's what he said:
The Right Frame of Mind: Should the Church Accept Lottery Winnings?
By Rev. Mark H. Creech February 12, 2003
(Agape Press) - There was a time when gambling was considered a vice and a crime in this country. Things have changed. Today, 39 states have state-sponsored lotteries and the church no longer takes a strong stand against gambling.
Approximately six weeks ago, Andrew "Jack" Whitaker of West Virginia announced his plans to donate $17 million -- 10% of his $170 million gross winnings of a Powerball jackpot -- to three Church of God pastors. One of the pastors said, "That's a blessing to have that kind of backing."
Shortly thereafter, David Rush (a Florida man) sent $100,000 from his $14 million Florida Lotto jackpot winnings to the Salvation Army in Naples, Florida. But Salvation Army Maj. Cleo Damon told Rush that he couldn't take his money and returned the check.
A spokesperson for Damon said Damon believed that taking a stand against gambling and then taking winnings from the lottery would have been hypocritical. Yet, Lt. Colonel David E. Grindle (Salvation Army Chicago Divisional Commander) was quick to point out that Damon's decision was purely his own and didn't reflect Salvation Army policy regarding such gifts.
The fact that churches and Christian organizations would even consider accepting gifts from lottery winnings clearly demonstrates how the church has weakened in its opposition to gambling. Have we forgotten that lotteries are a form of gambling, and that gambling is a sin that destroys thousands of lives?
Someone may be quick to say, "That's a sanctimonious overstatement. You can't show one place in the entire Bible where it says: ?Thou shalt not play the lottery.' You can't show anywhere in Scripture where it says: ?Thou shalt not gamble.'" And that is correct, I can't. Still the subject of gambling is not that easily dismissed.
I can't show any place in the Bible where it says: "Thou shalt not watch a pornographic movie." Yet, the Scriptures do talk about the sin of lust and advocate principles that would deny any individual to do anything that would entertain or generate or provide the means for and expression of the sin of lust.
Interestingly, the same Bible that talks about the sin of lust also talks about the sin of covetousness. Those who cannot see the connection between lust and pornography are not likely to see the connection between covetousness and gambling. Nevertheless, gambling is simply a form of covetousness -- a violation of the Tenth Commandment of God.
Covetousness is an inordinate desire for money, property, or something that belongs to someone else. Rex Rogers in his book, Seducing America, rightly says there are only three ways to legitimately acquire property: (1) as a gift, (2) as a payment for labor, and (3) in fair exchange. Anything else is but a form of covetousness -- and gambling certainly doesn't fit any of these criteria.
Simply put, gambling is all about avarice. It is the old desire of something-for-nothing -- the "get-rich-quick" scam.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has written: "The Bible is clear on this issue. The entire enterprise of gambling is opposed to the moral worldview revealed in God's Word. The basic impulse behind gambling is greed -- a basic sin that is the father of many other evils. Scripture repeatedly addresses greed, covetousness, and avarice as a sin against God, and often with graphic warning of the destruction that is greed's result. The burning desire for earthly riches leads to frustration and spiritual death."
"OK", someone says. "I understand that gambling is sinful. But what's wrong with accepting gambling winnings for the church?"
Again, this is a matter where there is no definite command in Scripture, but the Bible does talk about the principle of Christian separation. With fatherly concern, the apostle Paul admonished the Church: "Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing" (2 Cor. 6:17).
Of course, this doesn't mean we should retreat into our monasteries to get away from worldly values. Nevertheless, it does mean that we shouldn't knowingly enter into any bond with evil. It's a standard that centers on our ability to have and maintain a credible witness for Christ.
Pastor Scott Thomas understands this principle well. According to Family News In Focus, he faced a very difficult situation several years ago when a deacon in his church offered a portion of lottery winnings for a building fund. Thomas refused the gift and stood on the principle of Christian separation. "I've just always believed that God doesn't need to use chance to build his Church," said Thomas. Furthermore, he added that impoverished people largely play lotteries and the church shouldn't profit on the backs of the poor.
Despite Thomas' opposition, however, the church wanted the money and fired him. They accepted the gift and built the building. As a result, attendance has dropped from 165 to fewer than 50 people a week. Thomas says: "Several of the members have called me and said, “The albatross around our necks is that we are now known as the lottery church.'"
Recently, Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote an editorial entitled: "Don't Play the Lottery for Me!" Piper's editorial sums up, what I think, ought to be the position of every church on whether to accept gifts from gambling winnings.
. Piper wrote: "We are followers of Jesus. He had no place to lay His head and did not accept the demonic temptation to jump off the temple for the jackpot of instance recognition. The Calvary road is not paved with Powerball tickets, but with blood. The Church was bought once by One who refused the short cut of instant triumph. It will never be bought by those who dream of riches.
"Don't play the lottery for Bethlehem Baptist Church. We will not, I pray, salve your conscience by taking one dime of your plunder, or supporting even the thought of your spiritual suicide. Let the widow give her penny and the laborer his wage. And keep your life free from the love of money."
Indeed, Pastor! We need to be separate as Christians. We mustn't be conformed to this world that we may prove what is "that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2).
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
Now, back to my former dilemma--what did I do? I went to this sweet lady (she really was) and told her that while I appreciated her devotion to the church and desire to be helpful that it would not be appropriate for me--knowing where the money came from--to accept this gift. It also gave me an opportunity to warn her of the peril she was placing herself in. She took it rather well and gave me assurance that she--a businesswoman--knew better than to plunge deeply into gambling.
But she was hooked. Back to gambling she went--it was an addiction and she poured all her money into this habit--until she lost her family, her business, her home, and so far as I know walked away from the church and has not returned.
Groucho Marx used to emcee a TV show called, "You Bet Your Life." That's the danger you face when you begin to play the lottery, visit the casino, bet on the horses--whatever. You'll not come out ahead. How do you think casinos stay in business? Apparently they are making money and not giving it away! Like that dear woman I mentioned above--if you win, you might become the biggest loser of all. Don't bet your life!